carol headshot Carol Baird (EC Movement) has lived in upstate New York (the Wonder Years), California (the teenage/college years), and London (the newlywed years) before settling in New York City.  After toiling for fourteen years in the corporate world as a Manager in Temporary Employment, Carol had two boys in rapid succession and also had a career change epiphany.  Combining a love of children with a love of dance, she trained with Kinderdance, and brought their program toManhattan in 1996.  Carol now teaches and oversees instructors who teach Kinderdance in over 30 schools throughout Manhattan and the Bronx.  She has been on the faculty at West Side Montessori School as a movement specialist since 2000. In her spare time, Carol enjoys performing with the Roosevelt Island Adult Musical Theater Group, reading, playing softball and poker. After being a very active PTA member for her sons’ schools, she is currently on the Executive Board for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. Her two sons have aged from 2 to 21 years old during Carol’s Kinderdance career, and she is grateful that young children are always a part of her life. For more information, check out her website,
Mimi Basso (Co-Director; IT Child Development, Pedagogy, Philosophy) earned her Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from New York University. She earned her Montessori Early Childhood Credential from NYU-MTEP and Infant/Toddler Certification from CMTE-NY. She served as Associate Head of School at West Side Montessori School for five years and then went on to serve as the Director of School Accreditation at the American Montessori Society. Mimi is currently the Co-Director of WSMS-TEP and in her eighth year as Head of School of West Side Montessori School.
Karen Deinzer (IT Faculty) began her teaching career in 1987 at The Village School for Children in Waldwick, NJ.   While working with these young children, she realized it was exactly where she was supposed to be which led her to take training. She earned the Infant and Toddler credential through CMTE/NY in 1993 while working with Mimi Basso. Karen went on to run her own Montessori school that was located in North Kingston, RI.  She spent 3 years as the Infant Toddler Coordinator at Central Park Montessori School in New York City and is currently the Infant Toddler Coordinator at West Side Montessori School.  Karen is one of the founding instructors for the Infant Toddler program at WSMS-TEP. She enjoys biking, tennis, and taking long walks on the beach.
Katherine Fordney (EC Mathematics) received a BFA in Acting from the North Carolina School of the Arts. A Montessori child herself, Katherine became reacquainted with the philosophy as an adult, receiving her AMS certification for children three to six from Midwest Montessori Teacher’s Training Center in Evanston, IL, and completed her MA in Early Childhood Special and General Education from Bank Street College in Manhattan. She has taught in Montessori schools in Illinois and New York City. Katherine joined WSMS as a Head Teacher in 2009 and WSMS-TEP in 2014.
MelissaFreeman Melissa Freeman (EC Sensorial) Melissa earned a BA in Elementary and Special Education from Syracuse University and an AMS Montessori Early Childhood (2 1/2 through 6) credential (WSMS-TEP).  She has a Masters in Early Childhood Special Education from Fordham University.  She has worked at the Alcott Montessori School in Ardsley, NY and in Montessori schools in Maryland in both elementary (6-9 year olds) and primary (3-6 year olds) classrooms.  She is a former Head Teacher (at WSMS) in a 3-6 year old classroom and currently works in an administrative capacity as Associate Head of School.  Melissa joined the TEP faculty in 2006.  In addition to teaching Sensorial, she has also taught Philosophy, Observation and Practical Life.  Melissa lives in New Jersey with her husband Josh, daughter Mia and dog, Mattingly.  She is an avid sports fan and enjoys watching the NY Yankees, NY Giants and Syracuse Orange Men’s Basketball.
Maria Gravel
Maria Gravel (IT Faculty) earned her Early Childhood degree from Hunter College.  She has NYS (N-6) and NJS (K-6) certifications.   She has her Montessori Early Childhood credential from both AMS and AMI.  She was the founder and director of Seton Day Care Center and Elizabeth Seton Pre-School from 1972-2008.  She has over 40 years of experience in early childhood schools and classrooms.  She has been an active member of the American Montessori Society, serving as former Chair of the AMS Certification Committee, participant of the Archives committee, a participant and lecturer at the annual AMS Conferences and has written numerous articles on the care of infants and toddlers.  Maria continues to serve as a Field Consultant for CME|NY. Maria is a founding Instructor and Field Consultant for the WSMS-TEP Infant Toddler program.
GiulianaDeGrazia Giuliana deGrazia (Giuls) (EC Philosophy) graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2007 with and MA in English Literature and Art History. She holds a Masters in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD and a Masters in Early Childhood General and Special Education from Bank Street College. She completed her AMS Primary Montessori certification at the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies in Silver Spring, MD. She has taught at West Side Montessori since 2011, and she teaches the Montessori Philosophy Course for WSMS TEP. Prior to teaching, Giuls worked for a non-profit organization, the Touchstones Discussion Project, which promotes discussion-based learning. She led discussions with students, senior citizens, teachers, and inmates. This work, as well as her graduate work on anti-bias education, have made her an advocate for social justice. She believes that Dr. Montessori’s Philosophy is a true path towards peace, equity, and self-awareness. In New York City, she most enjoys the music, art, theater, and runs along the Hudson, as well as her colleagues and friends. However, her true home is by the Brandywine River in Pennsylvania, where she grew up on a beautiful farm, full of family, flowers, trees, animals, vegetables, and love. She does her best to visit often, and is currently an Advisory Board Member at Wilmington Montessori, the school she attended as a little girl. Her second favorite place is Mount Desert Island, Maine. The mountains, stars, rocks, moss, and ocean energize and calm her busy, over-achieving nature.
TaraGreaney Tara Greaney (IT Child Development, Program Leadership, Personal Growth) earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Montessori Teaching Certificate from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1974.  She received a Master of Science in Educational Leadership at Bank Street College as well as an AMS Infant/toddler Credential from WSMS-TEP  in 2014.  Tara has over forty  years of experience in early childhood education with twenty six working with infants and toddlers. In addition to being a classroom teacher, she was Director of the Early Program at The Caedmon School, the first Montessori school in New York City, from 1982 to 1989. In 1989 Tara helped design and implement the Cravath Children’s Center, the first corporate day care in NYC, serving children from two months to thirteen years of age. She has served as a Board of Trustee member for the Caedmon School and the New York City Montessori Charter School. Tara’s has been an instructor in the WSMS Teacher Education Program since the initiation of the program in 2013.
Donna Longdon (EC Practicum Faculty) Donna is a Head Teacher at West Side Montessori School (WSMS) and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from Hunter College, a Masters Degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from New York University and New York State N-6 Permanent Certification. She received her AMS Montessori Early Childhood Credential in 1993 from New York University/MTEP and has been the Board Faculty Representative to the WSMS Board of Trustees and Chair on the Committee to evaluate Music Specialist. She has co-presented a Music and Literacy Workshop, and has presented her own classroom research based on Life Without Scissors and Tape at AMS annual conferences. She has written an article based on that research for the AMS Montessori Life Magazine and has also been interviewed regarding bringing Emotionally Responsive Practices and Music-Body Percussion into the classroom for the school magazine Great Beginnings. Donna has a love for music and plays the clarinet, likes to dance and will instinctively create a song for just about anything.
 IMG_2189 Margot Mack (EC Cultural Studies – Art) earned a BA from Empire State College and the AMS Montessori Early Childhood Credential (CHAMP-MTEP).  She has taught at WSMS since 1990 and is currently the Head Teacher in the Late Afternoon Program. She left WSMS for several years, during which she had the opportunity to teach at two NYC Montessori schools, Resurrection Episcopal Day School and the Family School. Margot spent 10 years designing and manufacturing her own line of jewelry, and continues to create collages and multi-media artwork. Her love of travel has taken her to Japan, Denmark and Spain, Portugal and Italy to name a few. She is currently  a student in the dual Masters Program for Early childhood  and Special Education at Concordia College.
RobynMernick Robyn Mernick (EC Language, Philosophy/Peace, Parent Education and Involvement, Field Consultant) received a BA in Psychology from Boston University.  After falling in love with the Montessori philosophy at a Montessori school in Massachusetts, she received her AMS certification for children aged three to six from Northeast Montessori Institute, and her MA in Early Childhood Education with a Montessori focus from Endicott College.  She began her career teaching in schools in Massachusetts and Maine, and valued so much in these New England environments: their proximity to natural spaces, seasonal changes evident just outside the windows, as well as the unique sense of community and connection found between home and school.  In 2009, Robyn moved to New York, and was directed to West Side Montessori School by a number of colleagues.  Though so different than the wide open classrooms that had served as her own Montessori classroom, she found there expanded opportunities for professional growth.  In addition to working as a head teacher in a 3-6 classroom, Robyn has been a member of the TEP faculty since 2009, presenting the Language Arts, Peace Education, and Parent Education and Involvement course components.  She has also served as a supervising teacher and field consultant for Student Teachers, and a mentor to new head teachers at West Side Montessori School.
Beata Beata Owczarzak (EC Sensorial/Math Assistant Teacher) was born and raised in Poland, where she lived until winter 2002. Growing up in a quiet town in Poland, it never crossed her mind that she would one day be happily living in New York. Nor did it ever occur to her that she would become passionate about Montessori Education. To her surprise, her own struggles in school led her to her great passion, teaching young children. In 1996, she graduated from University with the Master Degree in Early Childhood Education. For many years, she was fortunate to work with many fantastic students from kindergarten through the third grade. While searching for the new ways to let children learn and flourish, she came to know how special the Montessori method is. She just had to be a part of it and share in its great spirit. She moved to the US and settled in New York. Living in the United States has provided her with opportunities to grow and develop her personal and professional life. The year 2012 brought great changes in career. She started her Montessori teacher journey at WSMS as an assistant teacher. and successfully completed the Montessori Teacher Education Program in 2014 and joined the TEP faculty team. Beata considers herself to be a life-long learner, and plans on being in the education field for the rest of her life. Therefore, her first short-term goal is to complete a Master’s Program in Special Education. Her goal is also to have fun learning new things and to pass that view on to students. Beata feel accomplished when the children are laughing.
Lisanne Pinciotti (EC Child Development, Program Co-Director) has been involved with Montessori education since 1985. Her experience in the Early Childhood classroom and Financial Administrator at Children’s House Montessori School in NJ provided a strong foundation for future endeavors. Lisanne earned a BS in Business Administration (University of Dayton), an M. Ed in Early Childhood Education (Rutgers University), an AMS Early Childhood Credential (CMTE/NY) and an AMS Administrator Credential (CMTE/NY). Lisanne joined WSMS-TEP in 2014 as Director of Teacher Education. She enjoys Field Consultant visits and has presented at numerous NJMAC, AMS, and NJAEYC workshops. Lisanne believes that supporting the efforts of professional associations is an important way to contribute to growth of the field, therefore has served in various capacities for AMS and NJMAC.
MarciaPolanco Marcia Polanco (EC Cultural Subjects-Science and Geography) has been a teacher at West Side Montessori School since 1985. She started as a college work study student then two years later she earned her Montessori Early Childhood Credential through CHAMP-TEP in New York City. Marcia is a native of the Dominican Republic. At the age of 4, her family migrated to The United States. Marcia grew up in New York City and she is fluent in Spanish. When she grew up she moved to the Jersey Shore where she purchased her 1st home and she learn demolition and carpentry in her do it yourself projects. During the time she lived in New Jersey she worked at Kateri Camp as a reading specialist for 6 years with ages 5 through 16 year olds. In 2009 she relocated back to New York City. Marcia is the mother of two boys who attended WSMS and are now students at a NYC Independent School. She and her boys share a love for theatre. Marcia’s hobbies include gardening, interior decorating and party planning for family and friends. Marcia has a deep love for the Montessori science and social studies curriculum. She is especially fond of astronomy and biology. She is frequently a guest presenter of the Big Bang in various WSMS classrooms. During the summer months she is a consultant at other Montessori schools and does teacher workshops for teacher development. Marcia has been an instructor for WSMS-Teacher Education Program since 2012.
Gelsey Steinbrecher (TEP Administrator, Practicum Coordinator, EC Practical Life, EC Observation) is a Chicagoland native and Montessori child who graduated in 2007 with a B.S. in Psychology from Cornell University. Gelsey was selected to be a New York City Teaching Fellow in 2008 and taught students with Autism Spectrum Disorders in the New York City public school system for two years. She graduated with distinction from Mercy College with a Masters in Education in 2010 and earned her AMS Early Childhood Credential 2012. Gelsey was a head teacher at WSMS until 2016, when she joined WSMS-TEP full time. Gelsey has served as an Adjunct Professor for the Concordia College Montessori Masters Program since 2017. Outside of the classroom, Gelsey enjoys cooking, creating art, and has run multiple marathons for charity.