At School in the Woods Montessori, we recognize that the quality of the teaching staff has a significant influence on the quality of the program. We believe that teachers must have intellectual and emotional intelligence and that talented, dedicated educators are the key to providing a child with the necessary foundation for future educational and life success. Each member of our experienced faculty is trained by an accredited Montessori training program and is credentialed by either the American Montessori Society, the Association Montessori International or another MACTE accredited program. We also serve as a host school to those who are completing their Montessori internship. All teachers are committed to enhancing their professional development through conferences, workshops, classes and special events.
Melody Patton, Head of School
For me, Montessori is not only an educational philosophy, but a way of parenting, and a way of life. Twenty years ago, I didn’t have any idea what Montessori was – I’d never even heard of it. I discovered Montessori first as a parent. I went to observe at Children’s Garden Montessori School and immediately fell in love with it – I wasn’t quite sure why, it just felt right. My oldest daughter started in the toddler program shortly after that visit. I can now say that the 8 years my two daughters spent as a part of the Children’s Garden community completely changed our lives. The school’s wonderfully caring, nurturing and supportive environment provided my children an amazing start to life.
After both of my children graduated from Children’s Garden Montessori School, I decided to completely change my career and become a Montessori teacher myself. I spent a total of 10 years working at Children’s Garden as a teacher, 7 years as a Toddler teacher, and 3 years as a Primary teacher. I have Montessori teaching credentials from the American Montessori Society for both Infants and Toddlers and for Early Childhood (ages 2 ½ to 6 years). I left Children’s Garden in June of 2014 to pursue my dream of opening my own Montessori preschool.
My passion for Montessori education and its positive impact on children, coupled with my love of mentoring and coaching adults, has also led me to become involved in the Montessori teacher education program in Boulder. For 8 years, I have had the pleasure of being involved in developing the next generation of Montessori Infant and Toddler teachers. As a result of this work, I have become recognized nationally as an expert in the Montessori approach for Toddlers and sought out to present at national conferences and workshops in other states.
Montessori stresses the importance of spending time outside with children. I love spending time in nature, and I really want to share that love with all of the children I work with. This is why I chose the name “School in the Woods” for our school. While it may not be literally “in the woods”, I want to provide every possible opportunity for children to connect with the natural world – even if they live in the city of Denver.
As a parent myself, I understand how important your children are to you, and I feel truly honored to have the opportunity to work with you and your children. I hope to share some of my passion for Montessori with you over the coming years as we work together to provide the best possible experience for your children.
Deb Matyjevich, Faculty Mentor
Montessori pedagogy has been embedded in my life for the past 2 decades. Upon entering my first Montessori classroom, I knew I had found an educational model that was profound, comprehensive, and based on creating a better world by supporting and guiding children in a way that was holistic, academic, worldly and emotionally and developmentally up-lifting. I spent the past 18 years teaching Preschool and Kindergarten in Denver and watching the magic that comes from Montessori education. I believe that children are given the opportunity to thrive, blossom, and come into their own in the most authentic ways in Montessori classrooms.
For the past 10 years, my role has evolved from teaching full time into other roles that have allowed me to broaden my impact. I am passionate about supporting new teachers, schools, parents and families. My degree in Psychology and Sociology from Emory University in Atlanta, along with my Montessori training has laid a foundation that supports me in coaching and consulting with educators, parents, and schools. The beautiful Colorado mountains in Estes Park originally drew me from my home in Atlanta in 1995, but it is my passion for Montessori education, my loving family, and the opportunity to make an impact in my community that has made Denver my home. I first met Melody at Children’s Garden in Denver back in 2004 and we shared many experiences that bonded us together as Montessorians. I feel so grateful to be able to support this unique and special community.
I am currently an instructor at the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies, a Field Consultant for interns at MECR and a Montessori consultant. I currently provide workshops to schools, parents, and educators on curriculum, cultural sensitivity, classroom management and all things Montessori related. I believe every school has a unique opportunity to create a learning environment that brings their community together through high quality education, a focus on connection of home and school, and creating tradition and ceremony. I look forward to supporting all of the things that make School in the Woods special.
Jamie Santee, Toddler Teacher and Parent/Infant Guide – Ash Building
I want to start by saying that I absolutely love working with young children! After teaching children for almost 5 years, I stumbled across Montessori quite accidentally, and never looked back. I was searching for a new teaching position and happened upon a Montessori school. After observing a toddler classroom and doing some personal research into the philosophy, I felt that it was a perfect fit for me. I appreciate the quiet respectfulness of the classroom and the way young children feel so empowered by their growing independence.
Now I’ve been teaching toddlers in Montessori classrooms for 8 years. I attended the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies and earned my infant and toddler teaching credential from the American Montessori Society.
One aspect I love about working with very young children is the amazing developmental progress I witness day-to-day. It’s so rewarding to watch children flourish in the classroom, not only cognitively, but also physically, emotionally, and personally. These early years fly by so quickly and I am honored to be a part of this marvelous time of your child’s life.
I had the fantastic opportunity to spend a year teaching toddlers in a brand new Montessori school in Moscow, Russia. This experience really opened my eyes to the fact that Montessori is not just appropriate for one culture or community. When you treat children with love and respect, encourage their independence, and create an environment in which they can blossom, it doesn’t matter what their native language is! Learning how to apply the Montessori philosophy to a variety of cultures and communities was quite challenging and incredibly gratifying. I really enjoy traveling and gaining a broader view of the beautiful world in which we live!
I am thrilled to be working at School in the Woods and am looking forward to meeting you and your children!
Mickelle Scott – Toddler Teacher Ash Building and Parent/Infant Guide Florida Building
Teaching has run in my family for several generations. My 5th grade teacher told my mother during a conference that she could see me becoming a teacher. Needless to say, I was bound to enter the profession of teaching. I first discovered Montessori right after I graduated from college and was looking for a teaching position. After a year of working as a Toddler Assistant teacher I wanted to take my training. I completed my training at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in the Spring of 2014. I have been teaching in a Montessori Toddler classroom for 7 years now and love every minute of it.
I moved to Colorado from Georgia after college because I wanted to start a life out west and Colorado seemed to be the best place. I love hiking the hills and trails of Colorado. The zest of the pine trees smells so good and being out and about whether with friends or by myself gives me the rejuvenation I need. School in the Woods called to me with just its name. The woods and schooling are where I want to be. The mission of School in the Woods explains exactly what I want to accomplish in life, “living in peace with others and in harmony with nature”.
A toddler’s curiosity and enthusiasm for life is what motivated Maria Montessori to open her school and what motivates me to teach. Every day is a new and exciting experience in the classroom and I cannot wait to see what each new day will bring at the School in the Woods!
Tiffany Garvin, Toddler Teacher and Parent/Infant Guide – Florida Building
I am the oldest of five children so I have been teaching for as long as I can remember! I know I have found my home with the Montessori Method as this is not just a way of teaching, it’s a lifestyle. I love being in an environment with toddlers and learning from them daily. When I am not in an environment with toddlers, I love to be talking about them! I have a passion for Montessori education so I pass that along to adult learners as an instructional guide and field consultant at the Houston Montessori Center and The Center for Guided Montessori Studies and as a field consultant with the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies.
In 2011, I received my infant and toddler certificate from the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies. In 2015, I obtained my Master’s degree from St. Catherine University in a program called Acknowledging Montessori for a Master’s. My action research project was “The Effects of a Collaborative Team on Early Intervention in a Preschool”. I have been a toddler guide for 12 years.
I would say observing children carrying out practical life activities is what first drew me to Montessori education. What really hooked me, was the respect of the child which is a foundation of Montessori’s method. Children teach me something new and/or surprise me every day. One of my favorite things about working with toddlers is the explosion of growth they have between 18 months and 3 years, especially in the area of language.
I made a big move from Texas to Colorado over the summer of 2020 for the honor of being a guide at School in the Woods. I have enjoyed the last two years of working with infants and educating parents regularly. I love Colorado and like to spend time hiking and exploring in the mountains, as well as experiencing lots more snow than in Texas!
Molly Williams, Toddler Teacher Florida Building and Parent/Infant Guide Ash Building
I have always had a passion for working with children, and from a very young age I knew that I wanted to be a teacher. I took the traditional path towards education and started my college career in elementary education in 2014. It was through that program that I was introduced to the Montessori philosophy. I was so fascinated that I did a lot of personal research on the topic as well as reaching out to a local school in my town, Montessori School of Ruston (MSR). They allowed me to come observe their early childhood classrooms as well as their toddler classroom. I instantly fell in love.
After getting to know the director and staff at MSR, I accepted a position as a part time assistant and floater for the early childhood classrooms in 2017. After a lot of debating, I decided to switch my major to family and child studies with a concentration in child development. I wasn’t only interested in educating children, but also diving deeper into how their minds work and where their needs are at every developmental stage.
In November 2018, I graduated and received my bachelor’s degree from Louisiana Tech University and switched to a full time position as an assistant in the toddler room at MSR. I knew I wanted to get my Montessori certification, so I made the decision to move from Louisiana to Denver and start my training in the infant and toddler program at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies.
I completed my Montessori certification program in May 2020. Working at School in the Woods for the last three years has been such a wonderful and fulfilling journey for me. I am eager to get back into the classroom and to provide a safe and loving environment for your children to learn and grow in this year.
Kelly Merrick, Preschool Teacher – Florida Building
Guiding and teaching young children fills me with joy! I love watching children grow and learn and I am excited to be part of your child’s amazing journey. I honestly believe that Montessori education gives children the skills and resilience to be independent and self-reliant citizens of the world. As a guide in their young lives, I believe that we are responsible for giving them the tools they need to be future leaders. I love how Montessori education encourages children to think outside of the box and work as a team. I love working with the preschool age group. One of my very favorite things about having the same child in my classroom for multiple years is being a part of their learning when they truly start reading words. The Montessori language program, along with several tried and true materials I have used over the last decade, builds a strong foundation for future reading and writing.
Beginning in my children’s early childhood I became interested teaching and worked in a variety of classrooms in Denver Public Schools. I was fortunate to be introduced to Montessori while working as a paraprofessional in Denver Public Schools. I dedicated myself to pursuing a Montessori teaching degree in 2013 from Montessori Casa International and received a Bachelor of Arts degree in geography from the University of Colorado in 2000.
I have lived in Denver for 25 years and fell in love with the great state of Colorado. My youth was spent in the Pacific Northwest. My husband and I have two adult daughters who are in various stages of their college careers. In my spare time I like to cook, workout, play music, ski, and walk around my amazing neighborhood.
Renee Wain, Preschool Teacher – Florida Building
From the moment I started the first grade – I attended three different schools that year! — I knew I wanted to be a teacher. When I wasn’t at school, I was in my grandma’s room setting up and playing school with my dolls and stuffed animals. I had them set up around the room as my students with papers and pencils for them to learn as I taught them. I always knew I wanted to help children reach their full potential but wasn’t exactly sure how or the age I wanted to work with.
As I continued with schooling through my college years I worked with children of many different ages and in a variety of settings. All of which I loved! The more I worked with children in their early years of life, I realized that age was where my biggest impact would be. It is during this time that the foundation for learning and growing begins. The love of learning and the development of their self-image starts at birth.
While working at Pasadena Head Start in California I attended Pacific Oaks College and earned a degree in Human Development with specialization in Early Childhood Education. From there I continued teaching young children in many different settings until I fell into a job Montessori at Mile High Child Care where I was a Mentor teacher. I fell in love with the Montessori Philosophy and decided to pursue my Montessori teaching credential at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in Boulder. That was over 20 years ago. I have continued in the path of Montessori ever since. It has become my way of living, being and believing. I am so passionate about Montessori that my daughter was raised in our home as a Montessori child from birth through 18 years old and as an adult she will now continue forward in that manner.
I believe whole heartedly in Montessori and her vision for children. Her love for children. Her belief in children. Her belief that children have everything they need inside of them and we as their guides are there to help them find it, bring it out and follow them to their full potential. Following the child is what Montessori is all about. I look forward to being able to follow your children, and to guide them in realizing and recognizing their full potential.
When not at work with children I love spending time outside running, walking, hiking and being a part of the world around us. I also spend a lot of time talking with my daughter. We spend time doing this regularly as we both love to be outside on walks. I also do the same with my sister and two nephews. Family means the world to me. I am one who loves and believes in the good in the world. I am outside as much as I can be to witness what is happening outdoors and in nature, and to be a part of it.
Haley Henderson, Preschool Teacher – Ash Building
At 21 years old, my wise mother gifted me the book The Absorbent Mind by Dr. Maria Montessori. It sat on my bookshelf for a few months until one day I decided to read it. As I began to read through the pages, it was as if a switch inside me had been turned on. One page after another, I couldn’t put it down. It was as though Dr. Maria Montessori put into words all the knowledge and wisdom my heart desired to help change the world. I knew from that moment where my destiny headed. Three months later I was enrolled at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies and part of the 2016/2017 Early Childhood cohort. For the past four years I’ve taught preschool in the Denver metro area.
During the past five years I also became a mother. I am blessed with a lovely, rambunctious 4½ year old boy. His name is Rowan and he lights up my world. Montessori philosophy has proved to be much more than my profession; it is a way of life. Becoming a mother has allowed me to integrate Montessori into our daily lives and through this, it has given me a wider understanding of children. In the past 4½ years my son has proven to be my biggest teacher and inspiration.
During our free time, Rowan and I love to hike. Our favorite days are spent enjoying a picnic by the river. When not outside, I spend my time baking and cooking. I enjoy studying herbalism and looking for medicinal plants in the wild. Rowan and I are thrilled to be at School in the Woods. We look forward to the journey ahead.
Vida West, Preschool Teacher – Ash Building
Like so many, my first exposure to a Montessori classroom was magical. Empowered individuals, young children pursuing unique interests in a rich environment of discovery and joy that respects each human spirit as fully capable and competent on their way to actualization. Why isn’t all education like this? I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I had just finished my BA in English and Anthropology and became an assistant in that very Montessori classroom for 3 years before deciding to get my Primary certification to become a lead teacher. That was 20 years ago… and one of the happiest life decisions I’ve ever made.
Since 2002, I have taught as a lead and team teacher at several schools here in Denver. I have been an instructor at the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies (MECR) for the past 8 years and conduct workshops on science and language curriculum and classroom management. I also worked as a Kindergarten teacher for DPS.
I first met Melody Patton when she taught my own child and I was experiencing parenthood for the first time. I just felt so secure knowing the type of environment that would surround my daughter. Not just physically, but emotionally, intellectually, socially. A few years later I had the opportunity to co-teach with Melody and experience personally her authentic respect and genuine thoughtfulness for each child in her care. When she opened her own school, once again, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
I am so excited to join the community at School in the Woods! Just a little about me… I moved to Denver when I was 10, but before that, I lived in Malaysia and Brazil. I have a husband who works at DU and two daughters 12 and 14 years old, both who got their starts as Montessori kids! My hobbies include gardening and playing guitar and my whole family loves to sing… sometimes it feels like we are living in a musical! I can’t wait to meet all of you and begin another exciting year of the greatest place on earth— school!!!
Krista Bell – PreKindergarten Teacher
My interest in Montessori began with the education of my first daughter when a friend invited me to observe a Montessori Children’s House classroom in Rochester, NY. I was immediately fascinated with the independence and proactive energy of the environment and wanted it for my children. Having recently graduated from Nazareth College with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, Magna Cum Laude, I was intrigued by the allowance of intrinsic motivation that was embedded in the curriculum design for children. I loved the concrete design of the curriculum that simplified complex concepts for very young children. Having grown up with 6 siblings, the multi-age classroom arrangement very much resonated with me.
A charter school opened up soon after and I sent my son to the Children’s House program where he learned a love of cooking and a very proactive sense of independence and order. He attended that school until we moved to another part of New York. When my youngest was almost 3, I left a sales job in Management Consulting to pursue a Montessori teaching certificate. I couldn’t bear the thought of my youngest attending anything other than a Montessori school! I was offered an opportunity as a teaching intern at Malta Montessori School near Saratoga Springs, NY. While there, I completed a Master’s degree in Pre-School Education from Endicott College and continued to teach there for 5 years. In 2013, I designed and launched a Montessori Summer Camp program for the town of Queensbury, NY which ran successfully until I relocated to Colorado.
I am very excited to be teaching in Denver, surrounded by my family and the beautiful mountains. When I am not in the classroom, I can be found hiking, snowboarding, and enjoying the great outdoors with my family.
Laura Oliphant – PreKindergarten Teacher
Working with children has always been my joy. In high school I worked in afterschool care, volunteered at church, and spent summers as a day camp counselor. After graduating with a B.F.A. in interior design from the University of Central Oklahoma, talking with a good friend caused me to step back and think about what I would do if I could do anything. I found that this conversation and thought process planted in me a desire to teach. Once the desire was there it grew and grew. I went back to UCO to pursue a M.Ed. in early childhood education. I spent half a year teaching English in South Korea and finished my student teaching early to take a kindergarten position at an inner-city school. I spent three years in mainstream education before Montessori crossed my path.
Montessori came into my life in 2017 when I began teaching at Westminster School in Oklahoma City. There I co-taught in an early childhood classroom and taught yoga to Kindergartners. The Montessori pedagogy was modeled for me and I began to implement it myself. The materials, environment, and uninterrupted work period were fascinating. Ultimately, the respect being given to and returned by the children, won me over entirely. I learned that respect is elemental to every aspect of the Montessori pedagogy. Delightedly, I earned my Montessori early childhood credential at Oklahoma City University the following year and continued to teach at Westminster School.
Marriage and a sense of adventure brought me out to Colorado. I love gardening, yoga, skiing, camping, hiking, and relaxing. Watching and coaxing my plants to grow and bloom gives me great pleasure. Practicing yoga stretches and strengthens my body, mind, and spirit. There is no doubt that each of my passions is incorporated into and influenced by my teaching.
Laura Anderman – PreK Lunch Coordinator and Substitute
I earned my Montessori teaching certification in 2004, and since then have taught in multiple schools as a Primary Lead Teacher. However, my Montessori experience began long before that, as I was a Montessori child myself. Teaching children is a passion of mine, and I believe it to be my calling.
I left teaching temporarily to complete my bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Human Development with a minor in Elementary Education from 2012-2014, then extended the break from teaching to begin raising my daughter, born late 2014. Expanding my formal education and becoming a mother have aided in my personal growth and benefits my teaching and relationships with parents. I am excited and eager to continue teaching in the classroom with vast knowledge and experiences under my belt.
As a dancer and a traveler, one of the aspects I have enjoyed most about teaching has been incorporating world culture, music and dance into my classrooms. Bringing in culturally rich experiences from my own travels and encouraging children to be active has always felt natural and necessary. I have often received positive feedback form parents regarding this aspect of my teaching style. I also make it a priority to teach children about the environment and spend time outdoors. Not only do I love it, but so do they! Above all, it is my goal to instill a joy for learning in every child.
Marketa Raevsky – Substitute
Interacting with younger children has been my passion since the age of twelve when my little brother was born. While I knew that teaching was always close to my heart, I took a winding road to find the Montessori method. I moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina to finish high school at the United World College (International Baccalaureate Diploma Program). This experience opened the world to me, and in 2018, I graduated from Colorado College with a BA in Mathematical Economics and French. Colorado’s beautiful nature and friendly people have made this state my new home. Desire to stay near the mountains and my passion for languages and language teaching motivated to keep on studying. In May 2020, I graduated from University of Colorado Boulder with a Master’s of Arts in French Literature.
Throughout my academic path, children constantly brought joy to my life. I worked as an Assistant Teacher at the Colorado College Children’s Center and tutored languages (English and French) to young learners. I discovered the beauty of Montessori’s pedagogy when I observed a bilingual Montessori school in Paris. I was fascinated by the warm and calm environment, and the respect that both adults and children showed to one another. Since that day, I began researching more about Montessori Education, and about the magical way it is designed to meet the unique needs of each child, while the guide follows the child’s curiosity. Eventually, the Montessori Method became the main topic of my French Bachelor’s thesis. In Summer 2019, I finally had the opportunity to pursue the Montessori Early Childhood Teacher Credential program at the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies. In my free time, I love running, rock climbing, hiking and figure skating. I also enjoy home improvement projects, experimenting with vegetarian meals and baking.
I joined the School in the Woods team in August 2020 and work to create that warm and calm environment wherein children feel seen and heard – a place where their curiosity guides us to make learning a fascinating journey.
Lindsey Watts – Substitute
My love of teaching and caring for children has been part of my life since I can remember. When I found Montessori, I was at a pivotal point in my life and I knew it was what I was supposed to be doing. The idea that “babies are born with everything they need and the role of the adult is to foster the child’s discovery of herself and the World through a prepared environment” was exactly how I had always seen children. I want children to feel confident, curious, safe, and ambitious about who they are and this world around them. Montessori is the perfect vehicle for this way of life.
I am originally from a small town in Texas but have always felt called by the mountains. A week after graduating from Baylor University, I moved to Denver and worked in sales, but was unfulfilled. In 2014 I began my studies at the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies and received my Infant & Toddler teaching certificate in 2015 from the American Montessori Society. I have been working with both toddlers and infants since then. Working with small children in a Montessori environment creates a kind of ‘magic.’ These children are able to move freely and explore without being told ‘what’ to do, but instead shown ‘how’ to do something. My favorite part of this educational philosophy is working with families. I love answering questions from parents, as well as offering new knowledge and some trusty advice. A school is a community which includes the children, the teachers, and most importantly, the parents/ care givers. School in the Woods is an exceptional place that fosters this ‘Montessori magic’ in all areas.
Some of my hobbies outside of the classroom include playing golf with my husband, finding and trying new recipes, and, newly, learning how to throw pottery. I am very excited to be a part of this beautiful community, and I look forward to meeting you and your children!
Samantha Wilkins – Substitute
When I was a young child, I loved to play school with my younger sister. Solving problems, putting things in order, researching different topics would be the kinds of work we would do at our “pretend” school! Little did I know, this innate desire to learn would lead me to becoming someone who guides young children to do the same. I attended college at the University of Wyoming knowing I wanted to work with children and found myself really liking the education classes I was taking. I received my degree in Elementary Education in 2018 with a minor in Disability Studies. After taking a year off after college, I kept asking myself this question, “How can I be the kind of teacher who motivates the desire to learn in my classes?” My background previous to Montessori teaching came from teaching in various public school settings. I was grateful to learn the teaching skills necessary to run a classroom, however I had a more “self constructivist” belief about education.
While looking for my first teaching job, I stumbled across a Montessori Lead Teacher position in my college town, Laramie, Wyoming. I accepted the job and went to Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in summer 2019 and taught as a Lead Montessori Teacher for the 2019-2020 school year. My mind was blown while learning the Montessori Method and I quickly became passionate about the teaching philosophy. My favorite quote by Maria Montessori is, “The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence”. I believe the answer to my question a few years ago was this: providing children with the environment and resources to learn responsibility and independence will give them the intrinsic motivation to learn new skills and subjects that prepare them for life.
My husband and I moved back to Colorado in August 2020 to continue in our careers and be close to family. In my free time, I love to create art for home décor, be outside, and spend time with close friends. I am so grateful to have found School In the Woods!