School Profile: Archgate Montessori Academy
A beautiful mix of the old and the new, Archgate Montessori Academy in Plano opened more than 30 years ago but just recently rebranded with a new name and a new logo. Called Montessori New Beginnings Academy until just over a year ago, Archgate has expanded its elementary program and now welcomes students through sixth grade, which is part of what prompted the name change. The campus will add middle school grades soon as well.
“It felt like ‘New Beginnings’ was not representative of our older studArchgate’s Head of School. “To include the whole community, we looked at a rebranding scheme. The name ‘Archgate’ pulls from the community – there’s a street and a park called Archgate behind the property.”ents,” says Rebecca Bernard,
The property Bernard refers to is 7 1/2 acres of land with a large green space and creatively designed environmental features, including a pollinator garden, a natural playscape, a “treehouse-on-the-ground,” nature trails, a creek, wooden obstacle courses, and music gardens. Bernard calls it “our own little piece of paradise.”
“We have a master gardener on staff, and the amount of wildlife that comes through here is just not seen anywhere else,” she says. “We are so fortunate; we’re able to be outdoors year-round.”
Archgate purchased its current property about a dozen years ago, but the school started in 1986 in a small commercial retail site, when a group of local parents were driven to provide a high-quality education alternative to their children. Back then, there were just two classrooms and about 30 students. Now, Archgate has nine classrooms and about 165 students total – and is preparing to expand even further. By early fall, the school will break ground on 31,000 square feet on their existing property, allowing them the opportunity to add a full gymnasium, dining area, commercial kitchen, library and technology area, and creative makers’ labs for each classroom.
Originally established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Archgate has stayed true to that mission for more than 30 years and remains governed by a Board of Trustees.
“[Nonprofit status] changes the approach and the decision-making,” says Bernard. “Everything we do is about education. Everything is made for the students, for the teachers, and for the school, to make sure we can follow the best practices possible.”
Following a co-teaching model, Archgate employs two certified guides in each classroom who partner with each other in leading their students. Bernard says that most Archgate staff members stay with the school for an average of 10 years, but it’s not unusual for some to stay much longer. The founding teacher is now preparing for retirement after 32 years with Archgate, and another teacher is celebrating a 30-year anniversary soon.
Bernard was working in special education when she discovered the Montessori method, which clicked with her immediately. “It’s perfect for every child,” she says. “I’ve been in the administration portion of Montessori ever since, because that’s where my passion is. The teachers provide the magic and the classrooms are where it happens; I get to share this with the parents and the public. I’ve been here at Archgate for a decade, which seems like a long time, but I’m still new when you look at the commitment of the people who are here. In the pattern of the school, I’m just getting comfortable. It is a privilege to be part of this school community.”
To make sure things stay fresh for the students, Archgate creates opportunities for newly emerging Montessori professionals and interns as well. “We couple all of the experience of our teachers with new and exciting energy, and all of that together allows us to provide a high-quality educational foundation to our many students!” says Bernard.