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Strong team . . . Montessori Oamaru staff (back, from left) Sue Mareta-Ria, Lanii Park, Jakki McCone, Mairaid Elliott, Charlotte McNaughton, Stacey Butson, (front) Mel Haywood, Kara Ovens and Suvana Scott promote the new preschool at the Friendly Bay Family Fun Day. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The first time Stacey Butson walked into a Montessori preschool, she felt a meaningful connection on many levels.

When she moved to Oamaru with her family four years ago she saw a need for one in North Otago – and set out to open her own.

After three years of planning, late nights, early mornings and a lot of sacrifice, her vision has become a reality. Montessori Oamaru, a new, purpose-built nursery and preschool, officially opened on Wednesday.

Montessori Oamaru

The Montessori method of education, developed by Maria Montessori, is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. Children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and teachers offer age-appropriate activities to guide the process.

“They’re given freedom of choice within the structure,’ Mrs Butson said.

Public interest in Oamaru’s first Montessori preschool had been very high.

“I’m overwhelmed. I did really thorough market research, so I knew that we would have some enrolments, because I just knew there was a need for it, but at the same time people have just been so passionate, and really loyal,” she said.

Montessori Oamaru has a licence for 75 children and it already had more than 65 enrolments.

“They will be transitioned for a year – they don’t all start on day one,” she said.

Stacey Butson

The Butson family – Stacey, Paul and then 4-year-old Riki – moved to Oamaru from Mosgiel four years ago. Mr Butson had a job opportunity on a farm at Papakaio and Mrs Butson was pregnant with their second child, Cory.

With a background in education and social and community work, Mrs Butson said she always knew she wanted to work with people, but she could never have imagined opening her own Montessori preschool would be the path she would take.

“It’s amazing how everything just falls into place,” she said.

It had been a long process, taking the best part of three years, but Mrs Butson was thrilled to see her vision become a reality and children finally be able to enjoy it.

“Seeing children enjoy it just pulled at my heart strings a little bit. It’s just such a nice thing to be able to offer,” she said.

“It’s been my third baby in a way.”

There were 10 staff on the “Monte team” – eight qualified teachers, a chef and an administrator.

“We’ve got a really cool team – we’re so, so lucky,” she said.

opening process had been, it had brought the team together.

“It’s been a really good time to get to know each other and get prepared – we’re so ready,” she said.

She encouraged anyone interested in the Montessori method, or who wanted to find out more, to visit the Regina Lane preschool and nursery.

“When people ask what it is, I say ‘you’ve just got to come and see it in action’, because it’s just too big to explain in a nutshell,” she said.

“They’ll feel it as soon as they come in.”