In Memoriam: Aline Wolf

In Memoriam Aline Wolf - Aline Wolf in a Classroom

Aline, on the far right, in the first year of classes at Penn-Mont Academy.

Aline Wolf, acclaimed author, co-founder of Penn-Mont Academy, and pioneer in the field of Montessori, passed away peacefully on Sunday, February 4, 2024 in Fort Myers, Florida with her loving family by her side. Aline leaves behind her devoted husband Jerry, nine children, 17 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren, and her sister.

Aline was a writer, lecturer, trainer, and innovator, whose inspirational work in the field of Montessori education began 65 years ago.

In Memoriam Aline Wolf - Aline Wolf and Granddaughter
Aline with granddaughter shucking corn.

Family Life and Early Experiences with Montessori

Aline was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on August 23, 1928, the first daughter of Anne (McNally) and Patrick L. Donahoe. She received her bachelor’s degree in education from Marywood College, and she married Jerry Wolf in 1950.

As their three oldest children advanced through elementary education, Aline and Jerry became increasingly frustrated by the limitations of traditional teaching methods. During an interview with Irene Baker from Montessori Services, Aline later said, “I kept thinking there must be something better, but I had no idea what it was. Then in 1959, a friend of ours sent me a newspaper clipping about Whitby, a Montessori school in Connecticut.”

Aline was excited and inspired by what she read in that clipping. It described Nancy McCormick Rambusch’s school. Aline read as much as she could find about Montessori education, including in Jubilee magazine. After many unsuccessful attempts to write Nancy, Aline and Jerry decided to travel to Connecticut and meet her in person.

This was the beginning of a fruitful relationship. After that initial encounter and in response to an invitation from Aline and Jerry, Nancy traveled to Altoona to speak to parents about Montessori education. By the end of her talk, 25 local parents were eager to send their children to a Montessori school. Nancy helped Aline find a teacher, and the rest is history! In 1961, with Nancy’s help—and with the preschool held in their living room and the elementary class in the sunroom—Aline and Jerry founded Wolf Academy, which later became Penn-Mont Academy.

After just a year later, parents were so enthusiastic about the school that Aline and Jerry formed a non-profit organization. They repaired an old church to serve as their new school site. Through the hard work and dedication of Aline and the rest of the staff, Wolf Academy later became the first Montessori school in Pennsylvania and the third in the nation to be licensed.

Her Work Outside of the Classroom: Lecturer and Author

Eager to provide professional development opportunities for the school staff, Aline reached out to Margaret Homfray and Phoebe Child, the co-principals of St. Nicholas School in London, who had been trained by Maria Montessori, to inquire about their program. Aline invited them to Altoona to offer the second portion of their course. Homfray and Child agreed, making the trip to Altoona each year for the next four years, offering training to Aline and other Montessori leaders in the U.S. During their fourth visit, they asked Aline if she’d like to give a lecture about one of the sensorial materials, and her career as a sought-after lecturer began.

Aline spoke about Montessori education across the country and abroad. She later remarked that she enjoyed every day of traveling and lecturing around the world, sharing, “It showed me the universality of Montessori’s work with children.”

Aline was also the founder of Parent Child Press and an acclaimed author who wrote 27 books addressing parenting and teaching peace, spirituality, art appreciation, and reading practices. These works include the classic A Parent’s Guide to the Montessori Classroom, a description of a Montessori classroom with photos of children using each of the materials. In the interview with Irene Baker, Aline fondly recalled taking 3,000 copies of the book to the AMS conference on Mackinac Island—where there were only two exhibitors who had all of their items displayed on small card tables—and being amazed at how quickly they sold out!

In Memoriam Aline Wolf - Aline Wolf and Family at Living Legacy AwardIn Memoriam Aline Wolf - Aline Wolf in Retirement

Left: Aline (middle) on the evening of the Living Legacy award with her husband Jerry and her four daughters. Right: Aline in retirement.

The Global AMS Community & Her Legacy

Throughout her career, Aline was a key and invaluable member of the AMS community.

“Over the years, my siblings and I accompanied Mom to AMS conferences. In the early days we helped to sell her books,” shared daughter Catherine Maresca. “As she approached retirement, I observed her deep affection for the Montessori women who befriended and inspired her since the 1960s, her willingness to mentor and support newer teachers, and her delight in members from all over the world. Her AMS colleagues were a treasure in her life.”

In 2006, AMS was pleased to bestow the Living Legacy Award to Aline for her lifetime of dedication and service to AMS and the Montessori movement, and the work of Aline Wolf continues to have a profound and lasting impact today.

“Aline understood that Montessori philosophy was not only an educational method but a way to live a spiritual life,” stated Michelle Hartye, retired head of school at Penn-Mont Academy. “Her life emulated faith in the potential of every human to create a peaceful world. Her writings and her life will continue to inspire others to work for peace through the teachings of Maria Montessori.”

About the Author

Heather White

Heather White, EdS, is a Montessori coach and consultant, content creator, and educator for adult learners, as well as a moderator and manager for the Montessori at Home (0 – 3 years) Facebook group. Formerly, she was a Montessori teacher, in-home caregiver, Lower Elementary coordinator, and associate head of school. She also has experience as a school psychologist intern. She is AMS-credentialed (Early Childhood, Elementary I) and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist (NCSP). Contact her at

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The opinions expressed in Montessori Life are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of AMS.

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