Meet Our Faculty & Staff
We believe any school is only as good as its faculty. These individuals are the essential link between the child and the educational philosophy, the learning materials and the prepared environment. They need to be dedicated, committed "guides" and, through observation, continuously striving to know each child as an individual and must also have the ability to work well within the school community of teachers and parents. Our teaching and administrative staff reflects these attributes, bringing a diverse educational background and a long term commitment to MCMS.
Maura McHugh, Guide
Maura was born and raised in Boston, MA. She first moved to Madison as an undergraduate to attend UW-Madison where she received her degree in Child Development in 2005. She then returned to Boston where she taught early childhood and received her Masters in Education. In 2010 Maura moved back to Madison and began teaching in the Children’s House After School Program at MCMS. Realizing how much she loved Montessori, Maura then enrolled in the Assistants to Infancy training program at The Montessori Institute in Denver, CO. She graduated from the program this past August of 2012 and can’t wait to begin working in the Toddler Community. In her spare time, Maura loves running marathons, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.
Tracy Kramer, Assistant
Tracy was raised in Madison and received her BA in Psychology and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin in 1990. After graduation, she moved to Chicago to work in inpatient psychiatric settings. After discovering Montessori through a childhood friend, Tracy completed her primary certification at Seton Montessori Institute in 1997 and taught in the Children’s House at Keystone Montessori School in River Forest, IL until 2004. In 2011, Tracy moved back to Madison and brought her family with her. She feels fortunate to have found in MCMS an exemplary environment for her daughters, ages 5 & 7, to continue their Montessori education. Tracy is thrilled to be joining the staff at MCMS and is honored to partner with young children as they begin their Montessori journey.
Anna McAleavy, Guide
Anna has lived in Madison, WI for most of her life. She graduated from UW Madison with a degree in Early Childhood Education, and later attended the Midwest Montessori Institute in Milwaukee where she received her Primary level Montessori training in 1991. She taught several years in Janesville, WI before returning in 1993 to Madison and MCMS where she has been teaching ever since. Anna and her husband have 2 children attending MCMS, ages 8 and 12 and also a son who graduated and is now attending high school. She and her family like to explore different Wisconsin parks where they enjoy hiking, biking and camping.
Kim Wipperfurth, Assistant
Kim grew up here in Madison, graduating from West High, and she received her assistant and lead teacher qualifications from MATC. She has been on staff at MCMS since August 1992. Kim worked with toddlers for 3 years and then moved on to work with the Children’s House After School program for many years. She has now been assisting in the Children's House program for the past few years and has found her home. Kim feels very fortunate to be part of such a wonderful school community for so many years and she is excited to continue working and growing here at MCMS. Both of her children have completed the Children's House program here. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, scrapbooking, camping and spending time with her family.
Emily Togstad, Guide
Emily grew up in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and knew early on that she wanted to be a Montessori educator. After obtaining a BBA in Marketing from Loyola College in Maryland, she returned to Loyola to pursue a Masters of Education with a Montessori concentration. Emily received her AMI primary certification from the Montessori Education Center of Arizona in Phoenix, Arizona. After teaching in Phoenix and Nashville, TN, Emily was in search of a school with a commitment to the AMI philosophy, a strong community and wonderful staff. She found just that in Madison Community Montessori and has called Wisconsin home for the past 9 years. Emily lives in a one hundred year old purple house in Mount Horeb, WI, with her husband and two daughters, who also attend MCMS.
Mallory Shotwell, Assistant
Mallory Shotwell was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan where she attended Aquinas College. She is now finishing her elementary education degree in Madison. She has been in childcare for the past fourteen years, working with families as a nanny and with children in inner city schools in Brooklyn, New York. She believes she was born to be a teacher and is excited to join the MCMS school this fall where she can practice the Montessori philosophy that she has been studying for the past ten years. Mallory is also excited that her three year old son can attend the school this fall. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, camping with her son, and reading.
After School Programs
Susanne Smebak, After-School Club Teacher
Susanne comes from a family of educators. When Susanne was twelve, her family moved to Nigeria, West Africa so her father could help in developing teacher training schools and elementary education for the country. Two of the three years spent in Nigeria, Susanne went to school in Yorkshire, England. Later, one of her first work experiences was developing and running the childcare program for a large homeless shelter in San Francisco. While there she studied early childhood education, and found both the Waldorf methods and Montessori methods inspiring to her work. Susanne later moved to Indianapolis, where she worked as a teacher for two different Montessori schools. Soon after her son was born, Susanne and her husband decided to move back to the Madison area to be closer to both of their families. After their daughter was born, they were fortunate to purchase Susanne's parents farm and began homeschooling their children, which included animal husbandry and organic gardening. Susanne went on to get certification as a Master Gardener and also in Permaculture Design, and she very much looks forward to applying these skills in her position at Madison Community Montessori. She is excited to be a part of the MCMS community as it settles into this wonderful new location with all the opportunities it offers.
Bhavani is very excited to join MCMS in the CHAS program! After substituting at MCMS and at other preschools in the Madison area, she discovered her passion for the Montessori approach. A webdesigner and PC Hardware Support Specialist in Frankfurt, Germany previously, she is now pursuing her Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education.
Having been raised by a Montessori-trained mother, she is very excited to have her own daughter experience MCMS. She feels blessed to be able to join this school community as a teacher and parent. In her spare time, she loves taking care of the environment, hiking, swimming, camping, baking, cooking, traveling, yoga, Indian dancing and Zumba.
Amanda is thrilled to join the MCMS staff as a Children's House After School (CHAS) team teacher! Born and raised in northern Wisconsin, she attended Edgewood College in Madison, where she received a B.S. in English and Creative Writing; she returned to the college in 2005 to study Secondary Education for two years. Amanda has been teaching a Pre-K class for the last five years, and she is enchanted with the Montessori philosophy and eager to learn more about the practice! She is a published writer, with short fiction appearing in several literary magazines, and she enjoys painting, crocheting and creating. Amanda lives with her husband in Evansville, WI, where they share their century-old farmhouse with two mischievous cats.
Anna Gage, Guide
Anna is so grateful for the opportunity to be working with the staff and families of MCMS. Her mother was a Montessori Primary guide, so Montessori has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember and then some. In 2010, driven by an unyielding desire to continue learning, a goal of sharing what she had been given with others, and many conversations with close friends and family, Anna was inspired to pursue an AMI Montessori Elementary Certification. In May of 2011 she completed the training program at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee. Anna holds a B.A. in English Literature from Marquette University in Milwaukee, WI. Marquette's school motto, Cura Personalis, or "care for the whole person", continues to guide Anna in all that she does, as it reinforces a message her parents emphasized all her life: the circumstances from which an individual comes are unique; every person has something to offer; every human being deserves to be treated with respect. Prior to teaching at MCMS, Anna spent several summers working with children of all ages at a YMCA summer camp in northern Wisconsin.
Sofia Refetoff, Assistant and Spanish Teacher
Sofia grew up in Chicago, attending the University of Chicago Laboratory schools. She later graduated from college at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Additionally, she studied at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, having long been interested in the Spanish language and associated cultures. Later, she completed a PhD in Zoology at UW-Madison, focusing on the physiological and social influences on parental behavior in monkeys. Her eldest daughter attended a Montessori school seven years ago and thus began Sofiaís interest and love for Montessori education. Sofia feels fortunate that her youngest daughter, now three years old, attends MCMS, allowing mother and daughter to experience Montessori together. Sofia has been an educator since she first began to teach reading as a 9-year-old volunteer in the underserved communities on the south side of Chicago. She is grateful for the opportunity to share her enthusiasm for the Spanish language with Lower Elementary friends and to be part of the MCMS community.
Martha Reyes, Guide
Martha is very excited to return to MCMS for her second year as a Lower Elementary Guide. Prior to discovering Montessori, she received her degree in Art and Child Psychology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She has 9 years of experience working with children and youth ranging in age from 1 month to 17 years old in settings including day camps, homeless shelters, after school youth programs, and day treatment centers. At her last position before coming to MCMS, she worked at a youth program creating hands-on, arts-based curriculum. It was through this job that Martha learned about the Montessori Method, and after reading a few articles about it, she knew that Montessori perfectly matched her beliefs about education. She immediately enrolled in the elementary training program at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee, and at MCMS is now working with her favorite age group: 6 to 9 year olds. In her spare time, Martha enjoys being outdoors, making things and spending time with her family, friends and pets.
Marisol Garcia, Assistant and Spanish Teacher
Marisol joined MCMS during the 2009-10 school year as a classroom assistant in Lower Elementary. She is completing her Associate's Degree in Elementary Education and is interested in continuing on to receive her Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood/Elementary Education. Marisol finds that her work in the classroom is a great opportunity to apply the skills she is gaining through her schooling. She has chosen education as her career because she has always been grateful for her own educational experiences; Marisol wants to give back to a school community. Marisol is fluent in English and Spanish.
Carrie Ellis, Guide
Carrie is in her 13th year teaching Upper Elementary at MCMS. Upon receiving her AMI Elementary Montessori diploma, she taught Lower Elementary at Milwaukee Montessori School for one year, where she opened the third Lower Elementary class with 12 first year students. Carrie holds a BS in Business Administration and an AB in Mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis. In her first job after college, she taught high school mathematics at University School in Milwaukee. She also coached high school volleyball and basketball for many years.
Walt Gnesdilow, Assistant
In his sixth year here at MCMS, Walt is continuing his work with the Upper Elementary class as the assistant. With over 20 years of professional experience with students of all backgrounds, Walt looks forward to sharing in the learning here at MCMS.
Alicia Pelton, Physical Education Teacher
Bio coming soon...
Esther deVries, UE/AD Spanish Language & Culture Teacher
Esther was born in Bucaramanga, Colombia. She graduated from the University of North Carolina with a Bachelor's degree in Management, and continued her studies in education receiving her teaching license from Greensboro College. Esther taught Spanish to children from kindergarten through 4th grade in both North Carolina and California. She has also taught Spanish I and II at the high school level in Virginia. Esther and her husband, John, have three children: Angelique (high school), Monique (middle school) and John (elementary school). After moving many times, Esther is happy to be here in Madison and is excited to teach Spanish again. She enjoys teaching and sharing the Spanish language and culture with children.
Laurie Rossbach, Art Teacher
Laurie Rossbach is teaching art for the sixth year at MCMS. Laurie has a BS in Art from UW Madison and has worked as a professional artist and art teacher for over 17 years. As well as teaching, Laurie participates in Madtown Liberty Players political theater group. Laurie lives in Madison with her son Rowan (3).
Scott McIntyre, Guide
Scott has been with Madison Community Montessori since 2006. He is originally from Northern Michigan where he earned degrees in Business Management and in Forestry at Michigan Technological University. After five years of working in the greater Detroit area, Scott came to Wisconsin in 2001 to earn a Masters Degree in Environmental Education at UW-Stevens Point. After earning his Masters he went to work at Nature’s Classroom Institute, where he thoroughly enjoyed working with Montessori adolescents in the Environmental Education program. Working with Montessori adolescents inspired him to pursue his own Montessori Adolescent Certification, which he attained in his first year at MCMS. Scott continues to enjoy working with the adolescents as they begin finding their place in the larger world. In his free time he enjoys running, biking, camping, hiking, and exploring the outdoors of Wisconsin with his family.
Johanna Kenney, Guide
Johanna Kenney has spent the majority of her life in the Montessori environment. Born and raised in Chicago, Johanna entered Near North Montessori at age two and graduated from their 8th grade, only to return in 1997 as a middle school teacher. While teaching, Johanna earned her Masters of Education with a focus on the Montessori adolescent from Goddard College in Vermont. She joined the MCMS community as an adolescent guide in 2005. Later, she assisted in Lower Elementary for three years while raising her two young children, both of whom currently attend MCMS. Returning to the Adolescent Program this year, Johanna continues to find the Montessori environment personally inspiring and rewarding.
Vicki McCarthy, Head of School
Soon after obtaining her Bachelor degree in Elementary Education, Vicki experienced a Montessori classroom firsthand and immediately fell in love with the philosophy. In 1998, Vicki began working at a private Montessori school in Milwaukee, where she completed her AMI elementary training for ages 6-12, and went on to teach for a number of years at both Lower and Upper Elementary. Continuing her studies, Vicki went on to pursue two Master degrees, one in Education and another in Educational Leadership. In 2007, her family moved to California, where she became the Associate Head of School at a private Montessori school in Santa Barbara. It was during her time in CA that she also obtained her primary training (ages 3-6) through North American Montessori Center. In 2009, Vicki became Head of School at MCMS. Both of her children attended Montessori schools from toddler through 8th grade and are now thriving in high school. Vicki credits the Montessori philosophy for her children's successful experiences in high school; their inner motivation to learn, their time management skills and their ability to self-advocate were all learned and practiced first under the watchful eyes and nurturing hands of their Montessori Guides.
Laura Spitzig, Director of Development
Laura attended UW Stout in Menomonie, receiving her BS in Early Childhood Education. She moved on to UW Eau Claire where she was certified in Elementary Education. After her daughter was born, Laura became interested in Montessori education. She worked as office manager at a Montessori school in Houston, Texas and enrolled her daughter in the same school beginning at the age of 18 months. When the family moved to Madison, Laura sought out a Montessori school where her daughter could continue and they found themselves at MCMS. This will be Laura's 19th year here at MCMS.
Rachael Nachtwey, Administrative Assistant
Beginning as a substitute in the MCMS classrooms, Rachael now enjoys her role as the school's Administrative Assistant. Rachael received both her undergrad and graduate degrees in Social Work from UW-Milwaukee and worked for several years as a child welfare social worker. In 2007, she switched gears and turned her eyes toward New York City to pursue her interest in children's media and writing. An avid traveler and hopeless adventurer, she has also lived in Madrid and Berlin which eventually helped her realize how much she missed Wisconsin. Rachael is now very happy to be cultivating a home in Madison while continuing to work with children in the warm, supportive environment of MCMS.
Dorothy Zografi, Head of School Emeritus
Dorothy received her B.S in Education in 1957 and taught fourth grade in public schools until 1960. In 1970 Dorothy was introduced to the Montessori Method of Education living in the Netherlands for one year where her four children attended a Montessori school. Inspired and intrigued by what she observed during that year, she was convinced that she wanted her future teaching career to focus on the Montessori Method of Education. In 1977 Dorothy enrolled in the Midwest Montessori Institute in Milwaukee and received her AMI Primary Teaching Certificate in 1978, which launched her long career at Madison Central Montessori School. Dorothy was a Primary Directress until 1990 when she “retired” from the classroom and devoted her full attention to Administration. In that role she worked to “grow” the school from two Primary classrooms to what we enjoy today, offerings for children 18 months to 14 years. Dorothy retired as Head of School in 2006 but enjoys her present role as a Board member, where she can remain in touch with the school’s excellent Administration and Staff, wonderful children and community of parents, as well as being a witness to a fulfilled dream of hers for a permanent home for MCMS in a beautiful indoor and outdoor environment.
Meghan Smyth, Director of Education & Admissions
Meghan has been with MCMS since 1993, first as a Primary Guide and now in Administration. She attended Macalester College in St. Paul, MN where she graduated with a degree in Studio Art. She received her Primary Montessori diploma from the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota in 1991. After teaching for several years in Minnesota, Meghan moved back to Wisconsin to be closer to family and was fortunate enough to discover MCMS! She lives in Baraboo and enjoys the beauty of this part of the state.
Sally Balson, Bookkeeper
Sally started at MCMS in the summer of 2010 as the school's part-time bookkeeper. She brings 30 years of administrative and accounting experience to the position. Sally currently owns her own bookkeeping business as well, which keeps her quite busy when she's away from the school. Sally has a positive and enthusiastic attitude, and is always happy to help.