Lisa Toraño (left), the new administrator at Racine Montessori School succeeds Rita Lewis, who leaves the position after 30 years.
BY KATIE MATTESON
Lisa Toraño is the new administrator at Racine Montessori School, but she’s not new to the school and she brings 18 years of experience using Montessori methods while homeschooling her six children.
Outgoing administrator Rita Lewis hired Toraño seven years ago, first to teach Spanish and then as an Upper Elementary teacher.
The two educators clicked right away and Lewis had an early sense that Toraño would eventually be her successor. “I think I even asked her in the interview if she’d ever thought about administration.”
Both women were radiant when they talked about the educational method developed by Dr. Maria Montessori in the early 20th century and brought to Racine in 1963 by a group of parents who had read about Montessori and wanted it for their children.
For the first 33 years, classes were held in the east building of the DeKoven Foundation complex until the school outgrew the facility.
In the fall of 1996, the school moved from rented space at DeKoven into the former Lakeside School building at 2317 Howe St. After operating as a public school for many years, the school closed in the 1950s and J.I. Case Corporation (now CNH) bought it for office space. Thanks to the generosity of the company, RMS bought the building in exchange for the costs of moving the Case operation from the site.
When asked what they’d each like people to know about their school, Toraño said it was that “kids love to learn and the Montessori approach enables lifetime learning.”
For Lewis, it’s the peaceful environment. “The school’s culture empowers students to resolve conflicts on their own.”
Toraño noted that Montessori, who was nominated six times for a Nobel Peace Prize, is quoted as saying: “Peace is what every human being is craving for, and it can be brought about by humanity through the child.”
The school’s 230 students, who range in from age 2½ through eighth grade, are organized into three primary, three lower elementary, upper elementary and adolescent programs. The staff includes nine Montessori-trained teachers, as well as specialists in reading, art, music, Spanish, computers, library and physical education. In addition, the school offers before- and after-school programs.
Parents also play a key role in the program, with volunteer responsibilities for building and grounds maintenance, as well as serving as greeters in the drop-off line at the beginning of the school day.
Parents of students attending the school automatically become members of the Racine Montessori Society, which operates the school. The society is managed by a nine-member Board of Directors elected annually.
The school is also green certified, so parents provide bag lunches, cloth napkins are used, food waste is composted and solar panels provide energy to the school as well as income from power sold to Wisconsin Electric.
The adolescent students are based in the greenhouse and the nature center. In addition to their academic studies, they grow, raise and sell seedlings and plants, care for a prairie maze and a rain garden. They also tend to worm bins and composting.
Toraño and Lewis agreed that the school’s positive environment and non-competitive atmosphere are key aspects of the school’s 55 years of success, as well as staff longevity (many for 20+ years).
Current students include the children of former students and teachers. Lewis said all her grandchildren attended the school and Toraño will greet three of her 11 grandchildren on the first day of school.
For more information about Racine Montessori School, call the school at (262) 637-7892, child care at (262) 637-1745 or visit racinemontessori.com.