Montessori by the Sea school to open in La Jolla to provide an ‘authentic’ Montessori education

In Montessori schools, children work on the floor rather than at desks.
In Montessori schools, children work on the floor rather than at desks.
(Isabella Martinez-Funcke)

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As Montessori School of La Jolla on Soledad Mountain Road was preparing to close earlier this year (its last day was June 9), Alexis Schanzlin was one of the parents who found themselves “in a panic.” She had sent her older son to the school and wanted the same for her 18-month-old son when he’s old enough to attend.

But with limited options in the area for a Montessori education, Schanzlin often ended up on a waiting list.

So to create more opportunity, she will open the Montessori by the Sea school in La Jolla in September and is taking applications for children ages 2-5. The school, at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church at 743 Prospect St., is new but its teachers and staff have years of experience.

“I grew up as a Montessori child,” Schanzlin said. “I spent most of my childhood at a school my mother [Jessica Velasquez] ran and would volunteer at her preschool and gained a strong interest in working with children from that.”

Inspired by her mother, she decided to open a school that would offer “a quality, authentic Montessori education,” Schanzlin said.

“We are affiliated with [Association Montessori Internationale], which is recognized internationally,” she said. “The classrooms are equipped with authentic Montessori materials. Some schools would have materials from other programs. We want to make sure we are an authentic Montessori school. We’re going to have seasoned staff and teachers. One of the teachers from Montessori School of La Jolla is coming with us.”

The student-to-teacher ratio will be 5-to-1, she said. “I value the fact that we will have that one-on-one, student-focused education.”

Further inspired by her mother, Schanzlin said the school also will offer bilingual programming in English and Spanish, plus theater, sports, art, community service and more.

Montessori by the Sea founder Alexis Schanzlin poses with her children.
(Sherry Collier)

“I want them to understand grace and courtesy,” she said. “We want to do a food drive in November, a toy drive in December and a blanket drive in January. We want to teach the children it is important to have strong values.”

The Montessori method started in Italy in the early 1900s. “The method was to foster a child’s natural desire to learn,” Schanzlin said. “They don’t work in desks or chairs, they work on the floor. The teacher will present material and the child will have the freedom to choose what they explore. There is no paper or worksheets, it is all hands-on learning.”

The classroom features what is known as a prepared environment, which consists of seven parts: practical life, sensorial, language, math, cultural studies, science and botany.

Montessori by the Sea’s first school year will begin after Labor Day. Schanzlin said the school will host two camp sessions this summer — Aug. 15-19, themed “Children of the World,” and Aug. 22-26, themed “Our Ocean” — so families can meet the teachers and staff, go on field trips and prepare for the preschool experience.

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