OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS

President/CEO

Christine Holmes is the President/CEO of Penfield Children’s Center and a long-time leader in health and human services with a focus on children and families. Penfield Children’s Center is a provider of Milwaukee County’s Birth-to-Three program, early childhood education and therapies to more than 1,600 children located in Milwaukee. Prior to Penfield, Ms. Holmes spent 14 years with Children’s Hospital and Health System as Director of Community Ventures and Advocacy where she provided oversight for the development of community social service initiatives.

Ms. Holmes’s community engagement extends to her service with several organizations including: National Birth-5 Peer Advocate Roundtable, Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare Partnership Council, Wisconsin Alliance for Infant Mental Health, Wisconsin Early Learning Coalition and the United Way Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversight. In 2013, Ms. Holmes was honored with two awards including a scholarship from the Harvard Business Club of Wisconsin to attend a week-long session on Strategy Perspectives for Non Profits at Harvard. The Penfield board nominated Ms. Holmes and she was also awarded a “Women of Influence” award by the Milwaukee Business Journal.

At the national level, Ms. Holmes previously worked as Public Relations Director for the Alliance for Families and Children and Prevent Child Abuse America. Ms. Holmes has her Master’s Degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

James BurnettIn his role as Director of Public Relations for Kane Communications Group, James brings his experiences as a storyteller and relationship builder to a point.

Public relations done right involves thought leadership. It involves telling clients’ stories in any and every format and style that makes them relatable and demonstrates the benefit of their service or product. Yes, there are press releases and media advisories. But understand the sky’s the limit. Also, think narrative written features, blog posts or social media entries, podcasts, even speeches and public convening.

James’s 21 years in communications work includes 16 years as an award-winning journalist for major news outlets including the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Miami Herald, and the Boston Globe. At the Journal Sentinel, James was part of a team that won a National Headliner Award for reporting on urban redevelopment in Milwaukee. At the Herald, James co-authored an investigative story recognized with an Associated Press Sports Editors Award because it may have helped exonerate a college baseball player accused of a crime. And at the Globe, James was a writer in the paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings. He has also been a magazine and broadcast contributor to O: The Oprah Magazine, U.S. News & World Report, CNN and NPR.

Born and raised in Southeastern Virginia – with a detour to Sicily as a child, James first moved to Milwaukee in the fall of 1998 to write for the Journal Sentinel. After 14 years away in South Florida and Boston, he and his wife and children moved back to Milwaukee to be near family in 2018.

When he is not in family-man mode or being a so-so gardener, you can find James walking his black lab Leo at any number of North Shore parks, playing basketball at the Jewish Community Center, volunteering with his son’s Cub Scouts troop, or working on his version of the great American novel.

In his professional and personal lives, James insists that relating to and accepting as many people and as many types of people as possible is the key to effective communications.

I am a Client Advisor with J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank in Milwaukee. In my role, I focus on helping high net worth clients address their complex wealth management needs. Leveraging the resources at J.P. Morgan, I can address all aspects of financial planning, including banking, credit, estate planning, philanthropy, and wealth transfer.

Prior to the Private Bank, I worked at both Stark Investments and Racon Capital, spending much of my career as a macro analyst and product specialist respectively. Both experiences laid the foundation and provided a framework for my current work.

But my career actually started as a teacher. I was trained in Canada, spending time as a researcher prior to moving to Milwaukee, focused on the micro-interactions that take place in the classroom. During my time in the field, I published numerous articles and a spelling text book, Nelson Spelling 2.

I was born in Toronto, Canada. I have a B.A., B.Ed., and M.Ed. from the University of Toronto. In 2000, I made Milwaukee my home and currently reside in Cedarburg with my family. All three of my children have attended Montessori schools.

Julie holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications from DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana and a Masters Degree, In Human Resources, from the Graduate School of Business at Loyola University Chicago. She has 20 plus years of working experience in the field of Human Resources/Talent Development; specializing in training and recruiting.

In addition to her professional endeavors, Julie is a dedicated community volunteer serving on a variety of boards and committees over the years. Most notably, she served as the President of the Junior League of Milwaukee as well as serving eight years as Vice-President on Kappa Alpha Theta’s International board.

Currently, she on the board of Impact100 Milwaukee as a Communications Director, is a member of the Whitefish Bay Police Commission, the Whitefish Bay Historic Preservation Commission and the personnel committee at her church. She also is the training chair for the University School of Milwaukee’s Business Internship Program.

Julie and her husband, Brian, feel so lucky to be raising their young children in such a vibrant and wonderful city!

Bob Mikulay is the retired Executive Vice President of Marketing for the Miller Brewing Company and has had an extensive and successful career in marketing and branding strategy, consumer and customer insight, sales management, strategic planning and a myriad of other areas. Before joining Miller Brewing Company, he served as Senior Vice President of Marketing for Philip Morris U.S.A. In 2004, he was recognized by Advertising Age as one of the 50 most influential marketing executives in the country. Bob currently advises small businesses and start-up ventures on all aspects of business strategy and development.

Bob serves as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) and Penfield Children’s Center. He is also a member of the Board of Trustees for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.

Bob graduated from the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis with a bachelor’s degree in communications in 1973 and attended the U of M’s Carlson School of Business’ Masters Program from 1973 to 1975.

Bob currently lives in Whitefish Bay with his wife, Susan, a writer and communications consultant. They have one son, David, an actor living in West Hollywood, California.

Melissa Murray

Melissa Murray is a mother, wife, daughter, volunteer and business owner/real estate investor. She navigates the delicate balance between work and family every day. Melissa manages the purchase, ownership, management, rental and/or sale of multi-family and commercial property holdings for her real estate investment business.

Melissa is originally from New York and relocated with her husband Ron to the Milwaukee area seven years ago to work for Kohl’s Department Stores. She was a Product Manager in Men’s Apparel, responsible for product creation, merchandising and sourcing. Melissa’s team building skills enabled her to lead direct reports and develop strong cross-functional partnerships.

Prior to joining Kohl’s, Melissa was a Vice President of Sales at Smart Apparel headquartered in New York City. She was responsible for managing and growing the men’s private and licensed brand apparel businesses. Melissa worked with leading U.S. retailers, Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Belk, Kohl’s, JCP, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Saks, Costco.

Melissa’s twenty year career in the men’s fashion business included extensive international travel to Asia and Europe to strengthen retail/vendor relationships and facilitate product/supply chain development.

Melissa enjoys spending time with her family, friends, traveling and playing sports. She resides in Shorewood, WI with her husband Ron and her five year old daughter Sloane. Sloane currently attends Montessori school.

Secretary

As Senior Vice President and Market Executive, Tere Sackerson oversees the client’s team of Global Treasury Management professionals, striving to achieve the highest levels of client satisfaction. Her top priority is that the team not only meets, but also exceeds the client’s expectations.

Tere joined PNC with over 15 years of experience in the Financial Services industry, and over 10 years specializing in Global Treasury Management. Prior to joining PNC, Tere was a Team Leader in National Corporate covering 13 states and managing a team of professionals between Wisconsin and Illinois for U.S. Bank.

Tere volunteers for the Girls Scout of America and St. Mary’s Parish School. She is also an active board member for the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and PNC Milwaukee Running Festival.

Tere enjoys spending time with her family, running and focusing on wellness.

Ronny Thompson

Ronny Thompson, having flunked retirement, became the Founder and Chief Executive Office of PeachyClean, LLC., where he oversees the strategic direction of the company. Mr. Thompson brings 40 years of experience in the cleaning, construction and sales industries to his work. Prior to starting PeachyClean, LLC., Mr. Thompson served as Owner/CEO of White Glove Services, Inc., a commercial cleaning business.

He was Co-Owner of Envirotech Services, LLC, a construction company and he was a Partner/Operator of Nebula Personal Brand Management, a sports image consulting company. Mr. Thompson attended Marquette University where he studied Business Management. He is the proud Executive Director of the Athletes for Autism Foundation which he started in memoriam of his daughter.

Deanna Tillisch has served as President & CEO of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) since November 2011.  UPAF is the largest united performing arts funds in the country and has provided more than $310 million in operating support to the performing arts since 1967.  Under Tillisch’s leadership, the UPAF Campaign has grown 23.9%.

Prior to assuming her current role, Deanna served as vice president of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation and director of Corporate Affairs, where she oversaw the charitable arm of the company, community relations and events management.  She was also Director of Market Development and ran the company’s Public Relations Division where she served as the company’s chief spokesperson.

Prior to Northwestern Mutual, Deanna was recruited to start up and manage a satellite office in Miami, Florida for Lesnik Public Relations, a Chicago-based Marketing Public Relations firm.  She also served as public relations counsel for Cramer Krasselt and as director of public relations at the Milwaukee Ballet.  She began her career at A.O. Smith Corporation, managing employee communications.

Deanna is a board member of Milwaukee Institute for Art and Design where she chairs the Governance Committee and sits on the Executive Committee.  Additionally, she is a member of the Burke Foundation Board, ImagineMKE Task Force and TEMPO Milwaukee.  For 13 years, Deanna  served on the Life Navigators Board of Directors and is a past president. In 2017, the Tillisch family was recognized as the Life Navigators Challenger Honoree.

Deanna was named one of the Women of Influence in 2016 (Milwaukee Business Journal) and one of the Women of Distinction in 2014 (Women & Girls Fund of Waukesha County).

Deanna holds a Master of Business Administration, graduating with honors, from Marquette University and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  She is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma, a Business School Honorary Society.

Treasurer

Lisa is an Executive Director in the assurance practice at Ernst & Young and has been employed there since 1997. She works with public- and privately-held organizations in the retail, consumer and industrial products industries. Areas of specialization include auditing, SEC filings, financial reporting, audit committees, leadership and development of others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration – Accounting from UW Oshkosh and is a CPA. Lisa serves on the Audit Committee of Penfield Children’s Center and has a passion for children and education.

Stephen is the Senior Vice President of Business Development for Kohl’s. A finance and strategy executive by background, Stephen relocated to the Milwaukee area from Seattle and joined Kohl’s three years ago. A native of Northern Ireland, Stephen has a degree in accounting and business finance from the University of Dundee in Scotland and is a chartered accountant (UK) and CPA (US). Stephen is married with three children and lives in Fox Point.

Vice Chair

Madonna Williams was born in Evanston, Illinois and is the oldest of 14 children. Upon moving to Milwaukee when she was 4 years old, she spent 16 years in local Catholic schools, including St. Eugene, Dominican High School and later attended St. Norbert College to earn a degree in elementary education.

Madonna is an active volunteer and has served on a number of boards including Penfield Children’s Center (17 years), Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, Blood Center of Wisconsin and Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.

She has also been involved with United Way, the Milwaukee Public Museum, United Performing Arts Fund and the Kettle Moraine Garden Club.

Madonna and husband, Jay, have 3 married children and 5 grandchildren.

LEADERSHIP

Head of School

“We shall walk together on this path of life, for all things are part of the universe and are connected with each other to form one whole unity.” ― Maria Montessori

Hello PMA Family! I am elated to serve as your new Head of School to support children, families, staff, and community stakeholders in achieving the highest level of excellence in our Montessori Educational Method. The Montessori approach to learning welcomes individuals as they are and teach young minds the strategies for independence to help them determine their place of “help and hope” in this world.   

As a 27-year veteran educator, I take pride in facilitating a learning environment that boasts a belief in diversity; differentiation; technological advancement; standards-driven curriculum; clarity of instruction, high expectations; and, a wealth of knowledge to provide multiple ways of knowing and interacting with each other, our community, and world. Additionally, I aim to nurture effective, caring educators who possess patience, respect, empathy, dedication, and rapport building skills to encourage strong family partnerships.

Sangita photoPrincipal

Sangita Nayak leads a talented instructional team as the Principal at Penfield Montessori Academy. After facilitating the planning of the state’s only bilingual public Montessori school in MPS, she served as a school administrator. She holds a Masters in Montessori Education from Loyola Maryland, a Masters in Education from Alverno College, and is a proud UW Wildlife Ecology graduate. She is licensed as a director of instruction, principal, and teacher and holds an AMI Montessori Elementary certification. She is currently enrolled at East Carolina University in a micro credential program that focuses on inclusion and innovation in mathematics.  Prior to working in Montessori education, Sangita spent over a decade working in social justice nonprofits, such as 9to5, National Association of Working Women, and has consulted with groups such as the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, The Sikh Coalition, The National Lawyers Guild, and the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities.

COORDINATORS

Community Family & Engagement Coordinator

Amy holds a degree in Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She started at Penfield Children’s Center shortly after graduation and quickly realized her passion for working with families of children with special needs. For more than 15 years, Amy held a number of positions at Penfield, most recently Director of Family and Community Engagement during which she supervised the Parent Mentors, Family Programs, Community Outreach, and Volunteer Services.

In the spring of 2016, Amy took on the role of Enrollment Specialist for Penfield Montessori Academy. As the school was preparing to open, Amy created a comprehensive parent engagement component that mirrors the work being done with families at Penfield Children’s Center. Amy also serves as the Vice President for the Down Syndrome Association of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee Chapter.

Amy is married, has a beautiful daughter, and two very loved yellow labs. Her family lives in Milwaukee, but their favorite place to be is in Alaska, Wisconsin with family and friends.

Administrative Coordinator

Kara’s passion for inclusion is what led her to work at Penfield Children’s Center as an Early Childhood Teacher, where she stayed for over ten years before moving over to Penfield Montessori Academy. She started her journey as a Montessori Assistant, then moved up to the Programs Coordinator, and is currently enjoying her role as the Administrative Coordinator. 

In her free time, she enjoys organizing, being in nature and spending downtime with her husband and dog. She is extremely grateful for the many opportunities Penfield has given her and looks forward to the adventures that lie ahead!

Special Education Coordinator

Biographical information coming soon.

Student Support Coordinator

Biographical information coming soon.

MONTESSORI GUIDES

Montessori Guide

Biographical information coming soon.

Montessori Guide

Dana has been working in the field of Montessori education for the past five years. Before transitioning to Montessori, Dana worked as a traditional K4 teacher at a private school on the south side of Milwaukee. As she explored different educational philosophies, Dana was intrigued by the Montessori Method, as it is so different than traditional educational practices. The more she learned, the more she wanted to know. Dana enrolled in AMI Primary training course at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee in 2012.

Soon after, Dana began working as an Assistant in a Children’s House in Cedarburg, WI at an AMI Montessori School. She started her Montessori Primary training while working as a Montessori assistant, which allowed Dana to immediately apply what she was learning in a practical setting. Dana loved working in a Montessori Children’s House classroom, and watching the children follow their interests and inspire each other. One of Dana’s favorite quotes about Montessori education is: “The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of the flaming imagination. –Maria Montessori”

Dana worked at an MPS Montessori school as she completed her AMI Primary training. She enjoyed the diverse student population and the positive energy of a larger school. Dana graduated from the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee in June 2016. Dana heard about Penfield Montessori Academy from a friend who was familiar with the amazing work being done at Penfield Children’s Center.

Dana was a part of the founding team of Penfield Montessori Academy during the school’s first year of operation, working as a lead Montessori Primary Guide. She currently works with children between the ages of three and six years old in one of the Children’s House classrooms. Dana’s favorite part of her job is witnessing the small, yet powerful, victories of every child and celebrating each success.

Dana earned her Masters in Montessori Education from Loyola University of Maryland in Baltimore in September 2017. She is passionate about continuing the work of Maria Montessori and providing a high-quality and innovative Montessori program in Milwaukee.

Remote Inclusion and Intervention Learning Strategist, RIILS

Ginnie knew she was meant to be a teacher since she spent her summers in college as an assistant preschool teacher, supporting children as they made the transition into formal school settings.  Through that experience, she realized the incredible power of teachers, children, families, and communities working together to support the development of young people.

For that reason, Ginnie joined Teach for America in 2011, and has since been teaching first and second graders in Chicago and Milwaukee. In addition to her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and teaching credentials through Dominican University, she recently completed her AMI Montessori certification at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee.  Ginnie is thrilled to work with the children and families at Penfield Montessori Academy.

Montessori Guide

Biographical information coming soon.

Lower Elementary Montessori Guide

Dani graduated from Butler University in Indianapolis with a degree in Elementary Education as well as minors in Special Education and Reading Intervention. After graduating, Dani went on to complete her Montessori training and her Masters in Montessori education from UW-River Falls. She has been with the Penfield family since 2014 and with Penfield Montessori Academy since 2016.

Dani believes strongly in personalized and inclusive education, which is why Penfield Montessori Academy is the perfect fit for her. She loves being able to try new things and find what works best for each child, while working closely with an incredible team of educators and parents. 

In her free time, Dani enjoys playing tennis, reading, listening to music, doing puzzles and being around friends and family!

Montessori Guide

Michelle’s passion for teaching started when her first son was born. When he joined the 0-3 Montessori program, her questions led her to complete the American Montessori Internationale primary course and then went on to complete her dual degree in Special Education and Elementary Education, followed by a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. 

Michelle feels that every child learns and develops differently and she chooses the Montessori Method as she believes it offers differentiation and self-paced learning. As a Montessori teacher, she believes that her role is a directress there to guide the child. 

She loves to spend time with her spouse and three children, going on long nature walks and road trips. She loves to read, sing, and cook.

Montessori Guide

Sonia believes that every child is deserving of an enriching education delivered with respect. Her goal is for children to independently reach their fullest potential. As a parent with a special needs child, she fully understands the patience, love, and extra attention that is needed to help students exceed in everyday life.

Prior to becoming a founding member at Penfield Montessori Academy, Sonia worked as a paraprofessional for two years at Maryland Avenue Montessori School. She majored in Early Childhood Education with a minor in Communication from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She earned her Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) Montessori Certification at the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee and is currently pursuing a Masters in Education degree through Loyola University of Baltimore.

Sonia is married with two daughters, an eight year old who attends Maryland Avenue Montessori School and a two year old who attends Penfield Children’s Center. Her hobbies include spending time with family and friends, working out, cooking Mexican and Puerto Rican cuisine, gardening, rock climbing, and practically any outdoor activity.

MONTESSORI ASSISTANTS & PARAPROFESSIONALS

PEP Lead Teacher/ Special Education Paraprofessional

Emily Behrendt  started her career as a licensed crisis stabilizer from 2013-2016, working with children and youth who had endured trauma as well as mental health struggles. She has also served as a camp counselor at Royal Family Kids, a camp for children who have been in foster care,  a nanny, and a youth leader at her church.

Emily worked at Penfield Children’s Center previously and enjoyed working with children who have diverse abilities & backgrounds. She was interested in working in a school setting that followed inclusion and transferred over to Penfield Montessori Academy in 2017. She started as a paraprofessional in Children’s House and assisted in PEP. She has since been the PEP K3 teacher and after school child care teacher. She values the Montessori principle of seeing how each child can learn at their own pace and choose their own work.

Emily says she is forever grateful to be a part of a school that is so unique and diverse and looks forward to many more years and to continue to be a consistent part of our student’s lives.  She enjoys art, nature, traveling, and singing.

Children’s House Montessori Assistant

After spending 13 years teaching Preschool at Kindercare Learning Center, Maria became a Montessori Assistant with Penfield Montessori Academy in 2018.  She has an associate degree in Early Childhood and continues to learn  Montessori education and sign language. 

In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband, three children, and puppy playing board games, going for walks, and going camping.

Lower Elementary Montessori Assistant

Donna was inspired to be an educator because she is the youngest of six and was inspired by her older siblings who took on the roles of teachers. Her passion for education escalated during high school when she was part of the Wellness Program, engaging with students of different abilities in wellness games and activities. Through the program she  learned, “Just because some of the students’ abilities were limited, did not mean they should be treated as such. They had a voice and it was my responsibility to ensure that their voice was loud and clear.”

She is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Community Engagement and Education and certificate in Youth Work. She has been within the educational system since 2013 and has worked with a diverse group of students, as a K5 Instructional assistant and a therapy technician working with students with autism and learning differences. She’s now a Montessori Assistant at Penfield Montessori Academy, where she is excited to add a little bit of brightness to the student’s imagination.

In her free time, she loves to read, enjoy the sunshine, and spend time with my family.

Children’s House Montessori Assistant

Dana has worked as an Early Childhood educator for 10 years. After she earned a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, she began teaching K4 in Milwaukee. After years of researching different educational approaches, she discovered the Montessori Method and was drawn to all it had to offer. Dana joined the instructional staff at Penfield Montessori Academy in the fall of 2019. She is currently enrolled in an American Montessori Primary training course at the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in Evanston, IL. Upon completion in 2022, she will be a certified Montessori Guide. For the time being, she is enjoying her experience as a Montessori Assistant in the Green Room. And because the Green Room’s Montessori Guide is also named Dana, most people call her Ms. C. 

Since joining the staff at Penfield Montessori Academy, Dana has learned so much about the Penfield community. She is so grateful to be able to offer an inclusive, yet individualized education to her students. The relationships that she has formed with the staff, families, and most importantly, the children is why she loves being part of the Penfield family. 

In her free time, Dana enjoys knitting, gardening, dancing, reading, spending time with family and friends, and playing with her cat. 

Lower Elementary Montessori Assistant

Selena’s passion for working with children in an educational setting began when she worked as a youth sports coach and summer camp counselor. She graduated from Marquette University with specializations in child psychology and Spanish and is currently continuing her education in Educational Psychology. 

2020 is her first year as a Montessori Assistant and she looks forward to meeting and building connections with the wonderful students, families, and staff.

In her free time, Selena enjoys spending time outdoors, cooking, playing tennis, and spending time with her friends and family.

Children’s House Special Education Paraprofessional

Yvetta’s passion for working with children comes from believing they are the best investment! She has served as an Educational Assistant/Paraprofessional since 2016 and is excited to bring her experience and passion to Penfield Montessori Academy in support of educational excellence and achieving family/team goals.

Yvetta is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. where they provide outreach service to families in need. She also counsels high school young ladies at Concordia University as part of African American Female Institute-Closing the Achievement Gap Consortium. She enjoys spending time with her two boys.

PEP Lead Teacher/ Learning Strategist Assistant

Supporting children and helping them find their path has always been an interest of Christine’s. After receiving her degree in Elementary Education from UW-Whitewater, she spent several years working in childcare leading classrooms of children ranging from birth to preschool age. Working one-on-one and in small groups is her specialty.

Since 2017, Christine has found her niche at Penfield Montessori Academy as a paraprofessional in primary. She also has the role of Lead Teacher in PEP. She strives to help all students that she works with be successful in their own way.

Her hobbies include painting, gardening, sewing, and spending time with her kitties at home.

Biographical information coming soon.

Children’s House Montessori Assistant

Kym found her enthusiasm for working with children as a child volunteering in her church’s nursery and then babysitting for some of the families.  She has worked in a variety of professions from food service and auto shop to child care and early intervention (Birth to 3) and found she is happiest when helping children learn and connect with others in a positive way.

She started at Penfield Montessori Academy in May of 2018, a month before her daughter was born. She loves the family atmosphere and spirit of love and gratitude for all.  She says her favorite part of being an educator is watching children find their confidence and seeing their excitement when they complete a new activity.

Kym looks forward to her daughter beginning her education at Penfield Montessori Academy.  In her spare time, she likes to play outside, dance, visit with friends and family when possible, and watch movies.

LEARNING STRATEGISTS & THERAPISTS

Learning Strategist

Katie’s passion for teaching started when she was in elementary school. Her passion for special learners grew when she volunteered in the NICU and during her student teaching experience. After attending the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Katie earned a dual certification in regular and special education.

Her teaching career started at Penfield Children’s Center in 2008 when she worked as a teacher in the Birth-to-Three program. In 2012, she left Penfield to teach preschoolers with visual impairments. This past school year, Katie worked in a public school teaching students with disabilities in K4 and K5. She looks forward to continuing her teaching journey with Penfield Montessori Academy.

In her free time, Katie enjoys gardening, sewing, taking road trips, and visiting parks with her family.

Speech Language Pathologist

Claire began working with children when she was in high school and taught figure skating lessons. She became introduced to the field of speech pathology several years later and her passion grew when she volunteered at Penfield Children’s Center during college. Claire earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree in speech pathology from Marquette University. 

Claire loves working on communication and has particular interest in assistive technology and social thinking. She looks forward to continuing her teaching journey at Penfield Montessori Academy.   

In her free time, Claire enjoys cooking, fitness, and exploring Milwaukee.

Elementary Learning Strategist

Biographical information coming soon.

Autism Programming Strategist

Kathleen has been a  school based Speech and Language Therapist for more than 40 years. She began her career at Penfield Children’s Center in 1981. In 1982, Kathleen transitioned to the Waukesha Public Schools and retired from the district in 2016. She then decided that becoming the inaugural Speech/Language Therapist at Penfield Montessori Academy was the perfect opportunity for her to share her experience and knowledge to contribute to an innovative and inclusive learning community.

Currently, Kathleen spends the majority of her part time work schedule at Penfield Montessori Academy focused on collaborating with families and teachers in her role as the Autism Programming Strategist. 

Kathleen and her husband love being with their four adult children (and grand-pup), rooting on the Badgers, sharing a family meal, and enjoying the outdoors.

Children’s House Learning Strategist 

Tami started at Penfield Montessori Academy as a Learning Strategist for Children’s House in 2020. Her passion for special education started when she learned that her son was on the autism spectrum at an early age. She received her Master’s of Arts in Teaching Special Education from National Louis University, with extra courses in early childhood special education and assistive technology courses from the University of Illinois in Chicago. She’s always had an interest in Montessori and is looking forward to learning as much as she can about it while combining it with her knowledge to help all children love learning.

In her free time, Tami enjoys drawing and hopes to one day publish a children’s book.

Elementary Learning Strategist

Kyle started at Penfield Montessori Academy as a Montessori assistant and then transitioned to the position of Elementary Learning Strategist. You may have seen him biking to school last year! Before coming to Penfield Montessori Academy, he was a special education teacher at another Milwaukee charter school and at a residential rehabilitation center. Many of his students there were overcoming severe trauma and he so much cherished the opportunity to bring joy into their lives through education.

Besides education and biking his other passion is music. His dad taught him guitar and they still play gigs together. It is his hope that he can pass on something meaningful to his students in the same way as his father did for him.

Physical Therapist

Biographical information coming soon.

Occupational Therapist

Casandra received a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation Science and a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy from Concordia University Wisconsin – Mequon. Prior to starting at Penfield Montessori Academy in 2018, she was a special needs nanny and worked on an Oncology/Hematology Unit at a local hospital. This year, like in years past, she is fulfilling not only the Occupational Therapist role at Penfield Montessori Academy, but also in the Classroom Support role. She is looking forward to providing a nurturing and safe environment for your child to grow and learn in.

Casandra is a single mother of her daughter, whom she loves to travel and go on adventures with. One of their favorite activities to do together is try out the different playgrounds/parks and splash pads  throughout Milwaukee and the surrounding cities. They also enjoy trips to the Zoo and shopping at thrift stores.

SUPPORT STAFF

Assistant to Administrative Coordinator

Biographical information coming soon.

Registered Nurse

Biographical information coming soon.

Substitute Teacher

James is returning to Penfield Montessori Academy for a second year as a substitute teacher. He is a licensed educator with a master’s degree in Museum Education.  He has spent a 30+ year career working at Discovery World, The Smithsonian Institution, Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, and was most recently the Director of Education at the Milwaukee County Zoo/Zoological Society.

James lives in Wauwatosa with his wife and three daughters.  He is looking forward to exciting Penfield Montessori Academy students about their own amazing abilities to learn, grow and explore our magnificent world.

Custodian

Biographical information coming soon.

Facilities Specialist

Biographical information coming soon.