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  • Writer's pictureJulia Liljegren

Founded in Peace

Kay Neff never expected to start a Montessori school, let alone three. After all, in the early 1970s entrepreneurship was rarely a road young women traveled, especially alone. But Kay was also a mother and that changed everything.

It was 1972 and her oldest son was unhappy at the childcare center he attended. She, like any mother, was concerned and so began searching for a different, better option. She was seeking a place for her two sons, then ages 3 and 2, that was peaceful, clean, and happy. A place where no one was yelling. She visited many alternatives but did not find the “educational home” she was seeking – that is until she visited the new Montessori school that had moved into the area. Her search over, she transitioned her sons to their new school. But just a few months later, she arrived at the school to find a note on the door saying the school was being shut down by the government for failure to pay taxes. She knew the Montessori method provided what she wanted for her boys, and so she made a bold choice. She started a new Montessori school. Thus, Dearborn Heights Montessori Center was born.

Kay started the school with nine students, first operating out of her basement, later renting space at a local church and other area facilities before purchasing its permanent (and current) home in 1995. Like her boys, the program grew over the years, expanding from the original Pre-K through Kindergarten focus to serving toddlers through grade 8 students – growth that required physically expanding the building section by section with each grade level added. With the addition of Plymouth-Canton Montessori School and later Livonia Montessori School in 1973 and 1984 respectively, the Dearborn Heights Montessori school family grew, too.

Since their founding, the Dearborn Heights Montessori family of schools have been places where children can “come home” – that is, a place where they feel and are safe emotionally and physically so they can experience the joy of learning and explore their unique, innate gifts. A place where they can grow into their full potential supported by caring teachers.

It has now been nearly 50 years since that young mother made a different, bold choice – a choice that literally opened the doors for thousands of other parents to make a different choice for their children, too. From day one, family and peace have been at the heart of the Dearborn Heights Montessori community. They define our tone, are present in our classrooms and are infused in our school culture at all three campuses.

Dearborn Heights Montessori exists today because a mother wanted something more and better for her children. She found that something in Montessori. Kay’s boys are now highly successful men who are fathers themselves. And what started as a singular school with humble basement beginnings has grown to a three-school community filled with amazing young people and a nurturing staff who, like Kay, are committed to providing an educational home to each child with a dedication that, like a mother’s love, is unyielding.

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