Dr. Steven Hughes, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Neuropsychology, calls Montessori "the original brain-based method of education" because it is based on scientifically recognized principles of human development.
Montessori education is behind the success of the founders of some of America's most innovative and profitable companies, including Google, Wikipedia and Amazon. "It was part of that training of not following rules and orders and being self-motivated, questioning what's going on in the world, doing things a little bit differently," explained Google co-founder alum Larry Page in a 2007 interview.
The influence of Montessori was quantified in a recent study of 3,000 highly successful global innovators and entrepreneurs by professors Jeffrey Dyer of Brigham Young University and Hal Gregersen of INSEAD. Among their distinguishing characteristics were a Montessori background and ability to follow their curiosity.
I discovered Montessori schools by accident as my daughter approached her fourth birthday. A late August baby, she would have been the youngest in her class, and I was concerned that she would get lost in a pack of larger and louder children. Public school representatives encouraged me to hold her back to give her an edge in academics and sports. However, I knew she was more than ready for classroom learning (and doubted a career in the NFL was in her future).
My quandary was resolved after I visited Mountaineer Montessori School, adjacent to the University of Charleston. There, I saw dozens of little people ages three to six captivated in academic activity. The room was calm. Gold stars and "you are special" posters were nowhere to be found. Children worked happily without constant discipline, praise or entertainment.
Much of the teachers' explanation of the Montessori philosophy went over my head, but I knew one thing: I liked what I saw. Now, as a mother of a confident, creative and academically successful fourth-grader, I know that Montessori was the best decision my husband and I could have made as parents.
On Friday and Saturday hundreds will gather in Charleston for the 2012 Create WV Conference to celebrate and share strategies for promoting economic opportunities for all West Virginians. This year's program will include a session presented by Montessori schools from throughout the state.
As an economic development professional, I know that innovation can be the key to job creation and community revitalization. I encourage government, education, community and business leaders to join us at Create WV to experience the Montessori "magic" for themselves. We have an amazing story to share and are eager to help West Virginia create a future filled with promise and possibilities.
For more information, go to CreateWV.com or MountaineerMontessori.org.Zacks is vice president of the Mountaineer Montessori School Board of Directors.