Gretna soon to be home to nation’s only Montessori secondary school in a health care setting

The Roberts Academy (Grades 7-12) is relocating to Silver Ridge Assisted Living

Montessori students smile with Alice Roberts, co-founder and lead instructor at The Roberts Academy, Haley Kizer, business manager at The Roberts Academy, Dr. Anna Fisher, Director of Quality & Education at Hillcrest Health Services, and Laura Mayer, Dementia Care Specialist at Hillcrest Health Services. This photo was taken after they did a presentation to nearly 100 guests from 32 organizations around the state at a Nebraska Culture Change Coalition event hosted by Hillcrest Country Estates Grand Lodge. Dr. Anna Fisher, Alice Roberts and the Montessori students demonstrated how the Montessori method in dementia care is implemented at the Grand Lodge.

The Roberts Academy, Nebraska’s only secondary Montessori school (grades 7-12), will re-open for the Fall 2019 school year in an environment unlike any other Montessori school in the nation.

After reaching a lease agreement with Hillcrest Health Services, the school will move from their midtown Omaha space to the campus of Silver Ridge Assisted Living in Gretna. This will be the first Montessori secondary school (grades 7-12) in the country based in a health care setting.

“We are excited to welcome The Roberts Academy to Silver Ridge,” said Sarah Stoakes, administrator of Silver Ridge. “We are closing our Little Ridges child care on May 24 to make room for The Roberts Academy, which will bring older students to our campus who can more effectively interact with our residents and enhance their lives.”  

The school is co-founded by Alice Roberts who serves as Lead Montessori Instructor. Though currently teaching grades seven through 12, Roberts is certified to teach Montessori to students from pre-school through secondary.

Eight years ago, Hillcrest entered into a partnership with The Roberts Academy to host students at Hillcrest’s Mable Rose assisted living campus, and their collaboration has been essential to the consistent use of purpose-driven activities to engage with residents. Students then moved on to working with residents at Hillcrest Country Estates Grand Lodge during the last two school years.

With The Roberts Academy lease set to expire, board member Dr. Anna Fisher, who also serves as Hillcrest’s Director of Education, recognized an opportunity to move the school to Silver Ridge.

“This unique collaboration will not only save money for the non-profit Roberts Academy, it will provide significant intergenerational lifelong learning opportunities for the students and the Silver Ridge residents up to five days a week,” Dr. Fisher explained. “Hillcrest deeply supports the principles of Montessori teaching and is delighted to bring this evidence-based approach to enhancing residents’ lives.”

“The two-way, intergenerational learning has allowed for both students and aging adults to see just how the Montessori method works,” explained Alice Roberts, Lead Montessori Instructor. “The Montessori method is based on respect and dignity to all individuals and provides a prepared environment conducive to learning and engagement. It encourages purposeful work that meets people where they are, providing a sense of community and belonging.

“We are pleased to have reached an agreement with Hillcrest that is truly a win-win opportunity for the residents and The Roberts Academy.”

The school will start moving into Silver Ridge this June and begin classes this fall in its new space. Despite the long-standing collaboration and the new lease agreement with Hillcrest, The Roberts Academy remains an independent, not-for-profit entity and has no financial ties to the health system.

Hillcrest Health Services has received significant national attention for its innovative execution of the Montessori teaching method in senior health care settings. Last year, Hillcrest’s collaboration with The Roberts Academy was recognized with a Gold Award from McKnight’s Senior Living.

“I’m excited for our residents, especially those with dementia, to engage in evidence-based, multi-sensory activities with the students,” said Stoakes. “I believe the frequent interaction will not only boost resident engagement, it will lead to many new intergenerational friendships.”

Silver Ridge Assisted Living & Memory Support is located at 20332 Hackberry Drive in Gretna.

This story was picked up by McKnight’s Senior Living, a national senior living news website. Click here to read their article.