by Srianthi Perera

A new academy for early childhood education is about to open in Gilbert and is currently giving tours to prospective parents and students.

Wonderland Montessori Academy, located at Elliot Road and Val Vista Drive, is a branch campus of an organization that was founded in Texas by multiple business partners. Gilbert’s is its ninth location.

“In Texas, it grew fast and it’s still growing; we see the same thing happening here,” said Parveen Gupta, owner of the Gilbert location and a resident of Chandler. “We see a big market over here.”

The 8,500-square-feet site used to be a daycare earlier; it was renovated and given a complete makeover to become Wonderland Montessori. The state-of-the-art facility features an indoor gym and a learning lab that has the Montessori app for online learning. School access is controlled by way of a sophisticated Procare security system, a keyless entry method that enables only authorized people to enter.

At capacity, the school will hold about 150 children ages 18 months to 6 years, and employ about 22 teachers, Gupta said.

There are two pre-primary and two primary classrooms, a toddler room, infant room among the spaces at the school.

Outside, the grounds feature a musical playground, put-put golf, splash pad and other tools that enable play.

So far, the school has hired about 12 teachers, said Jennifer Bortvit, director. All have early childhood education, while some are AMI/AMS (Association Montessori International/American Montessori Society) certified teachers.

“For pre-primary and primary, we have Montessori-certified teachers who’ve done their 900 hrs of training to be certified for it, and to learn all the different materials with it,” Bortvit said.

The academy doesn’t insist on Montessori certification for toddler training, but look for some experience because they will use some of the specialized Montessori teaching material in the toddler classroom. It’s less important for those who will work with the infants to have the training, Bortvit said.

The director herself has about 11 years of early childhood experience that includes running a child care center in Mesa.

In keeping with Maria Montessori’s concept, the classrooms at Wonderland Montessori are colorful, organized and inviting. Learning materials are displayed on accessible shelves to foster independence as students go about their work. There are spaces suited to group activity, while other areas help students settle in alone, such as the reading nooks.

Rather than having row upon row of small desks and chairs, as is the norm in a traditional classroom, there are large spaces for activity on the ground, on mats or floor cushions.

With its hands-on approach, the tools for practical life are equally inviting: the lines for hanging up clothes, food utensils, tools for brushing teeth, tying shoelaces and so on.

Montessori learning is child-based, and the children, who are grouped in multi-ages, learn pretty much on their own, Bortvit said. There’s guidance by the teacher, of course, as the little ones develop their creativity, work toward gaining independence and form stable bonds.

Wonderland Montessori Academy is at 135 S. Val Vista Dr., Gilbert.

Details: call 480-813-0962 or visit