In Memory of Hilla Patell

Thursday 8th June 2023

Hilla Patell has completed her life on earth — we knew her health had been failing her for a number of years, which she graciously accepted. Today she quietly and gently slipped out of this life, which fills us with sadness, but also with tremendous gratitude. Hilla Patell was an exceptional woman, a master teacher trainer and a master of observation.

AMI is so fortunate to have reaped and enjoyed her wisdom, a journey together that started in 1974 - close to fifty years ago. Her interest in Montessori education was first aroused through the counselling and community work that she was involved in during the 1950's: she looked for a Montessori school for her children, and on arrival in the UK in 1960 was soon to enrol as a student and then from 1962 as Montessori teacher at the Maria Montessori Training Organisation, London (MMTO), whose training staff she joined. She led MMTO as Co-Director and then Director of Training until her retirement in 1989. And retirement was only a word in Hilla's vocabulary, not something one did. She remained available for counsel and mentoring and continued to deliver special lectures to the students - and of course, continued examining at AMI examinations across the globe. She gave many workshops and study sessions in various countries and her advice was sought by many teachers and trainers and was always generously given.

Her service to AMI is unparalleled and given in the quietest of ways. Through her position in London, she often connected to AMI in Amsterdam, who asked her to be a founding member of the Pedagogical Committee, which met in person for the first time in 1974. Hilla was elected to AMI's Board and Executive Committee in 1982. She was also one of the first members of the Sponsoring Committee (1977), the committee that was tasked with devising AMI’s Training of Trainers programme, which she chaired for many years until 2003 and without which AMI would not have the global reach that it has today.
Hilla chaired the Executive Committee from 2000-2004, and additionally took on the responsibility of AMI's presidency from 2004-2005. For her extraordinary contributions to AMl's work and the propagation of Montessori education, the AMI Board agreed to bestow a special honour on Hilla: honorary membership.

Words cannot do justice to acknowledge the legacy she left us: she will be remembered with the greatest affection, but also in the knowledge that she had a natural authority, and elegance. This is how she will be remembered: as a shining and humble woman who redefined the value of service.

In gratitude,

AMI Board, AMI Executive Director and AMI Team

AMI and MMI are compiling a memory book, if you would like to contribute a thought or memory, please send it to [email protected].


We are delighted to be able to now bring you the transcript of a 2015 interview she had with fellow trainer Molly O'Shaughnessy, of the Montessori Center of Minnesota; the interview was part of the NAMTA Conference of that year. Hilla speaks on the theme of "Observation: The Key to Unlocking the Child's Potential," and delves into various topics ranging from "work curves" and "silent discipline" to "the subtle and intricate process of child development."

You can read the interview here.