Nature Story Montessori’s Boulder location continues to thrive, as child care remains a need for the community. Jessica Shattuck, who owns all three Nature Story locations in Boulder, Montana City and Helena, said she is very pleased with the success of the facilities, particularly the Boulder location.
Now in its second year, the facility on Monroe Street (attached to the United Methodist Church) – managed by Nature Story Director and Boulder native Gretchen George – has a robust waiting list, and as long as this remains the case, it is Shattuck and George’s desire to expand. The goal for Boulder is to add one more classroom at a minimum, which would provide availability for 16-20 more children. At this time the expansion depends on availability of contractors.
“As long as there is a need in the community, we will expand,” said George.
Shattuck said she wouldn’t be seeing this level of success if it weren’t for George, who also manages the other Nature Story facilities. The Boulder location, she said, is nearest and dearest to her heart. After all, George went to preschool at the Methodist Church, so each day brings back memories of childhood.
George said she is grateful for the opportunity and is also grateful for Boulder location lead staffers Janai Turner and Ariel Torgrimson. The facility – which currently serves up to 20 children – would not be successful, she said, without their drive and passion. Shattuck echoed these sentiments, adding that it’s been great to see the staffers enjoy their work and strive to be their best. In 2022, they both received their official Montessori certifications through the North American Montessori Center, paid for 100% by Nature Story.
“We invest in our employees,” said Shattuck, “and we’re very proud of them for their hard work and dedication to their continuing educational opportunities. I am also very grateful that we have the means to be able to invest in our staff, and therefore, the community.
Nature Story is very proud to be able to sponsor the staff’s certifications.”
Shattuck said Turner and Torgrimson are a real blessing for the program, especially considering the staffing shortage many childcare facilities are facing.
“It is important to us to have quality teachers,” Shattuck said. “It’s what our reputation is built on and it’s what allows us to expand. Luckily Nature Story Montessori has one of the best – if not the best – retention rate with our staff. Even if we are the only center in the Boulder area, the community deserves only the best.”
Torgrimson said she’s tremendously grateful for the opportunity and is excited to be part of Nature Story. She said she couldn’t ask for a better working environment, especially one so close to home, as she is a Boulder resident.
“I work with some of the most fantastic people,” she said. “They put every ounce of their heart into this facility and it makes it feel even more like one big family.”
Torgrimson said she’s also tremendously grateful for Nature Story providing the resources to educate staff and she was excited to take full advantage of it.
Turner said she’s also appreciated the opportunity to grow in the field, as it’s a profession she sees herself in for the long haul. A Boulder native like George, Turner said she also appreciates having this opportunity in her hometown.
“For me, that makes this special,” she said. “It makes my day to hear the children greet me every morning, saying ‘Hi Miss Janai.’ It feels like home.”
Nature Story Montessori serves infants through kindergartners. It also provides summer and after-school programs for elementary-level children.
“The summer program is called FINS, for Field Immersion Nature School, which takes advantage of our beautiful summers by getting our elementary students out in nature to learn about our world and our environment through an ecological Montessori-based curriculum led by well-qualified teachers,” said Shattuck.
According to Shattuck, Nature Story Montessori is a “nature-based preschool and summer camp which utilizes the Montessori philosophy of learning.” The Montessori method, Shattuck said, allows the child the opportunity to learn at their preferred pace. The child also gets to choose what they want to work on. So far, Shattuck said she’s seen children flourish under the approach.
This is one of many reasons those involved with Nature Story find it so comforting, George said. The future is bright, George added, as her daughter is teaching at another Nature Story center and Turner’s daughter is also interested in helping out. This, Shattuck said, is an example of why Nature Story Montessori feels like family, and she hopes that remains the case for years to come.