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


Email Teacher


Class Images

Donna Wheeler

Donna 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.

Elisa DaFaria

Elisa DeFaria began at IMS in September 2018 as an assistant teacher in the Nido. Elisa graduated from Eastern Connecticut State University with a B.S., Elementary Education (K-6) and a B.A., Individualized Major in Bilingual Spanish and Music. She also has an A.A. in Anthropology. After being a traditional classroom teacher, teaching first grade in Spanish, then second and third grade, she then followed her husband to New York who began working at Cornell. Prior to teaching, Elisa stayed home and raised two beautiful girls, now 23 and 19, while living in Texas, Brazil and Connecticut.  All the while she volunteered in every classroom of theirs and all of these wonderful opportunities and experiences allowed for her to find her passion – working with children and teaching. So she embarked on her road to becoming a certified teacher, while she working as a paraprofessional substitute and then as a substitute teacher. After moving to New York, Elisa tried (and loved) a new age group, working as a Teaching Assistant and then a Lead Teacher at the SUNY Childcare Center in a UPK Classroom. Now here at the Ithaca Montessori School, Elisa is so excited to continue her learning and has enjoyed working with the children and families.

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


Email Teacher


Class Images

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. 


Briana Smith

Briana is an assistant teacher in the Hickory Room. She recently joined the IMS community and is eager to learn more about the Montessori philosophy! Briana grew up around Corning, NY and attended Corning Community College, where she received her Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood. Briana has worked in childcare for over 5 years and loves fostering independence while supporting the growth and development of all children. Outside of work she enjoys spending time outdoors and being in the company of her family and friends. Briana is excited to be at IMS and is looking forward to a great year.

Toddler | Oak Room


Email Teacher


Class Images

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.


Courtney Price

Courtney is an assistant teacher in the Oak Room. She grew up in the Finger Lakes, born and raised in Watkins Glen NY. She and her husband Cory have one daughter Hayden who is 4 years old and full of life. She received her Child development associate (CDA) credential in 2012 and has worked with children for the last 7 years. Prior to coming to IMS she was a toddler and preschool teacher at My Place daycare in Montour Falls NY. When not at IMS you can most likely find Courtney going on adventures with her family around the Finger Lakes region.

Marion Pardoe

Marion is an assistant teacher in the Oak Room. She 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.

Toddler | Willow Room


Email Teacher


Class Images

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.

Juliet Halloran

Juliet is an assistant teacher in the Willow Room. This is Juliet’s  third year at IMS and 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’s son attends IMS and she loves being a part of this wonderful community, as both a parent and a teacher. When she is not at IMS, Juliet loves to explore all the natural beauty this area has to offer. Her favorite outdoor activity is hiking the many wonderful trails throughout the area with her family. She also enjoys reading, learning about plant and herbal medicine, swimming, and traveling.

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.

K.C. Roach

K.C is an assistant teacher for the Willow Room. Previously, a preschool teacher for 4 years in San Diego, and for 2 years in Northern V. A., K.C is new to the Montessori program, having just moved to Ithaca with her family in the summer of 2019.  She and her husband have 2 children, a 15-year-old daughter, and a 12-year-old son. A member of the US Navy, K.C’s husband’s role as CO of the NROTC program at Cornell is what brought them to Ithaca.  When she is not working she loves spending time with her family and visiting new places. 

Primary & Kindergarten | Elm Room


Email Teacher


Class Images

Marianne Pyke

Marianne​ is the Lead Teacher in the Elm Room. She comes to IMS with a diverse background in both medicine and teaching. She has a B.S in Biology from Syracuse University and, after moving to California, received a Master of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine/Acupuncture in Oakland CA. She practiced privately with dual training in Western and Eastern medicine and eventually brought her practice to Ithaca, NY. Marianne came to IMS 16 years ago to enroll her children into the primary program. Observing her children and teachers in the classroom was incredibly inspiring and fueled a passion to further her career in the field of child development. She received her primary certification in Boston and went on to open her own small Montessori program in Dryden, NY. During this time she collaborated with many Montessori schools, as well as Dryden Elementary where she served on the site based team. She continued her Montessori training and achieved her certification for Elementary I & II (ages 6-12) at CMTE in New Rochelle. She taught locally at the elementary level for 4 years before returning to her own program in Dryden. Her interests continue to be spurred towards research related to Montessori pedagogy and child development. She is pleased to have an opportunity to come back full circle, to teach children at the school that seeded her journey into Montessori education. She is looking forward to a wonderful year with her families and children. Marianne enjoys her summers with her family at their cottage in the 1000 islands, hiking, doing “River Yoga”, swimming, and boating on the water!

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.

Sharlene Cornelius

Sharlene​ is a classroom teacher in the Elm room. In the past she has 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, and 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.

Primary & Kindergarten | Walnut Room


Email Teacher


Class Images

Angelina Rothstein

Angelina is the Lead Teacher in the Walnut Room. She began her journey at Ithaca Montessori School in 2013, and received her AMI Certification for 3-6 in 2017. Angelina also holds her A.A.S in Early Childhood and a New York State Teaching Assistant certificate and 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, and also led a Sunday School class before moving to the area.

Joseph Seidel

Joseph is a teacher in the Walnut room.  After graduating from SUNY Broome with a degree in Early Childhood Education he transferred to SUNY Binghamton where he studied Human Development.  Joseph was a Lead teacher of a pre-school room for four years at a childcare center in Vestal, NY.  He has recently relocated to Brooktondale, NY and is excited to be a part of the Ithaca Montessori team. In his free time Joseph loves to be outdoors with his family and is consistently engaging in organized recreational sports. 

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 Barnett

Kathryn is an assistant teacher in the Walnut room, and the lead teacher for the primary Afterschool program. Kathryn has been in the childcare field for more than ten years, and is going to school at Ashford University where she will receive her BA in Early Childhood Administration.  A little about Kathryn, born and raised in Washington D.C., she moved to upstate NY in 2016. Kathryn and her partner has a handsome 8 year old ton together named Jayden. Kathryn is full of joy, happiness and has a big passion for teaching children.


Primary & Kindergarten | Pine Room


Email Teacher


Class Images

Heather Frost

Heather is the Lead Teacher of the Pine Room and the Outdoor Science Lab Instructor.  Having been at IMS for six years, 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 SpringBrook. 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 and learning the names of all the wildflowers and fungi that she encounters. Heather is honored to work with young children and eager to share her passion for the Montessori Method with the IMS community.

Laura St. John

Laura 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.

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.


Primary & Kindergarten | Music

Linda Chen

Linda 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.

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.

Substitute Teachers

View Current Job Openings On Indeed Donate To IMS Securely Through Paypal

Explore The Site

IMS Blog

Kelly Madden

Kelly is a substitute teacher in both the toddler and primary programs. She is local to the area and has always admired the Montessori teaching method. Kelly will graduate from Ithaca College in May of this year with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a concentration in developmental research, as well as minors in counseling and sociology. Kelly has worked in childcare for the past several years with school-aged children and has been filled tremendous joy throughout her past year at IMS. When Kelly is not teaching or in class, you can find her reading, visiting friends, or volunteering within the mental health field in the greater Ithaca community.

Get Updates & Notices From Ithaca Montessori School

Just enter your email address to the right and stay up to date with all the events and updates from the Ithaca Montessori School and our team of dedicated education professionals.

By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Ithaca Montessori School, 12 Ascot Place, Ithaca, NY, 14850, http://www.ithacamontessori.org.
You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email.