Teachers and Staff
Allison MacKenzie, Head of School
A North Carolina native, Allison moved to Huntsville with her family after her husband was offered a job at UAHuntsville. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Middle School Education from the UNC-Wilmington and a Master’s degree in Counseling and Adult Education from East Carolina University. She is currently pursuing a MBA from UAH. Upon moving to Huntsville, she enrolled her two sons in MSH. Allison says she is addicted to Pinterest because it inspires her creative and crafty side. You can enjoy her collection of great ideas for the Montessori family by following Montessori School of Huntsville.
Jennifer Stark, Administrative Assistant
Jennifer graduated with honors from the University of Alabama in Huntsville where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree studying English and Spanish. She was first introduced to the Montessori philosophy when she enrolled the youngest of her two sons in MSH’s primary program in 2010. She began working with MSH in 2013. In addition to working with MSH, she also trains and teaches Krav Maga here in Huntsville, AL.
Adriane Castro, Office Manager
Adriane is from Connecticut. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology (Honors) from Sacred Heart University. During senior year she was a research assistant at Yale University School of Medicine and found a passion for health sciences. She went on to become a Registered Nurse working on Pediatric and Labor and Delivery Units in Connecticut, New York, and Alabama.
Adriane was first introduced to the Montessori Method when her oldest son entered MSH’s primary program. She believes strongly in the Montessori Method and enjoys her current roll as a co-office manager. Her favorite quote by Dr. Montessori is, “Education is a natural process carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words, but by experiences in the environment.”
She enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, running, swimming, and reading.
Karen Nielsen, Office Manager
A native of North Carolina, Karen has lived in Huntsville for 11 years, including a 2 year stint in Shanghai, China, for her husband’s work. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Appalachian State University, and a Degree in Interior Design from The University of Tennessee at Knoxville. She has a son in preprimary at MSH. Her interests include quilting, needlework, and pestering her husband about his car habit.
Becky Spooner, Toddler Lead Teacher
Becky’s hometown is Scottsboro, AL. She received her Montessori training through NAMC. As a child, Becky and her twin sister, who is also a teacher at MSH, attended a Montessori school. She began working at MSH in 2003. Her hobbies include reading, cooking, and playing piano.
Lacey Champion, Toddler Lead Teacher
Lacey is a Huntsville native. She received her Montessori training through NAMC. She was first introduced to Montessori philosophy through her best friend and current co-lead teacher, Becky Spooner. At that time, Lacey had begun a career in management, but decided to change careers and join MSH after falling in love with the curriculum. Lacey is very crafty and organized and enjoys finding challenges that inspire her organizational and innovative skills.
Lisa Bragg, Toddler Extended Care Teacher
Lisa is a Huntsville native. She was first introduced to the Montessori method while earning her Associates degree from Calhoun Community College. She has been surrounded by children all her life and finds such joy working with the Toddler program at MSH.
Jayati Bhattacharjee, Toddler Lead Teacher
Jayati is from Kolkata, India, where she graduated from Kolkata University with Bachelor of Science degree (Honors) in Human Resource Development. Her Montessori training is through North American Montessori Center (NAMC). She was first introduced to the Montessori Method of education during her undergraduate study. Jayati enjoys sharing her love for gardening and cooking with her young students. Her Montessori teaching philosophy is to give her students endless love and freedom with discipline in a prepared environment.
“Discipline is an aspect of individual liberty, an essential factor of success in life.” – Dr. Maria Montessori.
Brandy Lighthall, Toddler Assistant Teacher
A Huntsville native, Brandy completed Montessori Lower Elementary training through NAMC in January 2014. She was first introduced to Montessori philosophy through personal research when her oldest child was a toddler. A year later, her son was enrolled as a 3-year-old primary student at MSH. Brandy and her husband began implementing the method in their home and are proud to call themselves a “Montessori Family”. Some of her hobbies include reading and learning, knitting and hand-dying fabrics for crafts.
Janaki Barakam, Primary Lead Teacher
Janaki is originally from Hyderabad, Andhrapradesh, India. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Early Childhood Education. She was first introduced to the Montessori philosophy when a friend recommended MSH for Janaki’s then 18 month old daughter. She began working as an assistant teacher in 1999 and has been a lead teacher at MSH since 2004. She completed her Montessori training in Memphis, TN. Some of Janaki’s favorite hobbies include reading, dancing, and music.
Carol Howie, Primary Extended Care Teacher
Carol is a Huntsville, AL native. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College and a Master’s in Divinity from Graduate Theological Union of Berkeley. Carol was first introduced to the Montessori method doing field work at a Montessori school in Yonkers, New York in 1972. Some of Carol’s hobbies include writing and officiating unique ceremonies for weddings. She is still active in her ministry and does children’s sermons at her church.
Shree Atluri, Primary Lead Teacher
Shree Atluri joined Montessori School of Huntsville in 2006 as an Assistant Teacher. Before joining her current position she also worked, for a short time in 1998, at Montessori Learning Center when she was introduced first time to Montessori Philosophy and she got more interested in learning the teaching methods when her son attended Montessori school. Shree holds a BS degree in Chemistry and Biological Sciences from India. She also holds a Diploma in International Montessori Teaching in Preschool/Kindergarten. Shree stays current in Montessori teaching methods by attending conferences/workshops.
She is happily married and they have one boy Souren who is thirteen years old and is in eighth grade. It is from being a parent that she has learned the most about providing for a child’s needs. Shree truly enjoys working with children. She considers herself as a guide and helper to her children in the class. The family has been living in Madison/Huntsville for the last 20 years except for a short time in Atlanta, GA. She loves reading, cooking, and watching sports – Tennis, Cricket, Football, and Basketball. She also enjoys spending time with family and traveling.
Kelly Brooks, Primary Lead Teacher
Kelly comes to MSH from Crossville, TN. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Piedmont in Demorest, GA. She was awarded her Montessori certification through NAMC. Kelly was first introduced to the Montessori philosophy when her younger sister attended a school as a child. Her sister went on to become a Montessori guide and recommended Montessori training to Kelly. After researching the Montessori philosophy, Kelly decided to change careers. She says, “I have been with MSH ever since, and I am still in love with Montessori.” Some of Kelly’s favorite hobbies are spending time in nature, backpacking, and hiking. Kelly says she has a deep love for animals, especially her four-legged, furry children.
Monica Ingram, Primary Lead Teacher
Monica earned her Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies with an emphasis in Early Childhood Education from the University of Texas in her hometown of San Antonio. She completed her Montessori training with North American Montessori Center. Monica first learned about Montessori philosophy while doing her coursework for her degree. Monica says she felt strongly connected to the philosophy as it echoed many of her own personal beliefs about education.
Sarah Schmitt, Primary Lead Teacher
Sarah is originally from the San Francisco Bay Area in California. She earned her Bachelor’s in Anthropology from St. Mary’s College in CA. Her Montessori training is through the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in New York. She first learned about the Montessori method in college studying different educational philosophies. Sarah values the quality of a Montessori education and says of her family that they are proud to be “a Montessori family through and through.”
Cristina McDaniel, Elementary Extended Care Teacher
Cristina is originally from Mendoza, Argentina. She has been with MSH since 2006. Cristina’s favorite activities include shopping and spending time with her family, especially her grandson.
Angela Harber, Elementary Lead Teacher
Angela Harber grew up in a small town in North Mississippi. She attended the University of Alabama and earned her B.S. in Environmental Science. After graduating, Angela moved to Mentone, AL and worked at an amazing environmental education camp, Nature’s Classroom. Working with many schools, she noticed a wonderful difference in the Montessori schools, and talked a lot with the various Montessori teachers that brought their students to the camp. After moving to Huntsville, Angela immediately inquired about local Montessori schools and met with Mrs. Kathy O’Reilly at MSH. She fell in love with the school and program, and began working as the elementary assistant in 2008. She followed up with completing the North American Montessori Center Lower Elementary certification. She became a co-lead teacher and then a lead teacher. Angela will complete her American Montessori Society (AMS) Lower Elementary Credential through the Center for Montessori Training, North Carolina in the summer of 2014. Angela enjoys hiking, gardening, and reading.
Carmen Vivanco, Elementary Assistant Teacher/ Spanish Teacher
Originally from Peru, Carmen also lived in Panama before moving to the United States. Carmen has been working with MSH since 2003. Since that time she has developed MSH’s Spanish Language program for Toddlers through Elementary.
Maggie England, Elementary Assistant Teacher
Maggie’s hometown is Birmingham, AL. She hold a Bachelor’s degree in Outdoor Administration and Leadership from the University of Alabama. She is currently working towards her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Alabama A&M. She was first introduced to the Montessori method while working as an instructor for Nature’s Classroom in Mentone, AL. After having a few Montessori schools visit the center, she became very impressed with the children and the educational philosophy. Some of Maggie’s hobbies include backyard gardening and raising chickens.
Masuma Hafiz, Extended Care Teacher
Masuma is originally from Bangladesh where she earned a Master’s degree in General History from the University of Dhaka. After moving to Huntsville, Masuma enrolled her then two-year-old daughter in MSH’s toddler program. She began working with the school in 2005 and has been here ever since. Masuma is an avid reader and enjoys working with the students at the school. Masuma finds great joy in working with MSH and says, “I cannot imagine my life without the Montessori environment and children.”
Kathy Fisher, Music Teacher
When you hear humming or singing around MSH, chances are Kathy Fisher is near! Kathy has been on the MSH staff since 1996, and built the music program to include all classes. Kathy has maintained a private piano studio in her home in Huntsville since 1969, and has also been teaching piano at the school for nearly a decade.
She has training in Kindermusik and Musikgarten children’s music programs and has taught both at various venues such as Fantasy Playhouse and Colors Fine Arts Center. She also taught for several years at Oakwood College (now University) and Oakwood Academy.
While living in Cairo, Egypt, for two years between 2007 and 2009, Kathy taught music at a private preschool in Maadi. When she returned, she added teaching at Valley Conservatory to her repertoire.
She is the pianist and choir accompanist at her church, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Huntsville.
Kathy has three children and four grandchildren who range in age from elementary through high school, and she travels to visit them at every opportunity. Her interests–besides teaching–include psychology, genealogy, traveling, and antiques.