All Academy teachers are Montessori trained and certified from well-established national and international Montessori programs. Teachers will work closely with your child, giving guidance when needed. Our staff is trained to observe the individual interests and needs of each child, demonstrate the correct use of classroom materials, and guide them into appropriate activities.

Infant Community

Mars Classroom

Michelle Ostendorf
Lead Teacher

Michelle has been with the Academy since 2009 in the Infant, Toddler, and Pre-Primary classrooms. She has worked in Early Childhood Education for ten years and completed her internship from Wellspring Montessori Teacher Education Center in 2009. In the summer of 2011, she attended additional training at Seton Montessori Institute also in Infant-Toddler education. She has a background in the field of Deaf Culture, and is sign language certified with experience and focus in baby sign.


Neptune Classroom

Marcy Formigoni
Lead Teacher

Marcy is excited for her upcoming 8th school year with Academy. Marcy is certified in both 0-3 and 3-6 by the American Montessori Society and was the recipient of the AMS Living Legacy Scholarship. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and went on to do graduate studies at the University of Amsterdam as well as the University of Illinois. Her studies included child development, psychology, anthropology and social work. As a social worker, Marcy started a Parent/Infant Montessori program providing parent education and support for women who were struggling to get their lives together. Marcy has taught in traditional school, worked in Parent-Infant classes, and has taught in a primary classroom as well.

Dolores Avitia

Dolores is excited for her third school year at the Montessori Academy of Chicago! She started at the Academy in August of 2014 as a birth to three intern. Dolores discovered her love of the Montessori pedagogy while working at Lectura Montessori School. In the summer of 2014 Dolores attended Seton Montessori Institute to receive AMS Infant-Toddler teacher training. Before pursuing Montessori certification, Dolores worked as a teacher’s assistant with toddler students and as a youth activity organizer.

Venus Classroom

Haely Strock
Lead Teacher

Haely is excited to celebrate her 11th school year at the Academy! Haely holds a bachelors degree from Indiana University and a 0-3 certification from Seton Montessori Institute. Prior to moving to the infant program, Haely spent two years in the toddler class. She has over 16 years experience working with children, including two years at Skokie Montessori School as well as an after school program for K-6 grade.

Jamie Smith
Co-Lead Teacher

Jamie has worked for 8 years with infants and young toddlers at both suburban and city childcare centers. She has been at the Academy for 4 years having recently completed her 0-3 requirements at Seton Montessori Institute where she had also attended paraprofessional training. Jamie has a BA in History from Cornell College with a minor in psychology and has also completed some early childhood education classes at the College of DuPage.

Toddler Community

Mercury Classroom

Melanie Ong
Lead Teacher

Melanie has been working at the Montessori Academy of Chicago since July 2014. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Arts from the University of Asia and the Pacific and her early childhood teaching credential from Indiana University. She has worked in early childhood education for 18 years, 13 of those at a Montessori School in Palatine where she worked both in the classroom and as an administrator. She received her 0-3 Montessori Credential from the American Montessori Society in 2007. She loves to assist families in incorporating Montessori into their homes and daily life.

Earth Classroom

Ollayshia Henderson
Lead Teacher

Ollayshia attended Seton Montessori Institute for 0-3 training in 2014 and completed her practicum in the Mercury classroom in hopes of being a certified AMS 0-3 Montessori Directress before her tenth anniversary here at the Academy. Ollayshia began working for the Montessori Academy of Chicago in 2007 after her first year of college at Illinois State University. She completed Montessori Paraprofessional Training and continued her education as an Early Childhood Education major at Chicago State University and Malcolm X Community College. She has worked with infant, toddler, and pre-primary communities while here at the Academy.

Carol Segal
Supervising Teacher and Nursery Coordinator

Carol is excited to celebrate her eighth school year at the Academy! Carol began her Montessori journey as a teaching assistant in a toddler classroom while she pursued her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at Roosevelt University. She loved the Montessori philosophy so much that after graduation she decided to further her education and become a certified Montessori teacher. Her journey led her to San Diego, California to begin the teacher’s training course under Dr. Silvana Quattrocchi Montanaro. She completed training in 2003 and started her journey at the Montessori Academy of Chicago in the summer of 2008. She first began in the toddler classroom before moving to the Pre-Primary level. Carol also serves as the Nursery Level Coordinator, helping to maintain consistency in our Nursery Program and to help provide the best classrooms for our youngest students!

Pre-Primary Community

Jupiter Classroom

Jessica Arroyo
Lead Teacher

Jessica has been a member of the Academy family for almost 8 years and she is very excited to be returning to her roots in the pre-primary program! After initially completing paraprofessional assistant training, Jessica received her AMS 0-3 Infant and Toddler credential from Seton Montessori Institute in 2010. Jessica began her career at the Academy with the pre-primary students before moving to infants in February of 2011.

Pluto Classroom

Kasia Koterba
Lead Teacher

This is Kasia’s eighth year here at the Academy and third year as a lead teacher in the pre-primary program. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and worked as a certified nursing assistant before pursuing a career in Montessori Education. Kasia attended Seton Montessori Institute to pursue Infant and Toddler certification in the summer of 2012 with the help of a Teacher Education Grant from FoMAC.

Saturn Classroom

Julie Eskenazi
Lead Teacher

Julie has been at the Academy since August, 2014. Her prior work experience includes 20 years of teaching children from birth to age six at Seton Montessori School and Creative Montessori Learning Center. Julie is also a celebrated teacher trainer at Seton Montessori Institute where she has worked for many years as a mentor for other educators, including many of the Academy Nursery Faculty. Julie holds a bachelor’s degree in speech with a minor in business administration. She has Montessori certifications at the infant/toddler and early childhood levels from Seton Montessori Institute.

Primary Community

Cygnus Classroom

Kate Geldert
Lead Teacher

Kate attended the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center for her Primary certification in the summer of 2014. This fall, she began her internship in the Cygnus classroom. She has a bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology from St. Catherine University. She spent two years with the Sogang Language program in South Korea, where she lead both kindergarten and elementary classrooms.

Ashley Pointer
Co-Lead Teacher

Ashley graduated with her Bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago before having the pleasure of being at Montessori Academy of Chicago for the past 5 years.

Procyon Classroom

Abigail Guzman
Lead teacher

Abigail is thrilled to begin her second year at the Academy and her fifth year in Montessori education. She has always wanted to be a teacher, and Montessori felt perfect for her. She studied at a community college for 2 years and received her Associate’s Degree in child development. She then discovered her passion for Montessori philosophy and attended training at Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in the summer of 2013. Before coming to the Academy Abigail worked as a teacher assistant for three years.

Gretchen Solomon

Gretchen Solomon is joining the Academy team after attending Early Childhood training this summer at Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center. Before pursuing Montessori education, Gretchen worked as an educator for over eight years. Gretchen spent three years working with first grade students in a Chicago-area charter school and worked in various school and childcare settings in New York. With a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Manchester College in Minnesota and a Master’s of Education focused in Literacy, Gretchen will be a great addition to the Academy Primary Program. We are excited for Gretchen to join us this August!

Shawn Viveretta
Supervising Teacher and Primary Coordinator

Shawn is excited to begin her fourth school in Academy Procyon community, as well as her third year as the Primary Level Coordinator. Shawn’s journey in education began 23 years ago when she received an AMI 3-6 Primary Years Diploma from the Montessori Teacher Training Center in Karachi, Pakistan. Upon returning to the USA she taught at Alta Vista Montessori for 12 years. Alongside her AMI certification she has a BA in English from SUNY at Old Westbury and a Master’s in Education from Dominican University. When she is not teaching she assists the school in its curriculum development as Primary Educational Coordinator.

Mizar Classroom

Fatema Chandabhai
Lead Teacher

Fatema is thrilled to celebrate her eighth school year with the Academy. Fatema was inspired to get her Certification in Education & Early Childhood Education from the University of Nairobi while volunteering at a Montessori School as a young girl. She holds an International Diploma in Early Childhood Education and Special Needs Education. She completed these trainings at the Nairobi overseas center of Montessori Center International, London. She began her career in Montessori teaching at Nairobi Academy where she taught the 0-3 age group. Upon moving to the USA, she volunteered as an assistant teacher at a Montessori School for a year before becoming part of the Academy in 2008.

Liz Cho

Liz started at The Montessori Academy of Chicago in July of 2014. She attended her Early Childhood Montessori training at the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center this summer. She worked the previous school year as an assistant teacher in the 3-6 Cygnus classroom and as an assistant teacher in a 3-6 classroom at Chiaravalle Montessori School in Evanston for the 2013-2014 school year. Prior to that, she taught for 6 years at the primary level at a Chicago Public school on the north side. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Education, and currently holds a type 4 (Kindergarten – 9 grade) Illinois teaching certification.

Sirius Classroom

Grace Littleton
Lead Teacher

Grace is excited to begin her forth school year as a part of the Academy and Sirius communities. Grace began her Montessori career five and a half years ago at a Montessori school in her college town. Since then, she earned her Early Childhood Montessori credential from the Palm Harbor Montessori Teacher Education Center near Tampa, FL.


Elementary Community



Polaris Classroom


Carmenita Carnes
Lead Teacher

Carmenita will be celebrating her third year at the Academy this year after joining us in 2013. Carmenita was trained in lower elementary at Seton Montessori Institute in 2012 . This former securities officer turned educator has been in education for 7 years. Carmenita began teaching specialty classes to CPS/charter elementary and high school students across the City of Chicago. As a newer member of the Montessori community, Carmenita melds her passion for teaching with her writing/musical improvisational skills to inspire a deep desire to learn. Carmenita recognizes the privilege and gift to be able to educate children creatively and lovingly with the Montessori pedagogy.

Elementary II Community

Antares Classroom

Sharon Reisenbuchler
Lead Teacher

Sharon is excited to begin her second school year at the Academy. Sharon has been committed to education in both traditional and Montessori settings for over 12 years. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University where she earned her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Elementary Education. She has earned her reading endorsement through the university as well. She received her Montessori credential from the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in 2010. She previously worked at Crystal Lake Montessori School and Alexander Graham Bell Montessori School in Wheeling, IL.

Middle School Community


Zakiya Lasley
Lead Teacher

Zakiya has been with the Montessori Academy of Chicago for sixyears and has had the opportunity to work in both the 3-6 environment as an assistant as well as the Lower Elementary classroom as an intern and then as a Co-Lead. In the past, Zakiya has worked in the Upper Elementary program and spent the previous school year as a Middle School intern at both Rogers Park and Brickton Montessori Schools. She received her bachelor’s degree from Hamilton College and her master’s degree in pan-African studies from Syracuse University. She has received training in both 6-9 and 9-12 from Seton Montessori Institute and completed her middle school training at the Houston Montessori Center. Ms. Zakiya is very excited to offer her support and partnership to the larger parent community as the Academy makes its transition into Middle School.

The only accredited Montessori school in Chicago serving Infants - Middle School