Baan Dek

Spotlight Dr. Joyce Pickering


We are honored to Spotlight Dr. Joyce Pickering, President of American Montessori Society. Dr. Pickering is a pioneer, an advocate, a dedicated Montessorian with a passion for children and for Following the Child. In her own words, read her story here.


I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and grew up in Shreveport. I attended Louisiana State University and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Speech-Language Pathology. For nine years I worked as a speech language pathologist in public schools. In this period I also received training to work with severely language and hearing impaired children and helped to open the first class for these children in a public school in Mississippi. This innovative program was followed by the opening of the first public school program in the United States for students with dyslexia. This three-year research study was named the best special education program in the U.S. and was funded by the Department of Education, Title IIIESEA.

Though excited by the help this program provided, the staff realized these children needed help much earlier than elementary school. Doctors Sylvia Richardson, a speech language pathologist, physician and Montessori trained teacher suggested I observe the Dean Learning Center in Dallas, Texas.  Dr. June Shelton, who with Dr. Richardson had created the program Montessori Applied to Children at Risk for Learning Disabilities, directed this center. Dr. Shelton trained my staff and me and we received another federal grant for early childhood education. In three years, the effectiveness of the program was clearly observed.

From 1971 to 1990, I consulted and ran programs combining the training of working with early intervention through Montessori education and combining specialized reading instruction with the Montessori language curriculum. This work was done here in the United States and internationally; including Australia, Brazil, China, Canada, Spain and Sweden.

In 1990, I accepted the position of Executive Director at the June Shelton School and Evaluation Center. Dr. Shelton had formed the school in 1976. Over these almost 40 years the school, serving children with learning differences, has grown from 26 students to almost 900.

The intelligent students who attend have the learning challenges of dyslexia, ADHD, oral language disorders, math disorders and some evidence of related difficulties with motor co-ordination and social skills.

Shelton is affiliated with the American Montessori Society (AMS). Through my work at Shelton and through many presentations at conferences and schools, I was asked to run for the AMS board of directors in 2011. I joined the board that year. In 2012 I began serving as vice-president and in 2013 as president. Again in 2015 I was elected to a second two-year term as president. This service has been my greatest honor.

Since my first observation of a Montessori classroom, I have been dedicated to helping every child have the gift of a Montessori education. As I was trained by Dr. Shelton and later by Celma and Desmond Perry at Seton Montessori Institute; I realized the unique educational method created by Dr. Montessori. Each day, 45 years later, I discover new insights from her work and the joy of seeing the progress children make and the confidence they attain in a Montessori environment.

The legacy of Nancy McCormick Rambusch, the founder of AMS, is still strong. She envisioned the growth of Montessori private schools and was also strong in her desire to see Montessori education in public schools reaching all children. My husband, Dr. Robert Pickering, began the first public school Montessori class in the United States at the Hilltop School in the Reading School District of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1968. He saw a Montessori class and agreed with Nancy that this type of education should be available to “all children”.

Since 2011, AMS has joined with the Montessori organization Montessori Leaders Collaborative. We believe it is important, especially at this time, to collaborate with AMI/USA, AMI,  NAMTA, MEPI, MACTE, MAA,  MEAA, and The Montessori Foundation.  We all realize if we will be able to meet the need for the current interest in Montessori education, we must work together.

“ My advice to new or existing Montessori schools is to realize the critical importance of teacher training, administrative training and continuing education for all staff. The heart of the school is its staff. ”

Montessori schools must also realize they serve the parents as well as their children. Offering parent nights to help parents understand the philosophy and curriculum of Montessori can help them understand what they can do with their children and the tenants of Montessori that can help them work with and enhance their relationship with their children.

Education in America since I began to work in schools in 1960 has changed dramatically in some ways and not very much in other ways. Though Montessori education has been seen as outside traditional education some concepts have been adopted. Using centers of multisensory materials have been borrowed from Montessori however the basic traditional assembly line method of education remains in most schools. Today parents and educators are indicating they want education which includes an individualized program, self-directed study with integrated curriculum and work organization, emotional intelligence, independence and preparation for collaborative work environment. Well, this IS Montessori Education!  (A scientifically based approach that provides a model for the 21st century.)

My sincere hope is that realizing the ineffectiveness of traditional procedures, parents will require and educators will realize that the wheel does not have to be reinvented. In the next 100 years I would pray that all children would enjoy education in the individualized education based on scientific study of child development given to us by Dr. Maria Montessori.

“The basis of the reform of education and society, which is a necessity of our times, must be built upon . . . scientific study.” ~ Maria Montessori, From Childhood to Adolescence, 1949 

Written by:

Baan Dek

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