Lower Elementary Program

Faculty & Staff

Montessori Academy’s faculty and administration are committed to uncompromising standards of academic excellence, and to preparing students to be future leaders. 

Enrichment & Specialty


Chelsie Adams
Toddler 1 Teacher 

Chelsie was born and raised in Franklin, Tennessee. She began as a Primary After Care teacher in 2013 while she was pursuing her Bachelor's degree in psychology. Until her graduation from Trevecca Nazarene University, she has continued to work in the After Care program in addition to the summer camp program. She fell in love with the Montessori philosophy, and jumped at the opportunity to co-teach in the toddler department. She has worked with children since the age of fifteen, and is passionate about fostering educational growth in every developmental stage a child experiences. She is thrilled to expand her experience and knowledge of Montessori philosophy.

Mark Woodward
Music Director

Mark holds a Bachelor of Music from Belmont University where he studied piano and voice with a music technology emphasis. He has worked as a touring keyboardist and studio musician and producer. He began teaching Music and Drama at MA in 2010. He offers private lessons and leads the Running Club, Montessori Singers, and Songwriting and Recording Club. He has written and directed two full-length musicals – The Animals’ Christmas in 2014, and Maria Montessori: The Musical in 2018.

Mark lives in Brentwood with his wife Faith and their six children, Shannon, Amelia, George, John Mark, Abraham and Harvest Rose. Mark enjoys sports, gardening, reading, and spending time with his family.

Misty Ayres-Miranda  
High School Teacher & Middle School/High School Director  

A native Tennessean, Misty spent many years traveling and staying with family in Brazil, her husband’s native country. While working in the public sector as a Nashville educator, she and her husband decided to settle and start a family in Franklin, TN. Besides lesson planning, she spent the past few years learning multiple children’s songs, hosting dance parties in the living room, moving from hot yoga classes to Cosmic Kids yoga, and simply enjoying her kids as they explore their backyard.  

Her children have attended Montessori Academy and as a Montessori parent and an advocate for student-centered learning, her dedication to continuing MA’s goal for assisting the individual in developing their strengths and confidence academically, spiritually, and socially is rooted in the future of her own children.  

Misty was a Metro-Nashville Public School teacher for the past 12 years. She started her career at the Nashville School of the Arts, where she created the first Literary Arts conservatory, along with teaching English courses from 9th grade to Advanced Placement. She is also an adjunct for Volunteer State Community College and Belmont University, where she received her Masters in English. She has advocated for students in the political sphere, serving as an Educator Fellow for the State Collaborative on Reforming Education, as well as a Teacher Ambassador for the Tennessee Department of Education. She trained with the Center for Guided Montessori Studies in Secondary Programs.

Herman E. Jackson, Ed.D.  
Upper Elementary/Middle School/High School Teacher 
Herman holds Bachelor’s, Master's, and a doctoral degree from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in areas of chemistry, biology, and mathematics and mathematics education. He has been teaching at Montessori Academy since 2002 in the area of mathematics and science.  Prior to working at Montessori Academy, he worked as an Associated Research Development Engineer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Manager at AT&T, and Instructor of Mathematics at Knoxville College and the University of Tennessee. He has been an Assistant Professor of Mathematics & Adjunct Professor of Mathematics at Walters State Community College, Trevecca Nazarene University, and Nashville State Community College.  His extensive background in math and science includes consulting work, guest lecturer, VIP Host, serving on a Board of Directors and many other accomplishments and presentations. Dr. Jackson currently teaches science and math in the Upper Elementary/Middle School. Students become very inspired to progress under his leadership and facilitation.

Ashley Marshall
Toddler 2 Teacher & After School Care Director 

Ashley has been in the education field for 15 years. She started her journey as a teacher in Private Preschool and then as an Infant lead in a Montessori school since 2009. She has loved being so many families’ first introduction into Montessori. She was born in San Francisco, but spent most of her life in Atlanta, GA. Ashley has a colorful and spirited personality and sense of style with a contagious smile. She is a peaceful, caring person with a heart for education and love for all. Ashley loves to cook (pescatarian, vegetarian, and vegan dishes), paint, write, sing, dance, and can be found strolling down the aisles at Target weekly (Who doesn’t love Target?!). Ashley has a B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in Management from Tennessee State University, her Infant/Toddler Montessori certification from NAMC, and her AMS accredited credentials from MTCOB. 

Cheri Drummond
Strings Instructor

Cheri has been teaching at Montessori Academy since 2000. Ms. Drummond holds a Bachelor's degree from Boston University. She maintains a private violin and viola studio and directs the Lower Elementary Suzuki Violin program and the Upper Elementary Strings classes. She has Suzuki training through book 6 and takes many continuing education classes. She has performed with the Nashville Symphony, the Memphis Symphony, the Naples Philharmonic, the Western Kentucky Symphony, and the Palm Beach Opera.  Cheri has played on many recordings and has appeared on videos with many country and Christian artists, including Vince Gill. She has conducted the Murfreesboro Youth Symphony, the Middle Tennessee Summer Youth Orchestra, and the Williamson County String Bash.  "I couldn't think of doing anything else; I do what I love!"​

Specialty Staff

Margaret Beagle
Room 3 Primary Teacher 

Margaret is from Louisville, Kentucky and a graduate of Western Kentucky University with a B.A. in Child and Family Studies.   Margaret started as an assistant in a Primary classroom and then was a Primary teacher for two years at Community Montessori Public Charter School in New Albany, Indiana.  She completed her AMS credential through the Montessori Training Center of Brentwood and joined Montessori Academy in 2018.  In addition to her passion for Montessori education, Margaret enjoys writing and being outside with her family. “Finding the Montessori Method has drastically changed my world views and has an enormous influence on how my husband and I raise our three children.  I believe that putting such care and beauty into the education of young children can change the world.”

​​​Melissa Shepard 
Room 11 Lower Elementary Teacher 
Having grown up in Alabama, Melissa has lived in Middle Tennessee for 24 years and in Brentwood for the last 14 years. She has a BA in Psychology and has worked with children and families her entire career which begin with assisting in a Montessori primary classroom. The strong influence of the Montessori philosophy never left her side. She found herself using the skills learned in the Montessori classroom in every job, including her last job of a stay at home mom to her 3 children, Will, Kate and Whit. She has completed her Montessori teaching certification for children age 6-12. Melissa enjoys reading, going to movies, hiking, traveling and spending time with her family.   

Rebekah Laurent 

Room 4 Primary Teacher 

Rebekah was born in southeast Louisiana and grew up just north of New Orleans. After graduating from Southeastern Louisiana University with BA in Liberal Arts she took a summer position in a toddler program at a small Montessori school. Having attended Montessori school as a child she was delighted to see the classroom from the guides' perspective and enrolled in a series of workshops through UC Santa Barbara’s extension program. She then had the privilege to work at her childhood school and be mentored by her own Primary teacher. In 2013 she started formal training at the Montessori Teacher Education Institute of Atlanta where she earned an Early Childhood credential from the American Montessori Society. She taught for seven years in Atlanta before relocation with her husband and two children to Middle Tennessee.  In addition to Montessori education, Rebekah enjoys old movies, game night with her family, traveling, and the ballet. 

Toddler 5 Teacher 

Chloe was born in Cleveland, OH and moved to Nashville, TN when she was 5 years old. She earned her associate degree in speech communications and BA at Trevecca Nazarene University. As the oldest of four, Chloe has always had a natural ability and passion for working with children. Chloe joined the MA team as a substitute in the summer of 2018 and joined on full time as a toddler teacher in the fall. Chloe is thrilled to complete her Montessori certification at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in summer 2019. 

Stephanie Hull
Room 3 Primary Teacher 

Stephanie was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina.  After graduating from Belmont Abbey College with a business degree, she wanted something more fulfilling in life and discovered Montessori education. She said, “I love that Montessori is child-centered rather than teacher-driven.   Children are allowed to develop at their own pace, and they are encouraged to discover who they are.”  

Stephanie lives in Spring Hill with her husband of seven years, two wonderful children, and two dogs.    Her family loves to hike and visit national parks.  Their goal is to get an RV and travel the country together.

Fun fact: Stephanie played college volleyball and was ranked second in the nation for service aces. “I’m in the record books, y’all!“. 

Gaylene Latham
Room 2 Primary Teacher 

This is Gaylene’s 3rd year at Montessori Academy. She holds a BA in Humanities/Literature and Elementary Education from Wheelock College (Boston, MA).  She completed her Primary AMS Montessori certification in May of 2019.  Before embarking on her Montessori journey, she homeschooled her two boys (Adam 13 and Austen 11) through 3rd and 5th grades.  Through her homeschool-parent journey she was introduced to the Montessori Method and was immediately captivated by the emphasis on individuality, exploration, and wonder.  She is also currently the Nursery Director at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church in Nashville where she is privileged to interact with both young children and their families and has the opportunity to serve as a Level 1 Catechist in a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd atrium.  When not working she can be found reading, hiking, practicing yoga, watching movies with her children, or playing board games.

Angela Skelton
Lower Elementary Director and Room 12 Teacher 

Angela found Montessori Academy while in the graduate education program at Belmont University, where she focused on Children's Literature and Gifted Ed. She has taught at MA off and on since 1996 and received Lower Elementary certification from North Carolina Center for Montessori Teacher Education. She likes the creativity of the Montessori environment, the respect for children, and the grace that allows students to reach their potential in their own, unique ways.

At home she enjoys puzzling, knitting, reading, writing, and spending time with her husband and her Miniature Schnauzer, Fritz. She loves having deep conversations and giggling with her two young adults, one studying music and computer science at Davidson College and the other studying Literary Arts at Nashville School of the Arts. 

Valerie Platt
Room 1 Primary Teacher 

Valerie is a certified AMS primary level teacher; she received her training from Northeast Montessori Institute while living in Cambridge, MA, and she has taught in Montessori schools in Nashville and Cambridge.  She is a native Tennessean, raised in Johnson City, and has lived in Nashville for over 12 years.  She holds two degrees from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in Honors History (B.A.) and Teacher Education (M.S.).   

Valerie shares her life with her husband Adam, their three young children, their three dogs, one betta fish, and a flock of chickens.  She enjoys spending time with family and friends, preparing and eating good food, gathering around an outdoor fire, and taking walks with her children to visit the neighbors’ ponies.  She is inspired by the alignment of Dr. Maria Montessori’s 100+ year old Montessori Method with what we currently know about early childhood development and early childhood learning environments; and one of her favorite Montessori quotes is, “Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” 

Toddler Program

Julia Denison 
Upper Elementary Teacher & Spanish 

Julia is a Nashville native and graduate of Indiana University, where she studied Fine Arts and Spanish. Ms. Denison first became interested in teaching while volunteering in South America in 2010; in 2013 she began working at M.A. She holds an AMS Montessori 6-12 certification as well as a certificate for TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language). Ms. Denison teaches Spanish primarily through the approaches of CI (Comprehensible Input) and TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling). In addition to her role as an upper elementary teacher, she teaches middle school Spanish. When she is not teaching, you are likely to find her outdoors on her bike, painting murals, or hiking.

Emily Canas
Spanish Teacher

Emily graduated from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, California where she studied Gender Studies and Spanish. Emily has enjoyed volunteering with and mentoring children throughout high school and college. Outside of the classroom, Emily can be found reading, spending time outdoors, and learning about other languages and cultures. 

Elizabeth Lawrence
Toddler Floater

Originally from rural Maryland, Elizabeth has been working as an educator for over a decade. Friends describe her as endlessly curious, as well as a skilled guitarist and performer. Elizabeth is new to the formal Montessori environment, but is passionate about the deep philosophy, underlying principles, and the fascinating emotional and psychological landscape that manifests at the level of the individual and within groups in the Montessori toddler classroom. She is thrilled to be part of the MA Community and feels that it is an absolute privilege to witness the toddlers as they develop and strengthen their unique learning abilities and processes each day. When she isn't at work, Elizabeth works as a guitarist and guitar instructor, researches to expand her own ideas on musical experience, hikes, and loves to bake cookies and laze around with her cat, Felicity. 

Cecilia Luna
Toddler 2 Teacher 

Cecilia was born in Chicago, IL and raised in Nashville, TN. After touring a local Montessori school for her daughters to attend, she fell in love with the method of education. She then stepped into a Montessori Infant classroom as an assistant. Cecilia worked in an Infant classroom for 3 and a half years and recently stepped into the Toddler classroom. She has three children who all attend Montessori school. She obtained her Infant/Toddler Montessori training at Montessori Training Center of Brentwood in 2018. Ms. Cecilia’s plan is to continue her education in Child Development in the near future. When not in a classroom Cecilia can be found out in nature, discovering hiking trails with her kids. Cecilia also runs a crochet/knitting business called Lovelychiccrochet on Etsy.

Primary Program

Elizabeth McLeod 
Room 12 Lower Elementary Teacher

Elizabeth earned a B.A. from Oberlin College, where she majored in History and the study of Religion. She became interested in early childhood education while working as a literacy tutor through Americorps. After moving back to Nashville in 2012, Elizabeth discovered the Montessori philosophy and fell in love with its emphasis on respecting and nurturing the whole child. She earned her AMS and MACTE certification in early childhood and taught in Primary for eight years. She is excited to join the Lower Elementary team as she works towards her 6-12 credential. At home, Elizabeth enjoys reading, knitting, crosswords, and playing tabletop games with friends.

Leyana Go 
Room 11 Lower Elementary Teacher

Before Leyana came to the United States in 1990, she lived in Jakarta, Indonesia. She has been teaching since 2001. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and worked at an accounting firm, however, after she had two wonderful daughters (now adults), she wanted to spend more time with them and got involved in their schools and extra-curricular activities. She worked in Montessori School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa for five years before moving to Nashville, Tennessee in 2006. Since then she has been teaching in Early Childhood Education.

The more Leyana learns about the Montessori program, the more she falls in love with it. She completed her Montessori Assistant training and joined Montessori Academy in 2020. In her spare time she loves hiking, gardening, taking pictures, making crafts and traveling.

Lisa Jarsen , M.A. 
Upper Elementary Teacher 

Lisa began teaching in 1992 while attending Michigan State University. She holds a B.A. in communication and an M.A. in Education from Concordia University. She has written and published elementary curriculum, been an early childhood director, an adjunct instructor at Nashville State Community College, a reading tutor, and early childhood teacher, and an elementary substitute for Williamson County. Montessori methodology and philosophy allows her to teach the individual child through exploration and using varied techniques. She recently was awarded Montessori certification. Married, with one child, Ms. Jarsen enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, writing, baking, and learning something new every day. 

Kay Mattingly
Art Director

Kay has been teaching art in some form for the last 32 years. At the University of Kentucky, she received a Bachelor's of Art. in K-12 Art Education. She moved to Los Angeles, California and continued her education at Loyola Marymount University receiving her Master's of Art degree in Clinical Art Therapy, Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling. For the next five years she counseled severely emotionally disturbed children and their families. It was during this time that she developed the fundamental belief that the art process lends itself naturally to therapeutic catharsis and cognitive development.​

In 1994, Kay moved to Nashville and enrolled her children at Montessori Academy. She was asked to join the staff as a science teacher in Primary Room 3. She received Montessori training and taught science part-time for three years. When the position of art teacher opened, Kay moved into what she considered the "perfect" position. She has been teaching art at MA since 2004. In addition to two fabulous art shows each year that highlights work of MA students, Kay builds and designs sets for drama and musical productions at MA.

Bethany Mason
Room 2 Primary Teacher 

After graduating in 2002 from Berry College with a Bachelor's in Music Education, Bethany moved to Nashville where she taught as a music educator in Metro Schools. She did this for several years before starting a family.

She enjoyed homeschooling her daughter for over three years. During that time her daughter attended a Montessori homeschool class which was a wonderful introduction to the Montessori Method. As a mother and educator she began to fall in love with this way of learning.

At the beginning of 2017, she decided it was time to get back into the classroom and began working with Montessori Academy as a part-time assistant in Room 12 and full-time substitute. She benefitted from having hands-on experience in the classrooms at MA and guidance from the exceptional staff. While working closely with the different age groups, and spending many hours observing, assisting and substituting, she decided to pursue a Montessori certification.  She attended the Montessori Training Center of Brentwood here at Montessori Academy in the summer of 2017.

Bethany lives in Nashville with her husband Chris, their two children and their dog Hank. She enjoys baking, cooking, singing, and spending time with her family. She and her family are all excited to be part of the community here at Montessori Academy.

Salbi Azeez
Toddler 1 Teacher

Salbi joined our school in 2018 in our After Care Program. She was quickly scooped up to be a floater, as we could all see she has the most amazing temperament with children. Originally from Iraq, her husband and 3 children now call Nashville home, and her children all attend Montessori Academy. She loves cooking- and has taken our teacher potlucks up quite a few notches with her amazing dishes!  


Enrichment Staff

Patrick Schrader
Middle School Teacher

Patrick Schrader is a Co-lead for the Middle School.  As an instructional guide and field consultant for the Center for Guided Montessori Studies in Secondary I and II, Patrick is dedicated to both enriching the lives of his students and creating an environment that builds on past Montessori training and future goals of the individual.  His past work in cultivating secondary programs includes The Hillsboro School, Emerging Minds Montessori Academy, and Summit-Questa Montessori School.  He will bring his expertise, and two trained classroom huskies, to our campus.

Brittany Fluman
Middle School Teacher

Brit Fluman, the middle school Humanities Guide, has been an educator since 2007.  She has worked in a variety of educational settings ranging from elementary to college, which has given her a unique understanding of how to engage student curiosity and guide them toward establishing both individual and community goals. She has also been an Expressive Arts Educator for over a decade, creating arts-related curriculum and teaching visual art, poetry, and dance to both children and adults. Brit holds a B.A. in Cognitive Behavioral Psychology, M.A. in Humanistic Psychology, and is working toward her Montessori Adolescent Guide certification through the Center for Guided Montessori Studies.  In her spare time, she dances around with her daughter Penny, cooks with her partner Ben, writes poetry, creates art, and enjoys time in nature. 

Anna Cole
Room 1 Primary Teacher 

Anna is a Tennessee native and has called Middle Tennessee home for 10 years. She has four children, Christian, Cannon, Eleanor and Coen, an adventurous husband Matt, as well as a German Shepherd named Journey!

After starting in our Toddler Program, Anna is now a Primary teacher in Room 1. She has 15 years of experience as a Sunday School teacher and 3.5 years as a Primary assistant. Anna earned her Bachelor of Science from Lambuth University with ambitions to obtain her AMS training. A flame was ignited for the Montessori philosophy when introduced to it in her undergraduate Child Psychology class.

Anna is thrilled to be serving in our Primary Program because in the words of Maria Montessori; "The most  important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to age six". 

Beth Woodard
Room 10 Lower Elementary Teacher 

Beth received a Bachelor in Early Childhood Development and a Masters in Early Childhood Education from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. She has a state teaching license for Pre-K through 3rd grade.  While she was attending UT, she began working at Knoxville Montessori School as an after care teacher where she fell in love with Montessori method and philosophy.  
After completing her graduate work at UT, she began working on her Montessori certification at Belmont University in Nashville, where she earned a Masters in Teaching/Montessori Certification for Primary (AMS) as well as Lower Elementary.  

Jana Albritton 
Room 12 Lower Elementary Teacher

Jana Albritton is a Florida native and earned her B.A. From Palm Beach Atlantic University in Communication and business. She moved to Nashville with her husband 20 years ago and worked in the music industry for a short time while pursuing her M.A. in early childhood education from Belmont University. Her first teaching job was with Hull- Jackson Montessori, Nashville's first public Montessori school. They provided her Elementary 1 training from the North Carolina Center for Montessori Teacher Education. She stayed with Hull-Jackson for 5 years until starting a family. She also worked for 5 years with Belmont University's Montessori teacher education program as the lab coordinator, album reader, and accreditation coordinator. She and her husband have 3 children and enjoy family time, running and traveling. 


Mia Lee
Room 9 Primary Teacher 

Romella is a native of the Philippines.  She holds a Bachelor’s degree In Secondary Education, major in Math from the University of the Philippines. During her stay in Japan, she learned of Montessori education working at East-West Montessori, a school that served as an English language immersion program for young Japanese children and as an alternative to the public school system for American military children. She holds an Early Childhood Montessori Certification through Montessori Educators International in Louisville, TN.

Mia has worked at Montessori Academy since 2001. She believes that Montessori Academy offers an environment that provides young children an excellent foundation for learning success and feels very fortunate that her children have had such a valuable foundation.​

Priscilla Hicks
High School Teacher

Priscilla grew up in the Washington DC area but has called Tennessee home for the past 19 years. She holds an AMS Primary Credential from Belmont University and an AMI Adolescent Credential from the North American Montessori Teachers' Association. Additionally, she is a certified teacher coordinator for the Montessori Model United Nations program. Priscilla has been a part of the Montessori Alliance of TN since their first meeting in 2013 and currently serves as their administrative assistant and webmaster.  From 2013 to 2018 Priscilla brought Montessori education to the homeschool community in Rutherford County by creating a homeschool hybrid program, Prana Montessori. She is passionate about Montessori education for all ages and especially Maria Montessori's belief that the peaceful education of children could change the world  She lives with her husband Ben, her three girls, and three kitties in Murfreesboro, TN. Priscilla and her children are incredibly excited to be a part of the MA community.

Ben Wright 
High School Teacher 
Ben started teaching at Montessori Academy in the Fall of 2015. He began his Montessori journey at age three and graduated from Montessori Academy’s high school program in 2006. After graduation, he then attended MTSU graduating with a B.A. in Business Administration in 2011. He completed his Montessori Secondary Credential at CMSTEP in Cincinnati, Ohio. Mr. Wright realized at a young age he enjoyed working with children and began coaching AAU Basketball in 2008. He lives in Nashville with his son Jayden. When he is not coaching one of his son’s sports, he enjoys playing sports of his own or listening to a variety of music.

Mellynne Dickason
Room 10 Lower Elementary Teacher 

Mellynne Dickason hails from Mississippi where she received her B.A. in English with a minor in French and an M.A. in English with a TESOL Emphasis.  After receiving her Master’s degree, she relocated to Chicago where she taught a variety of English/writing courses at several Chicago area colleges.  Mellynne worked for 7 years at Triton College where she was a tenured faculty member until deciding to relocate closer to family.  Mellynne, her husband and their two children landed in Nashville and have been here since 2004.  She found Montessori Academy when looking for a school for her daughter Waverly. The nurturing, self-directed environment suited Waverly and her younger daughter Kalee. Both of her daughters attended MA for over ten years; Waverly attends Rice University and Kalee will begin Georgetown University in Fall 2022.  Mellynne completed her Montessori certification in 2011 and loves the child-centric Montessori philosophy. One of her favorite aspects of working in the 6-9 year old class is helping children discover a love of reading and books just as her children did a decade ago. 

Jennifer Jarnagin
Upper Elementary Teacher 

Jennifer has lived in Tennessee since she was 8 years old. Having grown up in the area and graduating from Brentwood Academy, she returned to her home state of Mississippi and attended the University of Mississippi where she earned her B.A. in English with minors in Business  & Theatre. Jennifer began her teaching career here at Montessori Academy in 2002 in the Lower Elementary. She taught here from 2002-2006. She took time away from teaching for the birth of her three sons and when deciding where to put them in school, knew she wanted a real Montessori education and experience for them. She returned to MA to begin a new LE classroom. She holds a 6-9 certification from The North American Montessori Center and is currently she is working on Montessori Elementary certification for 6-12 through the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. Jennifer and her husband, Chad, and their sons reside in Franklin, TN.

Julia Denison
Spanish and Upper Elementary Teacher

Julia is a Nashville native and graduate of Indiana University, where she studied Fine Arts and Spanish. Ms. Denison first became interested in teaching while volunteering in South America in 2010; in 2013 she began working at M.A. She holds an AMS Montessori 6-12 certification as well as a certificate for TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language). Ms. Denison teaches Spanish primarily through the approaches of CI (Comprehensible Input) and TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling). In addition to her role as an upper elementary teacher, she teaches middle school Spanish. When she is not teaching, you are likely to find her outdoors on her bike, painting murals, or hiking.

Larisa Bradford
Room 9 Primary Teacher 

Larisa’s Montessori journey began right here on the MA campus 28 years ago as a student. She had an amazing experience that left a lasting impression. When it was time to consider a school for her own child, there was no other option. Larisa wanted her daughter where she developed a love for lifelong learning. Watching her daughter, Kate, grow and thrive as an independent and self-confident young student, ignited a new passion in her for Montessori philosophy.

Larisa started her professional career as a social worker in the health care industry after earning her degree from Middle Tennessee State University. But after 14 years she felt a tug on her heart to shift focus. She started working as a substitute in the fall of 2016. When an opportunity was presented to work in the classroom it felt like a natural transition. 

Sarah Kalen
Outdoor Education

Sarah has worked with children for 20+ years in schools, summer camps, and community organizations. She holds a BA degree in Elementary Education and certifications in Early Childhood Montessori, TESOL, and TimberNook. As brand new “empty-nesters”, she and her husband Kevin recently relocated to Nashville to be closer to family. They moved from Indiana, where she taught in a Montessori primary classroom for ten years and directed a TimberNook program for three years.  They have two young adults who both attended a Montessori school in grade school.  Her daughter Korynne is a Park Ranger at Yosemite National Park, and her son Kyler is a Marine in the USMC.  She is passionate about connecting children with nature, and sees the benefits that it provides the mind, body, and spirit. She will be creating opportunities for students to work and play outside.  For fun, she enjoys hiking, bird watching, creek stomping, gardening, and spending time with family.  

Sophia Campanis
PE Teacher

Sophia Campanis is from Brentwood, TN and has been dancing for almost 18 years. She trained with Green Hills School of Dance, Fellowship School of Dance, and Studio Laugh Love Leap over the years. She has completed the prestigious summer ballet intensive with The Joffrey Ballet in South Georgia and the Russian Imperial Ballet at Sandler’s Wells in London, England. She has been training to be a dance teacher since she was eleven by being a teacher's assistant and co-teaching with studio directors. Sophia previously attended here at Montessori Academy from 2003-2007. She is very excited to share her passion and knowledge of dance, as well as physical fitness and nutrition, with our Kindergarten - High School students as our Physical Education teacher.  

Allison Smith
Room 4 Primary Teacher 

Allison was born and raised in the Midwest and moved to Nashville after college. She earned her Bachelor's degree from Western Michigan University and completed her 3-6 Montessori training at Belmont University. She holds a PreK-3rd grade teaching license and earned her Master’s from Belmont in 2012. Allison has worked at a few Montessori schools in Nashville and is thrilled to return to MA. She enjoys watching children discover the world around them and is passionate about creating an environment that encourages them to learn. Allison has a son who attends MA and she enjoys reading, watching sports and spending time with family.   

Nancy Poland
Primary Floater

Nancy has lived in Brentwood since 1986, where she met her husband Danny.  They have two grown kids and since Nancy is an empty nester and enjoys working with children, Montessori is a perfect fit. Nancy also loves being outdoors, playing with her dog Bailey, walking with a friend at the park and listening to podcasts.

Laura Barlow 
Reading Interventionist

Laura decided that she wanted to be a teacher as soon as she entered kindergarten!  She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri and earned a B.A. in both Elementary and Special Education from Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas.  In 1999, Laura began teaching in special education for Metro Nashville Schools.  A few years later, Laura discovered Montessori, and in 2004, she earned her AMS Elementary 6-9 certification while teaching at Stanford Montessori.  She loved the Montessori approach and found that it solved many of the frustrations she felt in traditional education.  In 2011, Laura joined the Montessori Academy family.  Her daughter, Katie, has felt "at home" at MA ever since she started in Primary. Laura loves to learn and feels that, as a Montessori teacher, she has been given a great opportunity to inspire a love of learning in her students.  Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends (usually laughing,) playing games with her daughter, traveling, reading, and any chance to be creative. 

Alyssa Maddox
Upper Elementary Teacher

Alyssa Maddox has been teaching dance to children for 24+ years. With a Bachelors of Science in Dance Education from the University of Georgia, she has taught in private dance studios, regional and community theaters, and public elementary and high schools in Texas and the Southeast. She is an adjunct dance instructor at Belmont University and currently serves on the dance faculty at TM Productions and the Bellevue Dance Center. Alyssa has helped develop movement curriculum for both private studios and Elementary Physical Education programs. Her Montessori 6-12 Certification is in progress.  

Alyssa lives in Nashville with her husband, Brent Maddox and two girls, Lottie and Evelyn who attend Montessori Academy. When she’s not teaching you’ll find her cooking or outdoors with her family hiking and camping.  

Upper Elementary / Middle School / High School Program

Brittany Cowan
Toddler 5 Teacher 

Brittany is an Ohio native who followed her heart to beautiful Tennessee fourteen years ago. She is a proud mother of a precious little boy which is where the Montessori journey began for her. Realizing her passion was working with children, she excitedly joined the MA team in 2017. She completed her Montessori Infant/Toddler credentials through AMS and the Montessori Training Center of Brentwood. She believes in the authenticity of the Montessori approach and loves fostering the child's independence in their Toddler 5 community. She is currently working on her B.S. at Endicott College, majoring in psychology with a concentration on Montessori and will graduate in 2022. In her free time she is a song writer, enjoys outdoor adventures, and cooking/baking.

Emma Alfano
Toddler Floater

Emma is mother to one uniquely well rounded daughter and high school student at MA. Emma has a Bachelor's of Science in Art and Mass Communications, and is a commercial muilti-engine land rated pilot. She enjoys the great outdoors especially when it involves adventure. She, with her family, lived in a small village in Ecuador, where together with her community of friends started a multicultural, alternative school. Upon returning to the states, she began working at a Montessori homeschooling tutorial and has been working in Montessori since 2015. Emma enjoys kids of all ages, reading, art, hiking, repelling, flying, water sports, and life with her daughter and 3 dogs. 

Montessori Academy

Jon Rosenthal
Band Director

Jon Rosenthal was born and raised in the Chicago area, began his musical training in 1976 with piano lessons, and has gone on to become an accomplished pianist, vocalist, songwriter, drummer/percussionist, composer/arranger, conductor, and educator. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Music Education degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and his Master of Music in Band Conducting from the University of Kansas. Jon has always enjoyed working with kids and has been a professional educator for more than 25 years.

Mr. Rosenthal is also an independent singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. In 2017 he released his first EP, Keep on Playin’, featuring six tracks.  (The title track, incidentally, was written the day after the Chicago Cubs came from behind in the 9th inning to advance to the 2016 Championship Series.) The cabaret-twists of Billy Joel and Ben Folds are obvious comparisons in his music. Less obvious? Phil Collins (in the Genesis era), his biggest musical influence.

His second album entitled Journey Through Life Vol. 1 was released in August of 2019 and was very well received by his listeners.

In addition to performing his music in the Nashville area and online (via Facebook live stream), Jon is also a cast member of Nashville-based ‘80s and ‘90s cover band Rubiks Groove, and he also operates his own private lesson studio.

Jon lives in Antioch with his wife and two daughters. When not teaching, performing or writing, Jon enjoys date nights with his wife, taking his family on out-of-town trips, watching movies, playing with model trains, and, of course, rooting for the Chicago Cubs.