Faculty and Staff

Toddler

Nicole Barba

Nicole Barba

Toddler Teacher, Sassafras Class

Nicole Barba’s Montessori journey began at The Montessori School in Wilton, CT. She recognized Montessori's method as a practical application for all the theory and science she had learned while studying developmental psychology and neuropsychology in college. Before starting her AMI 0-3 program, Nicole was a Primary substitute, a teacher's assistant for the full day bilingual toddler program for 4 years, and she helped run the early morning program for Primary and Elementary children, as well as coaching Elementary soccer and running club teams. In Fall 2015, Nicole opened up the second Toddler classroom at the school as the lead teacher. She found her way to Aidan by becoming a maternity leave substitute for the toddler classroom. Nicole went on to finish a Master's program in Education, with a Montessori concentration. She officially moved down to the DMV area and came back to Aidan to become a Lead Toddler Teacher.

Montessori education has become a passion to Nicole's family, too; her sister followed her to the world of Montessori practice, finding common ground with her own collegiate studies in Art and also becoming a Primary assistant at the same school where Nicole first taught.

Nicole has a passion for the outdoors; from gardening to hiking to snowboarding as well as playing soccer. She also loves to salsa dance, cook, bake, read, and craft. Nicole is developing skills with the fine arts in painting through the guidance of her sister.

Lakmali Cooray

Lakmali Cooray

Toddler Assistant, Mountain Silverbell Class

Mali came to Aidan as a Toddler Assistant in 2008. Prior to arriving at Aidan, she worked with Chevy Chase Baptist Church Children’s Center as teacher aide for two years and also dedicated time to raising her children. Prior to moving to the US in 2004, she studied both drafting and education, and worked as draftsman and teacher.

Mali grew up in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She currently lives in Rockville, MD, with her husband, teenage daughter, and son. Apart from interacting with children, she enjoys gardening, reading, and traveling.

Maria Marino

Maria Marino

Toddler Assistant, Mountain Silverbell Class

Maria Marino joined Aidan in 2019 as a Toddler Assistant in the Mountain Silverbell Class. She originally hails from Colombia and holds a BA in Psychology from Universidad Javeriana at Bogota, Colombia. Maria’s experience working with children and in a Montessori classroom prior to Aidan have inspired her own academic journey. She is currently undertaking an online Montessori Educational Program to receive her International Certificate for Toddlers from Montessori de Latinoamérica A.C.

Maria and her family moved to Washington, DC when her husband took a job at a Multilateral Development Bank for Latin America and the Caribbean. Before moving to Washington, DC, she spent two years in Montreal and Toronto, Canada, where she learned English. When not at work, Maria practices a healthy lifestyle and enjoys hiking, dancing, and jogging. She also loves spending time with friends of many of cultures and backgrounds.

Sudharshini Perera

Sudharshini Perera

Toddler Assistant, Sassafras Class

Sue joined Aidan Montessori in 2004 as a Primary Assistant and now serves as a Toddler Assistant in the Sassafras Class. At the start of her working life, Sue obtained a diploma in secretarial studies and worked as an administrative assistant for two multi-national companies. While working, inspired by her passion for uplifting children, she obtained her two diplomas from Colombo Montessori Teacher Training Center. She then accepted an appointment with The Footsteps Montessori School as a teacher in Kandy, Sri Lanka, where she worked for two years. She has also earned an AMI Assistant’s Certificate in the US.

Sue grew up in a coastal town in Sri Lanka and is fluent in Sinhala (or Sinhalese, as it is openly known to English speakers). She is is a skilled seamstress and enjoys teaching others how to sew (for which some of our Discovery students thank her!). She loves taking her sons camping to teach them about outdoor living and scavenging. She also enjoys cooking, gardening, and traveling.

Hilary Thain

Hilary Thain

Toddler Teacher, Mountain Silverbell Class

Hilary Thain joined Aidan in 2019 and is the lead teacher in the Mountain Silverbell Toddler community. Hilary began her teaching career as a K-8 teacher in elementary education, teaching middle school math and science in Ohio. Upon moving to New York City, she discovered her passion for Montessori and early childhood education. After learning more about Montessori, Hilary felt like she was reading her own thoughts and beliefs about how to teach and how to nourish the whole child. She found a kindred spirit in the Montessori philosophy and the paradigm of educating for peace. In New York City, Hilary helped open a new school, and then spent three years as an assistant in a toddler community. She then began the AMI Assistants to Infancy training for children from birth to 3. After completing her training, Hilary moved from New York City to Washington, DC and became the lead guide in a toddler community in Virginia before coming to Aidan.

Hilary originally hails from Akron, Ohio. When not in school, she enjoys spending time with family, watching movies new and old, biking, traveling, and baking.

Pamela Vigil

Pamela Vigil

Toddler Assistant, Sassafras Class

Pamela Vigil joined the Aidan community in 2019 as one of our Spanish-speaking Toddler Assistants in the Sassafras class. She is in the process of getting her Montessori training and looks forward to stepping into the classroom. Prior to starting at Aidan, Pamela worked in marketing and customer service and also has experience in web design and social media management.

Outside of the classroom, Pamela enjoys spending time with her beautiful baby boy and lovely husband. She comes from a big family and has three sisters, two brothers and many cousins. Pamela loves spending quality time with her family and especially enjoy cooking for her family and friends.

Primary

Cecilia Aker

Cecilia Aker

Primary Teacher, Persimmon Class

Cecilia Aker is the lead Primary teacher in the Persimmon class. After completing her Montessori training in 2014, Cecilia co-taught in Pennsylvania and Minnesota, and served as the lead teacher in the same classroom where she started out as an assistant. Prior to joining Aidan, Cecilia spent two years teaching at Rochester Montessori School in Minnesota.

Cecilia comes from a foreign service family and grew up moving all over the world. She lived in the DC area between assignments, and is excited to be back in the District. Outside of the classroom, Cecilia can be found enjoying green spaces, reading, exploring museums, and trying new recipes.

Claudia Caihuara

Claudia Caihuara

Primary Teacher, Mulberry Class

Claudia entered the Montessori world in the summer of 2007 at Arlington Montessori House. While there, she served in multiple assistant roles, earning her AMI certification as an assistant prior to becoming a lead teacher in a Montessori summer program in 2015-16.

Though Claudia has lived in the US since 1997, when her parents relocated here with her and her two older brothers, Claudia was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is a fluent speaker of both English and Spanish.

Outside of the classroom, Claudia enjoys making Montessori materials, drawing, and dancing.

Teri Eckel

Teri Eckel

Primary Teacher, Redbud Class

As an Early Childhood Educator at Aidan Montessori School, Teri Eckel guides young children to reach their fullest potential intellectually, emotionally, socially, physically, and spiritually. Teri is a dedicated, nurturing, and collaborative educator with over a decade of teaching experience and who is committed to identifying and supporting each child’s distinct learning style, interest, and potential. Teri is masterful at building strong parent-teacher-child partnerships that lead to rewarding school experiences. She is passionate about creating and maintaining a safe, loving, and supportive learning environment where all children learn, grow, and thrive.

Prior to teaching, Teri spent a decade working for The Cronkite Ward Company producing quality educational television programming for The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel, and Public Television. This invaluable experience took her all over the world, exposing her to different people, cultures, and customs, and teaching her the importance of education and further developing her compassion toward humanity.

Teri resides in Alexandria, VA, where she enjoys spending time with her husband and twin boys, who are Aidan alumni. She enjoys traveling, gardening, riding bikes and practicing peace.

Zinat Khraishah

Zinat Khraishah

Primary Assistant, Persimmon Class

Zinat started her career at Aidan in 2004 by spending nine years as a Lower Elementary Classroom Assistant. She expanded her role at the school in 2009, when she joined the After School Program (ASP) staff. She also spent one year as a Toddler Assistant and is now a Primary Assistant - a role for which she recently earned AMI certification. Her career in education began in her hometown of Ramallah, where she co-founded a private preschool and worked there as a teacher and administrator. After moving to the US, she worked for several years as an Educational Aid at Hearst Elementary and as a Primary Assistant at Franklin Montessori School. She has also completed Montessori workshops on a variety of topics including music and parent education.

Zinat is a native of Palestine and a native Arabic speaker. She enjoys working in her community garden, reading, cooking and traveling. Her daughter, Janine, is an honors graduate of Brown University and recently completed an MBA at Harvard University. Her son, Omar, is an honors graduate of the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State University.

Katia Kozhakova

Katia Kozhakova

Primary Teacher, Dogwood Class

Katia Kozhakova joins the Aidan Community as the new lead teacher in the Dogwood Primary Class. Originally born and raised in the beautiful city of St. Petersburg, Russia, Katia moved to the United States in 2008 as part of a student exchange program. She aspired to be a teacher from a young age and began her career by teaching German at the St. Petersburg Policy Academy. After moving to the States, Katia continued her studies and pursued a master’s degree in education and her AMI Montessori Primary certification. Prior to joining Aidan, she spent 5 years as a Primary Guide at the Montessori Public School of Arlington.

In her spare time, Katia enjoys traveling, exploring new activities and discovering great restaurants in and around DC. She practices meditation and Kundalini yoga, and also loves art, reading, and spending time with her friends.

Heather Metis

Heather Metis

Primary Assistant, Mulberry Class

Heather joined Aidan in 2018 as one of our After School Program assistants and support to the Primary Division. She now looks forward to joining the Primary Team as the Primary Assistant to the Mulberry class. Heather’s passion for working with children stems from her experience working on education projects for the World Bank and USAID. Her background is originally in international development, where she spent a considerable amount of time working on projects related to democracy and governance, health and education in the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America, sub-Saharan African and the central Caucasus region. After completing a number of education projects with children in the Middle East and North Africa, Heather realized that she loved working with children and wanted to play a part in their growth and development.

Before joining Aidan, Heather served as the After School Coordinator at the Washington International Middle School as well as the the Director of After School Programs at St Bernadette.

In her free time, Heather enjoys binge-watching popular shows on Netflix and spending time with her loving family and charming husband. In addition, she loves to read, dance, and make cool art projects with children.

Mila Rey

Mila Rey

Primary Assistant, Dogwood Class

Mila Rey came to Aidan as a parent in 1995 and joined the staff in 1997. She grew up in the Philippines, and received a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Far Eastern University in Manila. She speaks Tagalog, likes cooking, and enjoys reading. Her daughter, Kristine, graduated from Aidan in 2004.

Nirmala Tennekoon

Nirmala Tennekoon

Primary Assistant, Redbud Class

Nirmala started her career working with children as a primary teacher in Sri Lanka from 2003 to 2004. She served as a Toddler Assistant for several years and now joins Aidan's Primary team as an Assistant in the Redbud Class. Previously, Nirmala served Aidan as Program Coordinator for the Before & After School Program (B/ASP) from 2005 to 2011 and as a Primary Assistant from 2013 to 2014.

Nirmala has two daughters, Bavya and Kalani, who both previously attended Aidan. In her free time, she loves water color painting and creating enticing mobiles!

Elementary

Shirley Cogasi

Shirley Cogasi

Lower Elementary Assistant, Magnolia Class

Shirley Cogasi came to Aidan in 1999. She received her B.S. In Education from Baguio Central University, Philippines. She worked in St. Francis Day School (now St. Andrew’s Lower School) in Potomac, MD, as a music support person and in the enrichment program. Recently, she received an AMI Assistants Course Certificate from Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola College. She also works part time at Bartholomew Assisted Living in Maryland as a Medication Technician.

Hamed Isaza

Hamed Isaza

Lower Elementary Teacher, Red Oak Class

Aidan is delighted to welcome Hamed Isaza as our new Lead Teacher in the Red Oak Lower Elementary Community. Hamed’s entry into the Montessori world was preceded by four years spent in service of youths in and around Chicago where he worked as a crisis intervention counselor and case worker for Youth Outreach Services. It was during this time that he realized how crucial the earliest years of human development were to finding success later in life, and ultimately led him on his current path as a Montessori Guide. Hamed was trained as an AMI Elementary Guide and after 7 years of teaching in Chicago, he made his way to Washington D.C. and continued to work at Lee Montessori Public Charter School for another 4 years. Hamed believes that the Montessori method is a gift, one that he is eager to share with as many children and families as possible. Beginning anew at Aidan, the excitement to share this experience with a new community fills him with the joy of new possibilities to come.

Hamed believes that one of the best things about being a teacher is that part of the job is to never stop learning. This is something he loves and coincidentally a sentiment he hopes to instill in the children. To Hamed, this means spending plenty of time in the great outdoors, exploring nature and seeing the intricate interconnectedness of the world first hand. And, whenever he has the chance, Hamed shares this hobby with friends and family. Beyond that, much of his time is spent cooking, eating, reading, and spending time with loved ones (one of which is his wife and beloved guide of our Upper Elementary Community, Julia Isaza).

Julia Isaza

Julia Isaza

Upper Elementary Teacher, Sweet Gum Class

Julia is the lead teacher for our Sweet Gum Upper Elementary Class. Prior to joining Aidan, Julia led a 6-12 Montessori Elementary classroom in Arlington, Virginia for four years. In addition to teaching, she is a founding member of the Washington Montessori Institute Alumni and Friends and an enthusiastic member of AMI-EAA, a member-run professional affiliate of Association Montessori Internationale elementary guides and trainers providing a supportive community for the exchange of ideas that promote the principles of Montessori education. She is closely connected to Montessori trained teachers and trainers around the globe, participating in professional development conferences to learn new skills like knitting, felting, and calligraphy, and observing in the classrooms of thriving Montessori schools from Portland, Oregon to Chennai, India.

Julia and her husband (Red Oak Lead Teacher, Hamed Isaza) are big fans of camping. Each summer they enjoy plotting out road trips to hike, swim, fish, and explore various national and state parks and connect with friends and family along the way. They have driven together from D.C. to Banff, AB, Canada, and recently backpacked the Pacific Northwest coast in Olympic National Park, WA. Julia enjoys sharing her travel and nature stories with the Upper Elementary community, and doing a bit of camping with the children too!

Alden Kendall

Alden Kendall

Upper Elementary Assistant, Sweet Gum Class

Alden joined Aidan's Upper Elementary team in January, 2018, and has been with Aidan since 2013. He holds AMI diplomas in both Primary and Elementary, and has completed AMI Adolescent training. Alden began his Montessori career as a Primary guide in Bethesda before joining Aidan as Director of After School Programs. Offered the chance to join the Upper Elementary team in 2018, he has since sought to enrich the Sweet Gum community with his love of learning, the outdoors, and working with his hands.

Alden grew up all over the United States. He spends much of his free time either in his wood shop, making odds and ends as well as customized Montessori materials, gardening, building, or outdoors, where he likes hiking, camping, and generally enjoying the natural world.

Grace Rind

Grace Rind

Lower Elementary Teacher, Magnolia Class

Before joining Aidan as our lead teacher in the Magnolia Class, Grace taught Lower Elementary at the Montessori School of Tokyo. She was first introduced to the Montessori community in 2009 at Crossway Community Montessori School, where she initially served as a volunteer and later worked. Grace took a hiatus to teach English at the Assumption University of Thailand, then on to work as a project manager for a media company. Her vocation, she discovered, truly lies in teaching.

Grace has traveled to several countries and has plans to continue exploring. When she's not presenting lessons or observing her class, Grace enjoys watching stand-up comedy, yoga, Taiko drumming, hiking, singing, dancing, visiting museums, and cooking.

Vernon Weathers

Vernon Weathers

Lower Elementary Assistant, Red Oak Class

Vernon joined Aidan in 2018 as the Assistant in the Red Oak Lower Elementary Classroom. Vernon is actively engaged in the Montessori community and Montessori remains a big part of his life both in and outside the classroom. He served as a presenter at the AMS conference in Denver, where he spoke about Peace and Cosmic Education. He has also served as the program coordinator for the Montessori Model United Nations (MMUN) and the coordinator for the Monthly Peace Pole Gatherings. Before joining Aidan, Vernon established his own after school program, P3 (Power, Poise, Presence), which focused on building self-confidence, self-worth, leadership skills and promoting principles of scholarship and diversity among adolescents.

Born in Baltimore, MD and raised in Short Hills, NJ, Vernon is most passionate about his work with youth. Vernon’s mission is to help foster positive, productive global citizens and he works to achieve this goal daily. He enjoys incorporating the Montessori Method into his Sunday school classes and serves as a deacon at his church. When he is not in the classroom, Vernon enjoys traveling, socializing with friends and family, and long walks with his poodle, Korden.


Specialty

Tabitha Bean

Tabitha Bean

Substitute for Teachers

We are pleased to welcome Tabitha Bean as Aidan’s new Montessori Teacher Substitute. Tabitha first discovered Montessori through her own children, who attended Montessori schools from an early age. She received her AMI Primary certification from the Montessori Institute of San Diego and has a served as the lead Primary Guide in several public and private school settings.

Prior to becoming a teacher, Tabitha was an organic vegetable farmer. When not in a classroom or spending time with family, she enjoys knitting, gardening, cycling, traveling, and hosting dinner parties.

Xi Chen

Xi Chen

Chinese Teacher

Xixi first began her teaching career during her undergraduate study working with international students to improve their second language acquisition skills. After finishing her degree, she expanded teaching skills by working in an immersion environment at Language Stars in McLean. Most recently, Xixi spent three years teaching Chinese at Ross School in East Hampton, New York, where she was able to hone her craft. Xixi brings her creativity and care to the Aidan community and is a wonderful part of our Foreign Language Team.

Xixi views life to be an adventure and she loves exploring and trying new things. Swimming, hiking and cycling are a few of the outdoor activities that Xi enjoys. When she's not hiking the Grand Canyon or sky diving, Xixi also likes cooking with friends and tasting new foods. Currently, she is learning ballet and how to surf.

Eva Esparza

Eva Esparza

Music and Drama Teacher

In 2004, Eva created Aidan's Music Program, which combines choral lessons with general theory instruction and incorporates individual lessons during Montessori work cycles. During her time at Aidan she completed a graduate degree in theatre education, and as a result of that work, has designed music lessons that incorporate drama games and skills. She loves collaborating with colleagues to bring more arts integration into Aidan's classrooms. Before coming to Aidan, Eva taught Spanish and Drama at the Thornton Friends School in Silver Spring as well as English as a Second Language at Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School in DC. She has also worked as an apprentice costume designer at the Olney Theater Center.

Eva is passionate about making the arts accessible and enjoyable to all Aidan students. She enjoys playing the piano, yoga, tennis, and directing Aidan's Spring Musical (another tradition she started here, which incorporates all Elementary students as cast). She and her husband Ryan have three young children, Nora, Ellsworth and John, and she has been an Aidan parent for ten years.

Abbi Fashola

Abbi Fashola

Assistant Substitute

Abbi Fashola joined the Aidan Community in 2019 as the Substitute for Assistant Teachers. Before coming to Aidan, she spent three years working in the Fairfax County Public School. It was during her time at FCPS that Abbi realized her passion for early childhood education.

In her free time, Abbi enjoys making beautiful jewelry, cooking, and spending time with her family.

Andrew Hurwitz

Andrew Hurwitz

Learning Support Specialist

Andrew joined Aidan in 2017 as our Learning Support Specialist. He works with teachers and parents to identify children who have learning challenges that can be helped with resources. Andrew observes in classrooms, meets with teachers and parents, and helps parents connect with resources for their children. Andrew also continues the school Tutor's work of providing direct support to children by way of tutoring, but his scope is more far reaching.

Prior to coming to Aidan, Andrew served in a similar capacity at schools in Atlanta and Seattle. This is his seventh year working as a special education teacher and learning specialist. He has worked in many different kinds of special education teaching formats - including resource, inclusion, co-teacher, and autism/behavior self-contained - including one Montessori-inspired resource room as a student teacher. He also served as an Americorps member for two years in Washington state.

Andrew has enjoyed time volunteering with therapy dogs at animal shelters. He's also having fun enjoying the greater DC area, taking classes through REI, traveling (he wants to go to Iceland and Chile soon!), paddle boarding, people watching, petting dogs, and contemplating getting a Dalmatian (complete with frequent pro/con lists).

Phillip Katinas

Phillip Katinas

Director of Auxiliary Programs

Phillip Katinas joined Aidan in 2018 and currently serves as the Director of Auxiliary Services. Phillip’s work in education began at the Sheridan School in DC, where he served as camp teacher at their Creative Arts and Summer Adventure Camp (CASA) while home from college during the summer. After several years as camp teacher, Phillip accepted a full-time role as the Program Manager for CASA and was ultimately promoted to the Assistant Director of Auxiliary Programs at Sheridan. As Sheridan's Assistant Director of Auxiliary Programs, Philip oversaw all after school and summer programs and brings a wealth of knowledge to his role at Aidan. In addition to managing Aidan's After School (ASP), Discovery, and Summer Programs, Phillip also teaches PE to the Elementary and Primary students.

Phillip and his family are DC-natives and all still reside in the area. Phillip loves playing sports, especially ice hockey. He also enjoys exploring the great outdoors, biking, camping, and hiking. Philip spends his free time training his two Newfoundland dogs, who not only love to swim but are water-rescue certified.

Jessica Kwerel

Jessica Kwerel

School Counselor

Jessica has served as School Counselor at Aidan since 2009, supporting the social and emotional needs of students and their families. In addition to her education and counseling certifications, she has a background in ropes course facilitation, team building, and outdoor experiential education working with children, adolescents, and adults. As a member of the WAISC (Washington Area Independent School Counselor) group, Jessica participates in monthly meetings with other area independent school counselors to collaborate and share in current school counseling trends and topics relevant to the Aidan community. Jessica holds professional memberships with the American School Counseling Association, the American Counseling Association, and the DC Mental Health Association. She has served as a volunteer counselor with Whitman-Walker clinic and the Wendt Center for Loss and Healing, and has volunteered with Capital Caring Hospice. Jessica also has a small private practice providing pet grief support https://petlossdc.com/

Jessica's mother, Linda Feldman, was Aidan’s librarian for 13 years. Jessica is an avid outdoor enthusiast and enjoys hiking and biking with her husband. They love going on adventures with their two beloved rescue dogs, Buford and Sam, as well as riding on the motorcycle.

Natalia Lopez

Natalia Lopez

Spanish Teacher

Natalia López first came to Aidan in 1989, left in 1998, and returned in 2002. She grew up in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where she received a B.S. in Elementary Education from Normal de Maestros Manuel A. Villarreal-Cochabamba. She worked for eight years as an elementary teacher at Instituto Americano at Cochabamba, Bolivia. At that time she worked with Christian Children’s Fund with children from different backgrounds. She also works as a Spanish Language and Culture teacher at the International Monetary Fund and as a Spanish Professor at Georgetown University. Natalia also speaks Portuguese. She enjoys reading; spending time with her grandchildren Diego, Daniella, Camilla and Derek; traveling; and meeting new people.

Emily Navarro

Emily Navarro

Literacy Specialist

Before joining the Aidan faculty, Emily worked in student engagement at 826 Boston, a youth writing center, and served as a middle and high school English teacher. In 2019 she earned an AMI Foundations certificate in Zurich, Switzerland, and previously spent a summer at Middlebury College's Bread Loaf School of English.

Outside of Aidan, Emily enjoys spending time with her family and exploring new places--especially while hiking or biking.

Margaret Skor

Margaret Skor

Art Teacher

Margaret joined Aidan as Art Teacher in 2017, in a convergence of her professional background in both art and childcare. She began her art career as a photographer and documentary filmmaker. Much of her work involved kids, schools, and nonprofits that work with children. She transitioned to working with children full-time as a nanny and found that she loved working one-on-one with young children and helping them to cultivate their self-expression and curiosity. She has also worked as a creator of group events, parties, and art workshops for children for 15 years.

Margaret has been a part of the Aidan community as a caregiver for two Aidan students for eight years. She enjoyed getting involved in their Aidan classrooms and getting to know Aidan's community and the Montessori method. She also loves continuing to learn by taking advantage of all the museums and cultural events DC has to offer. You can find her taking photographs, reading, booking, crafting new projects, or just walking in the city in her free time.

Nell Stewart

Nell Stewart

Librarian

Nell started her library career with many years' experience working in academic and research libraries. She more recently became interested in school libraries, and so started taking courses in School Library Media and working as a substitute librarian and teacher in independent and public schools in the DC area. She served as a parent volunteer in Sidwell Friends' Lower School Library for several years, and has also volunteered at Little Falls Library, a branch of the Montgomery County Public Library system.

Nell loves to read, especially with her book club, of which she has been a member for 15 years. She also enjoys biking, swimming, gardening, baking, and spending time with her son and daughter.

After-School Programs & Discovery

Phillip Katinas

Phillip Katinas

Director of Auxiliary Programs

Phillip Katinas joined Aidan in 2018 and currently serves as the Director of Auxiliary Services. Phillip’s work in education began at the Sheridan School in DC, where he served as camp teacher at their Creative Arts and Summer Adventure Camp (CASA) while home from college during the summer. After several years as camp teacher, Phillip accepted a full-time role as the Program Manager for CASA and was ultimately promoted to the Assistant Director of Auxiliary Programs at Sheridan. As Sheridan's Assistant Director of Auxiliary Programs, Philip oversaw all after school and summer programs and brings a wealth of knowledge to his role at Aidan. In addition to managing Aidan's After School (ASP), Discovery, and Summer Programs, Phillip also teaches PE to the Elementary and Primary students.

Phillip and his family are DC-natives and all still reside in the area. Phillip loves playing sports, especially ice hockey. He also enjoys exploring the great outdoors, biking, camping, and hiking. Philip spends his free time training his two Newfoundland dogs, who not only love to swim but are water-rescue certified.

Administration

Blake Brophy

Blake Brophy

Chief Financial Officer

Blake Brophy brings to Aidan Montessori School more than 25-years of accumulated experience and expertise managing financial and accounting matters, with extensive experience within the non-profit sector. A graduate of Hamilton College and the Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University, Blake began his career in the tax practice of Arthur Andersen LLP servicing a broad array of clients with a focus on exempt organizations. This foundational experience inspired Blake to pursue a professional career in service to non-profits, serving as controller and chief financial officer for two professional membership associations, an international grant-making foundation and a philanthropic advisory firm. At Washington National Opera, Blake led the accounting and financial reporting operations for seven seasons and assisted in the organization’s ultimate merger with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Throughout his career, Blake has been committed to providing insightful financial analyses to a wide range of audiences to communicate clearly the link between strategic planning and allocation of resources to assessments of financial and operational performance.

Outside of work, Blake is committed to supporting a vibrant arts & culture environment throughout the greater Washington, DC community. He has served on the boards of three performing arts organizations and has performed in and directed numerous staged productions with several local theatre groups. Blake lives on Capitol Hill and enjoys travel, cooking and spending summer afternoons rooting for the home team at Nationals Stadium.

Kevin Clark

Kevin Clark

Head of School

Kevin is a passionate educator whose leadership approach is deeply rooted in the global, collaborative, and facilitative nature of the Montessori pedagogy. He has more than 25 years of teaching and administrative experience, including thirteen as a Head of Montessori schools. Prior to coming to Aidan, Kevin served as Head at Bay Farm Montessori Academy and Amherst Montessori School, both in Massachusetts. He also served as the President of the Montessori Schools of Massachusetts, an organization serving nearly 100 New England schools.

Kevin’s passion for education developed while in the Peace Corps, training teachers in Pakistan and teaching in Namibia. He went on to devote two years to English and Arabic studies at the American University in Cairo, deeply reflecting upon the processes of learning and teaching, while earning a master’s degree. Following his time in Egypt, Kevin taught at the British Council in Berlin, Germany, before returning to the US to direct multiple international student programs, including the English Language Center at Northeastern University. Appointed Assistant Head of a Montessori school in 2004, Kevin – a new father at the time – was instantly enlightened to a philosophy of learning that, in his words, was life changing.

In addition to his professional ties to Montessori, Kevin and his wife are the parents of three Montessori-educated children.

Ashley Espiritu

Ashley Espiritu

Media Designer and Publication Assistant

Ashley is the artistic talent behind Aidan’s design materials. In addition to designing posters and pamphlets, she can also often be found photographing special events at Aidan. When not working on projects as Aidan’s graphic designer, Ashley enjoys freelance design work. Ashley has received several awards for her work in mobile app design, logo design, and print design.

Ashley grew up in Philippines and is a proud Filipina. She came to the United States alone to help support her family back in the Philippines while completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design. Ashley also likes to dance and served as the Public Relation Chair of her collegiate hip-hop dance team. In her free time, she does a lot of crafting and illustrating. Ashley is a bubble tea and anime fanatic and loves traveling, dancing, and playing video games.

Linda Fincham

Linda Fincham

Office Manager

Linda, born and raised in Maryland, attended Washington Bible College where she earned her B.A. in Education. After graduation, Linda was a Kindergarten teacher until the birth of her son. Rejoining the work force in 1988, she was offered a position as a Children’s Library Associate for Prince Georges County, Maryland, where she enjoyed planning story times for local schools until the birth of her daughter in 1991. After raising her daughter, Linda became the office manager for a computer company for six years but was anxious to return to work in an academic environment. From 2002-2013, she worked as an administrative assistant for the Speech-Language Department of The Lab School of Washington.

Linda enjoys spending time with her two grown children, Tim and Rachel, and she is very active in her church. On the weekends, Linda loves to dog sit and discover walking trails, and can often be found her with her nose in a good book.

Jacqueline Gibson-Barrow

Jacqueline Gibson-Barrow

Receptionist

Jacqueline Gibson-Barrow grew up in Barbados, where she studied accounting, and moved to the United States in 1985. She received her childcare certification from Montgomery College. Before joining Aidan, she worked as a nanny for eight years. She also works at the Arcola Health and Rehab Center (Nursing Home) part time. Jackie is a member of the Barbados National Association and is always ready to volunteer.

She enjoys all kinds of craft and meeting people. Jackie has been married to her wonderful husband, Earl, for over 25 years. They have an older son, Emerson, and a daughter, Lisa-Anne, (Aidan Class of 2009) Holton-Arms class of 2015. Lisa-Anne recently graduated from San Diego State University, where she received a Track and Field scholarship.

Nicole Goodman

Nicole Goodman

Director of Communications, Marketing & Advancement

Nicole joined Aidan Montessori School in 2018 as the Director of Communications, Marketing and Advancement. Prior to joining Aidan, Nicole spent six years at Oneness-Family School in Chevy Chase, Maryland where she served as Director of Communication and Fundraising. A native to Silver Spring, Maryland, Nicole attributes her lifelong love of learning to her own experiences as child in the Montessori classroom.

Nicole currently lives in Maryland with her mini-poodle Luna. In her free time, Nicole loves catching a concert, spending time browsing local bookstores, and exploring new restaurants in and around DC. She is an avid solo traveler and is always planning her next adventure.


Randall-Grace Johnson

Randall-Grace Johnson

Communications & Advancement Associate

Randall-Grace Johnson joined Aidan Montessori School in 2019 as the Communication and Advancement Associate, where she brings her passion for communications and event planning and a love for working with children. Prior to joining Aidan, Randall-Grace spent three years working with Jumpstart, an after school program dedicated to supporting under-resourced pre-schoolers. In addition, she also worked as an assistant elementary teacher with Martha's Table, a DC non-profit that supports the Anacostia community with accessible quality education.

Randall-Grace is an alumna of Greensboro Montessori School in Greensboro, North Carolina. Working at Aidan feels like a nod to her upbringing, and she enjoys re-immersing herself in the Montessori community. While away from Aidan you might find Randall-Grace painting, reading, exploring DC with friends, watching TV, or playing in her local kickball league

Grace Lee

Grace Lee

Director of Enrollment Management

Grace is an AMI Primary-trained guide and has worked in both independent and public Montessori schools. Prior to joining Aidan as Director of Admission in 2016, she served as the Montessori Instructional Specialist for DCPS supporting all Primary programs and collaborating with Central Office to maintain and align Montessori standards and practices. She has also served as co-leader of the DC Montessori Coalition since 2013. She is also an AMI Primary Consultant, one of a small number of people rigorously trained and certified to assist Montessori schools in perfecting their craft as practitioners of the Montessori method.

Grace loves DC - and she especially loves that it is a unique hotbed of Montessori programs that creates amazing, high quality access to Montessori education across the private, public, and charter sectors. She also enjoys photography, especially of children and food (and sometimes helps document life at Aidan due to her talent behind the camera).

Ellie Lehnert

Ellie Lehnert

Staff Accountant

New to the world of independent schools, Ellie Lehnert joined Aidan Montessori School as the Staff Accountant in 2019. After graduating from college, Ellie served as a bookkeeper and assistant property manager for three years at a firm that managed 100+ residential properties in Maryland and DC. She later spent 6-1/2 years with Keller Williams Realty as the Market Center Administrator for offices in McLean and Arlington. During her time with Keller Williams, Ellie managed the office financials and reporting, coordinated charity golf tournaments and supported numerous community outreach and fundraising initiatives. Aidan is pleased to have Ellie and her considerable experience as part of its Business Office.

Ellie is a DC native and currently lives in Fairfax, Virginia. She shares her home with her black cat, Nymphadora, whose name was inspired by the Harry Potter character and her love of the series. In her free time, Ellie enjoys photography, hiking, and watching movies. She is also a licensed real estate agent in Maryland.

Denise Merkel

Denise Merkel

Head of Lower School, Director of Education

Denise enthusiastically returns to Aidan Montessori School as its Director of Education and Head of Lower School. During her tenure at Aidan, Denise has served as Director of the After School Program for 15 years, a Toddler Guide for 23 years, and the Coordinator of APF for the last 14 years. Denise has worked in the field of education for over four decades. In addition to her work at Aidan, she has taught third and seventh grade, been a reading resource and substitute teacher as well as a private tutor, and even served as Administrative Head of Christian Family Montessori School in DC. She has been a frequent guest lecturer at the Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola University, and has been invited to speak to parents at several local Montessori schools.

Denise grew up in suburban Washington, DC. She is the single parent of three grown children, each of whom attended Montessori schools. She enjoys spending time with her baby granddaughter, gardening, baking, reading, de-cluttering, following her favorite sports teams, and listening to music.

Lexi Pollack

Lexi Pollack

School Nurse

Lexi Pollack joins Aidan as our new School Nurse. Prior to joining Aidan, Lexi spent three years at Children's National Medical Center working on the Hematology/Oncology/Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. While at Children’s, she also served on the Wound and Skin Team and was an auditor for a hospital-wide hand washing data collection initiative. Lexi also gained valuable experience working with children during her three year stint with White House Nannies. She recently completed a mission trip to Myanmar in January 2020 to perform health screenings and provide basic teaching to children in several orphanages. Lexi will play a pivotal role in maintaining Aidan’s health and wellness policies and procedures as we tackle the new challenges brought on by COVID-19 and we are thrilled to have her expertise to guide us for the coming the school year.

Lexi grew up in New Jersey, right outside of Philadelphia. She currently lives in Arnold, Maryland with her fiancé, whom she looks forward to marrying next year. In her free time, Lexi enjoys spending time with family and friends, vacationing at the beach and lake, practicing yoga, volunteering at the AACSPCA, reading, and cooking. She also loves ladybugs, acai bowls, the color purple, and house plants.


Jimi Purse

Jimi Purse

Head of Upper School, Chief Operations Officer

Jimi joined Aidan in the 2017-18 school year and is responsible for operations, project management and the Upper School (Lower and Upper Elementary). Jimi can often seen in the elementary classrooms, providing support to teachers. He oversees the many collaborative projects planned throughout the year and continually reviews operations, both large and small and help implement any necessary changes. Jimi has been working in Montessori education for over ten years, most recently as a Head of School at Montessori Family School in Berkeley, California.