Dr. Martha Urioste Educator Peacemaker Visionary
During her time as a Denver Public Schools Montessori Principal at Mitchell and Denison Montessori Citywide Magnet School, Martha Urioste broadcast the power of her inspiration for Maria Montessori and Mahatma Gandhi to bring an Education of Peace to Denver children. “I marveled at how our Montessori teachers were able to help children to learn to be peaceful with one another and how that impacted how they learned for the nine years they were at Mitchell and Denison Montessori Citywide Magnet School,” remembers Urioste. She led her tenure with the epitaph from Montessori’s grave, which reads, “I beg the dear, all-powerful children to join me in creating peace in man and the world.”
While at Mitchell Montessori, Urioste worked with parents to launch the Pennies for Peace Project, utilizing an old telephone booth in the main hallway. They converted it into a see-through glass vault with a small round hole in which children could place their pennies and watch them collect over time. Over nine years, $5,000 was collected by the youth and Montessori community. “What was most enduring,” recalls Urioste, “was how the children embraced and loved the project and how proud they were to help deposit $5,000 into a special bank for children.” The students opened an account at the Young Americans Bank in Cherry Creek, founded by Bill Daniels in 1987 to help teach young people financial education.
In the following years, the teachers guided the children to decide where to donate the Pennies for Peace. Ultimately, they chose to help needy children and parents in Pakistan and El Salvador. The Pakistan project was extremely important to the Colorado students who learned that Pakistani children were called the “garbage children.” They collected discards for their parents to hopefully sell whatever had some small value. Donations were used to build ten rooms for the children in Pakistan. In El Salvador, financial aid went to families that were impacted by a devastating earthquake.
A humble Urioste expresses, “Having been a Denver Public School educator with many assignments and experiences for 45 years, my greatest joy and happiness was to know that I had the honor and privilege to be with Montessorians, parents, and children as well as the entire community launching Education and Peace as Dr. Maria’s most important vision and mission in the world.”