Our Founder and Our History

Montessori Cornerstone

Montessori Academy at Spring Valley was founded by Madeleine Justus in 1951 in Seattle, and moved to Federal Way in 1957. Mrs. Justus was involved in our school into her late 90s.

Montessori Academy at Spring Valley is the
oldest private Montessori school
in the Pacific Northwest.

We are an award winning school.
Our students go on to the best high schools and colleges
in the country, many on academic scholarships.



Our Founder--Mrs. Madeleine Justus--passed away at the age of 99½, just a few month shy of her 100th birthday.

She embodied the Montessori spirit. She founded our school in 1951, and helped found organizations like Pacific Northwest Montessori Association, and WFIS where schools come together to help each other.

Our school and her family miss her dearly.

To see pictures and a timeline of her life: http://mrs.justus.muchloved.com/

Mrs. Justus


When your child attends Montessori Academy, you know that you are receiving the true Montessori principles of education, while still keeping pace with advancements in the fields of education and science.

We have educated thousands of children, giving them solid educational foundations at the critical developmental time: Toddler - 8th grade.

Our Founder's Background in Montessori Education

  • Mrs Justus is our school's founderMrs. Justus is our school's founder
  • She founded our school in 1951She founded our school in 1951
  • Mrs Justus still visits our schoolShe still visits the school as often as she can. She is 99.
  • Picture from the 1960sOne of our school's first classrooms
  • Mrs Justus working with a childMrs. Justus is working with a child...
  • Mrs Justus giving a child a lesson...giving a Montessori lesson...
  • Fun clothing styles, but the teaching method is the sameThe clothing styles change, but the concrete Montessori Method is still relevant today
  • Zoology - students then and now study itStudents then and now study zoology, learning about animals.
  • Music is still importantMusic is important then and now
  • Students still learn shapesStudents learn shapes
  • Fresh air is important to learningBeing outside -- fresh air -- helps children learn
  • Practical life is importantPractical Life is important - this child is learning to pour
  • Famous artists are studiedThis child (Mrs. Justus' grandson Greg) is learning about famous artists
  • Alphabet is importantThis child is using the moveable alphabet
  • Encironmental science is very importantMrs. Justus taught children environment science - here she is talking about the Hylebos Creek that runs through our campus.

In her own words...

Our FounderI stand by my living room window watching our parents bringing their children to our school.

I remember being touched by Dr. Maria Montessori who taught us to always look at and follow the child.

I am grateful for having experienced most of the 20th century and having had the opportunity to be in some of the right places at the right time to meet some of the great people who contributed most to our understanding the young child, and pointed the way to understanding human behavior.

I was born in Central Europe in 1916, which put me in the most auspicious place and time -the upheaval of two bitter consecutive wars that engulfed us all.

In early 1937, after attending the University of Cluj in Romania, through almost unexpected circumstances, I was at the League of Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, attending the Symposium on “Children in an Impending War.” Dr. Montessori was the most eloquent speaker and, as always, was interested in the well-being of the children.

When I met Dr. Montessori, I told her I was bringing greetings from mutual friends from Vienna. I was wearing a cape, and she realized I was pregnant (with Marta). She opened my cape, smiled, leaned forward and kissed me on the forehead. She was very gracious to me.

After the symposium, we all, sadly enough, learned that politicians seldom are great statesmen, and the resolutions of the conference did not lessen the horrors of the ensuing years.

But, I do have and cherish the memories listening to the words spoken by Dr. Montessori, and of course teaching in the last 65 years what she taught to children and adults.
In 1966, as a member of the US delegation to the OMEP (World Organization for Preschool Education) conference, I attended at the UNESCO Building in Paris. As we were coming in, a speaker announced who each delegation was. As the Italian delegation came in, the speaker said they were from the country that gave the world Dr. Montessori.

I cherish my memories of Dr. Montessori, my many years of teaching,
and my memories of the children I watched blossom and grow
using the Montessori method.

And now, at this point in my life, I cherish that my Great Grandchildren are attending my school, and are learning in this manner.

-Mrs. Justus

Dr. Montessori's revolutionary approach

Dr MontessoriOn January 6, 1907, Dr. Montessori founded the first Montessori school in Rome “Casa dei Bambini." Annually, Montessorians celebrate the last week of February as Montessori week.

Dr. Montessori started a revolution in the approach to the education of young children. Her work and philosophy spread around the world the last 101 years.

Basically the Montessori Method teaches respect for the child and all life on Earth. Children are introduced to a cosmic education to see the interconnectedness of everything in the universe and our planet. Today, there are more than 5,000 Montessori schools in the USA.

Dr. Montessori’s Wisdom Lives On

Here are just a handfull of brilliant quotes from Dr. Montessori:

  • We cannot know the consequences of suppressing a child’s spontaneity when he is just beginning to be active. We may even suffocate life itself. That humanity which is revealed in all its intellectual splendor during the sweet and tender age of childhood should be respected with a kind of religious veneration. It is like the sun which appears at dawn or a flower just beginning to bloom. Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child to open up himself to life.
  • Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.
  • The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say,
    “The children are now working as if I did not exist.”
  • We teachers can only help the work going on, as servants wait for a master.
  • One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.
  • Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.
  • The word education must not be understood in the sense of teaching but of assisting the psychological development of the child.
  • We especially need imagination in science. It is not all mathematics, nor all logic, but it is somewhat beauty and poetry.
  • Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.

Timeline of Dr. Montessori and Mrs. Justus

Dr. Montessori's work has impacted millions of children around the world. Mrs. Justus' commitment to the Montessori Method had a huge impact on education in Washington state, as well as helping private schools and Montessorians work and share with each other. We created the timeline below to help people understand the events that shaped the Montessori Method, and where Mrs. Justus fit into the picture.

Click the image (below) to see the full timeline.
Dr. Montessori's timeline is to the left of the vertical line.
Mrs. Justus timeline is to the right.