The Story of MCHD
The Montessori Children’s House of Denver was established in 1991 by Gina Abegg and Rachel Averch, a pair of dedicated Montessori educators who were committed to creating an excellent Montessori school that reflected their core beliefs about the strength and beauty of Montessori education. They emphasized peace education, values and ethics, and nature study. They were passionate about working with each child’s individual learning style and about preparing children for well-rounded development and future success in addition to building academic ability.
When its journey began, the Montessori Children’s House of Denver was founded in a turn of the century house (an original farmhouse of the area) with five students and the school’s founders. Even early on, MCHD was designated an approved intern training site for MECR (Montessori Education Center of the Rockies) and other AMS accredited teacher training programs and was granted member status byAMS.
Word spread quickly about the quality of the school and its nurturing home-like environment, and within a short time, the school’s enrollment capacity was reached.
In early 1992, formalizing the peace education already being taught in the classroom, Gina Abegg formally developed a peace education and values-based curriculum that has become one of the cornerstones of the Montessori Children’s House of Denver. The families of the community responded to the addition to the curriculum with overwhelming acclaim and with thoughts that mirrored the school’s beliefs: children need to have strong values, a sense of right and wrong and the ability to be proactive in their problem solving in order to be confident, happy and contributing members of society as they grow and shape the future.
By 1994, the four lots that make up the school’s original grounds were brimming with children’s gardens, a developed playground and a beautiful volunteer-built deck that served as an outdoor classroom environment for the students. A nature study and gardening curriculum was developed by Rachel Averch to help the students connect with nature and tap into the unique learning opportunities created by the school’s outdoor environment. The addition of this curriculum further solidified the school’s existing emphasis on nature and environmental studies.
In 1994, MCHD was recognized by 5280 magazine as one of Denver’s best ECE schools.
In 1995, as the school created a new garden level classroom to accommodate families who had been waiting for a year or more to bring their children, it became necessary for Rachel and Gina to move out of the classroom full time and focus more on their administrative responsibilities. At this wonderful time in the school’s history, a new tradition began – a tradition of bringing other excellent classroom teachers with the same commitment to the school’s vision onto the MCHD team to ensure that the school’s values were upheld.
In 1996, MCHD achieved recognition by the Denver Mayor’s office for excellence in early childhood education as well as BBB accreditation.
In 1997, the school was hit with a devastating hailstorm that wiped out the children’s gardens. What at first seemed a tragedy quickly developed into a touching community effort as the MCHD families and their children pulled together and brought plants from their own homes to restore the school’s gardens. The gardens were completely replenished within days and were even more special than before with plantings that were meaningful to each and every child, and therefore meaningful to the school. Many of the perennials donated to the school at that time can still be found growing in the school’s gardens to this day.
In April 2002, a blizzard hit Denver, leaving behind 4 foot snow drifts. In addition to shutting down the city for several days, this heavy, wet blizzard destroyed many of the city’s trees, including an evergreen that had grown next to the school for most of the building’s life. The tree was taller than the 2 story building itself, and when it fell, it spanned the entire length of the playground. Amazingly, it did no damage when it fell, missing the other trees and playground equipment entirely. But even more amazingly, as the tree was being removed, it was discovered that squirrels had built a nest out of the school’s supply of red gloves marked “MCHD” in the tree, explaining the mysterious disappearance of the back-up supply of gloves year after year. The story “the Mitten” was quickly adopted by the school and was read often to the children as they would remember the red gloves that kept our squirrels warm in the winters.
In the spring of 2003, continuing in the school’s tradition of responding to the needs of the community, the children and their families, a toddler classroom was added to the school. The families were thrilled to have an excellent program for their youngest children, and the school was equally fortunate to gain the addition of its delightful youngest friends.
In 2005, Beatrice Watson, the school’s Executive Director, began what has since become an annual tradition of a silent and live auction known as “Gala”. This event served as a community building event which doubled as fundraiser for parent events and scholarship funds. The overwhelming success of the event helped MCHD launch a formal school PTSA, something that the school had been eager to develop for years and has been invaluable since.
Also in 2005, Gina Abegg decided to semi-retire and commit herself fully to family and school consulting and teacher training with an emphasis in non-violent communication and peace education. With Gina’s retirement as co-director, Beatrice Watson, the school’s Executive Director, and Rachel Averch teamed with the teachers and administative staff to ensure that the school’s vision continued to be upheld.
In 2006, MCHD achieved NAEYC accreditation and added it to its long list of achievements and recognitions. This year also marked an important period in the school’s life, as the school formally developed and implemented a holistic spiral curriculum ranging from toddlers through elementary to ensure the continuity of educational content from one age grouping to the next.
In the fall of 2007, MCHD once again responded to the needs of the community and grew with the children, adding lower elementary (1st, 2nd and 3rd grades) in response to requests from families who wanted to continue on with the school into elementary. This addition of lower elementary came along with an expansion into 2 new campuses and the addition of 4 classrooms. At the same time, the school’s Vision Statement was updated to reflect MCHD’s more established school community while keeping the strong focus on the school’s culture and core values.
Almost overnight, the culture of the school melted seamlessly into the Park Hill and Hilltop campuses where the staff did an exemplary job of implementing the school’s vision and preserving the quality and personality of MCHD in their classrooms and in their warm and professional interactions with the children and families that they served.
In 2009, MCHD added an upper elementary classroom for 4th through 6th grade students to accomodate the growing elementary students at the hilltop campus. The new classroom flourished right away, and was a joy to see unfold.
In 2010, with the elementary program needing more room, and a large number of families in the Stapleton area asking for an MCHD campus there in their own community, Rachel and the school staff embarked on a long-time dream of building a campus that from the ground up would reflect the vision of MCHD. With overwhelming warmth, the Stapleton community opened its arms to MCHD, and Rachel, Beatrice and the entire MCHD staff from all 3 campuses worked closely with the architect and landscape architect to design a building that would keep the children close to nature. The nearly 2 acre property provided the room to create park-like playgrounds, as well as covered outdoor patio classroom extensions off of every class so that the children could move seamlessly between the indoor and outdoor spaces. In August, 2011, the campus opened and instantly fell into step with the other three campuses in implementing the MCHD vision.
With a focus on community, strong Montessori curriculum, as well as child-centered and individualized education, for over 20 years, MCHD has been a very special place filled with very special families, teachers, administrators, and most importantly: children.