The Montessori Event 2023: A Recap of the American Montessori Society's Annual Conference
The Montessori Event 2023 was the biggest AMS conference yet, with over 5,000 attendees in Boston and online. (More than 4,000 attended in person, and over 1,000 online!) Educators from around the world reunited for 4 days of Montessori professional development. Attendees heard from inspiring keynote speakers, attended interactive workshops across different levels, discovered new vendors in the exhibit hall, and much more. Take a look at some of this year’s highlights.
AMS Executive Director Munir Shivji recapped an impactful year and made some exciting announcements about the year ahead. Research and innovation in Montessori were key themes, and Munir introduced attendees to the AMS Innovation Fellowship Think Tank, as well as announcing the all-new U40: Montessori for the Future Summit, a new forward-thinking event presented in collaboration with AMI/USA.
The opening ceremony was followed by a keynote presentation by Susan David, a Harvard Medical School psychologist and author of the #1 bestselling book, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life. David left educators feeling inspired to be kinder, more emotionally agile leaders. Through engaging insight and humor, she shared how she worked through difficult emotions and thoughts and how others can do the same. To learn more about Susan David, check out this interview.
Jamil Zaki, author of The War for Kindness and director of Stanford University’s Social Neuroscience Lab, delivered a keynote presentation focused on empathy. Drawing from his research, Zaki shared that empathy is not a fixed trait, but rather a skill that can be improved through effort. He explored ways we can build empathy into our culture and urged us to focus on asking the right questions rather than having all the answers. To learn more about Jamil Zaki, check out this interview.
Ibram X. Kendi
Ibram X. Kendi, author of multiple #1 New York Times bestsellers including How to Be an Antiracist, participated in a facilitated conversation where he shared a moving and powerful message on gaining a deeper understanding of racism. Kendi passionately urged us to recognize the ongoing presence of racism in our society and to actively pursue antiracist actions in our life and work. To learn more about Ibram X. Kendi's work, read this article.
Chris Barton, the founder and first CEO of Shazam, delivered a captivating keynote speech where he shared his inspiring success story and the innovative approaches he took to overcome obstacles. During his talk, Barton imparted valuable lessons he learned from his journey and provided insights on how educators can foster creative thinking among students to equip them for the future. To learn more about Chris Barton, check out this interview.
Voices from the Field of Education
One of the highlights of the event was Voices from the Field of Education: A Conversation about Equity with Our Extended Family featuring educational leaders from across the country. The panelists shared current challenges and opportunities related to educational equity. Among the speakers was Sharif El-Mekki, chief executive officer of the Center for Black Educator Development, who emphasized questioning the reasons behind teaching particular topics and working towards embedding diversity and equity into the foundation of our work rather than treating it as something separate.
The panel included: Michelle Kang from National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC); Sharif El-Mekki from Center for Black Educator Development; Emeobong (Eme) Ekpo Martin, MPH, from ZERO TO THREE; Erin McGrath from Boston Partners in Education; Munir Shivji from American Montessori Society; Wendy Shenk-Evans from Montessori Public Policy Initiative; and Bonnie Ricci from International Council Advancing Independent School Accreditation. The panel was moderated by Sandra Stevenson from The Washington Post.
Susie & David Shelton-Dodge were celebrated as the AMS 2023 Living Legacies. They have been on the forefront of the Montessori Movement since the 1970s, supporting countless students, teacher educators, and other community members with generosity, grace, and determination to continue the provision of equitable, authentic Montessori practice.
Eric Rodriguez, regional director of education at Intel Corporation, examined how educators can have a human-centered approach as the world evolves and becomes more digital.
Melina Papadimitriou, the AMS director of teacher education, shared her journey from Greece, as a granddaughter of refugees, to the United States, where she discovered her higher purpose through Montessori.
Tunisha Hairston-Brown, team lead, coach, and reading interventionist, challenged us to expand access to Montessori education that is suitable for a range of cultural sensibilities.
Razia Shivji, former teacher, program leader, and administrator, shared how her work in Montessori moved beyond the classroom and into her community. From Uganda to the United States to Pakistan, Razia used Montessori philosophy to create programs that strengthened communities around the world.
Matteo Ferroni, a former Montessori student and present-day award-winning architect, shared his vision of opening up the Montessori Movement to former students and bringing the Montessori city to life.
Research Poster Hall
Educators had the opportunity to attend the Research Poster Hall, which showcased research on topics such as equity and access to natural sciences in underrepresented communities, public Montessori as a reform model, and more.
Attendees discovered new products from vendors in the Exhibit Hall and participated in selfie contests and various raffles.
Maria Montessori Statue
A 2-foot tall replica of the Maria Montessori statue found on Piazza Maria Montessori in Perugia, Italy was displayed at The Event for attendees to visit. Attendees also got to meet the artist, architect, and Montessori Voices speaker, Matteo Ferroni, and learn about our new Montessori Roots Tour of Italy offering.
Attendees of the annual fundraising gala, the Springtime Fancy, danced, mingled, and bid at a local Boston art museum, Artists for Humanity.
Throughout the conference, attendees had the opportunity to participate in a variety of workshops and presentations. Sessions ranged in levels and included topics like Helping Build Resilient Kids, Reclaiming Self-Regulation in the Montessori Classroom, Unpacking Classroom Texts with an ABAR Lens, and more.
The Montessori Event also provided plenty of opportunities for networking and socializing. Attendees were able to connect with like-minded educators, share experiences and insights, and form valuable professional relationships throughout our many networking sessions.
This year, we had 17 networking sessions that attendees could participate in including Early Childhood Teachers, Montessorians of Color Affinity Group, Montessori en Español Affinity Group, and more. Educators came together with like-minded peers to engage in thought-provoking conversations and shared experiences.
Over 1,000 educators joined us online for our virtual experience. There were dance parties, group viewings, and fun virtual office setups from all over the world.
This year's event was the largest yet! Leaders and practitioners in the Montessori Movement came together to learn from each other and continue the work of building a better world through Montessori. We are excited to see everyone again next year in Orlando, FL, and online.
About the Author
Karina Sumano is the marketing manager at the American Montessori Society. Prior to AMS, she worked at a large public charter management organization, served as an AmeriCorps VISTA, and taught English abroad. Contact her at email@example.com.