Montessori Leaders Symposium

In study, service, and celebration of Puerto Rico

January 17 – 19, 2020
Carolina, Puerto Rico

The Montessori Leaders Symposium, an annual gathering of trailblazers from schools and teacher education programs, takes place over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend each January.

This year we are heading to Puerto Rico to engage in a pedagogy of place study that will lead to deeper appreciation of the work needed to create equitable schools and classrooms and the inherent egalitarian power of Montessori.

In addition to in-depth workshops and keynote presentations, there will be opportunities to explore local schools, reflect with fellow Montessori leaders about equity and inclusion, and give back to the community through service work.

You will earn AMS continuing professional development hours by participation in the symposium.

We will be posting more information about the symposium including registration fees, hotel details, and workshop descriptions in the coming days.

Keynote Speakers

Your registration to the Montessori Leaders Symposium includes keynotes by 2 top speakers: Ana María García Blanco and Dr. Derrick Gay.

Ana Maria Garcia BlancoAna María García Blanco

Ana María is the recipient of the 2020 AMS Living Legacy Award and the face of Montessori education in Puerto Rico. She transformed the once-struggling Escuela Juan Ponce de León public school into a model Montessori school serving toddlers through middle school—the island’s first public Montessori program.

Escuela Juan Ponce de León’s success fueled explosive growth for Montessori in the Puerto Rican public sector. Recognizing the need for properly trained teachers, Ana María left her position at Ponce de León and founded Instituto Nueva Escuela (INE), an AMS-affiliated teacher education program that has gone on to credential more than 500 Montessori teachers in 50 public schools. 

Derrick Gay

Dr. Derrick Gay is a celebrated educator, consultant, and strategist who guides organizations large and small, domestic and international, in their work around diversity, equity, inclusion, and global citizenship. No stranger to AMS and the broader Montessori community, Dr. Gay has facilitated several AMS Board meetings on these topics, and he led the AMS 2017 Leaders Symposium. In addition, Dr. Gay has partnered with scores of Montessori schools, and he will keynote the upcoming South Carolina Montessori Alliance Conference and the Association of Illinois Montessori Schools Conference.

An educator with over 20 years of classroom and administrative experience, Dr. Gay has collaborated with hundreds of schools, businesses, foundations, and arts organizations. Within the world of education, he has led students, faculty and staff, parents, administrative teams, and boards through strategic planning; presenting student workshops; and delivering professional development seminars. Fluent in English, Spanish, French, Italian, and Portuguese, Derrick’s work extends to countries worldwide, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, France, and Canada. He currently consults for Sesame Street and the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra,  and serves a senior lecturer at IFA, a university in Paris, France. Learn more about Dr. Gay here:


The Montessori Leaders Symposium is an in-depth professional development event. You will be introduced to topics with featured speakers, explore them in workshop settings, and have time for discussion in small groups of fellow leaders.



5:30 PM

Welcome Reception

6:30 PM 

Keynote Dinner: Ana María García Blanco


6:30 AM – 8:20 AM

Breakfast Buffet

8:30 AM – 10:00 AM


10:30 AM – 11:50 PM

Roundtable Discussions

12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Networking lunch

1:00 PM – 5:30 PM

Optional Time: Service, School Tour, or Free Time

6:00 PM – 8:00 PM

Keynote Dinner: Derrick Gay


7:30 AM – 8:20 AM

Breakfast Buffet

8:30 AM – 11:00 PM


11:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Networking Lunch

1:00 PM – 5:30 PM

Optional Time: Service, School Tour, or Free Time

6:30 PM – 8:30 PM

Farewell Dinner & Learning Reflections

Information about workshops, school tours, and service outings to come. Check back for updates!

Celebrating Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico has one of the United States’s most progressive public Montessori programs. As a hive of Montessori activity, Puerto Rico is a model example of how to expand access to high-quality education to economically under-resourced areas. Combining this Montessori model with the island’s charismatic and hospitable culture makes Puerto Rico the perfect environment in which to explore Montessori leadership.

We’ll model the concept of pedagogy of place: learning from local educators, visiting local sights, engaging in local community service. Together we’ll seek a deeper understanding of Puerto Rico and learn how we can adopt parts of its captivating culture into our own local communities.

Recovery efforts have been ongoing in Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria’s landfall in September 2017. Blackouts are not uncommon, roofs still need repair, and many residents are faced with the ongoing fallout from the trauma of the storm’s destruction. Your presence as a tourist, learner, and servant are great needed and highly appreciated.