Kim Barreto Loaiza, Ed.S

Kim LoaizaKim Barreto Loaiza is a mom, musician and Montessorian.  Mom to two Montessori daughters, her family resides in Flagstaff, Arizona, where Kim is the Head of School for the Montessori School of Flagstaff.  The four campuses of the Montessori School of Flagstaff serve children from 18 months to 8th grade.

 Kim received her Bachelor degree in Music, and holds her Masters and Postgraduate degrees in Education from Barry University.  She holds AMS credentials in Early Childhood and Elementary I & II. She is also certified in all levels of Musikgarten and has researched and completed extensive studies in Montessori Music.  During the summer, she returns to Miami to teach for Village Montessori Training Center and the Montessori program at Barry University.

Aschlei Baker



Miss Aschlei has been practicing Montessori philosophy for 17 years and is Montessori certified. She has been a Toddler Directress for 6 years at Bridges Montessori School in Stuart, Florida. In addition, Miss Aschlei holds an A.A. degree and is certified to teach the Music Together curriculum.


Geoffrey Bishop


Geoffrey Bishop hails from the bush in North West NSW, Australia. After his childhood spent on the sheep station he went to an agricultural boarding school for five years then to University in both Sydney and Melbourne where he Studied Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.

For the next 10 years he traveled the world, visiting over 100 countries, where he spent most of his time trekking in rural areas, learning cultures and understanding his place in the world.

In 1996 Geoffrey started Nature’s Classroom Institute Environmental Education program. NCI is a residential program serving Montessori schools in Wisconsin, Illinoi, Indiana, Texas, California and Florida. Nature’s Classroom Institute program helps students understand the natural environment, participate in ecosystem exploration and study, and work together with their peers and teachers as a community.  The program serves over 4,000 students a year and includes over 90 Montessori schools.

After developing a strong academic and environmental outdoor based curriculum, he formed Nature’s Classroom Institute Montessori School in 2002 that models the core philosophy of Montessori with a marriage to his environmental principles.

Nature’s Classroom Institute and Montessori school is based on 140 acre property in a small rural community of Mukwonago, WI. Geoffrey’s focus over the past years has been on organics and sustainability in schools and promoting getting children back outdoors and helping adults understand the importance of instinctive play in the nature world.

Geoffrey has lectured throughout Asia and across the United States, he is Chair of the Montessori Life Editorial Advisory Board for AMS and past chair of the Wisconsin Montessori Association. His works have been published in professional publications and his nature and outdoor curriculum “Montessori Science for the Elementary” is used in both public and private Montessori schools across the country.

Judy Dempsey, M.S.


Judy Dempsey has been a Montessori educator for 41 years. She has owned and operated Summit-Questa Montessori School in Davie, Florida for the past 26 years. The school serves children from the ages of 18 months through 8thgrade. The beautiful 10-acre campus has native habitats, numerous gardens, a wetland preserve, a mini-barnyard, outdoor fields, a gymnasium and two pools.  The school is also the site of Summit Montessori Teacher Training Institute, an accredited teacher training center affiliated with the American Montessori Society. Judy is co-director of this training center and has been instrumental in training hundreds of Montessori teachers in the state of Florida since 2003.

As an innovative educator, Judy has served on numerous educational boards in Florida. She held the position of 1stVice President and Director of Accreditation for five years on the board of the Association of Independent Schools of Florida, a Florida state organization that accredits private schools and recognizes prominent educators.  Judy was awarded the 2016-2017 Richard and Dorothy Lear Distinguished Educator of the Year- the highest honor given by the Association of Independent Schools of Florida. This award, named for the founders of the Lear School in Miami, recognizes the distinguished career of Judy Dempsey and her continuous efforts to provide a quality education to the children of South Florida.

Judy is the author of Turning Education Inside Out: Confessions of a Montessori Principal, which is now available world-wide through traditional book retailers. It was an educational bestseller on Amazon. In her informative and engaging bestseller, she details her over 40 years of experience with the Montessori philosophy as a Montessori educator, administrator, school owner, and teacher trainer. She shows the impact that the Montessori experience has on the developing child, clears up misconceptions about exactly what Montessori is, and helps prospective parents determine if Montessori is right for their child.

Javier Gonzalez, Ph.D.


Javier Gonzalez, PhD, is an Associate Professor at Barry University’s Adrian School of Education in Curriculum and Instruction Department with over 30 years of experience in the field of early childhood and elementary education. He earned his PhD in Curriculum and Instruction with a cognate specialty in Early Childhood Education from Barry University in 2011. Dr. Gonzalez has taught for the Dade County Public Schools as well as for the private sector. He has also taught for Florida International University, Kennesaw State University (GA) and Chattahoochee Technical College (GA). His teaching interests include curriculum, child development, neuro-education.  Dr. Gonzalez has presented at numerous state, regional and national conferences. He is also a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Association for Childhood Education International (ACEI).  Currently, his research interests include neuro-education, pro-social classrooms, and teasing, aggression and bullying in the lives of young children.

Julia Harrison

JuliaJulia Harrison is from Manchester, United Kingdom and graduated from Liverpool John Moores University with a Bachelors Degree in 2003. She has over 20 years’ experience of working with children and has always been passionate about the teachings of Maria Montessori. Julia was the founder and director of a day care facility in the UK, Blossom Tree Montessori, for over 12 years where she was responsible for the development and co-ordination of a Montessori based curriculum.


Teri Heemstra-Hernandez and Linda Gemmer


The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is an international association of catechists dedicated to a common religious experience of children and adults in which the religious values of childhood are predominant, primarily those values of contemplation and enjoyment of God. This experience is shared in a place particularly prepared for the religious life of children called the Atrium.

Local catechists from South Florida, led by Linda Gemmer and Teri Heemstra-Hernandez,

will share their work with children in their atria and as members of CGS.

Linda Gemmer is a Nationally Certified CGS Formation Trainer. She has been a catechist since 2000 with training and experience in all 3 three levels. She has served in Lutheran and Episcopal churches. She is the Director of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at Trinity-by-the-Cove in Naples, Florida.

Teri Heemstra-Hernandez has been a catechist since 2001 with training and experience in all three levels. She has served in Catholic, Episcopal, and Lutheran churches, a preschool, and a home atrium. She leads CGS at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Boca Raton, FL.

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is in at least 65 countries around the world. CGS is used in Roman Catholic parishes, schools, and home-schooling settings; it is also used in Byzantine Catholic, Episcopal, United Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and various Orthodox traditions.

The United States Association of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGSUSA) began in 1983 when 13 catechists in an adult formation course shared a desire “to help children hear the loving voice of the Good Shepherd and to help catechists, families, parishes, the church, and many others to hear that voice with the children.” Today there are over 2,500 members and 3,750 atria; there are over 150 nationally certified formation leaders and 220 adult formation courses.

Valariana Jedrzejczyk, M.S.


Valeriana Jedrzejczyk holds a Masters of Science in Instruction and Curriculum Development in Early Childhood and Middle School Education from Barry University. During her time in New York, she studied at Queens College and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology with a Minor in Middle & Secondary Education. She worked at the International High School at LaGuardia Community College and Brooklyn Community High School as a Biology, Health and Science teacher before moving to Florida with her family in 2010. In 2012, she obtained her Montessori Elementary I AMS certificate from Summit Montessori Teaching Institute and joined Summit Questa Montessori School with her three children where she has been teaching Elementary I (6-9 years) for seven years. Valeriana is profoundly devoted to Montessori ethics and philosophy. Her family has supported her passion for education and is blessed to share her beliefs at home and school. Her commitment to children is to guide them in becoming lifelong learners by exploring and imagining in an environment that engages them into problem solve and become critical thinkers.

Mireya Medina


Life as a radio and print news executive and parallel ownership of a successful music company composing music for film and television was Mireya Medina’s focus until 10 years ago when she pivoted to the field of education because of her love and passion for shaping young minds. Mireya’s creative ideas have birthed a robust Upper Elementary Journalism program at St. Christopher’s By-the-Sea Montessori School as well as excellent music and choir programs respectively. Mireya holds a BS in Journalism in Mass Communications from FIU where she graduated Cum Laude.

Laura Monsalbatge, Ph.D.

Laura Monsalvatge


Laura Monsalvatge is a Visiting Assistant Professor for Barry University’s Adrian Dominican School of Education. Her teaching and research interests include coaching and mentoring new teachers, early childhood education, early and elementary teacher education, infant and toddler development, outdoor play spaces, and nature education.


Barbara Murphy, Ph.D.

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.


Elizabeth Penela, Ph.D.


Dr. Elizabeth Penela is a bilingual Licensed Psychologist at Pediatric Psychology Associates who offers an active, warm, results-oriented approach that aims to empower individual and families to overcome barriers that are keeping them from living a full and meaningful life. Dr. Penela specializes in providing evidence-based treatment to children, adolescents, and adults experiencing anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, and related disorders. She primarily uses a cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) framework and incorporates exposure and response prevention (ERP), mindfulness, acceptance-based techniques, and other modalities as needed. For individuals experiencing great difficulty with daily functioning due to severe anxiety, Dr. Penela also provides therapy through an Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program, which helps individuals learn to manage significant anxiety-driven avoidance behaviors.

Dr. Penela completed her doctoral training in clinical psychology at the University of Miami with a specialization in children and families. She later completed her pre-doctoral internship training at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, where she gained specialized training in early intervention with young children. Throughout her postdoctoral fellowship at the Child and Adolescent Mood and Anxiety Treatment (CAMAT) program within the University of Miami, Dr. Penela gained further expertise in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders in youth and adults. Dr. Penela is a member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) and the International OCD Foundation (IOCDF). She has also published in peer-reviewed journals, such as Child Development and Infancy, and presented at various local and national conferences.

Dr. Michael Rizzo

Dr. RizzoFor more than 30 years, Dr. Michael Rizzo (A.K.A. Coach Mike) has worked with children—and their families—who struggle with social, emotional, behavioral, and/or academic difficulties. Dr. Rizzo is no stranger to these challenges as he himself struggled as a child with what was later diagnosed as ADHD, and Dyslexia. Unaware of the depth and range of his challenges, he and those who loved him were perplexed by his lack of success in many venues of life. His challenges led to academic failures, incredible frustration, and family conflict.

Despite these difficulties, Dr. Rizzo never gave up! On his journey toward completing his education, he took many detours, which later served as a rich experiential base from which to understand the world outside of academia. Eventually, at the age of 30, he finished college and entered graduate training. Against all odds, while working full-time as a school psychologist in the public school system, a 37-year-old Mike Rizzo completed his Ph.D. In 2014, going beyond his Ph.D. training, Dr. Rizzo earned his Diplomate in School Neuropsychology from the American Board of School Neuropsychology.

In 1998, after 10 years of working as a school psychologist in public education, Dr. Rizzo was recruited to develop the Psychology Department at Miami Children’s Hospital Dan Marino Outpatient Center in Weston, Florida. Since the early days, his group has expanded far beyond the walls of this facility. At this time over 35 clinicians, including school psychologists, clinical psychologists, psychotherapists, behaviorists, specialized tutors, and speech language therapists, have been trained by Dr. Rizzo to understand the neurobiology of learning and behavior and work  with Dr. Rizzo  in order to assist families in maximizing the potential of their children. Currently Child Provider Specialist has offices and serves children and families in Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami Dade County and Collier County. Dr. Rizzo’s philosophy is that no child is lazy. Laziness and low school performance are a symptom not a cause of academic shortcomings. As such, by specializing in the innovative science of the brain, he has dedicated his life to ensure that he—and those he has mentored—prevent children from being misunderstood simply because they are neuro-diverse – (their brains work differently).

Rosemary Rodman


Rosemary Rodman’s passion for Montessori education came to fruition in 2013 when she moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, from her hometown on the New Jersey shore where she had been teaching for four years in a traditional private elementary school. Almost immediately Rosemary landed what she refers to as her “dream job” as a Lower Elementary Montessori teacher at Summit Questa Montessori School in Davie, Florida. An ardent devotee of the Montessori Method, Rosemary also serves as an instructor at the Summit Teacher Training Institute teaching Lower Elementary I language, biology and physical science and also spends her summers teaching in an Early Childhood classroom at Summit Questa Montessori School. Rosemary is a graduate of Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ, and holds a B.A. in Family and Child Studies with a concentration in Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. She earned her Montessori credentials in Early Childhood and in Lower Elementary I from the American Montessori Society in 2014 and 2015 respectively. She is CPR and First Aid certified and completed a child safety training program from the Monique Burr Foundation for Children. Rosemary and her husband are the proud parents of two young daughters who are both attending Summit Questa Montessori School where they get to see their mom every day!

Sabrina Ruz

Sabrina Ruz photo

Sabrina is a homeschooling mom turned Montessori mom. She has been studying Yoga, Ayurveda, and other related Vedic sciences since 2000 under Guru Shiva Vakya Siddha Baba. Presently, she continues her studies at California College of Ayurveda in pursuit of an Ayurvedic Doctor degree. She teaches and consults in Miami and online. Sabrina provides classes, workshops, and programs in her community. Focusing on teaching diet and a healthy lifestyle aligned to the principles of Yoga and Ayurveda.

Training Certified Yoga Teacher Intern at California College of Ayurveda

Bio Born and raised in Latvia, Europe. Master’s degree in Law Fluent in Latvian, Russian, and English Conversational level Spanish 

Yuni Sakurada


Yuni Sakurada is a 22-year-old Montessori child turned Montessori teacher. She is AMS certified in Early Childhood Education and is currently working full-time as Assistant Teacher at the Montessori Academy of Celebration. This will be her third year of teaching. She has had a non-traditional education throughout her life having grown-up as a Montessori “teacher’s kid”, continuing with Homeschooling, and proceeding straight into teaching. Yuni is currently pursuing her A.A. online at Valencia with a focus in Education and will continue to get a Bachelor’s/Masters in Exceptional Student Education. A proud Japanese-American, she has a personal mission of creating a more peaceful world, one child at a time.

Amrita Singh, Ph.D.

ASingh Portrait

Amrita Singh, Psy.D., is a licensed psychologist with a passion for working with children, adolescents, and young adults. She enjoys collaborating with clients and their supporters to meet their individual goals. Dr. Singh specializes in providing evidence-based treatment to clients struggling with emotional and behavioral challenges, including those presenting with autism spectrum disorder, anxiety disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Dr. Singh utilizes primarily a cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) approach that incorporates exposure response prevention (ERP) and behavior therapy techniques as needed. She is a certified provider for the PEERS young adult social skills program.

Dr. Singh received her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. She completed an APA accredited internship at the Elizabeth Faulk Center for Counseling in Boca Raton, Florida. Dr. Singh also completed a Clinical Child/Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Fellowship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute/Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. She currently works as a Child Psychologist at the Mailman Segal Center at Nova Southeastern University conducting evaluations and providing supervision to doctoral students. Dr. Singh also works at Pediatric Psychology Associates providing individual therapy services to children, adolescents, and young adults.

Lorena Tasker

Lorena Tasker Picture

Lorena Tasker has served in the education field for over twenty years. She has been the Assistant Director at Miami Shores Montessori School for the past four years and has sixteen years of teaching experience. She began her career as a lower elementary teacher in Argentina and continued as an Early Childhood AMS certified lead teacher in Miami, Florida. She holds an Associate Degree in Elementary Education and a Bachelor of Science in Administration. Lorena is currently an adult educator and instructor at International Center for Montessori Studies. For the past year, she has become deeply immersed in the practice of Kundalini yoga and the teachings of Yogi Bhajan, PhD. Passionate about children and holistic education, Lorena genuinely believes in self-development as a path for mental and spiritual growth that leads to service others.

Susan Tracy McDaniel

Susan McDaniel headshot stones background (2)

Susan Tracy McDaniel founded Learning Together Education ( in 1999 to bring Montessori to diverse families. Susan is working to make Montessori available at the community level and has helped start more than one hundred Montessori Parent-Infant Programs ( in Montessori schools and community locations in the US, Europe, China and Russia. She is a parenting coach and certified practitioner of Emotional Freedom Techniques aka “Tapping”. Susan is both AMS and AMI certified and is an instructor at Seton Montessori Institute, Cambridge Montessori Institute, and Shanghai Montessori Education Academy. She is a homeschooling mom and has parented five children.

Lori Vega, M.S.


Lori M. Vega is an enthusiastic and hard-working and certified Montessori Educator,  advocate of the Montessori Theory.  She is the Founder and Owner of LMVH, Inc. Tutoring Services and Creator of Montessori Mommy and Me Toddler Prep. Program in Miami.
Lori received her undergraduate degree in Psychology at Barry University as well as a Graduate degree in Montessori Education. She has an American Montessori Society credentials in Early Childhood and Elementary I & II.  Her educational teaching experience includes teaching children in Montessori classroom environments and non Montessori environment ranging from ages 18 months to 18 years old.  Lori teaches at a Montessori teacher training institute, consults, and directs a Tutoring Service throughout South Florida.

Veronica Vergara


Miss Veronica worked in Early Childhood Education for 4 years prior to joining Bridges Montessori School in Stuart, FLorida. She began as an Assistant Toddler teacher for 2 years with Miss Aschlei before moving into a Lead teacher position. This will be Miss Veronica’s third year as a Lead Toddler teacher. Miss Veronica has a bachelor of The Classics degree and is Infant/Toddler Montessori certified.


Nicole Vitale, M.S.

Nicole Vitale

I am a certified Montessori educator in early childhood and have worked in Montessori classrooms for over 13 years, spending the past 12 years at Montessori Academy of Broward. I started out as a Teacher Assistant in 2006 and became a certified Montessori Teacher for early childhood in 2011 through Montessori Academy Training Institute (MATI). Throughout my time as an educator, I have obtained a bachelor’s degree with a focus in science and psychology from Florida International University; and have recently completed a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the same university, leading me down the path of becoming a Registered Dietitian. My ultimate goal is to complete a PhD in Dietetics and Nutrition, with a focus on pediatric nutrition, which I will begin in August of 2020.

I have a passion for nutrition and believe that nutrition education is a vital part of children’s development; and should incorporated in curriculum throughout all age levels of education. For my master’s thesis, I conducted a research study, within Montessori preschool and kindergarten classrooms, on taste testing of fruits and vegetables with nutrition education. Fruit and vegetable intake and preferences were assessed as well as children’s nutrition knowledge. Significant findings were obtained indicating the benefits of the addition of a structured nutrition education program in early childhood classrooms.

Heather Webb

Heather Webb

Heather Webb is from Toronto, Ontario, Canada and studied at Humber College.  In 1998 she followed her passion for art and opened an International Fine Art Gallery in Naples, Florida, The Weatherburn Gallery. In 2010, with the birth of her first child, she began to search for pedagogy that aligned with her personal beliefs. A process of self-education into the life, work and methods of Maria Montessori influenced her parenting and teaching for both of her children.  Heather began her formal training at the Orlando Montessori Teacher Education Institute in the summer of 2019.

Lois Weber


Lois Weber has been a Montessori educator for over twenty five years. Presently she is the Curriculum Specialist for La Prima Casa Schools in Miami. The school offers programs from the infant room to lower elementary classes. Lois is the creator of a Parenting Program and the mother of two Montessori educated children as well. She is a believer in the merits of a Montessori education and all that it encompasses particularly the Grace and Courtesy lessons which help children learn how to develop meaningful relationships with others. Lois feels this part of the curriculum is a valuable tool in nurturing a child’s ability to speak thoughtfully and sensitively to others especially those with special needs. The lessons help children foster honest and thoughtful conversations with each other. Dr.Montessori’s philosophy of peaceful coexistence helped create classrooms where all student’s work was to be valued and respected without competition. Lois draws from her own childhood experiences with siblings having Cerebral Palsy when speaking of the importance Dr. Montessori placed on being sensitive to the needs of others and nurturing lessons which help children respect each other. She is a supporter of the Cerebral Palsy Association and enjoys sharing stories of her siblings achievements as well as the role her mother set for her nine children in respect and care for each other.

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. 


Spanish Speaking Audience Presenters  

Carolina Chacon

Carolina Chacon

Carolina 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.

Monica Gargiulo-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 five years. She has worked with children three to six years old for nine years, both in Venezuela and here in the USA. She is certified by AMS EC Early Childhood. She is currently a Lead Teacher in an Early Childhood classroom at the Montessori Academy of Celebration


Gaby Vilchez


Gaby Vilchez is from Caracas, Venezuela she went to University Andres Bello and studied Education. Gaby has lived in the USA for the last five years. She has worked with ages two through fifteen for the past nine years. She’s taken Behavioral assistant training. She is also finalizing the requirements for an AMS EC credential and works as an Assistant teacher at the Montessori Academy of Celebration.