Magazine article Montessori Life

Montessori Miracles Unfold in Puerto Rico

Magazine article Montessori Life

Montessori Miracles Unfold in Puerto Rico

Article excerpt

As the plane rose above the island of Puerto Rico to take me home, my heart was lifted as well. I had been invited to the island to facilitate a peace retreat for the Instituto Nueva Escuela (INE), an organization dedicated to bringing Montessori to Puerto Rico.

Twenty-five years ago, in the name of redevelopment, the Puerto Rican government began tearing down homes and stores in poor, inner-city neighborhoods. In 1987, Juan Ponce de León, a public school in the town of Guaynabo, was closed suddenly. Fortunately, parents came together to protest this action, and after 3 years, the school was reopened, with Ana María García Blanco as the new director, and a group of community leaders and teachers as part of the new school's governance.

Ana María collaborated with the school's teachers and parents to develop excellent education for the children of this struggling community. Meanwhile, her own son was enrolled in a nearby private Montessori school. She was so impressed by the Montessori program and its effect on her child that she made it possible for teachers at Juan Ponce de León to become credentialed Montessori teachers by attending classes at CMTE (now the Center for Montessori Education|NY) over time. This had an extraordinary effect on the school's children, families, and community. Later, CMTE teacher educators traveled to Puerto Rico to support INE until it became an AMS-affiliated teacher education program. As with Maria Montessori's Casa dei Bambini, more than a century ago, "new children were born."

Word of the "new children" spread throughout Puerto Rico. One by one, teachers, parents, and community leaders from established public schools joined together to insist that their children enjoy the gift of a Montessori education. Under the thoughtful direction of Ana María and teachers like Jennyffer Otero and Myrna Ortiz, the Instituto Nueva Escuela collective was established, and one public school at a time went through the process of becoming a Montessori public school. Currently, there are 25 such schools in poor communities in Puerto Rico. And the children are not the only ones benefiting from Montessori education; the communities around the schools have also noticed a decrease in violence and unrest. …

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