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 10.
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 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.
MSCT will celebrate 40 years of excellence starting in the 2022-2023 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 seven classrooms, three buildings, and over 100 students ranging from 6 weeks old to age ten. 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.
- Jennifer Watson, 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 Director in 2020. Her leisure time is spent caring for her many animals, traveling, reading books, and the joys of being a Mom.
- LaDonna Ronelus, Lead Teacher – Toddler II: 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.
- Janice De Jesus Gonzalez – Lead Teacher, Toddler 1: Janice was originally born in Rochester, NJ but raised in Puerto Rico. She studied in the city of San Juan and graduated from the Luz America Calderon High School in 2011. Janice began studying nursing with a specialization in children, at Puerto Rico University Ana G. Mendez, and is in the process of finishing her studies here in Texas. Janice has been working with children since 2019 and she loves teaching them Spanish. Her hobbies include spending time with her family, watching mystery, drama and action movies, cooking, and reading. She also really enjoys her work because teaching children is near and dear to her heart. Janice believes that children are to be revered because they are our future legacies of tomorrow.
- Karla Torres, Lead Teacher – Infant II: Karla was born in Puerto Rico and enjoys teaching the toddlers Spanish vocabulary and songs every day. Because her dad was in the military, she spent part of her childhood in Germany and Korea. She met her husband in 2013 and has three beautiful children. In 2017, Karla moved to New York and was a receptionist in a factory. Looking for more opportunities, the family decided to move to Texas in 2020 where she began a career in childcare. Karla is happier to be working at a school rather than a daycare, where children are able to flourish and excel. In her spare time, Karla enjoys traveling, spend time with her family and trying new adventures.
- Tammy Clausen, Lead Teacher – Infant I: Tammy was born in Victorville, California. She is the oldest of three siblings. Her father was in the Air Force and they traveled a lot, living in Washington, Florida, Arkansas, and Germany. She graduated school in Cave City, Arkansas. Tammy is the proud mother of four boys and four grandsons. In 1998, she began working at the Cave City Public Schools as a Special Education aide for Elementary, Intermediate, and High School. She moved to Temple, Texas in 2019, and began working at a daycare. Mrs. Clausen recently married and is new to our school. She has a mothering instinct and loves working with children, especially the toddler age group. She truly believes that God directs each of our paths and places us where we need to be, happy to join our Montessori school.
- Cristalina Salcedo, Assistant Teacher – Toddler II: Ms. Cristalina Salcedo was born and raised in Utuado, Puerto Rico. She has experience as a special education teacher, is certified in autism, and holds a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling. She has worked with special needs students of varying ages from young children, to adolescents, and also adults) for 8 years. Cristalina takes special pride in sharing her native language with her students, teaching vocabulary words and singing songs in Spanish while incorporating sign language Cristalina is an avid animal lover, enjoys creating new dishes in the kitchen, reading books, and sewing during her spare time.
- Katia Rosario, Assistant Teacher – Toddler 1: Ms. Katia Rosario was born in Puerto Rico and moved to Texas in 2013. She soon discovered teaching was her calling in 2016 and began working at a daycare. Although she found joy interacting and caring for her students, she felt like something was missing. After careful consideration, she looked into Montessori education and decided that children could benefit greater through hands-on, natural materials, developing independence, smaller group sizes, and beautiful environments. As a fluent Spanish speaker, Ms. Rosario looks forward to sharing her language gift with her students. Ms. Rosario spends as much of her spare time with her children, a boy and girl, and also enjoys the company of her friends, watching TV, and housecleaning.
- Shelby Spence, Assistant Teacher – Toddler I: Shelby was born in Chesapeake, Virginia. Her father is active military, which moved her to 2 countries and 6 different states. She moved to Belton, Texas in 2009, and soon called it home. Shelby graduated from Texas Wesleyan University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She was also a student athlete all four years, playing softball and working as a 18U coach. Shelby moved to Wisconsin after college graduation for 2 years, where she discovered her love of being in a classroom. She worked as a Site Director-teacher for the YMCA for 2 years, and as a toddler teacher at a daycare before moving back to Texas. She is happy to be a part of the Montessori family and looks forward to learning everything needed to be successful as a teacher and a leader. Outside of school, Shelby spends time glued to books and with friends and family.
- Terri Wallace, Assistant Teacher – Infant II: Terri was born and raised in Central Texas. She is the oldest child in her family. She and her husband married in 2003 and have two handsome sons and a very spoiled Boston terrier. They enjoy traveling and spending time with friends and family. Terri has worked most of her adult life in Administration and Management positions but feels so blessed to have the opportunity to work with children at this stage in her career.
- Monica Walker, Assistant Teacher – Infant I: Monica Walker grew up in Fort Worth before attending college at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, where she earned a bachelor’s degree. It was there that she became passionate about the Montessori philosophy and is now pursuing her Montessori certification for Lower Elementary. Newly married, she enjoys spending time with her husband doing outdoor activities, watching movies, and working on projects together. She really likes crafting, spending time in the kitchen, and a hot cup of coffee early in the morning.
- Hyegyoung Kim, Assistant Teacher – Infant I: Mrs. Hyegyoung Kim was born and raised in South Korea. She was saved in high school and became a more passionate Christian after marrying her husband. Mrs. Kim studied Early Childhood Education in college and received a Master’s degree in Education from graduate school. After college, she worked as a teacher and director at a kindergarten in South Korea for over 10 years and has been working as a teacher at a Preschool since she immigrated to America 8 years ago. She lives with her husband who is an associate professor at University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and her son and daughter live in Boston and San Antonio, respectively, for dental school. She currently attends G3 Korean Church in Killeen, where she serves as a deacon and member of the choir. Mrs. Kim sincerely hopes that God will use her and her family in the future to spread God’s word around the world with their talents.