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.
Susan Goebel Gibson, Toddler Lead Teacher
Raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, Susan has a bachelor's in history from the University of Cincinnati and a master's of education from Xavier University. Susan is also a certified lower elementary Montessori teacher (AMS), and taught in a public Montessori program before raising her family. This year, she returns to Montessori in the Toddler Community. Susan's family has been involved with MCMS since 2004 and all three of her children are now enrolled at the school. In her free time, Susan enjoys being outside with her amazing dog, Snarfy, playing soccer and reading.
Macaulay Haller, Toddler Program Assistant
Macaulay was born in Madison and graduated from Verona High School. She went on to study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and recently earned her bachelor's degree in microbiology. For several years, Macaulay was involved in evening childcare at MCMS and had assisted in summer programs as well. Macaulay loves being a part of the children’s learning, and enjoys watching them grow as students and as individuals. She is very excited to be working as a toddler assistant and looks forward to learning more about the Montessori philosophy while becoming more involved with the school community. In her spare time, Macaulay enjoys traveling, running, and being outdoors.
Anna McAleavy, Guide
Anna has lived in Madison 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 AMI primary certification in 1991. She taught for several years in Janesville before returning in 1993 to Madison and MCMS where she has been teaching ever since. Anna and her husband have two children attending MCMS, and a son who graduated from MCMS and is now attending high school. She and her family like to explore different Wisconsin parks where they enjoy hiking, biking and camping.
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 bachelor's degree in marketing from Loyola College in Maryland, she returned to Loyola to pursue a master's of education with a Montessori concentration. Emily received her AMI primary certification from the Montessori Education Center of Arizona in Phoenix. After teaching in Phoenix and in Nashville, Tennessee, Emily found herself 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 ten years. Emily lives in a 100-year-old purple house in Mount Horeb, with her husband and two daughters, who also attend MCMS.
Tracy Kramer, Guide
Tracy was raised in Madison and received a bachelor's in psychology and sociology from UW-Madison. Post-graduation, she moved to Chicago to work in inpatient psychiatric settings. After discovering Montessori through a childhood friend, Tracy received her primary certification at Seton Montessori Institute in 1997 and taught in the Children's House at Keystone Montessori School in River Forest, Illinois. 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, both in Lower Elementary, to continue their Montessori education. Tracy is thrilled to be part of the MCMS staff and is honored to be partnering with young children, discovering the world around them together. In her free time, Tracy enjoys biking and rediscovering the magic of Madison with her family.
Kim Wipperfurth, Assistant
Kim grew up in Madison and received her assistant and lead teacher qualifications from MATC. She has used her various talents on staff at MCMS since 1992. After working with toddlers for three years, Kim then moved on to work with the Children’s House After School program for many years. She has since found her home, assisting in the Children's House program for the past several years. Kim feels very fortunate to be part of such a wonderful school community for so long and is excited to continue working and growing 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.
Rebecca Bloedorn, Assistant
Rebecca has lived and worked in ten different states, but now calls Wisconsin home. She has always loved being around children and knew early on that she wanted to teach. Before she found Montessori, Rebecca taught at Nature's Classroom on the east coast, taught wilderness survival skills at a summer camp in Vermont, and also dabbled in teaching gymnastics, dance and English to young children nationally and internationally. Rebecca graduated with a bachelor's in environmental education from Evergreen State College in Olympia, received her AMI elementary certification from the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee and earned a master's in education from Loyola College in Baltimore. After working as an upper elementary assistant here at MCMS, she took her first lead teaching position in Flagstaff, Arizona. Rebecca and her family have returned to Wisconsin to be near family and to plant roots. Both her children attend MCMS in the Toddler and Children's House programs. In any spare time, Rebecca enjoys reading, swimming, hiking, and writing but most of all, spending time with her family.
Bhavani Nagaraj, Assistant
Bhavani is very excited to assist in MCMS's third Children's House classroom. After substituting at MCMS and at other preschools in the Madison area, Bhavani discovered her passion for the Montessori approach. Previously a web designer and PC hardware support specialist in Frankfurt, Germany, she is now pursuing her associate's degree in early childhood education. Having been raised by a Montessori trained mother, Bhavani is happy to have her own daughter experience MCMS. She feels blessed to be able to join this school community as a teacher as well as a parent. In her spare time, she loves traveling, yoga, Indian dancing and doing her part to care for the environment.
Martha Reyes, Guide
Martha is thrilled to be in her third year as a lower elementary guide at MCMS. Prior to discovering Montessori, she received her degree in art and child psychology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She has nine years of experience working with children and youth ranging in age from 1 month to 17 years 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. After reading a few articles about it, she knew that Montessori perfectly matched her beliefs about education. She immediately enrolled in the AMI elementary training program at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee, and is now working at MCMS with her favorite age group: 6 to 9-year-olds. In her spare time, Martha enjoys embracing her artistic side, being outdoors, and spending time with her family, friends and pets.
Anna Gage, Guide
Anna is grateful for the opportunity to be working with the staff and families of MCMS. Her mother was a Montessori children's house teacher so Montessori has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. In 2010, driven by an unyielding desire to continue learning, a goal of sharing 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 bachelor's in English literature from Marquette University in Milwaukee. Marquette's school motto, Cura Personalis, or "care for the whole person", continues to guide Anna in all that she does, reinforcing a message her parents emphasized throughout 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.
Marisol Garcia, Assistant
Marisol has been a lower elementary assistant at MCMS since the 2009-2010 school year. She has an associate's degree in elementary education and is now working towards her bachelor's in K-3 and early special 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 and wants to give back to a school community. Marisol is fluent in English and Spanish and shares her knowledge of the Spanish language with both of the Lower Elementary classes.
Carrie Ellis, Guide
Carrie is in her 14th year teaching Upper Elementary at MCMS. Upon receiving her AMI Elementary Montessori certificate, 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 bachelor's in business administration as well as a bachelor's 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 seventh year here at MCMS, Walt is continuing his work with the Upper Elementary class as the classroom assistant. With over 20 years of professional experience with students of all backgrounds, Walt enjoys sharing in the learning here at MCMS. Walt is also embedded in the Madison music scene as a radio program host on a local station. He shares his love of music with the students in the school community. In his spare time, Walt enjoys long walks with his dog.
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 1999 to earn a master's degree in environmental education at UW-Stevens Point. Afterwards, he went to work at Nature’s Classroom Institute, where he thoroughly enjoyed working with Montessori adolescents in the environmental education program. Working with these adolescents inspired him to pursue his own Montessori adolescent certification, which he attained in his first year at MCMS. Scott continues to enjoy his time with 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 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 teacher in the Adolescent Program. While teaching, Johanna earned her master's in 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 attend MCMS. Having returned to the Adolescent Program in 2012, Johanna continues to find the Montessori environment inspiring and rewarding.
After School Programs
Susanne Smebak, After School Club
Susanne comes from a family of educators. When Susanne was twelve, her family moved to Nigeria, West Africa so her father could help develop 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 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 now happily applies these skills in her position at Madison Community Montessori School. She is excited to be a part of the MCMS community, particularly in this wonderful location with all of the opportunities it offers.
Mallory Shotwell, Children's House After School
Mallory 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 be a part of the MCMS community, where she can practice the Montessori philosophy that she has been studying for the past ten years. In her spare time, she enjoys photography, camping with her son, and reading.
Amanda Viviani, Children's House After School
Amanda is very happy to be in her second year with the MCMS Children's House After School (CHAS) program! Born and raised in Medford, Wisconsin, she attended Edgewood College in Madison, where she received a bachelor's in English and creative writing; she returned in 2005 to study secondary education for two years. Growing up in a family of educators, Amanda was exposed to mostly traditional ideas of pedagogy, but has since been charmed by the creative, individualized nurturing that a Montessori environment provides children. She is a published writer, with short fiction appearing in several literary magazines, and enjoys painting, cooking, crocheting and creating. Amanda and her husband live in historic Evansville, where they share their century-old farmhouse with two mischievous cats.
Alicia Pelton, Physical Education Teacher
Alicia grew up in Janesville and eagerly participated in almost every sport she had the opportunity to try. She went on to attend UW-Madison to run track & field and obtain her degree in sociology. After college, Alicia played basketball in the Swedish Elite League and also lived in England and across the U.S. while her husband played professional hockey. After her husband's retirement and their move back to Madison, Alicia was the innovator and owner of My First Sports, LLC until she welcomed her daughter into the family. During the past 25 years, she has experienced many different aspects of her life's vocation from volunteer youth coach, high school coach, manager, board member, teacher, mentor, player, and parent, all which give her a unique, in-depth understanding of sports and fitness. She loves to let students experience many different activities and help direct them as they start to gravitate towards the ones they will further develop throughout their lives. She was recently inducted into the Janesville Sports Hall of Fame. Alicia and John have two children, a son who is an MCMS graduate and a current high school student and a daughter who is a current member of the Upper Elementary class.
Esther deVries, Elementary/Adolescent 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). Esther is happy to be teaching Spanish here at MCMS; she enjoys teaching and sharing the Spanish language and culture with the children in the MCMS community.
Melissa Ozel, Art Teacher
Melissa is delighted to rejoin the vibrant MCMS community as the Art Specialist! She began cultivating a love of arts and expression from a very young age and enjoys nurturing the creative spirits of the children at MCMS. Melissa holds a bachelor's degree in art from UW-Madison, an AMI primary certificate & a master's of education from Loyola University. She has fulfilled many roles at MCMS since 2001, most recently serving on the Board of Directors and previously as a Children's House Montessori Guide. She and her husband have two children, one of whom attends MCMS, and a red dog with the nickname "Rooster".
Vicki McCarthy, Head of School
Soon after obtaining her bachelor's degree in elementary education, Vicki experienced a Montessori classroom firsthand and immediately fell in love with the philosophy. In 1998, she began working at a private Montessori school in Milwaukee, where she completed her AMI elementary training for ages 6-12. She went on to teach for a number of years in both Lower and Upper Elementary classrooms. Continuing her studies, Vicki completed two master's 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 California 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 bachelor's 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. While working as an office manager at a Montessori school in Houston, Texas, she 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. Laura is currently celebrating her 20th 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 bachelor'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 while 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, Dorothy was convinced that she wanted her future teaching career to focus on the Montessori method of education. In 1977, she enrolled in the Midwest Montessori Institute in Milwaukee and received her AMI primary certificate in 1978, which launched her long career at Madison Community Montessori School. Dorothy was a primary guide 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, ages 12 months to 14 years. Dorothy retired as Head of School in 2006, but enjoys her present role as a Board member emeritus, where she can remain in touch with the school’s excellent administration and staff as well as the wonderful children and community of parents. She is also thrilled to be a witness to her fulfilled dream of 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, Minnesota where she graduated with a degree in studio art. She received her AMI primary certificate 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.
Jackie Rosenow, Business Manager
Jackie started at MCMS in the winter of 2014 as the school's part-time Business Manager. She earned degrees in both sociology and accounting at UW-Whitewater. She resides on the west side of Madison with her husband and new baby boy. Jackie always has a positive attitude and enjoys helping others with any questions or concerns.