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Montessori Preschool Opens in Ava

Students at the new Montessori preschool in Ava enjoy the mild temperatures and sunshine this past Tuesday afternoon.

(Ava, MO) – Small chairs placed at low tables. Art supplies and books inside. A playground waiting outside. At first glance, this is a preschool like any other.

But as the school staff welcome students in and the school day begins, differences start to become apparent. 

Kids aren’t grouped by age. They are encouraged to select their own activities for the day and spend long periods of uninterrupted time engaged in them. The room is mostly quiet. Teachers remain in the background, facilitating more than leading. Students are encouraged to ask peers for help before seeking input from an adult.

This is the “Montessori Method” in action. Montessori schools started in Italy in 1907, and came to American soil in 1911.  Graduates include Amazon owner Jeff Bezos, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and actress Melissa Gilbert (best known for her portrayal of Laura Ingalls Wilder in the TV series Little House on the Prairie).

Myke Gemkow is the founder of the Ava Montessori school. He recently moved to Douglas County after running a similar school in the Columbia, Missouri area.

Gemkow, who is certified with the American Montessori Society, explains how the flexibility of the Montessori Method benefits his students:

“We look for what we call a ‘sensitive period’. A sensitive period is when a child shows signs of being ready to learn something significant – like reading. When we see that, we can immediately provide the appropriate materials and guidance to encourage that learning.”

This flexibility allows the school to accommodate students with vastly different learning styles and abilities.

The school schedule is 9AM to 1PM, Tuesday through Friday and includes a lunch prepared in the school’s commercial kitchen.  Rebekah Joy handles the cooking duties and prepares meals with locally sourced, organic ingredients. The meal is another learning opportunity – students share a table with teachers and practice manners.

Located in the renovated basement of Ava’s United Methodist Church offices at 941 SW 4th Ave, the school currently has seven children enrolled. There are three openings available immediately for students ages 2-6. Tuition is $300 per month, and there is the possibility that parents can volunteer with the school to offset some of that cost. 

Ava Montessori is guided by a local board. Board members are Myke Gemkow, Janelle Veldkamp, Rachel Barry, Sarah Key, Bill Henry, and Roberta Long.

You can support the school by purchasing food found on their shopping list at Jean’s Healthway Natural Foods on the Ava Square at 133 S. Jefferson. You can also arrange a cash donation by contacting Myke Gemkow at or by phone at 417-683-3448.