Leave your words of congratulations for Carolyn below.
The AMS 2016 Living Legacy is Carolyn Kambich. Born into a family of first-generation Scandinavian immigrants, she saw early in her life the power of a strong work ethic, determination, and the importance of mentors. Her parents were self-educated individuals who loved music and were avid readers. At the urging of one of her high school teachers, she applied for and was awarded a scholarship to Northern Illinois University, graduating with a BS in elementary education. It was at NIU that she met her husband, Tony.
In 1965, after hearing a Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center speaker in Deerfield, IL, Carolyn organized a Montessori study group. With encouragement from Dr. Urban Fleege, founder of MMTTC, Carolyn and an interested local parent, Terry Fine, placed an ad in a local newspaper (under “Miscellaneous for Sale”) to gauge interest in a potential Montessori school. The response was 200 phone calls!
Deerfield Montessori School, championing not only Montessori pedagogy but also a philosophy of diversity and inclusion, applied equally to students and staff, opened in September 1966. Subsequently, Carolyn opened four more Illinois schools in the Deerfield, Highland Park, Riverwoods, and Glenview/Northfield area. The four schools still in operation (the Montessori Center of Highland Park closed in 1986) are known as the Deerfield/North Shore Montessori Schools, and all are AMS-accredited schools, serving infants through sixth grade. Second-generation Montessorians Lisa, Tony Jr, and Doug Kambich are at the helm.
Carolyn herself best states the school spirit: “As I reflect upon the growth of our schools, I often say, ‘our parents’ problems became our new programs.” She guided the school from the half-day program to expand to include full-day Montessori for 0 – 3 and 3 – 6, as well as full-day non-competitive camp, at a time when these programs were unheard of in the area. And, somehow she found time to complete her AMS credential, Early Childhood, at MECA Seton (now Seton Montessori Institute).
While opening Deerfield she worked with others in the Illinois Montessori Society to pioneer the Montessori movement in Chicago. IMS was instrumental in advocating for Montessori education in the state of Illinois and in supporting teachers and parents. Eventually the needs of the constituents changed, and IMS was restructured as AIMS (Association of Illinois Montessori Schools) under the guidance of Carolyn and Tony Kambich. Carolyn also served as a president of AIMS. Today, AIMS continues to expand and influence the educational landscape of Illinois and supports AMS at the national level.
Carolyn’s work at the international level has been focused on bringing authentic Montessori to Africa. Accompanying her husband on a Rotary International project in Uganda in 1997, she spoke with a group of Ugandans, who wanted this education for peace. Thus began her efforts to bring Ugandans to the United States for teacher training and internships in her schools. By donating materials, raising money, and investing sweat equity, she helped the Victoria Montessori School in Entebbe, Uganda, along with Kampala Montessori and Olwal Montessori in Uganda. Yearly visits help support the quality of these programs, two of which have been recipients of AMS Ursula Thrush Peace grants. Carolyn’s other international work includes speaking with teacher and parent groups abroad to inspire and support fledgling Montessori efforts.
In recent years, Carolyn’s life has come full circle as she has reached out to Northern Illinois University to build a bridge between Montessori teacher education and the University. In partnership with NIU, she hosted and conducted a series of Montessori workshops, and is currently in conversation with university officials about how this work might be expanded. Locally, Riverwoods Montessori School now hosts the MMTTC Elementary teacher education sessions. Current interests include inspiring and mentoring others.
Carolyn Kambich continues the Montessori legacy, with Tony at her side. Her work with Montessori education has spanned decades and crossed continents. She truly embodies the pioneering spirit of Dr. Montessori.