10. Maria Montessori
Throughout her life, Maria Montessori encountered barriers based on gender and tore them down. A physician by training, she pioneered working with children who in a later day were identified as juvenile delinquents. Montessori developed training and teaching techniques for children challenged with disabilities that were later adapted for all. She focused on creating a classroom environment designed for children, rather than forcing them to enter a room designed to accommodate adults. Desks, chairs, tables, and study materials became child-sized, for their convenience and comfort, rather than making children adapt at an early age to an adult world. Meals and other activities were similarly tailored to the age of the participants, rather than the opposite.
By 1910, Montessori’s methods, which were introduced in Italy, drew attention of educators across the world. McLure’s Magazine, a popular periodical in the United States, made her views known nationally in America, and the first Montessori school opened in America in Tarrytown, New York, in 1911. Alexander Graham Bell became a proponent of her methods. The Montessori method became a basis of child education in the United States, stressing the use of creative and practical play as the basis for the development of initiative and innate abilities. Exploration, repetition, and communication served to educate as much as lecture and rote memorization. The Montessori method is pursued in thousands of classrooms and schools across the globe, in which children learn by experience and teaching themselves, guided rather than instructed.