Entering the Dr Nicola Chisnall Memorial Award in 2017

We like to make the announcement about the Dr Nicola Chisnall Memorial Award at our annual conference. In 2017 our conference is April 22-24th so there is lots of time to look at what you are doing in your community that should be made visible to others.

The four steps for entering the award are below and the deadline for entries is March 31st, 2017.

For more information contact eo@montessori.org.nz

Dr Nicola Chisnall Memorial Award 2016

The winner of the 2016 award was The Children's Corner, Auckland

Dr Nicola Chisnall Memorial Award 2015

A school that community built

The winner of the 2015 award was Meraki Montessori in Silverdale, Auckland. 

Meraki Montessori paid tribute to the community that enabled the establishment of New Zealand's newest Montessori primary school.

"We would like to nominate for this award ALL of the amazing community that gave up their time and Christmas break to enable this little Montessori primary school to come into fruition in just three months"

You can download and read the entry here 

Rebecca Nicholson and Katie Thomson, Meraki Montessori accepted the award on behalf of their community at the MANZ Conference opening on April 11th, 2015.

Why do we have the award ?

Dr Chisnall was a pivotal figure in Montessori education in New Zealand and her work makes an extraordinary contribution to Montessori education worldwide. In her memory and to honour her work the Dr Nicola Chisnall Memorial Award was announced in April 2014.

There are many initiatives, large and small, within Montessori centres and schools that make significant contributions to children, families and communities. The Dr Nicola Chisnall Memorial Ward aims to make these actions visible thereby acknowledging the importance to Montessori education of the creation of a just community for children. 

Each entry is required to provide evidence that outlines the story of what the individual or team set out to change and why, what actions were taken and the changes that were achieved for one child-one family/whānau-one centre/school or a community.

The  award is pivotal to the MANZ strategic aim 'To support the Montessori community to advocate on behalf of children (one child/one whanau-one centre/school-oone community-one town/city-one country).

If you know someone or a centre or school that should enter - encourage them to step forward in 2017.

Four Steps for Award Entry

1. Where you started from:
What did you see as needing action or help? 
Where did you get your idea for action from?
Who did you consult with before deciding on the action?

2. What you did:
What you set out to do and what actions did you take?
How did you carry out these actions and what did you do differently?
What roles did people in your community play?

3. Progress you have seen:

What did you learn and discover?
What evidence do you have of positive change or that your actions made   difference?
Were the changes as you had planned and expected, or did you have unexpected outcomes?
4. What you may do next:
What did you learn that may provide strategies to build on your success?
What potential is there to gain additional support from other partners in your community?
Do the actions and outcomes have application to wider communities than your own?

 Written entries should be no more than four A4 pages saved as a PDF and be able to be displayed as a poster at the conference.
You could also make your submission using PowerPoint or Prezi.
Alternatively you can make a short video entry to be viewed online and onscreen at the conference.
You could use photos, testimonials, narrative, evaluations, illustrations, tables and figures to tell your story.

If you want some guidance about your entry please ask ...just email eo@montessori.org.nz 

2014 Winner of the inaugural Dr Nicola Chisnall Award

Over 650 votes were cast in the inaugural Dr Nicola Chisnall Memorial Award. The overall winner of for 2014 was Wa Ora Montessori School from Lower Hutt.

Wa Ora Montessori School won the online vote and Kowhai Montessori Preschool won the conference vote.

The award was made by Dave Stott at the MANZ Conference dinner in New Plymouth on September 6th, 2014 to Krista Kerr who accepted on behalf of Wa Ora Montessori School.

Congratulations to Kerry Pratchett and Cathy Wilson from Wa Ora Montessori School for co-ordinating the school's entry to the award.

This message from Jenny Stott, Nicky's daughter was read at the presentation of the award.

"Congratulations to the four nominees in the inaugural Dr Nicola Chisnall Memorial Award.  Each of you have undertaken and achieved inspiring projects that focus on areas Mum was particularly passionate about – supporting children in their immediate and wider communities and working with those communities to open pathways for children to teach and inspire the people around them.

As you will all know, and as Mum worked tirelessly to promote, children have a lot to teach us.  Mum believed that the Montessori framework supports peace and social justice, in the way that it allows children to think for themselves, but also the importance it places on being part of their wider community.  It promotes independence and the pursuit of subjects they are truly passionate about, but also teaches children that their actions and the actions of others have an impact on the people and environment around them.

If children are taught to respect and be part of their community and to respect and love the people within those communities, their actions can influence the people around them.

Each of your projects show how you have taken forward this philosophy of working with your local and wider communities to offer children an environment that inspires their learning and promotes a sense of belonging, whether that is being welcomed from one classroom to another; developing and being part of the environment outside the classroom; or developing relationships and partnerships with other local groups to support the children in your schools, all of these projects focus on preparing your children to live in and be part of their community and to teach and inspire those around them.

I am very happy to see that the philosophy Mum worked so tirelessly to promote is alive and well in Aotearoa’s Montessori movement, and that Mum’s memory is being honoured by continuing to promote projects that reflect that.  Good luck and congratulations again on your inspiring projects".

We encourage Montessori centres, schools and students to start thinking about entering this annual award in 2015.

Entries in the 2014 Dr Nicola Chisnall Memorial Award

Firstly, many thanks to the people who entered the inaugural award. It takes time to tell a story and put together ideas and evidence. And courage to be the first to enter a new award.

The four entries can be downloaded below.

Kowhai Montessori Preschool - working in partnership to create scholarships for Māori children

Wa Ora Montessori School, Lower Hutt - making connections outdoors to build the men and women of tomorrow

Queenstown Montessori, Queenstown  - creating a leaving ceremony to support transitions and community

Montessori Children's House, Wanaka - helping support speech language therapy for young children


Tribute to Dr Nicola Chisnall (1955-2013)

Dr Nicola Chisnall died after a two-year battle with cancer. Her funeral was held in Auckland, New Zealand on September 24, 2013. Nicky and her family wanted her funeral service to highight the different parts of her life.  This tribute about her outstanding contribution to Montessori education was made by Ana Pickering, former executive officer of Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Tena koutou katoa,

I am greatly honoured to have been asked by Nicky, Dave, Jenny and Alistair to describe the contribution that Nicky has made to Montessori early childhood education. This tribute is made on behalf of the Montessori community in New Zealand, many of whom are here today.

 I believe there are few people worldwide who can articulate with any authority the relevance of Montessori education in the 21st century. Nicky Chisnall was one of these rare people - she combined her practical experiences as a teacher with academic rigour to reveal new understandings about a century-old educational philosophy and she posed ideas that challenge all educators who care about enhancing the status of children.

Nicky first heard about Montessori education in London in the 1970’s and on her return to home she met some young children who attended a Montessori preschool in Palmerston North. She was curious about the way these children were able to concentrate, so went to the library and found some books by Dr Montessori and in this way her own journey in the Montessori world began.

In 1982, she became involved as a parent in one of the first Montessori preschools in Wellington and she and Dave were both involved in the establishment of Wa Ora Montessori School in Lower Hutt which opened in 1988. Nicky was one of the first teachers at the school.

In 1995 she decided to open her own Montessori early childhood centre and her interest in the connection between Montessori education and peace was reflected in the name that she chose – Rangimarie Montessori Children’s House.

As Nicky learnt more about Montessori and became more experienced with children, she discovered that Dr Montessori’s ideas on peace, justice and community resonated deeply with her. Nicky’s first degree had been in social sciences and in her first job she had been involved in research for the NZ Council of Social Services.

In 1999, Nicky decided to enrol in a Masters of Education at Victoria University of Wellington and she was excited to get back into the world of research. Her Master’s thesis was completed in 2002 and reflected on the revival of Montessori education in New Zealand from the mid-1970’s. She interviewed founders of Montessori centres and observed children in classroom settings to discover how teachers in New Zealand interpreted Montessori philosophy in belief and practice. The challenge she posed in her Master’s thesis was whether Montessorians in New Zealand were ‘darning old cloth’ or engaging in the creative process of weaving a ‘new pattern in the Montessori whariki’ or mat.

In a career that already included many ‘firsts’, in 2002 Nicky was appointed to AUT University and began a Montessori specialty degree. Nicky was responsible for writing and delivering the degree and for creating a place for Montessori within the university.

When Nicky began her research for her PhD she travelled to Europe to find sources of archival information in Italy, Amsterdam and the British Library in London. Nicky used critical theory to contextualise the socio-historical background of the Montessori movement and to examine the currency of Dr Montessori’s vision of social justice for the child and subsequent world peace. Her research revealed women like the suffragette, Sylvia Pankhurst who were inspired by Dr Montessori, women who were also passionate about social justice for children. Nicky has discovered, researched and written in-depth about aspects of Montessori history not yet well known by the international Montessori community.

Another aspect to Nicky’s doctorate was her focus on teacher formation and she conducted case studies of the experiences of newly qualified teachers from the degree programme. She found that teachers who had experienced a Montessori teacher preparation that focused on critical reflection were able to continue to craft and refine their practice, retain their spiritual engagement with the children and use their theoretical knowledge to continually think of ways to give children further autonomy and agency.

Nicky discussed in her doctoral thesis the concept of a 'framework for peace and social justice'. She believed that the elements in this Montessori framework are unique in their combination but valuable for all people: the dignity and respect that Montessori educators accord children; the mixed social setting which offers all sorts of relational learning; the authentic learning opportunities which are real, natural and sustainable; the freedom that allows children to make individual and group discoveries; and the gift of time to aid concentration and support problem solving.

Despite beginning what she described as her cancer journey – Nicky completed her thesis in late 2011 and graduated in 2012. Her achievement was celebrated by friends, family and colleagues around the world. An important aspect of the contribution that Nicky has made to Montessori in New Zealand has been her involvement with our national association, Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand or MANZ. In the last decade she has been a keynote speaker at all our national conferences. She first became involved in the mid-1980’s and said

‘I have always been a committee person - probably because of the community work background - I like to try and help others to succeed. Originally, I was concerned to help with the professional development of Montessori teachers - and later, I could see that we had to engage with the rest of the education community if we were to be taken seriously.’

Our professional community owes Nicky a huge debt for the respect with which Montessori education is viewed by the wider early childhood sector in New Zealand. Nicky’s research, her commitment to tertiary students, her quiet intellect, her diplomatic and respectful approach to all, have opened many minds and doors to Montessori education.

Her contribution is highlighted by Helen May, Professor of Education at Otago University, who was Nicky’s Masters supervisor and an examiner for her PhD.

'Your contributions to the early childhood sector in this country are enormous: as a scholar and writer, researcher, teacher, teacher educator and political advocate. Working across all fronts has been necessary for the flourishing of 'Montessori' as something pertinent and relevant and unique to this country. You have contributed so much to the Montessori weaving of the early childhood whariki in Aotearoa- New Zealand'.

When I last saw Nicky, on August 28 she said to me ‘INNOVATE!’… and this has been her message to our professional community for many years. Her ideas have provided quiet guidance; Nicky’s approach has never been to ‘tell’ or to ‘direct’, but as a true Montessori educator, to led with courage and conviction, gently guide and to allow the discoveries to be our own. Two initiatives currently being undertaken by our national association can be linked directly to Nicky’s work.

She noted in her PhD that critical reflection on Montessori pedagogy will be enhanced by what she described as “a similar orientation in peers as they challenge and support each other in their reflections on practice” and she was also clear that Dr Montessori urged teachers to see our pedagogy as an ‘on-going work of observation and research’. This is the approach being taken in the current Montessori Journey to Excellence Pilot Programme, funded by MANZ and facilitated by Massey University. Nicky hoped that reflections shared between teachers would lead to a new vitality in the Montessori professional community and this is beginning to happen as pilot participants model a learning community, engaged in critical inquiry, supported and challenged by their peers.

What did Nicky want for the future of Montessori education? Last year she said:

‘Mostly I hope to see Montessori made available to all children from birth to adolescence - not because it provides a 'quality education' and a 'profitable business' but because we want to see the realisation of a better and more just society in Aotearoa New Zealand’.

It is this focus of her research that has provided the impetus for the second initiative by Montessori Aotearoa New Zealand – to focus on the social justice aspect of Montessori education. At a meeting in Auckland just last Saturday; a meeting that Nicky had helped to plan and had been looking forward to attending, a small group of Montessori teachers and educators began a focus on Montessori for Social Change.

I know that Nicky was very interested in both these initiatives and we regret so much that she is no longer here to guide us in this work.

Dave has asked our national association to work with him to set up an ongoing legacy – perhaps a scholarship for post-graduate research in Montessori education, which was such a passion for Nicky and we plan to start this work with him in November.

You may not have known Nicky in her many professional roles or understood the significance of the work she has achieved in her professional life. But I know that everyone here today understands love.

At our national conference in April, we honoured Nicky with the presentation of a book of tributes collected from friends, colleagues and students. At this presentation, I explained how I remembered that years ago Nicky highlighted the significance of the number of times the word ‘love’ appeared in Dr Montessori’s writings. Nicky had reminded teachers that ‘this is the task...to look at your school or centre and see how you have set it up to receive and use the energy of love’.

Whether you knew Nicky as a parent, a friend, a sibling, a cousin, a colleague, a teacher, a lecturer, a researcher, a supervisor, a patient or in whatever way you knew Nicky; I am sure you would agree that she exemplified how to use the energy of love … she took this key part of Montessori philosophy and embodied love in her daily life.

Nicky was a quiet person who provided us all with inspiration; not just by what she achieved but more importantly by who she was and how she lived her life. We all felt her love and it is for this reason that we have all come here today to remember and honour her.

Nicky – we will miss you in all the important roles you have played in our lives.

I would like to end with a karakia. In this blessing we thank Dr Montessori and all the people who have sustained Montessori in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Nicky – you have been one of these people and we will always think of you when we say this karakia together in the decades to come.

Kei konei tātau hei poipoi i ngā tamariki, rangatahi me ngā whānau
Kei te mihi ki a tākuta Montessori me ngā tāngata katoa i tautoko i Montessori i Aotearoa
Ka āwhina tātau i ngā kaiako ka tohu i ngā tamariki Ka ārahi i tēnei whenua rangimarie.

Nicky – Haere ra.

















With Binda Goldsbrough in 2002

Keynote address at MANZ 2003 Conference

Nicky and Dave on Montessori Centenary Tour, Italy, 2007

Dr Nicola Chisnall and her daughter Jenny at PhD graduation, 2012