Pat Werner, head of school at Washington Montessori School, has announced she will retire from her post at the end of the 2017-18 school year.

Werner has served as the head of school at WMS since 1979, driving its transition from a small nursery school located in a church basement to an accomplished co-ed day school for children 18 months to eighth grade located on a sprawling and modern campus of its own.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to lead our school over its formative years,” said Werner.

“We have grown and changed a great deal since 1975 when I arrived as the first lower elementary teacher,” she said.

“Many people contributed to our accomplishments and I’m grateful to have had so many parents and teachers on this journey with me,” she said.

“It’s certainly been the experience of my lifetime outside of my family,” Werner related.

Werner joined Washington Montessori School in 1975 as the head teacher in the school’s first lower elementary classroom of eight students.

At that point, lacking administration, the school was led by a board of trustees committed to the Montessori philosophy.

Over the next four years, the lower elementary program grew to 48 students in two classrooms, the school was poised to add an upper elementary program and it became obvious to the board that it was time for the burgeoning school to have a proper administrator.

“What we were doing was considered experimental,” said Werner. “There weren’t many models of Montessori elementary education that I could use as resources. We really ended up being groundbreaking, and now people use us as that resource.”

When touring Washington Montessori School at its current location in New Preston—a 48-acre campus with a 57,000-square-foot-building, tennis courts, athletic fields, playgrounds and outdoor classrooms — it’s difficult to imagine a time when this education was ever considered “experimental.”

“Pat’s decades-long leadership of WMS has prepared scores of students for high school and provided a foundation for successful academic careers and adulthood,” said Peter A. Frew, director of admissions at The Taft School in Watertown.

“At her retirement, Pat will have spent 43 years building one of the most exceptional and respected schools in the country,” said Bill Dunbar, chairman of the WMS Board of Trustees.

The Washington Montessori School Board of Trustees has retained the services of search consultants, Independent Thinking from Newton, Mass., to conduct a nationwide search for WMS’s next head of school.