Since Montessori has been around for awhile, there are plenty of adults around who were in Montessori schools as children. Every so often I’ll meet someone, and when they find out I’m a Montessori teacher, they’ll exclaim, “Oh, I went to a Montessori school when I was little!” Many times it was only for preschool, since Montessori elementary is less common, but they will usually have vivid memories of using the materials. Most people seem to remember the pink tower and the continent maps.
So it comes as no surprise that there are plenty of famous people who attended Montessori schools. Here’s a short list:
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
Sergey Brin and Larry Page, co-founders of Google
Anne Frank, writer
Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Austrian painter and architect
Will Wright, designer of The Sims
Katherine Graham, owner-editor of The Washington Post
Sean Combs, famous rapper of Bad Boy Records
Julia Child, first TV chef
Princes William and Harry, British nobility
Helen Hunt, Academy Award-winning actress
George Clooney, Academy Award-winning actor
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, novelist and Nobel Laureate
Joshua Bell, American violinist, owner of Stradivarius violin
Lea Salonga, multi-awarded Filipino-American singer and
This list used to be posted in the “Montessori method” article at Wikipedia, but it’s been removed. The rationale for removing it was that there was no info given as to how long these people actually attended, where they went to school, etc. I can understand that to a certain extent. But I do think it’s nice for people to see that Montessori isn’t a wild, wacky method of education – plenty of people turn out just fine (and more than moderately successful).
The question is, how much did the Montessori method affect these people? Is it responsible for their subsequent success? Did it influence them to be creative, outside-the-box thinkers? Recently, I came across an article that describes how Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, remembers his Montessori experience:
“[His parents] enrolled Sergey in Paint Branch Montessori School in Adelphi, Maryland. He gravitated toward puzzles, maps and math games that taught multiplication. “I really enjoyed the Montessori method,” he tells [the reporter]. “I could grow at my own pace.” He adds that the Montessori environment—which gives students the freedom to choose activities that suit their interests—helped foster his creativity.”
There you have it – the Montessori method at work. Sure, there were lots of factors in Sergey’s life that contributed to his intellect; his father has a Ph.D in Mathematics, and his mother is a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. It was in the genes. But Montessori took that natural ability and allowed it to flourish.
Alice Waters, a famous chef and writer known for her promotion of organic, locally-grown produce, was at one time a Montessori teacher. I don’t want to get carried away by celebrities; obviously, for every Montessori student who grows up to be famous, there are thousands more who simply live lives of excellence in whatever field they’ve chosen. But for prospective parents, or reluctant family members, seeing that the “proof is in the pudding” might tip the scales in favor of Montessori.