Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori School of Ithaca120 East King RoadIthaca, NY 14850607.277.7335
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Deb Adams graduated with a B.Arch and an M.Arch II from Cornell University. She taught for 3 years at Syracuse University as an Assistant Professor in their School of Architecture, and for an additional 3 years as a visiting lecturer at Cornell in the Department of Architecture. She has two sons, Nate and Zach (both are EACMSI alumni.) Deb is adjusting to being an ’empty nester’. Nate is beginning his Senior Year at Boston University, studying Business. Zach is attending the University at Buffalo, pursuing a pre-med track. Deb has been teaching in the Junior Level for more than 13 years. Some of her passions are photography, digital media, and programming. She teaches several summer camps centered around computer programming for children. When not in the classroom, Deb can often be seen around town with her camera.
An alum of EACMSI, Elizabeth Antczak (Lizzie) is thrilled to be part of the Upper Level team! Lizzie holds bachelor’s degrees in Biology & Society and Urban & Regional Studies from Cornell University. She began her teaching career in New York City, where she completed her master’s degree in Adolescent Education at Pace University. Lizzie holds New York State Professional Certification for Biology grades 7-12 and Childhood grades 1-6. She has experience teaching in middle and elementary schools in New York City and Ithaca. She is passionate about supporting children in becoming independent thinkers within a nurturing classroom community and found herself increasingly drawn to Montessori’s ideas and methods. Lizzie completed her Montessori teacher training at the Montessori Elementary Teacher Training Collaborative in Lexington, MA. Lizzie lives in Ithaca with her family. Her son is a Junior Level student at EACMSI. Lizzie loves reading, outdoor activities, cooking, and any kind of art!
Ryan Zawel is in his 16th year as the Music Director and a parent at EACMSI. Born in the Bronx in 1975, raised by a cabaret pianist, and educated by master musicians in schools and on-stage, Ryan’s musical life has been rooted in soul, klezmer, musical theater, jazz, marching band, chorus, and the symphonic orchestra repertoire.
A professional trombonist and tuba player, he has performed with the Tommy Dorsey Band, Broadway’s Miss Saigon, Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, and the Joel Rubin Jewish Music Ensemble. He has collaborated with members of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, and Zappa Plays Zappa. Locally, Ryan is a member of The Destination, Plan Z, Cornell University Klezmer Ensemble, and the Deep Dive Big Band. He earned performance degrees from Northwestern University and Ithaca College.
Ryan’s wife, Nicki, is a fellow music educator. They have three children: Daniel (EAC ’18), Ruby (EAC ’22). and Quincy (Upper Level).
Anne joined the EACMSI Middle School team in 2022. With a B.S. in Secondary Education from Cairn University, a TESL certificate from Davis College, and a M.A. in English from Arizona State University, she started out as a high school English teacher in Altoona, PA, before switching to Montessori. Anne spent three years at a Montessori school in PA, where she had the chance to teach literature and science lessons in an Upper Level classroom, but she really enjoys torturing–er, teaching–Middle School students! She likes taking a philosophical approach to multidisciplinary lessons, especially making connections between history and literature. When not at EAC, Anne enjoys hiking waterfalls, playing video games, and doing yard work at her home near Watkins Glen, where she lives with her wife, three kids, two dogs, five birds, lots and lots of plants, and more books than could ever be successfully shelved.
Josh is happy to join the Upper Level team this year! Josh holds a B.A. in Psychology and an M.Ed. in Special Education from Penn State University. Josh served students as an elementary educator and special educator in classroom and hospital settings in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and New York. For several years at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, he assisted university students in navigating access needs through his work in the Disability Resource/Student Access Office. Josh enjoys the outdoors and adventures with his wife and daughter.
Liddy Allee has been going to school forever! She was born and raised in Ithaca, attending the public schools here. To fulfill her passion for swimming and learning, Liddy finished high school at The Peddie School, where her team swam to a national mythical championship!
She went on to earn a BA in Developmental Psychology from the College of William and Mary, an MSEd in reading from Old Dominion University, an MSEd in Elementary Education from Elmira College, an MSEd in School Building Leader from Columbia University, and a School District Leader certification from SUNY Oswego.
Both of Liddy’s children attended EACMSI for a few years, as did her niece. Liddy is excited and relieved to finally be a part of this amazing community!
Dave holds a M.Ed from the University of Washington, a BFA in fine art from Syracuse University, and completed a graduate residency in Community and Education at the Islandwood School in Washington state. He taught at independent schools and outdoor education programs in the Seattle area for over ten years before joining EACMSI in 2023.
Dave loves all things nature. He is a hiker, kayaker, mountain biker, and birder and has visited 37 National Parks. He also loves art museums, discovering new music and films, and eating too much sushi.
Cassy was born and raised in Hawaii. She has a Master’s degree in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Texas at Austin and a Professional Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Hawaii. She has been a classroom teacher for 20+ years. Last year, Cassy joined the EAC community as an upper level teaching assistant. This summer, she began her Montessori teacher training at the Montessori Elementary Teacher Training Collaboration in Lexington, MA. She loves creating a nurturing, safe community for exploration and inquiry learning. She moved to Ithaca four years ago and lives in Lansing with her husband, son, and their three sweet dogs. She loves swimming, reading, photography, paddle boarding, and hiking in her free time.
Wendy manages the school’s advertising, website, social media, communications, and development campaigns. Her educational background in marketing, business management, graphic design, and photography, combined with her desire to help EACMSI reach beyond the walls of our school and into the greater community, drives her.
She almost always has her camera (and most likely a coffee) and can be found hiking, cycling, gardening, in her photography studio, and on adventures with her family and friends. Wendy practices graphic design and photography in the Ithaca community, creating branding, promotional materials, and photographs for various clients.
Having joined EACMSI last year with Miss Badsha and the UL Second Years, Andrea is excited to join Terry and the team as they come back together in mixed-age groups. Andrea has a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Master’s in Educational Technology from SUNY Cortland. They also bring over ten years of teaching experience and many more years of volunteering in educational programs. They have worked with many diverse groups and are passionate about equity and inclusion in and out of the classroom. Andrea has just launched their oldest child off to college at RIT and their youngest into eleventh grade in their hometown of Dryden. They enjoy spending time with their children, camping, reading, and caring for their 7-pound fur baby.
Venissa Santi born and raised in Ithaca New York is the daughter of Cuban immigrants and from a family of educators, musicians and artists. She is fluent in Spanish and thrilled to be picking up the legacy of the Spanish program for ages 5-12 at EAC this year. She feels privileged to have gone to school with Elizabeth Anne Clune and to know the Clune family for years.
As a child, she gravitated towards singing, music, and theatre and has been active in the local music scene since she was 16 years old. The Hangar theatre was instrumental in her performance, voice, and theatre training. She, later on, participated in Hangar programming for several seasons (Project 4, Spring Break a Leg, Next Generation ) as a teaching artist. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music and attended the University of the Arts as a jazz vocal performance major. In 2001 she became a teacher at a community school and taught all ages in the Latino barrio of Philly to Spanish-speaking students. (singing, movement, and theater) This would be a Spanish immersion that solidified her fluency and would lead her to connect with the Latino community for the next 17 years. At this time Venissa launched a professional music career in the Latin Jazz scene. Looking to compose music that was influenced by her ancestral roots, she embarked on several research trips to Havana Cuba since 2001 where she has studied singing styles in sacred and secular Afro-Cuban genres. In 2008 she was awarded a PEW fellowship in the folk and traditional art category and later recorded two albums (available on all platforms ) in 2009 “Bienvenida” and in 2013: Big Stuff Afro Cuban Holiday. (And Afro Cuban tribute to Billie Holiday. In 2014 she relocated to Her family home in Trumansburg NY shifting out of hectic city life to be closer to family, to the elementary schools, and to the close-knit community to raise her son who is now in college. Venissa continues to record, perform, tour, and do songwriting commissions. Find her participating in concerts as Venissa Santí 4 tet and backing vocals for “Jennie Lowe” and “Whilstin’ Dyl” groups. In 2015 Venissa garnered Montessori training and experience in multiple levels and held a position as an assistant teacher in a toddler classroom for 5 years at the Namaste Montessori school. “I am excited to embark on this new chapter of my teaching life and eager to share my love for Spanish, music, and Montessori with EAC”
Becca has long held a passion for attending to the physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being of young children, beginning with babysitting at the age of thirteen. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in English from SUNY Fredonia in 2005. Following college, she worked for six years as a parent educator for teen moms before moving on to Head Start, where she was an in-home educator for underprivileged children ages 0-5. She first developed a curiosity about the Montessori Method after enrolling her eldest daughter in a Montessori program in 2010. Becca decided to test out the method herself as a one-to-one aide in the Primary Level, which she did for two years before taking her Montessori training through CME at the College of New Rochelle. When not actively involved in her role as an educator, Becca can be found devouring books across multiple genres, frolicking with her pup, or making beautiful music with her two children.
Laura is happy to return to the classroom after a decade as Principal/Head of School at EACMSI. Prior to her leadership role, Laura developed the School’s Learning and Support Model and served as Learning Support Specialist for many years. She began her journey at EACMSI as a longtime Primary teacher before transitioning to teaching at the Junior Level. Laura loves learning new things, nature, physical activity and reading.
Linda Chen received her M.A. and Ed.M in Music and Music Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Her journey with EACMSI started 15 years ago as a music teacher, working with children from ages 5 – 12. Linda was a Pod leader for Upper Level last year. She began her Montessori teacher training at the Montessori Elementary Teacher Training Collaboration in Lexington, MA this summer and she is thrilled to join the Upper Level team this Fall. Linda enjoys music, baking, cooking, and outdoor activities. She lives with her family in Ithaca. Her child is beginning Extended Day at EACMSI.
Laurie is joining EACMSI as the PE Outdoor Movement Instructor. She comes to EACMSI after a successful career at the Ithaca YMCA as the Health & Wellness Director. She has a degree in Recreation Education from SUNY Cortland. Laurie is an outdoor enthusiast with a passion for movement and healthy living. She is excited to work with the EACMSI students through out the year sharing her passion for movement by building community through group games, teaching healthy living skills through exercise and activities, and developing a general appreciation for exploring movement and play in our outdoor environment. In addition to working at EACMSI Laurie teaches classes for Cornell Outdoor Education, Cornell PE Fitness Dept., and volunteers as a Bike Mentor for Bike Walk Tompkins.
Virginia Spiers graduated from Wells College in 2003 where she majored in Religious Studies. That summer Virginia accepted a position in a Montessori classroom and soon developed a lifelong love of this philosophy of education. Virginia joined the staff of EACMSI in 2007 and received her Montessori certification at the Princeton Center for Teacher Education in 2009. Her continued education involves mindfulness and other social-emotional modalities for growing one’s self awareness and developing a relationship with the world around them. Virginia strives to teach respect and compassion for all living things through developing a sincere loving connection with the natural world. She lives in the area with her husband James, a local artist and business owner.
Karlem was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography and Film from Ithaca College. She started her journey in education completing a wilderness education training program with Primitive Pursuits and working at their summer camps. She joined the after school program at EACMSI and moved on to work in the classroom where she fell in love with the thoroughness and beauty of the Montessori method. Karlem is currently working to complete her 6-9 certification with METTC. Prior to working at EACMSI, Karlem worked as a marketing and communications consultant for several local non-profits, and as an instructional and graphic designer for Cornell University.
Karlem loves learning languages, art forms, and everything about plants. She is passionate about encouraging children to find and follow their own interests, and to develop the social skills they need to be thriving members of a community.
Allison Boex began teaching Latin at EACMSI in 2012 as a Cornell graduate student. In her time at EACMSI, she has finished her Ph.D (with a dissertation on Latin grave poetry), adopted two dogs, gotten married, and had two children. She has worked for Buffalo Street Books in downtown Ithaca and managed the farmstand at Indian Creek Farm for many years; she also teaches Latin at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva. She credits the adults and the children at EACMSI with helping her become a much better teacher (and human).
Cindy holds a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Maine and an M.S. in Outdoor Environmental Education from SUNY Cortland. Cindy taught at camps, parks and nature centers up and down the East Coast for 10 years. Teaching children in non-traditional settings has always been a passion and the journey to become a Montessori guide is a natural fit.
Cindy was the director of the EACMSI afterschool and camp program for 6 years before transitioning to full time work in the 6-9 classroom. Cindy lives in Trumansburg where she enjoys gardening, cooking, reading and creating in her sewing studio.
Since 1999 Stephen Lenhart has been teaching in a variety of learning communities, both public and private, working with students ranging in age from three to thirty in three different countries. He studied Geography and Environmental Science at SUNY Geneseo and did his graduate work in Elementary Education at LeMoyne College in Syracuse. He completed his Montessori training at the Center for Montessori Education. He has been at EAC since 2008 and has taught Junior Level, Upper Level and for the past four years, Middle School. Stephen’s interests center around the exploration of connections between beings and how to most beautifully express and enhance those connections. When he’s not at EACMSI you will usually find him at his small homestead/farm in Danby along with his partner Katri, stepsons Finn and Gavin, and a plethora of animals and plants.
Katri fell in love with the Montessori Method in 1992 soon after graduating from Trinity College with a BA in English and Fine Arts. After a year as an assistant teacher in a Montessori Primary classroom in Portland, Maine, she began her 3-6 Montessori training at the Northeast Montessori Institute. She taught at several Montessori schools before opening the Red House Montessori School in North Yarmouth, Maine in 1999. In 2005, Katri moved to Ithaca and devoted the next four years to being with her young children while getting acquainted with the local Montessori community. In 2009, when her younger son turned three, she joined the staff of EACMSI as a Primary teacher. And in 2012, after a year of teaching in the EAC lower elementary program, Katri began her 6-9 Montessori credential at the Seacoast Center for Education in Stratham, NH. She is passionate about Peace Education, child and animal welfare, preserving natural resources and living gently on the Earth. Katri homesteads in an old farmhouse in Danby with her partner Stephen, sons Finn and Gavin, 1 dog, 2 cats, 7 goats, 30 chickens and numerous honey bees!
Patrice Jennings holds a B.A. in Community Development and Philosophy of Alternative Education from Goddard College, and is trained in the Orton Gillingham method of reading instruction through the Dyslexia Training Institute. Patrice left her career in retail management in 2009 after stints managing for a number of local businesses, including GreenStar Cooperative Market, Ithaca Bakery, and Borders Books and Music. Patrice is a native Ithacan who feels at home in Montessori classrooms, being an alumna of both the Ithaca Montessori School and Ithaca’s now defunct public Montessori K-2 program, and having spent countless hours in her mother’s school, Montessori County Day from 1975 through 2005; pretty much “growing up” in a Montessori environment.
She lives in Danby with her children, cats, corn snake, hamster,chickens and guinea fowl and her new puppy. Patrice enjoys researching and learning the answer to any “why…” or “how…” questions she is asked, and reading anything and everything she has time for.
Rebecca Couillard covers the front office and general administrative duties. She has been in the Ithaca area since coming to Cornell University in 1987. She completed her B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering in 1991 and her Ph.D. in Fiber Science in 1998 at Cornell. Her daughter graduated from EACMSI in 2013. Rebecca teaches scuba diving and enjoys playing her cello in several local ensembles.
Becky Booth grew up in Germany, attending both German and American Schools. She moved to the U.S. to attend the University of Kentucky, where she majored in Elementary Education and minored in German Linguistics. After graduating she worked in a Montessori school that only had Primary classes. It was there that she discovered her love of the philosophy. While the school made plans to expand it’s program to include a Junior Level, Becky went to Xavier University to get a Masters in Montessori Elementary education. She designed the Junior Level environment and curriculum for Providence Montessori School in Lexington Kentucky. She taught there until the birth of her first child and subsequent move to Gainesville, Florida. Since then Becky, her husband Jim and their three children have had the wonderful opportunity of living in Canberra, Australia, Fort Collins, CO and finally Ithaca in 2003. Originally it was only supposed to be a one year stay but Jim, her husband was offered a permanent position. Becky decided to check out the local Montessori schools, and immediately felt a connection to EACMSI. She started subbing in primary and Junior Level, and once her children started going to college took a full time position teaching in Junior Level, working with Scott, Deb and Mel. After a two year sabbatical, during which she lived in Connecticut, Australia and spent time with her new grandson, she is looking forward to rejoicing the EACMSI community in the 21-22 school year.
Meridith is our Primary/Extended Day Team Leader and graduated from SUNY Environmental Sciences and Forestry in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She has several years of experience working for agencies in Syracuse and Ithaca that support and advocate for people with disabilities. Meridith received her early childhood Montessori certification through the Northeast Montessori Institute. She has a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Endicott College. Nature and the outdoors are a big part of her life where she enjoys camping, hiking and baseball. Meridith lives in Spencer with her wife Pat, her dog and two cats. I
Terry Cater-Cyker is responsible for school-wide scheduling and overall program quality and consistency. Terry also serves as Master Teacher liaison in support of Specialty Teachers and Teaching Teams. Terry earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work from Cornell University and did some graduate work in Special Education at Mansfield College. Prior to motherhood, she worked as a school social worker and chaired the Spencer Van Etten school district’s Committee for Special Education. Terry was involved in LaLeche League, serving as a leader for three years and also taught Sunday school and chaired her church’s religious education committee. Terry completed her Upper Level Montessori training at CMTE/NY. Terry has three children, all who are EACMSI graduates! Now also a grandmother, she enjoys spending time with her 7 grandchildren.
Liz Allen is our Dean of Students. Her role is to foster a positive and engaging learning environment that enables all students to flourish. This involves supporting students and families as needed throughout their trajectory at EACMSI. She works closely with teachers, The Child Study team, and Learning Support Specialists. She taught at the Primary and Extended Day Level for 20 years, and was the Level Leader for the 10 years. In addition to her Montessori training, Liz has significant experience supporting young people and their families in dealing with mental health concerns. She has been on the board of Finger Lakes National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) for 3 years, including serving as board vice-president. Liz earned her B.A. in Mathematics from the University of New Hampshire. Liz has two children who are both EACMSI graduates. She lives in Ithaca with her husband Glenn.
Dawn Locke Grover is EACMSI’s Head of School. With 31 years of experience as a Montessori educator, Dawn believes that a Montessori education not only fosters strong academic development, but guides each student to recognize their value and their potential. In doing so, each student acknowledges their role in creating a more peaceful and just world.
Dawn first fell in love with the Montessori philosophy in 1990 when teaching 3-6 year old children and pursuing a master’s degree in Experiential Education. She next focused on 6-12 year old children, completing her Elementary Montessori Training in 1996. Both desire to travel and professional opportunity have led to a variety of Montessori teaching situations for Dawn over the years. Wanting to settle closer to their roots, Dawn and her husband, Scott, moved their family to Ithaca in 2003 when she began teaching Junior Level children at EACMSI. While at EACMSI, she has been a classroom teacher, the Junior level team leader, a member of the administrative team, and, most importantly, a parent.
In her personal time, Dawn loves to read, hike, camp, travel, make art, and play games. She lives on West Hill with her husband, Scott, their son, Cameron, and their daughter, Lily. Both Cameron and Lily are alumni of EACMSI, having attended starting when they were 3 and graduating from EACMSI’s middle school program.
Sophia graduated from Sarah Lawrence College in 2006 with a B.A. in creative writing and literature. She grew up in Ithaca and attended LACS, where she first became passionate about non-traditional methods of education. Before finding EAC she worked at Cornell Cooperative Extension as an Outreach Educator for Students with Interrupted Formal Education (SIFE). Sophia fell in love with the Montessori method of education during the two years she spent working in the EAC After-School program and primary classrooms, and went on to complete her Lower Elementary Montessori training at the Barrie School’s Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies in Maryland. Sophia lives with her husband Tino, and dog Darla, and enjoys writing, eating tasty food, playing the piano, and spending quiet time in the woods.
Tiana currently teaches junior level, upper level and middle school Art at EAC.
She holds a BFA in Ceramics from SUNY Buffalo, and a teaching license in Art Education K-12 from Metro State Denver.
She studied Ceramics at Haystack Mountain School of Arts and Crafts, Maine College of Art, Colorado University at Boulder and mentored at The Roycroft Pottery in East Aurora, NY.
She worked for 12 years as an elementary and middle school art teacher for Denver Public Schools. During those years she was involved in numerous community based art projects.
Her passion is working with clay and teaching art to children, teens and adults. She loves to dabble in all other mediums as well. She currently owns and operates Orange Poppy, a jewelry and accessory line, and teaches classes at The Clay School of Ithaca.
Kathrin Achenbach was born and raised in Germany, and studied Romance languages and psychology at the University of Siegen. Her passion for language brought her to Madrid, Spain where she taught at the Inlingua International School of Languages. She has since worked as a teacher and translator in Buenos Aires and Barcelona and traveled extensively through Central America and the Iberian Peninsula. Kathrin has a special interest in applied linguistics and how a second language is effectively acquired, integrated and maintained.
At the heart of it all is the exploration of how people use language to express themselves, make connections, share knowledge and bridge diverse cultures and experience.
She is also the executive director of WEAVE Community, a local non-profit, which cultivates opportunities for honest conversations between diverse social, cultural and economic groups.
Jim Hodges joined the EAC Montessori Adolescent Program in August 2002. Prior to this, Jim spent 13 years as Lead Teacher of the Middle School at The Susquehanna School in Binghamton, NY, where he developed an integrated curriculum for adolescents and taught all subjects. Jim earned his B.A. in English from the University at Albany and his MAT in English from Binghamton University. He has permanent NY State teacher certification for grades pre-K to 6 and secondary English, and received his Montessori Adolescent training at the NAMTA Montessori Academy at Loyola College in Baltimore. Jim enjoys running, cycling, gardening, hiking, and camping, among other outdoor activities, interests he enjoys sharing with students. He lives with his wife, Tina, former Junior Level teacher and founding principal of New Roots Charter School, at Ecovillage at Ithaca.
Badsha holds a B.Sc in Computing and Information Systems and an M.A in Child Study and Education from the University of Toronto. After spending several years working as an Upper Elementary lead teacher in private educational institutions in Canada, the United States, and India, Badsha joined the Upper Level Team at Elizabeth Ann Clune Montessori in January of 2019. Born and raised in South Africa, during apartheid and the time of the country’s transition into a modern democracy, Badsha’s identity as a teacher is influenced by the concept of Ubuntu, which is based on notions of community, inter-generational respect and mutuality.Badsha utilizes the modality of inquiry-based lesson plans and project-based assessment strategies to bring awareness to issues of social justice and inequity while promoting intercultural understanding. Badsha is thrilled to be part of the community at EAC where students are inspired to become life-long learners and are encouraged to cultivate a more conscious and caring world community.
Marisa is currently in training for Upper Level Elementary through the Center for Guided Montessori Studies and conducting her internship year. She is also is the program coordinator and an instructor of the Center for Montessori Education’s Infant/Toddler Guide Training Program in New Rochelle NY. She is certified at the Infant/Toddler level through CME|NY and was the head guide of the toddler community at the Montessori Children’s Center in White Plains NY for 5 years prior to moving to the Ithaca Area in 2010. She trains new Montessori teachers throughout the US and Asia. Marisa began working with children through tutoring with The Sisters of Mercy Mission in an urban development in Wilkes-Barre, PA and continued as a student advisor with Project Upward Bound for many years. She graduated from Wilkes University with majors in Political Science and Sociology. She believes deeply in the values and connection of service. She loves astronomy, physics, fiber work, theatre, and gardening. Marisa lives in Candor, NY with her husband, Rob, two children, Rowan and Maeve (both current EACMSI students) and their cat, Ginger.
Marianne Montague holds a B.S. in Early Childhood & Elementary Education from Chestnut Hill College and an MSW in Social Policy Analysis & Research from Rutgers University. For thirteen years Marianne moved between employment as an elementary classroom teacher in various educational settings, to work as a policy analyst/researcher in an education laboratory. In 1993 she fortuitously discovered the magic of a Montessori education when she enrolled her then young son in the Ithaca Montessori School. The following year she received her Montessori training at the Princeton Center for Teacher Education and ran the Toddler Program at IMS from 1994-1999. She completed her Upper Elementary Montessori training at CMTE in New York and joined our staff in 1998.
Karen McCaffery holds a B.S. in Psychology from SUNY Oswego. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Senegal, working in forestry and environmental education. She returned to NY to study agroecosystem science at Cornell University where she earned her M.S. and Ph.D. Field research took her to the Brazilian Amazon where she studied agroforestry. She fell in love with Montessori Philosophy in 2003 when she became a mother. She earned her Early Childhood Certification in 2007 while working at Cayuga Heights Montessori House. She completed her Upper Elementary Training through the College for Montessori Teacher Education (CMTE) in 2013. She loves ethnobotany, ecosystem science, exploring nature, Yoga, swimming, and the sport of triathlon. She joined the EACMSI community in 2012 along with her sons, Sean (2003) and Brian (2005).
Melani began her journey in the EAC community in 1984. She holds a B.S. in Physical Education from SUNY Cortland and created and implemented the first Physical Education program at the EAC Montessori School. She then took her Montessori Primary training in 1985 at NAMPTA in Boston, and completed her 6-9 training at CMTE/New Rochelle in 2000. Melani has completed initial training in Brain Gym® and is certified in Movement Based Learning. Melani shares her love of movement and collaborates with teachers to implement ongoing Movement lessons for the Primary and Junior Level classes. Melani co-authored Movement Matters, a Movement Album for Montessori Early Childhood Programs. She presents Movement Matters Workshops internationally as well as presenting at National Montessori Conferences. Melani enjoys playing the guitar and piano and singing with the children. She is an artist and brings experience and passion for watercolor to the classroom as well. Her background in music and theater support her commitment to the choreography and direction of the end of the year school musical. Melani’s two children, Tim and Annali, are alumni of EAC and have subsequently graduated with degrees in musical theater from SUNY Cortland. Melani lives out in the country with her husband, Tom, a professor of Physical Education at SUNY Cortland.
Donyan Shadions received her AMS certification from CMTE in 2002. She taught at the Primary Level for 2 years before being asked to start a Montessori school in EACMSI’s founder Andrea’s honor in the Caraballo Haitian Batey of the Dominican Republic. This entailed learning Spanish while living among the Dominican and Haitian people in this rural village without modern amenities such as running water and electricity. She was responsible for creating a functioning Montessori classroom using material she had brought with her, as well as hiring and training local women to assist her. Donyan trained her assistants and prepared them to run the program in her absence. The lives of the village women and children were transformed as Donyan shared the Montessori Method with them. In 2006, Donyan returned to her native state of Ohio where she worked as an Activities Director in a Residential Care Facility. She took the opportunity to implement the Montessori Method with patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s to support independence and improve working memory. In addition to this work, Donyan also volunteered as a bi-lingual parent educator at Women’s Network. Donyan returned to EACMSI in 2008 to teach at the Primary Level. She is interested in movement as a vehicle for learning as well as individual learning styles. Donyan attained certification in Thai Yoga Therapy in 2012 and utilizes this expertise to support children and their sensory needs. Donyan offers parent education workshops to provide parents with a fuller understanding of the Montessori Method. Donyan lives with her daughter Zairra, a student at EACMSI. Among her many passions are empowering girls to have a positive body image. She loves yoga, Spanish and German language practice and the Montessori lifestyle.
Leah Erato has been working with children for over 18 years in a variety of settings. Her passion for Montessori was sparked while working with the inspiring staff in Upper Level as an aide. After three years at EACMSI she followed her heart, completed her 3-6 training, and received her Primary Certification in June 2011 from CMTE. Leah lives in Ithaca with her dancing daughter Emma and sweet son Jack. In her spare time she loves to sew, paint, bake and read. Leah and her family can often be found hiking with their pup Caper or chasing chickens around their yard.
Whitney is responsible for managing the software used each day by EAC families and staff to ensure smooth operations of the school. She maintains and supports ParentsWeb, FACTS and PickUp Patrol. She handles student registrations and supports Admissions, Accounting, Communications, and the Front Office. Whitney grew up in Chapel Hill, NC, graduating from UNC. (Go TarHeels!). She worked in software tech support and managed software development projects for Sabre Business Travel Solutions/Travelocity for several years before moving to Ithaca in 2001. Her husband, Jeff is the eBird Development Lead at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology. They have two (wonderful and occasionally challenging) children, Grace (EAC graduate) and Tractor (EAC Middle Schooler). Whitney enjoys traveling, exploring nature, knitting, and most introvert endeavors.
Lisa Smith is our Chief Operating Officer and is ultimately responsible for all administrative decisions. Lisa oversees finances, facilities and Admissions and is responsible for building and maintaining a strong leadership team. Lisa joined EACMSI in July of 2002 as our Business Administrator. Lisa has been a steward of the School’s resources and is responsible for prudent budgeting, financial management and has overseen numerous capital projects. Over the past 10 years Lisa has worked closely with the Board and has overseen the annual budget. During that time Lisa also grew the school’s enrollment. Lisa earned her B.A. in Political Science from Ithaca College and her M.S. in Applied Science from Watson School of Engineering at Binghamton University. Lisa lives in Newfield with her husband Scott.
Anne works with students, families and staff facilitating conflict resolution and problem solving social and developmental issues. She oversees our Special Education services, our Health Curriculum, and the community/parent observations at school. Anne began her relationship with EACMSI in 1997 as our school nurse. She has been an RN and Family Nurse Practitioner since 1980. Anne is also licensed as a Master’s prepared Social Worker in New York State. She enjoys experiences in nature and the beauty of the Ithaca area. Anne’s adult children live and work in Austin, TX.