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Sep 16, 2016 5:23 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

New Southampton Montessori Director Brings Breath Of Fresh Air To School

Nicole Tinker, the new director of the Southampton Montessori School, spends time teaching trinomials to her students. GREG WEHNER
Sep 20, 2016 2:58 PM

Irene Gazza opened the Southampton Montessori School on St. Andrews Road in 1983 after seeing a problem with students transitioning between first and second grade at Hampton Bays Elementary School, where she taught. The problem, she said, was 6-year-olds were having trouble reading, writing, computing and working well with other second-graders.So she started looking around at other schools, and found the Montessori method, which specializes in hands-on learning, collaboration and self-directed activity, allowing children to learn at their own individual pace using all five senses.

After opening the school, Ms. Gazza saw countless students come through the doors. Last year, in an effort to expand the scope of the school, she began offering classes to slightly older students, between the ages of 6 and 9. She hired Nicole Tinker, and together they implemented the new program.

That same year, Ms. Gazza announced she would be retiring and wanted to make sure she could hand the school over to someone who could continue to grow the program.

“She reminded me a lot of me when I was her age,” Ms. Gazza said, pointing out that Ms. Tinker had attended a Montessori school as a child, had a background in elementary school education, worked in public schools and had an interest in the Montessori method. “She worked with me for a year and did an excellent job. When it came time for me to pick someone to take over, she stepped up.

“She’s young and wants this for a career, and is very committed to the Montessori method,” Ms. Gazza added.

At 28 years old, Ms. Tinker assumed the helm as the new director of the Montessori school and said she hopes to be able to continue its growth, serve the community and provide the same level of service that Ms. Gazza did.

No stranger to the Montessori method, Ms. Tinker attended a Montessori school from preschool through kindergarten. She knew at a very young age that she wanted to become a teacher. Her parents, Jacqueline and James Lanzarone, recently found Ms. Tinker’s preschool yearbook, and in it, she said she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up.

Ms. Tinker said teaching and education have always been part of her. As a child she played school with her friends, and she would always be the teacher. Her mother is a teacher as well.

Ms. Tinker grew up in Smithtown, but spent a good deal of time on the East End because her parents owned a house in Southampton. Her favorite things to do were hang out at the beach and go out on the family’s Jet Skis and boat.

When she graduated from high school, Ms. Tinker said, she still had her eye on education, and attended Long Island University in pursuit of a degree in elementary school education. While there, she worked at the ABC Montessori school in Coram and when she graduated in 2010 she began working in elementary schools as a leave replacement teacher.

“I’m passionate about teaching,” Ms. Tinker said. “I knew at 2 and a half that this is what I wanted to do.”

Even now that she is the director, she plans to continue teaching. Though it is her responsibility to run the business side of things, she said she still prefers to be in the classroom with the kids.

Currently, the school has two full classes, one with children ages 3 through 6 and the other with children ages 6 through 9.

This year, Ms. Tinker introduced a few new programs to give the school a “fresh breath” of air, including yoga, designed to teach children how to relax and keep their bodies calm. The school also offers gardening, not only because it goes well with the Montessori curriculum, but because it allows students to utilize the on-site greenhouse and take advantage of the outdoor classroom.

Ms. Tinker also said this year the school plans on offering more field trips to places such as the Southampton Historical Museum, Parrish Art Museum and Rogers Memorial Library. Later in the school year, the older students will go to the library and read stories to younger children.

Eventually, Ms. Tinker wants to be able to offer learning experiences to students all the way up to grade 12.

Ms. Tinker emphasized that while new ideas such as before-care, gardening and yoga are being developed, “the core Montessori philosophy and materials remain the bedrock of the program.”

To this day, the Southampton Montessori School is the only school of its type on the East End. Ms. Tinker said many parents may not know about the school’s presence in the community, so on October 29 the school plans on hosting a fall festival for the first time with a DJ, bounce houses and many activities for children.

“I want to be successful in my position, and see the school succeed,” Ms. Tinker said. “It’s been here for 35 years, and I want it to continue for another 30. There’s no stopping us.”

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A good opportunity for this young educator.
By Doug Penny (59), Hobe Sound, FL on Sep 19, 16 5:57 PM
All the best!

By Hamptonsseashell (359), on Sep 22, 16 9:16 PM
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