Greenbrier ‘Badges for Charity’ to benefit MMS

downloadMountaineer Montessori School is honored to be selected as a participant in the 2015 Greenbrier Classic Badges for Charity program. This is the fourth year that MMS has been included in the charity partnership. The Greenbrier Classic runs June 29-July 5 at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs.  Through May 1, 30 percent of ticket purchases to Greenbrier Classic, A PGA TOUR, FedExCup event, may be designated as a donation to MMS.  Proceeds will benefit the school’s scholarship fund and specialty programs.

Launched four years ago, the Greenbrier Classic Badges for Charity has generated more than $340,000 for area non-profit organizations. To make a purchase to benefit MMS, go to Badges for Charity and select “Mountaineer Montessori School” at checkout



Jennifer Carriger and Suzanne Sanders named MMS Co-Directors

Jennifer Carriger MMS Co-Director

Jennifer Carriger
MMS Co-Director

Suzanne Sanders MMS Co-Director

Suzanne Sanders
MMS Co-Director

Jennifer Carriger and Suzanne Sanders have hit the ground running as the new educational leaders of Mountaineer Montessori School.  They bring rich and extensive experience in Montessori, public and charter school education, organizational leadership, and non-profit management that will serve our school well at this transformational time in our history.





Jennifer Carriger:

Jennifer Carriger was honored as Teacher of the Year by the WV Learning Disabilities Association in 2014.

Jennifer Carriger was honored as Teacher of the Year by the WV Learning Disabilities Association in 2014.

Jennifer has been the MMS reading and learning specialist since 2008, providing screenings and support for students in reading, spelling and writing. The co-founder of the Appalachian Reading Center, Jennifer was honored as “Teacher of the Year” by the West Virginia Learning Disabilities Association in 2014. Jennifer also brings ten years of public school experience, serving students with learning differences in Madison County Schools in Madison, Va., and Boone County in West Virginia.

Jennifer earned a BA in international studies, a BS in secondary education and an MA in special education from West Virginia University. She has pursued additional graduate studies at the University of Virginia and Marshall University, and holds permanent WV certification endorsement for students ages 5-12 in social studies, learning disabilities, mental impairment and behavior disorders.

Jennifer has completed advanced professional training in the Wilson Reading System (Levels I, II and Advanced), “Handwriting Without Tears” and special education. She is the past president of the WV Learning Disabilities Association. Jennifer and her husband, David Carriger, are the parents of two MMS students.


Suzanne Sanders:

Suzanne Sanders founded the state's only Montessori middle school program in August 2014.

Suzanne Sanders founded the state’s only Montessori middle school program in August 2014.

Suzanne has been a part of the MMS community since 2011, leading our upper elementary class for three years and founding our middle school program in the fall of 2014.

Prior to joining our faculty, Suzanne was the upper elementary lead guide at the New School in Lancaster, Pa., the school director and lead early elementary guide at the Manuel Antonio Montessori Academy in Costa Rica, and the lead early elementary guide at the Compass Montessori Charter School in Wheat Ridge, Colo., where she worked with the elementary team to meld state standards and the Montessori curriculum. Suzanne also brings a rich background in business and sales to MMS.

Suzanne earned a BS in sports medicine from Penn State University, and holds the following Montessori certifications: AMS Elementary Education I, Montessori Center of the Rockies, Boulder, Colo.; AMS Elementary Education II, Center for Montessori Teacher Education, New Rochelle, NY; and AMI Orientation Programme to Adolescent Studies, Cleveland, Ohio.

Suzanne is the mother of a former Montessori student.

Looking forward:

Jennifer Carriger and Suzanne Sanders MMS Co-Directors

Jennifer Carriger and Suzanne Sanders
MMS Co-Directors

In February, Jennifer and Suzanne participated in AMI Montessori School Administration Sessions in Atlanta.

Although our accelerated transition into the co-directorship is not something we could have anticipated or planned for, we have eagerly jumped into our new roles, and feel energized and uplifted by the outpouring of support from our special community, say Jennifer and Suzanne.

For the remainder of the school year, the two are maintaining their positions at the school (Suzanne as our middle school guide and Jennifer as our reading and learning specialist) while serving as co-directors. They are currently recruiting for new faculty to assume their classroom duties in the fall, and working on the following:

  • meeting with all staff members to assess classroom needs for the rest of this year and beyond
  • mentoring teachers-in-training
  • coordinating communications among and between staff, families and board
  • analyzing standardized test scores
  • organizing enrollment, staffing, and budget information for the upcoming school year
  • meeting with lead teachers to discuss individual student needs
  • assisting with field trip preparation and other special events for the children
  • meeting with board members and community members to further the school’s strategic plan
  • recruiting staff for next year and developing a plan for continuing education for staff members

We are grateful for Jennifer and Suzanne’s extraordinary service to our school community, its students, faculty and parents, and as MMS approaches its 40th anniversary, are excited for their vision for our future as the state’s premier Montessori school and a nationally-recognized leader in excellence and innovation in education.

Mountaineer Montessori Logo Master NEW you tube








Students, alumni, win state chess championship, regional spelling bee & math counts competition–on the same day!

March 21, 2015, was a day for the record books at Mountaineer Montessori School. Our students and alumni racked up three very impressive victories that reflect their commitment to education and pursuit of excellence. We take great pride on congratulating:

Sohan Kukkillaya, far right, is the state chess champion in the K-3 division, and the MMS Gilliland Knights won the state team championship.

Sohan Kukkillaya, far right, is the state chess champion in the K-3 division, and the MMS Gilliland Knights won the state team championship.

MMS alumnus Varun Kukkakillaya is the regional spelling bee champion for the second year in a row. He is the brother of chess champion Sohan Kukkillaya.

MMS alumnus Varun Kukkillaya is the regional spelling bee champion for the second year in a row. He is the brother of chess champion Sohan Kukkillaya. (Photo by Chris Dorst, Charleston Gazette)

MMS alumnus Nikolas Milhailidis, far left, is one of four students chosen to represent West Virginia in the national MATHCOUNTS competition. His sister, Vera, is a fourth year student at MMS.

MMS alumnus Nikolas Milhailidis, far left, is one of four students chosen to represent West Virginia in the national MATHCOUNTS competition. His sister, Vera, is a fourth year student at MMS.





















































Shadow Night is March 17

MMSShadow NightMarch 17-1One of Mountaineer Montessori School’s  most cherished traditions returns! “Shadow Night” will be held for lower and upper elementary students and their parents on Tuesday, March 17. On Shadow Night, students are the teachers, sharing Montessori lessons and favorite activities with their parents. Two sessions will be held: 5:30-6:15 and 6:15-7:00 p.m. Parents should refer to their students’ schedules that were provided by the MMS office. Look for your personal invitation and get ready for a very special evening of learning and sharing with your child and our school community.

Middle school ‘cultivating a culture of cooking’ with Thaibilly Kitchen

by Anna Patrick, Charleston Gazette

“You guys ready to start chopping?”

Raj Pongsugree asks her cooking class. The eager eyes of Jamie Coleman, Zahra Khan and Julia Carriger look back at their instructor as plates of ingredients color a large white counter top in the center of the kitchen.


Photo by Anna Patrick, Charleston Gazette

On a recent Wednesday morning, Pongsugree is leading the first cooking class in a brand new middle school program for three of the four seventh graders enrolled in Mountaineer Montessori Middle School.

“So today, in honor of Chinese New Year, we’re going to do long noodles. You don’t cut them when you cook them. They are supposed to stay long in representation of life.”

“Long life,” Jamie chimes in.

“Right. Long noodles, long life,” Pongsugree responds.

She begins holding up ingredients. “It’s going to be a noodle stir fry with chives, a couple pieces of carrots and this,” she tells the students as she holds up a nondescript, shriveled black object. “It looks like seaweed but it’s not. This is called black fungus.”

Instead of receiving boos or signs of disgust, the three 12-year-olds look impressed.

Photo by Anna Patrick, Charleston Gazette

Photo by Anna Patrick, Charleston Gazette

Someone says, “That’s amazing.”

“It’s really textural and very chewy.” Pongsugree explains that in some Asian countries the fungus is used as a meat replacement, but lacks protein.

Quickly the trio are chatting and chopping as Pongsugree makes her rounds to ensure that Jamie is cutting the tofu thin enough for veggie dumplings, which are also on the menu. Zahra carefully chops up the slimly black fungi and Julia takes on the carrots.

Student Jasmine Phillips was absent that day.

In addition to catering, serving authentic Thai cuisine at The Empty Glass on Charleston’s East End every Tuesday, and fixing food at festivals, Thaibilly Kitchen offers a variety of cooking classes.

Co-owners of Thaibilly, Pongsugree and her husband, Michael Seeburger, instruct the classes, which are normally held at the Manna Meal kitchen located at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Suzanne Sanders, lead guide for Mountaineer Montessori’s adolescent program, said she was looking for a way to offer an enjoyable, hands-on learning experience for the students to get acquainted with a variety of cuisines and ingredients.



Photo by Anna Patrick, Charleston Gazette

Photo by Anna Patrick, Charleston Gazette

“I just thought it would a perfect pairing,” Sanders said. “She’s bringing in all kinds of new things that they are discovering.”

Pongsugree started the cooking classes in January by teaching the students how to make sushi. She will teach a class at the Charleston school one Wednesday of every month until the end of the school year.

“I like it because I really enjoy trying new foods. Any new food is really, really super exciting for me,” Julia said. “I also think that it is a really great experience because then you are going to be able to get more freedom and you are going to be able to cook for yourself.”

Even when Pongsugree is not around to teach an exotic dish, the students always cook together on Wednesdays.

“One of the things in this program is for them to start learning how to do adult-like things,” Sanders said.

“Every Wednesday of every week, two of the students choose something that they would like to cook for the whole group. They give me a list, and they have to stay within a budget. We go out and get things and they are responsible for cooking for the whole group. The other two clean, and, then, the next week we switch.”

After the Wednesday meal is prepared the students sit down family style with Sanders and fellow instructor Rachel Scarpelli to enjoy their meal.

Before the group enjoyed their Chinese New Year meal, Pongsugree taught the girls how eat with chop sticks. She said she’s already planning to fix an Irish meal in March to honor St. Patrick’s Day.

“She gives us a little history along with each food,” Julia said. “She’s a really good teacher and she’s really fun.”

Photo by Anna Patrick, Charleston Gazette

Photo by Anna Patrick, Charleston Gazette

“We’ve gotten rave, rave reviews from the students and the parents,” Sanders said. “They’re being exposed to foods that they might not have been exposed to before … . What we can do is put that into our curriculum.”

The girls were happy to share some of Pongsugree’s teachings.

“I learned that not all fungus is bad,” Jamie said.

Julia added, “To make black fungus edible you have to soak it in water.”

“Never lift the knife from the cutting board,” Zahra said.

And reciting Pongsugree’s words from earlier on how to properly fill a dumpling, Zahra said, “Everything in moderation.” Call Pongsugree at 304-206-4527 to learn more about Thaibilly Kitchen’s cooking class and catering offerings.

Reach Anna Patrick at or 304-348-4881.

See more here

Memorial service for Dana Gilliland planned for February 26

Dana Gilliland (photo by Chip Ellis, Charleston Gazette)

Dana Gilliland (photo by Chip Ellis, Charleston Gazette)

Mountaineer Montessori School will celebrate the life and legacy of Head of School Dana Gilliland with a memorial service scheduled for Thursday, February 26, at 6:00 p.m. The service will be held at the South Ruffner Presbyterian Church, located down the block from our main campus at the corner of 20th Street and Kanawha Avenue SE in Charleston.

Dana sadly passed away earlier this month, and leaves behind three daughters, a large extended family and legions of friends, education colleagues and current and former students in Charleston around the world who mourn her loss. MMS will celebrate her life and her extraordinary service to our school and children everywhere at this special gathering. We invite our school families and the community to join us in honoring a loving mother, gifted educator, inspiring leader and very dear friend to all.

A memorial fund has been established to sustain Dana’s Montessori legacy. Contributions may be sent to: Dana Gilliland Fund, c/o Mountaineer Montessori School, 308 20th Street SE, Charleston, WV, 25304, or made online.  For more information, please contact our office at 304-342-7870.

As a reminder, no classes will be held on Monday, February 23, as MMS observes a day of mourning and reflection in honor of Dana.

MMS mourns passing of Head of School Dana Gilliland

Among Dana's many accomplishments at MMS was the opening of a middle school.

Among Dana’s many accomplishments at MMS was the opening of a middle school.

Dana Gilliland

Dana Gilliland: mother, educator, community leader and friend.


Dana Gilliland dedicated her life in service of the child.









It is  with heavy hearts that we share sad news. Dana Gilliland, Mountaineer Montessori School’s dynamic Head of School, passed away earlier this week. MMS is shocked and saddened by Dana’s untimely passing, and extend our deepest sympathies to her three daughters, one of whom is an MMS student, and the many, many family members and friends who loved her dearly.

Dana dedicated her life to children and the Montessori principle that “the child is both the hope and promise of mankind.” Her long and distinguished Montessori career was marked by achievement and purpose. Under Dana’s leadership, MMS started a middle school, enhanced several programs and experienced strong enrollment growth. More importantly, Dana’s warm and genuine commitment to our school inspired our students, faculty and our entire school family.

Dana’s family has planned a memorial service on Saturday, February 21. Visitation will be held at the Dwayne R. Spence Funeral Home, 550 Hill Road North, Pickerington, Ohio, from 1:00-2:00 p.m., with service to follow at 2:00 p.m. Please see the link below for details.

MMS will celebrate Dana’s life and legacy at a memorial service  to be held Thursday, February 26, at 6:00 p.m., at South Ruffner Presbyterian Church.  No classes will be held on Monday, February 23, as we observe a day of mourning in Dana’s honor.

In December, Dana announced plans to move to Ohio at the end of the school year to be closer to her family, and MMS faculty members Jennifer Carriger and Suzanne Sanders were named co-directors. A transition plan, which was already in progress, will be updated to provide steady leadership during the months ahead.

At this time, however, our top priority remains offering our support and sympathy to Dana’s family and nurturing our students and school community at this very difficult time. The MMS board and faculty ask you to join us in honoring Dana by carrying her vision forward in the weeks and months to come.

(MMS families should refer to communication sent from our office yesterday for more information.)

As Dana signed each and every announcement, we dedicate this message “in service to the child.”…


Mountaineer Montessori Middle School to hold open house Feb. 10

OPEN HOUSE FEBRUARY 10 (1)Mountaineer Montessori Middle School will hold an open house and information session for prospective students and their families on Tuesday, February 10, from 5:00-6:00 p.m.

The school, serving seventh and eighth grade students, is located at Unity of Kanawha Valley, 804 Myrtle Road. It is among 400 Montessori middle schools in the United States and the only one of its kind in West Virginia.

The Mountaineer Montessori Middle School program was launched in August 2014 in response to a 50 percent enrollment increase at Mountaineer Montessori in the past three years and growing demand for a high-quality alternative to one-size-fits-all education. Research shows that the Montessori approach to adolescent education supports higher academic achievement, superior talent development and greater student interest and intrinsic motivation.

Based upon Maria Montessori’s vision for a “school of experience in the elements of life,” Mountaineer Montessori Middle School combines the best Montessori practices with the latest scientific research on adolescent education.  It offers an academically rigorous, individualized curriculum emphasizing STEM, arts, hands-on learning, entrepreneurship and community service.

Middle School Surveying Project 018During the open house, attendees will have the opportunity to meet the faculty and current students, who have prepared exhibits showcasing their academic and service projects.

The seventh and eighth grade program was developed in partnership with two of the world’s leading Montessori adolescent education consultants:  Laurie Ewert-Krocker, the founding head teacher of the Hershey Montessori School Farm School, widely considered the premier Montessori adolescent program in the country, and David Kahn, executive director of the North American Montessori Teachers Association (NAMTA).

Applications for admission to the 2015-16 Mountaineer Montessori Middle School program are now being accepted. The school considers students with Montessori and/or traditional school backgrounds. Financial aid is available.

The middle school program extends the curriculum offered by Mountaineer Montessori School, 308 20th Street. Founded in 1976, Mountaineer Montessori is the oldest, largest and most established Montessori school in West Virginia, providing a rich academic and arts curriculum in a child-centered environment to 120 students ages 3-14.  To RSVP for the open house or for other information, please call 304/342-7870.

MMS 2015-16 academic year registration forms due Friday, Feb. 6

IMG_7088Time to line up! Friday, February 6 is the deadline for current MMS families to submit completed registration forms, signed Letters of Intent and financial aid applications for the 2015-16 school year. We anticipate another year of full enrollment and may not be able to guarantee a place for your child after that date. Any available classrooms slots will be opened to applications from new families starting on February 9. Please call the office at 304/342-7870 if you have questions or would like to schedule a tour (new families).

For information on our admissions policy and procedures, please click here.

Lower elementary continental explorers

KirenThis week we began a large research project on the continents. Our class is divided into seven groups of three students. Each group is doing research on the topography, flora, fauna, religion, clothing, food, architecture, language and mythology of every continent. We look forward to sharing the work with you as it develops. Congratulations to the third year students for completing the standardized testing this week! Everyone is off the hook this week regarding the spelling test. We will resume the regular spelling tests next week.

David and Amanda

January 30, 2015

See more MMS news on our blog.