In Memoriam: Michael Dorer

In Memoriam - Michael Dorer - Teaser

“Michael devoted his career to the Montessori method, enriching the lives of countless children and adults through his teaching, mentorship, and leadership. He was a pioneer, having taught at every level from Early Childhood to Middle School, trained numerous Montessori educators, and contributed significantly to the literature with several published Montessori textbooks…His legacy will continue to live on through the countless lives he touched and inspired.”
-Munir Shivji, executive director of AMS

On Tuesday, February 6, 2024, Dr. Michael James Dorer passed away at the age of 76.

Michael was born on May 1, 1947, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he and his wife Rose, and their three children Jacob, Benjamin, and Margaret lived for more than 30 years.

His career in Montessori began in 1969 when he happened upon a Montessori day care while taking a walk one autumn day in Minneapolis. He later recalled being greeted by a very nice Dutch woman who introduced herself as the teacher and loaned him a book to read—The Montessori Method. Although Michael had no intention of working with children or teaching, the engagement he observed in the children and his fascination with Dr. Montessori’s references to peace led him to apply for a position as an assistant at the school.

As Michael later remarked in an interview with Sid Mohandas, “Maybe, upon reflection, that random sighting of a Montessori program in a church was no accident. I feel like somehow, Montessori called to me.”

The following spring, the school offered Michael a partial scholarship to attend the first Montessori Primary training in Minnesota. He graduated from St. Theresa in Winona with a degree in education and later received his Montessori Elementary certification at International Centre for Montessori Studies Foundation (FCISM) in Bergamo, Italy. Michael also obtained School Leadership credentials from both the American Montessori Society (AMS) and the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI).

Michael devoted himself to working with students from ages two to 14 for more than 45 years, even while continuing to pursue his own education. He received his master’s from St. Mary’s in Winona and a doctorate of education (Ed.D.) from Argosy University, Twin Cities.

In 1978, Michael began the next phase of his career when he became Director of the Center for Contemporary Montessori Programs at St. Catherine University. He and his faculty developed the Acknowledging Montessori for a Master's Program (AM2) which is now known as the Montessori Education and Leadership program and offers Montessori credentialed teachers the opportunity to dive deep into Montessori education at a graduate level. Later, in 2012, Michael founded the graduate-level Montessori program at Westminster College, The Institute for Montessori Innovation. Michael also played a pivotal role in shaping the graduate programs in Montessori education at Sarasota University, assisting in developing the initial frameworks for multiple programs.

In Memoriam - Michael Dorer - Michael HeadshotMichael’s leadership and dedication to AMS was immense. He served in a variety of leadership roles throughout the years and as president of the Board of Directors from 2006-2007.

Judi Bauerlein, past president of the AMS Board, fondly remembers their work together. “I have been blessed to be Michael’s friend and to work with him in many capacities—serving together on the AMS Board, participating in Montessori panels, being honored to support his wonderful books, sharing with him at a Montessori Traveling Symposium regarding cosmic education, and spending time with him and members of his family.”

Michael's commitment to Montessori education paralleled his passion for storytelling. Melina Papadimitriou, AMS director of teacher education, remarks that, “Michael was a powerful and masterful storyteller.” In fact, she recalls that after she once shared that she viewed him as a mathematician, he revealed that he saw himself more as a storyteller.

Judi adds that he was a storyteller with a huge impact and a huge voice. “I remember being in Fort Worth, Texas for one of the Traveling Symposiums. The night before the symposium, we were having dinner together—with Michael at the table—and during the conversation, several people stopped by the table, laughing and saying, ‘We knew that it had to be you, Michael. We heard your big voice!’”

She has often reflected on the significance of that memory. She notes,“Yes! Michael indeed had a big voice that resonated with his passion about Montessori, about cosmic education, about Montessori grammar, about the importance of stories, and about decency and values.”

In Memoriam - Michael Dorer - Michael with his dogHis books have allowed this passion to reach members of the Montessori community all over the world. In his landmark book The Deep Well of Time: The Transformative Influence of Storytelling in Education (2016), Michael delves into how his formative years, spent fascinated by his grandfather’s captivating storytelling, profoundly shaped his educational path, fostering his own lifelong love of the craft. His adept storytelling prowess shines through in all of his literary endeavors, including Grammar Tells a Story (2022) and the enchanting children's book, Hatching the Cosmic Egg (2019).

Michael’s son, Ben Dorer, shared, “My father's whole life—personal and professional—was deeply devoted to the causes of peace and justice. Maria Montessori's discoveries of the nature of childhood influenced his lifelong pursuit to foster and spread Montessori's theory and practice worldwide. As a gifted speaker, storyteller, and author, Michael enriched the lives of numerous children and adults.”

Michael’s memory will continue to be honored through our collective work with children, adult learners, families, and Montessorians around the world with every story we tell and every lesson we teach.

Reflections on My Friend Michael

By Judi Bauerlein

I can’t believe he is gone.

Thank goodness his voice lives on through his marvelous books

And through the multitudes of lives he has touched

And who, like me, will hear his voice throughout our lives.

Your voice lives on.

Thank you, dear friend, Michael.

About the Author

Heather White

Heather White, EdS, is a Montessori coach and consultant, content creator, and educator for adult learners, as well as a moderator and manager for the Montessori at Home (0 – 3 years) Facebook group. Formerly, she was a Montessori teacher, in-home caregiver, Lower Elementary coordinator, and associate head of school. She also has experience as a school psychologist intern. She is AMS-credentialed (Early Childhood, Elementary I) and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP). 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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