Staff

Beth MacDonald Beth MacDonald ... is the founder and 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."

Pat Daly Pat Daly ... Joined the MMS staff in September 1986. "I began at MMS in 1986 with the motivation of teaching young children and sharing with them the joy of learning. Soon after, I attended a conference in Philadelphia and heard a speaker tell of her teaching experiences in a town in northern Italy called Reggio Emilia. She shared a fantastic project of five and six year old children involved in a year long dinosaur exploration. The competency, commitment and autonomy of these young children in endeavors of math, science and art amazed and inspired me. This was a turning point in my vision of the images of the child and teacher. The realization that the young child in the United States could have these experiences drove us to explore in depth the Reggio Emilia philosophy. The knowledge that we could be co-learners with the children began a deepening of my commitment to their education. Observation, documentation and collaboration with my colleagues helped me form strategies to nourish and sustain their interests. While I am no longer in the classroom, I value the opportunity to work with the younger teachers and help them on their journey to realize the richness and excitement of exploring the world with these incredible children and all they have to teach us as educators."

Shannon O'Connor Shannon O'Connor ... Joined the MMS staff in February 1990. "I see children as complex individuals who offer to adults many insights into the world of the child. Children are capable and competent and have a drive that continuously motivates them to actively seek out opportunities for independence. Children have a right to this independence and to be a part of a community that supports them in their quest to develop their own selves. When we as teachers support the child in their drive, the children learn to trust in us and make visible to us, many more possibilities that they are capable of. When we see things through the eyes of a child, our image of the child cannot help but become more open. I am continuously amazed by the children’s insights and their abilities because the children make every day something different and exciting. Teaching to me also becomes very exciting and dynamic. Each year is a new journey and something that I anticipate."

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 Castanon Amy Castanon ... Joined the MMS Staff in July 2014. A child is very curious and full of wonder. Children ask question after question about the world around them and look to adults for the answers. Each child is unique with different personalities and temperaments. Children are creative and have big imaginations. Offering a variety of materials to utilize can allow for this creativity and imagination to come to life. The way a child learns is an ever changing process. They continue to learn and grow each day. It is up to us as teachers to help guide children and provide a rich environment so that they are better prepared for later life.

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 Johnson Anna Johnson ... Joined the MMS staff in June 2006. "To me a school is a living thing that functions best when all its parts are working together with a flow of collaboration and dialog between them. Everyone who enters our school is a part of its vitality. We are all responsible for its growth and energy. When teachers, parents and children come together they bring life to our school community. As is true with all living things, a school is constantly evolving and changing yet remaining true to its original roots. A school is a place where children and adults can grow and succeed alongside each other. Not only does a school support education in its traditional sense of teaching math, language, science and art; a school also fosters and revitalizes the more important subjects of how to be happy, how to be a good friend, to express care and thoughtfulness and to work through problems that arise. It is my goal as a teacher to support children in their development of a lifelong love for learning."

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.

Corinne Till Corinne Till ... Joined the MMS staff in May 2003. "To attempt explaining the intricacies of a child’s learning process is no simple matter. The child, much like an adult, encompasses a wide variety of aspects that connect together as a whole. So, to say children have 100 languages or more, truly captures how children learn. They are always actively searching to make connections and form further knowledge. Each child learns in many ways both as an initiator and as an observer. You see evidence of this in their work both creatively as well as intellectually. "

Elise Jahnke Elise Jahnke ... Joined the MMS staff in March 2009. "I find children to be some of the most creative, energetic, curious, honest and humorous individuals I’ve ever met. I feel that these qualities help them in developing the tools and skills that they need to be in a constant state of learning. It is my belief that we as teachers are here to help encourage that learning and growth as it takes place, without discouraging the ideas and expressions that the children provide. They are bright, competent and unique individuals with an immense capacity for exploring and learning about the world around them, through the experiences that they have on their own, as well as those that they share with others. It is for the reason that it is so important that they be provided with a warm, loving, open and creative environment in which they can flourish and expand their knowledge and the way they view the world around them."

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.

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. ."

Holly Stallons Holly Stallons ... My image of a school is a place of discovery and wonder. School is a place where children get to grow and explore their universe. It’s a place not only for children to grow but also parents and teachers. As adults we loose the enjoyment and wonder of small things, such as bubbles or watching a squirrel build a nest. School allows us, teachers and parents, to relive that wonder. School is a place where we can guide children in their exploration or the world but it is also be a place where children can show us how to enjoy the small daily occurrences.

Jenna Franke Jenna Franke ... Joined the MMS staff in September 2011. I believe that a school should be a welcoming place where staff, parents and children work together as a collaborative team. As a result strong relationships can be built in this environment. By building a classroom community a child will feel comfortable to explore and learn things every day. A school should provide the opportunity for a students strengths and individual qualities to be showcased in the classroom. Each student, family and staff member can learn something new from learning more about each other’s lives, experiences and interests. Working together as a collaborative team gives our students the tools and opportunities to reach their highest potential.

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.

Jenny Sinesio Jenny Sinesio ... Joined the MMS staff in January 2008. "I believe children learn through play and the explorations of materials in their environment. Children learn through their interactions with others including peers, adults and other living things. I feel children learn through their experiences and interactions with the world around them. The role of the teacher is to provide children with the least restrictive environment that fosters learning and allows children to explore the world in a place they feel safe and secure. The teacher’s role is to provide guidance that encourages children to explore things in new and different ways. It is the teacher’s responsibility to be an active observer of the children. This will help the teacher to better understand the children’s interests within their classroom. This way the teacher is equipped to provide activities and materials that expand on the children’s interests and previous knowledge. I am committed to being an advocate of children and to improving education for all young children. I believe early childhood education is extremely important because it is where the groundwork is laid for a good educational experience and to create life long learners."

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."

Katharine Sherman Katharine Sherman ... Joined the MMS staff in November 2013. A child is unbridled joy and unabashed delight. A child is pure energy, a blur of movement intercut with sleep. A child is a range of emotions deep and fiercely felt. A child is growth at an incredible pace. A child is the human experience-living to the fullest at every moment, with clarity and honesty of purpose. A child simply is. A child is tuned in always to the beauty of the universe, and afraid to be just as they are. A child reminds all of us to find our to find our wonder, feel delight, to live in awe.

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 Scottrussel Lori Scottrussel ... 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 Swanson Mallory Swanson ... A child is a free spirit who is eager to discover the world that surrounds them. In providing them with independence and support, a child is able to grow and learn through their endless imagination, curiosity, their adventures, and exploration. With each child’s exploration varying from one another, these simple, yet special discoveries help to shape each individual child. How enjoyable it is to watch these young individuals learn from great curiosity and continual exploration to piece together the world around them.

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 Sullivan Megan Sullivan ... A school is a place of exploration, where curiosity is encouraged. While providing a nurturing atmosphere filled with materials and activities that help develop the child as a whole. A school should be a sense of community and culture, which encompasses every part of life. Children should always feel protected physically and emotionally, while being encouraged to have their own thoughts and ideas. Along with an environment of peaceful and meaningful classrooms that assist each child’s growth. The presence of love must outweigh power; a school is a place that children will strive together.

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.

Monica Malley Monica Malley ... Joined the MMS staff in May 2007. "Children are rare and precious. I see them as investigators and researchers, desiring to understand. They are in a raw state, ready to adapt at any moment. They bring an honesty and realness to interactions, never holding back. They are listeners, even when we don’t think they are. They are confident artists, seeing beauty in all they create with an open mind, not seeking perfection. They see fresh possibilities and potential in daily encounters. They find delight in the moment, catching important details. Children are strong and competent. All children have the right to learn, to be in a school that welcomes people of all cultures and backgrounds. They deserve an intentional environment that brings joy, that challenges, and comforts, a place where they are encouraged, accepted, and listened to. Children remind me to not take life too seriously and to be spontaneous."

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 Kitzhaber Nicole Kitzhaber ... Joined the MMS staff in April 2012. Children are amazing for so many reasons. They are not accustomed to social norms nor do they worry about how they should act; children let their true selves shine through at all times. We can teach children how to behave or how to use their words in the right ways but we can also learn so much from them. We can learn their unspoken language of how to be creative, how to have fun, and how to build relationships. As a teacher, I hope to learn these things from children and also teach them how to channel their creative energy, have fun doing tasks that are necessary for independence, and how to respectively collaborate with others to make their relationships last.

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?

Rebekah Kendrick Rebekah Kendrick ... Joined the MMS staff in July 2014. My image of a child is of a unique explorer that is constantly discovering new things in their own special way. I am mesmerized by the endless supply of imagination and creativity that each child possesses. They have an ability to greet everyday with excitement; ready for the new challenges, adventures and discoveries they will make along the way. I love having the opportunity to share in their enthusiasm for learning and encouraging their curiosity. As we grow older, we so often lose sight of the many amazing discoveries there are to be made, and I feel that children are a great reminder to slow down and experience the world around us.

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. "

Ruth Abend Ruth Abend ... Working with children has always been a great passion of mine. I am fascinated by the philosophy behind Montessori schools. I share the perspective that by treating children as equals, they will have a better learning experience. Imagination is such an important key to our lives that I feel people can start to often overlook. Working through the expression of art with young minds can help them broaden their imagination and heighten their senses of finding self-fulfillment. I feel that I truly can relate with children, knowing that they are also human beings, understanding that they want to be treated as equals. Growing up can be such a fun, and at times scary experience; these are the vital moments of their lives. To learn with them and to reflect on their ideas of the world is an amazing and fascinating experience that I love to be a part of.

Sara Schulte Sara Schulte ... Joined the MMS staff in October 2006. "A child is an active learner ready for new experiences full of wonder and surprises. A child is a citizen of today with rights that are current and not being prepared to be future citizens. A child is a communicator of ideas, both verbally and non-verbally. A child is an observer of their surroundings from a very early age. A child is a teacher showing us that there are many ways of learning. A child is full of potential-competent and capable of building their own theories. A child is a researcher, curious ready to ask questions to learn new things. A child is a creator, using the tools of the many languages of music, imagination, painting, drawing, and sculpture. "

Victoria Okwabi Victoria Okwabi ... Joined the MMS staff in April 2003. "Children use his their minds to research and analyze things around them. A child explores by observing and watching others. Children are educators, collecting information and ideas from their parents, teachers and friends, and use them to explore their world and surroundings. They always try to fit into the society and have nothing to be afraid of, while they manipulate with new objects. Children use sign language and hands to express themselves as they grow. A child uses manufactured and natural materials to create things to play with, as they learn through performing. "

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