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.
Samantha Peterson, Guide
Samantha was raised in Mazomanie and is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin – Madison where she earned her bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies. After working in the MCMS Toddler Community last school year, Samantha decided to pursue her AMI Montessori training for the 0 to 3-year-old age level through the Montessori Institute in Denver, Colorado this summer. Samantha has found that working with the toddlers has allowed her to apply the skills she has acquired through her education directly to the classroom. In her free time, she enjoys reading, crocheting, being outdoors, spending time with her dog, Finn, and spending time with family and friends.
Macaulay Haller, Program Assistant
Macaulay was born in Madison and graduated from Verona High School. She went on to study at UW-Madison and recently earned her bachelor's degree in microbiology. Macaulay obtained her AMI Montessori Assistant Certificate after completing a rigorous training course in the winter of 2013 through the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee. After many years of being involved in evening childcare and the summer programs here at MCMS, Macaulay was eager to join the staff full time in 2012. She loves being a part of the children’s learning, and enjoys watching them grow as students and as individuals. She is very excited to continue working as a toddler assistant and learning even more about the Montessori philosophy. 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 one child attending MCMS, and two sons who graduated from MCMS and are 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 School and has called Wisconsin home for the past eleven 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 holds a bachelor’s degree with a double major in psychology and sociology from UW-Madison. Post-graduation, she worked in Chicago as a counselor and intake/discharge specialist in inpatient psychiatric settings. After discovering Montessori through a childhood friend, Tracy felt the calling of this peaceful, respectful, joyful method of education and decided to pursue a new career. Tracy currently holds primary certification diplomas from both AMS (Seton Montessori Institute) and AMI (Montessori Institute of Milwaukee). She was a Children’s House lead guide and fulfilled Educational Director responsibilities at Keystone Montessori School in River Forest, Illinois for eight years. 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, one in Lower Elementary and one in Upper 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, together discovering the world around them. In her free time, Tracy enjoys biking and rediscovering the magic of Madison with her family.
Kim Wipperfurth, Program Assistant
Kim grew up in Madison and received her assistant and lead teacher qualifications from MATC. She obtained her AMI Montessori Assistant Certificate after completing a rigorous training course in the winter of 2013 through the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee. Kim 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.
Ashley Buggs, Program Assistant
Ashley was born and raised in small town South Dakota. She earned her bachelor's degrees in psychology and alcohol & drug studies from the University of South Dakota. Ashley's passion has always been to work with children and families, and her career path has led her to the discovery of Montessori. She is currently pursuing her Montessori certification for the 3 to 6-year-old through the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. Ashley loves being around children and feels their energy and enthusiasm is contagious! After serving as a substitute teacher here, she is very excited to begin her career with MCMS in the Children's House. In her spare time, Ashley enjoys traveling, yoga, being outdoors and spending time with family and friends.
Bhavani Nagaraj, Program Assistant
Bhavani is an assistant 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. Bhavani obtained her AMI Montessori Assistant Certificate after completing a rigorous training course in the winter of 2013 through the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee. 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.
Kate Sargent, Guide
Kate Sargent joins us from Lake Forest, Illinois, where she graduated from Lake Forest College with a degree in English. She received her AMI elementary certification (for 6-12 year olds) at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee, and then worked at a Montessori school in Lake Forest for two years. Kate received her master's degree in education from Loyola University of Maryland.
Kate is thrilled to have the opportunity to be a lower elementary teacher at MCMS. Her favorite aspect of the elementary program is exploring topics, led by the children's interests and creativity. She has previous teaching experience in creative writing workshops, dance and various academic areas with students of all ages.
Kate looks forward to exploring the Madison/Middleton area and participating in her favorite activities: cooking, doing craft projects, playing trivia, and spending time outdoors.
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, Program 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.
Rebecca Bloedorn, Program 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.
Martha Reyes, Guide
Martha is thrilled to spend her fourth year at MCMS as the Upper Elementary guide! Prior to discovering Montessori, she received her degree in art and child psychology at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. She has more than ten 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 joining 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 the writing of Maria Montessori, she knew that this approach perfectly matched her beliefs about education. She immediately enrolled in the AMI elementary training program at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee, and joined MCMS after graduating. In her spare time, Martha enjoys embracing her artistic side, being outdoors, and spending time with her family.
Leigh Birmingham, Program Assistant/After School Care
Leigh is a licensed theatre education teacher and a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. For the last five years, she has taught drama to children of all ages and spent two years serving as the K-5 drama teacher at the School of Technology and Arts in La Crosse. Leigh also has created and led several state and national workshops on the use of creative drama and its benefits within the education system. She has extensive experience in theatre production, performance, and the practice of integrative drama in the classroom as well as in an after school setting. She has directed several plays including productions of "The Arabian Nights", “The Wizard of Oz” and most recently, “Goldilocks: On Trial”. She has spent the last two years serving as Program Manager to seven after school programs in Dane County, and is excited to join the community here at MCMS.
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 attended Edgewood College in Madison, where she received a B.S. in English and creative writing; she returned in 2005 to study secondary education for two years. Since then, she has worked in both pre-K and after-school programs. 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. Amanda and her husband Joe live in historic Evansville with their son, Luca.
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 Children's House guide and now as part of the administrative team. She attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota where she graduated cum laude with a degree in studio art. She received her AMI Primary diploma from the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota in 1991, studying with Chulanganee Fernando, who herself was trained by Maria Montessori in India. After teaching for several years in Minnesota, Meghan moved back to Baraboo, Wisconsin to be closer to family and was fortunate enough to discover MCMS! Along with her siblings, Meghan has been caring for her mom (who has advanced Alzheimers) at home for many years, and has a special interest in the many ways that the Montessori Method can be applied to enrich the lives of our elders with Alzheimers.
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.