Administrative Team

sophia

Sophia Ginder

 

Position

  • Head of School

  • 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 Libertyville, a 10 minute walk from the school, with her husband, “Mr. Bob”, 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 and she has created beautiful gardens in her Libertyville home. Her new love these days is her grandchildren and spending time with them.

samantha

Samantha Kunio

Position

  • Primary Level Educational Director

  • Primary Montessori Teacher - Rose Room

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 this 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 and she joined the Alta Vista administrative team. Samantha has two children at Alta Vista; her son Jameson is in the Rose room, and her daughter Laurel is in the Nido community. In her free time Samantha loves cooking, reading, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends.

Primary Team

alicia

Alicia Armstrong

Position

  • Primary Montessori Teacher— Lilac Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2010

Education

  • Association Montessori Internationale Primary Diploma—Montessori Institute of Milwaukee
  • B.A., Psychology (in progress, graduating summer 2017)— ColumbiaCollege of Missouri

Personal History

Alicia grew up in the local area and graduated from Libertyville High School.  Alicia started working at AVMS in 2009 as an after school staff member. In2010 she became a primary classroom assistant. She decided that she wanted to pursue a career in Montessori education and in 2014 she obtained her AMI Primary Teacher Diploma from the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee. She is currently working on her B. A. in Psychology with a focus on children from Columbia College of Missouri.

Alicia enjoys reading, going to the dog park with her two dogs, Milo and Wrigley and traveling. Some of her most memorable experiences include her travels, including an extended trip to a small village in Mexico. She had the opportunity to really experience rural Mexican life and participate in a number of local cultural experiences.

erica

Erica Swiniuch

Position

  • Primary Teaching Assistant - Rose Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2015

Education

  • A.A. Degree, Early Childhood Education (in progress)—College of Lake County

Personal History

Erica was born and raised in Mundelein.  She resides with her parents and is very close with her siblings and long time childhood friends.  Erica is attending the College of Lake County in pursuit of her Early Childhood certification.  She has been interested in a career with young children since she was 15 years old. She has extensive experience as a nanny and babysitter. She started working at Alta Vista in June 2015 on a seasonal, part time basis and was offered the position of Primary Teaching Assistant at the end of her summer work.

Erica enjoys being active to stay healthy, attending Cubs games and traveling.

The most interesting place she has been so far is Hawaii, but she is looking forward to many more travels in the future.

leaves1-64

Sky Garcia

Position

  • Primary Teaching Assistant - Lilac Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2017

Education

Personal History

 

 

Toddler Team

courtney

Courtney Buliga

Position

  • Toddler Montessori Teacher— Ivy 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, Courtney went to the Montessori Training Center of St. Louis to obtain her AMI Assistance to Infancy diploma, which will be 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.

suzanne

Suzanne Booth

Position

  • A to I (Infant-Toddler Level) Educational Director
  • 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 have two boys who are both current students at Alta Vista. Suzanne attended Bradley University and graduated in 2006 with a B.A. in music with a vocal and choral conducting emphasis.

One of her most memorable experiences is touring and signing in various cathedrals in Europe with the Bradley University Chorale.

In 2006, Suzanne began working at AVMS as a teaching assistant in the toddler community. She decided to pursue Montessori training and 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.

In her free time, Suzanne enjoys running, music, cooking, keeping up with her vocal training, and spending time with her family.

gisella

Gisella Maniscalco

Position

  • Toddler Teaching Assistant—Lily Room

Time at AVMS

  •  Since 2008

Education

  •  Infant Teaching Certificate, 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.

Edith

Edith Rodriguez

Position

  • Toddler Teaching Assistant—Ivy Room

Time at AVMS

  •  Since 2016

Education

  •  AA in progress at CLC

Personal History

Edith's dream is to complete her education and become a teacher and her big inspiration has been her lovely 3 year old daughter. Ever since she started working at Alta Vista, her interest in Montessori  has become stronger and hopefully one day she may even become a Montessori teacher. She came to Alta Vista with two years of experience working with young children and her love for this work is quite evident in the caring way she interacts with the children.

Infant Team

isabella

Isabella Valderama

Position

  • Infant Lead Teacher — Daisy Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2016

Education

  • B.S., Family and Human Services — University of Oregon, Eugene, OR

 

Personal History

 

Ms. Isabella was born in San Francisco, and was raised in Hayward.  She later moved to Eugene, Oregon.  After college, she moved to Taiwan to teach English where she eventually met her husband.

From there, she moved to Connecticut, had a daughter, Lena, and began working in the childcare field.  She was able to bring Lena to work with her and this really worked out well so she began looking at a career in childcare.

After moving to Chicago in 2013, Isabella worked as a nanny for an infant boy and then as an assistant in an infant room at a privately owned day care center.  She was promoted to the Lead Infant Teacher position after 6 months and when the job became available, she eventually became the director of a newly opened center with 5 classrooms.

This was when she was introduced to the Montessori philosophy.  The new school had 1 primary classroom and as the director, Isabella was in charge of procuring the proper materials, hiring a Guide, and enrolling the class of 15 students.  It was a lot to learn, but she became more and more excited with each step.  That's when she knew she wanted to be a part of an accredited Montessori school.  She was thrilled to discover Alta Vista and she jumped at the chance to join the team.  She is looking forward to continue pursuing her education in the Montessori field and enjoys watching her children thrive at Alta Vista!

Isabella enjoys practicing yoga, knitting, rock climbing and spending time with her family in Oregon.

cheryl

Cheryl Jaworsky

Position

  • Infant Teaching Assistant - Daisy Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2010

Education

  • Associates Degree in Marketing
  • Banking Certificate
  • Montessori Assistant Training Course

Personal History

Cheryl was born and raised in Bluffton, Indiana, but has lived in the Chicago area for many years. She obtained her Associates Degree in Marketing from Indiana University in Fort Wayne and her Banking Certificate from Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education in Chicago.  She worked as a Legal Secretary for 7 years and as a Vice President of a Trust Company for 15 years. She lives with her husband of 39 years. While raising her 2 sons she became involved with the Boy Scouts where she discovered that working with children was something she loved and enjoyed. Five years ago a desire for a change led her to AVMS. After completing her assistant Montessori training at WellSpring Montessori Center in Glen Ellyn, she started as a teaching assistant in toddler, then Primary and finally the Nido room.

Cheryl enjoys camping and relaxing outdoors as well as hosting outdoor summer parties for family and friends. She has enjoye

d traveling to Europe with her older son; those trips were very exciting and memorable for her.

yaskara

Yaskara Pinto

Position

  • Infant/Toddler Teaching Assistant—Ivy Room

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2015

Education

  • Child Development Associate Credential Training – Lake County YWCA

Personal History

Yaskara was born in raised in the city of Guatemala. She has been married for 15 years and she and her husband have daughter name Alexa who attended a Montessori school thru 3rd grade. Yaskara has been working with children since 1991. She took her Child Development Associate Credential Training _ Lake County YWCA. She worked for 7 years as a teacher assistant in the Montessori school where her daughter attended. She has been working at Alta Vista since 2015 when we opened our Nido Community. Yaskara enjoys spending time with her family.

Support Staff

fozia

Fozia Abbasi

Position

  • Substitute Teacher

Time at AVMS

  • Since 2003