Nancy McCormick Rambusch

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Nancy McCormick Rambusch
Nancy McCormick

(1927-04-29)April 29, 1927
DiedOctober 27, 1994(1994-10-27) (aged 67)
Educationof Massachusetts Amherst (EdD)
Columbia University (MA)
University of Toronto (BA)
Known forFounder of the American Montessori Society and the Whitby School
MovementMontessori education

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Nancy McCormick Rambusch (April 29, 1927 – October 27, 1994) was a prominent figure in the field of education in the United States. She played a crucial role in founding the American Montessori Society in 1960, and spearheaded the revival of Montessori education across the nation. Additionally, she was the originator of the Whitby School, demonstrating her commitment to pedagogical innovation and excellence.[1][2]

Early Life

Nancy McCormick Rambusch, born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on April 29, 1927, was the daughter of Kathleen Wright, a schoolteacher, and Thomas McCormick, an ophthalmologist. Raised in the Roman Catholic tradition, she received her early education in parochial schools in the Milwaukee area before proceeding to Dominican University. She transferred to the University of Toronto where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with honors in 1949. During her undergraduate studies, she discovered the writings of Maria Montessori, sparking a lifelong interest in the Montessori method of education. Upon graduation, she studied in Paris as a French government fellow and had the opportunity to visit a Montessori school. In 1954, Rambusch left for London to undertake the teacher training course offered by the Maria Montessori Teacher Training Center.[3] She completed the course with Distinction in Spring 1955 and then immediately enrolled in the Montessori Elementary Course, which focused on teaching children aged 6-12. Rambusch furthered her education at the University of Paris where she studied French.


Rambusch's dedication to Montessori education guided her career. After her training in London, she returned to her home in Greenwich Village, New York, and established a small Montessori playgroup in 1955. This group, which comprised of her own two children and several preschoolers from the neighborhood, was the beginning of her professional journey. In 1956, Rambusch and her family relocated to Connecticut. There, she collaborated with a group of parents who shared her dissatisfaction with the local Catholic parochial schools and her interest in the Montessori education system. Together, they founded the Whitby School in Greenwich, in 1958, marking the first Montessori school in the United States.[4] Rambusch served as its headmistress, pioneering a large-scale revival of Montessori education in the United States. The school initially hosted 17 students in a renovated barn on the property of Georgeann Skakel. By 1959, the school had outgrown its premises and moved into rented classrooms in Byram, Connecticut. In 1961, Whitby moved once more into a new building designed to accommodate 150 students in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Rambusch founded the American Montessori Society (AMS) in 1960, basing the society at the Whitby School. Through her role at AMS, she was able to establish more than 400 Montessori schools around the United States. She traveled extensively, giving lectures and training teachers, thereby expanding the reach and influence of Montessori education. In 1962, Rambusch authored the book "Learning How to Learn: An American Approach to Montessori," further cementing her as a leading authority on Montessori education[5].

As she attempted to adapt Montessori's ideas to American society, Rambusch faced resistance from the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and its leader, Mario Montessori, the son of Maria Montessori. Frustrated by the lack of support she received from the larger Montessori movement, she stepped down as president of the American Montessori Society in early 1963.

Soon afterward, the AMI ceased to recognize AMS as a Montessori affiliate. Guided by its first national director, Cleo Monson, the AMS has existed as an independent organization ever since.[6]

Later Career and Legacy

After stepping down as the president of AMS in 1963, Rambusch continued her career in education and government. She pursued graduate degrees, organized Montessori teacher training programs nationwide, and held numerous leadership positions, becoming a self-described "change agent" in the field of education. She remained a prominent voice in the American Montessori movement until her death in 1994[3].

In 1963 she earned a Master of Arts degree in early childhood education from Teachers College, Columbia University

in 1977 she received her Doctor of Education degree from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She worked for the New York Foundling and Mount Vernon City School District in the 1960s, headed the [1] in Manhatten in the 1970s, taught at Tufts University, held a fellowship at Yale University from 1984 to 1986, and oversaw early childhood education at New York City's Agency of Child Development from 1985 to 1987.[1] She became an associate professor of education at SUNY New Paltz in 1987 and was promoted to full professor in 1994.

Rambusch's papers are included in the American Montessori Society records, which are held at the University of Connecticut's Archives and Special Collections.

Personal life

Rambusch married Robert Edward Rambusch (1924–2017), a liturgical designer and her classmate at the University of Toronto, in 1951. They had two children, Rob and Alexandra together.[7]


Rambusch died of pancreatic cancer on October 27, 1994, at the Princeton Medical Center in [2].[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Pace, Eric (October 30, 1994). "Nancy Rambusch, 67, Educator Who Backed Montessori Schools". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 15, 2021.
  2. "Nancy McCormick Rambusch and the American Montessori Movement". University of Connecticut Archives & Special Collections. December 21, 2020. Retrieved April 15, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Povell, Phyllis (2010). Montessori Comes to America: The Leadership of Maria Montessori and Nancy McCormick Rambusch. Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America. pp. 61–83. ISBN 978-0-7618-4928-5. OCLC 800832130.
  4. Ahlfeld, Kathy (1970). "The Montessori Revival: How Far Will It Go?". In Brown, Sheldon S. (ed.). Topics in Child Psychology. New York: MSS Educational Publishing Company. p. 79.
  5. Rambusch, Nancy McCormick (1962). Learning How to Learn: An American Approach to Montessori. Baltimore, Maryland: Helicon Press – via Internet Archive.
  6. University of Connecticut Archives & Special Collections (2006). "Finding Aid to American Montessori Society Records". Retrieved April 15, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. "Robert E. Rambusch's influence on the shape of worship endures". National Catholic Reporter. September 9, 2017. Retrieved April 16, 2021.