The Preparation of Teacher

Enjoy these thoughts on "The Preparation of the Teacher" from Portland Director of Primary Training, Sarah Werner Andrews. Accompanying the text is a timeline of pictures highlighting the journey of the Montessori teacher - from the training year to the seasoned professional. 


The first and perhaps most important thing for you to understand in terms of the preparation of the adult is that this is an on-going process. It is useful to think of this training course as the first step in your preparation, not the end of the journey.

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With time and experience, you will continue to grow in your understanding and knowledge. Every child you work with will teach you something about yourself, about child development, and about education. You may have thought you were here because of what you could give the child, and you do have something to offer the child, but you will find it is what the child gives to you, that is of greater value. Time and time again, as the children reveal their true nature, you will witness human beings as they were meant to be. In their open, bright faces, you will see the real meaning of hope for the future, and that is a gift that changes forever how we view children and education.


Montessori compares this change to the difference between listening to a science professor and believing everything he says, and the experience of verifying for yourself that what he says is true. But in order to see the proof that Montessori discovered, we have to prepare ourselves to see as a scientist sees. We must have a supportive environment and the prerequisite knowledge, but also the love and respect for the subject of our “research” – the child. (Montessori, The Advanced Montessori Method, Vol.1, “The Preparation of the Teacher,” p. 100-101, Clio)

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What we give you here in the training course is the prerequisite knowledge to meet each child and be prepared to receive what that child has to teach you. This preparation has three levels: physical, intellectual, and spiritual. These levels are prepared together, and are integrated through experience with children...

...The preparation for being a Montessori teacher begins here in the training year, but cannot be complete until you see for yourself, how the children make their own transformation to normalization.  As we see the children’s deviations fall away, we move from believing to knowing.  The certainty of knowing what the children are capable of gives us the strength to transform ourselves and become the “new educator” that can support the new child.  Montessori calls children “the teachers of love,”[1] and that is why when a child is born into a family, “his mother becomes a more beautiful woman and his father a better man.”

In a speech to the World Fellowship of Faiths in London, 1939, Montessori said,

“We are convinced that the child can do a great deal more for us, more than we can do for him.  We adults are rigid.  We remain in one place.  But the child is all motion.  He moves hither and thither to raise us far above the earth. Once I felt this impression very strongly, more deeply than ever before, and I took almost a vow to become a follower of the child as my teacher.  Then I saw before me the figure of the child, as those close to me now see and understand him.

We do not see him as almost everyone else does, as a helpless little creature lying with folded arms and outstretched body, in his weakness.  We see the figure of the child who stands before us with his arms held open, beckoning humanity to follow.”


[1] This, and the following quote, are found in Education and Peace, p. 119, Clio; and on p. 155, Kalakshetra.


Sarah Werner Andrews is an AMI Director of Training, consultant, examiner, and presenter at local, national, and international conferences. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance, an M.Ed. from Loyola University, AMI Primary and Elementary diplomas and is an Oregon Registry Master Trainer. Sarah began her work in Montessori education in 1987, with many years teaching experience at both the primary and elementary levels, as well as experience in administration. She is currently on the board of directors of the North American Montessori Teachers Association and Montessori Northwest. Sarah is a recipient of the Oregon Montessori Association Susie Huston Memorial Award for Outstanding Teaching, and a former OMA board member.  She and her husband, Dave, have lived in Portland since 1991, and have two wonderful sons, Julian and Evan, who are great reminders to listen, keep learning, and not take life too seriously. Sarah enjoys botany, music, croissants, a great book, historical documentaries, and the AMAZING story of the Bretz Floods.

Posted on September 19, 2017 .

Options for Emergent/Early readers!


Visiting my local library the other day, I was delighted to see the most thoughtful change to the “Easy Reader” area of the children’s section.   Multnomah County librarians have done something heroic - they sorted the books by complexity despite whatever cryptic number/level/color/symbolic system the publisher had assigned them.  They have offered “Welcome to Reading” in this way for a while in the form of take home kits, but it’s a new thing to actually find on the shelves at the library. 

Although they can be a fun supplement, “early reader books” are not an essential part of the Montessori reading curriculum.  The Children’s House boasts so many incredible, fun, rich, varied, dynamic, interesting ways to practice reading – even for the earliest, most mechanical reading.  Consider the very first reading presentation – the Phonetic Object Box.  The teacher sits with the child as they explore a set of familiar objects.  Not unlike the Sound Game at the spoken level, these objects can include charming miniatures or simply be items gathered from the environment.  The child savors the connection with the guide, watching the words appear as the teacher writes them out, and then the fun surprising novelty of the game of matching the labels to the objects. The child can repeat the activity with these slips, or move on to the printed slips in the box.  Before the activity is put away, the teacher can drop a hint that new things will appear in the box from time to time.  The fun continues as the child continues to read something new everyday, which might include any or all of the following:

o        Personalized handwritten slips/notes that the adults surprise the child with, by dropping them off at their workspace (“Sam’s red socks!” ,  “Red Rods”)

o        Games (in a group, from your chair, one on one) where children are written slips within a category that correspond to their reading level (“Things on the Practical Life shelves”, “Parts of the body”, “Things to do!”)

A simple set of cards can be made by photographing familiar places.  Here's the park down the street from my daughter's Children's House!

A simple set of cards can be made by photographing familiar places.  Here's the park down the street from my daughter's Children's House!

o        Three Part Reading Classification Cards, particularly those with some simpler vocabulary.

o        Signs on the walls that describe what’s in a picture, or with words from a familiar poem or song, etc.

With this fun, varied practice, and with the introduction of Phonograms, Puzzle Words, and the full breadth and depth of Reading Classification, the child’s reading will swiftly move beyond single simple phonetic words.  Books for emergent readers offer just one more way to explore and practice!  These books can be included with regular books that are read (check out great resources for books here), or they can be in a special basket that readers can be oriented to.  If the children ask about the numbers/levels/colors/whatnot, it’s easy to just shrug it off with “Oh, that’s just how they set that book up.  We can just enjoy the story!”.  Happy reading!


Corinne Stastny is the Course Assistant for MNW's Portland's Primary teacher training courses. She feels extremely lucky to call Montessori her profession and loves sharing Montessori with her 8 year-old daughter, Stella.


Posted on August 3, 2017 .

What's next for Ginni Sackett? Something to celebrate!


Last week, here at Montessori Northwest in Portland, we hosted a Celebratory Reception for MNW Primary Trainer Ginni Sackett.  We celebrated Ginni's past and present with MNW, and her future with the world of AMI. We will relish finishing this summer's Primary Course together,  and then (like the cake said) wish her well with much LOVE and GRATITUDE as she moves on to her next adventure.

The Association Montessori International (AMI) announced Ginni's next step in a recent Circular to all Trainers.  Read on for details!

Dear Trainers,

The first Circular of 2017 year was written to draw your attention to AMI’s search to fill two new management positions, one of which carried the title of Pedagogical Director, reporting to the AMI Executive Director—a new appointment to underpin and reinforce the pedagogical policy, direction and quality assurance for all pedagogical programmes available through AMI.

Having read the profile of the Pedagogical Director you will agree that the position was a tall order to fill and it gives me, as AMI Executive Director, and also on behalf of the AMI Board, great pleasure to announce that in Ginni Sackett we have found exactly the person we were looking for. Ginni’s proven pedagogical ‘track record’, her professional and academic background and leadership skills, will enable her to support the day-to-day work at the AMI Head Office and, when approached, to contribute to the public presence of AMI and its Montessori Early Childhood Education programmes. Having found a candidate with all the essential qualities and experience required facilitated the selection process enabling us to settle the appointment within the 6 months we had originally anticipated. We at AMI wish Ginni well as she embarks on the challenges this career change will bring with it.

Ginni will relocate to Amsterdam to assume the position at the beginning of January 2018. She is no stranger to our city, but actually living here in the Netherlands will give her the opportunity to get to know better Montessori’s ‘second home’ and delight in the heritage and cultural of the Dutch capital and its surroundings.

In closing, we would like to congratulate Ginni on the appointment and say how much we are looking forward to working closely with her in the future, as we know you will, too. On a personal note, this new position within our organization is a long-awaited step which will allow me to concentrate on the growing global initiatives, planning, funding and outreach which have become major areas of AMI’s expansion strategy.

Yours sincerely,


Lynne Lawrence, Executive Director


Since becoming a Trainer in 2002, Ginni has worked hard to ensure that MNW is so much more than just one level of training with one fabulous trainer.  Explore our staff pages to discover more about our levels of training and staff throughout the region.

Many thanks to community members who shared their well wishes and happy memories in person or in writing.  Here are pictures from the celebratory reception!

Posted on June 29, 2017 .

The finely-tuned art of being a Montessori Guide: From presenting Point A to discovering Points Beyond

Montessori Northwest shared this image a month ago on Facebook and in our email newsletter. The response was overwhelming. There was a landslide of “shares” and comments in a wide variety of languages as all over the world Montessorians and those familiar with Montessori celebrated seeing the iconic Pink Tower reimagined in this way. The components and entirety of several other beloved 3-6 classroom materials could be intermingled seamlessly with cubes from the tower. Such a joyful affirming cacophony of excitement, as we all saw something we loved in a new way! This excitement gives us a glimpse into what a child might feel as they make a discovery like this for the first time. So, how can we guide children to explore without robbing them of their own discoveries?  How do we get from Point A (the Guide’s initial presentation to a child) to Point B(eyond) (the child’s own exploration, discovery, and connections – like the reimagined tower and cubes we see here)? Well, this question takes us to the heart of Montessori teaching and the finely-tuned art of being a Montessori Guide.

Spontaneous discoveries by children through their own exploration are sometimes described as ‘variations’. A variation can be described as: a modification in the use of a material which is different from the presentation but still serves the same purpose for which the material was designed. Such spontaneous inventions are an important aspect of a child’s interactions with the materials. They are possible because of the intentional design of the sensorial materials (mathematical precision, for example, and isolation of both the sense and the perceived quality). And they result from discoveries initiated by the minimalist Montessori presentation – showing ‘something’ the child can do with the material, a ‘something’ which is just enough to stimulate open-ended exploration in harmony with the developmental purposes. The purpose of the Pink Tower, for example, is visual exploration of three dimensional change. We get to present the most obvious way they can be arranged – in the tower gradation from largest to smallest; but there are countless ways the cubes can also be arranged to support that visual exploration of three dimensional change. Looking at the reimagined tower, it is obvious that we are still looking at three-dimensional change – but taken to an exponential level!

Ginni Sackett, AMI Trainer, shows the beauty of Point A for the Pink Tower. 

We don’t want to rob a child of discovering these variations in their own time and pace. But we are 100% responsible for creating a psychological environment which encourages and nurtures these spontaneous explorations and discoveries. We want to stimulate the child’s scientific curiosity – I wonder if … I wonder what would happen if I … I wonder if I can …

Some ways to stimulate variations include:

  • timing the initial presentation of a material to the developmental interest of the child – an observable readiness, when there is the appropriate level of challenge, and therefore stimulus to repetition and exploration

  • extending exploration through following exercises, memory/distance games, and language lessons; memory games to the environment are particularly useful here – helping a child to notice similar and identical qualities in other objects; as well as knowing the qualities well enough to name them – these are all cubes, for example; some are larger and some are smaller, etc.

  • preparing the environment to allow for connections and discoveries between and among objects; of particular importance here are the mathematically precise, well-maintained materials. and real objects in the environment that can be matched to the sensorial materials

  • embracing creativity and exploration while deeply understanding and appreciating the purposes of a material: we can say something like “I wonder how else can you build it” for example; or “have you ever seen any other cubes in the room?” then quietly walk away and see what the child does with your hint

  • if a culture of variations is not yet alive in the classroom, a great trick to jump-start it is to simply take out a material yourself and explore with it. This will definitely attract attention! When you’ve had a bit of exploratory fun yourself, put the material away and see what happens! As a culture of variations builds, children will absorb other children’s variations and find their moment to take passive observation into engaged activity!

Stimulating each child’s own interactive relationship with the materials is part of our work. There is a delicate balance between the liberty for exploration and the license for misuse, and creating this balance is a joyful outcome of that work.

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Ginni Sackett is an AMI Primary Trainer and has been a part of MNW for over 20 years. She is also a third-degree black belt in the Indonesian martial art of Poekoelan Tjimindie Tulen, enjoys exploring the charms of Portland, and loves spending time with her family, including her several grandchildren.

Posted on June 11, 2017 .