Staff

Beth MacDonald Beth MacDonald ... is the founder and Executive Director of MacDonald Montessori. "She started in March 1986.The Infant Toddler centers and preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy have been a constant source of inspiration to me during most of the 25 year life of MacDonald Montessori School. The educators from Reggio Emilia, in particular Amelia Gambetti and the other educators in our country inspired by this approach have supported us in our journey to envision a deeper, richer, more powerful image of children, parents and teachers. The collaboration of all three of these protagonists-children, parents and teachers have created a school that welcomes, encourages and sustains love, learning and creativity. I am grateful for the 25 years and for the every day experiences of this school."

Aaron MacDonald Aaron MacDonald ... Joined the MMS staff in January 2001. "The parent has the obvious role of nurturing, shelter, love, education, and a million other essential tasks. The one task that parents struggle with the most is letting go…allowing the child to explore, create, and make mistakes on their own. I’ve noticed that children transition and adapt to change a lot easier and quicker than the parents. Whenever a child moves to a new classroom, they tend to be more ready than the parents. It is a difficult challenge for the parents to let go, but an important one."

Liz Watzl Liz Watzl ... Joined the MMS staff in September 1999. "A child is full of wonder, knowledge, curiosity, and joy for learning and life. Children do not think small. Children know what they are doing and why. I believe a child is a collector of knowledge. Personal experiences and relationships within their environment make up the content of their collections. A child is capable of using many languages to gather and organize their developing life stories/collections. With the appropriate adult support, a child is capable of becoming an expert in their world and the limitless ability within themselves. Teachers often get stuck in one way of seeing things. When we, as teachers, take a minute to slow down and look at the world through the eyes of a child, we have the capability to see the classroom, the school, and the world in a whole new way. Children have the ability to get teachers excited about learning just as teachers have the ability the get children excited about learning and exploring the world in different ways. Seeing the joy in the children’s eyes makes me want to find that same joy."

Amy Clark Amy Clark ... My image of a school is a learning environment that provides enrichment for the mind, spirit, and body. A school should be a place where children wake up in the morning and are excited to go to, because they feel loved and valued there. It is their home away from home. They know that it is a place where their friends are and the teachers are nurturing and excited to have them there. A school should be challenging and pique a child’s curiosity, so that the child will want to continue learning more and more about anything that they want. There should be no limits or boundaries when it comes to learning. It should be a lifelong, fantastic quest filled with amazing possibilities.

Amy Strunk Amy Strunk ... Amy joined the MMS staff in August 2011. "The image of a school is a place of peace…where all children can come together and combine their knowledge and experiences. A school must provide experiences, tools, and staff who fully believe in their philosophy, curriculum and most of all the children! A school is a family, who are all coming together to nurture, educate and guide one another. A school is a family where dreams are made. Where children are being heard and laughter is celebrated. A school is a place of hope, encouragement, and support, where all possibilities are endless."

Anna Wieser Anna Wieser ... A school is a place where children, parents, and teachers can come together as a community to discover, learn, and appreciate all that the world has to offer. It is a foundation for families. Children learn to interact with people and things in their environment at school. Parents find support and encouragement at school as they raise their children. Teachers provide opportunities and guide enriching and meaningful experiences as co-learners with their students. A school is a place that is safe, nurturing, and encouraging of new ideas, so together as a community we can make the world a better place a little at a time.

Autumn Ike Autumn Ike ... ... Joined the MMS staff in March 2016. When picturing a child, I always see a big smile. Children are so genuinely happy and I think their light heartedness is something us boring adults can learn from. The sound of a child’s laughter never ceases to improve my mood. Children are also incredibly curious little actors of the world, and I love to see the plays they create through their own play time and self-discovery. Children are masters of creativity and making new things, something that I will always hold close to my heart. Children are so inspiring and fun. So, come on! Let’s laugh and play.

Belle Perra Belle Perra ... A child is a collector. The child makes personal experiences and relationships within their environment, which make up the center of their very own collection. A child is capable of using their environment and relationships to help in developing their lives for the future. Adults can help support and guide a child to become experts of their world. With exploring and discovering the world around them their possibilities are endless.

Brittany Depolis Brittany Depolis ... ... Joined the MMS staff in January 2015. I hold the image of a school to be a place to educate children in a fun and nurturing way. It’s a place where children are empowered to grow and develop into unique individuals. School should be a place where children enjoy the process of learning new things each day while feeling safe by our friendly smile, voice and touch. Schools are a place where children and their families are partnered with highly trained teachers who are actively engaged in guiding their learning experiences.

Brittany Hauser Brittany Hauser ... Joined the MMS staff April 2016. Every child is a unique and interesting person. Children are competent, curious, full of knowledge, potential, and creativity. Children are interested in and capable of exploring complex and abstract ideas and are motivated to find answers to their questions. Children are natural researchers. They question what they see, predict outcomes, experiment, and reflect on and represent their discoveries. Children learn by actively engaging in the world around them. Children are constantly in the process of gaining a greater understanding of our world through interactions with their peers, adults, and objects in their environment.

Caitlyn Ruen Caitlyn Ruen ... ... Joined the MMS staff in November 2015. At the heart, a school is a place where children feel safe. A place where they feel safe to explore ideas, challenge themselves, make mistakes, and therefore grow. The teachers in the school provide inspiration and opportunities for children to discover who they are and what the world is around them. Children learn through direct experimentation with the environment. A school reflects this in all aspects of the day. In a school, children are treated as whole people, with unique perspectives on the world. Their ideas are treated with respect and dignity. Their needs scaffold as they learn how to function in an adult world. Their feelings are treated with seriousness as they learn to identify and regulate. Students and teachers are their 100% authentic selves. My image of a school is an area filled with beauty and provocation, where children are excited to go every day and spend their days wrapped up in wonder in and learning, pushing boundaries and developing new ideas as they go.

Courtney Hinz Courtney Hinz ... A school should be a place where a child is empowered to explore, make mistakes, succeed and grow in a community of learners. Learning becomes much more of a powerful experience when children an adults can make decisions about that experience--personalizing it to their own interests, abilities and preferences. This is how we are able to experiment and learn how we fit into the world around us, which means to say that school is extremely influential in the formation of self perception and expression. Children are very eager to learn and become independent. Given the right support and resources, all children can embark on the endeavor to become lifelong learners

Damian Johnson Damian Johnson ... There is no single right way. Just as biodiversity keeps an ecosystem strong, our differences support each other. Each child has something unique to bring to the table and we can help by providing space for the whole child to develop and flourish. Sir Ken Robinson said, “A three year old is not half a six year old.” Every child is already a whole person, the same way a seed is already a whole tree. Children need space for their own freely chosen play. It is their work, their joyful, curious, excited work and the mysterious process by which they unfold.

Deanna Barr Deanna Barr ... Joined the MMS staff April 2016. Art has always been a passion of mine. I attribute this passion to the many family members and teachers that have helped cultivate and inspire me to create. The power creativity has to open up children's minds to new possibilities is endless. Art is so much more than learning how to draw something, it is a tool that can help children learn a multitude of skills, such as creative problem solving and processing emotions. That is why I teach, I want to encourage children to be creative and express themselves while also continuing to learn about the world along side them. It is important to be surrounded by many types of people and experiences. I hope to continue to bring these experiences to the classroom everyday. I am very proud to be apart of such a beautiful school full of so much color and joy.

Emily Larson Emily Larson ... My image of the child is an ever growing and changing concept. Every child is an entirely unique individual with so much to offer, and I find myself learning as much, if not more, from them as they do from me. The way they talk, the way they think, and the way they see the world is so different than the way of adults. They are still innocent and curious about the world around them, anxious to soak it all up like little sponges. Being able to encourage and nurture that childlike sense of wonder each day is a gift and a blessing.

Emily Bowman Emily Bowman ... Joined the MMS staff in March 2012. My image of a child is not singular, but rather it is a collage of many parts. Much like how a quilt is made from hundreds of tiny cloth pieces, I feel a child is made from the many experiences that touch their life.

Children are sincere and enjoy sharing their discoveries just as much as learning from them. As an observer, I see children constantly expanding and redefining their awareness of the world. I enjoy this process of seeing their experiences interact and multiply with one another, each affecting the next. As a co-learner, I participate in the children’s journeys and investigations. The steps within their learning are just as vital as the intended information.

My image of the child is measureless because their experiences should never end. As an adult, I add to my own quilt of knowledge and every day I am inspired by this shared journey.

Emily Eckhoff Emily Eckhoff ... To me, the image of a school is a community of growth and discovery. As children, parents and teachers, we are all in a continuation of learning and development. Through our interactions, we learn facts and processes about our lives and the world around us, but we also learn to be more. More respectful, more enthusiastic, more compassionate. We continue to grow side by side through the days, weeks and years, as we learn with and from one another. As a community, we embrace this growth and have an understanding that each and every one of us is playing some role in the lives of those around us. I am incredibly thankful to be a part of a community that is so accepting and encouraging of this process here at MacDonald Montessori.

Gina Heldberg Gina Heldberg ... Joined the MMS staff in October 2009. "I have the pleasure of being a teacher as well as a parent at MacDonald Montessori. I believe as parents we must be co-learners with our children. Our children are eager to show us their view of the world and as parents we must be eager to share in their experience. We must be an active participant and share in their joyful learning. As partners we are the encyclopedia for the world and we must be willing to explore with them. I believe as parents, we are also co-teachers with their classrooms. We are partners with their teachers and must have an open and honest communication. Together with their teachers we are the most active participants in the learning. ."

Heather Hall Heather Hall ... Children are our greatest assets. They are our present and our future. They are adventurous, creative, plucky, and tough. They have the ability to think and act freely without fear of judgment, which allows them to see the world with new eyes. There is an innocence in the mind of a child that has not yet been tainted by the prejudices of the world. The “tiny humans” are stronger and more resilient than any adult. As we grow, we sort of lose the fascination with the world that children have. As the writer, Christopher Moore, said, “Children see magic because they look for it.”

Jenni poliseno Jenni poliseno ... I see the child as curious, wanting to explore and discover the wonders around them and see it as they are. Exploring and learning meaningfully; leading with the heart. Engaging their senses, the physical necessity to touch the spiky seed, smell the sweet flower, hear the birds chirp, taste the crisp apple and see where the grasshopper jumped. Walt Disney once said “our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children.” I see the mind of a child as inventive and always crafting new thoughts, emotions, and perceptions beneficial for their ever budding community.

Joni Reynolds Joni Reynolds ... Joined the MMS staff in June 1999. "MacDonald Montessori is not just a place for children to be looked after but a place that reveals children’s riches in searching for knowledge-a place that gives children many opportunities to reveal these riches through the many languages they posses. It is a place that gives credit to children for thinking. It is a place where children have rights and must be respected as people. It is a place that does not think of children in terms of what they are not able to do, but thinks of them it terms of what they can do and tries to see wonder of the world through their eyes. "

Karen Potyondy Karen Potyondy ... Joined the MMS staff in August 2007. "A school is a place of interactions, where parents, teachers and children all interact with each other along with the environment. The environment not only stimulates play it also engages discovery and research. The environment is not only aesthetically pleasing it is carefully thought out to engage the participant. The child generates hypotheses daily, it is the teacher and parents right to help guide the child to an answer. As the child embarks on the journey to understand, teachers encourage children to communicate, learn, and wonder using the aid of "symbolic languages." (ex. drawing, painting, sculpture, dance, music, writing). Parents are partners and bring many gifts and wisdom to the school. Together we work to form one community that sees all children as powerful individuals."

Kayla Poppen Kayla Poppen ... Children are curious, inquisitive, creative, imaginative and fascinating little people. Their innocence and vibrancy for life is just as unique as it is inspiring. Children are purposeful. They desire to learn and grow. Children are incredibly able - they can paint masterpieces, build skyscrapers and save the world! In the mind of a child, he/she really is a knight, mermaid, policeman, mom, pirate, kitty and chef! Children can do so much more than we as adults give them credit for or give them the freedom to do. Children's imaginations are rich and their feelings are real and deep. They experience all of the same realities of like that adults do, and yet they still maintain their loving, cuddly, playful and adventurous ways about them. It is all of these qualities that allow children to grow into the wonderful people they were born to become. 

Kelly Kritsberg Kelly Kritsberg ... Joined the MMS staff in April 2004. "At the heart of every school is an image of the child. I believe our school has a strong image of the child. Children play a unique role in our daily lives here at MacDonald Montessori. Children are full of potential-competent and capable of developing their own theories. Along with the teachers, the children can co-construct their knowledge to develop a unique bond and open doors to new possibilities. The image of a child is displayed on a daily basis through the teacher’s documentation. Documentation is the children’s and teacher’s daily experiences and on-going projects that gives meaning and identity to all we do."

Leah Golden Leah Golden ... Joined the MMS staff in June 2009. "A child is a collector. Personal experiences and relationships in their environment make up their collection. The child is capable of using many languages to gather and organize their collected work. The child naturally explores, discovers, learns and communicates ideas. A school is very important to a child. It is a place they can belong and learn. The environment is set for them to have access to the knowledge and materials they need to learn. "

Lori Scottrussell Lori Scottrussell ... Joined the MMS staff in October 2007. "A school is defined as an institution for the instruction of children. On its basic level, I guess one could agree with that definition. My image of the school goes much deeper than that. In a school, learning happens not only for the children within its walls but also for every person who steps through its doors. A school is a community that is welcoming to all who choose to be part of it. A school is a combination of many different people with many different skills who work together towards providing a safe environment and endless opportunities for the people who pass through. A school bears the responsibility to instil a lifelong passion of learning, for learning is what keeps us develop as a society. A school is much more than an institution for the instruction of children. It is a philosophy that all, children and adults alike, have the right to experience."

Mallory Thompson Mallory Thompson ... My image of a school is place where environment embraces the idea that ALL students can learn and be successful in the classroom. Emotional, intellectual, and physical support should be available to learners. The atmosphere works to build safe learning spaces for students. A school should have the capability of attracting teachers who are knowledgeable, care about student learning, and adapt their instruction to meet the needs of their learners. Teachers should differentiate instruction based on individual strengths, interests, and abilities of the students in their classroom. An ideal school environment works hard to make the curriculum relevant, significant, and important to the lives of students. The curriculum should be comprehensive but student driven and activities should be hands on and related to real-world work. Parent-teacher collaboration along with communication are both vital components of the foundation and are key for meeting the needs of any student. Lastly student accomplishment should be the central importance at all times.

Mark Sorvari Mark Sorvari ... Joined the MMS staff in June 2012. Schools are microcosms where we can communicate, develop, discover, share, build, listen, dream, learn, explore, and teach one another. School is community, family, friend, mother, father, brother, and sister. It is a place where we feel safe and free, a place that we take from and give to. It is where we can discover dreams and bring them to life - the spark that starts the fire.
At school we learn to respect, help, and support one another. We discover the many different ways in which we can communicate and express ourselves. It stimulates our senses, our minds, our hearts, and opens our eyes to a ideas, opinions, and methods.
It is a vehicle, a bridge, a road that helps us get where we're going.

Megan Kittleson Megan Kittleson ... Joined the MMS staff in July 2012. My image of a parent is someone that provides a safe, nurturing, and positive home atmosphere for their child to help them with their biological, social, psychological and emotional growth. A parent is someone that helps teach their child family traditions, and why they are important. A parent is someone that loves to be involved in all aspects of their child’s life. A parent is someone that can be silly, but still has boundaries and routine. Most importantly, a parent is child based.

Molly Rader Molly Rader ... Joined the MMS staff in June 2012. Pablo Picasso once said “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” When I imagine a child I see a person who sees the world through a lens that has not been cluttered by the limits of the adult world. To a child, anything is possible, a simple object can be transformed into whatever the child can imagine. When a child holds a paintbrush in their hands, their goal is not to create a famous masterpiece, but to express the world that they imagine. My image of a child is like picturing a blank canvas, waiting to be filled by the wonders of the world that they discover each day.

Molly Buhler Molly Buhler ...

Nan Hall Nan Hall ... ... Joined the MMS staff in February 2016.I am extremely honored and enthusiastic to be working in this beautiful and fascinating environment. It is fun to prepare a variety of new snacks for children. I enjoy working with children on exploring different foods. I also find it rewarding to incorporate the Montessori and Reggio processes with children’s experiences with food. Being part of the children’s learning is an adventure that is very exciting.

Naomi Botchway Naomi Botchway ... Joined MMS in August 2004. "My image of a parent one who supports positive self-esteem and I think this is the greatest ‘gift’ a parent can give a child. A strong healthy self-esteem opens the world and all dreams. Learning to accept yourself as you are with these essential values:
-Develop discipline and support in a positive way
-Acknowledge in every small achievement and give to every small achievement;
-Have confidence in one’s own self and your ability to solve problems, make decisions, and to encourage positive personal growth;
-To think for yourself and to have a creative thought process that will carry over into any area later.
-To be free enough to become anything at all in a positive direction. "

Nicole DeHass Nicole DeHass ... Children are full of hope, imagination and curiosity. A child seeks out new experiences for the sake of learning and understanding the world. Their experiences are full of innocence and wonder. A child craves learning like plants crave the sunlight. As adults we need to feed that craving by providing unique and engaging opportunities for children to interact with their environment. Children who feel safe and supported will explore and engage in their surroundings in ways that will fulfill their curiosity and expand their imagination. As long as they are allowed to experience and explore, they will grow into curious, caring and creative adults.

Olivia Newfield Olivia Newfield ... ... Joined the MMS staff in November 2016. A child is the bearer of infinite possibilities, yet to be discovered. A school should create an environment where those ideas can be unlocked and experiments test the theories of life. From birth on, children have a bend toward nature and I believe a school should encourage those inclinations while challenging young minds to look at more abstract concepts. Likewise, parents play a vital role in providing a secure framework where children can further explore their world.

Paige Macdonald Paige Macdonald ... Joined the MMS staff in April 2014. A child is creative. They have not yet been tainted by the outside world’s biases, social expectations, or prejudices. They think not with their logical, practical brain, but with their imaginative, creative one. A child is accepting. They care not about your skin color, nor your financial situation, education or religious background. They care only about your treatment of them. A child is unrestricted. They know not impracticalities. If they can think of it, it can be done in their mind. They know not of the limitations our world presents, therefore they are not there. A child does not care about what others think of them. In their mind why would it matter what others think of you? A child learns by observation. They look to us for guidance and education. Why shouldn’t we do the same?

Rachel Tolo Rachel Tolo ... ...Joined MMS staff in September 2015. When I’ve thought about the privilege of parenthood, I can’t help but smile seeing as we discover and explore the “gift of life.” It is our job to guide a child on a positive path, nurture their ideas and creativity, protect their hearts, empower them through love and not through control, affirm their identities, and most importantly…be consistent. A child looks to a parent, not only as a safety net, but as their main role models and example through life. We get to take another chance at life through a well-seasoned perspective; we get to learn how to better ourselves in the process of raising up the next generation. We’ve been given a platform to bring a healthy change to this world, and it all starts with building up our kids.

Robyn Spicer Robyn Spicer ... Joined the MMS staff in August 1999. "A School is a place where many relationships and possibilities exist. Its identity should be personally reflective of those who inhabit it. Participation should be valued as children, parents and teachers collaborate and learn from each other by sharing their unique talents. As teachers, it is our responsibility to be careful observers and listen to the children’s verbal and non-verbal cues in order to discover and follow their interests. Documenting gives visibility to the children’s work and helps us understand the processes of the children’s learning. Revisiting and reviewing documentation together is both an opportunity for the professional development of the teacher and can help assist them in deciding which way to go next with the children. Children should be given ample opportunities to express themselves through rich meaningful experiences with music and movement, storytelling, dramatic play, art, block construction, etc. I feel that inviting children to experience these different “languages” will help them to develop relationships and communicate their thoughts and understanding of the world around them. "

Sam Studwell Sam Studwell ... Joined the MMS staff in May 2016. The image of a parent is something that looks different to everyone. There are numerous styles, techniques and guidebooks about the best way to parent. But one of the main things that I feel unites all parents is the responsibility to help your child feel secure enough in him or herself to explore the world and find their place in it. We are trying to mold little human beings into better versions of ourselves. Providing a source of unwavering support and love is also very important. There aren’t many people in our lives who truly love us unconditionally; a parent is one of those. Parents should also look to their children for guidance, both in terms of how to best relate to our children and because each child see’s the world differently. Children have just as much to teach their parents.

Sari Olson Sari Olson ... In the words of poet Khalil Gibran, “Our children are not our children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.”

Similarly, I believe that each child is born with a gift that they were made to give the world; born out of what our world is missing, and with the potential to give the world that gift.

As educators guiding them on the path to adulthood, it is our job, not to make children reflections of us, but to permit them an unobstructed view of the world they enter into so they may develop their own understandings and place within it.

As educators, the schools we make today serve as incubators for creating the world we wish for tomorrow. They should establish in our children a firm belief in the worth and capabilities present in themselves and every human; with aspirations towards fairness, truth and justice; with appreciation of community; a love of learning and creative entrepreneurship; and the skills preparing them today to collaborate, contribute, grow and lead in the world we make tomorrow.

We will never see this world our children create, but today I strive to use education as a tool, not only for preparing kids academically and socially to enter the world, but for inspiring them to do so with purpose, connection, vision, and power.

Shelly Dupre Shelly Dupre ... A child has an absorbent mind- they explore their curiosities through both concrete and abstract thinking. No two children are the same- they all have different ideas, different philosophies, beliefs, truths, ethnological backgrounds and so much more that fills their minds. Children are a distinct group of the World’s people. They should be handled with respect and understanding as they’re now, and will continue to be, valued members of our society. Furthermore, a child will be an adult much longer than they will be a child so they need concrete and nurturing foundations to grow upon. Children should feel at home when they come to school; as a home is equipped with the essential needs of a child so should be the classroom. A child needs endless opportunities to explore and the rights to explore them. I believe children learn through the use of their senses needing purposeful activities that directly answer the question- what will the child absorb from the experience? Every person in a child’s life can influence their growth in some way. Children look for positive affirmations such as encouragement, understanding, love, guidance and respect while needing prepared and structured boundaies to experiment, work, explore, and learn in.

Tara Shaffer Tara Shaffer ... Joined the MMS staff in January 2015. As a place where children often first experience being a part of a larger community, school becomes the foundation for a child’s view of themselves in context of a larger world. We create that world in collaboration. Children already have such a desire to create, explore, learn, and do. It’s innate for them. Our role as teachers and parents is to keep providing kindling, and allow that flame to burn as bright as possible. By providing a safe, engaging, and respectful environment where every child is treated as a powerful individual, we build that first reference of community. A child’s concept of self-identity and their place within their community begins here, but is a journey that lasts a lifetime. As teachers and parents, we help begin that journey with confidence, self-respect, and a desire to learn and grow.

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