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.
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 husband and two children. 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.
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.
Emily Casarrubias, Lower Elementary 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.
Christina Alvarez, Toddler assistant
Ms. Christina first learned about the Montessori method when she worked at a Montessori school in San Diego, where she was born.
“The Montessori method takes into account all of the many different needs and milestones a child needs through life,” she said.
Ms. Christina, who arrived in Jacksonville in May 2019, has taught in several public and private schools in the San Diego area, and she has taught English in Thailand.
She enjoys spending time with her husband, family and friends. She also likes to get outside, shop and travel.
Ayako Luther, Toddler assistant
Ms. Ayako, who was born in Nagano, Japan, moved from Indiana to Jacksonville in 2010 to “try out the beach life.” She and her husband decided that the lifestyle agreed with them.
Before she even had children, Ms. Ayako learned about Montessori education from a friend, and she was interested in how different Montessori is from traditional education.
“I couldn’t wait to try it with my own children,” she said. “Since I had them, it has been an eye-opener for me.”
She loves how respectful Montessori education is — there’s respect for the desire to learn, for others, for nature, for differences and for the materials.
Ms. Ayako loves to be out in nature with her family. She also enjoys cooking and creating little things for her family.
Alex Sullivan, Toddler assistant
Ms. Alex grew up in Jacksonville Beach, and she first learned about Montessori on a visit to her pediatrician, who just happened to be next to Montessori Tides School.
“I remember loving the flowerboxes and how quaint it looked,” she said. “I asked my mom why I couldn’t go to that school!”
Ms. Alex attended public and magnet school programs, and she struggled in those classrooms with an attention deficit disorder.
“I love the benefits Montessori can provide a child who has a learning disability,” she said. “Every single child learns and develops differently. The Montessori method gives children the opportunity to grow at their own pace and thrive in the classroom, unlike the typical year-by-year public or private school.”
When she’s not in school studying to become a teacher, Ms. Alex enjoys taking her dogs to the beach or the dog park. She also practices yoga, hits the gym, and binge watches shows on Netflix and Hulu.
Shannon Benzie, Toddler assistant
Ms. Shannon comes to Montessori Tides School via Port Saint Lucie and former Toddler teacher Ms. Meghan.
The two met as teacher and student: Ms. Meghan taught Ms. Shannon philosophy at the University of North Florida, and Ms. Shannon taught Ms. Meghan yoga.
“Ms. Meghan’s knowledge on beekeeping and children really inspired me to do my own research on the Montessori philosophy,” Ms. Shannon said. “I began working with kids as a nature camp counselor, and I really enjoyed teaching kids about the pure wonder of the natural world and, thus, the importance of embracing and caring for it.”
Her interest in the outdoors leads to one of her favorite things about Montessori education.
“I especially love the freedom to go at your own pace when learning and lots of outdoor time to breathe in fresh air,” she said.
In addition to yoga, Ms. Shannon enjoys gardening, cooking nutritious meals, hiking, foraging for useful wild plants, and getting into the ocean to swim or surf.
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.
Kayla Pope, Primary Assistant
Ms. Kayla was born in North Carolina, and she has lived in Jacksonville since 2001. Her first introduction to Montessori education was when she attended Montessori Tides School as a young child.
“One of my favorite things about Montessori education is the level of hands-on and visual materials for learning,” she said. “I also highly enjoy watching how this style of learning promotes individuality.”
Ms. Kayla enjoys hiking and camping, traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family.
Kathy Aguilar, Primary assistant and Aftercare
Ms. Kathy has more than 20 years of experience, with training in Primary and Lower Elementary. She also is working toward her toddler certification by interning with Ms. Johanna in the mornings. She works as an assistant Primary teacher and with Aftercare in the afternoons.
Born on a military base, she is half Japanese and Costa Rican. She recently moved to Jacksonville to be closer to family.
She first learned about Montessori in 1998 when she worked part time at a family-owned AMI Montessori School while attending Florida International University for her criminal justice degree.
“I was mesmerized with how much a child can learn given the right tools,” she said. “I have taken the Montessori method into the home [with my son], and it has been an amazing experience.”
During her spare time, Ms. Kathy likes to paint with different mediums, garden, bake, and take family mini-vacations to visit historical places.
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.
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.
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.
Linda Farber, Spanish teacher
Señora Linda earned her B.A. in Spanish from Flagler College, along with completing post-graduate courses in education. A study abroad semester in Costa Rica ignited her love of travel, so she explored the world as a flight attendant with Pan Am, using her newly acquired Spanish.
Her foreign language teaching experience began at the high school level, and her teaching during the past 20 years has included toddlers, primary, elementary and middle school levels.
She is an IB-certified instructor and has seven years of experience teaching in Montessori classrooms. She appreciates the Montessori Method and how it complements foreign language learning, and she loves the energy at MTS!
Acting, voicework, surfing, traveling, gardening and spending time with family are her other passions.
Carrie Lee Ferguson, Rhythm & Movement
Ms. Carrie holds a master’s degree in education and is a former public school teacher.
A lover of words and sounds, she thoroughly enjoys being in the flow of speech and movement with children, and connecting mind and heart strengthening activities.
Ms. Carrie’s Rhythm & Movement class works with the Elementary children with such things as songs, dance, poems and hand movements.
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.