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 | Maple Room

Tammy Brooks

Tammy is the Lead Teacher in the Maple Room. She has lived in Tompkins County her whole life. Tammy knew she wanted to work with children when she visited an Early Childhood training program in High School and fell in love with it. She have been working with children since! After High School, Tammy pursued a Bachelors Degree in Early Childhood Education and Childcare Administration, graduating from SUNY Empire State College in 2018. She has worked in various programs including Headstart and a group family daycare that used the Reggio Emilia approach. When not teaching, Tammy enjoys hiking with my husband and hanging out with my five furbabies!

Ashlyn Cook

Ashlyn is an assistant teacher in the Nido Room. Originally from south Alabama, she moved to Ithaca over two years ago with her partner. Her hobbies include reading, baking, photography, crafting, and watching movies. Ashlyn has recently adopted two cats from the local shelter in Ithaca and they keep her on my toes. She started to care for children five years ago with babysitting and have had many child caring jobs since. Currently saving up for college currently to become a teacher or a child’s therapist, Ashlyn is excited about her future.

Nido | Hickory Room

Jenna is Lead teacher in the Hickory room. She has lived in upstate New York her whole life and currently resides in Groton with her significant other and their cat. Jenna began working with children eight years ago when she took her first babysitting job in high school. Since then she has worked in a variety of settings with children of all ages and has found her niche working with young children. After high school Jenna went on to receive her associate degree in Early Childhood Education and associate degree in Human Services Studies from Tompkins Cortland Community College. She also received a bachelor’s degree in Human Services Studies from SUNY Cortland. Jenna is currently pursuing her Master of Social Work degree with which she plans on pursuing a career as a children’s counselor. In her free time Jenna enjoys painting and crafting, writing and reading, and spending time with loved ones. She is looking forward to her time here at Ithaca Montessori School.

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

Yoko Roy

Yoko is the Lead Teacher in the Oak Room. She 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.


Mckenna Cassano

McKenna is an assistant teacher in the Oak Room. She is currently a Psychology Major and Education/Counseling Double-Minor at Ithaca College. She has years of cumulative experience working as a teacher’s assistant, daycare provider, and summer camp counselor for young children. Her passion and endless enthusiasm for Early Childhood Education drive her, and she is incredibly excited to be able to employ the Montessori method in her practice! Second to teaching, some of McKenna’s favorite things include caring for her pet betta fish, gardening, being outdoors, and the color pink!

Toddler | Willow Room

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.

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!

Primary & Kindergarten | Elm Room

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.

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! 



Primary & Kindergarten | Pine Room

Eamonn Moneypenny Hall

Eamonn Moneypenny Hall is the Lead Teacher of the Pine Room. He 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 an assistant teacher in the Elm Room, and prior to his experience at IMS, taught third grade math and reading in Seattle Washington. Having been raised in Ithaca, he is excited to be back and working within his home community.

Shahista Anwar

Shahista is an Assistant Teacher in the Pine Room. She was born in Pakistan and was eleven when her family moved to NY. She is very friendly and can easily adapt to any type of environment.

Primary & Kindergarten | Walnut Room

Lauren Lougher

Lauren is lead teacher in the Walnut 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

Luiza Baroni

Luiza recently graduated from Cornell University, majoring in Psychology and minoring in Education. Originally from Brazil, she is intrigued by how children learn social skills in different cultural settings. She hopes to learn alongside the Ithaca Montessori School students in such an engaging environment!

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

Abby McGuire

Abby is a substitute teacher at Ithaca Montessori. She is an undergraduate student at Ithaca College majoring in English Education with minors in Theatre and Deaf Studies. She was born and raised in State College, Pennsylvania, where she worked as a camp counselor and youth group leader for many years. Abby is thrilled to be working with the students and staff at IMS!

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.

Bailey Marks

Bailey is a substitute teacher at IMS. She loves playing and making friends with kids, dancing, yoga, singing and making music with drums, ukulele, guitar, piano…basically anything that will make sound! Bailey is also a fan of healthy and experimental cooking, gardening and herbalism. She loves to be outside and spend time with friends, family and especially my 1 1/2 year old daughter Amapola, known as Po. Bailey lived in Spain for 5 years, which is where her daughter was born, and speaks fluent Spanish. She believes that everyone, big and small, has the right to a respectful and enriching education that includes everything around us; sometimes the most learning comes from the most unexpected places! Bailey feels it’s her responsibility to guide children to find those magical moments.

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. 


Jacqueline Laferriere

Jacqueline is a senior at Ithaca College studying sociology, education, and African Diaspora Studies. She has been working with children and infants since she was 12 years old as a babysitter. She has also been a camp counselor and lifeguard, and is a certified Music Together Teacher as well! Jacqueline loves making music with babies and getting to bring joy to children’s lives!


Tara Conklin

Tara will be returning as 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.

Tara Dikyihangsar 


Tara is 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!