School History

A Dream Becomes A Reality

Creative Learning Academy was founded in 1972 as the Montessori Learning Center at Temple Beth El, in downtown Pensacola. According to our founder, Mary Lee Porter-Hanson, the vision began as a “dream of a school where children are free to learn and happy to learn by discovery … wherein through their senses they choose that which helps to joyfully construct themselves through purposeful activity and with mastery of each new skill their self-confidence increases, and their love of learning grows.”

After a few years, the school began introducing additional new grade levels. With the expansion beyond the early learning years and a more traditional curriculum in lower school, the school was renamed Creative Learning Center in 1975. The dream continued to evolve and through their vision, according to the director, the school remained uniquely able to, “motivate students to seek knowledge, and then provide the tools to pull them along at the rate best suited to their individual capacities. True learning takes place because children are able to internalize what they learn”.

By 1978, the school had again outgrown its facility downtown and moved to the current campus on Hyde Park Road, in East Pensacola Heights. The school continued to add grades each year and by 1982, CLC graduated its first eighth-grade class. Accreditation was granted to CLC by the Florida Council for Independent Schools and the Florida Kindergarten Council in 1983. In 2003, Creative Learning Center became the Creative Learning Academy of Pensacola.

Graduates of CLA have done especially well in the International Baccalaureate program and Advanced Placement classes in the high school of their choice. CLA graduates often return to visit our school community and credit their academic preparedness on the strong foundation and zest for learning established here at Creative.

We are proud of our long and distinguished role as an academically challenging program that has contributed to the success of our community. We look forward to sharing that legacy with you and invite you to be a part of our future!


A Reflection By Marilyn Pearson
Former CLA Teacher and Past Trustee

On Hyde Park Road, just off Scenic Highway, you’ll find a small independent school that offers students an excellent education. Even though CLA has been in operation for forty years, it is considered Pensacola’s best kept secret by the parents, teachers, and students affiliated with the school. Founded as the Montessori Learning Center in 1972 offering only preprimary and kindergarten classes, the school added grades each year and graduated its first eighth grade class in 1982. Graduates of CLA have done especially well in the IB program and Advanced Placement classes in high school. CLA graduates are successful politicians, doctors, attorneys, Broadway stars, opera singers, teachers, and TV sportscasters.

Over the years there have been changes made to CLA, but the one constant has been the quality education offered to the students. The addition of a computer lab, a science lab, a gym, new class buildings, more enrichments classes, and classroom equipment has ensured that each student is able to achieve his/her best. Qualified, experienced teachers, small classes, and dedicated staff are there to make learning a great experience for both students and parents. The small classes enable teachers to work with students one-on-one, in small groups, or with peer teaching to ensure that each student understands the concepts being taught.

CLA teachers have a history of being caring, loving individuals who are willing to go more than the extra mile to help their students. There are lots of smiles, hugs, and words of encouragement in each and every classroom. Each child is special and is remembered long after graduation. CLA teachers make learning challenging, but fun. It is their wish that graduates remember their years at CLA with a smile on their faces.