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.
Sara Lain, Lead Toddler Directress
Ms. Sara is happy to be immersed in the Montessori toddler environment.
“Before I even knew it was Montessori, I was intrigued with the ideas and practices when I would hear about them,” she said of the Montessori approach to education.
“I love the whole Montessori way,” Ms. Sara said, “but some highlights for me are the calm, peaceful, community-oriented and nonjudgmental environment, and having hands-on work for the children instead of direct instruction.”
Outside of the classroom, Ms. Sara enjoys many types of yoga, being outside in nature, especially the beach, traveling, and spending time with family, friends and children.
Brittany Downey, Lead Toddler Directress
Ms. Brittany, from Lecanto in Citrus County, moved to Jacksonville in 2016 to join Montessori Tides School. Her interest in Montessori education began several years ago, with her sister’s journey into the Montessori classroom as an educator.
Montessori’s Peace Education and child-centered approach are Ms. Brittany’s favorite things about the classroom.
“Children really are the future, and I think it is so important to educate on peace,” she said. “It also brings such a calming, kind feel to a classroom and really builds a strong community.”
Ms. Brittany also enjoys traveling, reading, yoga and the beach.
Rana Hayyat, Toddler assistant
Ms. Rana, who is Palestinian, has lived in Florida almost 25 years. She first encountered Montessori education when she enrolled her daughter in a Montessori school in Daytona Beach in 2013.
“My favorite thing about Montessori would be the hands-on and active lessons,” she said. Ms. Rana enjoys taking her daughters to the beach, playing board games and baking.
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.
Terri Stanford, Toddler assistant
Although Ms. Terri was born in McKeesport, Penn., she considers Neptune Beach her home town, since she’s lived there since 1962.
Ms. Terri has been a teacher for more than 20 years, most recently in a VPK classroom. It was in this role that she found Montessori education when she was searching for ideas for her 4-year-old students.
“My favorite things are the use of natural materials and of the outdoor environment as an extension of the classroom,” she said.
Ms. Terri enjoys reading, traveling and anything related to space.
Tessa Barnhart, Toddler assistant
Ms. Tessa is a Florida native, from Glen St. Mary. She first learned about Montessori several years ago from a friend who was a Montessori teacher.
“My favorite things about Montessori are the focus on the child and the main goal being to help the child flourish,” she said.
Ms. Tessa enjoys cooking, hiking and going to the beach.
Anna Shapovalenko, Toddler assistant
Ms. Anna was born in Moscow and moved to Jacksonville three years ago. Before she left Moscow, a friend’s child started attending a Montessori school, which sparked her interest in Montessori education.
“I am extremely close to the philosophy of Montessori: to be independent, to engage in self-development every day and be the creator of your future,” she said.
Ms. Anna’s favorite pastime is fishing. She also likes to grow flowers in her small garden, create a cozy home and cook.
Tanya Pollock, Toddler assistant
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 husband and two children. She also enjoys photography, crafts and DIY projects, swimming, the beach and bike rides.
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.
Kristin Korody, Primary assistant and aftercare
Growing up in a military family, Ms. Kristin had many homes, but she considers southeastern Connecticut her first home. 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 own paces of learning.”
She taught at the Montessori school for three years before relocating to a different Montessori school in Washington state.
“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, reading books with her children, sewing, and reading quietly on the beach.
Caitlin Wolfel, Primary assistant
Caitlin is excited to join our school as an assistant because she attended Montessori Tides School as a child. Ms. Caitlin, who grew up in Atlantic Beach, also has her two children attending the school.
Ms. Caitlin said she likes the appreciation and respect given to each child in the Montessori classroom, and she likes that the approach honors and recognizes each stage of development.
She enjoys spending time with her family outside, such as going to the beach, biking around town and exploring Northeast Florida.
Heather Barton, Lower Elementary Lead Directress
Ms. Heather first learned about Montessori education in college, when she took a course on human growth and development. That first insight into Montessori has now led the Jacksonville native to Montessori Tides School.
She loves the holistic approach that a Montessori education has in facilitating the growth and development of the whole child. Plus, she said she loves “the awesome materials that build the connections in the brain.”
When she’s not in the classroom, Ms. Heather enjoys exercise, yoga, drawing, painting, studying things that interest her, and spending time with family and friends.
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.
Ann Solomn, Lower Elementary assistant
Ms. Ann is a Detroit native who discovered Montessori education after she began looking for preschools for her niece, whom she adopted as an infant. She started volunteering at the school, and said “I felt like Montessori was a match made in heaven for us.”
After a few years of volunteering, the school offered to send her for Montessori training.
“I’ve always been drawn to the fact that Montessori is child-centered,” Ms. Ann said. “The method empowers children to follow their path.”
Ms. Ann, who moved to Northeast Florida two years ago, enjoys any activity the gets her outside. She’s also traveled to all seven continents. “More than anything,” she said, “I love going to new places and meeting new people.”
Jessica Spurlock, Lead Directress
Miss Jess was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. She pursued a degree in Montessori education from Xavier University. She graduated in 2013 with her undergraduate training in ages 6 to 9, and she also has her 9 to 12 credentials. She did her student teaching at Mercy Montessori and Sands Montessori, both in Ohio. After graduation, Jess worked at Parker Woods Montessori in Ohio as a 6-9 lead teacher.
Her favorite thing about Montessori is that “the teacher is not the keeper of all knowledge.”
Following her love for adventure, she made a move to Jacksonville in 2014. In her spare time, Jess loves to go to the beach, and she has a big black lab named Mac. She also enjoys swimming, painting and gardening.
Stephanie Hudson, Upper Elementary Assistant
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.”
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.
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.
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.