The staff at Vancouver Montessori School is made up of dedicated individuals from a broad range of educational and professional backgrounds. Our teachers approach education with the development of the individual needs of each child in mind. They are all AMI certified and trained in the Montessori philosophy, child development, and curriculum. The experience and dedication of our staff contributes to making Vancouver Montessori School a community where children flourish.
Toddler: 1 to 3 Years Old
Fran Gilliland – Teacher
Fran has always had an interest in caregiving and young children. Past jobs such as lifeguard, CNA and nanny attest to that. She grew up in Beaverton, OR and completed her Associates degree at PCC.
Fran’s first experience with Montessori was as an infant/toddler assistant and then primary assistant for the last four years. She recently completed her AMI “Assistance to Infancy” certification and is eager to implement all she learned at VMS. Her hobbies include camping, shopping, working out, baking and spending time with her husband and family.
Lindsey started babysitting at the age of 12, but loved rocking babies to sleep since she was about 7. She comes from a family of 11 and is one of the oldest. So, Lindsey has been around children all of her life. Though, born and raised in Michigan, she recently moved to Washington for the opportunity to attend a local dental hygiene program in a few years. A few of the things Lindsey loves to do are travel, hang out with friends, bask in the sun at the beach and play volleyball in the evening at the park.
Charity Bak – Assistant
Charity was born in Nebraska, moving to Washington when she was 12 years old. She has a long history of babysitting, from watching her cousins to helping raise her niece and nephew. Two of her three siblings have children, whom she has enjoyed spending time with and watching grow over the years. Charity plans on a career in child care; continuing her education formally at the University level—perhaps even training to become a Montessori Teacher! Some things Charity enjoys outside of work are trips to the beach, camping and hiking.
Toddler: 1 to 3 Years Old
Laurie Adams – Teacher
Laurie became involved with VMS in 1993 when her first daughter, Jennifer, began attending. Since then, all three of her daughters (including Julia and Jillian) have graduated from VMS and moved on. Laurie has thoroughly embraced the Montessori philosophy both as a parent and as an educator. She has immersed herself in the development of the Honeysuckle Toddler Community since it began in 2003. She completed the AMI assistants training in 1998 and has completed the AMI Assistants to Infancy training for the 0-3 age level. When not at school, Laurie is with her family. They enjoy camping, bird watching, and many things outdoors.
Lisa Tapani – Assistant
Lisa is from a family of eight. Although she is the youngest, she has 27 nieces and nephews younger than her! Since she was about 13, she has enjoyed babysitting for cousins, nieces and nephews. Lisa graduated from Battle Ground High School and then lived in Minnesota for several years. While there, she worked in a residential care facility for seniors and also in a child care facility. She fell in love with working with children and feels it is her true calling. Lisa is happy to be back in our area with her family and friends and doesn’t think she’ll miss the snowy Minnesota winters very much. She enjoys snowboarding, surfing, reading good books on wintery days and spending time with family and friends.
Amber Thorp – Assistant
Amber was born in Washington D. C. but spent her early childhood in Odenton, Maryland. However, she considers Vancouver her home after moving here when she was in 3rd grade. Amber graduated from Clark College with her AA degree, transferring to Central Washington University to major in Special Education. Life changes brought her back to Vancouver where she began working as a case aid for young foster care children with behavioral challenges. That is where she found a passion for early childhood education and social work. Amber now attends PSU, majoring in Child & Family Studies with a specialization in Early Intervention Support. Helping to support and educate families is her goal. In her personal time, Amber enjoys working out, darts, backpacking and hiking, camping and movies. She loves spending time with family and friends!
Children’s House: 2 ½ to 5 Years Old
Nicole Cromwell –Teacher
Nicole and her husband moved to Portland in 2012 from Arizona. After working as a Montessori classroom assistant in several Portland area schools, Nicole trained at Montessori Northwest, earning her AMI primary diploma in 2014. She also holds a M.Ed from Arizona State University where she focused on using inquiry based learning in the classroom. Nicole loves using the Montessori Method to incorporate her interests in the outdoors, nature and science in the Lavender classroom’s learning environment. In her spare time Nicole enjoys traveling the Northwest on camping, hiking and diving expeditions.
Kali Levy – Assistant
Kali worked at VMS in the Toddler Community in 2014. In November of that year, she left for New Zealand to experience life abroad. After almost two years, she returned both to the U.S. and, as happy coincidence, to VMS. She now joins Nicole as the Lavender classroom assistant. Outside of work, she enjoys reading, the outdoors, playing with her dog, and partner acrobatics. She is passionate about the environment and hopes to become more engaged in the community now that she is back from abroad.
Children’s House: 2 ½ to 5 Years Old
Arlene Schroeder – Teacher
Arlene grew up on the east coast and moved to Portland in 1989. She attended Lewis & Clark College where she received a BS in English Lit. In 1992 Arlene discovered Montessori while in London and began researching it with growing interest. In 1999 she moved back to Portland to complete the AMI training followed by a Master in Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Marylhurst. Arlene has been teaching here at VMS since 1999, but also enjoys spending time with friends and family, doing craft projects and traveling.
Diane Sale – Assistant
Diane has enjoyed a Montessori education herself, from pre-school through her high school years. She then attended WSU in Pullman and received a BA in Human Development with a minor in Women’s Studies. In 2005, she earned her AMI Primary Teaching Certificate from the Montessori Institute of San Diego. Since then Diane has worked as a Children’s House teacher, assistant and an Upper Elementary Assistant. She enjoys knitting, reading and camping along with watching movies and listening to music from the 1940’s and 50’s.
Children’s House: 2 ½ to 5 Years Old
Kathy Cotner – Teacher
Kathy attended Arizona State University and graduated with a degree in Special Education/Learning Disabilities. She did her student teaching in Brighton, England, as part of an exchange program. Having developed an interest in the Montessori Method, upon returning home, Kathy enrolled in the National Center for Montessori Education (NCME) training program, became certified, and taught in a Phoenix Children’s House beginning in 1983. After living in rural Arizona, in 1999, Kathy, her husband and son moved to Vancouver. Kathy then began the M.Ed. program through Loyola College in Maryland to become AMI certified. She taught at the Little Oak Children’s House from 2009-2016, and thoroughly enjoys being in the classroom! Kathy greatly enjoys the rivers, lakes, and all the wonderful rain here in the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time she loves to cook, oil paint, kayak and garden.
Jennifer Adams – Assistant
Jennifer has a long history with VMS due to the fact that she attended as a child herself. She actually attended the classroom she now works in! After that, Jennifer went on to Cascadia Montessori Elementary and then to St. Mary’s for High School. Jennifer continues to work as the Wisteria Classroom Assistant with Melody. She has recently competed her Associates degree at Clark and is working toward her Bachelor’s at WSU. Jennifer enjoys reading, singing, writing poetry and short stories and spending time with friends.
School Administration & Support
Leslie Pedersen- Office Assistant
Leslie grew up in Camas and began at VMS in 1995 as a parent to her, then, 3 year old son, Nikolaj. In 1998 she completed the AMI assistants training and began working in the classroom as an assistant. After being home with her second child, Annika, she returned to VMS to help out in a variety of capacities leading to working in the office with Kendra. Karenna was her last child to graduate from VMS. Leslie enjoys spending time with her family, gardening, reading and entertaining.
Lisa Morse – Administrative Director
I was born in Baltimore MD, but quickly migrated west as a young child when my father moved us to California so he could finish medical school. My sister and I were Montessori hippy children in the 70’s, which was where I developed my love of Montessori. After living in Santa Cruz for most of my teen years, I moved to the Santa Rosa area, where I went to work at my old Montessori School as an aftercare teacher. While there, I was excited to be asked to work in the classroom during the summer program. I loved the experience so much that I jumped into the AMS training program that started in the fall. In June of 1990 I not only graduated with my AMS credential, but finished college as well.
After that I went to work in several Montessori schools, eventually making my way to Oregon as a director. It was here that I met and married the father of my two children. He and I eventually settled in Hood River, having purchased a snow-board shop. During our time there, I went to work in the only preschool in town, which was cooperative. It was a great experience working so closely with parents as they navigated the classroom as my “assistants”. It was a lovely experience that helped cement my belief in Montessori and how well it works with children.
Since then, in the 26 years I have been a Montessorian, I have graduated over 150 children and parents, as well as worked to raise my own. It was while my children were in elementary school, that I came to realize that I did my greatest good working outside of the classroom-mentoring new teachers, creating new programs and supporting the Montessori Method as a director.
Now as my journey continues, I am blessed to find myself on property in Scappoose, two children in high school, two children in elementary school, and all four children participating in sports. Thank goodness my yoga practice teaches balance.
Rahela Herman – Extended Day Coordinator
Although born in California, Rahela has lived in the Vancouver area for most of her life. She began working here at VMS in 2000. She loves being with the children and they love being with her as well! Rahela comes from a large family of four sisters, seven brothers. Her experience has come very naturally. When not here at school, Rahela enjoys traveling, shopping, cooking and hanging out with her nieces and nephews.
Mary Ann Ard – Kitchen/Staff Support
Mary Ann has lived in Vancouver for over 29 years. She was born and raised in Wyoming and Idaho, where she graduated from High School. She attended UVC Dental Assistant program in Provo, Utah and enjoyed working for an Oral Surgeon. She married her sweetheart and soon after his work brought them to Vancouver where they have raised their 5 children in the Marrion neighborhood. Mary Ann has enjoyed her full time job as a mom. She served many hours at Marrion Elementary in the classrooms, on field trips and on the PTA board. So, it’s no surprise that she enjoys working with children and being a grandma too. She enjoys being with family, snow skiing, camping, hiking, sewing and serving in the community.