Staff- Under Construction. Please pardon our dust

Guadalupe Montessori school

Samantha Friedman FOCUS/PreK Coordinator

Samantha moved to Silver City in 2012 to work as the Primary Guide at the Guadalupe Montessori School. She has her Primary AMI Montessori Diploma as well as a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Development. After having her baby, she has come back to GMS as the PreK Coordinator and Teacher Support. She is thrilled her daughter gets to be a part of the Toddler Community and loves experiencing a new roll here at GMS. Her spare time is best spent in the Wilderness backpacking, fishing, and kayaking with her family. 

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Amy Duncan - Elementary Guide

 Amy graduated from San Francisco State University in 1996 with a degree in Geography/Human Environmental Studies. She then began her post graduate studies through the Midwives Association of North America and received a LM/CPM Licensure. Throughout this time she traveled internationally, supporting mothers and families in Central America and the Caribbean. She has been educating families in the Silver City area for the past 15 years. In 2000 she settled down on a small farm in Gila, NM with her husband to raise her two children. She loves working with children of all ages and has recently discovered the beauty of the Montessori Method. Amy is an avid backpacker, gardener and herbalist. Amy finished her Elementary training in the summer of 2017, and received her diploma from Montessori Institute of San Diego. 

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Joanie Morency - Primary Lead Guide, Agave Classroom

Joanie Morency relocated from the east coast to Silver City in 2017 and joined the GMS community shortly thereafter. She  graduated from the State University of New York, Geneseo in 2013 with a degree in Communication and English, and she has completed two of three summers of her AMI Primary training at the Montessori Training Center Northeast. Joanie hopes to combine her love of language and learning with her passion for working with children. She spends her free time reading, writing, hiking, and spending time with friends and family. 

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Paige Isom - Primary Guide, Sunflower Room

 Paige is originally from St. Louis where she graduated from Washington University with a degree in English. She received her AMI Montessori diploma from the Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies, in Mesa, Arizona. Paige joined the faculty of GMS in 2019. She loves Silver City, her role as a teacher at GMS, and the Gila National Forest. She is inspired by the beauty of the mountains and loves to spend her free time hiking and bird watching. 

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Xochitl Hernandez - Bilingual Toddler Guide

 Xochitl Hernandez Moctezuma was born in Mexico City, the third of six children. Both her parents were teachers of humble origin who moved to the country's capital to earn a degree and support their families. In Mexico, Xochitl pursued a teaching career and taught Math in middle school for nine years before moving to the US in 1998. Mother of three children, her family lived in Michigan, Texas, and New York before moving to New Mexico. Xochitl provides Spanish bilingual immersion in the Toddler classroom, and received her AMI diploma at the Montessori Institute of San Diego for children ages 0-3 in the summer of 2018. 

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Liz Plada - Nap and ASC Coordinator

 Liz moved to Silver City with her husband, Ob, in 1991. They opened a music store named Tune Town Music Exchange in downtown Silver, which they ran until 2012. Liz also worked at the Down to Earth School, where she raised her three children while she taught- for close to 20 years! During this time, Liz earned degrees in History and Sociology from WNMU, and graduated with honors in 2015. Liz has been working at GMS since the summer of 2017, and enjoys watching the children of this town grow into fabulous adults and seeing the generations turn their kids on to great music and alternative education. In her spare time, Liz loves to cook, read, travel, and spend time with her family and friends.  

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Gabriella Castillo - Elementary Assistant

I have dedicated most of my career to working with children. I moved to Silver City from Phoenix after obtaining my Bachelor's Degree in social work and my Master's in Early Childhood Education at Arizona State University. I've substituted for various schools in Silver City before deciding to stay home and raise my two children. I'm excited to have the opportunity to learn about the Montessori method. In my spare time I love to camp, fish, and garden.

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Kaya Thompson - Primary Assistant

Kaya was born in Ruidoso, NM and moved to Silver City when she was six. After she graduated from Aldo Leopold Charter School in 2014, she moved to Germany, where she became an Art Director for a web design company. In July of 2018, she moved back to Silver City to be closer to family. Since moving back, she has resumed college at WNMU and plans to major in Psychology. Kaya has also been working with local creatives, in collaboration with the Future Forge, to develop recycling options for our community’s plastic waste. She enjoys working with children and is fascinated by the connections between her studies of the human mind and deepening understanding and appreciation of the Montessori method.

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Isabella "Izzy" Blasucci - Garden Supervisor

Izzy has been a dirt worshiper and plant whisperer since she was young. Hailing from New Jersey originally she grew up in a home with two Waldorf teacher parents and has always loved being a part of alternative education and the communities supporting them. She has worked in farms from Morocco to Maine and in Waldorf education as an assistant in New Jersey. The Montessori garden is yet another blessing that combines a beautiful outdoor classroom and beds bursting with produce for the kitchen and Izzy is grateful to be its shepherd for this school year. 

Martha Egnal - Head of School

Martha Egnal - Head of School

Martha Egnal - Head of School

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 Martha has been serving as the director of GMS since the fall of 2014. Martha's leadership is based on over a decade of experience at GMS, including instruction; food service management; music programming; and design, development, and management of our award-winning garden. Martha received her B.A. in Religious Studies from Brown University, where she also completed the Undergraduate Teachers Education Program with a provisional certificate in Secondary Social Studies and History. During college, Martha was heavily involved in urban farming and community gardening, and student taught at an experiential High School. Ultimately, her talents in experiential education, community gardening, and professional cooking would come together at GMS: After founding the garden that both feeds and helps educate our students, Martha ran the school's meal program for two years. She has also served the school as the unofficial music teacher as well as its 7th year Guide. All of Martha’s three daughters attended GMS through Elementary, and are now students at Aldo Leopold Charter School. 

Dee Altosa - Office Manager

Martha Egnal - Head of School

Martha Egnal - Head of School

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 Dee has an extensive background in office management, including Executive Assistant to the General Counsel at Texas Tech University (B.A., C.L.A.) and Administrative Assistant to the CEO of St Mary Hospital in Lubbock, TX. When her husband changed professions and became a commercial pilot, Dee followed his career around the country, through Idaho, Colorado, Nebraska, and St Croix, USVI, before settling in Grant County, NM. She has managed offices for telecommunications and insurances, and in healthcare administration as a lead promotora, medical records director, and general manager of an assisted living facility. In the summer of 2016, it was Dee's turn to change career paths, and she brought her expertise in office management and passion for excellence to GMS. 

Carissa Guild - Bookkeeper

Heidi Pendleton - Director of Student Nutrition, Health and Safety

Heidi Pendleton - Director of Student Nutrition, Health and Safety

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 Carissa was born in Silver City, and attended GMS from age 2-1/2 to 11. In her last year of high school, she moved to Las Cruces to pursue gymnastics. In 2003 she relocated to Alaska to attend college, and ended up living there until 2016, developing her bookkeeping skills. She and her family spent 2017 traveling through four continents before coming back to settle in Silver City in January, 2018. Carissa has a huge passion for music and dance, and is a certified Zumba instructor. She also has a deep love for the outdoors and for working with and advocating for children. 

Heidi Pendleton - Director of Student Nutrition, Health and Safety

Heidi Pendleton - Director of Student Nutrition, Health and Safety

Heidi Pendleton - Director of Student Nutrition, Health and Safety

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  Heidi joined GMS in the fall of 2010 when she enrolled her two children and signed on to help run our kitchen and lunch program. In true Montessori fashion, Heidi comes to us with a variety of skills - clothing design, outdoor education, and managing a commercial kitchen just to name a few. Heidi brings a high level of professionalism and organization to the GMS kitchen and food program, and does a great deal to support the administration of GMS with health, first aid and safety issues. She cares deeply about providing the highest level of student nutrition, and our lunches are all recipes she has crafted. She puts a great deal of effort in sourcing local and organic food and into training GMS kitchen staff to cook from scratch. Heidi was the driving force behind expanding our lunch service to provide hot lunches to Aldo Leopold Charter School under the National School Lunch Program, a long time dream that became a reality in 2019! 

Board of directors

Jeff Cramm, President

Kevin Lenkner, Vice President

Kevin Lenkner, Vice President

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 Jeff was born in Colorado and raised in the western suburbs of Chicago. He received a degree in Architectural Technology in Iowa and then went to CU Boulder for environmental design to continue his education. Construction and Design have always been his passions. He currently works for R.S. Bigelow as a Lead Foreman and will start his own company in the spring. His family moved to Silver City in June of 2017 and they see a lifelong commitment to this community. GMS has impressed Jeff with the overwhelming amount of personal care and attention each student, staff member, parent and family receives, and puts into this gem of a school. He plans to bring his experience in construction and building to support GMS through facilities changes and improvements in the years to come. 

Kevin Lenkner, Vice President

Kevin Lenkner, Vice President

Kevin Lenkner, Vice President

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 Kevin is the Executive Director of the Mimbres Region Arts Council. In this position, he has been working towards increasing creative-based youth programming, equitable access to the arts and arts centered approaches toward cognitive development of students of all ages. Previously, he served over 20 years with YorkArts, located in south central Pennsylvania. During his tenure as Executive Director, YorkArts created an arts center housing a premier exhibition gallery, artist studios, classrooms and pottery studio. His last project at YorkArts was a successful capital campaign to retire debt, renovate and expand classrooms and develop a satellite campus. Kevin has a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from York College and has completed coursework for a Master’s degree in Humanities from Penn State. He moved to Silver City with his wife, Kathleen and GMS student Kieran, after becoming enchanted with the people, natural beauty, art and culture of New Mexico. 

Renée Despres - Treasurer

Kevin Lenkner, Vice President

Martha Schumann Cooper, Secretary

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 Renee has lived in Grant County since 1994. She is an independent journalist and adjunct professor of English at New Mexico State University. She is also an independent nonprofit consultant who provides capacity-building services, including research, writing, and editing, to not-for-profit agencies throughout New Mexico. She holds a PhD in English Literature (1996) from Indiana University, Bloomington, and an MPH from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She lives near Gila Hot Springs and Silver City with her daughter. They have been part of the GMS community since 2009. 

Martha Schumann Cooper, Secretary

Martha Schumann Cooper, Secretary

Martha Schumann Cooper, Secretary

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 Martha has enjoyed living in Silver City and Gila for the past 13 years. She works with the New Mexico chapter of The Nature Conservancy and has an M.S. in forest ecology from the University of Maine and a B.A. in Biology and German from Amherst College. A twenty year veteran in the non-profit sector, she is passionate about protecting land and water for people and nature. Martha's family joined the GMS community in 2015 when they enrolled their daughter in the Primary program. (Though her older sister attended GMS over 20 years ago!)  Martha was initially wowed by the homemade muffins, and has developed great appreciation for the school’s encouragement of curiosity, kindness, and confidence in all of the classrooms. She is glad for the opportunity to support this amazing school community as a board member. 

Shanna Schultz, Board Member

Martha Schumann Cooper, Secretary

Shanna Schultz, Board Member

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Shanna is a native of Silver City who started at the Guadalupe Montessori School in 2005 as an assistant in the Toddler classroom. Eventually completing her AMI training in Assistance to Infancy (Birth-3 years), Shanna was the lead guide in the GMS Toddler class until the end of the 2017-18 school year, when she left GMS to pursue a nursing degree at WNMU. Shanna's two younger children attend GMS, and she brings a wealth of relevant experience to the board of directors. In her spare time, Shanna enjoys knitting, camping, and making jewelry.