In 1899, she was involved in the establishment of the Orthophrenic School in Rome, where she spent two years training teachers in her methods of observation and education for those with special needs. She spent this time observing and experimenting with different materials and methods and using all the ideas she had gleaned from her studies.
Under her guidance, some of the children who had been labelled ‘uneducable’ learned to read and write and some even sat the State primary examinations and passed with higher grades than so-called ‘normal’ children. These events, together with the many public lectures she gave in Italy and other European countries, brought her international acclaim and she started to become known as an educator as well as a doctor.
In 1901, Maria Montessori retired from the Orthophrenic School and once again enrolled at the University of Rome.
In 1904, she was appointed Professor of Pedagogic Anthropology at the University, yet she still found time to continue with her work in childhood education.
In 1906, Montessori was asked to organise the infant schools that were being built in a slum clearance and re-housing programme in San Lorenzo, Italy. The first school was established for children aged three to six years old, which Montessori called ‘Casa dei Bambini’, the Children’s House.
Other schools followed, giving Montessori the opportunity to apply her methods to normal children. This was a very exciting time because it allowed her to prove her system’s far-reaching capabilities. After all, if she could achieve near miraculous results working with special needs children, what would the results be with normal children.
The children in her first two schools were often neglected by their parents and they were definitely under-stimulated. In any case, during that period the illiteracy level among adults was still quite high, so the children may not have received the encouragement and support they needed. However, the children in Montessori’s school soon started to show marked academic and social improvements.
The third school was set aside for children who could be considered privileged. As with the deprived children, the privileged children showed a marked improvement in their learning. Montessori’s methods, which showed that all children flourish when given the proper stimulation and the right environment, started to gain credibility.