Upper Elementary

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Zander Billings

Athletic Director & PE Teacher

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.

Tom Griffith

Upper Elementary Teacher

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

Upper Elementary Teacher

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 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, she moved with her family to Brattleboro in 2000, where her husband attended SIT and oldest daughter Natasha landed at Hilltop (graduate 2008). Jennifer taught music part-time in the area for several years before joining the Hilltop staff. Her husband, Steve, is a farmer and school sustainability coordinator, and she has two children currently at BUHS.

Jennifer loves the Montessori “Cosmic Education” curriculum, and especially enjoys being surprised by children’s unexpected insights in every area of the curriculum. She also enjoys folk music and dance, caring for honeybees, and occasionally playing with the power tools in the garage.

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.

Kathy Leone

Upper Elementary Assistant

Kathy joined Hilltop in 2019 as a member of the AfterCare team. She also provided support for the Upper Elementary and Children’s House classrooms. This year, she is excited to be a member of the Upper Elementary team.  She holds a Bachelors of Science in Ecology and Environmental Studies and is passionate about both science and education, born from all her experiences outdoors and in the classroom. Before coming to Hilltop, she worked in a variety of educational capacities including seasonal work for the Appalachian Mountain Club and the YMCA, and provided full time academic support for a public charter school and a public elementary school in Massachusetts.

Over the years, Kathy has also incorporated travel into her work as a wildlife field technician, getting as far away as South Africa, a remote island off the coast of California and as near as the Connecticut coast researching great white sharks, elephant seals, and salt marsh sparrows respectively.

During her free time, Kathy may be found hiking, kayaking, learning a new language, or playing board games with friends.

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.

Ashley Stephens

Upper Elementary Teacher

Ashley completed her BS in Environmental Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and her MA in Education at Loyola University in Baltimore. A world traveler who finally found her calling in a Montessori classroom, she then completed her AMI Elementary training in Portland, Oregon in 2015. Besides working with children, Ashley also enjoys any kind of adventure that gets her exploring the great outdoors, reading historical fiction, and playing her ukulele.