The faculty and staff of Montessori Country School are a wonderful and diverse group who bring their love and respect to the children, the parents, and each other daily.
Meghan Kane Skotheim, Head of School
Meghan has been a member of the Country School community since 1993 when her oldest son joined the toddler class. She has served as a room representative, French teacher, substitute teacher, and head teacher. Meghan received her undergraduate degree in Art History from the University of Colorado in 1984, her Montessori training from the Rocky Mountain Training Center in 1985, and her Master’s in Education with an emphasis on early childhood from Seattle University in 2006. Her years of teaching and parenting have strengthened her belief that the first twelve years of life are profound. She considers it an honor to spend time in the presence of young children, following their lead.
When she is not in the classroom, Meghan spends most of her time with her children, Benjamin, Maxwell, and Rebecca, and her husband Kris. She loves to knit, bake, and relax with the NYT crossword puzzle.
Karla Piecuch, MCS Associate Head of School
Karla first became acquainted with the work of Maria Montessori while studying Philosophy and Comparative Religion at the University of California at Santa Cruz, where she graduated with Honors. Karla came to MCS in 1987 to work as Patty’s classroom assistant; she loved how the philosophy of Montessori translated into the actual classroom experience and received her Montessori certification in 1990, co-teaching with Patty and eventually working as Associate Director. Before coming to MCS, Karla worked as the Executive Director of the American Cetacean Society in San Pedro, CA, and continues to be active in several wildlife conservation organizations. Karla is found at least a few times each year visiting the classrooms with some of her unusual pets.
Most of Karla’s time outside of school is spent with her husband, dogs, and horses, hiking, climbing, indulging her passion for books and music, and (when finances and time allow) trekking in Nepal.
She is the US coordinator for Each One Teach One, a project which provides education for children who have been orphaned by the political insurgency in Nepal.
Elaine Salot, Elementary Office Manager
Elaine and her husband moved to Bainbridge Island in 2000. She holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine. Elaine worked as a Technical Writer in several high tech companies until her daughter was born. Elaine’s daughter started at Montessori Country School as a toddler and finished as a 5th grader. Elaine has been an active parent volunteer in the classroom and school office. She discovered how much she enjoys being at school and watching her daughter and other students blossom into confident, compassionate, and curious people who love to learn. Elaine joined the elementary staff in 2011 and is excited that she has the opportunity to gain new experiences and to use her organizational, prioritization, and communication skills to support the community. Elaine loves to spend time with her family and friends, sew, read, and bake. She is also a dedicated Suzuki piano parent.
Beth Goodwin, Children’s House Administrative Assistant
Beth Goodwin recently opened her Classical Homeopathy practice on Bainbridge Island after graduating from the international extension of The School of Homeopathy, England. Many MCS mom
s know her as “Dana’s mom” since her son has been at MCS for 5 years. He is currently a second grader at the Elementary Campus. Beth is also a well known yoga teacher at Island Fitness. She says about her role at MCS Children’s House: “I have the best job in the world! Every day I get to see the smiling faces of wonderful children, support the magnificent Karla in the office and enjoy being a part of the Montessori tradition on Bainbridge Island. I couldn’t be happier!”
Hilary Benson, Program Director
Hilary joined the Montessori Country School community in 2005 as a classroom teacher. She holds a BA from Bates College and is a Montessori credentialed Primary teacher. Hilary received her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Washington following a residential year at Islandwood’s graduate education program. She currently serves as Program Director for the school. In this capacity she manages the school’s communications and marketing, and helps coordinate staff development. Hilary has been on the MCS Board of Trustees since 2010. Hilary is a native Washingtonian and attended Bainbridge High School. She currently lives on Bainbridge with her husband and two sons, both students at MCS.
Angie Godfrey, Music Specialist
Angie joined the MCS community as a parent in 2013 and quickly became a beloved music instructor. Angie’s classes are largely based on the Orff Shulwerk Approach. She creates a “child-centered way of learning” music by using everyday activities for the purpose of music creation. Singing, dancing, and rhythmic instruments are used to introduce fundamentals of music.
Prior to her arrival at MCS, Angie taught Orff Music in the Bay Area of California. She has also had experience teaching middle school band, orchestra, choir and musical theatre. She lives on the island with her husband and two daughters.
Annie Hodges, Development Director
Annie was first acquainted with Montessori pedagogy while volunteering in a Montessori preschool her aunt founded. That experience taught her the importance of child-centered education with an emphasis on educating the whole child, which Annie brought to her own classroom years later. Annie received her undergraduate degree in English and Educational Studies with a certificate in Secondary Education from Saint Louis University and her Master’s in English Composition and Rhetoric from University of Missouri St. Louis. Prior to coming to MCS, Annie worked as a high school English instructor, adjunct college professor, and district technology trainer.
Annie has always had a passion for bettering her community through service and philanthropy and has volunteered with many charities including tutoring underprivileged youth at Raising the Bar, organized fundraisers and coordinated volunteers for Service for Sight, served as Fundraising Chair and a board member for Payback Inc., and currently serves as Chair of Mom’s Morning Retreat on Bainbridge Island. Annie is excited to have to opportunity to help the school grow and support the community. When not at MCS, Annie spends most of her time with her daughter, Olivia, an MCS student, and her husband Ben. She enjoys hiking, skiing, running, gardening, and reading.
Preprimary and Primary Faculty and Staff:
Shirley Becker, Primary Teacher
As a military child, Shirley grew up in Europe, Asia, and in all four quarters and the central part of the United States. She enjoys meeting new friends and loves to learn about their experiences. She has four children and spent her early adult years raising her family, volunteering in her children’s classrooms, and serving in her church. She now has eleven grandchildren who bring joy to her world.
Shirley earned her undergraduate degree in Family and Consumer Sciences, Family and Child Science, from New Mexico State University where she graduated with honors. She learned about Montessori when an acquaintance invited her to visit her Montessori preschool. It was love at first sight. “All of the children were busy working like little bees in the classroom, yet there was a pleasant, peaceful feeling amidst the activity. I knew I had found my place. I knew I wanted to be a part of this wonderful thing called Montessori.” The next year, Shirley was an assistant in the school and the following summer she went to The Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies in Silver Springs, Maryland to begin her training and earn her AMS teaching certification. Shirley owned her own Montessori preschool for several years prior to moving to the beautiful Northwest from enchanted New Mexico in December, 2013.
She enjoys spending her time outside of school with her family, friends and animals. She likes antiquing, home designing, gardening, and spending as much time as possible at the beach.
Christine Broga, Language Specialist
Christine grew up riding the hills of Bainbridge Island on horseback, swimming in Puget Sound, and skiing in the Cascades. Following high school, Christine pursued a lifelong dream and moved to England. She attended the University of London where she studied British History during the week and traveled and rode horses on the weekends. Upon returning to the U.S., she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in U.S. History from the University of Puget Sound. For several years following graduation, Christine continued riding horses and competing around the U.S. and Canada and giving riding lessons to children. It was during this time that she realized she loved teaching children. She began volunteering in a friend’s 2nd grade classroom and immediately fell in love with the enthusiasm and curiosity of young learners and especially the “light bulb” moments that lit up their faces. She knew she had found her calling. She returned to the University of Puget Sound in 1996 where she earned her Washington State Teaching Certificate with K-8 and History 4-12 endorsements and also received her Master of Arts in Teaching.
For the past 18 years Christine has worked to create nurturing and intellectually stimulating classrooms for her students. She began her career in the Central Kitsap School District where she taught 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. After 8 years in Central Kitsap, she was offered a job at a Montessori inspired independent school in Poulsbo and was co-lead teacher in the 4th– 6th grade multi-age classroom. When the school restructured, she spent 5 years as lead teacher in the 3rd/4th grade multi-age classroom. Christine is thrilled to now be working at MCS where she is surrounded by colleagues and parents who honor children and nurture their independence and lifelong learning. She enjoys sharing her love of language and learning with the amazing MCS kindergartners!
When not searching the forest for eggs laid by her flock of renegade chickens or weeding her garden, Christine loves curling up with a good book, walking her dog, knitting, quilting, traveling, and sharing adventures with her 2 children.
Cheryl Dauber, Primary Teacher
Cheryl earned her Bachelor’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. She was introduced to Montessori education in 1997 when she began her work as an Assistant at Montessori Country School. She earned her AMS Primary Teaching Certification through the Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest. Cheryl took a sabbatical from MCS when her daughter was born; she taught part time for a local preschool. During this time she earned a Master’s in Teaching and K-8 Teaching Certificate. Cheryl went on to teach third grade at a Montessori inspired elementary program in Kitsap County. Cheryl’s teaching background includes working with children from ages 3 to 16 as a paraprofessional. Cheryl says, “I love to encourage the excitement children have about learning. It is an honor to witness the moment at which a child makes a new discovery and finds a new level of independence.” Cheryl is known for her caring and fairness and for her ability to connect with people of all ages. Her openness and love of life and nature are infectious.
Cheryl grew up in Santa Cruz and Paso Robles, California. Outside of teaching, Cheryl enjoys knitting, reading, hiking and camping, traveling, and swimming in Puget Sound with her family. Her daughter is a 2007 graduate of Montessori Country School.
Melody Ginther, Primary Assistant
Born and raised amongst nine siblings in the coulees and cornfields of western Wisconsin, Melody attended UW Madison and obtained a degree in Interior Design and Environmental Studies and headed for the Olympics shortly thereafter. In search of continued organic farming experience, she spent two years working at a micro goat dairy near Port Townsend, where she became involved with the CedarRoot Folk School. She began co-teaching preschool nature studies programs and learned very quickly that she had a natural talent for working with children. After sneaking off to Alaska to work as a mari-nanny and deckhand for a summer, Melody returned to work at the Port Townsend Elementary School, to confirm that working with children was right for her. It was indeed. Fresh off the boat from AK once again, Melody is looking forward to working alongside and learning from the talented staff at MCS this year.
Elizabeth Houghtaling, Preprimary Teacher
I was born and raised in Colorado where most of my childhood was spent nurturing a love for the outdoors. I graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 2004 with my BA in Liberal Arts emphasizing in Ethnic and Gender Studies. I went on to begin my career working in early childhood education when I traveled to Ethiopia as a volunteer. I lived for two years in rural northern city working as an early childhood teacher in a local school. Upon my return to the United States, I was introduced to the Montessori philosophy when I was hired as an assistant in a Montessori classroom. I immediately fell in love and quickly realized Montessori was my calling in life. I returned to school at the Montessori Centre International and received my certification.
I have a passion for both the 0-3 age group as well as, the 3-6 age and have been a lead guide in both of these roles. I worked for several years in Denver to help open a Montessori school for underprivileged children that went onto to become a public charter Montessori school. Two years ago my husband, daughter and I decided we needed a change of pace and made the decision to move to Albania when I was offered a position at an International Montessori school. Working at the only Montessori school in Albania opened up opportunities for me to teach Albanians about the Montessori philosophy and also to help train teachers at a school in Kosovo. We have loved being part of an international community, always meeting new people and traveling through Europe as a family.
We are happy to live on Bainbridge Island and to raise our daughter in the same place where my husband grew up. We couldn’t be more delighted to be closer to family and to become part of such a special community at the Montessori Country School! When I am not in the classroom, I like to spend my time doing yoga, reading, cycling, traveling and taking in all the joys of being a mother and wife.
Ali Pepper, Primary Teacher
Ali grew up on Bainbridge Island. After earning her Bachelor in Fine Arts Degree with a focus in photography from Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, she is happy to find herself back in this magical community.
Interested in pursuing a career in education, Ali observed in many different classrooms and was drawn to the empowered, independent children Montessori education helps cultivate. Ali completed her training at the Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest during 2013-2014 school year and is looking forward to her first year as a classroom teacher.
Outside of school, Ali enjoys reading, learning to knit, yoga, gardening, cooking, and spending as much time as she can with her husband Patrick and his 5-year-old daughter.
Lydia Walsh, Preprimary Intern
A Seattle native, Lydia Walsh recently moved to Poulsbo after completing her undergraduate degree in Geography from the University of Washington. She has loved working with children as a nanny and a tutor for many years and was interested in pursuing a career in early childhood education. She was immediately drawn to the Montessori philosophy, finding it inspiring and empowering, and is looking forward to learning everything she can about it. Outside of school, Lydia likes to bake, swim, play her flute, and work in her garden.
Elementary Faculty and Staff:
Beth Balas, Art Specialist
Originally from the Midwest, Beth moved to the island sight unseen from Philadelphia, PA, with her architect husband in 1987 because of a childhood attraction to the Olympic Peninsula as seen in the World Book Encyclopedia. David and Beth designed, built, and landscaped the home they still live in now with their two crazy border collies and high school age son, Quinn. Both Quinn and college student, Rachel, attended Montessori Country School as youngsters. An active parent volunteer, Beth has spent many years volunteering in her children’s multiage classrooms.
With a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing, Beth has taught children, teens, and adults through the park district and private schools. Beth treasures the landscape and heritage of the island, so she has taken her art skills outdoors to become a landscape designer/coach for many years, and as a longtime member of Friends of the Farms, she helped start the local farm to school partnership. When she’s not walking the dogs or fighting back blackberries, Beth enjoys caring for the farm animals she shares with a friend, as well as hiking, reading, and keeping in touch with friends and her far-flung extended family.
Emma Beringer, Upper Elementary Teacher
Emma was an Oregon native until 2013 when she moved to Seattle in search of a job and found MCS. She received her bachelor of arts degree at the University of Oregon majoring in Sociology and minoring in Special Education. Emma was a Montessori child herself, starting in the primary classroom through the 5th grade. Upon graduating college, the opportunity to take the (AMI) Montessori training in Portland, Oregon arose. She finished her training in the spring of 2012 and is very excited to continue her teaching career in the Upper Elementary classroom at MCS.
Emma enjoys anything outdoors, such as hiking, running, and gardening. She also loves to cook, spend rainy days curled up on the couch, and explore Seattle with her boyfriend John.
Jaclyn Chao, Upper Elementary Teacher
Jaclyn was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. After earning her BA in History from UC Berkeley, she embarked on a fellowship teaching in Oakland public schools. For six years, Jaclyn taught high school and elementary students with special needs, while completing her teaching credential and MA in Special Education.
First as a parent, then as an educator, Jaclyn discovered and fell in love with Montessori. This newfound professional curiosity led to work as an Education Specialist at a Montessori school, where she directly supported children ages 6-12 and collaborated with LE and UE teams. During interim summers, Jaclyn began AMI Elementary training with Montessori Northwest. Last year, Jaclyn had the opportunity to work as a co-lead in a Lower Elementary classroom.
In June 2016, Jaclyn, her husband and two daughters moved to Bainbridge, returning to her husband’s native home. They look forward to growing roots in the natural beauty and warm community of the island. Jaclyn is thrilled to be joining MCS.
Hollind Kevo, Lower Elementary Class Assistant
A Seattle native, Hollind graduated from Gonzaga University with a BA in Elementary Education and an endorsement in Special Education. She has focused her 20 year career on teaching and educational support. For the last 5 years, she has tutored students locally in reading, writing, math, and study and organizational skills. Hollind has been interested in learning more about Montessori education and is grateful for this opportunity at MCS. Hollind lives on Bainbridge Island with her husband and daughter, where she enjoys walking, “thrifting”, cooking with friends, and traveling with her family.
Shawn Kreider, Lower Elementary Teacher
Shawn has always had passion for helping children and families learn and grow. He received a Bachelor?s degree in psychology from Michigan State University and worked as a counselor at a children?s psychiatric hospital, and social worker, before returning to school for his teacher certification. He received his 6-9 AMS Montessori training from MMTEC and finished his Master?s degree in Curriculum and Teaching from MSU. He recently completed his AMI 6-12 Montessori Training at MISD in San Diego.
Shawn has taught in a 2nd/3rd multiage classroom, a traditional first grade classroom, and a 6-12 Montessori classroom before venturing to the Pacific Northwest to teach at MCS in the Lower Elementary classroom. Having begun his college education as a music major, he continues this passion in his classroom by singing and writing songs for students to perform. Shawn takes in the beauty of the area through biking, hiking, skiing, all of which he enjoys with his three sons. On those rainy days you?ll find him cooking, reading, and playing guitar, hopefully, with a fire in the fireplace.