MMS Faculty Specialists
Jennifer Carriger, Director, Learning Consultant
Jennifer, now in her eleventh year at MMS, brings extensive experience as a teacher in public and independent school settings, educational leadership and non-profit management to her position as our school director.
Jennifer received a B.A. in international studies, a B.S. in secondary education and a M.S. in special education from West Virginia University and has pursued additional graduate studies in education at Marshall University and the University of Virginia. She holds permanent WV certification endorsement for students ages 5-12 in social studies, learning disabilities, mental impairment and behavior disorders.
Jennifer is the only West Virginia educator to be certified as an AMS Montessori Administrator. She was awarded this credential after completion of a two-year program at the Center for Montessori Education in New York. Jennnifer received additional Montessori training through the Virginia Center for Montessori Studies and completed NAMTA Montessori Whole School Management (Level I) training.
In addition to her administrative responsibilities, Jennifer leads our Student Support Team as our learning consultant. Jennifer co-founded the Appalachian Reading Center in 2004 and is certified in the Wilson Reading System with additional training in Handwriting Without Tears. Jennifer is also a past president of the West Virginia Learning Disabilities Association. She taught in the public school system for nine years at the elementary, middle and high school levels in Madison County, Va., and Boone County, W.Va. In 2014, Jennifer was honored as West Virginia Teacher of the Year by the WVLDA. She and her husband, David, are the parents of two Mountaineer Montessori alumni. Jennifer enjoys hiking, camping, reading and home renovation projects.
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.
Claire Hemme, Elementary Assistant/Specialist
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.
Barrie Kaufman, Art Teacher Emeritus/Curriculum Consultant
Barrie, a nationally recognized artist, has been inspiring creativity at Mountaineer Montessori for more than 25 years. Starting this fall, she is back at MMS to consult on our school-wide art curriculum. 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. 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.
Karen Kelly, Plus Director/Elementary Science/STEM 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 leads engaging, hands-on science learning for lower and upper elementary classes. 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 an historian at the Craik-Patton House, is an MMS alumnus. Karen enjoys knitting, reading, caring for animals, storytelling and cooking.
Maria Kershner-Leon, 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 tenth year at MMS.
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 tenth 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.
Elea Paybins, Art Teacher
Elea is a West Virginian who’s had a lifelong love of the arts. While pursuing a BFA in painting, with a minor in Japanese, at Marshall University, she illustrated Tom Beal’s first book Bara Seal & Emily Too (2018). Upon graduation in May 2019, Elea excitedly hopped on board to illustrate Tom Beal’s second book while simultaneously hopping aboard a plane to Kumamoto, Japan to teach English for two years. While there, she rekindled her love of nature through hiking, starting an ever-growing succulent family, and appreciating nature through flower pressing, discovering brightly colored insects, and ever trying to spot the local tanuki (the famous Japanese racoon-dog). She is more than excited to share her love of art with the students as their new art teacher, and is looking forward to joining the Mountaineer Montessori community.
Darlene Spangler, Elementary/Learning Support 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 a learning specialist, providing screening and specialized reading instruction. 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.
Dr. Ray Singleton, Reading Specialist
Ray Singleton is a lifelong teacher, having spent 30 years teaching elementary and middle school in Kanawha County. He was also department chair of education at the University of Charleston from 2014-2021. He has a master’s degree in reading and a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Marshall University, and he is National Board Certified in English language arts. Ray also plays guitar in several area bands, including Minor Swing with fellow MMS teacher Alasha Al-Qudwah.
Evan Young, Physical Expression Specialist
Evan joins MMS this year, bringing a rich variety of professional and community service experiences focused on inspiring positive and healthy living. Evan first worked with our school starting in 2016 as a stand up paddle board instructor(SUP), and now is officially part of the faculty team as as our physical expression and after school enrichment specialist. He is is the owner and lead SUP instructor of the Appalachian Boarding Company, a company he founded with a mission to “help West Virginia gain balance on and off the board,” an organizer and action advocate for the Putnam Wellness Coalition, assistant state director of the American Canoe Association in West Virginia, and president/recreation lead on the Council of Rivers to Ridges Heritage Trail, board vice president of the Putnam Convention & Visitors Bureau, among numerous other outdoor-related organization positions. He holds a BA in psychology/communications minor from Marshall University.