Faculty

Izabela Alldredge, Lower Elementary Teacher 


Izabela was born and grew up in Pland. She has a Master of Science in Geography from the University of Wroclaw. Izabela lived in Austin, Texas and in 2008 moved with her family to Cary, NC. In 2012, Izabela started her Montelssori training and earned her AMS Montessori credentials for 6 to 9 years old. She also holds a Lateral Entry-Level Professional Educators License for NC. In 2013, she started teaching as a lead teacher at Sterling Montessori and Charter School in Morrisville, NC. In 2018, Izabela returned to Poland and worked as a lead teacher in a private, bi-lingual school in Warsaw. Izabela and her husband, Peter, have two sons who graduated from Sterling Montessori and Charter School. She is passionate about the authentic Montessori education that can be available in a growing number of charter schools. When she is not teaching, Izabela enjoys reading, walking and learning about other cultures and customs. She likes to travel and explore the mountains of NC and other places with her family. Izabela is excited to join the Willow Oak Montessori Charter team and share many wonderful learning experiences.

Hetal Amin, Upper Elementary Co-Teacher 


Having visited 25 preschools in 2007 in search for the perfect start for her son’s education, Hetal Amin stumbled into a Montessori classroom. It has been an exceptional journey ever since. Although Hetal has a BS in Molecular Biology and Microbiology from the University of Central Florida and an array of experiences in various fields, the opportunity of volunteering at her son’s Montessori school led her to change careers and go into teaching. She has her AMS Montessori Elementary I-II Credential. She brings with her a certain mix of wit, enthusiasm and desire to continuously learn and grow. Not only does she enjoy sharing laughs and daily stories with her own family, but also with her Willow Oak family.



Sheldon Bae, Lower Elementary Co-Teacher 


Sheldon graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She taught for a year in Wake County before accepting a summer job with Nortel Networks that led to a career in Supply Chain Management. After 13 years at Nortel, she returned to the classroom because she discovered Montessori when she enrolled her son at Pittsboro Montessori School. Sheldon was an Assistant in a Primary classroom at Willow Oak Montessori Children's House while completing her Montessori training in 2012. She obtained her American Montessori Society Early Childhood credential and became a Lead Teacher in a Primary classroom before embarking on the building of the Charter School community as a Lower Elementary Co-teacher. Sheldon has lived in Chatham County for 18 years with her husband, Andrew, and two sons, Mason and Brooks. She enjoys giving back to the community by being a peaceful influence to the hearts and minds of children.


Emily Barrick, Upper Elementary Co-Teacher 


After graduating from Brevard College with a B.A. in Integrated Studies: Elementary Education and completing the requirements to receive her K-6 teaching license, Emily realized that she was not comfortable with the traditional approach to teaching. She spent the next few years working as a camp and after school counselor and outdoor educator at Chestnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center. She also worked during that time as a sales associate and nanny/babysitter. This time at different jobs taught her a great deal and helped her realize how much she truly loved teaching. However, she knew that she did not want to return to a traditional setting. At that time, through a Willow Oak family, she learned of Montessori. During the 2014-2015 school year, she completed her American Montessori Society Lower Elementary certification and spent time in the school's upper elementary classroom. The time she spent there helped her make the decision to pursue her Upper Elementary certification, which she completed during the 2015-16 school year. She has taught in the Blue Classroom since that time and continues to love teaching and the excitement of learning new things each year.


Lisa Buckley, Spanish Teacher 


One of Lisa’s favorite activities as a child was ‘playing school’ and thus it was a natural transition for her to begin her career as a middle school teacher. Her first classroom experience teaching Spanish and Humanities at an innovative K-12 school with mixed-age classrooms and student-centered learning laid the foundation for her future at Willow Oak Montessori. Lisa enjoys learning with her students and takes time to discover what motivates each individual. She is passionate about introducing students to the Spanish language and cultures through storytelling, songs, and games. She earned an undergraduate degree in Spanish and History from the University of Notre Dame and a Master’s in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. In addition to teaching, Lisa has over ten years experience in communications, program development, and fundraising roles at education-focused nonprofits.


April Cibulski, Teacher Assistant 


April joined Willow Oak Montessori Charter in March 2016, as a substitute teacher and volunteer for The WOM Children's House as well as Chatham County Schools. April is originally from Long Island, N.Y. After graduating High School, she moved to Hawaii working in retail, while attending Leeward Community College. Four years later, April moved to California. With a rapid growing family of 4 children, she decided to take a break from Business Management and Founder of Baby Loves Earth, to focus more on her two newly adopted children. April and her family moved to North Carolina in 2012.April saw and learned the benefits of a Montessori education after her youngest attended Willow Oak Children's House. While away from work, April enjoys family camping trips to the mountains of NC, hiking, firing up a good meal and singing songs at the campfire. Heading to the coast is also a favorite, as April is a former surfer and diver. Yoga and Pilates, are part of her daily routine. April plans on pursuing her degree in education and her Montessori certification. She is looking forward to a long term future with Willow Oak Montessori.


Charlie Cook, Adolescent (Middle School) Co-Teacher 


Charlie joined Willow Oak two years ago with the inception of the Adolescent Program. He hails from Athens, Ohio, where he raised two of his sons and worked with organizations dedicated to creating a sustainable regional economy based on principles of social, economic, and environmental justice. There he graduated from Ohio University with a degree in Middle Childhood Education and holds an Associate in Science. He has worked in various capacities with children of all ages and can think of no greater honor than supporting young people on their paths of self-discovery as they become engaged world citizens. Charlie is excited to be part of the Willow Oak community, and is currently in the midst of completing his Montessori Secondary training. He enjoys gardening, cooking, learning, playing music, contemplating the great mysteries and transcendental nature of the universe, losing himself in the woods, and spending the days with his wife, Jennifer, watching his young son learn and grow.


Jessy Durizch, Diverse Learning Community Specialist 


Jessy holds a Bachelor of Science in Special Education with a minor in Elementary Education from Mansfield University of Pennsylvania. In 2004, she moved from upstate New York to Raleigh, where she began her teaching career and love for the Montessori philosophy at a public Montessori magnet school. During this time, she completed her Montessori training and obtained the Lower Elementary Credential from the American Montessori Society. Jessy earned her National Board Certification in 2011, and completed her Master of Arts in Education from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University in 2012. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, the beach, spending time with her family and friends. After spending a few years in a traditional classroom setting, Jessy felt her heart as a teacher calling her back to Montessori. She feels very grateful to be a part of the Willow Oak community, and is happy to be part of the team as the school continues to blossom and grow.



Britiney Fife, Lower Elementary Co-Teacher 


Britiney holds a Master’s Degree in Holistic Education and completed her Montessori training through the NC Montessori Center. She taught elementary grades K-4 before having her son and deciding to transition to the Montessori environment. She is excited to be part of the Willow Oak team and combining her passion for teaching in public education with her passion for the Montessori method. In her free time, Britiney enjoys friends, going to the beach, reading and container gardening.





Paula Flanders 


Paula grew up in New York and graduated with a BS from Marymount Manhattan College. She majored in Speech Pathology and minored in Special Education. In November 2019, she will complete her graduate studies with Purdue Global earning an MS in Psychology. Her concentration is in Applied Behavior Analysis. While in New York, Paula invested the majority of her teaching career working with a diverse population of At Risk students. This is where she developed her passion to help individuals overcome substandard behaviors which interfere with their growth. She relocated to North Carolina in 2013 and took a position as a special education resource teacher and department chair. She spends her leisure time with her two sons, Nelson (20) and Max (18) and fiancé Jamal. She also spends some afternoons working with families to improve student behaviors in the home setting. Paula is excited to bring her skills to Willow Oak and learn how to adjust her skill-set to the Montessori way of learning.



Ashley Frost, Art Teacher 


Ashley has lived in NC for the last 30 years. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Design from UNCG and subsequently worked as a garden designer in the years before starting a family. She and her husband have 2 children and have been a part of the Willow Oak community since the inception of the Charter School. She has served on the Board of Directors and has volunteered her time in a number of ways to help support the School. She has been a part of the faculty for the last several years and is excited to be able to offer one of her passions to every child in the WOM community.





Erica Halter, Upper Elementary Co-Teacher 


Erica grew up exploring, skiing, and enjoying life in Fort Collins, Colorado. She decided to move across the country to attend college at Clemson University. While at Clemson, she studied Elementary Education with a Math and Science Emphasis. During this time, her parents decided to follow her and moved to Chapel Hill. This led to her spending summers in Chapel Hill working as a nanny for children who attend a Montessori school and as a summer camp counselor/director at MCS in Durham. There she was introduced to the Montessori philosophy, and was impressed by the students' intelligence, compassion, and independence. She spent a year teaching at a public school in Bluffton, SC before realizing that a Montessori school would be a great fit. She loves the close knit community at WOM and has been with the Yellow Class since the beginning. In her free time, she loves to be active, eat delicious food, travel, laugh with friends and family, and play games.



Jennifer Hughes, Lower Elementary Co-Teacher 


Jennifer, a Chapel Hill native, relocated to Chatham County in 2005. After many years of crafting fine furniture for a locally owned company, Jennifer decided to return to school and in 2012 graduated from The University of Chapel Hill’s School of Education Elementary Program. The accessibility of the Montessori philosophy within the public sector was very appealing so Jennifer enrolled her daughter in the inaugural year of Willow Oak Montessori Charter School. Jennifer followed her daughter the next year, joining the Willow Oak team in 2014. In 2017, Jennifer completed her Montessori Lower Elementary. When not in the classroom, Jennifer loves to dance, camp, travel, and most of all being with her family.




Kathleen Hughes, Reading Specialist 


Kathleen received her Bachelors of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Iowa and her Masters of Education in Literacy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She holds an Early Childhood Credential from the International Montessori Council and was a Lead Teacher at Willow Oak Montessori Children's House before accepting the Reading Specialist position at the Charter School. Kathleen feels so fortunate to be a part of the nurturing community of Willow Oak Montessori. She lives in Chatham County with her husband, David, and their sons, Hunter, Nicholas, and Ethan.





Leslie Kasell, Upper Elementary Co-Teacher 


Leslie grew up the youngest of four sisters in Springfield, VA. Upon graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in Anthropology, Leslie taught English for a year in China, returning to the United States to study at the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies in Silver Spring, MD. She received her elementary Montessori teaching certification in 2009. Leslie completed her internship year working at the Montessori School of Northern Virginia and then became a volunteer docent in the Forensic Anthropology Lab at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Leslie earned her Master of Arts in Teaching degree through Trinity Washington University in 2011. She was a Lower Elementary teacher at the Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, DC, for three years before moving to North Carolina to join the founding staff of Willow Oak Montessori in 2013. She is committed to providing a high-quality Montessori education to all children in her care that promotes independence, connection to community, and joy in work and learning. She lives in Pittsboro with her partner and two young children.


Corinne Matthes, Diverse Learning Community Teacher 


Corinne comes to Willow Oak with 18 years of Montessori teaching experience. Her career began after graduating from Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY with a degree in music education in 2001. She very quickly realized becoming a Montessori teacher was her calling and completed her 6-9 AMS training at The Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies in Silver Spring, MD. After several more years of teaching, she realized she wanted more tools to help children who needed additional learning support and completed her Master’s degree in Special Education from North Carolina State University in 2018. She has taught music, Lower Elementary, and created and implemented systems for supporting students who learn differently in both private and public charter Montessori schools in New York, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Texas, and New Mexico. She is passionate about supporting a variety of learning styles in the Montessori setting. Corinne enjoys traveling, yoga, reading, camping, going to the beach, and spending time with her husband, son, and dog.



Jen McMurray, Adolescent (Middle School) Co-Teacher 


Jen spent her first seven years of teaching in an outdoor therapeutic program for at-risk adolescents. She facilitated team-building experiences, used outdoor living skills as a launch pad for academic learning, and helped young people discover their ability to support themselves and others in their living group. She felt called to Montessori education and received her Upper Elementary training in 2009. She finished her Secondary Montessori education training in 2019. She has taught at both private and public Montessori schools. When she’s not teaching, she dabbles in yoga, running, swimming, canoeing, gardening, playing music, and writing poetry. A naturalist at heart, Jen is most at peace when hiking and exploring the outdoors with her two daughters and her husband. Jen is passionate about meeting the needs of adolescents; helping others understand adolescent development; and facilitating her students’ individual social, emotional and academic growth.



Dan Pelletier, Teaching Assistant 


Dan grew up with eight brothers and sisters in the Catskill Mountains. He worked in radio for ten years before moving to the Triangle where he earned a teaching degree and worked for 20 years as an elementary school reading specialist and tutor. Tutoring is what brought him to Willow Oak where he immediately grew to appreciate this positive learning environment. When he's not at school he likes to hike the rural and urban trails in the area. He also plays guitar, writes songs, runs a successful Ebay store (vintage postcards) and encourages his two young adult children to carve out a little time for their dad.





Patti Reindle, School Nurse Assistant 

Patti Reindle is a Registered Nurse with a master’s degree in Nursing Education. She graduated from Duke University School of Nursing with a BSN and from East Carolina University with an MSN. Patti has worked in many settings as an RN including: Pediatric and Adult Nursing at UNCH-CH. She is a nursing instructor at Duke and has spent many summers in cooler climates as a camp nurse in Maine, Connecticut, New York, and Washington. In addition to being the nurseconsultant, Patti has two children that attend Willow Oak.






Laurie Walker, Math Specialist 


Laurie grew up in the beautiful Appalachian mountains of East Tennessee. At an early age, Laurie decided she wanted to be a teacher. After she received her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and Masters of Science in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Tennessee, she began her teaching journey. She has taught a wide range of ages and subjects from a pre-school art and movement class to high school Physics. She has also taught in a variety of settings and places. She has taught in three states: Tennessee, Mississippi, and North Carolina. She is married to her high school sweetheart, Robert. They have three wonderful children. In her free time, she loves to read, travel, try new restaurants, and spend time with family.




Jennifer Warren, Upper Elementary Co-Teacher 


Jennifer Warren graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood and English Literature from William Paterson University in 2013. She started her teaching career at a private school in NJ, teaching Language Arts and Social Studies in a mixed aged classroom (7-12 years old) part time. After a year, Jennifer moved to a full time position at a Head Start preschool where she taught for 3 and half years. In February of 2018, Jennifer moved to Sanford, North Carolina with her husband. She began to substitute at Willow Oak Montessori in March and immediately fell in love with the school and Montessori style. Wanting to continue her teaching career in this new state, Jennifer became NC State certified in K-6. She is excited to start her Montessori journey with the Willow Oak family.



Administration & Staff

Ayize Sabater, EdD, Head of School 


Ayize Sabater, is a dynamic social entrepreneur, author, and twenty year veteran educator. He has co-founded several non-profits, including an independent school, an After School non-profit organization, and a Montessori public charter school in Washington, DC. Dr. Ayize is an alumnus of Morehouse College, Wesley Theological Seminary, and Morgan State University. He has also completed his Montessori primary assistant training at WMI (Washington Montessori Institute). Dr. Ayize’s innovative social justice work positioned him to be featured as the Keynote speaker two times at American University, and he was a 2010 recipient of a White House award for his non-profit organization's educational work (and that award was presented by First Lady Michelle Obama). In 2014, he authored the book “Tellin’ Children Our Story: A Fun Technique for Teaching History…” and has lectured internationally on cultural empowerment. He has grant-writing experience and is a social justice educational advocate. Dr. Ayize is a Montessori parent and advocate who states: “I believe that Montessori education has a great potential to transform education for ALL; however, it is far too often relegated to the wealthy and well-to-do.”


Melissa Beck, PhD, Assistant Head of School, Diverse Learning Community Coordinator 


Melissa received her PhD in School Psychology from UNC- Chapel Hill and completed her internship and postdoctoral fellowship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She later served as the Outpatient Coordinator of the Pediatric Psychology Clinic and Consultation Service and was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. After moving back to North Carolina in 2006, Melissa spent several years at home with her husband, Mike, and three children, Sarah, Anna Katherine and Michael. She then worked part-time at UNC as part of a research study investigating the early development of children at-risk for autism. She joins the staff of Willow Oak Montessori following a term as a Board member, and is looking forward to using her professional knowledge in new ways to ensure that every child's unique needs are met at Willow Oak Montessori.


Susan Johnstone, Assistant Head of School, Montessori Coach 


Susan, a Montessori teacher since 1987 and administrator since 2003, co-founded a small progressive middle and high school in Raleigh, NC called Raleigh Progressive School. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from North Carolina State University and a Master of Arts in progressive community education from Goddard College. Susan is married to fellow Montessori teacher, Don Henchel, who has been teaching for over 30 years, and is presently teaching at Montessori Community School in Durham. Her three boys attended Montessori schools up to the 6th grade. Susan has served as a coach, mentor, and consultant for Montessori teachers and administrators. She holds an American Montessori Society Lower Elementary credential.



Catherine Oudjit, Assistant Head of School, Montessori Coach 


Catherine was born and raised in France, where she earned a J.D. in International Business Law. In 1995, she started her Montessori career at the Montessori School of Raleigh (MSR) where, having earned her AMS Infant/Toddler Certification from CMTE/NY, she directed a Toddler section for almost ten years. In 2005, Catherine started teaching at the Lower Elementary level at MSR, then continued in 2010 at the same level at Sterling Montessori Academy and Charter School in Morrisville, NC. She earned her AMI Montessori credential for 6 to 12 year olds and her Master of Education in Montessori Elementary Education from the Washington Montessori Institute and Loyola University in Maryland. Beginning in 2013, Catherine worked as the Director of Programs and Curriculum for the Primary Level at Sterling Montessori, then took on additional responsibilities to support the leadership transition there through 2016. In 2017, Catherine joined Willow Oak as the Upper Elementary Team Leader. Currently, her role centers on curriculum and operations, including testing and assessment oversight. Catherine and her husband Zack have two sons and a daughter who were privileged to receive a Montessori education from the toddler through the middle school years. During her down time, Catherine enjoys reading, cross-stitching, quilting and pickleball.


Melissa Frey, Business Manager 


Originally from the Northeast, Melissa has been living in Chatham County since 1993. Her two children, Tucker and Ava Marinne are native North Carolinians, and she can hardly believe they are young adults already! After earning a BA in Family Studies from Syracuse University and Messiah College, and being home with her young family, Melissa was the Founding Board President, Project Manager and Marketing/Owner Services Manager of Chatham Marketplace, our local co-op grocery from 2003-08. Gravitating towards new and growing endeavors, she has been involved in various grass-roots projects since then. Her very own Cool Creek Farm is her perpetual project now and she loves sharing the evolving space with friends, family, colleagues, students and Airbnb visitors from around the country! Melissa is actively involved in the community, having served on a variety of non-profit boards and engaged in ongoing volunteer work, all while making as much time as possible for organic gardening, biking, and power walking. Melissa has been with Willow Oak Montessori, first as Board Vice President, since 2011 and is pleased to be a part of this exciting time of expansion.


Noemi Plata, Office Administrator 


Born in Mexico, Noemi moved to the United States at a young age. After graduating from college with a degree in business, she started to work for hospitals to help translate documents. Noemi began working for the Chatham County school system in 2005, where she has touched the lives of many Hispanic and exceptional children. After transferring to SAGE Academy, Noemi began to assist every teacher in the school and won the Best Instructional Assistant Award for four consecutive years She continues to have an impact on students who have graduated in the past. When she isn’t helping students, Noemi is an active member of her community. She is currently president of her neighborhood’s Homeowners Association, and she was previously a board member for Habitat for Humanity for four years. For fun, Noemi loves to refurbish old furniture and has made beautiful pieces of decorative furniture. She is also a photographer and loves to spend time photographing her three children and her two dogs. Noemi is super excited about the opportunity to help the community of Willow Oak Montessori!


Shanna Stevenson, Office Administrator 


Shanna is originally from British Columbia, Canada. She went straight into the trades after high school and graduated with a Hair Styling license in 2014. After some experience behind the chair, she decided to take her skills abroad, more specifically, Mercy Ships (an international charity which currently operates the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world) in Madagascar. Shanna managed the salon and serviced a circulating number of 300 crew members for six months. Not only did she make connections with folks from all over the world, she met her husband on the ship. When she came back to her home town from serving abroad, she started and ran her own hair business for two years before immigrating to Durham, NC, where her husband was born and raised. Shanna has a wide variety of service experience from over the years and has enjoyed implementing her skills in the WOM office. She has also thoroughly enjoyed being submersed in an equally professional and loving community here at WOM and is excited to grow her skill set. Shanna enjoys spending time with family (here in Durham and with family over FaceTime), downtown Durham restaurants, crossfit, and spending time with her husband and two cats. Shanna aspires to further her education in the coming years and credits WOM for her growing passion to learn and receive more training.


Contracted Service Providers

Donna Huff, Occupational Therapist 


Since 1979, Donna has been a creative, energetic, licensed and registered Occupational Therapist with experience in a wide variety of settings, including pediatric home health and school settings. She has enjoyed treating students of all ages with a wide range of disabilities. She is well experienced in many areas of Occupational Therapy, including sensory integration, therapeutic listening, positioning and handling, spasticity management, auditory and visual processing, praxis, and a wide range of school related issues. Donna lives in Chapel Hill with her husband John, who is also an Occupational Therapist, and her two adult daughters. Donna is especially excited to be at Willow Oak Montessori with such a cohesive and talented team, and enjoys the challenge of problem-solving the diverse learning needs of all students.



Lucia Pasquel-Lefebvre, Speech Language Pathologist 


Lucia is a licensed, clinical speech-language pathologist. She received a B.A. from UNC-Chapel Hill, an M.A. from Temple University and a certificate in early childhood special education from San Francisco State University. Lucia is trilingual in English/Spanish/French and consequently has had the opportunity to practice speech pathology in 4 continents, working in many different private and educational settings and providing support to children with various cultures, languages & learning styles. She has been a speech pathologist for almost 18 years specializing in early and elementary-aged children. Lucia enjoys traveling, good cuisine, yoga and kayaking in her spare time. She lives in Durham with her husband and 11 year old son, who attends a Montessori middle school and is thrilled to be a part of the Willow Oak Montessori Community.