STAFF PROFILES – 2016-2017
Beth Bell-Leresche – Director of Parent Engagement
Beth earned her degree in International Relations from Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and is mid-way through her master’s degree in Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. She worked for 20 years in the immigration and refugee fields before coming to MSNV in 2005 as the Admissions Director. Beth also co-teaches theatre camp at MSNV most summers. Beth has two children, Peter –who works at MSNV and Maggie –who attended MSNV.
Catarina Cronquist – Director of Marketing and Communications
Catarina received her Master’s Degree in Gender and Development from the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK and her Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs, with concentrations in International Economics and Development Anthropology, from The Elliott School of International Affairs at The George Washington University. She has worked with the Embassy of Sweden, the Crafts Center, Bread for the World, and, most recently, served as lead contact for coordination and communications with the Program for Biosafety Systems at the International Food Policy Research Institute. She has lived on the west and east coasts of the US, as well as in Sweden, Jamaica and the UK, and has traveled and worked throughout East Africa and Southeast Asia. Catarina attended Montessori at the primary level and has two children enrolled at MSNV.
Elizabeth Hickey – Valleybrook Campus Director and Associate Head of School
Beth holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the University of Maryland College Park and a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Economics from Boston College. Beth’s daughter pursued Montessori education from age 3 through eighth grade, and is now in college. Prior to MSNV, Beth served as a teacher and Primary Level Coordinator at Oak Meadow Montessori School in Massachusetts. Beth, who earned her AMS Early Childhood credential from the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies in Silver Spring, also taught at the Primary level in several Maryland Montessori schools. Her professional background includes experience in the commercial and investment banking industry as well as a focus on environmental issues as a founder and coordinator of the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland.
Diana Hwang – Hillbrook Office Manager
Diana joined MSNV in 2010 as the office manager. She supports the staff, families, and students and works in a variety of ways to ensure MSNV operates smoothly and efficiently. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in Film and Media Studies from George Mason University.
Margaret Masters – Director of Accounting and Human Resources
Margaret earned her undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Virginia and her Senior Professional in Human Resource Certification from HRCI. Margaret supervises the billing, financials, budgeting, payroll, health and safety, technology, and human resources issues at MSNV. She has three children, all of whom attended Montessori schools.
Betsy Mitchell – Head of School
Betsy received her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from George Washington University in 1971. She taught for several years in the Prince George’s County Public School System before coming to MSNV as a classroom assistant to MSNV’s first elementary teacher, Harvey Hallenberg. After several years of volunteer involvement as a parent and Board member at MSNV, Betsy was hired as our Head of School in 1985. Since then, Betsy has successfully grown MSNV to what is now a highly regarded Montessori school with two thriving campuses, serving children from age 2 through 12. The success of that growth is attributed to her ability to cultivate highly qualified and motivated teaching professionals, administration, and support staff. Betsy has also been a driving force in the development of MSNV’s outdoor curriculum and the designation of both campuses as certified wildlife habitats. Betsy has three grown children, all of whom attended Montessori.
Ned Mitchell – Facilities Manager
Ned received his B.A. in Queer Studies from George Washington University in 2008, with a minor in Technical Theater. He managed a local theatrical rigging and drapery company for two years before he was hired at MSNV. He is responsible for ensuring that MSNV has a safe, effective, and beautiful learning environment for the students and staff. He has a particular interest in energy efficiency and sustainable design and practices. He attended MSNV from preprimary through third grade.
Christina Perucci – Director of Admissions and Enrollment Management
Christina received her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Peace & Justice Studies from Tufts University and her master’s degree in Applied Educational Psychology from Teachers College, Columbia University. She has worked as a Reading Specialist in schools and community centers in the Bronx and East Harlem and has also managed an after school reading program serving public schools across New York City. Originally from Northern Virginia, Christina has lived in Boston, San Francisco, New York and Germany. She has two children at MSNV, both enrolled in the lower elementary program.
Tina Savage – Events Coordinator
Tina graduated from George Washington University with degrees in Liberal Arts and Speech Communication. Having attended a Montessori school from age 2-12, Tina has worked in many different capacities in Montessori schools since her teen years. She obtained her Primary credential from The Washington Montessori Institute in Washington, D.C. and has been at MSNV since 1998. She has four children, all of whom attended Montessori, including one daughter who is an Upper Elementary teacher at MSNV.
Anna Sipin – Accounting Clerk
Anna attended Jefferson Business College in Washington, D.C. for a Secretarial Diploma and took Computer-Assisted Bookkeeping with International Correspondence Schools. She joined MSNV in April 2012, bringing with her 19 years of administrative and accounting work experience. Anna assists in the business office with accounts payable, payroll, inventory, credit card and other accounting issues. Anna recently moved to Virginia from Alaska with her family.
Gretchen Straczewski – Advancement Administrative Assistant
Gretchen grew up in the DC area and attended the Academy of the Holy Cross in Kensington, MD. She earned a BA in International Studies and Economics from Washington College and worked in data services and government relations prior to staying home with her two children. Gretchen also works as a yoga teacher with a special interest in pre- and post-natal yoga instruction.
Oanh Tran – Valleybrook Office Manager
Oanh earned her B.A. in Integrative Studies in Social Work from George Mason University. Prior to joining MSNV in 2003, Oanh was heavily involved in community outreach programs helping at-risk youth, mentoring at an advocacy center for people with disabilities, organizing workshops designed to help adolescents increase self-esteem and coordinated an annual cancer research event. Oanh also has previous experience as a Montessori teaching assistant and holds a Virginia Real Estate license. She has two children, both of whom attended MSNV.
Thea Bartha – Learning Specialist
Thea double majored in Early Childhood and Special Education at Salve Regina University in Newport, RI and has a master’s degree in Reading Education from Boston University. She taught at an early intervention center in Brooklyn, NY, working with preschool students. In Boston, MA she taught children with autism and children with learning differences at both the elementary level and middle school level for four years. In 2001 Thea moved to northern Virginia and began teaching as an elementary Montessori teacher. She earned her Elementary credentials in 2003 from the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies and has been an active member of the Montessori community ever since. She has been a consultant for the Institute, mentoring new teachers and has worked as a reading consultant. Thea has tutored students for fifteen years in both math and reading and is trained in both the Wilson Reading System and Orton Gillingham. In addition, Thea is the creator and co-owner of Magnolia Montessori Materials, a company that develops support materials for the elementary classroom. Thea has two children, both of whom attend MSNV.
Heidi Bishop – Resource Teacher
Heidi received her BA in Elementary Education with a minor in Preschool Education from the University of Northern Colorado. She worked as a Montessori assistant for six years before obtaining her Early Childhood credential in 1991 from the National Center for Montessori Education in Bellevue, Washington. Since then, has she taught in various capacities, including three years in Germany and two years in Japan prior to coming to MSNV in 2006 as a Primary Teacher. Heidi has three children.
Jean Carr – Primary Level Coordinator, Primary Teacher
Jean earned a Bachelor’s degree from Whitman College in Washington and a Master of Education in Special Education from the University of Oregon. She taught special education in public school before she received her Early Childhood credential through Southwestern Texas Montessori Training Institute. Jean developed and taught a state-accredited Montessori kindergarten program, developed and taught enrichment programs for students in kindergarten through grade 3, and taught at the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins before coming to work at MSNV in 1993. Jean has six children and six grandchildren.
Amanda Glithero – Lower Elementary Teacher
Amanda has a Bachelor’s degree in Montessori Education from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio and has obtained both upper and lower elementary credentials. She came to MSNV in 2008 after interning at two different schools near Cincinnati in their lower elementary programs.
Sara Grossman – Lower Elementary Teacher
Sara received her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Maryland, College Park in Physical Education, Recreation, and Health, and her Masters of Education from the American University. She earned her Infant & Toddler credential from the National Center for Montessori Education and her Elementary 1 & 2 credentials from the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies. Sara joined MSNV’s growing elementary program in 2012, while maintaining her job as a teacher trainer and consultant for IAMS. Both of Sara’s children, now grown, attended Montessori schools.
Catharina Jacknow – Upper Elementary Teacher
Catharina graduated magna cum laude from George Mason University with a BA in English and Studio Art and received her Elementary I credentials at the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies in Maryland. Her first experience in Montessori education began as a child, when she attended Montessori schools from the age of 18 months to seven years. Before joining MSNV, she worked for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a writer, editor, and website designer. Catharina came to MSNV’s elementary program in 2003, first as an assistant and then as a classroom teacher. In addition to teaching at MSNV, Catharina is a teacher trainer at the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies. Her two children both graduated from MSNV.
Elizabeth Kyvig – Lower Elementary Teacher
Elizabeth received her Primary, Lower and Upper Elementary credentials and Master’s degree in education at the Center for Contemporary Montessori Programs at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul, MN. She came to MSNV in 2011 after teaching for six years in Lower Elementary at a Montessori charter school in Minnesota.
Dave Morgan – Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher
Dave Morgan is pleased to be working with Ms. Catharina’s class. Although new to Montessori teaching, Dave has many years of teaching experience, most recently with Arlington Public Schools as a World Geography teacher for Eighth Graders. He’s no stranger to MSNV either – His son, Brady, spent two wonderful years with Ms. Ingrid and Ms. Camilla at Valleybrook. When he’s not teaching, Dave is a professional independent tour guide throughout the D.C. area. Dave lives in Falls Church with his wife, Danielle, and his two children: six-year-old Brady and Brenna, who is not quite two!
Atim Obidegwu – Primary Teacher
Atim earned a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology and Sociology from York University in Toronto, Canada, a Master’s degree in Anthropology from University of Toronto, and her Primary credential from the Washington Montessori Institute in Washington, D.C. Atim joined MNSV in 2008 with 12 years of experience as a Primary teacher. In 2004, she was a member of a mission of three Montessori teachers to China to stimulate Montessori philosophy and pedagogy. Prior to her Montessori training, Atim worked in the human resources field and health insurance industry. She has four children, all who attended Montessori and are college graduates, two of whom now have post graduate degrees.
Jared Oerke – Primary Teacher
Jared received his Primary credential at The Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola University. He studied Special Education at the University of Virginia and completed his Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Loyola College, Maryland. Before joining the staff at MSNV in 1998, Jared taught on the Preprimary level at Family Montessori, in a Head Start School in Charlottesville, and in a high school in Kenya. Jared has also worked as a program assistant for the Discovery Museum in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Aaron Pierce – Lower Elementary Teacher
Aaron earned a BA in Philosophy with a minor in Music from Washington College in Chestertown, MD. He first came to MSNV as a parent in the spring of 2006, and by 2008 had begun working at the school, initially with the Extended Day program and then beginning in 2012 in the Elementary program. Aaron earned his Elementary credential in 2015 through the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. He is the father of two girls, both of whom attend(ed/s) MSNV, and is a decent bass player.
Rachel Romano – Primary Teacher
Rachel earned her Early Childhood credential at the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies at the Barrie School in Wheaton, Maryland. She has worked at MSNV since 1993 in many different capacities, including that of Extended Day teacher and summer camp Instructor. Rachel loves children and art and has one daughter who attended MSNV.
Jackie Savage – Elementary Level Coordinator, Upper Elementary Teacher
Jackie attended Randolph Macon Woman’s College, earning her BA in History in 2006. After spending a year as the Lower Elementary assistant at MSNV, she decided to pursue her elementary Montessori training. She attended the Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola University in Columbia, Maryland and earned her Elementary credential and a Master’s degree in Education in 2008. Jackie opened MSNV’s Upper Elementary program in 2008.
Amy Schlenker – Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher
Amy is an enthusiastic lover of life, learning, and supporting children in achieving their dreams of all sizes. She’s an experienced Montessori Elementary and Primary Assistant Teacher, art and 4-H organic gardening teacher, and marketing executive. Amy holds an MBA (Cornell), BS Business (Miami of Ohio), and certificates from a number of Montessori training classes. Her passion for Montessori education, love of children and desire to make a difference, inspired a career switch from the corporate world to the classroom. Outside of school, Amy’s favorite activities are organic gardening, kayaking, sailing, creative endeavors, anything at the Kennedy Center/Wolf Trap, traveling, playing with her two bunnies and cat, and best of all, doing any of these activities with her husband and teen daughter…who is a Montessori elementary graduate.
Tim Schwartz – Lower Elementary Teacher
Tim, who joined MSNV in 2014, has been a lower and upper-elementary teacher in the Washington, DC area since 2003. He received his Bachelor of Arts with High Honors in Creative Writing with a focus on Poetry and minors in Literature, Philosophy, and Religious Studies from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2000. He holds Elementary I & II credentials from the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies. Tim has presented a number of workshops at national Montessori Conferences on a range of topics: including poetry, woodworking, ecology, peacemaking, and jazz. A published poet, he is also an avid maker, tinkerer, crafter, carpenter, and scientist. Tim’s greatest joys come from his daughter, Beatrice, who happily attends MSNV with him each day.
Dr. Kristin Swanson – Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Dr. Kristin Swanson earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Child Development from Tufts University, and a doctorate in psychology (Psy.D.), with a specialty in children and families, from the American School of Professional Psychology in Arlington, VA. Dr. Swanson has worked in a variety of settings throughout her career, including community mental health settings, hospitals, and several special education schools. She has a particular interest in collaboration with preschool and elementary school environments to merge her expertise in social-emotional development with the school’s focus on learning and education, in order to best meet the needs of the whole child. Dr. Swanson has a private practice in Falls Church where she provides child therapy and parent guidance. She works primarily with children ages 2-12, with a variety of emotional and behavioral challenges.
Kim Thomason – Lower Elementary Teacher
Kim received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia in Sociology. She holds her Elementary I credential from the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies. Kim joined MSNV in 2014 after teaching for seven years at a Montessori school in South Carolina. She also previously taught for two years at a Montessori school in Fredericksburg, Virginia. In addition to her role as a lower elementary teacher, Kim is an instructor and consultant for the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies.
Christy Chen – Primary Teacher
Christy brings over 19 years of Montessori teaching experience to MSNV, and is a Montessori teacher trainer as well. Christy received her Early Childhood credential from the Virginia Center for Montessori Teacher Training in 1995 after receiving her Bachelor of Arts in History from George Mason University. She has taught at Montessori schools in the DC area as well as Hawaii and Maine. She enjoys traveling with her husband, Mr. Tim, and brings these experiences to her classroom, as well as to Montessori teachers in training at Northern Virginia Montessori Institute where she instructs Social Studies and Language. She LOVES books and helping children learn to read as well as promoting literacy as a consultant for Usborne Books. When she is not teaching, you might find her visiting her son at William and Mary, walking her dog or racing her Lightning sailboat.
Tim Chen – Primary Teacher
Tim joins MSNV in 2015, having been a lead teacher for three years in Frederick, MD. He obtained his Early Childhood credential from the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies at the Barrie School in Silver Spring, MD and holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of California at Los Angeles. After graduation, he enjoyed a long and rewarding career in youth ministry. He is a father of 2 wonderful children who are both in college. He and his wife Christy love their new home along with their golden retriever and two adopted kitties. Tim’s hobbies include trying new restaurants, running around the lake, serving in children’s ministry, shopping on Amazon.com, and walking his dog.
Ingrid Fol – Primary Teacher
Ingrid obtained a graduate degree in Topography in her home country of Belgium and worked in that field for a number of years before moving to Argentina where she lived with her husband. After relocating to the U.S., Ingrid joined the MSNV faculty in 2006 as the school’s Spanish teacher before going on to earn her Early Childhood credential from the Northern Virginia Montessori Institute. She enjoys speaking different languages, and is fluent in Dutch, Spanish, English and French. Ingrid loves spending time outdoors with her husband and three children, all who are MSNV alumni.
Kimberly Jackson – Preprimary Teacher
Kimberly completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at George Mason University and her Early Childhood credential at The Advanced Institute for Montessori Studies. She began her career as a Montessorian in 1988 when she was hired by MSNV to work as a Primary assistant. Having initially taught in the San Francisco Bay area, followed by two years in Herndon, VA., Kimberly also ran her own small Montessori school in Harpers Ferry, WV. In 2008, she earned her Elementary I credential from NAMC and returned to MSNV in 2011, because she says, “It is truly one of the best Montessori communities that I have experienced from the East to the West coast!” Kimberly has two children who attended MSNV.
Janine Labak – Primary Level Coordinator, Primary Teacher
Janine earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Sonoma State College and her Master’s Degree in Social Work at San Diego State University. She earned her Early Childhood credential at New England Montessori Teacher Education Center in Boston. Before moving to Virginia, she taught at Montessori schools in Connecticut. She began working at MSNV in 1998 as Admissions Director, substitute teacher and summer camp teacher before returning to full-time teaching in the Primary classroom. Janine has developed a Montessori Water curriculum and has presented at an American Montessori Society (AMS) conference in addition to other conferences. She is a certified Project WET facilitator.
Jessica Mejia – Preprimary Assistant
Currently earning her associate degree in Early Childhood Development at Northern Virginia Community College, Jessica aspires to transfer to Liberty University and start her Montessori training. Entering her third year at MSNV, Jessica has worked in the summer camp, extended day and PE program prior to her current role a Preprimary Assistant. She is fluent in both Spanish and English.
Laura Portch – Preprimary Teacher
Originally an art major, Laura has worked with children since 1986. She has joined MSNV in 1990, serving first as an assistant and teacher in the All Day Montessori Program, and then as a Primary teacher. She obtained her Early Childhood credential in 2000 and her Infant & Toddler credential in 2015 at the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies at the Barrie School in Wheaton, Maryland. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree at Liberty University. She is a flautist and a Suzuki trained flute teacher and loves history and Irish culture. Laura has two children, both of whom are MSNV alumni.
Tracy Rigo – Primary Teacher
Starting as a Marine Biology major, Tracy earned her Early Childhood credential at the Northeast Montessori Institute in Ashburn and is in the process of earning her Bachelor’s degree in Special Needs Education. Prior to joining MSNV in the Extended Day program in the fall of 2005, Tracy worked in management and customer service. Tracy has two children, both of whom attended MSNV.
Camilla Roberts – Primary Teacher
Camilla earned her Associate’s Degree from Northern Virginia Community College and attended Marymount, majoring in psychology. She earned her Early Childhood credential in 2015. Prior to working at MSNV, Camilla was a sports coach for children and a lead teacher in a preschool. Camilla started working at MSNV as an extended day program leader in 2010. She has also taught as a substitute in the Preprimary and Primary classrooms, an assistant in MSNV’s camp program, and the PE teacher for Elementary students at the Hillbrook campus.
Claudia Wright – Preprimary Teacher, Preprimary Level Coordinator
Claudia received her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood from Liberty University and her Infant & Toddler credential from the Montessori Institute of Teacher Education. Claudia has worked at MSNV since 2002 in numerous capacities, including work in the Extended Day and summer camp programs, before starting her teaching on the Preprimary level. Claudia is fluent in both Spanish and English. When Claudia is not teaching, she and her husband spend their time outdoors participating in local running/obstacle races, sports, and traveling.
MSNV ENRICHMENT & EXTENDED DAY FACULTY
Indira Bustillos – Primary and Elementary Spanish Teacher
Indira started working at MSNV in 2012 in the after school Spanish classes and now teaches Spanish for all of MSNV’s Primary and Elementary children. She has a BA in Spanish and Latin American Studies, and has taught in the Fairfax and Arlington County FLEX programs. Senora Indira is assisted by Beca Sandoval during elementary enrichments. She has two children, both of whom attend(ed/s) MSNV.
Carlee Cameron – Valleybrook Extended Day Coordinator
Carlee has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from George Mason University. She has worked at MSNV since 2012 as a program leader in extended day at both campuses. She has also assisted with enrichments and has been a substitute in each level of education offered at MSNV. Currently, her roles include extended day coordinator for the Valleybrook campus and program leader in the extended day program.
Claire DeFelice – Music Teacher
Claire holds a dual Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and Performance from The Crane School of Music, and a Master’s degree in Music Education from Ithaca College. In 2015, she completed the Orff training program. She has taught elementary through high school instrumental (band) and vocal music, and performed in jazz ensemble, concert band and an Afro-Cuban drum circle. Her teaching is influenced by her passion of making music a social and cultural experience for children, where students can express themselves artistically and emotionally. Claire strives to create a musical space where students connect their authentic experiences to the world in which they live.
Peter Leresche – UE Extended Day Teacher, PE Teacher, Bus Driver, Audio/Video Technician
Peter earned his Bachelor’s degree in Religion from Shenandoah University, with a minor in Technical Theatre. He has worked at MSNV since 2011, initially in the Extended Day program and PE classes. With years of experience working as a technician in area theatres and churches and having won several awards for his theatrical designs, Peter co-taught MSNV’s summer theatre camps for the last 13 years. Outside MSNV, Peter works as a technician for the Keith Elgin Band, and is the Technical Director for Danny Entertainment, and Technical Director for Harmonia School. Peter recently completed course work from Drama Teacher Academy and is working on writing a book on Teaching theatre to elementary school children in a Montessori based curriculum. He is working on course work in video production and design.
Katrina Liboro – Hillbrook Elementary Extended Day Assistant
Katrina earned her Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality and General Business from James Madison University. She will be obtaining her M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction, Elementary Education Concentration Program from George Mason University in the Fall of 2017. Before joining MSNV this year, Katrina worked closely with children in her community and was part of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Harrisonburg, VA. Katrina loves working with children of all ages and teaching them how to be creative in the kitchen! She hopes to obtain her Montessori certification in the near future. When she is not in school, you might find her getting away to New York City or even more likely, cuddling with her Goldendoodle, Milo.
Gina Moeller – Art Assistant
Gina has a Bachelor of Science degree from The Pennsylvania State University. Gina has volunteered in numerous capacities since 1992, worked as the Preprimary assistant at MSNV and enjoys sharing her love of arts and crafts with children. All three of Gina’s children attended MSNV.
Claudia Rohaly – PE Teacher
Claudia has a Bachelor of Arts in Child Psychology from Wesleyan College. She retired from the US Navy in 1997 after serving her country for 20+ years and playing #2 for the Navy Tennis Team. Before coming to MSNV, Claudia taught, coached, and directed camps for tennis lovers for 35 years. She has competed in tennis tournaments around the world and recently ranked 4th in the nation (singles). Claudia has educated students of all ages and loves working with children. She is currently working on her PE Certification.
Rebecca Sandoval – Primary and Elementary Spanish Teacher, Extended Day Coordinator
Beca has worked at MSNV since 2007 in numerous capacities. She is currently working on her Bachelor degree in Business Management. Beca loves all things creative and sharing that love with the children at MSNV.
Suzy Scollon – Art Teacher
Suzy earned her Master’s degree in Studio Art from Virginia Commonwealth University and her Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University where she studied Art Education and Piano Performance. She was also awarded a Certificate of Sculpture from the Corcoran College of Art and Design. Suzy has taught art in elementary, middle and junior high schools in D.C., Alexandria, and Arlington Public Schools. She also taught children’s art classes at the Corcoran. While living in Japan, she studied Ikebana (Japanese flower arranging), which she continues to study and teach. Suzy creates relief tile installations and figurative sculpture. Suzy has three sons, all of whom attend MSNV.