Sunrise Montessori Academy
of Independence
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Our School

sunrise montessori academy of independence

Sunrise is family owned and operated by long time educators from the Independence community.  Lori Smart, an experienced and certified Montessori teacher and early education teacher with over 20 years of experience and Stephen Ward, retired after thirty years with the Independence School district

It has been our passion to bring Montessori early education to Independence as we truly believe that this will impact the children of our community and instill a lifetime love of learning and care of community within each of them. We are excited to offer this unique, individualized form of education to meet the needs of the children within our hometown community.

The school is conveniently located a few minutes from 291 Highway and I-70 near a major intersection at 16650 E. US 40 Highway so that busy working parents can easily access the school.


Primary Program refers to the classroom that is designed for the three to six year old child. This classroom offers a mixed age environment to offer those benefits described within the Montessori philosophy. There are many benefits to blending these age groups together. In addition to the Montessori curriculum, teachers will emphasize education of the world around them (the students) including the lands, the people, cultures, plants, and animals. Students will learn about these things from various viewpoints during their years in the primary classroom including classification, biome and continental perspectives.

Pre-Primary Program refers to the classroom that is designed for the two to three and a half year old child. This program is designed specifically to prepare children for the primary classroom. The lessons offered in the pre-primary classroom will aid students in developing the independence, social and academic skills needed to be successful in the primary program. Toilet training will also be a goal for children in the pre-primary program to prepare for the preparation of the primary classroom as well.

Academic Day refers to the period of day that a child is attending class, from 8:30am to 3:30pm. During this time each child will be presented with opportunities for individual lessons and group activities by a certified Montessori teacher. Lunch and two healthy snacks will be served during the academic day. The academic day includes a 30 minute grace period prior to 8:30am for drop off and 30 minutes grace period after 3:30 for pick up.

Academic Half Day is the same academic day, but scheduled from 8:30am to 12:30 pm. Morning snack would be provided and student would be picked up just after lunch. There is a 30 minute grace period prior to 8:30 for drop off.

Before Care will be provided from 7:00am to 8:30am. It is during this time that children will receive care and choose some Montessori work or non-Montessori activities.

After Care and Extended Care will be provided after 3:30pm until 6:00pm. During this time children will have snack, then some free time to choose Montessori and non-Montessori activities as well as some time to explore the outdoors.

class schedule - primary classrooms

7:00am School opens
Morning Care begins
Students choose Montessori or non-Montessori activities
8:30am Academic Day begins
Class begins
Morning Line time
9:00am Montessori work time
Individual lessons
11:45pm Lunch & Outdoor time
1:00pm Rest time
1:45pm (Pre-K & Kindergarten) class begins
Montessori work time
Individual lessons
3:00pm Afternoon Line Time
3:30pm Academic Day ends
After Care begins
3:45pm Afternoon Snack
4:00pm Outdoor play time
4:45pm Line time/Group activity
5:00pm After Care ends
Extended Care begins
Montessori work time/Free play
5:45pm Clean up time
Prepare to go home
6:00pm Extended Care ends

meals and snacks

Healthy fresh food is our commitment at Sunrise Montessori Academy of Independence. It is proven that children's lives are directly affected by the foods they eat. We believe that through the nourishment of fresh, healthy food, children's body's will perform at their very best, keeping them healthy and helping them to grow and learn. We will provide foods that are low in fat, contain no trans fats, and promise to avoid as many unnatural ingredients as possible. Our promise, we won't feed your children anything we don't feed our own children. We will educate the children in healthy eating practices and encourage them to try fresh fruits and vegetables as much as possible!

the staff

lori smart

As a Montessori teacher and mother of young children, it became my mission to bring Montessori education to the community in which I live. Over the past 21 years working in early education, 17 have been dedicated to Montessori education. I believe with a passion that every child should have the educational opportunity that Montessori provides. They deserve the respect as an individual with needs that differ from that of the next child and should be accepted as who they are, and directed towards who they are destined to become. I am an A.M.S. Certified Montessori teacher who grew up here in Independence and chose to raise my family here as well. I am married with two boys. My husband and I both graduated from William Chrisman High School and have parents and siblings right here in this community. Independence is still a great city, and I believe that the work that we do, the impact we have on these children will make a difference for the future of our community. It is what we instill in the children of today that will become the decisive factor in what tomorrow will bring. Thus, our chosen name, Sunrise Montessori Academy of Independence...bright beginnings every day. Let's work together to make tomorrow a little brighter for everyone!


stephen j. ward
owner/assistant director

After moving to Independence in 1975 and beginning to raise my children, I went to work with the Independence School District. I spent 31 years at Procter Elementary School here in Independence where I made myself at home. I developed friendships with many families over the years several of which I had the privilege of working with their children, then their children's children and even their children! Generations of students coming and going through those doors, all of them impacting many years of my life. I became very involved with the school as even two of my own children grew up within Procter during my time there. I was a dedicated employee, PTA member, and showed support by volunteering my time to countless school activities over the years. I truly believe that children are what matter towards tomorrow, and I live my life to help mold the future by helping each child know his/her value by showing my support. As my daughter became involved with Montessori education I realized that the principles she learned were very similar to what I already believed. Over the years, through many conversations and after studying Montessori education, I realized the significance this philosophy could have on the children within my own community and the two of us began to plan the possibility of a Montessori school. I went back to school to study for my Montessori teaching certification through American Montessori Society and the University of St. Mary. Throughout the course of the last several years we have envisioned this dream, which has finally come to pass. I believe that our small school, with a family-like atmosphere, will provide an unsurpassed opportunity for early education that you won't find anywhere else.

jamie kincaid
montessori teacher

20 years ago, I was married with my first child and working as a para-educator with the Raytown School District. As the years passed, I was blessed with a second child. I enjoy spending time with my husband and two sons watching movies, playing games, taking road trips and getting out to see the world! I love spending time helping others, getting together with family, teaching and getting involved with my church activities. Over the years I have worked as a para-educator, teacher assistant, early education teacher and outdoor classroom teacher. I have had experience working in early education with infants, toddlers as well as three and four year olds. I am an AMS certified Montessori teacher. I joined Sunrise they first year it opened and have enjoyed teaching many great students during that time. I want to help my students to become successful and make a difference in this world. As a teacher, I hope to learn and grow and have a fresh pair of eyes for everything I do, keeping in mind what’s right, what I’m good at and gain knowledge from those experienced teachers I have the opportunity to work with each day. I hope that through that approach, I will continue to grow throughout my career.

Jenny Cobb
Montessori Teacher
I am a mother of two beautiful daughters, Joslyn who is 13 and Lyla who is 10. My husband is a captain with the Grandview Fire Department and a flight medic for Life Flight Eagle. I have a 3 legged miniature Australian Shepard who we call Trio. We fell in love with her the minute we saw her! I also have a cat that we refer to as “Jack the cat” and a hamster named Milkshake. I enjoy poetry, reading, geocaching, crocheting, nature, the sound of birds singing in the morning and being a wife and mother. Currently, I am an intern at Sunrise, working to attain my Montessori teaching certification through the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. I have years of experience in early education and turned my focus to Montessori education just a few years ago when I joined Sunrise. My goal is to guide my students to the vast possibilities of their full potential.

Dena Ward
Assistant Director & Office Manager
After many years of putting my education to work in various areas of business, including management of mental health and medical offices I went back to school, seeking my Montessori teaching certification after my husband and daughter opened Sunrise Montessori together. I believed this to be my calling at this time in my life and have enjoyed it immensely. Each day, students bring cheer to my life with their funny stories and bright perspectives. I grew up in the Independence area and chose to raise my family here as well. I am the mother of four adult children, and grandmother to eight grandchildren who have become a highlight in my life. My hobbies include spending time with family, finding sales and good deals, fixing things, helping others and taking my grandkids out for fun! My goal for my students is to help them to realize their own potential and to develop the quality of perseverance within each of them! I believe that Montessori education offers a great opportunity that other methods do not offer and hope that we at Sunrise will reach the children of our community!

Opal Strong
Montessori Teacher – Classroom 2
I have been a Montessori teacher for many, many years. I received my certification through the National Center for Montessori Education which is now the American Montessori Society. I love to play tennis and bake tasty foods for holiday celebrations. My life passion is to continue my education and my Montessori career. My goal is to meet the needs of my students socially, emotionally and academically. I have enjoyed dedicating my life to the education of young children. They make me smile and laugh each day. There is no other occupation that could have created such happiness or been so personally rewarding. Watching my students learn and grow is rewarding for me as is observing them closely to see their unique personality unfold.

Araceli Jimenez
Montessori Teacher –Spanish Teacher
I am the mother of two children who bring me great happiness. I am a certified Montessori teacher and bilingual in Spanish and English. I have 12 years of experience as a Montessori teacher. I have experience with infants, toddlers, preschool and kindergarten. I enjoy being creative, watching movies, and spending time with my family. I also enjoy putting my creative skills to work in making new activities for my class. My goal is to help each student reach his/her personal goals and aid them in learning to speak Spanish.

Maria Byle
Teacher Assistant –Spanish Teacher
I am bilingual, married and have four children. I love to go camping, cook and spend time with my family and creating happy memories together. I have experience in various fields in the restaurant and production industries, however I have a life passion of helping others and teaching young children allows me to do just that. I love to help the students learn self-control and learn to make good choices for themselves by developing strong relationships with them and building trust between them and myself. Helping the children to find the work that brings peace to their inner self is very rewarding and makes me feel happy inside.


Lani Goolsby
Baylee Whetsel
Jasmine Brown
Amanda Klein
Taylor Perry
Miranda Sanabria
Mariah Carpenter
Araceli Jimenez
Lynn White