Head of school:

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Rafe Quinton is passionately committed to creating and sustaining an authentic Montessori public program in Chaffee County.  After receiving his Bachelor’s degree and k-12 Colorado State teaching license in 2004, he worked in a variety of settings and schools including: expeditionary learning/outward bound (ELOB), public elementary, K-12 online, and Montessori.  He received his MACTE approved Montessori certification for 6-12 in 2013 through the Center for Guided Montessori Studies.  From 2010 to 2015 he worked at the former Chaffee County Montessori School as a lead in both the lower and upper elementary programs. Rafe has served as the Head of School at SMCS since the inaugural year of 2015.  Rafe_Quinton@salidamcs.org

 

Toddler Room (1 and 2 year old)Guides:

 

Stephanie Leddington has been a lead teacher in Montessori toddler rooms (ages 1-3) since 2009. Before that she lead 3-6 classrooms. Stephanie has diplomas for both age groups, through Kindergarten. Stephanie loves to travel and has lived overseas for most of her adult life.  There are Montessori schools all over the world and Stephanie got her first experience with Montessori in Shanghai, China after finding a Montessori preschool for her son, Jack in 2004. Stephanie is a musician and started teaching music to all the children in those schools soon after enrolling her son there and trained for a lead teacher position online from the North America Montessori Center. Stephanie also has a daughter, Lily born in 2004. Before finding the Montessori school in Salida, Stephanie and her children lived and worked on the Sunshine Coast in Australia. It was there that Stephanie began teaching toddlers. Her Montessori training for toddler age children is also through NAMC. Stephanie was happy to find a Montessori school in Salida while on Christmas vacation in Buena Vista in 2010. She moved there the following February and helped to build the toddler program at CCMS.  Stephanie also helped the SMCS Steering Committee create the Charter Application and loves the steady growth of Montessori education within Salida's community.  Stephanie_Leddington@salidamcs.org

Brianna Myers grew up in Salida and has always had a love for young children and helping others.  She has been teaching in early childhood for eight years.  She has spent the last three years as an assistant in a Montessori classroom.  Prior to coming home to Salida three years ago, she spent five years at a preschool in Grand Junction.  Two of those years were spent as a lead teacher in their toddler program and the last three years as Director.  Brianna attended Mesa State College where she earned her Large Child Care Center Director's Certificate. Brinna has three daughters, Sydney, born in 2005, Jayden, born in 2007 and Stella, born in 2016.  Brianna is very excited to be continuing her work in a toddler classroom as SMCS and also continuing on in the role of Preschool Director. Brianna_Myers@salidamcs.org

 

Children's House (3 Year olds-K) Guides:

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Jessica Hollensbe has worked in the Montessori Primary Classroom for the last 15 years and has devoted her life to the teachings of Maria Montessori and children age 3-6.  Jessica grew up on a small farm outside Richmond, Virginia.  She attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia and graduated with degrees in Biology and Environmental Science in 2001.  After graduation she joined Americorps NCCC where she served as a volunteer across the western United States and Guam.  Jessica then moved to Houston, TX where she began work in Montessori toddler and primary classrooms.  She quickly recognized the power of the Montessori Method and the affect a great school and teacher can have on a child, a family, and our society.  Jessica attended her Montessori training at the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies (MECR) in 2004, and she fell in love with Colorado.  She began her internship at Giving Tree Montessori School in Colorado Springs that year.  Jessica has worked as a teacher at Giving Tree Montessori until this year and has been blessed to be part of an amazing community of teachers and families.  Jessica, her husband, and their little dog are thrilled to begin a new life and adventure in Salida.   They enjoy camping, hiking, playing music, and sitting around the fire with friends.   Jessica is delighted to be a part of such a knowledgeable and loving staff, and she is excited to see all the kids every day.  Jessica_Hollensbe@salidamcs.org

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Lisa Lamb has worked in Montessori Toddler and Primary classrooms for nine years. She received her degrees in German and Communications from East Carolina University.  Her Montessori teaching credential, AMS Early Childhood, was attained from the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies (MECR). Prior to landing in colorful Colorado, she traveled, lived, and guided children and young adults stateside and abroad, assisting in Montessori ESL classrooms stateside and overseas. Lisa was also a Fulbright TA in Woergl, Austria, volunteered at a Montessori school there, as well as at a Montessori program in Aursha, Tanzania. An advocate for Montessori education, Lisa honors the freedom and discipline, self-discovery, self-directed learning, and peaceful resolution the Montessori Method provides its children and practitioners. She is a student of the outdoors, world culture, art, and music, and enjoys offering these as a staple in the Children's House. By Fall of 2018, she will be qualified as a Colorado Early Childhood Large Center Director.  Lisa_Lamb@salidamcs.org

 

 

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Karen Fortier made her way to Salida after she and her family moved from Alaska in 2010.  After a career with the National Park Service as a Resource Education Park Ranger she pursued her interests in gardening, farming, and homesteading and worked as the Education Director for the Farm to School program for Guidestone Colorado, a local non-profit.  She spent the last 5 years helping to integrate Farm to School education curriculum and service learning opportunities for Salida School district students, and providing hands-on experiential garden opportunities through the summer garden, farm, and ranch programs in Chaffee County.  Karen was introduced to Montessori after enrolling her two daughters in 1st grade and preschool at the Chaffee County Montessori School in 2012.  She quickly saw the profound effect Montessori methods had on her children and she is excited to be joining a very caring and talented staff. She has spent time working as a substitute teacher and a classroom helper at the Chaffee County Montessori School in the past.   Karen and her family love anything outdoors and spend their free time rafting, camping, skiing, and travelling.  Karen_Fortier@salidamcs.org

 

Elementary I (1st-3rd Grade) Guides:

Molly Gallagher moved to Colorado from Fort Worth, TX in 2004 to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts with an emphasis in painting.  Molly completed her Lower Elementary Montessori teacher training at the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in 2014.  She spent 3 years assisting and teaching at a Montessori charter school in Denver before joining SMCS in it's inaugural year, 2015.  Molly is particularly fascinated by the Montessori math materials and how they transform abstract concepts into concrete experiences for the learning child.  In her free time she enjoys creating art and jewelry, snowboarding, cooking, travel, and spending time with family and friends. Molly_Gallagher@salidamcs.org

 

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Lindsey Quinton began her teaching career as a figure skating instructor.  While her formal education saw her graduating in International Studies from Colorado State University in 2006, her other interests brought her to the Upper Arkansas Valley to be part of an organic CSA farm. While on the farm, she and her husband led their youth education program entitled Farmhands. Lindsey went on to get her Colorado Teaching License and taught high school and middle school Spanish in Buena Vista.  Since moving to Salida in 2010, she has worked in both the Elementary I and II classrooms at the former Chaffee County Montessori School.  Lindsey loves to cook big dinners for her family, read or listen to audio books while she cleans up those big dinners, travel, dance and garden.  She is so pleased to be a part of SMCS and the larger Salida community.  Lindsey_Quinton@salidamcs.org

 

Elementary II (4th-6th Grade) Guides:

 

Maggie Murdoch is originally from Seattle, WA, where she was a Montessori preschooler way back when. The sun and mountains pulled her to Colorado after high school but Washington continued to be a home as well. She earned her BA in Environmental Studies and a certificate in Restoration Ecology at the University of Washington, returned to Colorado and fortunately landed in Salida. She has worked with children in a wide variety of settings including the classroom, day-cares, public recreation and outdoor education. Maggie's son has been in the Salida Montessori program since he was a toddler. She can attest to the magic of the Montessori method from seeing her curious, peaceful child grow up with its wisdom. Maggie is undergoing training to receive her Elementary I & II credentials (AMS) from the Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest in Bothell, WA. She also is a student of Iyengar yoga who loves spending time outdoors with her family and friends. Maggie_Murdoch@salidamcs.org

 

Angie Morrison is a guide in our Upper Elementary classroom.  Angie earned her degree in Elementary Education from the University of New Mexico in 2002 and has taught for 10 years at the 3rd, 4th and 8th grade levels.  She and her family moved to Salida from Austin, Texas in 2011.  She is the mother of a 6 year old, Camden, who is attending SMCS. From the perspective of a parent and classroom volunteer, she has seen the value of Montessori education and feels privileged to continue supporting this work in her new role.  Angie is passionate about guiding students in exploring topics they are interested in , while also discovering how to collaborate with their peers, manage their time and grow into confident leaders.  In her free time, she takes advantage of all that Colorado has to offer such as trail running, mountain biking, hiking and camping with family and friends.  Angie_Morrison@salidamcs.org

 

Secondary (7th & 8th Grade) Guides:

Claire Rich is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. She has a master’s degree in Adolescent and Young Adult education and a special affection for Biology and Chemistry. She began her teaching career in Cincinnati and through some fortuitous connections found herself accepting a Colorado teaching job, she has been teaching the Montessori secondary program in Salida since 2014.  Claire is in the second year of Montessori training at the prestigious Cincinnati Montessori Secondary Teacher Education Program, where she has undergone a transformative experience in regards to her teaching. She will complete her training and receive her Montessori certification in December 2017.  Claire looks forward to another great year with SMCS! Claire_Rich@salidamcs.org

 

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Matt Malloy was born and raised in Colorado Springs, Colorado and is very excited to be heading to the high mountains of Colorado to join the team at Salida Montessori. He has a deep connection to the Salida area from the summers worked at Sanborn Western camps to the 14er he proposed to his wife atop that shares a name with their dog, Shavano. Matt graduated from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in 2013 with a bachelor of arts in history and secondary education and has taught for the past two years in a 7th grade Social Studies classroom in Colorado Springs and is excited to grow as an educator in the Montessori world. Matt_Malloy@salidamcs.org

 

Curriculum Support and Intervention:

Hayley Trever is very excited to be joining SMCS as the new Exceptional Students Lead! She taught Exceptional Students for the last 5 consecutive school years in Albuquerque and Colorado Springs in grades K-6 and is happy to have the opportunity to work with students K-8 here at SMCS.  She and her family are very glad to be settling down here in the beautiful and lively Salida! Hayley has an 8 year old step-daughter who attends Longfellow and two more daughters ages 2 and 3 months who will both eventually attend SMCS.  She is excited to have another wonderful school year, with this passionate and unique team.  Hayley_Trever@salidamcs.org

Title I Teacher:

Becky Merklein has had a lot of experience leading her to SMCS as our Title 1 teacher.  Her career began as an ESL teacher at the Universidad de Guanajuato, MX.  Upon returning to the States she flipped her teaching to another language, Spanish.  Becky proceeded to teach Spanish for 8 years in charter schools, public schools, and to homeschool co-ops in Wisconsin and the front range.   Becky enjoys working with all age groups making her role as Title 1 teacher fitting as her expertise serves children K-8.  In between teaching English and Spanish, she worked as an ESL Para as well as a SPED Para allowing her to hone her skills and resources to aide those most in need to developing their reading, language, and math abilities.  Outside of school Becky enjoys many outdoor activities such as mountain biking, skiing and hiking with her husband and friends and volunteers with Salida Mountain Trails. Trails and Education are her two passions! Becky_Merklein@salidamcs.org

ParaprofessionalS:

Ericka Kastner is thrilled to be a part of the team at Salida Montessori Charter School.  She is returning to her teaching roots in Montessori education that first began at the Children's House of Durango in 1995.  A frequent substitute in the upper elementary classroom at Chaffee County Montessori School, Ericka joins SMCS as a Paraprofessional Guide in grades 4-6. She home-schooled her three children in their early elementary years and is delighted to be back in the classroom professionally.  Ericka also writes as a freelance journalist for a number of Colorado publications and has a monthly column in Colorado Central Magazine.  When she's not teaching, her great loves are watching her teen-aged children compete in extracurricular sports, wandering in the woods with her standard poodle Pearl, experiencing big snows, digging in the garden, strumming the ukulele and travelling the globe.  Ericka_Kastner@salidamcs.org

 

 

Margaret Rush, RN, WHNP, BSN, MA. In her early adulthood, Margaret worked as a labor and delivery nurse, and then returned to school to become a Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner. She helped start a co-operative Women’s HealthCare Clinic in Denver where she became a jack-of-all-trades as clinic supervisor/administrator/ practitioner. In retirement she and her husband traveled extensively—particularly falling in love with Latin America. Cherishing education and learning, she returned to school as an adult learner and received a Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Psychology.  Always a lover of children, after raising their own family, ten years ago Margaret and her husband adopted a beautiful, Guatemalan baby boy, whom, Margaret says, has become her best life-teacher.  First a member of the steering committee which conceived of, and did the leg work to establish, the current Montessori Charter School, she is now a member of the Board. Margaret currently assists in our Elementary I classroom. Margaret_Rush@salidamcs.org

Art Guide:

Lynn VanDeWater has been an artist all of her life and an art educator for over 25 years.  Her paintings are mixed media acrylic with an emphasis on Asian textile pattern and intense color.  Printmaking, painting, drawing in multiple layers achieve the rich dimensional look of her paintings.  Her paintings are shown in galleries around Colorado.  Lynn taught drawing, painting and AP Art History at Kent Denver School in Engelwood during the 1990s.  In Salida, she has taught at Chaffee County Montessori School and Salida Montessori Charter School for nine years.  She has also taught at The Crest Academy and in her studio.  Lynn has a BA in Studio Art from The Colorado College and her graduate work in Painting and Art Education is from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Lynn has lived in Salida for 18 years and has a son who graduated from SMCS and is currently attending Salida High School.  Lynn_Vandewater@salidamcs.org

DRAMA Guide:

Tina Gramann: This is Tina’s third year to lead drama with the creative and energetic SMCS community! Tina has worked with children and the arts for 20 years. Her first degree was in Child Development and she worked in the early childhood classroom in Houston for 8 years. Then afterearning her MFA in Theatre at the University Of Houston, she moved to Austin and served as a Performing Arts School Director and Education Director overseeing a year- round school, touring shows, and community outreach programs from 2001-2011. She also served as Resident Fight Choreographer for the Shakespeare company in Austin, staging fights for the young Shakespeare program and numerous professional productions. She moved to Salida three years ago for her husband’s work, and along with an empty nest, the move brought time for Tina to explore her visual arts side. She is a self taught artist focusing on large scale murals, chalk art, window art, as well as face paint! She founded Salida Creativity Lab in 2016- art and theatre experiences for the young and the young at heart, and has received grant funding to create art-based projects within the community. When not working with children and art, Tina gardens on her roof and spends time with family, traveling to Durango and Austin to catch up with her grown children. Tina_Gramann@salidamcs.org

Office Manager:

 

Hanley Harvey is a Colorado native.  Hanley and her family have resided in Salida for seventeen years.  She has been a long time supporter of Montessori Education in Chaffee County.  Hanley works hard keeping all of our students, families and staff organized and the school as a whole running smoothly.  She is always ready with a warm smile and a helpful outlook.  Drop in and say hi! Hanley_Harvey@salidamcs.org

 

SCHOOL NURSE:

Rebecca Capozza: After obtaining her BSN from the University of Colorado in 1999, Rebecca Capozza worked as a registered nurse in New England and Colorado, volunteered as a nurse in Kenya and Nicaragua and started her favorite job, school nursing, a few years ago.  She obtained her Special Service Provider License from the Colorado Department of Education in 2012 and has been working to keep the Salida Montessori Charter School in compliance with state requirements since the Fall of 2015.  Nurse@salidamcs.org

Occupational Therapy:

Bobbi Grace: More Info Coming