Hilltop Montessori

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Sunday, 21 Dec 2014
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Head of School / Tamara Mount
Phone: 802.257.0500 ext 110
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Tamara Mount joined Hilltop as Head of School in the Summer of 2013 excited to combine her management and Montessori experiences. She began in Montessori as a two year old and attended through Lower Elementary at a school where her mother was the Head of School. After transitioning to a traditional school she then went to the University of Virginia, majoring in English and Environmental Science. After graduating, Tamara worked for a leading consulting firm in the Washington D.C. area providing environmental management consulting for ten years. Once she and her husband, Brad, had children of Montessori age, she delved back into the educational system that had always seemed right to her. Tamara obtained her Montessori Lower Elementary credential in 2008 from the Princeton Center for Teacher Education. She was the lead teacher in a Lower Elementary class for six years. Her two sons attend Hilltop in the Upper Elementary and Middle School. Tamara is honored and enthused to be able to lead this quality school with a close knit community as it continues to develop and grow in bringing the best of Montessori to the Brattleboro area.

Admissions Director / Lauren Campbell

Phone: 802.257.0500 ext 101
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Lauren and her family moved to Brattleboro in 1991 from Washington, DC. They have two sons who are graduates of HMS, Ian, class of 2002 and Colin, class of 2008. Lauren is a graduate of American University and worked as a designer for many years before starting her own design firm in Washington. Vermont then became the answer to living in a place she would not want to leave during the summer! In 1996 Lauren returned to work and joined Hilltop’s administrative team while her husband, Kevin Campbell, was developing Hilltop’s Middle School program. A deep appreciation for the Montessori approach to education grew as a parent and member of the HMS staff and continues today as she shows the school to other families considering a Hilltop education for their children. Lauren still stays in Vermont for summers and feels it is an amazing place to raise children.

Development Director / Amelia Farnum
Phone: 802.257.0500 ext 107
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Amelia’s first connection with Hilltop was as a parent when her daughter entered the Children’s House in 2008.  In 2011, she accepted the role of Administrative Assistant at the school. Her broad skill base came in handy when the role shifted in response to the changing needs of the Admin Team. With the promotion to Director of Development, Amelia brings an arsenal of varied skills to the position and through her native Vermonter husband, many local connections. Her love of networking, brainstorming and executing FUN and innovative events, and commitment to Hilltop’s mission and brilliant faculty make her a great match for this job. Amelia earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Psychology from Mount Holyoke College. Her checkered professional past includes time spent as an Arts Administrator, Video Editor, and Public Radio/Television staff.  Amelia’s husband Chad Farnum is the owner of Farnum Insulators, a local insulation and home energy auditing company. The three live in East Dummerston along with one dog, two cats and too many fish to count.

Business Office 
/ Colleen Frankiewicz
Phone: 802.257.0500 ext 111
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Colleen joined Hilltop Montessori School as our Business Manager in January 2013. She oversees the operations of our business office; coordinating, tracking, budgeting and reporting all financial aspects of the school operations. Colleen loves numbers and looking out for the bottom line!

It was in 1988 that Colleen started her accounting career. Prior to joining Hilltop Montessori School, she worked for Pieciak & Co., where she was a Senior Staff Account and Tax Professional. Colleen serves as Board Treasurer for Green Mountain Camp for Girls.

Colleen lives in Brattleboro with her husband, Larry, their children and grandchildren. She enjoys cooking and spending time with her family. Her grand daughter is a member of the first Toddler class at Hilltop!

Front Desk / Admin 
Phone: 802.257.0500 ext 102
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Our current admin coordinator, Ann Brehm, will be moving on to work closer to her home so we are in transition. This soon to be determined person will be available to greet you and your child in the front lobby. If you have questions about any logistics or just a morning hello, this person will be there to help you and your child.


Toddler Program

Ellie Pennell (Toddler Director)

Ellie Pennell 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 from The Montessori Institute in Denver, CO, and her Children’s House certification from the Montessori Training Center of New England in Hartford, CT.  Ellie holds a BA in Psychology from Miami University and a Masters in Education from Loyola University Maryland.

Ellie is excited to design and develop Hilltop's new Toddler Program just next door to her friends in the Willow Room.  Prior to joining Hilltop, she spent 2 years leading toddler classrooms in Massachusetts and 7 years at home raising her 3 young children who now are elementary students at Hilltop.  She will apply her Montessori toddler training, experience, and warm and friendly style to Hilltop's newest program. 

Hannah Viens (Toddler Assistant and Before Care)

Hannah Viens is very excited to be joining the Toddler Program Team and helping children transition to school in the early hours of Before Care. Hannah has her BA fro the College of the Atlantic where she studied Elementary Education. She holds a K-8 provisional Teaching Certificate from the state of Maine. Montessori education has been a part of Hannah's life since her early days as a student at Hilltop. She graduated from the Middle School in 2004. Hannah is looking forward to adding a stronger Montessori perspective to her experience working in several early childhood programs and as a substitute in the Children's House.

AfterCare - Children's House and Toddler Program

Mariam Diallo (Toddler Assistant &  AfterCare Program Director for Children's House & Toddlers)

Mariam has been the warm and welcoming pillar of Hilltop AfterCare since 2011. Mariam attended training through the Montessori Elementary Teacher Training Collaborative (METTC) at Lexington Montessori School and the Advanced Assistant’s Overview training at the Gordon College. She studied the philosophy, pedagogy and methodology of Montessori education and how to guide children with the vast array of Montessori materials. Mariam also has an Associate's degree from the Community College of Vermont in Liberal Arts and a BA from Keene State College in Sociology.

Mariam has been a volunteer in orphanages in Mali, her homeland, and currently helps with an orphanage in Haiti, a project she began after the Earthquake. She enjoys cooking and sharing meals with friends and family, reading, travel, and learning about different cultures and new languages. She brings all of these interests to the children in AfterCare.

Jaime Pelletier (Assistant in Children's House, Toddler and AfterCare Programs)

Jaime joins Hilltop this year as an assistant in the Children’s House, Toddler & AfterCare Programs. She completed the training portion of her Pre-Primary Montessori certification this summer at the New England Montessori Teacher Education Center in Newton, Massachusetts and is looking forward to using her eclectic skillset to design movement programs in conjunction with gaining more Montessori experience. Jaime holds B.A. in Psychology & Human Services from the College of Public & Community Services at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is a Holistic healing arts coach, certified yoga teacher, and certified Trauma Sensitive Yoga teacher.

Jaime has been working with children and teens for 18 years; as a nanny, coaching competitive gymnastics, teaching dance, yoga, therapeutic yoga, surfing and art. Jaime is excited to join the Hilltop community after spending a year at a Montessori school in Boston. She is looking forward to teaching others and learning as much as she can from students, co-workers and parents so all can grow.

Children's House
 (Ages 3 through Kindergarten)

Birch Room / Cheryl Matthews (Director) 

Cheryl has been teaching in the Children's House program since 1987, she is truly a "Master" Montessori teacher. She has a BS from Lyndon State College and has both her Primary (age 3-6) and Lower Elementary (age 6-9) AMS (American Montessori Society) certifications as well as her elementary education state certification from Franklin Pierce College. Whether in the classroom or out in the natural world, Cheryl brings out the joy of learning unique to each child.

When she is not in the classroom Cheryl is busy with her family gardening or sugaring, caring for her chickens and cows, or attending her children’s various agricultural events.

Serina Keppel (Children's House Program Assistant and Early Education Partnership Program Director)
Serina Keppel will be a wonderful complement to our Children's House team as she lends her knowledge and experience to the assistant position. Serina has her B.S. in Early Childhood Education from Boston University and has worked in early childhood programs for over 15 years, most recently running her own program in her home for 4-6 children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years. She is excited to delve into the pedagogy of Montessori and have a cadre of colleagues with whom to collaborate. She is experienced with the State of Vermont STARS program, in which Hilltop participates. She is in the process of obtaining her Vermont State Early Childhood Educators License. She is excited to join the team of teachers she has so respected and appreciated as her two children have been enriched through their years at Hilltop.

Willow Room / Jonathan Sellers (Director)
Jonathan Sellers is joining us as a teacher in the Children's House. Jonathan has his Children's House certification from the Princeton Center for Teacher Education. He has five years of experience teaching in Montessori Children's House classrooms, including at Amherst Montessori School and the New Century School (language immersion) in Baltimore, Maryland. Jonathan has a calm, nurturing, thoughtful, and mature demeanor. His colleagues and supervisors rave about his teaching skills: "In my 25 years in Montessori, I have never seen anyone embody Montessori more." His teaching style encourages children to find their paths and learn naturally in the Montessori environment. He and his wife have recently relocated to the Brattleboro area where they will be closer to family and she will be working as a nurse at Grace Cottage Hospital in Townshend, while finishing her studies to become a midwife.

Rebecca Baiser (Assistant)
Rebecca Baiser will be a fantastic addition to the team as she puts her Montessori training and experience into practice as the assistant teacher in the Willow Room. She obtained her Children's House credential from the Princeton Center for Teacher Education in 2002 and received her Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education in 2007. She has been an educator for over a decade and has taught in schools in California and Brattleboro before staying home with her young son. She is excited to have found a position at such an authentic Montessori school. Her son, Isaac, is a member or the first Hilltop Toddler class!

Elementary (Lower - grades 1 - 3 / Upper - grades 4 - 6)

Dan Filler (Elementary Director)
Dan is the Director of Elementary, overseeing and teaching in both the Lower and Upper Elementary programs. In this role he supports both teaching teams in their planning, implementation, observation, and development of all areas of the curriculum. He also directly teaches the children of both programs in many subject areas. As the elementary art teacher, Dan works to integrate art into the rich science and cultural curriculums of both Elementary programs.

Dan 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. Dan has his 6-9 and 9-12 year old Montessori certification from the Center for Montessori Teacher Education. His teaching experiences before coming to Hilltop include private and public school settings serving diverse student populations. He team taught with Tom Griffith in Upper Elementary for 9 years before becoming the Director Elementary in 2013. Dan is also a member of the faculty for the Montessori Education Teacher Training Collaborative, providing training, mentoring, and evaluations for Montessori teacher interns.

Lower Elementary

Kerstin Kjellberg

Kerstin joined Hilltop in the Lower Elementary in 2010. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Clark University and completed her 6-9 Montessori teacher training during the summer of 2013 at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education (CMTE). Kerstin also has her certification in elementary Waldorf education, and taught for two years at the Waldorf School of Princeton in New Jersey.  She then 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. Her experience in other school environments helped her to appreciate the multi-age, natural learning approach of Montessori that had been her start.

Kerstin attended the Enfield Montessori School in Enfield, CT, from age 2 1/2 to 9.  She has lots of fond memories of those early days, including tracing her finger on those scratchy sandpaper letters and polishing her shoes.  In her time away from school, Kerstin likes to spend time outside with her daughter, visit friends, bake, read, pick any fruit that's in season, and attend any fairs and festivals she can find. 

Patrick Burke
Patrick joined Kerstin in the Lower El classroom in 2013, previously he taught at Washington Montessori School in Connecticut. He has also worked with adolescents in a community service program and as an after school program leader. Like so many Montessori teachers, Patrick had that "aha" moment through observing his oldest child, Jamie, when he started in Children's House. The more Patrick read and observed and the more he watched Jamie "become", the more he knew that he wanted to teach in an environment where respect was paramount.

Patrick and Kerstin trained in the same Montessori certificate program at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education and thus they have worked together on materials and practicing lessons. It's a team with some history!

Upper Elementary

Tom Griffith
Tom has been teaching in the Upper Elementary at Hilltop since 1993. He “grew up” in Cleveland and received a BA in Music Theory from Kenyon College.  He and his wife Leslie moved to New Orleans where he began a career in woodworking in a small custom cabinet shop. They later moved to Bratttleboro so Leslie could attend SIT. Tom caught the teaching bug in a refugee camp in Panat Nikhom, Thailand, where they taught Laotian and Khmer refugees from 1985 to 1987. After returning to the states, they built a house in Westminster West and Tom received an MS in Environmental Studies from Antioch University New England. He completed Montessori training courses at the Seacoast Montessori Training Center and the upper elementary Montessori certification program at CMTE. They have 2 children, both of whom, in their opinion, have turned out pretty well in part as a result of their time at Hilltop (Evan, ’02 and Claire, ’03). Tom enjoys singing with the River Singers, taking care of the animals at home, and puttering around the house and the school.

Jennifer Hed

Jennifer hails from the west coast, finished high school and college round one in Texas, and spent a decade in D.C. working in public affairs before turning her sights on Montessori teaching.  She holds M.A.’s in Latin American Studies and Education, and completed her Montessori AMI elementary training at the Washington Montessori Institute.  After teaching upper elementary in the D.C. area, her family moved to Brattleboro in 2000, where her oldest daughter Natasha (graduate ’98) brought the family to Hilltop.  Jennifer taught music part-time in the area for several years before joining the Hilltop staff last year.  Her husband Steve is a farmer, carpenter, and helps keep up with their other two children, Naomi and Noah, who are elementary and middle school age.

Jennifer enjoys biking, accordion, folk dance, learning new games with her kids (“Go” is our latest ingtrigue), and caring for honeybees—acquired for the first time just last spring, and inspired in part by several fellow beekeepers among Hilltop parents!  Jennifer loves learning, loves the Montessori “cosmic education” curriculum, and loves seeing insights about the world unfold in the UE classroom.

Becky Eisenhandler (Elementary Assistant & After Care Program Director)

Becky Eisenhandler joined the Hilltop Montessori staff in the summer of 2014. She leads the After Care Program for the Elementary aged children and assists the Elementary teachers during the school day. She brings her love of the outdoors and of gardening to the After Care Program for the Elementary aged children which will be based in the new Arts Barn and will include lots of outdoor time. Becky has an BS in Mathematics-Physics from Keene State College and an MS in Leadership for Sustainability Education from Portland State University. Becky is especially interested in teaching her students about sustainability-related issues such as gardening and local food systems, community building, and social justice. In her free time she loves gardening, swimming, hiking, rock climbing, reading, knitting, and exploring her new hometown of Guilford, VT. Becky and her husband, Felix,  are in the process of building their very first earthen-home and are hoping to be in it by winter!

Wendy Lynde - Learning Specialist
Wendy has been married to her husband Steven for 30 years and has been a resident in Vermont for as long. Together they have raised two daughters, Aubree and Julienne, who are both married and live out of state. Her passion is teaching children to read and equipping them in all areas so that they are able to fulfill their dreams for their lives.

Wendy is our part time, in-house Learning Specialist. She has been teaching for over 30 years. The last 20 years she has spent working with children who need additional support in order for them to be successful in the classroom. Wendy has a degree in Early Childhood Education and is a certified Wilson Reading Instructor. She has also worked privately with students from Hilltop Montessori School. In addition to her professional experience she has a wealth of knowledge gained from professional development workshops and conferences focused on academics, behavior, and differentiated learning.

In her free time Wendy can often be found capturing memories and beauty through the lens of a camera. Her ultimate dream is to incorporate her photography into reading. Teaching reading and seeing children learn remains one of the foremost passions of her life and she is enthusiastic about the new opportunities at Hilltop.

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 on 19th 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 received her MS in Environmental Studies and Science Education from Antioch University New England and holds a BA in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College. She has completed the AMI Montessori Orientation Program to Adolescent Studies and is excited to bring her passion for Montessori education and the natural world to her teaching of math and science in the middle school. A graduate of Hilltop herself (Class of '00), Nora has worked 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. When not in the classroom or on the land with her students, Nora can be found rowing, sailing, hiking, and skiing with her dog Rye.

Music & Physical Education

Jay Cook (Music)
Jay has been the school's musical pied piper since 1990! 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. He introduces rhythm and song to our youngest students; recorder, drums, ukulele and collaboration to our elementary students; brings us all together for All School Gathering sings; and does everything possible to have music be integrated into the life of Hilltop Montessori School.

Ben James (PE)

Ben is Hilltop's enthusiastic Physical Education teacher. Ben enjoys cross-country running, sailing, mountain biking, telemark and backcountry skiing, speed skating, and playing ultimate, basketball, pond hockey, and soccer, among just about every other sport and activity. Ben's career shift occurred after completing an elementary education post-bac degree at Brattleboro's Union Institute, teaching in the WSESU school district for four years, and coaching for the Brattleboro Rec. Center for the last decade. Ben became intrigued with Hilltop Montessori School when he interned with the Lower Elementary class during his elementary education training.


"For us Hilltop is not only a's part of our community and our family."

—Hilltop Parent