Head of School / Tonia Wheeler
Phone: 802.257.0500 ext 110
Admissions Director / Lauren Campbell
Phone: 802.257.0500 ext 101
Development Director / Sarah Armour-Jones
Phone: 802.257.0500 ext 107
Phone: 802.257.0500 ext 111
Front Desk / Admin / Amelia Farnum
Phone: 802.257.0500 ext 102
SummerFUN Camps Director / Melissa Mroz-Gaskill
Children's House (Ages 3 through Kindergarten)
Birch Room / Cheryl Matthews (Director)
Cheryl has been teaching in Hilltop's Primary program since 1987. She possesses a BS from Lyndon State College and has both of her Primary (age 3-6) and Lower Elementary (age 6-9) AMS (American Montessori Society) certifications as well as her elementary education state certification.
Sarah Doolittle (Assistant)
Sarah joined the Primary program in 2000. She is working towards a dual-program degree at Greenfield Community College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. She is majoring in psychology with a minor in education. Sarah completed her Montessori Assistant's training at Northeast Montessori Institute.
Willow Room / Melissa Mroz-Gaskill (Director)
Melissa joined Hilltop in 1993 as Director of the After-Care program. Completing her Montessori training (3 – 6 years) in the summer of 2000, Melissa took over as a Primary Directress bringing with her fourteen years of teaching experience and a commitment to helping students with learning differences. She holds a BS in Early Childhood Education from the University of Rhode Island.
Ellie Pennell (Assistant)
Ellie joined Hilltop in 2010 as an aide in Willow Room and in 2011 she became the classroom assistant. Ellie earned her Assistants to Infancy certification (birth to 3 years) from The Montessori Institute (AMI - Association Montessori International) in Denver, CO, and her Children’s House certification (3 to 6 years) from the Montessori Training Center of New England (AMI) in Hartford, CT. Ellie holds a BA in Psychology from Miami University and a Masters in Education from Loyola University Maryland. Ellie is pleased to return to teaching after taking time off to raise her young children.
Mariam Diallo (Assistant & After School Program Director)
Elementary (Lower - grades 1 - 3 / Upper - grades 4 - 6)
Lower Elementary / Jessica Thomas (Director)
Jessica Thomas grew up in London, England and moved to Vermont 27 years ago. Her son, Ben joined Hilltop at age three, and thus was their beginning into Montessori education. She began teaching as a substitute at Hilltop in 1985, and later in the after school program. Jessica’s Montessori training at CMTE (Center for Montessori Teacher Education) in New Rochelle, New York, led her to become a co-teacher in the Lower Elementary Program. She was appointed head teacher in 1990. Jessica has been teaching at Hilltop for over 20 years, and enjoys watching “how enthusiastic the students are to learn in the lower el”. Jessica has a daughter, Zoe, a Hilltop graduate. Jessica also has a BA in Psychology and Education from Union Institute and University.
Kerstin joined Hilltop in the Lower Elementary in 2010. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Clark University, has her certification in elementary Waldorf education and has taught first grade at the Waldorf School of Princeton in New Jersey. After one more year teaching the same children in second grade, she traded her suburban existence for the country life in Wardsboro, Vermont and taught a combined 3rd/4th grade, and a 5th/6th grade, as well as working as a one-on-one teacher for several children in the Windham County school district. For four years after the arrival of her daughter, Kerstin taught English Literature and Language Arts to skiers and riders at Mount Snow Academy in Dover.
Previously Kerstin served the Site Director, as well as a teacher, for Wardsboro Elementary School’s first-ever after-school program. “In addition to my experience as a teacher in an alternative school, I am a former Montessori school student. From the ages of three to nine, I attended the Enfield (CT) Montessori School. I have many clear and fond memories of those very important early years, including tracing my finger many times over those scratchy sandpaper letters!”
Kerstin will be completing her 6-9 Montessori teacher training in summer 2013.
Connie came to Hilltop nearly twenty years ago as a sub for primary teacher Cheryl Mathews when she went on maternity leave. At the time, her son Ben was in the Primary program. Later, she co-taught in the Primary Program as well as assisting in the Upper El. She attended the NEMTEC (New England Montessori Training Education Center) in Cambridge, MA, and later her enthusiasm for Montessori teaching led her to elementary (6-9 year old) training via the Sea Coast program. She has been working with Jessica Thomas ever since and loves working in the lower elementary program. Her undergraduate degree is in education from Lesley College (now University). She lives in Greenfield with her husband, Dave, who is a professor at UMASS, and two sons, Ben and Tom.
What’s the best part of working in the lower elementary program? “It’s always exciting for me to see kids take that step into reading and become literate beings”.
Upper Elementary /Dan Filler (Director)
Dan has found his niche in the Upper El program. Although he has taught in other schools in Maine and Vermont, he finds Hilltop a unique combination of Montessori philosophy and educational curriculum a good match for his own educational beliefs. “Working at Hilltop has made me a much better teacher. The students push you to think differently.”
Dan Filler grew up in Simsbury, Connecticut with his parents and three brothers. He graduated from Yale University with a BA in Art, and went on to receive his Masters of Art in Teaching (MAT) at Brown. His teaching experiences include private and public school settings serving diverse student populations. Dan also implemented a community-based (internship) program at BUHS, which is still going strong today.
Dan has completed his 6-9 and 9-12 year old Montessori certification at CMTE. He has been team teaching with Tom Griffith who make a wonderful combination of talent and personality. “I love the Upper El students and their level of curiosity. They do amazing things, and they really step into their own here.”
Tom has been teaching at Hilltop in various capacities since 1994. Tom possesses a BA in Music Theory from Kenyon College and a MS in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England. He participated in Montessori training courses at the Seacoast Montessori Training Center and currently finishing his 9-12 year old Montessori certification at CMTE.
Middle School (grades 7 - 8)
Paul Dedell (Director)
After years working in the professional theatre as a production manager, music director, and designer, in the world of music as a guitarist and composer and running a historical restoration company, Paul finally found a home for all his passions at the Hilltop Montessori Middle School. He began his association with the middle school as a parent, whose daughter Sydney was in the second graduating class. At first he collaborated with students in writing music for Performance month productions, then taught freedom songs during the first ever Civil Rights Movement study, helped construct a classroom community shelter in the woods, and eventually began team teaching humanities with Kevin Campbell, the founder of the middle school. Finally, he was around so much that the school offered him the position as director of the middle school in 2000.
Finn Campman (Lead Teacher: Language Arts & Fine Arts)
Finn grew up in the Brattleboro area. He went to the Putney School and is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College where he focused on19th century Literature, Philosophy, and World Peace. After working in publishing and graphic design in New York City he moved back to Vermont where he worked at Sandglass Theater in Putney as technical director and associate artist while forming his own theater, Company of Strangers. Finn has performed and taught all over the world with his theater company. Mentored by Kevin Campbell, he began teaching in the Middle School in 2000. Finn says, "It is the raw passionate creativity of middle school students that makes me love my job. Every one of my students is about to discover the meaning of the universe, every one is walking the tightrope of self awareness, grappling with the potential of abstraction and metaphor. There is no place, I can imagine, where the potential for humanity is more evident."
Nora Gordon (Science and Math)
Nora graduated from Oberlin College with a BA in Environmental Studies and is currently pursuing an MS in Science Education at Antioch University New England. A graduate of Hilltop herself, Nora has been working with students of all ages in Hilltop's classrooms and gardens since 2009. She is inspired by her love of the outdoors as well as her background in organic farming.
Rolf Parker-Houghton (Math)
Music, Art & Physical Education
Jay Cook (Music)
Jay is the school's musical pied piper. He has a BA in Music from Middlebury College and plays an array of instruments, specializing in African style percussion groups. Jay is involved in drumming residencies in schools throughout the state and in keeping the beat with his band, Jazzberry Jam.
Ben James (PE)
Ben is Hilltop's enthusiastic new PE teacher. Ben skis, bikes, plays ultimate, and soccer, and has coached basketball. He volunteered during this past snowless winter with Hilltop's winter sports program at the Brattleboro Outing Club and coordinated Green Street's Mt Snow programs for several years. He was a welcome addition in LE where he interned as part of his state certification requirement, so he is already quite familiar with the possibilities that this campus has to offer.
Helen Schmidt (Art)
Helen taught art at Hilltop from 1998-2002 in the middle school, and came back in 2011 to teach in the elementary program. She has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College, where she concentrated on printmaking and social work, and got an M.F.A. in sculpture from Vermont College. She has been teaching adults and children at The River Gallery School since 2000, as well as teaching and creating her own art from her studio in Westminster West.