FORT WORTH -- In 1968, LaVerne Davis stumbled into a meeting of Montessori educators.
The Fort Worth schoolteacher was in San Antonio for a conference and soon became transfixed by the Montessori method, which stresses independence and respect for a child's natural development.
Ms. Davis and her friend and fellow educator, Joy Sheffield, decided to open a Montessori school in Fort Worth.
"She fell in love with the idea that children would actively learn at their own pace," said Amy Henderson, the head of Montessori Children's House. "The richness of the curriculum appealed to her."
Ms. Davis, a longtime elementary school teacher and local pioneer of Montessori education, died of cancer Friday. She was 90.
Born March 31, 1921, Iva LaVerne Davis grew up on a farm near Sherman and spent days riding horses and doing farm chores. She moved to Fort Worth as a young woman and took a job teaching fifth grade at South Fort Worth Elementary School (now Richard J. Wilson Elementary), where she taught in the same classroom for 36 years.
"Administrators were always trying to get LaVerne to become a principal, and she always said no," Sheffield said.
Ms. Davis became active in the Texas State Teachers Association and was elected president of the association's local district, working for years to improve pay, benefits and other conditions for teachers. She was a charter member and the first president of the local chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma, which advocated for female teachers.
During summer vacations, Ms. Davis traveled with Sheffield to Europe, New Zealand, Alaska and many other places.
In 1968, after learning of the Montessori method, Ms. Davis and Sheffield opened Montessori Children's House, the first of its kind in Fort Worth. The school, which is kindergarten through sixth grade, grew from 11 students the first year to the current 135. Ms. Davis continued to teach at South Fort Worth Elementary until the 1980s, when she retired and worked full time at the Montessori school.
Friends recalled that Ms. Davis never lost a love of learning. "She was 90 and had a Facebook page," Henderson said. "She was not afraid to learn something new."
Sarah Bahari, 817-390-7056