AMI/USA Staff 


Debby Riordan – Executive Director

Previous to becoming Executive Director at AMI/USA, Debby was an AMI/USA Board Member as well as the co-founder and Head of School at Southlake Montessori, in Southlake, Texas. Debby has her Masters Degree in Developmental Psychology and received her AMI Elementary diploma from the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota.  Prior to her work in education, Debby worked as a marketing research consultant mostly for retail, healthcare and manufacturing clients.  However, for more than two decades since, she has supported Montessori education in various roles intersecting the faculty, board, administrative, training center and public policy communities.  She now looks forward to supporting common goals through her work as Executive Director at AMI/USA.  Debby is a parent to four Montessori children and it is the inspiration through watching this magical education work through them that fuels her desire for as many children as possible to have this opportunity.  Debby lives in Irving, Texas, with her most ardent supporter, husband Steve, and Buster the dog.


Denise Wanits Director of Membership and Database Operations

Denise is the Director of Membership and Database Operations at AMI/USA, coordinating memberships, advertising, conference registrations, and MES activities. She holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science and held various customer support and management positions in the corporate world for 20 years prior to joining AMI/USA in 2009. Denise is married with two children and resides in Rochester, NY.


Lynne Breitenstein-Aliberti – Director of School Affiliation and Consultation 

Lynne is the Director of School Affiliation and Consultation at AMI/USA, guiding the process of the AMI school recognition and consultation programs. With over 20 years of experience, she has seen the power that Montessori education has to create a more peaceful world. Previous roles included conference manager for the North American Montessori Teachers Association, the co-chair of the Ohio Montessori History Project, and Casa Guide at Ruffing Montessori. She received an AMI primary certificate, and a Masters of Education.


Peggy Browning – Director of Finance and Development

Peggy received a bachelor degree from Western Illinois University and a Certificate in Marketing Strategy from Cornell University.  After working as an executive in the software industry, Peggy was inextricably drawn to the Montessori world.  She held both finance and advancement roles at two AMI recognized schools for eighteen years.  Peggy served on the finance committee of the Montessori Institute of North Texas training center, as a Board Member/Communications Chair for the Montessori Institute of Texas, and has been involved in numerous collaborations to advance Montessori education through professional development events, community education and funds development.  She is honored and delighted to continue serving the child with AMI/USA.


Sarah Kozicki Director of Communications and Digital Strategy

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. 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.


AMI/USA Board of Directors


Gretchen Hall – President

Gretchen Hall serves as the director of training at the Montessori Training Center of New England (MTCNE). Gretchen holds a B.S. in electrical engineering from Michigan State University. She received her AMI primary diploma from Washington Montessori Institute and an M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland. She is the director of the Montessori Magnet School, a urban public Montessori school in Hartford CT. Gretchen brings 18 years of Montessori experience to her role with the AMI/USA board of directors.  She currently serves as the president of the AMI/USA board.


Zachary Nauth – Treasurer

Zachary Nauth for 10 years has been the Administrator of the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois Benefit Funds in Chicago. He manages the day-to-day operations of a 50-employee office providing service to 21,000 health and pension plan participants who work in health care and social services. He has worked for 20 years for SEIU in various capacities—from organizing contract negotiations, to strategy and politics, to employee benefits. Prior to that, he founded and ran a non-profit organization in Louisiana dedicated to improving the environment, education and social services. Mr. Nauth is a journalism graduate of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, and has worked as a reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the Los Angeles Times and other publications. He has served on the board of Human Rights Watch (Chicago).


Mary Levy – Secretary

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 

KaLinda Bass-Barlow joined the AMI USA board July 1, 2018.  She is currently pursuing her AMI Primary (3-6) diploma (completion date of June ‘19, Montessori Institute of North Texas) and a M.Ed. with Montessori Concentration (University of Hartford). She holds a MEd in K-12 Leadership (University of Houston) and a B.A. in Early Childhood Education (Houston Baptist University) and public education credentials in 4 states in the areas of K-12 Leadership, Early Childhood, Elementary, Special Education and English Language Learners. 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 – a Kansas City Public Schools Signature School (MO). KaLinda is a passionate advocate for children and public Montessori; she understands the urgency of learning for children and does not compromise at the their expense. In her short time as a Montessori educator, 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 authentic Montessori experiences. KaLinda enjoys serving the public sector and considers it an honor to be part of the public sector Montessori movement. She is married and has four sons.


Connie Black

Connie Black serves as Director of Outreach at the Montessori Center of Minnesota. In that role she leads the Montessori Partners Serving All Children initiative, whose mission is to bring high quality, authentic, early childhood Montessori experiences to children who are usually denied access due to a lack of resources. It has been a long term vision of the Montessori Center of Minnesota to bring the movement back to its roots, making Montessori accessible to all children, all families, all cultures and all communities, no matter of income level.

Connie holds a B.A. in English and Theatre from the University of Tennessee Martin as well as a M.Ed. from Loyola University. She brings to her role more than 15 years of experience in Montessori Children’s Houses, as well as eight years in public school settings working with children with special needs. Connie is an AMI Primary Trainer, examiner, guest lecturer and consultant. She also currently serves as Director of Training for the Boston Satellite Primary Course for Montessori Training Center Northeast.


Durkin Ledgard

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 publically 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.


James Moudry

James Moudry has a master’s degree in Montessori education, holds the AMI Primary Diploma, and a BA in mathematics, philosophy, and psychology.  He joined Post Oak School in 2010. Prior to that, he served as the director of administrative affairs at the Montessori High School at University Circle in Cleveland, Ohio. James has worked in Montessori adolescent programs since 1999 as a teacher, program coordinator, administrator, and soccer coach. He has presented at the North American Montessori Teachers Association’s Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies and has spoken on program design and community-centered education nationally and internationally. James attributes his decision to work in Montessori education to his parents who sent him and his brother to Montessori school through middle school. He is dedicated to Montessori education, and he and his wife (also Montessori trained) have three children. James enjoys home renovations and snow.


Michele Shane

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.