Our faculty and staff are proud to be a part of the growth and development of students at Cedar River Montessori. Our administration team oversees finances and executes school operations to support our staff, students, and families. Administration connects our school community with our larger surrounding communities through communications, admissions, and advancement.
In addition to college course work, certified Montessori teachers undergo extensive training to prepare them for the task of guiding the student. For each level (age 3-6, grades 1-3, grades 4-6, etc.) teachers complete intensive training followed by a year-long internship in the classroom. This differs from a traditional teaching program in that the focus is on a smaller age-group, enabling the teacher to acquire a deep understanding of the development, academic, and social needs of their students. Our teachers have all completed Montessori certification for the age group which they teach, and several have additional certifications. We also have a Washington State Certified teacher, several teachers have additional education and training, and a balanced experienced-to-fresh perspective ratio. Our teachers’ classrooms are often visited by teachers-in-training. Several staff have presented locally and nationally at assorted conferences and workshops.
Our assistants bring a wealth of experience and training to their interactions with our students. Working with the teacher in the classroom, they are responsible for helping the classroom run smoothly and ensuring the continuation of the Montessori philosophy from the classroom to the playground and beyond. Our assistants speak several languages, have training in education and other areas, and a wide range of interests that they share with students.
Erin Karnofski – Head of School
Erin joined Cedar River Montessori in 2016 after spending twelve years in administration at Montessori schools in the Cincinnati area and the Minneapolis area. She holds a BA (Biology) from Gustavus Adolphus College, an MA (Biological Anthropology) from University of Michigan, and a Master’s in Education (Montessori) from Xavier University. She is continuously impressed by the growth and maturation of children as they develop into confident, well-spoken, and opinionated young adults. In her time outside of school, she enjoys doing art projects with her daughter and tide pooling with her son near their home in West Seattle.
Melinda Woodard – Director of Advancement and Admissions
Melinda holds a Bachelor of Science in Marine and Freshwater Biology with a minor in music from the University of New Hampshire, and a Master of Science in Environmental Science with a focus in Aquatic Ecology from Western Washington University. Before joining Cedar River Montessori as the first Director of Advancement and Admissions in 2014, Melinda wrote freshwater laboratory and field procedures for the State of California. Melinda is passionate about our community, and enjoys introducing prospective parents to our school and the difference that a Montessori education can make to the life of a child. She loves creating opportunities for people to connect to the natural world! As Director of Advancement, Melinda has coordinated our school’s partnership with King Conservation District to implement our pasture conservation and ecological restoration plan, and she also represents Cedar River Montessori on the Cedar River Council. In her free time, Melinda enjoys music, yoga, getting outside, and hanging out with her family and cats.
Rachel Clements – Business Office
Rachel joined the Cedar River Montessori business office in 2009 after 20 years as a stay-at-home mom. During her time at home, she stayed current with the financial world as church treasurer and by doing the books for a few small businesses. After spending countless hours volunteering in the classroom where her three boys attended school, she was very excited to be hired by Cedar River and be a part of an educational community, where she can watch kids grow and learn in a way that teaches grace and courtesy. When Rachel is not working, she loves spending time with her husband and adult children (which now also includes 2 daughters-in-law), playing games, doing puzzles, watching sports, chatting in the hot tub and going on easy hikes. She holds an AA Degree in Accounting.
Windy Walker – Office Coordinator
Windy joined the CRMS staff in 2015 and has worked in our summer program as well as in early childhood. She holds an AA in paralegal studies, and she has taken coursework in ornamental horticulture as well as the MEIPN Montessori Assistant Training. Her background as a legal secretary/paralegal was in representing plaintiffs in civil rights litigation, which helped refine her skills in organization and mindful communication. When not in the classroom, Windy enjoys gardening and crafting, with specialization in spinning, felting, and dying fibers.
Bill Chemnick – Social Studies and Language Arts
Bill earned his Master of Science in Teaching from Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education while teaching seventh and eighth grade English and Social Studies in the Bronx with Teach for America. As a teacher, Bill created a peer mediation and negotiation program, coached a junior mock trial team, and prepared students for an international Model United Nations Competition in New York City. Following Teach for America, Bill graduated from the George Washington University Law School. As an attorney, he has valued working directly with crime victims, refugees escaping torture in their home countries, and clients with catastrophic physical, emotional and mental trauma. He is excited to draw upon his legal background while challenging students to think critically about important issues, to advocate for the causes they believe in, and to effectively resolve conflicts in their communities. Bill joined Cedar River Montessori in 2017, and he is looking forward to earning his Montessori certification while learning new approaches to student-centered English and Social Studies instruction.
Michael Munro – Math and Science
Michael holds a bachelor’s degree in astrophysics from the University of Washington and has worked in education since 2008. He has been with Cedar River since 2014. Michael teaches Middle School math in the afternoon and assists in the Upper Elementary classroom in the morning. After school, he runs the science and elementary robotics programs, as well as homework club. Michael brings to Cedar River a wealth of skills and interests that give him the capacity to teach concepts that build upon and expand the general classroom curriculum. His interests outside of school include researching prototyping, CAD and 3D printing, and building a CNC router, lathe, and an electric foundry. He also enjoys drawing, reading scientific texts and tutorials, and fantasy and sci-fi novels.
Kris Ramos – Montessori Teacher
Kris holds a BA in history/adolescent education from the State University of New York at Geneseo; Master in Montessori Education from Loyola University in Maryland; and Association Montessori Internationale Diploma Elementary (6-12). He came to Montessori as a substitute teacher and found the philosophy matched his personal values of community and following a student’s passions. He spent two years as an assistant teacher at the Early Childhood level, where the lead teacher with whom he worked encouraged him to pursue further Montessori training at the elementary level. In addition to his work in Montessori, Kris has inspired children ages 3-14 as a wilderness instructor with Earthworks. Outside of his work in Montessori, Kris enjoys playing and coaching soccer, teaching swim lessons, hiking, archery, and participating in minor and major league soccer supporters’ clubs as a lead drummer. This is Kris’s first year at Cedar River Montessori.
Ms. Candy – Assistant Teacher and PE Teacher
Candy joined Cedar River Montessori in 1995-96 and has deep connections to our programs and community. After working as an assistant teacher in nearly all age levels, Candy found her niche with the upper elementary students in 2009. Her patience, enthusiasm, and rapport with children inspire her students for years to come. Candy has held leadership roles in our summer program, where she teaches students sewing, geocaching, wilderness survival, and photography. She has training in Junior Great Books and low ropes course, and she has taken Montessori teacher coursework for ages 3-6. Candy is the resident expert on the history of the CRMS animals – if you have a minute, ask her to share a story or two about the animals! Outside of school, Candy enjoys photography, hiking, camping, and crocheting.
Patti Schlegelmilch – Montessori Teacher
Patti has been part of the elementary teaching team at Cedar River Montessori since 1998. She began her career in Montessori education after receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Natural Sciences from the University of Washington and her Master’s in Teaching and Washington State Teaching certificate from Seattle University. After a short time teaching, Patti was eager to know more about the Montessori method, so she pursued her Montessori 6-9 certificate. Outside of the classroom, Patti enjoys knitting and sewing, as well as cross-country skiing and hiking with her family.
Eric Wieszczecinski – Assistant Teacher
Eric holds a BA in Psychology from Argosy University, and he has completed his MEIPN Montessori Assistant Training. Eric joined Cedar River Montessori in 2013 as an after care assistant, then was a full-time physical education teacher before becoming a lower elementary assistant in 2015. A Michigan native, Eric enjoys bringing his patience, problem-solving skills, and empathy to the students of Cedar River Montessori. In his spare time, Eric enjoys food, animals, and gaming with his wife, Mary.
Jackie Sechler – Montessori Teacher
Jackie has always been deeply involved in a non-traditional way of education ever since she was a student at School of the Woods Montessori in Houston, TX, from 6th-12th grade. Upon graduating, she was immediately drawn towards eventually becoming a Montessori teacher. Jackie holds a bachelor’s degree in history with a focus on Russian and English literature from The Evergreen State College. She holds AMS Elementary I certification from Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest (MEIPN), and she has taught in lower elementary Montessori classrooms since 2015. In her spare time, Jackie enjoys baking, reading, doing yoga, and playing with her cat, Luna (named after Luna Lovegood from the Harry Potter series). This is Jackie’s first year at Cedar River Montessori, and she is excited to join LE 2, which is also home to a cat named Luna. And Rosie, of course!
Heather Burke – Assistant Teacher
Heather started out as a substitute teacher at Cedar River Montessori in Spring 2017, and she has loved seeing how Montessori learning works. Heather has also volunteered as an art docent, teaching art history and techniques to elementary students. In addition to being a mother to four children, in her spare time Heather enjoys outings with her husband and kids, crafting, and refinishing furniture. She also loves the outdoors, animals, and reading. Heather has completed the MEIPN Montessori assistant training, and she is excited to start her first year being full time in the classroom.
Jerry Wing – Montessori Teacher
Jerry has been working with children at Cedar River since 1984, and he is now teaching the children of his former students! His lifelong career with children started as a Head Start teacher while he was studying psychology and children development at Seattle University. He continued on at Western Washington College as a work-study student in a Montessori-style childcare facility. This led Jerry to Northwest Montessori School of Seattle and subsequent Montessori training with Madeleine Justus of the Spring Valley School. Jerry earned his AMS Early Childhood Credential from MEIPN. Jerry enjoys singing and photography, and his musical talents include playing the guitar, tin whistle, and mountain dulcimer.
Lori Westerlund – Assistant Teacher
Lori worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for 20 years before making a career change to become a preschool teacher. Her daughters, now in their late teens, loved the Montessori education they received at Cedar River Montessori’s summer program years ago. Their love of learning inspired Lori so much that she sought Montessori certification to learn more. Lori is passionate about learning and understanding different cultures and perspectives as well as languages. Lori is an adventuresome international traveler, and she loves hiking and being in nature. Lori holds a Master’s in Education (UW) and Montessori teacher’s certification for ages 2.5-6 years (MACTE). This is Lori’s first year teaching at Cedar River Montessori.
Ms. Carla – Montessori Teacher
Ms. Carla has been teaching at Cedar River Montessori since 2011. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from California State University, Fullerton. After finishing her degree, she was introduced to the Montessori method by a family member as she was preparing for a career in teaching. Ms. Carla worked as an assistant at both the primary and elementary levels. Inspired and curious she then became motivated to pursue her Montessori certification. She received her AMS Early Childhood Credential at the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in 2011, and, because Washington has become her home, she pursued and received the Washington State Early Childhood Education Certification in 2016. Ms. Carla possesses a deep admiration and appreciation for the Montessori Method, believing that it is very fulfilling to help children develop, acquire knowledge, and build character. In her time spent outside of school, Ms. Carla enjoys culture and the arts throughout the Seattle area, and makes it a priority to take advantage of the outdoor adventures Washington has to offer.
Cindy James – Assistant Teacher
Cindy has been an early childhood assistant at Cedar River Montessori community since 2009, when she first came onto campus and immediately loved it here. Cindy holds a certificate in K-12 Para-education from Green River College (2006), and she has completed MEIPN Montessori Assistant Training. Before becoming a parent and Montessorian, Cindy worked for 25 years in retail management. Cindy is a proud alumni parent whose children grew up at Cedar River Montessori, and she loves how her children are creative, independent thinkers because of their education here. Outside of school, Cindy enjoys getting out to explore and experience our diverse Pacific Northwest culture with her family, and spending time with her dachshunds.
Shernaaz Palkhivala – Montessori Teacher
Shernaaz graduated from the University of Mumbai, India with a major in French. She was first a parent at Cedar River Montessori, then joined the staff as an assistant to Mr. Jerry in 2006. With Mr. Jerry’s encouragement, Shernaaz earned her AMS Early Childhood Credential from MEIPN in 2013. She then interned and co-taught with Mr. Jerry for a year before co-teaching with Miss Sarah for one year, and she is now a lead teacher. Before working at Cedar River Montessori, Shernaaz was a tour guide with French, German and Spanish speaking tourists and toured with them all over North India. She is the proud parent of two Cedar River Montessori graduates!
Lucy Towne – Assistant Teacher
Lucy has been with Cedar River since 2016. She was born and raised in Pennsylvania and has lived in Seattle for 30 years. She is the mother of two grown children, and she brings to Cedar River her love of gardening and nature. Lucy recently completed the MEIPN Montessori Assistant Training for the 3-6 year old classroom. In her spare time, she loves all crafts, especially crochet and nature crafts. Lucy and Candy are diligently working to pass on the art of crocheting to our upper elementary students.
Diana Dauble – Naturalist and Garden Instructor
Diana spent her childhood in the semi-arid desert of Eastern Washington, with a fisheries ecologist father and elementary school teacher mom. Most of her time was spent outdoors collecting bugs and playing by the Columbia River. In 1991 she came over the mountains to attend Western Washington University and graduated with a BA in Anthropology/Archaeology. She went back to college for further certificates in Landscape Design, Horticulture and Sustainable Land Management. Diana joined Cedar River Montessori in 2016, and she enjoys the enthusiasm and inquisitive nature the students share for the outdoor world. Other interests include reading, writing poetry, cooking and fly fishing. Diana lives on a “small farm” with Peter, five kids, a dozen chickens, turtles, cats, salamanders and a fantastic specimen garden!
Angie Frederickson – Learning Specialist / Before Care Teacher
Angie has been at Cedar River Montessori since 2010. She has worked in Early Childhood and Lower Elementary classrooms as an assistant teacher and in our summer program as a swim instructor. Angie currently works as a learning specialist with students in early childhood and elementary. She holds a BA in English from Western Washington University, and she has taken coursework for a post-baccalaureate teaching certificate from UW Tacoma with endorsement in English from K-8. Angie also holds a community educator certificate in Orton-Gillingham reading instruction from the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education. Angie enjoys camping, watching movies, and playing games with her family, reading and travel. She is especially proud of hiking to the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous United States, which has an elevation of 14,505 feet!
Rachael Duke, Elementary and Middle School Art
Rachael will be joining us this year to do art with the elementary and middle schoolers. Rachael grew up in Bothell, riding bikes with banana seats and wearing jelly shoes. Whether it was sewing her own clothes, redecorating her parent’s house or painting acrylics, Rachael was always creating art. She took art and sewing classes in grade school and college. She has found her passion for creating art is exceeded only by the joy she receives in helping others express their creativity. Rachael has been a public elementary art docent for 15 years in multiple schools and school districts. For the last decade Rachael has taught art part-time to both kids and adults. She is not new to the CRMS community, you may recognize her as Miss Renae’s twin sister. As our substitute assistant last year, she got to know many of our students and is excited about sharing her artistic passions with them. Rachael is back in college working to complete her degree, but in her spare time enjoys starting way too many projects and spending time with her husband and three kids.
Kasey Sweeney-Easter – Spanish
Kasey holds a bachelor’s degree in History/Social Studies and Spanish from Western Washington University. She received her teaching certificate from Woodring College of Education. Kasey has over 15 years of experience tutoring, over five years in the classroom, and has spent the last four years learning early childhood education and curriculum design. She has been living and working in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico for the past five years. She joined Cedar River Montessori in 2017 to teach Spanish in all age levels. She brings enthusiasm to her classroom and enjoys working with learners of all ages. She enjoys helping students learn to embrace the challenges during language acquisition. Outside of school, Kasey enjoys travel and playing outdoors. ¡Ella está emocionada por trabajar y aprender con todos!
Rodrigue Ambara – Elementary and Middle School Performing Arts
Rod is a Cameroon native, raised in Switzerland and now lives in Seattle with his wife and son. To give a brief overview of his varied international background: Rod was involved in different artistic and community projects in Switzerland, South Africa, Canada, Brazil, and Cuba. He is passionate about working with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and languages. He also enjoys mentoring and helping people gather tools they need for success and empowerment. Rod has college degrees from The School of Social Work of Lausanne (Switzerland) where he majored in Community Development. Locally, he has worked with after school youth enrichment programs in Seattle, guiding them to create and perform their own plays. He is also the founder of The Kayla Project, which empowers communities through the Arts. Rod is excited to share everything from his prior experiences and learn from the amazing team at Cedar River Montessori school.
Chellas Fillingim – Program Specialist
Chellas joined Cedar River Montessori in 2017, and she works in many functions. In the morning, she assists in Upper Elementary, as well as with the early childhood lunches. In the late afternoon, Chellas works in our aftercare program. Perhaps her biggest role, which is a new position for Cedar River, is to work with our pasture animals in the early afternoon, overseeing the well-being of the animals and assisting our classrooms with their daily animal care responsibilities. Chellas is a Texas native with a degree in Psychology from the University of North Texas and a degree in Zoo and Aquarium Science from The Animal Behavior Institute. Before relocating to Washington, Chellas worked as a zookeeper with large carnivore and hoof stock species focusing on both animal husbandry and behaviorism. Additionally, she worked for five years as an as academic research librarian while living in Texas. After moving to Washington in early 2016, Chellas began working as a naturalist for Northwest Trek Wildlife Park. In this setting, she found an affinity for educating young students about native wildlife of the Pacific Northwest. Chellas is a huge literature fan and especially enjoys comic books and the works of William Shakespeare. Hiking with her rescue dogs and traveling with family are other areas of interest she pursues in her spare time. Chellas is excited to share her experience in hoof stock training and animal enrichment with the Cedar River Montessori students and school community.
Lloyd Hafar – Maintenance
Lloyd has been helping the Cedar River Montessori facilities run smoothly since 2016. Lloyd has studied widely in Oregon and Washington, holds multiple certificates in mechanical and electrical engineering, and has built hundreds of new homes. Lloyd brings his enthusiastic, patient, and cheerful work ethic to our students and campus projects, and he enjoys coaching seasonal sports and exploring electronic engineering in his free time. Lloyd believes that children are not only the future, they are the now!
Joyce Jones – Floating Assistant
Joyce has been part of the Cedar River Montessori community as a parent and valued volunteer since 2006, as a substitute since 2009, and as a part-time employee since 2015. Joyce is a proud parent of a Cedar River Montessori graduate, and in her spare time cheers on her children’s swim teams!
Victoria Sergeyeva – Floating Assistant
Victoria holds a Master’s degree in Forestry Engineering from St. Petersburg Forestry Academy, and she has been with Cedar River Montessori as a floating classroom assistant since 2015. A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, Victoria brings her love for order, exploration, peace, and harmony to the children of Cedar River Montessori. In her spare time, Victoria enjoys reading, music, theater, and spending time with her three daughters.
Dana Freeman – Aftercare Teacher
Dana Freeman – Dana joined the Cedar River Community in 2017, having first experienced Cedar River as the parent of an elementary Summer Program student! Dana has worked with children of all ages, most recently as an Assistant Preschool Teacher. She has worked and volunteered at local school districts, Girls Scouts of America, and Junior Achievement. Dana enjoys traveling, cooking and spending time with her husband and three children.