In Memoriam: Sister Christina Trudeau

Sister Christina Trudeau - Young - From AMS Archives

“Sister Christina was a remarkably imaginative and lively teacher. She served as a source of inspiration for Sisters, our community, and the world. Her joy was always centered in seeing children blossom in the Montessori environment and in the enriching exchange of teachers and students.”
Sr. Patricia Chappell, SNDdeN, U.S. East–West Province Leadership Team

Sister Christina Trudeau, internationally known pioneer in cosmic environmental education, passed away peacefully on March 25, 2024 at Mercy Retirement and Care Center in Oakland, California, where she was lovingly cared for during the past twelve years.

Early Life

The youngest of seven children, Sister Christina was born on June 8, 1930, in Los Angeles, to parents Joseph and Obdulia who instilled in their family a great love for God and the Church.

Sister Christina knew from a very early age that she was being called to enter religious life and upon graduating from Notre Dame High School in 1948, she entered the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

Sister Christina received a BA in Philosophy in 1959, a Master of Education in 1967, and a Doctor of Education in 1984. She held Montessori training credentials at the Early Childhood and Elementary I levels and California state credentials from early childhood through secondary levels.

Experiences in Montessori

During her career, Sister Christina played a pivotal role in bringing Montessori to children, parents, and teachers around the world.

She established the Notre Dame Montessori School and built the Early Learning Center (now Notre Dame Preschool) at Notre Dame de Namur University (N.D.N.U.) in Belmont, California, where she also established an Early Childhood and Montessori Teacher Training Program. With Sister Christina’s support and guidance, N.D.N.U. was the first college in all of California to add a Montessori undergraduate and graduate program.

Educators from schools throughout California came to N.D.N.U. for training, leading three or four public schools in San Mateo County alone to embrace Montessori. Her influence also extended outside of N.D.N.U. to the De La Salle Christian Brothers at St. Mary’s College of California who were so inspired by her work that they sought to also implement a Montessori program with her support.

Over the next forty years, Sister Christina taught Montessori at Seattle University in Seattle, Washington (1972), Chaminade University of Honolulu, Hawaii (1977), Notre Dame Seishin University in Okayama, Japan (1984), and the University of San Carlos in Cebu City, Philippines (1990).

Sister Christina’s doctoral studies took her to India, where she discovered lesser-known aspects of Maria Montessori’s work. She became a true Montessori specialist, giving presentations and writing scholarly papers on the topic of Cosmic Education including Montessori’s Years in India, her doctoral dissertation that was also featured in the Spring 2002 issue of Montessori Life Magazine. Nanette (Sheri) Schonleber, student and colleague of Sister Christina’s remarks on the profound impact of this work, stating, “Her cosmic curriculum for the transitional age child is a unique gift to the training programs she founded, and continues to be the foundation of my own research.”

Sister ChristinaSister Christina also shared her passion for Cosmic Education during her keynote address “Montessori’s Cosmic View Shared,” at the 1985 Western AMS Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii where she later also hosted her own Peace Conference in 2000 with guest lecturers including Aline Wolf and Louise Bogart.

Jerry Richmond, Sister Christina’s first co-teacher trainer at Chaminade University of Honolulu, notes the incredible influence of Sister Christina’s curricular teachings, “In all the impressionable moments working with Sister Christina, I understood deeply Sister’s impression of Montessori’s definition of education, “the development of a complete human being oriented to the environment and adapted to one’s time, place, and culture.” She goes on to share, “It was not until I met Sister Christina and experienced her unique sensitivity to the local environment and culture and ability to use both for meaningful curriculum did I truly understand what Montessori really meant when she talked about the importance of orienting the child to the environment and adapting him to his time, place, and culture.”

Continuing Her Work

Sister Christina was also very involved with the American Montessori Society (AMS). She was a member of the Teacher Education Committee from 1969—1988 and served as the vice president for professional development on the AMS board from 1975—1977.

Sister Christina became a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur Belmont Province Center community in 2003, where she continued her work in preparing teachers for global education.

In 2010, Sister Christina received one of the first Lifetime Achievement Awards from AMS.

Her Legacy

Jerry fondly remembers Sister Christina and notes the profound impact she had on her life, sharing, “When I look back, I realize that working side by side with Sister Christina, an unforgettable and most fulfilling experience in itself, inspired my sense of mission and desire to carry on her mission dreams of bringing quality educational experience[s] to all children and especially to children of poverty and need. Sister Christina changed my life’s path and role as a Montessorian.”

Sheri also remembers Sister Christina warmly, noting, “[Sister Christina] was one of the three or four people in my life who were true teachers/mentors to me…She was funny, profound, deeply religious/spiritual, and fiercely committed to the welfare of children.” She goes on to share about Sister Christina’s use of the phrase “Anschauuang Educators” as a way of referring to Montessorians and a title she bestowed upon her students as they graduated. Coming from Pestalozzi, this is the idea that “no word should be employed until it was thoroughly understood by concrete observation or perception, whether it referred to a material object, an action, or a means of distinguishing one thing from another."

In Sister Christina’s words, “I just have, I think, lived a much fuller and deeper life through my Montessori education and being a Montessori educator and I’m very grateful.”

Just as she was grateful for her involvement in Montessori, we shall be ever grateful for her creative spirit and for her innumerable contributions to the world of Montessori.

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

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

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