Lower Elementary

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Patrick Burke

Lower Elementary Teacher

Patrick graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a major in Biology. Like so many Montessori teachers, Patrick had that “aha” moment through observing his oldest child when he started in Children’s House. Currently Patrick has a child in Upper El and Middle School, and his oldest graduated from Hilltop in 2020.

He earned his Lower Elementary certification from the Center for Montessori Teaching in NY, and has been teaching at Hilltop since 2013. On his days off, Patrick soothes his spirit by strumming a guitar, tapping the keys of a piano, or writing music.

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.

Jade Harmon

Elementary Art Teacher

Jade joined the Hilltop community as Elementary Art Teacher in 2018, joyously providing a TAB-inspired (Teaching for Artistic Behavior) studio space that resonates beautifully with Montessori philosophy. In their art studio, students behave as true artists: choosing their project and media, practicing techniques, and exploring their unique artistic voice. Students create in a supported, gently guided environment as they absorb technique, learn about artists in the world, reflect, and delight in the creative process!

Jade received her BFA in art and creative writing from New College via The Union Institute. She has taught art to children of all ages. She loves exploring all methods of art-making and specializes in comics, sculpture, graphic design, and fiber arts. She and her husband, Jay, have lived in the area since 2002. Their son, Eko, is a student in Lower Elementary. When not teaching and making her own art, Jade can be found writing, walking in the woods, and making spontaneous costumes with her son.

Kerstin Kjellberg

Lower Elementary Teacher

Kerstin joined Hilltop in the Lower Elementary in 2010. She holds a BA 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.
She 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. Kerstin is an avid swimmer in her life outside of school, and also enjoys hiking, baking, reading, writing, visiting museums with her daughter, Siri ’19, and spending time with her friends.

Dylan Lagle

Elementary AfterCare and Assistant

Dylan moved a lot growing up, living in California, Pennsylvania, and eventually Vermont, where he attended BUHS as a high schooler.
He started his journey in education officially in 2016, when he did his student teaching for and graduated from his licensing program, becoming a licensed high school English teacher in the state of Massachusetts.
He spent the next several years trying to diversify his education beyond the academic, taking opportunities to try different kinds of work, from factory and warehouse work to wilderness (mostly trail) construction. Pretty quickly, Dylan figured out that he should get back to working with kids, and found his place working with some great programs at summer camps and afterschool programs, and is excited to have finally landed at an amazing school (Hilltop).
In his free time, you might find Dylan playing board games with his friends, reading some bad sci-fi, or walking in the woods behind his house. Some of his hobbies include gardening, cooking, and baking bread.

Wendy Lynde

Learning Specialist

Wendy is our in-house Learning Specialist. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education and is a certified Wilson Reading Instructor. She has been teaching for over 30 years including more than 20 years working with children who need additional support in order for them to be successful in the classroom. Her Special Education experience has been both within the school and classroom setting, and also as a tutor outside of the school and classroom environments. In addition to her teaching experience she has a wealth of knowledge gained from professional development workshops and conferences focused on academics, behavior, and differentiated learning. 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 has been married to her husband Steven for more than 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, live out of state, and have recently had children of their own! 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 with reading. Teaching reading and seeing children learn remains one of the foremost passions of her life.

Akari Stimler

Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher

Akari is excited to join Hilltop this fall as a Lower Elementary
Assistant Teacher! She just spent the past school year teaching first
grade at a local charter school in Brooklyn, New York where she was
born and raised. Before teaching first grade, Akari attended Bates
College in Lewiston, Maine and got her undergraduate degree in May
2020. She double majored in Gender & Sexuality Studies and Politics
with a concentration in education/teaching and learning. She looks
forward to working in a Montessori classroom and becoming a part of
the Hilltop community. Akari is often found reading and writing.
Furthermore, her hobbies include yoga, hiking, and swimming.