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.
Click on each program name to be directed to their information page.
Donna WheelerDonna Wheeler is the Lead Teacher in the Nido classroom. 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. She taught preschool at IMS and completed her Montessori training at North American Montessori. She transitioned to infant care at Cornell Childcare Center where she worked with infants for 6 years before deciding to return to IMS to work in the Nido program.
Jennifer SharpJennifer Sharp is the assistant teacher in the Nido Room. Born in Long Island, she attended school is Pennsylvania before relocating to Upstate New York with her husband, Kyle. Jennifer recently moved from Syracuse to Lansing and began her career at Ithaca Montessori School. She has worked with children of all ages in the home setting for over six years, and is extremely excited to be a part of the IMS team! Jennifer is a huge animal lover and has two amazing cats, Lily and Ty. During her free time, she enjoys being with family, spending time outdoors, drawing, and playing tennis.
Melinda MassillonMelinda is a teacher in The Nido.
Yoko RoyYoko Roy 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. There 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.
Ellen WalshEllen Walsh began her time at Ithaca Montessori School in 2017 as an administrator. Having had the opportunity to work in all the classrooms as part of her duties, Ellen discovered a passion for early childhood education that has led her to an assistant teaching position in the Hickory Room. Ellen received her B.S. in Animal Science from Cornell University and has since settled in Danby. She loves being active; Ellen taught Tae Kwon Do for 10 years and is currently a member of the Ithaca Avengers rugby team. She also loves to cook with her husband and two children (and to take the opportunity to have a chemistry lesson!) and to take advantage of all of the beautiful parks in the area.
Destiny PfefferDestiny Pfeffer is the Lead Teacher of the Oak Room. She worked at IMS in the Hickory Room in 2017 as an assistant teacher. Destiny is passionate about Montessori and is planning to attend Montessori training at Princeton Center for Teacher Education in the summer of 2019. Prior to IMS, she was a toddler teacher at Turtle River Montessori in Jupiter, Florida. She received her Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential in 2004 and has worked with children on and off for 15 years. She 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.
Sarah Heavens-SodaSarah Heavens-Soda joined Ithaca Montessori school at the end of the summer in 2014. After moving to the US from England and having taught English in Germany for a year she was ready to call Ithaca her home. Teaching runs in her veins with many of her family members being teachers. Sarah has 11 years teaching experience and is happy to continue her learning at IMS. She has worked in the Oak room for 3 years and considers it her home away from home. She lives in Groton with her wife and beautiful daughter Tess. In her spare time, she enjoys being with her family and spending time doing DIY projects at home. Montessori is her passion and IMS is her family!
Houriah (Mana) RezaeizadehHourieh Rezaeizadeh likes to go by Mana. She is a Persian writer and Journalist. She is fluent in Persian, Azeri, and Arabic as well. She has over 18 years of experiences as a freelance researcher and journalist. Her experience started as an Iranian Researcher for over 7 years. She has spent the past 16 years working as a fiction documentary book and has been researching equality for kids and education. Also, she attended for 6 months, the Training Futures intensive program at Northern Virginia Family Services to update her computer skills, outlook, and business English. Her passion is in Iranian culture, economic and art while at the same time she wants to play her role in expanding peace and happiness for kids all around the world.
Lia HenryLia Henry is an Ithaca native. She is an assistant teacher in the Oak Room. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2015 with a Bachelors in Psychology, but has been working with children and in education since she discovered her love for it in high school when she assisted at South Hill Tots Nursery School, the very same place her education began. She comes from a family of nine children, so she has spent a lot of time babysitting as well! She hopes to get a Masters in Rehabilitation Counseling and continue working with children throughout her career to positively influence their lives. In her free time, you can find Lia reading, dancing, listening to music, or spending time with her brothers and sisters.
Heather PeluseoHeather Peluso 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. She lives on West Hill with her husband, two daughters, Sydnie and Reese, and a goofy Golden Retriever. You might find her playing softball evenings at Cass Park during the summer.
Macie BrasselmannMacie Braselmann began her journey at Ithaca Montessori School in 2014. Prior to joining IMS, Macie spent 11 years working with children in a variety of settings as a play therapist, one to one child aide, caseworker, and independent living skills teacher for children in foster care. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Ithaca College and completed her senior seminar in Montessori Philosophy and Education.
Juliet HalloranJuliet Halloran is a teacher in the Willow Room. Juliet is starting her second year at IMS and her second year in the Willow Room. She has many years of experience working with young children and loves working with toddlers. She holds a B.A. in Environmental Studies and loves to incorporate her love of nature into her teaching. Juliet loves to explore all the natural beauty this area has to offer and her favorite outdoor activity is hiking the many wonderful trails throughout the area, especially those found in the Finger Lakes National Forest. She also enjoys reading, learning about plant and herbal medicine, swimming, and traveling.
Khaliha FennerKhaliha Fenner is the Lead Teacher of the Elm Room and the Child Guidance Specialist at IMS. She first came to IMS in the winter of 2007 for a college internship, and found the principles of Montessori education in line with her own teaching philosophy. She graduated from Keuka College with her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood & Special Education. She spent 5 years working in our summer camp program, and two years as an assistant teacher in the Pine Room before attending the Princeton Center for Montessori Teacher Education for Primary level certification. Khaliha will be joining the Elm Room in January 2019.
Sharlene CorneliusSharlene Cornelius is a classroom teacher in the Elm room. Many families might recognize Sharlene from different areas in our school. This past school year she assisted in the afterschool program, and in different classrooms around our school. Sharlene comes to us from Binghamton, NY where she began her journey in early childhood education in 2015. She had the opportunity to work with children of various ages and backgrounds. She has also observed several different teaching styles. The knowledge and information Sharlene has obtained from IMS has excited her desire to learn more about the Montessori philosophy which will enhance her teaching skills within our school. Often times Sharlene can be found exploring the natural wonders of Upstate NY with her family and friends. She also enjoys learning new skills and creative hobbies that allow for artistic expression.
Angelina RothsteinAngelina Rothstein will be the lead teacher in the Walnut Room. She received her AMI Certification for 3-6 in 2017. She began her journey at Ithaca Montessori School in 2013. She holds her A.A.S in Early Childhood and a New York State Teaching Assistant certificate. She has been a part of two Montessori schools in the Albany area, Bought Montessori and Woodland Hill Montessori. She worked at a childcare center in Vestal, NY with 3 year olds as well as before and after school. Angelina enjoys theater and camping in her spare time, she also led a Sunday School class before moving to the area.
Luiz DuarteLuiz Duarte is a classroom teacher in the Walnut Room. Luiz was born and raised in Brazil, and 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. Luiz and his wife decided to enroll their son at Ithaca Montessori School. Soon after, Luiz was offered a position as a substitute teacher position in the toddler and primary classrooms at IMS. A few months later, he accepted a position as a Walnut classroom teacher. Luiz and his wife used to practice rock climbing and hiking in Brazil. His family now enjoys all the parks Ithaca and the Finger Lakes area can offer.
Heather FrostHeather Frost is beginning the fifth year of her journey at IMS. She is the lead teacher of the Pine Room and the Outdoor Science Lab instructor. Heather is in the process of completing her AMI certification for the Primary level as well as working on her Masters of Education with a Montessori Concentration. After graduating from Wells College with a Psychology Degree, Heather started working for Spring Brook. She participated in their self-determination program and focused on creating home-based programs for children with special needs. In Ithaca, Heather volunteers with the Master Composters offering compost education in the community and Healthy Food for All, a local organization providing food security programs. In her free time, you will almost always find Heather engaged in an outdoor activity. She especially loves hiking, growing vegetables, sledding, and learning the names of all the wildflowers and fungi that she encounters.
Laura St. JohnLaura St. John is a teacher in the Pine Room. Laura grew up in the Washington D.C. area and moved to Ithaca to attend Ithaca College where she received her bachelor’s degree in sociology. During her time as a student, Laura fell in love with Ithaca and could not imagine her life anywhere else. After working as a manager at Purity Ice Cream for a few years, she taught children with autism at the Franziska Racker Centers. With a newfound devotion for early childhood, Laura began looking around at other schools and found Ithaca Montessori School. She could not be happier to be a part of the community here! When she is not here at IMS, you can find Laura at the Sciencenter or at one of the state parks in the area with her two children.
Katalina PurcellKatalina Purcell is a passionate teacher dedicated to helping children learn fundamental developmental skills in a supportive nurturing environment. She is new to New York, and she has over a year of experience teaching a range of ages in schools in both Texas and England. Working with children is her biggest passion and she is very happy to be starting her journey as a part of the Montessori family as an Assistant Teacher in the Primary and After School Program. She is dedicated to the social and emotional development of each child and it is her goal to make sure that each child receives the best care and love that they all deserve.
Alissa PureAlissa Pure is an Ithaca native who graduated from Ithaca College with a BA in Environmental Studies in 2017. This is her first year at IMS, but she has worked with children for the last 4 years at Primitive Pursuits and Northeast elementary school. Alissa has a passion for the outdoors and art and hopes to inspire these passions in the children as well. She is very excited to be a part of the Ithaca Montessori School.
Linda ChenLinda is a music teacher. She began her journey at Ithaca Montessori in 2009. Linda holds her M.A. and Ed.M in Music and Music Education from Columbia University. Her passion involves teaching singing, and making music to children of all ages. Linda is a registered Music Together teacher, and is also Orff Level I and II certified. She received her Kodaly Level I Teacher Certification at NYU and Dalcroze training in NYC. Linda lives in Ithaca and enjoys baking and outdoor activities.
Head of School & Program Director
Pam WeatherbyPam began her journey at Ithaca Montessori School in 1999. She attended the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in New Rochelle, NY in 2001 to complete her Primary Montessori certification. She worked as a primary lead teacher for 10 years prior to transitioning into an administration position at IMS. Pam worked as the Program Director at IMS from 2009-2015. She then spent another 2 years as a lead teacher in the primary program. Pam’s love for IMS and her passion to support the children, families and teachers at IMS has brought her back to the Program Director’s role again in 2017. Pam’s education background is in Human Services with a specialization in Early Childhood Education. She is also a student at Elmira College where she continues to further her education. Pam is happily married to her husband, Casey of 16 years. They have 3 children, Morgan, Maelin, and Hayden, whom have all attended IMS. Pam enjoys spending time with family and friends, traveling, cooking, camping and working in her gardens.
Walaa Maharem-HoranWalaa has a degree in psychology, with a concentration in special education, from McMaster’s University. She is the founding director of Ithaca Welcomes Refugees, a non-profit here in Ithaca. She is an incoming 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 fund raising experience, for several small-to-medium size companies in Ithaca. Walaa is passionate about IMS. She has already done a great deal on behalf of the school in her short tenure as a board member, including spearheading and submitting grants to help Ithaca Montessori School grow.
Marion PardoeMarion Pardoe is a native of Postdam, NY who graduated from SUNY Morrisville with a BA in Sociology in 2009. She has recently joined IMS, having spent many years as a hospitality professional. Marion has volunteered for 6 years with Clean the World Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing soap and educating on hygiene world wide. Marion is passionate about the outdoors, music and her puppy. During her free time, you can find her hiking, biking or watching cooking shows with her daughters.