Johanna Porter, Toddler Lead 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.
Meghan Orman, Toddler Lead Directress
Miss Meghan first learned about Montessori education when she wrote her master’s thesis for the Practical Philosophy and Applied Ethics program at the University of North Florida. Her thesis topic? “Democracy and Education: Reinventing Political Participation in the 21st Century.”
“I explored themes of progressive education within a democratic context, which led me to study fantastic figures such as John Dewey, Rudolf Steiner and Maria Montessori,” Miss Meghan said. “I fell in love with Montessori’s work then and was only recently reintroduced to the practical application of this work through Montessori Tides.”
Miss Meghan, whose hometown is Aurora, N.Y., started working at Montessori Tides as a substitute teacher, and she is now the lead teacher for the Room 4 toddler class. She received her Montessori certificate in the first half of 2016. Her Montessori training was supported by Montessori Tides and the Montessori Tides Children’s Foundation, which raises money to support the school and its students and teachers.
“I love the child-centered approach where the individual is the curriculum; it is pedagogical humanism at its finest,” Miss Meghan said of Montessori education. “I also love the incorporation of nature into the education experience. I believe this is experiential education at its finest!”
In her spare time, she loves to work with nature, whether in the garden or with her beehives or at the beach.
“I also really enjoy learning about self-care,” she said, “which leads to an enhanced appreciation for the care of others.”
Chelsea Bailey, Toddler Assistant
Ms. Chelsea grew up along Jacksonville’s beaches and enjoys an active outdoors life. She will bring that energy to Montessori Tides School as an assistant in Ms. Johanna’s Toddler classroom.
A class at the University of North Florida introduced Ms. Chelsea to Montessori education. She said the Montessori method made the most sense to help children reach their full potential. When she was ready for her daughter to attend school, she chose Montessori Tides School, which she said provides the children with a loving environment where they feel respected and secure while learning about things that are important to them.
“My favorite thing about Montessori education is the opportunity the student gets to explore their own interest, focus on their work and fully satisfy every curiosity they have about that work,” she said.
When she’s not in Room 5, you might find Ms. Chelsea doing yoga or gymnastics, hiking, biking at the beach, in-line skating, swimming, boating, riding horses or reading the Bible.
Kayla Zuna, Assistant Teacher
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.
Sara Lain, Assistant Teacher
Miss Sara is happy to be immersed in the Montessori environment of Miss Johanna’s toddler classroom.
“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,” Miss 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, Miss Sara enjoys many types of yoga, being outside in nature, especially the beach, traveling, and spending time with family, friends and children.
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.
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 Pickett, 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.
Brittany Downey, Co-Lead Primary Teacher
Miss 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 Miss 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.”
Miss Brittany, who works with Miss Kate’s Primary classroom, also enjoys traveling, reading, yoga and the beach.
Tanya Pollock, Primary 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.
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.
Nancy Hatton, Lead Directress
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.
Currently Mrs. Nancy has been with the Montessori Tides community for over ten years. Watching young children develop the inner desire and joy of learning is what captivates her most. Standing back to observe her class is an unexpected joy to embrace daily.
In her spare time, you can find her practicing yoga, relaxing at the beach, or reading her personal favorites, mystery novels.
Heather Barton, Co-Lead Lower Elementary Teacher
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.
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.
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.