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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Lauren Lougher

Lauren is lead teacher in the Nido Room. She has been working in a Montessori environment since 2014. She fell in love with Montessori after her daughter attended Roots and Wings in Clifton Park, NY. Lauren spent 1 and a half years assisting at Roots and Wings, then took the Lead teacher training through the North America Montessori Center and has been guiding children through her toddler classroom. She is very excited to join the Ithaca Montessori School Nido classroom! In her spare time, Lauren enjoys reading, riding her motorcycle with her partner, playing with her daughter, listening to music and learning the guitar

Lara Johnson

Lara is an assistant teacher in the Nido Room. She loves working with children and has been from a young age. In high school, she spent a year working at a child care center and has been babysitting for years now.  Through college and now post-college, Lara studies mindfulness, Ayurveda, Eastern Medicine, and food as medicine. In college, she created my own major in Critical Health and Food Studies, which was interdisciplinary in scope and involved taking a more intuitive and embodied approach to learning and knowing. She has always been a very curious and engaged student, and hopes to foster that in younger generations. It is her wish that children spend time outdoors, connecting to the living earth; bring inquiry to their studies; and learn healthy habits and techniques to stay balanced as they grow. This will be her first time working at a Montessori school and she is  very excited for the experience. In addition to assistant teaching, she leads yoga and meditation classes and see clients as an Ayurvedic health counselor. 

Jaana Grigorov

Jaana was born and raised in Ithaca, NY. She attended the Lehman Alternative Community School and went on to complete my Bachelor’s degree at the Eugene Lang College at The New School in New York City. Jaana graduated in December 2019 with a degree in literary studies and non fiction writing. In her free time she loves to read, write, cook, swim, and go for hikes.   

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.

Keren Arroyo-Mora

 Keren is an assistant teacher in the Hickory Room. Originally from Puerto Rico, she graduated from the University of Puerto Rico with a Bachelors of Humanities in Fine Arts, with a second concentration in Art Education in printmaking and a minor in Chinese. Her love for teaching took her to China to teach English in the summer of 2016 and spent seven years teaching K-12 in several arts disciplines such as printmaking, drawing, arts crafts, and painting courses. Later, she moved to Buffalo where she spent two years working with early education first as a Lead Teacher for a toddler room and later as a Director of the Head Start program at the daycare in Buffalo. This exposure with early childhood education inspired her to pursue a Master of Professional Studies in Art Therapy and Creativity Development program at Pratt Institute in New York. She’s looking forward to meeting her new classroom and learning from the new brilliant minds of the students.

Amy Chechi

Amy is an assistant teacher in the Hickory Room. She has many years of experience working with children of all ages. Amy graduated this year from Albright College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in both English and Psychology. Most recently, she has worked at the local Girlscout summer camp, Camp Comstock, as a lifeguard and counselor. She is excited to start working with IMS and cannot wait to start this school year. 

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 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.

Kathryn McKay

Kathryn is an assistant teacher in the Oak 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.

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 with her husband, two daughters, Sydnie and Reese, and a goofy Golden Retriever.

KC Roach

K.C 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.  

Anna Olson

Anna is an assistant teacher in the Willow Room. She was born and raised in Syracuse, NY, and graduated from Syracuse University in 2019 with a Bachelor’s in Human Development & Family Science with a concentration in Queer Studies. She recently moved to Ithaca with her partner and her 3 year old cat, Max. She loves to embroider, sing, and play piano!

Tara Dikyihangsar 

Tara is an assistant teacher in the Willow room. She is also a full time student at Ithaca College studying Speech and Language Pathology. She began working in childcare as a summer camp counselor with 5-6 year olds, and worked there for two years before moving to IMS. Tara looks forward to learning alongside your children and becoming the best teacher she can be. In her spare time she enjoys dancing, reading, and taking pictures of her pet bunny! 

Primary & Kindergarten | Elm Room

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Luiz Duarte

Luiz​ is the lead 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.

Mana Reza

Mana is co-lead teacher in the Elm Room. Since Summer 2020 she has been attending AMI primary training as well as master of Education by focusing on Montessori philosophy. Mana  has also been a  Persian writer and journalist for over twenty years. Mana’s articles, poems, stories and book have been published in France and Iran. Fluent in Persian, Azeri, and Arabic, Mana came to the U.S with an Extraordinary Ability Visa to explore the world and see the different aspects of life. She attended the 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-writing, meditation, cooking and traveling all around the 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 husband Alan and his two daughters.

Amy Rice 

Amy is an assistant teacher in the Elm room. Originally from San luis Obispo, CA, she has lived in Lansing since 2011. Amy has been working with children in various capacities since 2011, has an AA in Creative Writing, and three cats named Kilo, Fiagro and Moose! 

 

 

Eamonn Moneypenny Hall

Eamonn Moneypenny Hall is excited to be joining the Ithaca Montessori School community. Eamonn holds a B.A. in Theater and Dance from nearby Wells College. He hopes to help students nurture a love for learning through active engagement. Previously Eamonn was teaching third grade math and reading in Seattle Washington, but is excited to be back and working within his home community.

Primary & Kindergarten | Pine Room

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Tara Conklin

Tara is the lead teacher for the Pine Room. She holds a bachelors of science in Community Health from Lock Haven University. She is currently pursuing her Montessori Certification in Early Childhood. She relocated from State College Pennsylvania to the Ithaca New York area in the summer of 2019 with her husband. Before moving to NY, she worked as a Cognitive Therapist for five years. While in the area she discovered Montessori and became passionate about the philosophy and wanted to pursue a career working with children.  Tara has been a part of the IMS community for over a year, she started out in the toddler program and recently transitioned to the primary/kindergarten program. Tara adores her family and is a huge animal lover; they have three cats, Ninja, Samurai and Bowie. In her free time she enjoys hiking with her husband, painting, visiting with family, and spending time at Cayuga Lake.

Teah Watson

Teah is an assistant teacher in the Pine Room. Teah was born and raised in Durham, NC and is a graduate of NC State University.  After leaving a job in finance he decided to join the Peace Corps in 2018 where he served in Uganda as an Agribusiness and Economic Development volunteer for almost 2 years.  While in Uganda, Teah discovered his passion for working with youth from all ages, and since returning home wanted to pursue his interest in teaching.  Teah lives in Cayuga Heights with his girlfriend, who he met in the Peace Corps.  Teah enjoys running on trails, watching movies, and traveling to see family and friends.

Shahista Anwar

Shahista Anwar was born in Pakistan and was eleven when her family moved to NY. She is very friendly and can easily adopt to any type of environment.

Khaldoun Abou Tay

Khaldoun  is an assistant teacher in the Pine Room. He recently moved to Ithaca from New York City, where he spent the last two years working as a language assistant in NYC public schools. Prior to this, Khaldoun used to organize summer camps and photography workshops for children in his home country, Lebanon. He has also spent a lot of time travelling in many countries: Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, India, Nepal, Georgia, and Turkey. Khaldoun loves spending time outdoors, hiking and watching birds. He has a Diploma in Liberal Arts from the Vestjyllands Folk Høgskole in Ringkobing (Denmark), and this year he will be graduating from the City University of New York (CUNY) with an Associate Degree in Bilingual Childhood Education.

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.

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. 

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 .

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