Dr. Maria Montessori was one of the most outstanding educators of the 20th Century. She was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome Medical School, and she became interested in education as a doctor treating “retarded” children. Her background in medicine, psychiatry, biology, and anthropology, led her to approach education, not as a philosopher or educator, but as a scientist.
She began her work with normal children in 1907 when she was invited to organize schools in a reconstructed slum area in San Lorenzo, Italy. Maria Montessori had a love and respect for all children. She believed they were created special and are of great value. Out of her love and reverence for the individual beauty and potential of children grew the Montessori Method. Through her scientific observations a method of education was developed that meets the needs of the “whole child”. Her work created a blueprint for nurturing all children – learning disabled to gifted – to become self-motivated, independent, and life-long learners.
Dr. Maria Montessori quickly became famous for her remarkable success and innovative work with children. People from around the world came to observe her method. Maria Montessori responded to the many requests for visits by traveling widely, lecturing about her observations and discoveries. She began organizing schools for children and teacher training centers to ensure properly prepared and trained teachers. She remained an active international educational leader until her death in 1952.
Montessori Education was introduced in the United States in 1912, with one of the early schools being established by Alexander Graham Bell in his own home. The Montessori Method of teaching young children proved to be as successful with American children as it had been with European children.
In 1953, Nancy McCormick Rambusch reintroduced the Montessori approach in the United States and there has followed a resurgence of interest in the Montessori Method. There are now thousands of Montessori schools across the country. While most are privately owned tuition based schools, there are a significant number of charter and magnet schools opening, which implement the Montessori approach in whole or in part.