National Blue Ribbon School

The logo of the Montessori Education Centre (MEC) is comprised of both a seedling and a butterfly. It is imagery that speaks to the essence of Montessori and represents what MEC holds sacred. Each stage of development changes an individual. Given a rich environment, full of love and freedom, the child advances through his/her sensitive periods of growth (represented in the plant) and spontaneously changes into a new individual (represented in the butterfly).

Individualized education, independent work, intrinsic motivation, investigative exploration, interactive experiences, and inclusive community development are the guiding principles of learning at MEC. Implemented for decades throughout each level of our students’ engagement, from our infants to our sixth graders, these ideologies and practices have been part of developing children who serve others, achieve academically, steward their environment, respectfully challenge the norm, and operate with grace and courtesy.

Over one hundred years ago, Maria Montessori set in motion an educational revolution that put the whole child first, with teachers able to observe, nurture, and guide him/her for three years at a time, in a setting that allows the student to navigate and create, while being adaptable to scholastic demands and evolutions. MEC has been proud since 1996 (and an additional decade before our charter) to do our best for the children of the East Valley of Arizona in upholding what Maria Montessori started, which is why our young plants and butterflies become well-rounded citizens, perform well on state tests, and treat each other and the greater community well.

To receive the National Blue Ribbon School Award is one of the highest honors a school can receive. The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. It includes key elements of successful school programs, from individualized student support, intentional instruction, collaborative cultures, and targeted curricula. Every year, the U. S. Department of Education seeks out and celebrates great American schools, schools demonstrating that all students can achieve to high levels. The National Blue Ribbon School award affirms the hard work of students, educators, families, and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging content. The National Blue Ribbon School flag gracing an entry or flying overhead is a widely recognized symbol of exemplary teaching and learning.

We are incredibly proud of our students, teachers, staff, and parents for their commitment to MEC and their part in elevating it to a community where growth and transformation truly happens.

Cassi Mackey, M.Ed, Principal


Soft daises

Warm sun

Oceans for everyone

Life from here and there

Animals and humans

Flowers on land

Narwhals in oceans

Ready for motion

Butterflies tasting pollen

Again and again

With every gem

It’s always TEAM ERIN

Diamonds and emeralds

Geodes and amber

Stones and quartz

Copper and ore

Bronze shards

Gold created into darts

But nothing harms

Because we are


By Mason Engels and Milo Jensen

ages 8

Peace Garden

“Let the children be free; encourage them; let them run outside when it is raining; let them remove their shoes when they find a puddle of water; and when the grass of the meadows is wet with dew, let them run on it and trample it with their bare feet; let them rest peacefully when a tree invites them to sleep beneath its shade; let them shout and laugh when the sun wakes them in the morning.” -Maria Montessori

Gently close your eyes. Take a breath through your nose. Exhale the breath out through your mouth. Repeat. Take in the calm of your body from your head to your toes. You are now ready to enter the Peace Garden.

There is a sense of excitement and wonder in being invited to visit the Peace Garden. When a child is chosen by their teacher to take the journey to this magical place on our campus, hearts beat a little faster and the energy is dialed up. So, before entering the Peace Garden, they are asked to take a breath, or two, to be ready to enter this outdoor environment. Here in the garden, we are sharing space with nature, and so we respect all aspects of plant life, animal life, as well as our human interaction with it and each other. I am very honored to accompany the children in this space, watching their wonder and discovery at everything. We’ve been making binoculars and using magnifying glasses to focus the scope of everything around us. They’ve shown me their absolute love of roly-poly bugs, finding them in the dirt and making their own new environments for the isopods to play. The children ask a plethora of questions, challenging me to grow with them in the knowledge of our outside world.

We will be discovering and learning so much in the garden this year. Along with ideas gathered from research this summer, I had the privilege of attending a two-day Sustainable Garden Summit at which I was able to obtain even more ways of bringing science, botany, and other education into the garden. As an Assistant Teacher and Outdoor Environment Teacher at MEC for the past 7 years as well as having my own daughter grow through the 6-9 and 9-12 environments, I am looking forward to working with the children from all classrooms in gaining more knowledge and practice within the Peace Garden.

May we all find some time to enjoy and enlighten our souls in the beauty of nature.

Angie Fretz, Peace Garden Teacher

Mercado at MEC

Mercado (Spanish for “open market”) is a Financial Literacy program that introduces basic economic principles and financial literacy to children in an exciting and challenging way. Mercado also develops community between students. The guiding principles of Mercado are:

  1. experiential learning- immersing learners in action and asking them to reflect on their experience
  2. constructivism- students construct their own knowledge base and values as they interact with their physical and social environments
  3. collaborative learning- leaning occurs through social interaction

After completing a general, economic-based curriculum (individualized to the age and developmental abilities of the child), the school puts on the Mercado twice-a-year (three times on the years of Family Mercado). After selecting products and/or services, students form stores, create a business plan, and learn skills related to their store (production and/or practicing services). They develop budget and marketing strategies, advertise, take out a bank loan, pay rent, pay employee salaries, analyze and create price-points, and keep track of inventory. Each elementary classroom creates businesses. They also shop at their schoolmates’ stores. Primary classes have the opportunity to shop and interact with these older students. Mercado “money” is earned throughout the year. Every student has the opportunity to earn the same amount of money, and teachers are asked to decide how children merit a specific amount.

During our Valentine Mercado, we invite students from Children First Academy (CFA). Our students interact with CFA children, finding many commonalities and building friendships. Together, we create a community where students support each other, respect diversity, and work in cooperation to achieve shared vision and goals. An important by-product is that the CFA students are provided an incredible experience that makes them feel respected, cared for, and acknowledged.

Can We Come to Mercado?

In the service of our children is a phrase that guides our decisions on a daily basis. It is our practice to look at every aspect of a lesson or an activity to help create an experience that will optimally benefit our children. We take the time to reflect on both the process and outcome. Through many discussions, we have come to the conclusion that, in order to keep the integrity of the Mercado as a financial literacy program, it is best to only have students participate in the version of this event that occurs around Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

In the past couple of years, Mercado participants have grown significantly. Although we enjoy welcoming family and friends to our event, it has become counterintuitive to the lessons we are trying to provide for our students. Our smallest of students are getting lost within the sea of adults, students don’t have time to engage in conversation while serving others, and there is little time for grace and courtesy lessons or lessons on how to conduct business. It is also a time where we are able to help our student learn more about composting food and what items can be reused or recycled.

It is our greatest hope that, as Montessori parents, you understand that our goal is not to exclude you but to help our students get the most out of this worthwhile experiential lesson.

Cassi Mackey, M.Ed., Principal


  • To every student, faculty, staff, and parent for receiving the National Blue Ribbon School award.
  • To Tammy Whiting, Head-of-School and Cassi Mackey, M.Ed., Principal for a fun and festive celebration.
  • To Pete Chenen for designing the banners and editing video.
  • To Trent Whiting for filming the celebration.
  • To Karen Lirange and Nikki Jackson for the beautiful lollipop flower in the office representing our growing community.
  • To A & M Graphics for the National Blue Ribbon School banners.

Dates to Remember

Fall Break – October 7 – 11 – No School
School Resumes – Monday, October 14
Vision Screening – Wednesday, October 16
Scholastic Book Orders due – Friday, October 18
Veterans Day – Monday, November 11 – No School
Thanksgiving Break – November 28-29 – No School
Parent/Teacher Conference – Friday, December 6 – No School
Barnes & Noble Book Fair – Friday, December 13
Winter Break – December 20 – January 3 – No School
School Resumes – Monday, January 6


Prescription and over-the-counter medication – the parent must complete a medication form, which is available in the office. All medication must be received in its original packaging and not expired.

Please call the office at (480) 926-8375 by 10:00 am to let us know your child is absent that day. If you let a teacher know in carline that your child will be absent or tardy, you MUST also call the office for the absence to be excused.
If you have a change of address or phone number, please notify the office a.s.a.p.
Please do not send your child to school with any heels or high-wedge shoes.
Any changes for pick up at the end of the day need to be called in by 1:00 pm. If you are late picking up a child in carline, they will be dismissed to LEAP after carline is over.

We will not retrieve your child from their classroom or LEAP prior to your arrival to pick them up.

Please label your child’s lunch box and jackets with first and last name. Our lost and found is located in the office restroom behind the curtain. If the item finds its way into the bin and has a label, we will return it to the child. If not, on the first Monday of every month, we donate unclaimed items to Goodwill.
If you are ordering Scholastic book(s), make sure your child’s name is on the order form before turning it into the office.


  • Please help us to keep our school healthy by keeping students home when they are coughing, have a runny nose, a sore throat, fever, or an upset stomach.
  • If your child becomes ill at school, we will contact you to pick him/her up. You will need to pick up your child within one half hour of our phone call. Your child must be fever free (under 100 degrees), without medication, no longer vomiting, diarrhea free, and rash free (or not contagious) for 24 hours before returning to school.
  • Please inform your classroom teacher if you are aware that your child is arriving to school with a non contagious rash, sores, bug bites, etc. This notice will eliminate teacher concern and questions.