Ian is the Director of Educational Technology at Milwaukee Montessori School. 2013-14 was his first year as the Technology Director, but he has been with Milwaukee Montessori School since 2011. While at MMS, he has worked with students in the school's afterschool programs, taught summer classes, and served as an Assistant Teacher in a Montessori classroom. Ian earned a BFA in Applied Media Arts with focuses in animation, graphic design, drawing and painting, and art history from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. He is also a 2013 Peabody College Fellow of Vanderbilt University.
Ian has recently studied computer science and programming under the direct tutelage of Steve Bergen, TEDx alumni and sitting Executive Director at Tech International Charter School in the Bronx, New York. Prior to joining MMS, Ian was fortunate to work from home as a freelance artist and graphic designer with his two beautiful children who are current MMS students - Ezran and Bellen. His freelance work experience covered the artistic and graphic gambit of fine art portraiture of families and children, murals, tattoo design, as well as logo and apparel design.
In his free time, Ian enjoys physical fitness and bodybuilding, drawing and painting, writing, music, reading about science and philosophy, Godzilla movies, and epic pillow fights with his children.
Deepti Arora grew up in India, and after earning a Bachelor's Degree in Education from the Rajasthan University in 1999, she taught middle school language and moral science at Central Academy School in Alwar, Rajasthan for two years. In 2003, she moved to Milwaukee and joined the MMS faculty in 2005 as a Toddler Teacher. After two years, Deepti joined a Lower Elementary classroom as an assistant teacher, and in 2009, she earned her Montessori teacher diploma through the American Montessori Society.
Deepti is now a Montessori Directress in the Lower Elementary. Deepti continues to develop as a teacher; she studied reading instruction at the Columbia Teachers' College Reading and Writing Project in New York City during the summer of 2011. She strives to create an atmosphere of calm, order, and joy in the classroom. She sees her role as helping and encouraging children while they develop self-confidence and inner discipline. Outside of school, Deepti enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking, biking, and playing board games.
Laurie Asch has been teaching piano and voice at Milwaukee Montessori since 2012. She received her Bachelor's Degree in music education from St. Olaf College with a triple emphasis on piano, voice, and violin. Her master's degree in Music Education is from UW-Madison. Mrs. Asch is currently directing orchestras ages 5-8 at Bayside Middle School and in Fox Point. She also teaches three violin ensemble classes at Tamarack Waldorf School in Milwaukee. Laurie performs in the Festival City Symphony, noted for its educational concerts.
She also performs regularly in string trios or quartets at weddings. Previously she sang in Master Singers, and accompanied numerous recitals as a pianist. Laurie has taught many facets of music in various school systems including elementary music, orchestra, world drumming, choir and piano. Laurie has also enjoyed traveling to many parts of the world ; Austria, India, Mexico, and Tanzania and has often studied/performed music there. Laurie is married and has three grown children.
In the fall of 2014, Jamie Ault became a member of the MMS faculty as an Assistant Teacher in Lower Elementary and now works in Upper Elementary as a science and history teacher. She earned a bachelor's degree in biology from Waynesburg University, in Waynesburg, PA.
Since graduating, Jamie had held a wide range of positions in non-traditional education and the non-profit sector. Her prior educational experience includes teaching environmental science at nature centers, in camp settings and at afterschool programs in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Michigan. She spent two years teaching conversational English (ESL) and organizing educational and cultural events in Policka, Czech Republic. Her non-profit experience includes work as an AmeriCorpVISTA in Erie, PA, and administrative work for Growing Power Inc and Global Youth Leadership Institute in Milwaukee, WI.
In the coming years, Jamie is looking forward to working with MMS students and passing on her love of learning. In her free time, Jamie enjoys cycling, painting, gardening and spending time with her husband, two daughters, and cat.
Kara, a Directress in the Children's House since 2008, received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the UW- Milwaukee in 2005. After graduating, Kara joined the MMS staff as an Administrative Assistant, and was quickly impressed with the level of work the students were doing in their classrooms. Her interest in the Montessori philosophy grew when she became an Assistant Teacher in a Montessori classroom in 2005. Soon after, she began Montessori Early Childhood training at the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in Evanston, Illinois. In 2008, Kara completed her Montessori training as well as Orton-Gillingham training to provide multi-sensory literacy instruction to young children.
She has enjoyed leading her own classroom, and sharing in the growth and learning the children experience there each year. In her free time, Kara enjoys biking, hiking, and attending Brewer and Packer games. She is always looking for a good book to read and new restaurants to try in the area. Kara loves to travel, and her favorite place to visit is her grandfather's childhood home in Switzerland.
In the summer of 2008, Marcy Berenschot found herself at Milwaukee Montessori School after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a Bachelor of Science degree in English education and a state certification to teach grades 9-12. She began her time at MMS by sharing her love of words and reading with Lower Elementary students and in the following year, started teaching English Language Arts at the Upper Elementary level where she has remained since. In the summer of 2010, she spent two weeks continuing her education of reading and writing pedagogy at the Columbia Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in New York City. Shortly after, she returned to school part-time at UW-Milwaukee to pursue her Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in reading, and concurrently became state certified to teach reading to students from early childhood to age 21. She completed her Master's program in December of 2014.
In anticipation of her professional work, Marcy student taught at Rufus King International Baccalaureate High School and Roosevelt Middle School of the Arts, both in the Milwaukee Public School district. Throughout her schooling, she volunteered both as a writing tutor in both MPS and The Milwaukee Rescue Mission. Additionally, she spent five summers as a camp counselor with the Jewish Community Center of Milwaukee. When she is not teaching, reading, or continuing her own education, Marcy enjoys cooking, exploring the city of Milwaukee with family and friends, traveling, and running. A runner for 15 years, she has completed three half marathons and countless 5Ks throughout the Midwest on both roads and trails.
Alyson joined the MMS faculty as a teaching assistant in Mrs. Arora's room and athletic coach assistant. She moved to Milwaukee from Hudson, WI. She studied Animal Science and Chemistry at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. After moving to Milwaukee and with encouragement from friends and family, Alyson began managing a newly opened boutique fitness studio in the Third Ward. Through the fitness studio, Alyson was introduced to the MMS family, which ignited her desire to find a role where she could contribute to the community in a more significant way. She wants to share her passion for helping others and fostering an active healthy lifestyle.
In her free time, Alyson loves to stay active with her dog Tyra, travel as much as possible, and enjoy great food and company. Alyson is excited to be a member of the MMS faculty. She looks forward to applying her science background in the classroom and her fitness in athletics.
Mary Beth DiFuccia joined the MMS administrative team in 2009, just days after moving to Milwaukee. You may see her greeting parents at the front desk, handling orders and supply invoices in the office, or liaising with the food service provider in the Grotto at lunchtime. Mary Beth has a degree in Psychology and Elementary Education from Seton Hill College in Pennsylvania, and she worked in several corporate offices before joining the team at MMS.
Prior to moving to Milwaukee, she and her husband moved with their three children more than twenty times in a thirty-year period. While she is grateful to have friends across the country and in Canada, she is happy to now call Milwaukee home. Mary Beth's children and ten grandchildren are the joy of her life. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, taking long treks with her dog, Maggie, and most especially working in her garden. Mary Beth is proud to have recently earned the designation of Master Gardener.
Patrick Bieser joined MMS in the summer of 2014 as a Marketing Intern and took over the Director position in March of 2015. After graduating from MMS in 2007, he attended Nicolet High School and then attended UW-Madison. He graduated in December 2014 with BA's in History and Economics, and a certificate in European Studies. While at UW-Madison Patrick ran and started for the UW-Madison Mens Club Volleyball Team. He took his team to a 3rd place finish in a D1AAA National Tournament in Reno in 2014. He stays active in the Volleyball community regularly playing in leagues around the city and traveling to various tournaments across the state.
His other passions include cooking and working out, the crazier the workout, the better. Patrick is excited to be a member of the MMS Administration. He looks forward to using his knowledge of websites and digital marketing to continue to grow Milwaukee Montessori School and its community. His role will include webmaster duties, parent communications, social media management, marketing, and a little of everything in between.
Catherine Brys has been working professionally with children for over 18 years. After earning a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education from the UW-Milwaukee, Catherine started her career at MMS in 2000 in the Nighthawks afterschool program. Then, she served an assistant teacher in the Junior High, Upper Elementary, and Lower Elementary classrooms. In 2002, Catherine earned a Montessori Elementary Teaching Certificate from the Association Montessori International and became a Lead Teacher in Lower Elementary. After ten years of teaching at both Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary, she assumed a position in the after-school child care program.
In March of 2014, she became the Director of Child Care and Extra-Curricular Programs. Catherine's two young children proudly attend MMS. She and her husband enjoy movies and travel. A member of Mensa since 2007, Catherine greatly enjoys crosswords and solving puzzles and riddles as well as playing trivia and board games. She is also an enthusiastic reader and food lover.
Julie Christensen has been working at Milwaukee Montessori School for 17 years. She received her Bachelor's Degree in Exercise and Sports Science in 1997 at the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse. She started as the Physical Education Teacher in the fall of 1997 and continued to teach at that position for 11 years. She earned a coaching emphasis that she has put to good use starting Milwaukee Montessori's after school sports programs. Those programs included basketball, volleyball, and track and field.
After serving as a Physical Education Teacher, she became the Athletic Director and After School Programs Director, in which she has served ever since. She also works in the Nighthawks room and one of the Milestones rooms as well as serves at the Summer Program Coordinator. One of the signature events Julie runs at the school is "Jump Rope for Heart." In serving as the coordinator since 2001, she has brought many students and faculty together to raise money for the American Heart Association. The school has raised thousands of dollars and in 2014, the school raised $11,600. In her spare time, she also volunteers for COTA, which is the Children's Organ Transplant Association.
She is the mother of two young boys, Nathan and Cooper and has been married to her husband Rob for over 15 years. She enjoys going to Brewers games, watching movies, and spending time with her family and friends.
Milestones Teacher, Marie Cisse, was born in Senegal, West Africa, and she is trilingual in French, Spanish, and English. She holds a bachelor's degree, and has trained in the High Scope Curriculum, the Socio-Emotional Foundation For Early Learning, and the Creative Curriculum. Before joining the MMS faculty in 2013, Marie had 18 years of experience working in Head Start, and also worked at the Urban Day School where she planned and implemented developmentally appropriate activities to promote the children's learning and social skills. She works to engage each child's individual needs and learning styles, and enjoys watching children grow into avid and independent learners.
Outside of school, Marie is interested in religious studies and meditation. Additionally, she and her husband are active members of their church where they volunteer at the local soup kitchen. Marie also enjoys travelling, and hopes to participate in service trips that will take her to other parts of the world.
Allen Cote is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, and multimedia artist, originally from Austin, TX and currently based in Milwaukee, WI. Cote received his Bachelor's in English at Southwestern University, and spent several years as a fixture in the Austin music scene and a veteran of the SXSW music festival. He has contributed to recordings and performances by Buffalo Gospel, Heidi Spencer and the Rare Birds, Peter Mulvey, The Championship, Juniper Tar, Hayward Williams, Pezzettino, Whitney Mann, The Wildbirds, Hugh Bob and the Hustle, Trapper Schoepp and The Shades, and many others. Cote is well-versed in guitar, bass, lap steel, ukulele, mandolin and various percussion; and may be found performing his own original compositions - ranging from folk to avant-garde electronica - solo and with various ensembles. He was awarded the Wisconsin Area Music Industry's "Specialty Instrumentalist of the Year" in 2011. Allen Cote and John Crockett have twice presented their sound installation "Tonal Motion" at the acclaimed Milwaukee Art Museum, and are in the process of refining the installation for further exhibitions.
A former journalist, Cote's photography has been featured in The Williamson County Sun and The Austin Chronicle; and was auctioned off for charity at Southwestern University's "A Day Without Art" exhibition. Currently, Cote composes the music for local culinary show Wisconsin Foodie, airing several times weekly around the state on Wisconsin Public Television. He also provides music to marketing and new media firms, and has taught guitar and ensemble lessons at Milwaukee Montessori School for seven years.
Sanja joined the MMS faculty as a Toddler Program I teacher. She is very passionate about her teaching profession, as it allows her to work with young developing minds. In 2014 she earned her Early Childhood degree from MATC. Sanja has been in the early childhood field for the past five years.
Over her years, she has found that life has taught her how to overcome large barriers. One such barrier was moving from Europe in 2001, as this was a challenge for her and her family. She had bounced around a few countries in Europe before she moved to the USA. In her free time, she loves to travel and she enjoys spending time exploring whatever nature surrounds her. Sanja enjoys traveling out of Wisconsin to other cities and loves to meet new people. She is a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and coming to MMS is another blessing that has happened to her. She is glad to be a part of this faculty.
Elaine Gragotta came to MMS in the fall of 2015 to serve as a Lower Elementary Assistant. She is a Milwaukee native and has lived in southeastern Wisconsin her whole life. Elaine has worked as an Early Childhood Educator for the past five years, most recently for Ebenezer Day Care. She earned her Montessori Lower Elementary teaching credentials in the summer of 2015 through North American Montessori Center. Her excitement to be an assistant at MMS clearly shows each day in the classroom. She is sure that there will be many thrilling years working with the children. Elaine holds MMS in the highest degree and considers it to be a wonderful school with a staff that is warm and welcoming.
Heather Eiden, has been teaching at MMS since 2000. As a current CH Playgroup Teacher, she loves working with toddlers whose work is spontaneous and honest, and she feels it is important not to underestimate what they can learn. Her artistic side remains an integral part of her life. A native of Milwaukee's east side, Heather grew up immersed in the art community. She started working with ceramics when she was 16 years old, and began teaching art at the Saint Peter and Paul Daycare Center when she was just 18. Heather went on to earn a Bachelor's of Fine Art in 1997, a Master's of Science in Art Education in 2014, NAMC Certified Infant/Toddler teacher, and Montessori certification for 0-2 year olds. Heather is currently working on a series of tiny clay sculptures inspired by her travel in India, Spain, and Mexico. She is also creating a book documenting the projects her students have done over the last decade. Outside school, Heather practices and teaches yoga.
Britney, MMS Music Director since 2012, was born in Chicago and raised in Milwaukee. She grew up surrounded by the performing arts, ranging from choral and band training to jazz ensembles and musical theatre. A proud graduate of the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, Britney has trained in a number of genres including jazz and classical flute, voice, and piano. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Performance from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania as well as a Master's Degree in Music Education from Vander Cook College of Music in Chicago.
In addition to teaching music, Britney is a singer, songwriter, fine artist, and music producer. In 2012, she released an independent album entitled, "Open Mic, Open Heart" and an introductory Jazz fundamentals book for children entitled, "The Jazz Club." She has performed in venues across the country, including Summerfest, The Kennedy Center, and the International Association for Jazz Educators Festival. Along with attending a wide variety of concerts and performances, Britney enjoys cooking, drawing, spending time with loved ones, and making YouTube videos.
Melanie Gillum joined the MMS team in March 2015 as one of our front desk receptionists. Melanie has taught students at nearly every level from Pre-K through college. She has a BA in Human Relations from the University of Pittsburgh and a Master's degree in Special Education from the City University of New York. Prior to joining MMS, she enjoyed volunteering at non-profit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity and various local food pantries. She currently volunteers at Heartland Hospice in South Milwaukee.
Melanie's favorite hobbies include traveling, reading, and outdoor adventures. Melanie has traveled to thirty countries on five continents. In 2001, she participated in a study abroad program called Semester at Sea, where she met her husband, who is originally from Colorado, when they studied together in India. Melanie also worked on a cruise ship in Hawaii for two years where she staffed the kids club, led multiple family activities and provided customer service.
Rogelio Gonzalez (aka Roger) joined the MMS faculty in 2002 as a Jayhawks' teacher. Since then, he has served in many roles at the school: teaching assistant, coach, mentor, photographer, and videographer. He has an Associate's Degree in Fire Science from the Milwaukee Area Technical College, and takes courses in time-based media from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design to support his creation of digital marketing materials for the school.
Rogelio's true passion is in supporting individual and community health and has a bachelor degree in Health and Wellness Management at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He is a proud veteran of the United States Military, having served on peacekeeping missions in Egypt and Israel where he earned an army commendation medal and medals for good conduct and achievement. The discipline, loyalty, and perseverance he learned from his time in military service are values that guide his work with the youth at MMS. He lives in the Canon Park neighborhood with his wife and dog, Hector. When he is not working, he enjoys playing basketball and football, working on his photography, reading, and camping.
MMS Art Specialist, Karen Gorecki, works with the Children's House and Lower Elementary to provide vital foundations for artistic growth within each student. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Karen earned a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Art from the UW-Milwaukee in 2001 and was the recipient of the prestigious Logan Travel Scholarship in 2000. Ms. Gorecki's clay sculptures and paintings are known for their "brooding and humorous symbolism," and she has had them shown extensively in the Milwaukee area as well as Washington D.C.
Prior to joining the MMS faculty in 2007, Karen demonstrated her artistic talents in the field of Visual Merchandising, which included window and store displays at Saks 5th Ave. and Nordstrom's, as well as renowned holiday installations in Milwaukee, Chicago, New York City, Newark, NJ, and Clinton, CT. Outside of teaching, Karen enjoys painting, sculpting, and absorbing inspiration from traveling, music, witty shows and movies. She cherishes time with her dog, Charlie, and her family and friends.
Rebecca Grazulis is excited to work at Milwaukee Montessori School as an assistant Lower Elementary teacher. Originally from Chicago, Rebecca spent several years teaching high school and college English. More recently, she has developed her own coaching practice. She has her B.S. in Radio/TV/Film from Northwestern University, an M.A. from New York University, and a M.Ed. from DePaul University.
Rebecca spent a year working at Montessori Children’s House in Madison and loved learning about how Montessori uniquely addresses the needs of every child. She looks forward to learning more and contributing to such a vibrant educational community here at MMS. In her spare time, Rebecca enjoys photography, creative writing, and volunteering in animal rescue.
Jacey Hartweg has been with Milwaukee Montessori School since 2015. Having just graduated college from Iowa Wesleyan College she is eager to begin her career in teaching. While in college she was involved in tutoring math and science courses, playing basketball, and many other activities. She discovered MMS because of it's reputation for a superior learning experience. She already loves the atmosphere and relations teachers enjoy with their students. Jacey also enjoys working along side her great peers!
Blair Hatchett recently joined the MMS faculty as a Toddler Teacher working in the Toddler I program. She grew up in Milwaukee, WI with her mother and five sisters. During her teenage years, she discovered her passion for children when she found herself always wanting to babysit toddlers. Studying through the Early Childhood Education Program at MATC; Blair gained knowledge in this field that would become more than a job, but a passion. For the past eight years, she's been privileged to work with children 12 months to 13 years of age through programs such as SPARK, ACE, and Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee CLC (Community Learning Centers.)
Blair says," My favorite part of my job is seeing the moments where a child catches on to what's being taught, whether it's a toddler learning how to hold a spoon or a youth learning how to read." She's motivated by seeing others grow and come into their own. She loves to read and share her knowledge with others. She's excited to bring her love for literacy to the MMS team.
Milestones' Teacher, Audrey Jonese Hayes, moved to Milwaukee from Gary, Indiana in 1990 and joined the MMS team in November 2013. After raising five of her own children, Audrey began working with young children. She is currently working toward a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Development at Concordia University. She has worked in childcare for the last thirteen years, most recently at the YMCA North Side Branch and in Head Start and K4 at the Urban Day School.
She believes that the early years in a child's life are an important foundation for future educational endeavors, so she strives to maintain a positive classroom environment full of warmth, compassion, and open-mindedness. An avid volunteer, Audrey seeks out ways to give her time and talent to her community, church, and workplace. MMS has been a great fit for Audrey; she says, "the staff and students are a pleasure to be around, and I really enjoy working in an environment where everyone is respectful to one another."
Jazzmin recently joined the MMS faculty as a Toddler Teacher working in the Toddler III program. She grew up in West Allis with her two brothers and mother. When she was a junior in high school, she knew that she wanted to be a teacher. She has worked with children from age 3 weeks to 12 years old in both the child and home care settings.
Jazzmin says, “MMS was once only a dream of mine, I believe this is where I am meant to be.” She is excited to now be a team member and show the school what she brings to the table. Expanding her mind and finding a place where she could continue to further her education was a big attraction of MMS for Jazzmin. Welcome to the MMS community!
Mary Jo began working at MMS in 1999 after her oldest son attended as a student. She taught in the Toddler program, in the Children's House as an Assistant and Directress, and currently is a Directress in the Lower Elementary. She has also led the after school Atrium program since 2005. Mary Jo received a Bachelor's degree from Mount Mary University in Art Therapy, Art Education, and K-12 Special Education, and worked for 16 years as an art and recreation therapist in residential facilities serving the elderly and those with developmental disabilities. During that time, she was actively involved in the regional and national associations of Recreation Therapists, attending conventions and leading workshops. Mary Jo then earned her Montessori Certification in Primary Education from Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center and her Certification in Lower Elementary from the North American Montessori Center.
Mary Jo lives on the east side of Milwaukee with her husband, Joseph, and their younger son, John. Her older son, Francis, attends UW Madison and is majoring in astrophysics. She enjoys the diversity of culture and activity in Milwaukee. She especially enjoys working with her neighborhood organization, at her church, and volunteering with the food pantry and river conservation group. You might find Mary Jo walking the river's edge or strolling the beaches of Lake Michigan.
Georgia Kane began at MMS in 2012 as a student teacher in the art room. Before the end of her placement, she was offered a position at MMS. She began working in the Junior High classroom as a Teaching Assistant where she taught ACT/SAT prep vocabulary, created daily journal prompts to foster creativity in writing and built meaningful relationships with her students. Georgia has become a Jayhawks instructor, taught and assisted in the summer art programs, and produced many illustrative works for the school.
She now serves as a Lower Elementary Directress after having completed her Montessori teacher training at the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center for Elementary ages 6-9. On the weekends, Georgia enjoys painting, biking, snowboarding, rock climbing, yoga, kayaking, flying kites, organizing, poker, board games, cook-outs and lazy afternoons sipping espresso. As for the future, she looks forward to showing her paintings at galleries and creating children books.
Coming from Cincinnati, Ohio, Darlene Keener moved to Milwaukee, eighteen years ago because of her husband's profession. She has three wonderful children. Her two youngest started their academic adventure here at MMS. Both children have since graduated; Samira attended Xavier University and Frazier attended Rufus King High School. She is honored and impressed by the education they received at this school.
Prior to MMS, she was blessed to have worked with students from Xavier University for 21 years. Darlene also was an environmentalist for the Boys Honor Society, Black Student Association, and International Students Association. During this time of her life, she learned how to become a good listener, advisor, and advocate for the students at the University. After this experience, she found herself at MMS and has been here since 1997.
She fell in love with Montessori Method of teaching and the academic curriculum. Because of this, she went to MATC and received her Early Childhood Degree. She enjoys working with toddlers because of their innocence, energy, and especially their hugs. She strongly believes that this is their world and we live in it. In her free time, she enjoys reading and spending time with her family and friends.
Nicole joined MMS in 2014 as a Teacher in the Toddler Program and now works as the Toddler I Program Directress. Nicole graduated from Alverno College in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in Community Leadership. She brings a few years of experience in childcare, working at KinderCare, as a nanny, as an intern at day camp in Sussex, and most recently at the YMCA. She is a NAMC Certified Infant/Toddler teacher. Her internship allowed her to oversee a day camp, schedule soccer camps and create communities. When working with young children, the thing most enjoys is watching them grow and hearing the new things they say each day.
When she is not busy at work, Nicole enjoys spending time with her husband of nine months, Drew. She also pursues her passion for running, and is helping with mini-renovation projects on her new home in Menomonee Falls.
Lijana (LEE-anna) Lileikyte–Haasch joined MMS in 2016, as a teacher in the Toddler I Program. Originally from Lithuania, Lijana has spent the last five years living in Okauchee, Wisconsin.
Lijana enjoys working with children and is driven to unlock every child’s door to learning and overcoming any obstacle a child might have. Lijana believes that a patient nature combined with a sense of humor helps take the ups and downs of every day in stride while focusing on the end goals.
In 2011, Lijana graduated from Šiauliai University, B.A. Audiovisual Arts – Art and Design (Photography focus). In 2009, Lijana completed the Nursing program from Šiauliai State College, Department of Health B.S. Nursing (Anesthesia and Intensive Care focus).
Before Lijana moved to the United States she worked at the Mother and Child Clinic as an anesthesia nurse in the operating room. In her spare time, Lijana enjoys working on her photography, she especially loves macro photography. Her work can be seen on her website . She also loves to draw, read and travel.
Lizz Loder has been a Montessori Directress for nearly three decades. She received her under graduate degree from Lawrence University and her American Montessori International (AMI) Montessori training from The Midwest Montessori Institute where she studied under the late Hildegard Solzbacher. Lizz has been a Children's House directress at Milwaukee Montessori since 1992, after serving as a directress at New World Montessori School. In addition to working with the students in her class, Lizz enjoys coaching and mentoring new faculty.
She also works closely with the Head of School, Admissions Director and Director of Development carrying out a number of administrative duties. Lizz has attended The National Association of Independent Schools Summer Leadership Institute as well as Leading the 21st Century Elementary School presented by Independent School Management. Lizz has served as a visiting team member in the accreditation process for the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and as the faculty representative from Milwaukee Montessori. She was recently appointed to the Professional Services Committee of the Independent Schools Association of the Central States.
Lizz is active in her faith community where she has led book discussion groups on parenting and family issues. She has also volunteered with her alma mater and a number of arts organizations in Milwaukee. Lizz is firmly committed to the mission and life of Milwaukee Montessori School and she enjoys attending school events, seeing them as opportunities for a more casual, relaxed time to get to know the families of Milwaukee Montessori. She is married to Bruce Loder and they have two adult children, Kaity MMS '02 and Will MMS '05.
Over twenty-five years ago, before joining the faculty at MMS, Kathy Maki worked in the summer recreation department at Milwaukee Public Schools teaching games, crafts, and group activities to four, five, and six-year olds. It was there that she discerned a love of teaching, and she went on to earn an Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education from Milwaukee Area Technical College. Upon graduation, she began working at MMS in 1989 in the Toddler Program and has remained in the Toddler Program ever since. Every day, she loves seeing the two- and three-year old children develop new skills and language, as well as build relationships with them through the years.
Kathy and her husband, Chris, have two wonderful children, Alexandra, who is a MMS alum, and Jack. Kathy loves to travel with her family and hang out at home reading and playing with their yellow lab and orange tabby cat.
Harper has returned to MMS this fall as a Teaching Assistant with Ms. Veal and co-teaching Art Lab with Heather Eiden. Originally from Evanston, Illinois, she has since moved to Wauwatosa and lived there for the past 15 years. She has a masters degree in Art Education and a BFA in Photography. For over 10 years, Harper taught art to elementary-aged students in the Wauwatosa school district. Before beginning this fall she co-taught a summer photography class with Roger Gonzalez.
One reason Harper returned to MMS is the Montessori philosophy of understanding how children learn new material. Her children also attend the school and she is excited to be able to see them grow each day. In her off time, Harper loves to cook, tend to her massive vegetable garden, travel, play with her kids, and of course, take photos of her many adventures.
Debbie Mather has been with Milwaukee Montessori School since September of 1999. She came from a school in Ohio, where she worked in the development and business offices. Her three sons all attended MMS, where they received a strong educational foundation. When she isn't at work you can find Debbie pursuing her hobbies of archery, golf, and gardening. She enjoys working at Milwaukee Montessori School because of the multifacted job she holds and her wonderful co-workers.
Megan Mentink joined Milwaukee Montessori School in the fall of 2015 as a private music lesson teacher and lead coordinator of the private music lesson program. She began attending Wisconsin Lutheran College in September of 2013, and is on her way to attaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music with an emphasis in Piano Pedagogy. Megan started private piano lessons at the age of 4 and over the past 18 years has continued to explore her deep-rooted passion for the instrument. She discovered her love for teaching when she began to offer piano lessons in her early high school years. Additionally, she spent many hours playing music for residents at the local nursing home and accompanying for a number of children's choirs. Her musical journey thus far has brought her many opportunities including private flute lessons, voice lessons, participation in the Wisconsin Music Teachers' Association Festivals, and Washington County Concerto competitions.
She continues to study piano as well as harpsichord. Megan is actively involved in both the Concert Choir and Chamber Choir at WLC. Aside from music, many of her passions include reading, being active outdoors, knitting, volunteering at her church, and spending time with family and friends.
Jon has enjoyed coaching and teaching Physical Education at Milwaukee Montessori School since 2003. He holds a degree in Sports Management along with certifications in: Center Creative Leadership, NFHS Master Coach, USA Impact, and Minnesota Volleyball Instructors. He has spent many weeks working and learning alongside great Olympic, and college coaches including Hugh McCutcheon, Karch Kiraly, and Bond Schymansky. These experiences have helped him develop his coaching philosophy. On top of coaching Volleyball at MMS, he also coaches Track and Field. When he is not teaching or coaching you can find him on the water, skiing as the acting Show Director for the Pewaukee Lake Water Ski Club.
Mary Mueller joined MMS as a Child Care Assistant in September 2014 and now works as a Toddler II Program teacher. She will be starting in Milestones but will work in all Toddler rooms. A graduate of Brookfield Academy, Mary is just starting her college career as a freshman at Wisconsin Lutheran College studying pediatric nursing. She has experience working with children including several years of babysitting as well as serving as a tutor to middle school students at Brookfield Learning Center. While there, she assisted students in all subject areas and helped her students practice good study habits. She delights in working with children and hopes to share a sense of caring and understanding. Mary enjoys spending time with family, singing, listening to music, baking, and watching period dramas.
A third generation teacher, Deepali Namboothiry has been an integral part of MMS community since 2002. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Education from Vaze College, Mumbai, India in 1997. During her college education, Deepali enthusiastically explored various aspects of humanities including Psychology, Economics, Philosophy and Political Science. In 1999, she pursued her Master's Degree in English Education, with a minor in linguistics from Mumbai University. Inspired by her mother's charming narrations and experiences about her students, Deepali stepped into the world of education completing her Bachelor of Education from the University of Mumbai. Honored as, "Excellent Student of the Year" for her research during Masters, Deepali was delightfully welcomed as a teaching faculty in Vaze College when she returned to the institute from which she earned her Bachelor's degree.
Marriage brought Deepali to Milwaukee, and subsequently to Milwaukee Montessori School. Deepali acquired her Diploma in Montessori training from American Montessori Society in 2008. She has worked with different age groups in Milwaukee Montessori School including Child Care, Children's House, and Lower Elementary programs. In the summer of 2011, she spent time continuing her education of reading instruction at the Columbia Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in New York City. For the past four years, she has been teaching English Language Arts at the Upper Elementary level at Milwaukee Montessori School. Deepali continues to narrate intriguing stories to her son and daughter about her day with students, instilling love for learning, and lessons about compassion.
Carina Pabon joined the MMS team in December of 2016 as our new Front Desk Administrative Assistant. Her passion for working with families brought her here. You may see her welcoming parents and students, documenting attendance, and assisting the administrative team. Carina studied Art Therapy at Alverno College and will be finishing her degree in Psychology and Behavioral Science at Mt. Mary University.
John began playing the violin when he was two years old and hasn’t stopped since. Born and raised in Mequon, Wisconsin (a suburb of Milwaukee), John learned the art of performance at a young age through his involvement with both the Milwaukee Youth Symphony and the Homestead High School Orchestra.
At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Patek continued performing and studying the violin. He’s had the opportunity to work with notable teachers such as Joan Rooney, Vartan Manoogian and Stefan Muhmenthaler. After graduating from UW-Madison in 2004 with a degree in violin performance, John continued his studies at the Conservatory of Neuchatel in Switzerland, where he earned his Master’s degree.
John continues to perform actively in Switzerland, Italy and in the Midwestern United States. He also teaches several group and private lessons.
Sarah came to Milwaukee Montessori School in the fall of 1975, to start a new Lower Elementary class. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Albion College in Albion, Michigan. Sarah earned her Montessori Elementary Teaching Certificate from the Association Montessori International in Bergamo Italy. She has taught Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary and helped start MMS' adolescent program with Margaret Novak-Brown in 1982. Sarah is a member of the North American Montessori Teacher's Association. She has served on the board of Wisconsin Quilters and was a member of the education committee of the Zoological Society of Milwaukee.
During the summer, Sarah enjoys traveling, quilting and other needle arts. She has been a docent at the Milwaukee County Zoo, studied at several archeological sites including Crow Canyon and has sailed Lake Michigan and around the coast of Florida on the Schooner Denis Sullivan. While at Milwaukee Montessori, Sarah organized MMS' participation in environmental education programs at McKensie Environmental Center, Upham Woods and Nature's Classroom. She began the Montessori Model United Nations program at MMS, Odyssey of the Mind and has co-led several student trips to Europe that included living with families, going to local schools and sightseeing.
Evan Perez joined the MMS faculty in May of 2016 and is a newly minted graduate of Carol University. He finished with an undergraduate degree in Psychology. Evan will be teaching history in the Upper Elementary program.
A little background on Evan: his mother was a Montessori teacher for 23 years, which helped inspire his choice to come work at Milwaukee Montessori School. He is thinking of ultimately becoming a clinical psychologist and sees the opportunity to work with kids as a great way to observe child development. In his free time, you’ll find Evan at the gym hitting the weights! He also enjoys a good hike outside, especially at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois.
Brittany Ross has brought her passion for working with Toddlers to MMS. She is a newly minted graduate of Nathan Hale High School and looks forward to attending MATC this fall, where she plans to study Early Childhood Education. Coming from two foster parents who fostered over 64 kids to date, she has always been around youngsters and has loved every second. Those foster parents eventually adopted Brittany and her two siblings. Brittany most certainly has no shortage of people her life with nine nieces and nephews and countless friends.
Besides her professional life, Brittany loves to draw, write, and spend time with her friends. She is excited about the opportunity MMS is presenting her and is thrilled to be able to live out her passion here with our Toddlers. Brittany hopes to work her for many years to come!
Hannah Ross is an Upper Elementary Math Teacher and Volleyball Coach. She has been working at MMS since she graduated from Kenyon College in 2010 with bachelor's degrees in Mathematics and English. Having attended Montessori school through 8th grade, Hannah has enjoyed rediscovering the methodology from a teacher's point-of-view. She particularly enjoys the way the materials provide a visual representation of mathematical concepts, and allow students the freedom to progress from concrete to abstract at their own pace. Hannah's favorite areas in Mathematics are geometry and logic because they provide tools to explore, analyze, and build. She also likes to incorporate origami and other paper-folding techniques into her lessons.
At the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference in 2012, she discovered the Math Olympiad, an international math contest consisting of a series of challenging non-routine problem sets, and she now uses these weekly to stimulate teamwork and critical thinking skills. As a lifelong athlete, Hannah is excited to Coach Volleyball here at MMS. She received her CAP I Volleyball Coaching Certification in 2013. In her free time, Hannah studies Jiu Jitsu at Neutral Ground.
Ron Saari was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He attended the local Northern Michigan University, earning a Bachelor's of Science degree in 2011. His studies focused on Elementary Education along with minors in Mathematics and Social Studies. In 2012, he decided to pursue his career as a future educator and joined forces with a superb MMS staff in 2013 as a Children's House Assistant. Prior to joining MMS, Ron spent five years working at a before-and after-school childcare program at his local elementary school. Because of his passion for enhancing students' learning, he decided to also work MMS's Nighthawks Child Care after-school program.
In his spare time, he enjoys writing poetry, making music, grilling out, fishing, & watching the Detroit Lions. Says Ron, "One of the greatest things about teaching children is the fact that ten to twenty years from that moment, you can say you were one of the many pieces to a child's puzzle of success. That, my friend, is one of the most rewarding feelings you can and will ever have as an educator."
Cece Sullivan has been a Montessori teacher for over 15 years, five of those years with Milwaukee Montessori School. Ms. Sullivan received her Children's House Montessori training at the Midwest Montessori Institute in Milwaukee during the time her children were attending MacDowell Montessori School, and received her bachelor's degree from Ashford University, graduating Magna Cum Laude. Cece has taught at a number of Montessori schools and also worked at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center for 16 years as the program registrar and building rental coordinator. During that time, she was instrumental in helping to develop the live raptor program, helping to establish the nature preschool at the Center, and implementing a speakers' bureau for outreach programs.
In addition, Cece has worked at a quilt store, designing and stitching quilt tops, and teaching quilting classes. She currently works part-time at a natural pet food store. Cece is a member of Immanuel Presbyterian Church and has served as a deacon, usher, Girl Scout troop leader, Sunday school teacher, and as a member of the special events committee. When she has the opportunity, Cece enjoys designing and making quilts, working in her gardens (flowers and vegetables), is an avid reader, and enjoys traveling. Ms. Sullivan has two daughters and one granddaughter and lives in South Milwaukee with her collie, Shenanigans.
Katie started at Milwaukee Montessori School in 2013, bringing ten years of working with children. Before coming to MMS, Katie worked at the West Allis West Milwaukee Recreation department. During her time working there, Katie ran her own playground field house, as well as arts and crafts, sports and many other fun activities. Katie also ran a dance program and was also a co-director for a gymnastics program. Katie attended MATC where she studied psychology and business before focusing on education. She is currently in the process of completing her NAMC Infant/Toddler Certification. Katie looks forward to using her past experiences to help the toddlers gain much new knowledge. She is very excited to be a part of the MMS community and everything that goes along with it.
When Katie is not at work she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling to new places, attending softball and baseball games. Katie recently bought her first home in West Allis and is getting married in October of 2015. Working with children is an great opportunity to watch them grow and it is also a great joy to see their smiling faces each and every day.
David Swanson grew up in Chicago. He earned a bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Biology from Northland College in Wisconsin in 1998. Soon after, he began teaching at the Nature's Classroom Institute and Montessori School in Mukwonago. There, he combined his love of the outdoors with his love of math and teaching. As he worked within the NCI's experiential classrooms, David began working toward his Elementary Teaching Diploma from the American Montessori Society. In 2009, he began teaching math and science at MMS.
David is a lifelong learner dedicated to his growth as an educator, and he truly values the curricular depth available to students at MMS. He strives to foster community learning in the classroom: where students help and teach each other. Outside of school, David spends most of his free time in the natural world kayaking, paddle-boarding, hiking, fishing, camping, gardening, and spending time with his daughter and son. He is an adventurer who continually seeks the experiences and challenges inherent in being in the wilderness.
Tania is excited to be back at MMS after a one-year hiatus teaching 7th and 8th-grade language arts and social studies at a public Montessori school. Previously at MMS, Tania was a Children’s House assistant, but you may recognize her from the front desk, early morning childcare, summer academic programs, or the toddler program. Tania is excited to be starting off this academic year assisting in Lower Elementary. She has over thirty years of experience working with children of all ages. Some of those experiences were as a nanny, an infant and toddler teacher, a preschool teacher, a tutor, a coach, a summer camp teacher, and an assistant teacher.
Tania holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Educational Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a teaching license from Alverno College in Regular Education and Language Arts for Middle Childhood through Early Adolescence. Tania is currently completing her Master of Arts Degree in Education at Alverno College.
Tania is passionate about creating environments and has been a Property Master for the Optimist Theater in Milwaukee for three seasons, creating and finding props for Shakespeare in the Park. She has also been the Property Master at Alverno College and several productions with Shorewood Players. She is a music lover and regularly listens to and plays music, finding peace and serenity in playing her flute, and enjoying live music performance of others. Tania spends time playing table top games with her friends and family, and is an annual volunteer and sometimes rider in the Riverwest 24 community event.
Monica Van Aken Ed.D. has served as the Head of School at Milwaukee Montessori School since 1999. In 1926, her grandmother completed her training with Maria Montessori and was her father's Montessori teacher in Germany until the time that Hitler closed their school because it was filled with children from Jewish families. Her mother took her Montessori training in Germany with Montessori's proteges along with Mario Montessori in England.
For over 30 years, she taught at Whitby Montessori School in Greenwich, Connecticut where she attended school up until high school. Because Monica knew how to use all the Montessori materials, in the summer when she visited her grandparents in Germany, her grandmother paid her (in chocolate at first) to sit and help her students with their lessons. Monica was ten years old at the time and quite happy to be paid for the responsibility she had. She remembers deciding that she was going to be a teacher after taking that first bite of chocolate at the end of her day of "work".
Betsy Vielgut joined the MMS faculty in October of 2013. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Minnesota: Twin Cities, and she is currently working on her Master's Degree in Elementary Education. Betsy came to MMS with five years of teaching experience. She loves working with young children, and now works in a primary classroom.
She is always looking for new and creative ways to guide students in their learning and growth, and her biggest reward is watching children have an "Aha!" moment in the classroom. Betsy grew up in Glendale, WI, and is now enjoying the perks of living there again: Brewer's games, up-north trips, and seasonal celebrations. In her free time, Betsy takes pleasure in reading, exercising, and spending time with family and friends.
Alesa Weiss came to Milwaukee Montessori School in the summer of 2015, to take on the role of Front Desk/Development Assistant. Alesa was promoted to the Director of Development position in May of 2016. Originally hailing from Tulsa, OK, Alesa has lived in Milwaukee for the past five years. For most of her professional career, she worked at the YMCA as a customer service and administration member. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Community Education & Engagement from UW-Milwaukee.
The thing that drew Alesa to the school was the unique and exciting way Milwaukee Montessori School approaches learning. She looks forward to being part of a new community and supporting the school. In her life outside of work, Alesa loves to listen to Dolly Parton and take motorcycle trips with her husband.
Anoma Wijenayake has been a Directress in the MMS Children's House since 2002. In all, she has 26 years of experience teaching and mentoring three-to six-year old children. Anoma earned a college degree in Early Childhood Education from the Open University of Sri Lanka and a Casa dei Bambini Montessori Diploma for ages 3-6 from the Association Montessori International. In 1986, she began working as a lead Montessori teacher in Sri Lanka, and in 1988, she moved to the United States after accepting a position at the Montessori School in Mauldin, South Carolina where she taught for three years. Anoma then taught at the Montessori School of Yorbalinda in Anaheim, California for three years before coming to Milwaukee.
Anoma lives in New Berlin, with her husband and three children who have all graduated from MMS. She is actively involved in the Wisconsin Sri Lankan community's cultural activities throughout the year, including teaching the Sinhala language to children. Anoma enjoys outdoor activities, reading, sewing, and traveling, as well as watching football, basketball, volleyball, and Cricket with her family.
Lamont Williams began working at Milwaukee Montessori School in September of 2016 as a UE/Athletics assistant teacher. Originally from Philadelphia, PA,Lamont made his way to Carroll University, where he majored in psychology. In 2014, he was named a Division III All-American and Wisconsin Private School State Player of the Year.
His prior work experience includes taking on the role as a Lad Lake youth counselor and as a merchandiser. In his free time, Lamont enjoys all sports, reading, traveling, eating, and anything that brings laughter into his life. Not knowing what to expect at MMS, he is excited by the unique Montessori philosophy and our goal to shape future leaders. He looks forward to sharing his background in athletics with MMS students and continuing to build our mindset of healthy active lifestyles.
Jaime has been teaching at Milwaukee Montessori School since 2005. She has an extensive visual arts background which includes a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree from UW-Milwaukee with an emphasis in sculpture and printmaking, and an Art-Education Teaching Certificate for K - 12 students. Jaime Wszelaki has also studied film and animation at MIAD as well as 3D character modeling and animation at DIGI-Pen Institute of Technology in Seattle, WA. She teaches 4th-8th grade students cumulative visual art concepts and techniques that have allowed her students to win numerous awards within Scholastic Arts, Wisconsin State Fair Youth contests, and the Milwaukee Regional Art Fair.
As the Robotics Director, she works with 1st -8th graders in incorporating innovative robot construction and programming capabilities. She facilitates robotics classes, clubs, and the award- winning MMS competitive robotics team, which has been possible because of her robotics programming training at Carnegie Mellon's Robotic Institute in Pittsburgh, MA. Jaime is a proud recipient of the FIRST LEGO League Coach of the Year award. Her work with MMS students in robotics has earned them yearly recognition and awards for robotic design, robotic programming, teamwork, scientific research and overall presentational ability. Seeing a child's creative imagination at work in their production of an innovative expressive artwork or an engineered design is a brilliant moment for Jaime. She says that she plans to spend her career fostering each child's creative growth in order to prepare them for their journey in life.
Stephanie Ziemke has returned to Milwaukee Montessori School to serve as the Director of Institutional Advancement. In this role, she will work towards strengthening the culture of giving, establishing a major gifts program, and refining the School’s communication and marketing strategy. She approaches this new role with big expectations but most importantly sharing with families how Milwaukee Montessori School changes the lives of children in the Milwaukee area.
She has a bachelor's degree in Political Science, a graduate degree in Public Administration, a graduate certificate in Nonprofit Management and course work completed for another graduate certificate in the Spiritual Guidance of Children. Most recently she worked as the Director of Annual Giving at Westtown School, a K-12 day and boarding school outside of Philadelphia.
Prior to relocating to the Philadelphia area, Stephanie served as the Director of Development for Milwaukee Montessori School. During her time in that role, she set an MMS Fund record each year for three consecutive years and worked with parents to achieve over 95 percent participation in the Fund.
345 North 95th St., Milwaukee, WI 53226 | T: 414.259.0370 | F: 414.259.0427