Maria Montessori, one of the first women in Italy to graduate with a degree in medicine, began her medical career as a pediatrician. As she observed children in her practice, she identified sensitive periods in their lives when they were ready and able to learn specific concepts. She saw that very young children could not grasp abstract concepts but rather learned by moving from the concrete to the abstract. From these observations, Dr. Montessori developed a method of teaching that emphasizes hands-on activities, a self-paced curriculum, and a sequential order of progression that allows children to build upon skills they master. In 1907 she opened her first school, which served children from the slums and children previously thought to be uneducable. Her methods proved to be a remarkable success! Dr. Montessori’s methods quickly spread throughout the world, with such great thinkers as Alexander Graham Bell, Woodrow Wilson, and Helen Keller bringing these new educational methods to the United States. Almost a century later, contemporary leaders in the field of education, including David Elkind, author of The Hurried Child, continue to praise to the methods pioneered by Dr. Montessori.
Since Dr. Montessori established her first school in 1907, students throughout the world have reaped the benefits of her pioneering efforts. The following individuals are some of the famous students who have attended Montessori schools:
- Larry Page and Sergey Brin, founders of Google, credit their Montessori education for much of their success
- Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com
- Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis
- Julia Child
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel Prize-winning novelist
- Anne Frank, famous child diarist from World War II
- Prince William and Prince Harry
- T. Berry Brazelton, noted pediatrician and author
- Melissa and Sarah Gilbert, actresses
Below are some other prominent individuals who endorse to the Montessori method.
- Alexander Graham Bell helped to start one of the first Montessori schools in the United States.
- Mister Rogers voiced strong support of Montessori education.
- Thomas Edison helped to establish a Montessori school.
- Woodrow Wilson’s daughter trained as a Montessori teacher and had a Montessori classroom in the basement of the White House during her father’s presidency.
- Alice Waters, well known restaurateur and food writer, worked as a Montessori teacher.
- Erik Erikson, noted anthropologist and author, held a Montessori teaching certificate.
- Jean Piaget, noted Swiss psychologist, made his first observations of children in a Montessori school. He was the head of the Swiss Montessori Society for many years.