The mission of The Montessori Infant & Toddler School (MITS) is to provide young children with a safe, prepared environment in which they can observe, absorb, and explore at their own pace and develop movement, language, and social skills to prepare them for the next steps in their education.
EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION
Here at the Montessori Infant & Toddler School, we believe in educating the total child. In pursuit of that goal, our students are guided to activities and lessons which stimulate the mind, body, and spirit. MITS is a non-profit, non-graded, and appropriate placement educational institution licensed by the state of Texas.
Curriculum activities include sensorial experiences and practical life skills, along with language, art, music, and directed movement activities. Lessons are designed to foster independence, self-awareness, and self-esteem at a young age, and to prepare children for their future academic and social lives.
MITS is staffed by a certified professional Montessori teacher and qualified assistant teachers who have been trained to build trusting relationships with children and to create environments which present a rich array of interactive experiences.
MITS opened its doors for the first time in October of 2017, but its parent organization, The Montessori Schools of Central Texas, has been in operation since 1982. MITS offers programs for infants, ages 6 weeks to 24 months, and toddlers, ages 24 months to 3 years. These students may then graduate to our parent school next door for children ages 3 to 6.
The Montessori School accepts children without regard to national origin, race, color, creed, or religion.
The parent school, Montessori Schools of Central Texas, was founded in 1982, by Drs. Jerry and Sherry O’Donnell, as a private nondenominational Christian school for young children. The school began in a two-car converted garage at the rear of the O’Donnell’s home in McGregor, Texas, with twelve students, Mrs. O’Donnell as teacher, and an aide. The following year, the school expanded and transferred to a new location with more space. The student body continued to grow until, in 1986, the school moved to Temple, Texas. For three years, the school was located on the grounds of Trinity Church, occupying a separate building for the last two years. In 1990, the school was moved again, to what is now the current location at 1302 S. 27th Street in Temple, in a beautiful Victorian-era house. This change allowed the school to open enrollment for three classes with three different age groups, in order to offer educational opportunities to children ages 3 to 12. In 1995, the school purchased an adjacent property and house and converted it to use as another classroom. In 2003, MSCT established a satellite campus with two primary classes (ages 3-6) in Killeen, Texas. In late 2016, the O’Donnell’s decided to add a new building to the Temple property and open a school for infants and toddlers. Construction began in April 2017 and the Montessori Infant & Toddler School (MITS) opened its doors in October of 2017. Between MSCT and MITS, the Temple location will offer educational programs for children from 6 weeks to 9 years old.
MITS has its beginning from a strong foundation as MSCT will celebrate 38 years of excellence starting in the 2020-2021 school year.
- Jerry O’Donnell, PhD, Headmaster: Dr. O’Donnell’s experience in life and the work force is varied, from serving in the U.S. Army as an enlisted soldier and officer, to owning numerous businesses, acting as a professional student, and doing the work of an evangelist, pastor, and teacher. He presently serves as the President of the Board of Directors for the Montessori Schools of Central Texas and the Headmaster of the MSCT Temple Campus. Dr. O’Donnell obtained his GED while serving in the United States Army. After recognizing his need for further education, he earned seven degrees in two tracts: the world and the church. He presently holds two bachelor’s, two master’s, and three doctoral degrees. In past years, Dr. O’Donnell has been a successful psychologist in private practice, specializing in creative motivation for underachieving children. Currently, he maintains his love for education through his passionate reading of books, magazines, and research articles. Dr. O’Donnell met his wife, Sherry, in high school, and they have been married for 57 years. Together they have three children, Jheri Lynn, Jeffery, and Jennifer, and five grandchildren.
- Sherry O’Donnell, D.CE.: Mrs. O’Donnell is the principal founder of The Montessori Schools of Central Texas. She has worked hard to grow the school from one classroom in a two-car garage in 1982 to the present day, with an organization comprising of six classrooms across two campuses, and students ranging from ages three to twelve. Mrs. O’Donnell was awarded a Doctorate in Christian Education for her tireless efforts to develop and provide a quality early-childhood education, based on Dr. Maria Montessori’s teaching philosophy and curriculum, to children of all backgrounds. She is certified at the Primary Level (ages 3-6) by the Association Montessori International, and at the Lower Elementary Level (ages 6-9) by the American Montessori Society. Her 38 years of service in the field have allowed her to continually refine her techniques and curriculum within the Montessori philosophy, in order to connect with and teach every one of her students on an individual level. When not involved with the school, Sherry enjoys spending her leisure time with her family.
- Mrs. Jennifer Watson, Assistant Director: Jennifer was born in Japan where her father, Dr. Jerry O’Donnell, was stationed. As the third child of the O’Donnell’s she has grown up around Montessori education and watched as the school flourished under her parent’s leadership. Jennifer has been married to Jason since 2002 and has a remarkable son, Brady, who had the privilege of attending The Montessori School from the age of 20 months through elementary. Since grading-out of The Montessori School, Brady has taken Pre-AP classes throughout middle school and plans to continue challenging himself in High School with AP classes. Jennifer has been the Director of both the Temple and Killeen campuses from 2007-2015. She left briefly to pursue her love of veterinary medicine and returned as the Assistant Director in 2020. Her leisure time is spent caring for her many animals, traveling, reading books, and the joys of being a Mom.
- Christina O’Donnell, Lead Teacher – Toddler II: Christina accepted a position with MITS in the spring of 2017 and attended classes at the AMS Houston Montessori Center over the summer to earn her AMS teaching credentials for the infant & toddler age groups. She is now a lead teacher in the toddler classroom and oversees the infant class curriculum. Christina has over 30 years of childcare experience in a traditional environment, and 12 years volunteer work educating families and children against domestic violence and child abuse. She is a 1st year member with the Exchange Club for the Belton and Temple district on the child abuse committee. Christina has had a registered family home business for 28 years, been with with Texas School Ready program in conjunction with the University of Texas Health and Science Institute for 4 years and has been awarded the Texas Rising Star for 2 years in a row. Now she is excited to have the opportunity to practice Montessori Philosophy. Christina was inspired to teach through her observations of her mother and her 2nd grade teacher. Christina is a proud fifth generation Beltonian, and enjoys spending time with her family, 6 children from 18 to 32 years young, 2 stepdaughters 17 and 18 years young, 4 grandchildren with one the way. For fun, Christina enjoys playing volleyball, listening to worship music, reading, cooking, and spending time with her best friend and husband, Mr. Jeffery O’Donnell. Because children have not fully developed their verbal skills, teaching American Sign Language is a passion of Mrs. O’Donnell’s.
- LaDonna Ronelus, Lead Teacher – Toddler I:Ladonna was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1987 but raised in Brooklyn, New York. She moved to Central Texas in 2015 when her husband was assigned to Carl R. Darnall Medical Center. Previously, LaDonna worked as an Assistant Teacher at The Friends of Crown Heights in New York and then a local daycare center. At both places, as well as at The Montessori Schools of Central Texas, Mrs. Ronelus has excelled and been promoted to the Lead Teacher position. With over fifteen years of experience, LaDonna’s passion for nurturing and guiding young children has led her next goal of obtaining her AMS Montessori certification in Infants and Toddlers. During her free time, LaDonna enjoys reading, especially science fiction, cooking, traveling, taking care of her growing pet family, and spending time with her husband. Mrs. Ronelus enjoys teaching her students sign language to help develop their communication skills.
- Sonia Inglesias, Lead Teacher – Infant II: Sonia was born and raised in Puerto Rico where she attended the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus and obtained her bachelor’s degree in education. Sonia’s love and compassion for children led her to teach. When she had her own child, her interest in higher education guided her to explore the Montessori method of teaching. She started working with children on a professional level when she moved to the state of Texas at a daycare facility and found the quality of care and teaching methods dissatisfying. Therefore, she sought a superior level of childcare to lend her talents by joining the Montessori Schools of Central Texas as a Teacher’s Assistant. This past year, Sonia has excelled in excellence and has been promoted to Lead Teacher of Infant II. She enjoys reading books, spending quality time with family and every single moment of motherhood. Sonia is fluent in Spanish and English, speaking both languages, as well as sign language in the classroom.
- Kristin Phillips, Lead Teacher – Infant I: Kristin was born in Fort Hood, Texas and grew up in Temple with eleven brothers and sisters. Her intrinsic love of children began at a young age helping with her extended family and led her to begin teaching over six years ago. She is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Kristin is an active member in her church and lends her talents to the youth members. She is excited to announce that next year, she will be getting married to the love of her life. During her free time, she enjoys taking her dogs on walks, cooking, laughing, and spending time with her lovely family. Ms. Phillips develops her student’s vocabulary and introduces them to sign language starting at this tender age.
- Ms. Laura Galvan, Toddler Assistant Teacher – Fluent in Spanish and English, teaches the students ASL.
- Ms. Yesenia Armas, Toddler Assistant Teacher – Fluent in Spanish and English, teaches the students ASL.
- Ms. Perla Cisneros, Toddler Assistant Teacher – Fluent in Spanish and English, teaches the students ASL.
- Ms. Emily Starr, Infant I Assistant Teacher – teaches the students ASL.
- Ms. Olivia Marshall, Infant I Assistant Teacher – teaches the students ASL.