MMS Middle School Faculty

Sarah Halsted, Middle School Guide

Sarah Halstead
Middle School Guide

From the time she returned to West Virginia in 2005 after years of teaching and working in Winchester, Va., Okinawa, Beaufort, S.C., Toyko, and San Diego, Sarah has been engaged in bringing the best of cutting edge ideas, practices and programs tailored specifically to the needs of her home state. She graduated from West Virginia State University, with a multi-disciplinary teaching degree and holds a master’s degree in educational leadership. Her Montessori training is with the Cincinnati Montessori Secondary Teacher Education Program.

Sarah works with middle school students in the areas of humanities, language, micro economy and field experience. Her professional focus on cultivating and fostering achievement, innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and community engagement has been recognized by the Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DODDS), the National Association of Community Development and Extension Professionals (NACDEF), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the West Virginia Environmental Focus. Sarah and her husband, David, are the parents of an MMS upper elementary student.

Learn more about Sarah.




Emily Beal, PhD, Middle School Guide/Math-Science-STEM Teacher

Emily Beal
Middle School Guide Math/Science/STEM Teacher

Emily brings rich talents and extensive expertise to our Middle School as a math/science/STEM teacher, leading hands on classes in life science, geoscience, astronomy and physics, among other subjects as well as our full math curriculum.  She earned a B.S. in astronomy at the University of Illinois and a dual PhD in geoscience and astrobiology from The Pennsylvania State University.  Her Montessori training is with the Cincinnati Montessori Secondary Teacher Education Program. Emily is a former MMS student, and credits her Montessori background for giving her the academic preparation and confidence to pursue her educational goals. “I learned a very important thing from MMS — the ability to teach yourself and answer your own questions.  Without the education I received from MMS, I do not think I would have had the courage or the confidence to pursue many of the things that I have.” Emily and her husband, Arie Spitz, are the parents of two MMS students.

Learn more about Emily




Maria Kershner-Leon, Foreign Language Instructor

Maria Kershner-Leon
Spanish Teacher

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 12th year at MMS.



Sarah Galaska, Creative Expression Specialist

Sarah Galaska
Middle School Creative Expression Specialist

Sarah brings rich and varied experience in Montessori and traditional classrooms to her position as the assistant for Lower Elementary II. She also serves as the Elementary art teacher and creative expression specialist for the Middle School. Most recently, she was a classroom assistant, Spanish teacher and art instructor at a Montessori school, where she also was responsible for numerous special events and projects such as Read Aloud, yearbook and book fair.  Sarah is the mother of two MMS students. She holds bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and history from Hollins University  in Roanoke, Va., and pursued graduate studies towards a master’s in education from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va. She is skilled in many areas that intersect with the Montessori curriculum, including art; sewing, knitting and crochet; guitar and ukulele; Spanish; and culinary and medicinal herb use and composting.



Julie Margolis, Administrator/Middle School Specialist-PE

Julie Margolis
Middle School PE Specialist

Julie has been an MMS leader for more than 20 years, serving our school as a teacher, specialist and administrator. She earned a B.S. in education from the University of Vermont, and a M.S. from Penn State University. Her Montessori training is with the Virginia Center for Montessori Studies and the Cincinnati Montessori Secondary Teacher Education Program (Montessori secondary education). This is Julie’s eighth year in school administration. She provides invaluable guidance on school management issues and oversees our financial aid program, which was created during her tenure as MMS Co-Director. Julie returned to the classroom last year, teaching physical education at the Middle School.   A native of Vermont, she is a former public school teacher and a former computer programmer.  Julie and her late husband, Jay, raised their four children in Charleston, two of whom are MMS alumni.   Her personal interests include hiking, skiing, reading, and traveling to visit her family.

Learn more about Julie










Colleen Anderson, Writer’s Workshop

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 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).