Aquinas Montessori’s May Fête is always special. However, given the fact that this was the school’s fortieth anniversary, the May Fête that was held last weekend was even more special. Students, parents and alumni gathered together to tell Kathleen Futrell, director of Aquinas and Old Town Montessori Schools in Alexandria, “Thanks for the memories.”
Futrell has memories of her own, and said, “The memories the children seem to best recall of their time at their Montessori school are the roles they played in the school’s annual musical productions such as 'Cats' from this year, 'Peter Pan' from last and others such as 'You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown.’”
Futrell had been teaching in public and private schools when she started reading books by Maria Montessori. While her husband, Al, a 1946 graduate of West Point was stationed in Germany, she had the opportunity to visit a Montessori school in Rome, Italy. Even with the language barrier, the impression of the focus, concentration and happiness of the children at work was all that she expected. When she returned to the U.S. she wanted this type of education for the second youngest of her four children.
Living in Riverside Estates, she sent her children to the Montessori school in Woodbridge while she taught 62 students in a fifth-grade class at St. Charles in Arlington. After extensive research, Futrell decided to open Aquinas Montessori. It was the fall of 1965.
A quote from Maria Montessori’s "Secret of Childhood" "Not in the service of any social or political creed, should the teacher work, but in the service of the complete human being, able to exercise in freedom a self-disciplined will and judgment unperverted by prejudice and undistorted by fear," became her mantra.
DURING THE FIRST YEAR OF OPERATION, Futrell received her training from the Washington Montessori Institute. The school opened with four classes, 60 students and five staff members. Today the school has nine classes, 204 students and 34 staff members.
Many additions have occurred to the original building as well as the addition of a swimming pool for physical education, summer camp and after care use. Various language lessons have always been part of the curriculum, currently Spanish Latin is taught. This is to accommodate the children’s sensitive period for language development —8-9 year- olds —according to Futrell.
Other programs included as part of the day are Great Books, drama and music. Enrichment activities after school are provided such as yoga, violin, piano and chess. Mr. Dave, as the children call him, assistant director, leads the music and P.E. programs. He is the son of Futrell. Her children, Danny and Allison, and granddaughter, Amanda, attended the school as well.
Futrell has been very active in the Montessori community. She has been the keynote and guest speaker for several conferences. She is the author of “The Normalized Child,” a book which originated from a speech she had given to parents and sent to other schools upon request.