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Rebirth: Menomonee Falls Parish ‘Resets’ its Historic School

by Sean McGibany

At a time of transition for many parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, St. Anthony the Hermit parish school in Menomonee Falls is taking a bold step forward. School principal Linda Joyner announced over the summer of 2017 that when the 160-year-old school opens its doors for the 2018 fall semester, it will drop its traditional K-8th grade curriculum in favor of a brand new Catholic Montessori program. St. Anthony will be the first parish-based Catholic Montessori school in the state of Wisconsin.

After taking the role as school principal in 2016, Joyner quickly saw that the parish school was experiencing a drastic decline in enrollment. “I didn’t realize the extent,” she admits, but she was determined to keep the school open as an independent entity. She began envisioning the Catholic Montessori transformation after seeing the demand in the greater Milwaukee community for Montessori education, but noticing how few institutions there were in the area.

What makes Joyner’s Catholic Montessori model unique? It combines a traditional Montessori education with the increasing popular Scripture-based Catechesis of the Good Shepherd religious education program. Says catechist Rose Von Rueden, “the two programs go together perfectly,” as they both emphasize a hands-on, individualistic approach to learning with various workspaces set up around the classrooms for the students to work at their own pace. St. Anthony has used the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in its religious education classes since the 1990’s, making for a seamless transition.

Changing St. Anthony from a traditional school to a Catholic Montessori school will take some renovation. Helping with that is a $75,000 first-year grant from the Milwaukee Archdiocese’s Faith In Our Future Trust. The grant will go towards classroom renovation, teaching materials, personnel training, and marketing the program

Architect and St. Anthony Parish Pastoral Council chair Greg Nagel, with whom Joyner developed renovation plans for the classrooms, says, “I think it will allow kids to really develop a love of learning. It sets them up to be their own teacher for their lifetime.”

What is Joyner’s end goal for St. Anthony? “It all depends on where God wants to take it,” she says. “If it grows outward, then St. Anthony could become a hub for early childhood education. If it grows from preschool to K-8, then it offers a different model of education that isn’t found anywhere else in the community.” Joyner admits that there is a lot of pressure to make this program successful, but she is confident in the concept and encouraged by the support she’s received from the parish and the Archdiocese.

“I think our new program offers a unique educational model for this community that is not currently available anywhere else.” Joyner says. In keeping with the traditional mission of St. Anthony school, “Our Catholic Montessori program will offer a highly individualized, child-centered approach to education which values the child’s natural eagerness to learn and grow socially, emotionally, academically, and in his relationship with God.”

For more information about St. Anthony Catholic Montessori, call 262-251-4390 ext. 30.