“Heritage” signifies our personal connection to Dr. Maria Montessori. Our Head of School is a third generation Montessori practitioner with roots running directly back to Dr. Montessori through her mother and grandmother.
The matriarch of our organization, Ms. Maria Peerzada, lived and worked alongside Dr. Montessori in India during a period of time when she was involved in extensive research in early childhood development.
It was 1939 when the first Montessori course was organized for 50 teachers. Ms. Peerzada recalls that the “training class” had to be moved to a flimsy tent with a thatched roof when more than 300 trainees appeared at the scheduled time. Maria Montessori would speak in Italian and Mario Montessori, her son, would then translate the lectures into English.
Ms. Peerzada, who participated in both the Primary and Advanced Course under the personal direction and tutelage of Dr. Maria Montessori and Mr. Mario Montessori, worked as a teacher and later as a directress in the model school that Dr. and Mr. Montessori started in Kodaikanal. The Kodaikanal school was intended to serve as an observation school for the students enrolled in the Montessori courses.
Ms. Peerzada’s daughter, Qudsia, was Maria Montessori’s only God-child and was gifted a special strand of rosary beads by her. When Qudsia was a young child, Dr. Montessori would ask her to repeat special movements and tasks in order to observe her. The observations of Dr. Montessori during this time period were the basis for her book The Absorbent Mind.
Qudsia, of course, learned much about the Montessori pedagogy directly from Dr. Montessori. She also took the Montessori teacher training course from A.M. Joosten and was granted a diploma by the Association Montessori Internationale. After receiving her master’s degree in Education from Boston College, Qudsia worked with Nancy Rambusch to start the Whitby School in Greenwich, CT in 1958. In the following years, Rambusch founded the American Montessori Society (AMS).
Qudsia was then asked by Mario Montessori to help open the first Montessori school in California, Sophia Montessori in Santa Monica. Soon after, she started the first Montessori school in Orange County California.
Since Dr. Montessori’s death in 1952, the interest and validation in her method has continued to spread throughout the world. She left behind a wonderful legacy, a philosophy of life, a unique method of education, innovative material with which to educate, and a system of training teachers. Her message to those who emulated her was always to turn one’s attention to the child – “follow the child.”
Today, Heritage Montessori has the unique opportunity to carry Dr. Montessori’s work into the twenty-first century while at the same time showing its roots through an exhibit of original lecture notes, original “albums” including hand-drawn illustrations, photographs, and personal letters from Dr. Montessori.
The children at Heritage learn the “M” word; namely our beloved Executive Director Dr. Alexandra Magliarditi, or Dr. M, as you may refer to her. Dr. M has worked with our Lake Forest campus since its inception. She connects her passion for early childhood education with her medical knowledge to support Heritage’s program based on Dr. Maria Montessori’s theories. These theories are time-tested, evidence-based, and have been proven numerous times in current research on education, child development, and even neural development. Dr. M earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania, her Master of Biomedical Science degree from Geisinger Commonwealth, and her medical degree from University of Nevada, Reno, School of Medicine. Before leaving for medical school, Dr. M took her Montessori training course and continued to work at HMS campuses as an advisor. You can check out her blog, “The Montessori M.D.” on our website.
While attending medical school, Dr. M continued to recognize and connect with Dr. Maria Montessori’s theories on early childhood development. Like Dr. Montessori, Dr. M fostered her passion for early child development through her medical research. Her important work was published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal. Motivated by her passion for Montessori education, Dr. M also designed and implemented a curriculum to introduce medical and health topics to middle school students. Dr. M continues to combine medical knowledge with our authentic Montessori curriculum to create a school environment that continues our Montessori legacy.
Our personal connection to Dr. Montessori and our Executive Director Dr. M are just a couple of the many reasons Heritage