Happy Birthday, Maria Montessori

Happy Birthday, Maria Montessori

On August 31, 1870, Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle, Italy. An activist, feminist, humanitarian, doctor, and education revolutionary, her role in advancing education, promoting peace and social justice, and advocating for children’s rights cannot be understated. It has been 70 years since her passing and still the impact of her work is felt around the globe through the thousands of students who sit in the classrooms of schools bearing her name.

To honor her legacy, AMS has collected stories, quotes, and thank you notes from members of our community and staff.

Happy Birthday, Maria Montessori!

Candy Proctor

Upper Elementary Teacher and Member of the AMS Board of Directors

I finally found my way into a Montessori classroom when I was 24 years old. I was a Child Development major discouraged by the cartoonish approach to classroom design that was a hallmark of Early Childhood classrooms everywhere. When I entered the toddler classroom that would become my introduction to Montessori, I was immediately struck by how warm and beautiful the space was. Even now, twenty-seven years later, this is a quality that I have come to expect in all Montessori environments.

My attention then immediately turned to the children. I had never seen such peaceful children. Who could have imagined seeing toddlers moving about their perfectly-sized space, chatting softly with one another and their guides, helping each other clean up spills, carefully spooning into stunning, glass dishes? I knew in those first few moments that I had found my future. I had found Montessori, and I was determined to learn all that I could to make the same magic.

For me, Montessori education means love, love of children, love of joy in the small moments, love of learning, and love of the person I’ve become in order to live in service to children.

Carey Jones

Editor of Montessori Life Magazine; Montessori Parent

Montessori education means my children—and one day, I hope, all children—are truly seen for their individual selves and afforded the freedom to grow into their fullest potential. I see Montessori as a way of living, rather than merely an educational method, and envision a future in which it has applications that extend far beyond schools and classrooms.

Margarita Diaz

Montessori Guide and Parent

Eighteen years ago, when I first entered a Montessori classroom, I observed, mesmerized, the students as they engaged in different activities with such a high level of independence and respect for each other. Later, I found an adult sitting on the floor with a small group of students, working on a lesson that I would learn was called the Moveable Alphabet. During that time, I was convinced that not only had I found the perfect school for my daughter, but that I also wanted to be part of that magical experience. Not only had I become a certified Elementary guide, but most importantly I became a parent of two Montessori girls that attended the school where I was working. What a gift to work and to commute together!

Over the years I became a Montessori trainer and speaker. It was a complete transformation of how I had previously perceived my connection with people and our universe. Now more than ever I am convinced that Montessori education is the best path to foster peaceful and respectful citizens. We need to continue working for respect, diversity, and equity for all children. As a co-founder of the AMS en Español Affinity Group, I work to spread the bilingual Montessori community both nationally and internationally. There is still so much to accomplish in our changing world and I am proud to continue this empowering journey.

Gina Lofquist

AMS Senior Director of Education and Strategic Initiatives

Where does one begin… Dr. Montessori showed the world the possibility of children and what the view of a future might look like if we honored this possibility. Her ideas have the ability to change the world, if we all have the courage to embrace a new way of educating children and how we might construct ourselves into adults. For me personally, Montessori education has revealed the possibility of my own humanity and guided my journey as a mother. I am ever grateful for the universe aligning my start as a Montessori educator with the news of becoming a mother for the first time. I am also honored to awaken each day knowing, like all Montessori educators, I have the possibility of making a difference for children and their families as well as for our AMS community.

Chriss, Edith, Florencia, Marlene, Nancy, & Gabrielle

Montessori Country Day School, Cottage Toddler Team

To us, Montessori education gives us a meaningful way of introducing the world to the child by allowing the child to be curious and unfold naturally. Through Dr. Montessori's work, we know the child absorbs information from the prepared environment so we are able to guide them to independence without imposing. Montessori education allows the child to embrace what they learn by developing trust and respect for their world because these qualities were shown to them first.

Hannah Baynham

AMS Director of Learning and Professional Development

“Montessori has been transformative in my understanding of childhood. Through my deeper study of the pedagogy, I have been able to use a critical lens to explore and reflect on what Montessori means to the child and the adult of today. As adults, we must take time to do the work, to learn and grow as both educators and people. Montessori must continue to evolve, to challenge, and to break down systems of oppression to empower the learners of today, to develop into the leaders and changemakers of tomorrow.”

Natalie Sanchez

AMS Marketing Assistant; Montessori Parent

Montessori education feels like an extension of my home and the values we hope to instill in our young children. Montessori goes far beyond academics. To me, it means my children will learn how to be independent, mindful adults that can think for themselves, solve problems, work in community, and do good in this world.

Stephanie Cavinder

Infant and Toddler Guide; AMS Teacher Education Associate

To me, Montessori education has always meant freedom. Freedom for the student, freedom for the teacher, and freedom from judgment in learning. I always wanted to be a teacher growing up and when I found the Montessori Method, I finally found a pedagogy that aligned with my personal values and gave me that sense of freedom in education.

Dorothy Harman

Retired Public School Montessorian, Curriculum Coordinator, Facilitator of Adult Learning, & Montessori Author

Montessori is a place of homecoming.

It is a place where humanity and lives, young and mature, are connected, honored and encouraged to shine.

It is a place where tradition lives, exploration thrives, and innovation transforms.

It is a place of beauty, peace, and reverence.

It is a place of returning home.

It is our “casa.”

It is their “casa.”

Jesmine Lok

AMS Mandarin Language Operation Consultant

I love this quote from Maria Montessori: “Children act in accordance with their natures, and not because of the teacher’s exhortations. Goodness must come out of reciprocal helpfulness, from the unity deprived of spiritual cohesion. This society created by cohesion, which children have revealed to us, is at the root of all social organizations…We adults cannot teach children but observe them with intelligence and follow their development, at every hour of every day, in their endless exercise. Growth comes from activity, not from intellectual understanding. Education, therefore, of little ones since birth is important…as there are germinal origins of human behavior and they can only be evolved in the right surroundings of freedom and order.”

Maria Montessori, The Absorbent Mind, p. 242 – 243

Donna May Tomboc

Early Childhood Educator (U.S./Philippines); Montessori Programs Mentor (Hong Kong); Instructor Academy Candidate

Montessori education is a catalyst to personal transformation. Whether you're 0, 99, or anywhere in between, this approach frees up your spirit. It propels you to find your purpose. It drives you to live life. And between finding your purpose and living your life, you inspire others to do the same.

Helping children discover who they are concurrently allows you to (re)discover who you are. That is the magic of Montessori education. In guiding children, you would realize that they have been guiding you all along.

Maati Wafford

AMS Director of Equity and Engagement; AMS-credentialed (Early Childhood, Elementary 1, Elementary 2, Administrator)

From my spiritual perspective, seeking to learn more about and further commit to the cosmic task of someone who has transitioned is a powerful way to honor them. As I reflect on Maria Montessori’s birthday, I am reminding myself of the potential that her philosophy has for our community by encouraging ongoing self-refinement and transformation for adults and, when intentionally rooted in anti-bias and antiracism, setting the stage for liberation of all children. Committing myself to furthering her vision is how I say Happy Birthday, Maria!

Sherita Sargusingh

Montessori Administrator; AMS Affinity Group Coordinator and Antibias, Anti-racist Certificate Program Instructional Support

Montessori education to me, means to believe in yourself against all odds, to challenge fixed mindsets, to grow, learn, and love more each day, to connect with others using a whole person approach, to stand up for the rights of the unprotected, to advocate for the rights of the oppressed, and to challenge the systematic tyranny that exists in the world of adults. Montessori education allows for students and teachers to take a chance on what is right, to give and to share with those in need, to align oneself with good, and to work towards the betterment of tomorrow.

Jean Rashkin

Teacher Education Program Instructor

Montessori became my life. I started my Montessori journey in order to offer it to my two biological children when they were very young. I was also reading and practicing Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryū Suzuki when my first born was about to turn 6. So when I took the Montessori 6 – 9 training, Montessori's spiritual references meshed with my Zen practice. The aspect that I did not foresee was how the daily practice of being a Montessori guide became my spiritual practice and how working with the children was the foundation of my spiritual evolution. Another huge impact has been the people that I have worked with in Montessori education, notably several colleagues at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies, where I have been an instructor for 14 years. Children and adult students that have kept in touch with me are awe-inspiring. I cannot imagine my life outside of this expansive and love-centered framework.

Munir Shivji

AMS Executive Director

Maria Montessori gave our world a timeless gift that will continue to live on. I am thankful that her work has become my own life’s mission. Montessori has been a blessing to me in so many ways beyond the classroom—which is why I am honored and humbled to be part of our American Montessori Society.

Recommended Reading

Learn more about Maria Montessori's life and the Montessori approach to education.

Learn more about Maria Montessori as an activist for social justice.

About the Author

About the Author

Liz Buechele

Elizabeth Buechele(she/her) is the communication and development manager at the American Montessori Society. She is passionate about equitable education, youth leadership, and storytelling. Contact her at liz@amshq.org.

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The opinions expressed in Montessori Life are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of AMS.

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