Dr. Maria Montessori (1870-1952)
Dr. Maria Montessori was born in 1870 in Ancona, Italy. To understand her unique method of education it is important to know something of her background.
The child of a progressive and ambitious family, she chose to study engineering and mathematics at a time when higher education for girls was considered unnecessary. Even more remarkable, she went on to qualify as the first woman doctor in her country’s history. It is hardly surprising therefore that from such a remarkable woman came such remarkable views. Maria Montessori’s early work with children with learning difficulties showed her that a special kind of help and encouragement, the children were capable of learning much more than had been considered possible. She began to develop sensorial learning materials to help them follow a normal academic program and enter the state school system. The results of these early experiments were so impressive that Dr. Montessori was inspired to continue her work on a much broader basis.
Her aim was to show that if special children, working with carefully structured materials could achieve a standard approaching the national average, then other children working with the same material could reach an even higher academic standard. However, even she did not dream that her theories would have resulted in the discovery of an almost limitless academic potential within the average child.
In 1907, she opened her first school in a slum area of San Lorenzo, Rome, Italy. So encouraged was she by her results here that she began to share her discoveries with others by publishing books and giving lectures; thus the Montessori method of education was born. In 1946 she helped found St. Nicholas in London, and after her death in 1952 her innovative system was carried on by centers in Holland, the United States, Ireland, and many other parts of the world.
Dr. Montessori left behind a wonderful legacy; a philosophy of life, a unique method of education, materials with which to educate, and a system of training which is capable of producing teachers who give the children the best possible foundation of life.