Below please find biographies for several of the lecturers and faculty members at the The Montessori Residency of Chicago.
Rita Nolan is the Montessori Network Executive and the founder of the Montessori School of Englewood. She previously served as the Upper School Director for Chicago’s Near North Montessori School from 2003 and 2009. Originally from Ireland, Rita has a degree in Geography and Greek and Roman Civilization from the University College Dublin. Ms. Nolan also holds an M. Ed in Curriculum and Instruction and is certified in the Montessori Method at the primary and elementary levels. Rita was selected as a Ryan Fellow and had the opportunity to gain entrepreneurial insights on education reform learned through a Summer Institute at Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management and a Field Study at Alain Locke Charter School. Rita is an Experience School Leader with a demonstrated history of working in the nonprofit organization management industry. Rita displays experience in Operation Start-up for Nonprofit Organizations, Instructional Leadership, and school curriculum. During her tenure as Executive Director, Rita was instrumental in creating the Chicago Montessori Residency Program to grow the ranks of Montessori Public Schools for children living in underserved communities. Rita was granted the Dennis Schapiro Award for Innovation in Montessori Teacher Education, which is awarded to individuals who have brought significant change to teacher education. Rita has presented at many State and National Conferences focusing on Montessori pedagogy and its application in under-resourced communities.
Stephanie Toon has been part of the Montessori School of Englewood community for six years, and has been involved with TMROC for four. She holds a dual undergrad degree from the University of Wisconsin in English and Political Science, as well as a Master’s Degree from the University of Illinois in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management. She began her career in teaching as an AMS certified instructor at MSE in a 6-9 classroom when the school first opened. Following three years of experience in the school, she became the Department Head of Lower Elementary, managing a team of six teachers at her grade band. Stephanie is also a teacher trainer, instructional coach, and Montessori consultant at other public Montessori schools in Chicago. Most recently, she accepted a position as the Director of Training of the The Montessori Residency of Chicago. This urban Montessori training center is housed at the Montessori School of Englewood.
Maria Barksdale is a former home-schooler and a mother of five (and grandmother of two). She holds a degree in education and taught in both public (3years) and private (2years) schools. I am currently the lead upper elementary teacher at The Montessori School of Englewood in Chicago. I have been with the school since its inception in 2012 and have taught at the lower elementary, upper elementary and middle school classrooms.
Dr. Nyela Wells
Currently, the principal at The Montessori School of Englewood (TMSOE), Dr. Nyela Wells, joined TMSOE in 2015 with 20 years of experience in education. She has taught at different grade levels in private and public schools and held leadership positions. Before coming to TMSOE, she taught academic and business language strategies in public schools on the West, North, and Southside of Chicago. Dr. Wells has also taught at City Colleges of Chicago since 2015. Dr. Wells grew up in Chicago and attended school in the East Garfield Park neighborhood. She received her undergraduate degree from Northeastern Illinois University in Psychology with a specialization in Educational Psychology. She earned her master’s degree in Urban Studies Education, a second master’s in Adult Education, and finally, a doctorate in Educational Leadership focusing on racial and social justice issues in education settings. Her research interests include African Diaspora Studies, White Supremacy, Intellectual Racism, Culturally Relevant Teaching, and Systemic Racism.
Before teaching at The Montessori School of Englewood, Jamie was an attorney with a law firm in Washington, D.C. that specialized in anti-terrorism law and medical malpractice, litigating cases in D.C. and New York federal court. She also served as a law clerk at the Cook County Office of the Public Guardian, where she assisted with motion writing, client interviews, and conducted juvenile court hearings on behalf of children in the DCFS foster care system. Jamie has a bachelor’s degree in English from Bowdoin College, and a Law Degree from Loyola University Chicago. She was a classroom teacher in Philadelphia after completing the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows program, and later completed her Montessori training with the AMI Institute of Milwaukee. Jamie also taught at Montessori School of Lake Forest.
Lindsay Falzone graduated with a bachelor’s in education from Michigan State University. She holds a master's in Elementary Education from National Louis and is a certified 6-9 Montessori Teacher and a fully trained 9-12 teacher, accredited at MMTTC. She has taught Montessori for 11 years and has taught at both the 6-9 and 9-12 levels. She currently teaches in a 6-9 room at Oscar Mayer Elementary, where she has been for the last five years.
As a Montessori child, Ms. Buckingham fell in love with the Montessori philosophy and environment. Today, she is a Montessori teacher, and her passion is to follow each child as an individual. Nature has also had an enormous influence on her everyday life. She spends a lot of time exploring the outdoors and nature has become a part of the day to day curriculum in her classroom. The cultural area of the curriculum supports her passion for life science and nature. Currently, she has a beautiful public Montessori classroom in Chicago. She has 25 3 to 6-year-old students. Her love for the Montessori philosophy thrives every day as she continues her education and growth as a Montessori teacher.
Norah O’Brien has taught for over 20 years at Montessori schools in Chicago, San Diego, and Atlanta. Her Montessori journey began long before she started teaching, when her mother made the decision to take her to a Montessori parent-infant class. Montessori has been an integral part of her life. She is currently in her 13th year as a public Montessori teacher, having taught both Elementary 1 and Early Childhood, and her 18th year of being a Montessori parent. She believes that the appreciation the Montessori philosophy has for following the child and allowing children to flourish within a safe, prepared, and sequential environment compares to no other kind of learning environment. The joy of watching a child make an independent discovery and take ownership of her learning inspires her every day as an educator and lifelong learner.
Karen Neary has been working in elementary education for almost 20 years. She currently works as the Montessori Coordinator at Oscar Mayer School within Chicago Public Schools. She started at Mayer School as an Elementary 1 teacher, receiving her Montessori certification at MMTTC. She also became a National Board-certified teacher while working in an Elem. 1 classroom. She was a career changer in elementary education after being accepted to teach through Inner City Teaching Corp in Chicago. She decided to teach after becoming interested in urban education, specifically literacy instruction. She taught traditional 3rd grade for several years, then received her Masters in Education from UIC in Language and Literacy/Reading Specialist and worked as a literacy coach before discovering the world of Montessori. Before teaching, she received her BS in Biology from the University of Scranton. She also received her Masters in Education in College Administration from the Loyola University of Chicago and worked in college student affairs at two Jesuit colleges before becoming a teacher.
Dakota Prosch has taught for 20 years at the 4th-8th grade levels. An AMI trained guide, she worked as an Upper Elementary Teacher in Chicago. She currently works in Denver Public Schools at Academia Ana Marie Sandoval Montessori School as an Upper Elementary Guide.
Kathryn Edmonds holds a bachelor of Science in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Western Michigan University, with an emphasis on integrating arts into curriculum. She is also an Early Childhood Montessori certified teacher, receiving her degree from Midwest Montessori Training Program in Riverwoods Illinois. She currently works at Oscar Mayer Magnet School in Chicago, IL as a primary guide.