In 1995, Kim Feerer was an award-winning public elementary school teacher in California, who despite her professional successes, found herself deeply unsatisfied with the quality of her relationships with her students. In the course of exploring various educational philosophies and methods, she discovered Maria Montessori’s theories of education – and was drawn at once to the close bond between teachers and students, the happy industry of the children and the academic rigor of the program. In 1998 Kim became certified as a primary teacher (ages 3 to 6), and in 2001, as a lower elementary teacher (ages 6 to 9), through the American Montessori Society.
In 1999, Kim founded Cedar Tree Montessori Elementary School, in Bellingham, Washington. The 501 (c) (3) nonprofit started with a four-member board, including Kim, her former husband Michael Feerer, and friend Cathy Campbell and Aral Griffin. The entering class of the 1999 – 2000 school year was composed of eight children, kindergarten through first grade. Cedar Tree was a one-room school: a lone 30 foot by 30 foot portable set in the gravel parking lot of a local church.
Five years later, in 2005, Amy Silver was hired as Lead Teacher, and the Cedar Tree Upper Elementary was born in a 15 foot by 30 foot trailer across the parking lot from the first classroom.
Cedar Tree’s reputation for excellence spread quickly. By 2007 the Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary combined enrollment had swelled to 40. Two part-time Assistant Teachers joined Kim in the Lower Elementary classroom. Kim, in her capacity as administrative Head of School, made an office out of her Honda: she kept files in her car, and sat there to make phone calls.
The need for a larger and more permanent location was obvious. Moreover, in 2006 due to leasing arrangements with the hosting church, the Upper Elementary classroom had to move “off campus,” to the garden room of a Montessori preschool across town. The Lower and Upper Elementaries remained physically separated for one year.
In 2005, the Board and parent community launched a capital campaign and a search for a new home for Cedar Tree.
In 2006, the Alliance for Alternative Education (AAE), an independent group of investors purchased a church building on the corner of Broadway and Irving, and established a lease agreement with Cedar Tree. Cedar Tree entered the final phase of the capital campaign, ultimately raising a combined $93,000 over two years.
In 2008, a renovation of the building began. Dan Coffey, owner of Coffey Construction – and Cedar Tree parent – was hired by the Board as General Contractor. All work was done at cost (with no added profit margin); in addition, the company loaned Cedar Tree approximately $16,000 (now being repaid in the form of tuition deferral). The generous volunteer labor of Cedar Tree families also helped to keep project costs down. Another family donated almost $10,000 toward grounds improvements, landscaping and play area structures.
On a sunny September morning, the new Cedar Tree Montessori campus welcomed the 2007 – 2008 Upper and Lower Elementary classes. The new building boasted an administration office, a generous foyer / entry, a sunlit Lower Elementary classroom with soaring ceilings, and an Upper Elementary classroom with a kitchen, a storage room, and a modest, but beautiful, outdoor patio / amphitheater.
Kim Feerer, our Director, Founder and Lead Lower Elementary teacher was recognized as a finalist in the 2015 Professional Woman of the Year by the Whatcom Women in Business organization. http://wwib.org/
Today, Cedar Tree Montessori, is a state and federal non-profit institution, under 501 (c) (3) tax code. Our nonprofit number is 91-1953283. Your donations and contributions to fundraisers are tax deductible.