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2017-18 School Year CEMCO Faculty and Staff Information

TEACHER BIOS

Academy 1 – Lois Stitt

Lois is a mother and educator with over 20 years of experience working with children. In 2002, when her fourth child entered kindergarten, she began completing her BS in Early Childhood Education through Armstrong Atlantic State University. She graduated in 2005 and immediately found her niche working as a Pre-K teacher in south Bryan County. After a two year hiatus, she returned to the classroom to work with her favorite age group at Coastal Empire Montessori. Lois is completing her formal Early Childhood Montessori training with Seacoast Center for Education and she is thrilled to continue to put her inspiration into practice this year.

Lois’s passion has always been teaching. She discovered the magic of Maria Montessori’s method while volunteering in her daughter’s classroom in 1987. She and her husband are now “empty nesters,” with four chicks having left the nest. She enjoys yoga, tennis, reading, and dark chocolate.

Kindergarten 1 – Patty Cruzan

Patty was born in Portsmouth, VA, and after traveling with her Navy family to CA, FL and Italy, she finally settled in Rockville, MD. Patty attended Frostburg State College earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. She married after college and followed her husband’s Army career, teaching and becoming certified in several different states, including AL, WA, and NC. Patty taught preschool and 2nd grade before finding her passion for teaching Kindergarten at St. Anne’s School in Fayetteville, NC. She taught there for 4 years and then in Centreville, VA for 18 years (in the same classroom!). Patty has taken many graduate classes, with an emphasis on Early Childhood Education and Gifted/Talented students and was asked to initiate and teach a special program within her former school for gifted students called “Young Scholars.”

Patty moved to Savannah in 2011 to be near to and take care of her newest granddaughters. In January 2013, she began teaching Kindergarten at CEMCO. Patty has fit perfectly into our Montessori school, and she is really enjoying her Montessori training and helping Kindergartners become independent learners and have a passion for learning. She has a daughter, two sons, five grandchildren, and her dog, Princess Fiona. Patty is an avid reader and enjoys shopping, cooking, traveling, and going to the beach. She also loves jewelry, coffee and ice cream. Most of her free time is spent with her family.

Kindergarten 2 – Kristen Renz

Kristen graduated from Georgia Southern University, where she earned her Bachelor Degree in Early Childhood Education. She spent several years starting a family and returned to the classroom in 2016 as a Kindergarten Teaching Assistant at Coastal Empire Montessori. Last year Kristen completed a rigorous training program to begin her formal Montessori career, started her first year as Lead Teacher and is continuing along the path to her Primary Certification through The American Montessori Society.

Kristen grew up in Hinesville, GA, where she enjoyed babysitting and helping take care of her younger sister. She married her high school sweetheart and they now have a 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. Her children are her inspiration and the reason she found and loves the Montessori principles. In her spare time Kristen enjoys reading, drawing and exploring the world with her family.

Kindergarten 3 – Erika Ramsey

Erika is from Cordele, GA, and has lived in Savannah since 2011. She graduated from Armstrong State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and is currently a graduate student there in the Education Program. Her passion for education comes from working with English language learners during her undergraduate program. After earning her Masters degree, she plans to also obtain ESOL certification. Erika has worked at CEMCO for a year and a half as a Kindergarten Teaching Assistant and is ready to take on a class of her own. She will be training in Montessori and working on obtaining her Montessori certification.

Erika is from a very close-knit family. Her parents had eight children together; she is the second oldest and has 1 older brother, 5 younger brothers and 1 younger sister. Her younger siblings sparked her initial interest in working with children. In her free time, Erika enjoys DIY arts and crafts projects, practicing Spanish with friends, or visiting family in Albany, GA.

Kindergarten 4 – Kylene Purvis

Kylene was born and raised in Tampa, Florida. She graduated from the University of South Florida in 1998, 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 taught 13 years in Florida – five in Kindergarten, seven in second grade and one in third grade. Last year, she taught a Kindergarten/1st grade combination class here at CEM. She earned her ESOL endorsement in 2008 and is working on completing her Montessori Certification with the North American Montessori Center.

Kylene moved to Savannah in 2015 because of her husband's job. After having a baby in May of 2015, she took a year off teaching and has returned to her passion. She and her husband, Brian, have two children - Kaden (9) and Kyla (2). In her spare time, Kylene enjoys spending time with her family, outdoor activities, reading, shopping, and learning yoga. She loves the following quotations from Maria Montessori: "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."

Lower Elementary 1 – Tracy Brozowski

Tracy earned her Bachelor Degree in Theater from Florida State University and her Master of Arts in Teaching from Columbia College, Chicago. This is her second year at CEMCO. Last year, she was the Paraprofessional for the Special Education Department and is very happy to be a lead teacher in LE1. She has waited many years to be a Montessori teacher and is excited to have this opportunity.

Tracy grew up in Florida but has moved all over the US as an adult. She misses the mountains of Montana and the tacos of Texas but is happy to be back in the swampy south and close to her family. She and her husband adore Savannah and plan to make it home for quite some time. On the weekends they can be found hiking, meditating, or watching the newest superhero movie.

Lower Elementary 2 – Alana Brown

Alana is originally from Roseville, OH. As an Army veteran, she has 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 has completed Montessori Training through the Seacoast Center for Education and is enrolled in the GaTAPP (Georgia Teacher Preparation and Pedagogy Program) with Oconee RESA. She earned a Bachelor of Business in Human Resource Management.

In her spare time, Alana enjoys spending time with her family. She is married and has three daughters, ages 11, 10, and 3. Her oldest daughter is a graduate of CEMCS while her middle daughter will begin her 5th-grade year here this year.

Lower Elementary 3 – Denisaira Miller

Denisaira was born and raised in Puerto Rico, where she lived until 1996 when her mother made the decision to move 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 being a teacher, helping children with their educational development and impacting them in a positive way, ensuring their potential is fulfilled. She therefore transferred to Kaplan University, where she majored in Elementary Education, and graduated with Summa Cum Laude honors.

Denisaira has two children, Luisier and Jiansier, who attend our school. The birth of her two children made her recognize that all children need support and nurturing, and because of this she decided to join the staff as a Teaching Assistant in 2012. She has been working with children ever since.

Denisaira graduated from Kaplan University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education, and she also completed the Elementary I Montessori training in Charleston, SC, with the Seacoast Center for Education. She is enrolled in – and GA-certified through – the Georgia Teacher Alternative Preparation Program with Oconee RESA and will start on her Master’s Degree in Education. 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.

Lower Elementary 4 – Laurel Denham

Laurel developed her love of teaching young children as she worked with toddlers and infants at a childcare center in Atlanta throughout high school and during breaks in college. She combined her passion for teaching and creating art with a Bachelor Degree in Art Education at the University of Georgia. In 2013-14, Laurel taught art at an elementary school in Griffin, GA, before moving to Savannah and joining the CEMCO team in July 2014. She began Montessori training in Summer 2015 with the Seacoast Center for Education and anticipates completing the Lower Elementary certification process this school year. Laurel adores teaching 6–9-year-olds because they are at the age of imagination. Maria Montessori said, "The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination."

Laurel loves traveling, visiting art museums and learning about our world. Some of her favorite activities include kayaking, biking, drawing, and spending time with her fiance, Andrew.

Lower Elementary 5 – Kelly Arseneau

Kelly was raised in Central Florida and developed a passion for teaching at a young age. Throughout her years as a student, she was a peer mediator/mentor and a tutor. Her academic excellence in high school earned her a guaranteed teaching position in Florida upon graduating from the University of Central Florida in 2010. She completed rounds of student teaching in Kindergarten, 4th grade and 1st grade. With a Bachelor Degree in Elementary Education with Reading and ESOL endorsements she spent her first 5 years teaching 9th-grade Reading. During those years, Kelly has earned over 300 hours of in-service training and conducted several trainings for her peers. This will be her third year teaching Lower Elementary at CEMCO. Her students have always valued her sense of humor, enthusiasm and ability to make learning fun!

Kelly relocated to Savannah in 2015 with her husband and three children. She's so excited to be living in one of her favorite cities in the US! In her spare time she loves spending time with her husband and 3 boys (yes, 3 boys!), having Nerf wars, reading (especially non-fiction), going to the beach, watching documentaries, and learning. She's looking forward to an exciting 3rd year here at CEMCO!

Lower Elementary 6 – Rebecca Villegas

Rebecca is a graduate of Georgia Southern University where she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Justice Studies and Psychology and also studied philosophy and sociology. Rebecca has a true love of learning, educating and growing, inside and out. She is currently enrolled in Armstrong State University's Master of Arts in Teaching program, where she is taking advantage of the opportunity to embark on a different educational avenue where she can help children excel and be leaders in their communities. She will also begin formal Montessori training this year. Rebecca has been an active educator in multiple capacities with all different kinds of people and personalities; she has a true passion for service, education and helping others to grow within themselves and pursuing all that they can be.

Rebecca lives with her husband, Hector, three boys, Gavin (13), Julian (4 1/2) and Nicolas (2) in Rincon. This fall, Julian will be attending Coastal Empire Montessori's Pre-k class with Ms. Lois. Julian is very excited to go to school with Mommy and learn all that she is learning too, as he often asks, "What did you learn today, Mommy?" They have a Corgi named Cali and a Boston terrier named Ziggy that bounce around the house with them. During her free time, Rebecca enjoys taking in all that Savannah has to offer with her family including all of the museums, forts and the beaches. She and her husband grew up in the Vidalia area and enjoy going home to visit family as often as possible.

Upper Elementary 1 – Stephanie Thorne

Stephanie graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Science in Social Studies Secondary Education and from Georgia College and State University with a Master in Middle School Math and Science. This is her sixteenth year teaching and fourth year at CEMCS. She is excited to complete her Montessori Live training this year.

Stephanie enjoys cooking, camping, and going to the library. She is an early bird and a night owl with a fine appreciation of naps and good books in between. She especially loves to spend time with her two sons and her husband.

Upper Elementary 2 – Gin Gin Lundy

Growing up, Gin Gin's father was a high school teacher for the Department of Defense Dependent Schools (DODDS). He was her inspiration to teach and travel. She has been working in the field of education for the past 18 years and has 1st – 12th grade teaching experience in the public, charter, and private school settings. This will be her 5th year at CEMCO, moving to Upper Elementary (4th/5th Math), from Lower Elementary (1st-3rd). After attending Montessori training in Charleston, SC through the Seacoast Center for Education, she has fallen more in love with our school. The Montessori Method of children learning independently at their own developmental pace reminds her of why teaching is one of the hardest, but most rewarding careers one can enter into.

Gin Gin lived in the Philippines, Turkey, New York, Saipan, Hawaii, and Florida before moving to Georgia. Her favorite memories of traveling include swimming in Palau’s Jellyfish Lake, surviving a ferry ride to Cyprus, and riding a camel around her neighborhood for the first time while living in Turkey. Besides her love for travels and adventures, she also LOVES and ADORES her 7-year-old Yorkie Min-Pin fur baby. She named her Mochi after her favorite Japanese dessert because she is just that GREAT!

Upper Elementary 3 – 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 had long been established, but that is where her love for Montessori education began. Petra has recently completed the Montessori Live Elementary I Program and holds a MACTE Certificate in Montessori Education. Petra completed the Master of Education, Reading Specialist program at Armstrong State University this summer. This year Petra is teaching the Reading, Writing, and ELA Upper Elementary class. Her recent studies and accomplishments perfectly align with the content she will be teaching.

In her spare time, Petra enjoys spending time with her family. She has a 9-year-old son and a 4-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.

Exceptional Children – Emily Barker

Emily is originally from Indianapolis, IN, and is a graduate of Indiana University. At IU, Emily had many opportunities to work in classrooms of all grade levels in a variety of schools. Her special education student teaching was completed in a full inclusion elementary school. In addition to student teaching in many classrooms in Indiana, she also spent last summer teaching in Ireland. Last year was her first year at CEMCO and she is looking forward to another good year here!

Emily decided to move to Savannah after visiting with her sister and falling in love with the city. She has a miniature Dachshund named Oliver who loves running around or curling up under a blanket. Emily enjoys traveling, watching sports, spending time outside, and sitting at the beach or at the pool.

Response to Intervention (RtI) Coordinator – Leslie Sheppard

Leslie was born and raised in Savannah, GA, where she received her education in the public school system of Chatham County. During her high school years, Leslie worked at her aunt’s daycare, resulting in her having a passion for educating children. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Social Science from Ashford University and is currently pursuing her Masters of Social Work from Walden University. Leslie has worked in the SCCPSS for over ten years in the special education department where she helped autistic children transition into the inclusion setting from the self-contained setting. Leslie loves the quote “We believe all children can achieve.”

Whenever possible, Leslie enjoys spending time with her family. She has two boys who love being outdoors. Leslie and her husband, James, enjoy riding the motorcycle, and she also loves reading, traveling and baking.

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, a Master of Education in Middle Grades Education (with subsequent Early Childhood Education and Gifted Education certifications) from Armstrong State University. Additionally, she was one of a handful of charter-school employees chosen from across the state to participate in the innovative CharterLeader Program - a rigorous, residency-based educational specialist program, through Kennesaw State University, designed to grow charter-school leaders and strengthen the charter-school sector in Georgia. She is also earning her Educational Leadership Certification as part of a statewide, cohort-based pilot program called iLEAD. Before becoming an educator and teaching middle-grades Mathematics 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 both of 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 her 5th year as the school’s Executive Director. She has always believed in the power of the mission and concept of the CEMCO Founding Board and remains intensely-committed to the school’s success. As she watches the growth (and graduation/progress) of more and more students here – including her own children – she becomes even more deeply convinced that CEM’s commitment of “doing Montessori right” serves children and families faithfully. Stephanie has also participated in Montessori training for School Directors through both the Montessori Foundation and the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector. In addition, she serves on the statewide School Services Committee and Advocacy and Public Policy Committee of the GA Charter Schools’ Association and increasingly engages in educational reform initiatives across the state. Continuing to drive CEMCO on its path to offering a world-class public Montessori program is her great passion.

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, playing tennis, watching sports, reading, continuing to get healthy, and traveling anywhere that’s interesting to explore. Her Montessori-educated children love learning and voraciously take in the world around them, which makes being their mom extremely fun and rewarding. In her never-ending pursuit to grow as a person and become the best educator and guide possible for the school, she is working on enhancing her mindfulness by taking up yoga and meditation this year.

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. Now as the Head of Montessori Curriculum and Instruction, Katherine is pursuing the Montessori Live School Leadership Certification.

Katherine resides with her husband, Matt, who is in the Air National Guard, their three sons Sean (11), Hendrix (3) & Harper (3) and their 2 dogs, Athena & Leon. In her spare time, Katherine enjoys boating, fishing, camping, 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 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 the last 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 and six grandchildren – with a seventh due very soon. Bill is active in a number of nonprofits, including One Love Animal Rescue (Savannah) where he is the Treasurer and also serves on the board, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society where he remains active doing advocacy at the state and federal levels.

Teresa Middleton, Business Manager

Teresa was born and raised in Columbus, GA. A basketball scholarship after high school afforded her the opportunity to attend Georgia Southwestern University in Americus, GA. There she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Mathematics with a minor in Computer Science. Teresa moved to the Tacoma/Seattle area with friends after graduation and made her home there for several years. In 1994, she returned to Columbus, GA, where she met her husband, John, on the Fort Benning golf course; they were married in 1996. Because Teresa holds education in high regard, she pursued and earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Troy State University a few years later. In October 2005, the couple was blessed with the best gift ever, the gift of life – Jade, their beautiful baby girl was born and their lives were enriched with the joys of parenthood. She completed her PhD in Educational Psychology from Capella University in 2017.

Teresa is a professional leader and logistician with experience in fast-paced environments. She has demonstrated strong organizational, technical, and interpersonal skills. She is a hardworking, dedicated, highly motivated self-starter, committed to superior customer service. She is confident and composed in interpersonal relations at all levels. She is detail-oriented, able to effectively multi-task, resourceful in ensuring successful mission completion, and she is blessed with outstanding results to her credit. Teresa served 28 years in the United States Army Reserves; she retired October 15, 2012. As a citizen soldier, Teresa is also blessed with a successful civilian career in Information Systems.

Teresa and John will celebrate their 20th year anniversary in December 2016. Their daughter, Jade, is a 5th-grade student here at Coastal Empire Montessori. Teresa is honored and rewarded by spending family time with John and Jade.

Jennifer Williams, Student Health & Information Specialist

Jenn was born and raised in Melbourne, FL. After high school graduation, she married Jeremy, who was in the US Navy. They were stationed in several different states all over the US for the next 15 years. In January 2010, they left the Navy life for beautiful Savannah, GA. Jenn was the Administrative Assistant of the school from 2011-2013. From 2013-2015, 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 7th year at CEMCS!

Jenn has 3 great children, aged 21, 17, and 12. She also has a beautiful 1-year-old granddaughter, who is the apple of her “OOma's" eye. She enjoys spending her free time with them and their various activities. When she gets time to herself, she enjoys reading, baking, relaxing, and raising backyard chickens.

Twilia Melvin, Administrative Assistant

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, for a while, which is where she ended her career in the Army; 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 Front Office work.

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

 
   
 
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