Faculty and Staff

EDEL KUNKEL, Head of School

Edel is the founder and Head of Mountainside Montessori School. Edel grew up in rural Ireland on a cattle and dairy farm. Her early background is in farm management and animal husbandry. In 1989, she received her AMI Primary diploma from the Montessori Institute of Los Angeles and has since completed the Montessori Administrators training as well as the Montessori Adolescent training. Edel has over 18 years of experience working with children in Washington, D.C., Virginia and her native home, Ireland. She has passed her love of farming onto her daughters Kyla (age 18) and Marissa (age 16) who raise cattle, sheep, and hogs on the small farm that she and her husband, Jim, built outside of Marshall. Edel’s passions for sustainable agriculture and connecting children with nature are reflected in her vision for Mountainside. Edel is a Master Gardener and a Master Naturalist.

SHANNON FALLI LASSER, Assistant Head of School

Shannon grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey and New York. After receiving her BS in Biology from the University of New Hampshire, she discovered her love of the outdoors by way of her travels in Alaska and Colorado. After working in the non-profit sector for some time, she ultimately earned an MBA from Arizona State University and relocated to Virginia. A Montessori mother of two, Shannon joined the Mountainside staff in 2015. She is excited to offer assistance in whatever capacity is necessary to further the vision of Mountainside.


Josephine grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland.  A senior project in high school solidified her interest in pursuing Education as a college major.  Josephine graduated with a B.A. in Early Education from the University of Richmond and a M.Ed in Special Education from the University of Virginia.  After teaching 3rd and 4th grades for several years in Chesterfield and Prince William counties, she returned to school and received her AMI Primary training from Washington Montessori Institute. Inspired by the training, she chose to enroll all three of her children in Montessori schools during their Primary, Elementary, and Adolescent years, with her oldest starting at Mountainside in 2004 and her youngest graduating from the Adolescent program in 2018.  She is truly grateful for the education and caring community Mountainside has provided her children and family for the last twenty years.


Ms. Alejandra has a Montessori Infant and Toddler Teaching Diploma accredited by the International Montessori Council (IMC) and is MACTE accredited. She began her Montessori career in 2016 where she served as a Toddler Lead Guide. She has been successful in opening up 3 Toddler classrooms at different schools since then. After working as a Lead Guide for 5 years she took on an Assistant Head of school role. In 2023 she transitioned to an Interim Head of School role for her community in Ashburn Virginia. Born in Bolivia and raised in the United States, Ms. Alejandra is bilingual in both Spanish and English and enjoys to introducing Spanish songs to the children. Ms. Alejandra graduated from George Mason University with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish Language and Latin American Studies. Her hobbies include crocheting, baking, reading and spending time with family. She is invested in seeing children develop their independence and the way that children and teachers interact and work together as a community in the classroom. Ms. Alejandra strives to create an environment where children and families can feel safe and welcomed.

THEO  GRAYSON, Adolescent Director

Theo joins Mountainside Montessori as a certified Montessori adolescent teacher who has been a head middle school teacher and athletic director at Washington Montessori School in CT. She has over 30 years of teaching experience, including North Country School in Lake Placid, NY, a farm and garden school, Greenwood School in Putney, VT, which is a school for boys with learning challenges, and South Kent School in CT, where she headed the ELL (English Language Learners) program and leaning support program, before teaching for thirteen years at Washington Montessori.

She is passionate about Montessori philosophy and fully embraces student-centered education, where adolescents are responsible for their learning and have the opportunity to engage in meaningful work that allows them to explore and connect with their place in the world. Adolescence is a time of change, passion, exploration, and independence. Theo finds this an exciting time of life for students to harness their energy and focus on what is meaningful to them, while giving them a strong foundation beyond their teenage years to ultimately contribute to the world in positive and healthy ways. At WMS she developed the Hero’s Journey program, based on Joseph Campbell’s work, to provide students an opportunity to explore who they feel they are, who they want to be, and how to purposefully work toward developing that person. Theo believes we learn the most about ourselves when we are stretched, growing the most when we are pushed out of our comfort zone. Life’s challenges are opportunities to discover who we are and discover the choices we have in moments of hardship to become who we want to be. Adolescence is a delicate and exciting time of life.

Theo and her family live on her family farm in Upperville. She is an avid runner, outdoors person, and has competed extensively in running races, two seven-day multi-sport adventure races, and the TransRockieRun, a six-day, 130 miles race along the Continental Divide in Colorado. Theo enjoys animal husbandry and has been involved in various aspects of farming throughout her life. Traveling is another passion, and she spent semesters in Nepal and Indonesia during college. In recent years, she has traveled to Costa Rica and Nicaragua with her teenage children.

ANGUS GOLDBERG, Adolescent Humanities Instructor

Dr. Angus E. Goldberg was born and raised in Alaska, where he attended open-educational schools throughout elementary school and high school.  He has deep roots in this area, however, having grown up spending summers at his grandfather’s farm just up the road in Orlean.  His undergraduate studies at Wesleyan University included religious studies and classical civilization. An abiding interest in the past led him to Scotland, and the University of St. Andrews, just up the road from the farm that belonged to his other grandparents.  While there, he earned a master’s certificate in maritime studies before completing a doctorate in modern history at the same institution.  Dr. Goldberg believes that historical awareness is a prerequisite for culturally literate and responsible citizens, and he relishes the opportunity to assist his students as they pursue their their exploration of the past in all of its myriad forms.  He is a baseball fan, and an authority on the history of dogs at sea, which affection for sea rovers reflects his own interest in various topics pertaining to social history.

JAVIER CANIZALES, Adolescent Guide

As a person passionate about the environment, Javier studied and graduated from Western Carolina University with a B.S. degree in Natural Resource Management (NRM) with a Water concentration. After entering the workforce, he quickly realized that the field wasn’t going to fulfill his ideals for sustainability. This led Javier to seek education opportunities and he began teaching abroad with a focus on science and the natural world. Javier has taught all ages, K-12, within different types of framework, including the International Baccalaureate (I.B.). Having started his educator role abroad, Javier has taught in various regions of the world, including Ecuador, Sri Lanka, Grand Cayman, and Mexico. Through these unique settings, Javier has been able to lead international trips and experiences to connect students to the world in hands-on, relevant ways. Javier was raised in NOVA after moving with his family from El Salvador as a child. He is natively fluent in Spanish and has also spent time teaching language to his students.

Javier looks forward to using Montessori methods within the Mountainside community to be able to help adolescents learn about themselves and discover what drives them to navigate the world.

In his spare time, Javi enjoys live music, playing guitar, puzzling, being in nature, collecting art, and spending ample time with his two girls, his loved ones, and his pets.

MEREDITH KILMARTIN, Adolescent Drama Instructor

Coming soon…

DEANNE DEPYPER, Adolescent Art Instructor

Coming soon…

ALICE CATLIN, Upper Elementary Guide

Alice grew up in New England, spending a lot of time outdoors camping, swimming, riding bicycles, hiking, and skiing with her family. She still loves the outdoors and has added gardening to her repertoire. While attending the University of Virginia, she planned to become a French teacher, but then discovered Montessori and fell in love with the child-centered approach to learning. She holds two Master’s Degrees in Education, one with an emphasis in Montessori and one in Special Education. She received her Association Montessori International (AMI) Elementary diploma in 1995 and taught at that level for almost ten years after which she was the Elementary and Adolescent Coordinator for a large Montessori school in the Boston area. She became an Elementary Consultant for AMI in 2009 and consults at the national level. When she and her husband decided to move back to Virginia, she took the NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent Studies and taught adolescent students on a farm for over six years (similar to the wonderful farm Mountainside students are privileged to be on). Working with adolescents reinforced her elementary experience and gave her a deeper understanding of the value of Montessori education.

CATE LEWIS, Lower Elementary Guide

Cate grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes but no mountains at all. She got her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education and was lucky enough to be placed in a Montessori school for her student teaching experience. Working with and learning from a wonderful teacher, Cate fell in love with Montessori. The next year she got her AMI Elementary Montessori diploma in Mexico City, and taught for a year in a lower elementary classroom. She had to take a break from Montessori for a few years and worked in various educational settings, but never lost her love for Montessori teaching. Cate is very excited to get back into the classroom and become part of the Mountainside community!

COREY MARTIN, Primary Guide

A Virginia local, Corey grew up and has spent most of his life in the Shenandoah Valley. He feels a special connection to the mountains and finds an excuse to explore the Blue Ridge whenever he can. Corey was raised in a tight-knit family in Harrisonburg and still loves to spend time with his five siblings, niece, and four nephews. His experience helping his niece and nephews grow was a major inspiration for his journey into early childhood education. After trying traditional childcare for a few years, he found Montessori and never looked back. The intentional, methodical, and respectful nature of the Montessori Method called to him and he left his role as an Assistant Guide to pursue an AMI certification. Now finished with training, Corey is eager to continue the Montessori tradition with a new Prepared Environment and a new generation of joyful young minds. Montessori believed children are the greatest instruments of change in our world, and Corey’s life goal is to guide the children in his care toward their highest potential.

TALIE DEPYPER, Primary Guide-in-Training

Talie has always found herself with her hands and heart full of energy and passion to give.

She graduated with a B.S. degree in Community Development and Cultural Integration from Grand Valley State University and has spent time volunteering in service settings within women’s health, sustainable greenhouses, and refugee centers. After graduating, she found work at a behavior clinic serving individuals ages 2-18 with ASD and multiple diagnoses. With this experience, she decided to start volunteering abroad with the Global Autism Project and grew to become a leader in the SkillCorps program, leading and attending trips to Indonesia, Kenya, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, and India. Talie later pursued and graduated with a M.Ed in Special Education Curriculum and Instruction within the field of Applied Behavior Analysis.

Raised on a Midwest farm, Talie found herself missing the community feel to therapy and education when she moved to Washington, DC in 2017, until she found work in a Montessori setting. After a few years of ABA work and teaching middle school as a SPED educator in an alternative behavioral setting, she made a shift to dive deeper into the Montessori community and the administration environment, working as a Head of School in a Montessori setting serving a corporate campus for Infants through Adolescents.

Talie has joined Mountainside to continue her pursuit of gaining Montessori knowledge and is enrolled in a concurrent program of studies to graduate with her Montessori Primary Certification and a M.Ed in summer of 2024. She is looking forward to leading Blue House for our Primary program and joining our close-knit community.

When away from school, Talie finds joy in long walks/hikes, camping, game nights, creative outlets, and, of course, being with her loved ones and pets.

KATIE VAN STEYN, Upper Elementary Assistant

Katie graduated from George Mason University and immediately began teaching preschool. She taught for over 11 years in Northern Virginia. Katie and her husband, along with their four dogs, moved out to Marshall, VA 5 years ago. Her love for learning and children is her passion and driving force in life. Katie is new to Montessori, but is eager to learn and be a part of the Mountainside Montessori family!!!

CAITLIN LEOTTA, Lower Elementary Assistant

Caitlin grew up in South Jersey, and moved to Virginia at the age of 21, to farm. She worked on different farms, and became a CNA doing home healthcare for many years. Caitlin was introduced to the Montessori world in 2013 when she lived and worked at Mountain Laurel Farm School. She fell in love with this way of teaching our children. With her family, Caitlin loves hiking and camping, gardening, and also cooking together as much as they can.

PATRICIA DEITRICH, Primary Assistant

Patricia grew up in New England, where she developed her love of horses. She spent eight years working in the travel and tourism industry. After receiving her AAS in Natural Resources Management, she worked at both the National and State Park levels in the areas of research and environmental education. A Montessori parent, Patricia started working in the classroom in 2006 and has never looked back. She earned her AMI Primary Assistant’s Certification in 2008, and in 2016 completed the AMI Elementary Assistant’s Certification at Loyola University in Maryland. In addition to her duties as assistant, she also presents programs to the students in the areas of environmental education, art, music, and American Sign Language. Patricia is also a certified tutor using the Susan Barton Reading and Spelling program. She is a Certified Virginia Master Naturalist and her many interests include spending time with her family, traveling and camping, and a love of the outdoors, especially ornithology.

FAITH HUTTON, Primary Assistant

Faith was born and raised in Marshall, Virginia, and is currently pursuing an Associates Degree in Administration of Justice from Northern Virginia Community College. She has been drawn to work with children from a young age and had worked in traditional childcare for four years before joining Mountainside. Faith was introduced to Montessori and given the opportunity to work in the new environment. The more she has learned about Montessori, the more she loves it! She was home schooled until she graduated from high school, which allowed her the time to pursue a variety of interests, such as sewing, caring for farm animals, and cooking. In her free time, she loves finding new spots for hiking, baking, and reading lots of books.

SAMANTHA BAYNE, Primary Assistant

Coming soon…

BELLA MARTINEZ, Extended Day Care Staff

Coming soon…