Lower Elementary

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Malindi Chesnut-Tangerman

Social Emotional Learning (SEL) Coordinator & LE Associate Teacher

Malindi (she/her) will be joining the Hilltop community for the second year as the Social Emotional Learning Coordinator and Lower Elementary assistant teacher. Born and raised in Vermont, Malindi was home-schooled until 5th grade and feels that many of the values of Montessori were integral to her early education. After graduating from Hamilton College with a degree in Anthropology and Education, she moved to Hong Kong to teach and travel. After six years teaching early childhood and Elementary students in Hong Kong, China, and Taiwan, she felt drawn home to Vermont to be closer to friends, family, and her home community. Malindi is excited to learn from the experienced team of Hilltop educators, to contribute her educational experience to the holistic support of students’ learning and wellbeing. Philosophically, Malindi has always believed that everyone can enter a classroom as both a learner and a teacher and is looking forward to all that the HMS students have to teach her. She is excited to continue in both of her roles and to be able to support students with all of their needs.

Malindi loves to play ultimate frisbee, spend time with friends, share good food, travel, and be in nature.

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 Director

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.

Wendy Lynde

Learning Specialist Director

Wendy is our in-house Learning Specialist Director. 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 Associate Teacher

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Akari moved up to Vermont in 2021 to join the Lower El community as an assistant. Now, in their third year, and as a classroom teacher, Akari is working on completing a 6-12 Elementary certification through AMI. Prior to Hilltop, Akari taught first grade in Brooklyn and attended Bates College in Maine where they doubled majored in Gender & Sexuality Studies and Politics.

Akari loves to run outside year round, go hiking up mountains, and make lots of little herbal remedies from the garden and woods.