“The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination. Our aim therefore is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to tough his imagination as to enthuse him to his inmost core.”
~Maria Montessori, To Educate the Human Potential

Our Elementary Program includes a three-year experience in a Lower Elementary classroom for children ages 6 to 9 years old (1st through third grades) and a three-year experience in an Upper Elementary group for children 9 to 12 years old (4th through 6th grade).

During these years, children are characterized by a reasoning mind, a thirst for knowledge, a sense of wonder, an attraction to peers and growth toward intellectual independence.

Elementary students are offered key lessons and Great Stories that invite them to explore the world around them from the farthest reaches of the cosmos to the smallest flower.

Experiential materials continue to help the child explore the areas of geography, history, math, language, biology, geometry, and music.

Most lessons are in small group format and assume a collaborative spirit and a social interest in learning alongside and from one's peers.

Decision-making, problem-solving and social awareness are key components of the elementary experience. Our elementary teachers are observant, respectful and passionate about guiding each child to full engagement in every area of curriculum.

Meet the Teachers

Upper Elementary

Ms. Kaleigh - Sierra - Upper Elementary

About Me

  1. What is your experience and training and how did you come to our school?

While I was completing my Bachelor’s of Education, my son, Cole, was struggling in his traditional school environment, resulting in being withdrawn and enrolled in an online school for 5th and 6th grade. Half way through 6th grade, Cole was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

With me looking for a teaching job, being at home online was no longer an option for him. The middle school he was zoned for was not a good fit for him, so my husband and I went looking for alternatives.

HDMS was the perfect fit not only for Cole, but for my daughter Eden as well. Both of my children were accepted for the school year 2014/15. A week after, I was notified that my children were accepted, a teaching position at HDMS was posted. I thought it would be neat to teach at the same school as my children.

Little did I know that I would fall in love with the Montessori philosophy and approach to education. I have been teaching Upper Elementary at HDMS since 2014, completed my American Montessori Society training in 2017, am working on completing my Masters in Montessori Education, and have been accepted into the American Montessori Society Emerging Leaders Fellowship!

  1. Why do you believe in our public charter Montessori school?

The Montessori approach to education should be available to all children regardless of background. HDMS allows all children to benefit from a Montessori education.

  1. What are your beliefs about guiding all children- those that struggle and excel?  

Every child has the ability to grow and excel. It is my job to guide and encourage all children, helping them achieve whatever they set their minds to.

  1. What does partnering with parents and community look like for your classroom?  

Our parents and our community are integral components of our school. I encourage and welcome parents and community members to observe in the classroom, and if at all possible, to share skills with the children. Open communication is our key to success.

  1. What is the method in which you grow professionally and personally?  

I love learning. Every opportunity I have to learn and grow, I embrace. I am constantly striving to improve my craft as a teacher.

In my personal world, I also embrace learning and growing. For example, I have been riding and training horses for almost 40 years, yet I am still learning and growing, and embrace opportunities to learn and study from others.

  1. Where do you see yourself and HDMS in 5 years?

I see myself still loving teaching children. I come to school everyday excited about what the day might hold. I see HDMS settling into one campus, and welcoming alumni back to teach, share, and interact with our community.

Ms. Alex – Upper Elementary Assistant

Ms. Elyse - Stillwater - Upper Elementary

About Me

  1. What is your experience and training and how did you come to our school?

I started teaching at HDMS in 2014 and earned my Montessori Teaching Certificate in 2016.  I received my bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Russian from UC Davis and a teaching certificate from Sierra Nevada College.  I began my teaching career in 2008 in a small, rural school in Markleeville, California where I taught first and second grades. Prior to teaching, I worked with at-risk youth in South Lake Tahoe in a wilderness therapy group home and started a youth street outreach program.

  1. Why do you believe in our public charter Montessori school?

Teaching in public schools is my calling, and until I moved to Reno, I did not know public Montessori schools were an option.  During my teaching credential program at Sierra Nevada College, we studied many famous education philosophers. Maria Montessori’s work always stood out to me as the most well-founded and effective method for children to learn.  When I discovered that HDMS offered a tuition-free Montessori education to a wide range of students, I knew it was the school for me.

  1. What are your beliefs about guiding all children- those that struggle and excel?  

All students have a natural desire and drive to learn.  My job, as a Montessori teacher, is to find what excites each child and to inspire them to learn about the world.  By fostering independence and cooperation with work in our classroom, I am able to teach several lessons with groups of different sizes, abilities, and interests in order to meet the diverse needs of students.

  1. What does partnering with parents and community look like for your classroom?  

The elementary-age child is very curious about the world beyond the classroom. Therefore, I  look for opportunities, both among the families of students and our community at large, to bring in people to present special skills or knowledge to our students.  Students also have the opportunity to plan their own research excursions by “going out” into the community to places such as the Nevada Museum of Art, myriad resources at UNR, the Discovery Museum, or even a motorcycle repair shop.  I am always looking for new ways for our students to learn more about their community outside the classroom.

  1. What is the method in which you grow professionally and personally?

I continue to seek professional development opportunities through attending Montessori conferences and refresher courses, as well as attending teacher trainings sponsored by various community partners such as the Desert Research Institute, Nevada Museum of Art, Mountainview Montessori, Sierra Arts Council, and Washoe County School District.

  1. Where do you see yourself and HDMS in 5 years?

In five years, I hope to see HDMS as a thriving example of high-quality Montessori education reaching children ages 3 – 14 from all over the Reno/Sparks area.  I look forward to the exciting renovations that will create beautiful indoor and outdoor work spaces for our students. I am excited to continue working with our inspiring, dynamic staff to grow professionally together toward our common vision to bring tuition-free Montessori education to hundreds of families in our community.

Ms. Sharon – Upper Elementary Assistant

Ms. Christy - Diamond - Upper El.

About Me

   1. Start with your experience and training and how you came to our school.

I graduated from UNR with a bachelor’s degree in Integrated Elementary Education specializing in work with Early Childhood Education and English Language Learners. When I was completing my student teaching, my lead teacher suggested that I observe at High Desert Montessori. I spent the morning in Primary and Elementary, and I was immediately hooked. When a job became available, I reached out to the school and applied. I knew that my path in education had to be the path of Montessori, and I was incredibly lucky to be offered a position in Lower Elementary. More recently, I have received my endorsement in Gifted and Talented Education from UNR. I am currently earning my AMI Elementary License from the Montessori Institute of San Diego and my Master’s of Education in Montessori from Loyola University. I am currently teaching 4th, 5th, and 6th.

  1. Why do you believe in our public charter Montessori school?

I am a firm believer in Maria Montessori’s vision of this form of education for all students rather than just some students. We offer children a free Montessori education, and that allows so many of them to develop their passions and interests while being exposed to the wonders to the universe. Hands-on, targeted small group instruction is the most effective way to teach children, and we have the opportunity to ensure that the children of our neighborhood are given that experience. I want to make a difference in the lives of children, and our school allows me to do just that.  

  1. What are your beliefs about guiding all children- those that struggle and excel?

I believe that every child has an innate potentiality for greatness. It is my job to meet children where they are at and work with their strengths and areas of need to help them to find success. Each child is different and requires a fresh start each day. They all need extra support in one area or another, and they need to feel safe in the classroom to try and fail. By creating a prepared environment that encourages them to challenge their hearts and minds, I give all of my students the opportunity to grow both academically, socially, and emotionally.

  1. What does partnering with parents and community look like for your classroom?

I encourage all parents to join us and observe in the classroom. Working with each parent to help meet the needs of their child is incredibly important. We can support each child fully as a team. As for the community itself, the children venture out or bring the community into the classroom by planning small field trips, known as going outs, in which they search to find answers by speaking to real professionals in the areas in which they are studying. They often bring that information back to the classroom and present, inspiring other students to pursue their own research.

  1. What is the method in which you grow professionally and personally?

I learn best by observing veteran teachers.Through my training program I am given the opportunity to observe teachers all over the country to see their methods. That information helps me to improve my classroom. Collaboration with such individuals and the individuals at my school also helps me to grow professionally.

    6. Where do you see yourself and HDMS in 5 years?

I hope to see HDMS continue to serve our community and its children in five years. I look forward to being able to serve a larger percentage of our neighborhood population.

Ms. Mary – Upper Elementary Assistant

Lower Elementary

Ms. Jen - Excelsior - Lower Elementary

About Me

My name is Jennifer Marcondes, and this will be my first year of teaching at High Desert Montessori School, but some of you will recognize me as I have spent 4 years as a teacher’s assistant in the Excelsior classroom.   I completed my Bachelors of Education in May and am very excited to be returning to the High Desert community. I’m a native Nevadan, but I’ve done quite a bit of travelling. I’ve visited most of the states in western United States, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Netherlands, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and Brazil.   I met my husband, Felipe, here in Nevada, but he was born in Brazil and immigrated to the United States when he was 14 years old. We have been married for 14 years and we have two beautiful boys. Marcus is 12 years and Caius is 10 years old. These days, I really enjoy spending time with my family, being outside in nature as much as possible, going new places where my sons can explore, reading or listening to a good audiobook!

Ms. Artie – Lower Elementary Assistant

Ms. Jamie - Ruby - Lower Elementary

About Me

  1. What is your experience and training and how did you come to our school?

I came to Reno and High Desert Montessori School in 2007.  I joyfully took a teacher position in the middle school program after searching for a school that would provide me flexibility in teaching practices.  HDMS was a great place for me and my two boys, who had just come from a charter school in Las Vegas that allowed them to guide their instruction, explore the real world, and be with multi-age groups.  

After receiving my Bachelor of Science in 1998 from University of Nevada Las Vegas,  I taught K-2 students in various public schools and at a K-8 multiage, project-based charter school.  In 2005, I received my Master’s Degree and in 2008 started my Montessori training.

  1. Why do you believe in our public charter Montessori school?

Coming to HDMS allowed me to remain in the public school setting, which provides education to a diverse population.  Being in a charter school, provided a unique learning experience to families from all over the valley. The diversity of our school has connected me with people from many different places in the world, students of various abilities, and the opportunity to share the Montessori philosophy and materials.

  1. What are your beliefs about guiding all children- those that struggle and excel?  

Throughout my education, I have sought out experiences to make me a better teacher.  Project Life and Leveled Literature Instruction are a few courses that have helped me to understand what struggling readers need to be successful.  English limited learner seminars and diversity discussions at my level have made me aware of some of my biases and strengthen my strategies. My latest endeavour was getting endorsed in Gifted and Talented instruction to assist students that need exceleration and advanced instruction.  The more I learn the stronger my belief that Montessori schools provide most of characteristics of good instruction.

  1. What does partnering with parents and community look like for your classroom?

Conferences, PTO, Parent Education Nights, and Committee Meetings give me opportunities to connect with people about Montessori.  I cherish talking to parents about work, child successes, and parenting struggles. I love sharing the materials we use in our classes, displaying special student projects, and discussing reasons why we do certain things.  I find value in explaining that the process of learning takes time, that worksheets don’t provide the rich experiences that materials do, and that sensory exposure to concepts prepare child for abstract ideas. These are a few of the ways I partner with parents and community.

  1. What is the method in which you grow professionally and personally?         

You might ask, how I keep up with the new trends or how I grow personally.  This comes is the form of lifting weights with my oldest son, listening to podcasts and audiobooks while walking my dog, and debating current societal norms with my husband.   By participating in school events, I learn what parents, children, and the community needs from Montessori. Attending conferences connects me with the bigger Montessori movement and drives me to try new things.  Discussions about the classroom challenges with colleagues happens on horseback. There is also a long list of things that I want to explore, so I have to listen to my family about taking on new challenges.

  1. Where do you see yourself and HDMS in 5 years?

The new challenges will take me to different places in the next 5-10 years.  My first goal, is to become a teacher trainer. This will allow me to expose more people to the philosophy and in-turn affect more children.  My dream includes traveling to far off lands to see how Montessori works and provide me with experiences to understand our differences and similarities. Finally, I will use these experience and possibly run for office, which will finally help the most amount of children possible.

Ms. Kristina – Lower Elementary Assistant

Ms. Kyla – Lower Elementary Assistant

Ms. Nicole - Candelaria - Lower Elementary

About Me

  1. What is your experience and training and how did you come to our school?

I came to teaching in a roundabout way.  I first started my career in the film industry in Los Angeles.  I felt that I wanted to give back and began working with inner city kids teaching video and film skills through grant programs.  I then went into public schools to teach ELA standards to elementary students using video and film techniques. As I saw what was happening in our schools, I began look for alternate ways of teachings.  This brought me to Montessori. I loved the focus and respect of the child. I knew that teaching in the Montessori Method was for me.

  1. Why do you believe in our public charter Montessori school?

I believe in Public Charter Montessori because I believe all students, no matter their economic bracket, should have access to the Montessori Method.  When searching for a school to work at I knew I wanted to be at a public school not a private school and High Desert Montessori was the perfect fit.

  1. What are your beliefs about guiding all children- those that struggle and excel?  

I believe that all students can excel.  If a student is having a difficult time then it is my job to find what sparks their imagination and guide them in that direction to learn and to grow.

  1. What does partnering with parents and community look like for your classroom?  

At High Desert Montessori, the parents are the backbone of our school. In Candelaria, there are many ways parents can volunteer to help out and share their skills with students. I enjoy meeting with parents and sharing the successes of their child. I feel that open communication is important and try to include what is going on in the life of our classroom in my weekly newsletter.

  1. What is the method in which you grow professionally and personally?                    

I am a lifelong learner.  I enjoy learning new ways to reach a child when I have been unsuccessful in the past, and how to spark their imagination. I am always trying to find ways to improve my teaching and help each child become successful.

  1. Where do you see yourself and HDMS in 5 years?

In five years I see myself still learning and teaching children.  I visualize all of the High Desert Community together in one building and being able to help each other in our core mission of educating the child.

Ms. Martha – Lower Elementary Assistant

Ms. Sarah - Antelope - Lower Elementary

About Me

  1. What is your experience and training and how did you come to our school?

I have known about the Montessori method since I was a first grader at a bilingual Montessori school in France and told my mother that I wanted to be a Montessori teacher. Since then, I have obtained an M.Ed. in general and special education from Lesley University, taught four years at a charter school in Washington DC, and worked as a outdoor educator and science instructor delivering hands-on lessons across Washoe County. When I left the classroom the first time, I was looking to teach in an educational setting that relied less on sticks and carrots and more on students’ curiosity and innate drive to learn. When planning my move to Reno, I was excited that to find out that there were two Montessori schools in town, and I decided to pursue Montessori teaching. I was thrilled when there was an opening last year and am grateful to be part of the HDMS community.

  1. Why do you believe in our public charter Montessori school?

All children should be able to benefit from the Montessori method regardless of zip code or income level. I also believe Montessori schools that are overseen and funded by local districts and counties contribute to raising public awareness about the Montessori method in ways that private schools cannot.

  1. What are your beliefs about guiding all children- those that struggle and excel?  

In my classroom, I strive to create a community of learners who are independent and self-reliant but who also take care of each other. One of my favorite Montessori-inspired educators  emphasizes “bienveillance” as the key to a thriving, warm classroom. From French into English, this translates as having someone’s well-being in mind and implies goodwill and kindness. When the whole classroom is fueled by goodwill and kindness, love and trust can flourish, and children are happy to come to come to school.

  1. What does partnering with parents and community look like for your classroom?  

I have always maintained open lines of communication with parents, whether they want to use email or text to get in touch with me. I enjoy having regular volunteers in my classroom who come to teach skills such as sewing, knitting & crochet, and mask-making.

When students were researching African countries for our yearly Celebration of Diversity, I asked a friend to come in to speak about his experience fleeing the war torn Congo and coming to the US as a refugee with his family. We had a wonderful Q&A and students wrote him thank you cards when he left.

  1. What is the method in which you grow professionally and personally?         

The bulk of my learning as a teacher has come from collaborating with colleagues, whether it is through mutual observation, engaging in lesson study or planning together. I am learning to let students’ interests guide my teaching. I also look forward to starting Montessori training this summer.

  1. Where do you see yourself and HDMS in 5 years?

In the next several years, I hope to still be working with children in the classroom as a guide. I will have completed my AMI training and hope to continue growing as a teacher. I also hope to become more well-rounded as teacher and improve my art and music instruction.