Current address: 11790 Jefferson Avenue, Suite 200, Newport News, VA 23606
Contact and title: Dorothy Knox, head of school
Product or service: Programs for toddler through 12-year-old education: Toddler Community (16 months to three years); Children’s House (three to six years); Elementary Program (six to 12); and summer programs for toddlers and early childhood.
Year business was established: 1992
Reason for locating in Oyster Point: “Its high visibility and great location for families. We’ve grown and expanded each time so that we could add new programs and develop current ones, making it possible to serve all of the Peninsula,” Knox says. Once residential spaces came to Oyster Point, she saw a need for a school.
How long have you been with the school? 16 years
Significant milestones: Hampton Roads International Montessori School (HRIMS) completed its new playscape, in keeping with the natural environment, constructed from Robinia wood. “The outdoor environment is equally as important as the indoor environment,” Knox says. The school began with two classes and 40 children and has grown to six classrooms and 115 students, with 28 countries represented. The school celebrated its 25th anniversary in September with a picnic for the children and their families.
Significant stories: “I did not enjoy my traditional school education at all,” Knox says. “At 15, I was sick at boarding school, and a classmate gave me a biography on Marie Montessori. That’s what truly inspired me. Her methodology came from her observations of children and what children need. She was a woman way ahead of her time. I wanted to make sure that at least some children didn’t have to go through what I did.”
Montessori is a very structured program that follows the individual child’s development. “We know that children learn by doing, being actively and purposefully engaged in a task freely chosen by the child,” Knox says. “Certainly, we have high expectations and accountability for the children and how they spend their time. They have that innate motivation, a real joy and love for learning. It’s freedom with responsibility. You have free choice within the limits of the curriculum, within the limits of the environment and with respect for other people.”
Why has your Oyster Point location been beneficial to your growth? “It has high visibility. We can serve all of the Virginia Peninsula and those communities across the James River Bridge. Oyster Point is also close to museums and other resources for students.”
Plans for future growth: “We have an engaged board of trustees. We listen to what our parents want and to the community at large. It’s our dream to offer comprehensive programs through high school. It’s a challenge, but if our parents want it and the community wants it, then we will do what we can to make that happen.”
Closing comments: “The only reason we exist is for children. They are the life of the school,” Knox says. “Anyone interested in learning about the Montessori program is welcome to visit for a meet-and-greet. We want to be a viable part of our community.”