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 is a proud Bostonian turned proud Madisonian! She is a UW-Madison graduate, who received her undergraduate degree in child development. Maura then earned her Masters in Education at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. Most recently, she completed her AMI Assistants to Infancy training (for children from birth to 3 years of age) at the Montessori Institute of Denver, CO. Maura loves working with the toddlers, and observing the excitement and curiosity they come in with each day. In her spare time, Maura loves to run marathons, ride her bike, and walk around her Madison neighborhood.
Macaulay Haller, Toddler AM 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 has been involved in evening child care at MCMS and has assisted in summer programs as well. Macaulay loves being a part of the children’s learning, and enjoys watching them grow as students and individuals. She is very excited to be working as a toddler assistant alongside Maura, and looks forward to learning more about the Montessori philosophy and becoming more involved with the school’s faculty and community. In her spare time, Macaulay enjoys traveling, running, and being outdoors.
Susan Goebel Gibson, Toddler PM Program Assistant
Susan Goebel Gibson grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio. She has a BA in History from the University of Cincinnati and an M. Ed. from Xavier University. Susan is also a certified Lower Elementary Montessori teacher (AMS), and taught in a public Montessori program before raising her family. She returns to Montessori as an assistant in the Toddler program. Susan has three children enrolled at MCMS. Her family has been involved with the school since 2004. In her free time, Susan enjoys being outside with her amazing dog, Snarfy, playing soccer and reading.
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 AMI primary certification 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, 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 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.
Tracy Kramer, Guide
Tracy was raised in Madison and received a BA 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, IL. 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 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 several 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.
Rebecca Bloedorn, Assistant
Rebecca has lived and worked in ten different US states, but calls Wisconsin home. She has always loved being around children and early on knew she wanted to teach. Before she found Montessori, she 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 BS in Environmental Education from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, 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 finally settle down and grow roots. Both her children attend MCMS in the toddler and primary 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 help open our 3rd Children's House classroom here at MCMS! 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.
Martha Reyes, Guide
Martha is very excited to return to MCMS for her third 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 AMI 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.
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 Children's House teacher, 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.
Marisol Garcia, Assistant
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 14th 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 seventh 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. Walt is 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 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 teacher in the adolescent program. 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 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 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 now happily applyies 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 the opportunities it offers.
Mallory Shotwell, Children's House After School
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 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 anxious to begin her second year with the MCMS Children's House After School (CHAS) program! Born and raised in Medford, WI, 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 2 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, WI, where they share their century-old farmhouse with two mischevious cats.
Alicia Pelton, Physical Education Teacher
Alicia grew up in Janesville, WI, 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 was playing 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, which gives her a unique in-depth understanding of sports and fitness. She loves to let the students experience many different activities and help direct them as they start to gravitate towards the ones they will develop through their life. Alicia's passion for health and fitness is contagious. She was recently inducted to 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 currently enrolled.
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 our 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 looks forward to nurturing the creative spirits of the children at MCMS. Melissa holds a Bachelor's degree in Art from UW-Madison, an AMI Primary Diploma & a Master's of Education degree 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, who attend MCMS, and a red dog with the nickname "Rooster".
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 complete 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 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 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 Community 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 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, 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 AMI Primary Montessori 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.
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.