Special Staff Edition 2020-2021
Geist Montessori Academy@GeistAcademy
Meet our amazing GMA Staff!
Meet the Executive Director: Cindy Schuler
Welcome Back GMA School Family!
I am so honored and privileged to serve as Geist Montessori Academy’s Executive Director. My passion and love of teaching and learning has led me to our beloved school community.
I have over twenty years in education ranging from preschool-aged children to collegiate students at Indiana University and have served in rural, urban, and suburban school settings, such as Plainfield and Washington Township Community Schools. Regardless of where I have been, I have found that all students are so special, blessed with unique gifts and talents meant to be shared with others to bring about the greater good.
The majority of my career was spent at Hamilton Southeastern School Corporation where I taught fourth grade and was the high ability coordinator at New Britton Elementary School. When my children headed off to college, I continued my learning and earned my administrative license and became a District Title I Coordinator, helping children with supportive strategies and interventions to succeed and become the very best that they could be.
From there, I became Indiana’s High Ability and Advanced Placement Coordinator. Though I loved serving students and teachers all across our great state, my heart was longing for the direct day-to-day contact with students and the school community, and that led me to the loving home of GMA.
Like Dr. Maria Montessori, I marvel at our divine and wondrous world and know that children are our hope. Just as she journeyed to bring out the very best in children, I too, strive to spark their curiosity and instill the love of lifelong learning.
I am so excited to begin my first full year at Geist Montessori Academy with all of you! It has been wonderful getting to meet so many amazing students and families this past year as we brought two school campuses under one roof. This upcoming school year, I am thrilled to have so many talented new and veteran staff members lead our school family as we explore several learning options: onsite, hybrid, and virtual. The energy, enthusiasm, and passion for students and life itself is so apparent in our incredible staff. I hope you enjoy learning more about each of them in this special edition newsletter.
Please know how much I value each of you and your partnership. I am so appreciative of your commitment to build a compassionate and supportive school family. My door is always open to you, and I look forward to growing together and being the very best that we can be!
Meet the Pre-K Director: Karen Swan
Dear Students and Parents,
My name is Karen Swan, and I am the Director of PreK, as well as the lead teacher of the Acorn classroom. I started our PreK program here at GMA in August of 2013 with just seven students and we have grown to fill two classrooms! As I have followed my wonderful husband, John, of almost 35 years, career as a PGA golf professional, I have had the honor of starting two other Montessori programs in Greenville, OH and Elkhart, IN prior to my coming to GMA. Our three children grew up attending DeColores Montessori school in Greenville, and are still passionate about the philosophy and curriculum on the Montessori method! They are still incredibly understanding when they go to search for something in my home and have to ask, “Mom, is it in your classroom?”
I know we are in unprecedented times right now due to COVID-19, and families are faced with difficult decisions concerning school and the health of their children, but please know we understand! We are truly in this together, and if we support one another a great team will be formed to give the best care to your child - not only with their school curriculum, but with their fears, their frustrations and triumphs big and small!
When I am not at school you might find me at the playground with my three grandchildren or at my church volunteering in the nurseries or teaching Bible study children. My favorite week of the year is spent at Spring Mill Bible Camp cooking for 125 people and laughing on the camp porch watching all the kids interacting with each other making wonderful memories. Oh, and if I am not there, you can find me at Fort Ben Harrison hiking or playing golf!
Meet the Assistant Executive Director: Jennifer Gosch
Hello GMA Families!
I am beyond excited to begin this new chapter of my career with all of you at Geist Montessori Academy this school year. I am honored to serve our school community as the new Assistant Executive Director.
I have spent 14 years in Hoosier classrooms helping young people learn how they can make a difference in their communities. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Indiana University’s School of Education in 2002, and completed a two-year program through Western Governors University for my Master of Science in Educational Leadership in just one year. I believe that our children can do big things when we give them the support and encouragement they need to succeed. Our future is bright because of our next generation, and I am excited to get started with the GMA community. I cannot wait to meet each and every one of you!
My husband Matthew and I are the busy parents of three amazing children. Our son, Riley, is a 2020 high school graduate pursuing a degree in Biological Physics from Washington and Jefferson College in Pennsylvania this fall as a collegiate swimmer. Our daughter, Reagan, is a sophomore in high school who loves to read and is involved in her school’s theater department. Our youngest son, Carter, is an eighth grade student who loves fishing and baseball. We also have two four-legged family members - two dogs named Wrigley (for Wrigley Field) and Ozzie (after St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith). As you can see, we are a “house divided” in terms of Major League Baseball loyalties!
I love spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy traveling and am always up for an adventure! My favorite place to relax is near the water - be it a creek, river, lake, or ocean - the water is so calming. My dream is to someday own a lake house where my children can bring their friends and families together for holidays and long weekends on the water.
This school year is going to be different for all of us in many ways. However, one thing will always remain the same - I will do everything possible to support students and families. We have some uncharted waters to navigate together this year, please know that I am here to support you and your children. My door is always open, and I am a quick phone call or email away if you need anything. Together we can make the 2020-2021 school year the very best it can be.
Meet Marca Budzenski, Assistant Executive Director of Operations
Dear Geist Montessori Academy Families,
I would like to take this opportunity to introduce myself and express how excited I am to join your school community as the Assistant Executive Director of Operational Affairs. My name is Marca Budzenski, I am a veteran high school science teacher and administrator with over fifteen years of education experience. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology/Chemistry, completed a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and earned my Administrator’s Licensure. My instructional expertise includes teaching Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Project Lead the Way Biomedical Science and International Baccalaureate Biology. For the past four years I have been Principal of a Catholic Elementary School educating students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. In addition to my education expertise, I have eight years’ experience in the Healthcare field as the Corporate Director and Chief Financial Officer for a small medical company.
My husband and I recently celebrated 30 years of the sacrament of marriage and we have three grown children. Our oldest daughter, Rachel, is an Art Teacher and is married to Eli, an electrical engineer. They live in Frankfort, Kentucky. Rachel and Eli are new, proud parents to our first grandson, Adrian Luke, born May 7, 2020. Please stop by my office and I will be happy to show you many pictures of Adrian! Our son Phillip is an industrial engineer and a graduate of the Purdue School of Engineering. He lives in Chicago. Our youngest daughter, Aubrey, is a junior at Indiana University majoring in Music Therapy. Our three children attended Montessori School until they transitioned to elementary school.
I look forward to being reacquainted with Montessori education and working with the children and families of Geist Montessori Academy.
Marca M. Budzenski, M.Ed.
Meet Special Education Director: Peg Rideout
Welcome Back or Welcome To Geist Montessori Academy!
I thought I’d retired in June, 2019 after being a special educator for over 25 years and was excited to transition into a life of volunteering, relaxing and enjoying time with family and friends. I love to play games, walk and learn something new everyday! Now a year later I am serving Geist Montessori as the director of special education and I am thrilled to be here. I’m looking forward to getting to know our families at GMA and hope you and your child have an excellent year of learning here.
In addition to my work at Geist Montessori, I work for Purdue University as a Supervisor for student teachers. I believe it is important to inspire tomorrow’s teachers and encourage them in their quest to fulfill their passion to educate children. Both of my parents were educators and I never considered any other field when I was thinking about my career. Teaching has satisfied my soul.
My door is always open to you. If you have a question, or are concerned about your child, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I am part of the team at Geist Montessori Academy, and can brainstorm with you, observe your child and provide some feedback or share strategies or resources that may give you the support you need.
Special Education Director
Meet Special Education Coordinator: Rebekah Ramsey
It is an honor to introduce myself as the new Special Education Coordinator for GMA and to join this extraordinary school community. I hope this letter finds you enjoying the last weeks of summer vacation with your loved ones. I can assure you that I share a passion for caring for your child and helping him/her to develop a love for their education. Furthermore, I am dedicated to the journey it takes to help your child reach his/her full potential.
My name is Rebekah Ramsey, and I am an Indiana University graduate. My undergrad degree is in Elementary Education with a dual licence in Special Education. I am currently working on my Masters Degree in Science of Reading and Dyslexia from Mount St. Joseph University. I come to you with two years experience as a life skills teacher and five years experience as a first grade lead teacher in Shelbyville Central Schools. I went through Orton Gillingham basic training in 2015 to best meet the needs of beginning and struggling readers. I love working with children and growing with them.
I stay busy in my personal life with my husband and our four busy kiddos. Jaiden is my oldest, and he is a 2020 graduate. He will be attending Indiana University this fall to pursue an International Business Degree with a minor in Spanish. Izzie is a sophomore in high school, and she’s my social butterfly. She has one of the kindest hearts I know and especially for people. Nicholas is a freshman, and he could spend everyday on the lake fishing. He is such a unique child and learner, and he is the reason I became passionate about teaching struggling readers. I am a firm believer that if a child cannot learn the way we teach then we should change the way we teach. Madilyn is my fiery redhead. She is a seventh grader, and loves to hang out at home. She loves home projects, baking, and gardening. As a family we enjoy anything from spending time around the house to going on sunny beach vacations. My conversations with GMA administration over the past month has afforded me insights to their core beliefs and values. I am looking forward to having such a supportive team of administrators and teachers to work with. I vehemently believe by having an incredible team our students will flourish.
I am committed to exploring new ways to meet the needs of students and to effectively communicate with parents and community members. To the students, I cannot wait to meet you all! I hope you are equally as excited as I am for the upcoming school year. We are going to have an exhilarating year of learning and growing together. In closing, please know my door is always open to you. I welcome your conversation and input throughout the year. I wholeheartedly believe that every child can excel and the partnership between home and school builds confidence in students. I look forward to celebrating a successful 2020-2021 school year with you and your child.
“It’s not what we have in our life, but who we have in our life that matters”
Meet Guidance Counselor: Michael Skiles
Hello GMA Families!
This is my fourth year at Geist Montessori Academy as the school counselor and I am looking forward to another wonderful school year. I am excited to see all of the wonderful students back in action as the school year starts back up. I know we can start this year off on a great note! I am excited to see where this year will take us!
I graduated from Ball State University with an undergraduate degree in Psychology with minors in Interpersonal Relation and Psychology of Human Development. I continued at Ball State University for my Masters in Arts for School Counseling and Guidance services. I always knew I wanted to be a counselor since I was in Elementary school and as I learned more about what counseling fields were out there, school counseling quickly became my career choice. I love being able to work with students and be able to help them as they go through some of the most important years of their lives. Providing social, emotional, and academic assistance in a school setting helps set up success for each student’s future.
My wife, Chloe, and I both work at schools, me being a school counselor and her being a preschool teacher. We both really love working with kids. Right now, we do not have any kids of our own, but we do have 2 adorable fur babies! We have a dog named Waffles and a cat named Zelda. Waffles is a King Charles Cavalier and Poodle mix and Zelda is a tabby that I rescued from a farm. They have both been with us for about 5 years and we love them very much! Both of my parents moved to Florida while I was in grad school and I have a brother who is two years older than me that lives in New York. Having family in different places really makes holidays special when we can get the whole family together! Our usual spot is in Florida on the beach. Some of my hobbies include playing tennis, playing video games with my friends, spending time with my family, building computers, going fishing, and going camping. I used to play a lot of tennis in my high school years and I was a youth coaching assistant during my high school summer years, teaching younger kids how to play tennis. I also teach coding and computers during the summers and it is a blast!
I look forward to another successful and exciting year! I know this school year might look different with everything that is going on with the pandemic, but I am certain that we can work together to teach students and help them grow and develop in the most positive light! As the school year goes on, please let me know if I can help in any way!
Meet our school nurse: April Wayman
Hello GMA families!
Some of you may know me as Cody, Jordan, or Chase’s mom. In addition to being a mom of 3 students at GMA I am also the new school nurse. I am grateful to be joining the GMA family this year and eager to care for the students and staff in the school nurse role. My hope is that you and your students are comforted by my compassion and care, especially during the unprecedented times of the pandemic.
I am a registered nurse and come to you with experience in pediatrics, NICU, and home care case management. These specialty areas allowed me to focus on the areas of nursing I love. Being able to give my patients one to one direct care and education enabled trusting and caring relationships and therefore complete and effective health outcomes.
In addition to being an RN, I also come to you with the experience of being a parent of children with ADHD and dyslexia. This experience has made me aware that children and families have experiences that can not be assessed on a physical level. I see people similarly to snowflakes, no two are alike, each one is uniquely made with a purpose, and there is beauty in every single one.
Over this summer you could have caught me doing some of my favorite things, experiencing nature at the beach and hiking in the mountains, connecting with people in our community and making new friends, cooking new recipes, learning about how to take care of hermit crabs, walking with Crosby our golden retriever, listening to several audible books, and wrangling a very busy household.
I hope to learn so much about your children and give them the best care possible through their years at GMA. Please know I am looking forward to meeting you and your students at the ice cream social and in the up coming weeks. Please feel free to email me anytime for anything!
Meet Administrative Assistant: Stephanie edwards
My name is Stephanie Edwards. I am the administrative assistant here at Geist Montessori Academy. I will be the first one you see when you walk through the front door! This will be my 5th school year at GMA. Before joining the team up front this year, I spent two years as a classroom assistant and two years as a special education assistant, working with our incredible students. It has been an honor to work in so many areas of our school for so many years.
When I’m not at work, you can usually find me walking my two dogs, Jax and Nala. I also enjoy adding new vinyl records to my collection, baking new recipes, camping, hiking, working on DIY projects, and enjoying live music. I love to travel to the mountains and enjoy being outdoors as much as possible.
I am so excited to see all of our families, and to meet all our new ones!
Meet our incredible teachers and co-teachers
Pre-K Teacher: Stephani Emerick
My name is Stephani Emerick and I have had the honor of working at Geist Montessori Academy Pre-K for the past two years. I am a lifelong Montessorian having attended DeColores Montessori School in Greenville, Ohio from the ages 3-12. Though my degree is in Communications, my passion is working with children in a Montessori setting. I have had the privilege to mentor under Mrs. Karen Swan for the past eight years and truly enjoy traveling to other Montessori schools to observe how other communities utilize Dr. Maria Montessori’s tried and true method of learning. I am beyond thrilled to begin my official Montessori Early Childhood Training this coming January!
As a born and raised Montessorian I cannot pinpoint one Montessori principle as a favorite. However, building a classroom community based around respect would have to be close to the top. In the Pre-K community, if we are able to guide our students to treat every friend in class with grace and courtesy as well as resolve a conflict independently in a respectful manner by the end of the year, we will call that a success! I also love the three-year-cycle. Working with the students for all three years is amazing. The honor of getting to witness a child grow from a shy new member to a true leader of our unique classroom community is almost indescribable.
In my personal life you will often find me browsing through second hand book shops, camping and hiking with my husband Justin, and singing and dancing with my four-year-old daughter Jocie. I danced for twenty years and to be able to share that passion with my daughter has been a joy. My dream travel plans are to backpack through Ireland with my husband and parents! I have an extremely close-knit relationship with my family and am often quoting movies, tv shows, and books with my two siblings. I am thrilled to meet our new GMA and GMA Pre-K students as well as see our many returning students again! I know this is going to be a great year of loving and learning together!
Geist Montessori Academy Pre-K Walnut Room Lead Teacher firstname.lastname@example.org “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.” Dr. Maria Montessori
Pre-School Co-Teacher: Takisha Moody-Daniel
Welcome GMA and GMA Pre-K Families,
My name is Takish Moody-Daniel and this is my second year working at Geist Montessori Academy Pre-K. I have been working with children since I was 13 years old. I was an academic mentor to elementary kids growing up in my hometown Athens, Georgia. When I graduated highschool, I moved to Indiana and never left. My love for children stayed and I found my home here at GMA! I have been at GMA for the past 5 years. I worked for the YMCA Before and Aftercare program at GMA for 3 of those years before becoming a Lead teacher in the Buckeye classroom. I then transitioned to Co-Leading in the Walnut room. Now I have stepped back to learn more of the material and assist in the Pre-K. I am thrilled to learn, perfect and add a bit of myself into the Montessori teaching environment. I am super excited for the school year!
Growing up I was a very challenging child. I was passed from classroom to classroom. My teachers thought there was little to no hope for me and my stubborn ways. Mrs. Griffith was my referee. She was my kindergarten teacher. The Person that saw my true potential. Ever since, I made it my mission to never give up on a child. I tend to gravitate towards the children that remind me of myself when I was younger. I believe that all children have the potential to show their greatness, despite whatever obstacles they may have to face within themselves along the way.
My personal life is a funny roller coaster. My family is hilarious and they keep me on my toes. My finance Zach and our son Norman are the tinkers in the family. Tools, mowers and more tools. My daughter Amaya and I are massive horror movie buffs. You can find us on the couch looking for a new scare. We also read a ton of mystery and horror books. I was always a busy body as a child and still am as an adult. My goal is to be a person with many hats. I am currently assisting my step-mom to open a cosmetology school. I am super excited to be a part of that business venture.
I can’t wait to see all of you, returning and new. You might catch me skipping down the hallway with some preschoolers. If you do, be prepared to receive a big smile!
Staci Lovold: Kindergarten/ lower elementary lead Teacher
Hello GMA families!
My name is Staci Lovold and I am excited to be beginning my first full year here at GMA. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Kindergarteners in the Hickory class during the second semester of last school year. I’m looking forward to seeing some familiar faces and meeting new friends this year. Over the last 20 years, I have served children from the age of 3 all the way to Middle School as a Preschool, Kindergarten and First grade teacher as well as working as a Literacy Coach.
My family joined Geist Montessori Academy 9 years ago when my oldest daughter, Ellen, started Kindergarten; this year, she will be finishing up her time at GMA as an 8th grader. My son, Jack, will be moving into Upper Elementary this school year and my youngest daughter, Abby, will be a first year. In our free time, my family enjoys spending time together playing games, taking trips and spending a great deal of time out in nature.
"We teachers can only help the work going on, as servants wait upon a master."
Kindergarten Co-Teacher: Gabby Burklow-Egger
Some of you may know me from carline, the classroom or even as a past student here.
Our wonderful school has a place near and dear to my heart. I attended Geist Montessori Academy from when I was 9 years old in 4th grade until I transitioned in 8th grade. All thanks to GMA I’ve made incredible friends that have lasted my whole life! Including my wonderful boyfriend who I met in 5th grade.
I have always had such a passion for working with children. Since graduation I was a nanny and worked at various daycares. It wasn’t until I gained a position at Geist Montessori that I really delved into my passion of teaching. I realized how rewarding it was to help and nourish students to grow, learn and make incredible strides. Once I got my position in Special Education everything clicked. Its so amazing to get the chance to work my dream job!
Growing up my family instilled in me a love for nature and adventure! Whether it’s camping, hiking, kayaking, traveling or creek/field stomping looking for Native American artifacts and crystals. I was lucky enough to have my siblings be my best friends who love to do all of the same things together.
Being creative is something that gives me peace. My favorite ways of showing creativity is drawing, painting and doing crafts or projects. I love to make beautiful things of all kinds for our classrooms. It brings me so much joy to bond with children over art and to help instill a love of creativity in them too! They always amaze me with their skills and passions.
I’m very excited to see you all of the kiddos again this school year!
Vicki Kortz: Kindergarten Teacher
Hello GMA families,
My name is Vicki Kortz, and I am one of the Kindergarten teachers. I have been teaching for almost 10 years (this will be my 10th year) and I have a passion for early childhood education. I have taught preschool, Pre-K, and now Kindergarten. I have my undergrad in Elementary Education and I just graduated with my Masters Degree in Educational Psychology with a focus in High Ability, and will become a certified teacher in High Ability.
I am married (for over 13 years) to my husband Mike and we have two kids, Orion (13) and Kennedy (11). We have 2 cats (Fearless and Fandango), and 1 puppy (Fury). We enjoy going camping, traveling and watching movies. A fun pastime in our house is to use movie dialogue in everyday speech.
What is your favorite thing to do?
One of my favorite things to do is performing. I try to perform a few times each year either with community theater companies, or in variety type shows. This past summer I performed with the Rick Weil Theater Company in Greenfield. We did the musical Little Shop of Horrors and I played the role of Audrey II the plant. Singing is something I do every day and include it in every aspect of my life (especially teaching).
What's one thing you could not live without?
With that being said, one thing I cannot live without is music. I love and listen to many genres of music, including country. Music is a great equalizer in that almost everyone responds to and enjoys music in their own way. I find singing to be therapeutic and could not imagine a day I didn’t sing.
What three traits define you?
Love for learning. This may seem cliché, however I do love learning. I learn through reading new books and articles, watching YouTube videos (Weird History, SciShow, ASAP Science), or going back to school and getting my masters.
Empathy. Nowadays, I feel empathy is a lost trait, and it is needed more now than ever. I feel this trait helps me be the best teacher I can be.
Reflective. Being reflective is something I have done as long as I can remember. When done correctly, reflection allows me to understand people and situations better and helps me change myself for the better. How can I better… (fill in the blank)?
What is your favorite Montessori quote?
“One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child.”
I look forward to a great year,
Mrs. Victoria Kortz
Geist Montessori Academy
Kindergarten Co-Teacher: Jacob Burklow-Rogers
Hello I'm Mr. Jacob,
I'm an assistant teacher and former student of Geist Montessori Academy. I enjoy all kinds of fun activities, anything that involves being active, creating something cool, or learning new skills! I love to play soccer, go camping and hiking, and collect crystals. The coolest place I've ever been to was a crystal mine in Arkansas where I got to go digging for quartz and other minerals with my family!
A few things that I can't live without are my family, coffee, sunshine, and good music. My favorite song is Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwoʻole because it always puts me in a good mood. I believe Maria Montessori is one of the most influential and remarkable people ever! Some of my favorite quotes by her are,
"Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and strength, use it to create."
"One test of the correctness of educational procedure is the happiness of the child."
- Dr. Maria Montessori
PE Teacher: Brian Hole
Geist Montessori Academy Families,
I am very excited to introduce myself as the new Physical Education Teacher for GMA and to join this awesome community. I will assess the needs of all the kids and develop a learning environment for all levels of students. I will also be working as an Athletic Director to get athletic teams established for GMA.
My name is Brian Hole and I graduated from Manchester College and also have additional studies from DePauw University and Indiana University. I have taught Physical Education for several years at all levels starting with Pre K through 12th grade. I have also coached several different varsity sports including baseball, basketball, football and golf. I currently teach Drivers Education.
I have been married to my wife Angela for 27 years and we have four children. Natasha is the oldest and graduated from Marian University and currently works as a RN. Julia just graduated from Ball State University with a degree in Criminal Justice/Digital Forensics and currently works at the Boone County Sheriff’s Office. Olivia is a senior at Marian University majoring in nursing and Connor will be a freshman at Indiana University this fall majoring in Criminal Justice and playing football. We enjoy spending time together, watching sports and taking family vacations to the beach.
I am looking forward to meeting all of you. I am excited to get started and look forward to a successful 2020 – 2021 school year.
Lower Elementary Lead Teacher: Lori Wilderson
Dear Geist Montessori Academy Families,
It is an honor to introduce myself as a new Lower Elementary Teacher at Geist Montessori Academy. I am excited to join a such a wonderful and welcoming school community where children develop a love of learning. Coming from a family of educators, I know how important the value of education is. Therefore, I plan to strive at working at your child’s best interest and teaching to the needs of each student. As a visual learner myself, I appreciate diverse learning instruction and want to make sure that each student is able to learn in a manner that is best for them.
My name is Lori Wilderson and I am a graduate of Butler University. My undergraduate degree is in Elementary Education with a Kindergarten Endorsement. In addition, I proudly furthered my education at Butler University by earning a Master of Science degree in Effective Teacher Leadership and professionalized my Indiana Teaching license. I come to you with 16 years of teaching experience at Hamilton Southeastern Schools. I taught first grade my first year of teaching, taught kindergarten for thirteen years, and have taught second grade for two years. There I implemented the best practices for teaching and learning by incorporating the ideas of Reggio Emilia, the Project Approach, and the workshop model into learning across the curriculum. Through, inquiry, I provided students with an opportunity to have a voice in their learning and the ability to express themselves.
My husband, Jon, and I live in Fishers with our inquisitive son, Zane. We also have cat at home named Clark. We enjoy Butler basketball, gardening, and spending time with our families.At Butler University, I realized that I loved working with children. Since I was twelve years old, I have been babysitting and interacting with children on a regular basis. I feel that the field of education allows me to use my creativity as well as my intellect to touch the lives of children.
Through my education, I had several opportunities to interact in the classroom. Such experiences made me recognize why I wanted to become a teacher. I love to give to others and be able to watch them gain through that giving. It is a rewarding experience for the recipient as well as the contributor. I am making a difference in a young child’s mind, which gives me a sense of accomplishment. Not only do children learn from me, but I learn from them, too.
I am looking forward to working along side such a supportive group of colleagues to make it an enriching and enjoyable school year for you and your child. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.
Very truly yours,
Lower Elementary Co-Teacher: Susan Zachary
Hello GMA family,
I am Susan Zachary and I am beginning my third year with GMA. My previous two years, I have been a teaching assistant in resource working with students in both lower and upper elementary. I also taught after school reading labs this past winter. Before coming to GMA, I worked many years in the business sector in insurance agencies, a credit union and consumer products company. In addition, I hold a dental radiographer’s license and have worked as a dental assistant. One of my personal and future goals is to accompany a dentist on a mission trip.
I am the youngest of five siblings and the only daughter. I have two adult sons, Jordan and Colin and my youngest is Evan. Jordan and Ashley live in Greensburg with my three granddaughters, Rylee, Jojo and Kennedy who call me Gigi. Colin lives nearby in Pendleton with my grandpup, Marley. Evan is 17 years old and will soon begin his junior year at Lapel High School where he runs cross country, and is in theatre and show choir.
I am a graduate of Lapel High School, Ball State University and Anderson University. I hold an associates degree in business administration and a bachelors degree in organizational leadership. I love cooking and enjoy trying new foods and eating healthy, walking in nature, shopping for unique pieces to decorate our home, music and singing, great conversation with friends, family and traveling. I have traveled a bit outside of the country to northern Mexico and western Caribbean islands. I also visited Oahu and Maui. When I’m at the beach, it is my favorite and when I’m in the mountains, they are my favorite especially the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. With hope that out of country travel will return, I will be chaperoning Evan’s senior class field trip to Europe and am most excited to visit Paris and experience other great cities such as London, Barcelona and hopefully, Rome, with my son.
I love a great cup of coffee and chocolate is my guilty pleasure. I was blessed to be raised by amazing Christian parents and still enjoy talks with my dad who was 94 this year.The journey that led me to GMA started with my work in South Madison School Corporation where I worked as a SPED assistant. Those experiences and that of being a parent have shown me how each child is unique and to be treasured and nurtured. I believe that you cannot surround a child with too many good influences, and I do agree that it takes a village to raise a child.
I am thrilled to begin my third year with GMA and look forward to all the new experiences that this year will bring.
Lower elementary Lead Teacher: Jennie Blackburn
Welcome to the 2020-2021 School year! My name is Jennie Blackburn and I am very excited to be teaching at Geist Montessori Academy this fall. I have been teaching Montessori for 13 years and feel truly fortunate to do a job I am passionate about.
To tell you a little about myself, I have a BA in Psychology from Indiana University, my Montessori certification from Princeton Center for Teacher Education, and an MA in Special Ed from Belmont University.My very first teaching job after college was actually here, at Geist Montessori School, in 2004! Working at GMS is what made me realize I wanted to become a Montessori teacher. Soon after starting work here, I began my Montessori training. Since then, I have had an opportunity to teach in Nashville, TN, Charlotte, NC, and Lemont, IL. I have taught in both private and public Montessori schools and have loved both! To me, Montessori is the best way for children to learn and explore.
My husband, Andy, and I have 3 children. Evan (8) will be in 3rd grade at GMA, Rory (5) will be in Kindergarten at GMA, and Amelia is 2. Evan enjoys sports, building legos and playing Minecraft. He wants to be an engineer when he grows up. Rory likes to ride his scooter, build with legos, and enjoys playing with his sister. He wants to be a paleontologist when he gets older. Amelia is really into books, exploring, snuggling, and saying “No!” or “Mine”. In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family, playing board games, and reading.
This is a crazy and unpredictable time. I know this year is going to look different than previous school years but we will all adapt! Whichever mode of learning you have chosen, please know that I understand and support what a difficult decision that was to make. Be assured that I will do my best to keep your children happy, healthy, safe, and loved.
I am excited for all the fun things we will do this school year and I can’t wait to meet you all!
Lower Elementary Co-Teacher: Teresa Alderton
WELCOME BACK GEIST MONTESSORI FAMILIES!
I am so excited to start another school year with all of you! I am looking forward to seeing our returning students and a warm welcome to all of our new students and families!
This will be my eighth school year with GMA! It is hard to believe how fast the time has gone! I am an Instructional Assistant in Lower Elementary. I have also taught ESL, English as a Second Language. For years, I have helped students in RTI, Response to Intervention, with Math and ELA, English Language Arts. I also provide in-school tutoring in various subjects with students in Lower and Upper Elementary and Middle School.
I attended Indiana State University and Indiana University in Bloomington. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. My freshman year was my first Montessori observation. I will always remember a learner asking the teacher “Do you have a more challenging work?” I was so impressed with this young child’s eloquent way of speaking! I love the Montessori teaching method!
My family and I have lived in Fishers for 15 years. I have a son at Purdue University and a daughter at Fishers High School. Our favorite activity is travel! We love experiencing new cultures! I have a few family travel photos below. :)
I have been a Montessori instructor for 15 years with training and experience in AMS, American Montessori Society and AMI, Association Montessori Internationale. I was fortunate enough to take a trip of a lifetime to Europe. I went to Rome and was thrilled to see the first Montessori school, Casa Dei Bambini. It was so special to see the original area where the children gardened! I have several favorite quotes from Dr. Maria Montessori, one I especially admire is: “The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth”.
This school year may look and feel different with this global pandemic we face, but please know that we are here for you. It is an honor and privilege to work with your children. I want to always give them the tools they desire and need to make their educational experience the best! Thank you!
Teresa S. Alderton
lower elementary Lead Teacher: Meagan Messuri
Welcome back! My name is Meagan Messuri and this will be my sixth year teaching at Geist Montessori Academy! Born and raised in Louisville, KY, I spent most of my childhood and adolescence heavily involved in theater and performing. In 2012 I graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. I moved back home and eagerly started searching for a teaching job. My old voice teacher now taught at Community Montessori in New Albany, IN and told me to come check it out. That is where my Montessori journey began. I taught at Community Montessori for three years in their upper elementary classrooms. After the first year of teaching, I was ready to learn more about the beautiful Montessori philosophy. I spent the next two summers in San Francisco with my co-teacher and friend, studying and learning at Montessori Training Education Center (MTEC). I walked away with a Montessori Elementary Credential and a lifetime of memories.
When I moved to Indianapolis five years ago, my Montessori journey continued at GMA. I have enjoyed getting to know the staff, families and children at this wonderful school over the years! I have been blessed with such a caring community in our Sassafras classroom where my learners and parents now seem like an extension to my own family! Each family that I have connected with over the years holds a special place in my heart. While at IU, I met my husband, Jeremy! We have been married for 3 years and were blessed with our sweet daughter, Emma, on Christmas Eve in 2017. In our free time we like to take family walks with our dog, Bernadette, work on our home, host game nights with friends, spend time with our wonderful families and spoil our nephews. Although - my most favorite thing to do at home now is being "Mommy" to this happy girl below!
Montessori has changed my life for the better in the last eight years. It isn’t just a way to teach for me, it is a way to live my life! I love learning new things and try to challenge myself as an educator & life-long learner. When my daughter was born I found myself immersed in reading and acquiring everything there was to know about early childhood development to help her along the way.
Incorporating Montessori into my home is something I am passionate about and I love to help others do the same thing! I am also currently finishing up my Associate Level Training for Orton Gillingham! Diving deeper into learning about the brain and teaching students to read with such a structured program has challenged me this year. I love seeing the results in each of my students’ confidence as a reader. I believe we learn something new each day.
It warms my soul that I am given the opportunity to inspire children to love learning and show them that when they love learning, they can do great things in life. I am so blessed to have another year full of learning, growing, fun and adventure!
Co-teacher: Morgan Bitz
My name is Morgan Bitz and I am starting my fifth year as an assistant. I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and moved to Indiana for college after high school. My journey continued when I transferred to the University of Tennessee and lived in Knoxville for four years. I married my husband, Andrew and had my first child, Amelia (2005) while living in Tennessee. We then moved to Sterling, Virginia, outside Washington DC for a couple years before finding our way back to Indiana in 2007. We had our son, Paul, in 2009 (he will be a 5th grader at GMA).
Currently, we live in McCordsville with 3 dogs, 1 leopard gecko and 1 snake (slowly building a zoo). I love to read, cook, garden, play outside with the dogs and kids, play board games and spend quality time with my family and friends. I have always enjoyed working with children of all ages, especially elementary students. I love working at GMA because Montessori education enables me to continue to learn and grow within a community setting. I look forward to the upcoming school year and seeing old friends and meeting new friends.
Lower Elementary: Ms. Rhonda
It is with great excitement that I will be working with your children this year. My name is Rhonda Anderson (Miss Rhonda) and am a recently retired teacher who is ready to get back and work with students. (Just couldn't stay away). I have a passion for helping students become lifelong learners.
For the past 19 years, I worked for Lawrence Township as a teacher in grades 1st through 4th. My last seven years were teaching in high ability for 1st and 2nd grade. Along with teaching, I worked as an Ecoach, Math Pentathlon coach, was trained in Project Lead the Way (Stem Education) and worked to help develop a high ability curriculum for 2nd grade.
I am a lifelong learner and have attended many professional development opportunities to further my expertise in education. I was also trained in project approach to learning, which is in keeping with the GMA philosophy and mirrors Montessori education.
I am married with 2 grown sons who live in the area (still waiting for grandchildren). The outdoors is where I prefer to be and my interests include: biking, swimming, walking/running, golf, kayaking and hiking. I love a good adventure, and my last was climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. When I am not outdoors I love to read and watch movies.
I am so excited to join GMA and to get to know your family!
Lower Elementary: Ms. Lauren
Dear Geist Montessori Academy Families,
Welcome to the 2020-2021 school year at Geist Montessori Academy! I would like to take a moment to introduce myself as your child’s teacher this year. My name is Lauren Goldenberg, and this is my first-year teaching at Geist Montessori Academy. I am excited to join such a wonderful and welcoming school community where children develop a love of learning. We will be creating a community of First, Second and Third graders in our room.
I am a graduate of Butler University and very proud Bulldog. My background has been education and special education, but this is my first-year teaching in a classroom. I have previously worked in camp ministry and the corporate world but have always loved working with children. Through my education, I had several opportunities to interact in the classroom. While at Butler, I was immersed in a Montessori classroom for a semester and enjoyed working with the students as they developed and discovered learning. I have a passion to help all people see and reach their own potential, which is one reason I’ve been brought back to the classroom.
My husband, Max, and I live in Indianapolis with our spunky puppy, Barlow. We enjoy Butler basketball, playing board games and cards, working on our home, playing with Barlow and spending time with our family and friends.
I’m excited for the school year to begin and am looking forward to meeting everyone!
Music Teacher: Ray Stiffler
I am very excited to join the Geist Montessori Academy as the Music Director. I have 32 years of teaching experience, teaching general music, band, and choir on every grade level. I have developed a 40-week curriculum that allows students to read the notes on the staff and play music using the correct rhythm articulation, tempo, volume, and style. I have been involved in community theater and have done many school wide productions and shows. I have built band programs and look forward to starting the band program GMA.
My theme for this year is Work Hard, Strive for Excellence, and Have Fun. I hope to help the students develop a great love for music and an understanding of how music impacts their lives every day.
I look forward to meeting and working with all of you as we build an amazing music department at Geist Montessori Academy.
Upper elementary: Deb Edwards
I am Debbie Edwards, and I teach upper elementary at GMA. I have been in my position since 2012 and I love it! I have an AA in Services for Children from the University of Minnesota and BS in Elementary Education from Bemidji State University. I received my Montessori certification in 2015 from CGMS. I have taught in both traditional schools and Montessori. I believe in the Montessori Philosophy and have seen first-hand the benefits.
I am very close to my family. My mom lives in Minnesota and I get back to visit as much as I can. She is my best friend. I have two sons, Jonathon and Justin. Justin has made me the proud grandmother of Aubree and Ava. I love to spend time with them and better yet, I love to spoil them.
My favorite things to do include reading, writing , working out, listening to music, and being out in nature. What I couldn’t live without would be my faith in God.
My greatest accomplishments would be raising my two sons and watching them with their wives (and children).
Advice I give my students is to be nice to yourself. Your words about yourself have a great effect on how you see yourself. Be kind!
Co-Teacher: Shari McMahan
Dear Geist Montessori Academy Families,
My name is Shari McMahan. I am excited for another year as a co-teacher at GMA. I look forward to working with such wonderful families and students. I hope you have all enjoyed your summer. I also hope that you have had a chance to make some great memories. I am dedicated to making this year a successful year for your child. I understand that each student is unique in his/her own way. I value the treasured opportunity to take part in your child’s education.
As a co-teacher I feel blessed to have over 6 years combined teaching experience with preschool age in the private and public-school setting. I have also worked throughout the community in various programs working with teens. Along with this, I have experience working with children that have varying developmental and educational learning differences, specifically for learners who may use unique learning methods. As of recently I have now worked 1 year at GMA teaching the 7th and 8th graders. I am currently completing a bachelor’s degree in business while also studying education and mathematics courses. I find so much joy in teaching all ages.
We have three children, all boys. Two teens and our 18 yr. old son who just graduated high school this year. Kade, our oldest, will be attending IUPUI this fall at the IUPUI School of Science. Kade enjoys hiking and cooking. Layton is a sophomore in high school, and he is very social. He likes water sports and fishing. Cory is a freshman, and he enjoys coding on his computer and spending time with his cat Griffin. Our children all have such unique ways of learning, which is one of the main reasons I decided to go into education. I love seeing students learn and grow.
I am grateful for the supportive team we have at GMA. I am looking forward to working as a team with Ms. Deb along with parents and students. I am excited to meet the students I will work with this year. I cannot wait to meet you all!
In closing, please know I look forward to celebrating a successful 2020-2021 school year.
Wishing you the best,
“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do. Success is the result of hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Upper Elementary: Abby Davis
My name is Abby Davis, and this is my ninth year at Geist Montessori Academy. Prior to working at GMA, I worked for 11 years in a public Montessori school. I have my Montessori certification ages 6-12. I believe very much in the Montessori philosophy. I have always taught the upper elementary grades, and I love this age group of children. I enjoy watching children discover and experience many concepts and grow beyond my expectations! I also take pride in building a classroom community where children feel safe and accepted.
In my spare time, I enjoy watching movies and spending time with family and friends. I love nature, and enjoy hiking and bird watching! I have two German Shepherds, Zoe and Duke, who are very special to me. I love football, and I am a huge Colts fan!
Where is the most interesting place you've traveled to and why?
I’ve been to Australia, and it was fascinating. I loved everything about it--from the scenery, the landmarks, the history, and the people. I even got kicked in the butt by a kangaroo!
What would you like to be your greatest accomplishment?
I would like to know that I’ve made a positive impact on the children that have crossed my path and that I served them well.
How do you define success?
Being at peace with yourself and enjoying life as it comes.
What is the one thing you cannot resist?
Puppies! I just want to love and squeeze them.
What is your favorite Montessori quote or principle?
The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.” Maria Montessori
I look forward to wonderful year!
Art Teacher: Meghan Pearson
Hello GMA families!
My name is Meghan Pearson and this is my first year teaching at Geist Montessori. I graduated from IU with a degree in Visual Arts Education in 2008. I have ten years of experience teaching art in Hamilton Southeastern Schools. I have always loved art and working with children. I didn’t put the two together until college and quickly realized it was a perfect fit. All different forms of art fascinate me, which is why I love teaching it…there’s something for everyone to enjoy or connect with!
If I had to pick favorites: drawing is my strongest competency, clay is the most fun, and Impressionist styles have my heart. I am a deep-thinker, compassionate, and creative. These traits are what led me into teaching and keep me going in this field. I hope to help your children appreciate art and succeed in expressing themselves. My goals for students are to think critically, problem solve, and to learn how to deepen the creativity inside of them. If I had one bit of advice to give to all my students (whether age 5 or 15), it would be that what you think, say, and do matters. YOU matter.
I try to instill that belief in my own children. My husband and I have three daughters: Madelyn (9), Molly (7), and Makenna (1 ½). (Side note: the M’s were not originally planned but the family convinced me the baby should match her sisters. My husband’s name is Nolan so he’s out of the club.) As a family we enjoy going on walks, swimming, watching movies, and indulging our sweet tooth. One thing I could not live without is chocolate! We also love to travel. Before having kids, my husband and I traveled to France and Italy. I brought him along to museum after museum but one of our favorite places was Venice. Pictures do not do it justice. Wherever life’s travels or adventures take me, I hope my greatest accomplishment in life will be that I loved others well.
Looking forward to a great year,
Middle School: Cait Huntzinger
My name is Cait Huntzinger, and I’m very excited to introduce myself as the new 7th & 8th grade STEM teacher. I hope this letter finds you well and that your children are enjoying the rest of their summer. I’m eager to get back into the classroom this fall and meet everyone!
I’m an Indiana University graduate and received my biology degree in 2010. I then completed the transition to teaching program through the IU School of Education and earned my masters in secondary education in 2014. I taught middle school science & biology in Fishers, IN for two years before our family relocated out of state. After that, I spent some more time in the classroom in Phoneix, AZ teaching biology, honors biology, and AP environmental science. Life relocated us again to Boise, ID, but after 18 months we decided to make a permanent move home to Indiana earlier this summer.
I’m thrilled to be back in the Hoosier state and joining the Geist Montessori community this school year. My husband and I have three young kiddos- 5 and 4 year old daughters, and a little boy who’ll be turning one in September. Our girls will also be attending GMA this fall for preschool and kindergarten.
I look forward to working with you and communicating throughout the year as needed to ensure your child’s needs are being met in my STEM classroom. Please do not hesitate to shoot me an email or give me a call should you have any questions, comments, or concerns.
Here’s to a great year!
Co-teacher: Mare Pasely
My name is Mare Pasley. I am a resource assistant and this will be my 7th year working at our wonderful school. My family has been a part of GMA for 10 years. My oldest son Cash just graduated and is heading off to high school this fall. My son Holden is joining our amazing middle school this year as a 7th grader. When I’m not working, I enjoy hiking, photography, and watching my boys play soccer.
My family also enjoys spending time with our beautiful rescue dogs, Penny Lane and Matilda. I’m looking forward to meeting all of our new families this year and also seeing all of our returning students!
Middle School: Noelle Truex
Hello Geist Montessori Academy Families:
I am incredibly excited to introduce my new position as the Middle School Humanities teacher for the upcoming 2020-21 school year! I am passionate about educating middle school students and creating meaningful relationships with students as well as authentic learning experiences that expand their minds and help them connect to the world around them. I am especially eager to create engaging cross-curricular units that combine language arts and social studies concepts.
I am a recent Indiana University graduate with an undergraduate degree in Secondary English Education. I completed my student teaching at Clay Middle School in Carmel and continued to work with Clay as a long-term substitute for the remainder of the school year. Due to the pandemic, instruction moved to a virtual format. I was able to plan and create a variety of virtual lessons that truly engaged students in reading comprehension and written expression. Despite the initial difficulties and the learning curve for students and staff, I believe the challenges broadened my skill set as a teacher and familiarized me more so with enriching education technology and resources.
In my personal life, I very much enjoy artistic endeavours and creative expression. I like to paint and draw and always have my nose in a book. I enjoy staying active and spending time with my family, friends and, of course, pets. My boyfriend, Kyle, and I own a beautiful and energetic Dalmatian named Louie. We love to take him one hikes, walks around the pond in our neighborhood, and he especially loves running.
In addition to my undergraduate degree from Indiana University and long-term substitute position, I have spent the last several years working closely with children living in a local crisis shelter in Bloomington. At Middle Way House, I had the incredible opportunity to work with children and cultivate their unique talents and abilities through weekly art lessons. This experience gave me an early opportunity to practice planning and implementing lesson plans as well as developing meaningful relationships with children. My work here strengthened my passion for teaching and enriching the lives of young people, no matter what the content area.
I am delighted to begin my professional career with the wonderful staff and families at Geist Montessori Academy; I feel a strong sense of community that I believe will help foster a collaborative and rewarding educational environment.
I am very much looking forward to meeting all of my students in the coming weeks! I can’t wait to share my love of reading with all of you and help you find enjoyment in what you are learning, I hope everyone enjoys the remainder of their summer vacation!
Co-Teacher: Ms. Michelle
Welcome to the start of a new GMA school year!
My name is Ms. Michelle and I am a teaching assistant. I hope that you had a wonderful and relaxing summer despite all the COVID restrictions. Much like show biz, the show must go on. We have so many interesting and fun things to learn this year. I have every confidence that we can make it work. I am looking forward to meeting each of you personally, and sharing this year with you and your child.