Eliminating the rigid structures of conventional classrooms, a Montessori school encourages students to embrace their curiosity, think imaginatively and see the world as an array of possibilities. In other words, it is an innovation incubator at the most basic level. And not surprisingly, the method has spawned a long list of overachievers.
When TV journalist Barbara Walters interviewed Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 2004 and asked what drove their success, she received an unexpected response: “nursery school.”
Page and Brin are products of a Montessori education. “We both went to Montessori school,” said Page, “and I think (our success) was part of that training, not following rules and orders and being self-motivated, questioning what’s going on in the world, doing things a little bit different.”
Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo and a former Google vice president, told Wired magazine in 2011, “You can’t understand Google unless you know that both Larry and Sergey were Montessori kids. In a Montessori school, you go paint be cause you have something to express or you just want to do it that afternoon, not because the teacher said so. This is baked in how Larry and Sergey approach problems. They’re always asking, ‘Why should it be like that?’ It’s the way their brains were programmed early on.”
Despite its century-old existence and thousands of Montessori schools around the world, the unique teaching method, hailed by its proponents as far more effective and rewarding than conventional public education, has received little attention outside its core support group. Its supporters call it “the best-kept secret in education.” But lately, the Montessori Method has sparked a growing wave of interest due to recent blogging on the remarkable list of Montessori alumni. Though the sampling is hardly scientific, the varied and eclectic mix of famous people who include Montessori in their educational background is too compelling to dismiss, especially in the world of business.