Maria Montessori, born August 31, 1870, is a famous name in the education sector. Originally having studied to be a doctor, Montessori found her passion for children and teaching and revolutionized the way educators teach children. She developed a novel teaching method that has been incorporated into over 20,000 school curriculums across the world. Not only did she work to improve the way kids learn, but she was also an advocate for world peace and helping the poor. Learn more about her remarkable career and life, here!
Maria Tecla Artemisia Montessori
August 31, 1870
May 6, 1952 (age 81)
Maria Montessori is a well-known figure in schools in all four corners of the globe. Not only was she an incredible teacher, but she was also an accomplished doctor and humanitarian. Montessori was born on August 31, 1870, in Chiaravalle in Italy. Her father, Alessandro, was working in a state-run tobacco factory. Her mother, Renilde Stoppani, was remarkably well-educated for a woman in the late 19th century in Europe. Stoppani encouraged Montessori to pursue an extensive education. Montessori graduated from secondary school (high school) in 1886 and then went on to study at a technical institute, excelling particularly in Mathematics and the natural sciences. After passing her degree in natural sciences at the University of Rome in 1890, she was eventually accepted to the university’s medical school, which was highly unusual for a woman at that time, in 1893. She finished her medical degree in 1896 and after working as an assistant at the university’s hospital, she set up a private practice.
For five years after finishing medical school, she worked with children with mental disabilities and continued to conduct research at the university’s psychiatric clinic. In 1900, she was appointed as a co-director at the Orthophrenic School, an institution that specialized in training teachers to work with mentally disabled children. During her two years at the school, she developed a wide range of teaching materials and methods that she would later incorporate into her teaching style known as the Montessori method. In 1907, she was invited to work at an institution for children of working parents, known as the Casa dei Bambini (or Children’s House), and began applying her method to mainstream education. She noticed that when given the right materials, freedom to move around, an appropriate environment, and a greater degree of independence, children were more ready and willing to learn.
Her success in the classroom quickly started attracting positive attention from other educators, public figures, and journalists. In 1909, before she even turned 30, she held her first teacher training course in her method. Her excellent reputation soon spread across the world and her work on pedagogy (the study of teaching and learning) quickly became favored globally. Only two years later, in 1911, her teaching method was officially incorporated into school curriculums across her native Italy and Switzerland. Montessori schools and societies were soon established across the world, including in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. She continued to lecture, speak at events, and host training sessions until she died in 1952.
She passes all her examinations in physics, chemistry, zoology, botany, and several other scientific subjects.
She is one of the first women to attend medical school in Italy and she graduates with honors.
She is accepted as a voluntary assistant at the University of Rome’s psychiatric clinic and begins working with disabled children.
Montessori is appointed as co-director at the Orthophrenic School, an institution that trained teachers to work with mentally disabled children.
The first Casa dei Bambini, or Children’s House, is opened and Montessori accepts a position there to teach children without mental disabilities.
She holds her first teacher training course in the Montessori method she had developed.
Her education method is approved for public schools in Italy and Switzerland for the first time.
Why We Love Maria Montessori
She was an advocate for peace
Although Italian dictator Benito Mussolini was an avid supporter of Montessori education, she opposed his fascist dictatorship and consequently left Italy during his dictatorship. After he appointed spies to keep an eye on her and her son, she decided to move to England and then the Netherlands.
She worked to help impoverished children
She was a member of the Theosophical Society, a group dedicated to using education to alleviate poverty. She helped educate some of India’s poorest children during her time in the country.
She worked with UNESCO
She helped to found the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Lifelong Learning, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting education globally to work towards world peace and security. She was also a representative for Italy at various UNESCO conferences.
5 Surprising Facts
She originally wanted to study engineering
Montessori excelled in Mathematics and the sciences and originally wanted to become an engineer but changed her mind and studied medicine instead.
She had to perform her dissections after-hours
Because she was a woman and it was inappropriate to be around naked cadavers in a class with men at medical school, she had to complete her dissections alone after classes.
She took up smoking because of university
Montessori used tobacco products to cover up the smell of formaldehyde, a substance used to preserve cadavers.
She never married
Although she had a son, Mario, with fellow doctor Giuseppe Montesano, the couple never married as Montessori would have had to stop working if they had.
She was a Nobel Prize nominee
The doctor and teacher was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Maria Montessori FAQs
What are the five principles of the Montessori method?
Respect for the child, the absorbent mind, sensitive periods, the prepared environment, and auto education.
What is MACTE?
MACTE is the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education which works to improve approved Montessori training for teachers and educators.
What is the “reasoning mind?”
According to the Montessori method, children between the ages of six and 12 start developing their reasoning mind which refers to a child’s desire to question how the world works and to pursue answers to these questions themselves.
Maria Montessori’s birthday dates