Meet our Trainers: Amy Kirkham

Amy received her Trainers certificate in 2006 and ran her first course in Melbourne in 2008, in response to growing local interest in the AMI Diploma (3-6).  Amy was also one of the original trainers on the 3-6 China faculty in 2011 and continues to work on various training courses in different regions of China


Tell us about your initial training.
My initial training was with Pat Hilson in Melbourne in the first AMI course to be held there.  It was a full time academic year course in 1993 with a group of 11 students, one from Singapore, one from the ACT and the rest from Melbourne.  Sadly this was also to be her last course so the next time we had an AMI course in Melbourne was the academic year course in 2008.


Why did you decide to become a trainer?
The Australian community wanted to restart AMI training and with AMI’s support, it was decided that this could be achieved with two Australians entering the Training of Trainers program.  Renilde Montessori, who was then also the General Secretary of AMI, came to give talks in both Melbourne and Sydney as well as a conference in Sydney in 1998.  She encouraged me to submit my application.  When my application was accepted, Shannon Helfrich generously moved to Sydney to do two academic year courses and then Joen Bettman came to do a three-summer  course.  Pam Nunn and I worked as the course assistants and participated in the Training of Trainers programme with them and cannot thank them enough!


Aside from the 3-6 Diploma and Orientation courses, what other training do you deliver?
I do workshops, conferences and AMI refresher courses.  I have also presented on the Montessori Sports course (then called the Montessori Football course).  I have offered different Cert III units, participated on Education forums, mentor training, school consultations, professional development for teachers and assistants, parent talks and discussions and presented on Administrator courses.


When not delivering training, what other training work are you involved with?
I attend trainer meetings, do out of course work with the China faculty (remotely) and supervise Trainers in Training, including reading and providing feedback on papers.  I have been both an AMI External Examiner as well as National Examiner in various parts of the Asia Pacific region.  I also offer consultancy at schools, mentor educators by working alongside them in the environment and also occasionally do some relief teaching, including most recently offering support as part of the government-funded Transition to School program.  


What do you enjoy most about working as a trainer?
I enjoy discussions on pedagogy with other trainers.  I also enjoy discussions with students and seeing their understanding grow and deepen as a course unfolds.  I take opportunities to increase my own knowledge and recently did the Orientation Certificates for 0-3, 6-12 and 12-18 as well as the Montessori Core Principles Course.  


What are some of the challenges you have faced as a trainer?
Sometimes isolation is a challenge as I am currently the only trainer in Melbourne and this is why I appreciate working as a member of a faculty in China.  Sometimes doing all the course administration as well as delivering courses results in longer days and nights in order to fit everything in.  Managing different time zones can be a challenge – the record I’ve had so far is seven at the same time and unfortunately as the Australian trainer, the time zone for me is often less favourable. 


What are you most looking forward to in your training work throughout 2021?
Hopefully I’ll be able to reduce the hours online and resume more physical face-to-face work. I’m looking forward to not having to sterilise everything or work out the best camera angles for presentations on Zoom.  I’m also looking forward to continuing my work with SMTC as they streamline and separate off the administrative procedures so I can focus more on the delivery of training.


What words of advice can you offer anyone considering studying for an AMI 3-6 Diploma?
Amy asked the current Diploma students for their input to this and they say you need to really want to do it to finish the course.  Time management and multitasking skills, good family support and understanding friends are all essential.  It’s like nothing you will have ever done before or will probably do again.  It’s helpful to have good physical and mental health, with the resilience and persistence to keep up with the work.  Don’t over commit yourself or take the commitment lightly.  But it’s enormously rewarding and satisfying to complete the diploma and very enjoyable if you have the time.  You learn a lot including valuable personal skills if you can immerse yourself in it. 

Amy advised that the advice above was also applicable to anyone considering the Training of Trainers program.  She reminded us of what Pat Hilson said in 1993 regarding the intangible benefits of the training: 


“They are the most powerful and wide-ranging. When you throw a stone in the water, there is only one stone, but the ripples flow out in ever-widening circles.  So it is with the course and the work you and I, and the Montessori parents and organisations do together.”