Faculty

Our faculty to student 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.

Directors

Phoebe Walendziak

Executive 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.

Autumn Wise

Associate Director

Autumn joined DMS as a Pre-K/Kindergarten teacher in 2006. She holds both Infant/Toddler and Primary Teaching Diplomas from North American Montessori Center as well as certification in MACAR (Montessori Applied to Children at Risk for Learning Differences) and SEE (Sequential English Education) through The June Shelton School in Dallas, Texas.

Preschool

Frances Serrano

Lead Teacher, Roadrunners 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, Roadrunners 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.

Jeanette Alt-Romero

Lead Teacher, Kitfoxes Classroom

Jeanette has a bachelor’s degree in Linguistics from The University of Iowa and Montessori teacher certification for ages 2 ½ – 6 from the New Mexico Center for Montessori Education, a MACTE- and AMS-accredited program. She lives on a small farm with her husband and their son, Lucas, who attends Desert Montessori.

Morgan Moran

Assistant Teacher, Roadrunners Classroom

Morgan started her career in Business Administration and is currently working toward her AA and Masters in Early Childhood Education. Previously, Morgan was the aftercare teacher at DMS where she created an inspiring around-the-world curriculum. She has been a lead counselor with Mountain Kids and has coached youth soccer for many years.

Pre-K & Kindergarten

Melia Lewis

Lead Teacher, Aspens 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.

June Bellew

Assistant Teacher, Aspens Classroom

June was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and worked in Special Education for six years with the Santa Fe Public Schools. She is Montessori certified in both Pre-K and Early Elementary and has received the beginning MACAR (Montessori Applied to Children at Risk for Learning Differences) training at the Shelton School.

1st & 2nd Grade

Nicole Richardson

Lead Teacher, Lower Elementary Classroom

Nicole Richardson recently moved to Santa Fe, NM from the Midwest.  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.  All degrees were completed at the University of Kansas in Lawrence. Her son attends Desert Montessori.

Margarita Vargas- Portley

Assistant Teacher, Lower Elementary Classroom

Margarita earned her B.A. in Elementary Education from New Mexico State University and her M.A. in Linguistically Diverse Education from the University of Colorado. Originally from New Mexico, Margarita taught bilingual Kindergarten in Albuquerque for her first seven years as a teacher. Her son attends Desert Montessori.

3rd & 4th Grade

Lisa Grogan

Lead Teacher, Middle Elementary Classroom

Lisa has been a lead teacher at Desert Montessori School since 2010. She received a Master of Arts in Teaching from Mount Holyoke College and holds a New Mexico level three instructional elementary license (K-8). Previously she earned her California professional multiple subject teaching credential (K-12) and cross cultural language and development certificate (CLAD). Her daughter attends Desert Montessori school.

Frankie Lucero Nazario

Assistant Teacher, Middle Elementary Classroom

Frankie has been a teacher at Desert Montessori School since 2014. He earned a BA in Secondary Education and is certified in Physical Education. He coaches the Desert Montessori swim team as well as the Santa Fe Prep varsity baseball team. Frankie is also an accomplished professional woodcarver and painter with works in private collections and museums throughout the world.

5th & 6th Grade

Julianne Wagner

Lead Teacher, Upper Elementary Classroom

Julianne joined Desert Montessori in 2008. Previously was a mathematics specialist for 17 years in the International Baccalaureate Program at Washington International School, in Washington, DC. She has taught all elementary subjects through her career. She is a Fulbright Memorial Fund-Japan Scholarship Awardee, has received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching, and the Outstanding Mathematics Classroom Teacher Award from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Sarah Chamberlain

Assistant Teacher, Upper Elementary Classroom

Sarah has degrees in Early Childhood & Elementary Education as well as Montessori teaching certification from New York University. Previously, she taught English as a foreign language in Austria, Belgium, and France, where she also prepared French high-school students for the English section Baccalaureate.

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/ Lead Aftercare Teacher

Colleen has been the art teacher at DMS since 2012. 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.

Barbara Rangel

Elementary Music Teacher

Barbara Bentree has a BME in Music Education and received a Bravo Award nomination from the Los Angeles Music Center for her music curriculum design. She presented at the International Society of Music Education in Beijing, China, and designed a vocal curriculum for the National Dance Institute. Barbara is a multiple award-winning professional vocalist and performs in New Mexico with her husband, John Rangel.

Devorah Sara

Preschool Music Teacher

Devorah earned her BA in Psychology from Syracuse University and her Masters in Social Work from the University of Chicago. She has been working with children for over 20 years as a Social Worker, Preschool Teacher, Music Together Instructor, Preschool Music Teacher, and Professional Clown. She has a Clowning Certification from Mooseburger Clown Arts Camp.

 

 

Faculty Portraits courtesy of Tira Howard Photography