History of Montessori in Juneau



• The Douglas Women’s/Ladies Club reports in the Treadwell newspaper that there “will be a luncheon and a talk on Dr. Montessori’s Method of Education”. Thanks to Anne Fuller for locating this tidbit in the State archives.


• There are reports that Montessori education began early in the past century in Juneau under the direction of the Sisters of Saint Ann. This coincides with a huge worldwide boom in Montessori, and the USA specifically, following Dr. Maria Montessori’s celebrated accomplishments with children in tenements and children’s “lunatic” asylums in Rome.


• The Sisters of Saint Ann Montessori program ended in the early 1970s.

Fall 1983

• A Montessori trained teacher (Lauren Gallagher) living in Douglas opens a small Montessori home-based program with approximately 15 children. This generation of young adults is now raising children, and some are attending Montessori in Juneau.


• Lauren moves to Sitka and starts a Montessori school there. Mary Jane (Bauer) Tenney begins working with this Sitka program. Mary Jane later completes her AMI preschool Montessori training in Portland and moves to Juneau.

• Catherine Fritz, Corrine Geldhof, Dick Erman, and others form a non-profit, Juneau Montessori Center, to bring Montessori back to Juneau.


• Juneau Montessori Center opens in the Fall of 1986 in a Fritz Cove home where the homeowners, the Rousts, (parents of 2 students) donate space and remodel their home at their own cost to accommodate the school. This family offered space while permanent building solution was secured. Approximately 15 children attend with 1 teacher, Susan Brown.


• Juneau Montessori Center opens at the Harris Street Center (later demolished). The program nearly triples in size to 40 preschool children with 2 teachers Rainy Nycklemoe and Theresa Miller.


• Parents pursue the first Montessori elementary program as a branch facility of Juneau Montessori Center. AMI Montessori Casa teacher, Malou de Wolf (Waters) Peabody teaches a K-1 class for one year until elementary trained teachers are secured. The classroom is housed in the basement of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church.


• AMI Montessori elementary teachers, Chris & Rick Trostel and their daughter Molly, move to Juneau to teach at JMC.

• Malou leaves during 1992 school year and Jean Kresser, an AMI teacher from Seattle takes her place for one year.

• Sharlyn (Berning) Smith receives her AMI Primary training in Portland at the Montessori Institute Northwest an returns to take over for Jean Kresser in 1993

• Juneau Montessori Center secures the Mayflower Building in Douglas, which is owned by the City & Borough of Juneau and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. With the help of architect Catherine Fritz, and extensive parent volunteers, the building is renovated and brought back to its original use as a school.

• There are 2 Montessori Casa classrooms (with Rainy and Malou), and the elementary program opens with 9 children. Chris and Rick job-share as elementary guides.


• In May 1994 JMC discontinues the elementary program.

• Southeast Alaska Friends of Montessori (SEAFOM – 501.c3) is formed by a small group of elementary parents and elementary teachers, Chris and Rick Trostel, with the goal of establishing an elementary program in the public sector.

• The elementary program triples in size and moves into the public school as a “magnet” in the Marie Drake facility. By having 28 children enrolled (17 new to the District, plus an 11 children already enrolled in-district), and an “instructional unit” is formed that brings $61,000 of new funding to the District. The IU, in turn, is used to rehire a (non-Montessori trained) teacher who was laid off due to budget cuts. SEAFOM parents fund-raise to pay for Chris Trostel to be an “aide” in the classroom.

• SEAFOM and the District jointly purchase materials for the classroom; many materials are also donated by the Trostels. Furnishings are provided by donation & made by parents.

• Island Montessori School opens a Casa on North Douglas owned and operated by AMI teachers Mary Jane Bauer & Sharlyn (Berning) Smith.

• Juneau Montessori Center operates without AMI trained teachers and calls itself “Mayflower Montessori.”

• The elementary program in the Marie Drake building is organized as an annex to Harborview School and is called “Harborview Montessori” (grades 1-4). It continues to expand with a large waitlist. Approximately 77 children are enrolled in Montessori programs in Juneau with 4 Montessori trained teachers.

• Harborview principal, Drew Alexander welcomes and supports Montessori in the Juneau School District.


• Harborview Monterssori splits to 2 classes (primary and intermediate). A second AMI trained (Canadian) teacher is hired, but due to immigration delays is not able to cross the border.  The District hires another trained AMI Montessori teacher, Rick Trostel, at an instructional aide wage to teach the second class for the year.

• SEAFOM & the District jointly purchase classroom materials for a second classroom; Trostels & friends donate others.

• Discussions commence with District Superintendent regarding long-term expansion of the elementary program.

• Second Harborview principal, Suzie Cary; classrooms move within Drake to old art room and science lab with few renovations and furnishings.

• Summer 1996 Canadian AMI elementary teacher Dominic Bradford visits Juneau, meets & stays with Trostel family.


• SEAFOM sponsors a candidate to elementary training. She completes 1/2 the training and teachers 1/2 the year before leaving due to the birth of a child. A non-Montessori, long-term sub, Luann Speich, completes the year in the lower elementary class. There are approximately 85 children enrolled in Montessori programs throughout Juneau, and wait lists continue to grow.

• Lupita Alvarez joins Juneau Montessori as executive director; JMC changes its name to Juneau Montessori School.

• Jennifer Ryznar joins Juneau Montessori as first AMI preschool teacher at the school in 4 years.


• SEAFOM sponsors Matt Dusenberry, a Juneau School District teacher to his AMI elementary Montessori training

• Meanwhile, the two elementary classrooms are combined and move again. One Montessori elementary teacher (Chris Trostel) teaches the 1st-6th grade classroom at Harborview. SEAFOM raises funds to pay for an AMI trained Montessori instructional aide Sharlyn Smith to provide additional needed support.

• At the District’s suggestion, parents and teachers apply for a charter (for 3 year olds through 9th grade) from the Juneau School Board to provide relief for conditions that make it difficult or impossible to function as a magnet or school-within-a-school model. The school board fails to act on the application. Wait list continues to expand for all levels.

• Third Harborview principal, Bob Dye. Another move of classrooms. Waitlists continue to grow.

• Jennifer Ryznar leaves JMS in 2000.


• Sharlyn Smith rejoins JMS to teach a Children’s House classroom, taking over for Jennifer Ryznar.

• Andrea Stats is sponsored by JMS to AMI primary/preschool training.

• The school board provides the Montessori program with some limited budgetary control and assigns a 0.25 Montessori trained specialist position (Rick Trostel) to the program to relieve pressure on Harborview’s staff and classrooms and to support the needs of the district-wide Montessori program.

• Two elementary classrooms at Harborview Elementary and expansion (to third classroom) enrollment begins. Against the advice of Montessori personnel and parents, the District considers placing one of the classrooms at Auke Bay, and lotteries in students for one classroom. Auke Bay is not friendly with the idea, and an additional Montessori teacher cannot be found, so the plan is abandoned.


• SEAFOM sponsors a third teacher, Jennifer Ryznar, to AMI elementary training. Expansion continues.

• The first Montessori toddler program opens at Juneau Montessori with Sharlyn Smith who has also trained as an AMI Assistants to Infancy teacher. Andrea Stats returns as a teacher at JMS.

• Mary Jane Tenney closes Island Montessori Children’s House and rejoins JMS as a primary/preschool teacher.

• SEAFOM establishes a scholarship fund to support Kindergartners at JMS.


• Parents/SEAFOM approve fundraising and paying for a 3rd Montessori elem. teacher in a 1/2 time position in a large expanded lower el. classroom. This takes effect Fall 2003. Third elementary teacher (Jennifer Ryznar) begins as an instructional aide.

• The elementary program is moved from Marie Drake to the basement of Harborview (with no room for expansion to third classroom) due to other District demands on the Drake building space.

• Ad hoc parent group and elementary teachers also begin actively pursuing expansion to the middle school level. Meetings with SEAFOM, the public, & the District occur. SEAFOM hires a trained Montessori elementary teacher, Dominic Bradford, sponsors him for Montessori Secondary certificate, secures a site, enrolls 15 families for year one with a waitlist of 5 more. This functions as a private school.

• Spring, 2003 the District informs Montessori that the specialist position (Rick) has been eliminated.

• Fourth Harborview principal, Kathi Yanamura.


• SEAFOM pays the District to maintain the Montessori specialist position for one year at Harborview Montessori.

• Adolescent Montessori Program (AMP) opens in private facility (Arcticorp Bldg), grades 7- 8. Chris Trostel serves as Program Director.

• Maren Thomas joins JMS as an AMI primary/preschool teacher.

• Expanded elementary program with waitlist for primary and elementary, toddler, preschool, and adolescent/middle school program. There are approximately 125 children enrolled in Montessori programs in Juneau. 48 are fully funded by public money. (15 adolescents with partial private funds + approx. 10 kindergarteners + all toddlers-4 year olds are privately funded).

• There are 4 Montessori elementary trained teachers (2.5 in the classrooms, 0.25 as a specialist – Rick Trostel teaches music, PE, Library for elementary), 3 Montessori preschool teachers (3 year olds- kindergarten), 1 Assistant to Infancy teacher (0-3 year olds), and 1 adolescent teacher (7-8h grade). Only two of these staff holds publicly funded positions.


• Increased size of adolescent program and expanded to 9th grade. Dayna Weiler begins to work half time in the Adolescent Montessori Program (AMP). SEAFOM sponsors her to Montessori Secondary certificate.

• Adolescent school (7th, 8th, 9th grades) continues in private facility in a public-private partnership with Raven Cyberschool. Chris Trostel continues as Program Manager for AMP and Elementary.

• One lower el. classroom (Matt Dusenberry) is moved from Harborview to Glacier Valley when Harborview cites lack of available space for third classroom.

• Assist. Superintendent’s office begins a year-long Task Force on District-wide programs. Representation of programs is limited and not focused on Montessori’s needs for support or interest in growth.

• At the request of the Assistant Superintendent’s office – a second charter (for 3 year olds through 9th grade) application is pursued. Charter is passed at local level, but denied by the State Board of Education, citing transportation inequities. District says it will include adolescents in the public school for the following year.

• Ted Wilson is the Glacier Valley principal, Patty Newman is the Adolescent principal, Kathi Yanamura is the Harborview principal.


• Montessori elementary and adolescent school assume the inclusive name, “Montessori Borealis”

• District provides Adolescent program space at Mendenhall River Community School (MRCS), in two dilapidated portables. SEAFOM pays for program specialists, not District.

• District moves all elementary classrooms for a “one-year temporary relocation” to Glacier Valley until one location for all programs is secured. Two classrooms are housed in portables, one inside the building. Upper el. bulges to 32 students in one classroom.

• Dominic Bradford takes extended leave due to illness, Fred Weiler, Dayna’s husband, steps in as long-term support.

• Dominic leaves the school district at end of school year.

• Debbie Chalmers is hired for Adolescent program. SEAFOM sponsors her to her Montessori Secondary Certificate.

• Jennifer leaves due to birth of child.


• Montessori parent, Cory Crossett is sponsored to AMI elementary training by SEAFOM.

• SEAFOM develops a proposed Facilities Plan, and presents to District. No action taken by District.


• Cory is hired by the District for elementary classroom. Cory and Matt guide lower el., Chris upper el.

• District continues to hold elementary and adolescent school at two locations, without establishing an end date to this very difficult arrangement.


• Elementary expands to 3.5 classrooms with a bulge of 35 at upper el. Chris Trostel continues to guide this classroom.

• Matt Dusenberry reduces teaching to half time. Mary Jane Tenney begins teaching younger el, with teaching certificate and AMI preschool training, but without elementary training.

• AMP increase enrollment slightly. Debbie Chalmers’ adolescent position is partially funded by District and SEAFOM.

• SEAFOM continues to pay for program specialists for Adolescents (music with Rick Trostel, Spanish with Alison Talley, art, etc.).

• The process of securing “a home under one roof” for all classrooms continues with persistence from SEAFOM.

• Glacier Valley begins renovation program leaving no room for Montessori elementary classrooms.


• School Board selects move of Montessori elementary classrooms back to Drake as its permanent home. AMP remains at MRCS for one more year until Harborview School vacates the Drake building to move back into its renovated school. The elementary program is placed under Harborview’s supervision.

• Upper el. continues to expand to 42. Matt Dusenberry works part-time supporting upper elem. with Chris.

• AMP continues to expand at MRCS. Students, teachers, and community volunteers beautify by painting, landscaping; AMP tries to operate as independently as possible, given difficult site location. SEAFOM and District co-pay Debbie’s teaching position. SEAFOM continues to pay for specialists (Spanish, Music, etc.).

• Search for another elementary teacher begins to accommodate enrollment demand.

• Recapture Montessori specialist(s) for elementary (Rick Trostel – music).


• SEAFOM sponsors Mary Jane Tenney in AMI elementary training, to occur over 3 summers.

• Harborview returns to its newly renovated building. AMP moves to Drake. All classrooms are moved into proximity to one another on the second floor. The District places Office of Instructional Services and other programs in the Drake building, which is now also determined to be the permanent home of Yakoosge Daakahidi High School (YDHS).

• SEAFOM updates the proposed Facility Plan for Montessori Borealis, and presents to District.

• Montessori Borealis establishes a Site Council.

• Lupita Alvarez leaves JMS.


• Alenita Danner is hired as the Executive Director of JMS

• Hillary Burgess is sponsored by JMS to receive her AMI Assistants to Infancy training in Denver

•SEAFOM begins multi-year support of Sharlyn Smith to become AMI Trainer of Assistants to Infancy program.

• SEAFOM parents, teachers spend the summer moving, cleaning, painting, renovating to prepare the neglected spaces in Drake for children.

• Elementary splits into two older elem. classrooms now creating 4 total elem. Classrooms, plus the AMP.

• Cory and Chris guide the upper el. classrooms. Annabel Rondeau, AMI elementary teacher relocates to Juneau and teaches in the younger el. classroom. Mary Jane Tenney teaches the second elem. classroom.


• SEAFOM continues to urge District to act on Facilities Issues, offering to bring planning consultant to Juneau. District declines consultant, but commits to a planning process that will result in renovation of the Drake building.

•Elise Sorum-Birk is sponsored by JMS in Primary Training

• Rick Trostel and Matt Dusenberry continue to work as a part-time specialists.

• AMP is supervised by Sarah Marino, YDHS principal; elementary by Dave Stoltenburg at HBV.

• Discussions about expansion to preschool and ninth grade continue.

• SEAFOM sponsors AMI elementary training for Stacy LaMascus.

• SEAFOM sponsors Rebecca Hartwell for AMI adolescent training.

• SEAFOM sponsors Lupita Alvarez for Masters in Teaching Certificate, anticipating development of a public pre-school as part of Montessori Borealis.

• Chris and Rick Trostel relocate to Portland, Oregon during summer 2013.


• Debbie Chalmers retires.

• Hillary Burgess becomes the lead teacher for the JMS Toddler Community

• Alenita Danner resigns as Executive Director of JMS

• Sharlyn Smith becomes JMS Director. Enrollment at JMS is approximately 52 families

• Elise Sorum-Birk becomes one of the lead teachers in the Casa classroom at JMS

• Monica Daugherty is sponsored by JMS to receive her AMI Primary training to take over for Andrea Stats who will be retiring at the end of 2013-14 school year

• Stacy LaMascus was hired as upper elementary teacher at Montessori Borealis, while she simultaneously completes her Masters of Teaching program to gain state teaching license.

• Rebecca Hartwell hired by District as second AMP teacher.

• Amy Bibb hired as part time music specialist

• Enrollment at Montessori Borealis is approximately 100 students in grades 1-8, with continued waiting lists for enrollment.

• District begins Drake facility planning by hiring consultant architects and school planners.


Prepared by Chris Trostel, 2002, updated 2007, 2013