Staff Biographies

 

 

Our exceptional faculty includes internationally recognized, innovative teachers who combine strong teaching skills with specialty expertise. They mentor, advise and consult teachers and schools from around the world through affiliate organization Montessori Teachers Institute for Professional Studies.

In Montessori schools, children educate themselves via independent activity. Consequently, the role of our teachers is quite different from that of traditional educators. During training, the Montessori teacher learns to observe each child’s total development with patience, curiosity and love. He or she carefully prepares and maintains an environment which is able to support the intellectual, physical, social and spiritual needs of each child in the classroom. As custodian of the classroom, the teacher is responsible for the atmosphere and order of the room, the presentation of materials and for the educational program.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, early childhood education programs have an average annual turnover rate of 25-50%. On the contrary, the CDS teaching staff has an average tenure of 15 years. Teacher turnover is rare. All have specialized training in various areas. Many are National and International Presenters. The staff at CDS are also on the staff of the Montessori Teachers Institute for Professional Studies, an organization that offers experienced Montessori teachers the opportunity for further education.

Read below and get to know us:

Wendy Calise

admin-wendy

Position

  • Head of School
  • Director, Montessori Teachers Institute for Professional Studies

Education

  • Bachelor’s Degree – Northwestern University Major: psychology
  • Association Montessori Internationale Primary and Elementary Diplomas
  • Masters of Middle School Science – DePaul University
  • Certificate for Mediation Skills Training related to Alternative Dispute Resolution at Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies

Experience

  • Primary Classroom Teacher, Elementary Classroom Teacher, Educational Director, Swimming Teacher, Published Author, National and International Montessori Presenter, Consultant for MTIPS, Teacher Mentor, Founder of the Montessori Teachers Institute for Professional Studies, Board Member – Roycemore School

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students?   

I love that school at Countryside is like a day in real life. It has successes and failures. It is never the same day twice. Every day offers opportunities for the students to discover things about life and about themselves. It is the real joy of teaching.

For yourself?   

I love the people I work with. The faculty and staff at Countryside are some of the best people I know. I trust them deeply, care for them greatly, and appreciate how often they make me laugh.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I have gotten better at sorting out what is truly important and what I should just let wash down the river.

Email Wendy Calise

Janeth Mendoza

Janeth Mendoza

Position

  • Director Of Marketing, Director of Admissions Assistant

Education

  • Bachelor’s in Broadcast Journalism – Columbia College Chicago

Experience

  • Toddler assistant for two years

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students?   

Freedom. It’s that simple. Our students have the freedom to be, to choose, and to learn all at their own pace.

For yourself?   

I love the environment that the staff has created for one another. We encourage each other, teach each other, and we truly just enjoy being with one another.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I’ve learned that taking risks is more rewarding than I could have ever imagined. It is what brought me to Countryside after all.

 

Email Janeth Mendoza

Veronica Armenta

toddl-arm

 

Position

  • Toddler Teacher and Spanish Teacher

Education

  • Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) Toddler Diploma
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences, National Louis University
  • Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education

Experience

  • Toddler Classroom Assistant, Care Club (AYM) Assistant, and Spanish Teacher

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students?   

I want the children to succeed in life and not just in education, but truly be ready for the real world. I hope for the children to be life learners and become responsible contributing members of the broader society.

For yourself?   

What I appreciate the most about Countryside is the community and the strong support from the staff and parents. I also appreciate the many opportunities that I have to continue personal and professional growth. The autonomy of teaching is my passion. My culture and first language is something that I feel fortunate to share with the children. I enjoy helping the children achieve their goals and being able to make a difference in their lives.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

Over the past five years I have learned that anything is possible and I am stronger than I give myself credit for. Adversities are part of life, and with a strong sense of community and family, I can endure anything that comes my way.

 

Email Veronica Armenta

Michele Aspinall

aym-aspin

Position

  • Director and Teacher of the All Year Montessori Program

Education

  • Association Montessori Internationale Primary Diploma
  • B.A. Graphic Design, Illinois Institute of Art

Experience

  • Primary Classroom Assistant, Care Club Director, Published Author, Ad Designer, National Montessori Presenter

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For yourself?  For your students?   

I am grateful to Countryside for so many things. The list is truly endless for me. I grew up at this school. I was just 18 when I began working part-time at Countryside and it was then that I learned about taking full responsibility for the actions that I make. I learned that I own my choices and if the outcome is undesirable, I have no one to blame but myself. I learned that life isn’t always fair, but it’s up to me to make a change and so something about it…however big the obstacle. The school and the children I have watched grow there, have taught me that being resourceful requires courage, commitment, determination, and perseverance to effectively solve life’s problems, whether they are small or feel enormous. This takes hard work and consistent effort.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

Most importantly, I learned that I actually need to endure discomfort, failure, and make endless mistakes to learn how to handle disappointment without becoming discouraged. Given all this, it’s clear to see the tremendous value that Countryside provides each child at such a young age. How fortunate these children are to have opportunities every day to develop and eventually become exceptional adults. I love this place. I am certain that all of the goodness in me is a direct result of working in this unique environment.

 

Email Michele Aspinall

Kathy Wos

Position

  • Assistant Teacher, AYM Program

Education

  • B.A.

Experience

  • After beginning assisting in a primary classroom in February 2013 Kathy moved into the AYM environment. She has now been employed in three different areas of the school over the past 7 years!

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students?   

I appreciate that our children are given the opportunity to learn to become responsible individuals.

For yourself?   

Countryside has shown me how to see the beauty in simple things through the eyes of a child.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I have learned that moving 4 times in 5 years is not a good idea for “mature” people 🙄

Kim Shultz

prek-shultz

Position

  • Primary Teacher

Education

  • Association Montessori Internationale Primary Diploma
  • B.A., Fine Art, Indiana University

Experience

  • Primary Classroom Assistant, Care Club Assistant, Published Author, Dining Room/Kitchen Assistant, Elementary Assistant, Director of Assistants

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students?   

I most appreciate that our students have the opportunity to discover their own strengths and interests. They have the freedom to explore those interests and share that knowledge with their community.

For yourself?   

I appreciate that I am working with a group of professionals that work hard to guide children toward reaching their potential. I am thankful to work in a place that feels like a home away from home.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I learned that I don’t have to be on the go all the time. I really do appreciate and enjoy the simple things like sitting around a fire on a chilly night and football anytime!

Email Kim Shultz

Kim Anderson

elem-and

Position

  • Teacher, Lower Elementary Class, ages 6-9

Education

  • Association Montessori Internationale Elementary Diploma ages 6-12
  • Masters of Education, Loyola University, Maryland
  • B.S. Special Education, L.D., B.D., E.M.H certifications, Illinois State University

Experience

  • Elementary Teacher, Primary Classroom Assistant, Toddler Classroom Assistant, High School Special Education Teacher

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students?   

I appreciate that Countryside teaches respect, responsibility, and resourcefulness.  We not only teach the three Rs, we live them.  We hold the children accountable for their choices.

For yourself?   

I appreciate that my colleagues at Countryside push me to be my very best and support me as I grow to become a better teacher.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I learned that I can tell some really funny stories about my family, and I am pretty sure we could be on a reality TV show.

Email Kim Anderson

Guy Calise

 

mid-calise

Position

  • Founding Director of Middle School

Education

  • BS in Biology from Illinois State University
  • AMI Elementary certificate from Washington Montessori Institute
  • NAMTA/AMI Adolescent certificate from Cleveland Adolescent Orientation
  • Masters of Middle School Science – Depaul University

Experience

  • 23 years teaching as an Elementary director, 6 years as head of the Upper school, national presenter and workshop leader.

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students?  For yourself?   

What I appreciate most about Countryside is that it provides the best preparation for “real life” that an educational facility has to offer hands down. Students and staff get to explore/discover their talents, uniqueness, as well as find their strengths and challenges. They truly are able to discover what they have to offer the greater community by being presented with as many opportunities to succeed and fail as possible. The Countryside culture provides situations in which the students can apply their practical life skills in “real time” with real consequences. Our students and staff are empowered and are expected to
be self-directed, community minded and to be aware of how their actions or non-action will affect the community as a whole. As part of the culture you are expected to be aware of your surroundings, to see what needs to be done and find ways to get it done.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

The last five years have brought a big change in my life. I went from 23 years of teaching in the elementary class to having to help adolescents navigate their way through a very complicated, confusing and exciting time in their development. This shift has taught me a lot about myself as a teacher and a human being. Having one foot in the childhood camp and the other in the camp of adulthood the adolescent is beginning to sort out and tackle grown-up roles, relationships and responsibilities. Though often unsure and untested, they are hungry for intellectual stimulation, creative expression, independence and internal validation. They have opportunities to experience all these things here at Countryside. This is their house and they have a say in what happens……that’s empowering.

Email Guy Calise

 

Sasha Johnson

Position

  • Middle School Humanities Teacher

Education

  • Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, Double Minor in International Politics and Peace, Justice and Conflict Studies from DePaul University and a Master of Science in Education and Social Policy from Northwestern.

Experience

She has taught in both the Chicago area and most recently in California working with Middle School students in the areas of writing, history, Socratic seminars, and technology and coding.

 

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students?   

What I appreciate most about Countryside is that it is a place where structure allows one’s imagination to materialize. As you walk in any space in the school, your senses are immediately and involuntarily heightened. The calmness of the human interactions and orderly learning environment are visible markers of the safety and trust that exists between individuals in the community.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I have learned to treasure the small, unexpected moments in life. I try to keep an eye open for paths that might be overgrown or rarely visible and test out where they lead. Sometimes it’s somewhere and other times it’s nowhere. It’s the exploration in either case that excites me now.

 

Email Sasha Johnson

Krista Delaney

 

DSC_0260

Position

  • Director and Teacher of the Primary Physical Education Program
  • Toddler Level Mentor

Education

  • Association Montessori Internationale Assistants to Infancy Diploma
  • Attended Barat College

Experience

  • Primary Classroom Assistant, Elementary Classroom Assistant, Toddler Classroom Assistant, Summer Camp Director, Swim Instructor, Primary Physical Education Director, Toddler Teacher Mentor, Admissions Director, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Reading Tutor, and almost everything else! She is also an MTIPS Consultant.

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students?   

We encourage each child to be themselves.

For yourself?   

For myself, I love the camaraderie of our staff. It is truly like my second family. I appreciate the opportunity to make mistakes and grow professionally.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

In the last 5 years, one of the most valuable things I have learned about myself is its okay to take a minute and reflect before making a decision and to take things less personally. It has made me a more relaxed and forgiving person for which I’m grateful.

 

Email Krista Delaney

 

Maya Munson

Position

  • Assistant Teacher, Primary Program

Education

  • Bachelor’s in Elementary Education, North Park University

Experience

  • Evanston Public Schools, taught first grade for five years.

What do you most appreciate about Countryside?  For yourself?   

I love the sense of community we have here at Countryside. Whether we are planning, preparing, teaching, cooking, or eating together, we enjoy the time we share. I also really appreciate the beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces we get to use everyday.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I learned that I need naps more than the toddlers do!

Sean Doyle

doyle

Position

  • Elementary School Teacher

Education

  • B.S. Radio/TV/Film Indiana State University
  • M.A.T Elementary Education National-Louis University
  • Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) Elementary Diploma

Experience

  • 8 years+ teaching in the public school system, Elementary Classroom Assistant

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students? 

I appreciate that they learn to become more respectful, responsible, and resourceful as well as academically sound.

For yourself?

I appreciate working with a tremendously dedicated staff who tirelessly works toward the betterment of each and every child.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I have learned that, thanks to Countryside, my son is much better at asking a clerk for help than I ever will be!

Shana Brunell

Position

  • Assistant Teacher, AYM Program

Education

  • BA, UW- Whitewater

Experience

  • Coached gymnastics and dance

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For yourself? 

At Countryside, I appreciate the amazing staff, specifically the love and passion they all share for the school and the students. I most appreciate the family I have gained while working here at Countryside.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

In the last five years, I have learned that I love to carve pumpkins at AYM’s POD Party.

 

Andrea Rivera

andrea croped

Position

  • Toddler Teaching Assistant

Education

  • Associates of Arts degree – Harry S. Truman College

Experience

  • Voluntary work at Mozart Elementary School

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students? For yourself? 

What I appreciate the most about Countryside for my students and for myself would definitely be the school’s mission.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I’ve learned that it’s important to pursue your dreams regardless of what people say. If it makes you happy then go for it.

Rebecca Bailey

toddl-eng

Position

  • Toddler Teaching Assistant

Education

  • Bachelor’s Degree – University of Wisconsin, Madison (UWM)
  • Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) Toddler Diploma

Experience

  • During college, Rebecca studied and made contributions to the fields of exceptional education and sign language.

 

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students? 

For the students at Countryside, I most appreciate our school’s culture and community. The children are in an environment
that teaches and allows for them to be independent, to care for themselves, but to also extend this same level of care and
attentiveness outwardly to their peers.

For yourself?

Again it would have to be the strong sense of community and its unique culture. I am often overwhelmed by the
support, commitment and dedication the Countryside community demonstrates daily. I feel very fortunate to be part of this culture that allows me to do what I love and caters to my growing passion of working with and educating children. Everyday Countryside is providing me with opportunities to grow as a person and educator. I am lucky enough to say I learn something new every day.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

Over the past five years I have learned that it is important to live in the moment, to understand and appreciate the power of now. I am very much a planner, with my wheels constantly spinning. Both in my personal and professional life, I have learned the value and beauty of mindfully being present.

Joseph Francavilla

 

music-franc

 

Position

  • Music Director

Education

  • Masters of Music, Piano Performance, Northwestern University (with additional studies in theory and piano pedagogy, as well as voice, organ and harpsichord)
  • Bachelors of Music, Piano Performance, Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University

Experience

  • Piano Instructor, Chorus Director, Composer, Performer, Published Music Arranger, Piano Technician, MTIPS Presenter.

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For yourself?

I appreciate how strongly the staff is unified in our support of one another and in our commitment to the children. That unity serves as a model for students, encouraging them to recognize the importance of collaboration with and support of their peers.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I’ve learned the importance of having experiences as a beginner. Learning woodworking, learning to code, or picking up a new instrument—I’ve come to enjoy approaching new projects as a novice—to challenge myself in new ways of thinking and to consider the interconnectedness of things.

 

Karen O’Malley

 

admin-omal

Position

  • Director of Admissions/Business Manager

Education

  • St. Mary’s University, Winona, Minnesota
  • BA Accounting

Experience

  • Except for teaching, there isn’t much she hasn’t had her hands on!

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For yourself?

There are so many things I appreciate about Countryside that I don’t know where to begin. If I have to simplify, I would have to say the respect and support I have received over the past 21 years is what I appreciate the most. Countryside has become my second home.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

The one thing I have learned about myself over the last five years is that I never take love and friendship for granted.

 

Jim Aspinall

 

admin-aspin

 

Position

  • Director of Operations

Education

  • B.S. Loyola University at Chicago

Experience

  • Technology Leasing, Equipment Portfolio Management

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students and for yourself?

One of the qualities that I appreciate the most about Countryside is the sense of community. Increasingly in today’s society, community is harder to come by. At Countryside, development of community starts as soon as a child enters their class on the first day. This development of community is also felt between the parents and especially among the staff. Community at Countryside is strengthen through support and acceptance each other.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

In the past five years I have learned that I am able to take on tasks that are probably just beyond my reach, that it is ok to not hit the mark the first time as long as you gave your best and learned from the experience.

 

 

 

Jennifer Robinson

toddl-robin

Position:

  • Toddler Teacher

Education:

  • Association Montessori International Assistants to Infancy Diploma – in progress
  • BFA in Interior Design from IADT Chicago
  • Masters of Education, Loyola University, Maryland

Experience:

  • Toddler Classroom Assistant
  • Toddler Teacher

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students and for yourself?

I appreciate the emphasis on character development more than anything else. We expect the best from ourselves and our children and because of that we have a school full of kind-hearted, and well rounded individuals.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

In the last five years, I have come to accept that many things in life are out of our control. I have learned through experience that it is not the adversity we face, but the way in which we handle it that matters the most.

 

Email Jennifer Robinson

Bhavini Shah

 

Position

  • Primary Teacher

Education

  • Association Montessori Internationale Primary Diploma
  • B.A., Commerce and Economics
  • ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Multi- Sensory Education Comprehensive Training

Experience

  • 10 years of teaching

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students and for yourself?

Countryside is a family environment which offers great education. Our students get to become an integral part of our community by learning different aspects of life at a very young age.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

Becoming a mom was one of the biggest life lessons. I have developed a greater love for cooking and traveling.

 

Email Bhavini Shah

Carina Gamez

Position

  • Assistant Teacher, Pre-K / Kindergarten

Experience

  • Volunteering in various places like Wings, Palatine Opportunity Center, and Willow Creek, Early Childhood Developmental Enrichment Center

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students and for yourself?

I appreciate being able to join CDS team and am excited to learn what it means to be a part of CDS.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I’ve worked with children of all ages but these last 5 years I’ve learned how much I’ve enjoyed working with preschool children.

Taylor Wesenberg

elem-wes

Position

  • Teacher, Upper Elementary Class, ages 9-12

Education

  • Association Montessori Internationale Elementary Diploma, ages 6-12
  • B.S. Elementary Education

Experience

  • Elementary Assistant, Elementary Teacher

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For yourself?

I appreciate that we have the time to truly get to know our students and recognize their strengths and interests, while helping them work through various challenges, both academic and personal. Personally, I appreciate that I work with a close group of like-minded people and consider my elementary colleagues an extension of my family.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

 In the last five years I’ve learned that although I am a creature of habit and like to stick to a routine, I am pretty flexible and willing to go with the flow, and thanks to some of my students I have some pretty mad basketball skills.

 

Magali DePilla

span-depil

Position

  • Spanish Teacher

Education

  • Bachelor’s Degree – Northeastern Illinois University
  • Double Major – Spanish K-12 and Secondary Education
  • Bilingual certification
  • Middle school endorsement

Experience

  • Spanish Immersion Teacher at Waters Elementary School, Clinicals at Telpochcalli Elementary and Middle school, Student teacher at Mirta Ramierz Computer Science Charter High School,and Spanish Teacher at Fenger High School.

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students?

The opportunity to learn in an environment that has been meticulously constructed for them with such attention to detail in every way.
For yourself?
I just love the dedicated group of people I get to work with every day — everyone is passionate about the children’s academic and character development, but also very fun to hang out with!

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I’ve learned the art of balancing a toddler, a laptop, and a cup of coffee with just two hands.

Shaneequa Pool

DSC_0268

Position

  • Physical Education Teaching Assistant

Education

  • Bachelor’s Degree- Columbia College Chicago

Experience

  • Extensive background working with children in a dance, fitness and sports environment.
  • Pre-gymnastics for children
  • Ballet, jazz, creative movement (all levels) and tap (preschool)
  • Toddler dance and gymnastics enrichment programs

Uli Soto

Position

  • Nido Assistant

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students?

One thing I appreciate the most for the students and find beautiful is that they have the freedom to make their own choices while learning limits. To be introduced to such ways so early on in life is crucial for real world living, and to be a part of such educative movement makes me feel important.

For yourself?
Being a part of the Countryside family makes me appreciate the importance of a child’s growth and prepares me for what’s to come with my own child.

 

Frank and Annette Kulle

small_founders

Founders

Frank grew up on the South side of Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in General Engineering and Business Administration. He met Annette on her first day of college and they were married one week after graduation.

They spent two years in Germany in the Corps of Engineers where he talked Annette into her first camping adventure in a pup tent in Italy. The rest, as they say, is history. They have camped all over the US and Canada including Alaska and the Yukon; they camped in Europe; and have been four-wheel drive camping in Australia five times!

Annette is a native of Chicago. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in Math. She and Frank have been married for 53 years.

Annette and Frank have three children, Krista, Jay and Wendy – all former CDS students – and seven grandchildren, Riley, Dante, Rogan, Gianni, Cecilia, Christian, and Rino. Annette likes to think of them as one for each day of the week!

Christa Tucker

Position

  • Elementary Assistant

Education

  • Bachelor’s in Elementary Education K-6, Indiana University of PA

Experience

Martin County FL School District, taught 3rd and 4th grade for 8 years, Sprouts Academy Preschool, taught pre-k for two year.

What do you most appreciate about Countryside? For your students?

I appreciate the freedom of choice for the students and that they can explore their own interests and areas of study.  The family feel and cohesive nature of the staff is very comforting for me as a newcomer.

What is something that you learned about yourself in the last five years?     

I learned that I CAN survive these severe Chicago winters.

 

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