Individualized Learning in Elementary School – Montessori Works!  

Our lower elementary students begin each day with their individual work plans, where they keep a detailed list of lessons and activities to be completed over the course of the month. Each student’s progress is reflected in their plan as they work through the Montessori curriculum. While work plans are developed in tandem with the Ministry of Education guidelines, students are able to choose their work freely within the structure of their personal work plan and the areas which make up the Kendalwood lower elementary classroom.

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Mr.Linderman works with a small group of students.

The Montessori learning environment, where students are able to work independently or join in small groups in various activities, is much different from what one would see in a traditional primary classroom. During work periods, students may be called to learn a new lesson in a small group, others will work independently on a lesson they are mastering while another group might use the computer to gather research for an independent project of his/her interest.  This is also a time for teachers to hold one-on-one conferences with students or offer support and reinforcement to students as required.

 Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment.  

– Maria Montessori

Kendalwood provides a program rich with opportunities to explore topics and interests outside of the Ministry of Education’s core curriculum, one of the many reasons parents choose Montessori education for their children. Students gather in groups for French lessons or spend some time learning a musical instrument such as the penny whistle or the ukulele. Music lessons are a time to explore sound and sensations along with learning musical theory and history. Academic lessons are applied to real life situations whenever possible and Kendalwood chooses field trips which help to transfer knowledge in real world context.

Careful attention is paid to social development in tandem with academic development. There is an important balance to be found between the two in order to nurture well-rounded individuals. Character education, public speaking and community outreach are a few of the larger initiatives undertaken at the lower elementary level to support social development, however, our day to day interactions with one another as a school community  are the biggest influence on social development. We operate as a team and respect one another’s contributions to the lower elementary classroom.

A Montessori elementary education means that our students are able to work through the curriculum as individuals. Montessori follows the child – only children who are ready to move forward will do so. Those who need to take more time to master a subject or a skill are able to work at their own pace.  Once a child is observed to be ready to move forward, the Montessori classroom enables timely progression. At Kendalwood, we often see students learning concepts which are traditionally not explored until the junior grades in the public system.

Learning is a distinct process; the way in which we absorb knowledge is unique to each individual. At Kendalwood, our lower elementary program enables students to progress at a rate that coincides with their current developmental stage – which is so critical to creating a love of learning in the primary years.

The Kendalwood lower elementary program is led by Montessori Directress Christine Lauzon. She is a MACTE Accredited Lower and Upper Elementary Montessori teacher, with Ontario Certification in Elementary Education up to grade 8 and Math and History specialities to grade 10.  Christine graduated from Queens University in the Concurrent Education program in 2009 when she also obtained her Special Education qualifications. 

Nicole Tal is Upper Elementary Directress and Head of Kendalwood Elementary. With an extensive education including a Masters of Education, in addition to her Ontario Teachers Certificate, Montessori Certification, and Special Education qualifications, Nicole brings the very best in curriculum design and Montessori methodology to our elementary program. Read more about Nicole.

Kendalwood Montessori and Elementary School is very proud to be the first fully Accredited Montessori School in Durham Region, having achieved CCMA accreditation in 2011. Read more about our commitment to quality education.


Nicole Tal – Upper Elementary Directress & Head of Kendalwood Montessori Elementary

Nicole Tal’s passion and dedication within our elementary classrooms at Kendalwood Montessori is truly infectious. With a remarkable ability to connect with students on their individual level, Nicole’s energetic approach never fails to ignite the love of learning in others.

Our Upper Elementary Directress brings her education credentials and teaching experience rich in Montessori methodology to Kendalwood. When asked how she got her start in Montessori, her enthusiasm shines through as she recounts how her “mind was blown!” during an information session when the connection between the use of concrete materials and learning really clicked for her. New to the methodology, and the possibilities of what this could mean for students, was so exciting.

During Nicole’s Montessori training, she was captivated by Maria Montessori’s faith in her students. Montessori theorized that children could make decisions, show self-control, and learn independently from the teacher.  While somewhat skeptical, she couldn’t wait to see this in action. Once she witnessed this for herself, she was amazed by the control and self-discipline visible in the classroom.

headshot_Nicole“After understanding the use of the materials in the classroom and witnessing the mechanics of a working classroom, I was hooked.  Montessori became a way of teaching, thinking, and working that permeated my entire life, including my parenting.”  – Nicole Tal, Upper Elementary Directress & Head of Kendalwood Elementary

Nicole’s Montessori teaching journey began in a Casa classroom where she spent six years working with students aged three to six. Her next career stop included curriculum development and promotion of Education programs for Reptilia, where students are able to learn more about the world around them and gain concrete understanding of abstract ideas through interaction with living reptiles. What a wonderful compliment to Nicole’s Montessori background!

Her return to teaching included a move to the elementary program and she loved it from the start. In her current role at Kendalwood, Nicole not only teaches, but acts as Head of Kendalwood Elementary. With an extensive education including a Masters of Education, in addition to her Ontario Teachers Certificate, Montessori Certification, and Special Education qualifications, Nicole brings the very best in curriculum design and Montessori methodology to our elementary program.  Nicole’s qualifications combined with her passion for her students and all things Montessori result in an extraordinary elementary experience for students in Whitby and the greater Durham Region.  She is such a wonderful part of what makes Kendalwood unique!

How many of you remember that one teacher who made a difference in your lives? To us Mrs Tal is that teacher. What sets her apart is her passion for teaching and the ability to see each child as an individual. She encourages her students to dig deep and reach beyond what they think their limits are. In turn her students are confident, accomplished and excited about the world around them. The transformation in our son has been incredible.   Mrs Tal’s  patience, kindness  and her gift of making his school life full of interesting challenges has made him so happy he actually loves to learn!!  – Gillian Koch, Kendalwood Parent


It is an absolute pleasure working with Nicole! As an educator she brings a great passion and devotion to her teaching, which is evident in the success of the Upper Elementary Classroom. She has a magical way about her that continually sparks the interest and inner drive in all her students, ensuring they meet their true potential.  As a co-worker, Nicole is always willing to offer her assistance and expansive knowledge to every classroom, staff and student in the school. This approach has been instrumental in the creation of the supportive and tight knit school community we have here at Kendalwood.  – Janis Koenders, Kendalwood Principal 

Learn more about our Elementary Program

Spotlight on Janis Koenders, Principal ­­- Kendalwood Montessori & Elementary School

Janis Koenders has been passionate about working with children all her life. She began as the resident babysitter in her neighborhood, where local parents came to rely on her and her wonderful way with their families. Janis began to think that her future might involve working with children.

Upon high school graduation from Rosedale Heights School of the Arts, Janis began the Early Childhood Education program at George Brown College as an initial foundation for her post-secondary studies. As she approached completion of the ECE program, she was unsure of her next academic step but one thing was certain – her career would center on child development.

Janis’ passion for children was met with good fortune in an exciting opportunity at a Montessori school in Port Perry. Janis accepted her first formal role as the afterschool program teacher and she was soon promoted to a full time position. She had found her calling and knew that her future would be in Montessori education.

I vividly remember my first visit into the classroom. I recall two clear thoughts racing through my mind:

I had spent my life underestimating children and just how much they are capable of, and; I simply had to learn more about the Montessori program that helped children to flourish like this!

– Janis Koenders

After becoming immersed in Montessori through her first teaching position, Janis went on to complete her Montessori Diploma program focused on Infant and Toddler education at Toronto Montessori Institute. Upon graduation, we were fortunate to meet with Janis and quickly offered her a teaching position. She has since worked closely with our students as a Teacher in quite a few Kendalwood classrooms and acted as our Office Administrator. Most recently, Janis has taken on the role of Principal as we couldn’t be happier to have her in this Leadership role.

In Her Own Words

We sat down with Janis to ask her a few questions about her thoughts on Montessori, and more specifically, life at Kendalwood. Here’s what she had to say:

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Janis Koenders, Principal

Why do you think parents should choose a Montessori education for their child(ren)? In Montessori, we view our role as educators to be the child’s “aid to life”; always working at their pace and their developmental capabilities. Providing children with an individualized education allows them to take control of their educational destiny!

In society, we place so much pressure on post-secondary education. And while I agree to its importance, I also feel we often overlook the most crucial time in a child’s life. It is frequently noted how important the early years are for child development and I believe Montessori provides the best head start for life-long learning.

What differentiates Kendalwood from other Durham Region Montessori schools? Kendalwood Montessori goes beyond the education of children. We pride ourselves on engaging families through curriculum nights, parent information sessions, school-wide events and social networking. We are a school community; a family and I love that!

What is the best part of your day as principal of KMS? Every morning I am greeted with excited handshakes by the children of Kendalwood that enter the school ready to start their day. As I walk through the classrooms I can see the joy when they are given a new lesson. I can sense the pride as they persevere through a challenging piece of work. I can feel the encouragement as they help a classmate. That excitement, that joy, that pride and that encouragement renews my faith in Montessori every single day and I am truly honoured to witness it.

Nicole Tal, Head of Elementary

“Janis is not only a supportive principal and colleague, but she continuously shows us that coming to work everyday is a joy by the smile on her face.  She reflects a grateful and joyous attitude towards students, parents, and teachers creating an environment we are happy to be a part of everyday.  As a teacher, administrative support is so important, and Janis has that for us in spades.  She is consistently present and helpful, and ready to step in whenever a helping hand is required.”


Lisa Jobe, Owner/Director 

“It has been great to have Janis lead the school this year as Principal. Her approachable style and friendliness are key to maintaining, as well as enhancing, Kendalwood’s family-focused culture. Janis ensures that our school operates to a very high standard, above what is required for Provincial Licensing or our CCMA Accreditation.  Janis is very well organized and tackles every situation with dedication and focus, leading our staff with one clear goal – inspiring our students to love to learn. Kevin and I look forward to working with Janis in the years to come.”


Your Child’s Growth & Development – The Year Ahead

Each New Year is welcomed by a familiar annual ritual, one in which we reflect on the past and enthusiastically look toward the year before us.  It is a time for planning, setting goals and visualizing future successes. This January, Kendalwood Montessori invites you to take a moment to consider your hopes for your children in the coming year. What would you like them to strive toward? What character traits do you want to cultivate?  Are there specific values you would like to nurture?

As a parent who has chosen a Montessori path for your children, you are already providing an environment which aims to help them learn and grow to the very best of their ability, while allowing them to take the lead role in their development and success. If you have 2015 goals based on the growth and development of your children, read on for some helpful ideas!

He who is served is limited in his independence.

– Maria Montessori

Parents often ask us how they can bring Montessori principles into their home and family environment to further support their children using a consistent approach. We have put together a few suggestions that are simple to work into your interactions with your children:

Provide opportunities for your children to do as much for themselves as possible, such as getting dressed, making their bed and packing their bag for school. This may require some patience! The benefits of enabling children to do for themselves are great and cannot be overemphasized. Independence is an aid to life – we want to develop young people who are self-aware and confident, with strong decision making skills.

Help your children learn how to fail successfully. When your child is presented with a challenge, help them to think through more than one approach to solving the problem. Problems are rarely solved with our first attempt and children need to practice the art of problem solving. This can be done in playful situations (how are we going to fix the Lego tower that fell apart?) or in more challenging obstacles that require research and more complex thinking (an advanced homework assignment for an older child).

Cultivate critical thinking skills through play. A fun and easy way to do this is to turn off the technology and sit down together for a family game night! Choose card games or board games that your children enjoy which also require age appropriate reasoning and logic.

Put your children in charge of household tasks! Even very young toddlers are capable of helping with cleaning, sorting the recycling and making meals. Contributing to the daily work of family life helps children develop self-esteem and cultivates appreciation and respect for family members and your home.

Inspire their inner drive to learn at every opportunity. Periodically encourage your child to plan a family activity based on their interests and have regular conversations centered on the topics that appeal to them. You will see the spark in their eyes!

It can be all too easy to lose sight of our larger goals for our children in the midst of our busy days. Taking a moment to reflect and look ahead helps us to reset and focus on the things that matter most – our hopes and dreams. This year, Kendalwood promises to encourage your children to dream big and support them in attainment of their goals!

Happy New Year