Faculty

Our student-to-faculty ratio is 8:1. This enables us to meet the needs of each child by carefully observing and adjusting the learning environment to maximize skill development and enthusiasm for learning.

Administration

Phoebe Walendziak

Director

Phoebe Walendziak was born and raised in Santa Fe, NM and graduated from the University of New Mexico. In addition to Montessori certification through NAMC, she has a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Massachusetts and worked as an educator, teacher trainer and curriculum developer in the Brookline Public School system for over ten years. Her daughter attends Desert Montessori.

Melissa Miller

Front Office Growth and Development Administrator

Melissa joins the front office this year with over two decades of experience working in human resources and administration in San Diego and Chicago.  After relocating to Santa Fe, she worked in a not-for-profit focused on bringing mindfulness to educators.  She is a mother who has strong ties to the Montessori beliefs and values.  Outside of the classroom she enjoys cycling, gardening, and reading.  Her daughter attends Desert Montessori.

Preschool

Frances Serrano

Lead Teacher, Roadrunner Classroom

Frances was the Director at the SER Child Development Center and an Early Interventionist/Case Manager with New Vistas. She has a degree in Early Childhood Development, is a parent of six children, and has served the Santa Fe Early Childhood community for over twenty-five years in various capacities including teaching at SFCC and First Presbyterian Child Development Center.

DeAnn Meadows

Assistant Teacher, Roadrunner Classroom

DeAnn is currently attending Santa Fe Community College where she is pursuing an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Development.  She has worked in the Early Childhood Development field for over four years and is one of our newest additions to Desert Montessori School.  She is native to New Mexico and resides outside Santa Fe with her husband and their son.

Doris Salazar

Lead Teacher, Kit Fox Classroom

Doris is a native Santa Fean, with history of many generations of Northern New Mexican family. She is a graduate of SFCC, and is currently completing her second AA in Early Childhood Education with the intent of earning her BA in Early Childhood Multicultural Education. She began her Montessori training at NCME, when her only child began attending Montessori Children’s House in pre-K. She interned and then became a lead teacher at MCH for the next seventeen years, where she was certified in MACAR (Montessori Applied to Children at Risk for Learning Differences) through The June Shelton School in Dallas, Texas. 

Evelyn Bittel

Assistant Teacher, Kit Fox Classroom

Evelyn has over 25 years teaching experience.  She possesses an AA in Early Childhood Education, and BS in Art from the University of Southern Colorado as well as a BA in Elementary Education from the College of Santa Fe.  She also has training in TEFL.  Evelyn has studied Afro-Haitian Dance in the Santa Fe community for many years and had also taught Dance in Colorado.  In her free time Evelyn gardens and studies Herbology, Fiber Arts, Paper-making and Jewelry making.

Pre-K & Kindergarten

Melia Lewis

Lead Teacher, Aspen Classroom

Melia has been teaching at Desert Montessori since 2013. She received her undergraduate degree in Wildlife Resources from the University of Idaho and her American Montessori Society Early Childhood certification in 2007. In 2014, she was chosen as a National Endowment for the Humanities Scholar and studied Ancestral Puebloan cultures.

Brett Korn

Assistant Teacher, Aspen Classroom

Brett recently relocated to Santa Fe from Chicago, where she taught in various public and private schools with children of all ages and backgrounds. Prior to her teaching experience, she was a professional dancer and actress in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. She completed her bachelor’s in English from Northwestern University. She is thrilled to join Desert Montessori as the assistant teacher in Aspen.

1st Grade

Nicole Richardson

Lead Teacher, Lower Elementary Classroom

Nicole Richardson is originally from Lawrence, Kansas and enjoys all activities that involve water.  In addition to completing her Montessori Certification in Lower Elementary through the North American Montessori Center, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in Speech, Language and Hearing, a Master’s of Education Degree in Early Childhood Unified Education, and an additional Master’s of Education Degree in Early Intervention in Autism Spectrum Disorders.  She loves hiking, camping, reading, early mornings and watching ted talks.  She believes deeply in the power of individualize curriculum and brings a deep admiration of science into her classroom.  Her son also enjoys a Montessori education. 

Meg Brauckmann

Assistant Teacher, Lower Elementary Classroom

Meg holds a B.A. in Peacebuilding and Community Development from Eastern Mennonite University. Meg has worked with youth in a variety of settings for the past 6 years as a classroom aide, creative expression instructor, youth advocate, and program coordinator. Originally from Baltimore, her enthusiasm for exploration of other cultures has led her on many travels and she has lived in Uganda, South Africa, and Guatemala. Meg is passionate about inspiring curiosity in students and igniting a love of life time learning. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys reading, hiking, and embroidery.

3rd & 4th Grade

Abbie Foley

Lead Teacher, Middle Elementary Classroom

Abbie recently moved to Santa Fe from Northwestern Montana. She has her B.A. in American Ethnic Studies from Willamette University. While at Willamette, Abbie volunteered for three years in lower elementary, bilingual classrooms as an aid. Coming from a background in running a floral business, she brings her knowledge of botany and love of the outdoors to the classroom.

Lucy Keehn

Assistant Teacher, Middle Elementary Classroom

Lucy grew up exploring the Shawangunk Mountains in Upstate New York and recently moved to Santa Fe. She graduated from Oberlin College with a B.A. in Geology, an interest in ecology and sustainability, and a love for education. Lucy has worked both as an educator and as a scientist, spending time in earthquake science, conservation ecology, Waldorf classrooms and outdoor education. Lucy is currently pursuing a Masters of Elementary Education. In her spare time, she enjoys rock climbing, gardening and making pottery.

5th & 6th Grade

Erika Brush

Lead Teacher, Upper Elementary Classroom

Erika is originally from the Washington, DC area where her journey as a Montessori educator began as a primary student.  She earned her AMS Lower Elementary certification in 2016 and she is currently finishing the final components for AMS Upper Elementary certification.  She also has a Master’s degree in Elementary Education and a B.A. in Anthropology. She has taught in both public and private Montessori settings and is passionate about the Montessori method and philosophy.  When she is not teaching, Erika enjoys gardening, music, drinking coffee, playing with her dogs, taking long walks, and camping.

Specialty Teachers

Consuelo Byrd

Spanish Teacher

A Mexican native, Consuelo has a BS in Communication Sciences and spent four years teaching Spanish in elementary schools in Massachusetts. Previously, while in Mexico City, she served in the office of the Secretary of Tourism and as a television producer. She also works with both children and adults as a private Spanish tutor.

Colleen Childs

Art Teacher

Colleen has been the art teacher at DMS since 2007. She has a degree from Whitman College in Fine Art, a Level One New Mexico teaching license, and has completed the Santa Fe Community College Teachers Academy. Previously she was an Americorp volunteer in Las Cruces, NM and led arts integration projects at Dona Ana Elementary School, Hatch Elementary, and Hatch High School. She has also created large murals for the Dona Ana Volunteer Fire Department and the Club Fusion Teen Center.

Brian Nelson

Music Teacher

A graduate of the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Brian Nelson has studied a variety of instruments and musical styles for over 25 years. From West African drum and dance to ukulele sing alongs to guitar lessons for all ages, he takes his passion for music into every endeavor. With a teaching career spanning over 15 years, Brian has worked in a variety of educational situations. Most recently, he worked as an instructor of guitar, ukulele, piano and percussion for students from 6 months to adult, as well as directed the elementary age summer camps at the Swallow Hill Music School in Denver, CO, the second largest folk music school in the country. In addition to teaching and playing music, Brian works as Editor and Content Developer at the online music publication Rootfire, and is the Artistic Director of the Queen Bee Music Association.

 

Sondra Tanji

Lead Aftercare Teacher

Sondra  holds her B.S. in Geology with a minor in Environmental Policy and Decision Making from the University of Puget Sound, where she also was an orientation leader and Program Coordinator of the Outdoor Leadership Program. She recently moved to Santa Fe from Moab, Utah where she was a backcountry guide in Arches and Canyonlands National Parks for two years. Most recently Sondra was a teacher at the Randall Davey Audubon Center where she taught environmental education-based school programs and summer camp. She is a passionate rock climber and yogi.

Scout Dunbar

Assistant Aftercare Teacher

Scout earned her BFA with a focus in printmaking and mixed media from Alfred University in 2011. Originally from Ithaca, NY Scout moved to New Mexico in 2017. Prior to her move she spent time in NYC as a nanny and artist’s assistant. During her first year in Santa Fe she taught art classes to children and adults while developing a new body of art inspired by the Southwest.

 

Faculty Portraits courtesy of Tira Howard Photography

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