Sea Pines Montessori celebrates 50th anniversary


On Nov. 10, join Sea Pines Montessori Academy as it celebrates 50 years instructing Hilton Head Island children.

Alumni, staff and special guests will gather at 10 a.m. under the Liberty Oak in Harbour Town to bury a time capsule containing yearbooks, photos, newspapers, wallpaper from the school’s lobby, clothing, ornaments and other objects. Speakers also will reflect on the school’s past and look ahead to its future.

“The items in this time capsule will give future generations a glimpse of what life was like in Hilton Head Island in 2018, as well as provide important records and historical items from the founding of Sea Pines Montessori to its present standing,” said Melinda Cotter, Sea Pines Montessori’s head of school. “The objects included also will celebrate Sea Pines Montessori and its founder, Mary Fraser, and will ensure a legacy for years to come.”

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Fraser — the wife of Sea Pines developer Charles Fraser — founded the school in 1968 in a one-room classroom, driven by her desire to provide a Montessori education for her two daughters. She will be a guest of honor at the anniversary event, along with her daughter Laura Lawton Fraser, and will add a few artifacts to the time capsule.

Sea Pines Montessori educates children ages 12 months to eighth grade using the Montessori method, which focuses on developing children not only academically but also socially and emotionally, with a focus on character, leadership skills and confidence-building. It is the oldest accredited Montessori school in South Carolina.

A long tradition of learning

Mary Fraser founded the Sea Pines Montessori School, the first Montessori school in South Carolina. Sally Cook was named the first directress of the class of 33 children.

SPMS renovated and moved into the old Arcade Building on the beach where it remained for the next eight years.

SPMS became a board-run, non-profit, independent school. Sally Cook Humphrey was affirmed as the first headmistress.

Maxine Carroll, Jennifer Cook and four other teachers took the first Montessori training course offered by Dr. Elizabeth Caspari on Hilton Head Island.

SPMS moved to its current location at 9 Fox Grape Road with three primary classrooms, office and storage designed by architect John Bulken.

The toddler program was added to SPMS.

Sally Cook Humphrey retired after heading the school for 14 years. Maxine Carroll succeeded Humphrey as the second headmistress.

A 7,240 square foot building expansion project was completed.

The 11,000 square foot arts expansion added several rooms to enhance the facility without adding classrooms or student enrollment.

The Island Montessori Day School was founded by passionate parents who wanted to continue to offer the Montessori Method to children ages 6-9.

Sea Pines Montessori School and Island Montessori Day School merged to become Sea Pines Montessori Academy (SPMA)

In June SPMA Head of School Darcie Patrick announced that Sea Pines Montessori Academy offcially received its dual accreditation.

After Darcie Patrick’s loving retirement, Melinda Cotter joined SPMA as new Head of School