Our Trainers

Our SMTC AMI Trainers bring a wealth of knowledge and experience and have supported Montessori courses, schools and programs not just in Australia but throughout the world.

We are fortunate in Australia to have such a strong group of AMI Trainers supporting our community across the 0-18 age-levels and also in leadership training.

SMTC Directors of Training 0-18

Rebecca Dallam 

Rebecca’s Montessori journey began in 1985 when she accepted a job as a 3-6 classroom assistant, which led her to undertake AMI 3-6 training the following year. In 1987 she began teaching in the newly established Prince George’s Country Public Schools magnet programme in Maryland, USA, where she worked with 3-6 and eventually 6-9 children for nine years. Rebecca completed the Washington Montessori Institute’s first three-summer 6 – 12 course in 1996 and moved to Milwaukee, USA, where she worked with 9-12 children in the esteemed Milwaukee Public Schools Montessori programme.

After moving to Australia in 1998, Rebecca worked briefly in long-day care in Geelong. She moved to Sydney in 1999 and has worked at the 6-9 and 9-12 levels in several local schools. She undertook the Training of Trainers programme in 2006 and was awarded the title of AMI Trainer at the Elementary level in 2014. She is the first Australian AMI 6-12 trainer and has benefitted from the wealth of experience of many AMI trainers who shared their wisdom with her during the training process.

In 2013 Rebecca founded Cameragal Montessori School’s first primary class, which began with seven children and today encompasses a thriving 6-12 programme. It was a joy to be able to implement Cosmic Education more fully as a result of her increased understanding. She left the school in 2017 to begin working as a full-time trainer.

Rebecca holds a B.A. in English literature from Temple University, USA, with a minor in Italian literature, and an M.Ed. from Loyola University, USA, in Montessori elementary education. She holds the AMI 0-3 and 3-6 Orientation certificates, as well as the Montessori Core Principles certificate. Rebecca completed summer Spanish language and literature programmes at the Universidad de Granada (1990) and the Universidad de Guadalajara (1991). She is currently studying Russian through the University of Queensland.

Rebecca offers modular format 6-12 courses, face-to-face and blended format Orientation Courses, as well as workshops and mentoring, through Sydney Montessori Training Centre. She loves international collaboration and has worked with parents, teachers and administrators in Brazil, China, Japan, India, Indonesia, New Zealand, Portugal, Qazaqstan, Russia, Thailand and Ukraine. Rebecca is happy that we have a vibrant Montessori community among Australian independent schools and would like to be part of the change that makes 6-12 classes available to more families within the public sector.

Rebecca is Director of Training on SMTC’s AMI 6-12 courses.

Amy Kirkham

Amy Kirkham has worked in Early Childhood since 1988 as an Early Childhood Teacher, Play Therapist at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Montessori Directress, Lecturer, Consultant and Trainer.

Amy gained her AMI 3 to 6 Diploma in 1993 and was awarded her AMI 3 to 6 Trainers’ Certificate in 2006.  She also holds an AMI Certificate for 0 to 3, 6 to 12 and Adolescents, Montessori Core Principles and Montessori Sports.  In addition to her Montessori qualifications, Amy is a VIT registered Early Childhood Teacher and has a Bachelor of Educational Studies (Hearing Impairment) and a Master of Education from the University of Melbourne.

Amy has been the 3 to 6 AMI Director of Training in Melbourne since 2008 and worked as a member of the 3 to 6 Training Faculty on Diploma, Foundation, Certificate, Administrators and Mentor courses in China and Taiwan.  She has been an AMI examiner in Australia, China, New Zealand, Thailand and Japan.

Outside of formal training delivery, Amy has supported the construction and establishment of new Montessori centres in Melbourne and collaborated with Nienhuis on the revision and development of Montessori materials.  She was a member of the team who developed the Montessori National Curriculum which is now used in multiple countries worldwide and was one of the original members of the Australian Montessori Quality Assurance Council.  Amy has completed Mentor Training with the Victorian Institute of Teachers and the DEEWR Recognition for Prior Learning (RPL) Assessors’ Training.

Amy is actively involved in the provision of Montessori professional development, including parent and community education.  When she is not training, Amy can be found working with children and mentoring in different 3 to 6 environments.

Amy is SMTC’s Director of Training on its AMI 3-6 courses..

Read more on Amy

Sara Brady

Sara holds AMI Diplomas at both Assistants to Infancy (0-3) and 3-6 levels. She has a Masters in Education from Loyola College in Maryland.

Sara has worked extensively in a variety of Montessori settings: long-day care, pre-school and Montessori in the home. She has enjoyed working in Nido and Infant Communities as well as parent-infant classes. Sara lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and three children.

Sara is qualified as an AMI Assistants to Infancy trainer and is also an examiner at this level. She conducts teacher training internationally and is currently a 0-3 Director of Training in Dallas – North Texas, China and Sydney. Sara delivers 0-3 Training for the Sydney Montessori Training Centre.

Kay Urquhart

Kay’s Montessori journey began the very day she visited a Montessori school in Sydney’s South West. As a student studying for a degree in education, she knew from that day, that a Montessori environment was a natural way for children to learn about themselves and about the world in which they live.

So, within the next few years, Kay gained her Teaching Degree from the University of New South Wales, and her AMI 3-6 Montessori Diploma from the Australian Montessori Teacher Education Foundation and began her career as a Montessori Guide. For almost 20 years she served communities in several Sydney Montessori schools, guiding children and supporting families while mentoring assistants and new guides.

In 2012 Kay joined the AMI Training of Trainers program which saw her assist the Directors of Training in AMI 3-6 courses in Sydney and the United States. She has been granted the status of Auxiliary Trainer.

As an indigenous woman, Kay is passionate about empowering teachers to invest in honouring the culture of First Nations people and incorporating the values of culture and the connections to country into Montessori environments.

Kay is a AMI 3-6 Director of Training on SMTC’s 3-6 courses.  

Read more on Kay

Julia Hilson

Julia’s attraction to Montessori education began when she commenced studies toward her AMI Children’s House Diploma in London in 1985.  In the years following, she has established centres and run classes in the UK and Australia.  She also completed her 6-12 Course in Bergamo, her 0-3 Course in Australia – as well as attending the inaugural Educateurs sans Frontieres gathering at Citta De Castella in 1999.  Following several visits to remote Indigenous communities she was asked by Montessori Children’s Foundation to move with her family to Thursday Island and establish the Montessori stream at Tagai State College in Torres Strait in 2009. Julia lived in this remote community for 6 years. This initiative has now grown to include two 3-6 Montessori Classes within the Tagai Primary School and five Parent/Toddler Groups on separate Islands throughout the Torres Strait.  

In early 2015 Julia began work with a remote Aboriginal Community in Cape York called Lockhart River and is still actively supporting this community.

Julia lives on the Gold Coast , QLD , Australia where she supports the Montessori programs across the Islands and Aboriginal Community in between her training commitments.

Julia also holds a Bachelor and Masters in Education and is an AMI Trainer at A-I Level and a 0-6 Montessori Consultant and International Examiner.  Julia has been Director of Training on AMI Orientation  and Diploma Courses in Australia, London, South Africa, New Zealand , The Gambia, Nigeria, Japan, Vietnam, Portugal and India. 

Her special interest lies in empowering adults from Indigenous communities and supporting all families to grow in their understanding of the importance of the first few years of life and the help needed to have a lasting impact on their children’s future.

Julia is a 0 -3 Director of Training on SMTC’s 0-3 courses.

Find out more about Julia

Laurie Ewert-Krocker Trainer for the SMTC AMI Montessori Introduction to Adolescents 12-18 Certificate

Laurie Ewert-Krocker

Laurie Ewert-Krocker has been a presenter and Course Director for the AMI-NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent Studies and has consulted with Montessori adolescent programs around the world for 15 years.

She holds AMI diplomas at the 3-6 and 6-12 levels. Laurie was the founding head teacher of Hershey Montessori School’s Adolescent Community in 1996 and served as both Middle School Program Director and Upper School Program Director at Hershey where she worked for 28 years.

Laurie is now the Director of IMTI and frequently travels around the world to various Montessori Adolescent Programs and events as a speaker and consultant.  Laurie is SMTC’s Director of Training for its AMI 12-18 Diploma and Orientation certificates.

Get to know Laurie…

J McKeever

As is true for many other Montessorians, J McKeever’s introduction to Montessori was as a parent.  While on vacation with her toddler, a friend invited J to visit the Children’s House where her son attended.  J was immediately smitten with the peace, order, beauty of the community and especially with the joy and concentration of the children.  This experience led J to read one of Dr. Montessori’s books, which transported her to a whole new understanding of childhood experience, and one she ardently wanted for her son and one she wanted to understand more fully.  This led her to assisting in a Casa community and to undertaking AMI training for that level with Pearl Vanderwall, who was trained by Dr. Montessori.  J’s interest in Montessori grew and she left home and friends for the AMI 6-12 training with the indomitable Margaret Stephenson and Fahmida Malik (both trained by and collaborators of Mario Montessori).

J’s career in the classroom spans twenty years and encompasses many iterations of the 6-12 experience (6-9, 9-12, 6-12) from beginning a class with six children, to directing a 6-12 community of thirty-nine.   Peers and mentors encouraged her to become a trainer, and J was fortunate indeed to begin that journey with her beloved Miss Stephenson, whose guidance and spirit still animate J’s work with adults – as does J’s own passion for Cosmic Education.  She has been Director of Training, Co-Director, or Lecturer on 6-12 diploma and certificate courses in the United States, France, South Africa, and China. She has presented workshops to teachers, parents, and administrators in the United States and internationally on a variety of Montessori topics.

J is a founding member and past board member of the Elementary Alumni Association (AMI-EAA), and she is an AMI examiner and school consultant at the 6-12 level.   J McKeever holds a B.A. in English, M.A. in Educational Processes, and is a former adjunct professor of Loyola University Maryland.

Returning to Australia has been one of J’s dreams!  She first visited in 2014 to present a series of music workshops in four different cities and returned in 2015 with writing workshops.  She was so charmed by the earnest and energetic participants in these endeavors and hopes to reconnect with some of them during the 2023 6-12 Brisbane AMI Diploma course.

J is equally delighted to collaborate with her colleague, Rebecca Dallam, strengthening the bond they established at the training center in Milwaukee.

J is a Director of Training of SMTC’s AMI 6-12 Diploma Brisbane which commenced in 2023.

J recorded some recent videos with us about her training and background.

SMTC Administrator Trainers

Karen Bennetts

Following a number of years working in large government and corporate organisations, Karen became involved with Montessori education in 1993 when her first child began in a Montessori program.  She subsequently undertook state teacher training, completed two Montessori diplomas with Montessori Institute and subsequently, the AMI Diplomas at 3-6 and 6-12 levels and the AMI Orientation to Adolescent Studies.  Karen has mostly taught 6-12 children and was the founding principal of a Montessori school just outside Melbourne for ten years.  She worked as Senior Advisor, Schools at Montessori Australia Foundation for four years.  Karen has a PhD in Montessori leadership and is a recent member of AMI’s Global Research Group.  She is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and has almost 20 years of governance experience.  Karen is currently a board member at Sydney Montessori Training Centre and Deputy Chair of Mansfield District Hospital.  In 2016, Karen was the recipient of a State Fellowship Award from the Australian Council of Educational Leaders for her contribution to the education sector.  She of AMI Trainer of Administrators for the AMI School Administrators Certificate course having been promoted by AMI from Auxiliary Trainer to AMI Trainer in mid 2023.

Bill Conway

Bill has been involved in education for over 40 years. His first role after completing his first university degree in education was to be thrown into the deep end, taking on a head of school/teacher position in a small rural school in the US. Since this early leadership experience, he has served in a variety of different education positions teaching and principalships in both public and private schools. Bill has also worked around the world, including Colombia, New Zealand and for the past 25 years in Australia. Bill eventually found a leadership position at Montessori East, a preschool and primary school near Bondi Beach, Sydney, where he served as Principal for over 13 years, retiring in 2020. He co-authored the AMI Administrator’s Course syllabus and is currently leading the program planning for the upcoming AMI International Montessori Congress in Bangkok Thailand.

Bill serves on the board of directors for Montessori Schools and Centres Australia (MSCA) as well as for the Montessori East Foundation. He consults with schools in Australia and Thailand, and last year in 2021, he completed a Masters in Business Empathy (an alternate MBA).

Raised in the US and Kampala, Uganda, Bill spent more than 25 years of his career as a head of school, 10 years classroom teaching and three years as a school counsellor. He has four children living around the globe and two beautiful granddaughters living in Kodiak, Alaska.

Guest Trainers

Find out more about our Guest Trainers here.

Trainers in Training

We are pleased to have a dedicated group of AMI Trainers-in-Training across all age-levels who are working on completing their AMI Trainer program and represent the future of AMI Training.

Peter Erskine (Training in 6-12)

Peter Erskine is a qualified 3-6 and 6-12 Montessori teacher with many years teaching experience at both levels. He has assisted teachers and schools with professional development and mentoring within Australia and Thailand and has experience in Indigenous education at both early childhood and primary (elementary) levels. Peter has been undertaking AMI’s trainer-in-training program which has led him to work all over the world supporting AMI courses. Peter is running SMTC’s upcoming “Spelling in Context” workshop online on Saturday 22 July 2023. 

Suganthi Vijayakumar (Training in 6-12)

Suganthi holds AMI diplomas at both the 3-6 and the 6-12 levels. She has a masters in English language and literature, bachelors in education , diplomas in special education and teaching English. Suganthi has worked in primary and elementary classes and has 15 years of experience working with children. She started her TOT program in 2020 and is happy to come back and serve in Australia. Suganthi lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her husband. She has two grown up daughters living in the USA.

Rebecca Bridge (Training in 0-3)

Rebecca is a very proud Marrawarri woman who lives and works in Brisbane. She holds a 0-3 AMI Diploma, a Diploma in Children’s Services and will be completing her Bachelor of Teaching (Early childhood) in 2022. She has 11 years of experience working in Montessori toddler environments and in 2015 had the privilege of supporting some of the Strait Start Programs in the Torres Straits. Rebecca is passionate about closing the gap for First Nations People in Australia and has been a Reconciliation Action Plan coordinator, a guest speaker at Educator Yarning circles and a Masterclass speaker for the Koori Curriculum.

Natasha Williams (Training in 3-6)

Natasha Williams is an early childhood educator with a passion for following the natural development of the child using the Montessori Method. Natasha became an educator after serving as an Officer in the Australia Army for 10 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in History and English and it was whilst she was studying her Graduate Diploma with Edith Cowan University in Western Australia that she was first introduced to the pedagogy of Dr Montessori. The method seemed to put the child at the centre of their education and supported them to achieve what was naturally unfolding as part of their developmental goals.

Trained in London with the Maria Montessori Institute, Natasha obtained her Association Montessori Internationale 3-6 Diploma in 2013 and has enjoyed working with children from 3 to 6 years of age in schools in London, Sydney and now in the Bega valley ever since. She has been accepted into the AMI teacher trainer program and is passionate about increasing children’s access to authentic Montessori education through AMI trained adults.

She is married with two daughters who have both enjoyed access to Montessori education in both the UK and Australia.

Emily Dowell (Training in 12-18)

Emily Dowell (she/her) received a BSc in Nursing from McMaster University and worked as pediatric nurse prior to her life in Montessori. Emily trained at the 3-6 and 6-12 levels, but her passion is adolescence. She attended the NAMTA/AMI Orientation to Adolescent Studies in 2011 and was an establishing member of Strata Montessori Adolescent School in Dundas, Ontario, Canada. Over the past decade, she has worked in several adolescent communities including Hershey Montessori’s Farm School. Emily is currently the Lead Guide and Curriculum Coordinator of the Montessori
School of Tokyo’s Adolescent Community and was a trainer-in-training on SMTC’s 2022 commencing AMI 12-18 Diploma (Perth) and will join the faculty for SMTC’s next AMI 12-18 Diploma due to commence in August 2024.

 Jan Gaffney (Training in 12-18)

Jan Gaffney (she/her) has been involved in Montessori Education for over 30 years as a parent, assistant, guide, principal and consultant. She has her BA and MA in Education, the NAMTA Orientation to Adolescence and AMI Diplomas for 3-6 and 6-12 levels. She became involved in adolescent education when she established the adolescent program and high school at Wā Ora Montessori School. This continued when she joined Montessori School Bali and worked to rebuild their adolescent program. Currently she lives in Taiwan establishing a new adolescent community. In all of these
roles it has been her good fortune to support and be supported by amazing and dedicated practitioners, and no less by her patient and
understanding husband Jim.  Jan was a trainer-in-training on SMTC’s 2022 commencing AMI 12-18 Diploma (Perth) and will join the faculty for SMTC’s next AMI 12-18 Diploma due to commence in August 2024.

 Laureen Barnard (Training in 12-18)

Laureen Barnard (she/her) began her working life as an Engineer, gravitating to training and staff development roles. Since retraining with a Grad Dip Ed P-12, she has been an influential contributor in education for almost 20 years. In 2011, Laureen was awarded an International Teaching
Fellowship by the Victorian Department of Education, and a 12 month placement in Ontario Canada. She completed the AMI/NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent Studies in 2014 at Hershey Montessori and has been the leader of a many successful wellbeing and curriculum initiatives, at all levels -“dancing in the grey“ in both mainstream and Montessori schools contexts. With an avidity for education reform and innovation, she successfully established the MAP@BSC (Beechworth, Australia) in 2015; an opt-in Montessori adolescent program running in a mainstream public high
school. When not immersed in her work, she loves hiking and skiing with her adult children. Laureen enjoys life on a rural property in Allans Flat with her wonderful husband (also a progressive educator), 3 loyal dogs, some chooks and a few cute paddock ornaments (horses!).

Laureen was a trainer-in-training on SMTC’s 2022 commencing AMI 12-18 Diploma (Perth) and will continue with this  work on SMTC’s next AMI 12-18 Diploma due to commence in August 2024.

Katherine Shearer (Training in 12-18)

Katherine Shearer (she/her) received her Bachelor of Arts in International Development and Anthropology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada and after a career in aviation and finance, she moved to Australia in 2011 to complete a graduate diploma in teaching. Katherine was an establishing member of the adolescent program at Rockingham Montessori School in Perth, Western Australia and she completed her AMI/NAMTA Orientation to Adolescence in 2014 in Ohio, USA. In 2018, she moved to Indonesia to establish Montessori School Bali’s adolescent program alongside Jan Gaffney. Katherine loves being outdoors, is a Girl Guide Leader and also holds a private pilot’s license. She recently completed a 200 hour yoga teacher training before returning to Western Australia to establish Margaret River’s adolescent program

Katherine was a  trainer-in-training on SMTC’s 2022 commencing AMI 12-18 Diploma (Perth) and we look forward to her continuing this work.

Rose Langridge (Training in 12-18)

Rose Langridge (she/her) began her working life as a naturopath’s assistant. She then moved into marketing and admin at a psychology firm. Rose holds a BA in Sociology with a minor in history and a graduate diploma in secondary teaching. She completed the NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent Studies in 2014 at Hershey Montessori (Ohio, USA). She has been working at Wa Ora Montessori in Aotearoa (NZ) since 2013 in the adolescent program as a humanities and English teacher. She also teaches in the 15-18 program. She enjoys co-constructing courses with classes in history, social studies and English.When not at work, you can find her on the dance floor popping out some modern jive moves, a style in which she competes nationally in NZ. If not on the dance floor then try baking up a storm in the kitchen or lost in a book.

Rose was a  trainer-in-training on SMTC’s 2022 commencing AMI 12-18 Diploma (Perth) and we look forward to her continuing this work.