Faculty & Staff

IMS classrooms are taught by a dedicated team of Lead Teachers and Assistant Teachers. Our Lead Teachers are Montessori Certified, or are in their training process, either through the American Montessori Society (AMS) or Association Montessori Internationale (AMI). Their Montessori experiences provide the secure foundation on which the school’s curriculum is based.

Nido | Nido Room

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Molly Wagner

Molly is an assistant teacher in the Nido classroom. She is 23 years old with two years of childcare experience, working at an in home daycare facility in Freeville with ages 0-4.This is Molly’s first time working with exclusively infants and describes it as her “dream job.”  In her spare time Molly loves spending time with her friends and singing. She is very excited and honored to be here at IMS.

Makeala Rogler

Makeala is an assistant teacher in the Nido Room.  Makeala has worked with children of many different ages since she was in high school.  Starting as a local babysitter for families, she worked as a camp counselor every summer, and before starting at Cornell Child Care Center full time, where she worked her way up to becoming an associate Preschool Teacher.  After taking a year to try and branch out to a different career choice she realized that she missed working in childcare and wanted to find her way back to have a fulfilling career working with children and found her way to IMS.

Toddler | Hickory Room

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Yoko Roy

Yoko is the Lead Teacher in the Hickory Room and the Toddler Level Coordinator on the Leadership Team. Yoko began her journey at Ithaca Montessori School in 2004! Yoko was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, where she studied journalism at Bunka Gakuin college and was an editor of a women’s magazine for fifteen years.  Yoko moved to the U.S. in 1999 and started at IMS as an Assistant Teacher in the Primary Program.  After one year, she found her passion working with Toddlers and is now a lead teacher in our Toddler Program.  She received her certification from the Montessori Infant/Toddler training at the Princeton Center for Montessori Teacher Education in 2008.  She lives in Trumansburg with her two daughters, Naomi and Emma.

Felisa Whalley

Felisa is originally from San Diego, Californa. She recently moved to New York with her husband and two children after spending over eight years living and teaching in South Korea. Felisa graduated from Saint Mary’s College of California with a BA in Performing Arts. She majored in theatre which lends itself well to the classroom. After graduation, she pursued a Professional Educator’s Certificate. Recently, she completed a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She is excited to be a new member of the Ithaca Montessori community. When she is not at school, Felisa enjoys reading, baking, and exploring the area with her family. 

Toddler | Oak Room

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Destiny Pfeffer

Destiny is the Lead Teacher of the Oak Room.  She started at IMS in the Hickory Room in 2017 as an assistant teacher.  Destiny is passionate about Montessori and so decided to start her journey towards Montessori  certification at Princeton Center for Teacher Education in the summer of 2019.  Prior to IMS, Destiny worked with children on and off for 15 years as a toddler teacher at Turtle River Montessori in Jupiter, Florida. She received her Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential in 2004 and has training in the Conscious Discipline method by Becky Bailey which covers Social-Emotional Learning and Classroom Management. She attended the pre-med program at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) then transferred to a State School in Tennessee as a pre-pharmacy student.  She is committed to nurturing, supporting and guiding your child each and every day and to making your child’s Montessori experience productive, stimulating and fun.

Jordan Bamka

Jordan Bamka is an Assistant Teacher in the Oak Room. She grew up in the Philadelphia area and moved to New York in her early twenties to be closer to her extended family and help on their dairy farm. Jordan has always enjoyed being outdoors and helping others. She began her career working with elementary and preschool students. Since then, she has had experience in human services, hospitality, and health care before realizing that what she enjoys and excels at the most is working with children. Jordan graduated from Tompkins Cortland Community College with her associate degree and is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She is excited to be a part of the Ithaca Montessori School and she admires Maria Montessori’s achievements in health care and early childhood education. In her free time she enjoys outdoor activities, like hiking, biking, and swimming in the many beautiful areas of upstate New York, and reading or gardening in her back yard.

Toddler | Willow Room

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Heather Peluseo

Heather is the Lead Teacher in the Willow Room. Heather, a native of Buffalo NY, came to Ithaca after graduating from SUNY Cortland with a B.A. in History.  Shortly after coming to Ithaca, Heather realized her passion for child care, and has been caring for children in centers, home based care and preschool for 15 years.  Heather received her Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential in 2006 and is currently seeking her Montessori Certification in Infant and Toddler.  She lives on West Hill with her husband, two daughters, Sydnie and Reese, and a goofy Golden Retriever.

KC Roach

K.C Roach  is an Assistant Teacher for the Willow Room.  She moved to Ithaca with her family in the summer of 2019. K.C is new to the Montessori program. Previously, she was a preschool teacher for 4 years in San Diego, and for 2 years in Northern VA. She and her husband have 2 children, a 15-year-old daughter, and a 13-year-old son. When she is not working she loves spending time with her family and visiting new places.  

Primary & Kindergarten | Elm Room

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Luiz Duarte

Luiz​ is a classroom teacher in the Elm Room. Born and raised in Brazil, Luiz moved to Ithaca in October 2016. He has a bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and a master’s degree in Sport Psychology. Luiz has worked for many years as a gymnastics coach, and teaching physical education in International Schools and colleges in Brazil. Soon after Luiz and his wife decided to enroll their son at Ithaca Montessori School, Luiz was offered a position as a substitute teacher position in the toddler and primary classrooms at IMS, transitioning a few months later, to Walnut as a classroom teacher. Luiz and his wife used to practice rock climbing and hiking in Brazil and his family now enjoys all the parks Ithaca and the Finger Lakes area can offer.

Tara Conklin

Tara is an assistant teacher for the Willow Room. She holds a BS in Community Health from Lock Haven University. Tara has several years of experience working with young children in the home and community.  She recently relocated from State College Pennsylvania to the Ithaca New York area with her husband, Adam. She is a huge animal lover, they have three cats, Ninja, Samurai and Bowie. In her free time she enjoy hiking with her husband, painting, visiting with family, and spending time at Cayuga Lake.

Twanda Turman

Twanda Turman is an assistant teacher at Ithaca Montessori for the summer. She worked as a Teacher assistant for 4 years at OCM BOCES . In her free time, she loves to go camping, kayaking and hiking .

Primary & Kindergarten | Pine Room

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Maria Fedorchak

Maria Fedorchak is the lead teacher of the Pine Room this summer and is excited to join the staff at Ithaca Montessori School. As long as she can remember, she’s wanted to be in the field of education. She went to school in Boston, MA and earned a bachelor’s degree in human development from Wheelock College with a focus on early childhood education. She taught and worked administratively for eight years at St. Hilda’s & St. Hugh’s School in Manhattan, NY. She taught PreK and developed and implemented a program for two year olds. In addition, she worked as an administrative assistant and conducted admissions testing. She also taught PreK for six years at Montclair Kimberley Academy, a private school in Montclair, NJ. She has a wide variety of professional development training related to the field of early childhood/elementary education. These trainings, held at Teachers College/Columbia University and Bank Street School of Education, have enhanced her teaching practices significantly. Other teaching experiences have included teaching 2’s, 3’s and 4’s at St. James School in Binghamton and substitute teaching  across grade levels in the Windsor School district, Windsor, NY.

She is a mom to three boys, a guinea pig Marv, a lion head rabbit Leo and a puppy yet to be named! She’s studied abroad in Ireland and Israel and backpacked all of Europe. She loves to run, hike, bike, swim, and listen to live music! She’s looking forward to experiencing Ithaca Montessori School and working with your children!

Mana Reza

Mana is an assistant teacher in the Walnut Room. Originally a writer and journalist for over twenty years, Mana’s books have been published in France and Iran. Fluent in Persian, Azeri, and Arabic, Mana came to the U.S with an extraordinary ability to explore the world and see the different aspects of life. She attended Training Futures intensive program in Virginia to start her journey as a teacher. Her passions are Iranian culture, economics, and art, while working at expanding peace and happiness for kids all around the world. Mana spends her time with her family, reading, meditation, cooking and traveling all around U.S and the world. She has been to more than 10 countries and 30 of the U.S. states, either by herself or with her fiancé Alan and his two daughters.

Kathryn McKay

Kathryn is an assistant teacher in the Pine Room. She has lived in the area all her life. She attended Delhi University and obtained an Associate in Applied Science becoming a licensed Veterinary Technician.  After some time at Cornell University in the College of Agriculture and Life Science, Kathryn married and had three children. She did in-home daycare while her children were young, Infants to five-year-olds. As her children grew older, Kathryn homeschooled all three of them from preschool to sixth grade. When all of the children had finished sixth grade and continued their education in the public school, Kathryn started her own dog grooming shop and ran her business for the next fifteen years. Kathryn loves the Montessori method and is excited about working with the children at the school.

Kathryn and her husband live in an 1800’s Gothic/Victorian home that they have been renovating since their children were toddlers. Kathryn has a love for the outdoors and gardening and landscaping. She also is a seamstress who has sown for herself, her husband, children, and now grandchildren. She travels a lot to visit those beautiful grandchildren in Nashville and Oklahoma City. Camping, Hiking, swimming, and gardening are her favorite summer activities.

Administrative Team

Pamela Weatherby

Program Director

Pam has been with Ithaca Montessori School for over 20 years. She has transitioned from Assistant Teacher to Lead Teacher, to Program Director. She is currently helping train the next generation of leadership at IMS.

Walaa Maharem-Horan

Operations Director

Walaa is the Operations Director. She has a degree in Psychology, with a concentration in special education, from McMaster’s University. She is the founding member of Ithaca Welcomes Refugees, a non-profit here in Ithaca. She is a board member of the Ithaca Public Education Initiative, and a translator (Arabic) for the Ithaca City School district. Walaa has extensive experience as an operational manager, including budget and fundraising for several small-to-medium size companies in Ithaca. Walaa is passionate about IMS and the work to help Ithaca Montessori School grow.

Donna Wheeler

Education Director

Donna is the Education Director. She grew up locally and graduated from Cayuga Community College with an Early Childhood Education Degree. She managed her own home daycare when her four children were young and then started her career at Ithaca Montessori as a Primary assistant.  After receiving Montessori training Donna continued as a Primary lead teacher for 15 years.  After leaving to explore teaching Infants at Bright Horizons she returned to Ithaca Montessori to lead the Nido classroom for 2 years before stepping into the Education Director role.  Donna is an avid gardener and loves to spend time with her growing number of grandchildren!

Substitute Teachers

Andrew Ink

Andrew Ink is currently attending  Houghton College and is studying math and education. During his time at Houghton he has taken a couple courses that relate to the education of children, including Educational Psychology and Educating Exceptional Learners. Outside of formal instruction from professors, he has learned a great deal through his experiences as a camp counselor at the Hidden Valley 4-H Camp. His first year he worked with children from 7-8 year-olds half the time and 4-6 year-olds the other half. He has a few hobbies that he enjoys including ultimate frisbee, fishing, and cooking. Recently he has been trying to write Poetry. He is truly passionate about math. His goal as a future educator is to make math actually fun.

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