Announcing the AMS 2022 Living Legacy: Juliet King, EdD
April 7, 2021—Dr. Juliet King, with her respectful and soft-spoken demeanor, reflects and models what it means to be a Montessori educator. But this reserved nature is not to be underestimated. Juliet is fiercely passionate about Montessori, social justice, and using the former as a vehicle to promote the latter. She is the co-founder and co-director of Coral Reef Montessori Academy, an AMS-accredited school in Miami, Florida and a civil rights activist, community advocate, and lifelong educator.
Movement for Social Change
In the early 1960s, as a young person in her native South Carolina, Juliet participated in efforts to integrate the movie theater in her hometown, thus beginning her journey in the civil rights movement. She would continue this work by supporting voter registration drives as a student at Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina.
As a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, Juliet continued her work in the civil rights movement by supporting the NAACP to increase voter registration and aid programs that targeted H.B.C.U.s (historically Black colleges and universities), women’s healthcare and wellness, building economic legacy, the arts, and global impact for under-resourced communities.
Passion for Education
Immediately after graduating from Benedict College with a business degree, Juliet moved to Florida and, in 1969, began teaching for Miami-Dade County public schools. Between 1969 and 1982, she worked at R. R. Morton Elementary, Whispering Pines Elementary, Bel-Air Elementary, and Everglades Elementary.
After those experiences, she transferred within the district to Pine Villa Elementary, an inner-city school predominantly populated by low-income Black children. Joining them at Pine Villa were more affluent white students who were bussed in to take advantage of enrichment programs designed to desegregate area schools. Pine Villa Elementary School hosted 3 separate programs under the same roof: a Title I Montessori program, a magnet Montessori program, and a traditional school program. It was Juliet’s first introduction to Montessori.
She was so inspired by the methodology and pedagogy of Dr. Montessori that she pursued related studies, earning a master’s degree in Montessori Elementary education from Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida, in 1992. This was her second master’s degree; her first was in Elementary education with a certification in Urban Education from Florida International University in Miami, Florida.
Later, in August 2020, she would earn her doctorate degree in education from Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, writing her dissertation in collaboration with Dr. Lucy Canzoneri Golden. The dissertation was titled “An Examination of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Anti-bias – Antiracist Curriculum in a Montessori Setting.” You can read more about it at the bottom of this announcement.
Coral Reef Montessori Academy
In 1998, in collaboration with Dr. Lucy Canzoneri-Golden, another Montessori educator, Juliet co-founded Coral Reef Montessori School, the first Montessori charter school in the state of Florida. Since its beginnings, Coral Reef Montessori Academy Charter School (CRMA) intentionally set out to promote diversity and inclusivity. Peace and social justice became the centerpiece of its mission.
In 2006, Juliet worked with the Coral Reef administration team to align Montessori 2.5 – 6 standards with the Florida Department of Education Early Childhood domains. The result was Montessori gaining recognition as a viable preschool curriculum approved by the Early Childhood Coalition of Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties.
In addition to being AMS-accredited, Coral Reef Montessori Academy is a member of the International Montessori Council, South Florida Charter Schools Consortium, and the Florida Alliance of Montessori Schools.
Juliet and Dr. Canzoneri-Golden also went on to create a low-cost private Montessori school that accepts government subsidies, for children ages 3 – 4.
Juliet is dedicated to the mentorship of young researchers, especially students of color, in an effort to advance research that might benefit all children and help close racial disparities in educational settings.
Juliet has shared her research and expertise at conferences hosted by AMI/USA and Montessori for Social Justice and on the podcast of Public Montessori In Action.
Her work and the work of Coral Reef Montessori Academy have been highlighted and referenced in MontessoriPublic and Montessori Life, as well as in countless articles in the Miami Herald and other local newspapers; and in the book Diverse Families Desirable Schools: Public Montessori in the Era of School Choice, by Mira Debs.
Juliet has spent over 5 decades working as a teacher, teacher’s union steward, school administrator, and community leader in South Florida. Throughout this illustrious career, her leadership has garnered respect and united teachers from varied racial and ethnic backgrounds to work toward the common goal of benefiting all students.
We honor and congratulate Dr. Juliet King, our 2022 AMS Living Legacy Award recipient.
For her doctoral dissertation, “An Examination of Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Anti-bias – Antiracist Curriculum in a Montessori Setting,” Juliet, along with her colleague Dr. Lucy Canzoneri-Golden, examined the perspectives of parents, teachers, and administrators in regard to culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) and anti-bias/antiracist (ABAR) curriculum in 3 urban Montessori schools to determine if there was an impact on outcomes for students of color.
She concluded that, even with a multiyear commitment to CRP-ABAR, staff at the 3 schools varied widely in their implementation. While the schools were consistent in connecting CRP-ABAR to the Montessori practices of peace education, global education, and preparing the teacher and the environment, the largest variation was whether CRP-ABAR was primarily delivered as part of the classroom curriculum or as part of structural changes to the school or work in the surrounding community.
Though teachers hoped to see academic changes from their implementation in CRP-ABAR, they primarily saw results in students’ social-emotional growth with limited to no change in academic outcomes. Furthermore, even with CRP-ABAR training at all schools, the perceptions of many non-Black teachers of students of color included deficit theory thinking. While some parents at all three schools were positive about the CRP-ABAR work and believed racism was being dismantled through the curriculum and celebrations of diversity, other parents identified some teachers and staff with underpinning instances of biases and insensitivity.