Our School

Founding of Our School

Sweetbay Montessori School originated when a group of Montessori families and teachers created a new home for an elementary program transitioning from another school. In response to local demand for more quality early childhood education options, the Children's House for ages 3-6 was added for the 2018 - 2019 school year.

Theresa Joyce, an American Montessori Society (AMS) certified teacher, founded and led the lower elementary class at a local Montessori school for the past three years and is the Lead Teacher and Head of School at Sweetbay Montessori.

Authentic Montessori Education

We are guided by the Core Components of Montessori Education established by the American Montessori Society (AMS):

  • Properly trained Montessori teachers
  • Multi-age classroom
  • Use of Montessori materials
  • Child-directed work
  • Uninterrupted work cycles

We are a Full Member School with AMS, and have embarked on the AMS Path of Continuous Improvement toward AMS Accreditation.

Our Teachers

Lead Teacher & Head of School: Theresa Joyce

Theresa first discovered Montessori when her oldest child was 3 years old and she fell in love with the philosophy. All three of Theresa’s children attended Montessori schools. By the time her youngest child entered a primary class, Theresa decided to become a Montessori teacher herself.

Theresa has Montessori certifications in both Lower Elementary (6-9 years) and Primary (2 ½ - 6 yrs). She has a BA in Psychology and holds certifications in Florida for Elementary Education K-6 and Special Education K-12. She has been teaching for over 17 years. 

Primary Lead Teacher: Shannon Nichols

Shannon Nichols is a South Carolina native and has been a Montessori educator for thirteen years. She first learned about Montessori during college and began her Montessori journey. 

Shannon has a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and a Master's degree in Elementary Education with a specialization in Montessori. She has Montessori certifications for Primary (3-6 year olds), Lower Elementary (6-9 year olds), and Upper Elementary (9-12 year olds). She also holds Florida and South Carolina state certifications.

“Now, what really makes a teacher is love for the human child; for it is love that transforms the social duty of the educator into the higher consciousness of a mission.” 

–Maria Montessori 

Our Campus


We are conveniently located between South Walton and Freeport off US 331 - just 7 minutes north of US 98 and 7 minutes from the center of Freeport.

Outdoor Space

Our campus is surrounded by mature trees, with work underway to install a natural playground, organic gardens, and outside deck. Outdoor work and play are an integral part of each school day.

Indoor Environment

Our indoor space includes spacious classrooms filled with natural light. The concrete block construction and secured entry points provide safety and security.

Our Name

Sweetbay Magnolia

Sweetbay Magnolias (Magnolia virginiana) are cousins of southern magnolias that are found in several indigenous plant communities in Walton County, including the small copse of native trees in our play yard. They have beautiful white flowers with a vanilla scent and are distinguished by their bright red seed pods.  

Photo source: Georgia Native Plant Society

Sweetbay Montessori School welcomes all students and does not exclude, deny admission to, or otherwise discriminate against any person on the basis of race, color, nationality, religion, cultural heritage, political beliefs, marital status, sexual orientation, or disability for participation in, or receipt of the services under any of its programs and activities.