Faculty & Administration

Leaders in the Field

MFS’s exceptionally well-qualified and experienced teachers, trained in the Montessori Method, work to support the development of each student’s potential. In addition to doing an outstanding job in the classroom, many MFS teachers are also involved in the Montessori Teacher Training Program and work as faculty members for the American Montessori Society, the organization that certifies training programs and awards credentials to Montessori teachers who meet the highest applied standards. Additionally, MFS hires resource teachers who specialize in specific subjects such as art, movement, music, Spanish, and drama.

Alissa Stolz

Head of School

Alissa holds a B.A. in German Studies and an M.Ed in Montessori Education from Endicott College. She is credentialed through the American Montessori Society (AMS) for Secondary I & II (ages 12 - 18) and regularly presents at the AMS national conference on Montessori philosophy and the adolescent. She also recently presented at the International Montessori Congress in Prague. She is a secondary teacher trainer for the Houston Montessori Center's satellite program in California, serving as a Field Consultant for secondary teacher trainees. Alissa came to Montessori Family School in 2009 to launch the Middle School program. She views early adolescence as a particularly important growth period in a young person's evolution. Guiding children towards self-discovery and autonomy and the belief that this work is essential to the fullest development of the human inspires her. In 2017, she joined the Administration as Head of School and continues the important work of supporting children.

Anna Schuray

Lower Elementary Lead Teacher

Anna is a Lower Elementary-trained Montessori teacher who received her credential in 2015 from the Montessori Teacher Education Center of the SF Bay Area. She also holds a B.A. in Anthropology, Emphasis Archaeology, from the University of California, Santa Cruz.  After her degree, Anna worked on archaeological projects in South America before returning to the U.S. to travel and work with children, including as an after-school teacher and Montessori preschool assistant teacher. Her interests include hiking and backpacking, vegetarian cooking, dance, reading, and discovering new music. 

"It is a joy to guide children to their fullest potential, and I am constantly amazed by the abilities that all young learners possess. The Montessori classroom provides that essential prepared environment for the important inner work of the child to be nurtured and brought forth. In order for there to be peace on a global scale, gratitude and compassion for others must be realized on an individual level. It is the aim of my work at MFS to help foster a community of peace and a sense of purpose for each child as they grow to adulthood."

Caithlin MacManus

Kindergarten Bridge & Afterschool Teacher (El Cerrito)

Caithlin was born and raised in Berkeley. She loved Berkeley so much that she never left and ended up going to school there. She recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies. Always a curious person, this major allowed Caithlin to have multiple fields of interest and gave her the flexibility to take classes from all the departments at UCB. Her main focuses were in the Art History, Peace and Conflict Studies, and Anthropology departments, which she utilized for her thesis: art in places of civil conflict. While earning her degree, she was able to work in schools and after-school programs periodically. Her most recent experience working with children comes from an opportunity that she had while a part of a study abroad program, which allowed the students to participate in an internship portion of the trip. For her internship, she was placed in a primary school in London to assist the teacher in a Year 2 (ages 6-7) classroom. Caithlin was fascinated to see the different ways in which students can learn and the ways that the public school systems are set up in England versus in America. She is excited to be working at Montessori Family School so she can continue to expand and learn about the different ways in which children grow and learn.

Caroline Hamel

Communications and Site Administrator

Some of Caroline's earliest childhood memories are from the Montessori primary program that she attended. Her first opportunity to work with children came as a 10-year-old, as an assistant dance instructor in Sonoma County. Learning how to communicate her love for movement, modern dance, and ballet to 3-year-old children was the first of many steps on a continuing path in youth education. She received her BA in Linguistics at UC Berkeley, taking a particular interest in sociolinguistics and language acquisition. After graduating, a job prospect led her to New York City, where she worked for two years at a not-for-profit organization teaching health and mental resilience in an urban public high school. The challenges she witnessed in the NYC education system reinforced her desire to work within a more independent school of thought, one that understood social and emotional growth as something intrinsic to academic capability, not incidental to it. After moving back to the Bay Area she was thrilled to be offered a job in administration at Montessori Family School. It inspires her to see children mentoring each other, moving freely but with purpose around their classroom, and expressing creativity through their academic work. In her free time, she continues to take dance classes, walk, read, and drink plenty of coffee and tea.

Daniela Anderson

Administrative Assistant

Daniela has enjoyed working with children since she was in high school. She began by volunteering at elementary schools as an aide for a few years until she decided to join the Army National Guard in 2012. While in the military, she also took up a position as an assistant teacher at a Child Development Center. Seeing the impact teachers could make in the children's life reignited her passion for working with children. She recently graduated from Merritt College with her degree in Early Childhood Development. While in school she came to observe at Montessori Family School and instantly fell in love with the school and the children. In her free time, Daniela likes to travel and hike. 

Diana Hernandez

After School Teacher (Early Childhood Campus)

Diana’s interest in working with children started in high school and continued in college, where she studied psychology and Montessori early childhood education. Diana started working for a private Montessori preschool early in her career and now has been working with children for over 18 years. Diana has been with the after school care program for 7 of those years. She loves singing Spanish songs and teaching the children about insects every spring. Diana enjoys the outdoors, singing with friends and family, and also has a career as an esthetician. 

Dylan McCrystal

Upper Elementary Teacher

Dylan was born in Southern California, and grew up going back and forth between the Santa Cruz mountains and Orange County. In Orange County, he attended a laboratory school established by UC Irvine in and around a complex of old, green farmhouses, called the UCI Farm Elementary School. Farm School's philosophy of education encouraged intellectual enthusiasm, and focused on the thrill of making connections for oneself, pursuing individual curiosities and interests in a environment that valued and fostered independence, discovery, and critical thinking. These principles have remained important to Dylan throughout his life, and are what have drawn him to teaching in general and to MFS in particular. He taught in the Lower Elementary classroom for two years before moving to Upper Elementary in 2017. 

 

Dylan graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with a BA in Modern Literature, focusing on Russian and Russian literature. He has also attended the Montessori Teacher Education Center, San Francisco Bay Area. In his free time, he enjoys walking and trail running, reading history and fiction, gardening, playing games, and spending time with his dog.

Emily Howard

Upper Elementary Head Teacher

Emily is excited to spend her thirteenth year of teaching at MFS! Emily came to MFS four years ago after several years managing programs and building affordable housing with Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley. She began teaching in Chicago with a liberal arts education from Grinnell College and received her Montessori credential in 2004 from the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in New York. Teaching always inspires Emily to learn new things, and in her seven years teaching Upper Elementary in Chicago, among other things, she learned to play the guitar and djembe, learned a ton about how to inspire a love of learning in all kinds of people, and finally understood how the moon can be revolving but always facing the same side toward the earth. This year, she is particularly excited to ensure our world history curriculum highlights social justice and underrepresented views, have loads of fun with the Montessori math materials, and find new strategies for teaching social-emotional development to support our students' growth as whole people. She lives in a consensus-based co-housing community in North Oakland with her husband, Ned, their six-year-old daughter, Zinnia, and their two-year-old son, Wren, where they do a lot of hiking, singing, and bubble-blowing.

Gloria Ferezi

Oak Room Head Teacher

Gloria is very excited to have the opportunity to work with the MFS children in the Oak Room. She has always loved to be around children but did not find her calling right away. In college, she trained to be a CPA but soon after graduating realized that this would not be a satisfying career. Having always had a love of children and an interest in more humanistic pursuits, Gloria was soon introduced to the Montessori Philosophy and subsequently went through the training. Fortunately, she had the opportunity to learn from both Dr. Silvia Duvoboy and Dr. Silvana Montanaro in San Diego. During her training with these amazing educators, Gloria fell in love with Montessori’s ability to nourish the needs of children. She has taken the AMI certification for both the infant and primary children, but after many years in the classroom, Gloria has found that her favorite age groups to work with are the younger ones. On the personal side, Gloria was born and raised in Mexico and has lived in the United States for the last twenty years. She has lived and worked in Charlottesville, Washington DC, Chicago and San Diego before finally settling into the SF Bay Area about 10 years ago. She currently lives in Berkeley with her husband, her two children, and a cat named Monkey. In her spare time, Gloria enjoys traveling, reading, and learning.

Heidi De Los Santos

Spanish Teacher & After School Director (El Cerrito)

Heidi was born and raised in the Bay Area, moving from San Francisco to the East Bay. As a child, she received a dual-immersion education and public school education. In her free time, she loves to spend time with family and friends, watch movies, or get lost in a new book. Heidi loves to travel when she gets the chance and for the past 5 years, she has been living part-time between Mexico City and the Bay Area. She has experience working in the education field in various different roles, such as a camp counselor, literacy tutor, and after-school program assistant teacher, to name a few. Heidi received her B.A. from UC Berkeley with a major in Spanish Language and Literature and a minor in Education. Some of her favorite authors include Julio Cortázar, Haruki Murakami, Paulo Coelho, and Miguel de Cervantes. During her time at UC Berkeley, Heidi spent a semester abroad at La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Though she was new to this alternative learning institution when she arrived, her philosophy towards education is one that greatly parallels with that of the Montessori methodology. Heidi believes that children should have the opportunity to explore and nurture their natural curiosity to learn while developing independence and an identity that transcends the boundaries of the school through a peaceful, respectful, and collaborative environment.

Kathleen Flanagan

Middle School Head Teacher

Kathleen Flanagan holds a Montessori Elementary I-II credential and a California State Special Education credential, has completed coursework for a California State Multiple Subjects credential, and is in the process of completing the Montessori Secondary I-II Training. Over the last 25 years, she has taught in a variety of settings, including both public and private Montessori schools, and has worked with every age group from preschool to college. A parent of two adult sons (and step-parent of a third), she discovered Montessori when her children were ready for preschool, and found a resonance in Montessori philosophy that she had not felt in other environments.

 

Kathleen is excited to have returned to Montessori Family School (she worked as part of the UE team several years ago) and is especially glad to be working with adolescents again, this time in a Montessori environment designed to meet their developmental needs. The particular challenges adolescents face in our society, and the natural gifts they bring to the world, give them a special place in her heart.

When she is not working with other people’s children, Kathleen enjoys spending time with her own family, hiking with her dog (a delightfully well-behaved Chinook named Ravi) and playing horn in several local community wind ensembles. An accomplished musician, she has also taught recorder, is teaching herself guitar (slowly), and last summer, with the Yolo Community Band, debuted at Carnegie Hall.

Kathleen King

Buckeye Head Teacher

Kathleen grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in physical geography. After graduating, she worked in a preschool for children with autism, joined and traveled with an AmeriCorps program, taught math and science in elementary school, and worked in a Montessori classroom for the last 6 years. She has completed her Early Childhood Montessori credential and masters in Early Childhood Education at St. Mary’s College. She is excited to join our faculty and the Buckeye classroom!  “I love to observe the kids experiencing the world and learning new skills. I have taught different ages and at this age, they can still see the magic in seemingly basic occurrences.”

 

She loves to camp, hike, and just be in nature. In her free time, Kathleen likes to read, visit new places, make earrings and cheer on her A's and Golden Bears!

Lorraine Gallagher

Lower Elementary Teacher

Lorraine has been involved with MFS since 1986, when she enrolled her daughter in the Lower Elementary class as a first-year student. She volunteered as a ‘Reading Group’ parent for a few years and became more involved with the school, serving spaghetti at fundraisers and scrubbing walls during work parties. When a position as an assistant teacher opened up in the Lower Elementary II classroom, Lorraine took the 6-9 training at MTEC in San Leandro. She worked in the Lower Elementary classroom for many years. When the Elementary Program moved from the Berkeley Campus to our Kensington Campus, Lorraine took the 9-12 Montessori training and joined the Upper Elementary class. Her daughter graduated from MFS after her 6th year and went on to Head Royce. Her granddaughter, Simone, is currently enrolled at the Berkeley Campus. This year, Lorraine has made a return to Lower Elementary. Lorraine continues to work at MFS because she believes that Montessori provides the best opportunity for individual students to reach their potential and to thrive, both as students and as members of the broader society. She feels that the respect for students’ unique strengths that is built into Montessori education with materials designed for a wide range of learning styles, the opportunities for independence and responsibility, and the emphasis on peace education, communication skills, conflict resolution, and service learning provide the best possible foundation for children. What she loves about MFS in particular, aside from the deep satisfaction of doing good work, is the opportunity to work with like-minded, hardworking teachers in an environment that fosters creative problem-solving and cooperation. She is the seventh of eight children and grew up on Long Island. When she's not teaching she loves spending time with her family, including her grandchildren and her large New York tribe. She loves to read, dance, Jazz, cooking, gardening, art, and museums. She also enjoys visiting other countries whenever she has the opportunity.

Maryam Safanasab

Middle School Assistant Teacher

Maryam holds an MA in French Language Education and taught French in different language academies in her hometown, Tehran. She also holds a Post-Bac in Visual Arts from UC Berkeley Extension and is active as an artist.


“I am enjoying learning Montessori education philosophy and, in addition, trying to put in
the academic and work experience I brought to fulfill our vision in our school. My goal is
to get the best out of myself by implementing our philosophy and learning every day with our
enthusiastic students and their young bright minds.”

Micah McClain

Music Teacher (El Cerrito Campus)

Micah has been a performing musician for 28 years. In 1993 he began teaching drum lessons, and he has been working with children in the classroom since 2003. Currently, he teaches music and movement at Montessori Family School in El Cerrito and Duck's Nest preschools in Oakland and Berkeley. He has presented Orff Schulwerk and jazz workshops for SF JAZZ, Stanford Jazz Workshops, Guitar Workshop and California Association for Music Educators. Micah is also a freelance drummer, has performed music on six continents, and teaches drum set and percussion lessons at MFS and his home studio in Oakland. 

Nancy Baker

Buckeye Assistant Teacher

Nancy’s curiosity about Montessori education began at an early age. Her mother attended a Montessori school established circa 1917, after Maria Montessori visited California. Her mother’s vivid descriptions of the pink tower, the bells, and the sandpaper letters sounded intriguing and magical, and planted the seeds that grew into a lifetime career. 

Nancy attended the opening year at UC Santa Cruz, and graduated with the Pioneer Class of 1965-1969. She earned her BA in US history with a minor in sociology. She then moved to Washington, DC and studied at the Washington Montessori Institute. After completing her American Montessori International certification, she established a pre-K Montessori program in northeast DC at John Burroughs Public Elementary. Nancy spent the next two decades raising her family and working as a Primary level Director in Hyde Park and the south suburbs of Chicago. For the past 20 years, she taught and tutored in the Santa Cruz area, primarily at Santa Cruz Montessori. 

Nancy recently moved to Oakland after helping to establish a Bridge program for five-year-olds entering the lower elementary program at Mission Montessori in San Francisco. Nancy has found it deeply gratifying to experience the impact of Montessori education in her own family and in the various school communities she has been fortunate to be a part of. She treasures the many ways this educational philosophy supports children’s curiosity and drive for independence. She is also interested in continuing to explore how Montessori education is implemented in diverse cultures around the world and in the USA.

When Nancy is not in the classroom, she loves to cook, read, garden, listen to music, and travel. Most of all, she loves to spend time with her 6-year-old granddaughter who lives nearby and will very soon become a big sister.
 

Rebecca Deutsch

Art, Middle School Theater & Associate Classroom Teacher

Rebecca Deutsch is a playwright and visual artist. Her work investigates topics of identity through personal narrative and magical realism, confronting issues of gender, sexuality, race, and coming of age. Her plays have been workshopped and performed at Dixon Place Theater in New York City, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut, The Magic Theatre in San Francisco, and Oberlin College, where she received a BA in Theater. A former art teacher, Middle School classroom, and theater teacher at MFS, Rebecca returned in 2018 after teaching social justice through contemporary literature and theater in Athens, Greece, on a Fulbright Fellowship. She is thrilled to be back at MFS in multiple capacities: both to teach art and guide the creation of original performances with the middle school class, and as a general assistant teacher in our Elementary programs.

Ruth Flowers

Aspen Head Teacher

Ruth Flowers joined Montessori Family School in 2004. Wearing many hats over the years, she currently co-teaches in Aspen, a Primary classroom at the Berkeley Early Childhood campus. She appreciates that the school supports children using their curiosity, interests, and success to advance their own learning. Since earning her American Montessori Society Early Childhood Teacher Certificate in 2009, observations of the children and support from the MFS community have continued to deepen her understanding and awe of Montessori philosophy. 

Ruth's love for gardening, nature, singing, dance, sewing, and games are enjoyed even more when shared with children. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with minors in Sociology, Women’s Studies, and Dance from the University of Memphis.

Regina Hartmann

Learning Specialist

After completing a BA degree in Educational Philosophy and earning my Montessori Credential in Ithaca, N.Y., Regina has taught in schools in Dallas, Tx. and Denver, Co. She joined Montessori Family School in 1990 with deep delight to have found a good school for her children and herself. After teaching for many years and raising her son and daughter, Regina pursued a Masters Degree in Education including a new credential in Educational Therapy.  Dr. Montessori’s pedagogical insights, as well as neuro-psychological brilliance, shine ever more brightly for her as she pursues her studies and strives to expand her awareness. The Montessori materials are the “constants” and the children the amazing “variables” she has the honor of observing, learning from, and lovingly supporting. When not in the classroom, Regina is enriched by working as an educational therapist; this offers her the one-with-one time necessary to support children with “trickier” processing issues. She now enjoys combining her various skills in all settings. After 33+ years of working with 3-6-year-olds, her sense of marvel, joy and good fortune at working in a Montessori environment deepens week-by-week. Regina enjoys working at MFS because the teachers are truly respected and supported. She loves hiking, time with her family, singing along with anything, great conversations with friends, and taking her time to listen and re-listen to audio guides in art museums.

Seraphima "Sima" Rombe-Shulman

Aspen Assistant Teacher

Sima immigrated to Chicago from Kiev, Ukraine, shortly before the fall of the Soviet Union. As a young teenager, she had to adapt to a culture and a language very different from her own, which fostered her interest in cultural observation and analysis. Sima received a B.A. in Anthropology from Loyola University Chicago, and in 2000 went to Mali, West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. There, she spent three years working with artisans and learning as much as she could about the different cultures and languages of that region. She fell in love with that part of the world and continued to return there over the next several years to conduct research as a graduate student. In 2009, Sima received an M.A. in Anthropology with a concentration on West Africa from American University in Washington, DC. Her experiences of living and working in Mali and other parts of West Africa continue to remind her that we are citizens of an incredibly diverse world, and of our collective responsibility to celebrate those differences while looking for common ground with one another. When Sima’s oldest son entered a public Montessori elementary school in Durham, NC, she saw first-hand how her own convictions about global citizenship and social responsibility could be reflected in an approach to education that placed great value on developing such ideas. She also saw how children can thrive under the care of educators who view learning as a two-way process between students and teachers, and who foster an approach based on following student interests in a nurturing and a constructive environment. As a result, Sima developed a passion for the Montessori philosophy and decided to become a Montessori teacher herself. Sima completed the coursework for her Montessori credentials through the Montessori Teacher Education Center, San Francisco Bay Area, and completed her practicum at MFS. She feels very honored to be a part of the Montessori Family School community.

Shawna McCarroll

Early Childhood Campus Site Director

Shawna graduated with a bachelors in Arts and Letters from Portland State University in 2005, with focused study in philosophy, music, photography, and literature. She holds a California state early childhood director certificate and an American Montessori Society Early Childhood Montessori Credential from the Montessori Teacher Education Center of San Francisco. Shawna brings with her an additional 18 years experience in professional office environments and administration, and 20 years experience working with children in different capacities such as camp counselor, nanny, youth bandleader, and 4-H horse camp instructor. In her spare time, Shawna likes to write songs, sing, cook, garden and create three-dimensional art.

Trina Rymland

Kindergarten Bridge Head Teacher

Trina worked at school when she was in college at CSU San Bernardino. One of her co-workers had two of the most inquisitive, polite, intelligent children she had ever met. When she enquired, the colleague told Trina that her children attended a Montessori school. Trina was just finishing a degree in Communication, but she was very intrigued by this “Montessori” thing. She moved to the Bay Area in 1992 and met her future husband. Coincidentally, he lived with his sister and nephew at the time and his nephew also attended a Montessori school. At this point, Trina realized the universe was trying to tell her something. She started substitute teaching at her nephew’s school and decided to take the training at the Montessori Teacher Education Center, San Francisco Bay Area. The Montessori Philosophy makes so much sense to Trina because it is such a logical and humane approach to teaching children. Jane Wechsler, MFS's founding Head of School was one of Trina's instructors, and Trina began working at MFS the following school year. When it came time for her son to start school, there was never any doubt in her mind that he would attend any school other than MFS. Both her son and daughter are now graduates of MFS's middle school program. Her daughter attends Oakland School for the Arts and her son attends UC Berkeley. Her daughter is maintaining a 4.0 GPA, as did her son while in high school. But more importantly, they are both motivated students with an amazing sense of social justice and self-awareness. Trina has been affiliated with MFS for over 25 years, as a parent, a Board member, and fundraiser and a teacher. As a parent, she believes MFS to have some of the most dedicated and caring teachers you would ever want to mentor your children. They possess an intangible quality. These are the same reasons she enjoys working here, and considers it an honor to be part of an incredibly dedicated team of educators and administrators. When Trina is not teaching, she enjoys traveling with her family and singing with a band made up of several other MFS moms! She so enjoys the community this school has offered; it truly is a “family” school for her.

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ADMINISTRATION
EARLY CHILDHOOD CAMPUS

1850 Scenic Avenue

Berkeley, CA 94709

510-848-2322

K BRIDGE - 8TH GRADE CAMPUS

7075 Cutting Boulevard

El Cerrito, CA 94530

510-236-8802

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Pre-K - 8th