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Teaching practices pioneered last century considered best practices by some educators today

The teaching techniques and educational efforts that were developed at the beginning of the last century for Italian children in poverty by Maria Montessori are being adopted by one of the smallest private elementary schools in Southwest Portland.

Beginning this month, Maimonides Jewish Day School will, for the first time since it was founded in 1985, integrate a Montessori-inspired education into its established practices.

Maimonides, named for a 12TH century scholar, astronomer, doctor and rabbi, is located in the Hillsdale neighborhood at 6612 S.W. Capitol Highway and teaches 39 students in kindergarten through eighth grade out of a building owned by Chabad-Lubavitch.

The principal at Maimonides, Rabbi Shneur Wilhelm, said on his school's website, "Integrating Montessori-inspired practices means increased, trained staff for greater individualized attention for our students and the creation of student work plans, just to name two updates, all of which strengthen our already robust core values and mission."

The Montessori method is based on the belief that children learn best when they are in mixed, multi-aged classrooms and spend several years in the same classroom. West Hills Montessori School, about two miles west of Maimonides on Southwest Vermont Street, just finished its 50th year teaching Southwest Portland students. Delila Olsson, the school's program director, tells the SW Connection that Montessori "emphasizes individuality rather than conformity."

Rabbi Wilhelm, the principal, is the son of the founders of Maimonides, Rabbi Moshe and Devorah Wilhelm. His parents were sent from New York to Portland in the early 1980s, he wrote in an email, " to spread the warmth of Judaism throughout the state of Oregon." The man who sent them here was the very revered Rabbi Menachem Mendel, who held the highest position in the Chabad-Lubavitcher movement, considered the most widespread Jewish movement throughout the world. As Chabad Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneerson was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the two highest honors granted civilians in America, right after he died in 1994. There are 3,500 schools, social centers and service locations world-wide affiliated with the movement he led to prominence.

Maimonides will roll out its Montessori-inspired program over the next three academic years, according to the school.

For more information check out the website PortlandJewishSchool.com


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