Kalamazoo Primary Guides
Emma Young, Juniper Room Lead Guide | e-mail Emma
Emma received her AMI primary diploma from The Montessori Training Center of Minnesota in the spring of 2014. Emma has been involved in The Montessori School community since the fall of 2011 as a teacher’s assistant at both campuses. She received her Bachelor of Arts from WMU, exploring every medium she could get her hands on. She especially loves printmaking and finding ways to make art accessible to all people. Emma was a Montessori child herself from the ages of 3 to 12. This experience has led her to become a life long learner, lover of the arts, and an advocate for the child. Emma loves gardening, spending time with animals, reading, and cooking.
Megan Schopf, Oak Room Lead Guide | e-mail Megan
Megan has a BA in History from the University of Colorado and received her AMS Montessori certification in 2009 from the Adrian Dominican Montessori Training Institute. She interned at The Montessori School and began her Montessori teaching career at Brookview School in Benton Harbor, Michigan. She joined The Montessori School in 2017. Prior to becoming a Montessori teacher, she designed and facilitated learning experiences that supported the development of the person and of the family across Southwest Michigan. She also served as artist-in-residence for a healthcare consulting organization in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is a life long learner who enjoys long walks in the woods, sharing meals with those she loves, and reading as much and as often as she can.
All-Year Montessori Guides
Lauren Grinnell-Ackerman, All-Year Montessori 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
Richland Primary Guides
Jenny Madden, Catalpa Room Lead Guide | e-mail Jenny
Jenny is a graduate of the Adrian Dominican Montessori Teacher Training Institute. She has an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education from Kellogg Community College and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Family Life Education from Spring Arbor University. She is also AMS certified. She has been with The Montessori School since 2003. A nature and outdoor enthusiast, she enjoys collecting rocks on the shores of Lake Michigan and spending time running outdoors in the beauty and splendor of the countryside. She recently completed her second marathon.
Lee Sanchez, Birch Room Lead Guide | e-mail Lee
Lee Sanchez is an AMI Montessori guide for 3-6-year-olds. She graduated from the Maria Montessori Institute in London, England in 2010. She taught in bilingual Montessori schools in the Dominican Republic for over three years at the primary and elementary levels. She has also taught at the first Montessori school in Guatemala and helped to start their bilingual program. She has a Masters in Education in World Language Instruction from Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota and has written her thesis on simultaneous bilingual literacy development in children ages 3-5. She joined The Montessori School in 2017.
Additionally, Lee is the center director for Hands and Feet Family Music in Hastings, Michigan, where she lives and teaches Music Together® and Canta y Baila Conmigo® (a nationally recognized music and movement Spanish program). Lee received her bachelor’s degree from Hope College, where she graduated magna cum laude.
Richland Support Staff
Sierra O’Connell-Koon, After-School Coordinator | 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.
Iris Ortiz, Catalpa Room Spanish-speaking Assistant | email Iris
Interested in a tour or meeting some of our primary staff? Contact us today!
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.
Sam Hartman, Art Specialist & Willow Room Assistant, | e-mail Sam
Sam’s educational career has been as diverse as her skill sets; from empowering minority families with critical literacy skills, to using the scientific process to improve inventions with the next generation’s aspiring entrepreneurs. After earning her Elementary Education degree, she worked throughout the Kalamazoo community both in the traditional classroom and in youth development programs. Joining the team of educators at The Montessori School in 2014 has provided the opportunity to share many of her passions with the children, but none more so than her love of art. By establishing the school’s Elementary Art program, Sam hopes to inspire students to find the interdisciplinary connections between the visual arts and traditional areas of study.
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.
Originally from Watervliet, MI, Avery graduated from Western Michigan University with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and minor in Biology. She has been at The Montessori School since 2015, working as an Assistant in the Juniper room, and as the Childcare Coordinator for the Primary classrooms. Her education and varied work history have instilled a passion for learning as much as she can about new subjects. Avery enjoys many hobbies in her spare time, including knitting, gardening, and cooking. She plans to use these personal passions as well as her academic passions to engage children in the classroom and the childcare environment.
Jessica Hagen, Elementary Coordinator | e-mail Jessica
Jessica has an Associate of Applied Science in Early Childhood Education and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Child and Family Development at Western Michigan University. She will graduate in December 2019. Jessica is also pursuing her certification in outdoor and environmental education through the Michigan Alliance for Environmental and Outdoor Education. She is passionate about place-based learning, outdoor education, hiking, biking, and photography. Jessica has been at The Montessori School since 2016
To schedule a tour and meet some of our elementary staff, contact us today!
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 concept 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 at TMS since 2016.
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 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. Mary is a Kalamazoo native, growing up just up the street from our Richland campus. In her free time, she 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.
Megan Gunter, Primary and Licensing Coordinator | e-mail Megan
Megan has a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and Psychology, and a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She received AMS primary credentials from the Montessori Educational Institute of North America, in Jackson, TN. She interned and worked at The Children’s House of Nashville in a primary Montessori classroom as a lead guide. She has been with The Montessori School since 2018. Megan is a lifelong learner, enjoys hiking, taking her dog on walks, and spending time with family and friends.
Sandy Mack, Assistant to the Business Manager| e-mail Sandy
Erin Denay, Receptionist | e-mail Erin
To schedule a tour and meet some of our staff, contact us today!