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 eight 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 1:7 in Toddler.
Jessica Mohn-Johnsen | Guide, Confluence: The MRM Middle School
Jessica launched the MRM Middle School in 2016, bringing with her 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, MRM's founding Upper Elementary guide, is an AMI-certified Montessori elementary teacher with 14 years of full-time experience. 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, MRM's founding Lower Elementary guide, 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 is the founding guide of French River Lower Elementary environment, which opened in 2018. She holds an AMI Elementary Diploma from the Montessori Center of Minnesota (2018) and an AMI Assistants to Infancy Diploma from The Montessori Institute Denver (2015). Kristi joined MRM at its inception in 2014 to launch Duluth’s first Montessori Toddler Community, and joined the St. Louis River Elementary Environment (Grades 1–6) as a guide in 2017. 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 also holds a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion at MRM. 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 Children's House
Becca launched the Chester Creek Children’s House at MRM at the school's inception in 2014. 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.”
Emily Davidson | Guide, Tischer Creek Children's House
Emily completed her AMI Primary training at the Montessori Training Center Northeast in Boston in the summer of 2019. She first joined MRM in 2015 as an Assistant in the Lester River Children’s House. 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.
maddie keeler | Guide, Lester River Children's House
Maddie launched the Lester River Primary Environment at MRM in 2015, shortly after receiving her AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Center of Minnesota. She also holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Minnesota Morris. Maddie is the daughter of a Montessori guide, as well as 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 has been MRM's Toddler Guide since 2016, shortly after completing her AMI Assistants to Infancy training at The Montessori Institute Denver. 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 2014 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 spending time with her family and squeaking in some travel wherever possible.
Karina Colareta | Spanish Guide
Karina joined MRM in 2018. She is a native of Argentina who is fluent in Spanish, Italian, and English. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, and since 2006 has provided Spanish instruction for Duluth Public Schools and Fond du Lac Community College. Karina loves both Duluth's closeness to nature as well as Downtown's artsy/industrial vibe. "I feel extremely fortunate to be part of a place with such strong sense of community," says Karina, who adds: "I truly admire the love and respect for education and the children that everyone shows at MRM." Karina enjoys traveling; going to the theater with her husband and daughters; and leisurely time on Island Lake, where she lives.
Isabella Restrepo Toro | Middle School
Isabella assists Jessica in the Middle School. She holds a B.A. in Psychology and Biology from the College of St. Scholastica, where she was a McNair Scholar. Originally from Colombia, Isabella is a native Spanish speaker with a passion for sharing Latin culture with others. Isabella has been a microbiology teaching assistant at CSS, and volunteered at the Benedictine Living Center Preschool. She has also worked as a nursing assistant at the Chris Jensen Health and Rehabilitation Center, and as resident advisor and props master at CSS. Isabella loves Duluthians’ strong connection with nature, as well as Duluth’s beautiful fall colors. “I feel fortunate to be part of such a strong and welcoming team at MRM that continuously focuses on the betterment of our community through the education of children,” says Isabella. When not working, Isabella enjoys spending time with her cat Oliver, cooking, reading, dancing and traveling.
Kyle Makela | St Louis River Elementary
Kyle joined MRM in 2017. holds a B.A. in Scandinavian Studies with an emphasis in Finnish from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. He has served as a counselor at Salolampi, the Finnish Village at Concordia Language Villages, and has also worked with preschool children at a Finnish language school in the Cities.
Ashley Maki | Cloquet River Lower Elementary
Ashley joined MRM in 2017, and assists Courtney in the Cloquet River Lower Elementary. Previously, she was the Assistant in the Toddler Community. She 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 was a member of True North AmeriCorps, and also worked several years with the Boys and Girls Clubs in Duluth.
Tess Enroth | French River Lower Elementary
Tess brings a love of children and Montessori to her position in the French River Lower Elementary. She joined MRM in 2018. She has been a homeschooling parent, and has served as assistant to the Children's Ministry Director as well as the Childcare Coordinator for the Duluth Vineyard. She holds a Massage Therapy certification from Lake Superior College, and has just completed her first summer of AMI Montessori Elementary training in St. Paul. Tess loves Duluth for the difference of its seasons, and she enjoys spending time outside with her three sons. “MRM is such a beautiful community,” says Tess. “I love how we are able to embrace each child right where they are, and encourage mental, emotional, and social growth.”
LAURA DONOVAN | Chester Creek Children's House
Laura joined MRM in 2015 and assists Becca in the Chester Creek Children's House. 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.
Sarah Socha | Chester Creek Children's House
Sarah is an Iron Range native who moved to Duluth in 2016. She joined MRM in 2018. She has studied at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and holds an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts from Mesabi Range College. Prior to joining MRM, Sarah worked as a para-professional at the Duluth Edison Charter schools; as a YMCA kid care counselor; and as a nanny. Sarah loves Duluth’s “delicious scenery” and “non-overwhelming city life,” and calls working at a Montessori school a “dream job”. Sarah has visited nine countries in four different continents, plays the ukulele, has been skydiving, and enjoys hunting for lake glass along the shores of Lake Superior.
Daphne Amundson | Lester River Children's House
Daphne comes to MRM with a wealth of Montessori experience, both as a Lead Teacher and as an Assistant. She holds an AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Center of Minnesota, a Master of Divinity degree from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and Bachelor’s degrees in History and Elementary Education from the University of Texas at Austin. Before her Montessori training, Daphne served as a pastor, a tour guide at the State Capitol in St. Paul, and a ticket-taker at the state fair. Daphne fell in love with the Montessori principles of order, beauty, and simplicity, as well as Maria Montessori's passion for providing "the best for the smallest." Daphne, who has traveled by train to central Russia, by boat on the Aegean Sea, and overnight bus from Tanzania to Malawi, is happy these days to walk along local beaches, finding lake treasures with her family.
Samantha Weaver | Lester River Children's House
Samantha comes to MRM from the Summit School, where she was a lead toddler teacher. She holds a B.S. in History from Ball State University in Indiana, is a certified public library technician, and is pursuing a Masters of Education from UW-Superior.
Elizabeth McLaughlin | Tischer Creek Children’s House
Kaelyn Williams | Amity Creek Toddler Community
After a year away from Duluth, Kaelyn is excited to return to MRM this year as Toddler Assistant. Previously, Kaelyn served as MRM’s Toddler and Children’s House Spanish teacher. She holds 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 the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center in Colorado, Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, Lake Superior Zoo, and Hartley Nature Center. She is also a seasoned ski instructor and guide. 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.
Jevne Billiet | Childcare
Jevne, who joined MRM in 2018, holds a BA in English from the University of Minnesota Morris. She is a seasoned babysitter and nanny, and has held several administrative positions as well as served as an intern for Duluth Mayor Emily Larson. Jevne loves that in Duluth, one can “enjoy the outdoors as well as the music scene all in one day.” When not working, Jevne enjoys spending time with her four-legged kids, cooking, crocheting, hiking, and rock climbing.
Sara Curwin | Childcare
Sara joined MRM in 2017. 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.
Ollie Mae Bartlett | Childcare and substitute
Ollie works with MRM’s Elementary children in the afterschool program. She holds an M.A. and B.S. in English from Northern Michigan University, and is pursuing a Master’s degree in Education from the College of St. Scholastica. Ollie also works with youth as a husbandry assistant at The Hills Youth and Family Services, and has served as a composition instructor, graduate assistant, and camp counselor. For Ollie, a native of Michigan, “the Great Lakes are interwoven with the tide in my blood, and Lake Superior is my biggest hero.” When not at work, she may be found agate hunting, or rollerblading.
Mykaila Peters | Childcare and substitute
Mykaila is a student at the College of St. Scholastica, majoring in Educational Studies and Spanish and minoring in Sustainability and the Environment. In addition to working with MRM’s children, Mykaila is also a Spanish tutor at CSS, and has served as a youth specialist with the Duluth Public Schools, a Spanish-language camp counselor, and as a ski instructor for children. Mykaila loves Duluth for its access to nature and opportunities for outdoor recreation, and admires MRM’s emphasis on respect, kindness, and love of learning. Mykaila, who has also studied French and Swedish, has nannied in London, done homestays in Finland, Denmark and Sweden, and taught English and conducted research in Ecuador.
Kathryn Triplett | Childcare and substitute
Kathryn works with children in MRM’s Aftercare program. She is also a full-time baker at Duluth’s Best Bread. She holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of Montana. She has worked as an assistant preschool teacher, and in outdoor youth programming as an Americorps member. Kathryn and her husband have lived in Duluth since 2017, living for a year in a yurt and homesteading their land. In 2014, Kathryn rode her bicycle from Bar Harbor, Maine to Seattle, Washington. Kathryn’s plans including returning to school for a second degree in Early Childhood Education.
Patty Kaiser | Robotics Assistant and substitute
Patty comes to MRM as an experienced early childhood educator with over 12 years of experience working in Montessori and traditional environments. Patty loves the clean air and water in Duluth, and appreciates the peacefulness of Montessori environments, having attended Montessori as a young child and served as a Montessori teacher at two schools in the Los Angeles area. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Education with a minor in Violin Performance, and also teaches English as a Second Language to students online. Patty enjoys sewing, knitting, running, hiking, “bug-less camping,” and peanut butter and chocolate malts from the Portland Malt Shop.
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 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.
Nick O’Connell | OPERATIONS OFFICER
Jenny Keto | EXECUTIVE ASSISTANT
Jenny Keto brings a wealth of experience into her role at MRM, assisting Head of School Mark Niedermier with accounting functions as well as supporting admissions, development and special events. Jenny was General Manager at the New Scenic Café for a number of years; Program and Operations Manager at Midnight Sun Adventure Co. in Duluth; Director of Operations at the Edgewater Resort and Waterpark; and has held several outdoor education positions. As founder and chair for the Youth for Tomorrow Council in Burnsville, MN, Jenny oversaw the building of a community youth center from concept to reality, and this organization is still thriving 15 years later. Jenny holds a Master of Arts in Management from the College of St. Scholastica and a B.A.S. in Outdoor Education and Recreation from the University of Minnesota Duluth. Jenny has also been a committed Many Rivers parent since our inception, serving as the school's first Parent Association President, 2017 Auction Chair, and on the MRM Board of Trustees.
Melissa Anderson | Registrar/Front Desk
Melissa is the friendly face that greets children and visitors as they enter MRM's front doors. She has been a critical part of the MRM administrative and childcare staff since its inception in a number of roles. In her current position, Melissa oversees all student registration documentation and makes sure messages from parents get delivered to teachers in a timely manner. 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 also holds a AMI Assistants’ training diploma. Says Melissa: “To be involved in such a positive and important venture in our community is very rewarding, and so much fun!”
Johanna Sinz | Aftercare Front Desk
Johanna, who joined MRM in 2018, holds a background in Art and early childhood Education. She has served as an Art teacher at Raleigh Academy and a middle school in Colorado as well as privately; she has also worked as a paraprofessional, preschool teacher, and dance teacher. Johanna holds a Bachelor's degree in K–12 Art Education from the University of Minnesota Duluth and has been licensed as a K–12 teacher in Minnesota. Johanna loves the welcoming and kind nature of the MRM community, and can often be found swimming in, or painting, her beloved Lake Superior.
board of trustees
Matt Cartier, parent, president of Cartier Agency, active community member in local arts and area nonprofits
Brenda Ciardelli, Admissions Director, parent, background in criminal justice, opened several restaurants
Jeff Engbrecht, parent, founder/CEO of Clearwater Composites
John Kliewer (Chair), J.D., parent, pastor, former corporate attorney and biotech executive
Jennifer Lien, D.M.A., parent, voice instructor, musician, former business journalist
Elena Metcalf, M.D., former Montessori parent, specializing 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
Nora Ulland, M.Ed., parent, Early Childhood Education Instructor, former early childhood teacher (Birth-3rd Grade)
Barbara Welinski, M.S., former Montessori parent, business owner, former school counselor and teacher