Finding Montessori

I fell in love twice in college. The first time was with a cute boy that helped me with my printer, which conveniently stopped working every other day. The second time was with a philosophy of education that fostered peace, independence and responsibility in children in a way I had never imagined, and that would define my career for the next six years. I ended up marrying both, but you'll meet Paul later. Today I want to tell you my Montessori story, my journey as a guide and why I started The Montessori Company.
I discovered the Montessori method while studying International Relations and Political Science at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The more I learned about the state of the world—the national and tribal conflicts, the animosity among different cultures—the more I felt that education would be the core foundation of future peace and tolerance. It isn’t necessarily advertised as Montessori’s primary value, but the key tenant of the Montessori philosophy centers on fostering peace within the child and their environment.
Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of education. - Maria Montessori
As soon as I observed a classroom at a Montessori school in Durham, NC I was hooked. Observations are highly encouraged in Montessori schools, and if you are ever feeling discouraged about the state of education in the world, find a good Montessori school nearby for a guaranteed source of inspiration.
I received my first AMI diploma from Dr. Kay Baker at the Washington Montessori Institute to be an elementary guide while also pursuing my Masters of Education at Loyola. Kay is a true inspiration to every young person in this field, bringing to bear decades of experience via her energetic and passionate teaching style. I will forever be indebted to her patience and kindness—and occasionally sharp tongue—in correcting my preconceived notions about the “right” way to educate. She was my first true mentor in Montessori.
I ventured to Chicago after Loyola for my first year as a professional educator, and learned first-hand how important a role Montessori parents play in creating a true Montessori curriculum for their children. The Montessori method is predicated on the development of independence within the child, guiding their natural gifts and interest in learning. This is as much the responsibility of the parent as it is the guide, so if you are considering Montessori for your child be prepared to reinforce the Montessori philosophy at home. Giving your child real responsibility—making a meal once a week, doing their own laundry or some other at-home chore—and giving them an opportunity to fail is just as (and in many cases more) instructive and powerful than memorizing words and numbers.
Let us not handicap our children by making their lives too easy. - Robert Heinlein
I suffer from a chronic travel bug, so after Chicago I moved to Switzerland to help establish an AMI elementary environment in the picturesque town of Lugano. Starting from scratch I had my first small taste of the effort involved in creating a fully-stocked, well-designed AMI environment. This became part of my motivation for starting The Montessori Company.

I loved my elementary environments but wanted to explore a broader range of Montessori education. As you interact with younger children you begin to appreciate how important the very first years of life are to their learning potential and enthusiasm—the independence and motivation of primary children magnifies throughout their subsequent years.

In 2013 I headed to Mexico to pursue my AMI primary training with Coral Ruiz under the shadow of a disgruntled volcano in Puebla. Since this was my second certification I knew the basics and was free to focus on the underlying Montessori philosophy, developing a new appreciation for its internal consistency and coherence. Maria Montessori spent countless hours observing children, developing and testing her theories, investigating every nuance and need of children at their early phases of growth (what she referred to as “The Planes of Development”).
I took my new AMI primary certification—and steadfast husband—with me to Bangkok, Thailand where I was a primary guide at Montessori Academy Bangkok International School for two wonderful years. As many guides do, and as I had done in Switzerland, we created and maintained many of the materials ourselves. It always seemed like we were doing unnecessary work to give our children the materials they deserved; materials that were consistent with our AMI training and Maria Montessori’s rigorous aesthetic standards were simply unavailable or hard to find.
The desire for easily-accessible materials, and more specifically hand-drawn illustrations, led to the creation of The Montessori Company. I want to make sure every Montessorian and parent has high-quality, philosophically consistent materials ready at hand. We are just getting started and currently only offer downloadable materials, but we are in the process of expanding to full kits to take the burden of material creation completely off of the guide and parent.
I am currently studying with Judi Orion in the AMI Assistants to Infancy program in Denver, CO. My passion for our field continues to grow as I learn more and more about Maria Montessori’s incredible insights. I’ll be sharing those insights, tips based on my teaching experience and updates about our products on this blog. If you are interested in joining our journey I’d love to hear from you! You can create an account here or follow us on Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
I really appreciate your stopping by, and I can’t wait to help you create wonderful, rich educational environments for your children!
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Michelle Rugel-Hiatt

Michelle is an AMI certified primary and elementary guide. She is passionate about creating beautiful Montessori environments.
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