Learn more about the Montessori Community School Teachers and Staff.

  • Toddler/Primary

    Insaf Abdulla

    Teacher: Primary
    Before School Care: Primary
    16 years at MCS
    AS (Office Systems Technology), Durham Technical Community College
    BA (Arabic and Islamic Studies), Kuwait University
    IMC/MACTE (3-6) credential, Center for Guided Montessori Studies
    Bio: Insaf Abdulla begins her 16th year working at MCS. This is her eighth year in room 202 after working as an assistant in Room 203 for eight years. Insaf was raised in Kuwait and has lived in the United States since 1991. She has her Associate’s Degree in Office Systems Technology from Durham Tech, a Bachelor’s Degree in Arabic and Islamic studies from Kuwait University, and has her IMC/MACTE (3-6) credential from the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. Insaf is the mother of four daughters and one son.

    Benni Blount

    Assistant Teacher: Primary
    3 years at MCS
    BA (Sociology), Salem College, Winston-Salem, NC
    IMC/MACTE (3-6) credential candidate, Center for Guided Montessori Studies, expected completion July 2019
    Bio: Benni is excited to start her second year with the MCS family. She has spent numerous years working with young children. She has been a teacher’s assistant in a public school for nine years and also worked in preschools in the Durham area for four years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Salem College. In her spare time, Benni enjoys being outdoors and spending time with her family.

    Ana Catherine Dickens-Massengill

    Teacher: Primary
    2 years at MCS

    BA (History and Political Science), Meredith College, Raleigh, NC

    AMS Primary (3-6) certification, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, NC

    Bio: Ana Catherine has been teaching in the Montessori primary classroom for seven years. Prior to coming to MCS she worked as a leas teacher and the school director at a Montessori school in Cary, NC. Ana Catherine and her husband, John, have one daughter. Her Favorite Montessori Quote: “The first duty of an educator is to stir up life, but leave it free to develop.”

    Annie Green

    Teacher: Primary
    <1 year at MCS

    BA (Elementary Education) High Point University, High Point, NC

    AMS Primary (3-6) certification, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, NC

    Bio: Annie received her AMS Montessori credential from the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in NC in 2013. Prior to her Montessori training, Annie attended High Point University where she majored in Elementary Education with a minor in Piano Performance. 

    Before coming to MCS, Annie worked at Trillium Montessori in Cary, NC where she led morning and afternoon primary classes. Prior to her time at Trillium, Annie worked at Mountain Pathways Montessori in Boone, NC where she worked in two primary classes and developed an art curriculum for children ages 5-12.

    In addition to her teaching duties, Annie enjoys capturing moments throughout the school days behind her camera. In her spare time, she enjoys painting, hiking, climbing, photography, and playing with her dog Maple.

    Rochelle Hayes

    Teacher: Primary
    7 years at MCS

    BA (Plan II Honors Interdisciplinary), University of Texas, Austin, TX

    IMC/MACTE (3-6) credential, Center for Guided Montessori Studies

    Bio: Rochelle is proud to have been a part of the MCS community for the past 12 years. This is her seventh year teaching primary. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Plan II (interdisciplinary honors program) from the University of Texas at Austin. She did her postgraduate work at Duke University as a doctoral student in the History department and completed a Montessori assistant training course at MCS the summer of 2012. She completed her IMC (3-6) certification training with the Center for Guided Montessori Studies in 2016. She has two sons: Jonathan, a graduate of MCS, and Nicholas, a student in 603.

    Rachel McClain

    Assistant Teacher: Toddler
    Before School Care: Toddler
    3 years at MCS

    BA (Fine Arts) University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, NE

    Bio: Rachel is excited to be a new teacher in the MCS Toddler community. She has over 12 years experience working with children in a variety of settings, including as an Assistant Teacher in Primary classes at Montessori schools in both Nebraska and Tennessee. She is enthusiastic about outdoor education and spent several years working at Pioneers Park Nature Center as a Teacher-Naturalist and Camp Counselor. She holds a Bachelors of Arts in Fine Arts from University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In her spare time, she enjoys fine art photography, hiking, and swimming.

    Favorite Montessori Quote: “Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future… Let us treat them with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.”

    Colleen McHugh

    Teacher: Toddler
    5 years at MCS

    IMC/MACTE (Infant/Toddler) credential candidate, Center for Guided Montessori Studies, expected completion February 2019

    North Carolina Early Childhood Credential

    Bio: Colleen has 11 years of experience working with young children. She holds her North Carolina Early Childhood credential which she received in 2010. Colleen is working on her IMC infant/toddler Montessori credential through the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. She expects to complete this training by February 2019. Colleen plans to obtain her Associate of Arts degree in Business Administration from Wake Technical Community College. She is an alumna of MCS and her daughter is currently a lower elementary student at MCS. In her spare time Colleen enjoys crafts.

    Adam Miller

    Teacher: Primary
    16 years at MCS

    AMS (3-6) credential, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, NC

    Forest Kindergarten Certification, Cedarsong Nature School, Vashon, WA

    Bio: Adam Miller begins his 16th year at MCS and his 13th year in Room 202. Previously, he worked in a three-year-old classroom at the Learning Tree Day Care in Erlanger, Kentucky. In the summer of 2006 Adam received his AMS primary 3-6 Montessori credential from the North Carolina Center for Montessori Teacher Education. In the spring of 2017, Adam received his Forest Kindergarten Certification from the Cedarsong Nature School located on Vashon Island in Vashon, Washington. He is currently working towards a certification from the North Carolina Environmental Education Certification Program. His favorite Montessori quote: “The child’s first instinct is to carry out his actions by himself, without anyone helping him, and his first conscious bid for independence is made when he defends himself against those who try to do the action for him.”

    Camille Perkins

    Teacher: Toddler
    3 years at MCS

    BA (Biology) Guilford College, Greensboro, NC

    NC Early Childhood Credential

    AMS (Infant/Toddler) credential, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, NC

    Bio: Camille begins her 3rd year at MCS. Previously she worked at Greensboro Montessori School for seven years as a toddler teacher. She received her AMS infant/toddler Montessori credential in May 2018 from the Center for Montessori Teacher Education, NC. When not at school, she enjoys spending time with her family. Her favorite Maria Montessori quote is, “The education of even a small child, therefore, does not aim at preparing him for school, but for life.”

    Lindsay Porter

    Assistant Teacher: Toddler
    Before School Care: Toddler
    <1 year at MCS

    BA (Religion and Philosophy) Hendrix College, Conway, AR

    M.Ed (Integrative Learning) Endicott College, Beverly, MA

    AMI (6-12) certificate, Montessori Institute of North Texas, Dallas, TX

    Bio: Lindsay has been a Montessori teacher and assistant for over 10 years. She and her husband, Don, and their two children, Charles (203) and Madeleine (102) moved to the Triangle two years ago from Stony Brook, Long Island, where she was a lower elementary Montessori teacher. She is originally from Austin, TX, and enjoys singing, contra dancing, and civic engagement. Favorite Montessori quote: “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war.”
  • Lower Elementary

    Lisa Anderson

    Teacher: Lower Elementary
    3 years at MCS

    BS (Early Childhood Education/Montessori), Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, PA

    AMS Primary (3-6) Certification, Chestnut Hill College, PA

    AMS Lower Elementary (6-9) Certification, Seacoast Center, NH

    Orton-Gillingham Comprehensive Training, Institute for Multi-Sensory Education

    Bio: Lisa has been teaching Montessori for over 20 years. She began her career in Philadelphia where she assisted in the development of a new primary (3-6) classroom, afternoon cultural program and became the founder/director of the summer program. After relocating to Raleigh, Lisa then spent 11 years at the Montessori School of Raleigh where she worked as a co-teacher in the lower elementary program for eight years. She then was the Learning Support Coordinator for three years. Prior to joining MCS, Lisa worked in Cary as the lead teacher of a primary (3-6) classroom. She is extremely excited to be working with lower elementary children and thrilled to be returning as a part of the MCS family. Lisa and her husband, Chad, have two boys, Evan and Ryan (both previous Montessori students). Favorite Quote: “The future of the world is in my classroom today.” by Ivan Welton Fitzwater

    Michelle Reader

    Teacher: Lower Elementary
    mreader@mcsdurham.org
    19 years at MCS

    BS (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology), Centre College, Danville, KY

    M.Ed. (Montessori), Washington Montessori Institute of Loyola College, Timonium, MD

    AMI (6-12) credential, Washington Montessori Institute of Loyola College, Timonium, MD

    Montessori STEM graduate certificate, St. Catherine University, St. Paul, MN

    Bio: Michelle returns for her 19th year at MCS. She has taught at both the upper and lower elementary levels. She received her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky. Michelle is a graduate of the Washington Montessori Institute of Loyola College in Timonium, Maryland, where she received the Association Montessori Internationale Elementary 6-12 diploma along with a Master of Education in 2000. She has also completed her Montessori STEM graduate certificate through St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota. Outside the classroom, Michelle enjoys singing in a local chorus, bicycling, hiking, reading, geocaching, and spending time with her family. Both of her children attend MCS. Her son is in his first year in upper elementary; her daughter is in her first year in lower elementary. Favorite Montessori quote: “The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination.”

    Catherine Swanson

    Teacher: Lower Elementary
    10 years at MCS

    BA (Recreation Administration and Leisure Studies), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

    NCME (6-9) credential, Montessori Teacher Training Institute, Clemson, SC

    AMS (3-6) credential, Seton Montessori Institute, Clarendon Hills, IL

    AMS (9-12) credential, Montessori Elementary Teacher Training Collective, Lexington, MA

    Bio: Catherine loves teaching at MCS, and she truly values the relationships formed with students, families, and colleagues over the years. She has been a Montessori guide since 2002, working with students ages three to 12. In addition to working with students in the classroom, Catherine spends time outside of school tutoring students in reading and spelling. Her favorite Montessori quote is, “One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”

    Jennifer Tobolski

    Teacher: Lower Elementary
    13 years at MCS

    BA (Sociology and Native American Studies), Montana State University, Bozeman, MT

    M.Ed. (Education), Loyola University, MD

    AMI (6-12) certification, Montessori Institute of Milwaukee

    Bio: Jennifer holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, an AMI Elementary diploma from the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee, and a Masters in Education from Loyola College in Baltimore, Maryland. This is Jennifer’s 16th year of teaching and her 13th year in room 302. She has three children, one in the adolescent community and two in lower elementary. Miss Jen and her family enjoy being outside riding bikes, hiking, camping, swimming, and doing all of those things families often enjoy doing together, often surrounded by water. She writes, “I believe Maria Montessori was a visionary. It says something that the method she created over one hundred years ago is still successful today. It has been amazing to watch these children evolve and see how the Montessori method prepares them for life. I have high expectations for children and I have seen them live up to our shared expectations over the years.”
  • Upper Elementary

    Don Henchel

    Teacher: Upper Elementary
    13 years at MCS

    BA (History), North Carolina Wesleyan College, Rocky Mount, NC

    AMS (3-6) credential, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, New Rochelle, NY

    AMS (6-9) credential, Seacoast Center for Education, Scituate, MA

    AMS (9-12) credential, Seacoast Center for Education, Stratham, NH

    Bio: Don has been a Montessori teacher since 1981 and has taught lower elementary at MCS since 2005. In 2013, he moved to upper elementary in room 601. He has a Bachelor of Arts in History from North Carolina Wesleyan (1973). Don spent 20 years at the Montessori School of Raleigh and four years at Follow the Child Montessori School, also in Raleigh. He enjoys dialoging with his wonderful wife, hiking, watching movies, listening to music, anthropology, and watching his sons grow into conscious young men. Don notes: “I believe in interdisciplinary education, cosmic curriculum, dialogue, meaningful and purposeful work, and keeping a healthy perspective on how each student learns. My strengths and experience are with the cultural curriculum, classroom management, research, and in keeping the balance between structure and creativity.” Favorite Montessori quote: “…you yourselves must be filled with wonder and when you have acquired that you are prepared.”

    Jeff Kishpaugh

    Teacher: Upper Elementary
    9 years at MCS

    BA (Political Science), Emory University, Atlanta, GA

    Postgrad Diploma (Russian Language), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland

    AMS (6-9) credential, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, NY

    AMS (9-12) credential, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, NY

    Bio: Jeff has taught at MCS since 2010. Before coming to MCS, Jeff was an upper elementary teacher at Swannanoa Valley Montessori School in Black Mountain, North Carolina and at Spruce Pine Montessori School in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Jeff took his coursework for Montessori training at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in New York. He received his Bachelor of Arts from Emory University and did graduate work in Scotland. He enjoys meditation, walking, games, and being out in nature. Favorite Montessori quote: “Let us give the child a vision of the whole Universe… We should walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the Universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”

    Melanie Leyden

    Teacher: Upper Elementary
    11 years at MCS

    BEd (Biological Sciences, Business, Psychology), University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada

    AMS (6-12) credential, San Francisco Bay Area Teacher Education Center, Palo Alto, CA

    Omega Institute’s Ecological Literacy Immersion Program & Permaculture Design Course 2014

    Duke Integrative Medicine’s Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program March 2015

    NAMTA Montessori Mathematics For The Adolescent Advanced Workshop June 2016

    Bio: Melanie began her lifelong work with children when she worked for Parks and Recreation during her summers between her university years. Upon graduation from university, she taught middle school science and later worked as a counselor in a boarding school that dealt with troubled teens. Upon completion of her Montessori Elementary studies, Melanie was an upper elementary guide for 11 years, prior to becoming the math guide in the Adolescent Community at MCS for 9 years. Melanie has just completed her first year working with the upper elementary team and is excited to be embarking on her second year. Melanie enjoys cooking, gardening, all outdoor pursuits, running, and playing ice hockey. She is still working hard at her never-ending quest to play golf mindfully! Her favorite Montessori quote: “We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe, and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.”

    Kalpu Shah

    Teacher: Upper Elementary
    Upper Elementary Program Director
    4 years at MCS

    BS (Science), University of Mumbai, Mumbai, India

    Post Graduate Diploma (Applied Nutrition and Dietetics), University of Mumbai, Mumbai, India

    AMS (6-9) credential, Seacoast Center for Education, Stratham, NH

    AMS (9-12) credential, Seacoast Center for Education, Stratham, NH

    Bio: Kalpu has been a Montessori teacher since 1988, when she started at the Montessori School of Raleigh. She taught children at the primary level for 10 years, the upper elementary level for 15 years, and was a middle school math resource teacher for two years. Kalpu is the Assistant Director of the training program as well as an upper elementary teacher trainer at the Seacoast Center for Education. This year, Kalpu will serve on the board of the Triangle Montessori Schools Association. She has spent 25 years at the Montessori School of Raleigh and is pleased to be continuing her Montessori journey at MCS. Kalpu is the upper elementary program director as well as a teacher. She enjoys cooking, reading, and teaching. She notes: “I am honored to be a part of the child’s journey as they strive to reach their potential. My job is to create an environment for them that allows for the unfolding of the spiritual embryo while making sure that the children are prepared to take on the challenges of the 21st century. It is the job of the Montessori teacher to nurture agile thinkers, create gracious collaborators, who are capable of promoting peace within themselves and the world around them. My strengths and experience are with the curriculum, classroom management, and in keeping the balance between structure and spontaneity.” Favorite Montessori quote from The Absorbent Mind: “The child can only develop fully by means of experience in his environment.  We call such experience ‘work’.”

  • Adolescent

    Kelli Bee

    Sustainability, Micro-economy and Math Specialist
    <1 year at MCS

    BA (Sociologogy of Religion, Pre-med, Minors: Environmental Biology, Biochemistry), University of Colorado, Boulder, COMA (Regenerative International Development, education focus), School for International Training, Brattleboro, VT

    AMI (12-18) credential, NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent StudiesInternational Certificate for Teaching, with Distinction, University of Nottingham, UK

    Permaculture Design certificate, Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute

    Bio: This is Kelli’s inaugural year in the MCS community as an adolescent guide, and will be focused on math, micro-economy as well as linking work on the land of our beautiful campus to the needs of our school and adolescent community. Prior to MCS, Kelli has supported Montessori schools in Colorado to expand into adolescent programming and brings 14 years of experience with curricular development, start-up programming and experiential environmental education. Her passions are the Montessori pedagogy and patterns in nature, both of which were super-boosted living and working in the educational reform sector for 8 years in east Africa.

    One of her favorite Montessori quotes: “We know that the spirit of the child holds rich energies, energies undreamed of. We must allow these energies to bear fruit; we must enrich life by cultivating these hidden forces, we must prepare a future for man by utilizing the marvelous potential of the child.” Maria Montessori, San Remo Lecture IIKelli loves adventure, which is always present, whether through meditation, yoga, travel, hiking, biking, backpacking, canoeing, training horses, trying new foods, simply gazing at the stars, nurturing a plant or soil in the garden or even watching the curious behavior of an invertebrate. She is thrilled to explore the MCS community with deep curiosity.

    Angela Molfese

    Humanities and Writing Specialist
    Adolescent Program Director
    5 years at MCS

    BA (History and Sociology), State University of New York at Cortland, Cortland, NY

    MA (Social Studies Education), New York University, New York, NY

    AMI (12-18) credential, NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent Studies

    AMI (3-6) credential, Montessori Institute of San Diego

    AMS Secondary I-II (12-18) credential candidate, Clark Montessori Secondary Teacher Training Program, Cincinnati, OH (expected completion August 2019)

    Bio: Prior to coming to MCS, Angela worked an as adolescent guide, specializing in the areas of humanities and language arts, for ten years at Butler Montessori in Darnestown, Maryland. She has completed the NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent Studies and her primary training at the Montessori Institute of San Diego. Angela also holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Sociology from the State University of New York and a Masters in Social Studies Education from New York University. She has completed the Racial Equity Institute’s Phase I workshop. Outside of her work with adolescents, Angela enjoys exploring new places, be it by walking or reading, and feels fortunate to be a part of this community.

    Derek Starkenburg

    Science and Math Specialist
    3 years at MCS

    BEDA (Bachelor of Environmental Design in Architecture), North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

    M.Arch (Master of Architecture), North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

    MA (Earth Sciences), University of Northern Colorado, Greeley, CO

    Ph.D. (Atmospheric Sciences), University of Alaska, Fairbanks, AK

    AMI (12-18) credential, NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent Studies

    Bio: Derek is the adolescent guide for math and science at MCS. He has experience working as a designer at Fentress Architects in Denver, CO where he gained skills in graphics and three-dimensional spatial thinking, and also had the opportunity to work on the design of the Denver Academy high school building. Derek’s passion for weather, climate and geography drove him to seek degrees in earth sciences and atmospheric sciences, where he employs the three-dimensional representation skills from design to illustrate and elucidate physical and mathematical processes for education. During his last year at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, Derek received the GK-12 fellowship which provided the opportunity to teach science to 3-6th-grade students in local schools on a weekly basis. Derek completed the AMI Montessori Orientation Program to Adolescent Studies in July 2016, and is excited to be a part of the MCS community.
  • Arts & Enrichments

    Ingrid Caudle

    Spanish Specialist
    3 years at MCS

    BA (Languages – English, Spanish, and French) – La Salle University of Colombia, Bogota, Colombia

    Bio: Ingrid is originally from Bogotá, Colombia. She earned her Bachelor degree in languages (English, Spanish, and French) from La Salle University of Colombia. She also has had training at in the Fundamentals of Montessori from The Center for Guided Montessori Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida. Ingrid has been a teacher for more than 13 years and has worked with preschool, elementary, and high school students. She has experience teaching a dual language program (English to Spanish) in a Montessori children’s house, students 3 to 6 years old. In her free time she enjoys cooking, reading and spending time with nature.

    Holly Dykes

    Art Specialist
    12 years at MCS

    BA (Art; Indian Studies), Duke University, Durham, NC

    MAT (Art), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

    AMS (6-9) credential, North American Montessori Center

    Public School Teaching credential (K-12) – NC

    Bio: Holly Dykes returns for her 12th year at MCS and her 10th year as the K-8 art teacher. Holly holds a Bachelor of Arts from Duke University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from UNC-Chapel Hill. She has a K-12 North Carolina public school credential in art and a 6-9 Montessori credential. Holly taught lower elementary and art at MCS in the early 1980s when the elementary program was just forming. Since then, she has taught children and adults at Montessori Children’s House of Durham, Durham Arts Council and the Women’s Exchange. She was the Elementary Program Director at Chiaravalle Montessori School in Evanston, Illinois for 10 years. Holly has been teaching and administrating for over 30 years.

    Sabine Howe

    Physical Education Specialist
    18 years at MCS

    BPE (Physical Education and German), University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

    Gymnastics Coaching certificate: Level I and II

    Basketball Coaching certificate: Level I

    Track and Field Coaching certificate: Level I and II

    Soccer Coaching certificate: Level I and II

    Bio: Sabine Howe received a Bachelor of Physical Education from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. She has 33 years of experience teaching physical education to kindergarten through 12th graders and has coached soccer, gymnastics, volleyball, and track and field. Sabine has coached Badminton and taught Jazz Dance for over 18 years to children 8 – 13, where the children showcase their talents twice a year at end of season evening performances. The jazz group also showcases their work for all students at in-house performances. Sabine has put together an upper elementary MCS Mini Olympics with opening and closing ceremonies for the last 18 years where parents and the whole school can come and watch. She has coached the upper elementary Soccer Team (together with Levy Vargas) for the past 18 years. The team travels to other local elementary schools to compete. Sabine started a Mileage Club at MCS where all elementary and adolescent students who are interested can run/walk to earn mileage points and special “foot tokens” (for every five miles completed). Two years ago we had a student who completed 300 plus miles over the course of the year! Sabine has started a gymnastics and parkour class for upper elementary and adolescent students. Her interests outside of school include jazz dancing, kayaking, skiing, tennis, playing the guitar, and traveling. She is fluent in German. Sabine joined the Afro/Brazilian Drumming group, “Batala” and has been playing and performing with them at various festivals through the Triangle over the past two and a half years. Sabine is the after-school teacher/coach for the MCS soccer team, jazz dance, and volleyball. Sabine begins her 19th year at MCS and has two daughters.

    Leandra Merea Strope

    Music Specialist
    <1 year at MCS

    BMus (Flute Performance), Meredith College, Raleigh, NC

    MM (Choral Conducting), Yale School of Music, New Haven, CT

    Bio: Leandra is pleased to join the MCS community this year. She holds degrees from Meredith College and Yale University and has done further graduate work in Choral Conducting and Literature at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN as well as completed her Massage Therapy training at The Body Therapy Institute in Silk Hope, NC.

    Leandra is the founding Artistic Director of Sisters’ Voices, a local choral community for girls in 2nd through 8th grades. She has taught Pre-K, K, and 6th through 12th grade music at Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, PA, worked in several churches, and led both the choral music program and the Area III (an exploration of Self in Society) program and curriculum development at the Governor’s School of North Carolina — West in Winston-Salem, a summer interdisciplinary intensive for academically gifted juniors and seniors in high school. Leandra’s undergraduate work was in flute performance. As a child she also studied violin, piano, and guitar. As an adult she has studied cello, fiddle, and recorder, and she has most recently been exploring the ukulele and autoharp. Leandra is a student of symbols, loves to study dreams, and has a long-standing admiration of labyrinths and Celtic knots. She and her daughter live communally with friends in Chapel Hill.

    Levy Vargas

    Ceramics Specialist
    Physical Education Assistant
    8 years at MCS

    MFA (Sculpting and Painting), National University of Colombia, Bogota, Colombia

    Bio: Levy is an artist originally from Bogotá, Colombia. He received his Masters in Fine Arts with a major in sculpting. He has taught art and creative expression for several years to children and adults. Levy teaches elementary and adolescent ceramics studio, assists with elementary and adolescent physical education, assists with the upper elementary soccer team, and teaches ceramics and 3D Art after school.

  • Support Staff

    Jessica Daqamsseh

    After School Care: Toddler
    <1 year at MCS

    BA (Public History), Meredith College, Raleigh, NC

    MS (Library Science), North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC

    Bio: Jessica is excited to begin her first year at MCS. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Public History from Meredith College and her Masters in Library Science from North Carolina Central University. She previously worked in public and university libraries teaching information literacy skills and developing engaging collections for all ages. She has one daughter who is also beginning her MCS journey.

    Sinem Degerli

    Before School Care: Elementary
    2 years at MCS

    BA (Turkish Language and Literature), Dumlupinar University, Kutahya, Turkey

    AMS (3-6) credential, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, NC

    Bio: Starting in 2009, Sinem was a Turkish Literature teacher at a high school in Turkey. She moved to the U.S. in 2014 when her husband started his Ph.D. program at Duke University.
    Sinem has been interested in Montessori education since her son Sinan was born. In 2015, she began her journey at MCS as a parent when her son, currently a first-year student in lower elementary, enrolled in primary.
    In her free time, she enjoys writing stories and poems, being with her family, and traveling.
    Sinem received her AMS 3-6 primary credential through the North Carolina Center for Montessori Teacher Education in May 2018. Her favorite quote is “Educator is not a teacher, but a guide who helps a child to be truly her/himself who is able to use her/his inner power, and shows us his unique personality that was placed inside him at birth.”

    Jennifer Fish

    After School Care: Elementary
    2 years at MCS

    BS (Quantitative Sciences), University of Florida, Gainesville, FL

    AMS (Infant/Toddler) credential candidate, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, NC, expected completion July 2020

    Bio: Jenny has experience working in many different professional areas including management and personnel resources. She and her family moved to North Carolina from the Virgin Islands in 2016. Her son started at Pinewoods Montessori in 4th grade and she began to learn more about the Montessori method. Jenny became a substitute teacher and P.E. teacher at Pinewoods in 2017 during her son’s 6th grade year. Her son is now a student in the  MCS Adolescent Community.

    Jenny is very interested in becoming a Montessori lead teacher in the future and is excited to begin her journey. In the summer of 2018, she began her  Montessori teacher training for the  Infant/Toddler credential at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in Charlotte, NC. In her free time, she enjoys being active and traveling.

    Shavonne Joyner

    After School Care: Primary
    1 year at MCS

    BBA (Management), Augusta State University, Augusta, GA

    MA (Teaching), Augusta State University, Augusta, GA

    Bio: Shavonne is excited to begin her second year with the MCS family. She has previously worked at various Triangle area public and charter schools. She has taught kindergarten and grades 5th through 8th. She has been a substitute teacher for the last six years. Shavonne enjoys traveling, exploring cultures, visiting museums, and listening to music.

    Chiara Klein

    After School Care: Elementary
    <1 year at MCS

    BA (English Literature), Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY

    Bio:Chiara became a part of the MCS community this summer through working as an educator at the Museum of Life and Science. She directed off-site camps for the Museum at the MCS campus and is enjoying seeing familiar Montessori faces again. She has a background in environmental education and policy and is hoping to move into the realm of conservation work. Chiara calls many places home but has been living here in Durham since February and enjoys running, poetry, and adventuring.

    Mari Lindsay

    Resource Teacher: Primary
    21 years at MCS

    AMS (3-6) credential, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, NC

    Sign Language certificate, Durham Technical Community College, Durham, NC

    Bio: Mari has over 30 years of experience working with young children. She holds an AMS 3-6 Montessori primary credential from the North Carolina Center for Montessori Teacher Education. From 1986 to 1998, Mari worked as an assistant teacher and then as a lead teacher at Lakeside Presbyterian Preschool and Kindergarten in Erlanger, Kentucky. Through Durham Technical Community College, Mari completed 21 hours of training in Sign Language I and received her North Carolina Early Childhood Credential I and II (EDU 111 & 112). She has extensive training and experience as a wildlife rehabilitator. Her favorite Montessori quote: “He must find out how to concentrate, and for this he needs things to concentrate upon…Indeed, it is just here that the importance of our school really lies. There are places in which the child can find the kind of work that permits him to do so.”

    Shelly Lyons

    Resource Teacher
    10 years at MCS

    BS Ed. (Early Childhood Education), University of Georgia, Athens, GA

    AMS (6-9 Elementary I) credential, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, NC

    Elementary State Teaching certificates (Pre-K – 5th): GA and PA

    HillRAP credential, The Hill Center, Durham, NC

    Phonics – Breaking the Code credential, The Hill Center, Durham, NC

    Open Circle Facilitator certificate, Open Circle, Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA

    Bio: Shelly has 19 years of experience in Montessori classrooms. She spent eight years at the Athens Montessori School in Athens, Georgia, and one year at the Swannanoa Valley Montessori School in Black Mountain, North Carolina. This is her 10th year at MCS. She has a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from the University of Georgia and holds elementary state teaching certificates in Georgia and Pennsylvania. Shelly also holds an AMS elementary I credential from the North Carolina Center for Montessori Teacher Education. She is HillRAP certified from The Hill Center and has Open Circle facilitator certification. Besides teaching she enjoys being a mom, singing, hiking, creative writing, reading, biking, and spending time with her two sons.

    Favorite Montessori quote: “The first duty of the educator, whether he is involved with the newborn infant or the older child, is to recognize the human personality of the young.”

    Kathy McHugh

    After School Care: Primary
    36 years at MCS

    AMS (3-6) credential, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, NC

    Earth Partnership for Schools Institute, North Carolina Botanical Gardens

    NC Environmental Education credential candidate

    Mindful Educator Essentials, Mindful Schools

    Bio:Kathy began her journey at MCS as a parent when her son was enrolled at MCS as a primary student in 1981. She joined the staff as a classroom assistant in 1982 and received her AMS 3-6 primary credential through the North Carolina Center for Montessori Teacher Education in 1989. With over 30 years as a primary classroom teacher she has recently moved into a new role while continuing to support the children and her colleagues.

    Kathy is the mother of two MCS alumni and the grandmother of a current lower elementary student. She enjoys contra dancing, being outdoors, reading, and playing games with her family.

    Alaysia Sherer

    After School Care: Toddler
    < 1 year at MCS

    BS (Family and Consumer Sciences), North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC, expected May 2019

    Bio: Alaysia is originally from Charlotte, NC but relocated to the Triangle area to attend school and obtain a Bachelor of Science Degree. She is currently a student at North Carolina Central University who is obtaining a degree in Family and Consumer Sciences with a concentration in Child Development and Family Relations. Her projected graduation is May 2019. She has spent the past few years at her institution gaining experience with curriculum within classrooms in Durham Public Schools and the child development lab on the campus of NCCU. She is excited to start her first year with the MCS Family.

    Andy Strother

    Maintenance Technician
    astrother@mcsdurham.org
    1 year at MCS

    Bio: Andy brings to MCS many years of experience as a maintenance technician and chief engineer at local apartment communities and hotels.
    A West Virginia native, Andy has spent the last 20+ years in North Carolina. He also lived in Savannah, GA for two years. He and his wife, Hesper, live in downtown Durham with their two cats. Andy is an avid sports fan and enjoys traveling, craft beer, and bluegrass music.

    Aisha Sykes

    After School Care: Elementary
    1 year at MCS

    BS (Biology), North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC

    Bio: A recent graduate of North Carolina Central University with a bachelor of science degree, Aisha is no stranger to MCS. She worked at MCS this summer as a camp counselor. Aisha also has three years of experience working in childcare facilities. She enjoys being outdoors, exercising, and spending time with her family. Aisha also enjoys helping children learn and grow in ways that will impact their future lives.
  • Administration

    Jean Boyer

    Bookkeeper
    jboyer@mcsdurham.org
    4 years at MCS

    BA (History), University of Texas at Dallas

    MS (Library Science), University of North Texas

    Bio: Jean joined MCS in January 2015 after relocating to North Carolina in 2013. She has over 20 years of experience in bookkeeping and accounting. Being from a military family meant Jean moved all over the United States as a child, but she settled in Texas for most of her adult life. Jean earned her Bachelor in History and a Master’s in Library Science while in Texas, and also has graduate level course work towards a Master’s in Accounting. She has worked for The University of Texas at Dallas and UNC in accounting and administrative positions, and is excited about being here at MCS. Jean’s hobbies are reading (a lot!), going to sci-fi conventions, and spending time with her friend’s children.

    Tim Daniel

    Head of School
    tdaniel@mcsdurham.org
    2 years at MCS

    BA (English), Northwestern University

    MA (Modern Letters), University of Tulsa

    Bio: A native of Akron, Ohio, Tim is the son, nephew, grandson, and great-grandson of Lutheran ministers. In spite of this lineage, he chose instead to follow in the footsteps of his mother, an elementary school teacher, and he has spent the overwhelming majority of his professional career as an independent school teacher and administrator. Perhaps the greatest influence on his career path came when he had the opportunity to attend Deerfield Academy, a boarding school in Massachusetts. With only a brief, two-year hiatus in the 1980s to collect his Masters degree (and meet his wife, Deborah), Tim has spent the last three-plus decades wearing virtually every conceivable “hat” (including that of parent) at independent schools in Ohio, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Michigan (where he served as Head of School at The Leelanau School), Minnesota and Georgia (where he served as Head of School at Brenau Academy). Just prior to coming to MCS, Tim served as Executive Director at Mohican School in the Out-of-Doors, an environmental education nonprofit in Ohio. Tim and Deborah have three children: Al (a journalist); Robert (an actor and occasional stand-up comedian); and Emma (a college sophomore).

    Dave DeHarde

    Assistant Head of School for Operations and Facilities
    ddeharde@mcsdurham.org
    6 years at MCS

    BA (Theatre with minor in Religious Studies), University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    MSA (School Administration), University of North Carolina at Greensboro

    AMS (3-6) credential, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, North Carolina

    Bio: Dave started his Montessori journey at the Greensboro Montessori School where he taught at the primary and lower elementary levels. In Greensboro, he sat on the Board of Trustees as a staff representative and served as Division Head for the primary program. He received his AMS Early Childhood credentials from the Center for Montessori Teacher Education of North Carolina in 2005. After eight years as a Montessori educator, Dave decided to make the transition into administration. After completing a Master of School Administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Dave became the Campus Director at the Boyd School at Broadlands in Virginia. He joined MCS in the summer of 2012 as the Toddler and Primary Program Director. In July 2015, Dave was named Assistant Head of School. In addition to overseeing all operations and facilities at MCS, Dave is the director for before school care, after school care, after school activities, summer camps, and all school events. Dave’s two sons attend MCS in the primary and lower elementary programs.

    Crystal Featherstone

    Office Manager
    cfeatherstone@mcsdurham.org
    3 years at MCS

    B.A. (English), Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ

    Bio: Crystal is thrilled to be at MCS. She has worked in administration for over 5 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing. Native-born Baltimorean, she enjoys exploring the hidden secrets of North Carolina. She loves to read, write, and socialize.

    Mike Miller

    Admissions Director
    mmiller@mcsdurham.org
    6 years at MCS

    BA (Business Management), Michigan State University

    AMS (6-9) credential, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, North Carolina

    Bio: Mike is in his seventh year with MCS. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Management from Michigan State University and an AMS Elementary 6-9 certification from the North Carolina Center for Montessori Education. Prior to joining the administrative team at MCS, Mike was a lower elementary teacher and very much enjoyed seeing first-hand the power of a Montessori education. Mike is originally from Michigan but moved to North Carolina in 2006 where he met his wife, Danielle. Mike and Danielle have two daughters, Alexis and Gabrielle.

    Angela Molfese

    Adolescent Program Director
    Humanities and Writing Specialist: Adolescent
    amolfese@mcsdurham.org
    4 years at MCS

    BA (History and Sociology), State University of New York at Cortland

    MA (Social Studies Education), New York University

    AMI (12-18) credential, NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent Studies

    AMI (3-6) credential, Montessori Institute of San Diego

    AMS Secondary I-II (12-18) credential candidate, Clark

    Montessori Secondary Teacher Training Program, Cincinnati, Ohio (expected completion August 2019)

    Bio: Prior to coming to MCS, Angela worked an as adolescent guide, specializing in the areas of humanities and language arts, for ten years at Butler Montessori in Darnestown, Maryland. She has completed the NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent Studies and her primary training at the Montessori Institute of San Diego. Angela also holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Sociology from the State University of New York and a Masters in Social Studies Education from New York University. She recently completed the Racial Equity Institute’s Phase I workshop. Outside of her work with adolescents, Angela enjoys exploring new places, be it by walking or reading, and feels fortunate to be a part of this community.

    Keturah Russell

    Assistant Head of School for Academic Programs and Support
    Toddler, Primary, and Lower Elementary Program Director

    krussell@mcsdurham.org
    24 years at MCS

    BA (Psychology), Meredith College

    AMS (9-12) credential, Seacoast Center Montessori Training Program

    AMS (6-9) credential, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, North Carolina

    Open Circle Facilitator certificate, Open Circle, Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Mass.

    Bio: Keturah Russell became a member of the MCS community in 1992 when she began her Montessori lower elementary teaching career. She graduated from Meredith College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology in 1992 and received her AMS Elementary I credential from the North Carolina Center for Montessori Teacher Education that same year. She is also a certified facilitator for Open Circle and recently completed her Elementary II (9-12) Montessori credential. Throughout her many years at MCS she has served on AMS accreditation committees, on the school’s board of trustees as the faculty representative for several terms, on the development committee, and has worked as the lower elementary program director. Keturah lives in Chatham County with her veterinarian husband, Johnson, a menagerie of pets and their two children, Morgann and Tallis, who both attended MCS.

    Deborah Shah

    Marketing and Communications Director
    dshah@mcsdurham.org
    8 years at MCS

    BA (Journalism), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

    MBA (Marketing/Consumer Behavior), Kenan-Flagler Business School at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC

    Bio: Deborah is in her ninth year at MCS. Prior to joining the staff in 2010, she was an MCS parent starting in 2002. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism with a concentration in Advertising from UNC-Chapel Hill and a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing and Consumer Behavior from Kenan-Flagler Business School in Chapel Hill. She has over 30 years of  experience working in advertising agencies, corporate advertising, marketing, and communications. She served for 4 years as the MCS PTO Vice President and co-chaired one of the annual auctions. Deborah has extensive non-profit volunteer and/or board experience in the Triangle area. Both of her children attended MCS.

    Kalpu Shah

    Upper Elementary Program Director
    Teacher: Upper Elementary
    kshah@mcsdurham.org
    4 years at MCS

    BS (Science), University of Mumbai, Mumbai, India

    Post Graduate Diploma (Applied Nutrition and Dietetics), University of Mumbai, Mumbai, India

    AMS (6-9) credential, Seacoast Center for Education, Stratham, NH

    AMS (9-12) credential, Seacoast Center for Education, Stratham, NH

    Bio: Kalpu has been a Montessori teacher since 1988, when she started at the Montessori School of Raleigh. She taught children at the primary level for 10 years, the upper elementary level for 15 years, and was a middle school math resource teacher for two years. Kalpu is the Assistant Director of the training program as well as an upper elementary teacher trainer at the Seacoast Center for Education. This year, Kalpu will serve on the board of the Triangle Montessori Schools Association. She has spent 25 years at the Montessori School of Raleigh and is pleased to be continuing her Montessori journey at MCS. Kalpu is the upper elementary program director as well as a teacher. She enjoys cooking, reading, and teaching. She notes: “I am honored to be a part of the child’s journey as they strive to reach their potential. My job is to create an environment for them that allows for the unfolding of the spiritual embryo while making sure that the children are prepared to take on the challenges of the 21st century. It is the job of the Montessori teacher to nurture agile thinkers, create gracious collaborators, who are capable of promoting peace within themselves and the world around them. My strengths and experience are with the curriculum, classroom management, and in keeping the balance between structure and spontaneity.” Favorite Montessori quote from The Absorbent Mind: “The child can only develop fully by means of experience in his environment. We call such experience ‘work’.”

    Linda Wilson

    Development Director
    lwilson@mcsdurham.org
    4 years at MCS

    BA (English), Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, Fredericksburg, VA

    K-12 Education certificate, Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia, Fredericksburg, VA

    Bio: Linda is beginning her fourth year at MCS as Director of Development. She is the grandmother of Vivianne and Andrew, both of whom started as toddlers at MCS. She holds a BA from the Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia with graduate courses in education at the University of Virginia and Duke University. Linda began her teaching career in Northern Virginia and continued in Durham, where she developed and led Durham’s first ungraded primary program. She later led a family group experience for Duke Preschool and Primary Program, now Duke School for Children.An active public school volunteer, she served on the Durham Merger Issues Task Force that planned the merger of Durham’s City and County school systems. Searching for ways to improve the lives of low-wealth women and their children, she founded and became the executive director of Candles of Hope. This non-profit gave her an opportunity to take her fundraising skills to a new level and to become involved in the philanthropic community in the Triangle. She also applied her skills to the needs of Preservation Durham, meeting a six-month deadline to raise $300,000 for a black history project in conjunction with the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

    Linda lives in Durham with her husband Bill, sharing their Victorian neighborhood with two daughters, two grandchildren and assorted pets.