FCM Biographies


Grey Squirrel Toddler House

Kica Fetterolf, Lead Teacher
Christina Erexson, Assistant Teacher

Purple Finch Toddler House

Elim Lagunday-Rosalez, Lead Teacher
Ilex McLeod, Assistant Teacher

Red Fox Toddler House

Timea Kallai, Lead Teacher
Erin Schwartz, Assistant Teacher

Larkspur Children’s House

Sumi Sarkar, Lead Teacher
Precious Williams, Assistant Teacher

Lupine Children’s House

Betsy Lund-Bardi, Lead Teacher
Rachel Donovan, Assistant Teacher

Morning Glory Children’s House

Angie Ma, Lead Teacher
Alicia Huther, Assistant Teacher

Trillium Children’s House

Godha Gopalarathnam, Lead Teacher
Kate Caporale, Assistant Teacher

Emerald Lower Elementary

Ranjana Patel, Lead Teacher
Alyssa Royster, Assistant Teacher

Sapphire Lower Elementary

Erica Humphrey, Lead Teacher
Anne Burke, Assistant Teacher

Great Smoky Mountains Upper Elementary

Michelle Keown, Lead Teacher
Julie Atashi, Assistant Teacher


Philippe Derfeuil, Spanish Teacher, Children’s House and Elementary
Grace Evans, Art Director
Ruth Pardue, Music Director
Eric Rhinehalt, Physical Education Teacher

After School

Brittany Jarrett, After School Director
Pearl Cirilo, Grey Squirrel After School and Late Day, Lead Teacher
Alexis McGilberry, Grey Squirrel After School and Late Day, Assistant Teacher
Diana Donovan, Purple Finch After School and Late Day, Lead Teacher
Kristen Bowman, Purple Finch After School and Late Day, Assistant Teacher
Elim Lagunday-Rosalez, Purple Finch After School, Assistant Teacher
Timea Kallai, Red Fox After School, Lead Teacher
Erin Schwartz, Red Fox After School, Assistant Teacher
Ilex McLeod, Red Fox After School, Assistant Teacher


Dominique Mouthon, Head of School & Children’s House Level Coordinator
Leigh Isemonger, Assistant Head of School & Elementary Level Coordinator
Steve Payne, Finance Manager
Cara Bledsoe, Director of Admissions, Marketing, & Communications
Zoë Playe, Director of Development & Community Relations
Brittany Jarrett, After School Director
Katie McChesney, Web & Database Administrator
Angie Ma, Toddler House Level Coordinator
Carson Smith, Office Manager

Board of Trustees

Maggie Bizzell
Courtney Blum
Keith Coltrain
Kim Conklin
Asa Harris
Grayson Hampson
Charlotte Holton, Chair
Charles Lau, Vice-Chair
Angie Ma
Steven Martin
Jennifer Olson
Ranjana Patel
Gene Pinder

Sylvia Saenger, Head of School Emeritus

Julie Atashi

Assistant Teacher, Great Smoky Mountains Upper Elementary


Bio to come!





Maggie Bizzell

FCM Board of Trustees

Maggie Bizzell is a native North Carolinian, having grown up in Kinston until she attended Meredith College. She graduated in 2009 with a BA in Political Science and Ethics. After moving to Wilmington for a year and a half, she moved back to Raleigh to work in state government in the Governor’s Office. She is a member of the Junior League of Raleigh and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, serving on the planning board for its Young Adult Ministry. She holds a Master of Public Administration degree from East Carolina University and is currently earning her Master of Science in Communications degree from the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, focusing on Public Relations.

Maggie loves North Carolina and Raleigh, and she wants to support her community and promote it in any way she can. In her spare time, you can find her travelling to the beach to spend time with her two nieces, reading, or catching up on the latest movies.


  • B.A. in Political Science from Meredith College, 2009
  • M.P.A from East Carolina University, 2015
  • M.S.C in Public Relations from Syracuse University, 2017

Cara Bledsoe

Director of Admissions and Communications

Cara Bledsoe received a Bachelor’s Degree from New York University-Tisch School of the Arts, where she studied dance, theatre, music, nutrition, and writing. As a writer, Cara had a nutrition column in the Scholastic teen life-skills magazine Choices, and has written for five other Scholastic Classroom Magazines, including Junior Scholastic and Scope. Online, her work has appeared on Livestrong.com, the EverydayHealth.com network (marketing/writing), ParentSociety.com, and more. As an Executive Assistant, Cara has worked for the CEO of Scholastic Inc., among others. As a Casting Assistant, she worked on such projects as the film The Guru; the Broadway show Swing!; the children’s television show Hi-5; and numerous commercials. As a performer, Cara appeared in many musicals, plays, and ballets, as well as some television. She is currently on the Board of Directors’ Community Relations Committee as the Non-profit Marketing Representative for the Triangle American Marketing Association. Cara is not only a staff member at FCM, but also Mom to Evan in Sapphire Lower Elementary. She fell in love with the school as a parent first and was so pleased to be offered a position in June of 2012 and spend more time in the beautiful community that is FCM.


  • B.A., New York University-Tisch School of the Arts

Courtney Blum

FCM Board of Trustees

Courtney Blum has been serving on the board since 2013 and has been an active member of Parents4FCM (now FCM Family Association) since her children began at FCM.  She is married to Chris Blum and has two children, Greyson (Emerald LE) and Reese (FCM Alum).

Courtney’s background is in corporate software education, both in curriculum development and delivery.  She has worked with companies across the United States and worldwide, helping them to make IBM’s web and portal technologies an important component of their company’s online corporate presence.

Courtney has been an enthuiast of Origami, the art of paperfolding, since she was a small child.  She enjoys teaching origami to children and adults alike, sharing the magic of turning a single piece of paper into something beautiful just by folding.  Her original origami creations have been featured in multiple publications.  Courtney is also an editor for the Journal of Magic Research, a publication that focuses on the relationships between magic and science.


  • B.S. in Computer Science and Mathematics, Meredith College

Kristen Bowman

Assistant Teacher, Purple Finch After School and Late Day

Bio to come!





Anne Burke

Assistant Teacher, Sapphire Lower Elementary


Anne has the tools and imagination to create a classroom environment that supports the needs and curiosities of young children. Her love of the Montessori method is contagious; she has a sense of calmness and confidence that draws children to her. She enjoys guiding children as they grow and develop their sense of independence.

In her free time, Anne enjoys spending time with her family—husband, Adam, and their two children, Henry and Emerson, both in the Elementary program at FCM.


  • B.S. in Child Development from Appalachian State University, Boone NC, 1997
  • AMS Early Childhood Certification from Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle WA, 2001


  • Anne has 5 years of teaching experience as a Children’s House assistant: SAS Institute, Cary NC, 1997-2002
  • She has been at Follow the Child Montessori School for 13 years, previously as Director of Children’s House North.

Kate Caporale

Assistant Teacher, Trillium Children’s House

Kate was born and raised in Connecticut and attended the University of Delaware, where she graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and a minor in Spanish.  Her family (husband, Gerry, and children, Tyler and Gia) moved to Raleigh from CT the summer of 2014 and both Tyler and Gia are students at Follow the Child. Tyler is in Emerald Lower Elementary and Gia is in Larkspur Children’s House. They have both been in Montessori since they were each 15 months old.

Kate has been in the Montessori community since 2007. She began as the Co-Directress of the Napper and Late Day programs for three years at The Montessori School in Wilton, CT and continued as an assistant in a Primary classroom for four years. She earned her AMI Children’s House Assistant’s Certification in 2013. In January of 2015, she had the opportunity to work in Toddler environments, one as a Toddler House Assistant at a local Montessori School in Raleigh, and the other as the Lead Toddler After School Teacher at FCM. She began working in Children’s House at FCM in the fall of 2015.

In her spare time, Kate enjoys reading, listening to music, decorating, painting, and making crafts. Family activities such as hiking, canoeing, swimming, and trampoline jumping are lots of fun. She loves to visit family at the beach and explore North Carolina.

Pearl Cirilo

Lead Teacher, Grey Squirrel After School and Grey Squirrel Late Day

Pearl was introduced to Montessori by her aunt, Elim (Purple Finch TH Lead Teacher). She fell in love after observing and watching the children do their work. Pearl is very passionate with her work, and guiding/watching the children grow up as an independent individuals brings her joy. This is her 9th year working at FCM.

Pearl has a daughter, Olivia, in Lupine CH. In her free time, Pearl loves to bake, sing, and play the ukulele/guitar. Pearl also enjoys traveling and going on road trips with her family.


  • Cyber Programming, System and Technology Institute, Philippines, 2006
  • Montessori Assistant Preparatory Course, Atlanta, GA, 2010


Kim Conklin

FCM Board of Trustees

KimConklin2014LKim Conklin has an MBA from Penn State University and a BA in Organizational Resource Management/Business Administration from Mercyhurst College. She has worked in Human Resources for over two decades with such distinctive corporations as General Electric, BP, Welch Foods, and Colgate Palmolive. Kim has driven major Change initiatives and has extensive experience in large, global projects. Her history includes extensive work in assessment, training, and development as well as implementing global HR processes and systems for multinational corporations. Kim has been a college instructor for Management and HR classes and has served on numerous boards and associations.


  • B.A., Mercyhurst College, Organizational Resource Management/Business Administration
  • MBA, Pennsylvania State University

Philippe Defeuil

Spanish Teacher

Philippe Derfeuil was born and raised in Dijon, France. He holds a Licence degree in English and Spanish from the Université de Bourgogne. Philippe has been teaching Spanish for 13 years, and most of his experience has been in a Montessori environment. In addition, Philippe is a dedicated chess player and enjoys sharing his passion for this game with students. He led a chess club at his previous school and now leads the new FCM chess team.





Diana Donovan

Lead Teacher, Purple Finch After School and Purple Finch Late Day

Diana has worked with children of all ages for over 25 years. She feels each age group has its own unique needs, developmental learning styles, and individual sense of wonder. Diana’s favorite age group is all of them!
Diana started her Montessori journey as Lower Elementary Lead Teacher at a Montessori School in Boone, NC. After 6 years, she moved up with the children who had started as 3-year-olds, and began the first Upper Elementary class in that school. After 6 years with Upper Elementary, Diana returned to Lower Elementary and continued there for 5 years until the birth of her first grandchild, Evelyn, in Chapel Hill. Evie’s birth lured Diana to the Piedmont! Here she worked as Lead Teacher in 2 Reggio-inspired schools with 1 to 5 year olds, until arriving back into the arms of Montessori at Follow the Child. In her 5th year as Lead Teacher in After School, Diana likes to incorporate the values of family, peace, community, fun, music, art, and nature into the Montessori environment with the children.
She is the proud parent of three grown children – Travis, Cory, and Rachel, and four grandchildren – Evie, Samuel, Sadie, and Blair, with a fifth one on the way in December 2016. Diana is also an herbalist, organic gardener, and loyal Tarheel basketball fan!


  • B.S. in Elementary Education, Appalachian State University
  • AMS Lower and Upper Elementary Teaching Certification, North Carolina Center for Montessori Teacher Education

Rachel Donovan

Assistant Teacher, Lupine Children’s House

Rachel Haynes was born in Boone, NC. Her connection to Montessori began when she attended a Montessori school for Lower Elementary. After graduating from high school, she realized she was a beach girl at heart and moved to Wilmington, NC, where she received a BA in Psychology from UNCW.

After college, Rachel volunteered in a first grade classroom and discovered how much she loved working with children. She proceeded to work at a local domestic violence shelter, followed by at a residential facility with 7-17 year olds, and then worked one-on-one with people with developmental disabilities, providing services in home and in the community.

Rachel just finished her first summer of training towards her Primary AMI teaching diploma in Boston, M.A. Rachel moved to Raleigh a couple years ago and absolutely loves being closer to her family and friends who live in the area. She loves working with the children, experiencing life through their eyes, and watching them learn and grow.


  • B.A. in Psychology, UNC Wilmington

Christina Erexson

Assistant Teacher, Grey Squirrel Toddler House and Grey Squirrel After School

Bio to come!







Grace Evans

Art Director

Grace Evans is beginning her fourth year as the Art Director for the Elementary Art program and is having a wonderful time teaching your children!  Specializing in several mediums in her own art, she enjoys exposing the children to a variety of materials. Her favorite mediums for her own art are clay and working in fiberarts, including silk painting and fabric collage. Grace studied Art at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, earning a B.S. in Art.  Further art education included studying and living for a year at Penland School of Crafts in the mountains of North Carolina. While continually pursuing and teaching art, she earned her Montessori Certification at the Children’s House level. Other credentials include a Life Coach certification from Coaches Training Institute.
Grace enjoys living in Raleigh with her husband, Jay, and their sweet new dog Addie. Their daughters, Anna and Kate, are working hard on their degrees at Appalachian State and Pratt Institute. Grace’s hobbies include playing fiddle, hiking, and taking trips with her family.


  • B.S. in Art; Skidmore College
  • M. Art Ed., NC Central University
  • Primary AMS Certification, Center for Montessori Teacher Education

Kica Fetterolf

Lead Teacher, Grey Squirrel Toddler House

Kica is passionate about positively impacting children’s lives. She is thrilled to join FCM and lives for those extra special moments when life’s puzzle pieces begin to click together for each child. Kica is energetic, yet calm, which is perfect for work with toddlers. She enjoys learning more about the Montessori philosophy each day, and it continues to be an eye-opening experience for her.  Kica is excited to learn more from the faculty, parents, and children at FCM.

In Kica’s spare time, she enjoys walking her beagle, Rampage. She also enjoys traveling, reading, drinking coffee, and painting.




  • B.A. in Psychology, minor in Sociology, Meredith College


  • Nanny and caregiver for numerous families within the triangle area
  • Training/experience in working with children with special needs, specializing in Autism
  • Started a special needs classroom at a Raleigh church

Godha Gopalarathnam

Lead Teacher, Trillium Children’s House

Bio to come!






Grayson Hampson

FCM Board of Trustees


Bio to come!






Charlotte Holton

FCM Board of Trustees, Chair

Charlotte Holton has been a parent in the Follow the Child community since 2010 and has served on the Board of Trustees since 2012. She is continually impressed by the positive impacts of the Montessori curriculum and enjoys doing what she can to support FCM’s work.

Charlotte is an instructor in the Gyrotonic method at Evolve Movement in Raleigh, where she has taught since 2005. A lifelong dancer, Charlotte enjoys participating in and supporting the arts in the Triangle area, including performing with the Rainbow Dance Company and serving on the Board of Directors at Arts Together.



  • B.A., English and Sociology, UNC-Chapel Hill
  • M.A., Sociology, University of Chicago
  • Certified Instructor, Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis Methods

Erica Humphrey

Lead Teacher, Sapphire Lower Elementary

Erica’s Follow the Child history dates back to 2006, when her three-year-old daughter Lizzie entered (then) Children’s House North with Anne and Susan. Three years later, she began her FCM teaching career as a Children’s House assistant. After spending two years in Children’s House, Erica spent the next five years happily serving as the Upper Elementary Assistant with Mary Pat.

Before discovering Montessori, Erica worked in the Wake County Public School System for six years, beginning as a seventh grade language arts teacher and ending her tenure as a curriculum developer and writer. Academically gifted certification and Paideia training are two of her specialties.

On weekends, Erica and her daughter enjoy volunteering at the SPCA and discussing Star Wars theories. She is also deeply entrenched in the Harry Potter series. Erica’s family enjoys adventurous travels and being outdoors.


  • Seacoast Center for Montessori Education, Mt. Pleasant, SC, 2016
  • Academically Gifted Certification, Wake County Public School System, 2003
  • North Carolina Teacher Certification, North Carolina Central University, 1996
  • B.A. in English Literature and Art History, William Paterson University, 1994


Alicia Huther

Assistant Teacher, Morning Glory Children’s House


Bio to come!

Leigh Isemonger

Assistant Head of School
Level Coordinator, Elementary


Bio to come!

Brittany Jarrett

After School Director

Bio to come








Timea Kallai

Lead Teacher, Red Fox Toddler House and Red Fox After School

Bio to come







Michelle Keown

Lead Teacher, Great Smoky Mountains Upper Elementary


Bio to come!

Elim Lagunday-Rosalez

Lead Teacher, Purple Finch Toddler House
Assistant Teacher, Purple Finch After School

Elim has been at FCM for more than 10 years. She has been married to her husband, Mario, for 14 years, and has a 13-year-old daughter, Marielle, who attended FCM for 8 years. Elim graduated with a of Bachelor of Science degree in Secondary Education from St. Columban College in Olongapo City, Philippines. She completed her AMI Montessori training and received her Assistants to Infancy certification from The Montessori Institute in Denver, Colorado in 2010. She also received her Level 8 Early Educator Certification from the North Carolina Institute for Child Development Professionals.



  • Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education – St. Columban College, Philippines
  • AMI Assistants to Infancy Certification, The Montessori Institute

Charles Lau

FCM Board of Trustees, Vice-Chair

Charles Q. Lau began serving on the FCM Board in 2016. He is married to Holning Lau and is the proud papa of Vera (Lupine Children’s House). Originally from Maryland, Charles has lived in both New England and Los Angeles. He now happily lives with his family in Cameron Park.

Charles holds a PhD in Sociology and MS in Epidemiology from University of California, Los Angeles. He is currently a Survey Methodologist at RTI International, where he directs nationally representative surveys in Africa and Asia. With funding from governments, foundations, and commercial clients, his work has covered various topics including health, education, and technology adoption.


  • PhD Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles
  • MS Epidemiology, University of California, Los Angeles
  • MA Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles
  • BA Sociology with honors, Brown University

Betsy Lund-Bardi

Lead Teacher, Lupine Children’s House

Bio to come!






Angie Ma

Lead Teacher, Morning Glory Children’s House
Level Coordinator, Toddler House
FCM Board of Trustees

Angie first came to Montessori as a parent when her daughter began Children’s House at Follow the Child. After experiencing the Montessori classroom, Angie knew that working as a Toddler House teacher was exactly the career she wanted to pursue. Angie received her AMI Assistants to Infancy (birth to 3 year-old) certification from The Montessori Institute in Denver, Colorado in 2008. She completed a Masters in Montessori Education from Loyola University in 2009. Angie began serving as Curriculum Coordinator in 2011. As a teacher, guiding children and families at such a dynamic time is deeply rewarding, but learning from these young experts about living joyfully has been an even greater experience.

In addition to her time in the classroom, Angie is passionate about working with families at FCM. She enjoys teaching an infant parenting class, Nurturing Infancy and other workshops for parents of young children.

Angie enjoys running with her two small dogs and riding horses with her daughter. Cooking together as a family is also a great passion.


  • B.A. in Psychology and Management and Society, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • AMI Assistants to Infancy Certification, The Montessori Institute in Denver
  • Masters in Montessori Education, Loyola University

Steven Martin

FCM Board of Trustees

Steve and his wife Sujittra are FCM parents and Steve became a trustee in 2014. Steve’s professional experience is focused on strategy and planning, change management, and large project implementations. Currently SVP of Strategy and Marketing at Square 1 Bank, Steve previously held a similar position at RBC Bank. Earlier in his career, Steve was a banking consultant specializing in retail and small business banking for some of the largest banks in the US and Australia. Steve and Sujittra own and operate a real estate company providing off-campus student residences near NCSU.

While his professional experience is mostly in the private sector, Steve has a strong connection and affinity for the non-profit world. After college Steve served as a Peace Corps Volunteer, working in agriculture extension. Steve chaired the Finance Committee for the city of Tega Cay, South Carolina, and is currently an elected council member at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. A lifelong musician, Steve is an organist and pianist, and sings in a choir. And now as a Suzuki parent, he’s learning about violin. Steve’s also an avid runner.


  • B.A. – St. Olaf College, majors in Economics and Norwegian
  • MBA – Stanford University Graduate School of Business

Katie McChesney

Web & Database Administrator

Katie was first introduced to Montessori as a child, attending a Montessori school in Atlanta, GA for Children’s House and Lower Elementary. She came to FCM in the summer of 2011, working part-time in the office, and, after a brief stint in grad school, Katie returned to FCM as the Administrative Assistant. After 2 years of being the Administrative Assistant, Katie changed roles to become the Web & Database Administrator in August 2013. Katie has recently moved back to Cary after working remotely for 3 years. She is very grateful to be able to continue to work at FCM and to be a part of the community.

Katie received a degree in Sociology with a minor in Business from Wofford College, where she played soccer and graduated on the Dean’s List. She enjoys playing with her dog, hiking, riding her bike, coaching soccer, reading, and playing with her various Apple products.


  • B.A. in Sociology with a minor in Business, Wofford College, 2011

Alexis McGilberry

Assistant Teacher, Grey Squirrel After School and Grey Squirrel Late Day

Bio to come!






Ilex McLeod

Assistant Teacher, Purple Finch Toddler House and Red Fox After School

Ilex graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies. Ilex grew up in Asheville and is a recent resident of Raleigh.  She is passionate about the development of children and giving the child the proper tools for healthy growth.  Ilex has a calm and playful personality that makes working with children a great match.  Along with being a Assistant Teacher at FCM, Ilex nanny’s in the afternoons.  She is very excited to start her career working with children in a Montessori setting and observing the development of child, along with joining the FCM community.

In Ilex’s free time she loves exploring the outdoors, photography, reading, playing tennis and cooking.


  • B.S., University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Dominique Mouthon

Head of School
Curriculum Coordinator, Children’s House
FCM Board of Trustees

Dominique Mouthon studied Liberal Arts at Etudes de Lettres Superieures, Lycee Berthollet in Annecy, France. She and her husband, Serge, came to the United States in 1986 and lived in the Boston area for 18 years. Dominique’s Montessori journey began as the parent of a three year old enrolled in a Montessori school. She became involved in the school as a member of the board of trustees. Her classroom career started with a position of assistant for two years. She then pursued her AMI primary certification (3-6 years old) in Atlanta, GA, under the guidance of Lilian Bryan.

After graduating, Dominique taught in France for a year prior to joining the Montessori School of Quincy as Teacher/Director in 1996. Under her guidance, the school expanded from 16 children to over 90 children in eight years. She also guided the school to become one of the first Montessori schools in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to become NAEYC accredited in 1998 and one of the few AMI accredited schools in 1999. The school expanded to four primary classes and an elementary level during her directorship.

Dominique moved to the Raleigh area in the summer of 2004 when she joined the FCM team as Assistant Head of School. She completed AMS 6-12 Elementary teacher training at the Seacoast Montessori Center in New Hampshire under the direction of Gary Davidson and served as Lead Teacher in the Upper Elementary clasroom and FCM’s Curriculum Coordinator through 2010. In July of 2010, Dominique began in her new role as FCM Head of School. Because Dominique came to Montessori first as a parent, she is highly dedicated to helping parents bring the Montessori philosophy home and she is sensitive to parenting issues and concerns. She enjoys working with parents as they learn about the dynamic development of their children and helping them find ways to address parenting issues that enables the child to develop most harmoniously.

Dominique is the proud mom of Cecile and Mathilde. Cecile, a graduate of American University, lives in Washington, D.C.; Mathilde is a graduate of the University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and currently lives in Austin, TX. Both attended Montessori schools as children.


  • Liberal Arts at Etudes de Lettres Superieures
  • AMI Primary Certification (3 to 6), Montessori Institute of Atlanta, 1995
  • AMS Elementary I and II (6 to 12), Seacoast Montessori Center, 2009

Jennifer Olson

FCM Board of Trustees

Bio to come!







Ruth Pardue

Music Director
Ruth began her Montessori education in the early 80’s where she enjoyed working at Montessori School of Raleigh and SAS Institute in Children’s House. In the intervening years she has worked as an Elementary Music Specialist in the Wake County Public School System.  She also has a piano studio centered on the Australian ‘playing-based’ piano method called Simply Music. Most of her piano students are adults who have always wanted to learn to play piano. In addition to piano and organ, Ruth has a love of world instruments and particularly enjoys playing her Native American Indian flute. She values scrapbooking a great deal and works part-time as a Creative Memories Consultant.  Her greatest joy is spending time with her husband, Steve, and their four-legged ‘child’, Beau, a delightful Havanese dog. She is very excited to be returning to her Montessori roots at FCM.  It feels like a full circle return to an approach she loves and appreciates.


  • Music Education Teaching Certification (Master’s level); NCCU
  • Kodaly Certification – Level 1, 2, 3; UT Austin
  • Pre-Primary American Montessori Society Teaching Credential; CMTE
  • Master of Music Education in Organ Pedagogy with a minor in Harpsichord; NTSU
  • Bachelor of Music in Organ Performance with a minor in Piano; Meredith College
  • K-12 Orff Level 1; UNC-CH

Ranjana Patel

Lead Teacher, Emerald Lower Elementary
FCM Board of Trustees

Ranjana began her Montessori Journey as a parent when her own children started their Montessori education. She is a founding faculty member at FCM, and since that time has worked in many capacities, including After School Director and Resource Director, as well as serving multiple terms on the Board of Trustees. She is AMS-certified to lead Lower and Upper Elementary classrooms; she also has her All Kinds of Minds and Orton Gillingham certifications.

Ranjana was born in Nairobi, Kenya and has lived in India, England, and Canada as well. She is married and the proud parent of two sons, both Montessori alumni. When she is not in the classroom, Ranjana enjoys reading, gardening, cooking, watching movies, and traveling.


  • B.A. Liberal Arts from Vermont College of Norwich University
  • American Montessori Society (AMS) Elementary 6-12 certification

Steve Payne

Finance Manager


Bio to come!

Zoë Playe

Director of Development & Community Relations


Bio to come!

Eric Rhinehalt

Physical Education Teacher, Children’s House Extended Day & Elementary

I have been the PE teacher and athletic director at Covered Bridge Montessori School, Covered Bridge Academy, and Country Brook Montessori School, all in the Atlanta area.

My goals for the FCM physical education program are very simple. First, I want to bring many of the Montessori principles into the PE program. Secondly, I want to provide a solid foundation in PE fundamentals. Finally, I want your children to have fun, providing a starting point for a lifetime of physical activity and health.

Your children’s PE classes will be on Fridays, so please remember appropriate clothing and a well fitting athletic shoe.


Alyssa Royster

Assistant Teacher, Emerald Lower Elementary

Bio to come!






Sylvia Saenger

Head of School Emeritus

Sylvia served as Head of School from 2001-2010. From 1996 to 2001, Sylvia operated Family Horizons, a company dedicated to growing and nurturing families through education. From 1984 to 1996 Sylvia worked for IBM as a programmer and educator at the IBM Corporate Technical Education Center.

Sylvia enjoys being with her family, baking, cake decorating, camping, doing anything outdoors, basketball, and woodworking.

Sylvia is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Purdue University with a B.S. in mathematics, computer science, and statistics.

Sumi Sarkar

Lead Teacher, Larkspur Children’s House

Sumi received her Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Calcutta, India. Sumi fell in love with Montessori when her oldest daughter began her Montessori education at the age of two. She pursued her AMS Montessori training beginning in 1994 in Raleigh. Sumi reports that she has treasured every moment spent in the classroom. Sumi has taught in Montessori schools for 19 years.

In her free time Sumi enjoys reading books, watching movies, listening to music, practicing Qi Gong, and of course, spending time with family. She has three children—two daughters and one son—who were all Montessori educated through sixth grade.

Sumi began teaching at Follow the Child in August of 2007.


  • B.A., University of Calcutta, India


Erin Schwartz

Assistant Teacher, Red Fox Toddler House and Red Fox After School

Bio to come!







Carson Smith

Office Manager

Bio to come!







Corley Winje

Associate Director of Admissions and Communications

Corley is originally from Lexington, NC and moved to Raleigh in 2008 to attend NC State University. After graduating in May of 2013, she decided to call Raleigh home. She was first introduced to Follow the Child during her time as a current student’s nanny and was overjoyed to join the FCM administration in Fall of 2013. She is very grateful for the opportunity to work in an environment where she gets to witness children growing and discovering the joys of learning everyday!


  • B.A., NC State University, May 2013



Precious Williams

Assistant Teacher, Larkspur Children’s House

Precious’ fascination and curiosity about children and their well-being brought her to work in Follow the Child Montessori School. With an affable character and the tranquility of her nature, she can effectuate children to be comfortable with her. She first began working as a substitute teacher at Follow the Child Montessori School, it was a learning process for Precious to work in an environment that she was not familiar about and has nothing to do with her degree. Now, Precious is an advocate of Montessori Education. She believes that children are unique in their own ways and has different learning phase. Precious believes that children should move freely in a prepared environment that is safe, and comfortable to reach their maximum potentials.

Precious is married and love spending time with her husband. They love to travel and try out new things. Precious is a fitness enthusiast as well, you can see her working out in a gym most of the time. She loves being in the water; she was once part of her school’s swim team and has participated in several swimming competitions locally. When not in school, Precious spends her time reading books, eating different kinds of foods, learning how to cook, and bonding with her loved ones.


  • B.S. in Nursing from Columban College, Philippines; 2009
  • Montessori Assistant Preparatory course in Atlanta, Georgia; 2010
  • Montessori Assistant Preparatory course in Atlanta, Georgia; 2014


  • Caregiver for some families, particularly FCM families
  • Certified Child Care Provider
  • Certified CPR/First Aid Provider