Remembering Hildegard Solzbacher

AMI Trainer Hildegard Solzbacher

Tribute to AMI Trainer Hildegard Solzbacher from AMI

It was with great sadness that AMI received the news of the passing of Hildegard Solzbacher, quietly in the United States, her home for many, many years, on 25 January, 2014.

Hildegard was not just an AMI Director of Training … for more than 30 years she was a member of the Training Group (formerly known as the Sponsoring Committee) where her dedication guided not only those who were ‘placed under her wing’ but also touched the lives of almost all AMI trainers worldwide. In the words of Janet McDonell on Hildegard’s retirement from the committee: “Thank you for being gentle and genteel, courteous and courageous, ardent and adamant, loyal and loving. You are the trunk—we are the branches; the foliage will be the children.”

Hildegard was Director of Training of the 3-6 Course in Washington D.C. and Milwaukee, in the USA, and was involved internationally with the creation of new AMI courses in the USA, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Australia, and India, where she supported new trainers at the start of their  careers.

As an AMI External Examiner, Hildegard conducted examinations in Asia, Australia, the North American Continent, and Europe.

In October 2007, Hildegard received the title Honorary Member of the Association Montessori Internationale, conferred by the Board, for her outstanding contribution to Montessori education, marking her generosity in training others and her commitment through the ranks during her career as an AMI Trainer; from peer to peer and from trainer to trainer-in-training.

Hildegard was gregarious, communicative, and wise; a trainer with great insight and humour. characterized by her elegance, openness and friendship. Someone who will be sadly missed by all those who were privileged to have known her.

AMI will be publishing an official obituary for Hildegard and would welcome ‘remembrances’ and photographs from you in celebration of her life. A memorial to Hildegard will take place in Milwaukee. Please contact Allyn Travis at for further details.


Tribute to Hildegard Solzbacher by Carol Hicks
Presented at the AMI/USA Montessori Public Forum, Milwaukee 2006 

Montessori education thrives in both public and private schools in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Montessori in the Milwaukee Public Schools has come to serve over 3,200 children from 3 through 18 years according to Montessori principles. This has been the result of a meeting of social forces, hard work, and knowledgeable, dedicated people.  One of those people is Hildegard Solzbacher.

Milwaukee Montessori School, the first private Montessori school, begun in 1961, invited Hildegard Solzbacher to work with them. She taught and administered there for 13 years. During this time she also began teacher training at the children’s house level.

Hildegard was not content with simply working at one school.  She thought it was essential to inform the public about Montessori.  To this end she held public open houses at Milwaukee Montessori School.  She also offered a course for the public at Marquette University; the university had to move the lectures to a different room when over 300 people attended the six sessions!

Among those in attendance at the information classes were administrators from the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS).  Grace Iacolucci, an early childhood specialist, became interested and attended an open house at Milwaukee Montessori School. She wanted to offer Montessori programs to MPS families so she approached Hildegard for help. Hildegard impressed upon Grace the importance of offering authentic Montessori and following the essential principles.

As a result of this dialogue in 1973, MPS opened four different primary classrooms at two different schools. This came as part of the public school’s early childhood initiative and so was only available to four- and five-year-olds for the first years.

As the word about Montessori spread through the city, more and more parents became interested in Montessori education. In 1968 Highland Community School opened as a Montessori school. In 1975 Hildegard opened New World Montessori School.  Downtown Montessori Academy opened the very same year.

In 1976, as a result of a suit brought by the NAACP, MPS came under a court-ordered desegregation order. The plan devised included opening magnet schools and Montessori was proposed as one magnet program. The four primary classes were brought together and MacDowell Montessori School was begun.

There were compromises in the beginning. The children’s house classes were double sessions and three-year-olds were not included. But parents were eager to be involved in a meaningful way. They attended meetings sometimes until 11:00 PM, learning about Montessori principles and planning strategies. They spoke knowledgeably at MPS board meetings to bring about changes. Perseverance paid off and 3-year-olds were funded for the first time in 1981.  Double sessions were ended in 1989. Word spread, popularity grew, and in 1983 540 attended MacDowell. The wait list was over 240 for 3- and 4-year-olds.

The MPS school board decided that the cure for the long wait lists and parent demands was to open Greenfield Montessori School in 1983. This just gave rise to two long wait lists so that today there are four schools for children three through fourteen years. There are two public Montessori schools that have started and are growing as the children age. There are also three charter Montessori schools. In addition there are four private Montessori schools serving the Milwaukee metropolitan area.

The high quality, the adherence to AMI principles, the inclusion of 3- and 4-year-olds would not have happened without that early support and guidance given to MPS by Hildegard Solzbacher. Through her classes at Marquette University she brought Montessori to the attention of Milwaukee parents and professional educators. She set the tone and the idea that a high standard must be maintained in the public schools just as in private schools. And of course it must be mentioned she trained many teachers who have continued to teach in Milwaukee.