Amanda Adair

AmandaAdairAmanda Adair is a long time Montessori educator. Her professional experience is quite extensive as she’s been working in various capacities in the public, charter, and private sectors for the past 17 years. She earned her BS in Education and AMS Early Childhood in 2000 from Barry University and the Elementary I Credential in 2008 from SMTTI. She began her career as a Montessori classroom teacher at Virginia Shuman Young Elementary (Early Childhood level) in 2000, joined Rainbow Montessori School (Early Childhood level) in 2004, and then Summit Questa Montessori School (Elementary level) in 2005. She has been a Montessori Teacher Training Instructor (EC and Elem I Certification) at Summit Montessori Teacher Training Institute since 2008. She opened her business, Premier Education Specialists, in 2011, which specializes in curriculum design and consulting services. Since 2014, she has been the Curriculum Director at South Broward Montessori Charter School (K-5) where she oversees teachers, conducts professional development training for the staff, and teaches Parent Workshops for the school community. Amanda is also a mom to 3 wonderful children; Hallie 15, Riley 11, and Kacie 2, who are thriving due to the Montessori philosophy/principles which are an integral part of their daily lives.

Beverly Alexander McGhee, M.S.

Mrs. McGheeIn 1963 she and Jim McGhee cofounded Alexander School, Miami, Florida which serves approximately 600 students from ages 18 months through grade 5. She earned her BS and MS Degrees at Florida State University and did graduate work at four other Universities. She taught in Florida elementary and public high schools and is credential in gifted education, AMS Montessori early childhood and elementary education . She was awarded Master Teacher by Dr. Elizabeth Caspari of Switzerland and directed teacher education courses with Dr. Caspari. She currently directs Montessori Teacher Training Institute. She has been honored “Distinguished Educator” by: the State of Florida House of Representatives, Association of Independent Schools of Florida and Florida State University. She has served on the Board of Directors of the American Montessori Society and is an AMS Montessori Living Legacy.

Rodolfo Arteaga

Rodolfa ArteagaRodolfo Arteaga is the Music Director of World Music Schools, a music education organization partnered with the prestigious Japanese Corporation “Yamaha”. He received his A.A. in Music Education from Miami Dade College, and later he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Berklee College of Music, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Music Education and Music Business. He is a cellist, singer, composer and producer. He has recorded two albums as a solo singer, and won the RADAR award in 2016 as the best new artist in the New England area. Rodolfo is now working on his third album, and through World Music School he is helping people of all ages to find their passion in music.

Carolina Chacon

Carolina ChaconCarolina Chacon is an internationally known NLP Life and Parent Coach who will guide you towards achieving your dream goals, personally and professionally. Her goal is to help you become more successful and help parents achieve positive family changes using fun and practical tools. Positive Parenting.

As a Parent Coach she works with parents of toddlers to teens looking for positive changes on themselves, their children, their marriage, and their home. She helps them release their fears, frustrations and negative beliefs, so that they can enjoy parenting, elaborating easy and fun action plans that will transform Chaos into Peace and Quiet.

As an NLP Life Coach, she works with people who want to make positive and ecological changes in their life. Help them get rid of negative beliefs and emotions that are holding them back from achieving their goals. Enhance their communication skills so they can have better and healthier relationships.

She is a member of the American Board of NeuroLinguistic Programming (NLP), Certified Coach in NeuroLinguistic Programming, Time Line Therapy®, and Hypnotherapy, and Master Practitioner of NLP.

By using these NLP effective techniques, Carolina could help you clear through any bad habits, barriers, and unwanted negative emotions and beliefs that are holding you back from achieving higher levels of success in your life.

“Just like when planting a tree, if you want it to grow tall and strong, first you need to prepare and weed the soil.”

Carolina is very passionate about her life and her work. She is the mother of two girls, who are her engine and her inspiration. In addition to offering individual sessions, Carolina has focused her coaching skills on helping parents create a healthy family life for them and their children. He has done workshops for parents and teachers in Chicago, Miami, Quito and Buenos Aires.

Paola Arechabala Consuegra, M.S.

Consuegra picPaola Arechabala Consuegra has been in education for over 26 years.  She is currently serving in her fifteenth year as the Director of the Montessori and Primary School at Carrollton School of the Sacred Heart in Miami, Florida. Carrollton is a Catholic all-girl independent school serving students from Montessori age 3 through grade 12.  Paola earned a Master of Science degree in Guidance and Counseling from St. Thomas University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the University of Miami.  She began her career as a School Counselor and teacher at St. Brendan High School in Miami, Florida. She lived abroad in Costa Rica for five years and worked at Pan American School, an independent coeducational school, serving students from early childhood through high school, where she served as a school administrator, counselor and teacher working with middle and high school students. She and her family moved back to Miami where she joined the Carrollton community, returning to her alma mater. She joined the Florida Kindergarten Council eight years ago and served on the Executive Board as Vice President, and then President. She is currently the Immediate Past President of the Board.  School accreditation is something she has been involved in for many years and has served as a member of visiting teams throughout the state of Florida for the Florida Council of Independent Schools, the Florida Kindergarten Council and the Sacred Heart Commission on Goals. She and her husband have been married for 20 years and have two sons in High School.

Melanie Binder and Elizabeth Campbell 



Melanie Binder and Elizabeth Campbell both earned their AMS Infant/Toddler credentials from Village Montessori Training Center in Miami, Florida and developed the toddler program at The Children’s School in Key West, Florida.


Gabriele Boehme

GABIGabriele Boehme earned her Bachelor’s Degree in German Language, Language, History, and Education from Welhem-Pieck University in Rostock, Germany. She taught high school level students for 21 years and was a high school principal for 10 years. Gabriele moved to Florida in 1998 and received her AMS Infant/Toddler teaching credential from South Florida Montessori Education Center. Gabriele received her AMS Early Childhood teaching credential from Summit Montessori Teacher Training Institute in 2006. She currently works at Summit-Questa Montessori School as a lead teacher in a Montessori early childhood classroom.

Dr. Maria Pia del Castillo

pia pictureDr. Maria Pia del Castillo is a Clinical Psychology Post-Doctorate Resident at Pediatric Psychology Associates, specializing in the assessment and treatment of young children, adolescents, and families. Dr. del Castillo received a doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Nova Southeastern University and completed her internship at AHRC New York City. Dr. del Castillo is a bilingual clinician, providing psychological services both in Spanish and English. She is experienced in conducting comprehensive developmental and psychoeducational evaluations with children presenting with Autism Spectrum Disorders, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, as well as other neuropsychological and psychological/psychiatric concerns. She also has experience providing evidence-based treatment to address difficulties related to emotional regulation, anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive spectrum disorders, behavioral issues, social challenges, and family discord. Dr. del Castillo provides individual, group and family psychotherapy and, when appropriate, works closely with other physicians, teachers/schools and the community to achieve the best treatment outcomes.

Helen DeVere, M.Ed

HDeVere2017Helen DeVere has been director of the Orlando Montessori Teacher Education Institute for early childhood studies in Celebration, Florida, since 1990. She has a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Connecticut and a Master’s degree in early childhood/elementary education from Antioch New England Graduate School. Helen completed her AMS early childhood training in Boston with Ann Neubert in 1982, and her AMS lower elementary training with Seacoast Center for Education, NH, in 2006. She has been a classroom teacher at both levels.

Helen is founder (1985) and former director of Heritage Montessori School in Ridgecrest, CA, and co-founder (1998) and former director of Montessori School of Celebration (FL). She was also on the Board of Directors of the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE) for 3 terms.

Since retiring from her school, she is spending her time directing and teaching in OMTEI, teaching for other teacher education programs, giving workshops and seminars, doing accreditation visits for MACTE and seeing as much as possible of her grandchildren, who are 4, almost 3, and 2 years old.

Melanie Jacocks, M.S.

MelanieMelanie began her career as a Montessorian by earning her Early Childhood Credential from the American Montessori Society at Montessori Teacher Training Institute in Miami, FL in 2001. Thereafter, she taught an early childhood classroom at a local Montessori school. She was then presented with an opportunity to organize and open Kids For All Seasons at the Four Seasons Hotel in Brickell, FL. Melanie then founded and opened Petersen Montessori Academy in 2005 which was located in Doral, FL. As Head of School at Petersen Montessori Academy, Melanie also simultaneously taught an early childhood classroom. She continued to successfully own and operate Petersen Montessori Academy until 2012. Melanie then worked within Administration at a private school in Miami Beach. After she and her family moved to Broward County, she joined Summit-Questa Montessori School in Davie, FL as a co-teacher in the upper elementary classroom and then moved on as Interim Director/Practicum Supervisor for Summit Montessori Teacher Training Institute. She also taught a course at Summit Montessori Teacher Training Institute and continues as an Adjunct Faculty member at Barry University within the Montessori Education program. Melanie completed her undergraduate studies at Barry University in Liberal Studies with a specialization in psychology where she graduated with Psi Chi distinction. She also holds a Master of Science in Montessori Education from the Adrian Dominican School of Education at Barry University where she was accepted as a Kappa Delta Pi scholar, also earning her lower and upper elementary credential from the American Montessori Society. Melanie enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and daughter and is currently working as a Montessori consultant part-time.

Sylvia Laurent, M.S.

Sylvia Laurent 2017Sylvia G. Laurent is the director and owner of Miami Shores Montessori School in Miami, Florida and an adjunct professor in the Montessori program at Barry University. Ms. Laurent has over twenty years experience in the Montessori field as both teacher and school director. She holds a Master Degree in Montessori Education from Barry University. Ms. Laurent is certified by the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) in Elementary 6-9 and AMS credentialed in Early Childhood and Elementary levels I and II.


Heidy Lilchin-Simon, M.S.

Heidy Lilchin-Simon 2015Heidy Lilchin-Simon is a mom, certified Montessori educator, an art and music enthusiast, and an advocate for Montessori education. Heidy received her Bachelor’s degree in Pre-K Primary Education, and holds a Master’s degree in Montessori Education from Barry University. She holds AMS credentials in Early Childhood and Elementary I & II. She is also a Pre-K to 3rd grade Florida State certified teacher. Her educational teaching experience includes teaching children in Montessori classroom environments ranging from ages 3 to 12 years old, teaching and directing a Montessori teacher education program, developing and coordinating curriculum for Montessori schools, consulting for Montessori schools, giving workshops on Montessori philosophy, mathematics, cosmic education, practical life, sensorial, and art. She is currently teaching her two children in a Montessori home based environment.

Stephanie Lipp, MAT

SLippStephanie E. Lipp is a Doctoral student in the Curriculum and Instruction program with a specialization in Curriculum Evaluation and Research at Barry University. She earned her MAT degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Queens College in New York and a Bachelor’s from Syracuse University in Inclusive and Elementary Education. She holds a Montessori Elementary I credential from SMTTI. As an adjunct instructor, Stephanie taught Curriculum Design and Implementation and Adolescent Psychology for the Secondary Montessori Educator piloting Barry’s first cohort in the Secondary Montessori Certification Program. She also taught for two years at Bridges Montessori in Stuart, FL, and two years at Turtle River Montessori in Jupiter, FL, developing and supporting curriculum implementation. She has a 6-year old son who led her on the path to Montessori; enrolled in a Montessori program from 18 months to 5 years old.

Beatriz Martinez-Peñalver, M.S.

Beatriz Martinez-Penalver

Beatriz Martinez-Peñalver a licensed psychotherapist with over 25 years of experience in mental health seeks to make emotional literacy a mandated class in education.

As the president and co-founder of a 15-year old Community Mental Health Center, Healthy Connections, Martinez-Peñalver realized that mental health prevention must start in schools.

She knows that if we teach each child the powerful force that our thoughts possess, they will avoid developing erroneous thought patterns and self- defeating behaviors, and they will grow up inspired to create the extraordinary life they deserve. This, in turn, will prevent that in 15 to 20 years any of them come to her mental health clinic, or any other clinic in the world, for therapy.

She has taken a very proactive stand to make sure that emotional literacy becomes a mandated class. To make this happen she developed TRIUMPH STEPS, a curriculum that has reached private, Montessori education, aftercare programs at the YWCA, and now has stepped foot inside District 5 public school system. She is presently discussing the possibilities of implementing TRIUMPH STEPS at a district level. But she doesn’t stop there. She has gone to Tallahassee to meet with State Representatives to seek guidance on how to make her mission a reality.

Beatriz holds a Masters degree in Mental Health from Nova Southeastern University. She is a Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway certified trainer by Susan Jeffers, LLC. She serves as an Advisory Board member for the South Florida Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Also, belongs to the Board of Directors of The Christopher Ricardo Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Beatriz belongs to the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce Business and Education Committee, and the Business and Government Affairs Committee. She also, volunteers at the Coral Gables School and Community Relations Committee.

She is the mother of a precious 13-year-old daughter, and wife of a nationally known psychiatrist. She loves the outdoors, rollerblading, skiing, boating, scuba diving and riding in the back of her husband’s Harley.

Barbara Murphy, PhD

Barbara Murphy

Passionate about education, Barbara holds a PhD in International Relations from Northwestern University. Following her experience in academia, Barbara ventured into the corporate world, first as an account executive for a global communications agency, and subsequently as an entrepreneur. As the mother of two while living in Italy, Barbara became an enthusiastic reader and admirer of Maria Montessori. Now the co-founder and Manager of CS Kids LLC, Barbara is fulfilling her dream of adding value to children’s education through innovation.


Dr. Leticia Pérez Miranda

leti pictureDr. Leticia Pérez Miranda is a bilingual clinician specializing in the treatment of children, adolescents, and families. Dr. Pérez Miranda graduated with a doctorate from Nova Southeastern University’s Clinical Psychology Program. She completed her Pre-Doctoral internship at the Institute for Child and Family Health in Miami, Florida, a community mental health center. During this year she provided individual psychotherapy to children and adolescents, conducted group therapy sessions following an evidence-based model for at-risk boys and their families, and conducted comprehensive psychological evaluations. Currently, she is a Clinical Psychology Postdoctoral Resident at Pediatric Psychology Associates where she provides individual, family and group psychological services. Dr. Pérez Miranda has extensive experience providing psychotherapeutic services to children and families of diverse cultural backgrounds to treat anxiety, mood disorders, family conflict, and developmental delays including Autism Spectrum Disorders. Additionally, she has experience running groups for children focused on improving social skills and emotional regulation.

Alexandra Polanco 

AlexAlexandra Polanco is a young, energetic and passionate Teacher at Miami Shores Montessori School in an Early Childhood classroom. Her dedication and unwavering understanding of a strong emotional, social and academic foundation is how Alexandra became devoted to Dr. Maria Montessori’s authentic approach of the whole child. Her enthusiasm and commitment to Dr. Montessori’s method have enabled her to continue doing research on child development and on Dr. Montessori’s earlier studies. Alexandra’s goal is to establish her own Montessori School.


Laura Ramos

Laura-HeadshotLaura Ramos received her A.S. in Physical Therapist Assistant from Broward College, and later she graduated from Nova Southeastern University, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Health Science. Laura teaches Music and Movement at Montessori Academy, Zumba for special needs and a mommy and me music and movement program. She completed her Zumbini certification and currently teaches the program. Her passion for early childhood began attending mommy and me classes with her first child over 7 years ago.

Laura strongly believes in the power of music to assist in the overall development of a child, as well as its ability to stimulate intellectual, emotional and spiritual growth. She has had both her sons involved in music and movement programs since they were infants. In her spare time Laura enjoys spending time with family, listening to music, dancing, and exercising.

Joan Rodriguez-Malone

Joan portraitMrs. Rodriguez-Malone has been involved in Montessori all her life. Her Montessori training began at the age of three as a student in a very well-respected International Montessori school. Upon graduation from Montessori grade school she attended a traditional American method School at the Carol Morgan School of Santo Domingo. Her first formal teaching experience was at the age of 16 when she created a program for preschoolers to learn English as a second language at the Montessori School of Santo Domingo. Her formal education includes an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education from Palm Beach Junior College, a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration from the University of Miami, and a Masters Degree in Business Administration from the University of Miami.

​Mrs. Rodriguez-Malone has numerous teaching certifications including a Certificate of Primary Education from the American Montessori Society, Infants and Toddlers Certification from the American Montessori Society, a Certificate in Family Music from the University of Miami, and has earned an Infants and Toddlers Parent-Teacher Montessori Certification from the Montessori Institute of San Diego where she studied under Silvana Montanaro, the author of “Understanding the Human Being” and Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of “The Evolution Egg.” Mrs. Rodriguez-Malone has attended continuing education at the University of Miami, Belmont University, The American Montessori Society, North American Montessori Teacher Association and Harvard University. Prior to opening her school she worked as a Montessori Assistant and Teacher at the Children’s House of the Palm Beaches, Wee Wisdom Private School, and Alexander Montessori in South Miami.

​In 2011 she opened Village Montessori Center which is affiliated to the American Montessori Society and accredited by the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education. She lives with her Husband and three children in Coconut Grove, Florida.

Jane Spinney

Jane Spinney

Jane Spinney has a passion for music and young children. Miss Jane has been teaching in the private piano studio, school classroom and early childhood music studio for over 20 years. She is the owner of Miss Jane’s Music Studio in Miami Shores, Florida, where she teaches early childhood music classes, group and private piano.

Miss Jane also is the early childhood music specialist at Miami Country Day School, has taught at Miami Shores Montessori and is the Director of Children’s Music at Miami Shores Presbyterian Church. She holds Level II certification from the Early Childhood Music and Movement Association. She has led several workshops in the Miami and Orlando areas on early childhood music and beginning piano and presented at national conferences for such organizations as the Early Childhood Music & Movement Association. Miss Jane is now developing her own early childhood music curriculum that can be used in the classroom and private studio settings.

Angela Storch-Updike

Angela UpdikeHeadshotEducator, Teacher Trainer, and Speaker, Angela Storch-Updike is the co-Founder of Practical Parenting for Teens.( An organization geared towards helping adolescents handle the anxiety they face in a highly competitive, 24/7 world. Angela has been a Montessori teacher for seventeen years and has had the privilege of working with students from K- 8 grade. She has been teaching Child Development for seven years, specializing in the impact of the brain on learning and development.   Angela has spoken at various conferences and conducted numerous parent seminars on How Boys & Girls Learn Differently, Creating an Anti-Bullying Environment in the Classroom, Montessori & the Brain and Adolescents, Anxiety and Coping Skills.

Lorena Tasker

Lorena Tasker

Lorena Tasker is the Assistant Director at Miami Shores Montessori School. She has 16 years of teaching experience, first as a lower elementary teacher in Argentina and later as an Early Childhood AMS certified lead teacher in Miami, Florida. She holds an Associate Degree in elementary education and a Bachelor’s Degree in administration from Barry University. Passionate for children and education, Lorena genuinely believes in self-development as a path for growth and service to others.


Martin YaconisEngr.

Martin YaconisAfter graduating as an Engineer from the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, Martin has dedicated his professional career to technology applied to health, sports and rehabilitation. In this line, Martin counts with vast international experience in the areas of evaluation and physiological, biomechanical and cognitive training, collaborating across the United States, Europe and Latin America with institutions such as Olympic committees, universities, professional sports teams, high performance athletes and young players academies, as well as research and rehabilitation laboratories.

 Cynthia Zak 

Cynthia Zak

Cynthia Zak

Cynthia Zak is the founder and Chief of Manifesting Dreams at Yomu. She has a degree in Communications, is trained in music, a certified yoga and therapeutic instructor, and an expert in meditation and mindfulness with more than 20 years of experience. She is the author of 3 books, a songwriter and a teacher to children and adults. Cynthia has taken Yomu around the world through trainings, workshops, classes and conferences. Today the system is adopted as part of the curriculum in more than 15 schools in the U.S, and hundreds in other countries including Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay and Peru. Yomu has been implemented in more than 10 Montessori schools with outstanding results.


Spanish Speaking Audience Presenters  

Victoria Alvarez

Victoria AlvarezVictoria Alvarez, obtuvo su Maestría en Ed. Especial en Lynn University Florida, es especialista en desordenes del desarrollo de la infancia, otorgado por el American College of Neurology, e igualmente recibió su certificación Montessori (6‐9) en SMTTI .

Ha trabajado por mas de dos décadas con niños que tienen necesidades especiales y su labor se ha concentrado en la infancia con Autismo, problemas de aprendizaje y deficencia de atención; en donde con certeza ha aprendido que dos días nunca serán iguales!

Su experiencia la ha llevado ha determinar la importancia de desarrollar estrategias claras con objetivos definidos para que estas líderen el aula de clase y promuevan un ambiente de paz y armonía, siendo estos los principios fundamentales de Maria Montessori.

Monica Gargiulo-Benitez

0123 - Benitez MonicaMs. Monica Gargiulo-Benitez has been an advocate and teacher of the Montessori philosophy for 25 years. She is the founder and director of Montessori Academy located in Pembroke Pines. FL. The school currently serves a community of over 680 families, catering to children from infants through 8th grade. Montessori Academy is accredited by the Association of Independent School of Florida and the National Council for Private Schools. Ms. Gargiulo-Benitez is also the founder and director of the Montessori Academy Training Institute; a Montessori Teacher Education Early Childhood Program accredited by MACTE and affiliated with AMS. Ms. Gargiulo-Benitez also serves as a consultant and an evaluator for the American Montessori Society, as well as for the Association of Independent Schools of Florida. Ms. Gargiulo-Benitez holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, and has earned her Montessori credential in Early Childhood and Infant-Toddlers from The American Montessori Society.

Mariel Gutierrez



Mariel Gutierrez is from Maracaibo, Venezuela, and has lived in the USA for four and a half years. She has worked with children three to six years old for nine years, both in Venezuela and here in the USA. She is the Lead Teacher in an Early Childhood classroom at the Montessori School of Celebration, FL, and is in the final stages of getting her AMS EC Early Childhood credential.


Karen Simon

Karen SimonKaren Simon is the Director of the Montessori School of Celebration, FL. She is AMS-credentialed Early Childhood, Elementary I-II and has taught children 2.5 – 12 years old for over 20 years. She is involved in teacher education programs here in the US and in Shanghai, China, and she serves as the Treasurer for the MACTE Board. Karen is originally from Venezuela and has worked with AMS for the past few years to develop the Hispanic Interest group called Educación y Enlace Español Montessori.


Gaby Vilchez



Gaby Vilchez is from Caracas, Venezuela and has lived in the USA for the last three years. She has worked with children of different ages for the past nine years. She is finalizing the requirements for an AMS EC credential and works as an Assistant Teacher in an Early Childhood classroom at the Montessori School of Celebration, FL.