Emunah Montessori Academy is the newest addition to the roster of the Valley's Jewish schools in Central Phoenix, joining the neighborhood's three preschools, two day schools and two high schools.

Emunah Montessori was founded in September by Amina Mulayev, who also serves as the school's director and sole teacher. She had been home-schooling her son, Rafael, now 4, using the Montessori method and after encouragement by family and friends to open a Jewish Montessori school in the area, she opened the school in her home. There are currently six students, ages 3-6, and she looks forward to expanding.

Mulayev, who has a degree in early childhood education from Queens College in New York, says that when she taught in New York, her teaching philosophy was that students should be taught at their own individual level. "You can't expect that all 3-year-olds will learn at the same pace," she says. When she moved to the Valley in 2006, she was introduced to the Montessori philosophy and felt an immediate connection.

Mulayev's first Montessori experience was as a teacher at Shalom Montessori, the Valley's first Jewish Montessori school, which opened in Scottsdale in 2005. She received her Montessori certification two years ago and she has also studied speech pathology and has worked with children with speech delays.

The Montessori method is a multi-age, hands-on learning process that was developed by Dr. Maria Montessori.

The new school is affiliated with The Jewish Montessori Society and serves kosher food, observes Jewish holidays, includes Hebrew in its curriculum and provides an Orthodox environment. The school has open enrollment . The full-time monthly tuition is $600, with before- and after-care available.

"Learning starts at birth," Mulayev wrote on the school's website. "Providing a child with a strong educational foundation is the root from which all future success emanates."

"I feel so honored and blessed that I have the opportunity to work with the children in the community," she says.

"I'm really proud of the school Amina created," says Tali Hamer, whose daughter Maya attends the school. "I think the entire Jewish community should always be proud and celebrate as more resources come about for Jewish learning."

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