Ranjita Kaur | Primary Coordinator | e-mail Ranjita
Ranjita has a BA in Business from Anna Ardarsh College in India. She received a certification in Teaching Methodology in Montessori and Kindergarten Education in 2002. In 2019, she earned her Child Development Associate (CDA) credentials. She has been passionate about childcare and education, beginning her career as a Primary School Lead teacher and Montessori teacher in Bangalore, India. Prior to working at The Montessori School in Kalamazoo, Ranjita worked as a lead teacher at Gilden Woods Early Care and Preschool for a year and worked as an assistant teacher at KRESA. She started her journey at The Montessori School in late 2019 as an assistant teacher. She currently lives in Portage, Michigan with her husband and two children. In her free time, she enjoys listening to music and cooking.
Primary Lead Guides
Jacqueline Bingaman | Oak Room Lead Guide | e-mail Jacqueline
Jacqueline received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Western Michigan University in 2009. She started her Montessori journey in 2006 at The Montessori School as a primary assistant. Jacqueline received her AMS Montessori Lower Elementary certification in 2011 from Seacoast Center for Education in New Hampshire. She lived in North Carolina for 8 years and taught in Montessori and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) public, charter, and private schools. Jacqueline completed primary Montessori training in 2019 from Adrian Dominican Montessori Teacher Education Institute. In her free time, Jacqueline enjoys gardening, walking her dogs, and renovating her Victorian home.
Lauren Grinnell-Ackerman | Juniper Room Lead Guide | e-mail Lauren
Lauren received her primary AMI diploma in the spring of 2016 at Montessori Northwest Training Center in Portland, OR. She has been with The Montessori School since fall 2013 as an assistant teacher in the primary classrooms at the Kalamazoo campus. She received her Bachelor of Science in Child and Family Development from WMU, and her Master’s in Montessori Education at Loyola University Maryland in the summer of 2016. She enjoys spending time in nature with her partner, Ryan, camping, and traveling the country to experience the natural world of the national parks. She also enjoys staying at home and spending time exploring Michigan’s coast! When she isn’t traveling she enjoys reading, cooking, and creating artwork.
Megan Johnston | All-Year Montessori Lead Guide | e-mail Megan
Primary Support Staff
Lauren Mogdis | All-Year Montessori Assistant
Lauren Mogdis is a WMU graduate with a bachelor’s in Social Work and minors in Holistic Health and Interdisciplinary Health Services. She began at TMS in August 2019. Prior to joining TMS, Lauren was a lead preschool teacher at another center in the Kalamazoo area for six years. Lauren has been attending Montessori Training at Seton Montessori over the summer and will continue her studies throughout the school year.
Iris Ortiz | All-Year Montessori Assistant
Wyatt Gettys | All-Year Montessori Assistant
Wyatt has been with The Montessori School as an assistant since 2018, working in both the elementary and primary programs. He is currently studying Physical and Health Education at Western Michigan University. In his spare time, Wyatt enjoys cooking, watching baseball, and spending time outdoors.
Emily Suzor | Oak Room Assistant
Emily has been with The Montessori School as an assistant since 2017. She is currently studying Early Childhood Education at Western Michigan University. In her free time, Emily enjoys spending time outdoors, hiking, and exploring the great lakes with her partner, Wyatt. She also enjoys reading and painting as a hobbies, and hopes to study photography in the future.
Jessica Hagen, Elementary & Licensing Coordinator | e-mail Jessica
Jessica has an A.A.S. in Early Childhood Education from Kellogg Community College and a B.S. in Child and Family Development from Western Michigan University. She is a certified Environmental Educator focused on place-based, experiential learning. Since joining TMS in 2016, she has shared her love of wetlands with students through local watershed study, focusing on Axtell Creek which flows near our schoolyard. She has also led the students in planting several native wildflower gardens and established food gardens at our elementary campus. She has formed community partnerships with the Kalamazoo Wild Ones, Kalamazoo River Watershed Council, Common Ground, and Inland Seas. Jessica enjoys spending time outdoors hiking, biking, gardening, stargazing, and camping.
Anne Wester, Willow Room Lead Guide | e-mail Anne
A Kalamazoo native, Anne graduated from Western Michigan University with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She earned her masters in education from St. Catherine University (née- College of St. Catherine-Center for Contemporary Montessori Programs), and has an Elementary I and II certificate from the American Montessori Society. Anne taught at Northglade Montessori Magnet School from 1999-2010. She joined The Montessori School in 2016. Anne and her husband, Steve, have a daughter, Jane, who is a TMS alumna. The three of them enjoy an active lifestyle — camping, paddling, skiing, and biking. In fact, Anne just completed her 8th bike ride across the state of Iowa!
Jocelyn Clark, Maple Room Lead Guide | e-mail Jocelyn
Jocelyn has a Bachelor of Liberal Arts with a concentration in Sociology from Kalamazoo College. She started at the Montessori School in 1991 in a childcare position as a way to earn money while working on a Master’s degree in Criminology at Western Michigan University. She loved her work here so much she changed directions educationally and earned a Michigan Teaching Certificate after re-entering Kalamazoo College. She attended the Washington Montessori Institute to earn her AMI Montessori Certification and Loyola University in Baltimore for her Master’s in Education.
Hal Hobson, Music Specialist | e-mail Hal
Originally from Lansing, Hal graduated from WMU in 2000 with a BFA in Musical Theatre Performance and joined our staff as the music specialist in 2001. He has completed levels one through three certifications in Orff-Schulwerk, and has been a session presenter at local and regional Orff conferences.
Hal is very involved in Kalamazoo’s vibrant music scene, including directing community choirs, playing piano and recorder in ensembles, and teaching piano and voice. He composes original transition music for All Ears Theatre, a local radio drama troupe, and participates in theatre productions as an actor, director, and music director at the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, Farmer’s Alley Theatre, and other local stages. When not teaching or in rehearsal, Hal enjoys kayaking, gardening, and visiting Lake Michigan.
Sierra O’Connell-Koon, Art Specialist | e-mail Sierra
Sierra received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and a Minor in Graphic Design through Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids. She is very passionate about the outdoors, growing up hiking, camping, swimming and countless hours of volunteer work with the West Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club. Sierra and her husband have a very large garden and can be spotted at the Richland Farmers Market quite often. Canning, pickling, wine-making, camping, foraging, and kayaking are some of her favorite hobbies.
Sierra has two amazing bonus children; Austin and Ainsley age 10 and 8, and gave birth to her son Brantley in November of 2017. Sierra started out subbing for the Montessori School of Richland in 2015 and fell into a career that not only surprised her but continually keeps a smile on her face. She loves being able to work with the kids and seeing them grow throughout their time here at The Montessori School.
Anne Root | Reading Specialist | e-mail Anne
Anne Root received her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan-Flint. She trained at SLD Read, and has been a tutor with this organization since 1999. Her first tutoring experiences brought her to The Montessori School where she found the Montessori Method intriguing. She has been with the school now for 15 years. In 2013 she completed a 90 hour faith-based Montessori course for primary students. In her free time, she loves to tent camp, sew, and read.
Elementary Support Staff
Karen Bildner | Willow Room Assistant
Karen completed her B.S. in Special Education at WMU. She began her teaching career in Niles Community Schools in 2000 and proceeded to teach at Northeastern Elementary in Kalamazoo from 2001-2007. Karen began tutoring with SLD Read and was trained extensively in Orton-Gilingham methods during her time there from 2007-2018. While tutoring, she also completed her Master’s Degree in Elementary Education with a Reading and Literacy Emphasis. Karen has fallen in love with the Montessori method of education with its focus on the whole child as its emphasis on peace. Karen is blessed with her husband Josiah and two children Caleb and Johannah. She enjoys spending time with her family, sewing, cooking, photography, and drawing.
Siena Beattie | Maple Room Assistant
Siena received a B.A. in Theatre Education and English from Sarah Lawrence College. After graduating she spent a year in Madrid, Spain as an English Language assistant in a public elementary school. She moved to Kalamazoo in November 2019 and began working at The Montessori School shortly after. Siena was a Montessori preschooler herself and is eager to pursue a Montessori teacher certification down the road. Siena loves to travel the world, bake, and has a love of languages including Spanish, and has begun learning ASL.
Ann Pilzner, Head of School | e-mail Ann
Ann has a B.S. in Elementary Education from Oakland University and an M.A. in School Principalship from Central Michigan University. She taught at a traditional school in Detroit for two years before falling in love with the Montessori method while searching for a preschool for her first child. She went on to become a teacher at a Montessori school and later an administrator, opening a public Montessori school in 2013. She has been the Head of School of TMS since 2016. Ann loves to travel, visit Lake Michigan, cook, work in her garden, and spend time with her husband and four children.
Susan Atkinson, Business Manager | e-mail Susan
Susan joined The Montessori School in 1988 when the building on Howard Street was first purchased. In her role, she manages the school’s finances, human resources, and properties. She has a Master’s degree in business administration from Western Michigan University and has more than 30 years’ experience in business management and school operations. Susan has been involved in a number of local non-profits and charities, including as a director on the education board for the League of Women Voters and previously the Portage City Council Parks Board. When she’s not busy with school work or volunteering, Susan loves outdoor adventures with family and friends, gardening, music, sailing, and cycling.
Mary Cox, Marketing & Admissions Coordinator | e-mail Mary
Mary, a Kalamazoo native, is a graduate from Ball State University, where she earned her Bachelor’s in Telecommunications, Media Sales and Promotions, along with a minor in Spanish. She has worked in sponsorship, PR, graphic design and magazine publishing before joining The Montessori school in 2019. In addition to her role as Marketing & Admissions Coordinator, she is excited to spend more time in the classroom this year as a primary assistant. In her year with The Montessori School, she has fallen in love with the Montessori philosophy and is eager to practice it hands-on. In her free time, Mary likes to travel, as friends from college have ended up all over the world, and has a huge passion for music, enjoying a live show whenever possible (in a virus-free world).
Erin Decker | Office Manager | e-mail Erin
Erin is originally from Bay City, and moved to Kalamazoo for college. She graduated from Western Michigan University, earning a Bachelor’s studying Organizational Communication, Nonprofit Leadership, and Environmental & Sustainability Studies. Prior to joining The Montessori school in 2019, Erin worked as the Executive Director of the local youth development nonprofit Open Roads Bike Program. In addition to her role as the Administrative Assistant here at The Montessori School, she is a Photographer and runs her own portrait photography business. Erin and her husband, Ryan, enjoy hiking and traveling together. Erin also loves to read, paint, and bike.
Matt Williams | Facilities Steward
Marsha Shirely | Custodian
Marsha has recently moved to Kalamazoo from the Detroit area. She is originally from Indiana but has lived in Michigan for seven years. As she loves camping, she has enjoyed Michigan even more than expected. She’s really enjoyed traveling around the state and touring the upper peninsula. She also loves reading and gardening. Prior to joining TMS, Marsha has worked in a number of industries including train engine manufacturing, and, most recently, as a custodian for a local public school district. Marsha is excited about working with us and looks forward to learning more about Montessori.