Ms. Irma Letson, Founder & Executive Director – serving you since 1978
Irma Letson is the founder of TMS and has been involved with Montessori Education for over 40 years. An Arizona State Certified Teacher 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 Teacher training at the Washington Montessori Institute in Washington, D.C. She has 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 4th 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, Director – serving you since 2010
Jessica Cutty joined Tempe Montessori School in 2010. She attended TMS from ages 2yrs – 10yrs. Jessica graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis on Early childhood education and earned her Director’s Certification in Education from Rio Salado College in 2016. She has taught in various educational settings including traditional, private, charter and Montessori with children 0 – 6th grade. Jessica enjoys spending time with her family, reading and traveling. She is honored to be a part of the Tempe Montessori family.
“Our care of the child should be governed, not by desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence” – Maria Montessori
Lauren Bolar, Associate Director – serving you since 1999
Lauren is an alumna of Tempe Montessori and has worked with children since 1999. She believes in the Montessori Philosophy and Pedagogy wholeheartedly. She continues to work for the children and let them guide her through their needs and developmental milestones. She received her BS in Business Administration from Arizona State University in 2009. She completed her AMI Assistance to Infancy (A to I) course from the Montessori Institute of San Diego in 2011 and completed her AMI Primary (3-6) course from the Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies in 2018. Lauren was a Lead Guide in the Nido classroom for 9 years and oversees the education for 0-6. She also acts as the Associate Director of Tempe Montessori. She enjoys participating in community events and giving back to Ryan’s House and the Down Syndrome Association. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, travel and continuing her education.
“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by a reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.” Maria Montessori
Cassie Kennedy, Office Administrator – serving you since 2015
Cassie Kennedy was raised in beautiful Northern Arizona and moved to the Phoenix area in 2008. She is acquiring a degree in Business Administration and Management with a touch on Law Enforcement studies. Her desire is to have a career administering or managing in a field helping and serving the public, whether it is with the city, state, or local school.
In her free time, she enjoys being outdoors, painting, and being with people she loves. Cassie and her older brother first attended the infant program at a local Montessori school in Mesa, AZ and continued with the Montessori Schools of Flagstaff until 7th and 8th grade. Cassie’s Montessori education is credited to her becoming the being she is today. “One of my favorite things about working at Tempe Montessori School is getting to see the inborn knowledge our Nido-Elementary children have and being able to witness it blossom in the classroom.”
Angelica Matus, Office Assistant – serving you since 2016
Angelica was born and raised in Southern California. She loves to help others and is happy to work in the office helping both the students and parents. As a mother of a ten-year-old, she believes in the Montessori Philosophy and loves that she is able to assist Tempe Montessori and aid the children in their development.
“Free the child’s potential and you will transform him into the world.” Maria Montessori
NIDO Education – 3 months – 15 months
Shantidas Leyba, Lead Nido Teacher – serving you since 2013
Shantidas is an Arizona native, wife, and mother to a very active 8-month-old daughter. She attended Tempe Montessori School from 3-9 years old and has always credited her curiosity and love of learning to her Montessori upbringing; she loves being back at TMS as an adult to guide other children in their own discoveries of themselves and their environment. In 2009, she received her degree in Fashion Design from Istituto Marangoni in Italy. She had been an assistant in the Nido room since 2013 and has completed the AMI Assistants Trainings for A to I (0-3) as well as for Primary. Shantidas is taking her Assistants to Infancy training at the Southwest Institute for Montessori Studies beginning in August of 2019. She is very passionate about Montessori education and is excited to be taking on the role of lead guide in the Nido room.
Nattiauna Tsosie, Nido Assistant – serving you since 2018
Nattiauna’s career in the Montessori environment started as a student in the TMS elementary classroom. Since then, she attended New School for the Arts and Academics majoring in photography and ceramics. Unraveling her psyche through art led her back to her passion for peace and love. Ms. Natti has plans for furthering her AMI education, with big hopes of developing instrumental environments, beneficial for children and educators. With a Montessorian as a mother, she’s been taught children are the future. Finding a passion for helping the future has inspired many embers of change inside her heart. Said by Dr. Montessori “Whoever touches the life of a child touches the most sensitive point of a whole which has roots in the most distant past and climbs towards the infinite future”. She is back home where she grew up with friends, siblings, and many teachers. She could not be happier to continue to grow and be inspired by the beauty of the natural being.
Lauren Webber, Nido and Aftercare Assistant – serving you since 2018
Lauren Webber is a current junior at Arizona State University. Prior to attending ASU, she spent two years up at Northern Arizona University. She is now working on finishing her degree in nursing. After she graduates she hopes to return to school to obtain her master’s degree to become a pediatric nurse practitioner. Lauren has been babysitting since high school and has experience volunteering with children at summer camps. She is working as a primary aftercare teacher, and is very excited to be a part of this amazing staff!
Toddler Education – 15 months – 3 years
Ms. Cindy Draper, Lead Toddler Teacher- serving you since 1998
Cindy is an Assistant to Infancy Directress at Tempe Montessori School since 1998. In 1993, she graduated with an Early Childhood Development Associates Degree from Northland Pioneer College. In 2003, she successfully completed the AMI Assistants to Infancy Course taught by Dr. Montanaro. Before working at TMS, her time was devoted to teaching and guiding Navajo families through center and home base Headstart and Family and Child Education (F.A.C.E.) Programs, assisting public elementary teachers, as well as the Department of Health and Nutrition. During her Montessori Journey, she has been balancing her time continuously empowering parents, children and herself with knowledge during class time, home consultations, babysitting, educational courses and trainings around the globe. Outside of her commitment to educating young ones, she runs a single mother household and remains active in preserving the Earth, sacred sites, traditions, ceremonies and homelands of Indigenous People around the world. She believes all children deserve to successfully thrive holistically in the environment around them. She truly values her role as a guide to the children and families as we build their foundation for the rest of their lives, together.
Maribel Vega, Toddler Assistant – serving you since 2018
Maribel has three children and two stepsons. She has a passion for working with children and it is what she loves to do. She has been working with children for as long as she can remember and can’t wait to learn more about the Montessori Philosophy. She enjoys seeing them grow and learn different things. It makes her proud because she is making a positive difference in every child’s life.
Ms. Cailin Mills, Lead Toddler Teacher, serving you since 2019
Cailin is a native Arizonan and has worked with all ages of children for 15 years. She has focused solely on Montessori since 2013. Cailin is pursuing her bachelors in Psychology at Arizona State University and will be finished in December 2019. She eventually wants to pursue a Masters degree in Occupational Therapy. She has a true passion in Montessori specifically with the toddler age group. She has completed her AMS 0-3 years through North American Montessori Center. She will continue to pursue her AMI (A to I). Cailin is very excited to join the TMS culture once again. In her free time, she loves to hike, travel, and workout.
Olivia Cisick, Toddler Assistant – serving you since 2018
Olivia was born in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. She moved to Mesa at a young age but still enjoys visiting her hometown during the summers. Olivia comes from a family of five siblings which makes childcare fairly natural for her. She also has experience working as a TSS (Therapeutic Support Staff). She aspires to have a career in healthcare as an ultrasound technician. But until then, she enjoys working with the toddlers!
Primary Education – 3-6 years
Ms. Smita Devani, Lead Primary Teacher – serving you since 1997
Ms. Smita was born in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa. After finishing high school, she moved to England to further her studies in computers. She married her wonderful husband and moved to Canada, 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 alumnae. Her broad awareness clearly perceives the many activities all around her as she guides and coaches the work of the children. With many years of experience and expertise in her field and with her love and passion for the Montessori Pedagogy and Philosophy, she helps guide the children daily. She loves observing the children grow and develop into their fullest potential.
Mrs. Dhara Parekh, Primary Assistant – serving you since 2017
Dhara was born and raised in Mumbai, India and moved to the USA in 2009. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Home Science with specialization in Early Childhood Care and Education. Dhara completed the AMI Primary Diploma from the Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies in Phoenix in 2013. She has four years of experience working in a Preschool in Mumbai, India and has been a Teacher assistant at an After-school Program in NJ. Her hobbies are Swimming, Hiking and Watching Movies. “I am very motivated to apply my knowledge and experience and commit myself in making a difference in a child’s life by understanding children’s needs and guiding them in their development during the early years.”
Ashlee Saenz, Lead Primary Teacher – serving you since 2011
Ashlee first joined Tempe Montessori in 2011 working as an assistant in the Primary classroom. She completed her AMI training from the Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies in 2016. She is a mother to a 9-year-old son who is a Tempe Montessori Alumni. She truly believes the Montessori philosophy provides the most natural way for children to learn. The hands-on, individualized materials and methods are what allows the Montessori child to understand concepts to their core. She loves the passion and understanding that she sees from her students. The community that is developed in a Montessori classroom is so unique and real-world. For three years she is with a student and their family. She observes them interact as a learner and a teacher as they progress from the first year to the third year. It truly is a community of learners and teachers.” During her free time, she enjoys crafting, hiking, water sports, and spending time with her family.
Kimberly Reyes-Arroyo, Primary Assistant – serving you since 2015
Kimberly is currently a student at Arizona State University focusing her studies to Major in Psychology and a minor in Social Work. She has a certification in food chemistry, and some CNA experience. She loves Montessori because of the rawness of letting the child explore and learn from their environment without the pressures of a traditional schooling experience as well as allowing the child to naturally develop their intellect at a young age with a natural interactive approach and connection with the world around them. In her personal time, she loves cooking, baking and DYI projects. She is a new mother to her wonderful son Dante and loves him dearly and is excited as he navigates his self-construction in the Montessori environment. She is excited to work with present and future families in the TMS community.
Elementary Education – 6-12 yrs
Emily Wharton, Lead Elementary Teacher – serving you since 2017
Emily is a native of Arizona and is thrilled to be a part of the team at Tempe Montessori! She received a Bachelor of Music in music theatre performance with a minor in Italian from Arizona State University, an AMI Elementary Diploma (ages 6 to 12) from the Montessori Institute of San Diego, and a Master of Education from Loyola University Maryland. Emily has always enjoyed working with children. She was a nanny for six years, taught a music theatre class for ages 5 to 8, spent a year as a lead elementary tutor, and is a mother to a beautiful little girl. It was during her time as a tutor that she realized there were inconsistencies in the traditional methods of teaching, and she found her passion for Montessori theory. Emily is very excited to continue her work guiding children to reach their full potential and igniting a love of learning.
Jeriece Irving, Elementary Assistant – serving you since 2014
Jeriece is a native of beautiful Arizona. She attended Mountain Pointe High School where she was a standout athlete. She received a full athletic scholarship in women’s basketball and spent two years at Odessa College in Texas before transferring to West Virginia University where she majored in Journalism. Jeriece joined the TMS family in 2014 as the lead aftercare teacher. She is now the Elementary assistant. She first learned of the Montessori Philosophy and Tempe Montessori when her younger sister attended for her Primary education. She is excited to jump back into the Montessori Method where she knows the children thrive and shine. Jeriece looks forward to one day becoming a lead teacher in the Elementary Environment.
Jennifer Kossman, Aftercare Assistant – serving you since 2014
Jennifer has been with the Tempe Montessori Community since 2014. She has been helping assist the Primary students during the day and with the Elementary students in the Aftercare program. She loves being around children of all ages and especially getting to know each one through their love of learning. Jennifer grew up in an Air Force family and that’s how she developed a love for traveling and meeting new people. She has attended Scottsdale Community College and has a passion for all aspects of film making, creative writing, and the art of storytelling. She loves 80’s and 90’s movies and loves all Keanu Reeves movies.
Jazmin Torrez, Aftercare Assistant – serving you since 2018
Jazmin is a senior at Arizona State University majoring in Criminal Justice. After graduation, she will join the Phoenix Police Department to gain experience to become a detective. She comes from a family of 9 with 5 sisters and 1 brother. She is an aunt to 3 beautiful nieces and 1 nephew. In her free time, she loves to spend quality time with her family and work out.
Dania Jimenez, Floater and Aftercare Assistant – serving you since 2018
Dania Jimenez is originally from El Paso, Texas. She is currently a sophomore at Arizona State University pursuing a degree in Kinesiology and Nutrition. After she graduates, she hopes to continue her education back home in Texas to become a Pediatric Physical Therapist and open up her own clinic. She has continuously volunteered to do community service and enjoys helping others. She is so excited to be working with the amazing staff and children!
James Ledwith, Aftercare Assistant – serving you since 2019
James Ledwith currently attends Mesa Community College working towards a Masters in Biology focused on Conservation and Ecology. He loves to hike and be in nature. He enjoys writing songs, singing and plays the guitar and piano. He has a background working with the physically and mentally disabled. He is excited to be part of the TMS staff and to learn more about the Montessori philosophy. “Always walk in gratitude to the Mother Earth.” Pueblo Proverb
Selena Torrez, Aftercare Assistant – serving you since 2019
Selena Torrez is currently attending Arizona State University and studying to achieve a Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology. She is currently expecting her first child and is excited to enter the world of motherhood and grow her family. She is excited to work at TMS and loves the staff, environment and children. She is grateful to be a part of the TMS team.
Kate Kostovski, Aftercare Assistant – serving you since 2019
Kate is a Macedonian American born in the Midwest. She has worked as a para-professional with students who have a wide range of learning and cognitive disabilities. She is currently attending Arizona State University and working towards a degree in Special Education and Social work. Working with children centers her soul and inspires her to believe in raw content of her own works of art. For her, there is nothing more gratifying than watching the children work through problems and find a solution.
Christy Contreras, Aftercare Assistant – serving you since 2019
Christy is a Guachichil Chichimeca native from Mexico and has lived in Phoenix, Arizona on Akimel O’Odham territory for over 15 years. She received her bachelor’s degree in Mathematics at Arizona State University and is now working towards getting a certificate in teaching. In her free time, she enjoys playing the guitar, farming and gardening, making pottery, and long-distance running. She has a passion for working with children and creating a happy, secure and stimulating environment for children to grow and flourish. She believes education should be as organic and naturally rooted as possible. “The land is where our roots are. The children must be taught to feel and live in harmony with the Earth.” – Maria Montessori