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.

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.

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.

JULIA KENNEDY CARNEY, Program Development 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.

KRISTINA ECHEVARRIA, Toddler Guide

Kristina was born and raised in Joplin, Missouri. Her mother is a traditional teacher and her father is a microbiologist. Her parents encouraged Kristina to explore the outdoors and work on her grandmother’s farm in the country. Kristina’s fondest memories were spending time in her father’s lab looking through the microscope and chasing the cows on the farm. Her parents also encouraged her to explore the world to gain life experiences.

An opportunity led Kristina to teach when her two older children were younger. She lived and worked for the Department of Defense Schools in Azores, Portugal, Japan, and Hawaii. She studied Early Childhood and Elementary Education at Drexel University. Kristina’s journey led her to Virginia to teach in a Montessori School in Springfield, VA, as a Primary Assistant. She knew this was her path to take. Kristina took her Infant/Toddler Training through Central Guided Montessori (MACTE) in 2015. She looks forward to furthering her knowledge in AMI and obtaining her credentials this coming year.

The first three years of life serve as a critical foundation for development. Kristina’s mission is to encourage independence, respect for self and the community, and the exploration of what our world has to offer.

Currently, Kristina’s family lives in Harpers Ferry, WV. She is a proud mother of three beautiful children. Her eldest son has chosen to serve our country, her daughter is going to study stone masonry and historical restoration, and her youngest son will continue his Montessori education at Mountainside where his curiosity and love of learning will be encouraged.

UNYONG KIM, Lower Elementary Assistant

Unyong Kim is Korean-American, having emigrated in 1962 to London with her family where she Twisted and Shouted to the Beatles as a little girl and ate tea and biscuits.  They then moved to Arlington, Virginia in 1964 during the Civil Rights era, where they stood out as immigrants and racial minorities, no matter their British accents.  She has learned much about how people can connect across identities of all kinds and her work as an adult has taken her in front of wide variety of  groups, including school children, for training in prejudice reduction and conflict resolution.  Her study of Tibetan Buddhist meditation during an Masters program in Contemplative Psychology at Naropa University in Boulder, CO, has helped her with teaching mindfulness, yoga, stress management and leadership skills for living in flow.  She has taught Stress Burner Yoga since 2001, her senior students continue to teach in Falls Church, and she now offers classes via video-conference.  She has traveled widely overland on all but two continents, has pushed herself to run a marathon to learn what it takes to do something that extreme (once was enough for her!), and met and married her spouse.  The space and beauty of the region inspired them to move from Arlington to Marshall in 2012, with their three daughters, now 21, 18 and 12.  Her interest in Mountainside Montessori grew each time she drove past and saw trees being planted and animals munching in the fields.  With two college age girls and one fast-approaching, she is excited to have steady work with the interesting team at Mountainside, learning the Montessori method for partnering with children’s natural desire to grow and learn.

 

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.

KAY FRANK, Primary Assistant and Transportation

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.

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.

MALAYNA CAMPBELL, Toddler Assistant

Malayna was born and raised in Virginia. In her early years she attended her family’s private school then was homeschooled for high school and graduated in 2014. She enjoys being outdoors and loves to hike, kayak and explore new places. She has six years of experience being a private nanny and now spends her free time working with youth in her local community. She is very excited to work with the toddlers and learn more about the Montessori method.

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.