The Birch Room

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Jay Cook

Music Teacher

Jay has been the school’s musical pied piper since 1996! He has a BA in Music from Middlebury College and plays an array of instruments. Jay enjoys instrumental and vocal improvisation, and plays bass, keyboard and sings with his bands, Jazzberry Jam and Hipfunk Associates. He introduces rhythm, movement and song to our youngest students; recorder, drums, ukulele, ensemble playing, music technology 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.

Mariam Diallo

Birch Room Teacher & BeforeCare Program Director

Mariam has been the warm and welcoming pillar of Hilltop After Care 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.

Julia Gil

Children’s House Assistant

Julia joined Hilltop in 2019 as AfterCare staff. She was introduced to the Montessori world at age 3 and attended a Montessori school in Ithaca, NY for 6 years.  She got her undergraduate degree at Hampshire College in Animal Behavior, studying African elephants in Botswana. Since college, she has found herself back in the Montessori community. She is currently in AMI training through Montessori Northwest and is pursuing a Masters in Early Childhood Education at Whitworth University. When not in class or on campus, Julia enjoys exploring the outdoors with her golden retriever and working on her latest art project. Julia loves traveling, cooking, animals, and working with children.

Cheryl Matthews

Birch Room 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 visiting children in Northern Vermont, gardening or sugaring, and caring for animals on her small farm.

Marco Yunga Tacuri

Equity, Justice, and Inclusion Director & Children's House Spanish and PE Teacher

Marco joined Hilltop in 2015 as an After Care and Children’s House assistant, after seeing what a positive effect Hilltop had on his two children, who are currently in the Lower and Upper Elementary Programs.

He moved to Brattleboro in 2014 from his home country of Ecuador. In Ecuador he taught language through music to preschoolers and cultural studies and art to high schoolers and since moving to Brattleboro has taught Spanish at Northfield Mount Hermon School and Four Rivers Charter School. He received his BA in Cultural Studies from the University of Cuenca in Ecuador, and his masters in Anthropology from the University of Lethbridge in Canada, where he studied, identity, ethnopolitics, and traditional music in the Amazon. He plays guitar and many traditional Ecuadorian instruments and was the director of a traditional Andean band for ten years. He also has a love for photography, woodworking, pottery, soccer, and mosaic-making. He is excited to bring his passion for social justice and culture, Spanish language experience, and creativity to Hilltop.