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 Nido 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 her 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

Elsa Sinurat Semp 

Elsa is the lead teacher in the Nido Hickory Room. She is a previous employee of IMS, and has a B.S in Psychology, M.S in Human Resources Management, and an A.A.S in Early Childhood Education. She has experience working with children birth-age 6. Elsa is also interested in pursuing her Montessori certification.

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. 

Jacqueline Laferriere

Jacqueline is a senior at Ithaca College, studying Sociology, Education, and African Diaspora studies. She has years of babysitting, nannying, and education classes field work experience. Jacqueline is passionate about working with children and especially loves incorporating music into the classroom. Jacqueline is also a certified Music Together teacher.

McKenna Cassano

McKenna is an Assistant Teacher in the Hickory Room. She is currently a Psychology Major and Education/Counseling Double-Minor at Ithaca College, and 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 | Oak Room

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.

Emily Haygood

Emily is an Assistant Teacher in the Oak Room, and she loves working with children, seeing them grow and learning new skills throughout the year.

Alica Ribble

Alica is an Assistant Teacher in the Oak Room. She grew up in Candor where she graduated from Candor High School, and went to Tompkins Cortland Community College, majoring in General Studies. Alica then pursued a career in healthcare, being a nurse for 10 years serving Tompkins and Cortland Counties. Alica has been working with children in various settings though out her life from growing in the Tioga County Dairy Princess program to having a large family. Alica resides with her fiancé and stepson in Dryden. When Alica is not teaching she’s spending time with family and friends. Alica is excited to be working with the students and staff at IMS!

Toddler | Willow Room

Heather Peluso

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!

Ellie Delorme-Novakowski

Ellie is an assistant teacher in the Willow Room. She has a Bachelor’s of Fine Art with a concentration in Art Education. She has explored and taught multiple different
art forms such as painting and drawing, all the way to stage props, graffiti, and puppet making. While being an artist, she is also an avid book reader, movie goer, and science lover
(namely dinosaurs and other prehistoric life.)

Primary & Kindergarten | Elm Room

Diana Vilar

Diana is the lead teacher in the Elm Room. Originally from the northwest of Puerto Rico, she relocated to Boulder, Colorado in 2011. Feeling a special connection and ability to communication with children, she head the call the develop this gift professionally. Her mission as an early childhood teacher is to provide the best possible learning environment and to instill confidence in her students so they can achieve their goals and learning objectives. Her teaching philosophy is to guide the child and let them realize their own successes. 

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 is the Lead Teacher for the Pine Room.  An Ithaca native, he holds a B.A. in Theater and Dance from nearby Wells College and is currently pursuing his Montessori certification. He loves to help students nurture a love for learning through active engagement. Previously Eamonn taught third grade math and reading in Seattle, Washington.

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 adopt to any type of environment.

Sabrena Pegram

Sabrena is an Assistant Teacher in the Pine Room. She is a wife and a mother to a six year old daughter. During her free time I like to go hiking, gardening, and baking.

Caroline Silva

Caroline is an Assistant Teacher in the Pine Room. She has experience at The William George Agency for Children’s Service’s working with at-risk youth, with an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice. Caroline is an aspiring Pediatric Nurse and is currently enrolled at Tompkins Cortland Community College.

Primary & Kindergarten | Walnut Room

Tara Conklin

Tara is the Lead Teacher for the Walnut 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, starting out in the toddler program and then transitioning 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.

Kailee (Kay) Malpasso

Kay is an Assistant Teacher in the Walnut Room. She was raised in Ithaca, graduating from Ithaca High School and is currently enrolled at TC3 working towards an A.S. in Early Childhood education. She realized her passion for child care while watching her grandmother run her own daycare until the age of 65. Kay has volunteered in many child care settings since. In her free time, she enjoys reading, going to the movies, and taking her dog, Jessie, on nature walks.

Briana Dorley

Briana is an Assistant Teacher in the Walnut Room. She is a Brooklyn-born writer who loves all things spooky. She’s a graduate of Syracuse University with a degree in English and Textual Studies with a dual focus on Creative Writing and Film and Screen Studies. Briana loves nature and aims to give back to the local Upstate NY community with humor, education, and compassion.

Gianna Colosi

Gianna is an Assistant Teacher in the Walnut Room.  She lives in Ithaca, NY.



Keren Arroyo-Mora

Keren is the Kindergarten Art Teacher . 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. 

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!