Our Guides and Staff

Ms. Irma Letson – serving you since 1978

Irma Thomas - Tempe Montessori Executive Director and OwnerFounder & Executive Director AMI Primary and Elementary Certified
Irma Letson is the founder of TMS and has been involved with Montessori Education for over 30 years. An Arizona State Certified Guide with over 40 years of teaching experience, Mrs. Letson has a Masters Degree in Special Education from ASU and a BA in speech from California State College at LA, and is a reading specialist. Between completing her education at ASU and discovering the Montessori Method, she worked for ten years at Devereaux Day School, a private school in Scottsdale for children with special needs. In 1989 she completed the AMI Elementary Guide training at the Washington Montessori Institute in Washington, D.C. She has two AMI teaching diplomas in the Primary and Elementary levels. In 1977 she was introduced to Maaika Van Theil, a guide at a Montessori School in Tucson who worked with Maria Montessori. Maaika Van Theil’s presence and school were an inspiration and Irma knew what she had to do. Irma founded TMS in the summer of 1978 and is well into its 3rd decade of delivering Montessori education to children in the Tempe AZ area. Irma has always provided an even and steady perspective and plans to guide the School into the next generation.

Jessica Cutty – serving you since 2010


Jessica has been a member of Tempe Montessori School since 2010, starting as the Associate Director. After 2 years, she took on the role of Director. She is also an alumni, having attended TMS from ages 2 – 10yrs. Jessica graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education. She has taught students Pre-k to 5th grade in many educational settings such as Private, Public, Charter and Montessori. She has worked with all ages of children throughout her life and is honored to be a part of the Tempe Montessori family.

Teaching Staff


NIDO Education

Lauren Bolar – serving you since 1999


Associate Director AMI A to I Certified Lauren Bolar is an alumna of Tempe Montessori School and has worked here since 1999. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2009 with a BS in Business Administration. She completed her AMI training for A to I Assistants to Infancy in 2011. She has served as a personal nanny for many years and enjoys participating in different community service projects to help the Arizona families and the community. Lauren is also the Associate director at TMS.


Shantidas Leyba – serving you since 2013

Nido Assistant
Shantidas attended TMS in her formative years (1990-1996). As the oldest of four, she finds herself naturally drawn to caring for others. During her time as a student in Italy, where she received her degree in Fashion Design, Shantidas was an active volunteer at an assisted living community for the mentally disabled. Shantidas is currently at ASU as a creative writing student. Ever since she can remember, her first and foremost goal has been to someday publish a children’s book dedicated to her TMS primary guide Mrs. Nazli, whom she credits as her most influential guide.

Kimberly Reyes-Arroyo – serving you since 2015

Nido Assistant / Floater
kimHello my name is Kimberly. I am originally from Longbeach, California. I have experience working with children starting at age 10. I am pursuing my dream to become a doctor or psychologist. I love to cook, bake, sing, and the outdoors. I am looking forward to becoming a part of the Tempe Montessori family and getting to become a part of yours.



Toddler Education

Ms. Cindy Draper – serving you since 1998

Ms. Cindy Draper - AMI Certified - Assistance to Infancy Guide AMI Assistants to Infancy (0 to 3 years) Guide
Cindy is a toddler guide who completed her Assistants to Infancy training (A.I.) in 2002. She has a background in the toddler community as an assistant for 3 years and has studied child development from North Pioneer College. She has also worked with Head Start Programs for seven years. Cindy is an active member in the Navajo Community and has taught Navajo arts and culture. Ms. Cindy has three daughters and a son who are former students of Tempe Montessori School. Cindy teaches the toddler class here at Tempe Montessori. Her patient presence is perfect guidance for the toddlers that are with her age 14 to 36 months.

Aurianna Farley – serving you since 2016

auriannaToddler Assistant
Aurianna was born in Phoenix, AZ and was raised in Southern California. She has dreamed of being a guide since she was 8 years old and has always loved children. She currently attends Mesa Community College and is working toward a single-subject teaching credential in biology. Aurianna is ecstatic to be working with the children at Tempe Montessori and finds it a wonderful start to her teaching career.


Angelica Matus – serving you since 2016

Angelica MatusToddler Assistant
Angelica Matus was born and raised in Southern California. She loves to help others and is happy to work with the toddlers. She believes that by helping the younger children, “I can make a change in the world.” As a mother of a 7 years old, she agrees with the Montessori Philosophy and loves that fact that she will be able to assist Mrs. Cindy to aid the children in their development. Angelica is excited to be a part of the TMS family and with her great energy she knows she can make a change one child at a time.

Primary Education

Ms. Judith Gorlick – serving you since 2016

Judith Gorlick AMI Primary Lead Guide
Judith Gorlick was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. She graduated from the University of Guelph in 1979 with a Bachelor’s of Science, Majoring in Animal & Poultry Science. She is a mother of 2 sons, the youngest attending an AMI Montessori school over 15 years ago in Camp Verde, AZ. As a Montessori mom, Judith joined the staff by designing the Outdoor Environment, then worked as an Assistant in the Primary classroom for 12 years. She completed her 3 year AMI Primary Teacher training in July 2016. Judith accepted a position as Primary Lead Guide at TMS that fall and opened the doors of a new classroom in January 2017. She is a Second-Degree Black Belt and a Certified Clinical Herbalist from the New Mexico Institute of Herbal Medicine. Judith loves working with young children and following Maria Montessori’s philosophy as a guide to their growth and natural development.

Ms. Smita Devani – serving you since 1997

staffpicAMI Primary Guide
Smita is a head primary guide. Smita was born in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa. After finishing high school she went to England to further her studies in computers. She got married in England and moved to Canada with her husband, where she pursued her career in computers. She moved to Arizona in 1994 and joined TMS in 1997 as an assistant. Smita completed her AMI training in May 2004. She enjoys children and has two girls who are TMS alumni. Her broad awareness clearly perceives the many activities all around her as she guides and coaches the work of the children. Her continuing years at Tempe Montessori School continue to be rewarding for her students.

Ashlee Carroll – serving you since 2012

AMI Primary Guide
Hi my name is Ms. Ashlee. I have worked in Montessori since 2008 and with Tempe Montessori School since 2010. I am a mother to a handsome boy. During my free time I enjoy scrapbooking and cooking. I look forward to another amazing school year.



Ana Maria Almaalouli – serving you since 2014

Primary Assistant
AnaHi! My name is Ana Maria Almaalouli. I was born and raised in Damascus, Syria. I moved to the USA December 2003. I have a bachelor degree in music and another bachelor degree in French literature. I speak Arabic and French. I did play violin with the Syrian National Symphony Orchestra in Syria and currently play for the Tempe Symphony Orchestra. Because I enjoy working with little kids I decided to get my AMI diploma in 2013 and worked as a guide assistant at Fresno Montessori School in CA.

Elementary Education

Deryn Winchester – serving you since 2014

Elementary Guide
Deryn Bio PIc TempeDeryn Winchester has spent her educational career helping children learn and unfold their full potential through the Montessori method. Ms. Winchester holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Colorado College. Her graduate work includes a Masters in Education from Loyola University in Baltimore, MD, an AMS Infant/Toddler Diploma from the Center for Montessori Guide Education, and an AMI Elementary Diploma from Washington Montessori Institute. Ms. Winchester has over 18 years of experience as a volunteer, assistant, and guide in the Toddler, Primary and Elementary levels. She directed her past Elementary class at Mountain Laurel Montessori in Virginia for 12 years. Ms. Winchester has recently moved to Phoenix and is thrilled to soon be back in the thick of classroom life where creativity, discoveries, mastery, and research flourish. She especially appreciates supporting the students within all levels of their development — physical, emotional, and intellectual.

Jeriece Irving – serving you since 2014

Elementary Assistant
JerieceJeriece is a native of beautiful Arizona. She attended high school at Mountain Point high school where she was a standout athlete, making it possible for her to earn a full athletic scholarship in Women’s basketball. She spent two years at Odessa College in Odessa Texas before transferring to West Virginia University where she majored in journalism. This will be Jeriece’s first year here at Tempe Montesorri as the elementary after care guide. However, she is not new to the philosophy of Tempe Montessori! She had a younger sister attend school here in her primary years, and she is very excited to jump back into the Montessori method where she knows children thrive and shine.

Cailin Mills – serving you since 2014

Primary AssistantCailin
Cailin has been working with Tempe Montessori since 2014. Cailin is attending Mesa Community College earning her AA in science. She will further her education at NAU to pursue a bachelor in Child Psychology. Cailin is thrilled to be working with the children at Tempe Montessori and to help them develop both physically and mentally.



Cassie Kennedy – serving you since 2015

Aftercare/Office assistant
Cassie Kennedy
Cassie has been working with us since 2015. She grew up in Flagstaff and went through Montessori school up until 7th grade. She loves working with children and loves the Montessori teaching philosophy.




Jennifer Kossman – serving you since 2014

Primary Aftercare Assistant

Jennifer Kossman Tempe Montessori SchoolJennifer Kossman has had 2 years of experience as a full time nanny prior to working at Tempe Montessori since April 2014. She loves being around children of all ages and especially getting to know each one and helping assist them in each classroom as a floater. As a child she was in an Air Force family and as a grown up she has developed a love of traveling. She has attended Scottsdale Community College and has a passion for all aspects of film making, creative writing, and the art of storytelling.