MMS Faculty Specialists
Alasha Al-Qudwah, Creative Expression Specialist/Lower Elementary II Assistant
Alasha brings a passion for the arts and deep commitment to Montessori education to her roles as an creative expression specialist in the Middle School and an assistant in Lower Elementary II. 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 second year at MMS, Alasha holds bachelor’s degrees from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and West Virginia State University. 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, violin teacher with the Partnership of African American Churches, and a vocal and violin faculty member of the Albans Arts Center.
Alasha joins MMS with three years of experience at a Montessori school, where she served as a music specialist, administrative assistant and after school program director and started a summer arts program. She is the mother of an MMS student.
Read more about Alasha.
Colleen Anderson, Creative Writing Specialist
Colleen, a Charleston-based writer and artist, is a creative writing specialist at MMS, leading workshops for students from primary through middle school. Her creative studio, Mother Wit Writing and Design, has earned numerous honors, including West Virginia Communicators’ Best of Show award and several First Place awards from the National Federation of Press Women. Her stories and poems have been published by the PEN Syndicated Fiction Project, Redbook, Embers, Kestrel, Arts & Letters, Passager, Carolina Quarterly, The Sun, and many other periodicals. Colleen’s musical compositions have been featured on Public Radio International’s “Mountain Stage” and “The Folk Sampler. 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 row house complex in Charleston’s East End neighborhood. Colleen earned a B.A. in English from West Virginia University and a Masters of Humanities from Marshall University.
Stan Bumgardner, History Specialist
Stan, a middle school history specialist, is the editor of Goldenseal, a magazine produced by the WV Division of Culture and History to preserve and highlight the traditional folk life of West Virginia. A professional historian for more than 25 years, Stan has worked at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, for the West Virginia History Film Project, at West Virginia Archives and History and as acting director of the West Virginia State Museum. He was the creative director for the West Virginia State Museum renovation project, developed exhibits for the South Charleston Museum Foundation and the National Coal Heritage Area and created a traveling exhibit for the documentary “The Great Textbook War.” He earned a B.A. in history from Marshall University and an M.A. in public history from West Virginia University.
As a freelance writer, Bumgardner wrote The Children’s Home Society of West Virginia: Children–Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow (The Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, 1996) and Charleston (Arcadia Publishing, 2006).
Jennifer Carriger, Director, Learning Consultant
Jennifer, now in her tenth 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 theAppalachian 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.
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 sixth 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.
Lindy Hoeft, Reading Specialist
Lindy joins the MMS staff as a learning specialist this year, working with students to provide individualized guidance and instruction in reading. Certified in the Wilson Reading System and Handwriting without Tears, Lindy was formerly a permanent substitute teacher at MMS. She is the owner Heart Matrix, LLC, which provides personal growth coaching combining life coaching strategies, traditional therapy techniques and alternative healing modalities, and facilitates Kundalini and Hatha yoga classes. at Lifespring Yoga and Wellness. Lindy has an extensive background in social work, health education and wellness/yoga, holding counseling and program positions with university and state and local social service organizations in Boston, Ohio and West Virginia. She earned a B.A. in psychology at Maryville College in Maryville, Tenn., and MSW from West Virginia University. Linda and her husband are the parents of two MMS students.
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 Teacher Emeritus
Barrie, a nationally recognized artist, has been inspiring creativity at MMS for more than 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. 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 in graduate school, is an MMS alumnus. Karen enjoys knitting, reading, caring for animals, storytelling and cooking.
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.
Sky Kershner, LPC, LCSW
Sky supports the MMS peace curriculum as a specialist leading classes on topics such as compassionate communication and conflict resolution. 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 also the spiritual director of Unity of Kanawha Valley, which houses our middle school program. He holds degrees from Dickinson College, Carlisle, Pa.; Drew University, Madison, N.J.; Yeshiva University, New York City; and Andover Newton Theological Seminary, Boston. He is married to MMS faculty member Maria Kershner, and is the proud father of two MMS alumni.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.