Washington - The American Montessori Society (AMS) sees the Puerto Rican experience as an example of how to bring that teaching method to communities and to the public education agenda.
At its annual Montessori Event this weekend in Washington, D.C., the organization has highlighted the achievements of the Montessori method in Puerto Rico, particularly under the leadership of the New School Institute, its founder Ana María García Blanco, its teachers and the communities that support it.
No state or territorial government has an adjunct office dedicated to promoting the Montessori teaching model like Puerto Rico does. "We don't have that kind of support at the federal level," said AMS Executive Director Timothy Purnell, a former schools superintendent in two townships in New Jersey.
Last Thursday, García Blanco received AMS's annual "Living Legacy" award, which is given to people who have had an extraordinary impact on the development of the Montessori experience. García Blanco spoke to a group of school superintendents.
Gina Lofquist, senior director of Teacher Education at AMS, said García Blanco understood what Montessori can do for Puerto Rico and she created a model for developing leaders through the New School Institute.
"They are looking at Puerto Rico's public policy as one to follow, to see if it can be replicated in U.S. districts," García Blanco said.
García Blanco said that, in Puerto Rico, the New School Institute, advising Montessori schools, has found that "communities have 90 percent of the answers to the most difficult questions we are asking ourselves”.
The Puerto Rican educator affirmed that "the integration of families into our schools has led to the creation of a group that moves as a collectivity," both in the school operation and in claims to the Education Department.
García Blanco said that the success of Montessori education is in achieving peaceful environments which encourages "human beings committed to the common good.”
There are more than 500 Montessori public schools in the United States. In Puerto Rico, there are 45 schools related to the public education system.
In proportional geographic terms, no jurisdiction in the U.S. compares to Puerto Rico, Purnell said. "It's one of the most remarkable things," added Purnell, whose organization has 16,000 members in 70 countries.
Purnell highlighted the advance of the Montessori system in cities like Cincinnati (Ohio), Sacramento (California) and areas of North Carolina.
Along with García Blanco, several New School Institute educators participated in the conference and offered workshops. For example, Annabel Martínez, academic director, and Jennyffer Toro, administrator, gave the workshop "A new training center for a new school".
Meanwhile, Martínez and Claribel Cora offered a workshop on children's literatura: "Educating readers for life". Regina Silva, Montessori Workshop 2 guide and New School Institute academic coordinator, was in charge of the seminar "Cultivating Community Work and Kindness in Elementary Environments".