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.


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.


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. 

Assistant Teacher, Kit Fox Classroom


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.

Morgan Moran

Assistant Teacher, Aspen 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.

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.

Abbie Foley

Assistant Teacher, Lower 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.

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.

Wilson Sackett

Assistant Teacher, Middle Elementary Classroom

Wilson recently moved to Santa Fe from Prescott, Arizona.  He is a recent graduate of Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona, where he studied Education and Cultural Studies and received his state-issued teaching credentials.  Wilson also has experience working in international bi-lingual classrooms and is trained in TEFL/ESL subject areas.  Outside of the classroom, Wilson has taken part in many sustainable building and permaculture workshops, fostering a love for sustainable living methods in the modern world.  In his free time, Wilson enjoys cycling, gardening, reading, and construction projects.

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 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.

Lori Doron

Aftercare Teacher

Lori Doron attended San Francisco State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications. She has worked extensively in television, video, and radio production including for KPFA, Berkley and KQED, San Francisco. She received a Masters degree in Public and Non Profit Administration. Previously, she worked in administrative roles at Santa Fe Preparatory School, Santa Fe Opera, and Santa Fe Community College. She completed the New Mexico 45 hour Early Childhood Certificate Training in 2009.

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.

Margarita Vargas- Portley

Reading Support Teacher

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.


Faculty Portraits courtesy of Tira Howard Photography