Montessori Community Series – Philippa Alford

imageWhen my family and I moved to Sydney to work at Headlands Montessori in Manly, Philippa was the Centre Director. You know, experienced Montessori Teachers usually intimidates me, but not with Philippa.

We became really good friends, and I told her right from the beginning that I respect her greatly. We can talk about Montessori for hours without getting bored. We would bounce ideas with each other, and quite often I checked with her about my plans and what she thinks about it. Like what I said, I value her input.

Her wealth of knowledge and experience is astounding. She reaches out to everybody, and she’s always keen to share her knowledge with all Educators (Montessori or Traditional Teachers)

Can you please tell me a little bit background of yourself? Your family? Where you grew up?

I grew up in lower North Shore in Sydney and have spent the past 35+ years working in Montessori and I have been living in Sydney’s Northern Beaches for over 30 years. I have worked in Montessori education since the early 1980’s. I originally trained as a traditional early childhood teacher and went on to study Montessori.

 I am a mother of a 28 year old Montessori Daughter. I am passionate about Montessori as it supports our personal growth towards being aware, independent, thinking adults. I am teaching in a Montessori school and have begun a business supporting parents on their parenting journey. I believe parents are best placed to understand and know how to parent their children.

What is your current interest right now? Any new hobby you just started?

I love to walk and in the summer swim. I also like to quilt and at the moment I am creating simple quilts and with a friend, we are using her quilting machine so we can donate what we have created for women’s shelters.

That’s lovely. You always seem to help people most of the time, that’s so generous of you! Moving forward, you’ve always been teaching in 3-6 classroom, what is the best thing working in this age group? 

The children, watching them grow over the three and sometimes four-year period. The workings of a 3-year age range, older children having humility and the younger ones admiring the older children.


Well said! As a Teacher for so many years can you cite some challenges you have encountered working in a Montessori school?

Working with families who aren’t really sure of why they chose Montessori. Working with other educators who aren’t trained or whose views on how to manage a classroom are different from your own.

Yes, I agree with you. Let’s talk about the strengths of Montessori. What makes a great classroom? How about an awesome school?

People who care about the children, the environment and themselves. Of course, the children. Recently I have been working in a 6-9 classroom and another educator asked me which level I liked to work with best. My answer was it doesn’t matter which level I am in I love being with the children and I learn along side them.
An awesome school would be a team of people who are committed to working together for the good of the children and the community.

What is your favourite piece of material in 3-6 classroom? How about the least?

Sorry I have two. The Trinomial cube and the roman arch (funnily enough the two pieces of material I own). I do admire her materials and think they are amazing when used in the context of a Montessori Classroom.
My least favourite is the sentence analysis material. I am challenged as to how and why to present it.

What makes a great Montessori Teacher?

Humility and self-awareness; being trained in the system where they teach (undertake traditional teacher training) and experience in a Montessori Classroom. Being mentored by an experienced teacher.

Philippa and I at White Ribbon Walk * 2nd year in a row!

Is there an “aha” moment in your classroom that made a huge impact on your Montessori career?

No, I would have to say working in Montessori my whole life/career I have had a Montessori focus so much so that my life is Montessori! I think I would have thrived in school if I had been to a Montessori school, however, I didn’t. It helps to be a bit OCD. I have had wonderful experiences and met some amazing people who share my interest and passion. There have been moments when I sit back and reflect on the impact on some of the children I have taught as I have the privilege of traveling a continuous relationship with them after they have left school.

Philippa is currently offering an individualised program, (not a one size fits all) for parents to realign their core values and practises.




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