March is Women’s History Month! Even though Continuing Education is a co-educational department, Trinity was founded as a women’s college and the College of Arts and Sciences is still a women only program. Because of Trinity’s rich history in empowering women, Women’s History Month is an important celebration at our university.
Throughout the ages, women have taught many of the world’s brightest people. Women have been in the forefront of education making a significant impact in math, art, human rights, science, medicine, politics, business, religion, philosophy, writing and environmental issues. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2010, women made up 82% of all Elementary and Middle school teachers. Odds are that a child has had a female teacher that has greatly influenced his or her life.
I was fortunate to attend a Catholic school as a child. That upbringing led me fittingly to a historically inspirational women in education, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. She founded the first free Catholic school for women in the United States and is the first American born Catholic saint. I was not surprised when I went to the website for the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton that there was a Teacher Resources page.
Two other monumentally influential women in education are Anne Sullivan and Maria Montessori. Anne Sullivan is best known as the teacher who was able to break through Helen Keller’s learning barriers due to her deaf-blindness. Eternally grateful to her educator, Keller attributed, “The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me.” Though Sullivan mostly employed a method of teaching to deaf-blind students that she did not create, it was Sullivan’s behavior management skills, persistence and innovation that allowed her to be successful.
Similarly, Maria Montessori was an Italian educator whose prominent method of teaching has spread throughout the world. Her theories on learning the interests of a child and teaching independence in that child rather than merely teaching a subject are fascinating. You can learn more about the creation of the first Montessori schools and how far they have spanned the globe from the American Montessori Society.
In my research about these pioneers in education, I uncovered a website for the National Women’s History Museum. The museum currently exists in an online format at this point but is a great resource for learning about women in any field. They have an impressive list of women educators, most of whom I was unfamiliar with but made outstanding contribution. This list of women educators is a must read not just for all women, but also for all educators.
This Women’s History Month, I hope you are inspired by the women who have greatly influenced education in the United States and abroad. Remember that what you do as teachers may help a child grow up to be the modern day Elizabeth Seton, Anne Sullivan, or Maria Montessori. Explore a professional development course to learn a new strategy that you can bring to your classroom that was first implemented by an important educator. Talk about Women’s history month in your classrooms, and not just your history classes! Most importantly, take the time to thank the women who have impacted your life.