Ayize Sabater is a dynamic entrepreneur, educational researcher, author and thirty year educational visionary. He earned his doctorate at Morgan State University in 2018. Dr. Ayize has co-founded several organizations, including a Montessori Public Charter school in D.C.. He received his a 2021 Montessori Core Principle and a 2012 Orientation (formerly know as Assistant) certificate and is an honors graduate of Morehouse and Wesley. Ayize has been repeatedly featured as a Keynote speaker, has conducted presentations internationally and was a 2010 educational excellence award recipient, presented by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. Some of his published research articles are on: family engagement; culturally relevant pedagogy; Montessori education, especially for Black folx. Dr. Ayize has been widely featured (on TV, radio, in the NY Times, People & Emerge Magazines, Back Enterprise, etc). Ayize recently co-founded the Black Montessori Educational Fund and was appointed the 1st Black Executive Director of AMI/USA in November 2020.
Lynne Breitenstein-Aliberti is the Director of School and Member Operations, guiding the AMI Recognition Program and the process of Memberships for AMI/USA. With over 25 years of experience within the Montessori community, she has personally witnessed the power that Montessori education has to create a more peaceful world. In her previous roles as Events Manager for the North American Montessori Teachers Association (NAMTA), co-chair of the Ohio Montessori History Project for the Ohio Montessori Alliance (OMA), and Primary Guide at Ruffing Montessori in Cleveland Heights, Lynne has taught, developed, and facilitated Montessori programming for parents, administrators, fellow teachers and the wider educational community in addition to writing articles and historical records with a mission to further visibility of the Montessori method. She received the AMI Primary Certificate from the Ohio Montessori Training Institute under Joen Bettman, and a Masters of Education degree from the Loyola College of Baltimore.
Sarah is the Director of Communications and Digital Strategy at AMI/USA, responsible for managing the online bookstore and developing AMI/USA’s membership communications, including the e-news, journal, and directory. She also maintains the AMI/USA website and social media accounts. Prior to joining AMI/USA, she worked in communications and program development in the environmental education field. She holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and lives in Alexandria, VA with her husband.
Samantha is the Director of Events, responsible for brainstorming and implementing event plans and handling logistics to improve member loyalty, and enhance the brand-to-member experience. Originally from Chicago, Samantha graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2009 and currently resides in Austin; she received a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and Dance with a concentration in Radio Television and Film. Previous to joining the AMI/USA team, Samantha worked for Austin Film Festival & Writers Conference in a variety of roles (most recently Marketing Director), inspiring and championing the work of storytellers.
Fran is the Director of Finance at AMI/USA and performs and oversees the organization’s financial operations and is responsible for maintaining financial systems and internal controls that support AMI/USA’s mission and objectives. She has over 20 years of service in nonprofit financial leadership roles. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Fran graduated from Pace University in New York City, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and is a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA). She currently resides in Northern Virginia, where she has worked for the past 10 years with various Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organizations.
Janet McDonell is Pedagogical Director of Consultation and Coaching at AMI/USA. She has been Director of Primary Training at the Washington Montessori Institute since 1994, following an extensive career in Montessori schools throughout the U.S., working with children of widely varied backgrounds. Janet also holds AMI Elementary and Special Education diplomas. She is a former chair of AMI’s Training of Trainers program, a former board member of AMI/USA and has chaired AMI/USA’s Consultation Committee for the past 10 years. Janet will oversee the AMI Recognition program and other AMI/USA initiatives that support teachers and schools.
As the Office Manager at AMI/USA, Jewellee works closely with the various AMI/USA program directors. Jewellee is a native Californian who has worked in the international nonprofit community for over 10 years. This experience gave her a deep appreciation for how nonprofits seek to improve the quality of life; one program at a time. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband and three cats.
After watching the social, emotional and academic growth of her sons during their Montessori Children’s House experiences, Sheri Bishop decided that the Montessori approach was the best way to educate her sons beyond primary school. Both of her children attended Montessori schools during most of their school careers. Though Sheri enjoyed being a pediatric healthcare provider for many years, she was so impressed with the Montessori philosophy that it prompted her to seek training as a Montessori guide and change the trajectory of her career.
Sheri has 8 years of classroom experience as a Lower Elementary guide, holds an AMI 6-12 diploma from the Montessori Institute of Atlanta, a Masters in Montessori Elementary Education from Loyola University in Baltimore, MD, and will soon complete requirements for an AMI 3-6 diploma from the Montessori Institute of North Texas.
While working, Sheri recognized that the values of justice, equality and peace so inherent in the scope of the Montessori movement, are often times not manifested in Montessori practices and policies in these spaces. She found that families in lower socio-economic groups and who are Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) are significantly underrepresented in beautiful, thriving Montessori communities. She involved herself in the Montessori for Social Justice (MSJ) organization which ignited her fervor for anti-bias, anti-racist, and social justice work with Montessorians. In 2017 she was elected to be one of the founding members of the original MSJ Board of Directors and served until 2019.
Sheri has presented numerous and various workshops for teacher in-service trainings and regional and national conferences including MSJ, the AMI Elementary Alumni Association, Montessori Institute of North Texas (MINT), and Montessori Northwest. Since the pandemic, she has adapted offerings to suit an online presentation format. In addition to AMI/USA, Sheri currently is contracted by the Montessori Institute of North Texas as an ABAR Advisor and by Norfolk Montessori School in Norfolk, VA as a consultant and advisor. Click here to request a visit from Sheri.
Jacqui Miller completed her AMI Elementary training in the early ‘90s and now approaches the work through her intersectionality as a Montessorian of Color, a public sector practitioner, a social justice advocate, and a champion of adolescents. After working with elementary children for four years, Jacqui was an adolescent guide for the next 16 years. She became a leading developer of the Adolescent Program at Arbor Montessori School and contributed to the NAMTA/AMI Orientation to Adolescent Studies for 10 years as a presenter and design coach. For the past 7 years, Jacqui has engaged in the work of adapting Montessori for transformative urban education. She currently serves the Cleveland Metropolitan School District in a new position as the Director of Montessori Programming and Operations, and previously was the Founding Principal of Stonebrook Montessori, a public charter school.
Jacqui sees herself as an educational architect, envisioning Montessori beyond its current reality and designing systemic change toward a vision. She experiences her dedication to the legacy of Maria Montessori as a responsibility to propel Montessori pedagogy toward its potential of truly serving all children. Jacqui joins the AMI/USA board embracing the opportunity to support the staff in a time of organizational change and advance the work of AMI in ways that are responsive to the US context.
Mary Levy, Head of School at Mountain View Montessori School in Reno, Nevada, brings a unique combination of experiences to the Board. Mary has worked in Montessori for the last eighteen years, the past twelve at Mountain View Montessori. Prior to her Montessori experience, Mary worked in banking and business. Mary holds a B.A. in History from Knox College, has completed graduate work in education at the University of Nevada, completed University of Nevada Non-Profit Professional Studies Program, and is certified in Positive Discipline.
KaLinda Bass-Barlow joined the AMI USA board July 1, 2018. KaLinda Bass-Barlow serves in the Kansas City Public Schools District in Kansas City, Missouri. She holds an AMI Primary Diploma, Montessori Core Principles Certificate, M.Ed. in Educational Leadership (K-12), M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education (Montessori Concentration), BA in Interdisciplinary Studies and is currently pursuing an EdD. In 2016, her career shifted from a conventional educational school leader to a Montessori school leader when she began serving as the proud principal of Harold Holliday Montessori (HHMS) – a KCPS Signature School. KaLinda is a passionate advocate for children; she understands the urgency of learning for children and does not compromise at their expense. In her short tenure as the leader of HHMS, she has worked relentlessly with stakeholders to transform Montessori practices at HHMS, where she and her team works with the mindset of Good, Better, Best to offer the children they’re privileged to serve rich Montessori experiences. KaLinda appreciates serving in the public sector and considers it an honor to be part of the public sector Montessori movement. She is married with four sons and 2 bonus daughters.
Connie Black is Director of Training for the Montessori Training Center Northeast Boston Satellite Course. She holds a B.A. in English and Theatre from the University of Tennessee Martin as well as a M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland. Connie is an AMI Trainer, guest lecturer, examiner both nationally and internationally, and AMI/USA consultant. She serves on the board of directors of AMI/USA.
Connie also serves as a founding board member for the Duluth Center for Women and Children. All children, regardless of family income, should have access to highquality early learning experiences. As part of co-creating a place for women and children who have endured chronic homelessness to have equal access to possibilities, success, and safety, DCWC will provide high-quality prepared environments in the Montessori approach to the children of the women we serve.
She lives in Duluth, MN with her husband and their dog, Bella, often observed sleeping in the chair in the background on Zoom. Connie and her husband have three adult children and four grandchildren who call her “Grand.”
Durkin Ledgard practices law, and consults on energy, infrastructure and transportation issues. He served as Chief Legal, Commercial & Administrative Officer of BPZ Resources, Inc., a publicly traded oil and gas exploration and production company focusing on Latin America. Mr. Ledgard also served BPZ as Corporate Secretary and Chief Compliance Officer. Prior to joining BPZ, Mr. Ledgard was a Partner of the law firm Eastham, Watson, Dale & Forney, LLP, where he specialized in Admiralty and Maritime law. Mr. Ledgard was an Assistant Counsel in the Office of the General Counsel for the Department of the Navy. He has over 30 years of experience in the energy and marine transportation industry and holds an Unlimited Tonnage Master’s License issued by the U.S. Coast Guard. He earned his B.S. in Marine Transportation from Texas A&M University in 1982 and his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center in 1992. He is active in the local community as a past President and current Member-at-Large of the Memorial Meadows Homeowners Association, and serves on the Troop Committee of Boy Scout Troop 673 where he was the past Committee Chair.
Dallas Nelson is an Oglala Lakota from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Dallas and his wife Emily Charging Crow-Nelson have four children and reside in the Red Cloud Community on the Pine Ridge Reservation. He currently serves as the Director of the Lakota Language & Education Initiative at the Thunder Valley Community Development Corporation on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
He holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Sociology, a Bachelor’s in American Indian Studies and a Masters in Lakota Leadership and Management. He holds his AMI Primary Guide Assistant certification and is working towards his AMI Primary Teacher Training certification. He is advocate for Indigenous Education, Language Reclamation and the ongoing movement to create systemic change within Indigenous Communities.
Michele Shane is the Head of School at The Children’s House in Traverse City Michigan where she has worked for 21 years. Michele completed her AMI Primary training in 1998 from the Montessori Institute Northwest in Portland, OR. She holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Washington in Seattle, WA, and an MEd from Loyola College in Baltimore, MD. Michele was on the Board of Trustees for the Montessori Administrators Association (MAA) for 7 years prior to joining the board of AMI-USA. Michele enjoys mountain biking, paddle boarding, running, golfing and going to the beach. She enjoys living in Northern Michigan with her husband and teenage daughter and son.
Barbara Williams joined the Montessori Center of Minnesota in 2018 as the Director of Outreach Programs. She is one of the founding Board members of Cornerstone Montessori Elementary from 2010- 2011 and was a member of the board of trustees for the Montessori Center of Minnesota from 2014 – 2018. Barbara researched, developed and facilitated critical Social Services for the Early Childhood Montessori Center at the North American Montessori Teachers Association Conference and Cultural Awareness through Mindfulness Training for the Montessori Center of Minnesota. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and African American Studies from the University of Minnesota and has over 20 years of experience in the field of social services coordinating resources for children and families residing in St. Paul and fighting for health equity and social justice for all Minnesotans.