Saturday, 14 January 2012

Roberta Coutts - Montessori Downunder

Roberta Coutts is the owner of Montessori Downunder – a company specialising in hand-made Montessori resources.

Her business is a Montessori resource centre – she calls herself a “Montessori teacher’s technician.”   Roberta has clients on five of the seven continents, but mostly in Australia and New Zealand.  There are some other companies throughout the world that make Montessori resources.  A small percentage of those do hand-made resources, but they don’t customise them for the particular teacher or the specific training that teacher has done. 

Which is why Roberta’s company is the only one in the world that does.  For example, if you’re in North America, your resources come back to you with North American spelling.  No-one else in world does this kind of customising.  She likes to have thorough, accurate research and to make resources beautiful.  She also does some resources for home-schooled families who use Montessori as a theoretical framework for learning at home.

Roberta just makes resources for Montessori early childhood centres and primary schools.  There are some Montessori high schools, but they don’t need the same resources.

She also collects things that she knows schools and teachers will want.  For example, if she sees something in, say, the Scottish shop that would be good for their culture box on Europe, she’ll buy maybe 10 of it and have it sitting here waiting for the next time they need to fill up their boxes.

Roberta trained as an early childhood teacher in the Montessori system.  She has also done all practical workshops in one course for primary teaching, but is not a registered teacher.  She was an assistant for the Montessori Primary unit at Arthur Street School when her children went there.

She trained with Binda Goldsborough who was Dr. Montessori’s assistant in London.

As soon as Roberta walked in to the space, she knew this was hers – she could imagine everything in here.

And it’s a huge space – if you blocked it off, there would be the equivalent of 4 decent sized studio spaces.  But all the space is necessary.  Roberta does admit that she has “expanded” into the space.  When she started the business she was in the basement of a house.  She then moved into an office space in a commercial building but unfavourable rent and lease issues forced her to look for somewhere else.  A friend noticed the King Edward Court was advertising studio spaces, and she hasn’t looked back.

One “room” Roberta describes as a “teachers’ lolly space” – an area where teachers can come and get ideas and inspiration for resources they need.  There is an adjoining storage/stock area off this room.

Another “room” is a display of what Roberta creates and also her administration space – not only for Montessori Downunder but also for Roberta’s role as the Building Manager of the King Edward Court.

There are two big workrooms.  The main one adjoins the display/admin area.  This is the main area where the work happens.  There are loads of shelves for storage and also a kitchen out the back.

Roberta has been in space for seven years.  Her favourite aspect of the space is the light.  Her studio faces Stuart Street, with huge windows in each “room”.  She also loves the wood panelling – ideal for displays.  She says “the space just flows”.

Roberta doesn’t share the space with anyone, but has between one part-time to two full-time workers, but it depends on who’s around. To meet demand she should probably have around three or four full time staff - she has huge waiting list for resources!  Some schools have been waiting for up to six years!

For more information about Montessori education in New Zealand, click here 

If you're a Montessori teacher looking for Roberta's wonderful resources, click here

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