Montessori at Sandy Ford Private Secular School Preschool, Elementary and Middle School Serving Hickory and Newton, NC


Montessori at Sandy Ford is the oldest established, private, secular school in the Catawba Valley, celebrating over 30 years of education, serving children ages 3-14.

The 2011-2012 school year marked the inaugural year in the new location on Sandy Ford Road.  The 5 acre campus is ideal due to its rural setting, environmental-study opportunities, greater visibility to the public, and proximity to a greater number of potential students. The new building design was chosen for its energy saving features and its reduced impact on the local and global biosphere.

MSF is a secular institution. This means that we do not adhere to nor do we teach any religious doctrine.We respect differences in religious beliefs as well as agnostic and secular humanist beliefs. However, we  study various religions, or aspects of them, in our cultural studies. We may provide direct experiences for our students, such as food preparation, creating and appreciating art, celebrations, stories, poetry,and songs from religious and spiritual sources as well as non-religious sources. At MSF, we choose to draw interesting and beautiful elements from the total fabric of human experience, with an intent to respect differences.

Our Mission

Montessori at Sandy Ford is an educational community whose mission is:

  • To prepare an environment that nurtures each individual's intellectual, emotional, physical, and social growth;

  • To work in partnership with families to guide students in becoming responsible, contributing members of their communities;

  • To celebrate diversity and foster respect for life;

  • To follow each child, providing thoughtful, challenging learning opportunites in an atmosphere of cooperation;

  • To cultivate a lifelong joy of learning; 

by following Dr. Maria Montessori's practices, philosophy, and vision.

Training and Accreditation

The Directors, Mary Helen Cline and Kenyon Kelly, are certified by the Montessori Institute of America (MIA) and Montessori Educational Programs International (MEPI). Other staff members have received child development and Montessori training through Montessori Educational Programs International (MEPI).


Montessori at Sandy Ford is accredited by MEPI.  The primary classrooms are licensed by the NC Office of Child Development, and the elementary classrooms are approved by the NC Office of Non-Public Instruction.

Our History


Formerly operating as The Montessori Children's House, the school was originally organized by Rebecca T. Eaves and W. H. Eaves, Jr. in 1981. After a brief period in the Eaves' basement, the Children's House moved to the basement of the Episcopal Church of the Epiphany in Newton. Mary Helen Cline joined the Children's House in 1981 and Kenyon Kelly in 1984. In 1984, space constraints for both the church and the school prompted the search for a new facility.

For years, Mary Helen had admired a perfectly lovely house, ideal for the "Children's House". The house on East 11th Street in Newton, built in 1940, was purchased and was completely renovated and adapted for a facility designed for young children, the administrative office and the kitchen. Parents and friends of the Children’s House accomplished much of the work.


In 2003 the Board of Directors of the school adopted a plan for an expansion project, specifically for the construction of a new facility to house the school. In 2004, Susan and Thomas Jones, whose children previously attended the school, donated approximately five acres of land to the Children’s House. The new name, Montessori at Sandy Ford, was chosen to reflect the new location while retaining a reference to its pedagogical inspiration. This new facility represents a large step forward for the oldest established, private, secular school in Catawba County.


Our Philosophy

Our School's program is based on the philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori and the latest research in child development. Our goal is to a provide a carefully prepared environment that meets the needs of each individual child and fosters independent thinkers.

At Montessori at Sandy Ford, we also work to instill a focus on conservation efforts and the environment, a person's role in their local and world community,  and each child's responsibility to one another.


2017 by Montessori at Sandy Ford. All rights reserved.

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