The staff members of The Del Ray Montessori School are committed to providing an authentic, examplary Montessori education to all of our students. Read bios below to learn more about our fabulous team of educators!
Sarah E. Fondriest, Head of School and Co-Founder
Sarah has spent the past nineteen years of her career involved in all aspects of Montessori education performing such roles as administrator, teacher, director, board member, supervisor and presenter. The most significant role she had was as a teacher for 13 years; preparing, planning and leading classrooms with toddlers (ages 13 months to 3) and primary-aged children (ages 3 – 6). Sarah has a bachelor of arts in psychology from George Mason University, a master’s degree in education from Loyola College in Maryland and Montessori teaching diplomas from Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) at the Assistants to Infancy (birth – age 3), Primary (ages 3 – 6) and elementary levels (ages 6 – 12). Sarah also recently became an AMI consultant at the primary level.
The training and experience that Sarah has accrued over the years has prepared her to successfully work with children, adults, staff, parents, and community members. She has devoted her life to the education of young children, consistently attending annual conferences and workshops that increase her awareness and understanding of both child development and Montessori education. Finally, she has provided guidance to parents, staff members and colleagues, presenting at an assortment of in-school educational events, as well as community gatherings.
Montessori education has always appealed to Sarah for its ability to embrace children and provide a stimulating environment that responds to their individual needs throughout each stage of development. As a former Montessori student herself, and parent of two young children, Sarah believes that the Montessori method of education follows the child in the purest, truest, most natural form.
Sarah is co-founder of The Del Ray Montessori School and is thrilled that her and her family are part of such a dynamic, supportive and loving community.
Jenny Wyrick, Elementary Coordinator and Young Children’s Community Teacher
Jenny is currently enjoying living in Alexandria with her husband and two daughters. She has a master’s degree in education from Loyola College in Maryland and three AMI Montessori teaching diplomas: Assistants to Infancy (birth to age 3), Primary (2.5-6 years), and Elementary (6-12 years). She has spent the last 14 years working in Montessori education in the classroom with children, studying the theory, making materials, and educating adults about the philosophy. Jenny is delighted to be a member of The Del Ray Montessori School in a variety of capacities including teaching the youngest members of our school community, observing, guiding, and advising teachers, and working with parents and their young children during parent/infant classes.
Jennifer Bush, Office Manager
Jennifer began in Early Childhood Education over seventeen years ago and has taught at the Preschool and Kindergarten levels throughout her career. Prior to that she worked with Fairfax County’s School-Aged Child Care. She joins us after being a Director for a large Child Care Center for five years. She was exposed to Montessori over the years, and is excited to join The Del Ray Montessori School and gain even more experience. Jennifer has a BS in Recreation Resources from George Mason University and loves nature, her four children, and cooking.
Thea Bartha, Director of Development
Thea is a lifelong learner and enjoys taking on new challenges. She has a Bachelor degree in both Early Childhood and Special Education from Salve Regina University, a Master’s degree in Reading Education from Boston University and has her Lower Elementary training from the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies. She has over 20 years of teaching experience, and has held positions as a Learning Specialist, Director of Studies, and Transition Counselor all in a Montessori environment. Thea is trained in the Orton Gillingham and MACAR reading programs. Currently, Thea owns and operates Magnolia Montessori Materials, a company that develops support materials for the elementary classroom. She is a consultant for the Institute of Advanced Montessori Studies and is a board member of the Sycamore School, a private middle school located in Arlington. Thea lives in Alexandria, has two Montessori children and a Westie named, Scout. Thea enjoys being outdoors, practicing yoga, biking, cooking, and baking.
Katie Farris, Resource Specialist
Katie is a licensed and board certified occupational therapist with ten years experience working in a variety of public and private school settings. Katie values the way Montessori education embraces childhood development in a way that is in natural harmony with occupational therapy developmental principles. Outside of work, Katie enjoys culinary exploration and outdoor pursuits with her family.
Amy Cupic, Administrative Coordinator
Amy began her work in Montessori schools 16 years ago as the Director of Development and Marketing at a Montessori school in Atlanta and quickly realized her desire to pursue training. She has worked as a classroom assistant and was a lead teacher for 7 years in Chicago and Arlington. Most recently, she served as a Montessori Program Coordinator working on parent education, admissions and marketing. Amy graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of the South- Sewanee and holds an AMI Primary (2.5-6 years) diploma. She is a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator and completed the RIE (Resources for Infant Educarers) Foundations course.
Amy is passionate about helping families develop respectful relationships, helping caregivers deepen their understanding of the child and the Montessori philosophy and working with dedicated educators. She resides in Alexandria with her husband and their 7-month-old daughter and is delighted to be a part of the Del Ray Montessori School community.
Karen Fuller, Primary Teacher
Karen joins the team at Del Ray Montessori School with eight years experience working as both an assistant and a lead guide in several Montessori communities in Kentucky and Virginia. She holds an AMI Diploma for the primary (3-6) level and received her master’s degree in education from Loyola College in Maryland. Karen enjoys being part of the DRMS team, using her past experiences with children to help parents better understand and apply Montessori principles, among other collaborative efforts with fellow staff to maintain the best possible environment and experience for each individual child. Karen, who is originally from New England, lives in Annandale with her husband, John, who is also a trained Montessori primary guide, their son George, and Chumley, their beagle. She enjoys knitting, cooking, swimming and hiking.
Candi Ellis, Primary Teacher
Candi is a certified AMS (American Montessori Society) Montessori Teacher trained at the New England Montessori Teacher Education Center. Prior to relocating to Northern Virginia, she helped found a Montessori School in her former hometown along the Florida Gulf Coast after completing her internship at a nearby school in Florida. Candi is extremely enthusiastic about the teachings of Maria Montessori, and applies these principles in raising her two daughters. She is really enjoying raising her family in Del Ray, and is excited about the opportunity to become even more active in our wonderful community.
Karen Witt, Assistant Teacher, Primary
Karen enjoys working with children, and believes the Montessori teaching method is an excellent way to develop a whole child. She has teaching experience in both Montessori and traditional schools, and received the AMI Children’s House Assistants Certification from Loyola University in 2012. Karen is originally from Taiwan where she received her B.A. in Japanese Studies. While she was in Taiwan, she worked for four years in afterschool programs as an English teacher and teacher’s assistant. She was also employed as a tour leader, guiding travelers to over 25 countries and more than 100 cities. Karen speaks English, Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese Mandarin. She enjoys cooking and doing handicrafts in her spare time.
Paloma Yanez, Assistant Teacher, Primary
In addition to having four children of her own ranging in age from 9 – 20, Paloma has worked with children in various capacities since she was an adolescent. Paloma’s experience with children is wide-ranging, from working as an assistant in Montessori classrooms to working with children in childcare, recreation, dance and other classroom settings. Originally from Peru, Paloma is a native Spanish speaker and enjoys music and the arts, teaching dance classes and spending time with her family.
Chavonne Steward, Assistant Teacher, Primary and Summer Camp Director
Chavonne enjoys working with children of all ages. She has worked as an Assistant in Montessori classrooms for 16 years, as a lead teacher in Before/After care programs, Summer Camp Counselor and work in administration. Chavonne received her Early Childhood Assistant training at the Institute for Advance Montessori Studies in 2002, and continues to enroll in Early Childcare classes. Currently she is pursuing a BA in Early Childhood Education from Ashford University.
In her spare time she enjoys reading a book and spending time with her family and dog. She is excited to join the team at The Del Ray Montessori School and looks forward to gaining more experience.
Joshua McCreary, Assistant Teacher, Primary
Joshua hails from Virginia Beach, but has resided in Northern Virginia for ten years. He attained a BA in Theater and a minor in Creative Writing at George Mason University. He’s had five years experience teaching theater to kids with Acting for Young People and he’s elated to join the team at Del Ray. His interests include acting, directing, photography and all things Star Wars!
Naya Webb, Assistant Teacher, Primary
Born and raised in D.C., Naya relocated to Alexandria in 2015, where she currently lives. Naya has a BS in Criminal Justice from Bethune Cookman College in Florida, with a minor in social work. Upon graduation, she quickly learned that her heart was in working with children and decided that she would like to pursue becoming a teacher. Naya is currently working towards a certificate in Early Childhood Education, as well as a MS in Clinical Mental Health with an emphasis in social work. She has past experience working with young children as an assistant in a preschool program. She is very excited to join DRMS and eager to gain more experience in working with young children. In her spare time, she is usually found writing, traveling, cooking, dancing or shopping!
Jessica Poole, Assistant Teacher, Young Children’s Community
Jessica has lived in the Alexandria area for almost her whole life and has loved working with children of all ages since she was young. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre and a minor in Education from George Mason University, Jessica is currently enrolled in the AMI Assistants to Infancy training at The Montessori Institute in Colorado. She is also working towards her Masters in Education from Loyola University in Columbia, Maryland. She is excited to put Montessori theory into practice and continue educating for peace. In her free time, Jessica enjoys stage managing plays in the metro area, cooking and traveling with her fiancé and their dog.
Relana Jennings, Assistant Teacher, Young Children’s Community
Relana Jennings was born and raised in Sterling, Virginia. After attending high school, she attended Columbia School of Broadcasting and went to Northern Virginia Community College. During this time her mother encouraged her to explore a career path involving children. And, for the past 13 years, she has done just that! Relana has spent the majority of her career working with special needs children of various ages. Spending time with children and helping them gain their independence is her passion. In her free time she loves spending time with her 14 year old son, traveling and cooking. She is extremely excited about working at DRMS!
Carly Stearns, Elementary Teacher
Carly hails from a small community in rural New Jersey, surrounded by beautiful farmland and the Appalachian Mountains. She holds a bachelor of science in Arts Administration with a minor in dance from Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi. Carly’s passion for arts and education has taken her as far as Italy, to teach dance to children in a small community in the Alps. Upon her return she moved to Philadelphia, once there she worked in a Montessori school for three years, first as a substitute teacher in both toddler and primary classrooms and then as a full time administrative assistant. Carly recently received her AMI Elementary Certification and Master’s in Education from Loyola University Maryland and is thrilled to be joining the Del Rey Elementary community. In her spare time she can be found reading, taking dance classes, cooking, and enjoying the outdoors while gardening
Salina Navarro, Assistant Teacher, Elementary
Salina was born and raised in Southern California and attended the United States Naval Academy graduating with a B.S. in Political Science. She served over seven years as a US Navy Officer before she left active duty to pursue a career in education. Salina earned a Master’s in Elementary Education from Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia and holds a Virginia teaching credential (pre-K through 6th grade) in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
After becoming a mother, Salina discovered the Montessori Method and fell in love with the theory. Salina earned an AMI Primary diploma from the Montessori Institute of San Diego and is pursuing a Certificate of Advanced Study in Montessori Education from Loyola University Maryland. She is excited to join the Del Ray Montessori School team to work with children and their families in an authentic Montessori environment. Salina enjoys running, music, trying new restaurants, and exploring DC with her family.
Lee Abbott, Classroom Assistant
Lee is a Del Ray resident and is happy to be part of the Del Ray Montessori School community. She is excited to learn more about the Montessori method of education. Lee has a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from American University and a Master’s degree in Art Therapy from George Washington University. Lee has worked with children with special needs and believes in the power of art-making as a curative tool. Her interests include dance, art, equine therapy and learning about other cultures.
Brittany Kinsey, Classroom Assistant
Brittany and her husband just recently relocated to Alexandria this summer from Olive Branch, Mississippi, where she lived for 17 years. She attended Mississippi State University earning a B.S. in Educational Psychology and a B.A. in Foreign Languages with a concentration in Spanish. In January, she will pursue a Master’s degree in Spanish/Bilingual/Multicultura