Educator and business owner Krista Wheeler hopes to see Montessori education explode in Oklahoma.
"It is a researched-based education program that is international competitive, and it can meet the needs of many children and their families," said Wheeler, 32. "To assist me, the best thing the community can do is continue to explore the option on a Montessori education/school for their young children."
Developed by Maria Montessori, the educational approach and methodology has been used all over the world for over 100 years, according to the American Montessori Society.
Hailing from Tulsa, Wheeler moved to Tahlequah to attend Northeastern State University.
"I then decided to stay, get married, raise a family, and eventually, open Two Rivers Academy," she said.
She has a bachelor's in general studies from NSU, a master's in entrepreneurship from Oklahoma State University, and is completing her Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education primary credential from the Center for Guided Montessori Studies.
Before opening the school a little over a year ago, Wheeler was an NSU College of Education academic adviser for four years, a financial aid counselor at NSU for one year, and a receptionist for seven years.
Wheeler and her husband, Wes, agree their son Ezra is the reason she went into teaching.
"I wanted him to experience a Montessori education and I wanted to bring it to other children in Tahlequah," she said. "Teaching is a wonderful experience. The most challenging thing is being a newer program in the area and getting the word out about what I have to offer our community."
Two Rivers Academy encourages growth of the whole child according to his or her individual emotional, intellectual, physical and social needs by providing child-centered and innovative educational opportunities, inspiring a community of lifetime learners, and encouraging the students' innate abilities, according to www.tworiversacademy.org.
Currently, Wheeler teaches Montessori primary ages of 3-6 years old, and is preparing for Montessori lower elementary, which is ages 6-9.
"My favorite part of teaching is observing the children flow through their natural learning process. They are naturally curious and always ready to absorb information," she said.
She said the children teach her more about humanity than any other experience could.
"A favorite memory from this year is when a 3-year-old boy started observing the other children intently while they were doing the 100 board. This went on for several weeks. Then, he started walking over and would touch the board on the shelf but never wanted a lesson. Then, one day, he walks in ready to do it. We sat down together, did the lesson, and for the next two months, every morning he did the 100 board with very little assistance," said Wheeler. "It was so wonderful to see his curiosity and confidence explode - and for him to master one of the many challenges math work in our classroom."
Wheeler believes building independence and confidence is essential to helping a child become a lifetime learner.
"The best thing parents can do for children is to allow children to do as much for themselves as possible," she said.
To those considering the education field, Wheeler encourages them to consider the educational philosophies and to research what fits them and their goals.
Along with being a member of the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, Wheeler is director of Tahlequah Business Network. She is also a member of the American Montessori Society and the Society for Creative Anachronism.
Wheeler's hobbies include reading, belly dancing, photography, and sewing. One thing she hopes to do is travel to Europe.