MMS Faculty Specialists
Darlene Spangler, Elementary Specialist
Darlene has played many important roles at MMS, including teacher, administrator and sixth year project leader. She is in her 20th year with our school. She holds a B.A. in English from Duke University and is currently an elementary specialist working with upper elementary students in novel studies. Previously, Darlene spent 14 years as an assistant teacher in the advanced elementary class (concurrently teaching English in our middle school program for five years). She also served as our school’s assistant administrator for 13 years and interim co-director for three years. Originally from the eastern shore of Maryland, Darlene settled in her husband’s hometown of Charleston, where they raised two (now adult) children. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, reading, and traveling.
Maria León Kershner, Foreign Language Instructor
Maria, a native Spanish-speaker from Costa Rica, holds the American equivalent of a master’s degree in preschool education from her university studies in Costa Rica. She has worked with young children in education for 23 years. She completed the AMS Basics Course at the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in Evanston, Ill., and Positive Discipline in the Classroom training. Maria teaches Spanish to all classes in the morning, and works with our primary students in the Plus Program in the afternoons. At the Middle School level, Spanish classes are coordinated with distance learning programs that qualify for high school credit in the Kanawha County School system. Maria has two children, both of whom have grown to be MMS alumni. Her favorite pastimes are reading, traveling and working in her garden. Maria shares her enthusiasm and love of children while skillfully integrating Spanish lessons into the Montessori curriculum. This is her eighth year at MMS.
Beth George, Computer Instruction
Beth has been a part of our school for more than 15 years as a parent of three students and MMS educator. She previously served as an assistant in the primary classrooms. This is Beth’s fifth year managing the school office in the mornings and teaching computers in the afternoon to lower elementary and upper elementary students in the afternoons. Beth George earned a B.S. in education from the University of Akron, and completed AMS Montessori Assistant training through the Virginia Center for Montessori Studies and Positive Discipline in the Classroom training. A native of West Virginia, Beth grew up in northeastern Ohio. She enjoys walking, working on her house, spending time with her daughters, and being with family.
Emma Grose, Middle School Math Specialist
Emma brings a new dimension to our Middle School math program, expanding our curriculum with advanced and specialized classes for seventh and eighth year students two mornings a week. These classes are coordinated with distance learning programs that qualify for high school credit in the Kanawha County School system. Emma earned both a B.S. and M.S. in engineering at Mercer University in Macon, Ga. Emma is also a tutor with Jamie Dickenson, LLC, teaching math and science at all levels.
Emma grew up in Charleston and graduated from George Washington High School. She is working towards getting her doctorate in physical therapy. In her free time, she enjoys playing the clarinet and the piano, as well as traveling. Emma greatly enjoys working with students. “It is very fun and rewarding to watch them as their knowledge and confidence in math grows over time,” she says.
Karen Kelly, Plus Director/Elementary Specialist
A native of Charleston, Karen earned a B.S. in biology from Bethany College and studied veterinary medicine in St. Petersburg, Fla. A life-long student of nature, she is completing certification as a Master Naturalist. In addition to directing our Plus Program, Karen provides hands-on science instruction in botany and zoology in our lower elementary classrooms. 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. Her son, now in graduate school, is an MMS alumnus. Karen enjoys knitting, reading, caring for animals, storytelling and cooking.
Nancy Johnston, Art and Physical Education Instructor
A Charleston native, Nancy is a graduate of George Washington High School and attended Marshall University and West Virginia State University, taking classes in education and art. She completed the AMS Basics Course at the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in Evanston, Ill., and Positive Discipline in the Classroom course. She is in her 20th year at MMS, having assisted in both lower elementary and upper elementary classes. She has taught art to the elementary children for the last ten years and spearheads our community service program at Celebration Station, Charleston’s East End city playground. She wants to be an artist when she grows up! The mother of three children, Nancy is an outdoor enthusiast. She loves walking, biking, hiking, swimming, kayaking and her latest obsession, boot camp.
Barrie Kaufman, Art Instructor
Barrie, a nationally recognized artist, has been teaching art at MMS for 25 years. She earned a B.A. in art, Phi Beta Kappa, from Marietta College; a M.A. in art from Marshall University and a M.A. in art therapy from Wright State University. Barrie has exhibited in ROC China, Quebec, Sweden and West Virginia. A retrospective of her work was the featured “Curator’s Choice” exhibit, held to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Huntington Art Museum. In 2013 she created models for a five-foot high cast glass sculpture created in the Czech Republic focusing on the animals and the effect of global warming. Barrie won the West Virginia Artist of the Year, 2014 and the Charleston Community Music Artist of the Year, 2014, as well as The Taipei City Mayor’s Award, the West Virginia Fellowship for Painting and Crafts and fellowships from the Mid-Atlantic Art Foundation, the Kentucky Foundation for Women and The Painted Bride in Philadelphia. Barrie enjoys painting, printmaking, drawing, creativity and the history of art. She loves sharing her passion for art with young people and feels fortunate to be able to do so at Mountaineer Montessori, where she works with extended-day and elementary students. Barrie and her husband, Judge Tod Kaufman, are the parents of three MMS alumni. Combined the Kaufman family has been a part of the MMS community for 50 years! View more about Barrie on her website: www.barriekaufman.com.
Bernard Di Gregorio, Strings Instructor
Bernard, a native of Boston, studied at the New England Conservatory of Music and holds a diploma in viola performance from the Longy School of Music of Bard College in Cambridge, Mass. He is the principal violist and the Blanchette H. Rockefeller Chair for the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, and has also held the position of principal viola with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra since 1991. A strong advocate of music education, Bernard teaches strings in several schools in the Charleston area. In the summer months, he is a member of the New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra and has also been a member of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. Bernard is also a composer, and works with the West Virginia Youth Symphony as a sectional instructor and chamber music coach. Bernard leads our strings program and is the proud father of two former Mountaineer Montessori students.
Katie McFadden, Reading Specialist
Katie joins our staff this year as a Reading Specialist, providing one-on-one tutoring for elementary students with the Wilson Reading System and Handwriting Without Tears approaches. She brings a diverse professional background and a passion for Montessori education to her role. Katie spent her childhood in Florida and Texas, where she graduated from high school and the University of Dallas, with a B.A. with honors in history. After graduation, she moved to the Washington, D.C. area with her husband, Michael, working for non-profit organizations. A career move brought their family back to Texas, where Katie became a very involved Montessori parent and staff member, serving as development specialist for the Montessori Academy of Arlington. “I studied Maria Montessori in college. Her philosophy on educating the child resonated with me, and I wanted my child to have the opportunity to learn in a Montessori environment, and now I’m grateful to be part of the environment myself as a specialist.” Katie spearheaded our school’s very successful fundraising last year, and we are delighted that she has come on board as an official staff member. Katie and her husband are the parents of an MMS first-year student. She enjoys being with her family, reading 19th century British literature and cheering on the Dallas Cowboys.
Karen Morris, Music Instructor
Since graduating from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, cum laude, Karen has played professionally for churches and has accompanied many musical groups, including WomanSong Chorale and Mountain Laurel Ensemble. Currently, she is the organist at St. Matthews Episcopal Church. She received her Kindermusik certification in 1999 and by 2005, her program received the MAESTRO distinction from Kindermusik International for being in the top 5 percent of Kindermusik programs worldwide. Karen is in her fourth year at MMS incorporating elements of Kindermusik, Orff instrumentation, recorder and voice in our music curriculum, as well as teaching music history, theory and appreciation. As an important part of our Montessori community, Karen has completed both AMS Montessori Assistant through the Virginia Center for Montessori Studies and Positive Discipline in the Classroom trainings.
Artists-in-residence and guest instructors
The MMS educational experience is enhanced throughout the year by artists-in-residence and guest instructors. In recent years, we’ve been honored to welcome these additional faculty members and programs to MMS:
Ron has been a special part of MMS for more than 20 years as our music teacher and Montessori parent. He now continues to share his special gifts with us as an artist-in-residence. While at MMS, Ron inspired a love of music and engaged hundreds of students in many memorable projects, among them professional recording sessions of songs written by the children. Ron is well known throughout the region and around the world as the musical director of Mountain Stage, which airs on National Public Radio, as the founder of the Woody Hawley Concert Series and as legendary folk music writer and recording artist.
Sky Kershner, LPC, LCSW
Sky is a frequent MMS guest faculty member, helping students develop positive communication skills, resolve conflicts and help create a more peaceful world. The executive director of the Kanawha Pastoral Counseling Center in Charleston, Sky is a Diplomate in the American Association of Pastoral Counseling, a supervisor in the American Association of Marital and Family Therapy, and is adjunct clinical faculty at WVU School of Medicine, Department of Behavioral Medicine. He is married to MMS faculty member Maria Kershner, and is the proud father of two MMS students.
Mira Stanley and Chuck E. Costa
Professional songwriters and performers, Mira and Chuck (Connecticut’s official state troubador) return to MMS each year for a special songwriting workshop . “At Mountaineer Montessori,” the MMS school song, is one of the many memorable projects resulting from their collaboration with students in recent years. Mira is an MMS alumna and is the daughter of Ron Sowell.
Colleen, a Charleston-based writer and artist, is a frequent guest instructor at MMS. She collaborated with our primary students in the plot development for her most recent book, “Missing: Mrs. Cornblossom,” which is set in the historic Arlington Court rowhouse complex in Charleston’s East End neighborhood.
In honor of the 100th birthday of Woody Guthrie, Mick brought his tribute show to MMS, sharing the stories of the Great Depression and leading students in the singing of many iconic American folksongs, including “This Land is Your Land.”
Anna and Elizabeth
Anna and Elizabeth transfixed and engaged students in celebration of our local heritage through a hands-on workshop and performance that weaved together traditional Appalachian music with storytelling, original artwork, shadow puppetry and scrolling illustrations called “crankies.”