School Faculty & Staff


Juli Newman, Executive Director/Principal
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Juli has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Sociology from the University of Utah and a Master of Arts in Education – Supervision and Administration from the University of Phoenix. Juli is currently working on her doctoral program through North Central University. Additionally, Juli has completed over 20 continuing education seminars ranging from Special Education Law to Leadership in Technology. She attended the Center for Montessori Teacher Education and is certified in Montessori School Administration. Juli is the author of several papers on transforming education, which may be found online here.

Krista Cross
, Director of Education
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Krista has an extensive background in language and literature in education which includes Project Read training, Resiliency through Reading, and emphasis work in childhood language development. In 2000, Krista’s exemplary teaching abilities were recognized when she was a recipient of the prestigious Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award. Krista is working on her Master’s Degree in Curriculum Development at Ottawa University.

Wanda Wright
, Vice Principal
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Wanda was previously the Director of Staff for the Arizona Air National Guard. She is a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy and holds Master's Degrees in both Business Administration and Public Administration. She and her husband Curt have two Montessori-educated children. Wanda enjoys reading, working out, and spending time with her family.

Jill Plonski
, Director - Exceptional Student Services (ESS)
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Jill was born in New York and grew up in different parts of the country before making her home in AZ 12 years ago. She is the proud mother of a middle school student. Jill has a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences degree in Psychology and will complete her Master's Degree in Special Education in 2012. She currently holds a Cross-categorical K-12 Special Education certification with full SEI endorsement. Jill loves learning new things and participating in professional development activities. In her free time, she enjoys reading and photography.

Reem Rosheidat
, Administrative Assistant
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Reem is originally from Amman, Jordan, where she earned a BA in Archaeology and History from the University of Jordan. In her free time, Reem enjoys reading, writing, and swimming.

Traci Penman
, IT Administrator
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Traci holds certifications in Information Technology and Data Networking, with 20+ years experience in the field. Her focus is in computer technology for education. Originally from Michigan, Traci is the mother of two grown children - prior MA students, one of whom is a National Society of Collegiate Scholars student at NAU. Traci enjoys hiking in Sedona, music, karaoke, cooking, and making memories with family and friends.

George Quebbeman
, IT Administrator
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George has 30+ years experience in Information Systems including software development and IT Operations: financial, retail, supply chain, and education. Degreed in Computer Programming, he holds PMP, PMC, and Agile certifications, an FAA (ASEL) pilot's license, and is an ASCAP member. Raised in Nashville, George spent 25 years in Michigan, relocating to Arizona in 2003. A proud father of three children, GQ enjoys hiking, making music, karaoke, cooking, and creating abstract art.

Jake Jacobson
, Facilities Manager
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Jake was born in Omaha, Nebraska, and moved to Arizona in the early 80's. Jake graduated from Saguaro High School in 1987, and he holds an Associate Degree from Mesa Community College. He spent the past 15 years managing his facility maintenance business, working with Montessori Academy and other companies. Jake is the Project Manager for Parada del Sol Rodeo & Parade. His hobbies are working in the yard and playing softball.

Toddler Education

Room 18 & 19

Lindsey Watts
, Teacher
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Lindsey was born and raised in the Phoenix area, and is mother to an 8 year old and a toddler. An Arcadia High School graduate, Lindsey holds an Infant/Toddler Montessori Credential from the North American Montessori Center, and is currently attending Phoenix College to prepare for entry into the Nursing Program. Her near-term goals include following the Montessori approach and putting it into practice in her own classroom. A travel aficionado, Lindsey enjoys photography, exploring new places, and sharing adventures with her family. Cooking and baking, swimming and soccer, round out her favorite pastimes.

Barbara Bardsley
, Assistant
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Barbara was born in California and raised in Glendale. She is currently pursuing her degree in Early Childhood Education. Barbara enjoys reading, gaming, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.

Dana Rush
, Assistant
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Dana graduated from Horizon High School in Phoenix in 2007, and has worked in child care for the past six years. A mother of one toddler, she spends her leisure time with family, camping, volleyball, and wakeboarding.

Roisin Owens
, Assistant
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Roisin was born and raised in Scottsdale, AZ, graduated from Judson High School, and holds an Early Childhood certificate from Scottsdale Community College. Roisin enjoys time with her family and friends, time at the gym, and walking her dog, Gumbo.

Early Education (Ages 3-4, Kindergarten)

Room 1

Kim Maher
, Teacher
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Kim is originally from Long Island, New York. She has a Master's Degree in Elementary Education as well as a Montessori Intern Certificate. She majored in dance and is teaching dance to students after school. Kim enjoys gardening.

Sandy Atwood
, Assistant
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Sandy has Infant and Toddler Montessori credentials. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Early Education and learning sign language. She has the distinguished honor of earning the Silver Beaver award in Scouting (the highest award available to volunteers). She is the proud mother of three sons and one daughter who is a Montessori Academy instructor (Cassie Headley). She contributes to the after school program by teaching Cooking Club. Sandy enjoys sewing, scrapbooking and gardening.

Room 2

Cassie Headley
, Teacher, Coordinator
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Cassie is an Arizona native who has a Bachelor's degree in Behavioral Science, graduating cum laude from Western International University. She has Montessori Early Childhood credentials and is currently pursuing her state certification. In addition to speaking fluent Spanish, she has special needs training and a music background. She contributes to the after school program by teaching Spanish and Sign Language. She is married to Scott Headley, and in her free time, she enjoys camping, scrapbooking and sewing.

Scott Headley
, Co-Teacher
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Scott is a 2nd generation Arizona native, and holds a Bachelor's degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in American Humanics and Sociology from Arizona State University. He holds Montessori Early Childhood (Age 3-6) credentials and an AMS certification. In his free time, he enjoys being with his family, exercising, and participating in sports.

Ellen Grobstein
, Assistant
Ellen was born in Brooklyn, NY, raised in Phoenix, AZ. She is married with a grown daughter who is a teacher. Ellen graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in Liberal Arts, and studied Childhood Development at Central Arizona College. She feels strongly about educating children in a kind and loving environment, and enjoys emphasizing the arts with young children in order to provide enrichment and stimulation of their growing desire to learn. In her free time, Ellen enjoys movies, reading, and following current events.

Room 3

Tina Graham
, Teacher
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Tina's bio is pending...

Tonimarie Burdette
, Assistant
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Toni was born in Syracuse, NY, and raised in Arizona, graduating from Agua Fria High School. She has 7+ years working in education, is the mother of 4 children, all of whom have attended Montessori pre-school or kindergarten. Outside of work, Toni enjoys cooking, gardening, and playing games with her family.

Outdoor Environment (ODE)

Kat Sparks
, Assistant, Outdoor Environment
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Katherine (Kat) is currently working on a dual major in psychology and English Lit and plans to pursue Montessori training. She enjoys co-teaching Early Elementary Outdoor Environment activities and also Kindergarten Science. Born in Minneapolis and raised in Tucson, Kat is the mother of one Montessori student. She enjoys reading, quilting, cross-stich, and working with clay.

Shannon Ostrowski
, Assistant, Outdoor Environment
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Shannon was born in China, raised in Southeast Asia, holds an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education, and has attended NAEYC and Emilia Conferences. She has two children attending Montessori Academy. Shannon is from a family of teachers: grandmother, mother, brother, so it's understandable she has a passion for teaching. She has worked for ten years at a Pre-K private school, one year with special needs Pre-school. Shannon shares her home with rescued animals, loves traveling, camping, horseback-riding, garding, reading, and time with family and friends.

Betty Jo Banno
, Assistant
Betty Jo was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised in Scottsdale. She studied Child Development at the University of Hawaii. Betty Jo enjoys and believes in teaching children in a loving and positive environment in which they can thrive and achieve their goals and desires without limitations. A mother of two, Betty Jo enjoys cooking, baking, gardening, yoga, and swimming, and of course spending quality time with her family.

Dabrienne Lewis
, After-School Coordinator
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Dabrienne was born in Paradise Valley, Arizona and has lived in the same house ever since. She attended Montessori Academy (MA) when it started in 2002. MA taught her to love learning. Dabrienne experienced some amazing teachers, four of which still teach at MA (Mrs. Headley, Mrs. Cross, Mrs. Alford, and Mr. Abe). In Fall 2013, Dabrienne attended Colorado State University, but walking a mile to class in two feet of snow was too much so she came back to Arizona. Dabrienne is now attending SCC to earn a degree in Forensic Anthropology. In her free time, Dabrienne enjoys riding horses, singing, babysitting and drawing.

Junior Elementary (Grades 1-3)

Room 6

Angela Pollock
, Teacher
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Angela holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Guelf (Guelf, Ontario, CA), and received her Montessori training for age bands 3-6, 6-9, 9-12 at Toronto Montessori Institute (TMI). The mother of three children, with two attending Montessori Academy, Angie's goals include providing her students with educational excellence in the Montessori tradition while being flexible and creative in addressing each one as a unique individual. Angela's leisure interests include photography, gardening, decorating, cycling, swimming, and supporting her children's extracurricular activities.

Amparo Arnold-Garza
, Assistant
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Amparo attended Montessori schools while growing up in San Antonio, TX. She holds an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education & Administration, and is currently enrolled at ASU, focusing on Human Development. Amparo feels strongly that a solid education features arts and creative problem solving at its core. She enjoys outdoor activities including road cycling, snowboarding, and wakeboarding, and also art/crafting and reading.

Room 7

Megan Cady
, Teacher
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Megan is a Phoenix native. She has studied American Sign Language and has a Bachelors in Elementary Education with a state-certified ESL endorsement. Megan loves learning and has many hobbies including sewing, scrapbooking, reading and learning about different cultures.

Serena Taylor
, Assistant
Serena is the mother of four Montessori educated children and has worked with Montessori education since 1996. Her goal is to continue showing the children her love of learning and its importance through example and lesson. She has special training in Monart and Violin and loves teaching songs to children.

Room 8

Bailey Bednarz
, Teacher
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Bailey is originally from Phoenix and attended Villa Montessori growing up. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology as well as an AMS postgraduate certificate in 6-9 Montessori Education. Bailey believes in promoting a life-long love of learning and encouraging each child's individual interests. Bailey loves helping animals. Previously she worked as an Animal Welfare League/SPCA adoption center counselor.

Joseph Martinka
, Intern
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Joseph was born and raised in New Jersey and relocated to Arizona in 1999. He has been teaching for 10 years, holds an Associates Degree in Elementary Education from Ottawa University and will be completing his Bachelor's degree in the same field in 2013. He holds a Montessori Certification in Lower Elementary 6-9 (1st-3rd grade), which was completed in Summer 2012 through the North American Montessori Center. In his free time, Mr. Martinka enjoys many activities including karaoke and web development, as well as spending time with his wife and two young children.

Outdoor Environment (ODE)

Caitlin Huber
, Assistant, Outdoor Environment
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Caitlin attended Mills College. She hails from Lincoln, NE. Outside the classroom, she enjoys cooking, reading, and learning about history.

Senior Elementary (Grades 4-6)

Room 10

Maegan Alford
, Teacher, Coordinator
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Maegan holds a Grade 6-12 teaching credential in Montessori Education and is a certified EMT. She has been teaching for twelve years in a Montessori classroom. She is mother of three Montessori-educated students. Maegan enjoys traveling to rodeos with her family and experiencing the outdoors.

Owen Evans
, Assistant
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Owen comes to us by way of Lebanon, New Jersey. He holds an Associates in Liberal Arts, a Bachelors in Liberal Arts, and a Montessori Elementary Education certification. Owen believes education is a two-way street, where the students often teach the teachers a thing or two, if they are paying attention. He has experience composing music for film and commercials, has worked with Microsoft as a client, and has previously volunteered for an after-school art program. Owen enjoys film, photography, playing Scrabble, and his cat.

Room 14

Deanna Pieniazek
, Teacher
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Deanna graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a Bachelor's in Elementary and Early Education, earning the ASU Moeur Award for academic excellence. Her studies also included an emphasis on Special Education. Promoting trustworthy, respectful relationships in the classroom, Deanna strives to build student interest in learning through perseverance, independence, and a determination to succeed. Originally from the greater Chicago area, Deanna maintains close ties with her nieces and nephews. Enjoying travel, Deanna has backpacked across Europe and even spent three months living in Ethiopia. She enjoys reading and the outdoors.

Debra Berkey
, Assistant
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Debra's bio is pending...

Room 15

Andrea Corbin
, Teacher
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Andrea has a Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education. Hailing originally from Maine, Andrea is married with three children, one of them at Montessori Academy. She enjoys baking and cake decorating, and supporting all her children's activities.

Outdoor Environment (ODE)

Natalie Ceballos
, Assistant, Outdoor Environment
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Natalie, an Arizona native, holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a minor in Spanish, and is planning to pursue a Master's in Occupational Therapy. She developed her own program as a Fusion Brain trainer. Natalie is a mentor in the Be a Leader Foundation. She enjoys one-on-one work with children and adults possessing learning disorders, autism spectrum, traumatic brain injury, stroke, etc. The middle child among four siblings, Natalie enjoys a wide range of activities including most sports involving a ball; also cooking, baking, gardening, and music.

Sara Akers
, Assistant, Science
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Sara is originally from Missouri and is currently working on her Bachelor's degree in Early Education and Special Education. Her teaching philosophy focuses on students becoming more independent and directing them in their own learning. Sara enjoys cheerleading, decorating, and being around children.

Middle School (Grades 7-8)

Room 12/13

Abe Gil
, Teacher
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Abe holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with an emphasis on Photography. He believes in infusing his teaching and everything else he does, with a “Reach for the Stars!” attitude. Abe is fluent in Spanish, plays classical guitar, and follows the LA Lakers very closely. His daughter is a current Montessori student.

Megan Hohl
, Teacher
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Megan was born in Texas, and moved around a bit before settling in Arizona. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in K-8 Education, with a minor in Spanish, from Arizona State University. Her specialized focus includes Spanish, English Language Learners, Multi-Cultural Education, Mathematics, and Language Arts. Megan brings 5 years of teaching experience in both public and private settings, where she has enjoyed getting to know each student's unique personality and capabilities. She enjoys family and friends, traveling, movies, and her two cats.

Michelle Lynch
, Teacher
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Michelle holds an Associate Degree in Information Systems from the Community College of the Air Force, a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Phoenix, and she is currently pursuing a Master's Degree in School Counseling at Capella University. Born in St Louis, and raised in Florida, Michelle - the mother of three children - has resided in Arizona since 1997. She enjoys drawing, writing children's stories, hiking, and traveling.


Craig Klodzinski
, Music & Art Teacher
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Craig is originally from Chicago, the youngest of four sublings. He graduated from the American Conservatory of Music in 1978. Craig makes use of his experiences in advanced leadership programs when he strives to bring out the creativity that each child has within themselves. On the musical side, Craig enjoys playing guitar, banjo, mandolin, piano, drums, and percussion. He likes to paint and draw, and also performs stand-up comedy, while on the homefront he enjoys gardening and ecology.

Remington Miller
, Parapro
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Remington is a native of Phoenix, AZ. He holds two Bachelors degrees in Arts (Creative Writing) and History from Arizona State University, plus an Associate in Arts from Phoenix College. A favorite quote by Frederick Douglas goes: "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men (and women)." Remington enjoys helping children understand that strength of mind and spirit are their gateway to successful lives. He enjoys writing, playing games, and collecting hats.