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2021-22 SCHOOL YEAR CEMCS FACULTY AND STAFF INFORMATION

TEACHER BIOS


Kindergarten 1 – Gabby Dellorco

Gabby was born and raised in Savannah, where she graduated from St. Vincent’s Academy in 2014. She discovered her passion for working with children at a very young age. Gabby spent most of her middle and high school days babysitting and tutoring children. Gabby graduated from Georgia Southern University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. While in college, she worked in the afterschool program at St. Peter’s the Apostle Catholic School and joined the Coastal Empire Montessori staff in 2020. Gabby has begun her formal Montessori training and is working on earning her Montessori Primary Certification through the North American Montessori Center.

Gabby loves spending time with her nieces, friends, family, and her boyfriend Taylor. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, traveling, and going to the beach. Gabby also has two fur babies – Gracie (a Shih-tzu) and Chadwick (a Holland Lop). She is excited for another year at CEMCS!


Kindergarten 2 – Melissa Friel

Melissa was born, raised and graduated high school in Massachusetts. She moved to Savannah to attend SCAD, where she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts. She also earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from Armstrong State University, and her teaching journey began in 2008. In 2010, she worked at a Montessori Early Childhood Program and fell in love with the philosophy. In 2018, she started at Coastal Empire Montessori Charter School, and that same year, she earned her Montessori Primary Certification through the North American Montessori Center. This will be her fourth year with CEMCS.

Melissa married Thomas Christopher Friel, a proud Savannah High Alumni, in 2011. They have 2 children - a 8-year-old boy (Archer) and a 5-year-old girl (Matilda) – who both attend CEMCS. Her hobbies include raising chickens, reading, cooking, and watercolor painting.


Kindergarten 3 – Hannah Lewis

Hannah graduated from Towson University in Baltimore, MD, with a degree in Theatre. During that time, she discovered her love of teaching while using theatre skills and games as a way to inspire the children of inner-city Baltimore to read. She loved spending time with the 3rd graders involved in the program and knew that her life would take a turn toward education. This will be Hannah’s sixth year here at CEMCS, her fourth year teaching Kindergarten. She feels incredibly fortunate to have found such a wonderful family of educators here. She has completed her Montessori certification in Lower Elementary through the North American Montessori Center and has also completed the Georgia Teacher Preparation & Pedagogy Program (GaTAPP) with Oconee RESA for her certification.

Hannah was born in Easton, MD, but spent a lot of her time growing up near the beach in Ocean City. She loves going home to visit her family whenever she can. Hannah moved here to Savannah seven years ago and has fallen in love with coastal Georgia; it reminds her of home. In her spare time, you might find Hannah spending time with her fiancée, Matt, and their two wacky dogs, Bob and Peter. They love exploring the outdoors, seeing live music, visiting family, cooking, hanging out at the beach, and traveling. In fact, traveling is one of Hannah’s passions, and she has traveled to and lived in several different countries around the world including Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the Dominican Republic, the Cayman Islands, and Nicaragua. She plans on adding many more places to that list.


Lower Elementary 1 – Anneka Thomas

Anneka was born and raised in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She showed an interest in teaching from an early age and obtained her Associate Degree from Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in 2008. She started her first teaching job in the same elementary school she attended, teaching alongside those who taught her. After three years, she graduated from Western Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Education. Anneka taught at the elementary level in Jamaica for 6 years and also served as the school’s dance coach. She moved to the US in 2015 as an International Exchange Teacher, where she continued teaching in North Carolina for an additional 3 years. Anneka completed her Lower Elementary Montessori Diploma Program through the North American Montessori Center. She has been with the CEMCS family for two years and is looking forward to another fantastic year.

Anneka relocated to Savannah in 2018, with her husband JT, their 3-year old son Theo and their dog Jager. Their family welcomed their newest addition in March 2021, their son Charles. She enjoys cooking for her family and going on adventures - traveling, cooking, backpacking, sightseeing, hiking, antiquing, and exploring new places and cuisines. In Anneka’s quiet time, she adds more hygge to her life by spending quality time with her family at home.


Lower Elementary 2 – Shelly Harvey

Shelly grew up in Montego Bay, Jamaica, and earned her teaching certification in Primary Education at Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College. She taught 6th Grade at Albion Primary and Junior High School in Jamaica and then ventured to the United States via an international teaching program. She later earned her Associates Degree in Math and Science at Western Carolina University in North Carolina. She has taught Grades 2 – 6 in South Carolina since 2015 and is excited to return to CEMCS for her second year. Shelly is training in Montessori through The Center for Guided Montessori Studies.

Shelly’s passion for teaching began through motherhood. Her daughters – Sylvanie, who attends Clemson Univerity, and Le’via, her 4-year-old – opened her eyes to the rewarding life of working with young children. She finds joy in witnessing a child learn something new, knowing she was a main influence in he doing so. The impact she makes in their lives makes for an even bigger and completely gratifying impact in her own life. Shelly’s time outside of the classroom is spent enjoying traveling, reading, cooking, and spending quality time with her children.


Lower Elementary 3 – Janine Neal

Janine was born in Ohio and grew up in Savannah. She graduated from Valdosta State University with a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education and earned a Master of Education in Counseling in 2006. One of her greatest passions is teaching, and this year is her 19th. She has worked for the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System and for Richmond County School System in a variety of grade levels throughout the years. Janine completed her Montessori Certification through the North American Montessori Center and will be working to earn her Gifted Certification this year. This will be her 4th year here at CEMCS!

Janine loves spending most of her time with family and friends. She has a soon-to-be 12-year-old daughter whom she adores. She enjoys traveling, reading, shopping, going to the beach, and most of all having fun with her daughter. She also enjoys working with children and is looking forward to a prosperous school year.


Lower Elementary 4 – Ashton Akins

Ashton was born and raised in Savannah, GA, and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a Bachelor Degree in Elementary Education. While in college, Ashton’s combined field and job experience included teaching in Kindergarten, First and Fourth Grades. She also worked as a Nanny for five years, entrusted with the care of three children, aged 2, 6 and 8. Ashton has had a passion for working with children for a long time, ever since volunteering at her younger brother’s daycare! She considers some of her greatest strengths as an educator to be her patience and her ability to create a positive and respectful learning environment so that each child is able to learn and prosper at his/her own pace. Ashton is beyond excited to continue in her second year teaching at CEMCS and has recently successfully completed Montessori training through The Center for Guided Montessori Studies!

Ashton enjoys spending her free time with her family, significant other and friends. She absolutely loves the beach, swimming, kayaking, and drawing. Her goal as a teacher is to instill a love of learning in her students by helping all children discover their interests in a positive learning environment.


Lower Elementary 5 – Kelly Arseneau

Kelly was raised in Central Florida and developed a passion for teaching at a young age. She's entering her 11th year of teaching! She earned her Elementary Education degree and Reading and ESOL endorsements at the University of Central Florida. In 2021, she completed her Master of Education degree in Evaluation, Assessment, Research & Learning from Georgia Southern University. Kelly spent her first five years teaching 9th-grade reading in Deltona, FL; during that time, she earned over 300 hours of in-service training and conducted several trainings for her peers. She has spent her last six years of teaching here at Coastal Empire Montessori Charter School, during which time she earned her Montessori certification. Kelly has enjoyed teaching Lower Elementary at CEMCS; her students have always valued her sense of humor, enthusiasm, and ability to make learning fun!

Kelly relocated to Savannah in 2015 with her three boys and loves living in one of her favorite cities in the US! In her spare time, she loves spending time with her family and friends, going to the beach, Nerf wars, reading (especially non-fiction), watching documentaries (learning!), and playing games – from chess to rock-paper-scissors! She's looking forward to another exciting year here at CEMCS and cannot wait to be back in the classroom with her students!


Lower Elementary 6 – Kylene Purvis

Kylene was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. She graduated from the University of South Florida, where she earned her Bachelor Degree in Communication and Science Disorders. She worked for four years in speech therapy for public elementary school students. During this time, Kylene earned her Master Degree in Early Childhood Education from Nova Southeastern University. She has taught for 18 years in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade, being recognized as Teacher of the Year at Pasco Elementary. She earned her ESOL endorsement in 2008 and has completed her Montessori Certification with the North American Montessori Center.

Kylene and her family moved to Savannah in 2015. She and her husband, Brian, have two children - Kaden (13) and Kyla (6). In her spare time, Kylene enjoys spending time with her family, outdoor activities, reading, shopping, and learning yoga. Her favorite quotations from Maria Montessori are "Believe in the child” and "... the teacher's task is to first nourish and assist, to watch, encourage, guide, induce, rather than interfere, prescribe, or restrict." Kylene loves teaching Montessori and observing her students grow into confident and independent learners.


Upper Elementary 1 – Denisaira Miller-Torres-Pellot

Denisaira was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where she lived until 1996 when her mother moved her family to the United States. Her upbringing was filled with caring and thoughtful people who possessed an abundance of culture, values, beliefs, and traditions that influenced her life greatly. Once her family settled in Michigan, Denise attended Michigan State University and majored in Pre-Law. She knew in her heart, though, that her true passion was teaching, helping children with their educational development and impacting them in a positive way, ensuring their potential is fulfilled. She therefore transferred to Kaplan University and switched her major to Elementary Education. Denisaira is mom to two children, Luisier and Jiansier, who were CEMCS students, and they have made her recognize that all children need support and nurturing. That prompted her to join the CEMCS staff as a Teaching Assistant in 2012, and she has been working here with children ever since.

Denisaira graduated from Kaplan University with a Bachelor Degree in Early Childhood Education with Summa Cum Laude honors, and she completed the Elementary I Montessori training in Charleston, SC, with the Seacoast Center for Education. She has added Gifted Education and Special Education certifications to her credentials and has recently earned a Masters of Montessori Education from Sarasota University. She is excited to be a Montessori educator – to be someone for young children to look up to, someone who the children can trust, and who will always “go the extra mile” to ensure their success.


Upper Elementary 2 – Alana Brown

Alana is originally from Roseville, OH. As an Army veteran, she lived in various places, including Virginia, Texas, and Columbus, GA, before finally settling in Savannah. Upon exiting the military, Alana began volunteering at Coastal Empire Montessori in her daughter's classroom, and it was there that she learned her love for teaching. Alana earned a Bachelor of Business in Human Resource Management and has completed her Elementary I Montessori Training through the Seacoast Center for Education. She has also completed the GaTAPP (Georgia Teacher Preparation and Pedagogy Program) with Oconee RESA for her certification, and most recently, her Gifted Education Endorsement.

In her spare time, Alana enjoys spending time with her family. She is married and has four daughters. Her 2 oldest daughters are graduates of CEMCS and her third daughter is a 2nd Grader here.


Upper Elementary 3 – Patty Clancy

As Patty enters her 33rd year in education, she still enjoys and embraces all that teaching has to offer. She began her career by earning a Bachelor Degree in Elementary Education with a specialization in Early Childhood from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. She moved south and had her first teaching experience in the inner-city Atlanta School System and then worked with at-risk Pre-K special needs students in a private school setting. Since moving to Savannah, Patty has taught at several public schools in Chatham County, adding a Gifted Endorsement to her certificate. She also taught and was the assistant director at a private school for children with neurological disorders, where she learned a variety of invaluable methods for differentiation. She married and moved to Augusta, GA, for 7 years, which ended up being a highlight in her career. In 2007, Patty was named Teacher of the Year for her school and runner up for Columbia County. During the next few years, she obtained her Master Degree in Education Curriculum and became a Thinking Map and PBIS Trainer. She came to CEMCS from teaching 4th and 5th grades in Bryan County, where she was the recipient of two Donors Choose Grants for flexible seating and modality equipment for her inclusion students. She obtained her Montessori Certification from the North American Montessori Center in March of 2019.

Even though she was born in Michigan and raised in Illinois, Patty considers Savannah her true home. She loves spending days out at the beach, reading, cooking out almost year round, and taking care of her fur babies, Stella and Stewie. Patty embraces the challenge of teaching in all aspects of life. She feels she learns as much as she teaches. Every day is different and should be welcomed with enthusiasm, a belief that she hopes to instill in her students.


Specialized Instruction/ELL Designee – Petra Echauri

Petra is originally from Newington, CT. Various opportunities took her from East to West and back again; she has also lived in Hawaii, Washington, D.C. and Northern California. Petra earned a Bachelor of Science in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology from California State University, Sacramento. While attending school, she worked as an assistant teacher and after-school program director for Woodland Montessori Children’s House. Her love for children was enhanced by her love for Montessori education at this time. Petra completed the Montessori Live Elementary I Program in June 2017 and holds a MACTE Certificate in Montessori Education. She also has her Master of Education, Reading Specialist from Armstrong State University. Petra serves in the Specialized Instruction Department working primarily with upper elementary students.

In her spare time, Petra enjoys spending time with her family. She has a 13-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter, both of whom keep her busy and on her toes. She and her family try to get to Tybee Island or Hilton Head Island every chance they get, as the beach is their favorite place to spend time as a family. She takes great pleasure in watching her children grow and explore the world around them.


Specialized Instruction – Michelle Hayes-Venable

Michelle was born and raised in New Jersey. She has a B.A. Degree in sociology from The College of New Jersey. While she worked as a counselor in a residential facility for homeless teenagers in NYC, she discovered a passion for teaching. Michelle returned to school and earned a M.A. in Special Education from New Jersey City University. She has worked for the past 22 years teaching and advocating for students with disabilities. During her career in NJ, Michelle was involved in the development and implementation of special programs, such as track, dance, and swimming. Michelle believes that all students can thrive when given the opportunity to explore their interests, question the world around them, and challenge themselves daily to do better and be better.

Michelle and her family recently relocated to GA. She and her husband, Darryl, have three boys – Isaiah, Zayden and Justin. She enjoys reading, walking, exercising, and spending time with family and friends.


Specialized Instruction – Terri West

Terri was born and raised here in Savannah. She has always loved children and decided to become a teacher early on, earning her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Armstrong State University. While teaching over the course of the last 24 years, she also has gone on to earn a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling from Argosy University and an Educational Specialist Degree in Educational Leadership from Cambridge College.

Terri is the oldest of 4 children and is affectionately known as “Aunt Bunny” to 13 nieces and nephews (including 2 grandnieces)! She is mother to a "furry" son named Broxton who is the apple of her eye, and along with spending time with family and friends, she enjoys reading, traveling, music, and outdoor concerts. Terri joined the CEMCS staff mid-year last year and is looking forward to starting this year from the beginning with the students.


Art – Bethany Norwood

This is Bethany’s fourth year teaching at CEMCS. She graduated summa cum laude from Armstrong State University with a Bachelor of Science in Art Education. Following graduation, she also earned a certification in Early Childhood Education. Bethany firmly believes that studying Art, and the artistic process itself, can teach children important life skills such as problem solving, decision making, empathy, collaboration, and of course, self-expression. She also believes that every child is an artist, and is determined to find some aspect of Art, whether it’s a certain medium, style, technique or subject matter, that excites every student who enters her classroom. As Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”

Bethany lives here in Savannah with her husband and son, the sweetest, cutest, baby boy ever! She is looking forward to being able to work on projects in person with the students again.


Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) Coordinator – Leslie Sheppard

Leslie was born and raised in Savannah, where she received her education in the public school system of Chatham County. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Social Science from Ashford University and her Master of Social Work degree from Walden University. This is Leslie’s sixth year at CEMCS as the MTSS Coordinator, and she has over ten years of special education experience in helping autistic children transition into the inclusion setting. Leslie loves the quote “We believe all children can achieve.”

Leslie enjoys spending time with her family. She has two boys, and she and her husband, James, love doing activities and traveling together as a family whenever they can.


SCHOOL STAFF BIOS


Stephanie Babcock-Wright, Executive Director

Stephanie is a social scientist and educator who has had careers in both law enforcement and education. She possesses the following degrees: a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and French from Bucknell University, a Master of Arts in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin - Madison, a Master of Science in Criminal Justice from Suffolk University, and a Master of Education in Middle Grades Education from Armstrong Atlantic State University. Additionally, she was a part of the innovative CharterLeader Program, a residency-based Educational Specialist program at Kennesaw State University, designed to develop charter leaders and strengthen the charter school sector in Georgia. Stephanie is certified to teach Early Childhood Education, Middle Grades Education, Special Education, and Gifted Education, as well as being certified in Performance-Based Educational Leadership. Before becoming an educator and teaching middle-grades Mathematics for the SCCPSS for several years, Stephanie served as Deputy Director of the Office of Research and Evaluation at the Boston Police Department, where she did crime, intelligence and statistical analysis. Public-school educated herself, she is a strong believer in the value of public schooling and the idea that all families should have access to positive educational alternatives for their children.

Stephanie’s association with CEMCS began when she enrolled her boys, Sam and Ben, when the school opened back in 2008. She has been here ever since – as a parent, a CEMCO Board Trustee and Officer, then as Director of Operations. She is now serving in her 10th year as the school’s Executive Director. She has always believed in the power of the mission and vision of the CEMCO Founding Board and remains intensely-committed to the school’s success. Being a part of the growth of so many students over the years – including her own children – has deepened her conviction that CEM’s commitment to “doing Montessori right” serves children and families faithfully.

Stephanie ongoingly participates in Montessori and other relevant training and professional development, most notably from the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector. In addition, she serves on numerous local and statewide committees and leadership groups, often through the GA Charter Schools Association, and engages in educational reform initiatives across the state. She is involved with the Montessori for Social Justice movement and is a proud member of the Savannah Charter Schools Collaborative, through which she works with her charter colleagues here in town in order to advocate for children, families, teachers, and staff.

Stephanie is a transplanted Yankee who has lived in many areas of the United States, as well as in France. She is a workaholic who also enjoys family time, being a soccer mom, going to the gym, watching sports, reading, and traveling anywhere that’s interesting to explore. Her Montessori-educated children have amazing ways of looking at the world and help make life a joy every day. In her never-ending pursuit to grow as a person and become the best educator and guide possible for the school, she continues to work on enhancing her reflectiveness and mindfulness.


Katherine Davis, Head of Montessori Curriculum and Instruction

Katherine was born and raised in the Savannah, GA, area where she attended Armstrong Atlantic State University. While studying Art History and Techniques there, she found a passion for teaching art, which quickly turned into a passion for the art of teaching. Katherine graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Art Education and taught Kindergarten at CEMCS for 5 years. During that time, she earned her MACTE-accredited Certification in the Early Childhood Program with Montessori Live. Since becoming the Head of Montessori Curriculum and Instruction, Katherine has earned her Montessori Live School Leadership Certification and is working to complete the Lower Elementary Montessori training.

Katherine resides with her husband, Matt, who is in the Air National Guard, their three sons - Sean (15), Hendrix (7) & Harper (7) – and their 2 dogs, 2 cats, and 10 ducks! In her spare time, Katherine enjoys boating, fishing, gardening, putting puzzles together, and cooking. Her two favorite quotes from Maria Montessori are, "Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create" and "Play is the work of a child.”


William ‘Bill’ Kovach, Chief Financial Officer

Bill is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati, where he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration Degree with a major in Accounting. He is a CPA and has had quite a varied professional career. Bill has spent time in the public accounting field, served as the Controller of a multi-billion dollar construction program, and provided consulting services to various state and local government entities. As a mid-career course change, Bill focused his attention on the not-for-profit industry and became the Chief Administrative Officer of St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, TX, the largest Episcopal congregation in the United States. Bill also served as the Executive Director of the Open Door Mission (a residential drug and alcohol recovery program for homeless and indigent men) and then finished out that segment of his work life as the Executive Vice President and CFO of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society – South Central Region.

Bill was born and raised in Ohio but spent 35 years living in Houston, Texas. He and his wife, Peggy, moved to Savannah in 2015 to relax and enjoy all that Savannah has to offer. They have five children, seven grandchildren and one very pampered cat. Bill likes to spend his spare time working on home renovations and traveling. He’s been to 47 of the 50 states - with a goal to cross the remaining 3 off his list in the next couple years.


Teresa Middleton, Business Manager

Teresa was born and raised in Columbus, GA. A basketball scholarship afforded her the opportunity to attend Georgia Southwestern University in Americus, GA, where she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science. She earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Troy State University a few years later and completed her PhD in Educational Psychology from Capella University in 2017.

Teresa and her husband, John were married in 1996 and welcomed their beautiful baby girl, Jade, into their family in 2005. Teresa served 28 years in the United States Army Reserves and as a citizen soldier, was blessed with a successful civilian career in Information Systems. She has demonstrated, in fast-paced environments, strong organizational, technical and interpersonal skills and is committed to superior customer service. Teresa prides herself on being detail-oriented, able to effectively multi-task, resourceful in ensuring successful mission completion, and she is blessed with outstanding results to her credit.


Jennifer Williams, Student Wellness & Information Specialist

Jenn was born and raised in Melbourne, FL. After high school graduation, she married and lived all over the US for the next 15 years. In 2010, she relocated to beautiful Savannah, GA, and joined the school staff as the Administrative Assistant. Jenn went back to school to further her education; she graduated with a Health Care Assistant Certification with endorsements as both Certified Nursing Assistant and Patient Care Technician from Savannah Technical College. This will be Jenn's 11th year at CEMCS!

Jenn has 3 great children, aged 25, 21 and 16. She enjoys spending her free time with them and their various activities and families. When she gets time to herself, she enjoys reading, relaxing, and raising backyard chickens. Jenn is always looking for more ways to grow both personally and professionally; her future plans include pursuing a degree in psychology.


Twilia Melvin, Office Manager

Twilia was born and raised in Ridgeway, SC. After graduating high school, she worked as a paraprofessional at the elementary school where her mother worked. She then joined the US Army in 1998, which is where she met her husband William. They were stationed at Ft. Lee, VA, where she ended her Army career; her husband continued his path with the US Air Force and they moved to Savannah. Twilia took a position as an accountant at a car dealership, where she worked for many years and gained much administrative expertise. Twilia's education includes studying Criminal Justice at Midlands Technical College in Columbia, SC, and Central Texas College in VA. Twilia has worked at CEMCS since August 2013 and loves making the Main Office work.

Twilia is very family-oriented and enjoys spending most of her free time with family.



 
   
 
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