Our Team

The Prepared Montessorian team consists of a diverse, growing group of educators, school leaders, and professionals with decades of combined experience in the field of education and education management, at dozens of varied Montessori schools, across multiple countries.

Joel Mendes

Executive Director of Prepared Montessorian

Joel Mendes has studied in or worked in schools since his own preschool experience began with no breaks in between! Joel earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in English Education and Literature and a California Teaching Credential in English from California State University Long Beach with the aim to be a high school literature teacher. He began his career in a traditional classroom, teaching English, writing, and literature to students of a variety of ages and circumstances, from 6th grade in an inner-city, entrepreneurial-inspired charter school, to high school students in a large public high school, to adults at an international college and all the while realized that innovation in education takes both the development of new ideas alongside efficiency in school operations and management.

He moved into roles developing proprietary curriculum, mentoring teams of teachers, and through that work became the Head of School of a Montessori school for children ages 18-months to 8th grade. The experience changed him. Not only did he have the chance to work with remarkable Montessori children in his school, but he witnessed first-hand the benefits of the educational approach as the father of 3 children in the school. He dove in completely, earning his Montessori Diploma in from the Montessori Institute of San Diego, and continued his work advocating and creating more and more opportunities for children to get the gift his own children we receiving.

From his Head of School role, he has grown into mentoring and developing both school leaders and teachers in a Montessori setting, having worked as the founding Executive Director of Guidepost Montessori Schools, a school leadership coach, and a mentor to anyone looking to advance their career in Montessori education.

He brings his considerable wisdom and expertise to bear as a leader in shaping, creating, and delivering Prepared Montessorian resources and trainings and when he's not doing that, he enjoys watching the Dodgers, cooking for his family and friends, and holding himself to the standard of living a life he'd be proud if his three children emulated. 

Rebecca Girn

Executive Program Director

Rebecca is a lifelong Montessorian, who also happens to be an attorney. She earned her undergraduate degree in Classical Studies from the University of Chicago, and her law degree from the UCLA School of Law. She also holds two AMI Montessori teaching diplomas at both the 0 to 3 and the 3 to 6 levels. She is also trained in various disciplinary methods, such as Positive Discipline and Parent Effectiveness Training (PET).
 
Rebecca grew up in the Montessori community. Her mother ran a Montessori school in New Jersey, where she attended through eighth grade. She herself worked in the family business starting in early adolescence (as an Assistant Teacher, administrator, and jack of all trades) and continued to work at Montessori schools through college. Despite her early background in Montessori, though, Rebecca's first career aspiration was to become an attorney. She attended law school and began her career at a large international firm.
 
Although Rebecca enjoyed her work as an attorney, as time went on, she also found that there was some more substantive life’s purpose she was lacking. By 2010, she had met and married her husband, also a Montessorian. She took a leap of faith and left her law firm career to join her husband at what was then a small group of a few Montessori schools in Southern California. From there, she and her husband co-founded Higher Ground Education, and the rest is history.
 
Rebecca has observed in hundreds of classrooms and worked with, coached, and supported hundreds of Montessori Guides. She applies an analytical mindset to the complex and nuanced pedagogy of Montessori, in order to understand, articulate and communicate to adult learners the essentials of a normalized classroom, and clear strategies for achieving one. Above all, Rebecca brings to the Prepared Montessorian a faith in humanity that goes beyond a faith in human children. Rebecca’s work as a leader and a trainer reflects her deep faith in the capacity of the human adult to learn, transform, and transcend. It is a process that requires trust, respect, patience for a process of thought and learning that takes place over time, well-articulated principles, a nuanced grasp of materials and child motivations, and a continual cycling back and forth between theory and practice. These are the elements that Rebecca seeks to bring alive in working with Montessori Guides as they build their practice and transform themselves.

Lindsay Journo

Executive Program Director

Over the past 25 years,  Ms. Journo has worked in numerous educational roles, including Guide (at every level from Children’s House through High School!), Head of School, Curriculum Director, Professional Development Coach, and Trainer. Her career highlights include being a founding member of two national networks of Montessori schools and designing a comprehensive literature program for elementary students.
 
Ms. Journo holds an AMI Primary diploma from the Montessori Institute of San Diego, a Bachelor of Education from York University, and an Honors Specialist Certification in the teaching of English from the University of Toronto.
 
In her current role as an Elementary Trainer for Prepared Montessorian, Ms. Journo relishes introducing adult learners to the wonder and power of the Montessori method. When you meet Ms. Journo, be sure to ask about the “aha moment” that inspired her to switch career paths from traditional education to Montessori. Hint: It’s related to her favorite Montessori quote, that we, as educators, “must endeavor always to keep burning within [the child] the light which is called intelligence.”
 
She lives with her husband and two elementary-aged children in Southern California. After her family, Ms. Journo’s great loves are the beach, literature, and sushi.

Mariana Serralde

Senior Trainer and Coach

Mariana has been a Montessori educator for more than 20 years, she has worked as a Children’s House Guide, Head of School, Montessori Mentor and currently as a Senior Montessori Trainer.
 
Her passion for Montessori and ample experience working as a Montessori educator in different countries with a diverse group of children, parents and adult learners, has given her a sensitiveness and empathy that reflects in her passionate approach for spreading the Montessori pedagogy.  
 
Mariana holds and AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Institute of San Diego, a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education and is specialized in Second Language Learning.

Mariana’s love for Montessori began at a very young age, when she founded a volunteer program for the allocation of educational materials and training based on the Montessori principals; for at high-risk public schools in Mexico—work for which she received government recognition before she was 18 years old. In her first year as a lead guide in the Montessori Public Sector, she was given the Skillful Teaching award through the Denver Public Schools.
 
Mariana has worked and supported several teachers throughout her journey, including bilingual Montessori environments at  all levels and collaborated in the development of the dual-language Montessori model for one of the first public dual-language Montessori schools.
 
She has been married for 18-years and has two daughters; an 8-year old and a teenager, both have attended Montessori school since they were toddlers and are proudly bilingual. Mariana enjoys cooking and creating new recipes with her daughters as well as writing children plays.  

Ana Amiguet

Senior Trainer and Coach

Ana was a Montessori child and credits her love of learning to her experiences in a Children's House classroom. This background spurred her to complete her BA in English Literature from Brown University, an MA in Montessori Education from Loyola College in Maryland, and an Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) diploma from the Montessori Institute of San Diego.

Ana has since worked as a Lead Guide in Children's House classrooms in California, Massachusettes, and North Carolina, and at nonprofits both working with and advocating for children in foster care.  She has also worked in various Montessori administrative roles-- but her favorite one by far has been her current role on the Prepared Montessorian team, helping to train and support Guides bring this amazing methodology to the children in their classrooms.  Ana has two Montessori children, and has thoroughly enjoyed experiencing Montessori through the parent perspective.

Dr. Matt Bateman

Montessori Theory Trainer and Educational Historian

Dr. Bateman earned his bachelor’s degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 2004. While there, he worked in their Child Development Center researching the nature of early personality development in children. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in Philosophy in 2012 from the University of Pennsylvania, where he studied the history of thought in philosophy and psychology, as well as conducting research in cognitive science.
 
He taught and continued his research at Franklin and Marshall College in the Department of Psychology, on topics ranging from neuroscience to evolutionary theory to philosophy.
Dr. Bateman left his academic position in 2014 to join LePort Schools as its Director of Curriculum and Pedagogy. There, he oversaw research and development of the school’s approach to education.
 
In 2016, Dr. Bateman became a founding member of Higher Ground as the Vice President of Pedagogy, where he is responsible for intellectual and pedagogical oversight across the organization.
 
Dr. Bateman brings to Prepared Montessorian his expertise in intellectual history and experience in teaching in higher education. He serves as a Montessori theory trainer for all levels, and works with other trainers and trainers-in-training in keeping the organization’s depth of theoretical understanding fresh, consistent, and sharp. He is constantly pushing himself and others to better understand the pedagogy of teacher training.

Kathleen Kyo

Operations Manager

Kathleen Kyo completed her Bachelor of Science degree in Information Computer Science from the University of California, Irvine. Upon graduation, Kathleen had a unique opportunity to work abroad in Shanghai for two years and has had the pleasure to collaborate with many talented individuals from all over the world. Since then, Kathleen returned home to Orange County and focused her career on operation strategies and project management in the biotech and tech industries. While searching for the perfect environment to nurture her children’s growth, Kathleen has fallen in love with the Montessori method, along with the incredible teachers and staff at Guidepost Montessori. As life would have it, an opportunity came up and Kathleen joined the Prepared Montessorian team as the Operations Manager. Kathleen collaborates with the talented Montessorians at Higher Ground Education to deliver quality training to Montessori professionals both internally and externally.
 
Kathleen and her husband are blessed with two wonderful toddlers and enjoy traveling the world together.

Helen Greenwood

Elementary Trainer and Coach

Hailing from Australia and originally working as a high school music and English teacher, Helen has always been interested in the Montessori Method. When AMI offered their inaugural Elementary Diploma in Australia in 2003, Helen jumped at the chance to retrain and worked in Montessori schools in Sydney for over a decade. She has worked in the lower and upper elementary levels, and also in the role of Additional Needs Coordinator, working with children with ADHD, Autism, Dyslexia, and other learning difficulties within a Montessori setting. Since relocating to San Francisco in 2015, Helen has supported Montessori elementary teachers through developing training and professional development. In addition to her passion for education, Helen has a keen interest in the arts, having completed a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Art History, playing piano, and leading bands and choirs for many years.

Michael Strong

Adolescent Trainer and Coach

Michael Strong is one of the most experienced designers of innovative school programs in the U.S. His past projects include Montessori secondary school program design at The Judson Montessori School (San Antonio), The Emerson School (Palo Alto), and Hacienda School (Pleasanton). Michael has authored two books including The Habit of Thought: From Socratic Seminars to Socratic Practice. Much of his philosophy has been developed in conjunction with his deep exploration of Montessori programming, particularly how Montessori programming applies to students in their teenage years. He brings his approaches borne from his experience in helping adolescents thrive no matter their passions and bringing out their individual strenghts through self-directed, Montessori programming that provides both the freedom and limits that teenagers need. 

Julia Richards

Adolescent Trainer and Coach

Julia earned her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Brown University. After several years working in literacy education, Julia made her way to Bergamo, Italy where she completed her AMI Elementary training. Upon completion she worked in a 6-12 combined age Elementary classroom. She achieved her AMI Adolescent Certification and opened an adolescent program where she discovered the joy of working with teens. For the past three years she has organized Montessori teacher programs at the adolescent level, including the AMI/NAMTA Orientation to Adolescent Studies. Outside of her work in Montessori education, Julia is a certified yoga instructor, enjoys singing, traveling, spending time with friends and family and has a cat called Boo, after the famous literary character.

Monique Shen

Nido and Toddler Jr. Trainer and Coach

After earning her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Stony Brook University, Monique continued to pursue her interests in developmental psychology and found that her true passion was in early childhood education. She first began her career in education assisting Board Certified Behavior Analysts that utilized applied behavior analysis (ABA) to serve children 5 to 18 on the autism spectrum, but eventually found that the Montessori approach more closely mirrored her natural style and aligned with her personal philosophy, where each child is supported with love and respect in their journey of self-creation. She then graduated with her AMI Montessori Diploma for the Birth to 3 age group from The Montessori Training Centre of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, and is currently pursuing a dual Masters in Early Childhood and Special Education.

She has opened and led toddler communities, delighting in supporting children and families as they navigated the natural growing rhythms of this age group. She has also worked as part of the training team in international Montessori training courses in Mexico City for Nido and Toddler guides seeking Montessori certification.

As a Junior Trainer and Coach at Prepared Montessorian, Monique enjoys deepening her own understanding of Montessori theory and practice while sharing with adult learners the responsibility and joy that comes with serving children.
Monique is happy to call New York City her home and enjoys watching classic films, cooking the latest harvest from the market, and rock climbing in her free time.

Laura Kalama

Nido and Toddler Jr. Trainer and Coach

Over the last 15 years, Laura Kalama has been actively involved in early childhood education.  She studied Education with an emphasis on music at Bridgewater College, VA. After graduation, she moved to California where she has worked with infants and toddlers, partnering with parents to support healthy development.  She received her Montessori training from the Prepared Montessorian Institute, and served as a Lead Nido Guide before joining the PM team as a Junior Trainer and Coach.  Ms. Kalama is passionate about applying Montessori principles from infancy.  In her free time, Laura attended culinary school (just for fun!) and enjoys farm to table cooking for her husband and two young sons.

Lisa Kathleen

Project Manager and School Leadership Trainer

Lisa Kathleen read her first book about Montessori education when she was 15, just for fun. As a high school student still engaged in her own schooling, she immediately identified the stark difference between her own experience and the exciting possibilities of a Montessori education. She closed that book and thought, "That's what I'm going to do with the rest of my life." She then attended UT Austin, graduating with highest honours and a double major in History and Philosophy, then spent two and a half years in Japan, teaching English, earning a black belt in aikido, and learning taiko drumming. Twelve years after reading that book, Lisa Kathleen earned her AMI diploma from the training centre that Maria Montessori founded in Bergamo, Italy. She then went on to rejuvenate the struggling lower elementary program, then found and develop an upper elementary program at the only AMI-accredited school in her hometown of Calgary, Canada. Her emphasis on parent involvement earned her the trust of the school's families. With the birth of her own baby, she turned to administration, running the admissions program for a local Montessori primary program on two campuses on a part-time basis. At the same time, Lisa Kathleen built her own business as a parenting coach and parent educator, serving hundreds of families. Lisa Kathleen moved from Canada to join the Higher Ground team. She once believed that Montessori education could change the world. Seeing what the team at Higher Ground has accomplished in just a few years has convinced her that Montessori education will change the world.  Lisa Kathleen is currently working on her black belt in Tae Kwon Do and learning how to lindy hop.

Jea Vallee-Villanueva

VP of International

Having attended Montessori schools from toddlerhood through to adolescence, Jea was first a Montessori child before becoming a Montessori guide, administrator and trainer.

Jea is an Australian early childhood educator who has spent the past 20 years nurturing young children and educators in China and around the globe. She holds an AMI Primary diploma from Australian Montessori Teacher Education Foundation (AMTEF), a Bachelor of Psychology and a Masters in Early Childhood Education. 

Prior to joining the Prepared Montessorian team, she helped build the largest Montessori network of schools in China, established an infant-toddler center in Beijing, and consulted for various international schools and institutions on pedagogy, practices, curriculum, and training.

In addition to her current role of VP of the Prepared Montessori International, Jea is also a volunteer on-site verifier for MACTE (Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education) and regularly presents at international conferences on the subject of infant-toddler care and respectful caregiving practices.

Jemina presently lives in Beijing together with her husband, two growing boys and adopted a rescue cat, Pistache.