Nazera Shomade and Talia Abker at the The Children House in the An Nur Montessori at PGMA. Photo by the Muslim Link.
Allean Hart, the heart behind the An Nur Montessori at Prince George’s County Muslim Association, started her journey as an educator in the DC Public School system as a teacher’s assistant. Her students’ parents seeing her love for their children rallied to send her to school, to the Washington Montessori Institute, the oldest Association Montessori Internationale (AMI)-accredited training center in North America, so she could become AMI trained. The institute has since relocated to the Loyola University graduate center in Columbia, MD.
“I grew up with neighborhood kids in our house all the time. My mother would always have someone there for breakfast, lunch, dinner; she would take in the neighborhood kids who didn’t have adults looking after them,” says Alane as she speaks about her inspirational mother, who accepted Islam at the age of 93.
As a teacher in the public montessori schools in the Capital, she would often copy the words of songs by Native Deen and have Eid announcements on the P. A. system so the Muslim students could feel and share the spirit of Eid. After 9/11 when other Muslims were scared of retaliation, she was confident as she had several ‘safe’ homes, around the school she used to teach in, where she could take her students,
For years she worked at the Al Iman School in Virginia until it closed down. The equipment is her own, collected or gifted to her over the 18 years. She sews some of the class supplies herself. She says she would love to train a young women who is starting off her teaching journey.
She says that Montessori is a preparation for life as it is based on human tendencies of man. “Allah gave us certain tendencies which allow us to develop as human beings. These tendencies include order, orientation, work, movement, manipulation, repetition, self perfection, mathematical mind, love and communication.”
A five year old boys lay on the carpet arranging alphabets into words and words into sentences— in cursive. “The children learn to write in cursive,” says the sister as she guides the students with gentle discipline to their next task. Her students test at a 3rd grade level at the age of 6 after leaving the program.
The classroom is set up in such a way that 10 year olds can easily be in the same class as the younger students and still learn at their level. In an authentic Montessori school the children work at their own pace and the teacher is not lecturing to the students, rather he or she teaches individual lessons to each child. A Montessori teacher acts more as a guide and facilitator rather than an instructor in the traditional sense. The child is free to move about the classroom at will, to talk to other children, to work with any of the equipment he or she understands, or to ask the teacher to introduce new materials to him or her. The child is not free to disturb other children at their work or to abuse the materials. The older children are accountable for the choices they make and how they use their time.
Sharif Salim, the new Academic Director at An Nur Academy, says that in her classroom is one of the best that he has seen his 40 years as an educator and he has evaluated a lot of teachers. The course includes Arabic immersion, which is taught by an Arabic speaking sister, Sr. Rahniya. An Nur currently uses Hayya Natakalam Ma’an (Let’s Speak Arabic Together) program for Arabic, which focuses on a communicative approach.
Hart demonstrates a lesson in the Children House, where each manipulative is made of wood—no garish colors, no plastic. This lesson was on parts of a tree and a wooden puzzle was used to drill in the lesson. Maria Khan* was working on the next lesson, labeling the different parts of the tree. Each lesson is an extension of another lesson.
An Nur Academy currently has 10 students, ages 3-6. Many students moved overseas or have stopped coming due to transportation issues.
The children were calm for their age. One little girl in a blue pinafore and a white hijab wants to take a break, so she was walking on the path. A blue curvy circle taped to the floor where the young ones walk one foot in front of each other, calmly taking their wiggles out until they are ready for their next lesson.
“They know that it’s work, not play,” she says. “We have to teach our children to shine here, by giving them pride in Islam,” says Hart.
If you are interested in learning more about the An Nur Academy please contact 9150 Lanham Severn Road, Lanham, MD 20706| (301) 459-4942 or visit http://www.pgmamd.org/j15/index.php/how-to-enroll-
*name changed for privacy