The 12-Acre Classroom!

Faculty and Staff

teacher and student cirlceOur 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 beachcombing with her son near their home in West Seattle.  She also enjoys cooking and baking, and she’s told she makes pretty delicious pies.

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.

Pamela Swanson – Assistant to the Head of School

Pam has been the assistant to the Head of School and the front smiling face of Cedar River Montessori since 2014. Pam holds a BA in Education (mathematics) from Pacific Lutheran University, along with a minor in psychology. A Chicago native, Pam brings her supportive and friendly organization to the whole community at Cedar River Montessori. In her spare time, Pam loves to host weekly trivia nights at Luther’s Table, spending time with her nieces and nephews, and getting outside into the wilderness.

Renae Howard – Business Office

Renae has been a parent at Cedar River since 2008 and has been a part of the dynamic duo in the CRMS business office since 2013.  After 20 years of architecture office management, she now specializes in accounting as a Quickbooks Pro Advisor.  Renae is a strong advocate of Montessori.  As a parent of grown adults who went to conventional schools, she aimed for a different experience for her younger son.  After researching alternatives, her family came to love the Montessori program, especially at CRMS.  Outside of school, when she isn’t running her bookkeeping business, Renae enjoys baking, kayaking and traveling.

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.




Garland Minor – Middle School Teacher

Garland holds a bachelor’s degree in political science (University of Washington) and a master’s degree in teaching (Seattle University), with endorsements in elementary education K-8, Spanish K-12, and political science 4-12.  She joined CRMS in 2016 with over five years of classroom instruction and fifteen years of tutoring, homeschooling, and curriculum design and organization.  Garland has also pursued several training opportunities with the Center for Nonviolent Communication and the Gottman Institute, and she will be enrolling in Montessori adolescent training this summer.  Garland believes in the awesome potential of children, and she sees them as active participants in their education experience.  Her passion is to be a part of developing learning rich environments and putting into place systems that offer safe guidance as children explore and discover themselves and the world around them.

Mary Martin – Assistant Teacher

Mary holds an AA in art and design, and she also has a learning certificate from Puget Sound Educational Service District.  After moving to Washington from Michigan in 2012, Mary started at Cedar River in 2014, working as a substitute teacher, assistant in lower elementary and middle school, and a teacher in our summer program.  She loves working with students in mixed age classrooms, where she has opportunities to infuse her artistic talents into the curricula and to adapt the Montessori philosophy to adolescents.  Outside of school, Mary enjoys caring for and connecting with animals as well as broadening her world view by watching documentaries.

Michael Munro – Middle School Math, Upper Elementary Assistant, Aftercare Teacher

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.




Rebecca M. Smith – Montessori Teacher

Rebecca joined the staff in 1990 after having been a CRMS parent since 1981. Her three children are CRMS grads. Previously, Rebecca had earned a BS in Microbiology from Ohio State University and taught high school outside Adelaide, Australia for three years. After traveling throughout Australia and Asia, she and her husband eventually moved to the Seattle area to start up a chain of retail stores, Drug Emporium, in the Pacific Northwest. Once the business was sold, she was able to return to school to earn her Montessori certification in Early Childhood, Lower, and Upper Elementary Education. Rebecca thoroughly enjoys the enthusiasm, energy, and imaginations of the Upper El students who are so primed to grasp new intellectual challenges. She and her family enjoy skiing, hiking, soccer, and biking together.

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.

Shelby Thomas – Montessori Teacher

In August 2013, Shelby finished the first portion of the AMS Elementary I-II training at Seton Montessori Institute in Chicago. She packed her car and moved to Seattle to be a Lower Elementary teacher at CRMS, where she’s been ever since! Before her Montessori training, Shelby worked for Outward Bound as a Lead Instructor in the western mountains of North Carolina, Florida’s Everglades, Patagonia, the streets of New York City, and the North Cascades here in the PNW. Her first taste of what education could be like was after college (BA, Art History), when she was hired as a Montessori classroom assistant in Richmond, Virginia, on the basis that she had been babysitting for over a decade and wore cowgirl boots regularly. When not at CRMS, Shelby can usually be found reading, cooking with butter, climbing, shopping at thrift stores, or practicing yoga.

Scott Petitt – Assistant Teacher

Scott has worked in our Lower Elementary program since 2012.  He has attended the MEIPN Montessori Assistant Training and is also lifeguard/CPR certified.  His responsibilities at CRMS are many: aftercare enrichments, summer program, and our pasture.  Not to mention being a parent at CRMS since 2011! Scott enjoys cooking with his smoker, roasting coffee, playing with Legos, and caring for the many animals at Cedar River.




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.

Windy Walker – Assistant Teacher

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.

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 messing down by the Columbia river. In 1991 she came over the mountains to attend Bellingham’s 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. She is new to CRMS this year, and 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!

Xochilt Guido – Spanish Teacher

Xochilt started working at Cedar River as an elementary assistant and after care teacher in 2009.  After taking a few years off to start her family, Xochilt returned to Cedar River to teach Spanish.  Xochilt holds a BA in English with a minor in Education from Florida International University.  She taught middle school English in Florida prior to moving to Washington state.  Xochilt loves children and has a passion for languages!  In her spare time, she enjoys reading, dancing (especially Zumba), and spending time with her family and friends.

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.

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