Johanna Porter, Lead Toddler Directress
Mrs. Johanna learned about Montessori in 1997, in Seattle, while searching for a pre-school for her oldest daughter. Before the school year was over, she had enrolled in Montessori Teacher training. “I was in awe,” said Porter. “For me, it was a new approach to education.”
Today, what fascinates her most; is the peace, calm, and beauty that the Montessori environment provides for the children. Their emphasis on the development of respect and understanding for other human beings is the foundation for their loving and peaceful atmosphere. She began working at Montessori Tides in the fall of 1999, enrolling all three of her children.
In her spare time she likes to be home with her family, cooking, and keeping things organized. Her yoga practice keeps her flexible; singing, dancing, and sewing keep her smiling.
Jackie Taylor, Lead Toddler Directress
Ms. Jackie has returned home to Florida. The Vero Beach native recently moved to Jacksonville Beach from Utah. Ms. Jackie is a Montessori child, and she returned to Montessori after her first daughter was born.
Her favorite thing about Montessori education is the “language and respect the adult gives to every child,” she said.
Ms. Jackie enjoys hunting for sea shells and paddle boarding with her children. She has two daughters in college, two younger daughters and a grandson.
Tanya Pollock, Lead Toddler Teacher
Ms. Tanya learned about Montessori education after the birth of her daughter six years ago. A cousin shared that she was sending her children to a Montessori preschool.
“I dove in on research of how to implement this in my home and never stopped,” said Ms. Tanya, who homeschooled her daughter for four years.
One of the things Ms. Tanya loves to see in the Montessori classroom is the “the most adorable birthday celebration, seeing the birthday girl/boy walk around the sun and talk about past, present and future with their life time line.”
A native of Hopwood, Penn., Ms. Tanya moved to Jacksonville the summer of 2013. She loves to spend time with her family. She also enjoys photography, crafts and DIY projects, swimming, the beach and bike rides.
Kayla Zuna, Toddler assistant
After leaving her native Albania, Miss Keyla lived several places before moving to Jacksonville in 2013. Her introduction to Montessori education was when she started working with the toddlers at Montessori Tides School.
“I like everything about Montessori,” Miss Keyla said, citing the philosophy and method of education.
When she is not caring for the toddlers, Miss Keyla enjoys reading.
Olivia Flack, Toddler assistant
Ms. Olivia was introduced to Montessori Tides School as an infant, visiting the school that her sisters attended. She later attended MTS as a toddler and graduated from the school after sixth grade.
“I love the quiet, peaceful environment that feels like a home,” she said of the classrooms at MTS. “I like how the materials are organized on shelves where the children can reach them and take them to their own space to work. The children can each work at their own pace and stay on task, or ask for help if they need it.”
Ms. Olivia likes to spend time with family and friends, and go to the beach. She also enjoys cooking vegetarian and vegan food.
She is excited to begin working at the school.
“I will actually be working with some of the teachers who taught me when I was growing up,” she said.
Odemaris Alfonso, Toddler assistant
Ms. Odemaris was born in Puerto Rico, and she moved to Jacksonville in 2018. She learned about Montessori education in 2016, when her daughter was 2-years-old.
“I like Montessori because it respects and gives the children space to develop their abilities, skills and interests in an environment prepared with activities suitable for the child,” she said.
Ms. Odemaris likes outdoor activities with her husband and children. She also likes to read and draw.
Andrea Kent, Toddler assistant
Ms. Andrea has moved often, but she considers Westlake Village, Calif., her hometown. She moved to Jacksonville in 1984.
She first learned about Montessori education in high school and loves the method, citing how many hands-on materials are available in the environment.
Ms. Andrea enjoys spending time with her sons and friends, hiking, swimming, reading, listening to music and enjoying nature. She’s a foodie and a huge fan of the Blue Angels. She also enjoys walking on the beach, especially during turtle nesting season.
Emily Casarrubias, Toddler assistant
Ms. Emily is a recent transplant to Florida from Anaheim, Calif. She first learned about Montessori education about five years ago, and she has three nieces attending Montessori schools in California.
“My favorite thing about Montessori is the independence the children gain in the classroom,” she said.
In her spare time, she likes to hang out with her pet and go to the movies.
Kathy Graham, Lead Directress
It was in Chicago, Illinois, where Mrs. Kathy first experienced a Montessori Classroom. After only a short period of time, through her internship at a local Montessori School, she became increasingly aware of her profound calling as a Montessori Teacher. She knew this was a special place and fell in love with the Montessori Method of Education.
Since then, Mrs. Kathy has established herself as a strong advocate of creating beautiful environments inside the school and in her world of life. For over thirty six years now, she continues to conduct herself as an extraordinary model in these ways: a Montessori parent; Montessori Teacher; founder/director of the very first Montessori School in Jacksonville, Florida; mentor; friend; and her newest blessing, grandparent.
Mrs. Kathy suggests, “Montessori gives a feeling of hope for a better world because of what we give our children. The future leaders of tomorrow.” Click here to read more of Mrs. Kathy’s story.
Kate Enriquez, Lead Primary Teacher
Miss Kate knew about Montessori education from a young age – her aunt was a Montessori teacher and her cousin is a former Montessori Tides student. However, it wasn’t until she moved to Atlantic Beach from St. Louis in 2012 and had a chance to observe Miss Kathy’s primary class that she understood what Montessori education really meant.
“My first couple of days as an assistant teacher, Mrs. Kathy told me to take a seat and just observe the classroom and write down in a journal what I observed,” Kate said. “Over the next two years, observation had become one of the many things that I love about Montessori.”
After two years in Mrs. Kathy’s class, Miss Kate decided to pursue training to become a Montessori teacher and completed her training course in 2016. Her training has been supported by Montessori Tides School, the Montessori Tides Children’s Foundation and the school community.
Miss Kate’s favorite Montessori quote is: “Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.”
Miss Kate experiences her environment outside the classroom by riding her bike around the beaches, spending time with family, and enjoying her newly found love of cooking.
Dhurata Ndregjoni, Primary assistant
Ms. Dhurata was born in Albania and has been in Jacksonville since 2009. She first learned about Montessori education about two years ago. She is happy to have joined our Montessori Tides School family and loves the solid educational foundation that the Montessori classroom provides.
When she’s not in the Primary classroom or helping with aftercare, Ms. Dhurata spends her time taking care of her home.
Hannah Gay, Primary assistant
Ms. Hannah recently returned to her hometown of Jacksonville after spending six years in Key West, where she worked as a teacher assistant. Childhood friends introduced her to Montessori Tides School after she returned home.
“My favorite thing about Montessori is the environment that allows children to learn and grow at their own pace and with the help and guidance of their peers,” she said.
Family is important to Ms. Hannah, and she spends time with family and friends whenever she gets the chance. She also loves to eat, especially chicken.
“I am really happy to be apart of the MTS community,” Ms. Hannah said, “and I love that I get to learn a different perspective on children’s education.”
Julia Boyd, Primary assistant
Ms. Julia lived in Jacksonville until she moved at age 13 to live with her grandparents in Northern Virginia. She returned to Jacksonville Beach in 2014 to begin college. She started working in a Waldorf-inspired school, and that’s where she also was introduced to Montessori philosophy.
“I appreciate the continued focus on elevating a caregiver's skills of observing and connecting with the child, focusing on the value of meeting children on their skill level,” she said of Montessori education. “The importance of a caregiver's sense of emotional anchoring and 'patience with the process' extends to the well-being of the children. I have noticed through my own observations that the allowance of discovery leads to further independence – and independence to further discovery.”
In her spare time, Ms. Julia practices and performs partner acrobatics, juggling and acroyoga with her husband. They also teach acroyoga workshops at local studios. She also enjoys skateboarding, audiobooks, journaling, crocheting and painting.
Silvana Bracero, Primary assistant
Ms. Silvana grew up in Chesapeake, Va., and moved to Jacksonville in 2018. She learned about Montessori education through a family friend whose son attended a Montessori school in Virginia.
“I deeply appreciate how Montessori is founded on respect for the child,” she said.
Ms. Silvana loves being outside. She enjoys yoga, mountain biking, dancing and going to the beach. She is excited to join our Montessori Tides School community.
Kristin Korody, Lead Lower Elementary Teacher
Growing up in a military family, Ms. Kristin had many homes, but she considers southeastern Connecticut her first home. She has a master’s degree in elementary education and holds a Florida teaching certificate. She settled in Jacksonville in 2013.
When looking for a teaching job in a public school setting in Pensacola several years ago, Ms. Kristin found a website for a Montessori school and became intrigued by Montessori philosophy.
“I knew I wanted to be a part of a system of educating children that values the importance of raising them to be loving, empowered stewards of our world,” she said. “I was drawn immediately to the approach of following the children at their individual paces of learning.”
She taught lower elementary at the Montessori School of Pensacola for three years and at Discovery Depot Montessori School in Silverdale, Wash., for two years. Prior to discovering her passion for Montessori, Kristin taught first and second grade in Waterford, Conn.
“I love seeing the children interact with each other in such a loving and respectful way,” she said. “For example, if someone drops something, many others will immediately offer help!”
Ms. Kristin enjoys doing puzzles and reading books with her children, sewing, and reading quietly on the beach. She is happy to have both of her daughters at MTS!
Elaine Franklin, Lower Elementary assistant
Life is a tapestry of memories, some which link us to our history and our future. Stories define the nature of who we once were to who we are now. Mrs. Elaine’s Montessori story takes us back to a dental office in Springfield, Illinois. This is where she worked with a Montessorian from Gaeta, Italy, and first heard about the Montessori approach to education. Surely, a divine encounter that re-directed her life, a memory made of the stuff that illuminates her legacy–respect for all things.
Presently, Mrs. Elaine has been with the Montessori Tides community for ten years.
Her natural gift is cleaning and organizing. In her spare time, enjoying her family fills her with an increasing joy. Listening to music, exercising, and reading books are considered a luxury.
Arianna Franklin, Lower Elementary assistant
Ms. Ari was born in Oklahoma, but moved to Jacksonville when she was 4-years-old. Her mother, Ms. Elaine in Lower Elementary, enrolled her in Montessori Tides School for first grade.
“My favorite thing about Montessori is the ability to communicate peacefully and effectively to one another,” she said. “It’s such a powerful tool that is lost on so many, and I love that we get to teach that and so many other things at our school.”
Ms. Ari loves to spend time with her family and friends and watch movies.
Stephanie Hudson, Lead Upper Elementary Teacher
Ms. Stephanie was introduced to Montessori education after her first child was born.
“I noticed that she had an innate curiosity that propelled her to learn and that, just by living, she was gaining an understanding of her surroundings, other people, and herself by utilizing everyday natural materials and work found in the home,” she said.
Ms. Stephanie’s son later joined the Toddler and Primary communities at Montessori Tides School.
“I am excited to be part of the Montessori Tides community once again, this time as a teacher,” she said. Ms. Stephanie, who is from Gainesville, came to Jacksonville in 2003. She enjoys dance and choreography, documentaries and reading. Although, she enjoys spending time with her children the most.
“My favorite thing about Montessori,” Ms. Stephanie said, “is the grace and peace that is cultivated in students through the use of materials and practical life that support the child’s mind, body, spirit and community.”
Marissa Karley, Elementary assistant
Ms. Marissa (her name rhymes with Teresa) hails from Boca Raton and moved to Jacksonville in 2018.
Her introduction to Montessori came early in life – her mother is a Montessori directress. Her home life was centered on Montessori philosophy, and she began school at age 2. She transitioned to public school in fourth grade after aging out of her Montessori school.
“My favorite thing about Montessori is the philosophy,” Ms. Marissa said. “Children should be treated with respect, and taught to respect the Earth and all living things.” “I also love all the Montessori materials and how they are introduced at an early age and then taught as extensions in later years,” she said. “In addition, I think grace and courtesy are important skills.”
Ms. Marissa enjoys playing games, especially Hedbanz, with her family and friends. She also enjoys meditation, inline skating, swimming and cooking. She looks forward to traveling more since she has friends and family around the world.
Mallory Smith, Aftercare
Ms. Mallory is a Jacksonville native and learned about Montessori education about a year ago. She’s drawn to Montessori education because “the child has no limits to their own creativity.”
Ms. Mallory likes to spend time with her friends when she’s not taking classes.
Nancy Hatton, Staff Development Coordinator
Mrs. Nancy’s hometown of Beech Grove, Indianapolis is where she first heard about the Montessori approach to education. While reading the Indianapolis Monthly, she discovered a Montessori school nearby. This was the school her children first attended and marked the beginning of her personal Montessori journey.
Ms. Nancy has been with the Montessori Tides community for more ten years. Watching young children develop the inner desire and joy of learning is what captivates her most. Standing back to observe a class is an unexpected joy to embrace daily.
After leading the Lower Elementary classroom for many years, Ms. Nancy decided to take a new role in 2018 that will have her more involved with the whole Montessori Tides School community.
Ms. Nancy teaches yoga, nature study and peace education in the Elementary program. She also brings her mentoring and leadership skills to all of the classrooms at Montessori Tides School.
In her spare time, Ms. Nancy teaches and practices yoga, relaxes at the beach and reads her personal favorites, mystery novels.
Brad Hatton, Director
Mr. Brad, an Indianapolis native, is usually the first person you meet at Montessori Tides School. He works in the office with Munson, and co-owns the school with Ms. Nancy, his wife.
Like many people, he learned about Montessori when looking for a school for their children, Zack and Zoey in 1998. When he and his family moved to Jacksonville in 2001, they joined Montessori Tides School. In January 2020, his grandson, Zeke, will join the school.
Mr. Brad likes the whole child approach in Montessori education.
“Education is so much more than knowledge,” he said. “We work with the other half of the child.”
When he’s not behind the desk at school, Mr. Brad enjoys sports, music, camping and traveling.
Kirk Farber, F.A.C.E. – Fitness and Character Education
Fitness and Character Education (F.A.C.E.) program developer Kirk Farber, a 7th degree black belt and seminar speaker, has worked with our Elementary classrooms for 10+ years. He combines martial arts, jumping rope, and juggling to guarantee results in agility, coordination, focus, and timing for today’s youth. He incorporates character education and building self-esteem through public speaking into every class session. Learn more about F.A.C.E.
Jeremy Nix, Science & Sound
Mr. Jeremy seeks to ignite each learner’s appreciation for the fundamental connections between sound, vibration, music and the material universe with his business, The Celestial Kingdom of Sounds.
He grew up as a classically trained musician, starting piano at 6 and then moving into other instruments, studying classical, jazz and popular music forms. He also received a home-school education through middle school, which incorporated many Montessori elements and developed an early appreciation for experimentation, science, and independent study. His eventual bachelor’s degree in chemistry led to recognition for his work as an undergraduate by the Sanibel Symposium on Quantum Biochemistry and a job managing a protein biochemistry lab doing Alzheimer’s research at Mayo Clinic.
He’s the resident sound curator at Yellow House, next to the CoRK Arts District, and he’s composing with the surviving members of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s band, Gray.
Munson, Office Assistant
Munson joined Montessori Tides School when he was just a few weeks old. Mr. Brad and Miss Nancy picked him up in Atlanta, where he was born the summer of 2015.
Since joining Mr. Brad in the office, Munson has warmly greeted students, teachers and parents. He especially enjoys visiting with the teachers during lunchtime.
Sometimes, Munson walks to the park with the elementary students for recess, but the walk really tires him. He is hoping to stay closer to the classrooms when he gets older so he can visit with the children as a reading companion.