Faculty & Staff

AMI Montessori Teachers

Nancy Breeden (she/her)

Nancy Breeden (she/her)

Primary Teacher

Nancy has been with Staunton Montessori School since 1997. She has a BS in psychology from Longwood College, a BS in Early Childhood Education from James Madison University, and her primary AMI diploma. She recently pursued her love of writing by completing two Writing for Children’s Magazines courses with the Institute for Children’s Literature.

“I truly believe that Montessori provides the most natural and hands-on way for children to learn.”

Susan Rehfield (she/her)

Susan Rehfield (she/her)

Primary Teacher

Susan has a BA in art from George Mason University (1990) and an AMI primary diploma from The Washington Montessori Institute (1995). She especially enjoys art, music, literature and geography. Through working with children, she loves that every day is full of new discoveries and joyful learning.

Lia Craft (she/her)

Lia Craft (she/her)

Elementary 6-9 Teacher (grades 1-3)

Lia began her undergraduate studies at Radford University and completed her BA in psychology at Georgia State University. She was an assistant in a Montessori upper elementary classroom at Arbor Montessori in Atlanta for 10 years before moving back to Virginia. After a year as Nancy’s assistant, she completed the AMI elementary training at WMI and received a Master’s Degree in Education.

Alison Oelke McCaul (she/her)

Alison Oelke McCaul (she/her)

Elementary 6-9 Teacher (grades 1-3)

Alison is a graduate of Mary Baldwin College with a BA in Sociology & Social Work. She has worked with children in Day Cares, Summer Camps, Puppetry Workshops, and Boys & Girls Clubs in Virginia and Maryland. She loves animals, art, puppetry, games, and watching the children learn and grow.

Chrissie Hall (she/her)

Chrissie Hall (she/her)

Elementary 9-12 Teacher (grades 4-6)

Chrissie is a graduate of Mary Baldwin College, with a degree in psychology. Additionally, she earned her Master’s Degree in Education from Loyola College of Baltimore. Since beginning the elementary program at SMS in 2002, Chrissie continues to focus on fostering the independence, responsibility and curiosity of all students.

Sean Psujek (she/her)

Sean Psujek (she/her)

Adolescent Co-Lead

Sean grew up around bench and field science with one parent a medtech, the other an environmental biologist and quickly took to performing experiments. To prevent her from accidentally burning down the house as a result of said experiments, some “lab” space was provided in a shed well removed from the family home. As an adult, Sean has worked as a junior engineer at Power Monitors, Inc., lived in Thailand and South Korea teaching ESL, worked as a lab manager for a molecular biology lab in Oregon, wrenched in bike shops in Maine, Ohio, and Florida, maintained hawkmoth colonies at two universities, attended a traditional wooden boatbuilding school in Maine, and, somewhere in there, she earned a Ph.D. in Biology through a NSF training grant in neuromechanical systems. Prior to being a STEM guide at Staunton Montessori School, Sean taught biology, astrobiology, chemistry, and integrated science at the college and high school levels.

Austin Shifflett (he/him)

Austin Shifflett (he/him)

Adolescent Co-Lead

Austin earned his MA in English from James Madison University in 2018. He has worked in various educational settings over the years and joined SMS as the Administrative Assistant in 2021 before transitioning to teaching. He enjoys hiking, books, strong coffee, meaningful conversations, playing music, theatre, and writing.

Brittney Barnhart (she/her)

Brittney Barnhart (she/her)

Brittney received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2004 from Columbus College of Art and Design and a Master of Fine Arts in 2006 with a specialization in painting from Bowling Green State University. She taught as an adjunct professor of art before she moved to France for ten years. During that period she worked in a French Middle School, teaching art and English. After returning to the USA, she opened and ran a cafe with her husband, which closed during the pandemic. Brittney moved to Virginia after falling in love with the region. She also is part of the art faculty at the Blue Ridge Community College. Her artwork incorporates magic realism, portraits, patterns, and auras in an adapted version of the Old European Masters oil painting technique. She loves writing and wrote and illustrated a novel which is self-published. She also loves hiking with her husband and daughter, history, culture, cooking, gardening, crocheting, and reading as many books as she can!

Alix Brewer (she/her)

Alix Brewer (she/her)

Adolescent Program Development Specialist

Alix facilitates our Adolescent Program advising and social-emotional learning component, in addition to guiding curriculum development and implementation. She graduated from Pitzer College in Claremont, CA with degrees in Literature and Studio Art.  She then taught adult literacy in Baltimore, MD for two years before going on to earn an MSW, specializing in working with children and adolescents in school settings. Alix spent several years working as a clinical school social worker before moving to Virginia in 2005. She joined us in 2019 following 13 years working in education research at the Curry School of Education and Human Development at the University of Virginia. Alix completed a certification in post-secondary advising from Teachers College, Columbia University in 2020, and a certification from CASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) in facilitating school-based social and emotional learning in 2023. She enjoys spending time with her family, exploring cities, visiting museums, drawing and painting, good books and strong coffee.

Assistants

Kelly Harris (she/her)

Kelly Harris (she/her)

Primary Assistant

Kelly is a graduate of Bridgewater College with a BA in liberal studies. While at Bridgewater she also received her PK-6 teaching license. She has worked at Staunton Montessori School since 2008 and has developed a deep love and appreciation of the Montessori method.

Emily Sproul (she/they)

Emily Sproul (she/they)

Primary Assistant

Emily earned a BA in History (1999) and a Masters of Teaching in Elementary Education (2000) from University of Richmond. She has taught fourth and fifth grade in public schools, led preschool and elementary summer programs, and was lead teacher in the 3 year old class at Covenant Developmental Preschool. Her four children attended the primary program at Staunton Montessori School, and their experiences reinforced Emily’s love of the Montessori method in developing confident, independent, and curious young people. Emily has called Staunton home for most of her life. In addition to teaching, she has served as Executive Director of the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center, the director of the Center’s housing program (Hope House), and an adult mental health case manager for Valley Community Services Board. She enjoys traveling, hiking, photography, and making music with friends and family.

Jenny Hinch (she/her)

Jenny Hinch (she/her)

Lower Elementary Assistant

Jenny has been working in Montessori Schools since 1998.  She is excited about being at Staunton Montessori, continuing to work with children (her passion) She has lived in the area all her life. She has 2 boys of her own.

Connor Phillips (he/him)

Connor Phillips (he/him)

Assistant in Elementary Grades (1-3)

Connor started working with children in 2013 at Wintergreen Ski Resort in their children’s ski program. While there, he continued to further his education experience at the Boys & Girls Club of America before coming to Staunton Montessori in 2018. Starting in Aftercare, he now joins us as the Elementary Assistant where he hopes to further his work in education.

Brigid Bronik (she/her)

Brigid Bronik (she/her)

Assistant in Elementary Grades (4-6)

Brigid earned her BA in Spanish and Women’s Studies (1995) from Guilford College in Greensboro, NC, before going on to earn a Master’s in Library Science from North Carolina Central University . She has worked in public and university libraries, and she was the Library Media Coordinator at Easley Elementary School in Durham, NC, for six years before her family relocated to the Shenandoah Valley. She joined the staff at Staunton Montessori School in 2016.

Aftercare Program

Rodi Sutherland (she/her)

Rodi Sutherland (she/her)

Aftercare Director

Rodi graduated from Wilson Memorial High School and attended Blue Ridge Community College. She has worked in child care since 1996 with ages ranging from Infant to Adolescent. Her personal philosophy on children is to “follow the child.” She is also a credentialed Child Development Associate (CDA) and a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

Cindy Curtis (she/her)

Cindy Curtis (she/her)

Aftercare Assistant

Cindy has been working for Montessori Schools for the past 29 years. She has a passion for working with children. She has an Applied Associates of Science Degree. She joined the staff at Staunton Montessori in 2020.

Rachel Petterson (she/her)

Rachel Petterson (she/her)

Aftercare Assistant

Rachel started working at Staunton Montessori School as a substitute and aftercare assistant in 2023. She graduated from Bridgewater College with a B.S. in Health & Exercise Science and Spanish in 2021 and has since discovered a love of working with children. In addition to her time at SMS, she works part-time at several small businesses in Harrisonburg and Bridgewater, in addition to writing as a freelance journalist. She enjoys getting to be immersed in the world of play with the children during aftercare and exploring the world around her both through her work and outside of it.

Administrative Team

Debra Schmid (she/her)

Debra Schmid (she/her)

Head of School

Debra (Dance) Schmid earned a BS from UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce and Pre-Primary certification from the Virginia Center for Montessori Teacher Education. Her love of learning has guided her through a variety of educational roles. From teaching children and adults in Richmond for a decade to working on education administration teams for another decade in the Staunton area, she is delighted to come full circle by leading the Staunton Montessori family.

Leanne Gray (she/her)

Leanne Gray (she/her)

Admissions Director

Leanne received her BS in Early Childhood Education Pre-K to 3rd from Eastern Mennonite University, and went on to get her Masters in Education and AMI Primary Montessori certification in Columbia, MD. Leanne has over fifteen years Montessori experience, including teaching in public and private schools, mentoring teachers and parents, supporting homeschooling families, and speaking at Montessori conferences. She also has completed a RIE Foundations course for supporting infants and toddlers. Leanne’s passion however is bringing the magic of Montessori to parents, and she is thrilled to be supporting the parent community of Staunton Montessori, both old and new. She joined our staff in 2023.

Kim Nations (she/her)

Kim Nations (she/her)

Administrative Assistant

Kim received her BA in Sociology from the University of Mary Washington and went on to get her AMS Lower Elementary certification from the Institute of Advanced Montessori Studies (IAMS) in Silver Spring, Maryland. She taught lower elementary for twelve years in Virginia and South Carolina. In addition to her roles as a classroom teacher, Kim developed and led a lower elementary program while teaching in South Carolina. During her time in Northern Virginia she also worked with adult learners and taught the lower elementary Montessori Art curriculum at IAMS. In 2017 her family relocated to Staunton where she has loved cultivating a Montessori home for her two young boys. She is thrilled to be joining SMS and eager to take on a new role within a joyful Montessori learning community again.

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