I am deeply saddened to report the passing of AMI trainer Annette Haines. I first met Annette during my oral exams at the Montreal Montessori Training Center in 2001. She examined me on the sensorial materials. I chose the cylinder blocks and brought the wrong block to her table. She grilled me on why I brought that block, why I presented it the way I did, what the purpose of the material was, and more. She drilled holes in my ego, the ego that had misled me into believing I didn’t really have to study sensorial—sensorial, I mistakenly thought, was the easy part of Montessori.
When I left that exam, I was in tears. I went to my room and studied and studied and read and re-read everything I thought I knew about sensorial. And, I realized that I actually didn’t know much at all. This brief encounter with Annette influenced every child and teacher I have guided from that moment on. I was left in awe and a bit terrified of her.
A few years later when I saw her at a conference, I immediately felt fear tighten my throat. I did not want to keep feeling afraid of her, so, I approached her. I thanked her for her thorough examination and told her how it had improved my teaching. She was gracious and glad to hear it. Moreover, she said she didn’t even remember my exam. I don’t know if that was true or not (I mean, it was pretty awful), but it made it clear that she did not think less of me. That, it turns out, was what I had feared. At that moment, she became my mentor.
In the years since, I have reached out to Annette so many times. She guided me as I founded Maitri Learning. She helped me refine my designs to make sure I considered all aspects of the child’s needs and view. Later, as I returned to teaching in the public school setting, she was an invaluable sounding board to discuss the unique challenges our school faced. When I was in graduate school at Harvard, she and I would discuss the current neuroscience research that supported Montessori’s work. Most recently, she invited me to present what I had learned from helping to teach the Neuroscience of Learning course at Harvard to the AMI Scientific Pedagogy meeting in Amsterdam. Always, she encouraged me and believed that I had some useful role to play in the Montessori revolution.
I am just in tears as I realize that Annette is gone. She was a great guiding force in the Montessori world but also for me personally. When I have questions about the pedagogy, I automatically think, “I’ll email Annette.” What will I do now? There are so many other wonderful Montessorians, but no one is quite like her. She held me to a higher standard and I raised myself up as a result.
To say I will miss her is like saying the sun is warm—a miniscule phrase for an enormous truth.
A fund is being established in Annette's memory that will provide scholarships for students at the Montessori Lab School in St. Louis. Donations can be sent to the Montessori Training Centre, 3854 Washington Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63108.