SBMS’ History

The Santa Barbara Montessori School originally opened its doors as The Montessori Children’s Home in 1975. Beginning with one class of two students the school developed quickly, and by 1977, offered two separate primary classes and one lower-elementary class. By 1978 the school was located in three separate locations utilizing the facilities of the Greek Orthodox Church, and the Goleta Presbyterian Church, in addition to the original class at Trinity Episcopal Church. The primary and elementary classes were consolidated in 1981, at centrally-located Trinity Episcopal Church.

SBMS has grown from that initial enrollment of two children to its current enrollment of more than 110 children, ages 18 months through 15 years. The school’s enrollment policies have always allowed for the enrollment, at least on a trial basis, of any and all children, regardless of any learning disability they may have. This policy has proved to be especially rewarding for many children in the community, and has allowed SBMS the opportunity to develop an ongoing working relationship with the Autism Research Center at UCSB and the Education Department of UCLA.

Hundreds of children have grown and developed through SBMS’s programs, many now contributing as young adults in the community. In 1987, the school began an administrative change, adopting its new name, and is now the only Recognized AMI Montessori school in the Santa Barbara area.

In 1995, SBMS expanded its programs at what was then Grace Church’s San Andres location, where the entire school was located until June 2001.

In September, 2001, SBMS entered into a new collaborative effort with the Boys and Girls Club of Santa Barbara–the school’s programs will be temporarily located in new modular classrooms while plans are designed for the establishment of a permanent school-building addition to the Boys and Girls Club facility.

The school’s new campus, featuring its new custom-built DSA approved classrooms, includes the exclusive use of the Boys and Girls Club facility throughout the school day. Thus, the gym, athletic field, dance studio, art studio, computer room, library and music room are available to SBMS students, in addition to our own exclusive outdoor environments designed for the younger children.

With this addition, this year, of its new Infant/Toddler Community SBMS now provides AMI-trained (we’re the real deal) teachers directing its environments for children 18 months through 15 years. SBMS is Santa Barbara’s only AMI recognized school, and it’s the only Montessori school able to provide Santa Barbara-area families the opportunity for caring, nurturing, and authentic Montessori environments.

SBMS Administration

The School is organized as a 501c3 nonprofit corporation (TID: 95-2961547) that is governed by an Executive Board of Directors selected from the founders of the school. As an ongoing development of the School’s administrative changes an advisory board of select people from the community, alumni families and those currently enrolled, have worked with the school’s administrators.



AMI was founded in 1929 by Dr. Maria Montessori with the intention of serving two purposes: First, to further her life’s work in its original integrity and completeness; and second, to guide its development and application in the interests of all children. From its headquarters in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, AMI functions as the source of authentic Montessori training according to Maria Montessori’s principles as well as a center for continuing research and development.

All of SBMS’s faculty graduated from AMI teacher training centers either in Bergamo, Italy, Denver, CO, Los Angeles, CA, or San Diego, CA.

AMI Montessori member schools meet AMI’s criteria in teacher training, classroom size, utilization of authentic Montessori materials, and a philosophical approach consistent with AMI guidelines. SBMS is the only AMI-member school in southern California providing Toddler through Erdkinder programs.

Dottoressa Maria Montessori (1870 – 1952)

Dottoressa Maria Montessori was born in Italy in 1870, and against all tradition began, at age 13, to attend a boys’ technical school in preparation for her dream to become an engineer. After seven years she switched her studies to premed, and subsequently became Italy’s first female doctor in 1896.

In her work at the University of Rome’s psychiatric clinic, Doctor Montessori developed an interest in the treatment of young children, and for several years she wrote and spoke on their behalf. At the age of 28 she became the director of a school for mentally disabled children. She spent long hours at the school developing her own approach to learning, and after two years, these children, who had formerly been considered ineducable, took a school examination along with normal children and passed successfully. If mentally disabled children could be brought to the level of normal children, Montessori wondered about the potential of normal children.

Dr. Montessori herself returned to the university to study philosophy and psychology and finally, in 1907, was presented the opportunity to apply her educational theories to normal children. She was given the responsibility of establishing a school—a day-care center—for the 50 children living in an impoverished tenement building in the San Lorenzo district of Rome. The property’s owner was tired of the children’s vandalism and offered Dr. Montessori her first chance to set up her concept of what a child-centered environment should be.

From these early beginnings developed a method of education that has spread around the world. Initially invited to the USA by Alexander Graham Bell, she appeared in 1915 at Carnegie Hall, and then established a Montessori classroom environment at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco—a classroom was built with a glass wall around it and children who had never been to school before came to work in the environment for four months.

Awarded two gold medals, the exhibit’s success truly established Montessori’s method as revolutionary. In 1929 Dr. Montessori founded AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) to establish and coordinate training centers to authentically prepare teachers. Dr. Montessori, who’s legacy includes being nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize, died in Holland in 1952, and today more than 4,000 schools worldwide consider themselves Montessori schools, with 400 recognized AMI Montessori schools in the United States.