American Montessori Society 2024 Recognition Awards

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 21, 2024—AMS recognition awards honor individuals who have made exceptional contributions to our organization and the Montessori movement. We offer our congratulations to the 2024 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.

We offer our congratulations to the 2024 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: Gay WardAMS Living Legacy Gay Ward 2024

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

For over 2 decades, Dr. Gay C. Ward has been an ardent advocate for AMS. She earned her Elementary I credential at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio and taught elementary students in the United States and in Australia. She is currently a professor emerita at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls where she works as a Montessori consultant and is on the academic faculty in teacher education and Montessori studies. Dr. Ward’s career-long dedication to the advancement of Montessori and fostering the next generation of leaders made her the perfect choice for the 2024 Living Legacy award!

Learn more about Dr. Ward and her tremendous impact.

Dr. Maria Montessori Ambassador Award: Alice Waters

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.

Alice WatersAlice Waters—a champion of local organic agriculture for over four decades—is a chef, author, food activist, and founder of Chez Panisse Restaurant in Berkeley, California. In 1995, with a background in Montessori education, she founded the Edible Schoolyard Project at Berkeley’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School. Applying the Montessori philosophy of learning-by-doing, the program uses an organic garden and on-site kitchen classroom to teach all academic subjects. The Edible Schoolyard Project model has been replicated in over 6,000 schools around the world. The AMS selection committee shared that Alice Waters embodies everything that this award represents. Her commitment to sustainability and holistic leadership is humbling and reflects the values that AMS holds dear.

Dr. Nancy McCormick Rambusch Award: Dot Thompson

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

Dot Thompson, MEd began her Montessori career as an Early Childhood teacher in Wyndmoor, Pennsylvania. After moving to Boulder, Colorado, she joined the faculty of Montessori Education Center of the Rockies as the sensorial and math instructor, eventually becoming the director of the program. Dot has worked for recognition of Montessori practices during state licensing and has been active at AMS for many years, organizing seminar events and serving on committees. During the early development of the AMS teacher education program affiliation and accreditation process, she served as chair of the AMS Review Committee. From 2016 to 2022, she was chair of the AMS Teacher Education Action Commission where she was recognized for her quiet and steady leadership during significant transitions and adaptations due to the pandemic.

Douglas M. Gravel Benefactor Award: Sharon Damore

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

Sharon DamoreDr. Sharon Damore—who began her journey into Montessori after transitioning from public schools and special education—is a founding member of several Montessori initiatives, including the AMS School Accreditation Commission and the Montessori Public Policy Initiative. She holds a doctorate degree in educational leadership and is AMS-credentialed in Early Childhood. She brings vast experience in presenting at professional conferences and teaching in higher education. Her scholarly work includes publications on reflective school leadership and teacher coaching in Montessori schools. Sharon has generously contributed to Montessori education and AMS over the years, including serving on the AMS Board and the research and development committees.

Montessori Innovator Award: Tatenda Blessing Muchiriri

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

Tatenda MuchiririTatenda Blessing extends his impact beyond borders. After he first experienced Montessori education while visiting China, his journey took an international turn with notable work in Kenya and Zimbabwe, where he spearheaded initiatives to bring Montessori to local communities. Now based in Boulder, Colorado, Tatenda continues to integrate his global experiences and Montessori expertise. He is the founder of Montessori on Wheels, a mobile learning program that seeks to expand access to Montessori education in Black and Brown communities, inspiring learning beyond walls. Tatenda holds both an AMS Infant and Toddler credential and Early Childhood credential, and he was part of the Emerging Leaders Fellowship program in 2018. He currently serves as a board member at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in Denver.

AMS Service Awards: Nora Flood, McCrae Harrison, Donna Milani Luther, Dorothy Paul, and Dane Peters

The American Montessori Society Service Awards honor members for their vigorous support of the work of AMS; for example, via our committees, commissions, affinity groups, discussion groups, affiliation groups, accreditation teams, or the board of directors; as participants of AMS initiatives or programs; or hosts or facilitators of AMS events. 

Nora Flood

Nora FloodNora Flood has over 30 years of experience in education as a teacher and principal. She was the co-founder of The Classical Academy in Minneapolis, served as head of school of Madison Country Day School, and was director of Sonoma Charter School. Nora is often referred to as the official Education Rabble Rouser for the Wend Collective, a social impact fund that supports learner-centered, student-fit experiences for all youth. Nora joined Wend after serving for nine years at the Colorado League of Charter Schools, first as the vice president of school services and then as president. Nora is passionate and supportive of AMS initiatives that ensure equity, access, and opportunity for all families to meet their priorities and their children’s needs. Her loyal support over the years has helped AMS reach its next level of excellence.

E McCrae HarrisonMcCrae Harrison

E. McCrae Harrison, MEd was selected for the AMS Service Award due to her outstanding commitment to ensuring the advancement of high-quality Montessori education—including her tireless efforts supporting our organization and being an ardent proponent of AMS accreditation. She began her career as a Montessori educator at the AMS-accredited Elementary Workshop Montessori School in Wilmington, Delaware in 1983, having received her Lower Elementary Montessori teacher certification at Center for Montessori Education / New York. She retired after 40 years from the first Montessori public program in Delaware, the Montessori Academy at Christina. She was a founding board member for Sussex Montessori School and a long-term board member for the Association of Delaware Montessori Schools. She is a past commissioner and chair of the School Accreditation Commission. As SAC chair, she was also an AMS board member. McCrae continues to serve on accreditation visiting teams and as a field consultant for aspiring Montessori adult learners.

Donna Milani Luther

Donna LutherSince 1996, Donna Milani Luther has been the driving force behind Inly School, an all-gender independent Montessori day school in Massachusetts for students aged 2-14. Beyond her role at Inly, Donna globally teaches facilitation, creativity and innovation, leadership, and team-building to educators and business professionals. She has served as an adjunct faculty member at Lesley University in the M.Ed. program for creative arts in learning and has presented at conferences throughout the United States and internationally including in Brazil, China, South Africa, and Israel. She is also the founding director of Summer Stars Camp, a performing arts program for underserved youth aged 12-17, which is now in its 25th year. In 2023, Donna chaired the Springtime Fancy Fundraiser for AMS in Boston and helped raise nearly $140,000 for strategic initiatives.

Dorothy PaulDorothy Paul

Dorothy Paul, MEd, EdS embodies all that the AMS Service Award stands for given her exceptional career, her tremendous volunteer service to AMS, and her profound contributions to the Montessori community. Before becoming program director at Princeton Center for Teacher Education, she led Duhovka Montessori Teacher Education Program in Prague. She began her long career as a Montessori educator and advocate at Princeton Montessori School; she went on to teach for 25 years in private and public magnet schools in Florida where she also served as an adjunct professor and mentor. She earned her Early Childhood diploma from Seton Montessori Institute (formerly MECA Seton) and two master's degrees in education from Barry University, an Elementary Level I-II certification, and a second Early Childhood credential from AMS. Dorothy has given workshops and supported teacher training programs across the country; will be serving on the AMS 2024-25 Think Tank; and has served on the AMS board, the Global Task Force, the Instructor Academy, and the Living Legacy Committees.

Dane PetersDane Peters

Right after college, Dane Peters served as a Captain in the U. S. Marine Corps, and 40 years later, he retired as head of Brooklyn Heights Montessori School (BHMS) in Brooklyn, New York. He recently completed his service as a founder and administrator for the New York State Association of Independent School Experienced Leaders Advising Schools program, and he has served on 13 non-profit boards throughout his career. In addition to his four decades of teaching and coaching in independent school education, he also served as a lecturer and administrator at various teacher education programs and is a published author of two books and over 100 articles. The AMS Service Award is bestowed to Dane in acknowledgement of the countless hours and proven leadership that he has devoted to expand the reach of Montessori across the globe and in support of AMS initiatives. He has served as vice president and treasurer of the board, presented sessions at AMS conferences, helped develop and implement the Emerging Leaders Fellowship program, served on various committees including the Montessori Life magazine advisory board, and chaired many accreditation committees. Upon retirement, he has provided consultations with Montessori schools throughout the U.S., China, and Costa Rica.

Recognition Award Recipients

We dedicate a place to Montessori educators who have inspired, mentored, innovated, served, and supported the Montessori Movement. We are proud to honor and recognize the ways in which they move Montessori forward.

View Award Recipients
Come and pay tribute to those Montessorians who fueled the Montessori Movement.