Montessori founder leaves her mark

Above: Willemien Duyker-de Vries in The Netherlands around the late 1940s. Left: the late Willemien Duyker-de Vries.
Above: Willemien Duyker-de Vries in The Netherlands around the late 1940s. Left: the late Willemien Duyker-de Vries.

A tireless advocate for Montessori education and the rights of the child, the educationalist started a class in her Scarborough home in 1962.

In 1963, she and husband Frank built the first room of what was to become The Montessori School in Kingsley, adding more rooms and levels as numbers grew.

‘Founding the school and shepherding it through the difficult formative years was the most important of Mrs Duyker’s many achievements,’ co-principal Bobbie Beasley said.

In 1993, Kingsley became the first WA school to offer the International Baccalaureate and the first Montessori school in the world to offer the IB diploma.

Born in The Netherlands in 1921, Mrs Duyker attended a Montessori pre-school and, inspired by the teaching method, did Montessori training from 1939 to 1941 with lecturers including founder Maria Montessori and son Mario.

She worked in Montessori schools and opened her own class before immigrating to Australia with husband Frank in 1952.

Visiting Wiluna in 1959, she adopted son Terry and it was his welfare and education that led her to start a Montessori class.

‘From the 1970s, Willemien provided Montessori training through her school both for teachers and interested parents,’ Ms Beasley said.

‘In the 1990s and early 2000s, her focus moved from the school and she provided training in WA, NSW and Queensland.

‘Many schools across Australia have benefitted from her advice and taken courage from her example.’