Innovative Curriculum Creates Rich Learning Environment at The Gardner School

The Gardner School’s innovative curriculum earned NAEYC accreditation. Learn how.

To meet the academic, social and emotional needs of children from infancy through preschool, The Gardner School, a network of academic early childhood education centers with 11 locations and growing in Chicagoland, uses an innovative blend of Montessori and research-based educational methods. The result is effective learning for every student — and recognition by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

“Using a blend of teaching styles to enhance our students’ opportunities for learning is core to The Gardner School’s mission and has played a large role in helping three of our Chicago-area preschools receive NAEYC accreditation. Fewer than 10% of early childhood education programs are NAEYC accredited nationwide,” says The Gardner School District Manager Jennifer Reyes. “We are so proud of our staff’s continued dedication to providing a top-tier learning environment for students. We look forward to several more of our local preschools reaching this accreditation in the near future!”

The Gardner Schools in Glenview-Northbrook and Schaumburg were recently awarded NAEYC accreditation, following The Gardner School of Oak Brook and The Gardner School of Chicago-West Loop. Other locations are in the process of gaining accreditation.

“Although our parents know we offer exceptional high-quality care and education for children, accreditation offers a sense of security and knowledge that their children are in the best environment for early childhood learning,” says Fonda Thompson, Educational Support Specialist with The Gardner School.

What blended instruction looks like

“The Gardner School has intentionally built a high-quality curriculum for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers to maximize the benefits of Montessori’s child-led philosophy while providing key teacher-led learning experiences that parents want for their children,” Thompson says.

For instance, students at The Gardner School engage with math concepts through Montessori-style hands-on experiences to quantify and identify numbers. Preschoolers begin each day with The Gardner School’s research-based World of Wonders Curriculum to learn addition and subtraction, counting, using an abacus, and other key concepts. “The work they do prepares them for our twice-yearly assessments, and everything moves at each child’s individual pace,” Thompson says. This is just one example of blended instruction at The Gardner School.

“Both methods offer fresh approaches and share important concepts for learning,” Thompson says. “The Gardner School creates a practical approach to language, literature, math, and social-emotional learning. It’s wonderful for us to be able to provide this and be recognized by NAEYC.”

Building relationships

At the heart of every child’s day at The Gardner School is an emphasis on strong relationships. Children experience inclusion through a group learning environment where caring relationships are encouraged between peers and with teachers. Parents are also an important part of this inclusive environment.

“Parents especially love the teacher-student-family relationship. They appreciate getting continual updates through our parent communications app, brightwheel, where they can receive pictures and messages during the day. Parents really love this,” Thompson says. In addition to regular newsletters, parents meet with teachers regularly for conferences, and parents are always encouraged to participate in the classroom.

“Parents can come and read a book with the children or share an activity that they enjoy. It’s really important to us to partner with families and work with our teachers as a team,” Thompson says.

For growing children, The Gardner School offers high-quality experiences that prepare them for kindergarten and beyond. “Our programs create a growth ladder of learning. Many kindergarten programs call us to thank TGS for preparing students so thoroughly,” Thompson says. “We do our homework to make sure we’re helping each and every child prepare for their next step.”

Learn more about The Gardner School at

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Chicago Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.


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