American Montessori Society 2020 Recognition Awards

MARCH 18, 2020—AMS recognition awards honor individuals who have made exceptional contributions to our organization and the Montessori Movement. We offer our congratulations to the 2020 recipients, and profound thanks for all that they have so selflessly accomplished in pursuit of our shared mission to build a better world through Montessori.

Unless otherwise noted, you can read the full text of each recipient’s acceptance remarks here.

AMS Living Legacy Award: Ana María García Blanco

The American Montessori Society Living Legacy Award goes to an individual whose dedication and leadership has made a lasting impact on the AMS community.

Ana María García is an educator who has transformed the future of public Montessori in Puerto Rico. Read more.

Dr. Maria Montessori Ambassador Award: Derrick Gay

The Dr. Maria Montessori Ambassador Award honors an individual who, through their work in a variety of arenas, is fostering a landscape in which Montessori education cannot only thrive, but flourish.

Derrick Gay is an internationally recognized consultant to business, educational, arts, and philanthropic organizations around the world on the topics of diversity, inclusion, and global citizenship. Since 2016, he has been working with AMS to help advance our strategic priority related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Derrick: “If I had to impart one lesson to empower individuals to design and support inclusive environments, I would share this: Inclusion is always intentional. Cultivating a sense of belonging and connectedness is not an organic function of our belief that we are good people. Moreover, while Montessori undoubtedly values inclusion, this belief should not be confused as an action...” Read more.

Dr. Nancy McCormick Rambusch Pioneering Award: Roslyn D. Williams (posthumously)

The Dr. Nancy McCormick Rambusch Pioneering Award recognizes individuals who have made significant advances in raising the profile of Montessori education.

Roslyn D. Williams was a pioneer whose work made significant contributions to the development and expansion of Montessori education. As an advocate for educational reform, her work to further the well-being of all children remains exceptional and inspirational. In the 1960s, Roslyn founded CHAMP—the Central Harlem Association of Montessori Parents—to prepare parents to become active participants in their child’s education, increase the pool of Montessori teachers in New York City, and ensure the legacy of Montessori teacher preparation.

Douglas M. Gravel Award: Kathy Roemer

The Douglas M. Gravel Award is given to someone whose generosity has contributed to the sustainability and growth of the American Montessori Society.

Kathy Roemer, executive director of Twin Parks Montessori School in New York City, has given continually and unsparingly to our fundraising initiatives.

Kathy: “The American Montessori Society has been my most important philanthropic endeavor for 35 years…To me, Montessori is more than a method of education, it is a philosophy for life!”

Montessori Innovator Award: Mira Debs

The Montessori Innovator Award honors up-and-coming individuals for their original and inventive contributions to the practice and experience of Montessori education.

Mira Debs is the executive director of Yale University's Education Studies program and a lecturer in the sociology department. She helped start Elm City Montessori School in New Haven, CT, where she still serves on the board. Research for her book, Diverse Families, Desirable Schools: Public Montessori in the Era of School Choice, was supported by an AMS Research Mini-Grant. The book examines the ways in which public Montessori has been at the forefront of school desegregation efforts for the last 50 years alongside a discussion of persistent structural obstacles in making Montessori more widely accessible. Mira is the recipient of an AMS Dissertation Award (2016). She also cofounded Montessori for Social Justice.

Mira: “I thank the AMS Board for making racial equity and increasing Montessori access an organizational priority of AMS.”

Community Service Awards: MaryAnn Boyd, Pam Dunbar, Marge Ellison

AMS Community Service awards honor outstanding volunteers and recognize the impact they have made to AMS.

MaryAnn Boyd has been a vigorous Montessori supporter for almost 40 years, first as a teacher and later as an educational director and school-owner. Co-founder of The Boyd Schools in Northern Virginia, MaryAnn currently works to bring Montessori education to underserved areas of that state.

MaryAnn: “Every school is a family and it has its very own story. It takes a great deal of courage and determination, as well as grace under pressure and a good sense of humor, to advocate each day for high quality Montessori education for all children. I only hope that in some way, I have provided the same leadership, encouragement, and mentorship to those I have worked with over the years.”

Pam Dunbar, head of school at The Montessori Academy of Arlington in Arlington, TX, served on the AMS School Accreditation Commission for 9 years and has led many AMS School Accreditation visiting teams.

Pam: “The vision of the school I now lead, simply stated, is to become a Montessori learning community of parents, professionals, and students, that has impact beyond the school community to the local community and the greater Montessori professional community. This vision has guided my work and, in many cases, is the driving force behind 18 years of service to AMS.”

Marge Ellison is head of Montessori Country Day School, which she founded in 1979 to provide working families in Houston, Texas, with a beautiful, nurturing, stimulating environment for their children.

Marge: “My brilliant mother always told me I was made of ‘star stuff,’ usually after I had fallen out of a tree, having climbed higher than my common sense told me to go. She encouraged my ‘lack-of-fear’ adventuring that I later mirrored with my students in the [Montessori] classroom...”