A Montessori School on Avenue B? Now There Is One

Gold Material Montessori School 3 Chelsia Rose Marcius

Sean Eisele was hard-pressed to find a preschool for his daughter Taegan, 4, after Love A Lot shuttered in the wake of financial troubles in early October. While taking her on the subway to a Bright Horizons location, the East Village resident looked into options that would give Taegan the same one-on-one time she got at Love A Lot, and found the Gold Material Montessori School, which opened last month at 41 Avenue B. The timing couldn’t have been better.

“We needed a daycare and it was one of the few places that were around,” said Mr. Eisele. “It took her about a week to adjust, but it seems we’re in the right place now.”

Mr. Eisele was hopeful that his daughter would get close attention at Gold Material. The preschool currently has just eight students, and its co-founder, Maksim Kondrukevich, considers them precious.

During a recent visit to the school, Mr. Kondrukevich, 34, kneeled alongside a row of wooden shelves stacked with an assortment of building blocks, letter cutouts and other teaching tools. He reached for a palm-sized cube made of clear golden beads.

“The beads represent the children; they are the gold in Gold Material,” he said.

Mr. Kondrukevich opened his first Gold Material school in 2004 in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, where he lives. When it came time to open the second, he looked toward downtown Manhattan. “We were looking for a place below Houston,” he said. “There really aren’t any Montessori schools in this part of Manhattan, below 41st Street.”

Gold Material Montessori School 1Chelsia Rose Marcius

The Montessori method emphasizes guided self-instruction. At 8:30 a.m. during The Local’s visit, children were removing their shoes and making their way across the carpet toward a wide selection of educational toys – everything from pink stacking blocks to an abacus for counting – and carrying them over to craft tables. Classical music emanated from a CD player on the windowsill until the children gathered to engage in conversation about the topic of the day – a vegetable, tree, insect, animal. Later on there would be story time, where children read books like “Little Red Riding Hood” and are asked to pick out grey blocks representing the Big Bad Wolf.

It is the type of interactive education that Mr. Kondrukevich and his wife, Varvara Radimushkina, 34, the school’s director of admission, said helps to foster curiosity and breakdown complex ideas into simple steps.

“To explain to a child the concept of big and small is difficult; it’s something abstract,” Ms. Radimushkina said, holding a flexible plastic sphere that she first expanded, then collapsed, and expanded again. “But when you show them with this, they understand.”

Mr. Kondrukevich said his mother was trained in Montessori teaching methods in 1995 when the educational approach first made its way to Russia. At the age of 21, he moved to the United States and four years later, began studying for a master’s in early childhood education from Adelphi University in Long Island. Today, he and his wife use the Montessori method to teach their 3-year-old son Andrew, who attends the Bensonhurst school along with 34 others.

That’s where Todd McCraw, 46, said his wife Indre visited before making the decision to put their 3-year-old son, Gustas, in Gold Material’s East Village location.

“We went to their open house and were extremely impressed,” said Mr. McCraw, a freelance lighting and sound artist who lives in the East Village. “These are a lot of really nice day care centers around here but we wanted something with more structure.”