Staff & Faculty

The People Who Make It Happen

Montessori Educator Guides

The time-tested “Montessori” educational model and name is over 100 years old.  It remains a cutting-edge model of education, if it is fully implemented as a system.  In order to maintain our commitment to providing superlative Montessori accredited schools, Lakeland Montessori requires:

  • all classrooms have two adults, the lead teacher and a full-time assistant
  • all lead teachers must hold or be actively enrolled to receive their Montessori credentials for the age levels they are teaching. Separate, specific Montessori credentials are required for age 3-6, age 6-9, age 9-12, and age 12-15.  For example, a teacher that is Montessori certified for age 3-6 may not teach age 9-12 students unless they hold or are enrolled to receive the Montessori credential for that age level. This is also a requirement to qualify as an accredited American Montessori Society school.
  • all lead teachers must hold or be enrolled to receive Montessori credentials issued by a  Montessori teacher education program that is accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE), the American Montessori Internationale, the American Montessori Society, or the National Center for Montessori Education. This is also a requirement to qualify as an accredited American Montessori Society school.
  • all lead teachers must have a Bachelor’s Degree. This is also a requirement to qualify as an accredited American Montessori Society school.
  • all lead teachers must have a State of Florida Teaching Certificate.
  • all classroom assistants are required to attend a Montessori assistant teacher training workshop.

Lorna McGrath, Curriculum Coaching Consultant

  • Associate Head of School at NewGate Montessori School for 22 years, administrator at NewGate Montessori School since 1994. During Lorna’s tenure at NewGate, she played several important roles: Admissions Director, Compliance Officer, Educational Coordinator, and Interim Head of School. Lorna was also the Director of the former New Gate Center for Montessori Teacher Education
  • Currently the Director of Family Resources at The Montessori Foundation and leader of the New Gate Montessori family education program
  • 40 years in the field of education, teaching children from 18 months through 6 years old and from 12 through 18 years old in both public schools and independent Montessori schools
  • Montessori teacher certification from a MACTE accredited American Montessori Society teacher training center
  • Master’s Degree in Education with a concentration in Family Counseling from the University of Georgia
  • Lorna is a Montessori teacher educator, conference presenter, and school consultant. She has also spent many years as a certified instructor for the International Network for Children & Families, teaching classes in Redirecting Children’s Behavior, Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom, Common Ground for Parents and Teens, and Parenting Instructor Network Training

Mabel Garcia, Early Childhood Lead Montessori Guide – Banyan Classroom

  • MACTE accredited Montessori Early Childhood age 3-6 Full Certification through the International Montessori Council Center for Guided Montessori Studies, Sarasota, FL
  • State of Florida Professional Teacher Certification, Primary Education grades K-3, Elementary Education grades 1-6, ESOL endorsed
    Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Former Dade county public schools Kindergarten teacher 1997-2004
  • Bilingual in Spanish and English
  • Began teaching in 1997 and joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2011
  • Parent of two Lakeland Montessori graduates

Katherine Martinez, Early Childhood Assistant – Banyan Classroom

  • Center for Guided Montessori Studies Assistant Teacher workshop completion
  • 6 years as a preschool teacher at Ridge Christian Academy, Davenport, FL
  • 3 years as a toddler teacher at Hand’N’Hand Academy, Orlando, FL
  • Bilingual in Spanish and English
  • Joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2014

Valerie Hewitt, Early Childhood Lead Montessori Guide -Willow Classroom

  • MACTE accredited Montessori Early Childhood age 3-6 Full Certification through the International Montessori Council Center for Guided Montessori Studies, Sarasota, FL
  • State of Florida Professional Teacher Certification, Prekindergarten/Primary Education, age 3 – grade 3, English Speakers of Other Languages
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from University of South Florida, Tampa
  • Former Polk County and Hillsborough public schools Early Childhood teacher 2011-2017
  • Joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2017
  • Parent of one child attending Lakeland Montessori

Zulfiya Dalessandro, Early Childhood Assistant -Willow classroom

  • MACTE accredited Montessori Early Childhood age 3-6 Full Certification ongoing through the International Montessori Council Center for Guided Montessori Studies, Sarasota, FL
  • Master of Arts Degree in Jurisprudence/Legal Studies, Bashkir State University, Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan
  • Fluent in Russian, German, Bashkirian and Tatarian
  • Russian Federation Government, Ufa, Republic of Bashkortostan Lawyer 1999-2009
  • Polk County public schools classroom employee 2015-2018
  • Joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2018
  • Parent of two children attending Lakeland Montessori

Anita Joseph, Early Childhood Co-Lead Montessori Guide -Cypress Classroom

  • MACTE accredited Montessori Early Childhood age 3-6 Full Certification through the International Montessori Council Center for Guided Montessori Studies, Sarasota, FL
  • State of Florida Teacher Certified, Primary Education grades K-3
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from St. John’s University, New York
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Long Island University, New York
  • Former age 3-6 Montessori Assistant Teacher/Intern at Beach Park Montessori School in Tampa 2017-18
  • Former Finance professional 1997-2016
  • Joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2016 as a substitute teacher

Chelsea Waldron, Early Childhood Co-Lead Montessori Guide -Cypress Classroom

  • MACTE accredited Montessori Early Childhood age 3-6 Full Certification through the International Montessori Council Center for Guided Montessori Studies, Sarasota, FL
  • State of Florida Professional Teacher and Administrator Certification in Educational Leadership and Elementary Education grades K-6, ESOL endorsed
  • Master of Education degree in Education Leadership from Southeastern University, Lakeland
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida, Tampa
  • Former Polk County public schools Kindergarten, First, Second, and Third-grade teacher and Math Coach 2010-2017
  • Former infant room teacher at Precious Children in the Highlands, Lakeland 2017-2018
  • Former Day Camp/After School Counselor with KIDZ, Lakeland 2002-2010
  • Began teaching in 2010 and joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2018
  • Parent of a child attending Lakeland Montessori

Sandra Moss-Lower Elementary Lead Montessori Guide, Discoverers Classroom

  • MACTE accredited Montessori Elementary I-II (certified for all ages 6-12) Full Certification through the International Montessori Council Center for Guided Montessori Studies, Sarasota, FL
  • Swedish Montessori Institute age 6-9 Montessori Teacher Education Program completion 2001, Stockholm Sweden
  • State of Florida Professional Teacher Certification, Elementary Education grades K-6
  • Master of Education Degree in Guidance and Counseling from Antioch Graduate College, Keene, New Hampshire
  • Master’s Program, thesis with topic, “Language and Mathematics Achievement in the Multicultural Classroom” from Stockholm University, Institute of International and Comparative Education, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and Education from the University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts with honors from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY
  • Former elementary teacher at Lincoln Avenue Academy
  • Former elementary teacher at Johannes School of Stockholm Sweden 2000-2011
  • Former Artist/Photography teacher in Sweden and the United States
  • Began teaching in 1986 and joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2012

Jennifer Bare, Lower Elementary Assistant-Discoverers classroom

  • National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector Montessori Assistant Teacher Certificate
  • Bachelor of Science degree in Visual Communications, Westwood College, Denver, CO
  • 3 years as a Kelly Services substitute teacher at Polk County Public Schools
  • 7 years with Southwest Florida Water Management
  • Joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2018

Disha Bonner-Lower Elementary Lead Montessori Guide, Adventurers Classroom

  • MACTE accredited Montessori Early Childhood age 3-6 Full Certification through the International Montessori Council Center for Guided Montessori Studies, Sarasota, FL
  • MACTE accredited Montessori age 6-9 Elementary I Full Certification through the International Montessori Council Center for Guided Montessori Studies, Sarasota, FL
  • State of Florida Professional Teacher Certification, Prekindergarten/Primary Education, age 3 – grade 3
  • Master of Education Degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Montessori, Plymouth State University, Plymouth, NH
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Chicago
  • Bilingual in English and Hindi
  • Began teaching in 2010 and joined Lakeland Montessori schools in 2012

Carolyn Krentz, Lower Elementary Assistant – Adventurers classroom

  • National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector Montessori Assistant Teacher Certificate
  • Master of Science degree in Environmental Science from Florida Institute of Technology
  • Bachelor of Science degree in Biology (Marine Biology and Ecology) from Florida Institute of Technology
  • Naturalist/leader of environmental education for 8 years at River Legacy Living Science Center, Arlington, Texas
  • Liason between Arlington Texas Independent School district and River Legacy Living Science Center for 5 years; scheduled, coordinated, and led field investigations
  • Joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2017
  • Parent of current Lakeland Montessori student

Margo Frinzi, Upper Elementary Co-Lead Montessori Guide -Explorers Classroom

  • MACTE accredited Montessori Elementary age 6-12 Full Certification through the International Montessori Council for Guided Montessori Studies, Sarasota, FL
  • State of Florida Professional Teacher Certification, Elementary Education, K-6, Exceptional Student Education, ESOL endorsed
  • Bachelor’s Degree from De Sales University, Center Valley, PA – Magna Cum Laude
  • Former elementary teacher at Highlands Grove Elementary School in Polk County
  • Joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2014
  • Parent of Lakeland Montessori graduate

William “Bill” Leckie, III, Upper Elementary Co-Lead Montessori Guide -Explorers Classroom

  • MACTE accredited Montessori Elementary age 6-12 Full Certification ongoing through the International Montessori Council for Guided Montessori Studies, Sarasota, FL
  • State of Florida Professional Teacher Certification, Elementary Education, K-6, Social Science 6-12
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration Management from University of South Florida, Tampa
  • Former Polk County public schools teacher 2013-2016
  • Former business professional 1986-2012
  • Began teaching in 2013 and joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2017

Anna Clarke-Lead Secondary Montessori Guide

  • MACTE accredited Secondary I age 12-15 Full Certification with the American Montessori Society Houston Montessori Center, Houston, TX
  • State of Florida Professional Teacher Certification, Biology grades 6-12, Exceptional Student Education grades K-12, Middle Grades Integrated Curriculum grades 5-9
  • Bachelor’s Degree double major in Marine Biology and Zoology from Humbolt State University, Arcata, CA
  • Member of American Montessori Society visiting accreditation teams
  • Organizer of American Montessori Society LGBTQ Educators NetWorking Group
  • Began teaching in 2007 and joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2010

Deborah Knight-Lead Secondary Montessori Guide

  • MACTE accredited Secondary I-II (ages 12-18) Full Certification thru the American Montessori Society Houston Montessori Center, Houston, TX
  • State of Florida Professional Teacher Certification
  • Master of Arts degree in Library and Information Sciences from University of South Florida, Tampa, FL
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Food Science and Human Nutrition with a Minor in History from University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
  • Spent five years as a Media Specialist in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
  • Began teaching in 2004 and joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2016

Marissa Saenz-Secondary Assistant

  • MACTE accredited Secondary I-II (ages 12-18) Full Certification ongoing through the American Montessori Society Houston Montessori Center, Houston, TX
  • Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts from Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA
  • Joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2018

Administration

Kate MacDonald-School Secretary

  • 15+ years as Office & Operations Manager and Regional Trainer for Investment Advisory firms, Tampa Florida
  • Certified Life Coach
  • Joined Lakeland Montessori Schools from 2013-2016 and again in 2019
  • Parent of Lakeland Montessori Middle School graduate.

Theodore Church-Assistant Head of School/Assistant Principal

  • MACTE accredited Montessori Early Childhood Full Certification through the American Montessori Society, 2009
  • Montessori Lead Early Childhood Teacher, Marquette Montessori Academy, 2008-2019
  • State of Florida Professional Teacher Certification, Elementary Education K-6
  • State of Indiana Licensed Teacher, Elementary Education K-6, 2004-present
  • Bachelor of Science Degree in Elementary Education from Indiana University
  • Teacher of the Year, Magnet Schools of America
  • Began teaching in 2002 and joined Lakeland Montessori Schools in 2019

Heather Manrow, Co-Head of School/Principal

  • MACTE accredited Secondary I Administrator credential thru the American Montessori Society Houston Montessori Center, Houston, TX
  • MACTE accredited Montessori Elementary I-II (for all ages 6-12) Full Certification through the International Montessori Council Center for Guided Montessori Studies, Sarasota, FL
  • State of Florida Professional Teacher Certification, Biology grades 6-12, Middle Grades Mathematics 5-9, English Speakers of Other Languages
  • Master of Education degree in Educational Leadership from American College of Education
  • Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology from University of South Florida
  • Teacher of the Year, Polk County Association of Charter Schools
  • Teacher of the Year, Discovery Academy of Lake Alfred
  • Began teaching in 1999
  • Joined Lakeland Montessori Schools as a Board Member in 2003 and as Principal of Lakeland Montessori Middle in 2010
  • Parent of Lakeland Montessori alumna.

Josie Hill, Founder of Lakeland Montessori, Co-Head of School/Director of Finance & Strategic Planning

  • Began charter approval process to open Lakeland Montessori Schoolhouse in 2002 and obtained successful approval by the Polk County School Board in 2003
  • Sole Head of School/Executive Director of Lakeland Montessori Schoolhouse from 2003-2012
  • Montessori Leadership Credential Course Instructor, Center for Guided Montessori Studies
  • Presenter at national and international Montessori conferences for organizations such as the American Montessori Society, the International Montessori Council, and the Organisasi Montessori Indonesia
  • State of Florida Professional Teacher Certification, Elementary Education grades K-6
  • State of Florida Advanced Director Credentials, VPK endorsed
  • Early Childhood age 3-6 Montessori Certified through the North American Montessori Center
  • Bachelor of Science Degree, Summa Cum Laude, in Psychology and Business from University of Wisconsin system
  • Extensive background in education, law, finance, business operations, and construction
  • Parent of two Lakeland Montessori alumna.