The Future of Montessori Education: AMS and AMI/USA Host U40 Summit

The Future of Montessori Education

In June, AMS and AMI/USA hosted a cohort of forward-thinking Montessori educators in Orlando, FL. The U40: Montessori for the Future Summit 2023 brought together 40 educators under 40-years-old to work together in identifying ways to improve teacher recruitment and retention, to better understand what teachers need to know to be successful with ever-changing demands, and to explore sustainable pathways for Montessori to expand its reach. In this collaborative effort between AMS and AMI/USA, an intentional decision was made not to identify who was from which organization but rather to come together as one Montessori community.

Mary Da Prato, an Early Childhood Montessori educator, shared, “The opportunity to stand up and speak about current Montessori needs in front of the entire U40 Summit was an extremely valuable experience. It was refreshing to participate in an in-person forum where Montessorians' concerns were heard by organizational heads.”

To attend this grant-funded event, Montessori educators submitted applications to AMS and AMI/USA. Participants from twenty different states and three countries were invited to attend. Four common themes were identified from their applications: research, technology, equity, and awareness.

These themes set the stage for the group as they worked together to craft innovative approaches for the future of Montessori Education. Facilitators presented information and encouraged discussions on topics such as what do the themes tell us as Montessori leaders and how do the themes impact the Montessori Movement. Participants were also presented with information from the Montessori Public Policy Initiative, current educational landscape research, Montessori-specific research, and the Montessori Essentials.

After a strong foundation was set, intentionally focusing on building community and connections, participants reflected on their experiences in Montessori Education and brainstormed “big” topics and issues related to the themes provided. These big topics evolved into questions and finally into group project presentations in which participants proposed innovative ideas for AMS and AMI/USA during a culminating “Montessori Science Fair.”

The initial list of questions participants brainstormed ranged from How do we elevate the profession to make it accessible, attractive, and sustainable? to What policies and practices can organizations establish to address issues surrounding political red tape and Montessori gatekeeping?

Ideas related to the work of Montessori teachers included:

  • What are the markers of the adult learning cycle?
  • What is the scope and sequence of teachers’ learning and work journey?
  • How do we create systems, structures, and communities to support the spiritual preparation and ongoing evolution of the adult?

One participant noted during the brainstorming session, “I’m just not sure how to grab the attention of parents when the world is so overwhelming.” This inspired a list of additional questions and challenges pertaining to Montessori parents and families.

Affirming the process of the group’s work together, Tessa Benner, a Secondary Montessori educator, shared, “There's a lot we can learn from one another. As we enter the future, we need to work together to meet the needs of modern students and families whilst keeping our work rooted in Montessori philosophy.”

The energy grew as participants got to work in small groups on their final presentations. Educators eagerly reflected on their experiences and shared ideas, further developing potential new initiatives and building friendships that will continue beyond the event.

The culminating “Montessori Science Fair” included eight presentations:

  1. Accessibility of Montessori Teacher Training: an exploration of what Montessori teacher education should look like now and in the future.
  2. Casa dei Adulti/e: focused on teacher support, retention, and recruitment by examining what adults in Montessori communities need to continue evolving and to feel supported.
  3. Innovation within Curriculum, Schools, and Systems: an investigation of how AMS and AMI/USA might support innovation.
  4. Magnifying Montessorians: a deep dive into how stakeholders might use their power, funds, and roles to be agents of change while centering Montessori pedagogy to address policies, practices, and institutions that undermine the sustainability of education as a whole.
  5. Montessori Adult Learning Cycle: an examination of the scope and sequence of Montessori adult learners and teachers to build opportunities that will inspire and retain teachers in the field.
  6. Montessori Outreach Foundation: this group built on earlier conversations of engaging parents and families by brainstorming a potential outreach organization.
  7. Montessori Unlimited: an exploration of how improved comprehensive benefits for Montessori educators might be provided.
  8. Normalization: this group’s work centered on the current definition of normalization and looked at revamping the definition in order to make normalization an achievable reality for all students, removing barriers.

Shamika Johnson, a Secondary Montessori educator, recalled two of the most salient moments from the U40 Summit for her were “seeing other brown teachers” and “seeing Montessorians work together not caring about affiliation, but about making the experience better for teachers and students.”

While the event was certainly a success, the follow-up work and engagement with the presented ideas will be critical. As an Infant/Toddler Montessori educator, Ashley Marshall noted, “The hope is that the Summit wouldn’t have been done in vain, but that the insight was valued.”

That is the plan! The great ideas presented are just the beginning. U40 participants will soon be invited to continue their work together virtually and in potential future face-to-face opportunities.


The U40: Montessori for the Future Summit came to life from conversations held at the 2023 AMS Leadership Labposium. Learn more about the 2024 Leadership Labposium.

About the Author

Heather E. Gerker

Heather E. Gerker (she/her) is a PhD candidate at the University of Cincinnati, where she is studying educational policy and serving as a teaching assistant for research methodology courses. Formerly, she was a Montessori Early Childhood teacher, a Montessori teacher educator, and a Montessori teacher education program director. AMS-credentialed (Early Childhood). Contact her at

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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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