Nathaniel McDonald, Head of School
nathanielmcdonald (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Nate McDonald is honored and privileged to serve as Head of School, leaving his post on the Board of Directors and returning to Montessori education after a career as a lawyer. Nate was raised on a farm in Chardon, Ohio and his family has deep roots in Cleveland. He is a graduate of Kenyon College, where he double majored in English and History and played varsity baseball. After earning his Montessori Elementary Teacher’s Diploma in Bergamo, Italy, Nate was a member of the founding faculty at the Hershey Montessori School Adolescent Program on the Farm. He developed curricula and taught humanities, geometry, occupations, and music; shared his passion for music and sports with the students; and enjoyed working with adolescent boarding students as a member of the residential faculty. The experience as part of the learning community on the Farm inspired Nate to go to law school, where he graduated first in his class at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. After law school, Nate worked as an Associate at a large business litigation firm and as a Judicial Law Clerk for Federal Judge Kathleen M. O’Malley. Most recently, Nate worked as an Assistant Public Defender in the Cuyahoga County Public Defender’s Office, representing indigent criminal defendants before Cuyahoga County courts and in the Ohio Supreme Court. While deeply committed to indigent defense as a critical component of social justice, Nate believes education is the most important social issue of our time and views his work against the backdrop of Maria Montessori’s unifying insight: the ultimate goal of education is peace.
Nate lives in South Euclid with his wife, Karen, and their three young children—Meadow, Rosemarie, and Dylan. His daughters let him play in their ukulele band (“Daddy and the Chicken Hawks”), and he sings and plays banjo, upright bass, and guitar with his extended family in the Cleveland oldtime music scene. Nate also enjoys playing morning basketball, coaching T-ball, following Cleveland baseball, spending time at his parents’ farm, being at home with family, and daydreaming about finding time to read for pleasure.
Faculty & Staff
Carrie Barnabei, Director of Community Partnerships & Entrepreneurial Studies
carriebarnabei (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Carrie is beginning her twenty-eighth year as an educator. Her career path has included teaching and coaching in both public and private schools in West Virginia, South Carolina, and Ohio. A native of Weirton, WV, Carrie earned her BS degree in Secondary Education from West Virginia University. She specialized in Mathematics and Physical Education. Carrie came to us from Hawken School where she was chair of the Upper School Mathematics Department. Her free time finds her working in her flower gardens. She and her husband, Jay, are avid college sports fans (especially the Mountaineers). Carrie is excited to be beginning her third year as a member of the Montessori High School community.
Leah Baxendale, International Baccalaureate Coordinator & Spanish Faculty
leahbaxendale (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Leah Baxendale grew up in North Royalton, Ohio. She attended Mercyhurst University in Pennsylvania, where she earned degrees in Dance and World Languages and Cultures with a concentration in Spanish. Leah traveled extensively in Spain, completing the majority of her studies at Pablo de Olavide University and the University of Seville. During her time in Spain, she also received certification to teach English as a foreign language. During her free time, Leah enjoys dancing, traveling, and cooking. She is looking forward to another year at MHS.
Ashley Bigler, Residential Guide
ashleybtoussant (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Ashley is a 2006 graduate of Kent State University with a bachelor's degree in Public Communication. For the past seven years she has been writing and playing music she performs in Ohio and beyond. She plays a good deal in Cleveland and has been on WCPN's (Cleveland's NPR affiliate) "Around Noon" a few times.
Ashley and her husband Geoff were married in April. They are both looking forward to their first year in the Montessori school system.
Mathematics Faculty & Residential Guide
geoffbigler (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Geoffrey Bigler was born and raised in Gahanna, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus. He graduated from Kent State University with a Bachelors of Science in Architecture and worked in both Columbus and Chicago. Finding the profession unfulfilling, Geoff went back to Kent State to complete a Master of Arts in Teaching Mathematics. During this time, he taught a class at the University and completed his student teaching at Ravenna High School. Last year Geoff taught 8th grade in Canton City Schools. He recently completed NAMTA's Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies and is excited to work alongside Mike Waski. He plans on getting involved with the MHS soccer team and
is also fond of playing volleyball, ultimate frisbee, and chess.
Tina Booth, English Language Arts & Humanities Faculty
tinabooth (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
An interest in history and attraction to hands-on exploration (sown by her experience as a Montessori child) motivates Tina both professionally and personally. She has studied and worked as a field archeologist and museum collections specialist in Central America, New England, the Rocky Mountains, Arizona and Texas. Working as a site interpreter and educator at Elden Pueblo Archeology Project allowed her to teach hands-on history to a range of learners, from Elementary children to Elder Hostel adults. For the past ten years, Tina has worked as a Humanities teacher in Montessori Adolescent programs in California and Massachusetts. She holds a B.A. in Archaeological Studies (Boston University), an M.A. in Anthropology (Northern Arizona University), the AMI Elementary Diploma (Centro Internazionale Studi Montessoriani) and the NAMTA Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies.
Tina spends her free time traveling, hiking, reading and cooking with her daughter and husband.
Jean Buchannan, Director of Institutional Advancement
jeanbuchannan (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Jean Buchannan is the Director of Institutional Advancement, a role that includes fund raising, the MHS Annual Fund, and special projects. In addition, she is the yearbook advisor and works with Tina Booth in the speech and debate program. Jean brings to MHS a broad background of marketing and public relations to our school. Before joining us in 2008, she traveled extensively with U.S. clients that had programs in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Guatemala. Jean holds a Bachelors of Science degree from the University of Akron. Prior to joining the field of education Jean has been known as both a marketing and corporate executive.
Marilyn Doerr, Science Department Consultant
Marilyn Doerr is a university professor and curriculum consultant; she holds a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. She has co-authored several books and is sole author of Currere and the Environmental Autobiography: A Phenomenological Approach to the Teaching of Ecology. She has been working with David Kahn since 2004 on developing a unique curriculum for MHS.
Regina Feldman, Humanities Faculty, Farm to Table Coordinator
reginafeldman (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Regina grew up in Öblarn in the Austrian Alps. She earned her M.A. in ethnology at the University of Vienna, Austria, and her Ph.D. in anthropology as a Fulbright scholar at Case Western Reserve University. She also completed NAMTA's Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies. Regina taught anthropology at CWRU, published a series of academic articles on German post-war history and identity, and worked as an editor. While raising her daughter, Regina discovered her passion for educating children. She has volunteered extensively at Roxboro Elementary School in Cleveland Heights, tutoring in math and reading, and managing all aspects of a grant awarded to offer fresh fruit and vegetables to students every day of school. In 2007, she lived in China and currently continues her Mandarin studies. Regina brings a strong background in the social sciences and history, extensive language skills, and a true love for educating young people to both teaching and curriculum development at Montessori High School. She is an avid traveler, cook, yoga practitioner, and lover of the outdoors. Regina shares her life in Cleveland with her husband, daughter, and their dog Timber.
Jennifer Fu, Science Faculty
jenniferfu (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Having finished her first year at the Montessori High School at University Circle, Jen is excited to implement more Montessori pedagogy to the budding Origins to Sustainability science curriculum. Prior to MHS Jen taught Astronomy and Sophomore integrated science at Horizon Science Academy, and Physics with the Upward Bound program. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Physics from Case Western Reserve University, and has attended education training through the University of Southern California. This year her hope for her students and herself is to take Einstein's words to heart: "Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."
Bonnie Hair, Director of Admissions & Marketing
bonniehair (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Bonnie Hair comes all the way from the "Aloha State" Honolulu, Hawaii. She attended Mercyhurst University (Erie,PA) on a dance scholarship, where she earned a B.A. in Dance along with a concentration in teaching & choreography. Along with earning her degree she also held the position as head Ballet Instructor for 4 years with Erie Bayfront Dance. She worked with inner-city youth to help spread the arts into the community. Along with her extensive experience in the arts, Bonnie has many years of administrative experience. She has had the pleasure to work with various businesses and admissions departments in both academic and non-academic institutions. Bonnie enjoys working with youth and families alike and looks forward to her fourth year with Montessori High School at University Circle.
Hamilton, Drama Faculty
rickhamilton (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Rick has produced, designed, and directed a broad range of secondary-school plays and has taught theatre, communications, composition and literature classes. He has a BA in Speech & Theatre from Muskingum College, earned an Ohio Communications teaching certificate from Cleveland State University, and did graduate theatre work at both Case Western Reserve University and Ohio University.
He creates boxed assemblages and collages and follows the ever-changing local gallery scene. Longtime Cleveland residents, Rick and his wife Mary enjoy art, music, film, theatre, reading, gardening and, most of all, visiting with their two grown sons, a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter.
Diane Haughney, Spanish Faculty
dianehaughney (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Diane is a native Clevelander, with a B.A. and M.A. in Spanish from Vassar College and Middlebury College’s Graduate School in Madrid, Spain. She worked for 15 years at Blair Academy in New Jersey, teaching Spanish and history, coaching tennis, j.v. swimming, cross country and distance running, and working as a residential advisor. She also took an Outward Bound wilderness course for adults in the service professions and a National Outdoor Leadership Course (N.O.L.S.) for outdoor educators. While at Blair, Diane pursued a doctorate in political science at the City University of New York and won a Fulbright fellowship to conduct dissertation research in Chile on indigenous peoples’ demands for rights. She remained in Chile for eight years, working closely with indigenous organizations. In breaks from her dissertation
, she assisted field research by Chilean and U.S. biologists in the Chilean Andes on the endangered mountain deer, the huemul.
Following her return to the U.S., Diane taught at Johns Hopkins University, Bates College, Xavier University, Bucknell University, and American University. She has published Neoliberal Economics, Democratic Transition, and Mapuche Demands for Rights in Chile
(University Press of Florida 2006) and several articles. She is looking forward to instilling a love for Spanish language and culture at Montessori High School and coaching cross country.
Phillip Heard, Culinary Arts Curriculum Specialist
has served as chef/cook in a diversity of settings, from small
restaurants, to educational facilities and even on a large cruise ship!
He ran his own catering and personal chef business while also working as
a computer instructor and apartment manager. Phillip has cooked at The
Seafood Place and The Fairmount, and has traveled the South Pacific on
Norwegian Cruise Lines of America as First Cook in Seafood Preparation!
From 2006 to 2008, Phillip was the Head Cook and Kitchen Manager for
Beachwood City Schools and received a National Healthy Food Award in
this capacity. He most recently was Sous-chef at Notre Dame College and
Cook at the Ritz Carlton’s Muse Restaurant.
Phillip has acquired ServSafe, HAACP, and FDA certificates, has lots of
experience in kitchen operations, planning and scheduling, nutritional
guidelines, menu planning, and working with other people. Most
important, Phillip has a real passion for food and the culinary arts and
loves to work with adolescents. Phillip shares his life with his wife
Belinda and his mini-dachshund Samson. In his free time, he enjoys
working with his hands. Phillip landscapes and creates ceramic
Vicki Helsing, Academic Support Specialist
vickihelsing (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Vicki Helsing has her degrees in Elementary Education grades 1-8, Learning Disabilities/Behavior Disorders grades K-12, as well as a Masters and Licensure in Educational Administration specializing in Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development. She has spent the
past 15 years homeschooling her four children along with periodically
teaching writing, literature and speech to 5th - 8th grade students. On
her free time she enjoys spending much needed quality time with her
family and friends.
Rachel Huffman Yunker, School Office Manager
rachelyunker (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Rachel grew up in the small town of Woodsfield, located in southeast Ohio. After developing a passion for dance and the arts, Rachel moved north to pursue her Bachelor of Arts in Dance at The University of Akron. After earning her degree, she developed a modern dance program at Martell School of Dance in Akron, OH. Her administrative experience ranges from that of small local businesses to collegiate administrative offices. Rachel enjoys working with students of all ages. In her spare time, she loves to instruct dance, choreograph, and spend time with her family. Rachel truly enjoys working with the Staff and Students of MHS and is delighted to be a part of University Circle!
David Kahn, Founding Executive Director
davidkahn (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
David Kahn is Executive Director of the North American Montessori Teachers' Association. He is a leading implementer of Montessori adolescent projects, including having been Founding Director of both the Ruffing Montessori School East and the Hershey Montessori School Farm adolescent programs as well as Montessori High School at Uninversity Circle He is Director of Project 2012 Adolescent Research and Development, an eight-year grant-funded project on Montessori curriculum designs for adolescents ages 12-18. He continues to serve Montessori High School at University Circle as a program advisor and board member. Currently,he has founded with Elizabeth Henke, the Montessori Institute for the Science of Peace and is an advisor to the MHS club "Peace Now." He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with majors in Classics and Fine Arts and a specialization in filmmaking. David loves University Circle for its rich cultural offerings and intellectual approaches, and feels that this school is the most exciting project in his career. He looks forward to the assembly of a faculty of devoted, well-rounded Montessori-trained colleagues who can bring the project to the height of Montessori design for adolescents.
Rachel Kahn, Residential Guide
rachelkahn (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Rachel Kahn joins us from Chicago, IL, where she recently received her Masters from the University of Chicago’s Social Sciences department in ethnobotany. She is excited to move from an intern position in the boarding house to a full-time residential guide. As an AMI elementary trained teacher and former student at Hershey Montessori’s Farm Campus, she hopes to utilize her knowledge of Montessori principles to create a safe and loving environment for MHS students.
Valerie Katz, Science Faculty
valeriekatz (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Valerie grew up in Cleveland and earned her B.S. degree in Nutritional Science from Cornell University. After completing a professional program at Cleveland State University, she practiced for several years as a pediatric physical therapist. An interest in nature, ecology and science education motivated her to enroll at Ursuline College where she obtained her Masters of Arts degree in AYA Life Sciences. Valerie taught biology and environmental science at Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights from 2005 to 2010. She has completed professional development coursework in evolutionary biology, oceanography, and ecosystems science. In the classroom, she is most enthusiastic about issues related to biodiversity and ecological preservation.
Michael Larsen, English Language Arts Faculty
michaellarsen (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Michael graduated from Ohio University in 2007 with a Bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in American Literature. He completed the Teacher Certification Program at Cleveland State University in 2009 with a concentration in Adolescent/Young Adult English and Language Arts. Michael spent two years as an assistant age group coach with the Shaker Shark Swim Club as well an assistant on both the Shaker Heights High School and Shaker Heights Middle School Swim Team staffs. Michael lives in Lakewood with his roommate and his dog Toby. In his spare time Michael enjoys swimming, The Cleveland Indians, Cleveland Cavaliers, seeing live music, reading, and teaching himself to play the ukulele. Michael is very excited about this school year and sharing his passion for writing and literature with young people.
Whitney Lloyd, Director of College Guidance
whitneylloyd (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Whitney has been the Director of College Guidance at MHS since 2008. Whitney has been immersed in the college application process for over 35 years, as Director of College Guidance at University School in Hunting Valley, Ohio from 1988 to 2007, responsible for approximately 100 boys annually, while teaching American History and coaching JV tennis, earlier at St. Louis Country Day in the same capacity. Whitney has always appreciated students with a Montessori background, independent thinkers and learners, and integrated curricula with the global perspective, having previously taught British History in Scotland. American History is a passion; he is currently teaching history and literature in the CASE Continuing Education program. He has two degrees in American History, a B.A. from Harvard and an M.A. from New York University.
Julie Reyers, English Language Arts Faculty
juliereyers (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
I have been working with adolescents in a Montessori setting for 16 years. My family and I moved to Cleveland from Grand Rapids, MI five years ago, when the Montessori High School at University Circle began. I have a B.A. in English from Oakland University, and an M.A.in English from Western MIchigan University. I also attended Aquinas College, where I received my Michigan Secondary Education certification. I am trained in the Shared Inquiry method, which I studied at the Great Books Foundation in Chicago. Since moving to Cleveland, I have successfully completed three IB Certification Workshops: English 1, English 2, and History 1. I have also completed NAMTA's "Orientation to Adolescent Studies." In my free time, I enjoy swimming, reading, traveling, and just spending time with my husband and daughters.
Françoise Sansoni, French Faculty
francoisesansoni (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Françoise was born and raised bilingually in London (GB). She earned her MBA from Ecole Supérieure de Commerce de Paris, one of the top three business schools in the country. She has lived in Europe, Asia and the United States, and has taught French and English to students of all ages and backgrounds. She holds an AMI Primary diploma and the NAMTA Montessori Orientation to Adolescence. Françoise has been teaching French at all levels at MHS since 2009, and also worked as Director of Residential Life for 2 years. She is now living off campus, and in her spare time she enjoys daily meditation, playing and listening to music, and learning just about anything new. Her 2 children, Eliott and Betty, are Montessori lifers.
Paul Sasaki worked as an engineer for Kennametal, Precise, and Emerson Electric. After 27 years of building products. Paul changed careers and started teaching Math and Science at Phillips Osborne School. While teaching at Phillips Osborne School and later at Andrews Osborne Academy he went to school at Lake Erie College to fulfill the education requirements for education licensure. The licensure process was completed while teaching in Colorado at Denver Academy. In addition to a Bachelor of Science in Engineering from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Paul holds an educators license in secondary education for 7-12 grades in Science from the state of Colorado. In seven years of teaching Math and Science he has brought Experiential Learning and Differentiated Instruction to the classroom.
Christina Spackey, Music Faculty
christinaspackey (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Christina grew up in Cleveland Heights and holds a Bachelor of Music in Viola Performance from the Cleveland Institute of Music and a Bachelor of Science in Music Education from Case Western Reserve University. She has worked at the Interlochen Arts Camp in northern Michigan and completed the NAMTA Montessori Orientation to Adolescence. Christina teaches violin/viola in the Preparatory Department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and is the secretary for the Ohio Viola Society. She is looking forward to seeing everyone at an MHS Coffee House soon!
Kris Spintzyk, Operations Manager
Kspintzyk (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Kris Spintzyk grew up in the Cleveland area and has spent most of her life here. She has a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Minor in German from Miami University (Oxford) as well as a Master’s in Education from National-Louis University. Kris has experience working in both public and private schools, including an international school in Germany where she lived for 5 ½ years. She has been involved with Montessori education for the last 8 years and has been an active member of the Hershey Montessori School Board of Directors since 2006.
David Waski, Visual Arts Faculty
davidwaski (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
David grew up in Bedford, Ohio, where he spent much of his time exploring the vast Bedford Reservation of the Cleveland Metroparks. After completing his foundation years at The Cleveland Institute of Art, David attained his B.A. in Art Education from Cleveland State University. David has also completed NAMTA’s Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies. David taught art, music, drama, journalism, and served as the basketball coach at The Grove School, a public Montessori charter high school in Redlands, California. David enjoys exploration via Frisbee, composing music, and contributing to the local arts community. He is interested in unifying the arts and is excited about helping adolescents reach their full potential.
Mike Waski, Mathematics Faculty
michaelwaski (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
A native of Ohio, Mike attended Trinity High School in Garfield Heights, Ohio, before completing his B.S. in Elementary Education with concentrations in Music and Mathematics at Kent State University. He also holds an M.A. in Educational Administration and is working towards an M.A. in Mathematics from Cal State San Bernardino. He has completed NAMTA’s Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies,
where he is currently a faculty member. He is currently attending the 47th Advanced (Elementary) Montessori Training Course at the International Centre for Montessori Studies Foundation in Bergamo, Italy. Mike has been teaching for twelve years, having taught math to students ranging from second grade to high school calculus. In addition to his years teaching, he has also served as basketball coach, assistant head of school, and head of school at The Grove School, a Montessori charter high school in Redlands, California. He has also been an instructor for geometry and algebra institutes for teacher trainees through Cal State and UC Riverside. In his free time, Mike enjoys playing trumpet and studying number theory and theoretical physics.
elizabethhenke (at) montessorihighschool (dot) org
Elizabeth Henke hails from Milwaukee, Wisconsin but has spent much of her adult life living abroad. After graduating from St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota with a triple major in Studio Art, Peace Studies, and Education, she moved on to student teach studio art at Kodaikanal International School in Tamil Nadu, India. Having benefited from a Montessori education from Children’s House through 8th grade, she was destined to seek Montessori certification. She obtained the AMI Elementary diploma at the Centro Internazionale di Studi Montessoriani in Bergamo, Italy and went on to pioneer the upper elementary program on the tiny South Pacific island of Saipan for two years. In the summer of 2008 she attended the NAMTA Orientation for Adolescent Studies which lead to her accepting a job with the MHS humanities department in 2009.
After two years at MHS, Elizabeth was awarded a scholarship for graduate studies at the prestigious United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica by Montessori Development Partnerships. She graduated with a Masters in Peace Education in June 2012, and has returned to Cleveland to establish the Montessori Institute for the Science of Peace at the High School in cooperation with the Inamori Center for Ethics and Excellence at Case Western University. Elizabeth is an avid reader, musician, artist, and activist. She specializes in interpersonal communication, nonviolent action, and art as a vehicle for social change.