MFS’s exceptionally well-qualified and experienced teachers, trained in the Montessori Method, work to support the development of each student’s potential. In addition to doing an outstanding job in the classroom, many MFS teachers are also involved in the Montessori Teacher Training Program and work as faculty members for the American Montessori Society, the organization that certifies training programs and awards credentials to Montessori teachers who meet the highest applied standards. Additionally, MFS hires resource teachers who specialize in specific subjects such as art, movement, music, Spanish, drama, and physical education.

Head of School

Jimi PurseJimi Purse

I am originally from Hudson, Ohio and joined Montessori Family School this year after spending 6 years as the Assistant Director of Oneness Family School in Chevy Chase, Maryland. I earned a master’s degree in educational leadership and administration from Trinity University and a B.A. in educational psychology from Miami University. My past experience beyond Oneness Family School includes serving as assistant principal at Our Lady of Lourdes School in North Carolina and teaching Advanced Placement psychology and directing constituent relations at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, VA. I have experience coaching various sports, including soccer, lacrosse, and even a Special Olympics basketball team, which contributed to my unique ability to work with all types of students with  patience and humor. My skill in daily operations management and administrative experience at the high school level are assets which can nourish our school’s growth.I live in Berkeley with my wife, Andrea, and our two children McKenna and Keaton, who both attend MFS.

Faculty and Administration

Ali LinoAli Lino Lower Elementary Classroom

I grew up in Point Reyes, California and I received my Bachelor’s of Art degree in Studio Art at UC Santa Cruz. I focused on printmaking, and I took classes and internships that allowed me to bring my art skills to schools in the Santa Cruz area. After I graduated, I spent two years working with youth in the outdoors. I started at MFS as a classroom aide during the 2009-2010 school year. The 2011-2012 school year was my first year working as a teacher in the Lower Elementary Two classroom. I am overjoyed to be working as teacher now. I believe in Montessori Education, because of it’s foundation in Maria Montessori’s deep respect for the significance of childhood on the development of the whole person. The idea of preparing a child for life is very important to me. When I am not at MFS, I enjoy kayaking, river rafting, sailing, knitting, printmaking, painting, swimming, hiking, and reading.

Alissa StolzAlissa Stolz Middle School Classroom

Alissa holds a B.A. in German Studies and an M.Ed in Montessori Education from Endicott College. She is credentialed through the American Montessori Society (AMS) for Secondary I & II (ages 12 – 18), regularly presenting at the AMS national conference on Montessori philosophy and the adolescent. She serves on the Board of Director’s for a Montessori high school. She has been a teacher trainer for the Houston Montessori Center’s satellite program in California.

In 2009 I came to Montessori Family School to launch the middle school. I view early adolescence as an important growth period in a young person’s evolution. One of the more powerful skills a Montessori middle school classroom can provide is the ability to demonstrate to students how to take a meta-cognitive stance on what they are doing as they move through these years of identity formation and discovery. Guiding children towards self-discovery and autonomy and the belief that this is work essential to the fullest development of the human inspires me.

“What I love about being a Montessori teacher is that there is an on-going construction of the environment that is shaped by all the participants. At the same time I operate under a vision of ‘Set expectations high; meet each child where they are.’ The ongoing balance to make all these varied parts a whole is what gives a Montessori middle school classroom its unique ability to encourage children (as well as the adults) to push themselves to succeed and to learn and to always discover anew. It is a very growthful environment.”

Amber Doyle Early Childhood Campus Cultural Studies

I was born and raised in Austin, Texas. I have always been curious about the world and love to explore as often as possible. Before landing in San Francisco, I spent a couple of wonderful years at an Art school called the Instituto De Allende located in the lovely city of San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. My passion at the time was metal work and it was a magical time in my life. From an early age, I knew that I wanted to work with children. I believe in a compassionate and respectful education and the Montessori approach resonates with me to my core. When my daughter Bella Rose was a little over a year old, I began the Montessori Early Childhood Credential Program at Saint Mary’s College of California. After completing my internship at a school in Oakland, I found Montessori Family School. I am so proud to be a part of this amazing community. I am thrilled to be working in the Cultural room at the Early Childhood campus in Berkeley this year. A perfect match. It is my goal to create an environment that allows children to gain a deeper understanding of the world and the interconnectedness of everything in it. When I am not working I love spending time with friends and family in nature.

Angela PiersonAngela Pierson Buckeye Classroom

I attended a little Montessori school in Montana as young child and have always held onto my early life impressions I received in that environment. I remember working hard at practical life, pouring, cutting, and mixing. I remember working with the pink tower, feeling shapes and weights, touching and noticing differences with my hands. I remember being wide awake to a sense of the huge world and all that it contained. The curiosity, wonder, and independence fostered in Montessori followed me throughout my school years. I attended Biola Universtity majoring in humanities English and minoring in art and graduating from the Torrey Honors Institute, a Socratic great books program. I have been working in a Montessori classroom for the last year in Berkeley, and it is with great enthusiasm that I begin this year working the Buckeye classroom. I look forward to watching that sense of exploration and wonder unfold in the Buckeye children. My own pursuits include my art practice of observational drawing and illustration, playing the violin, reading, and gardening.

Anna SchurayAnna Schuray Lower Elementary Classroom

I am originally from Santa Cruz, CA, and I graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Anthropology, Archaeology emphasis, in 2007. I worked as an archaeological technician on various university projects in Peru and Colombia. More recently, I was an assistant teacher in a Montessori primary school in Park City, Utah, and a teacher for an after-school program in Santa Cruz. I also enjoyed my time in Utah as an apprentice to an herbalist. I enjoy botany, especially the study of medicinal plants, hiking, going to Farmer’s Markets, vegetarian cooking, and I am an avid reader.  I received my Elementary I teaching certification through the  Montessori Teacher Education Center San Francisco Bay in June 2015.  It is a joy to guide children to their fullest potential, and I am constantly amazed by the gifts and talents that all young learners possess. The Montessori  classroom provides that essential prepared environment for the important inner work of the child to be nurtured and brought forth. In order for there to be peace on a global scale, gratitude and compassion for others must be realized on an individual level. It is the aim of my work at MFS to help foster a community of peace and a sense of purpose for each child as they grow to adulthood.

Bharati BhattBharati Bhatt Educational Consultant and Alumni Relations

I have more than thirty years of Montessori experience and I am trained in both Montessori Primary Education from The Montessori Academy of Kansas City, Kansas and Montessori Elementary Education from the Montessori Teacher Education Center of the San Francisco Bay Area. I currently teach children, ages six to nine, at Montessori Family School. My first exposure to Montessori was as a preschool student in India. That warm experience stayed with me and inspired me to seek a Montessori school for my children and also fueled my desire to become a Montessori teacher myself. I have been with Montessori Family School since 1985 and during that time, I launched a Primary Program and a Lower Elementary Program at MFS. I love Montessori Family School, as it’s a unique and special school. The collaboration of parents, teachers, and administration creates a wonderful learning environment for children and an exciting place for teachers to work. I enjoy teaching Indian dance and drumming techniques. In my free time, I love creating new materials for my classroom, reading, dancing, music, traveling, and spending time with my family.

Carly DoolingCarly Dooling Aspen Classroom

I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts in Printmaking and Illustration at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Following my graduation, I moved to the East Bay and began working as an art teacher at a studio located in Marin. It was there that I discovered my passion for children and education. For the following three years I continued doing the two things I truly love — teaching kids and making art — until I realized that I wanted to become more involved in the broader education of the preschoolers I worked with. Helping to blossom the knowledge, curiosity, and joy within my students is my source of motivation. I am truly excited for the opportunity to be part of the Montessori Family School, and I am just beginning to start my Montessori Preprimary Credential. In my free time, I enjoy making comics and painting, lots of reading, and playing around on my baritone ukulele.

Caroline Hamel Executive Assistant

Some of my earliest childhood memories are from the Montessori preschool that I attended, where I remember discovering the infinite possibilities of Legos and loving my gifted teachers. My first opportunity to work with children came as a 10-year-old, assisting my dance instructor in Sonoma County. Learning how to communicate my love for movement, modern dance, and ballet to 3-year-old boys and girls was the first of many steps on a continuing path in youth education. I received my BA in Linguistics at UC Berkeley, taking a particular interest in sociolinguistics and language acquisition. After graduating, a job prospect led me to New York City, where I worked for two years at a not-for-profit organization teaching health and mental resilience in an urban public high school. The challenges I encountered in the NYC education system only reinforced my desire to work with a more independent school of thought, one that understood social and emotional growth as something intrinsic to academic capability, not incidental to it. After moving back to the Bay Area I was thrilled to be offered a job in the office at Montessori Family School. It inspires me to see children mentoring each other, learning to make good choices within supportive boundaries, moving freely but with purpose around their classroom, and expressing creativity through their academic work. In my free time I continue to take dance classes, drive out to the coast, read, and drink plenty of coffee and tea.

Dylan McCrystal Lower Elementary Classroom

I was born in Laguna Beach, California and spent most of my childhood and adolescence in nearby Orange County. There I attended the UC Irvine Farm Elementary School, a lab school established by UCI’s School of Education. At the Farm School I learned to value intellectual enthusiasm and the thrill of making connections and pursuing curiosities in an environment that encouraged independent discovery. These principles have remained deeply important to me all my life, and are what has drawn me to Montessori Family School.I graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a BA in Modern Literature, and am currently enrolled in the Montessori Teacher Education Center San Francisco Bay Area. I am thrilled to be joining the Lower Elementary classroom, and look forward to a extraordinary school year. When I am not in school, I enjoy trail-running, gardening, drawing, metalwork, chess, and the study of language.

Danielle RobertsDanielle Roberts Learning Specialist

I am very excited to join the Montessori Family School community. As a strong firm believer in the pedagogy of the Montessori approach, I believe these values should be integrated in all schools. I look forward to bringing my passion for helping children of all learning styles and abilities to MFS. Most of my career has been working with upper elementary, middle, and high school students in the independent and public school sector. I have over seventeen years of experience working with children and young adults with mild, moderate, and severe learning and psychological challenges. I have collaborated closely with parents, teachers, administrators, and learning support staff. I hold a B.S. in Psycho-biology and a B.A. in Professional Communications, a M. Ed. in Special Education with an emphasis in school psychology, and a Doctorate in Educational Psychology. I will complete my training as a Slingerland Language specialist in July 2014 to better serve students who are struggling with language issues. I am the proud mother of two daughters, Reese (9) and Remi (3), the eldest of whom attended a Montessori preschool for three years and my younger one who’s about to start preschool in August, which I have no doubt will have a positive effect on her. I look forward to joining the MFS community!

Diana Hernandez Early Childhood Campus After School Classroom

I am currently in school to obtain my B. A. in Psychology. I am a bay area native and have lived in the east bay all of my life. My parents were born in El Salvador, so naturally I learned how to speak, read and write in Spanish at an early age. During a Psychology class I took in high school, I realized that the idea of helping young minds flourish would bring me joy. I began working with children 15 years ago, mostly in private school settings. During this time I was also a medical assistant for an Obstetrics and Gynecology office where I was able to monitor babies’ heart beats and other amazing things. Although medical assisting was an awesome learning experience for me, I quickly made the decision of going back to working with children again. In my journey I was led to a Montessori school in 2004 where I became the head of the afterschool program for 7 years, and also where my love and admiration for the Montessori philosophy began. The freedom of choice that Montessori offers to children deserves respect and serves as a gateway to helping children develop inner drive and self-discipline. Montessori inspires me in everyday life and I am grateful to have come across such a beautiful way of teaching. In my spare time I love to be outdoors in nature. Hiking, running, camping, Karaoke, and spending time with my family are some of the things that keep me content.

Emily Howard Upper Elementary Classroom

I am excited to return to teaching after several years managing programs and building affordable housing with Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley. I began teaching in Chicago with a liberal arts education from Grinnell College and received my Montessori credential in 2004 from the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in New York. Teaching always inspires me to learn new things, and in my seven years teaching Upper Elementary in Chicago, among other things, I learned to play the guitar and djembe, learned a ton about how to inspire a love of learning in all kinds of people, and finally understood how the moon can be revolving but always facing the same side toward the earth. This year, I am excited to join the stellar MFS faculty, delve into early human history, rediscover my love of Montessori math materials, and find new strategies for teaching social-emotional development to support our students growth as whole people. I live in a consensus-based co-housing community in North Oakland with my husband, Ned, and two year-old daughter, Zinnia, and we do a lot of hiking, singing, and bubble-blowing.

Heidi De Los Santos El Cerrito Campus Afterschool

I was born and raised in the Bay Area, moving from San Francisco to the East Bay. As a child, I received a dual-immersion education and public school education. In my free time I love to spend time with family and friends, watch movies or get lost in a new book. I love to travel when I get the chance and for the past 5 years I have been living part time between Mexico City and the Bay Area. I have experience working in the education field as various different roles, such as a camp counselor, literacy tutor, and after school program assistant teacher, to name a few. I received my B.A. from UC Berkeley with a major in Spanish Language and Literature and a minor in Education. Some of my favorite authors include Julio Cortázar, Haruki Murakami, Paulo Coelho, and Miguel de Cervantes. During my time at UC Berkeley, I spent a semester abroad at La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Though I am new to this alternative learning institution, my philosophy towards education is one that greatly parallels with that of the Montessori school education. I believe that children should have the opportunity to explore and nurture their natural curiosity to learn while developing independence and an identity that transcends the boundaries of the school through a peaceful, respectful and collaborative environment.

Kathy BibeauKathy Bibeau Business Manager

I received my Bachelor’s of Arts in Sociology and Communications Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Afterwards I spent four years as a teaching assistant in the Sociology Department at both the University of California at Santa Barbara and at Santa Cruz. I am currently pursuing a certificate degree in Non-Profit Management from Cal State East Bay. When I left the academic world in my mid twenties I spent a few years traveling the United States and in 1988 I settled in the Bay Area, where I raised a family and home schooled my son. Since moving to the Bay Area I have worked in the Business Management arena for many years, doing everything from managing the office of a construction company and a real estate management firm, to owning my own bookkeeping business. I joined the Montessori Family School in 2006. I enjoy the community that is present within the Montessori Family School and I love the environment that I work in. When I am not working I enjoy dancing, music of all kind, playing with my dog and traveling with my husband to explore new areas both in the US and abroad.

Kim Brae Buckeye Classroom

I have been involved in Montessori programs for over twenty-five years. I have experienced Montessori as a parent, a teacher, and more recently as a grandparent. My son Damon attended Montessori schools from preschool through elementary and currently runs a toddler program here in the Bay Area. My granddaughter Anja attended preschool at MFS and is now beginning as a 4th year in Upper Elementary. My second granddaughter, Dylan, is looking forward to entering preschool at MFS next fall. I have a degree in Human Development/Early Childhood Education from CSU and a 3-6 Montessori certification. My husband Elliott and I live in Albany and spend our summers in Homer, Alaska.

Larraine SeidenLarraine Seiden Elementary/Middle School Campus Art

As a Montessori kid originally from Central Pennsylvania, I am excited to join Montessori Family School. I have been an artist for as long as I can remember. After a big drive to the Bay Area in a VW minibus, I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art at Cal State Hayward. During two summers at college, I taught art in UC Berkeley’s clinical study programs for kids with ADHD which sparked my interest in teaching. My art wanderlust led me throughout Mexico and for extended stays in Oaxaca, where I immersed myself in Mexican art, Spanish, and dance. Other art and dance quests took me to Italy, Spain, and Cuba. Later at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, I found an inspired art education program and completed a Masters in Art and Design Education. I taught K-8 art in programs throughout Brooklyn. Back in San Francisco, I spent three years teaching art and design courses at St. Ignatius College Prep until my first son was born. At that point, I refocused on my studio work and started to teach independently. I had the honor to study with Dr. Betty Edwards and to be certified by her to teach her Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain method, a course I continue to teach. I’m excited to teach all of the K-8 grades at MFS and to get to collaborate with students at so many key points in their artistic growth. As a practicing studio artist and teacher, I want to demystify art and empower all of my students to discover their own creative processes. Adding tools to their art toolbox, students learn to think like artists and to consciously access the visual/spatial part of the brain. Out in the world, these tools help them grow their visual literacy and become perceptive critics and skillful creators. Currently, I live in Piedmont with my husband and two elementary aged boys. I exhibit my paintings throughout the Bay Area and US.

Lisa BroggiLisa Broggi Elementary/Middle School Mindfulness

I have always been innately curious about people. My fascination for exploring the human experience combined with my attraction to the arts lead to my MA in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Expressive Arts Therapy from the California Institute of Integral Studies. In completing my studies I spent a year working with children and their families within a hospital setting through the Institute for Health and Healing in San Francisco, implementing a holistic approach to healthcare by providing expressive arts therapy and mindfulness practices such as guided imagery to patients. After witnessing the power of mindfulness in action, I began to wonder what it might look like to bring these practices to children from an early age, particularly in a structured educational environment. This curiosity combined with my personal mindfulness practice lead me to Montessori Family School through Seeds of Awareness, a non profit organization dedicated to providing social and emotional learning programs to local schools. I experienced great resonance with the Montessori philosophy and quickly felt at home with MFS and its welcoming community. This is my second year with MFS as I continue to offer my counseling services to students, including play therapy, as well as facilitating mindfulness circles within each classroom. I utilize the power of play and creativity in my work and create a space of nurturance and acceptance for children so that they may learn how to safely and authentically express themselves in the world.

Lorraine GallagherLorraine Gallagher Upper Elementary Classroom

I have been involved with MFS since 1986, when I enrolled my daughter in the Lower Elementary class as a first-year student. I volunteered as a ‘Reading Group’ parent for a few years and became more involved with the school, serving spaghetti at fundraisers and scrubbing walls during work parties. When a position as an assistant teacher opened up in the Lower Elementary II classroom I took the 6-9 training at MTEC in San Leandro. I worked in the Lower Elementary classroom for many years. When the Elementary Program moved from the Berkeley Campus to our Kensington Campus I took the 9-12 Montessori training and joined the Upper Elementary class. My daughter graduated from MFS after her 6th year and went on to Head Royce. I continue to work at MFS because I believe that Montessori provides the best opportunity for individual students to reach their potential and to thrive, both as students and as members of the broader society. I feel that the respect for students’ unique strengths that is built into Montessori education with materials designed for a wide range of learning styles, the opportunities for independence and responsibility, and the emphasis on peace education, communication skills, conflict resolution, and service learning provide the best possible foundation for children. What I love about MFS in particular, aside from the deep satisfaction of doing good work, is the opportunity to work with like-minded, hardworking teachers in an environment that fosters creative problem-solving and cooperation. I am the seventh of eight children, and grew up on Long Island. When I’m not teaching I love spending time with my family, including my grandson, an MFS student, and my large New York tribe. I love to read, dance, Jazz, cooking, gardening, art and museums. I also enjoy visiting other countries whenever I have the opportunity.

Luke KeeganLuke Keegan Elementary/Middle School After School Classroom and Spanish

I received my Bachelors of Arts in History with an emphasis on Latin American relations with the United States, and a Minor in Language Studies from the University of California Santa Cruz. At age fifteen I had the experience of living with a family in Mexico for three weeks. From this flowed my desire to pursue a mastery of the Spanish language. In high school, with the support of an amazing instructor, I acquired strong foundational Spanish skills that I continued to develop at University level. While studying Spanish at UCSC, my love for language and culture led me to also learn Portuguese. My language studies have included independent travel in Costa Rica, Panama, Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Brazil. In 2007 I joined the MFS community as an Assistant After School Teacher. Four years ago, I took on the additional responsibility of teaching Spanish groups. I feel blessed to be a and integral part of such a supportive, and caring community for children. Montessori Family School embodies the values of community working together to create a healthy, secure, engaging family that cultivates growth and discovery. At MFS I have found both the opportunity to teach a subject that I love, and a school in which I can share that love with the same values and principle that first led me to it. When I’m not at MFS or exploring Latin America, I enjoy getting out into California’s wilderness, backpacking, fishing, hiking, skiing, snowboarding or just exploring open spaces.

Luis RamirezLuis Ramirez Early Childhood Campus After School Classroom

 My name is Luis Alberto Ramirez, and I am a committed educator for young children. I am fluently bilingual in Spanish, and proud to be part of a bi-cultural society.I have worked as a preschool teacher for three years where I have developed communications skills with children and families. For two years, I was working for the Innovative Preschool Inc., which is a private school that included typical developing children and children with Autism. During my stay I was exposed to a variety of strategies to enhance the learning for children with Autism. This unique school worked along with the Chico Unified School District, and with the Butte County Office of Education. I established a close relationship with many of the faculty and staff, which I will cherish for the rest of my life. During my stay in Chico California, I have interned at a variety of different preschools, which include the; Early Childhood Head Start Centers, Butte College Child Care Center, Associate Student Child Development Lab at the California State University of Chico. I recently graduated from California State University of Chico with a Child Development degree. I also have an Associate of Science degree in Early Childhood Education, and an Associates of Arts degree in Social and Behavior Science. I have enjoyed every minute in my journey as a preschool teacher, because I have a gift to reach others and to help them accomplish their goals. I believe to reach world peace we must encourage young children to love and care for the world. I am convinced that the Montessori Family School will be the foundation for many of these children’s life in order to succeed in their education. I spend most of my time cooking and cleaning. I enjoy spending time with my family, and friends, and I love to walk my two dogs.

Micah McClainMicah McClain Elementary/Middle School Music

Music has been my life from the very beginning. Born to hippies outside of Cincinnati, I built my first drum set at age five from a collection of Tupperware bowls and pan lids. At 12, I joined the school jazz band, played my first gig at 14, and started teaching fellow students two years later. I attended Indiana University on a Jazz Studies scholarship, and while in school, took my first teaching job at a local music store. In 1996 I left Indiana to travel the world by sailing ship, performing jazz and cabaret music in much of Asia and the South Pacific, Alaska, the Caribbean, and South America. I made landfall a year later in Chicago where I began my study of North Indian classical music and became immersed in the rich funk, soul and jazz traditions that still survive there. Following my sixth extra-long Chicago-style winter, the warm air and creative spirit of California blew in, and in 2004, I packed up and left for the West Coast. Teaching children has always come naturally to me and I have had many young drum set students over the years, but I never expected to fall so head over heals for the kids at Montessori Family School. In 2007, I was asked to take over the music program and to get training in the Orff Shulwerk music approach. Four summers and an apprenticeship later, I can say without hesitation that Orff Shulwerk has influenced my understanding of what it means to make and teach music more than all of my other training combined. In my mind it is the Montessori approach, coded for music education. I make my home in Alameda where I continue to teach privately. I work with around 30 drum set students each week, and teach a dozen classes (preschool through middle) at three different schools including Montessori Family School. I also perform regularly throughout the Bay area with several different projects. I continue to learn about music and myself through the children at MFS, and I am so proud of what we have accomplished together over the years.

Nori GrimesNori Grimes KT and Elementary PE

In 1995, I received my International Montessori Degree while teaching at Laguna Beach Montessori School and continued there until 1998. From 1998-2000, I was the head teacher for 3-5 year olds at Forest Lane Montessori School in Dallas, TX. In 2000, I moved to the Bay Area and served as a head teacher at Keystone Montessori School in El Cerrito until 2009. In addition to being a Montessori head teacher for nearly 15 years, I have been actively involved in coaching soccer. My teams have included the JV teams from Santa Margarita High School and Laguna Beach High School, and I currently coach the El Cerrito Soccer Club. In my youth, I played high school soccer, ran cross country, and was an avid swimmer, surfer, and mountain biker. Being an athlete has made me a mentally stronger person and helped me to learn to think fast, move with a purpose, and be mindful of the people around me.

Rebecca Deutsch Middle School Classroom

I grew up in Santa Cruz, California where I attended a Montessori school for Upper Elementary and Middle School. Being immersed in a Montessori program had a profound affect on both my intellectual curiosity as well as my sense of self at that critical juncture. I am convinced that Montessori education is essential to equip young people with the tools and transferable skills they need to become both responsive community members as well as motivated, change-making citizens.  I am overjoyed to join the team at Montessori Family School this year in the Middle School classroom.  I graduated with a BA in Theatre at Oberlin College, where I focused my study developing and crafting original plays alongside companies of young adults. After moving to the Bay Area, I worked in various theaters, pursing theater education. This past year, I taught theatre and creative writing at The Berkeley School, a K-8 independent school in Berkeley. My personal pursuits include writing poems and plays, ocean swimming, playing the piano, and making wildly fermented foods.

Rebecca Grodofsky Redwood Classroom

After growing up in Connecticut, I earned a BA from Oberlin College and an MFA in painting from San Francisco Art Institute. I have worked with children for many years, and was drawn to the Montessori pedagogy for its deep respect for young ones. A Montessori classroom provides boundaries within which children feel free to explore. When students feel safe and supported, they thrive. I love working with three to six-year-olds for their open hearts, curious minds, and their near constant state of presence. Primary motivations of mine are to support their artistic impulses and their social-emotional development. I joined the MFS community in 2013 and am continuously inspired by the community of teachers and families here. When not working, I enjoy hiking, making art, reading and sharing meals with loved ones.

Regina HartmannRegina Hartmann Aspen Classroom

After completing a BA degree in Educational Philosophy and earning my Montessori Credential in Ithaca, N.Y., I have taught in schools in Dallas, Tx. and Denver, Co.  I joined the Montessori Family School in 1990 with deep delight to have found a good school for my children and myself. After teaching for many years and raising my son and daughter, I pursued a Masters Degree in Education including a new credential in Educational Therapy.  Dr. Montessori’s pedagogical insights, as well as neuro-psychological brilliance, shine ever more brightly for me as I pursue my studies and strive to expand my awareness. The Montessori materials are the “constants” and the children the amazing “variables” I have the honor of observing, learning from and lovingly supporting.  When not in the classroom, I’m enriched by working as an educational therapist; this offers me the one-with-one time necessary to support children with “trickier” processing issues. I now enjoy combining my various skills in all settings. After 33+ years of working with 3-6 year olds my sense of marvel, joy and good fortune at working in a Montessori environment deepens week-by-week. I enjoy working at MFS because the teachers are truly respected and supported. I love hiking, cherish time with my family, singing along with anything, great conversations with friends, and taking my time to listen and re-listen to audio guides in Art museums.

Ruth FlowersRuth Flowers Redwood Classroom

I first came to Montessori Family School in 2004. I love that the school makes way for children to use their curiosity, interests, and success to advance their own learning. Since earning my American Montessori Society Early Childhood Teacher Certificate in 2009, observations of the children and support from MFS staff continue to deepen my understanding and love of Montessori philosophy. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with minors in Sociology, Women’s Studies and Dance from the University of Memphis. My free time is a balance of health, relaxation, creativity, and movement. I enjoy making discoveries in the garden and nature, running around playing soccer, and nurturing my connection with friends and family.

Shawna McCarrollShawna McCarroll Early Childhood Campus Site Administrator

I am thrilled to be working with the Montessori Family School! I discovered my love of working with children years ago, while living in Portland Oregon. While earning my bachelor’s degree in Arts and Letters I also worked as a nanny. It was so enjoyable that I began looking into becoming a teacher. Several of my friends were Montessori teachers, and through them I was able to learn about the Montessori approach and sit in on their classrooms. Montessori resonated with my personality and struck me immediately as the ideal environment for learning. I now believe that the Montessori model of education is a key part of creating a better future for everyone by helping our children realize their full potential and understand how we are connected with each other and our environment. In my free time I like gardening, arts and crafts, writing songs, cooking, photography, and volunteering with community organizations. I am also Co-Chair of the Land Use Working Group of the Berkeley Climate Action Coalition, where we are focused on growing the number of community gardens in Berkeley.

Trina RymlandTrina Rymland Kindergarten Transition Classroom

I have been a huge fan of Montessori Family School for well over a decade now! It all started when I was in college at California State University, San Bernardino in Southern California. One of my co-workers had two of the most inquisitive, polite, intelligent children I had ever met. I asked her what her secret, and she told me her children attended a Montessori school. I was just finishing a degree in Communications, but I was very intrigued by this Montessori thing that she spoke of. I moved to the Bay Area in 1992, and met my future husband. Coincidentally, he lived with his sister and nephew at the time we met, and his nephew also attended a Montessori school. I decided to pursue this Montessori idea that had peaked my interest several years earlier. I started substitute teaching at my nephew’s school and decided to take the training at the Montessori Teacher Education Center, San Francisco Bay Area. The Montessori Philosophy made so much sense to me because it had such a logical and humane approach to teaching children. Jane Wechsler, our Founding Head of School was one of my instructors, and I began working at MFS the following school year. When it came time for my son to begin pre-school, there was never any doubt in my mind that he would attend any school other than MFS. He started at this school when he was three years old, and will be a graduate of our Middle School, Class of 2012! The same is true for my daughter, who will graduate Middle School, Class of 2015! I am in the unique position of being able to look at MFS from the perspective of both a parent and teacher. As a parent, I believe MFS to have some of the most dedicated and caring teachers you would ever want to mentor your children. There is an intangible, over-whelming feeling that your child will be loved and taught with his/her best interest always in mind. These are the same reason I enjoy working here, and consider it an honor to be part of this incredibly dedicated team of educators and administrators. When I am not teaching, I enjoy traveling with my family and singing with a band made-up of several other MFS moms! I so enjoy the community this school has offered; it truly is a “family” school for me.

 Vanessa CallaghanVanessa Callaghan Lower Elementary Classroom

I was six years old when I started my Montessori journey at a small school in the Metro-Detroit area. It wasn’t until 2002, 16 years later, that I finally returned to a Montessori classroom. I felt immediately at home. Children were bustling about, scrubbing tables with aprons on, and choosing works from a shelf full of familiar, inviting materials. All the while, gentle teachers were giving firm and heartfelt guidance. Drawn to the thoughtful preparation of the environment, the peaceful values of the philosophy, and the science and spirit of the approach, I immersed myself in Montessori.  I spent my next five years teaching at Nia House Learning Center, a lovely Montessori program in West Berkeley. During this time, I completed the 3-6 Early Childhood training at the Montessori Teacher Education Center of the San Francisco Bay Area. After several of my student cohorts graduated, I became curious about what comes next in Montessori.I joined Montessori Family School’s LE teaching team in 2007. During my first year, I completed my 6-9 Lower Elementary  training at the Montessori Teacher Education Center of the San Francisco Bay Area. During the next 7 years, I was a co-teacher and head teacher in LE.  I enjoy tailoring every year, month, and day to the child. Being a part of the MFS community of students, faculty, staff, and families, has been exceptionally enriching. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from UC Berkeley and a Master’s Degree in Education from St. Catherine University.  In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my husband Jason and my two step-children, Max (16) and Hannah (20), hiking with my dog Boots, creating art, food, and community, writing, and dancing to the music.

Vivien Salamon Kindergarten Transition Program

I am excited to join the Montessori Family School. After attending an Open House last year, I walked away feeling that MFS would be a great place to teach. The MFS philosophy of teaching for peace is a good fit with my own personality and beliefs. Now that I’ve joined the team, I am excited to contribute to the school’s positive atmosphere.  I graduated from college in 2010 with a Bachelor’s degree in art teaching from the College of Nyíregyháza, which is a college in my native Hungary. I moved to the Bay Area shortly thereafter and have been working in early education ever since. In those five years I have worked with children ranging from ages 2 to 12. This wide range has helped me appreciate how the social and emotional needs of children change over time; and how I can best support those needs as a teacher.  I had always been interested in teaching in such a way that allows children the liberty to choose and act freely within a supportive environment so when I first stepped into a Montessori classroom I instantly felt at home. I am currently working on my 3-6 Early Childhood training at the Montessori Teacher Education Center of the San Francisco Bay Area in San Leandro and I cannot wait to put my newly acquired knowledge to work in the Kindergarten Transition classroom.  I like to spend my free time doing Bikram yoga, going on nature walks and traveling with my husband. I love everything related to art, from painting and drawing to dancing and singing.

Yvette CashmereYvette Cashmere Director of Admissions and Communications

I graduated from UCLA with a BA in Political Science. I served as a board member for the Bruin Democrats and also interned for a California State Senator during my time a UCLA, which gave me my first insight into the world of politics, public policy and education. I started my administrative experience in the independent school world in 2004. I dabbled in some other nonprofit work but soon realized that my passion was in education. I begin working at MFS in the fall of 2009 and have loved every minute if it. I enjoy MFS for so many different reasons but primarily I like interacting with the students. MFS is such a magical place and I can really see that in the content and happy nature of the children here. Montessori education works for so many different types of learners; I love stepping into a classroom and watching a child “get” something thanks to the Montessori environment and hands-on materials. When I am not at MFS I enjoy hanging out with my 1 year old son, 3 (yes 3!) dogs and husband. We all spend a lot of time in our garden, at the beach and hiking.