February comes with a heavy heart for the Montessori Community as we have lost four remarkable
people whose life work leaves an indelible mark on all who knew them. For many decades, Aline Wolf,
Michael Dorer, Mary Colarullo, and Pilar Leto generously shared their love for children, life and learning
with spirit and creativity.
Aline Wolf was a pioneer in Montessori education in America. She and her husband, Gerald, founded Penn-Mont Academy, the first licensed Montessori school in Pennsylvania in 1961. Aline was also instrumental in bringing Magret Homphray and Phoee Child, St. Nicholas Montessori trainers from England, to the US to train teachers. The trainers came every year for four years and each year Aline took the course again.
By the fourth year, Aline was asked to participate as a lecturer. This began Aline’s decades of inspiring contributions as a Montessori lecturer and teacher trainer. Aline ‘s publication, A Parent’s Guide to Montessori, is likely one of her most widely read books, as it has been a staple for parent education at schools since 1969. From my perspective, Aline’s greatest literary contribution among her twenty-seven books published is Nurturing the Spirit in Non-sectarian classrooms. This book, along with Aline’s many lectures on peace education, has and will continue to inspire educators and children to seek an inner calm within themselves and with that peace make the world a better place. Aline passed away on February 4, 2024, at the age of ninety-five. Her legacy of love and spirit lives on through her books as we strive to carry her torch of peace.
(Read more of Aline’s Story and check out her books at https://www.montessoriservices.com/ideas-insights/aline-wolfs-montessori-journey)
Michael Dorer may be best known as a Master Montessori Storyteller. Michael’s presentations were always filled with humor and wit, whether sharing his brilliant understanding of Montessori math, his passion for the cosmic curriculum, or organizational strategies for the elementary classroom.
Michael stumbled into Montessori when he happened upon a Montessori day care while walking down the street. He had no idea that entering that school would mark a turning point in his life. Intrigued, he began to volunteer at the school and was offered a scholarship to attend the first Montessori Primary (3-6) training offered in Minnesota. He later received his Montessori Elementary Diploma in Bergamo, Italy and received School Leadership credentials from both the American Montessori Society and the Association Montessori International.
In 1978 he expanded his Montessori contribution to include serving as teacher educator and graduate professor. As Director of Center for Contemporary Montessori Programs at St. Catherine’s University, Michael and his faculty developed the AM2 Master’s degree program which still provides Montessori credentialed teachers an opportunity to delve deeply into education and Montessori at a graduate level.
Michael took his expertise in Montessori higher education to Westminster College in Salt Lake City and later to Sarasota University. His conference presentations and webinars through the Montessori Foundation were always impactful, weaving theory and practice into tales that were truly inspiring.
Michael shared his passion for storytelling in his book, The Deep Wells of Time: The Transformative Power of Story Telling in the Classroom. This book, along with his others, Grammar Tells a Story, and the beautiful children’s book, Hatching the Cosmic Egg, are truly a gift to the Montessori community. His legacy lives on through his creativity and stories.
(For more about Michael got to, https://www.montessoriservices.com/authors/michael-dorer)
Pilar Leto, while not a Montessori teacher by career, made a significant contribution to the Montessori community in her many Montessori conferences and workshop presentations alongside her husband, Frank Leto. Pilar also performs in the “Kids Will Be Kids,” DVD Music and Movement series leading children through a variety of fun dance and exercise moves accompanied by Frank’s singing, steel drum, ukulele, or other instruments.
Pilar was the Artistic Director of Odara Dance Ensemble in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was a choreographer, producer, dance teacher, and performer. Over her career, Pilar also served as an administrator in Montessori schools and was committed to supporting Montessori in her community.
Pilar was a joyful and vibrant human being who touched the lives of everyone she encountered. Passionate about sharing her love for music and dance. Our hearts and souls are moved by her legacy of creativity.
Mary Colarullo was a quiet, gentle person who had a magical way with children. She began her career as a Montessori educator in the early 1970s with an AMI Primary Diploma. For over 40 years, Mary dedicated her life to serving children, teaching in Montessori schools in Florida and California. In the later years of her career, Mary also served as a Montessori teacher and educator. She loved passing on the gift of Montessori to new teachers and supporting them as they began their journey.
Mary was the original Sensorial Video Instructor for the Center for Guided Montessori Studies, as well as a residential instructor, field consultant and served as the CGMS Practicum Coordinator. Through this work, Mary was able to impact hundreds of teachers.
With news of her passing in early February, many parents and teachers commented that Mary was one of the kindest people they have ever met. Parents also acknowledged their gratitude for how Mary had made a difference in the lives of their children and families. Mary’s colleagues and teachers she supported in training shared their appreciation for the opportunity to learn from her.
These wonderful individuals have truly made the world a better place. And their stories are important for all educators as they highlight how a contribution of love and service touches many lives and ripples on long after we are gone. We honor Aline, Michael, Pilar, Mary by continuing their work in whatever way we can. The threads of their contributions woven into our own is the hope and the promise for Montessori and humankind.