Marline Andersson: Uniting Hearts and Minds | Teachers College Columbia University

Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Marline Andersson: Uniting Hearts and Minds

Marline Andersson: Uniting Hearts and Minds
By Siddhartha Mitter

Ask Marline Andersson about her long education career and prepare for a whirlwind tour of the globe.

There was the decade in Japan, for instance, when Andersson founded and ran six English language schools for children and adults, as well as a Montessori primary school, all on the rural island of Shikoku.

There was the year in Tianjin, China, she spent incorporating Montessori methodology into a Primary Years Program framework. And before that, there was Andersson’s 14-year stint in New York City, first as a teacher and then as a staff member at the United Nations.

The thread that links it all? “I am a diehard Montessorian,” Andersson says. Her mother was a Montessorian, too, and Marline, who grew up in Sri Lanka, spent her primary years in a Montessori school run by Joyce Gunasekera, one of Maria Montessori’s early students. She got her Montessori credentials at the Training Center in Sri-Lanka, where she studied under two lecturers who had also been taught by the master.

“I believe in what Pestalozzi said, that the hands, heart and mind go together,” she says,citing the renowned Swiss educator who influenced Montessori.

The nomadic Andersson -- who makes her home in a village in southern Sweden, where she has worked as an English teacher and education consultant -- has come to TC’s Klingenstein Center to earn an Ed.M. in Organization and Leadership, with a focus on Private School Leadership.  Through courses in law and education, privatization, choice in education, program leadership and other topics, Andersson wants to sharpen her skills for possible leadership roles in the United States and around the globe.

“It isn’t easy being back in school!” she says with a smile. “The law course was really hard in the beginning. We’re supposed to write briefs, and I had absolutely no idea how to write a brief! But now I’m getting into it. It’s very interesting how legal cases have shaped the American education system.”

It’s no surprise that this warm, unassuming woman who is fluent in English, Sinhalese, Japanese and Swedish has a vision of education that surmounts national boundaries, aided in part by technology.

“I am all for globalization,” she says. “Students need to find out what is happening in other parts of the world.” 

For her field project at TC, Andersson will be training non-Montessori teachers in Montessori methodology and material usage within a traditional education framework. Now that she is a student again, she is also applying some of the method’s principles to her own experience.

 “You need to live and use your knowledge in the here and now. I am getting myself wholly into this program, taking in everything like a sponge that’s dipped in water.”

Published Friday, Oct. 7, 2011