American Montessori Society 2021 Recognition Awards

JANUARY 15, 2021—AMS recognition awards honor individuals who have made exceptional contributions to our organization and the Montessori Movement. We offer our congratulations to the 2021 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. 

AMS Living Legacy Award: Biff Maier 

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

Biff Maier is the director of faculty and curriculum development at Lexington Montessori School in Massachusetts. In his nearly 5 decades of Montessori service, Biff has been a guide and head of school at the New School in Cincinnati, founding member of the Elementary training program at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education/New York, co-director and treasurer of the Montessori Elementary Teacher Training Collaborative, and chair of the Teachers Section of the AMS Board of Directors. Read more

Dr. Maria Montessori Ambassador Award: Chelsea Clinton

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.

Chelsea Clinton is the vice chair of the Clinton Foundation, a former Montessori student, and a champion for expanded access to early childhood education, civic engagement, and public health. She is the co-author, with her mother, Hillary Rodham Clinton, of The Book of Gutsy Women: Favorite Stories of Courage and Resilience, which celebrates more than 100 women who inspired them with their commitment to improving the world. We are thrilled that she included Maria Montessori in the book, alongside other such notables as Malala Yousafzai and Maya Angelou.

Dr. Nancy McCormick Rambusch Pioneering Award: Mary Schneider 

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

Mary Schneider is the retired head of school at Woodinville Montessori School in Woodinville, WA where her 35 years of leadership grew the school from 4 students to 400. She generously shares her wisdom and expertise and is a trusted colleague and mentor for countless Montessori educators. She has also served as former chair of the Teachers Section of the AMS Board of Directors, on the Teacher Education Action Commission (TEAC) and as executive director of the Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest.

Douglas M. Gravel Benefactor Award: MaryEllen Kordas

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

MaryEllen Kordas was a founding head of school of Valley Montessori School in Livermore, CA and is a past president and past treasurer of AMS. As chair of the AMS Development Committee, she helped raise funds to support AMS’s public policy and research initiatives. As chair of an AMS Springtime Fancy fundraiser (“California Dreamin’,” 2017), she raised money to underwrite the Emerging Leaders Fellowship Program. In addition, MaryEllen has continually and generously donated to AMS.

Montessori Innovator Award: Montessori Educators Around the World

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

This year’s Montessori Innovator Award honors all Montessori educators worldwide, in recognition of their impassioned and inventive contributions to the practice and experience of Montessori education throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Community Service Awards: Anna Perry, Phyllis Povell, and the Organizers of Montessori Everywhere

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

Anna Perry is executive director of Seton Montessori Institute and Schools in Clarendon Hills, IL. She has tirelessly supported AMS in many ways—including through our InFocus: Infant & Toddler event, Global Committee, and onsite visits for school accreditation. She also supports our Montessori en Español Affinity Group and served on the task force that helped develop the AMS Teacher Education Instructor Academy.

Phyllis Povell is professor emerita and former director of the Early Childhood Program at Long Island University. Phyllis volunteered with AMS for decades, including as secretary of the AMS Archives Committee and chair of the AMS Dissertation & Thesis Awards Committee.

The Organizers of the nonprofit organization Montessori Everywhere, in recognition of their bringing educators together on Dr. Maria Montessori’s 150th birthday to “connect, challenge, and celebrate,” while also raising money for the Black Montessori Education Fund.