Leave your words of congratulations for Chandra
Humbly and selflessly, Chandra Fernando embodies the peaceful spirit of Montessori in every aspect of her life. She is loved and deeply admired around the globe, not least by her many friends and colleagues at the American Montessori Society.
She has devoted herself to the Montessori Movement both professionally and as a volunteer since 1976. An AMS colleague says, “She has not only touched the lives of so many children, but she has also made Montessori come alive in classrooms throughout the world through her [teacher education] programs.”
Chandra travels the globe at her own expense to bring Maria Montessori’s teachings on education and peace to schools, governments, and non-governmental organizations. She has presented workshops or consulted on Montessori theory and methods in Bulgaria, China, Greece, India, Indonesia, Israel, Mexico, South Korea, and Sri Lanka. A volunteer effort particularly close to her heart has been to develop Montessori classes for Sri Lankan children orphaned by the tsunami that devastated her homeland in 2005.
Thousands of children, parents, and aspiring Montessori teachers have been inspired by her example. A grateful parent says, “Chandra helped my children understand their place as citizens of the world and as part of the human race, and this has been invaluable to them. We were very lucky to have Chandra Fernando in our lives.”
Chandra responds, very much in character, “In our constant effort to understand ourselves and our world, we seek ways to explore the hidden paths of life and try to find the ultimate role we play in the universe. I don't feel I am special. I try to do what so many people do each and every day: to serve others to the best of their ability.”
Chandra remembers being introduced to Montessori education when she observed her young nephew’s Montessori class. She then became educated as a teacher at the AMI Teacher Training Center in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), directed by A. M. Joosten, special representative of Dr. Montessori in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Chandra was mentored by Chulangani Fernando and Joyce Goonesekera, who had studied under Dr. Maria Montessori herself. She was just 18 when she taught her first Montessori class.
In 1964, a Montessori school in Long Island, NY, invited her to come to the United States to direct one of the earliest Montessori classes in the area. By then she was married and the mother of 2 young children. Since she could obtain a travel visa only for herself, Chandra emigrated to the U.S. alone to begin work. Her husband and children joined her a few months later.
Shortly after reuniting her family, Chandra accepted a position at the Lilliput School House in Corpus Christi, TX. In 1966, she traveled to Washington, DC, for the first Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) conference that was attended by both AMI and AMS members.
In 1968, Chandra was recruited to teach at the Montessori Society of Central Maryland (MSCM), a new school being organized in Baltimore. She was 6 months pregnant and preparing to move her family from Texas to Maryland when her husband unexpectedly died. Chandra gave birth to her third child before going home to Sri Lanka for support.
She returned to Baltimore in 1970 to fulfill her contract with MSCM. The school grew rapidly, and in 1974 Chandra helped design its new main campus. During this time she also obtained her college degree in early childhood education with a concentration in Piagetian Studies, Maryland State certification for K-8, and elementary teaching credentials.
As MSCM expanded, Chandra’s responsibilities grew, too. Instrumental in founding the Maryland Center for Montessori Studies at MSCM, she was also named academic dean of the school in 1980. For the next 2 decades, she willingly, diligently, and quietly served in several capacities—as teacher, academic dean of the MSCM main campus and satellite locations, program director of the teacher education program (TEP), and standing board member. She attained and maintained AMS accreditation for the school, and AMS affiliation and Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE) accreditation for the TEP.
After serving MSCM for 33 years, Chandra left that organization in 2002 and became director of the Northeast Montessori Institute’s site in Virginia. Today, she co-directs the Early Childhood Course of Study at the Northern Virginia Montessori Institute in Ashburn, VA.
A long-time advocate of AMS, and a member since 1974, Chandra promotes the organization in many ways. She has presented at AMS annual and regional conferences in California, Kentucky, and Maryland. She has served on AMS/MACTE on-site teams and school accreditation committees and held several positions within the AMS Teacher Education Committee. In 2003, she chaired the AMS Annual Fund.
She received an AMS citation for her work in 1984 and again in 1988 and has been recognized for several years in Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.
Chandra has also published 2 children’s books: The Little Book of Peace and Peace Begins with Me. All of the proceeds from both books benefit child-based charities in disaster-stricken areas and developing nations of the world.