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Sophia Ginder

 

Position

  • School Administrator

  • School Founder

Time at AVMS 

  • Since its opening in 1998

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 with a minor in School Administration. 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

  • Primary Program Coordinator

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2015

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 closer to home and she joined the Alta Vista team. Samantha is entering her 6th year as the Rose Room Primary Guide. She has 2 elementary aged children, both Alta Vista alums! In her free time Samantha loves cooking, reading, yoga, traveling and spending time with her family and friends.

 

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Sky Garcia

Position

  • Primary Montessori Teacher - Lilac Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2017

Personal History

Sky was born and raised in Texas before moving to Illinois. Her first language was Spanish since her family is from Mexico. Sky received her Associate's Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Texas Pan-American and her AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Training Center of St. Louis. 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.

Suzanne

Suzanne Booth

Position

  • Toddler Montessori Teacher— Lily Room
  • Infant/Toddler Program Coordinator

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2006

Personal History

Suzanne was born and raised in the Chicago area. She and her husband Karl live in Mundelein where they raise their two boys (both AV alums) and their 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 cooking, hiking, singing and playing her ukulele.

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Gisella Maniscalco

Position

  • Toddler Montessori Teacher — Sunshine Room

Time at AVMS

  •  Since 2008

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 and in 2022 she received her AMS Infant/Toddler Diploma from Seton Montessori Institute and she is now a lead toddler teacher.

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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Jocelyn Pineda

Position

  • Infant Teacher — Nido Room

Time at AVMS

  •  Since 2022

Personal History

 

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Paula Monroe-Tobio

Position

  • Teacher's Assistant - Rose Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2021

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 family, travel and meet new people and places.

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Nicole Flamank

Position

  • Teacher's Assistant - Lilac Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2021

Personal History

Nicole has lived her whole life in Libertyville and went to LHS. She has been interested in working with children for as long as she can remember. Nicole's mom runs a home daycare and she has always helped her mom in a variety of ways.  She is now able to continue working with children and learn more about Montessori. She has received an Associate's degree in Social Work from the College of Lake County.

 

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Rose Brugioni Piacenza

Position

  • Teacher's Assistant - Lily Room

Time at AVMS

  •  Since 2018

Personal History

Rose was born in Highland Park and was raised in Highwood. Her family is first generation from Italy. Rose has her CDA Preschool Certificate and 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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Becky Greenawalt

Position

  • Teacher's Assistant - Sunshine Room

Time at AVMS

  •  Since 2022

Personal History

 Becky was born and raised in Libertyville; she graduated from LHS in 2002 and has received a B.A. in Hospitality, Tourism and Management from Roosevelt University. She has a beautiful daughter who started first grade this year. Becky has worked with children from infant to school age and she has always enjoyed all ages and how different they are as they grow and develop. Toddlers are her personal favorites because she loves how at that age is where their personalities shine. Becky says that if she has a bad morning coming to work seeing all her little toddlers' faces instantly puts a smile on her face. She says "there honestly are no bad days working at Alta Vista with the toddlers".

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Cailee Russell

Position

  • Teacher's Assistant - Nido Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2022

Personal History

 

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Daniela Betancourt

Position

  • Teacher's Assistant - Nido Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2022

Personal History

 

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Tatjana Bergman

Position

  • Teacher's Assistant - Nido Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2022

Personal History

 

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Tia Trevino

Position

  • Support Assistant - Primary

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2022

Personal History

Tia was born and raised in the Chicago area. She graduated from CLC with an AA focusing on education and is working on finishing her BA at UIC. She first started working with children in 5th grade reading to daycare children after school and has been involved in childcare since. In her free time Tia enjoys reading and walking in Lake County Forest Preserves.

 

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Tamia Thomas

Position

  • Support Assistant - Toddler

Time at AVMS

  •  Since 2022

Personal History

Tamia was born in Milwaukee, WI and currently she is in her second year of college at CLC working to complete her Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education. She has completed the two year tech campus program in ECE learning how to implement age appropriate activities in creative arts.

On her free time, Tamia enjoys shopping, cooking and roller skating. She also enjoys spending time with her nieces and nephews.

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Fozia Abbasi

Position

  • Substitute Teacher

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2003

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. She graduated from Reading College of Technology in England and her focus was in Hotel Management & Business/Finance.

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.