Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle, Italy on August 31, 1870. Maria was an ambitious and confident student, who wouldn’t let traditional expectations of women stand in her way. At age 13, Maria enrolled in an all-boy technical institute. She first studied to become an engineer, but then transitioned to medicine. She applied to the University of Rome’s medical program but was rejected. Maria didn’t let this stop her. She took additional courses, applied again, and finally gained entrance to the program. Maria graduated from medical school in 1896. She was among Italy’s first female physicians.
After medical school, Dr. Montessori worked with abandoned children in a psychiatric clinic in Rome. These children were deemed “unteachable” by many others. But Dr. Montessori didn’t believe this was true. She took an observational approach to learn how to best serve these children and she discovered that the children had the ability to teach themselves, if given the proper materials and freedom to explore with them in the proper environment. This motivated her to leave the medical profession and dedicate her life to education.
Dr. Montessori became a director of a school for children with developmental disabilities to further develop and test her theories. Her students scored higher than average on the Italian state exam. This was a spectacular achievement by another group of “unteachable” children. Dr. Montessori founded her first school, Casa dei Bambini (Children’s House), in 1907 and the Montessori Method was born.
Many were surprised that the children in Dr. Montessori’s program thrived. They developed concentration, attention, and self-discipline. The Montessori Method began to captivate educators, journalists, and public figures. Dr. Montessori traveled all over the world to share her method; giving lectures, opening schools, and training teachers. Her philosophy centered on the belief that children have an innate desire to learn, given the proper environment; We must simply “follow the child”. She believed the education of young children would lead to peace in the world.
Dr. Montessori died on May 6, 1952. However, her legacy has lived on for over 100 years. Montessori education is now in more than 5,000 school across the United States and more than 20,000 schools in 110 countries around the world.