Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Palm Harbor Montessori Academy observes 25th anniversary

Nadia Kirsch, left, and Maya Zafari document the removal of items from the time capsule, which was sealed a year after the school opened in 1983. The items included photos of students from that time and various mementos.

ATOYIA DEANS | Times

Nadia Kirsch, left, and Maya Zafari document the removal of items from the time capsule, which was sealed a year after the school opened in 1983. The items included photos of students from that time and various mementos.

PALM HARBOR — History lies within the walls of the Palm Harbor Montessori Academy.

Literally.

In August 1984, students buried a time capsule behind a plaque at the entrance of the main building.

On Saturday, students, family, teachers and alumni gathered to open the capsule as the academy celebrated its 25th anniversary.

"It has been my pleasure and privilege to serve children at PHMA for the past 25 years," said founder Christine Varkas, 57, of Tarpon Springs. "Still, I love my job. I love the children, and my greatest satisfaction is when something goes right and a child benefits. It really is that simple."

Students and alumni sat under canopies and enjoyed hot dogs, popcorn, drinks and a cake decorated with the academy logo. Kids slid down a superslide and bounced inside an inflatable train.

In Montessori's birthday celebration tradition, students walk around a paper sun for each year of their life. In this case, the students circled the sun 25 times, once for each year PHMA has been open. The inaugural class walked first. Successive class members joined in. By the 25th revolution, which represented 2009, there were so many walkers, legs eclipsed the sun.

At 5 p.m., everyone gathered for the time capsule opening. Screws were removed and mementos from another time tumbled from the hidden niche.

Class photographs. A Transformer. A cassette. A Cabbage Patch folder, starfish and notes from the founder, teachers and the children.

Alumna Christine Johansson, 31, of Palm Harbor watched as her class picture popped out.

"I loved the Montessori system," she said. "One-on-one attention helped me develop a love of learning and reading. I'm glad the school's flourishing."

Nadia Kirsch, 13, a seventh-grader from Dunedin, was excited to be part of the celebration.

"I love that all these people came back today," she said. "I think it shows what a good school we have. I like PHMA because I can have not just my teachers help me, but my friends, too. You get to be more of an individual."

Nadia's sister, Alexandra Kirsch, 16, a PHMA graduate and now a junior at Tampa Prep, was happy to have a reason to return to her old school.

"Going here was life-changing," she said. "PHMA taught me how to learn, and go about living life."

Marta Kellam, 44, of Dunedin celebrated both as someone who has worked at the school since day one and as a mother to an alumnus, James, 20, and students Finn, 4, and Ari, 2.

"I've taught elsewhere, and did the best I could with what I had," she said. "At PHMA, I had more than enough to create individualized plans for each child."

To continue to thrive, Varkas says the academy must "continually change, grow and improve to provide what's best" for children. She has fresh ideas, hopes and plans. The capsule has been refilled, and talk of a 50th celebration makes her smile.

"Our students are kind, considerate and caring of others, as well as bright, joyful scholars," Varkas said. "It is because of them I am dedicated. … I admire children even more today than when I started my career. They are my inspiration."

Palm Harbor Montessori Academy observes 25th anniversary 01/05/09 [Last modified: Monday, January 5, 2009 8:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida education news: Robert E. Lee, anarchy, term limits and more

    Blogs

    CONFEDERATE NAMES: As statues memorializing Confederate soldiers and leaders come down across the nation, the Hillsborough County School Board decides to go slow

  2. Crash closes SB lanes on U.S. 19 at Roosevelt Boulevard in Clearwater

    Accidents

    Lanes on southbound U.S. 19 are closed at Roosevelt Boulevard in Clearwater following a crash early Wednesday morning.

  3. Ex-intelligence chief Clapper questions Trump's fitness to hold office (w/video)

    National

    James R. Clapper Jr., former national intelligence director, questioned President Donald Trump's fitness for office following his freewheeling speech in Phoenix Tuesday night, which Clapper labeled "downright scary and disturbing."

    James R. Clapper Jr., former national intelligence director, questioned President Donald Trump's fitness for office following his freewheeling speech in Phoenix Tuesday night, which Clapper labeled "downright scary and disturbing." [Associated Press]
  4. E Fletcher Avenue may be closed weeks for cavern repairs

    Roads

    Commuters near the University of South Florida will want to find alternate routes with work continuing to repair a "cavern" under E Fletcher Avenue near the Hillsborough River.

     Commuters near the University of South Florida will want to find alternate routes with work continuing to repair a "cavern" under E Fletcher Avenue near the Hillsborough River. [10News WTSP]
  5. Pasco eyes favoring local vendors for county business

    Local Government

    DADE CITY — Pasco commissioners want to give a leg up to local businesses bidding on county government contracts.

    "It's an economic driver. We owe it to the folks to keep money here, keep jobs here,'' said Pasco Commissioner Mike Wells Jr. about a proposed local preference purchasing ordinance.