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.


Phoebe Walendziak


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 Montessori beliefs and values.  Outside of the classroom she enjoys cycling, gardening, and reading.  


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.  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. 

Erin Cherry

Assistant Teacher, Kit Fox Classroom

Having studied Design | Media Arts at UCLA, worked as a private tutor and nanny for elementary aged children, and taught art in pre-K to 6th grade elementary schools throughout California over the past decade, Erin has a comprehensive background in the arts and early childhood education. After moving to Santa Fe in 2019 with her husband and three cats, she is so happy to call New Mexico home. Erin is passionate about supporting students through Montessori education and pedagogy, and plans to pursue her Montessori certification in the coming year. She brings creativity and compassion to the classroom, and feels strongly about fostering these things in young children. When she’s not teaching, Erin loves exploring the landscape of her new home, painting, baking, and writing. 

Pre-K & Kindergarten

Liza Frolkis

Co-Lead Teacher, Aspen Classroom

Liza is thrilled to be joining the Desert Montessori community. Originally from Cleveland, OH, she has zig-zagged all over the country pursuing her love of art, agriculture, and education. Liza holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Michigan, with a focus in Art and Theater, has over ten years experience on farms across the country, has spent the past five years as an Early Childhood Educator at The Gentle Nudge, and is a Registered Yoga Teacher (200 hr) with a 30 Hour Certification from Radiant Child Yoga. You can find her doing gardening work with her food-growing business, Leaf, Petal & Pod, and spending as much time as possible with her son, Ollie.

Cecelia Romero

Co-Lead Teacher, Aspen Classroom

After nearly a decade in Seattle, Cecelia has recently settled in Santa Fe with her husband and daughter. She holds a BA in Individual Studies with a focus on ECED and Counseling & Ed. Psych. and an MA in Theology & Culture. She has worked with children and families as an educator, program director, and camp director for over ten years. She’s glad to call Desert Montessori her work home. 

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.

Sara Cahn

Art Teacher

Sara has studied art all of her life. She is a professional muralist, has worked with Meow Wolf, and paints as often as possible. She is Montessori trained and has served as both the Director of Drama and Director of Ecology in other Montessori schools as well as having been both a lead teacher and an aide. She holds an M.S. in Natural Science Education from Teton Science School and University of Wyoming as well as a B.A. in Theater from Humboldt State. She has lived in nine states, where she has been a teacher, naturalist and wildlife guide. She enjoys biking all around the world, fly fishing, and hanging with her dog, Buddy. Her absolute love in life is pairing ecology with art.

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.


Kate Wood

Lead Aftercare Teacher

Kate grew up in New Mexico and after living on the East Coast and in the Midwest, she is thrilled to call Santa Fe home. Kate holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College with a focus in studio arts and creative writing, and has spent the past 10 years working in organic agriculture, including owning and operating her own small farm business. She brings her interdisciplinary background to her lifelong love of working with and supporting children through their educational development. In her time outside the classroom Kate keeps an active art and writing practice, and is an avid runner and mountain biker. 

Kristina Smith 

Assistant Aftercare Teacher

Bio coming soon!