Our Teachers

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, show me and I learn.”

~Benjamin Franklin

Our Teachers

Maria Montessori recognized that children are not empty vessels to be filled with knowledge, but rather, intrinsically motivated beings who will naturally learn when guided within a thoughtfully prepared environment. Our teachers are specifically trained to first carefully observe children, and then to use their observations to foster connections between the children and their peers, and the children and the classroom environment. Our teachers create individualized learning plans for each child which ensure a well-rounded learning experience in every learning area: Practical Life, Sensorial, Language, Math, Art, Music, Cultural Studies, and Peace Education.

Founder & Lead Teacher

Sheila Akhavein is the founder and lead teacher at Philly Montessori, and mother to her own Montessori child, Emma. Sheila holds an M.A in developmental psychology, and an AMS teaching credential. She has over ten years of experience in the field of Montessori and early childhood education, and has served as a lead teacher, a teacher trainer, a school director of operations, and an educational consultant. She has created and presented many Montessori workshops for teachers and parents including: Montessori in the home, Montessori 101, and Peace Education. In every role she has served, Sheila has always been a passionate advocate for the children and families with whom she has had the honor to work.

As the daughter of two Montessori educators, Montessori has always been an integral part of her life. For Sheila, Montessori is not just a teaching philosophy, but a way of life. Opening a Montessori school and creating an inviting and inspiring space for young children and their parents has been a long-time dream of Sheila’s—and Philly Montessori is that dream come true!

Co-Teacher, Primary

Melissa Davis is the co-teacher in the Primary Classroom. She is originally from Louisiana where she received a Bachelor’s of Arts in Early Childhood Education from Louisiana State University. Melissa also holds an M.A in early childhood education from Southern Methodist University, an AMS teaching credential, and a state of Pennsylvania Private Academic Teaching License. Melissa has multiple years of experience working in the early childhood field. Passionate about teaching and the power of the child, Melissa has always been committed to meeting the needs of children through applying the Montessori philosophy. Her hard work and dedication has been acknowledged through multiple accolades including receiving the Outstanding Student Teacher Award, and the Top Scholarship Award as an Ignation scholar at Loyola university. Melissa always aspires to create a thriving, joyous classroom filled with children shaping their own path of development

In 2015, Melissa traveled to Reggio Emilia, Italy to learn more about the Reggio approach to learning. She enjoys drawing inspiration from multiple learning philosophies and integrating these into the Montessori classroom. We are so excited to welcome Melissa to Philadelphia, and to Philly Montessori!

Assistant Teacher, Primary

Louise Eddowes holds three bachelors degrees in Fine Arts, Early Childhood Education, and Art Education. Originally from Lima, Peru, she has over 25 years of experience as an Art, Drama and Gross Motor Skills teacher. Over her tenure as a teacher, Louise has demonstrated great passion and leadership. In the classroom, Louise really enjoys creating opportunities for children to learn by integrating music, dance, and group games. She believes that through these collaborative experiences, children begin to strengthen their own personalities, and gain the self-confidence that is needed to be successful across all areas of life.

In her free time Louise really enjoys spending time with her two grand children, and also creating her own works of Art. Louise is also a native Spanish speaker, and will be one of our Spanish speaking teachers in the Primary classroom.

Assistant Teacher, Primary

Ana Maria Silos is an assistant teacher in the Primary Classroom, and is one of our native Spanish speaking teachers. She holds a degree in the Culinary Arts from the Art institute of Atlanta, and has completed the academic portion of her Montessori training. Ana is also mom to her three year old daughter Clara. Ana and the owner of Philly Montessori, Sheila, met in 2017 when they were both chasing their then two year old daughters around Three Bears Park. They soon found out that they had much in common- both being new mothers, originally from Atlanta, GA, and with a background in Montessori education. Ana had in fact even attended the same Montessori training program that Sheila’s mother attended over 30 years ago! Ana is an amazingly gentle, calm, and creative person who is excited about bringing her passion for cooking and experiential learning into the classroom.

Assistant Teacher, Primary

Nicole Harter is an assistant teacher in the Primary Classroom. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Eucation from Salisbury University in Maryland in 2014. After graduating, she taught in a New Jersey public preschool for two years. Nicole realized at an early age that she loved working with young children and babysat regularly in her neighborhood growing up. She continued to work with children in college in daycare settings and after school programs. After graduating from college, she worked as an Au Pair to a 4-year-old for 6 months in Brisbane, Australia. This experience sparked a loved of traveling in Nicole – her greatest joy is to explore new places and try new things. This influences her teaching and she uses her love of travel to show children that if they want to go somewhere, they can.

Assistant Teacher, Primary

Callie Kennedy is an assistant teacher in the Primary Classroom and is thrilled to be a part of the Philly Montessori community. One of her favorite parts of this work is supporting children to become independent and express themselves. Callie is one of the Spanish teachers at Philly Montessori, and her prior experiences working with immigrant communities in Philadelphia helped inform her passion for bilingual education. Callie graduated from Haverford College in 2018 with a BA in Anthropology and Spanish. Among her greatest joys are cooking, yoga, and reading.

Co-Teacher, Toddler

Terri Hennessy, BA. Terri has been a Montessori Early Childhood educator since 2013, when she received her AMS teaching credential. A passionate Montessorian, she has taught in Montessori schools in San Francisco, New York, and Minneapolis. Terri has extensive experience working with new and young schools. While in Minnesota she worked closely with the founders of a school to open a brand new Primary classroom, and while in New York she stepped into a school during it’s third year, working hand in hand with school leadership to grow both the program and the school in Battery Park. During her time in New York she also served as a field consultant for teachers who were receiving their Montessori credential. Originally from Philadelphia, Terri is incredibly excited to be back in Philly after a long hiatus. In the interim, she has spent time living in Japan, Australia, Denmark, and China. While living abroad she taught ESL, and it was this experience that led her to start looking into different teaching methodologies and ultimately helped her to discover Maria Montessori and the Montessori Method.

While it is impossible to list all of the reasons that she is passionate about Montessori education, some of the things she finds most profound are that it is an approach to education that is grounded in peace, that it encourages independence and internal pride, and that allows for each individual child to learn in a way that is developmentally appropriate for them. Terri is excited to bring her love of teaching to Philly Montessori!

Co-Teacher, Toddler

Demi Renault is a co-lead teacher in the Toddler Community. After receiving a Bachelors of Music in Voice Performance she found Montessori while working as a substitute teacher at Raintree Montessori school in Lawrence, KS. Being a substitute gave her the opportunity to experience every age group from toddlers to upper elementary and discover where she fit. She was then offered a full-time assistant position in the Toddler Community. During this time, she discovered a passion for the Montessori method and toddlers. She earned her AMS Infant/Toddler teacher credential in 2017, became a lead teacher at her Kansas school for a year, then moved to Philadelphia in 2019 to join the Philly Montessori family.

Discovering Montessori and the community surrounding it was like finding her place. A place where adults respect children and give them the opportunities to become independent and uniquely themselves, while the adults get to be uniquely themselves as well.

Assistant Teacher, Toddler

Maria Meredith is an assistant teacher in the toddler classroom, and also leads art class for the primary students. Maria holds two bachelor’s degrees from Cabrini University, one in Elementary Education and the other in Fine Arts. She has been teaching in Montessori schools since 1993, when she started as an art teacher at Greene Towne Montessori. Eventually she expanded her role to that of assistant primary teacher and fell in love with the Montessori method of education. After the birth of her son, Mick, in 2005, she took some time off to be at home with him but when it was time for him to enter preschool she knew she wanted a Montessori education for him. He attended Gladwyne Montessori and she became a primary assistant teacher there, and eventually the K-8 art teacher.

In her free time Maria enjoys spending time with her son, going to concerts and museums, cooking healthy foods, photography, tutoring math and dancing to 80’s new wave music. She is very excited to continue her Montessori journey at Philly Montessori.

Assistant Teacher, Toddler

Joana Casas is an assistant teacher in the Toddler Community and Spanish teacher at Philly Montessori. She is a Columbian native and has a B.A. degree in Marketing/International Business from Universidad Sergio Arboleda in Bogotá. Joana then became a key member of an organization in Cali, Colombia that helped lower income communities that lacked education. There she realized her passion for teaching and in 2015 she moved to the U.S. to pursue that passion.

Joana enjoys cooking some of the most flavorful Colombian dishes, dancing, reading, and is intrigued by personal growth.  Joana’s nephew has been in the Montessori system for 10 years in Colombia, which a key factor in why Joana has such an admiration for the Montessori concept.

 

“Play is the work of childhood”
~ Maria Montessori