New Arcadia Montessori school has huge KP influence


Charlee Glock-Jackson

Arcadia Montessori student Olivia Mercado, 4, works with instructor Cyndi Cashman, of Key Peninsula, on a project tied to part of Cashman’s “non-violent communication” curriculum set to help students better express feeling and needs. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

Cyndi Cashman and her husband have lived in the Key Peninsula for some 25 years.

Back in the ‘80s she and her husband were teaching in the Alaska bush when she got hired to teach at Evergreen Elementary.

In 2007, Cashman met Carmela Micheli, owner of a Montessori school in Tacoma.

“Carmela asked me if I would be willing to come to Tacoma one day a week and do a music program for her in her school,” Cashman recalled.

Cashman was soon teaching both music and non-violent communication at the Tacoma school.

Last fall, Cashman transferred to Micheli’s new Arcadia Montessori School in Gig Harbor, located on three-and-a-half acres of forest on Crescent Valley Road.

“Cyndi works with music and she uses her non-violent communication training to help our children learn what their needs and feelings are and how to express them,” Micheli said.

Cashman also shares her non-violent communication skills at Minter Elementary where her three children attend.

Cashman is also “very environmentally friendly,” Micheli said. That’s important because Crescent Creek runs through the back corner of the Arcadia property, and walks through the woods to the creek are part of the Montessori school’s environmental education curriculum.

“We also go out into the yard every day and learn about what’s going on,” Micheli added. “We do art and painting of the trees, and we do watercolors out in the yard.”

Arcadia offers classes from preschool through third grade and also includes daycare. Micheli said the location is convenient for Key Peninsula families.

“It’s only a few minutes to the Purdy bridge and straight down 144th Street, so we have easy access to the Key Peninsula,” Micheli said.

Arcadia has another Key Pen connection. “It was built by Pete Grobins and Grobins Construction,” Cashman said. “It’s a beautiful building and Pete did an incredible job with it.”

Cashman is very fond of the Montessori curriculum, especially as it’s practiced at Arcadia.

“When I was a parent of young children, I was really looking for a way for my kids to really explore their learning process, not necessarily through the traditional preschool environment,” she said. “I wanted my daughters to have the freedom to learn what they were curious about –– and that’s what Montessori does.

“We have a little opening circle where we talk about peace and kindness and compassion. We also talk about the project we’re working on –– like right now we’re working on animal tracks. Then the children decide what they want to study, maybe they want to work with numbers or geography. They can work with the number board or work with maps,” Cashman said.

She said the students get a very independent kind of learning, with the goal of prepping them for kindergarten.

Trevor Easley, 5, takes a closer look at one his treasures he found while exploring the grounds at Arcadia Montessori School. Photo by Scott Turner, KP News

Cashman said teachers also put an emphasis on socialization.

“That’s a huge part. You’re getting a 3-year-old into a community of kids learning how to be kind and compassionate, how to use their words. It should be the norm,” Cashman said.

Even the childcare kids are included in the Arcadia learning experience.

“They get a Montessori experience throughout the day. It’s a continuing learning process that never really stops,” she said.

“My girls transitioned from (the original Gig Harbor) Arcadia to Minter, and they were very successful at Minter. They came in with some wonderful skills,” she said.

Micheli, the Arcadia school’s owner, “has a real interest in the Key Peninsula,” Cashman said. “She’s a former resident. She lived out here three years ago and she loves the culture of KP. We want to bring that culture and energy to Arcadia.”

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