Site of the Month: Montair, Part I
This week, we meet a few of the Kids’ Country leaders, teachers and parents at our Montair site, and explore some of the unique programs that make Montair such an extraordinary community.
“Amazing.” Talk to any parent who has a child at Kids’ Country’s Montair site and this is often the word used to describe Mary Kay Moriarty, who has served as site director for 10 years. “Mary Kay is really good with taking care of kids with different needs,” says parent Lisa Hudson, whose son Cameron is in 2nd grade. Janice Walker, whose twins Maleko and Madeline attend Kids’ Country echoes this sentiment, “I love Ms. Mary Kay,” she says. “I think of her like a family member.”
A former 4th grade teacher in Chicago, Mary Kay brings a wealth of experience to Montair, which hosts transitional kindergarten (TK), as well as special needs and Academic Talent programs. She works closely with her teachers to ensure continuity of academics and a culture of inclusivity. For Mary Kay, seeing the social-emotional development of TK children is tremendously rewarding. “We focus on play-based learning, but since they are grouped with kindergartners and 1st graders, you can really see them grow and become confident and more independent,” she says with pride.
Teacher Elizabeth Campos says, “I think I can speak on behalf of all of Montair when I say we love having Mary Kay and Kids’ Country at our school!”
Mary Kay is supported by Assistant Site Director Ryan Gipson (“Mr. Ryan”), teacher Patricia Greely-Doll (“Ms. Patti”) and several other talented teachers and aides. Montair TK teacher Colleen Wood notes, “The staff at Montair are fantastic. We communicate often about students and strategies to help them succeed. It is a big transition from preschool to TK, but the Kids’ Country staff makes it a smooth one for our kids.”
Over the years, Kids’ Country has evolved into much more than before and after school care. Montair families especially appreciate the focus on science. Kristin Soupir teaches 1st and 2nd grades and special education at Montair, and her own son Fischer loves Ms. Patti’s Science Tuesdays.
Montair, like Kids’ Country’s other sites, is committed to Edible Education. The staff and children tend to the site’s garden. Parent Lisa Hudson notices the impact on her son Cameron. “I like that he tries healthy foods he wouldn’t otherwise try at home,” she said.
Mr. Ryan also comments on the kids’ love of art. “I am amazed at the creations that they come up with when they find random supplies around the room,” he said. “They are always drawing and coloring with different mediums. You can see the little ideas bubbling in their minds while they think of their next project.”
Parents love the activities for children, but they also appreciate the homework support, and Montair’s teachers recognize the impact of this support. “I’ve seen a big improvement with homework for the kids who started going to Kids’ Country,” said Elizabeth Campos, a 5th grade teacher at Montair.
Next week in Part II, we explore how Kid’s Country’s Montair educators create a customized learning experience for each child, and how they support working parents.