Our Executive Director, Mary D'Anella, is a South Philadelphia native and an early proponent of the charter school movement. Mary led the turn-around team for The Philadelphia Charter School for the Arts and Sciences and later served as its CEO, spearheading a successful school-wide reading improvement program that included intervention, remediation, and enrichment. Previously, she was a founding board member of the city's largest charter, The Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School, and served as Director of Communications for its' management company, String Theory School Education. Mary has been an advocate for Montessori preschool education since her own children benefitted from the Montessori methods.
Our Director of Education, Carmel Melso Galati, is an award-winning Philadelphia educator with a Masters Degree and more than 25 years of experience in urban education. As a certified reading specialist in the School District of Philadelphia, she has implemented proven school-wide reading programs and interventions. Carmel has written curriculum, conducted professional development, and has received both the Rose Lindenbaum Improvement of Education Award and the Schoolmen's Club Service to Children Award for her stellar contributions. Carmel holds additional certifications in Elementary K-5, Elementary Principal, Reading Recovery, Nursery through 3rd grade, and Supervision of Curriculum and Instruction. In addition to being a reading specialist, she has held positions as a grade teacher, kindergarten teacher, regional literacy coach, professional development facilitator, and reading recovery teacher.
Our Earth Science Teacher, Karen Zeitz, received her Montessori Certification in Nursery School/Kindergarten from the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Academic Municipal Schools. She has a Master’s in Education from Arcadia University. She changed careers mid-life and went to Temple Law School and is a semi-retired attorney practicing Wills and Estates law. She also serves as a Master for the Philadelphia Court System. Her dream to return to teaching Montessori came true when she was walking her dog and wandered into The Children's House. Now she practices her two loves: teaching and law. Ms. Zeitz shares her passion for nature by teaching Earth Science--gardening, insects, birds, fish, etc.--to the children. As a valued member of our staff, we are thrilled she found us.
Our Primary Classroom Teacher, Lucia Pagano, studied Early Childhood Education at Penn State Abington before entering the Montessori Program at Chestnut Hill College. Lucia has been teaching Montessori for 30 years, beginning her career as a Directress at the Montgomery Montessori School. She continued her career at Wyndmoor Montessori School, Naudain Montessori Academy, and Beth Sholom Goldman Preschool, before joining us at The Children’s House. Lucia Pagano continues to be our most passionate and enthusiastic Montessorian. She believes wholeheartedly in the Montessori philosophy and continues to practice it in her own home with her two sons.
Our Primary Classroom Teacher, Colette Welsh, began her Montessori teaching career at Montessori Children’s Academy in Chatham, NJ. She is a graduate of Montclair State University, majoring in Family and Child Studies with a concentration in Early and Middle Childhood Education. During her undergraduate studies, she attended the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia, for a semester abroad. Upon her return, Colette earned her Pennsylvania Teacher’s Certification in Pre-K to 4th grade. Colette, who is an active community volunteer, is the mother of three young sons. She enjoys family life in her new South Philadelphia neighborhood.
Our Primary Classroom Assistant, Diana R. Setiawan, holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting from STIE YKPN in Yogyakarta, Indonesia and a Montessori Teacher Training Certification from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. She has many years of experience working with children as a nanny. She became intrigued by the Montessori method and enrolled in the Montessori Teacher Program at Chestnut Hill College. After completing her training and interning at Greene Towne Montessori, she joined The Children’s House of Philadelphia as a teacher’s assistant in our primary classroom. Diana enjoys swimming, exploring the outdoors, photographing nature, playing guitar and reading the Bible.
Our Toddler Classroom Teacher, Kinbrae Sperstad, was raised in Minnesota and has made Philadelphia her home. Kinbrae graduated from Bryn Mawr College as a Presidential Scholar majoring in Psychology with a minor in Education. She made her decision to pursue teaching and received her Master’s of Education from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a Dean’s Scholarship recipient. She is a candidate for a PA teaching certification in Pre-K - 4 and she is currently enrolled and will earn her Montessori Toddler Certification from the Princeton Center for Teacher Education. Her University of Pennsylvania mentor describes Kinbrae as, “a gentle person, with a loving spirit who has immense empathy for the children she teaches... she is dedicated to the early years.”
Our Toddler Classroom Teacher, Isabella Mercanti, has teaching certifications in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. She earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with a dual minor in Urban and Childhood Studies from Rutgers University. Prior to joining The Children’s House, Isabella worked at the Walter Rand Institute on counseling grant projects for the Camden School District and as a high school English teacher in Philadelphia. She continues to advance her studies in education policy to improve education in the Philadelphia region. Isabella earned her Pennsylvania Teaching Certification, Pre-K to 4th grade, in addition to her Pennsylvania Certification in English, grades 6th to 12th. She holds a Montessori Diploma in Infant and Toddler Development. As a preschooler, Isabella attended Montessori Preschool in Philadelphia.
Our Italian Teacher, Salvatrice "Sabrina" Taormina, holds her Master’s Degree in Clinical Child Psychology and Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Childhood Psychological Techniques from the University of Palermo, Italy. Sabrina is an important part of our early toddler classroom as she brings a unique understanding of child development. Additionally, as a native Italian speaker, Sabrina leads three Italian classes daily for our students. She also teaches Italian at the Italian Cultural Center Marco Polo in Philadelphia.
“Il più grande segno di successo per un insegnante … è poter dire: i bambini stanno lavorando come se io non esistessi”- Maria Montessori
Our Toddler Classroom Assistant, Rachel Sannasardo, a Philadelphia native, has been teaching children for a lifetime. Her degree from St Joseph’s University lead Rachel to earn her PA Professional Certificate in elementary, K - 6th grade. As an elementary school teacher, her certificate says she is entitled to practice, “the art of teaching”. Rachel created “art” as she founded and developed the Pre-K curriculum at Saint Rita’s School. She perfected her teaching skills as a long-standing teacher at The Epiphany of Our Lord School in South Philadelphia.
Our Music Teacher, Alexia Lekos, joined The Children’s House as our general music teacher. Ms. Lekos graduated from The State University of New York at Fredonia where she double majored in Music Therapy and Applied-Music with concentrations in Violin and Piano in addition to earning a minor in Psychology. Alexia interned at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia as a music therapist. Ms. Lekos’ aspirations include continuing her studies at the graduate level and becoming a leading voice in advocating the importance of music therapy.
Our Director of Compliance, Candida Lowry, whose two children graduated from a Philadelphia public charter school, is an educator with a Masters Degree, and a certificate in elementary education in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Candida has worked with student recruitment, which places talented children into academically demanding independent day and boarding schools. As our Director of Compliance she will maintain our high level of expectations for our staff and our school.
Our Toddler Classroom Assistant, Assetou Sako, spent her formative years in Bamako, Mali. She is a Finance Major at Penn State, Abington. Ms. Sako was Salutatorian of her graduating class at South Philadelphia High School and has been working as a teacher’s assistant at The Children’s House for two years. She plays an integral role in our Montessori community, and provides consistent kindness toward those in her care. Assetou speaks three languages, including Mandingo, French and English.
Our Toddler Classroom Assistant, Mary D'Anella-Mercanti, holds her Bachelor's Degree in Women and Gender Studies with a minor in Comparative History from Rutgers University, New Brunswick. She began working with young toddlers in high school and finds the companionship of children a delight.
Our Primary Classroom Assistant, Nadia LaFontano, is a natural caregiver. As a classroom assistant, her understanding of the Montessori method is growing every day. Nadia, who teaches dance locally, in addition to her responsibilities at The Children's House, can often be seen demonstrating some basic dance positions to our students. She hopes to earn a Montessori Assistant Certification.
Our Primary Classroom Assistant, Bria Myers, attended String Theory High School in Center City and studied Biology at Widener University. She enjoys helping the children and learning new things using the Montessori methods. She hopes to return to school and continue her education.