NEWBURYPORT — After 48 years, Maureen Daley, the founder of Newburyport Montessori School, is passing the torch to the next leader of the building, which has seen a lot of growth and change over the years.

Daley’s interest in Montessori education began because of her daughter. Her family was living in Brooklyn, New York, at the time and she decided to send her daughter to a Montessori school. After moving to this area, Daley met some people who were sending their children to Merrimack Valley Montessori School.

After some time, Daley and her friend, Charlie Dyson, discussed opening their own Montessori school in Newburyport.

“Kind of like Mickey Rooney and we said OK let’s do it,” Daley said. “We started a school in September 1971, the Spring Street Montessori School, because we started it in Charlie’s house on Spring Street.”

The philosophy of Montessori education is based on the method developed by Italian physician and educator Dr. Maria Montessori and the belief that we all have a desire to learn. The goals of Montessori education are to cultivate each child’s natural desire to learn, acquire and master skills, learn responsibility and cooperation and to foster strong, positive feelings about oneself and others, Daley noted.

The method addresses the total child – developing social skills, emotional growth, physical coordination and cognitive preparation, within a thoughtfully prepared environment, she added.

The school moved throughout different parts of the city for 15 years, including spending seven years at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, she said. After moving in and out of another home, Newburyport Montessori School was born on Parsons Street in 1986.

“A room became available in these buildings that used to be a department store,” Daley said. “They were being renovated. I think it was 1992 that we moved into these buildings. We’ve had a different number of rooms through the years. We started with four, now we have seven classrooms.”

There are 20 staff members who care for and teach 110 children ages 18 months through six years old. Newburyport Montessori’s preschool and kindergarten programs inspire children to be self-motivated, independent life-long learners. Children learn to develop autonomy, establish comfortable and productive peer relations, learn basic skills and concepts necessary for intellectual development and keep their sense of wonder and appreciation for the world, Daley noted.

During the time Daley was running the school and teaching, she received Montessori training. As more families moved into Newburyport, she said, more became interested in Montessori education.

“It was a real grassroots effort,” said Daley, who added the school grew exponentially over the years.

Daley was also a member of the first group that wrote the first charter for River Valley Charter School in Newburyport, which served students in kindergarten through grade eight.

Looking back, Daley said she’s certainly proud of her work to create a school that “will now go on beyond me.” Tiffany Morris, who currently works with Newburyport Montessori, will be Daley’s successor and continue the same understanding in using Montessori principals. Although Daley is uncertain of what her next steps will be, she’s hoping to continue her passion for acting and performing arts.

“It feels like the right time,” Daley admitted. “I wasn’t necessarily looking for this to happen yet ...  it feels like a wonderful opportunity to shift my life. I think the thing that was most important was making sure things carry on.”

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Staff writer Amanda Getchell covers Newburyport and Seabrook. Follow her on Twitter @ajgetch.

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