Vladimir (goes by James) Ruf joined the MMS team in April of 2021 as an Upper El English Teacher. James was born in Russia, where he attended Saratov State University for his Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Prior to coming to the United States, he worked as a teacher in Russia and Mexico. After having moved to Wisconsin, James spent almost two years working at Park’s Edge Preschool as a Lead Teacher.
James took a job at Milwaukee Montessori School because of his fascination with the way that teaching is approached here. Children seem to thrive in this educational environment and adults appear to genuinely enjoy their jobs. Mr. Ruf is excited for a great career at MMS and growing both as a teacher and a human being. In his spare time, James likes to spend time with his wife, read, go for hikes, work out, and play video games.
Ms. Taylor joined us in the Stepping Stones South Toddler room in March of 2021.
She graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and a minor in Psychology. With over 10 years of experience in the childcare field, Taylor has always enjoyed watching children grow in many different aspects. Although she wasn’t in the job market, when she saw the opportunity to be a Toddler teacher at MMS, she couldn’t pass it up! If you haven’t already, you will no doubt know who Ms. Taylor is as her sweet and bubbly personality sometimes makes it way to the front desk before she does. 😉
During her free time, she loves to be outside with friends and family and take time for self-care. She’s really looking forward to watching herself grow in our MMS Community environment!
Abby is delighted to join the Milwaukee Montessori School team in 2021 as a Children’s House Assistant. Originally from Monroe, WI, Abby studied writing and psychology at Drake University in Des Moines, IA before recently moving to Milwaukee. As a former 4-H member, she has a passion for youth development and was drawn to Milwaukee Montessori School by its focus on youth-led learning. She is very excited about the opportunity to help students learn by doing! In her spare time, she enjoys crocheting, making jewelry, and reading and writing middle-grade literature. She also loves attending medieval reenactments with her fiancé, where she dons a suit of armor, spars with blunted swords, and teaches the public about medieval Europe.
Janell joined us in March of 2021 as the Stepping Stones South Lead Teacher. She has several years of childcare experience and has spent the last few years working as a massage therapist and stylist. Believing deeply in the Montessori method, she has stepped out of the salon and back into the classroom. She is passionate about continuing her education and looking for ways to prepare children for the future.
She and her family are extremely outdoorsy, and her love for nature and all its glory is something she likes to utilize in the classroom, as well. She and her daughter, who is attending MMS in the Children’s House program, are big animal lovers and share their home with a dog, a bird, and 3 rats that they consider to be part of their family! Janell also volunteers for local dog rescues as a foster parent.
It’s important for Janell to instill compassion for others and life in her daughter, and she’s excited to carry that into the classroom, too!
Betzy, with over 15 years of customer service and case managing experience, has managed to build her career through hard work and dedication. With her solid sales skills, she has driven her teams to success while exceeding her own goals.
Being a native of Milwaukee, WI, Betzy enjoys being outdoors and discovering hidden gems that include food and great drinks in the local area. If Betzy is not at home spending time with her two sons and daughter, she is catching up on reading or listening to her favorite podcasts. Betzy is a community leader through the Salvation Army and volunteers as a Crisis Chaplain bringing Spiritual and Emotional support to families and victims of trauma or violence in the city of Milwaukee. She also takes part in other community events throughout the year.
As an extension of her inquisitive personality, Betzy enjoys an eclectic mix of music as well as movies. Eventually, Betzy’s goal is to one day travel to Israel and Italy.
We welcomed Chabeli, or Ms. Chachi as the toddlers call her, to our Toddler Program in 2020. Before coming to MMS, she spent ten years in the customer service field, with jobs in competitive sales, retail stores, banking, and marketing. She’s also a recording artist, spoken word/poetry composer, and painter! With all of these skills, she’s looking forward to stimulating our youngest students creatively!
Ms. Liz is so excited to work in Stepping Stones North and she’s hoping to provide a positive and energetic environment for the toddlers. Before working at Milwaukee Montessori School, she worked at various childcare programs, the most recent being an afterschool instructor at the Maryland Avenue Montessori School. She’s also spent a few summers as a camp counselor at Girl Scots of Manitou. Liz has her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Studio Art from Lawrence University and is planning on becoming an Art Therapist, specifically working with nonverbal children and geriatrics. In her spare time, she enjoys various art projects and relaxing with her cat!
Kathryn is thrilled to join the Toddler Program at Milwaukee Montessori School! She has always enjoyed working with children and is especially fascinated by the way toddlers explore and grow within the Montessori Method. Prior to joining the school, Kathryn created the programming for residents at a memory care community. It was there that she learned the benefits of Montessori activities for dementia patients to keep them engaged in meaningful and purposeful work throughout their day.
Once Kathryn had a child of her own, she became engrossed in researching child psychology and development and after reading more about Maria Montessori, she knew that following this path was her true passion. While taking care of a toddler at home, Kathryn delights in witnessing his new discoveries and is excited to watch the same developments in her students in the classroom. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre from UW-Milwaukee and will always enjoy singing, dancing, and playing piano with adults and with children!
Sierra Falkowski was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, and grew up traveling yearly to different parts of the country. She later moved to, and worked in, the bustling heart of downtown Milwaukee, and has now happily rejoined suburban life in the city of West Allis. She completed a rigorous International Baccalaureate accredited education and has spent the last four years tutoring literacy and teaching children in Preschool and Lower Elementary.
Sierra specializes in the Creative Arts, working with multiple mediums and formats such as painting, ceramics, and illustration. She enjoys bringing children the chance to try a variety of educational artistic experiences, and likes to fill a classroom with their accomplishments, and celebrate their progress and individuality. She currently spends her time making many of the artistic material components of the Montessori Curriculum. When not at school, Sierra also enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, and has a passion for the environment and volunteering; having previously worked with Homeless Connect, The Wisconsin Humane Society, and local community cleanup projects.
Ella Gill is so excited to be apart of the Milwaukee Montessori School Family! She’s always loved working with kids and has been babysitting since she was a teenager. She thinks kids are so fun to be around every day because nothing is ever the same. When she isn’t working, you can find her with her head in a book, specifically fictional novels. She also enjoys eating out with friends and family and playing with her cat, Sapphire. Fun fact! Before taking this job, she worked as a security officer at a hospital. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Parkside with a degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice. She’s so looking forward to getting to know all of the parents, staff, and students!
Alesa Weiss came to Milwaukee Montessori School in the summer of 2015 to take on the role of Front Desk/Development Assistant. In May of 2016, she was promoted to the Director of Development position. Originally hailing from Tulsa, OK, Alesa has lived in Milwaukee for the past decade. For most of her professional career, she worked at the YMCA managing the Day Camp Program Business Office. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Community Education & Engagement from UW-Milwaukee.
The thing that drew Alesa to the school was the unique and exciting way Milwaukee Montessori School approaches learning. She loves being a part of the MMS community and is grateful for the relationships she has built with the families here. She feels privileged to do the work she does with and for your students – it doesn’t feel like work to her! In her life outside of MMS, Alesa loves spending time with her husband and son (MMS class of ’33!), doing escape rooms, reading murder mystery books, and drinking tea (read: pretending to be British).
Ian is the Director of Educational Technology at Milwaukee Montessori School. 2013-14 was his first year as the Technology Director, but he has been with Milwaukee Montessori School since 2011. While at MMS, he has worked with students in the school’s afterschool programs, taught summer classes, and served as an Assistant Teacher in a Montessori classroom. Ian earned a BFA in Applied Media Arts with focuses in animation, graphic design, drawing and painting, and art history from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He is also a 2013 Peabody College Fellow of Vanderbilt University.
Ian has recently studied computer science and programming under the direct tutelage of Steve Bergen, TEDx alumni and sitting Executive Director at Tech International Charter School in the Bronx, New York. Prior to joining MMS, Ian was fortunate to work from home as a freelance artist and graphic designer with his two beautiful children who are current MMS students – Ezran and Bellen. His freelance work experience covered the artistic and graphic gambit of fine art portraiture of families and children, murals, tattoo design, as well as logo and apparel design.
In his free time, Ian enjoys physical fitness and bodybuilding, drawing and painting, writing, music, reading about science and philosophy, Godzilla movies, and epic pillow fights with his children.
Before joining the faculty at MMS, Kathy Maki worked in the summer recreation department at Milwaukee Public Schools teaching games, crafts, and group activities to four, five, and six-year-olds. It was there that she discerned a love of teaching, and she went on to earn an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Milwaukee Area Technical College. Upon graduation in the summer of 1989, Kathy began working at MMS in the Toddler Program and has remained there ever since. At the time of this update, she’s been in our Toddler Program for over 30 years! Each day she looks forward to seeing the young children develop brand new skills and watching their language blossom, as well as building relationships with them through the years. She has even seen quite a few of them graduate eighth grade and beyond!
Kathy and her husband, Chris, have two wonderful children. Alexandra is attending the University of Wisconsin – Madison and is an MMS alum, and Jack, who is looking at colleges now! Kathy loves to travel with her family and hang out at home reading and playing with their yellow lab.
Emily Stanislawski grew up here in the Milwaukee area and graduated from Lawrence University with a major in biology and a minor in psychology in 2018. Prior to working at Milwaukee Montessori School, she worked in Environmental Education at various places across the US, including Nature’s Classroom Institute. It was there that she first learned about the Montessori methodology and fell in love with its hands-on, child-led approach to learning. She can’t wait to learn more about it at MMS! In her free time, she enjoys exploring the outdoors, swimming, and crocheting.
Jaz is originally from Milwaukee and before beginning her career at MMS, worked with the Milwaukee Police Department as their Community Ambassador. When she isn’t at work, she likes to make shirts and masks with custom designs for her friends and family. And, of course, dinosaurs!
One of our MMS Alumni Staff Members, Annie Shafer is a recent graduate of Stonewall College. Her degree is in Finance and Economics, and although we know she isn’t planning a life long career in our Toddler Program, we feel so honored to have her working in the Stepping Stones North Toddler Room while she’s transitioning from college to her career. As much as we love having her smiling, sweet personality here every day, we are excited for her to embark on a new journey soon!
An MMS Alum, Miranda Lyles attends the University of California – Davis. She spends her summers and school breaks working in the First Steps East Toddler Room with our youngest students. We love having our Alumni as employees, and Miranda is a wonderful addition to our team. We know she won’t be here forever, as she has big plans, but we cherish every day she can work with us!
Kiera is originally from Milwaukee and was working at Milwaukee Spanish Immersion with students of all ages. She is currently a Radiology student and has an Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts. She enjoys art, spending time with family and friends, and, most importantly, dogs. She has a dog named Mylo who she loves dearly!
Hannah was born and raised here in Milwaukee and recently moved to the Eastside, where she’s enjoying access to the lake and tacos! In 2018, she graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. As you can imagine, she likes to read! Hannah also enjoys yoga, swimming, kayaking, hiking, and generally anything that allows her to spend time outdoors. She spent the summer of 2020 in California working on an organic farm and holds sustainability very close to her heart. Before that, she was the Lead Toddler Teacher at a childcare center, and is honored to now be at Milwaukee Montessori School as a Toddler Teacher.
Eliza graduated from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse with degrees in Business Administration and Musical Theatre. She has been teaching dance classes to students ages 3-22 and is excited to be joining the Milwaukee Montessori School staff as a teaching assistant for Mrs. Shergill. Her favorite part of teaching, whether it be in a classroom or in a studio, is seeing the student’s excitement as they learn something new!
Lisette started at Milwaukee Montessori School in August of 2020. Prior to that, she was in Minneapolis at the University of Minnesota. She graduated with a degree in child psychology. There, she was able to study human development from before birth until early adulthood. She was also able to observe and interact with preschoolers at the lab school at the Institute of Child Development. She is excited to start her professional career working at Milwaukee Montessori School with students in Children’s House. Her mother was once a teacher at a Montessori school in Illinois, and she is honored to be at Milwaukee Montessori School, following in her mother’s footsteps.
In her free time, Lisette enjoys swimming, hiking, and singing. She lives very close to the School and enjoys visiting various parks and restaurants around the area.
Courtney Palmer was born and raised in Rochester, MN and moved to WI after completing her undergraduate degree, double majoring in Psychology and Criminal Justice. Throughout her youth she was heavily involved in sports and continued with that passion by competing in collegiate athletics, playing volleyball and softball. After graduating in 2015, Courtney continued in collegiate athletics, working as both an Assistant Coach for different volleyball and lacrosse programs. Most recently, Courtney comes to MMS after working as a Special Education Paraprofessional, primarily with 4K-1st grade students.
In her free time, you can often find Courtney crafting with her Cricut machine, reading through massive piles of books she has checked out from her local library, or out and about at various thrift stores seeking unique treasures to bring home! Oftentimes on weekends, you can find her and her fiancé out on the water when the weather is warm and ice fishing when it gets a bit colder.
Ms. Nia started in the First Steps East room as the lead teacher in August of 2020. Before MMS, she worked for ten years at another childcare facility and taught preschool for five of those years. She’s from Brookfield and spends most of her time outside of work at home with her fiancé and their 5 dogs; 4 English Bulldogs and a Chihuahua!
Kenya Roen has been at MMS since September 2019 in our Toddler Program. Born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, Kenya have been working in daycares since 2014.
While exploring the Montessori Method at home with her two-year-old daughter, Evangeline, she found a passion for Montessori education and decided to learn more about it and teach it to other children! Exploring the Montessori curriculum with the toddlers is her favorite part of the job, but having her daughter here at school with her is another great perk!
Kenya spends her free time playing with her daughter and husband, going to the zoo, visiting parks, and cooking. Her favorite place to go is the library because she’s an avid reader.
Harper started her most recent journey at MMS in 2016. She spent most of that time as our resident substitute teacher and creating social-emotional curriculum for the School, but this year she’s taking on a new challenge as a Children’s House Directress.
Originally from Evanston, Illinois, Harper, her husband, and their two children have been living in Wauwatosa for almost two decades. She has a Master’s degree in Art Education and a BFA in Photography. For over 10 years, Harper taught art to elementary-aged students in the Wauwatosa school district, and we’re thrilled she’s been with us ever since.
One reason Harper loves to work at MMS is the Montessori philosophy of understanding how children learn new material. Her children attend the School as well, and she loves getting to see them grow each day. In her off time, Harper loves to cook, tend to her massive vegetable garden, travel, play with her kids, and of course, take photos of her many adventures.
Ms. Alyson Berg is no stranger to Upper Elementary, spending the majority of her MMS career teaching UE students History and Science.
She earned her degree in Animal Science from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, complete with a minor in Chemistry, holding true to the Berg Family tradition! Her parents own a dog breeding business and her sister is an Astrophysics professor at the University of Texas.
In her younger years, Ms. Berg grew up in Minnesota, where she developed a love for the outdoors and animals. She often helped her parents take care of their breeds of English and Irish setters. And when she wasn’t puppy-sitting, she was training for a competitive equestrian career. Her beloved horse is now retired and spends his days eating the most excellent grass and hay Minnesota has to offer.
She’s known for many things, including her love for animals, every single type of candy, and an excuse to make a costume. Need to look like a fish or Greek Goddess by tomorrow? Ms. Berg’s got you covered.
Ms. Annie Elfelt is beginning her MMS journey this year as one of our new Literature and Writing Composition faculty.
Although she is originally from Brookfield, she moved to the great state of Texas to study at the University of Dallas. She thoroughly enjoyed the rigorous liberal arts curriculum and chose to major in English Literature and Writing Composition. Throughout her childhood, Ms. Elfelt had intentions of pursuing education as a career. Not only is she excited to help her students understand grammar and composition, but she also looks forward to exploring with them how throughout the centuries, stories have formed our understanding of common human experience.
In her free time, she loves spending time outside playing sports, hiking, biking, swimming, kayaking, and gardening. Ms. Elfelt’s reading list never dwindles because she delights in novels and poetry, and strives to expand her understanding of history and science.
Although Ms. Elfelt is new to our MMS Community, she’s already found her place among the Upper Elementary faculty and is looking forward to continuing their hard work with your students this year.
Cheryl Kelly has been the Director of Admission at Milwaukee Montessori School since 2000. Cheryl has lived in the Milwaukee area her entire life and knows how difficult it can be for parents to choose the right school for their children. She enjoys helping parents work through the process and looks forward to answering questions about the MMS experience and independent schools in general. Cheryl regularly participates as a member of the Accreditation Team for the Independent Schools Association of the Central States to help guide other private schools through the seven-year accreditation process. All of Cheryl’s four children graduated from MMS, starting in the Toddler or Children’s House Program. Every day, she and her husband are thankful they found MMS years ago for their family. Cheryl is active with her local community and all of her children’s sports teams and clubs.
Alex Flood graduated from Milwaukee Montessori School in 2011. He then went on to attend Pius XI Catholic High School just down the road. After graduating in 2015 he attended Northern Michigan University in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and graduated in May of 2019 with a Bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Recreation Leadership and Management with a minor in Psychology. Alex began working at MMS shortly after graduating 8th grade as a CIT (Counselor in Training). He then became a part-time employee working during the summers and over various breaks throughout the school years. This past MMS school year was his first year as a full-time employee. When he isn’t at work, you can find Alex in the woods hunting, hiking, camping, or on the Mississippi River fishing with his father. “I am extremely grateful to be working full-time at the school that has helped me so much over the years. I really enjoy watching the children learn and grow and I consider myself lucky to be able to help them along the way.”
Georgia Kane began at MMS in 2012 as a student teacher in the art room. Before the end of her placement, she was offered a position at MMS. She began working in the Junior High classroom as a teaching assistant where she taught ACT/SAT prep vocabulary, created daily journal prompts to foster creativity in writing, and built meaningful relationships with her students. Georgia has become a Jayhawks instructor, taught and assisted in the summer art programs, and produced many illustrative works for the school.
She now serves as a Lower Elementary Directress after having completed her Montessori teacher training at the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center for Elementary ages 6-9. On the weekends, Georgia enjoys painting, biking, snowboarding, rock climbing, yoga, kayaking, flying kites, organizing, poker, board games, cook-outs, and lazy afternoons sipping espresso. As for the future, she looks forward to showing her paintings at galleries and creating children’s books.
Lynda Williams joined the MMS team in December of 2018 as a Children’s House Assistant Teacher. She enjoys teaching in Children’s House because she loves the excitement and enthusiasm the small children bring into the classroom each day. Every day is a new adventure, an opportunity to teach, and a chance to learn from the children.
Lynda graduated from Alverno College with a bachelor’s degree in professional communication. She also spent most of her professional career working for Alverno College as the Assistant to the Dean of Students and working with student leaders. Lynda is thrilled to have found her place within the MMS Community as she transitions into this new role as an educator. In her free time, Lynda enjoys spending time with her family, baking custom sugar cookies and cupcakes, and cheering on our home teams.
Hannah graduated from Marquette University in May of 2019 and is originally from Salinas, California. Hannah is a perfect fit for our Toddle One Classroom! She enjoys working with young children and their families and admires the way the Montessori method promotes independence and healthy development for toddlers, while also being fun and engaging. When she’s not with the toddlers, she loves being outdoors. She’s played many sports throughout her life and enjoys being active (a perfect fit for MMS!). Hannah also has a strong faith in her religion, which she says has shaped her as a person. She’s thrilled to be at MMS working with the Toddler Program!
Holly Sienza came to Milwaukee Montessori School in Spring 2020 to fill the role of the Business Assistant. She has held several accounting/finance roles that have taken her around the world. Once she started a family, she made the decision to become a Special Education teacher. After working as a teacher for 6 years, she decided to go back into an accounting role. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting and a Master’s Degree in Education.
When she learned about a role at Milwaukee Montessori School, she immediately felt it would be a great opportunity to use both her accounting skills and familiarity with an educational setting. She is excited to be part of the MMS community! Outside of work, she enjoys playing board games with her family and creating new and keeping old family traditions like taking family trips to several of their favorite spots. On the weekends, she can be found watching her kids play their many sports!
Evan Lane is a professional studio musician, songwriter, singer and performer. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Evan started his classical training on the viola in 1999, not long after starting he worked with his first private teacher, Nathan Hackett of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. After successfully graduating from Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Evan attended the Conservatory Program at Lawrence University in Appleton, WI., under the direction of Matthew Michelic of the Green Bay Symphony Orchestra. From there, he transferred to Roosevelt University in Chicago and attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts under the direction of Li-Kuo Chang and Roger Chase of the Chicago Symphony as a Viola Performance Major. In between each year of school, Evan served as Associate Program Director for Camp Timber-Lee in East Troy, WI for nearly 10 years where he managed all musical facets of Summer and the school year, as well as developed, implemented and executed 5 ‘specialty’ art camps that exist today all while being an active musician in the local community. In addition to his love of coaching young people to unlock their individual talent, Evan is actively growing as a solo artist in the Milwaukee area and invites you to the many opportunities to see him perform all year long along with hearing his first single, ‘Milky Way.’
Anoma Wijenayake has been a Directress in the MMS Children’s House since 2002. In all, she has almost three decades of experience teaching and mentoring three to six-year-old children. Anoma earned a college degree in Early Childhood Education from the Open University of Sri Lanka and a Casa dei Bambini Montessori Diploma for ages 3-6 from the Association Montessori International. In 1986, she began working as a lead Montessori teacher in Sri Lanka, and in 1988, she moved to the United States after accepting a position at the Montessori School in Mauldin, South Carolina where she taught for three years. Anoma then taught at the Montessori School of Yorbalinda in Anaheim, California for three years before coming to Milwaukee.
Anoma lives in New Berlin, with her husband and three children who have all graduated from MMS. She is actively involved in the Wisconsin Sri Lankan community’s cultural activities throughout the year, including teaching the Sinhala language to children. Anoma enjoys outdoor activities, reading, sewing, and traveling, as well as watching football, basketball, volleyball, and Cricket with her family.
Jaime Wszelaki has been teaching at Milwaukee Montessori School since 2005. She has an extensive visual arts background which includes a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UW-Milwaukee with an emphasis in sculpture and printmaking, and an Art-Education Teaching Certificate for K-12 students. Jaime has also studied film and animation at MIAD as well as 3D character modeling and animation at DIGI-Pen Institute of Technology in Seattle, WA. She teaches 4th-8th grade students cumulative visual art concepts and techniques that have allowed her students to win numerous awards within Scholastic Arts, Wisconsin State Fair Youth contests, and the Milwaukee Regional Art Fair. As a practicing artist, Jaime was commissioned to paint a public large scale outdoor mural in 2017 on Vliet Street in Milwaukee.
As the Robotics Director, she works with 1st-8th graders in incorporating innovative robot construction and programming capabilities. She facilitates robotics classes, clubs, and the award- winning MMS competitive robotics teams, which has been possible because of her robotics programming training at Carnegie Mellon’s Robotic Institute in Pittsburgh, MA. Jaime is a proud recipient of the FIRST LEGO League Coach of the Year award in 2013 and 2015. Her work with MMS students in robotics has earned them yearly recognition and awards for robotic design, robotic programming, teamwork, scientific research and overall presentational ability. The US Navy deemed Jaime with the “Distinguished Educator” award which allowed her to spend time at sea on the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier for her work with students educating them in underwater robotic submersables. Seeing a child’s creative imagination at work in their production of an innovative expressive artwork or an engineered design is a brilliant moment for Jaime. She says that she plans to spend her career fostering each child’s creative growth in order to prepare them for their journey in life.
Coltyn is the Private Lesson Coordinator and a music instructor at the Milwaukee Montessori School. Coltyn has taught private music lessons for the past few years to students from 5 to 60. He also performs professionally in classical, operatic, rock, and musical theater performances throughout the Greater Milwaukee Area. Originating from Neenah, WI, he attended Wisconsin Lutheran College as a Music Education major. He plans to continue his education by pursuing a masters in vocal pedagogy. In his free time, Coltyn enjoys improv comedy and writing music and playing with his band, FinFun. He also loves cooking and creating his own recipes.
Katia Tueffel started at Milwaukee Montessori School in late August of 2018 as a Toddler I Program Teacher. She originally grew up in Chaska, Minnesota where she gained most of her experience with children. Katia moved to Milwaukee in July of 2018. When she started at MMS, she immediately fell in love with her position. Katia loves that she learns from both her co-workers and her students.
In her free time, Katia loves hiking, painting, and trying out new activities. Her future goal is to continue her education in order to advocate for the voiceless and help others grow within society.
Monica Van Aken Ed.D. has served as the Head of School at Milwaukee Montessori School since 1999. In 1926, her grandmother completed her training with Maria Montessori and was her father’s Montessori teacher in Germany until the time that Hitler closed their school because it was filled with children from Jewish families. Her mother took her Montessori training in Germany with Montessori’s proteges along with Mario Montessori in England.
For over 30 years, she taught at Whitby Montessori School in Greenwich, Connecticut where she attended school up until high school. Because Monica knew how to use all the Montessori materials, in the summer when she visited her grandparents in Germany, her grandmother paid her (in chocolate at first) to sit and help her students with their lessons. Monica was ten years old at the time and quite happy to be paid for the responsibility she had. She remembers deciding that she was going to be a teacher after taking that first bite of chocolate at the end of her day of “work”.
David Swanson grew up in Chicago. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and biology from Northland College in Wisconsin in 1998. Soon after, he began teaching at the Nature’s Classroom Institute and Montessori School in Mukwonago. There, he combined his love of the outdoors with his love of math and teaching. As he worked within the NCI’s experiential classrooms, David began working toward his Elementary Teaching Diploma from the American Montessori Society. In 2009, he began teaching math and science at MMS.
David is a lifelong learner dedicated to his growth as an educator, and he truly values the curricular depth available to students at MMS. He strives to foster community learning in the classroom: where students help and teach each other. Outside of school, David spends most of his free time in the natural world kayaking, paddle-boarding, hiking, fishing, camping, gardening, and spending time with his daughter and son. He is an adventurer who continually seeks the experiences and challenges inherent in being in the wilderness.
Amy is a Children’s House Playgroup teacher. Prior to joining MMS, she worked at New Horizon Daycare Center in child care for roughly three years. After working there, she moved to the Green Bay Avenue School and worked as a Paraprofessional with K4 and K5 students for about a year and a half. Her college degree was from Concordia University Wisconsin in early childhood education.
Amy loves the environment at MMS, and she says that it is much calmer and different, in a positive way, then her prior places of employment. When not working, she loves to spend time with her family while going roller skating or bowling.
Dan began working at MMS in Upper Elementary, after graduating with a B.S. in Pure Mathematics from The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Beginning in 2010 with tutoring Algebra, trigonometry, calculus, and statistics, Dan rose to become the Lead Tutor for the UW-Milwaukee Department of Mathematics in November 2015. He also has worked as an industrial electrician, a home-builder, and an engineering consultant. He loves working with people and sharing mathematics, and his tutoring experience greatly compliments the learning atmosphere here at MMS.
Originally from Hayward Wisconsin, Dan moved to Milwaukee in 2012 and loves living here. Dan enjoys traveling, fishing, motorcycling, poker, reading, and of course studying mathematics. He plans to continue his own education by earning a Master’s Degree in Mathematics.
Katie started at Milwaukee Montessori School in 2013, bringing ten years of previous work with children. Before coming to MMS, Katie worked at the West Allis West Milwaukee Recreation department. During her time working there, Katie ran her own playground field house, as well as arts and crafts, sports and many other fun activities. Katie also ran a dance program and was also a co-director for a gymnastics program. Katie attended MATC where she studied psychology and business before focusing on education. She is currently in the process of completing her NAMC Infant/Toddler Certification. Katie looks forward to using her past experiences to help the toddlers gain much new knowledge. She is very excited to be a part of the MMS community and everything that goes along with it.
When Katie is not at work she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling to new places, attending softball and baseball games. Katie recently bought her first home in West Allis and is getting married in October of 2015. Working with children is an great opportunity to watch them grow and it is also a great joy to see their smiling faces each and every day.
Cece Sullivan has been a Montessori teacher for many years and taught at a number of different Montessori schools in the Milwaukee area. Cece happily joined the staff at Milwaukee Montessori School in 2009. One of the reasons Cece enjoys working at MMS is the feeling of community and working closely with parents, students, and staff which continues to bring new experiences every day. Cece also worked at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center for 16 years as the Program Registrar and Building Rental Coordinator. During that time, she was instrumental in helping to develop the live raptor program, helping to establish the nature preschool at the Center, and implementing a speakers’ bureau for outreach programs. In addition, Cece has worked at a quilt store, designing and stitching quilt tops, and teaching quilting classes. She currently works part-time at a natural pet food store.
Ms. Sullivan received her Montessori training at the Midwest Montessori Institute in Milwaukee. During that time, her children were attending MacDowell Montessori School. Cece received her bachelor’s degree from Ashford University, graduating Magna Cum Laude.
Cece is an active member of Immanuel Presbyterian Church and has served as a deacon, usher, Girl Scout troop leader, Sunday school teacher, and member of the special events committee. When she has the opportunity, Cece enjoys designing and making quilts, working in her gardens (flowers and vegetables), cooking and reading. She lives in South Milwaukee, has two daughters, two grandchildren, a great-grandson, and a Sheltie, Peanut.
Montessori Teacher, Shabnam Shergill, was raised in Chandigarh, India, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degrees in Education and World History and a Master’s Degree in Psychology from Punjab University. She taught at the high school level in India for fourteen years, and moved to the United States in 2000. She joined the MMS faculty in 2001 as a Toddler Teacher and then a Lower Elementary Montessori Teacher, after earning her Montessori Teaching Certification from Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in Evanston, Illinois. Outside of school, Shabnam enjoys traveling, cooking for friends and family, and handwork such as knitting and embroidery.
Ron Saari was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where he attended Northern Michigan University. In 2011, he earned his Bachelor’s Degree in elementary education. In 2013, Ron started teaching at MMS, where he found his second home/family and now wife. He has had the pleasure of working with all age groups in academics or after-school programs. You can also catch him at the front desk, as he is a part-time administrative assistant.
In 2018, Ron earned his Lower Elementary Montessori Certification from NAMC. Ron is in the 3rd generation of teachers from his family and has been working with children since he was in junior high. He enjoys being able to help foster the needs of all students, while also guiding them to reach high yet achievable goals. Ron loves having the opportunity to work with all age groups of children at MMS and be a part of their puzzle of success. In his spare time, he loves to laugh and create memories with his wife and daughter, fish, write poetry, watch sports (especially the Detroit Lions) and eat different spicy foods.
Ben Riggs is a teacher, writer, and raconteur who has spent many years teaching in America, Egypt, Japan, and China. A lover of the humanities, he studied English and history at Boston University with an eye on becoming an educator. He furthered his studies at Alverno College, receiving a Masters of Education in 2011. In addition to teaching, Mr. Riggs had a brief stint in Hollywood working on Cities of the Underworld for the History Channel and is a published author. He is still a passionate advocate of the humanities in the classroom. His students have won multiple Scholastic Golden Key Awards and have had their work published in The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Alona joined the MMS team in August 2019 as a Children’s House Assistant Teacher. Being a Milwaukee Montessori parent for nine years, she was excited by the opportunity to be a part of a great team and to contribute to the Children’s House Program.
Alona attended university in Kiev, Ukraine. where she received her bachelor’s degree in engineering. Previously, Mrs. Repikova worked in early learning programs in the New Berlin School District and a daycare program in Elm Grove.
In her free time, Alona enjoys traveling and spending time outdoors with her family.
From a young age, Ashley knew that she wanted to work with children. Her love for them began when she was 15 years old and worked as a babysitter for several families, and then eventually as a full-time nanny. After high school, Ashley began her schooling to work in the education field. Initially attending the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to study Early Childhood Education, Ashley later sought better opportunities here in Milwaukee, so she moved back to her hometown. Here in Milwaukee, she plans to finish her schooling within the next year or two.
Ashley hopes to learn more about the children here at MMS and aims to help them grow as individuals. She loves the structure of each classroom and how each is different in their own way. Ashley’s goal is to make sure the children have fun learning as she teaches them new things such as putting on their coats, or even simple tasks like throwing their garbage out. Her ultimate dream is to someday run her very own child care center!
Outside of MMS, Ashley loves spending her free time with family, traveling, and exploring new cities. She continually stays active whether it’s going for long runs or playing soccer with her 10-year-old cousin!
Marilu grew up in Burlington, WI and moved to Milwaukee when she started to attend UW-Milwaukee in 2014. She will be graduating in December 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in community engagement and education and a minor in healthcare administration. Ever since she was little, she loved playing “school” with her younger cousins and she knew that she wanted to work in a school setting in the future. Aside from wanting to work with students, she also enjoys playing soccer. She was an assistant soccer coach at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in 2016.
In her free time, she enjoys being active such as playing sports, attending festivals, exploring, being with family/friends and volunteering in the community. Marilu loves working at MMS.
Jessica has been working and studying in the education field since 2012. She attended school at Alverno College, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal studies in 2015. While attending school, she worked in their child care center.
Currently Jessica is an MMS toddler teacher, but she has worked with many different age groups. Jessica enjoys watching and learning how children learn and develop. She is eager to learn more about the MMS community and get to know the students and families she will be working with. When Jessica is not working, she likes to spend time with her family. She also enjoys baking, watching movies, and going to Brewers games.
Millie Perez is Milwaukee Montessori School’s Summer Program Coordinator and Lower Elementary Teacher Assistant. She is excited to become a part of the MMS community and is thankful for the opportunity to work directly with students in the classroom during the school year and to be on the summer team coordinating engaging summer experiences.
Born and raised in England, Millie originally came to the United States to work as a camp counselor and after living and working in Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, she now calls the Midwest home. Millie’s professional experience includes twenty years in the camping field holding a variety of roles from campcraft counselor to the camp administrator, and seven years in public education as a special education paraprofessional. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana.
Millie is passionate about the outdoors and has spent many summers out in the woods building communities and creating safe, challenging, and fun experiences for young people. She has planned and led expeditions for Urban teens within Wisconsin and across the border to Ontario, Canada. Millie is actively involved with the American Camp Association as a Standards Visitor and is dedicated to creating high quality programs and positive, nurturing environments for young people to play and learn.
In her spare time, Millie loves to cook for family and friends, practice yoga, take long walks in the woods, go camping, and watch movies with her husband and two sons.
Sarah came to Milwaukee Montessori School in the fall of 1975, to start a new Lower Elementary class. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Albion College in Albion, Michigan. Sarah earned her Montessori Elementary Teaching Certificate from the Association Montessori International in Bergamo Italy. She has taught Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary and helped start MMS’ adolescent program with Margaret Novak-Brown in 1982. Sarah is a member of the North American Montessori Teacher’s Association. She has served on the board of Wisconsin Quilters and was a member of the education committee of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee.
During the summer, Sarah enjoys traveling, quilting and other needle arts. She has been a docent at the Milwaukee County Zoo, studied at several archeological sites including Crow Canyon and has sailed Lake Michigan and around the coast of Florida on the Schooner Denis Sullivan. While at Milwaukee Montessori, Sarah organized MMS’ participation in environmental education programs at McKensie Environmental Center, Upham Woods and Nature’s Classroom. She began the Montessori Model United Nations program at MMS, Odyssey of the Mind and has co-led several student trips to Europe that included living with families, going to local schools and sightseeing.
Carina started at Milwaukee Montessori School in September of 2019 as a Playgroup III Teacher. She was born in Monrovia, Liberia West Africa but spent most of her teenage years in Madrid, Spain.
She had the privilege of becoming a foster parent to juvenile girls while accomplishing an internship from the Eastern Michigan University Social Work Program at the Ennis Center for Children in Metro Detroit. She also attended Oakland Community College and the American Red Cross in Michigan. Carina’s passion has always been helping people of all ages which is why she worked as a Critical Care Technician at Sinai Grace Hospital in Detroit.
Carina is married with two amazing children. When she is not at work, she spends time with her family traveling, volunteering, exploring different restaurants, and walking her four-year-old Labrador Retriever who thinks he’s human!
John began playing the violin when he was two years old and hasn’t stopped since. Born and raised in Mequon, Wisconsin (a suburb of Milwaukee), John learned the art of performance at a young age through his involvement with both the Milwaukee Youth Symphony and the Homestead High School Orchestra.
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Patek continued performing and studying the violin. He’s had the opportunity to work with notable teachers such as Joan Rooney, Vartan Manoogian, and Stefan Muhmenthaler. After graduating from UW-Madison in 2004 with a degree in violin performance, John continued his studies at the Conservatory of Neuchatel in Switzerland, where he earned his master’s degree.
John continues to perform actively in Switzerland, Italy and in the Midwestern United States. He also teaches several group and private lessons.
Carina Pabon came to Milwaukee Montessori School December of 2016 as Front Desk Administrative Assistant. Two years later she was promoted to the Office Coordinator position. Carina’s past professional career includes; working as a Medical Receptionist and Veterinary Assistant at the busiest Veterinary clinic in the state, St. Paul Veterinary Clinic, Assisting patients as the Administrative Assistant at an Outpatient Mental Health Clinic, and enriching the lives of our Milwaukee senior community as the Director of Activites at a local Assisted Living Community. Carina is working towards her personal goal of finishing her Psychology and Spanish degree at Mount Mary University.
Born and raised in Milwaukee, Carina grew up hearing great things about MMS. Once she became part of the MMS community, she learned firsthand how much MMS is dedicated to educating students and building a student’s character.
Carina uses her professional training and passion for being a parent to be the most efficient and effective administrative professional at Milwaukee Montessori School. She is dedicated to answering parent concerns, building a rapport with families, and assisting the administrative team and the Head of School to the best of her abilities.
Outside of MMS, Carina enjoys spending time her husband and two boys. They enjoy swimming, reading together, and park and library visits.
A third-generation teacher, Deepali Namboothiry has been an integral part of the MMS community since 2002. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English education from Vaze College, Mumbai, India in 1997. During her college education, Deepali enthusiastically explored various aspects of humanities including psychology, economics, philosophy, and political science. In 1999, she pursued her Master’s Degree in English Education, with a minor in linguistics from Mumbai University. Inspired by her mother’s charming narrations and experiences about her students, Deepali stepped into the world of education completing her Bachelor of Education from the University of Mumbai. Honored as, “Excellent Student of the Year” for her research during Masters, Deepali was delightfully welcomed as a teaching faculty in Vaze College when she returned to the institute from which she earned her Bachelor’s degree.
Marriage brought Deepali to Milwaukee, and subsequently to Milwaukee Montessori School. Deepali acquired her diploma in Montessori training from the American Montessori Society in 2008. She has worked with different age groups in Milwaukee Montessori School including Child Care, Children’s House, and Lower Elementary programs. In the summer of 2011, she spent time continuing her education of reading instruction at the Columbia Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in New York City. For the past eight years, she has been teaching English Language Arts at the Upper Elementary level at Milwaukee Montessori School. In September of 2018, she received her Certificate of College Advising from Colombia University in New York, NY to guide high school students to seek admissions in esteemed colleges. Deepali continues to narrate intriguing stories to her son and daughter about her day with students, instilling the love of learning and lessons about compassion.
Deepali Namboothiry will be teaching college preparatory courses this summer. Click here for more information.
Jon has enjoyed coaching and teaching physical education at Milwaukee Montessori School since 2003. He holds a degree in sports management along with certifications in Center Creative Leadership, NFHS Master Coach, USA Impact, and Minnesota Volleyball Instructors. He has spent many weeks working and learning alongside great Olympic, and college coaches including Hugh McCutcheon, Karch Kiraly, and Bond Schymansky. These experiences have helped him develop his coaching philosophy. On top of coaching Volleyball at MMS, he also coaches track and field. When he is not teaching or coaching you can find him on the water, skiing as the acting Show Director for the Pewaukee Lake Water Ski Club.
While attending MATC and working toward her Associate Degree in Accounting, Pat Mehling joined the MMS administration team part-time in 2004. Upon receiving her degree in 2007, she joined MMS full time. She works as the Assistant to the Business Manager, handling many responsibilities including accounts receivable, billing and payroll, as well as numerous other duties in the Business Office. She takes great joy in her children-a biological daughter and a bonus son that came into her life when she met her husband. She appreciates every moment spent with her five grandchildren, four of whom live in California. During her free time, she enjoys riding Harley motorcycles with her husband and their friends.
Debbie Mather has been with Milwaukee Montessori School since September of 1999. She came from a school in Ohio, where she worked in the development and business offices. Her three sons all attended MMS, where they received a strong educational foundation. When she isn’t at work, you can find Debbie pursuing her hobbies of archery, golf, and gardening. She enjoys working at Milwaukee Montessori School because of the multifaceted job she holds and her wonderful co-workers.
Marie Cisse was born in Senegal, West Africa, and she is trilingual in French, Spanish, and English. She holds a bachelor’s degree and has trained in the High Scope Curriculum, the Socio-Emotional Foundation For Early Learning, and the Creative Curriculum. Before joining the MMS faculty in 2013, Marie had 18 years of experience working in Head Start and also worked at the Urban Day School where she planned and implemented developmentally appropriate activities to promote the children’s learning and social skills. She works to engage each child’s individual needs and learning styles and enjoys watching children grow into avid and independent learners.
Outside of school, Marie is interested in religious studies and meditation. Additionally, she and her husband are active members of their church where they volunteer at the local soup kitchen. Marie also enjoys traveling and hopes to participate in service trips that will take her to other parts of the world.
Lizz Loder has been a Montessori Directress for more than three decades. She received her undergraduate degree from Lawrence University and her American Montessori International (AMI) Montessori training from The Midwest Montessori Institute where she studied under the late Hildegard Solzbacher. Lizz was a Children’s House directress at Milwaukee Montessori from 1992-2019.
After retiring from classroom teaching in June 2019, Lizz continues her work coaching and mentoring new faculty. She also works closely with the Head of School, Admissions Director and Director of Development in carrying out a number of administrative duties. Lizz has attended The National Association of Independent Schools Summer Leadership Institute as well as Leading the 21st Century Elementary School presented by Independent School Management. Lizz has served as a visiting team member in the accreditation process for the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and as the faculty representative from Milwaukee Montessori. She also served a three-year term on the Professional Services Committee for ISACS helping to develop and create professional development opportunities for faculty and staff at member schools.
Lizz is active in her faith community where she has led book discussion groups on parenting and family issues. She has also volunteered with her alma mater and a number of arts organizations in Milwaukee. Lizz is firmly committed to the mission and life of Milwaukee Montessori School and she enjoys attending school events, seeing them as opportunities for a more casual, relaxed time to get to know the families of Milwaukee Montessori. She is married to Bruce Loder and they have two adult children, Kaity MMS ’02 and Will MMS ’05.
Catherine Lee has been working professionally with children for the past two decades. After earning a bachelor’s degree in early childhood Education from the UW-Milwaukee, Catherine started her career at MMS in 2000 in the Nighthawks afterschool program. Then, she served as an assistant teacher in the Junior High, Upper Elementary, and Lower Elementary classrooms. In 2002, Catherine earned a Montessori Elementary Teaching Certificate from the Association Montessori International and became a Lead Teacher in Lower Elementary. After ten years of teaching at both Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary, she assumed a position in the after-school child care program.
In March of 2014, she became the Director of Child Care and Extra-Curricular Programs. Catherine’s two young children proudly attend MMS. She and her children enjoy movies and travel. A member of Mensa since 2007, Catherine greatly enjoys crosswords and solving puzzles and riddles as well as playing trivia and board games. She is also an enthusiastic reader and food lover.
Kari grew up in Waukesha and attended the Montessori School of Waukesha for her primary years. She received her bachelor’s degree from Carroll College in 2010. She decided to get her Montessori training after she went to the MSOW 50th-anniversary party. After a conversation with one of the teachers at the party, she was inspired her to go back to school to be a Montessori teacher. Kari went on to earn her primary Montessori diploma from the AMI Montessori Institute of Milwaukee in 2015. She loved her year of training at the institute and loves being in the classroom even more. She is very passionate about the Montessori way of education. In her free time, she enjoys swimming, playing games, and traveling.
The fourth of twelve children, Lower Elementary Teacher Jane Keuler says her mother in many ways was like a Montessori teacher, keeping everyone working and busy in their home. Drawn to artistic fields, Jane earned a BA in Art and Music from UW-Milwaukee where she also continued post-graduate work. Jane obtained her Montessori Teaching Certification in 2003 and began teaching in the lower elementary at New World Montessori. In 2007, Jane joined the MMS Lower Elementary faculty where she has been ever since. Jane is an accomplished musician; she played violin with the UWM Orchestra for fourteen years and plays the piano. She also designs logos and has had illustrations published. Jane enjoys working in the garden and crocheting. If you wake up before the sun rises, you might find Jane out on the road. Every day in the summer, she runs or rides her road bike for miles. In the winter, she rises at 4 AM to run, doing this five or more days a week.
Ethan Kastner joined the Montessori team as a classroom assistant for lower elementary in fall 2018. Ethan earned a bachelor’s of fine arts degree in art and design from the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee in 2017 where he focused on printmaking, community art, and ceramics. He has worked in a variety of educational settings including College for Kids, the Studio Arts and Craft Centre, and the Artist in Residence program at Saint John’s on the Lake. Since graduating he has been making prints and functional ceramics at his studio where he also organizes events and workshops. He has exhibited his work locally at the Portrait Society, Hoax Gallery, and Walker’s Point Center for the Arts.
Micha Johnson teaches Junior High Science with a focus on chemistry and laboratory experiments. For the past five years, Micha was at STEM Middle Academy in Springfield, MA, where she taught 6th-8th grade Earth, Space, Life, and Physical Sciences. There, she was also named the Science Department Chairperson and a member of the Instructional Leadership Team. Previous to STEM, Micha taught for five years at Putnam City High School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, teaching Biology and Environmental Sciences to 9-12th graders.
Micha is from Cushing, Oklahoma, where she spent her entire childhood and graduated from Cushing High School in 2003. In 2008, she earned her undergraduate degree from University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma. In 2017, Micha earned her Master’s Degree from Quinnipiac University in Connecticut in Teacher Leadership with a focus in Literacy.
In her free time, she enjoys traveling with her husband and daughter, Sutton. She is a big college football fan (Oklahoma State… Go Pokes!) and enjoys attending hockey and basketball games. She also loves to spend time with her Boxer, Thunder.
Zahra Hirani was born in the small town of Marion, North Carolina, but grew up right here in Milwaukee. Zahra always wanted to be a teacher, and in high school, she submitted lesson plans to the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America competitions, winning gold and silver medals statewide. Zahra earned a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from University of Wisconsin Madison, and while there, Zahra worked at the UWM Childcare Center to learn more about the field. During her last year of college, Zahra began working with young children in the MMS Milestones room, and the following year Zahra became an assistant teacher in Mrs. Wijenayake’s Children’s House classroom. Zahra finished her AMI Montessori teaching certification in the summer of 2014.
Ashley Hepperlen started as an Administrative Assistant in September of 2019. She started her career by attending a leadership program at the Florida School of Discipleship from 2010-2013. With this leadership experience, she went on to work as the Director of Operations at a company that manufacturers boat docking systems. She also worked as an administrative assistant at an interior design studio in Naples, FL which provided her plenty of administrative experience that she currently uses at MMS. Furthermore, Ashley completed more than 3,000 hours of volunteer experience at First Assembly of God Fort Myers as an event planner.
Even though Ashely had never visited Milwaukee before, she took a chance and moved to Milwaukee in July of 2019. Her family lives in Illinois, so she was excited to be closer to them. She loves Wisconsin and spends her time working out, cooking, and listening to her favorite podcast NPR.
Blair Hatchett recently joined the MMS faculty as a Toddler Teacher working in the Toddler I program. She grew up in Milwaukee, WI with her mother and five sisters. During her teenage years, she discovered her passion for children when she found herself always wanting to babysit toddlers. Studying through the Early Childhood Education Program at MATC; Blair gained knowledge in this field that would become more than a job, but a passion. For the past eight years, she’s been privileged to work with children 12 months to 13 years of age through programs such as SPARK, ACE, and Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee CLC (Community Learning Centers.)
Blair says, “My favorite part of my job is seeing the moments where a child catches on to what’s being taught, whether it’s a toddler learning how to hold a spoon or a youth learning how to read.” Seeing other’s grow and come into their own motivates Blair on a daily basis. She loves to read and share her knowledge with others. She’s excited to bring her love for literacy to the MMS team.
MMS Art Specialist, Karen Gorecki, works with the Children’s House and Lower Elementary to provide vital foundations for artistic growth within each student. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Karen earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art from the UW-Milwaukee in 2001 and was the recipient of the prestigious Logan Travel Scholarship in 2000. Ms. Gorecki’s clay sculptures and paintings are known for their “brooding and humorous symbolism,” and she has had them shown extensively in the Milwaukee area as well as Washington D.C.
Prior to joining the MMS faculty in 2007, Karen demonstrated her artistic talents in the field of Visual Merchandising, which included window and store displays at Saks 5th Ave. and Nordstrom’s, as well as renowned holiday installations in Milwaukee, Chicago, New York City, Newark, NJ, and Clinton, CT. Outside of teaching, Karen enjoys painting, sculpting, and absorbing inspiration from traveling, music, witty shows, and movies. She cherishes time with her dog, Charlie, and her family and friends.
Rogelio Gonzalez (aka Roger) joined the MMS faculty in 2002 as a Jayhawks’ teacher. Since then, he has served in many roles at the school: teaching assistant, coach, mentor, photographer, and videographer. He has an associate’s degree in fire science from the Milwaukee Area Technical College and takes courses in time-based media from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design to support his creation of digital marketing materials for the school.
Rogelio’s true passion is in supporting individual and community health and has a bachelor degree in health and wellness management at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He is a proud veteran of the United States Military, having served on peacekeeping missions in Egypt and Israel where he earned an army commendation medal and medals for good conduct and achievement. The discipline, loyalty, and perseverance he learned from his time in military service are values that guide his work with the youth at MMS. He lives in the Canon Park neighborhood with his wife, two daughters, and dog, Hector. When he is not working, he enjoys playing basketball and football, working on his photography, reading, and camping.
Chris Gauger began working at Milwaukee Montessori School in 2006. He is a Nighthawks teacher and is an assistant gym teacher for the Child Care students. His love for working with young children made this job a natural draw. He finds the youthful energy a great fit for his demeanor and natural energy. Prior to working at MMS he worked at a recycling plant and was working on his plumbing degree from MATC. Outside of school Chris loves to water ski and is an active member of the Pewaukee Ski Team. His other passions include wakeboarding and working out.
Erika is part of our Children’s House Extended Day (CHED) team. She went to Luther Preparatory school for high school and is currently a freshman at Wisconsin Lutheran College working on getting her early childhood education major and an art minor. She loves working on her art in her free time and she was on Cross Country team this year at WLC.
Heather Eiden, has been teaching at MMS since 2000. As a current CH Playgroup Teacher, she loves working with toddlers whose work is spontaneous and honest, and she feels it is important not to underestimate what they can learn. Her artistic side remains an integral part of her life. A native of Milwaukee’s east side, Heather grew up immersed in the art community. She started working with ceramics when she was 16 years old and began teaching art at Saint Peter and Paul Daycare Center when she was just eighteen-years-old. Heather went on to earn a Bachelor’s of Fine Art in 1997, a Master’s of Science in Art Education in 2014, NAMC Certified Infant/Toddler teacher, and Montessori certification for 0-2-year-olds. Heather is currently working on a series of tiny clay sculptures inspired by her travel in India, Spain, and Mexico. She is also creating a book documenting the projects her students have done over the last decade. Outside of school, Heather practices and teaches yoga.
Elaine Dragotta came to MMS in the fall of 2015 to serve as a Lower Elementary Assistant. She is a Milwaukee native and has lived in southeastern Wisconsin her whole life. Elaine has worked as an Early Childhood Educator for the past five years, most recently for Ebenezer Day Care. She earned her Montessori Lower Elementary teaching credentials in the summer of 2015 through North American Montessori Center. Her excitement to be an assistant at MMS clearly shows each day in the classroom. She is sure that there will be many thrilling years working with the children. Elaine holds MMS in the highest degree and considers it to be a wonderful school with a staff that is warm and welcoming.
Mary Beth DiFuccia joined the MMS administrative team in 2009, just days after moving to Milwaukee. You may see her greeting parents at the front desk, handling orders and supply invoices in the office, or liaising with the food service provider in the Grotto at lunchtime. Mary Beth has a degree in Psychology and Elementary Education from Seton Hill College in Pennsylvania, and she worked in several corporate offices before joining the team at MMS.
Prior to moving to Milwaukee, she and her husband moved with their three children more than twenty times in a thirty-year period. While she is grateful to have friends across the country and in Canada, she is happy to now call Milwaukee home. Mary Beth’s children and ten grandchildren are the joy of her life. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, taking long treks with her dog, Maggie, and most especially working in her garden. Mary Beth is proud to have recently earned the designation of Master Gardener.
Pete joined MMS in September of 2007, as the IT Director, handling many responsibilities including managing, repairing, upgrading and installing the numerous systems within the building. A true jack-of-all-trades, Pete is a go-to person for anything else that that may need to be done. Prior to arriving at MMS, Pete spent 14 years in a corporate environment, holding several positions from Service technician, Loss Prevention Inspector (Cable Cop) and Lan/Network Administrator. Pete has a loving wife and enjoys time with his 8-year-old stepson. In his free time, Pete enjoys spending time outside, hunting, fishing, and motorcycle riding. He has also received training in Eskrima (Filipino Martial Arts); and while currently on hiatus, Pete hopes to continue his training in the future.
Mary Cullen has been working as a Spanish teacher at MMS since 2005. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Edgewood College. While in college, Mary spent a year studying at La Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico. Mary also earned a Diploma of Spanish Studies from Cuauhnáhuac Spanish Language Institute in Cuernavaca, Mexico. In her free time, Mary enjoys playing volleyball and bicycling.
Allen Cote is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and multimedia artist, originally from Austin, TX and currently based in Milwaukee, WI. Cote received his Bachelor’s in English at Southwestern University, and spent several years as a fixture in the Austin music scene and a veteran of the SXSW music festival. He has contributed to recordings and performances by Buffalo Gospel, Heidi Spencer and the Rare Birds, Peter Mulvey, The Championship, Juniper Tar, Hayward Williams, Pezzettino, Whitney Mann, The Wildbirds, Hugh Bob and the Hustle, Trapper Schoepp and The Shades, and many others. Cote is well-versed in guitar, bass, lap steel, ukulele, mandolin and various percussion; and may be found performing his own original compositions – ranging from folk to avant-garde electronica – solo and with various ensembles. He was awarded the Wisconsin Area Music Industry’s “Specialty Instrumentalist of the Year” in 2011. Allen Cote and John Crockett have twice presented their sound installation “Tonal Motion” at the acclaimed Milwaukee Art Museum, and are in the process of refining the installation for further exhibitions.
A former journalist, Cote’s photography has been featured in The Williamson County Sun and The Austin Chronicle, and was auctioned off for charity at Southwestern University’s “A Day Without Art” exhibition. Currently, Cote composes the music for local culinary show Wisconsin Foodie, airing several times weekly around the state on Wisconsin Public Television. He also provides music to marketing and new media firms, and has taught guitar and ensemble lessons at Milwaukee Montessori School since 2007.
Caitlin has worked in early childhood education for the last 9 years. She received her Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential in 2016 from Rasmussen College. Caitlin prides herself in facilitating an enriched learning environment for the children in her care. In her free time, she enjoys going to see live music, camping, spending time with her friends and family, and creating art projects.
Julie Christensen is the Director of Co-Curricular Programs at MMS. She received her bachelor’s degree in exercise and sports science in 1997 at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. She started as the Physical Education Teacher in the fall of 1997 and continued to teach at that position for 11 years. She earned a coaching emphasis that she has put to good use starting Milwaukee Montessori’s after school sports programs. Those programs included basketball, volleyball, and track and field.
After serving as a Physical Education Teacher, she became the Director of Co-Curricular Programs, in which she has served ever since. One of the signature events Julie runs at the school is “Jump Rope for Heart.” In serving as the coordinator since 2001, she has brought many students and faculty together to raise money for the American Heart Association. The school has raised thousands of dollars and in 2014, the school raised $11,600. In her spare time, she also volunteers for COTA, which is the Children’s Organ Transplant Association.
She is the mother of two young boys, Nathan and Cooper and is married to her husband Rob. She enjoys going to Brewers games, watching movies, and spending time with her family and friends.
Christina Burton started at Milwaukee Montessori in January 2019. They say “home is where the heart is” and being born and raised here in Milwaukee, WI, she has absolutely loved working at MMS. Christina is currently on the pursuit of meeting a personal goal to get a masters degree in early childhood education.
The thing that drew Christina to MMS was the opportunity to make a change through the lives of small children. She loves watching little children blossom into young people. Since being here at the Milwaukee Montessori School, she’s felt a warm welcome from staff, parents and children.
Christina is a mother and loves spending most of her time with her son. She also enjoys reading, taking walks, and enjoying life.
Larissa joined the MMS team in the fall of 2018. She was drawn to Milwaukee Montessori by the constant desire to learn from both the staff and the students. Larissa enjoys seeing the students grow in knowledge and curiosity of the world around them.
Mrs. Bogle-Boesiger attended Milwaukee School of Engineering where she received her bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering and master’s degree in structural engineering. Before coming to MMS, Larissa worked as a structural designer as well as a program coordinator for a nonprofit in the Sherman Park neighborhood of Milwaukee.
Larissa enjoys traveling, backpacking, running, sewing, and spending time working on projects around her house with her husband.
In the summer of 2008, Marcy Berenschot found herself at Milwaukee Montessori School after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Bachelor of Science degree in English education and state certification to teach grades 9-12. She began her time at MMS by sharing her love of words and reading with Lower Elementary students and in the following year, started teaching English Language Arts at the Upper Elementary level where she has remained since. In the summer of 2010, she spent two weeks continuing her education of reading and writing pedagogy at the Columbia Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in New York City. Shortly after, she returned to school part-time at UW-Milwaukee to pursue her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in reading and concurrently became state certified to teach reading to students from early childhood to age 21. She completed her Master’s program in December of 2014.
In anticipation of her professional work, Marcy student taught at Rufus King International Baccalaureate High School and Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts, both in the Milwaukee Public School district. Throughout her schooling, she volunteered both as a writing tutor in both MPS and The Milwaukee Rescue Mission. Additionally, she spent five summers as a camp counselor with the Jewish Community Center of Milwaukee. When she is not teaching, reading, or continuing her own education, Marcy enjoys cooking, exploring the city of Milwaukee with family and friends, traveling, and running. A runner for 15 years, she has completed three half marathons and countless 5Ks throughout the Midwest on both roads and trails.
Kara, a Directress in the Children’s House since 2008, received her Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and mass communication from the UW- Milwaukee in 2005. After graduating, Kara joined the MMS staff as an Administrative Assistant and was quickly impressed with the level of work the students were doing in their classrooms. Her interest in the Montessori philosophy grew when she became an Assistant Teacher in a Montessori classroom in 2005. Soon after, she began Montessori Early Childhood training at the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in Evanston, Illinois. In 2008, Kara completed her Montessori training as well as Orton-Gillingham training to provide multi-sensory literacy instruction to young children.
She has enjoyed leading her own classroom, and sharing in the growth and learning the children experience there each year. In her free time, Kara enjoys biking, hiking, and attending Brewer and Packer games. She is always looking for a good book to read and new restaurants to try in the area. Kara loves to travel, and her favorite place to visit is her grandfather’s childhood home in Switzerland.
Heidi Bauer grew up in southeastern Wisconsin with a love for children, nature, and learning. Before beginning at Milwaukee Montessori School in September 2019, she spent six years studying at Liberty University in Virginia, receiving both a Bachelor’s of Science as well as a Master’s of Arts in Communication. During that time, Heidi began teaching undergraduate students and fell in love with education but wanted more one-on-one time with students to develop strengths and weaknesses.
While living in Virginia, Heidi became an avid hiker, biker, and backpacker, enjoying the views, mountains, friendships, challenges and lessons that came with each. If not outdoors, you might find her reading, drawing, or completing the occasional jigsaw puzzle.
In the fall of 2014, Jamie Ault became a member of the MMS faculty as an assistant teacher in Lower Elementary and now works in Upper Elementary as a science and history teacher. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Waynesburg University, in Waynesburg, PA.
Since graduating, Jamie has held a wide range of positions in non-traditional education and the non-profit sector. Her prior educational experience includes teaching environmental science in nature centers, camp settings, and afterschool programs in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. She spent two years teaching conversational English (ESL) and organizing educational and cultural events in Policka, Czech Republic. Her non-profit experience includes work as an AmeriCorpVISTA in Erie, PA, and administrative work for Growing Power Inc and Global Youth Leadership Institute in Milwaukee, WI. Since joining MMS, Jamie completed the NAMTA/AMI Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies.
In her free time, Jamie enjoys cycling, hiking, gardening, exploring different art mediums, and spending time with her husband, two daughters, and cat.
Nakiyah was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI. She’s a recent spring 2019 graduate from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater where she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in social work, with a minor in human services. While completing her undergraduate degree, she worked at multiple Whitewater schools within the district; in which, she served as a teacher’s aid and tutor for elementary-aged children. She has also spent time working at a Milwaukee Public High School in a 9th-grade algebra class as an assistant teacher and personal tutor. During her free time, she enjoys watching documentaries, exploring new restaurants, and traveling as much as possible. This is Nakiyah’s first time experiencing a Montessori school and looks forward to the opportunities and adventures MMS will bring.
Dana’s passion for working with children started early in high school. During those years she cared for children as a part-time job. After high school, she became a part of the YMCA team in their Before and After School Program and the Summer Program. She is currently a part-time student at MATC and working towards her degree in Human Services. Dana is very excited to start working with a younger student population in our Toddler One Classroom. She is thrilled to gain more knowledge and experience here at MMS.
Dana grew up in the Milwaukee area and in her spare time enjoys spending time with her family, friends and her goofy two Pugs.
Laurie Asch has been teaching piano and voice at Milwaukee Montessori since 2012. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in music education from St. Olaf College with a triple emphasis on piano, voice, and violin. Her master’s degree in Music Education is from UW-Madison. Mrs. Asch is currently directing orchestras ages 5-8 at Bayside Middle School and in Fox Point. She also teaches three violin ensemble classes at Tamarack Waldorf School in Milwaukee. Laurie performs in the Festival City Symphony, noted for its educational concerts.
She also performs regularly in string trios or quartets at weddings. Previously she sang in Master Singers, and accompanied numerous recitals as a pianist. Laurie has taught many facets of music in various school systems including elementary music, orchestra, world drumming, choir, and piano. Laurie has also enjoyed traveling to and performing music in many parts of the world including Austria, India, Mexico, and Tanzania. Laurie is married and has three grown children.
Deepti Arora grew up in India, and after earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the Rajasthan University in 1999, she taught middle school language and moral science at Central Academy School in Alwar, Rajasthan for two years. In 2003, she moved to Milwaukee and joined the MMS faculty in 2005 as a Toddler Teacher. After two years, Deepti joined a Lower Elementary classroom as an assistant teacher, and in 2009, she earned her Montessori teacher diploma through the American Montessori Society.
Deepti is now a Montessori Directress in the Lower Elementary. Deepti continues to develop as a teacher; she studied reading instruction at the Columbia Teachers’ College Reading and Writing Project in New York City during the summer of 2011. She strives to create an atmosphere of calm, order, and joy in the classroom. She sees her role as helping and encouraging children while they develop self-confidence and inner discipline. Outside of school, Deepti enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking, biking, and playing board games.