All staff members at Many Rivers Montessori are interviewed, hired, and trained in compliance with guidelines set by the state of Minnesota. Each of our staff members has a background in education and/or child care. We facilitate relationships between staff and children that are nurturing, responsive, supportive, and respectful, encouraging creativity and independence in the student. Every one of our classrooms has a lead teacher, or Guide, certified by the Association Montessori International (AMI-USA). We currently employ seven AMI-certified guides, and most of our classroom assistants have AMI Montessori assistant training. Our maximum teacher-to-student ratio goals are as follows: 1:15 in Elementary, 1:10 in Primary, and 1:6 in Toddler.
Jessica Mohn-Johnsen | Guide, The MRM Middle School
Jessica comes to the MRM Middle School with deep experience with middle schoolers and in progressive education. For most of her teaching career, Jessica taught middle schoolers and elementary students in Waldorf schools in Portland, OR and in La Crosse, WI. She holds a Master of Education degree from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, a Bachelor of Applied Science from the University of Minnesota Duluth, and holds AMI Montessori Adolescent certification. Having been a Waldorf middle school teacher, Jessica is well-versed in establishing traditions around curriculum and community culture. She has guided culminating research projects and presentations, led wilderness field trips, staged theatrical works, and helped students run small enterprises. A Duluth native, Jessica returned to the Twin Ports in 2014. While Jessica enjoys working with her hands, she can also often be found adventuring outdoors with her family on foot, bike, or boat. “The forests and the Lake are truly home to me,” she says, adding: “I'd like to one day circumnavigate Lake Superior by kayak.”
Andrea Christopherson | Guide, st. louis river Upper Elementary environment
Andrea is an AMI-certified Montessori elementary teacher with 13 years of full-time experience, most recently as lead elementary guide at a local Montessori school. She also holds a BA in Elementary Education with a minor in Social Studies from the University of Minnesota Duluth. A native of Detroit Lakes, MN, Andrea moved to Duluth after high school and has stayed put ever since. She loves that Duluth is a city known for its beautiful outdoor features and unique local attractions, and “not for its malls.” When not planning lessons or thinking about school, Andrea is usually busy cooking or creating messy projects with her two children, setting up family exercise challenges, walking in the woods with her husband, digging in her gardens, reorganizing a closet, or kicking back with a good book. Andrea is excited to help shape a school culture focused on the love of learning and the embrace of a Montessori community, and is eager to help build a supportive and inspiring work environment.
Courtney Bartz | Guide, Cloquet river Lower Elementary environment
Courtney holds a BA in Environmental Science and Elementary Education from the College of St Scholastica, and is an AMI-certified Montessori elementary teacher. She started as an assistant teacher in a Montessori classroom in Duluth in 2008, and assumed the role of lead lower elementary teacher in 2010. She has also served with Americorps and worked as a camp counselor, nanny, volleyball coach, reading tutor, and as a teaching assistant in the public schools. Courtney loves Duluth for its people, its sense of community, and its physical beauty. In her limited spare time, she loves to run, ski, bike, or go camping, or to snuggle indoors with her family doing some sewing, knitting, or reading. She enjoys working alongside like-minded colleagues to develop a school atmosphere of community involvement, trust, growth and open communication, and loves being able to say: “I teach at Many Rivers Montessori!”
Kristi VanTassel | GUIDE, French River Lower elementary environment
Kristi joined the Elementary Environment in 2017 as its third Elementary Guide. She has just completed her second summer of AMI Elementary training at the Montessori Center of Minnesota, and will be a fully certified AMI Elementary Guide by the Fall of 2018. Kristi also holds an AMI Assistants to Infancy Diploma from The Montessori Institute Denver, and in 2014 launched Duluth’s first Montessori Toddler Community at MRM. She holds Master of Education as well as Bachelor of Applied Science degrees from the University of Minnesota Duluth, and has served as Director of Children’s Ministry at the Duluth Vineyard church, where she worked closely with children and their families. Prior to this, she worked nearly four years at a local hospital, specializing in children’s mental health. Kristi comes from a Montessori family and applies the Montessori philosophy in her own life’s work, household, and parenting journey. She and her husband have four children, love the Minnesota outdoors, and have been known to pack up even the tiniest of their babes and head into the wilderness with their canoes.
Rebecca Tollefson | Guide, Chester Creek Primary environment
A native of Bemidji, Becca graduated in 2014 from the Montessori Center of Minnesota with her AMI Primary diploma. Prior to attending AMI training, Becca taught for seven years at Child Garden Montessori School in Minneapolis, both at the Primary and Infant levels. When she is not teaching or spending time outside, Becca might be found singing with her daughter, sewing, “fairy gardening,” playing board games, or curled up with a good book. She enjoys taking her daughter out for walks through the woods or by the beach. Becca loves to guide the children along their natural path of development, offering them “keys to the world in a concrete form.”
Sheena rogers | Guide, Tischer Creek Primary Environment
Sheena graduated in 2015 with her AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Center of Minnesota. She also holds a Master of Arts in Education from St. Catherine's University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Colorado State University. A native of Roseville, MN, Sheena has been part of the faculty since 2015, when she joined MRM as Assistant in the Chester Primary Environment. Sheena is excited to "build an environment of beauty that excites children and leads to life-long learning," and proud to be "part of MRM bringing the Montessori philosophy to the Twin Ports." When not at MRM, Sheena can often be found walking or bicycling on the Lakewalk with her husband, traveling to national parks, sewing, and curling up with a good book.
maddie keeler | Guide, Lester River Primary Environment
Maddie received her AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Center of Minnesota in 2015, and holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Minnesota Morris. Maddie is also the daughter of a Montessori guide, and a Montessori alumna from Primary through eighth grade. Maddie has served as lead staff with the YMCA childcare program in Andover MN, as a teacher's aide at Oak Hill Montessori in Shoreview MN, and has tutored elementary children through a program with UM Morris. Maddie loves Duluth for its combination of urban and natural spaces. "It is so rewarding to come to work every day and be surrounded by such hard-working, like-minded people," says Maddie. "Everyone is so committed to the children, and you can see the joy and pride that they take in their work. I am so happy to be a small piece of that group and cannot wait to continue spreading Montessori through the Twin Ports." When not in the classroom, you can typically find Maddie playing with her French Bulldog, testing out a new recipe in the kitchen, or reading a book.
madeline Mitchell | Guide, Amity Creek Toddler Community
Madeline completed her AMI Assistants to Infancy training at The Montessori Institute Denver in the summer of 2016. She holds a B.S. in Art Therapy from the University of Wisconsin-Superior, and has attended the AMI Assistants Course at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota. She has also served with True North Americorps at Bay View Elementary School in Duluth. Madeline loves Duluth's weather, and enjoys all the festivals in Duluth and the surrounding region in the fall. She has been a part of MRM since its inception, serving first as Chester Primary Assistant and then as Amity Toddler Assistant. She enjoys the friendly, positive, and joyful families at the school, and is grateful to be able to watch her students change and grow. When not caring for MRM's youngest children, Madeline can be found pursuing her loves of travel, camping, and reading.
Kristin Stuchis | Elementary & Middle School Spanish
Kristin is a seasoned educator of Spanish, having formally taught Spanish since 1993. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, Kristin taught Spanish at the Marshall School from 2007 through 2015. She has also taught Spanish elsewhere at the high school and college level, and has been a lead teacher with Concordia Language Villages. She has also led numerous student and other trips to Latin America. Kristin holds a M.Ed. degree and a post-baccalaureate certificate in Environmental Education from the University of Minnesota Duluth, and a B.A. in Biology with a concentration in Environmental Studies from Grinnell College, where she was also a Spanish minor. She was licensed as a teacher in Science and Spanish, and holds a Master Educator license in Iowa. In addition to teaching Spanish, Kristin has taught environmental classes at the College of St. Scholastica, Stowe and Marshall Schools in Duluth, and Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center. Prior to coming to MRM, Kristin lived in Mexico, designing an intercultural and gardening curriculum for middle school students, engaging local students in gardening activities, and interviewing seed guardians. This experience has inspired her to create Duluth’s Hillside Public Orchard. Kristin is excited to share Spanish linguistically and culturally with the MRM community. Kristin is also active in community and social justice causes, interests that resonate with the Montessori pedagogy. She notes: “My MRM colleagues are committed to the school’s mission, gently empowering children to grow academically and socially, and then to give back.”
Kaelyn Williams | Toddler and Primary Spanish
As MRM’s Toddler and Primary Spanish teacher, Kaelyn speaks Spanish to our children both inside their classroom environments and during recess on the playground. She comes to MRM with a B.A.S. in Environment and Outdoor Education and a B.A. in Latin American Studies from the University of Minnesota Duluth, and has lived in Peru as part of her studies overseas. Kaelyn has also worked in outdoor education with Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, Lake Superior Zoo, and Hartley Nature Center. Originally from the Twin Cities, Kaelyn loves Duluth for its friendliness, the big Lake, the woods, and the trails. In her spare time, she is “almost guaranteed to be somewhere outdoors running, skiing, biking, hiking, gardening, or exploring and traveling with family and friends.”
Heather Honer | Elementary
Heather assists Andrea, Courtney and Kristi in the Elementary Environment. She has been a Montessori assistant at both MRM and the Montessori School of Duluth, and has held positions in educational, caregiving and business fields. She holds an Associate’s degree from Lake Superior College, and has completed the AMI Assistants Course at the Montessori Center of Minnesota. She has served at Mother Teresa’s orphanages and Gandhi’s School of Learning in India, as well as an orphanage in Uganda. She is also a children's choir director, hangs out with teenage international students, and would some day like to help meet the growing needs in St. Louis County by opening a crisis home for young children.
LAURA DONOVAN | Chester Creek Primary
Laura assists Becca in the Chester Creek Primary Environment. She has been a teaching assistant for 18 years, including five years as a Montessori assistant. Laura holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and has completed the AMI Assistants Course at the Montessori Center of Minnesota. The mother of two grown daughters, Laura loves the “big-small town atmosphere” in Duluth and during the summer can be found sailing on the Big Lake.
Trey Carlson | Tischer Creek Primary
Trey assists Sheena in the Tischer Creek Primary Environment. A psychology major at UW-Superior, he has held various youth program positions at the Duluth YMCA, and has also worked at a local Montessori school. Trey has been on the MRM faculty since its inception, and has attended the AMI Assistants' Course at the Montessori Center of Minnesota.
EMILY DAVIDSON | Lester River Primary
Emily assists Maddie in the Lester River Primary Environment. Emily holds a BA in History with a focus in First Nation Studies from UWS, and has been program director of the Boys & Girls Club on the Vermilion side of the Bois Forte Reservation. She has also completed the AMI Assistants Course at the Montessori Center of Minnesota. A growing interest in Montessori pedagogy led her to her current position at MRM. Emily is a student of the Ojibwe language, and, when not working with children or reading, is often found lavishing her attention on her pets and plants at home. Emily has also just completed her first summer of AMI Primary training at the Montessori Training Center Northeast in Boston.
A Duluth native, Sara is the mother of four Montessori children (now grown), and has been a board member, parent educator, and administrator at Sunny Hollow Montessori in St. Paul. Sara is also an artist and designer, and she owns a stationery and custom invitation business. She holds an industrial design degree from the Minneapolis College of Art and design, and has worked in design at Rollerblade and Tonka Toys. MRM is a place that “allows all of us adults to be purposefully mindful in our daily observations and guidance of children,” says Sara.
Jill brings deep experience in working with students with special needs to MRM. She holds a M.S. in Teaching from the College of St. Scholastica, a B.A. in Psychology and Human Services from Buena Vista University, and is working on her Masters in Social Work from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Jill has also worked as a victim advocate and educator with cases related to abuse, and volunteers with various agencies working towards social justice. Jill enjoys the “often unspoken accountability” between staff members and their “mature, respectful ways of talking with others.” She also enjoys “working with students who are blossoming their critical thinking skills; in turn, I am also blossoming mine.” An artistic soul who has performed her poetry on MRM’s own stage, Jill enjoys “singing opera and creating my own improv songs and plays,” among other pursuits.
Ashley holds a B.A.S. in Psychology from the University of Minnesota Duluth, where she was also a Studio Art and Deaf Studies minor. She is a member of True North AmeriCorps, and also worked several years with the Boys and Girls Clubs in Duluth.
Katelyn holds a degree in Psychology from the University of Minnesota Duluth, and is currently pursuing a Masters in School Counseling from the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She has worked as a child care aide at centers in Hermantown and Proctor, and has served as a school counseling intern at Hermantown High School.
Katrina holds a B.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Stout in Vocational Rehabilitaion, with a concentration in Social Work, and has interned with several social services agencies.
mark niedermier | Head of School
Mark joined MRM in 2015 with 30 years of experience in education as a Head of School and teacher in progressive independent schools. He brings to MRM a proven track record in running and growing strong schools. Prior to MRM, Mark served as Head of School at the Logan School for Creative Learning in Denver, CO; Pacific Northern Academy in Anchorage, AK; and Friends School of Minnesota in St Paul. A native of Ohio, Mark received his B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD, and a M.A. in Psychology from the New School for Social Research in New York City. He has been a Math, Science, and Ancient Greek teacher, a seasoned chaperone of overnight trips, and is a trained conflict mediator for children and adults. A passionate long-distance road biker and Nordic skier, Mark enjoys Duluth for its balance of urban amenities and outdoor access. Mark’s vision is for MRM to become recognized locally and nationally as a leader in Montessori education, “an amazing school that is an important piece of the fabric of our thriving northern city of Duluth.” He describes the MRM community as “warm, enthusiastic, committed, visionary, and collaborative,” and adds: “There is a real excitement at MRM about bringing a new school to life, and this energy shines.” Mark and his wife reside in Duluth and have two children.
Brenda Ciardelli | Admissions director
Brenda holds a B.A. in Criminal Justice, worked for several years with adjudicated youth, and began working with children in childcare settings while still a teenager. She has also been involved in the opening of and management of several restaurants, and has always thrived in “a setting where you are creating something from the ground up.” A key part of MRM’s Launch Board, Brenda feels blessed to have helped to found a school that will have a lasting impact on the children of the Twin Ports. “I’m in awe of what a group of people with a common goal can do if they set their hearts and minds to it,” says Brenda, who is also an MRM parent.
ANDREA BLACK | OPERATIONS OFFICER
As MRM’s Operations Officer, Andrea serves as the school's business manager, supporting its development program and handling human resources matters among other responsibilities. Andrea has been involved in a number of start-up businesses, thriving on the challenge of bringing all aspects of business together to make a company successful. She has also helped a number of local small businesses in strategic planning. Andrea holds an M.B.A./Master of Arts in Management with a focus on organizational development from the College of St. Scholastica, as well as a B.A. in Communications with a minor in English studies from St. Scholastica. Andrea is excited to use both her experience and education to support the continuation of the great work of MRM. She knew MRM was the right place for her when she witnessed the passion and true concern for mission in staff development meetings! Andrea grew up in Duluth, and had no intention of staying here. But a marriage and 3 children later, she couldn't imagine living anywhere else. She enjoys skiing, biking, golfing, the local art scene, and watching her children in their numerous activities.
MELISSA ANDERSON | EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
Melissa assists Head of School Mark Niedermier, and also enjoys helping out around the school wherever her sunny, warm presence is needed. Melissa studied Education at UW-Superior but has since worked in the business field, most recently as Director of Operations and Events for a local non-profit organization. Melissa has been on the MRM staff since its inception. “To be involved in such a positive and important venture in our community is very rewarding, and so much fun!”
board of trustees
Matt Cartier, parent, president of Cartier Agency, active community member in local arts and area nonprofits
Brenda Ciardelli, Admissions Director, parent, criminal justice background, opened several restaurants
Jeff Engbrecht, parent, founder/CEO of Clearwater Composites
Jenny Keto, M.A.M., parent, outdoor educator, restaurant & hospitality management, organizational development
John Kliewer (Chair), J.D., parent, pastor, former corporate attorney and biotech executive
Jennifer Lien, D.M.A., parent, musician, former business journalist
Elena Metcalf, parent, M.D. specialized in child development and mental health
Rita Rosenberger, parent, over 15 years’ involvement in Duluth non-profits
Carin Skoog, parent, former public policy coordinator/consultant
Barbara Welinski, M.S., former Montessori parent, business owner, former school counselor and teacher