Board Chair: Max Haynes

From his business life to his community life, Max Haynes remains committed to education, finance and technology.

Max currently serves as founder and Chief Executive Officer of Customer Engagement Technologies focused on efficiency and financial literacy for underbanked customers. As CEO and strategy leader for the company, Max is responsible for driving solutions to serve the underbanked market.  

Max also currently serves as the Director of Private Lending for Alpen Mortgage, the largest private lender in Northern Nevada. For over 20 years, Max has helped finance the development and construction of numerous commercial projects and thousands of housing units in the region.

An aggressive innovator, Max has spent more than two decades disrupting traditional financial models in the lending, real estate, banking and private finance sectors. Prior to founding Customer Engagement Technologies, Max invested years in the private mortgage arena while also consulting for numerous players in the U.S. banking industry, including Citibank. His work with both national and regional banks opened his eyes to the limits of traditional banking and its profound effect on the underserved.

Max has a deep understanding of commercial real estate, construction and mortgage lending. He helped provide private construction financing in Nevada at a time when no banks would consider lending. He also led American business delegations to Russia, China and Japan to assist in the development of creative strategies for both finance and technology companies.

A successful serial entrepreneur, Max was an early member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and has been a major speaker at conferences hosted by EO, as well as the Young Presidents’ Organization. Max has spoken on the topics of entrepreneurship and innovation at more than 50 universities in the United States, Canada and Mexico and has been featured as a thought leader in numerous television, radio and print interviews. Max’s natural aptitude for innovation led to his active involvement on a number of national advisory boards—including the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Commerce—and as Executive Director of the Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs.

Before entrepreneurship was mainstream, Max attended the University of Southern California’s Entrepreneurship Program and later championed the concepts of new enterprise at universities across the globe. He has led educational conventions with globally-recognized entrepreneurs, such as Steve Jobs, Michael Dell, Ted Turner and Mark Cuban, to inspire young entrepreneurs and to elicit that same passion for disruption in the younger generation.

Besides his business interests, Max is actively involved in his community in Reno, Nevada and is committed to helping youth gain a better education with special emphasis on technology.  Max serves on the City of Reno Mayor’s Housing Taskforce helping streamline the development and entitlement process for the fast growing region. He has two school aged children who are committed to a Montessori education. He has spent many years studying Montessori and alternative education methods. He currently is the Vice Chair of High Desert Montessori Charter School.  Max believes in teaching children to be more independent, self-driven and creative in their educational lives. He strongly supports private and charter schools and believes that parental involvement is the key to a child’s success.

Vice Chair: Amanda Baldwin

Amanda Baldwin joined the Board of Directors in July 2017 as the PTO/Board Liaison after serving as the PTO Vice President during the 2016-2017 school year. She is a customer service professional who is currently employed with a local CPA firm and has previous experience in the publishing, warehousing, freight, retail, and telecommunications industries. Amanda earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from University of Nevada, Reno in 1997.

Treasurer: Reid Riker

  1. What is your professional experience and training?

I am a certified public accountant, licensed in Nevada, practicing predominantly in tax return preparation but also financial statements and IRS representation. Training-wise, while I don’t have any education-specific training, I’ve been in the accounting profession for 16 years.

  1. Why do you believe in families having Non-Traditional Educational Choices?

Freedom in having non-traditional education allows parents, their children and ultimately the end-users, the World, experience a different way of thinking that promotes healthy diverse ways of solution creation/problem solving. As well, Montessori education allows children to collaborate strongly with other differently-aged students, something not common in traditional education; working with others not in the same grade opens different perspectives.  

  1. Why do you offer your time and talents specifically to High Desert Montessori School?

I offer my time and talents to the wonderful High Desert Montessori School because I was always taught in my family that a solid education is the key to a successful rest of your life, so even though I wasn’t raised on Montessori education, I share values with it. Secondly, a school always needs good stewardship, whether that’s from an educator or financial professional such as myself; it’s a great school and the kids deserve to have strong board guiding the school. Lastly, as a United States citizen, helping an educational institution is a great way to build a stronger country.

Secretary: Claudia Casteñeda

Claudia Castañeda was raised in Winnemucca, Nevada. She received both her undergraduate degree and a Masters in Social Work from the University of Nevada, Reno.  Claudia has been involved in the Reno community as an activist and a bilingual community organizer for many years. 

Licensed Montessori Administrator & Educator: Linda Aaquist

Linda Aaquist has an Honors Bachelor of Science Degree in Geology and Masters of Education Degree in Administration and Supervision. She has AMS Montessori Credentials in Infant and Toddler, Early Childhood, and Elementary I and II. She has a Middle School Science Endorsement.

From 1984 to 1988, Linda was a Primary Teacher at Appletree Montessori School in Arvada, Colorado. From 1988 to 1999, Linda was a Montessori Elementary Teacher at Cambridge Montessori School in Reno, Nevada.  From 1999 to 2001, Linda was the Assistant Director of the Montessori Teacher Education Center/San Francisco Bay Area (MTEC/SFBA). From 2001 to 2002, Linda returned to Cambridge Montessori School until it closed in June of 2002. From the fall of 2001 to summer of 2002, Linda was the President of the HDMS Board. From 2002 to 2011, Linda was an Elementary and Middle School Teacher at HDMS. From 2008 to 2015, Linda was the Assistant Principal of HDMS. She retired in June 2015. Since 1991, Linda has been and continues to be an Elementary Teacher Trainer and Practicum Coordinator for MTEC/SFBA. She has served as a member of the HDMS Board since August of 2018.

Licensed Montessori Educator: Nicole Commons

Nicole Commons is an AMS Montessori credentialed educator who joined the Board in November 2019.  Nicole moved to Reno from San Francisco, in 2007, where she had been working with inner city students bringing art and technology into the classroom. Nicole began her career at High Desert Montessori as an Assistant and eventually obtained her Montessori Credential and became a classroom lead teacher.

“I love Maria Montessori’s cosmic education, how it fits so naturally into my style of teaching and my respect for the child.  The High Desert Montessori School is a wonderful community and I am honored to be a part of its success.”

Nicole is currently a teacher at Roy Gomm for the SWAS program.  The ‘School Within a School’ program caters to the needs of gifted students. She has been able to bring a mix of Montessori to public education.  Nicole received her undergraduate degree from SDSU, her Master’s Degree in Education from Sierra Nevada College and her AMS degree from MTEC in Sunnyvale.

PTO Board Liaison: Nancy Smith

  1. What is your professional experience and training?

I am a nurse and have been for the past 20 years in the Reno area.  I have my Masters of Science in Nursing with an emphasis on Nursing Education.  Currently, I am a Nursing Instructor at Carrington College.  I am also currently enrolled in a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Educational Leadership program with expected graduation in May of 2022.

  1. Why do you believe in families having Non-Traditional Educational Choices?

I believe that choice matters, and to provide my children with the best education possible, I need to be aware of my options.  While some children benefit from a traditional school format, others do not.  

  1. Why do you offer your time and talents specifically to High Desert Montessori School?

I want to give back to the HDMS community that helped my family out during the most challenging time in our lives.  Six years ago, my youngest son was diagnosed with childhood cancer.  My oldest was in kindergarten at HDMS at the time, and the faculty, staff, and families rallied and helped take care of all of us.  I can do nothing to repay what has been given to us, but I can sure try.