Maria Tecla Artemesia Montessori was born in 1870 in Chiaravalle, Italy. Her philosophy of education, which Inspire Kids utilizes, is based on her extensive background in special education and is practiced by schools around the world. Montessori education emphasizes independence, freedom within limits and respect for a child’s natural psychological development. Montessori, along with her son and collaborator Mario Montessori, observed innate, universal characteristics in human psychology that they identified as “human tendancies” in 1957. It is theory that is basis for the educational method that calls for free activity within a “prepared environment,” meaning that the educational environment is tailored to basic human characteristics, specific behaviors of children at different ages and to individual child personalities.
Montessori was not only a pioneer in the field of education, but in life as well. When entering college she initially intended on studying engineering, an unusual aspiration for a woman at that time and place. But when she graduated in 1890 at the age of 20 with a degree in physics/mathematics, she instead decided to study medicine instead, an even more unlikely pursuit given the cultural norms at the time. She earned her diploma di licenza in 1892 and found entrance to the University of Rome medical program, where she was met with hostility and harassment from medical students and professors because of her gender. Montessori would study pediatrics and psychiatry in her last two years in the University system and later became a hospital assistant and open her own practice.
From 1896 to 1901, she began working with and researching “phrenasthenic” children, or mentally challenged in modern terms. It was through this practice and research that Maria Montessori created the basis for educational system that utilizes self-discovery and unique individual behaviors. In 1900, she was appointed co-director of Scuola Magistrale Ortofrenica, or Orthophrenic School, to train teachers how to work with students that had special needs. It was during her two years at the school, Montessori developed methods and materials which she would later adapt to use with mainstream children. The school was an immediate success and some of the students from the model classroom would later pass public examinations given to mainstream students.
In 1906, Montessori was invited to oversee the opening of Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, applying her work and methods for use with mainstream students, It was in this classroom that Montessori observed behaviors and utilized techniques that would become the foundation for her educational method. The first Casa dei Bambini and a second was opened in April 1907. Her work spread to the United States in 1911 and the first school was opened in Tarrytown, New York. A second was opened in the Canadian home of Alexander Graham Bell and his wife and by 1913, there were over 100 Montessori schools open in the United States.
Maria Montessori spent her later years traveling the world publicizing the Montessori Method, visiting Spain, Italy, the Netherlands, India, the United Kingdom, Denmark and many other countries. In 1929 while lecturing at the first International Montessori Congress in Denmark, she and Mario founded the Association Montessori Internationale or AMI “to oversee the activities of schools and societies all over the world and to supervise the training of teachers and in 1947, they opened a training center in London called the Montessori Centre. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times and was also awarded the French Legion of Honor, Officer of the Dutch Order of Orange Nassau, and received an Honorary Doctorate of the University of Amsterdam. Montessori died of a cerebral hemorrhage on May 6, 1952 at the age of 81 in Noordwijk aan Zee, the Netherlands.