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AMS 2012 Living Legacy: Chandra Fernando

Leave your words of congratulations for Chandra below .

Chandra FernandoHumbly 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.


Add your tribute

hello, I'm interested in purchasing your books. Thanks, Connie

Connie Janik

06 /22 /2012 - Raleigh, North Carolina USA

Ayuboweva!!! (the way of greeting in Sinhala -means: wishing a long life) Chandra akka (akka means elder sister in Sinhala) We are really proud of you and your achievement. Keep it up dear sister. Wish you all the best and Congratulations!!!! Jayaweva!!!

Sampathawaduge Eshantha Silva, No relationship but an admirer

06 /17 /2012 - Moratuwa Sri Lanka

Reading about you gives a tremendous uplift for all Sri Lanknas living in many parts of the world.You have created history and shown what can be done by our people given the smallest help in their effort to do a job with dedication.May you have a long healthy life to help man do his or her best to others.

Dr.A.E.Kulatilake, I am a Sri Lankan now in Sri Lanka

06 /16 /2012 - Colombo,Sri Lanka

DEAR MRS CHANDRA; DO YOU HAVE ANEY ams training school in srilanka. thank you

bandula silva

06 /15 /2012 - silver spring MD montgomery

accept my congtulation for this great acheivement and we are proud of you and as a father i feel our next generation is with safe hands at the coorect time and this is our duty spread this news among our whole nation.

Sarath wijebandara, countryman

06 /14 /2012 - Saudi arabia

Congrats Chandra on your achievement. I am so very proud of you and also of Sarath. I attended his dinner event in DC. You are the stepping stone for his success too. Found out from Sarath that you are living in Charles Village: I am in Homeland and now that we are nieghbors let's gettogether to celebrate. You can send me an email. Congratulation again my dear.

Chintha Kuruppunayake, old time friend

06 /14 /2012 - Baltimore

Congratulations Chandra form a fellow Sri Lankan, a mother and a peace maker. The world must be grateful for your commitment and passion to educate , engage and inspire children to create a strong and beneficial presence in this world. In Peace Soraya

Soraya Deen

06 /14 /2012 - Tarzana California

HEARTIEST CONGRATULATIONS!SRI LANKA IS PROUD OF YOU.

HILMY YOOSUF, MEMBER OF TEACHING PROFESSION

06 /13 /2012 - MANASSAS

Chandra, congratulations on receiving the Living Legacy honor. You have touched so many lives in such a positive way. I think about you often and remember all the serenity and gracefullness you posess. Thank you for being a mentor to so many. Your legacy will go on for many, many years.

Kendal Poleykett, Student

06 /08 /2012 - Bloomington, IN

Ms. Chandra - You were such a positive mentor for me. You guided your students with love and devotion while asking them to grow in so many ways. You taught me how to be a better student, sister, daughter and friend. Now, as a teacher myself I think about all of the important lessons I learned in your classroom and try to pass them along to my students. In this way I believe that your legacy will continue for so many years through the lives of all those that you have touched. Congratulations!

Gretchen Crook Bauer, Student

04 /24 /2012 - Falls Church, VA

Hello Mrs. Chandra Fernando congrats for your accomplishments.Truly honoured to be trained by you and trying hard to imbibe your accomodating persona, humility and graciousness. Thanks for everything.

Nidhi Singh, Student

04 /03 /2012 - Ashburn, VA

Chandra, Congratulations on your living legacy honor. I cannot think of a more deserving recipient. You so fully embody Montessori philosophy, I often felt as if I was receiving knowledge just by being in your presence. You are a truly gifted and enlightened teacher. I was fortunate to complete my 3-6 Montessori training during your final year at MSCM. That experience has served me incredibly well. You provided me with an amazingly strong foundation for teaching with which I have been able to use in order to positively effect the lives of hundreds of others. You are the beginning of a great wave of peace. Thank you for the knowledge.

Jayme Westrom, former student

03 /25 /2012 - Sarasota, Florida

It is such a well-deserved honor for you to receive this award. I, at the ripe age of 50, and a "true believer" in the Montessori method, have known many, many "Montessorians"; I can think of no one I know who deserves to be so honored as you do. I know you would prefer to keep your "low profile" and quietly go about your work of enhancing the lives of all children, everywhere. So sorry we will not be there in person, but we all are so proud of your professional accomplishments, and the good and joy you've brought to so many children and their families! We will be there in "Spirit". Love, Siromi, Alain and our joy, Zoe.

Siromi, Daughter

03 /13 /2012 - Paris, France

Congratulations on your Living Legacy honor. I look forward to meeting you at the conference and especially am interested in your two children's books on peace. We sing a song in church, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." As educators, we set the tone for our students, our family and ultimately ourselves if we are people who work for peace.

Helena Hess, AMS member

03 /11 /2012 - Brentwood/Tennessee/US

Chandra, When I think of you, my mind thinks of giggles, happiness, hard work, commitment to others, a love for ALL children, an enchanting grace, and a soul filled to capacity with love that overflows onto those you come in contact with. I will forever cherish the days we spent together "on the farm" when we were able to see each other every day. I miss you my dear friend and wish I could be with you as you are honored by AMS and all of us who love you. May you be blessed today and all of the many years ahead! Jeni

Jeni Schmitt, One of my dearest friends

03 /08 /2012 - Evansville, IN. US

Dear Miss Chandra, There will never be words to tell you how fortunate we feel to have had you as Rachel's teacher and our friend. Montessori and her teachers at Emerson Farm have been a lifelong positive influence in her life and I only wish that every child could experience what Rachel did. Our world would be in much better shape if all children had Miss Chandra in their lives. Congratulations and all our love!! Hannah, Wallace and Rachel Pickworth

Hannah Pickworth, parent of former student

01 /20 /2012 - Baltimore, Md

Congratulations on this beautiful and well deserved tribute. Not only have you been my mentor and friend you were so instrumental in making my son the beautiful and ethical man he is today You are a very special woman and I am proud to call you my friend.

Starr Cooper, worked with Chandra for 20 years as well as a parent of a former student

01 /20 /2012 - Baltinore, MD/Delray Beach, FL

Congratulations and Best Wishes. You are greatly admired

Barbara Lamb, Admiration for the woman

01 /06 /2012 - Dallas, TX

I feel so fortunate to be your friend. Over the last 8 years, your actions and words have taught me so much about Montessori, children, and life in general. I am absolutely elated that the Living Legacy Award will allow you to share your valuable message with the rest of the Montessori world. Congratulations!!

Bart Theriot, Friend and Colleague at Northern Virginia Montessori Institute

12 /12 /2011 - Ashburn, Virginia

Hey Chandra, Congratulations on your success. Never knew that Sarath has become such a celebrity. I got the invitation from the embassy but couldn't make it: if I had the lease bit of knowledge that it is Sarath, I would've definitely being there. You are a celebrity to. How is Siromi & Sugath? I am proud of your acheivement too. Please keep in touch: never knew that you moved to Northern VA. Dayani has been in Arlington for the last 2 years but will be moving to Philly begining of the year.

Chintha Kuruppunayake, Old Friend

12 /02 /2011

Dearest Chandra, You have touched so many lives through your teachings, your kindness and your presence. Because of you this world is a more peaceful, thoughtful, graceful place. Thank you for all you have done for children! I can think of no one more deserving of this honor. You are deeply loved by so many. With gratitude, Suzanne Moughon

Suzanne Moughon, Student graduating class of 2005/2006

10 /19 /2011 - Kilmarnock

Miss Chandra, I am so proud to read about all of the ways you have provided for children around the world. I am equally proud to post that you were a wonderful role model for me as your student at Emerson Farms. You are an exceptional woman, beautiful inside and out and you look the same as when I graduated in 1984. Congratulations!

Alexis Alexander Epperly, Former Student

10 /19 /2011 - Rota, Spain

Dear Chandra, It is no surprise to us that such warm accolades have been bestowed on you, over your illustrious career as a renowned Montessori teacher.It brought us great pride when Richard Ungerer,Executive Director-AMS spoke highly of you,& we were happy to mention that we are family friends.May God bless you in all your endeavors. Sincerely, Hillary & Charmaine Candappa

Charmaine Candappa, Personal friends of the family.

10 /16 /2011 - Duarte, CA, U.S.A

I am so happy that you are being honored in this way. You have meant so much to me - and to my daughter Lisa. I always think of you with gratitude and affection. Susie Fitzhugh

Susie Fitzhugh, mother of one of Chandra's students in 1970-73

10 /15 /2011 - Seattle WA USA

Congratulations Chandra Aachchi!! This is an amazing achievement. You are such an inspiration to all of us & I'm honoured to be part of your family.

Shalini Canagasabey

10 /05 /2011 - Colombo, Sri Lanka

I have no words to describe how AWESOME you are Chancy Achchi...... It's really great to hear all the nice things people have to say about you & you deserve it all!! Well done!! Keep doing what you're doing, because most people wouldn't be Where or Who they are today if not for you & I'm blessed to be one of them! Love you loads, Shana

Shana Kane, Favorite Nephew =)

10 /05 /2011

Dear Aunty Chandra,Wow! I've heard so much about you from Sam And Charmalie. I was amazed to read of all your acheivements and dedications to the Montessori Movement.Congratulations to you from Nihal & Hiranthi

Hiranthi Wijesekera, Nephew Sam's S.I.L.

10 /05 /2011 - Melbourne, Australia

Dear Aunty Chandra- Congratulations and we are so proud of you. You are such a loving, caring, kind hearted person and it's not surprising that you have achieved this honour. Your love for children is so unique and special. We are proud to be your family!!

Charmalie Canagasabey, My husband Sam's aunt

10 /05 /2011 - Colombo 2, Sri Lanka

Ms.Chandra,It's wonderful to hear that you are still changing so many lives. I will always be grateful for your wonderful influence on Victor and Maggie. I know that their loving, generous and caring spirits had their roots in your teaching. I just wanted to say thank you for helping develop their character and touching their lives in so many special ways. Nancy

Nancy Rini, Ms. Chandra taught my children

09 /16 /2011 - Towson, MD

Congratulations Miss Chandra!!!

Rachel Waldman, Former student

09 /09 /2011 - San Diego, CA, USA

I was in Chandra's classroom for several years in the late 70s. Her picture sits in my office still today. She was the most influential person in my growing up and in all of my years of learning (including work toward two separate advanced degrees). I attribute more of who I am today to having Chandra as my teacher than I do any other single influence.

Mikhel Kushner, Student

09 /08 /2011 - Commonwealth of Dominica, West Indies

Congratulations Chandra Archie! You have always and always will be an inspiration to us all.

Dilshan De Silva

09 /05 /2011 - United Kingdom

Dear Aunty Chandra, Extremely proud of you. You have been an inspiration not only to the kids you thought but to all who had the privilage and who were fortunate in knowing you.

RAVI BALASURIYA, Aunty - Mom's sister

09 /05 /2011 - Colombo , Sri-Lanka

Dear Aunty Chandra, Congratulations! You are truely an amazing human being & I am so proud of your well deserved honour. We all know you have no boundries when it comes to children but what others may not know is how difficult life has been for you. Yet, you continue to help others without taking any time for yourself. I am so proud to be your niece. We love you loadsxxxxx

Sharmini De Silva, niece

09 /02 /2011 - London- England

Dear Chandra, what was left out of the beautiful Living Legacy statement was your work with children after the devastating 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. You volunteered your own time and financial resources to travel on site to Shri Lanka, carrying school supplies for the the children, many of whom were newly orphaned. You dedicated several months in using Montessori materials with the traumatized children to help occupy and heal them with meaningful activity, and you also raised funds for this project. As a master teacher you epitomize the spirit and philosophy of Montessori. As a friend you are a loving and supportive individual, with whom I can laugh or cry. Congratulations on your well-deserved honor. I'm not surprised you were chosen. Love, Janet Schutzman.

Janet Schutzman, Founding member of MSCM

08 /24 /2011 - Baltimore, Md.

Mrs. Fernando, congratulations! I am very proud of you. I am touched by the dedication and courage you have towards the education of children as well as teacher.

Wasantha Perera

08 /21 /2011

Dear Ms.Chandra, I read the article and am extremly proud to know that you are a Sri Lankan.

thanuja, another montessorian

08 /14 /2011 - Texas

Dear Chandra,Congratulations! You are such an inspiration to Montessori teachers. You always promote a peaceful environment and that is important in this day and age. Thanks for always sharing your knowledge with me and so many teachers in the Northern Virginia area.

LeighAnn Skeen, Co-worker

08 /11 /2011 - Fairfax, VA

Congratulations! Ms.Chandra :) I'll write only one line about you, "Some people like you make the World more beautiful and peaceful just by being in it."

Renu, Ms. Chanda's student

08 /07 /2011 - Herndon, VA

Dear Chandra, congratulations on a well-deserved honor! Thank you for making a difference in so many lives!

Deepa Simlot, Past Student

08 /05 /2011 - Chantilly, VA

Warm congratulations, Chandra. I wish more people were as calm, caring, loving, and giving as you. You are quite an inspiration. I feel honored to have learned from you. Lots of peace and love, Sarah Finn Ramos

Sarah Finn Ramos, Student, Fellow Montessorian

08 /04 /2011 - Reston, Virginia, USA

Congratulations Chandra! This is without a doubt very well deserved. You have given me a love for Montessori and helped me grow so much as a person. Thank you for all that you have done and still do to spread your love and knowledge of the amazing Montessori teaching method!!

Amy Buckles, former student

08 /04 /2011 - Plainfield, CT USA

Dear Chandra, you are the epitome of Maria Montessori's message to the world. You are a remarkable example for us to follow in our work with children, families and the world. Thank you, Nancy Smith

Nancy Smith, Friend and Instructor at Northern Virginia Montessori Institute (NVMI)

08 /04 /2011 - Lexington, VA

Chandra,words cannot express how much you inspire me and so many others around you. The joy of working by your side has been an honor for me. You deserve this for so many reasons! You are an amazing mentor and a best friend. Congratulations!! Love you lots!

Beth Sitnick, Her Assistant at Northern Virginia Montessori Institute (NVMI)

08 /02 /2011 - Ashburn, VA

Chandra,words cannot express how much you inspire me and so many others around you. The joy of working by your side has been an honor for me.You deserve this for so many reasons! You are an amazing mentor and a best friend. Congratulations!! Love you lots!

Beth Sitnick, Chandra's Assistant at NVMI

08 /02 /2011 - Ashburn, VA

I cannot imagine a more devoted, more deserving Montessorian than Chandra! Thank you Chandra for being such an inspiration for us all as we work together to provide children with thoughtful Montessori education.

Michelle Dulany, Fellow Montessorian

07 /28 /2011 - Winter Garden, FL

Dear Ms. Chandra, Congratulations! When I read all about you, there is one thing that speaks to me the most. Your dedication toward educating children and teachers. And your service-oriented self! I am very proud to have an opportunity to be learning from you and hoping that I learn to be as selfless as you are. A BIG thank you for your service, dedication, and love! Sincerely, Shirley

Shirley Rosario, Student

07 /27 /2011 - Herndon, Virginia (Fairfax County)

Thank you for dedicating your life to peace, education, and children.

Heidi Larson , Fellow Montessorian

07 /19 /2011 - Cincinnati, Ohio

Chandra has been an inspiration to me since I first met her when we talked about how to help children in remote villages in Darfur, Sudan, through my not-for-profit, Kids for Kids. I miss her when she is away. Her calm serenity conceals a dynamic personality which helps transform the lives of countless children across the world.

Patricia Parker, Friend, admirer, supporter and recipient

07 /15 /2011 - Dorking, Surrey, United Kingdom

How wonderful to congratulate you on this well-deserved honor. Thank you for the many gifts that you so generously give to others. You are truly an inspiration.

Amy Henderson, Colleague

07 /14 /2011 - Fort Worth, Texas
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