Montessori teacher working with children

Montessori Careers

Montessori teachers in New Zealand explain how they discovered Montessori, how they began their Montessori journey and where it has taken them...

Jennifer Smyth shares why she travelled to China to do her Montessori qualification... 

I had found my experiences in state early childhood and primary frustrating as it always seemed to be ‘busy work’ or playing. On my teaching practices with the primary age group I felt like I didn’t teach anything and that the children didn’t learn anything.  All I was doing was classroom management;‘Sit down, stop hitting, stop talking, look at me…’.  But who can expect a five year old or even a 22 year old to sit down, listen, constantly be told what to do and enjoy being forced to do something they were not interested in? 

I am attracted to the Montessori philosophy, the mixed age groups and focus on purposeful activities. I love how independent and free children are and how the  environment lets the child follow their interests, be that showing respect for a friend or passion for times tables.  The philosophy just makes sense!!!

I am currently completing training for my Association Montessori International 3-6 diploma. I began this in September 2008 when I went to Hangzhou, China for eight weeks. This was a real eye opener for me professionally and personally discovering Montessori education in a new culture which has such extremes in lifestyle and values. The students in my class are mainly older, many with a child of their own. They are studying Montessori not for a career but to raise their child in the best way possible. In China one child will grow to be responsible for six adults; two parents and four grandparents.

There were 22 students in my class from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. They all spoke Chinese Mandarin. The two only English speakers were a man from Poland who had been living in Beijing and me. It was very scary at first to stand out so much in the class and community, but it has been a great experience. I found people were happy to help me in so many ways.  I will be going back to Hangzhou again this year for eight weeks from September-November and once more in 2010 for four weeks to complete exams.

My goals in my career are ever changing with so many possibilities. I am currently a teacher in Wa Ora Montessori School in New Zealand would hopefully like to have my own class sometime soon,. Eventually I plan to travel to share my passion and gain the cultural understanding from experiences of teaching in other parts of the world.

I also want to use my Montessori understanding in my own life, when I have a family of my own.

Jessica Finau-Baas shares why she is aiming to make Montessori accessible to children of Pacific Island heritage...

I met a Persian Bahá’í lady when I was a young teenager living in Tonga with my Tongan mother and New Zealand father.  She was an owner/teacher of a Montessori preschool in Samoa. This was when I first became aware of Montessori principles and practices. As a  Bahá’í, I was raised with the understanding that a number of aspects of the Montessori philosophy are similar to Bahá’í beliefs. It is for that reason many Bahá’ís around the world have become involved with Montessori schools.

There are many aspects of Montessori that are similar to Bahá’í beliefs such as; nurturing the wellbeing of the ‘whole’ child both spiritually and physically and that all children, no matter their ethnicity, cultural or social background have potentials and attributes that are precious and abilities that if appropriately fostered and developed, will not only enable them to develop their own self-worth but become valuable members and contributors to society.

The other thing that attracted me to Montessori was that Dr Montessori developed her philosophy from observing and working with individuals with special needs, as well as those from disadvantaged backgrounds. As I gained a more thorough understanding of Dr Montessori’s methods I was able to relate how this could have greatly assisted me, since I had specific learning difficulties as a child.

I graduated from Auckland University of Technology with a Bachelor of Early Childhood Teaching (Montessori), which covered both mainstream education as well as Montessori. I am currently in my second year of teaching at Wee Wisdom Montessori Preschool in  a rural  area of south  Auckland, New Zealand.

I find it rewarding working with like-minded teachers that share a common philosophy towards the educating of children. It is a joy to see children achieving success at their own pace and a pleasure to work with Montessori equipment and resources that constructively teach children to learn at their level in an interesting and fun way.

Eventually I would like to gain the skills and experience to set up and manage/teach in my own Montessori preschool. I would also like to explore ways to make Montessori more accessible, particularly financially, to families of Pacific Island heritage as well as to introduce a virtues programme as an integral part of the school curriculum. My long term goal is to set up and run a Montessori preschool in Tonga and help Tongans to become Montessori teachers

I believe that the Montessori method is currently the most effective, systematic and constructive way of educating the individual child naturally, as a whole child, in way that they find stimulating and enjoyable at their own pace. I would suggest that where possible that anyone considering Montessori as a career takes studies that assist them to become aware of mainstream philosophies on education, not only as a comparison to better understand Montessori philosophy and methods, but there is much within mainstream that can be learned that aids one to become a better Montessori educator.

Janet du Fall explains why she has been involved in Montessori for 22 years...

I first discovered Montessori as a young mother in the late 1980’s, when I visited an early childhood expo in Auckland. Several Montessori preschools had a display of photos and information about the Montessori method. I was captivated and it just felt so right. I started to find out more about Montessori.

Prior to having my family I had worked in administration. As my children were born my interests changed and becoming a Montessori teacher felt like a natural addition to my role as a mother of five children. I was attracted by the peacefulness of the environment, the way the materials engage the senses and the opportunities the children have to explore and make discoveries.

I trained as a Montessori teacher through the London Montessori Centre, gaining a Montessori Nursery Teaching Diploma and a Montessori English Language Teaching Diploma. I then opened my own centre in Rotorua, where I have been an owner operator for 18 years. I later gained a Bachelor of Education (Early Childhood Teaching) through the Auckland University of Technology and am currently studying towards a Masters Degree in Education with Auckland University of Technology.

I love the opportunity the Montessori philosophy provides to observe and gain a deep understanding of the individual children. It enables me to learn the ways in which they develop their unique understanding of the world around them. I enjoy the special moments when a child makes a discovery that connects with a previous experience,  it is like ‘no-one ever knew that before’.

I hope that my work as a Montessori teacher will contribute to Maria Montessori's vision of a more peaceful  world. It was a vision of hope that remains just as relevant today as ever.

The journey to be a Montessori teacher has offered me the opportunity to learn so much about myself as well as about early childhood. I had struggled with mathematics all through school but when I studied Montessori's approach to maths and worked with the materials, I developed a "hands on" understanding of concepts I had previously tried to learn by rote.

If you are interested in becoming a Montessori teacher, spend some time in a Montessori centre, talk to the Montessori teachers and then go for it!

Postgraduate study has provided an opportunity for me to explore research methods and dig deeper into Montessori history and philosophy. I still really love being a teacher in the classroom and as I study further I hope to develop my skills as a research practioner and illuminate what it means to be a Montessori child in Aotearoa New Zealand. 

Tania Gaffney is a Montessori 6-12 teacher and loves those ‘aha moments’...

I first learned about Montessori when my sister’s children started going to Montessori, about 22 years ago. However it was a number of years later that I started working in Montessori. I started with 3-6 children but now I have been teaching 6-9 year olds for several years.

It is difficult to recall what first caught my interest in Montessori, maybe it was watching my nieces and nephews being independent at home. What I do remember is that whenever I was doing any training I wished there had been the opportunity for me to have this type of schooling when I grew up. Maybe I would have been better at maths and more interested in school in general.

I have a Montessori 3-6 diploma from London Montessori Centre and worked for four years in a Montessori preschool. I then spent three years at university getting my state primary qualifications with the intention of teaching in a Montessori classroom when I graduated.  In 2003 and 2004 I travelled to New York and completed an American Montessori Society Diploma for 6-9 year olds and I have taught this age group for the last seven years.

What I love about Montessori are the  ‘aha moments’ that the children have when they suddenly realise something.  I like that I don't have to be the bearer of all knowledge and that the children can seek help from each other and that I can ask them for help as well. I like that I can take the time to sit and observe children. I like that I can be giving a lesson and the rest of the class are getting on with what they have chosen to do.  I like it that sometimes when I go to give a lesson the child says ‘another child has already given me that lesson.’

It is fantastic that children can learn independently and be so collaborative together.

Gillian Somers shares why there is always a reason to smile as a Montessori teacher ...

I come from Ireland where there are many small Montessori schools.  As a teenager baby sat the children of Montessori teacher and she told me about Montessori. When I left school I decided to begin Montessori training in Dublin. During my training I began to realise that that I hadn't really understood what I was enrolling in. But the more I found out , the more intrigued I became.

I love how Montessori education is adaptable for all learning styles and how, if you truly follow the practice of ‘Follow the Child’, Montessori is for everyone. The holistic nature of Montessori really appealed to me and then there was the fun discovering aspects of sensorial, maths or language etc. to share with the children but which I often first had to discover myself.  I learnt a new found appreciation for the world and for learning which the teacher in me just wanted to share with others. Incidentally that has also been one of my biggest challenges; to let the children make these discoveries and not get so caught up in sharing mine!
I graduated with Association Montessori International 3-6, 6-12 ands Special Needs Diploma.  After I came to New Zealand to teach I also completed Diploma of Early Childhood Education.

I first started teaching in 1994 and have been involved in Montessori ever since.  I spent one year teaching in Canada but apart from that my time has been spent at New Plymouth Montessori School in a rural area of New Zealand. 

Montessorians talk about the three year cycle for children but I also believe teachers should also spend at least three years in the one class.  Each year your development moves into a different plane.  The first year you are so focused on the details and often there is too much freedom in a class, but so much passion.  In the second year, you can see a wider picture - you also live by your successes and your mistakes - and not by those of the previous teacher as you can do for much of the first year.  By the third year you have experienced most of the day to day events in a school, the leaders in the class are those you started as three-year-olds and hopefully you are finding your stride.  It is then that teachers can focus more on the school rather than their class and so starts a new plane of development! 

In 2005 I took over as principal of New Plymouth Montessori School and started a new cycle, this time focussed on the tasks as a principal rather than a teacher.  While I still love working with children, along the way I have found the joy of watching and supporting growth and development of all the teachers in our school.
I love my job and I am well aware how fortunate I am to be able to say that.  It takes a special type of person to work with children and I am fortunate to be surrounded at work by people who likewise love their job.  Within a Montessori school you get to develop strong connections with families; people are literally entrusting you with their most precious treasure. Most of the families that come to us haven't just enrolled their child in the school next door but have taken time to investigate all the alternatives before they send their child to our school.

And of course then there are the children.  I often joke that the children keep you young but the job can age you, but it is true.  There is nothing comparable to the way children open themselves up to you and share with you the joy of learning.  No matter what the day, there is always some reason to smile.

If you are interested in Montessori I would advise you to spend some time in a Montessori centre and to see for yourself.  Reading about it is one thing but for me I also need to be immersed in it.  For all the above reasons I love my job but just as I advise parents to find the school that best matches their values, so to is it the same for teachers.  Find the job that uses your strengths but also challenges you, while supporting you with those challenges.  If you think teaching might be that job, find the philosophy and then the school that matches your own teaching philosophy that you enjoy walking into and spending your day, that allows the children and adults to grow in a nurturing and respectful environment.  


Marissa Sherkenny was a Montessori child who became a Montessori teacher ...

I was a child at a Montessori children’s house until I was seven years old.  I did not realize that, however until I was an adult and began to look in to Montessori as a career.  I had pursued outdoor education/experiential education as an undergraduate and wanted to know more.  I researched Montessori and discovered that it was a perfect match for me and my understanding of hands on learning.

I believe in holistic, hands on learning; that a person can learn something by doing it for themselves, and when they are able to do that they ‘own’ that information and it is theirs to work with, retain and expand upon.   When I realized that Montessori understood this in 1907, I knew that the Montessori method was for me.

I graduated with an Association Montessori Internationale 3-6  diploma and a Master of Education degree.   After my training in Portland, Oregon, USA I returned to the far north of California where I worked at two schools over three years. I then was offered a job a Wa Ora Montessori school in Wellington, New Zealand and moved there for a wonderful few years.  The call of family made my husband and I return to the USA in 2008 and I now teach at a Montessori school in Bozeman, Montana, USA.

What I love about being a Montessori teacher is the  freedom and ability to observe and meet the needs of the individual children.   I love the connection to the children’s families that working with young children allows.  I love the wonder of discovery that the children show as they explore the Montessori environment that I prepared.  I love the genius of the Montessori materials and pedagogy and the challenge of deepening my understanding to put the ideas to practice.

Montessori is a deeply fulfilling career, one where you are challenged each day with the mysteries of childhood and self reflection.  I have found working with children to be at the heart of the community and recommend the level of community connection that it demands.   I would advise that you pursue a training institute that will give you the depth and breadth of the philosophy and ideally hands on training ; you will need to ‘own’ the information and only hands on learning allows for that.

I would like to develop  a deeper and deeper understanding of our work as Montessorians and to assist in promoting Montessori education to the wider public.

Judelyn Raeburn shares how she discovered that Montessori was more than a philosophy; it was a way of life ...

I was raised up in a large family in the Philippines with three brothers and five other sisters.  Having a big family was not too hard for my mother as she trained us from a young age to be orderly, confident, and independent.  If she did not do this, perhaps raising nine children would be much more difficult, not to mention just a little chaotic.  I remember my mother teaching me how to wash my socks and handkerchiefs by hand when I was four years old.  She taught me how to cook rice when I was just eight years old.  My mother loves sewing.  She taught me how to sew and this became one of my hobbies. Many years later, I was so proud telling everyone on my wedding day that I made my own wedding dress. 

I worked as an office assistant for eight years.  I came to a point where I felt so stagnant and dry sitting in my office in front of a computer everyday and talking to grumpy people over the phone all the time.  I just had this feeling within me that I needed to change my career.  I needed to do something that would challenge and help me to grow as a person. 

When my husband decided to take up a teaching as a career, he enrolled at Auckland University of Technology in Auckland, New Zealand. He would often come home and talk to me about a woman called Maria Montessori. As he explained her philosophy of teaching to me, I thought to myself ‘This really make sense.’ I called my mother in the Philippines and told her that I enrolled to be a Montessori teacher.  I told her that I could teach my students everything that she taught me. 

Yes, it was fun going back to university.  Going to university together with my husband and yes it was also nice sitting in class besides him holding hands and having coffee together.

In 2008 my mother was preparing to come to New Zealand for my graduation day.  We were both so happy and looking forward to seeing each other.   But before she could come, my mother had a heart attack and was gone. All my lecturers and classmates were so supportive of me during my time of grieving.  They supported me emotionally, physically and financially to be able to cope at such a time of need.   I soon realized that the Montessori was more than a philosophy; it was a way of life. I could see it fully manifested in the hearts of the people that poured out their love for me and my family. 

I started working in January 2009, at a Montessori preschool in Auckland, New Zealand. 

I believe that the effectiveness of a teacher or educator reflects on the effectiveness of her/his environment.  I really like the fact that a Montessori classroom is always attractive for both the children and their parents.  The materials are presented in a way that is attractive and elegant, prepared and designed to attract the child’s interest and attention.The Montessori ‘prepared environment' is always innovative and with opportunities for experimentation by the child. 

Being a Montessori teacher is not just dispensing knowledge to the child but giving an education that will aide the child’s life.  Are we filled with the spirit of love?  Are we inspiring wonder and admiration in our children?   Are we looking at the potential of the child?  The more we can answer yes to these questions, the more we touch the hearts of the children and educate for peace.

It is my dream to one day own and operate my own preschool.  It would be really good if I could start my own Montessori centre here in New Zealand or in the Philippines. I  hope to share and create more windows of opportunity to be able to contribute to the well-being of our children now and the children of the future.


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