A Tribute to Dr. Annette Haines


It is with great sadness that we share the death of Dr. Annette Haines, director of the Montessori Training Center since 1989 and advocate for children everywhere. Dr. Haines personally trained hundreds of Montessori Guides from all over the world, including all of the Primary Directresses at Villa di Maria. After a month-long battle with cancer, Dr. Haines left this world in the early morning hours on Saturday, July 22nd surrounded by her loving family.

Laura Ceretti-Michelman, Head of VdM, expresses:

“There are no words to express the sadness that I (and many, many others) feel. Dr. Haines has done so much for so many of us and for the Montessori community around the world. Annette was an impressive woman of substance. She was strong, fiercely intelligent, endlessly curious, witty and fun. She also dedicated so much of her life working tirelessly to train teachers, mentor trainers in training, support AMI and to bring more high-quality Montessori to the world. David Kahn, a Montessori legend in his own right referred to Dr. Haines as a ‘Montessori Goddess.’ I think he was right. Dr. Haines will be sorely missed but I know that Robyn and Lakshmi will work alongside Dr. Haines’ husband, Lew, to do all they can to ensure that Dr. Haines’ legacy is preserved and to ensure that her vision of Montessori in St. Louis (and maybe around the world) is realized.”

Dr. Haines was loved by so many, who describe her as uplifting, inspiring, and captivating, with a marvelous mind. She had a passion for Montessori, but also expressed interest in conservation of natural resources, children, and animals (and horses in particular, as she and her husband Lewis owned and managed Red Fox Paso Finos, where they bred, trained and showed Paso Fino horses since 1995).

The outpouring of love for Haines was evident at her viewing and funeral, which took place last weekend. Of the Villa di Maria staff, many wanted to share memories and thoughts of their late mentor and friend.

Rebecca Callander, Upper Elementary Directress:
“Seventeen years ago, before I had chosen to take the path of Montessori, and feeling decidedly unclear on whether or not I should pursue Elementary Education, I sat in a theory lecture by Dr. Haines on Freedom and Discipline, when the training center was at CMS.  I had observed a lower elementary room for several hours and, while moved by the experience, was also a little skeptical because it seemed a little too good to be true, a little too crunchy. 

Upon hearing my reservations, Anita Chastain recommended that I sit in on a lecture by Dr. Haines to see the deeper side of Montessori. And, boy was it deep. I was so taken by Dr. Haines’ intellect, clarity of vision, and commitment to the theory and pedagogy of Montessori–what I had been concerned was missing. I left the lecture feeling electrified and clear that Montessori was the way, not only for me, but for all children.  
I will forever cherish the memories of her hosting the first seven of our new Upper Elementary class at her farm in 2012.  She took us all around and photographed each child sitting so proudly on their horses. Indeed, she wanted one of them, Lorenzo, to come back again so he could care for her barn cats!  
And finally, I was honored to work with her on the Pearl Gallery project. During openings, I was in awe of Annette’s ability to engage with the art crowd – always asking questions of artists, offering reflections – she possessed a seemingly insatiable curiosity for culture, artwork, and beauty. Her commitment to the intersection of art and life and Montessori was palpable. 

These are my reflections- her passing is such sad news and will be felt deeply by Villa and all in the Montessori community. She filled a space in our collective Montessori hearts that cannot be replaced.  Indeed, she resonated with so many of us.  We are so fortunate to have had Dr. Haines be such a strong part of Villa di Maria’s legacy and of her friendship with our school.  So many lives touched and transformed by Dr. Haines.”                          

Cristina Kerr, Primary Assistant:
“The impact that Dr. Haines had over my life is pretty big. She is the reason I returned to the US to finish the training…I could not have imagined changing training centers and learning under another trainer, it was out of the question. Her brilliance and wisdom got under my skin so deeply that nothing could have shaken it off me. I had to return to continue with her, no matter how many barriers there were in the way -and there were many. Oh but it was so worth it…She just was the best. When I found out I could not return to continue the training with her,  she was very supportive and encouraged me not to give up my dream.”

 Heather Steinman, Primary Directress:
“To me, Dr. Haines was larger than life. The first time I met her I was working as an assistant in Robyn’s classroom. There was an AMI consultation that year at Villa and Dr. Haines was the consultant. I was new to the job and knew very little as to what I was doing. On the day of the consultation, Dr. Haines flowed in and out of our room a few times to observe. Each time I tried to make sure everything looked “just right” and that all of the children were busy, things were clean, etc. At one point, as I flitted around the room nervously, I felt a presence approaching behind me and then a soft, stern voice say in my ear…”sit down.” I didn’t even turn around, I sat down in the next chair I could find and I have been sitting ever since. With two words she taught me one of the most important things I’ve ever learned in the world of Montessori. While I would come to learn the how and why of it over the years I still hear her voice telling me to sit when I am in the children’s way. 
I am grateful for that. And so many other lessons that she taught me.
The finality of knowing that she is gone has been hard to reckon with but I realized today as all of her trainees stood up at her funeral that she is not gone at all. And she never will be. She is indeed larger than life, and I feel so honored to be a part of keeping her here on earth for others to experience through my work with children and their families.”   
Maria Burr, Development Director:
“Annette had such a tremendous impact on my life. She was a great friend, mentor, and my guiding light. She was such a gift to this world, and I am deeply grateful for the time I had to get to know her. Annette was such an inspiration to so many people, but, I find comfort in knowing that her work will carry on exponentially around the world.”
Robyn Milos, former Primary Directress and Director of Education:
“I have so many memorable moments of the past 18 years that I have had Dr. Annette Haines as my mentor and friend. When asked to share one now, I realize I must set aside my own need for privacy to share an intimate and personal but most impactful memory with you.
 When I was in the first summer of my Primary Montessori teacher training, I was a young mother of two young boys. I was well into the course when suddenly, my personal life fell apart in an instant. Having been up all night and in tears every minute of that night, I found myself at a complete loss for what to do. I did the only thing I knew, I got dressed, drove across the river, and went to training. As I entered the building and was greeted by Dr. Haines, she invited me into her office to see if I was alright. After listening to my story, sharing her confident words of wisdom-which included ‘get a position in a Montessori classroom right away’, she looked at my swollen eyes and said this “Now, let’s go and do some Sound Boxes.”
We stood up together and walked, head-held-high, into a full room of eager learners and she presented a lesson on Sound Boxes (a sensorial material that aids in refinement of the auditory sense). I tightened my boot straps and held my strength with Montessori as my spine, holding me upright. I focused on the purposeful work of Montessori and within, found all the things I needed.
In this time of tremendous loss, Dr. Haines’ true intellect has been revealed. The stories being shared, world-wide, of how she changed the lives of so many are nothing short of astonishing. Her gift of being able to cast a light for each one of them, to show them just what they needed and nothing more, changed their lives.
In my life, I have used that sentiment of wisdom many times to help others when they needed a light cast on their inner strength. As we mourn the loss of Dr. Annette Haines, a true Montessori Giant, I know exactly what she would say to us. “Now, let’s go do some Sound Boxes.”                  

In an interview she conducted with Baan Dek Montessori, Dr. Haines shares her favorite Montessori quote:

“My favorite quote comes from a little pamphlet called “Peace and Education.” In it she talks about how our age represents a time of crisis…a period of passage from one era to another comparable only to the opening of a new biological or geological period in which new conditions of life will be realized which have never existed before. The natural boundaries of mountains, deserts and seas no longer limit man, “now that he can fly over them.” (1975, p. 30) In this new age, she says, “laws and treaties” will not be enough; the limits will have to come from within.  For this, we need a fundamental change in education, for —

“the child who has never learned to act alone, to direct his own actions, to govern his own will, grows into an adult who is easily led and must lean upon others. (1975, p. 23.)”

She also shared her favorites from the 1946 Lectures:

“Just imagine what a society would be like that was quiet, a society without movement. Think what would happen if all men stopped moving – if only for one week. What would happen? Everyone would die. It is not a question of social life, but of work. It is not a question of individual gymnastics. If the whole society of men all over the world made nothing but uncoordinated, jerky movements they would die in a short time. All their energies would be consumed for nothing.

Society is a complex arrangement of individuals, each of whom moves differently from the other. Keep in mind the construction of the world – each organism moves to suit its own purpose. Imagine what it would be like if all the plants stopped moving. There would be no more fruit or flowers – there would be too much poisonous gas in the air. If everything stopped – if the birds remained motionless in the trees or if the insects fluttered to the ground and remained still, if the wild beasts did not move through the jungle or if the fish stopped swimming in the water – what a terrible world it would be. 

Immobilization is impossible. Nature gives a useful purpose to each animal. This is the philosophy of movement: all life is movement. Each organism has its own movement for its own purpose. The creation of the world is a harmony of all these purposeful movements.”


She will be greatly missed, but we are certain that her legacy will carry on through those she inspired, trained, and touched.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the scholarship fund at the Montessori Training Center of St. Louis, for children to attend the Montessori Lab School of St. Louis.