Meet Our Staff
Annika Berry, Lower Elementary Teacher, re-joined our staff in 2013. Previously, Annika worked as Classroom Assistant in our Children’s House in 2010-11 before moving to Portland, OR where she completed her AMI Elementary Montessori Diploma at the Montessori Institute Northwest. In 2010 Annika graduated from Western Washington University, Fairhaven College. Her background includes working as an Interpretive Ranger for the USDA Forest Service in Forks, WA, and as a volunteer for the Nooksack Salmon Enhancement Association teaching stream ecology to high school students. We are excited to welcome her back to PMMS for 2013-14!
Reed Braden, Upper Elementary Teacher, holds an elementary (ages 6–12 years) diploma from AMI and a M.Ed. in Montessori Elementary Education. He has worked with children and adolescents in a number of settings, including as an elementary teacher, environmental educator, and art instructor. From 2004 until 2006 he was the director of a Montessori adolescent program in Surrey, British Columbia. Reed has taught in the elementary program and summer camp since 2006. Reed is in charge of our grounds and animals, and is working toward creating our outdoor environment. He also works with our students in developing our school gardens, and in exploring the natural beauty around our site. In addition to his work with children, Reed holds a B.A. in Art and has been leading our 4H group in the exploration of Fine Arts.
Kristen Buck, Classroom Assistant, joined the staff of PMMS in 2013 and has more than eight years of experience working with children of all ages. Her past experience includes work as the Aquatics Director for Bellingham Athletic Club where she handled all aspects of the swim lesson program. Kristen holds an Associates degree from Whatcom Community College.
Rena Churchill is a part-time Classroom Assistant who has been with Pioneer Meadows since 2008. Rena’s background includes working with children with developmental disabilities, as well as work with the Whatcom Center for Early Learning. She is a parent of a former student. Rena also helps in the office when necessary.
Kimberly Connor, Adminstrative Director and Curriculum Advisor, holds a Washington State Teaching Certicate and taught 10th grade Language Arts and 12th grade Public Speaking for five years at Mount Si High School in Snoqualmie, WA. Prior to that, she worked for nearly 10 years in marketing and graphic design for engineering, architectural, and consulting firms in both Seattle, WA and Anchorage, AK. She holds a BA in English from Providence College in RI, a Masters in English from the University of Alaska Anchorage, as well as a Masters in Teaching from Seattle University. She is passionate about the Montessori method, and enjoys working with the Board, staff, families, and students of Pioneer Meadows to continue to foster the excellence that a Montessori education can bring.
Tina Hoban, Lower Elementary Classroom Assistant, has worked for PMMS for the past few years as a classroom substitute and joined the staff as Classroom Assistant in 2013. Tina, a trained pastry chef and owner of Scratch Desserts, brings her wide knowledge and love of cooking to the classroom. Tina also holds a B.A. in English from Illinois State University. Tina’s two daughters attend PMMS.
Ellen Lebitz, Education Director and Lead Lower Elementary Teacher, holds both primary (ages 2–6+ years) and elementary (ages 6–12 years) diplomas from the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). She has worked professionally with children in a variety of settings for over 20 years, and she has been active in Montessori education since 1992. In 1994, with a group of dedicated parents, Ellen helped found Heartland Community Montessori School in River Falls, Wisconsin. She held a position there as elementary teacher and Education Director until 1999. In 2004 she founded PVMS, with her husband Reed Braden, and served as its Children’s House teacher. Ellen has extensive experience working with children with cognitive, physical and learning differences. She has attended workshops, conferences and courses related to working with children with learning differences in a Montessori setting. In addition to her Montessori experiences, Ellen has a B.A. in Fine Art and an M.A. in Studio Art and has been teaching art classes to children and adults since 1991.
Keri Garavaglia, Assistant Elementary Teacher, holds a primary Montessori diploma from AMS and a Bachelors of Liberal Studies degree from St’ Mary’s College. She taught in Children’s Houses in Concord, CA for five years and also in Cambridge, MA. Keri is a versatile and talented artist who brings her passion and skill set to both Children’s House program and the Elementary Montessori Program. Keri is also instrumental in assisting our elementary children with any needed redmedial work,and participates in our school 4H program.
Lisa Melia, Lead Children's House Teacher, holds a primary (2-6 years) diploma from AMI and a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from Huxley College, Western Washington University. Her formal teaching experience includes environmental education with elementary students, and ESL with various age groups in Spain. She has also worked as a Case manager for Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Lisa lived and worked in Uganda, Africa for three years, collaborating with community members, park staff and teachers to achieve sustainable use of resources and improve daily living conditions.
Tiffany McGary, Administrative Assistant, has been actively involved as a parent at PMMS since 2007. During this time she has been a key player in our school fundraising efforts. Her background includes numerous classes in Early Childhood Education at Whatcom Community College. She has also worked for a number of years in billing and bookkeeping for a local psychotherapist’s office. Tiffany began to assist in the office in 2009 and officially joined the staff as our Administrative Assistant for the school year 2010-11. All three of Tiffany’s children attend the school.
Bree McWilliam, Classroom Assistant, joined the staff of PMMS in 2013. She has been working with small children for a number of years in a variety of capacities, including as a nanny as well as a preschool teacher for a several local childcare centers. Bree has also been working toward her a degree in Early Childhood Education from Whatcom Community College, and her background includes volunteering for such organizations as the Whatcom Volunteer Center and Habitat for Humanity.
Nelly Schonborn, Spanish Teacher, is a native Spanish speaker who is originally from Guatemala. She has been active in the Ferndale community for several years as a Member of the Multicultural Committee for the Ferndale School District, as well as a classroom assistant in the Ferndale School District. She has completed work for an Associates degree, and is currently working on completing a degree in Bilingual Teaching from Western Washington University.
Ana VanderPol, Lead Children's House Teacher, received her primary AMS diploma in 2005 and is currently undergoing a second primary certification in AMI, in conjunction with a M. Ed. in Montessori Education. She also holds a BA in Human Services with a concentration in Children and Families from Western Washington University. Ana’s diverse background and teaching experiences include: working in Nassau, Bahamas in a private school; as a birth-to-three home visitor for Lummi Head Start; and teaching in a few local Montessori Schools in Whatcom County. In addition to her passion for working with Montessori children, she also teaches private piano lessons, and brings her love of music to classroom by playing both piano and guitar. Ana also volunteers her time to help raise funds for the Whatcom County YMCA Strong Kids Campaign and LAW Advocates Lawyers’ Take Orders annual auction.