Maria Montessori has long been one of my heroes. If it weren't for her, I would not be who I am today. Because of her, my parents sent me to an amazing Montessori school that helped me to broaden my horizons and experience the world in a way that I never would have in traditional school. Because of her, I found my calling as an educator, using her methods. I do not work well in other educational environments, and I have tried them. Montessori just naturally speaks to me, as it does to many who give it a shot.
Maria was an inspirational woman in her life, beyond just developing this educational method. She was the first female engineer in Italy. She was the first female doctor in Italy. She was a pioneer of her times and believed that you could do anything you set your mind to. When I was in the third grade, we put on the play "You Can Be What You Want to Be." I desperately wanted to play Maria, but alas, I ended up with the role of her mother. In a way, I would still like to be Maria. I like to learn everything I can and read everything I can get my hands on. I strive to be the best teacher for each child's individual needs. If I can't do it myself, I ask for help. I want to teach the world about the philosophy and how to implement it into daily life. It is such a natural way of being. My parents were natural Montessorians, only they didn't realize it until I was taking my training and could identify it for them. To them, it was just mimicking how they were brought up.
As we are having discussions at school, we often ask ourselves, "What would Maria do?" We look to her for guidance as we make decisions about how to bring Montessori to the next level, 100 years later. How much of it stays the same and which pieces can be updated? We strive to preserve her teaching and ideas, while simultaneously adapting to today's society, much as she did during her career.
My father deeply believed in helping me stay in touch with my Montessori roots. There was one special Christmas soon after my training was complete and I was working in my own classroom. He had done a lot of research and purchased some antique Montessori books for me. A couple of them, including The Montessori Method, were first English editions. This, however, was my most prized gift:
It says "Maria Montessori - Roma, Italia" and then something about San Diego in 1918. In theory, this is an authentic Maria Montessori signature/autograph. I cried like a baby when I opened it. I had my parents store it for me when I was in the middle of moving. I didn't realize they had sent it to me in a box several years ago. When Mom moved into the nursing home and Dad died last year, we quickly had to empty out their house. Several boxes were left in storage and went to auction. I was convinced that this was in that storage unit and thus lost to me forever. On the anniversary of my father falling ill and going into a coma, I located this in that box in my attic. I again cried like a baby.
Somehow, I feel more spiritually connected to Maria when I handle this and my older books. The more in touch with her I feel, the better I am for my kids.