MEET THE IVY SCHOOL STAFFThese are the amazing people who make The Ivy School so special
Nikki comes to the Ivy school with over 17 years of experience in Montessori education as a Teacher, Coordinator, Principal and Program Supervisor. She served for five years as the instructional leader and Head Principal of a pk-12 grade Montessori public school. Her Montessori experience ranges from birth to high school and when asked which age group is her favorite she tells us, “I honestly don’t have an answer. Each stage in the development of a child is a precious and meaningful experience.”
After earning her bachelors in Group Science with an emphasis in Biology and Minor in Elementary Education, Nikki began her career in education as a traditional classroom teacher but was soon fascinated by the Montessori program that her young daughter attended at the time. After one year as a traditional
Nikki is a mother of a
Hello! My name is Amy Stuhr. I am looking forward to my sixth year at Ivy and my fourth in a student support/campus support role. I cherish this community of talented educators, curious, creative, loving children and supportive parents, guardians, grandparents, aunts and uncles. I worked in alternative education, charter education, at Portland Community College and at Jefferson High School before landing at Ivy.
I graduated from the University of Iowa with a Bachelor’s Degree in General Studies and found my way to Oregon in 1989. I worked in the non-profit sector until my daughter was born in 1996. In my freetime, I enjoy watching my twin boys play baseball at Madison High School and doing anything outside, especially if it involves water!
My name is Cassondra Salazar and I have been at Ivy for almost 9 years. I have 4 children, ages 47, 46, 22, and a 14 year old who graduated from Ivy last year. I am from Albuquerque New Mexico.
I have worn many hats at Ivy, from preparing lunches, driving kids from one campus to the next, Ivy After School, covering for office staff, toy drive, graduations, Equity Team. There are not to many things that I haven’t done at Ivy. My grandson took his first steps at Ivy while I was doing childcare for the P.T.A.
I am looking forward to meeting new parents and children this year.
My name is Anne O’Neal. This is my tenth year at Ivy! I am excited to start as the Administrative Coordinator. I started as a parent volunteer and have served the community as a PTA officer, Board member, and most recently as Morris Campus Support Coordinator. My oldest son graduated from Ivy last year and my younger son is in Upper Elementary.
I have just completed my first year of medical herbalism training and am looking forward to delving deeper in the coming months. In my free time you can find me working in the garden, hiking, camping, or baking. I love making things and spending time outside. It’s my favorite when those two things come together and I can make something with plants I’ve grown in my garden!
Communications and Facilities Coordinator
I am a goofy, creative nerd in my third year supporting the amazing Admin and Teaching staff at Ivy with everything especially data, systems, communications, operations, coffee (especially coffee), and frankly just about anything else . My number one priority is always the well-being of our students and staff.
I am very proud to work at Ivy as I see the school as one of the few free alternatives in Portland. We have gone through some big transitions in my short tenure here. Moving to a new building wasn’t easy and then a pandemic changed (and still is changing) everything.
Prior to Ivy, I did a lot of other things. Professionally, I designed and developed websites for years. I was a journalist/publisher and entrepreneur running a news website and am still active in keeping the stream of Hispanic / Latino news flowing on social media. I grew up in a TV station (WLS-TV, the ABC affiliate in Chicago). I have worked in Media, Higher Education and a Silicon Valley Startup with various titles and duties. Basically, I am a jack-of-many-trades.
Today in the sweet here now, I am an artist again (or trying to be) and am getting my gardening on in the quarantine.
I was born and bred in Chicago, spent my college years in Champaign-Urbana, studied a year in Spain, lived in Columbia, Missouri for years, “visited” Ohio for about a year, and now have been in Portland for almost six years.
I have two children. One attends OSU and the other is at PCC.
Hello Ivy Families! My name is Ana VanderPol (pronouns she/her) and I’m excited to join your community this fall as we embark on opening the Children’s House. I hold a BA in Human Services, from Western Washington University with a concentration on Children and Families. After graduation, I worked at Lummi Head Start as a Birth to Three home visitor, then as a preschool teacher of 4 year olds and also a nanny for two families. The children I nannied attended a local Montessori School and was offered a job as an assistant the following year. My Montessori journey officially began in 2005 after getting trained in American Montessori Society (AMS) which took me all the way to the Bahamas for a year. I returned a year later and continued teaching in private Montessori Schools in Bellingham, WA. In 2011, I had an opportunity to work in an AMI school but needed to get recertified. Thus, I enrolled in the Montessori Northwest Teacher training here in Portland for three summers, followed by my M. Ed. from Loyola in 2015. The past five years I’ve been working at The Portland Montessori School.
I have a passion for sharing my observations of children, understanding Montessori principles and collaborating with other Montessori teachers. My passion for music is woven throughout my life with having both my ukulele and my childhood piano in my classroom the last 8 years to share the joy of music with children. My volunteer work over the years include: raising funds for the annual Whatcom County YMCA Strong Kids Campaign, playing in nursing homes with Bellingham Ukulele Community Players, restocking shelves at The Sunshine Division Food and Clothing pantry, and serving on the board of Montessori Northwest. Outside of the classroom, I can be found strumming my ukulele, going on long walks and hikes, devouring a variety of both fiction and non-fiction books, and trying out new recipes in my home kitchen.
Alexandra BeresfordHello! I am Alexandra Beresford, and I am so looking forward to joining the Ivy School community this year. In 2016 I earned my M.Ed in Montessori Education from Loyola University Maryland and my AMI Primary Diploma from Montessori Northwest. I have worked as a Primary Assistant Guide, On-Site Substitute, and Administrative Assistant. I also consult with families in their homes on Montessori Home Design and Child Development. Inspiring independence, interconnectedness, and a love for learning are the main tenets of my work with children.
Prior to my career in Montessori education, I worked in environmental education. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in International Environmental Policy from American University in Washington, DC, and then worked on Capitol Hill with sustainable agriculture and renewable energy non-profits. Recognizing the power of education for social and environmental change, I pursued a career in supporting the youngest generation of learners and leaders. My interests in intersectional environmentalism and place-based education led me to Montessori.
I was born and raised outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in a family full of teachers and builders. Outside of work, I love reading, hiking, yoga, traveling, crafting, and cooking.
Lower Elementary (1st to 3rd)
Hi Ivy Community! I am so excited to be joining Ivy this year! I have 10 years of experience being a Lower El teacher in a public Montessori school in Tucson, AZ. Before that, I worked with middle schoolers, high schoolers and begun my educational path in a Montessori early childhood classroom committed to social-emotional growth and problem solving through developmentally appropriate communication. My educational belief system is based on teaching the whole child with my overarching interests being social justice, community building, and the emotional growth of children all while engaging students in the quest to be life-long learners.
I am strongly committed to individualized education and differentiation and have been successful at running a classroom that meets all these standards with attention to children who have individual needs and abilities, intellectual disabilities, students with English as their second language and children who are have exceptional academic proficiency. Like Maria Montessori, I believe in the potential of all students and I believe the job of a Lower Elementary teacher is to sow the seeds of interest so children can find what inspires them. I hold a Masters in Education, a lower elementary Montessori certificate from AMS and from NAMC and a GATE (Gifted and Talented Education) endorsement. I co-chaired the Ecology Team at my school for over five years and ran a weekly Farmer’s Market with my class. I hope to be able to bring some of those lessons to my class here as well as learn from my students and families more about gardening in the Northwest.
In my time not in school I am often reading, playing board games or riding bikes with my two children. I also have a monthly writing group and practice a type of meditative yoga that focuses on breath work. I am from Tucson AZ, and lived in Portland for several years a long time ago and then a couple of other places. I am thrilled to be back in Portland and to be joining your community!
Hello Ivy Families! My name is Stephanie, also known as Efi. I have a B.S. in Education with a major in Spanish, minors in Language Arts and Mathematics from Central Michigan University. I also have a Lower Elementary Montessori certificate. I have taught various subjects at all ages (pre-k through college) in three different states (Michigan, North Carolina and Oregon). I began working at the Ivy School in 2012 and I have filled a variety of roles here as well. I have been an Assistant Teacher, Lead Guide, Spanish Teacher, After School Teacher, Campus Support Coordinator, Substitute Teacher and now Kindergarten Teacher.
I am a mother of a 5 year old son and 1 year old daughter, and we enjoy being outside at parks, playing disc golf, and riding bikes together. I also like to make jewelry, garden, and travel when I get the opportunity. I have studied abroad in both Seville, Spain and Valparaiso, Chile. I also stayed with some of my husband’s family in a few islands in Indonesia, friends in Beijing, and traveled up the coast of Vietnam.
Hi! I’m Caroline Halaby, a recent Oregon transplant having spent the last six years living and teaching in DC. I grew up in Palo Alto, CA and moved to the East Coast in 2008 to attend Davidson College, where I earned my BA in History with a Music minor. Having assisted my mother’s Art Camp many summers during high school and college, I realized that teaching was my calling. After college, I joined a Montessori school in Arlington, VA as a Primary assistant for two years. It was there that I first learned about and fell in love with all things Montessori! I realized that I wanted to work with older children, so my school sent me to get my Elementary Montessori degree (AMI) from the Washington Montessori Institute and a Master’s in Education from Loyola University of Maryland. I then returned to my school and taught in Lower Elementary for three years. While there, I also started an after-school Art class, inspired by my mom’s Art camp.
I felt a pull to return to the West Coast to be closer to family, so I made the move to Portland in July 2018…and here I am! In my free time, I enjoy wandering around new neighborhoods, watching music and comedy shows, reading, cooking, and most importantly, sampling delicious food!
St. John's Classroom
Noelle LeitzkeHello Ivy Community! I am Noelle Leitzke, and I am thrilled to be joining the Ivy team and St. John’s classroom. I have had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time in the upper elementary, Steel classroom. I worked in the Steel classroom as a student teacher while I pursued my Bachelor`s Degree in Elementary Education from Concordia University. Soon after my college graduation this year I then joined the St. John’s classroom as lead teacher and filled that role until the end of the school year. At my time in Ivy I have seen and loved the strong Ivy community, positive learning environment, and focus on an individualistic education that fits each individual student. Because of Ivy I was introduced to a new to me way of teaching and have come to love it. I have recently enrolled in an online Montessori certification program by the North American Montessori Center that will occur over the summer and finish up in February granting me with a Lower Elementary Montessori Certification. I am honored to be joining the St. John`s classroom as the lead guide again for this next school year.
I have had many opportunities to work with children over the past four years as I pursued my degree. I have been a fifth grade English Language Learner tutor, I have coached fourth grade boys basketball, I have also substitute taught in a second and third grade classroom, and I worked as a Sunday school teacher for three year olds up to second grade. I have worked with many age groups over my time in education, but have always enjoyed the lower elementary age level. I am dedicated to meeting the social and emotional needs of my students, using their strengths, passions, and differentiation to provide engaging lessons, and use my deep respect for individuality to meet the needs of my students.
I grew up in Port Orchard, Washington that sits on the Puget Sound across the water from Seattle. I attended private school for elementary school and high school. After high school I made the move to Portland to attend Concordia University to pursue my dream of being an elementary school teacher. I met my husband in high school and have been married since 2018. I love to hike, camp, visit my family in Port Orchard, and play soccer whenever I can!
Sauvie Island Classroom
Bernadette HockelHello, my name is Bernadette! I’m so excited that you have found your way to Montessori. I first encountered her way of education about 6 years ago, and it was the peaceful response of the child to her way of education which convinced me that there was a lot of truth in what she found. I am fresh out of my Montessori training, and I look forward to begin teaching with the Ivy School community this year! I grew up in California and am part of a large family – I’m one of eleven children. Since leaving California, I have lived in Italy, Kansas, Tennessee, and now Oregon! For now, outside of school, you might find me out hiking, biking, or at home baking sourdough bread and spending time with my lovely husband.
Upper Elementary (4th to 6th)
Greetings Ivy families! My name is Ray Luongo, and I am the Lead Guide in the Hawthorne Bridge classroom. How wonderful to be in our new home on North Interstate with so many amazing teachers, staff and students! This is my 6th year at Ivy School. My partner, Carolyne and I are avid travelers, coming back from a summer in Australia, Taiwan and Thailand. Additionally, we have been travelling down the road of life together for nearly 30 years. I am originally from Brooklyn, NY, where I launched my first career as a chef. In my early 20s, I received my Associate in Applied Sciences for Hospitality Technology from the New York City College of Technology, and went on to work as a professional chef in New York City, Northern Italy and then on Magnificent Mile, Chicago.
My second career as a teacher began when I lived in Madison, WI, where I founded a Taekwon-Do school for children, providing classes for under-served populations. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with a diversity of students and families, and to share life- and social skills through the art of Taekwon-Do. I began my formal education in teaching at Edgewood College, while working in a high needs inner-city school in Madison. It was during this time that I developed a passion for teaching literacy and learning, predominantly working one-on-one with K-5 students on reading, social skills and classroom management. During this time, I also had the opportunity to provide martial arts classes to TAG students enrolled in the College for Kids Program through the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
We relocated to Portland in 2007, mainly because of the weather, and the profound beauty of the Northwest, where I completed my undergraduate degree in Curriculum and Instruction at Concordia University, followed by my M.Ed. and a literacy endorsement. When I am not teaching in the classroom, I am teaching martial arts or violence prevention classes alongside my partner. We now have community-based Martial Arts programs at four different sites in Portland. I am eager to explore, dig-in and engage students in learning. I know this will be a fun year for students, parents and colleagues as we are all focused on supporting every child’s success! Let’s do this!
Ross Island Classroom
Hello, My name is Rania Kanaan and I am excited to start my first year with Ivy. I finished my undergraduate degree at Portland State University in Psychology and pursued my Masters in Education from Loyola University. I earned my Association Montessori International degree (AMI) from Montessori of Northwest in Portland. This will be my tenth year working as a teacher. I worked as a Montessori teacher for Crescent Montessori School, along with being the school director for three years. I also worked at Beaverton High School in their “Future You” program working with newcomers.
I enjoy reading, and mostly read Arabic novels, which is my native language. Apart from that, I am a proud mother of four amazing children. My 20 year old daughter is attending the University of Oregon, my 18 year old son is entering his freshman year at Willamette University, my 16 year old is a junior at West Linn High, and my youngest is beginning fifth grade.
My mission is to give each child a chance to maximize his or her own potential, through self-directed activities in a climate of mutual trust and respect. My goal is that each child leaves my class with a strong sense of self-worth, an abiding love of learning, a respect for themselves and others, and a healthy independence of action and thought. I am really looking forward to an amazing year!
My name is Alison Barros and I am a lower elementary trained Montessori school teacher by trade. I started my teaching career as an ESL instructor in Japan, Thailand and South Korea and spent about three years living abroad while teaching. Once my contract was finished in Japan, I was hired by a private Montessori school in Palo Alto and moved to California. While working in Palo Alto, I was able to spend two summers training at CMTENY in New Rochelle, New York; a highly accredited Montessori training program and I received my Montessori teaching certificate for lower elementary. After seven years in Palo Alto, I decided that I wanted to work with a different demographic so I moved to Urban Montessori Charter School in Oakland and spent a year there before moving to Laos for six months. I met the Ivy team while I was in Laos and moved back to Oregon after having been away for almost ten years. I spent two years teaching lower elementary at the Ivy School but then decided to take a break from teaching altogether because I desperately needed it.
Since taking space from teaching, I’ve realized that it’s something I have to do in order to make a difference in some small way in the world around me. I love connecting with people, building relationships. creating community. As a teacher, I am in a unique position to do all those things as well as spread knowledge and teach the students how to think in a critical and discerning way about the world around them. These days the urgency is real and we have no time to lose if we want to save ourselves and the planet.
Aside from training the next wave of revolutionary super heroes, I’m a waitress at a local watering hole. I also work and spend most of my free time at a dance studio where I get to indulge my love of movement. I have a one-eyed Abyssinian named Collie and I live in SE with my mom who is a veteran. I have a BA in sociology from the University of Oregon. And I’m a vegan hip-hop head!
Hello! I am Melissa Warren, and I am so excited to be returning for my fifth year at Ivy! Working here has been an incredible growth and learning opportunity, and such a positive experience. I am honored and excited this year to be able to return to the classroom as the lead guide in the Steel classroom.
I have been teaching and working with children since 1998. I hold a Masters in Elementary Education, a Bachelor of Arts in Music, and a certificate in Gifted Education. I have taught in both traditional public school as well as both private and public Montessori schools. Though I have worked with a wide range of ages, my absolute favorite age grouping is upper elementary. I am passionate about meeting social-emotional needs of my students, promoting creative problem-solving and conflict resolution. My greatest joy in teaching is helping each of my students and their families find a love for school and their community there.
I grew up in rural Kentucky (child of two music educators), and have lived in Oregon with my spouse and two children for most of the last 15 years (there was that brief return to Kentucky in 2011; you can ask me for that story sometime). I absolutely love camping and hiking here in Oregon, and return to work each fall full of new adventures to share!
Middle School (7th & 8th)
Hello, Ivy Families! My name is Matt Schrunk, and I am thrilled to be starting my teaching career here at the Ivy School’s new Interstate campus. Some of your returning eighth-graders may remember me as the student teacher from Concordia University who was in their classroom from February to May last year getting my feet wet in the teaching profession. Well, I now have my teaching degree and I’m ecstatic to be coming back for the 2019-2020 school year as part of the middle school teaching team!
I have a BA in English and an MA in writing and book publishing from Portland State University, and now an MA in teaching from Concordia. Prior to starting this new chapter in my life and career, I worked for a commercial laundry route operator for 17 years as an appliance installer and service technician while I helped raise my three wonderful kids and earned my degrees. I was a student teacher in the fall of 2018 at St. Helens High School, then was lucky enough to be placed at the Ivy School during the spring of 2019. I have a passion for reading, writing, and editing, and also for exploring what drives societies, civilizations, and individuals (in the past, present, and future).
When I’m not teaching, you’ll probably find me reading a book, watching a film, or finding new places to eat and explore with my family (although, let’s be honest—this year you’ll probably find me planning lessons). I enjoy comedy, love to laugh, and like to travel when I get the chance. My wife is also a middle school teacher, so I look forward to lots of collaboration and brainstorming with her to bring new and exciting ideas into our respective classrooms.
It feels so exciting to say that I am beginning my sixth year with the Ivy Middle School Program! I have really enjoyed spending the past five years working with five very different groups of students across both campuses. I received my Masters in Teaching from Lewis & Clark College in the area of integrated science. While science will always be my first love, I also enjoy working with students in the humanities, and integrating curriculum across subject areas.
What I love most about Ivy is having the ability to really get to know each student and work with them to create meaningful learning experiences, and provide individualized opportunities to show what they know. This connection with students is something that I have not experienced in other settings, and makes teaching more fun as well as more effective. Of course, the opportunity to spend lots of time out in the world, and engage students with projects helps too.
When I’m not teaching, I mostly enjoy spending time with my four-year-old daughter. With any time that is leftover, I like to grow vegetables, scour the wild for rocks, and pet cats.
Cibyl Kavan is a visul artist, clown (she carries her clown nose with her at all times because you never know when a situation might require a laugh!), storyteller, and arts educator. Born in France, she spent her childhood on a farm on the Isle of Wight in England, and on a sailboat in the Mediterranean islands of Malta and Greece before moving to the United States in 1977.
Cibyl studied theater, dance, art history and vintage clothes in college, graduating with a BA in Literature. After college she worked as an au pair in Montpelier, France, then in museums in Washington DC while taking art classes at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia. In Portland she has studied drawing, painting, and monotype printmaking with Portland artists Phil Sylvester, William Park, Kaz Tanahashi and others. While raising her three children she worked as a free lance artIst, did arts focussed volunteering in Portland Public Schools, taught art through the Zen Community of Oregon, Trinity Cathedral and Saturday Academy and began showing her work around the region, including Talisman Gallery, Mark Woolley Gallery, Lower Columia College, Portland Open Studios, Local 14 and The Drawing Studio.
Cibyl received her AMI/ M.Ed in Montessori Primary Education in 2010 and her teaching artist training from Young Audiences and Lincoln Center NYC in 2016. After working in several Montessori schools around Portland in a variety roles, from classroom assistant to aftercare coordinator, Cibyl started at the Ivy School in 2017 as the Hawthorne assistant and in 2018 as the art teacher.