Back to School with Maria Montessori

By Sr. Margaret Hoffman, SND

Have you ever built a tower with Montessori blocks?  Well, it is more difficult than you think, as we found out at Mercy Center this last weekend!

Sr. Christina Trudeau, assisted by Sr. Sharon Joyer, gave a group of residents at Mercy Center a brief history of the early childhood educational process of Italian educator Maria Montessori. She pioneered a creative process for early childhood education for three through five years old which has swept the world, borrowing many concepts from India and other cultures along the way. Montessori herself was Catholic which strongly influenced her approach of respect for the child and belief in the natural gifts of children.

Sister engaged us as a true Montessorian would, and soon Skip Sahlin, one of the Mercy Center residents, was happily building one of the towers. He gamely made it to the top with the last two blocks getting the “wobblies,” but staying in place.  Sr. Ann Stubbe, another Montessorian trained by Sr. Christina, explained how the three-finger method for grasping the blocks was a preparation for writing!

Skip enjoyed testing his agility building a tower.

Sr. Sharon traced for us Montessori’s developmental process revealing the capabilities and skills which children at such young ages can master and that they build on for a lifetime. Sharon used the Montessori method in the years that she lived in Appalachia.

Sr. Christina’s influence was not just local; in her long career she has done teacher training and set up Montessori programs through Chaminade University in Hawaii; at Notre Dame Sheishin University, Japan; in Cebu, Philippines, through the University of Cebu. She has also done workshops for teachers in Samoa and Fiji.  Most recently a Montessori school was begun in the mountains of Northeast Nicaragua, led by a Montessorian, Sr. Sandra Price, another of Sr. Christina’s students, with help from our Associates.

Christina’s brother, an architect, built the school on the campus of NDNU. It proved such a good model that several other local Montessori schools used the same plans. It is wonderful to think of all the children who have benefited from this creative program because of Maria Montessori and because of dedicated and gifted teachers like Sr. Christina!


  1. Sister Christina Trudeau’s brother is the architect of All Souls Catholic Church in Alhambra, CA, where my husband, Gerald Ignatius Jack, and I were married in May of 1963, fifty two years ago this May 2015.

    We live in San Gabriel, CA, five houses from Saint Therese Catholic Church, Alhambra, CA. Mr. Trudeau was also the architect of Saint Therese Catholic Church. We can sit on our sofa in our living room and see out the front window the statue of Saint Therese on top of the church tower. In the evening the statue of Saint Therese is lighted and it looks very lovely.

    Our house’s original and previous Protestant owner’s wife told us the one thing she would miss most about the house is the view of Saint Therese’ statue on top of the church tower! Her writing desk was by the front window where she could see it.

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