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.

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Alissa Stolz

Head of School

Guiding children towards self-discovery and autonomy and the belief that this work is essential to the fullest development of the human inspires Alissa each day. She holds a B.A. in German Studies and an M.Ed in Montessori Education. She is credentialed through the American Montessori Society (AMS) for Secondary I & II (ages 12 - 18) and Administration. She regularly presents at the AMS national conference and also had the honor of presenting at the most recent International Montessori Congress (Prague) on neuro-science and Montessori. In 2020, Alissa was invited to present at the first Secondary Symposium put on by AMS.  She is a secondary teacher trainer for the Houston Montessori Center's satellite program in California and also serves as a Field Consultant. She is a trained Montessori Coach, via the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector, and is learning how to be an on-site verifier for the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education.

Alissa has traveled widely and lived several years abroad while studying at the University of Heidelberg with a focus on language and language learning. She later conducted research about German culture before teaching German language and culture to Americans overseas.

Alissa came to Montessori Family School in 2009 to launch the Middle School program. In 2017, she joined the Administration as Head of School and continues the important work of supporting the children as well as the faculty. Her family is comprised of her sweetheart, two Montessori Family School alums (’13, ’15), and a collection of animals who have strayed in the back gate.

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Anna Wagner

Berkeley Campus Teacher

Anna Simone Wagner is a Berkeley native excited to help your children develop and explore the wonderful world around them. An alumna of San Francisco State University, Anna received her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and a minor in Special Education. While pursuing her degree, Anna had the wonderful opportunity to teach children from 8 months to 4 years old while working for 3 years as an assistant teacher at SF State Child Development Center. Additionally, Anna has 9-plus years of experience as a nanny and as a caregiver for her twin nieces for the last 4 years.

 

She brings a strong foundation in child development and play-based curriculum along with her interests in art, and inclusion. She enjoys helping children develop their creativity, independent thinking, and problem-solving skills, as well as collaborating with families to facilitate their child’s growth and development.

 

Outside of the classroom, Anna enjoys nature walks with her two dogs, baking, thrift store shopping and adventures with family and friends. 

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Aeryn Aguilar

Upper Elementary Teacher

From a young age, Aeyrn knew she wanted to work with children and teach. Entering into junior college she saw classes for Child Development and was encouraged by her mom to take a class or two to see what it was about. One semester in, she knew that the study of Child Development was what she wanted to pursue. Aeryn graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Child Development and a minor in American Indian Education from Humboldt State University. In 2019, she graduated with her master’s degree in Education, also from Humboldt State University. Her thesis emphasis was titled Childhood and Trauma: The Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences on the Brain, Behavior, and Learning in the Elementary School Classroom. It has been a great passion of Aeryn’s to support children’s learning and help improve their lives however she can. Her wide range of interests and hobbies include writing, singing, reading, playing video games, and researching neuroscience topics. For the past two and a half years she’s lived with her dad, two older brothers, two adorable cats, and a pet snake. She’s ready for this new teaching adventure! She is happy and excited to be joining the Montessori Family School team and expand her knowledge of the Montessori philosophy of education.

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Caroline Hamel

El Cerrito Site Administrator and Communications Director

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 one another, 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.

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Cynthia Rivas

Buckeye Assistant Teacher

Cynthia started her Early Childhood Education journey at age 19. She got her first job at a home-based childcare where she quickly fell in love with all the children. Cynthia has experience working with several age groups from infant to school age but enjoys working with preschoolers the most. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education and is working on getting her Montessori teaching credentials. Cynthia has been interested in Montessori since starting her ECE studies. She left her lead teaching position to join our Montessori family. She is excited to learn a new way of teaching and learning. 

During Cynthia's free time she likes to visit a good Bay Area view and eat some sushi. With COVID Cynthis is now trying to get more outdoors and see what nature has to offer her.

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Dylan McCrystal

El Cerrito Site Director

Dylan's first visit to a Montessori classroom was in 2015, when he observed the KB and LE classrooms at MFS. The experience was transformative: witnessing the delight, curiosity, independence, and courtesy of these children, encouraged to discover and explore for themselves, inspired him to move to the Bay Area and begin working at MFS.

Dylan spent the next 5 years at MFS teaching in first the Lower Elementary and then the Upper Elementary classroom (with a short stint as a PE teacher in between), before leaving to help run a local independent bookshop, Spectator Books, in Oakland. Dylan is delighted beyond words to be back at MFS in a new role, as Site Director at the El Cerrito Campus.

 

Dylan believes that a Montessori education provides the opportunity and occasion for children to discover for themselves how they learn best, to solve conflicts with empathy and understanding, to desire purposeful work, to encounter obstacles with a positive and determined attitude, to create order in their spaces and peace in their groups, and to learn as much as they can about their world, to preserve what is good and improve what is not. For these reasons and more, Dylan is proud and grateful to work at MFS, whether in the classroom or in the office.

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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.

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Grace Reinhalter

Aspen Assistant Teacher

Grace has worked and played alongside children and young adults her entire life. After becoming an aunt, she rediscovered the magic and wonder of early childhood. She has a BA in Sociology from Occidental College and her Early Childhood Education units from Merritt College. 

Grace values collaborative, play-based, hands-on learning. She is passionate about creating a welcoming, inclusive, supportive environment where children feel empowered to explore, share their ideas, and engage their natural curiosity. Grace also worked as a Teacher at a part-time, play-based preschool in Oakland, Broadway Children's School, and as an Assistant Teacher in a mixed-aged preschool classroom at The Berkeley School where the Reggio Emilia and Montessori curricula inspired her. She shares her passion for mindfulness, movement, and yoga with her students.

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Heidi De Los Santos

Community Liaison

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.

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Kathleen Flanagan

Middle School Head Teacher

Kathleen Flanagan holds a Montessori Secondary I-II, a Montessori Elementary I-II credential, and a California State Special Education credential, and has completed coursework for a California State Multiple Subjects credential. 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 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. 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.

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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!

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Laura Deal

Lower Elementary Teacher

Laura has been at Montessori Family School since 1989. She started out as an afterschool teacher, substitute, and teacher’s aide. She took the 6-9 training at MTEC in San Leandro and worked as a Lower Elementary assistant, then co-teacher.  She later worked as a co-teacher and music teacher at the Berkeley campus. She is currently working as the music teacher for KB and support staff for the El Cerrito Campus. As a theater arts major at the University of Washington, she honed improvisational skills that have been invaluable in transitioning from one classroom to another.  She is grateful to be a part of a community where everyone is committed to supporting children in their social, emotional, and academic growth. She is inspired by the Montessori world view, which teaches the value of all living things and different cultures. She has seen how it has inspired many of our alumni to work for positive change around the world. It has inspired her to work for change as well. A class meeting with her Lower Elementary class, at the turn of the century, inspired her to become active in campaigning for candidates and causes she believes in. Hearing the students talk about their hopes and fears made her realize that helping them become amazing world citizens wasn't enough if the world we are sending them into is in crisis. Working for change by both helping our children prepare for their world and trying to help create a healthier world for our children helps her remain hopeful for our future.

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Missy Barrow

Kindergarten Bridge Head Teacher

Missy grew up in San Diego and Grand Haven, Michigan, then relocated to Oakland in 1996 to pursue a career in Montessori education. She was turned onto the Montessori pedagogy during her first teaching experience at a school in Tuscon. She fell in love with the beauty of how children can take control of their own environment and learn from one another within a community of their peers. After 25 years of teaching and seven schools, she still feels the excitement of working with youth and sharing her experience with children and their families.  
Missy married her best friend, who moved from England, and added an amazing person, Vaughan, to their family in Fruitvale, Oakland. Vaughan joins MFS this year in the upper elementary program. Missy and her husband Karl enjoy crafting, spending time with friends and visiting family in San Diego. As a family, they spend their time hiking, playing board games, and playing in the water. She is excited to be a part of the Montessori Family community and looking forward to getting to know you and your children.

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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. 

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Patrick Onyejiaka

Berkeley Campus Teacher

Patrick is an immigrant from Nigerian currently based in the Bay Area, California. He is a professional artist with a unique focus on a sub-genre of art called “Hyper-Realism”. Patrick has worked with kids in various formats and has been around kids most of his life. He has a unique perspective on childcare that was further expanded with his discovery of the Montessori Method.

 

Patrick is an aspiring Pediatrician currently taking classes in college and wants to heal the world starting with its children. He ultimately sees being a “Montessorian” as a unique means of executing his ideas, especially coming from a culture that can ignore and hurt children which eventually creates a world of damaged adults.

 

In his free time, Patrick is an avid reader, a studious mind, science enthusiast, fitness buff and some might say he has fashionable sensibilities. He finds pleasure in helping people however he can, and nothing makes him happier.

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Regina Hartmann

Learning Specialist and Lower Elementary Teacher

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.

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Sima Rombe-Shulman

Aspen Head 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. 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.

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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.

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Trina Rymland

El Cerrito Campus 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 UC Davis and her son attends UC Berkeley. 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.