Head of School
Julie began Salem Montessori with a few other families in the basement of her home in the fall of 2000. She wanted to offer a Montessori setting that was intimate and was family-oriented. It began with 8 students and each parent became familiar with the Godly Play curriculum and assisted with the teaching. Having a way to touch the spiritual life of each child was an important part of the program.
After two years a group of people met to consider the possibility of expanding the school and moving it to a new location. Karen Wilson was willing to play the lead and the school moved to Highland Presbyterian. Julie served on the board for 7 years and once the school moved to Home Moravian, taught in the 3-6 year old classroom for 4 years. At this time she also wrote and taught classes for parents. She is grateful to be serving as Head of School.
Julie has been involved with Montessori for 40 years. She attended Furman University, receiving a degree in early childhood education. Upon graduating she moved immediately to Boston and received her American Montessori Certification. Subsequently she earned a masters in counseling from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has worked in 5 different Montessori schools and in a variety of roles and has been a consultant to many other Montessori schools. Additionally she taught at Summit School for 3 years and served as the director of lower school and parent learning for 8 years.
Montessori captured Julie’s heart in high school. The deep respect adults show to children and the peaceful, orderly nature of the classroom seemed magical. This philosophy allows children to reach inside themselves and find their unique potential. Julie’s dream is that these children will help to transform the world.
Julie loves to read, cook, entertain and travel. She enjoys doing yoga and taking long walks. She loves above all, spending time with her husband and three grown children.
Director of Finance
Sejal began working at Salem Montessori School in 2008. When touring the school, she liked the feel of the school and small family-like setup. She was also impressed with the Montessori practices and environment for children. Sejal enjoys cooking Indian food, listening to music, organizing and decorating, and learning new things. She loves traveling to India and visit friends and family. Sejal received her Bachelor of Commerce, from the University of Bombay, India.
Laura started working at Salem Montessori in 2010, and after a brief two-year hiatus, returned to be a classroom supporter. After the birth of her two children she discovered the Montessori Method of education and enrolled her boys at Salem Montessori School. Inspired by their experiences, she joined the team as a Toddler Assistant Teacher. She spent six wonderful years and shared her love of gardening, outdoor explorations and art. Laura has a deep appreciation and respect for the natural learning process that occurs in the SMS classroom and is excited to be surrounded by such incredible children and families who love this school as much as she does! You may see her around town or hiking with her husband, sons and coonhound. Laura has an associates degree in Graphic Design with 15 years’ experience working in marketing and advertising.
Toddler Teacher and Assistant Head of School
Catherine began teaching at Salem Montessori School in 2012, although she first came to SMS in 2009 as a parent with two children enrolled. As a parent she joined the Mindful Parenting class and felt transformed as a parent. Learning more about Montessori’s respectful approach toward young children and the grace and courtesy modeled, she was inspired to teach in the younger toddler classroom in 2012 and completed her Montessori Infant Toddler training in 2015. Catherine is honored to spend time with young children, creating joy in learning, laying the foundation for respect of self and others and working with parents as partners in their children’s education. Prior to starting at Salem Montessori, Catherine worked for almost 20 years as a massage therapist and yoga teacher. In 2018, Catherine paused her career as a massage therapist and yoga instructor to assume the role of Assistant Head of School at SMS and continue as a lead Toddler teacher. Catherine has called Winston Salem home for most of her life and is an active member of Home Moravian Church. She relishes time with her family, loves reading, dancing, singing, traveling and spending time in nature.
Catherine graduated from Davidson College with a degree in Political Science and a concentration in Gender Studies. In 2020, Catherine completed her Masters of Education with a focus on Montessori and multicultural, non-bias education from St. Catherine University.
Assistant Toddler Teacher
Lyndsay will be a toddler assistant. Lyndsey is originally from Wales and more recently moved over France where she spent 5 years teaching and working which children. She grew up loving biology and animals and decided to work to get a bachelor of science degree in Animal behavior. She completed that at Exeter University in England. She moved to France and became an English teacher for a language school with fun being the main instrument for learning. She also performed musical storytimes in public, led science and cooking workshops, holiday camps, trained new teachers, and was a pedagogical coordinator. She was also a nanny for two families on the side. She worked in a bilingual daycare and organized gardening and rhythm projects as well as art and crafts. She loves painting, sculpture, cooking, singing, gardening, and animals. She loves yoga and pilates and currently is writing a children’s book and doing the illustrations for it. She is pleased to be a part of the team and is excited to get a chance to learn and explore this teaching technique. The daycare in Paris was inspired by Montessori and Emilia Reggio.
Toddler Teacher and Technology/Design Coordinator
Betty started subbing at Salem Montessori School and other local schools in 2012. Betty worked as a graphic/web designer for more than 20 years. In 2011, after being a regional production manager for 6 years, she decided it was time for a career change and decided to follow her heart and pursue teaching. While at SMS, she saw that children happy, and their teachers were too. She also noticed a peaceful feeling in herself as she walked through the classrooms that she didn’t get in the other schools. The beauty of the Montessori environment spoke to her design aesthetic, but it was Montessori’s deep respect of children, that she found truly life-changing. In the summer of 2013, Betty started her infant toddler Montessori certification and became a lead toddler teacher in the fall of 2013. Betty is passionate about Montessori and loves that she gets to help children learn about themselves as they learn about the world around them, and she feels grateful when she is able to help parents gain confidence in their parenting skills. Betty keeps her design skills sharp by maintaining our website, social media sites and designing our internal materials. Betty loves spending time with her family most of all, but also has fun reading, gardening, traveling and being in the great outdoors. Betty graduated from UNC Charlotte with a degree in Fine Arts, with an emphasis in Graphic Design.
Assistant Toddler Teacher
In the fall of 2018 Erica joined the Salem Montessori School staff as an assistant with Betty Hastings. As a child Erica always dreamed of growing up to be a math teacher. In high school she decided she wanted to be an English professor. As an undergraduate she worked as a garden educator. At the graduate level she studied data literacy and visualization. As a lifelong student the only thing she enjoys more than learning is sharing what she’s learned with others. Erica is delighted to find the opportunity for both at SMS every single day. Erica also appreciates the level of authenticity in relationships formed by observing and honoring the unique needs and abilities of the children, parents, caregivers, teachers, assistants, and the overall SMS community. Erica’s favorite hobby is cycling. In 2019 she rode the Parkway and aims to make a cross country trip within the next couple of years.
Assistant Toddler Teacher
Rachel found Salem Montessori as a new mom bringing her then six-month old son to the school’s parent-infant class. She fell in love with the Montessori method for its deep respect for children and loving approach to the child’s emotional development. Rachel now has three children attending Salem Montessori. Rachel loves observing how the school has gently nurtured each child’s individual curiosity and creativity. Rachel says “Salem Montessori has provided an incredible foundation for my children and has given me long-lasting relationships with many families within our school’s community. I am thrilled to join this phenomenal teaching team and further deepen my connection to this special place.”
Rachel graduated from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Art History. Rachel and her husband both grew up in Winston-Salem, and they love exploring the community with their children. Rachel enjoys cooking, get-togethers with her girlfriends, art-making and being outdoors with her children, and spending time in the mountains with her family.
Children’s House & Explorer Teacher
Susan began teaching at Salem Montessori School in 2007. Susan completed her Montessori Credential at CMTE, NC in 2005. Susan attended Southern Connecticut State College in the mid-70’s, training and working with special needs programs in the New Haven area. She met and married the love of her life in 1980 and began a new life as a Marine Corp. spouse, raising two children while continuing her education. Moving frequently throughout the 80’s and 90’s brought challenges at times, but with those challenges came wonderful friendships, new experiences and treasured memories. Through the years Susan has taught in preschools and also worked in elementary classrooms, both private and public from Jacksonville, NC to Kaneohe, HI. She found her teaching home when she observed a 3-6 classroom for the first time in 2001. Maria Montessori’s philosophy of guiding children toward peaceful independence spoke to her in a profound way.
Children’s House & Explorer Teacher
This fall Hannah will be the lead in Children’s House and join Susan Breen with the Explorers. Hannah joined SMS in the fall of 2019, as an assistant on the toddler team. She was born in England but moved to the Cayman Islands at a young age. In 2015 Hannah moved to Miami where she spent 2 years as a lead teacher of a 3-6 Montessori class and two years as an assistant in both toddler and 3-6 classes. Hannah is drawn to Montessori because she loves that children can develop and learn at their own pace, on their own terms. She appreciates the respect children learn from each other in a mixed-age group. Her hobbies include anything outdoors, such as biking and hiking.
Assistant Children’s House and Afternoon Assistant Elementary Teacher
Misty started teaching at SMS in 2017, the same year her son enrolled. Misty assists Hannah Southgate in Children’s House during the mornings and in the afternoon assists Emy Knight in our elementary program. Misty appreciates that Montessori promotes personal autonomy and fosters confident and self-driven children. She believes that the Montessori approach supports a natural love of learning. In her free time, Misty enjoys doing anything that allows her to be creative; interior decorating, calligraphy, and photography are some of her favorites.
Children’s House Teacher
After a brief time away, Salem returned to SMS in January of 2019 with her twin boys. Salem began her teaching career at Salem Montessori School in 2009 as an assistant in 3-6. She was inspired to obtain her American Montessori Society certification in 2010. Salem worked at SMS for 3 years before pursuing her Masters in Education at Salem College. While working towards her Masters in 2013, Salem began teaching at Summit School as a Junior Kindergarten Assistant, and then as a Lead Kindergarten teacher for two years. Salem enjoys spending most of her time outside with her husband, sons and dog. She takes great pleasure in gardening, visiting local markets, and connecting with others across our community. Salem is grateful for the opportunity to be an SMS teacher and parent, and for the privilege to share the Montessori philosophy with our community. Salem graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in International Studies.
Children’s House Co-Teacher
Page Pisapia first joined the SMS community as a parent in 2015 and began subbing in the toddler classrooms during the 2019-2020 school year. In addition to her youngest child who is a student in Children’s House, Page has four older children in kindergarten, 4th, 6th and 8th grades. Page received her BA from Amherst College and her MSEd from The Bank Street College of Education in Early Childhood Education (with a focus on Infant & Parent Development and Early Intervention). Page’s previous experiences include working as the director of a childcare center, teaching in a preschool classroom, assisting a child with autism in a kindergarten classroom, and working in a residential care facility for adolescent girls. Page has learned valuable lessons from the Montessori method over the years which have positively influenced her parenting experience. She loves working with young children and sharing in their delight when they master a new skill or they experience something for the first time. Working with young children helps to remind her to appreciate the simple joys in life. Washing dishes and folding cloth napkins is meaningful work that can be fun (with the added bonus of building fine motor skills)! In her free time Page enjoys reading, journaling and taking family walks around her neighborhood.
Assistant Children’s House Teacher
She is a Montessori certified teacher and will help in BOTH Children’s House classrooms. Karen has 25 years of experience and is certified to teach Children’s House and Elementary. She has also worked with toddlers in a Montessori setting. She was drawn to Montessori’s focus on the needs of children. She is passionate about this method.
Emy Watson Knight fell in love with Montessori in 2002 on a visit to Salem Montessori with her mother. Emy writes, “I am excited to join the Salem Montessori School community! I feel as though I’ve come full circle as an educator. At the time, my mother was an Elder at Home Moravian Church and asked me to accompany her to observe a small school that was interested in renting space at the church. This school was Salem Montessori. Little did I know that this observation would have such a huge impact on my life. Within a month I enrolled in the Center for Montessori Teacher Education Program in Raleigh with a newfound purpose.”
Emy spent several years as a Children’s House teacher before going on to Barry University and earning a Master’s degree and certification for lower and upper elementary which encompasses grades one through six. She taught for 12 years in Montessori classrooms in Florida and North Carolina at a variety of grade levels. She moved back to Winston Salem in 2015 and taught at Summit as a first-grade assistant and for the last three years as a Kindergarten teacher. She also has been trained in Orton Gillingham at the Associate Level. Emy is a native of Winston-Salem. She is an alum of Summit and Reynolds High School. She grew up attending Home Moravian Church. She received a BA in Environmental Education from Prescott College. Emy has two sons Grady, 11 and Bodhi, 9. They both have attended Montessori programs. Emy enjoys camping, spending time in the mountains and horseback riding.
Morning Assistant Elementary Teacher
Francesca started working at Salem Montessori School in 2015 as a classroom supporter for one year. She returned in the fall of 2019 as an assistant in the older toddler classroom. This fall she joins Emy Knight as an assistant in the Elementary class. Francesca appreciates that a Montessori environment helps children develop their independence. Francesca graduated from Salem College with a major in education and a minor in business. She is licensed to teach K-6 and taught at Jefferson Elementary. Francesca is currently pursuing a masters in school counseling at Salem College. She enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and son.
JoAnn Sofis White, Chair
Sarah Dalena, Vice Chair
Rachael Matthews, Secretary
Lauren Reid, Treasurer
Salem Montessori School is a Non-Profit Corporation governed by a Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is comprised of eleven community members, no more than 50% of which may be current parents. The Board is also comprised of two ex-officio, non-voting members, the Head of School and the Assistant Head of School. The Board meets bi-monthly and has several committees which meet quarterly.