Maria Montessori was, in many ways, ahead of her time. Born in the town of Chiaravalle, in the province of Ancona, Italy in 1870, she became the first female physician in Italy upon her graduation from medical school in 1896. She is a well-known scientist, educator, feminist, as well as an advocate for children. Her discovery in the field of children's development and the education method developed based upon that is revolutionary. Even now, after Montessori's first Children's House being founded for 100 years, her philosophy in education is still innovative, encouraging many people to care for children, to provide opinion , direction and opportunity for positive social revolution.
Throughout her life, Dr. Montessori had been a protector for vulnerable group. After graduation she became interested in education while caring for mentally challenged children in a psychiatric clinic in Rome. There she combined sensory-rich environments and hands-on experiential techniques in the hopes of reaching children previously labeled "deficient and insane." The experiment was a resounding success. Within two years, the children were able to pass Italy's standardized public school tests. More importantly, Montessori's innovative practices had elicited positive learning behaviors from children previously left behind by society.
Her desire to help children was so strong, however, that in 1906 Dr. Montesssori gave up both her university chair and her medical practice to work with a group of sixty young children of working parents in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. It was there that she founded the first Casa dei Bambini, or "Children's House."
With her scientific background to guide her, she observed how young people learned best when engaged in purposeful activity rather than simply being fed information. She drew upon her clinical understanding of children's cognitive growth and development in constructing an educational framework that would respect individuality and fulfill the needs of the "whole child." Dr. Montessori's pioneering work created a blueprint for nurturing all children –learning disabled to gifted—to become the self-motivated, independent and life-long learners that are the ultimate goal of today's educational reform movement.
Today, Dr. Montessori's visionary ideas flourish as the cornerstone of a thriving educational practice. There are thousands of Montessori schools in the world. including hundreds of programs in public and charter schools, where the interest in enrollment often results in long waiting lists. However, because any school can call itself "Montessori" – there is no trademark on the name – CMS can only vouch for the authenticity of the programs as practiced in schools that are members of the Society.
As more and more schools incorporated core elements of her model—multi-age classrooms, early childhood education— Montessori became widely recognized as being ahead of her time. Remarkably, her visionary ideas remain viable concepts that have profoundly influenced the entire educational landscape.