COLLABORATIONS Vol.1– April 2020

Page 1

APRIL 2020

VOL. 1

COLLAB RATIONS A Quarterly Newsletter from Montessori Schools and Centres Australia

Introducing MSCA Montessori Schools and Centres Australia (MSCA) is a new national representative body to support you, the Montessori Community of Australia. It is the result of collaboration with the community who has asked for a direct say and control over its representative body. Through dedicated action over the past six months, a delegation of Montessori leaders have established a national representative body that is not-for-profit, truly membership based and owned by you — the Montessori community.

A note on COVID-19 We had hoped to get this first issue out to you sooner, but as school and centre leaders ourselves we have also been managing the impact of the pandemic. We have been sharing resources with our members in our Facebook group during this time and will be bringing more resources to you and updating our online platforms over the coming weeks. Also of note is that some of the articles included in this issue were written prior to the global impact of the novel coronavirus. We have attempted to include a range of content that is relevant to the Montessori community in general, while also covering the effect this is having on our Australian and international members. Please get in touch with us if you would like to share your story in our next issue!







From the MSCA Board Chair Welcome to our first newsletter! We are so pleased that after many months of hard work behind the scenes our new representative body, Montessori Schools and Centres Australia, is ‘up and running’! It has been wonderful to work with the other inaugural MSCA Board members who have shown passion and determination to establish a not for profit, membership based, national representative body that is owned by our community. It is energising to work with like-minded individuals who appreciate and embody our core values of respect, integrity, transparency, accountability, consultation and collaboration, and who are dedicated to reflecting these values in all that we do and undertake. I would like to publicly thank each of the Board members for their commitment and generously giving their time along with a few other individuals and critical friends who have supported our work thus far.


MSCA intends to be a small, agile organisation and our aim is to keep overheads and administration to a minimum. We are thrilled to have now employed an administrative assistant, Alice Champion, following an open and transparent recruitment process. Thank you to those schools and centres who were able to assist our process by advertising the position amongst your communities. Alice will now be taking over the MSCA administrative work and we sincerely thank Paul Maginnity who has been acting in this role since late last year. Our mission is to connect, unite and serve the Montessori community. In our first year of operations, we intend to focus on the ‘core business’ of strengthening the community by providing opportunities for connection and support. We are super excited about 2020 and the variety of events we have planned.


It is MSCA’s commitment to provide affordable professional development opportunities to build connections, collaborations and networks utilising the expertise amongst the Australian Montessori community. We want to facilitate opportunities for Montessori educators and professionals to come together to share ideals, ideas and practice. We believe that we have much to learn from and much support and inspiration to offer each other. It is greatly disappointing for us that we had to postpone our first Directors Forum due to the Coronavirus. Our ultimate concern is for the health, safety and welfare of our Montessori community. This situation is unprecedented, however we will be monitoring and following the advice of the government and health officials in regard to our future events. In the meantime, we are now investigating web-based platforms to host these online. I encourage you and your staff to take part in these events to share practices and make connections with other Montessori educators and professionals. Further details about this will be provided. Thank you to the schools and centres who have joined MSCA already, we hope to see many more schools and centres join in the future to enjoy the member discount for our upcoming events. I wish you, your staff and communities a happy and successful 2020. Kind regards,

Cathy France MSCA Board Chair



The Team The interim board members of MSCA are:

Cathy France Chair

Bill Conway Director

Cathy has worked at The Hills Montessori School in the Adelaide Hills since 1994. Prior to working in Montessori education Cathy worked in city and country/public and independent schools in South Australia and also spent four years teaching in London UK. Cathy worked in the Cycle 3 classroom at The Hills Montessori School for 10 years and for seven of those years was also Assistant Principal. In 2004 Cathy became Principal and during her time as Principal has established an Infant Program and an Adolescent program located at a second campus.

Bill Conway has been Principal of Montessori East since 2007. He has worked internationally as a teacher, principal and guidance counsellor before joining Montessori East. Bill is an international administrator trainer for AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) and assisted in the development of the course curriculum. He is currently the chair of the Programme Planning Committee overseeing the next AMI congress in Bangkok, Thailand. Bill has four adult children and two granddaughters.

Gay Wales Deputy Chair

David Anderson Director

Yan is the Founder and Managing Director of Headland Montessori Group, a company that develops and operates Montessori early childhood education services in Australia. Yan is passionate about growing the presence of authentic Montessori education in Australia and abroad.

Yan Wu

Vanessa Aikins



Gay has been the Principal of Melbourne Montessori School for the last 8 years. During this time she has led the school through several achievements; adding the senior school, gaining IB Authorisation, and receiving one of only seven Innovative Schools Awards for Victorian Schools in 2019. Previously, Gay spent 12 years at Christ Church Grammar School, transforming the curriculum into inquiry-based, concept learning. With an additional 13 years of prior experience in the business world, Gay has the ability to work strategically and bring real-world learning to each child.

David has been the Business Manager at Southern Montessori for the past 8 years. Prior to this role he was a Partner at National Australia Bank for 25 years. He brings with him experience in financial forecasting and Commercial Lending. David is a member of ASBA and is an Associate with the Institute of Public Accountants, since 16th Feb 1998. Family life is very important to David. He and his wife have 7 children and 8 grandchildren between them! Outside of family gatherings, David enjoys travel and motor sport.

Vanessa has been the Principal of Rockingham Montessori School for 10 years, spearheading their expansion to encompass a Montessori high school. In 2013 she travelled to the Hershey Montessori School in Ohio USA and took part in the AMI Orientation to Adolescent Studies program. Vanessa is committed to school leadership, social inclusion and collaboration across the Montessori community.

The interim board are caretakers that have been involved in the setup of MSCA and the constitution requires this board to retire to enable a full board election in 2020. If you are interested in serving on the board of directors of MSCA, please email COLLABORATIONS: VOL 1


About MSCA The object of MSCA is to pursue the following charitable purposes: To advance education by promoting the pedagogical principles and practice formulated by Dr Maria Montessori for the full development of the human being; To assist, strengthen, represent and promote the interests of its members in any way whatsoever; To support and encourage Montessori education in Australia; To foster, promote and sustain a climate in which Montessori education becomes or remains pre-eminent in early childhood, primary and secondary education; To support and encourage the establishment and sustainability of bodies delivering Montessori education and programs to ensure more children have access to Montessori education in Australia; To represent in a professional manner the collective interests of members to Government at all levels, other regulatory bodies, other relevant peak bodies, media, and the general public; To do all such other lawful things as are incidental or conducive to the attainment of any of the above purposes.

Mission To advance education by promoting the pedagogical principles and practice formulated by Dr Maria Montessori for the full development of the human being.

Vision To unite & serve the Montessori community in its endeavor to educate for peace.

Values Respect & Caring Trust, Integrity & Patience Transparency & Accountability Collaboration & Consultation Inclusive & Openness

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING Wednesday 17 June at 7pm AEST A link to the online meeting will be emailed to members.



Coronavirus: Tales From Bali By Jan Gaffney, Principal Montessori School Bali It has been slightly over two months since the news of a new disease emerged from China, and just under since the lock down. Since then, we have been 'planning for the worst, while hoping for the best'. We get many visitors from China here in Bali, especially from Wuhan, so we knew it would just be a matter of time of time until it started to show.


The first thing we did was upgrade our pandemic protocols to be specific to COVID-19. We shared this with staff first and then parents. Valentine's Day was marked by the beginning of temperature taking of everyone entering the school. It took a few days to get the system for that sorted, but everyone was patient with us while we sorted out the hiccups. At the beginning of March, when the virus was confirmed in Indonesia, we limited all personel on the grounds to families and staff only. Anyone else was by appointment and had limited access. That was a very interesting process, but again, parents were very supportive.



While there were no ‘official’ cases in Bali, the international schools here decided that couldn’t be relied on and we needed to be proactive. We all made plans on how we would close. We sent out an email to parents on the previous Friday outlining our plans for moving to online learning and the expected schedule for the following couple of weeks. While we had plans in place to transition, in the end a directive from the government closed the school over the weekend, so we brought things forward slightly. The teachers were in on Monday making packs, setting up the technology and having trial runs. Then, Tuesday morning, with baited breaths, teachers sent out work packs and the great experiment began.


Some teachers hadn’t mastered the technology yet so didn’t use Google Meet straight away, instead using email to send work home. A few days in, teachers and students were starting to get the hang of things. Some classes started off with a gathering where everyone got together on Google Meet to greet each other and take attendance. Parents were told that the campus was closed, but school was not, so attendance would be taken and counted for reports.


Work has been going home at the end of each night so that it's ready for the next day. Teachers are adapting quickly to what works. When we initially started talking about what we would do two weeks ago, some teachers thought they would send home worksheets, however the time in between and discussions with peers let them see that they needed to be more creative and Montessori in this time and not resort to ‘old school’ techniques. They have been sending home wonderful digital packs full of work choices that will be sure to keep the children interested and engaged. Depending on age and ability, there is a good balance between pen and paper work and active work that involves them being up and doing. Individual group conferences and goal setting continue as well. Some children have taken longer to adapt than others, and there has been some parental concern about that, but overall, as the days go on the children get used to this new form of learning and they are adapting well. We haven’t really done much as groups (apart from roll taking etc). This week we have concentrated on the work flow – sending work home, engaging with the children through the day (and parents at need), receiving feedback, adapting, and moving on.


We sent home books for the primary and adolescent students to have on hand weeks ago. They were carefully selected to be what was needed – a journal, a book for maths, one for writing etc. Not much, but we wanted something there in case of sudden closure and lock down.


On the following Monday we sent home tote bags with other things in them that would cater to the active part of the curriculum. They contained things such as an embroidery needle, felt, fabric and thread (pre-schoolers got buttons as well), an old cigar box (we had heaps lying around), that could be used for dioramas, sewing needles, stuffing, the leaf shape chart, toothpicks and plasticine, food colouring for science experiments, card stock that could be cut up and used as a stamp game, rulers, pencils, protractors, erasers etc. We didn’t want to assume that people would have things, so sent what we thought would be useful. Parents reported that opening the bags was like Christmas for the children. Some things have been used already, but some will be saved for next term, as the opportunity for more physical things might be limited after the holidays.


So far, so good, feedback has been enormously positive. We have pictures from parents saying their child has set their space up and is giving a younger sibling lessons, we have pics of students working, and we have connected with them ourselves to see what is happening. We shut ‘school’ early on Friday March 20th so we could connect as teachers and debrief about the successes and areas for learning; without doubt, this will continue into next term, and the support and sharing with each other is going to be what keeps us going.


Farewell Dianne Davis BY ALICE CHAMPION

After around 40 years, and two previous attempts, Dianne Davis is finally retiring – for good this time. I was fortunate to speak to Dianne about her life and career as a Montessori teacher, principal, and mentor. Dianne became involved with Montessori education after a day of emergency teaching at a Montessori school. She was so inspired that she applied for a job as a Cycle Three teacher and undertook her Montessori training while working full time. After a few years of teaching, she became the principal at Plenty Valley Montessori School and held that position for just over 10 years before retiring for the first time. "I was going to be an early retiree and had around two to three months before the Melbourne Montessori School (MMS) board got in touch with me to say they had a crisis at their school and asked if I could go and help" Dianne said. Her time at MMS was primarily about "rebuilding trust and inspiring teachers to just be passionate about what they did". After three years, Gay Wales was appointed as the principal of MMS and Dianne entered retirement once again. A couple of months later and she was contacted by Gisborne Montessori School, which was at risk of being closed due to low student numbers. Given her prior leadership experience and a "committed board who did extraordinary things", over the past five years Dianne and her team have built the school up from 34 children to over one hundred. "I’ve now officially retired and do not intend to go back! I’ve tried three times to retire now, and this is it!" she said. "Is it?" I asked. "Hopefully we won't be having another conversation in a few years' time and you can just enjoy this retirement now!" Laughing, Dianne responded, "No I’m closer to 70 than 60 now, it’s time to stop!" When asked about her mentors, Dianne said "Pennie Puckey was inspiring to me as a Montessori educator. She was the principal I took over from at Plenty Valley and she just lived and breathed the philosophy. She inspired those of us who worked with her to embody it in all of our interactions with one another, our families, and in the way we lived our lives. She was just someone that totally inspired me". As a mentor herself, Dianne continues to teach future Montessori educators at the Montessori Institute, saying, "I’ve had such a wonderfully rich, rewarding career myself and I so passionately believe that Montessori education is the right way to work with children. I wanted to be able to share that and inspire others to do what Pennie did with me."


In retirement, Dianne is planning to travel around Australia with her husband in their new caravan, as well as spend more time with her four grandchildren and little puppy.

What sort of professional development experiences have been the most valuable to you? In terms of Montessori development, the national conference every year has been something that's always been really worth attending because you're meeting with colleagues. But the biggest thing professionally has been the group of principals set up by a lovely and inspiring Montessorian, Cathy France. She is the principal of The Hills Montessori School in South Australia and she set up this group where we got together every year and shared ideas, learning actively from one another. It’s a very valuable group. One of the things that's had a big impact on me and on the whole team that I led at Gisborne has been the Berry Street Education Model. It's a trauma informed education model, but it actually applies to all children. It's been something that we've picked the eyes out of, using lots of the tools that we've learned through the training, because it's very compatible with how a Montessori philosophy works.

Is there anything in particular that you are most proud of? I think one of the things I feel most proud of is that I've really enjoyed that process of bringing schools that have been quite sick, back to health. It's been a very rewarding process. So that's probably the thing I've enjoyed about that whole journey really, because each of the three schools I've led have grown and at least doubled in size. And it's that sense of being able to bring something back to life and then leave it in the hands of somebody else to continue the work in their way – that has been really rewarding. RECOLLECTIONS FROM HALI HALPHIN: From the first moment I met Dianne as a parent, her friendly, caring manner shone through. Then, as a student at MWEI, Dianne shared her knowledge with humour, passion and humility. More recently as an understudy presenter with Dianne, I have so appreciated her generosity, patience and energy. She is a true Montessori Matriarch! Dianne tried several times to retire and explore her many other passions and share time with her family, however when she was approached by Montessori communities in need, she was willing to delay this transition, taking on leadership roles in schools. These displays of selflessness and passion for Montessori and its community, are both inspiring and generous. Here’s hoping she can now enjoy every minute of her well-earned (and long overdue) ‘retirement’!!



Is that something that you've really noticed changing over the decades? More social support and counselling? Oh hugely. When I was teaching in primary school and in Plenty Valley as a Cycle Three teacher, parents would drop their kids at the door, you'd do your job and the kids would just have a normal day and they'd go home and there was very little that you did. I'm talking 30 years ago, but there was very little you had to do with mental wellbeing – kids played, they got into scuffs and cross with one another, you sorted it out over a quick chat and off they went again. But it's much deeper now, the issues are much deeper for them. And parents totally trusted schools and respected teachers. Whereas some of my young teachers over the past few years have Dianne Davis was recognised with a National Award for Leadership at the National Teaching Awards in 2011. had to put up with all sorts of abusive behaviour from parents who think they know how to What is one of the greatest challenges facing students today? teach and what should be going on, but they've got no idea. So now that whole sphere has changed dramatically I think their mental health. It really bothers me that too. there's not enough of the wholesome, get out into the What wisdom can you pass on to help young teachers environment, taking notice of your own body, doing lots of and leaders to manage all of those things? normal everyday things for kids because life has become too frenetic. I think where Montessori education can be a I think for me, Maria Montessori talked about the child huge contributor is in that holistic view of the child that's at the centre and if in every decision you make you have not only focused on their academia but making sure that the child at the centre, you can't go wrong. Because if they're mentally well and supported in that whole sphere we're totally connected to asking ourselves, "Is this of their being. And it's a big challenge for young mums in going to be good for the child?", it will be a good particular too. A lot of young mums I see these days are decision. But if we're taking into account all sorts of grappling with how to be a good mum because there's a other influences at the expense of the child, then I think million apps and a million opinions and a million articles we've lost the plot. and blogs saying how to be a good mum, but they've almost forgotten to trust their gut and just be with their RECOLLECTIONS FROM SARAH JANE WATSON: kids.

And what about the greatest challenge facing teachers or other school leaders? Well, I think it's the same sort of thing – the mental health of the children that they're working with and for leaders, the mental health of their staff. Because society has put lots of pressures on teachers and the government continues to pile on the accountability factors, which is more paperwork, more accountable planning, more everything. I take a lot of effort with staff I work with making sure that they as people are okay. And I think that's probably going to be an ongoing challenge for future leaders; making sure that they're looking after the mental wellbeing of their teams as well as keeping them skilled in the pedagogy they work in. And there is a lot more expectation on teachers to be a counsellor for families. In fact, teachers are trained to teach not to be counsellors, but they're thrown into that role. So I think for leaders and for teachers, that whole mental health sphere is going to be a big factor in the future.


I first met Dianne over twelve years ago when she came to Melbourne Montessori School to take on the difficult role of caretaker Principal. During this time, we worked in a collaborative, professional and very Montessori way. Dianne is a unique Montessori professional. It requires a special individual to be able to tread between all the mainstream rules and regulatory protocols whilst at the same time threading the Montessori principles and practices together within a school. Whilst undertaking this role Dianne also continued to lecture with MWEI, run a family and be a foster mother. Dianne has spent an enormous part of her precious life giving to the greater Montessori community both within Melbourne and Australia. She has been tireless in her commitment to assisting several schools in Victoria administratively. Additionally, she always made the time to give herself to the students who surrounded her; the colleagues and teachers who required mentoring and guidance in decisions about their career paths. Dianne has worked determinedly for many decades and I feel that now is the right time to begin the next important journey she needs to tread. It has been my pleasure over many years to work with Dianne and I will miss her constant

cheerfulness and smile.


COMMUNITY NEWS Innovative Schools Award: Melbourne Montessori School We were very thrilled at Melbourne Montessori to be recognised as one of the Innovative Schools in Australia for 2019 – one of only seven schools in Victoria and 44 nationally. It was an amazing award for our senior school team to be selected in such a short time. The MMS Senior School was seen as one of the schools "on the cutting edge of change and innovation and making a significant effort to break new ground in teaching and learning", The Educator said. "The inspirational programs and initiatives showcased prove that quality teaching is alive and well in Australian schools," the report continued. Since commencing in 2015, Melbourne Montessori Senior School has placed a strong focus on building students’ identity which ensures they are guided to become the best version of themselves they can possibly be. Following the principles of Dr Maria Montessori, Melbourne Montessori Senior School offers Victoria’s first independent Montessori secondary education program. It is specifically structured to challenge young minds, engage them in hands-on experiences and provide opportunities to learn independence, contribute to community ventures and start running their own businesses. Such a great team here!

Introducing MSCA's New Administrative Assistant

Alice has been passionately involved in Montessori education as a parent for the past seven years. She holds an AMI Montessori Assistants Certificate (6-12) and has previously volunteered to assist with the development and creation of a Montessori classroom in the public sector. In addition to a part-time PhD in Sociology, Alice is a mother to three children – a seven year old daughter and 4.5 year old twins.


Welcome! MSCA would like to welcome these Principals to their new schools:

Peter Maclean, Sydney Montessori School Frayal Wahid, Gisborne Montessori School Heather McInnerney, Southern Montessori School

Margaret Pointon, Perth Individual Des Reuben, The Montessori School, Kingsley WA

Head to Head Forum, 2019 Head to Head, the National Montessori Principals’ forum, was held for an unprecedented second time across two days in September at Melbourne Montessori School. Following the meeting in May at The Hills Montessori School in Adelaide, this meeting was called as a result of the collapse of MAF in June, and the commitment by Principal representatives of nearly all the states to deliver to all Montessori schools and centres the requirements resolved at the forum in May. Twenty-five principals and some deputies came from across the country to discuss the very real and practical next steps for us all. Presentations were made which outlined where we were up to and what had happened with the final board of MAF, with further presentations summarising the work which had been done to create a new representative body. This new representative body was specifically designed to be the voice of schools and centres through a democratic system, delivering the essential requirements agreed upon once again by the principals. Discussion was held around many aspects of how best to support the delivery of excellent Montessori education throughout Australia: the work of the Montessori Principals’ Alliance Australasia; the work of a representative body going forward; its potential Vision and Values, membership model, MQAP, Curriculum and the draft Constitution. Different training options were presented by representatives of the Montessori Institute (formerly MWEI), SMTC in Sydney who deliver AMI, and a Skype interview was held with Higher Ground from the USA. A timeline which detailed the next steps for MSCA (Montessori Schools and Centres Australia) was developed by all the principals which included select events to unfurl in 2020. It was an incredibly significant, challenging, ultimately rewarding, two days, which created a real sense of unity amongst the principals who want to support all staff and children in our schools and child care centres, ensuring everyone has a voice, and that the needs of each school and centre are met in an affordable way.


COMMUNITY NEWS Picnic in the Park The twelve Montessori schools in Western Australia have worked tirelessly to establish collaborative events for our students and staff to be involved in. We recognised that our students who attend Montessori programs do not get to see other students involved in Montessori often and as such can feel isolated. After a four year break, Rockingham Montessori School were delighted to host the return of the Western Australian Montessori Picnic in the Park which was held on the Perth city foreshore at Langley Park on 29 October 2019. The Picnic in the Park saw the recommencement of this interschool event where students were able to meet new friends and have a day of fun whilst being fit and healthy with a variety of non-competitive sporting events. The schools that attended this year were Chrysalis Montessori School, Perth Individual School, The Montessori School, Casa Mia Montessori School, Riverlands Montessori School and Rockingham Montessori School. With all the positive feedback from the various schools we look forward to this event once again becoming an annual date on the calendar.

Senior Formal

On Friday 13th September, the four Western Australian Adolescent Programs that have the senior school component, attended the Senior Formal that was hosted by The Montessori School. Western Australia has five Montessori Adolescent Programs and the four schools who offer Senior School; Perth Individual, Treetops Montessori, Rockingham Montessori and The Montessori School all took part in last year’s event. The Senior Formal has now occurred for the past four years and is gradually growing in size along with our Adolescent Programs. Each of the schools have taken part in hosting the event and the students really look forward to this occasion where they are able to plan and celebrate the graduation of senior students. These annual events are certainly helping to bring together the Western Australian Montessori community and are spreading the word about Montessori to a wider group of people. By working collaboratively together the Western Australian schools are strengthening the Montessori brand and reputation. We look forward to being able to continue to support each other to increase the amount of Montessori programs and placements we can offer to children in our state.

EVENT: MEETING IN THE MIDDLE 2020 Kia Ora. We are very excited at Wa Ora Montessori School to be hosting Meeting in the Middle this year. Please come and join us from Thursday 24th September to Sunday 27th September 2020. The theme we will be exploring this year is pedagogy of cultural place and 'culturally responsive teaching'. Perhaps you have an idea for a workshop that fits with this theme? We would love to hear from you – please contact Zena and Jason in our organising team: or And don’t forget the video, we will be showing short 5 minute clips throughout the weekend showcasing your school – the good, the bad and the very funny!! This event will be a great opportunity to visit our wonderful country, catch up with friends old and new, refresh ourselves in the Montessori philosophy and gather new ideas and practices to take home. Further information will be sent over the coming months. Ava Szabo, Principal Wa Ora Montessori School



Student Exchange Pyper is a fifteen year old student at Rockingham Montessori School. Pyper has been at RMS since she was three years old and following discussions in 2018 with Vanessa the Principal, a worldwide search for suitable Montessori schools commenced. Vanessa completed her Montessori Orientation training at Hershey Montessori in Ohio with Oystein and Elisa who both work in different Montessori schools in Oslo, which provided an exciting possibility for Pyper to take part in an exchange in Norway. Here, Pyper shares her experience:

I really enjoyed my trip to Norway and it gave me new experiences like being the new kid and helped me build my resilience.While I was in Oslo, I enjoyed walking around the streets and learning about the history and culture of the area. It was also interesting to see how people behaved in public, because here we smile and say hello to strangers we pass, while everyone in Norway keeps more to themselves (they also drive on the right side of the road which I kept on forgetting).I also gained more independence because I was traveling by myself (though I had an airhostess to help me change planes in Dubai) and I had to look after myself a lot. My host family made me feel welcome and took me on trips during the weekends, one of my favourites was going up to a bear park in the mountains because I liked the scenery. I didn’t realise that the wolves that I thought were the size of the cute foxes or at least a dog,

were actually so big I could see it clearly on top of a far away hill. I also really appreciated having my own space in their house (I was in the basement, they had two!) because it gave me time by myself after being surrounded by people everyday. Oslo Montessori (Øystein’s school) was an old hotel that I could look down on the city and sea from one side, and look up at the ski jump on the other side. I also got to see the sunrise over the city most mornings at school. I also went to school with the prince whose grandparents are the king and queen and live in the royal palace. Most mornings I helped make lunch with two other students for the Adolescent Program community. I went to Elisa’s school for a week because I wanted to experience the difference between them even though they are both Montessori schools. I found it much better and the students, even though they were a bit younger than me, talked to me and included me. Elisa’s Year 8 students were a new class and they had a new classroom that they got to design themselves with the teachers incorporating it into their teaching. Kind regards, Pyper



Although we had to cancel our Director to Directors Forum, we plan to continue with our 2020 events and host these virtually where possible. Updated details will be provided. In the meantime, please save these dates and inform relevant members of staff.

We encourage schools and centres to save the dates for our 2020 events and place them in their 2020 calendars. Please let relevant staff know of these dates. We also encourage schools and centres to make 2020 budget allocations to ensure staff have access to high quality professional development and opportunities to share practices and make connections with other Montessori educators and professionals. Costs given are indicative prices and further details will be provided early in 2020. It is MSCA’s commitment to provide affordable professional development opportunities to build connections, collaborations and networks


utilising the expertise amongst the Australian Montessori community. Our events are known for being collaborative grassroots initiatives, with Montessori educators and professionals coming together to share ideals, ideas and practice. It is built on the belief that we have much to learn from and much support and inspiration to offer each other.



THE EDUCATION INFLUENCER A Montessori school principal is making a difference to communities around the world and the global teaching community wants to join in, writes Kim Cotton.

This article was originally written for the Association of Independent Schools NSW. It has been lightly edited for our audience and republished with permission.

When Montessori school leader Gavin McCormack posted a document to support teachers in the classroom on social media, it was downloaded more than 33,000 times. The popularity of the post showed the Montessori Farmhouse teaching principal was not only hitting a sweet spot for educators from around the world, but it also piqued the interest of social media giant LinkedIn, which went on to name him as one of the Top Voices in Education for 2019. Other educators on the list included Pasi Salberg, Professor of Education Policy at the Gonski Institute for Education at the University of NSW and Nadia Lopez, Principal, New York City Department of Education. “These are the people you should be following to get inspired and stay informed,” wrote George Anders, Senior Editor of LinkedIn. “Think of the list as a reminder that great learning can happen anywhere.” With 40,000+ followers on LinkedIn, the author of a popular blog site, a children’s book publisher and a builder of international schools, Gavin has become a social education influencer. When he shares ideas, educators around the world listen. On scrolling down one of his recent LinkedIn posts on the importance of observation in the classroom it’s clear by the comments that his work resonates among the teaching fraternity. ‘This is brilliant. Very well illustrated,’ says one educator from California. ‘Such a powerful image,” says a Head of Science teacher at another school. And the comments roll-on, illustrating enthusiasm, provoking discussion, and demonstrating their passion for the art of teaching and its power of positive change.


BECOMING AN INFLUENCER So how do education leaders draw on the examples of a social influencer like Gavin to position themselves to inspire their own school communities or broader? What does it take to galvanise the passion of those around them? Gavin’s completion of the Middle Leaders program at the AIS Leadership Centre in 2017 was one support in his professional growth, the baton of which he is now passing to key staff. “The course was brilliant,” he says. “It was all based around practical real-life scenarios – it was all handson – and I learn by doing. I have just sent one of my teachers to the program. She came back with the same feedback – I love the way we got to do role plays – and I think that’s really crucial.” Since then Gavin has made it his mission to make teachers feel good about what they do, and he empowers them through his own work to become influencers in their sphere. In other words, he simply models what he believes is best practice, and makes it compelling.

“Teachers are powerful, they are the changemakers in the world. The teacher is the person who will sow the seeds and the future will reap the rewards” he says. “The message I wanted to portray online is, ‘I’m going to show you how I make a difference to my students at school and how you can make a difference with yours’ and then they will be the difference to their community. My philosophy is that as the classroom teacher, I had to model for my students what I wanted from them. The same is true for what I do now.”



The Nepalese school program was initially a solo effort but through the power of social media, he has gained support from the global community. “The reason they follow is that they feel empowered by it – because they also think, ‘Maybe I could do a bit more, too’. That’s the message I get: ‘I want to do that too. How can I be involved, how can I help?’” Gavin says.

TRUST IS THE CURRENCY During school term at Farmhouse Montessori,

BROAD COMMUNITY EXPERIENCE As a former teacher at Rissalah Islamic College in Lakemba and a Montessori teacher for the past five

years, Gavin draws on his broad outlook to generate a shared understanding of teaching in a diverse range of cultural settings. His posts are interspersed with inspirational teaching tips that he has honed through working internationally and in Australia. “The biggest influence for me is that I’ve done a lot of travelling. That exposure to global knowledge is

the toolkit you need to be a good leader because being open and being empathetic involves having knowledge of where everybody is coming from,” he says. “I’ve seen the fact that there are teachers in

classrooms in India, China, Nepal, Bangladesh and Myanmar where they stand in front of 70 students with no assistant, no materials, no pencils, no papers to educate them. Their training is limited, their university didn’t prepare them well enough to get them out into the real world, especially to do that. They don’t have the basics.”

“My whole agenda for writing on LinkedIn is to share everything I’ve gained over the last 20 years,” he says. “That’s the whole point of being a teacher. You don’t keep it to yourself, you give it away.” That mantra has extended to working with the most disadvantaged communities in Nepal where he spends his time and finances during school holidays. Over the past five years, he has transformed eight schools into learning spaces with brightly coloured murals, libraries, and teaching resources. He also delivers professional learning to the teachers on how to use the materials.


located on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Gavin is making an equal impact as a school leader, improving the school’s reputation and student

enrolments since taking its helm two years ago. He says the growth has come about partly by the quality of the teachers he has, engagement with the parent community and his belief in his staff. “We do a roundtable at school, it’s part of my leadership philosophy. The first thing is the input from the parents, you take heed of what they want the school culture to be and there’s your strategic plan sitting in front of you.” With his staff, he says trust is the priority, along

with communication and empathy, values he had reinforced by his mentor Dr Bill McKeith, former principal of Presbyterian Ladies College, Sydney and Armidale, and former head of Inner Sydney Montessori School. “I have a lot of trust in my teachers. I observed Dr McKeith very carefully. He trusted us all that we could teach. He said, ‘I’m not a teacher, I’m a principal. I’ll help you but I trust you’”.

So, by day a Montessori school principal passionate about his community and ensuring the students and teachers thrive. By night and in his own time, Gavin has a similar role, only it’s impacting teachers and their students in the tens of thousands across datelines and cultures. “The message I put out is we’re making a difference – we’re teachers and we’re making a difference,

whether it's building a school in Nepal or helping that one child in the corner who is lonely.”


Montessori Training

The Sydney Montessori Training Centre (SMTC) was founded to further the teaching principles and philosophy of Dr. Maria Montessori. Successful completion of the AMI Montessori Diploma opens up unrivalled career opportunities all over the world! The Montessori approach empowers educators to create a learning experience for the child that recognises uniqueness and individuality, nurturing the whole child and building mutual respect between the adult and child.

The main goal of the SMTC certification program is to inspire, instruct, and cultivate Montessori teachers. As Montessori pedagogy focuses on the spiritual, psychological and cognitive realms of the child, our program also focuses on the preparation and transformation of the whole teacher as well as on the importance of the prepared environment. The program instills in our adult learners a deep respect for children and sensitivity to their needs and different styles of learning. The programme include lectures, seminars, reading sessions covering Montessori philosophy and child development, as well as significant components of observation and supervised teaching practice using Montessori didactic materials. Learn more about our courses on offer from 2020 and beyond. More details:

2020 Courses



Please visit our website at or contact for more information. We look forward to supporting you on your Montessori journey.

As the largest Montessori training organisation in Australia, the Montessori Institute offers

flexible, nationally recognised, Early Childhood and Primary teacher registration qualifications, alongside Diploma and Certificate level qualifications. We also provide professional development and education for schools, childcare centres and the wider community, with which we have built strong relationships over forty years. Our ACECQA (early childhood regulator) and AITSL (teacher registration regulator) accredited courses are delivered via a blend of external, online study and intensive face to face workshops, Australia wide. Incorporated in 1983, the Montessori Institute is a

not-for-profit organisation and an accredited Higher Education Provider with the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Authority (TEQSA). We have dedicated our work to develop and present world class Montessori courses and workshops, to both students and nonstudents.


Graduate Diploma of Education (Montessori) 3-6 years or 6-12 years focus. Recognised nationally as a teaching qualification, this course enables students to become registered teachers in their State. It is AITSL and ACECQA listed.

Diploma of Early Childhood and Primary Education (Montessori) 0-3, 3-6 or 6-12 years focus. This course enables registered teachers to gain Montessori curriculum knowledge for their

classroom. It is ACECQA listed as an Early Childhood qualification (0-3 and 3-6 focus). The Diploma also qualifies non registered teachers to work as education assistants in schools or as room leaders/supervisors in a child care centre. Certificate in Montessori Studies 0-5 or 3-6. Ideal for students who already hold a Certificate III or Diploma level qualification, but want to obtain Montessori curriculum knowledge for use in child care centres. Diploma of Montessori Leadership and Practice. Ideal for principals or Montessori centre managers who wish to gain an understanding of Montessori theory, philosophy and curriculum.