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 from The University of Richmond with a B.A. in Early Education and taught 3rd grade for three years in Chesterfield County, VA.  In the hopes that she could better serve children who were struggling in school, Josephine returned to school to earn her M.Ed in Special Education from the University of Virginia.  After teaching 3rd and 4th grades for several years in Prince William County, VA, Josephine again returned to school at the recommendation of a colleague familiar with the Montessori pedagogy and received her AMI Primary training from Washington Montessori Institute.  The training not only inspired and affirmed her views on early childhood education, but has guided her life since.  All three of her children attended 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.  Although her children are now attending college, Josephine is happy to remain at Mountainside where she truly feels at home.

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.

ANGUS GOLDBERG, 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.

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.

JAE VALENTIN, Upper Elementary Assistant

Jae was born in the Philippines and moved to the States when they were six years old. They grew up in Fairfax City, but have always loved the rural parts of Virginia and have been part of the Marshall community since 1995. Their passion for teaching and working with children has taken them from being a homeschool parent, to a youth minister, and finally to the position they now hold as Upper Elementary assistant. They have a passion for music, art, and cooking, which they share with the students and staff at Mountainside on a regular basis. Singing and playing music is one of their favorite activities to do with friends and family. Their desire is to support and guide each student to reach their full potential, and to instill in every child a love of learning that will carry them through the rest of their lives.

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.

CHARLOTTE LANGFORD, Toddler Assistant & Drama Instructor

Charlotte has lived in Marshall her whole life and is part of a family-owned art studio in town. She is currently getting her degree in Theatre Education and is Certified in Toddler Assistance. She is the theater instructor at Mountainside and loves working with kids in creating Art. Charlotte is so excited to be with the Toddler community and loves helping children get creative!