History & Traditions

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Hilltop Montessori School is an independent, secular, non-profit school offering the highest quality of private education based on the principles of Montessori philosophy. Hilltop’s school community is strongly multi-cultural and comes from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds living in Jefferson, Shelby and St. Clair counties. Our student body is composed of children from 18 months through eighth grade. The environment promotes a child’s discovery, learning, teaching and growth and encourages independence and a love of learning, as well as intrinsic motivation to excel academically. Hilltop Montessori’s curriculum fosters within each child a positive attitude toward learning, a respect toward self and others and an understanding of one’s responsibility to the world. The curriculum is geared to each child’s unique abilities and needs, allowing each child to be empowered at his or her own level of aptitude and achievement.

Hilltop Montessori School was founded in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1996 by Cindi Stehr, who believed strongly in the fundamental theories of Montessori education. The school received its status as a non-profit corporation in 1998, when the original preschool program was expanded to include an elementary program, developed by Michele Wilensky, the school’s current Head of School. Since that time, Hilltop has grown tremendously to include two toddler programs, four primary classrooms, two lower elementary classrooms, one upper elementary and a middle school program. The school was originally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) in 2004, and is also accredited by the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS) and an associate member of The American Montessori Society (AMS). Our early childhood program is also accredited by The American Montessori Society as of 2014. Future plans for the school include a Phase Three Expansion valued at 3.4 million dollars which will add a gymnasium/community center, a science lab, a multi-media center, an art studio and additional classrooms. The expansion is expected to open in August of 2016, the 20th birthday of the school.

As with other non-profit, private schools, the school is run by an administrative structure that also includes a Board of Directors as its governing body. The Board of Directors comprises community leaders, Birmingham educators and parents of children attending the school.

Among other grants, Hilltop Montessori School received a grant from the Ursula Thrush Peace Seed Grant program for the construction of a peace garden in the spring of 2012. The peace garden is housed on the campus of our LEED-certified green school. The peace garden contains a food representative from each country of origin of each child enrolled at the school. These countries include: Russia, China, South America, Vietnam, Pakistan, Italy, Germany, Thailand, India, Hong Kong and Great Britain. The kindergarten students of the school created permanent flags representing each country to mark the garden. The grant is named after Ursula Thrush, a noted Montessori educator who worked toward peace education throughout her lifetime, and was provided through the American Montessori Society.

Traditions of Hilltop Montessori School are extensive and include an emphasis on environmental education. Each learning environment offers outdoor classroom spaces, gardening areas that support nutritious snacks for the students and beautiful outdoor, naturally wooded play areas. The property also boasts a nature trail implemented through a grant from Legacy, Inc., as well as areas for composting and an apiary. Family traditions include annual events such as an Art and Music Festival, Fine Arts Night, an annual Science Fair, job demonstration nights, Donuts with DadMuffins with Momfall festivals and Thanksgiving celebrations that involve the entire school community. As of 2014, the school also holds seasonal peace ceremonies that are non-denominational but inspirational to the community and reflective of the changing of the season.

Monthly opportunities for parent interaction involve our whole community in the learning process and encourage family participation, creating a healthy relationship among student, educator and the home. Many parents serve on The Parent Action Committee, assist with fundraising, participate in family events and work in the classrooms. Parents of Montessori students are encouraged to become involved participants in their children’s education. Hilltop Montessori School’s stakeholders vary and include grandparents, alumni, board, parents and the community of Birmingham.