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.

THEO  GRAYSON, Adolescent Guide

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.

JULIANNE DAVIS, Adolescent Guide

Julianne is a native Californian who calls Santa Barbara her west coast home. Growing up there, she loved to hike along the ocean and in the surrounding mountains, appreciating and being revitalized by nature. She put herself through college to finish her Bachelor’s degree in Film Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara and eventually completed a Master’s degree in Organizational Management from Fielding Graduate University.

She had a foundational experience when she became a peer mentor in college, where she experienced the power of engaging change with others. After moving to Virginia and working as a project manager for nearly ten years, she became a certified personal coach. She uses the co-active model of coaching, a non-directive approach emphasizing that the coachee is creative and resourceful. While considering a career change to teaching, she worked for Loudoun County as a substitute teacher for two years and then took a break to have twins. In addition to spending time with her family, she loves to cook and garden.

Montessori first came to her attention when her younger sister, who had struggled in the public school system to the point that she hated school, began attending a Montessori program and changed from an unhappy student into one that loved learning. Julianne remembers thinking that school must be doing something right. After having her own children, she began learning more about Montessori and came to Mountainside by way of the Parent-Infant program. She is looking forward to continuing her learning journey in a setting where she can combine her passions for nature, learning, and coaching as an Adolescent Guide.

AMANDA HESS, Upper Elementary Guide

Amanda grew up in the beautiful hills of West Virginia where she began her education in a primary Montessori school. She attended Berea College where she obtained her B.A. in Child and Family Studies with a concentration in Child Development. After college, she spent time abroad as an au pair before returning to Virginia where she came into contact with Montessori again. With a renewed interest in seeking to better understand the Montessori Method, she worked as an assistant in a primary environment. It was only after observing in an Elementary environment that she discovered this was clearly where she was meant to be. Amanda received her AMI Elementary Diploma from Washington Montessori Institute in 2011. In addition to a life-long love of Montessori, she also enjoys reading, gardening, and swing dancing.

ANITA ERCOLE, Lower Elementary Guide

Anita is a native of the United Kingdom, growing up in Cambridgeshire, England, where she lived and worked as a language instructor prior to marrying her husband and moving to Rome, Italy. Anita spent seven years working as an ESL instructor for the British Institute and other agencies in Italy and Japan before moving to the USA. It was in Italy that she first fell in love with the Montessori philosophy. Julien her son attended primary school in Italy and the impression it left was so impactful she started her training as a Primary guide.

Anita started her Montessori career as a Lead Primary Guide and Kindergarten Coordinator in Dallas, Texas, from 2000 to 2010, prior to relocating to Gainesville, VA, in the summer of  2010.

Anita received her Montessori teaching credentials in Primary Nursery Foundation Teaching Diploma from the London Montessori International Teacher Training Institute (MACTE) in 2000, and her Lower Elementary education (AMS) in Dallas, Texas, in 2013. Anita holds a B.S.c degree in Psychology, with a concentration in Early Childhood Education and Special Education. She also holds credentials as an E.S.L instructor.

Anita’s mission for all her students is to build a caring community of collaborative learners that fosters curiosity, respect and an intrinsic desire to achieve their individual potential.

Anita enjoys cooking, contemporary art and design, learning new languages and travel.

GRETA  NAGEL, Primary Guide

Greta Nagel’s life in Montessori began when she was a toddler. She grew up in a northern suburb of Chicago where she attended Forest Bluff Montessori School from the age of 18 months through 8th grade. As a child, she loved reading and writing, as well as the school trips, where she spent long periods of time outside in nature. In high school she became involved in theater, music, and the performing arts, but always knew that she wanted to be a Montessori teacher. She graduated from Northwestern University with a BA in English Literature in 2016, and immediately moved to Maryland where she received her AMI Primary diploma from Washington Montessori Institute and her MA in Education from Loyola University Maryland, graduating in 2017. She lives in Vienna, VA, where she enjoys knitting, sewing, reading, and playing her ukulele.

BRITTANY PETERS, Primary Guide

Brittany grew up in rural West Virginia. She spent her childhood reading books and having her own Huckleberry adventures along the Ohio River, collecting plenty of scrapes and skinned knees. As a young adult, she attended Mount de Chantal Academy for Girls, where she was encouraged to pursue her personal interests in environmental science and literature. Upon graduation, she received the Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship. She attended Wheeling Jesuit University where she obtained a B.A. in History with a minor in Theology and a M.A. in Education. Afterwards, she joined AmeriCorps as a Vista working with local farmers to improve their soil and crops. In 2014, Brittany and her husband, Eddie, had their daughter, Guinevere. Looking to understand more about infant development, she read one of Dr. Montessori’s books and was hooked. In 2017, she obtained her AMI diploma from the Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola University of Maryland. Brittany enjoys traveling to Mexico City to see her paternal family when she has the opportunity. In her free time, she likes to read, sew, and knit as well as cook and bake with her daughter. One day, she hopes to have chickens and bees.

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 Virginia Certified Master Naturalist and her many interests include spending time with her family, traveling and camping, and a love of the outdoors, especially ornithology.

JULIA KENNEDY CARNEY, Primary Consultant

Julia grew up in the White Mountains of rural Maine in a family of classical musicians. She spent her childhood playing violin, canoeing, hiking, playing in the woods, making art, and helping in the vegetable gardens. Her interests in Spanish and travel were sparked at a young age by visits to and from her relatives in Santiago, Chile. As a teenager and young adult she spent time studying, volunteering, and living in Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Spain. She received her BA in Spanish from Goucher College. Julia fell in love with Montessori education while teaching Spanish and Music at Mountainside Montessori in 2010-2011. She received her AMI Primary diploma from the Washington Montessori Institute and MA in education from Loyola University Maryland in 2012. She lives outside of Warrenton with her family, dog, cat and chickens. In addition to all the activities Julia enjoyed as a child, she also loves to cook, practice yoga and meditation, and train and work with dogs.

LAKOTA COON, Toddler Guide

Lakota was born and raised in Rappahannock county, Virginia, among the Blue Ridge Mountains. As a young child, she attended a Waldorf school, which instilled a foundational love of learning and creativity.  Lakota’s home environment cultivated her creative and open-minded nature.

Lakota received a BFA in Art, K-12 Art Education and a minor in Special Education at James Madison University in 2010. After a brief time working in the public school system, Lakota knew that she needed to find a school that prioritized independence, encouraged creativity, and provided children the materials to grow. Mountainside was a perfect fit. She attended the Montessori Institute in San Diego, launched the Toddler community at Mountainside Montessori School in 2015, and received her Masters in 2017 from Loyola University. By 2018, her classroom was recognized by the Association Montessori Internationale, Maria Montessori’s founding program – the gold standard for classrooms and Guides.

In 2016, influenced by her love for art and a passion for acting, Lakota took over the theater program at the school as well as started teaching art classes for the Adolescent students. Her mornings are spent with the community’s youngest members and afternoons cultivating the creative and visual arts in the older students.

LINDA SUMRALL, Toddler Assistant

Linda was born and raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where she attended public school until the eighth grade. She then transitioned to a private, Christian education until graduation. Her studies led her to a degree in Elementary Education from Bob Jones University in South Carolina, after which she taught 6th grade in Fairfax, Virginia. Not long after that, she and her husband started their family and home-schooled their three boys for a decade. More recently, she has taught both second and fourth grades at Fresta Valley Christian School over a period of nine years. The Sumrall family had the opportunity to live in Slovakia for three months in 2016. Upon the family’s return, she enjoyed substitute teaching for six-year-olds through high school. She has also tutored Elementary students in math and English. Early childhood education was a part of her collegiate studies and she has often worked with Toddlers in her local church nursery.  She and her family have lived in Fauquier County since 1992 and she is excited to learn more about the Montessori method as it relates to the very young child.

LAURA WRIGHT, Extended Day Director

Laura Wright was born and raised in Lynchburg, VA, where most of her family still gathers for mini-reunions during the year. She got her BA from Mary Washington College and began teaching sixth grade, followed by many years of substituting while raising three daughters. Twelve years as a fifth grade Science and Language Arts teacher proved to be some of her hardest and most rewarding years of teaching thus far. She and her teacher-husband, Bill, have lived on a small boxwood and Christmas tree farm in Ada for 30 years and still claim to have the best view of Big Cobbler Mountain. Laura is an AMI certified Primary Assistant. She loves observing and working with children of all ages. Hammock reading, visiting family, and dancing to her own beat keep her happy.

KAY FRANK, Primary and Extended Day Assistant

Kay was born in Bombay, India. She moved to the States in 1982 and was raised in Alexandria, Virginia for most of her life. She started her career in the hospitality industry for several years when she met her husband Fred. She moved to Oakton, Virginia and went into the dental field where she realized how much she connected with children. She has 19 years of child care experience and enjoys working with kids. In 2003 Kay and her husband Fred welcomed their daughter Genevieve Rose who is now 14 years old. Kay is very excited to be a part of Mountainside Montessori’s team and is eager to learn from the guides. She currently lives in Front Royal, Virginia and in her free time enjoys volunteering at her church, making jewelry, scrapbooking and playing board games with her daughter.