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Maria Montessori, a Woman Ahead of Her Time

Maria Montessori was born in Chiaravalle in Italy in 1870. She aspired to be an engineer from a young age and attended an all-boys technical school. Her father was not supportive. After graduating from high school, she studied medicine at the University of Rome. She was a pioneer in her day, being the first woman to graduate the La Sapienza Medical School at the University of Rome. In 1896, she became the first female doctor of Italy.

Montessori was a member of the University of Rome’s psychiatric Clinic. She then worked in the areas of psychiatry and education. Montessori became interested in the education and treatment of children with special needs. The Italian Minister of Education appointed her to head the Scuola Ortonica, an institution for mentally retarded children. She tested her parenting methods and the children she cared for improved in reading and writing. They even exceeded normal achievement scores.

Montessori was quickly asked to head a school in a Rome social housing project. The now-famous Casa dei Bambini (or Children’s House) was inaugurated in January 1907. It marked a turning point in Maria’s life. Maria emphasized the importance of creating an environment that allowed children to learn and develop at their own pace. This Montessori principle is known as “spontaneous Self-development.” It has been a radical shift in the role of the teacher to recognize the potential of every child and follow their lead in the learning process. The Montessori Method, which is now the Casa dei Biambini, quickly became popular because of its ability to focus on learning and absorb information quickly. .

Montessori’s natural learning method quickly gained him international recognition and invited to travel. In 1913, Dr. Montessori visited the United States for the first time. Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison were among her strong supporters. She spoke at Carnegie Hall in 1915 and was then invited to speak at the Panama-Pacific Exposition, San Francisco, where she created a classroom with glass walls for four months. Observers were invited to watch the 21 Montessori-trained children in the classroom. The two-year-old exhibition was awarded two gold medals in education. Now, the world’s attention is on Montessori’s visionary approach to developing children’s inherent potential.

Dr. Montessori started teaching teacher training courses and was a frequent speaker at internationally renowned educational institutions. To promote his methods, societies were created. In 1917, she was invited to establish a Spanish research institute. She began teaching training courses in London in 1919. She was highly respected in Italy but she was forced to leave the country in 1934 because she opposed Mussolini’s fascism. After her first trip to Spain, she lived in the Netherlands, and then settled in India in 1939 at the invitation of Theosophical Society of India. While she was detained in India during World War II, Montessori developed a series training courses that helped to build a foundation for the Montessori method. These courses were developed and managed by her son Mario, who was born in 1898.

Dr. Montessori taught training courses in Pakistan and London in his later years. Montessori traveled the globe for more than 40 years to establish training courses, lecture, write, and promote his principled learning method.

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