Our School

Head of School

It is my pleasure to welcome you to Elonera Montessori School and it is a deeply considered honour be caring for this community in the position of Acting Head of School.

Elonera is a school which has been built by a strong commitment to the philosophy and practice of Dr Maria Montessori. This informs our relationships across classrooms, amongst staff, and with our families.

EMS has been a part of education in the Illawarra since its foundation in 1987 under the guidance of our dear Josy Ludwig, who continues to be a valued colleague and trusted mentor. Since then we have continued to grow from a small classroom in Gwynneville, to a dynamic campus incorporating a Parent-Toddler programme, Nido, Children’s House, Primary programme, Adolescent programme (Years 7-10) and International Baccalaureate Diploma programme.

We look to develop responsible, connected, respectful, empowered and compassionate individuals who feel strong in their sense of place in the world.

Please look through our website, book in to one of our tours or attend a Parent Evening to get to know us more.

Alexandra Ioannou

Acting Head of School

Our Name & Logo

'Elonera’ is an Aboriginal word that means, 'a happy place for children'. It was established as a primary school in 1973, and became a Montessori school in 1987.

Elonera Montessori - Wollongong

The school’s logo was designed by a parent in 1989. The visual representation depicts the nourishment of the spiritual embryo. Montessori often compared the process of psychological and spiritual development to the physical unfolding of the human organism. The human body first takes shape as a self-forming embryo that requires the protection and nurturance of the womb during its formation. Similarly, the human soul first appears in the newborn child in an embryonic form that requires nourishment from a psychic womb - the protective environment of loving, caring parents and a spiritually responsive education. The logo essentially represents these protective 'arms' embracing the embryo.


The primary and secondary school follows the NSW Education Standards Authority and the Australian Curriculum for Years K-10, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme for Years 11-12, the National Quality Framework for the Preschool (Early Years Learning Framework) and Outside of School Hours Care (My Time Our Place).

The National Montessori Curriculum (endorsed by ACARA) was additionally adopted in 2014 for Years K-10.

Evaluation & Quality Assurance

The school undergoes regular inspections for the various sections that it operates.

The Preschool and Outside of School Hours Care service is inspected by the NSW Department of Education and Communities under the National Quality Framework. Each service is required to have an annual quality improvement plan.

The Primary and High School is Inspected by the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA). Elonera Montessori School successfully fulfilled NESA Registration in 2014 for the Primary and NESA Registration and Accreditation in 2013 for the High School. The International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) also successfully reviewed our school for the IB Diploma Programme in 2015.


The school facilities include spacious, open, well lit classrooms that are well equipped with Montessori materials. They also house their own student amenities so that children are not required to leave the class. There are computers in every classroom, as well as in the school library. There is a science lab, kitchen, tutorial rooms, a visual arts room as well as a music room in the secondary space. The International Baccalaureate Diploma (IBDP) has its own suite of facilities. The School also has a cottage for students aged 18 months to 3 and their parents to attend Toddler classes (PTP), and there is also a School Hall and half ball court on the premises.

The School accesses the TAFE and the University services for sport activities for the high school.

A designated Out of School Hours Care (OOSH)  service facility has just been renovated and provides after school care services.

Our premises and buildings are owned by the School, and we comply with relevant council and government requirements, work health and safety legislation, and environmental and land use guidelines. The Capital Works Committee is actively involved in the ongoing assessment and monitoring of the premises, and oversees the routine maintenance plan as well as specific building projects and the implementation of the Master Plan. The Committee members consist of staff and a past parent of the school.

Building Community

EMS continually aims to strengthen its relationship with families of the school through communication, consultation and collaboration.

The teacher is responsible for the overall ongoing relationship with their student’s parents. The Head of School is responsible for the integrity of the staff and teachers and assisting them to relate to parents in a positive and respectful manner.

There are many opportunities for parents to support teachers in the education of their children. All families are expected to participate in activities of the school. This can be done by helping in the following areas:

School Board; Capital Works Committee; Fundraising; Canteen; working bees; organising and attending coffee mornings for parents and families; making new parents feel welcome; helping to organise a celebration; camp or picnic for families; providing a presentation/visit for the children (upon request by the teachers); laminating materials; making sets for plays; book club; school banking; laundering of towels; attending parent information sessions; assisting with the newsletter; updating the communication board; gardening; setting up information stalls at community functions; organising sport days.


Teachers in the primary and secondary sections at EMS have traditional teacher qualifications. The primary teachers also hold a Montessori Diploma. The Secondary teachers attend subject area International Baccalaureate Diploma training, as well as Montessori workshops.

The Early Childhood teacher holds a qualification that is accepted by the Department of Education and Communities as well as a Montessori Diploma. The Coordinators of the Preschool have both a Montessori Diploma as well as a Child Care Diploma. We have assistants in every classroom from Stage 1 to Stage 3 with Montessori training, so that the adult to child ratio varies from 1:10 to 1:15.

Elonera Montessori School is committed to ongoing staff development.

Meet our School Board

MICHELLE PENROSE (TOWNSEND) is a familiar face around EMS, not only has she been involved with the school since her now-high school and primary-schoolers were in PTP, but she is also Board Chair.

Her inspiration in the role is, in part, lead by a recent visit to a US-based Montessori school whose aim is to build a school focused on the future and one “where our grandchildren will attend”.

And Michelle has no problems with long-term goals – her job as Research Fellow at the University of Wollongong’s School of Psychology has her immersed in them every day. Michelle’s research areas include the long-term outcomes from adverse childhood experiences, plus child and adolescent well-being, particularly in the areas of mental health, self-harm and education. This work sees Michelle bring evidenced-based research to a range of NSW government departments in order to improve the lives of children and young people.

Michelle has undertaken governance training via Australian Independent Schools (NSW) and, like all board members, is participating in continuing professional development in this area.


ILLANA GEAR has been involved with EMS since her children were in pre-school and has held various EMS Board positions for over 10-years. Illana is currently the board’s Deputy-Chair.

Prior to joining EMS, Illana was also on the board at Illawarra Montessori Preschool (IMPS) for four years.

Illana has experience in Air Freight Transport, Financial Services, Business Management, Pre-School Operations and Governance.

Illana is passionate about Montessori education and grateful for the wonderful educational experience her children have received at EMS.


LINDA VORRIAS has been part of EMS for the past five years and has a son in the upper primary school and another in IB. Linda joined the board in 2018 and this year is serving as EMS Board Secretary, she also volunteers with the school’s Fundraising Committee, organises the Book Fair and Book Club. You might have also seen her at the Fun Run or hanging out with the Elonera Embers Robotics team.

For the past 21 years Linda has worked with the Department of Justice and Communities. During that time she has been involved in a range of industry committees including work health and safety and secretary for the Illawarra branch of the Public Service Association. Outside of work, Linda has been secretary and treasurer for the Corrimal Rangers Junior Soccer Club. Along with independent school-specific governance training, Linda holds a Diploma in Journalism, Editing and Proofreading.

Linda’s motivation to join the EMS Board is to strengthen her commitment to the Montessori philosophy and to help the school secure a strong future.


KAREN LOVE is the EMS Board treasurer, holds a Bachelor of Mathematics from University of Wollongong and is an integral part of the school’s robotics team, the Elonera Embers.

Karen has two children at EMS, one in Stage 3, and one in Stage 5, and is passionate about STEM and is especially inspired to help students see the real-world value of such knowledge.

Karen has been involved with Montessori education since 2007 with both children attending EMS through all the Stages (from PTP and soon to be IB)

Karen is an information technology infrastructure project manager at the University of Wollongong. She’s also worked as an IT consultant and as a technical instructor and technical operations manager with Sun Microsystems and Oracle.


JOSIE LUDWIG and EMS are synonymous. As the founding teacher of Elonera, Josie has been involved since the school started and has seen the school evolve from a cohort of 15 primary school children to more than 150 across preschool to IB.

Josie’s Montessori roots are strong too – born and raised in The Netherlands, she attended Montessori schools from age 3-18 before finding herself in Wollongong and being part of an ever-expanding interest in child-focussed education.

Adored by children, teachers and parents, Josie is grandmother, trusted advisor and friend to everyone at EMS.


KATI PASSOT is an Elonera alumna who has been living the Montessori philosophy since age 4 when she started at IMPS. Now the school’s Deputy Principal, Kati has extensive experience as both an assistant and teacher in each stage across Elonera, plus coordinates students’ independent learning plans and provides literacy and numeracy support.

Kati was an assistant at EMS while studying Mechatronics Engineering. It was while travelling post-graduation that Kati realised she spent an extraordinary amount of time wondering what the Elonera children were up to – at that point she decided to complete a Diploma of Education and specialist Montessori Diploma. Kati is currently completing the Australian Independent Schools’ National Flagship Leadership Program and has taught maths, science and technology.

Kati has spent time living in France and is a fluent linguist, a skill she shares with her own three little Montessorians, Louis, Joshua and Hugo in the Pre- and Primary School.


KATHARINE CORONEOS joined the EMS Board in April this year and has been involved with Montessori education since her primary school-aged sons, Isaac and Huon, were in PTP.

Manager of human resource services with the University of Wollongong, Katharine brings a wealth of understanding on how to harness good people to do their best work at all stages of their careers.

Katharine has been involved in strategic planning, process improvement, recruitment and developing change and transition plans, among other things, to help future-proof a range of government, not-for-profit and private organisations.

EMS Board is Katharine’s first board position, although she has had extensive past experience reporting to boards – including a stint as a volunteer with the Sea Shepherd to support that CEO in people-related strategies and initiatives.

Katharine holds a Masters of Commerce and Human Resources from the University of Wollongong and is passionate about ensuring what made Elonera great, continues to make Elonera great.


ELIZABETH MCINTOSH-MULDOON is a former print and radio journalist with work and volunteer experience in Australia, Scotland, Vietnam and Kenya. She recently graduated with a law degree from Macquarie University and is completing pre-admission legal training in Wollongong. Prior to Wollongong, Elizabeth and her family were in San Francisco where she worked for a medical indemnity organisation.

Elizabeth joined the EMS board in April this year and has been involved with the school since 2015, first with PTP, then Nido and now as a Stage 1 parent to Orla and William.

Elizabeth has previously sat on numerous organising committees for local and national events in her home state of South Australia. She currently volunteers with Illawarra’s leading refugee support organisation, SCARF, in the communications team and is also a committee member of the South Coast Chinese Language School.

A member of Women on Boards, Elizabeth will undertake governance training with the Australian Independent Schools (NSW).