MMS Elementary Faculty
Alasha Al-Quadwah, Upper Elementary II Lead Guide
Alasha brings a passion for the arts and deep commitment to Montessori education to her role as the Lead Guide for Upper Elementary II, and says her educational philosophy can be summed up in one of Maria Montessori’s most famous quotes: “Within the child lies the fate of the future.”
Now in her fifth year at MMS, Alasha holds bachelor’s degrees from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and West Virginia State University and is trained in the Wilson Reading System and Positive Discipline in the Classroom. She was awarded her certification in Montessori 9-12 Education at the AMS-affiliated Montessori Education Teacher Training Collaborative in Waltham, Massachusetts. She is the only WV educator and the only MMS teacher to be awarded a teacher training scholarship from the American Montessori Society. Alasha heads our Montessori Model United Nations Program and Campessori six-week summer camp. She is a composer, music instructor and performer, and contributed to the success of one of West Virginia’s most notable bands, Qiet. Outside of MMS, Alasha is a private music teacher and performs with Minor Swing, a gypsy jazz ensemble.
Alasha has eight years of Montessori education experience, serving in a variety of arts, administration and classroom roles. She is the mother of an MMS student.
Emily Christian, Upper Elementary I Lead Guide
Emily joined the Mountaineer Montessori community three years ago as an experienced international teacher, having diverse experiences in classrooms on three continents. She is excited to be nearing completion of her AMS certification in 9-12 education with the Montessori Elementary Teacher Training Collaborative in Waltham, Mass. She earned a BA in history at the University of Notre Dame, and an MA in teaching from Brown University. She has taught fifth and sixth grades in international schools and private schools for more than ten years. Emily’s family moved to Charleston, and her two children enrolled at MMS, in 2019. She especially enjoys artistic endeavors. She is a prolific quilter and sews many of her own clothes. She also enjoys taking long walks with her puppy, game nights with her family, and working with them on the Lego city they have been building together this year.
Tara Fought, Lower Elementary I Lead Guide
Tara is beginning her eighth year at MMS. She brings 15 years of experience as the lead teacher of lower elementary at the Montessori School of North Miami in Florida. She is a graduate of Florida International University, completed Positive Discipline in the Classroom training, and holds an AMS Lower Elementary credential from the Summit Montessori Teacher Training Institute in Davie, Florida. Tara loves to be out and about, but also loves being in her new home with her family enjoying activities like cooking together, having game night, playing with their three dogs and two cats, or catching lightning bugs in the backyard. Tara is very excited and thankful for the opportunity of living in a beautiful state that is so connected to nature, and especially for being a part of the Mountaineer Montessori community. She leads her class with enthusiasm and respect, and provides a classroom environment where each child will feel safe and have the confidence to learn and grow as students and as people.
Shannon Reeves, Lower Elementary II Co-Lead Guide
Shannon joined MMS in 2020 with 16 years of experience in the credit union industry, where she wore many hats from working directly with families on personal finance, to marketing, product and website development, and employee training.
After two years as a classroom assistant, Shannon will co-lead Lower Elementary II in 2022-23 and is pursuing her Montessori 6-9 credential with The Prepared Montessorian Teacher Training Institute. She has a lifelong desire to serve her community, improve the world around her, and bring her creative energy to the classroom. Her heart lies with child development and education, and feels it’s her calling to be a part of Montessori education after she witnessed her own daughter excel in the program starting at age 4. Shannon is grateful and excited to be working with the MMS Elementary team to inspire the best in every child. Shannon earned a BA in marketing, cum laude, from Marshall University. She is married with a large blended family, including five children ages 9 to 18. She enjoys making adventures where ever she can and will choose every life situation as a learning one!
Denessa Rouse, Lower Elementary II Co-Lead Guide
Denessa joins MMS this fall to Co-Lead Lower Elementary II with Shannon Reeves. Denessa graduated summa cum laude from WV State University with a BA in history and minor in Spanish, and studied at the Samara Language School in Costa Rica. She also earned a certification in culinary arts and hospitality studies from West Virginia North Community College in Wheeling. Most recently, she has been a long-term substitute teacher and reading interventionist for grades 1-5 in the Kanawha County Schools. Her experience also includes serving as a reading coordinator for the Salvation Army Boys’ and Girls’ Club of St. Albans, a career coach at Job Squad, and Lifebridge Americorp Service Member for Catholic Charities of West Virginia. Denessa is pursuing her Montessori 6-9 credential with The Prepared Montessorian Teacher Training Institute.
Sonji Byers-Baldwin, Lower Elementary I Assistant
“I absolutely love working with children… Throughout my years as a teaching assistant, I have learned so much. I believe that if you build up a child’s confidence there is no limit to what can be accomplished.” Sonji joined MMS in 2019 with a strong background in early childhood education, having served as a classroom and after care assistant at St. Agnes School for 13 years. Sonji helped build the school’s summer program, which grew from 25 to 50 students during her time there. She earned a certification in early childhood education from Ben Franklin Vocational Center and holds numerous licenses and certifications in working with children. She trained with the Virginia Center for Montessori Studies.
Claire Hemme, Upper Elementary I Assistant
Claire, a local Appalachian, holds a bachelor’s degree of communication and design from West Virginia University. Claire has worked in the outdoor education industry, as a communications coordinator, and in the mental health field as an addiction therapy mental health advocate in Colorado. Her experience as a river guide and ski instructor gave her a unique view of education through experience, while her time in mental health showed her the power of compassion and mindfulness. Claire hopes to use her eclectic skillset in the classroom through creativity and an energetic, open mind. She will be assisting in Upper Elementary I in the mornings, and serving as a specialist later in the day.
Brittany Javins, Upper Elementary II Assistant
After 10 years of working in nonprofit leadership, Brittany is excited to bring her range of experiences back to the classroom. Most recently, Brittany worked as Operations Director for Generation West Virginia and prior to that served as Executive Director for FestivALL after beginning there as an intern in 2012. She is a former public school teacher, teaching middle school English for Kanawha County Schools. Brittany earned a BA in English from WV State University, an MA in arts administration from Florida State University, and is currently pursuing her master’s in counseling at Marshall University, She looks forward to applying her degree as well as her background in the arts, education, and nonprofit leadership to her work at Mountaineer Montessori. Brittany lives on the East End of Charleston and enjoys exploring West Virginia with her husband and pups and spending time with friends and family.
Karen Kelly, Upper Elementary I Assistant/Elementary Specialist
A native of Charleston, Karen earned a B.S. in biology from Bethany College, studied veterinary medicine in St. Petersburg, Fla., and completed both AMS Montessori Assistant (Virginia Center for Montessori Education) and Positive Discipline in the Classroom training programs. A life-long student of nature, she is completing certification as a Master Naturalist. In addition to directing our Plus Program, Karen assists in the Upper Elementary I classroom and leads engaging, hands-on science learning for our students. Prior to joining MMS 16 years ago, she worked for 15 years as a veterinary technician in the former Sunrise Museum and as the children’s book manager for Renaissance Book Company in Huntington. She retains an avid interest in children’s literature which she shares regularly with our students. As our Plus director, Karen develops and manages a rich program offering an extensive array of creative, entertaining and educational activities in a consistent Montessori environment. She is also the caretaker for all Mountaineer Montessori animals. Karen enjoys knitting, reading, caring for animals, storytelling and cooking.