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Sophia Ginder

 

Position

  • School Administrator

  • School Founder

Time at AVMS 

  • Since its opening in 1998

Education 

  • Bachelor’s Degree, Science Secondary Education— Northeastern IL University 

  • Certificate, School Administration

Personal History 

Sophia was born and raised in Greece and moved to USA in 1973. She attended Northeastern Illinois University and she received her B.S in Science Secondary Education.  She taught Greek Language to elementary students at a Chicago parochial school while in college and after graduation from college she taught Biology, Chemistry and General Science at several High Schools in the Chicago area.

Sophia discovered Montessori by chance in 1989 when she and her family moved to California and she was looking for a career change. Her first experience with Montessori was as the Assistant Administrator at a California Montessori School. The owner and administrator of that school became her first mentor and teacher about Montessori theory and practice as well as school administration. To a traditionally trained teacher looking for something different in education, Montessori was like a miracle and Sophia continued her studies and work with Montessori for the next seven years until she moved back to Illinois and founded Alta Vista Montessori School in 1998.

Sophia has two daughters and two grandchildren, both Alta Vista Montessori students. She lives in Wauconda with her husband, “Mr. Bob, the fix it man”, as the Alta Vista students like to call him.

Sophia enjoys traveling in the United States and abroad and has been fortunate enough to have traveled to many places around the world. In the summers Sophia loves gardening especially vegetables that she can share with her grandchildren and perennial gardens. Her new love these days is her grandchildren and spending time with them is very special.

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Samantha Kunio

Position

  • Primary Montessori Teacher - Rose Room

  • Educational Director

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2015

Education

  • Association Montessori Internationale Primary Diploma— Montessori Northwest

  • Association Montessori Internationale Elementary Diploma— Montessori Institute of Milwaukee

  • Masters in Montessori Education—Loyola University Maryland

  • B.A., History, Minor in Classics— University of Wisconsin, Madison

Personal History 

Samantha was born in Chicago and spent her childhood in Denver, San Francisco and the Chicago suburbs. She received her B.A. in History from the University of Wisconsin—Madison in 2006. She began working as a summer teaching assistant at Alta Vista during the summer of 2002, and she continued summer work for a number of years. She immediately loved everything about Montessori, especially the joy of learning it promotes. She pursued her passion to become a Montessori teacher and completed her AMI Elementary Teacher Certification in 2007. Once she obtained her diploma she accepted an Elementary Teaching Position in Portland Oregon, where she enjoyed teaching lower elementary for 7 years. While living in Portland she obtained a Masters in Montessori Education from Loyola University of Maryland and also an AMI Primary Teaching Certificate from Montessori Northwest.

In 2014, Samantha and her family moved back to Illinois to be close to family, and she joined the Alta Vista team. Samantha is entering her 5th year as the Rose Room primary guide. She has 2 children, a daughter in her final Kindergarten year at Alta Vista and a 2nd grade son who is an Alta Vista alum. In her free time Samantha loves cooking, reading, yoga, traveling and spending time with her family, friends and her new puppy. 

 

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Sky Garcia

Position

  • Primary Montessori Teacher - Lilac Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2017

Education

  • Association Montessori Internationale Primary Diploma — Montessori Training Center of St. Louis
  • A.A. Degree in Early Childhood Education, The University of Texas Pan-American

Personal History

Sky was born and raised in Texas and recently moved to Illinois. Her first language was Spanish since her family is from Mexico. She loves working with children and enjoys teaching them Spanish in the classroom.  Sky loves traveling and she has traveled in the United States and Caribbean. Her next adventure will be a trip to Dubai.

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Suzanne Booth

Position

  • Toddler Montessori Teacher— Lily Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2006

Education

  • Association Montessori Internationale A to I Diploma— Montessori Institute of Denver
  • B.A., Major in music with vocal and choral conducting emphasis and Minor in  Health Science and French— Bradley University

Personal History

Suzanne was born and raised in the Chicago area. She and her husband Karl live in Mundelein where they raise two boys, ages 6 and 10 (both AV alums) and her boxer mix, Ella . Suzanne attended Bradley University where she trained as mezzo soprano and graduated in 2006 with a B.A. in music with a vocal and choral conducting emphasis. Immediately following graduation, she decided to pursue Montessori training as she had a passion for teaching. She graduated with her Assistance to Infancy Montessori Diploma (ages birth to 3) from the Montessori Institute of Denver in 2007 and took over the position of lead toddler teacher at AVMS. In her free time, Suzanne enjoys exercising, music, cooking, keeping up with her vocal training, and spending time with her family.

 

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Gisella Maniscalco

Position

  • Toddler Montessori Teacher — Sunshine Room

Time at AVMS

  •  Since 2008

Education

  • American Montessori Society, Infant/Toddler Diploma — Seton Montessori Institute
  • Diploma in Infant/Toddler Education, Instituto Magistrale, Italy

Personal History

Gisella was born and raised in the small Sicilian town of Burgio.  She completed her infant teaching certification in 1996 in Italy.  After graduating she worked with infants for 3 years. In 1998 she married her husband, Bartolo. Gisella and her husband moved to the United States and started a family. They have two sons, Francesco and Nino, who are both graduates of AVMS.

Gisella began working at Alta Vista in 2008 as our Toddler Teaching Assistant. She has said that Montessori feels like home to her and she does not feel like she is at work. She loves singing Italian songs and teaching Italian words to the children as well as baking and cooking with them.

Gisella enjoys cooking, spending time with her family and friends and going on vacation with her family.

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Courtney Buliga

Position

  • Infant Montessori Teacher— Nido Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2011

Education

  • Association Montessori Internationale Primary Diploma—Montessori Training Center of St. Louis
  • A.A. Degree, Early Childhood Education (in progress)— College of Lake County
  • Nursing Assistant Certification

Personal History

Courtney was born and raised in Mundelein. In October 2011, while obtaining her Nursing Assistant Certification, she started working at AVMS as a part time teacher’s aide.  Her exposure to Montessori inspired her to change her educational goals and switch from Nursing to Early Childhood Education at the College of Lake County. Courtney has worked with both the Toddlers and Primary students during her time as an assistant. In the summer of 2016, Alta Vista Montessori School offered Courtney a sponsorship and she went to the Montessori Training Center of St. Louis to obtain her AMI Assistance to Infancy diploma, which was completed in August 2017.

In her free time, Courtney enjoys spending time with her husband and two dogs. She also enjoys reading, watching movies, and visiting family in Tennessee.

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Molly Bennett

Position

  • Primary Teaching Assistant - Rose Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2021

Education

  •  B.S., Elementary Education: Natural Science, University of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Personal History

 

Taylor

Taylor Ramos

Position

  • Primary Teaching Assistant - Lilac Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2021

Education

  •  B.S., Criminology, University of Wisconsin Whitewater

  • Spanish in Spanish Education, University of Oaxaca, Mexico

Personal History

Taylor was born in Illinois and moved to Wisconsin when she was 6. She graduated with a Bachelor’s at UW-Whitewater in criminology with a minor in Spanish. She started studying Spanish in 2010 and she continues using it daily including with the children in the classroom. She has had years of experience working with children prior to joining AVMS starting with working with her mom who has an at-home daycare of her own since 2005. Taylor loves working with children, enjoys traveling, cooking, exercising and spending time with her fiancé, dog, and family. 

Rose

Rose Brugioni Piacenza

Toddler Teacher's Assistant - Lily Room

Time at AVMS

  •  Since 2018

Education

  • CDA Preschool Certificate
  • Early Childhood Education - College of Lake County

Personal History

Rose was born in Highland Park and was raised in Highwood. Her family is first generation from Italy. Rose has worked in the Early Childhood Education field for 15 years, but working at Alta Vista is her first experience with Montessori, which for her it is a wonderful new challenge.  Rose currently resides in Grayslake with her husband. In their free time enjoy camping, traveling, ice fishing, and hanging out with family and friends.

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Michelle Castillo

Position

  • Toddler Teacher's Assistant - Sunshine Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2021

Education

  • B.A., History, University of Illinois at Chicago in progress
  • A.A., Liberal Arts & Sciences, College of Lake County

Personal History

Michelle was born and raised in Lake County. She received her Associate’s degree from College of Lake County and is in process of obtaining a Bachelor’s degree from UIC. She enjoys having the opportunity to work in a Montessori school. Michelle prefers to spend her free time with her friends, family, and dog.
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Tiarra Isom

Position

  • Infant Teacher's Assistant - Nido Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2021

Education

Personal History

 

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Vivien Zaretsky

Position

  • Infant Teacher's Assistant - Nido Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2021

Education

  • A.A., Elementary Education, College of Lake County in progress

Personal History

 

Paula

Paula Tobio Caballero

Position

  • Primary Assistant

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2021

Education

  •  B.S., Social Work, University of Cadiz, Spain

Personal History

Paula was born and raised in El Puerto de Santa María, a small city in the south of Spain. She obtained her B.A. in Social Work from the University of Cadiz (Spain) although she always felt interested in Early Childhood Education. After college, she had the opportunity to move to Lisbon, Portugal and learn English and Portuguese. She moved to Gurnee, Illinois in April 2021. In her free time, she loves to spend time with her husband, travel and meet new people and places.

 

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Susan Day

Position

  • Infant/Toddler Assistant

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2017

Education

  • B.A, Sociology - Western Illinois University

Personal History

Susan was born and raised in the western suburbs of Chicago. After college she worked as a medical social worker for 12 years. Currently she lives in Mundelein with her husband of 31 years. Susan has raised four children and she has been a great addition to our afternoon program. She enjoys long walks, reading and being with her family.

 

 

 

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Fozia Abbasi

Position

  • Substitute Teacher

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2003

Education

  • Reading College of Technology, England - Hotel Management & Business/Finance

  • Continuing Education - Food & Nutrition and Child Psychology

Personal History

Fozia was born and raised in Wimbledon, England.  

After college she got married and moved to Chicago in 1990.  She has two daughters, both graduates from U of I. She has the distinct honor of being the most senior employee at Alta Vista aside from our Administrator.

Fozia enjoys working with children. She  finds it life enriching and rewarding. She has developed a great appreciation for Montessori especially the structure in the toddler and primary environments.

She love to travel with her family, visiting art museums, gardening and yoga.