Topilhua Mexico

We will be featuring short stories on the development of innovative Montessori schools serving diverse communities, to share with you some of the incredible work around the world. This blog shares the story of Sister Maria Tenorio Cancino, who established a foundation in the outskirts of Mexico City to support low-income families and gradually set up a Montessori school.

Centro De Educación Comunitaria Valle De Chalco is a non-profit organisation located in the Valley of Chalco Solidaridad, on the outskirts of Mexico City with the mission to contribute to the formation of free and responsible human beings, capable to construct a better future for themselves and their community and to provide a healthy environment where children can develop to their full potential.

Sister Maria Tenorio Cancino founded the organisation in 2001, with the intention of providing different services to the community, particularly in adult literacy and workshops that were focused on creating better opportunities for people residing in the area. From the beginning, the main priority was the care and education of children in vulnerable situations; the absence of parents due to long work shifts, violent home environments as well as the precarious conditions of the area.

In 2004, after the facilities were expanded to include a school, the government officially recognised the organisation and gave permission to operate as a pre-school. Because of the high number of children dealing with emotional trauma and vulnerabilities at the school, workshops and activities were organised with the intention of helping them regulate their behaviour and adopt more peaceful attitudes. Due to malnutrition detected in a high number of children, nutrition and lunch service projects were also implemented in the same year.

In 2006, it became clear to the teachers that a better method of education was desirable and during the search they came across Montessori education. Due to a great interest in this method, financial support was obtained to acquire the first set of Montessori materials. At the same time, the teachers started to look for a training centre where they could deepen their understanding of Montessori principles and some enrolled in Montessori courses. 

Over the years, the school has been transformed into a Montessori prepared environment serving 30 Casa children and 15 Elementary children. From 2010, the moment which the group considers the renaissance of the institution, Topilhua Montessori officially started to operate. Topilhua comes from the nahuatl to = our and pilli = child, so the meaning of the name is “Our Montessori Children”. The 3-6 environment now functions as a Montessori classroom and the elementary classroom is in the process of transitioning into a Montessori classroom. All efforts focus on providing the best education for the children. 

In addition to the first school, construction of another building in Ixtapaluca has begun, another community in the outskirts of Mexico City, with similar conditions to those in Chalco’s Valley. The plan is to expand the work to also serve children in this area.

Sister Maria holds an AMI Primary diploma and audited the AMI Elementary training course in Mexico City. Maria and her group attend the Montessori Mexico congress every year and work closely with AMI trainers in order to provide the children the education they deserve and to help them become agents of change in their community.