MMS Plus Program Faculty
Karen Kelly, Plus Program Director
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. 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. Karen directs our after school program, which offers a rich curriculum 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.
Susie Newhouse, Plus Program Guide/Montessori Mentor
Susie is an AMS certified primary guide, having trained at the National Center for Montessori Education in Atlanta. Since earning her certification, Susie has worked as a primary lead guide, director and mentor both in Charleston and in Montana, totaling more than 12 years as a certified Montessori guide out of her 22 years in Montessori education. She has recently returned to MMS and her Charleston roots after many years in Montana. Her early role at Mountaineer Montessori as a movement and swimming specialist, and later as a classroom assistant in both primary and lower elementary, opened her heart and mind to the Montessori philosophy. “I’m excited by all that MMS has to offer and I’m blessed to be part of it!” Susie is the mother of an MMS alumnus and grandmother of two current students. Susie is now serves as a Montessori mentor to our primary classrooms as well in our Plus Program, ensuring a rich, consistent Montessori experience to students throughout the day.
Maria León Kershner, Foreign Language Specialist and Plus Program Assistant
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. Maria teaches Spanish to all classes in the morning, and works with our Primary students in the Plus Program in the afternoons. She has also previously worked five years as a primary assistant. 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.
Dina Hornbaker, Middle School Assistant and Plus Program Assistant
Dina, a Charleston native, is a graduate of West Virginia University with a B.A. in Multidisciplinary Studies in Spanish, Geography and Communications. Bringing passion for agriculture, music and community service and fluency in Spanish to MMS, Dina is an assistant in our middle school and after school programs. During her college career, Dina volunteered with various organizations including the Sierra Club Coalition and the Organic Research Farm to Fair Trade 2.0. She spent five months working and volunteering on a tropical permaculture farm in Nicaragua while doing an ndependent study in introduction to restorative agriculture and community development. After graduating, Dina became invested in permaculture and received her design certification in Portugal in 2013, while working and living in her tent for four months. Her exposure to other cultures enriched her musical background leading her to write and release her first EP CD. Influenced and inspired by nature and agriculture, Dina enjoys hiking, traveling, camping, farming and playing music. She is thrilled to be part of the Mountaineer Montessori staff this year!