Faculty and Staff

Young Children's Community

Mali Cooray

Mali Cooray

Young Children's Community Assistant Teacher, 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.

Gloria Jauregui

Gloria Jauregui

Young Children's Community Teacher, Sassafras Class

Gloria Jauregui has over 20 years of experience working with young children and parents in different settings. She worked with private families for many years as a nanny and Spanish and math tutor. Eventually, Gloria had the opportunity to become a talent recruiter, helping families with the process of finding Nannies, Au pairs, and tutors internationally. This experience gave her a different perception of families, and she discovered that although all parents have similar concerns and needs regarding the care of their children, it was also necessary to understand and genuinely accept the particularities of each family and adapt and adjust as necessary to meet their needs. Gloria also offered guidance and support to a new school in Morocco while they were opening and also virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gloria is now the mother of a 3-year-old girl, and feels that her current situation, in addition to her broad experience, allows her to be in a privileged position to connect better not only with children but also with their families and to work together in partnership.

Gloria has a family of three but also has a wonderful extended family worldwide. They enjoy a simple life, full of traveling, watching the sunsets, having meals together, watching soccer matches, and keeping in touch with their extended family and friends.


Zinat Khraishah

Zinat Khraishah

Young Children's Community Assistant Teacher, Sassafras 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, several years as a Substitute and several years as a Primary Assistant - a role for which she earned AMI certification. Zinat currently serves as the Assistant for the Sassafras Young Children's Community. 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.

Mia Manns

Mia Manns

Young Children's Community Assistant Teacher, Sassafras Class

Mia Manns joined Aidan for the 2022-23 School Year. Her robust experience working with children started in 2010, but she didn't discover her love for Montessori methods until the Fall of 2020, when she began working in Montessori education. After spending time each day in Montessori classrooms, Mia realized her love for the Montessori model, and started pursuing Montessori training in February 2021. Aidan is thrilled to welcome her into the Sassafras community!

Mia has a small dog named Jade. In her free time, Mia loves to read, hike, travel, play video games, and spend time outdoors with friends and family. She is also a Jehovah's Witness and is very dedicated to her faith.

Rut Salas

Rut Salas

Young Children's Community Assistant Teacher, Mountain Silverbell Class

Rut Salas joined Aidan in the 2022-23 School Year. From July 2015 through March 2021, Rut worked as an Administrative Assistant for Trazitos and Colors, a daycare preschool in Cochabamba, Bolivia. In this position, she accomplished many tasks in accounting and business management, and found joy in communicating with families and assisting teachers. In this position, Rut also taught as a Substitute Teacher and created and developed lesson plans to meet students' academic needs. Overall, she is quite experienced in classroom management, lesson planning, student engagement, and collaborating with her colleagues.

Rut was born in Bogota, Colombia, and was raised in Cochabamba, Bolivia. She is the youngest of 4 siblings and grew up with Christian values, as her parents were—and continue to be—Pastors. Rut has always loved music and singing, and currently sings in her church choir. In 2015, Rut married her best friend of 15+ years, and they currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, where they pursue their favorite hobbies of watching movies and playing music together.

Pamela Vigil

Pamela Vigil

Young Children's Community Teacher, Mountain Silverbell Class

Pamela started at Aidan in 2019 as a Toddler Assistant, and currently works as the Toddler Teacher in Mountain Silverbell. Pamela was born and raised in the Dominican Republic to a large family and moved to the United States in 2017. During this time, she worked as a sales representative. After giving birth to her son Andrés, Pamela decided switch careers and began working at Aidan as a Toddler Assistant as she completed the Infant and Toddler Assistant Orientation from Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies, which she finished in 2020. Being in the classroom sparked Pamela's passion for Montessori methodology, and she began pursuing training to become a Lead Teacher. Pamela finished the Infant and Toddler Teacher Training Course from Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies in 2021.

Outside of work, Pamela enjoys cooking and doing crafts with her son Andrés, watching movies and shows with her husband, and cooking, eating, and working in her garden with her mother and sister. Pamela also loves to spend time at the beach and try foods from different cultures. She is a dog and cat lover, and currently owns two dogs, Bruno and Duke, and two cats, Tails and Sonny.

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.

Claudia is a proud Aidan parent to her daughter Mia, who is transitioning from Toddler to Primary this year. Outside of the classroom, Claudia enjoys making Montessori materials, drawing, and dancing.

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.

Gwynne Manty

Gwynne Manty

Primary Teacher, Redbud Class, Aidan Program for Families (APF) Coordinator

Gwynne Manty joined Aidan Montessori School as the new Online Learning Support Teacher for the Lower School in the Spring of 2021, and continued as a Substitute for the Lower School during the 2021-2022 school year. Gwynne is now the Lead Guide in the Redbud Primary Community and the Aidan Programs for Families Coordinator. Her 15 years of experience in Montessori education have all been spent as a guide in the primary environments. Prior to joining the Aidan team she worked at schools in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.

Gwynne's son Axl is a Montessori child who has enjoyed Montessori classrooms since he was a toddler. Gwynne has a great love of music and is a part of a traveling choir (in non-COVID times). She is an avid reader, baker, and loves to get outside whenever she can; for a hike, some yard work, or kicking a soccer ball around the yard with Axl.

Mila Rey

Mila Rey

Primary Assistant Teacher, Mulberry 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 also holds a Certificate from the AMI Assistants Course in Washington, DC and from the Montessori Institute at Loyola University in Maryland.

Mila speaks Tagalog, likes cooking, and enjoys reading. Her daughter, Kristine, graduated from Aidan in 2004.

Shewit Samuel

Shewit Samuel

Primary Assistant Teacher, Persimmon Class

Shewit Samuel joined Aidan Montessori School as a Lower School Substitute in early 2021. For the upcoming year, Shewit will join the Persimmon Community as its Primary Assistant. Prior to joining Aidan, she has spent several years in various childcare settings:working as an assistant teacher at The Springs Montessori School and Full Circle Montessori School. In addition to her experience in the classroom, Shewit also has an associates degree in accounting.

Shewit is a busy mom of two, a toddler and infant. In her free time, she likes watching soccer and playing tennis.

Anastasiia Truskova

Anastasiia Truskova

Primary Assistant Teacher, Dogwood Class
Anastasiia Truskova started her teaching journey at an orphanage in her hometown of Russia. From the beginning, she found that teaching was challenging but also rewarding. After earning her bachelors degree in Sociology and English Anastasiia went on to receive a certification for teaching in English and continued to work in public and private schools with students ranging from three years old to adults. In 2018, she came to the U.S. working as an au pair for a family of four children, while attending child development classes in college. The decision to join Aidan was an easy one for her as Anastasiia was introduced to the Montessori methodology as a child. Her mother was also a teacher and familiar with the Montessori methodology. She is excited to continue her teaching career at Aidan and develop as a Montessori educator.

In her free time, Anastasiia is happy to go for strolls or runs with her husband, catch up with family and friends here and back home in Russia, and keep up with world news. And of course, she never forgets to give her cat Sprinklez some belly scratches!
Isabella Vaz

Isabella Vaz

Primary Assistant Teacher, Redbud Class
Isabella Vaz is Brazilian, holds a degree in pedagogy from Brazil, and is currently pursuing her American Montessori Institute (AMI) Primary Training certification (ages 3-6). With 10 years of experience as an assistant teacher, assistant director, and lead teacher, her love for children has been a constant driving force. Even before her formal education and school experience, Isabella gaimed valuable experience volunteering at a disadvantaged public school while she was still in high school. Prior to completing her formal education, Isabella also worked as a nanny for twins. On both occasions, she discovered that her passion for children extended beyond a mere interest; she truly wanted to be actively involved in their lives. This realization led her to pursue her degree in pedagogy. Isabella and her husband, along with their dog, made the move to Washington two months ago with the aim of fulfilling her dream of studying Montessori education. Currently, she's living this dream by not only furthering her professional development but also contributing as a member of our After School Program (ASP) and undertaking internships within our Primary classrooms.

During her free time outside of the school environment, Isabella enjoys spending quality moments with her family, indulging in outings and trips with her husband and dog. Exploring new dining experiences and, for now, becoming acquainted with Washington and its surroundings, are also on her list. Furthermore, she has a keen interest in reading and has recently discovered a new hobby - taking cycle bar classes.

Elementary

Shirley Cogasi

Shirley Cogasi

Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher, 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.

Sean Collins

Sean Collins

Lower Elementary Teacher, Magnolia Class

The Magnolia and Aidan Community are thrilled to welcome Sean Collins as the newest Lower Elementary Guide. After completing an undergraduate degree in political science, Sean worked for a renewable energy non-profit on climate issues before switching careers to teaching in 2014. After moving to Chicago, Sean had his first experience with Montessori when he worked as an assistant teacher in an Upper Elementary classroom at Near North Montessori. That experience led Sean to pursue a certification in Montessori and he completed his Montessori training at the Washington Montessori Institute. After graduating with his Masters in Education from Loyola University Maryland, Sean worked at Lee Montessori Public Charter School here in Washington DC, where he led an Upper Elementary classroom.

Sean lives in the Langdon neighborhood of Washington, DC with his wife Dana and small dog June. He enjoys biking around the city, taking his dog on nature walks, playing chess, and supporting the Ravens and Orioles from his hometown of Baltimore.

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 community. The 2023-2024 school year marks her tenth year guiding clever Montessori Elementary children (and it's her sixth year at Aidan). 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. Most summers they enjoy plotting 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. Most recently, she is the adoring mother of a toddler and she's preparing herself to support him as he begins his own Montessori journey.

Cindy Jean

Cindy Jean

Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher, Sweet Gum Class
Cindy Jean's enthusiasm for the Montessori methodology rose from her passion for education and especially the importance of fair and equitable access. Cindy is a recent graduate (2023) of Howard University and has worked hard to become a catalyst for change. She has also been a youth advocate in the Juvenile Justice Advisory Group (JJAG), which served as an advisory board to Muriel Bowser, mayor of D.C. She has volunteered at juvenile and at-risk youth facilities throughout DC. Cindy also participated in a summer research program with American University's School of Education focused on literacy with youth of color (children 5-8).

Cindy was born and raised in South Florida and is proud of her Haitian heritage. She is an avid basketball fan, especially of her favorite team the Miami Heat. In her free time she also enjoys listening to music and hiking.
Vernon Weathers

Vernon Weathers

Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher, 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

Eduardo Cuesta

Eduardo Cuesta

Substitute Teacher

Eduardo Cuesta joined Aidan in February 2021 as the long-term substitute in the Magnolia Community and currently serves as the Upper School Substitute. He moved to the United States in 2009, and his first experience working in the States was as an assistant teacher at Nuevas Fronteras Spanish Immersion, a bilingual Elementary school in Minnesota. It was here that he first discovered his love for teaching. In 2015, Eduardo completed his Montessori training in Lower Elementary while working at Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School as an Upper Elementary teacher. He also spent time at Mundo Verde Bilingual Public Charter School, where he learned about Project Based Learning and quickly reaffirmed his passion for Montessori, and served as an Elementary Montessori teacher at Waterfront Academy. Eduardo received his AMI Elementary accreditation in 2022.

When he is not working, Eduardo likes to spend time with his family. He is the father of two children and his wife is also a Montessori guide. He enjoys the simple pleasures in life: playing with his children, reading while enjoying a nice cup of coffee, going for a run, watching a movie, or soaking up the silence in the house after everyone has gone to sleep. During the summers, Eduardo and his family love to travel to Spain and reconnect with life-long friends and family.

Julia Dakich

Julia Dakich

School Counselor

Julia is the school counselor, and will be providing social, emotional and mental health support to students at Aidan. She entered the field of school counseling because she wanted to combine her interest and experience in both education and mental health and provide a wider impact in the school community. She is excited to be at Aidan Montessori School and in such a nurturing, caring, and child-centered environment. Julia has spent her professional career working with infants through 8th grade. She is a licensed social worker since 2020 with experience in early childhood and special education. Julia holds an undergraduate degree in sociology with a minor in psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University, in Madison, NJ and a master's degree in social work from Indiana University with a concentration in school social work. She has worked in both public and private schools, with very diverse student populations, and has had a year and a half of post-graduate supervised experience providing therapy in schools.

Julia is originally from New Jersey, and moved to DC three years ago after attending graduate school in Indianapolis, IN. She loves exploring DC and her hobbies include hiking, biking, and reading.

Daphnnet Garces

Daphnnet Garces

Spanish Teacher

Daphnnet Garces joined Aidan in 2022 and brings more than a decade of experience working in education. She holds a BA in Prekindergarten/Primary Education from Universidad del Este as well as multiple certificates from Montgomery College, including Child Growth and Development Certificate, Creating Schedules and Routines Certificate, Active or Hyperactive Certificate, 3 Hour Mixed-Age Groups in Early Childhood Programs Certificate, and Including All Children and the Americans with Disabilities Act Certificate.

Over the years, Daphnnet has worked primarily with preschool and kindergarten-aged children. One of her most formative workplace experiences was working as an Intern for Montgomery County Public Schools. In this position, she worked in a kindergarten class and learned how to incorporate integrated strategies and standards in the classroom.

Daphnnet loves hiking, exploring the great outdoors, sports, and eating new and interesting foods. She also enjoys traveling to different countries and experinecing new cultures—though one of her favorite places to be is back home with family in Peru, where she was born and raised.

Anne  Henochowicz

Anne Henochowicz

Chinese Teacher

Anne Henochowicz joined Aidan in the 2022-23 School Year. She trained in the communicative method of foreign language pedagogy at The Ohio State University, where she earned her Masters in Chinese literature and folklore. Anne has taught Chinese to students of all ages, from absolute beginners to advanced learners.

Anne gets outside as much as she can. She loves to garden, forage, hike, and swim.

Jade Jackson

Jade Jackson

Learning Support Specialist for Literacy

Jade Jackson joins Aidan as a Learning Support Specialist for Literacy with a great deal of experience. In 2016, Jade served an AmeriCorps term with Reading Partners DC after earning her BA in Sociology from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and working at a non-profit supporting Middle School literacy intervention. Jade has lived a life of service and has volunteered with several organizations, including Peace Corps, to achieve educational equity. During her time at Reading Partners DC, Jade worked one-one with students using an evidence-based literacy curriculum, managed a team of AmeriCorps members to individualize instruction further, and served as the program director, creating a vision for an effective literacy program in 22 partnerships.

Jade loves to get creative through jewelry-making, sculpting, and fashion. She writes letters to loved ones during the quiet moments, reads, and goes outside for a walk. Her favorite movie genre is horror, which stemmed from reading Goosebumps and ghost stories as a child!

Dairo Jose Borja

Dairo Jose Borja

Substitute Teacher

Dairo joined Aidan in the 2022-23 School Year. He previously worked as a Lower Elementary Montessori guide and Spanish Reading Interventionist at a public school, and is currently in the process of finishing his Montessori Certification for Lower Elementary with the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector (MACTE). He also has two years of experience teaching adults and working as a music teacher for a bilingual music institute in the D.C. metro area.

Dairo has been involved with Montessori education for the past 11 years—first as a parent, and later as a teacher. His children attended a bilingual Montessori school in DC through their elementary years, and those years helped him imagine how wonderful it would be to work in a Montessori school.

Dairo is from Colombia. Though the majority of Colombians play futbol (soccer), Dairo has been in love with volleyball since he was 15 years old. He is also a musician and loves to play a variety of different instruments.

Phillip Katinas

Phillip Katinas

Director of Auxilliary Programs

Phillip Katinas joined Aidan in 2018 and currently serves as the Director of Auxiliary Programs. Phillip’s work in education began at the Sheridan School in DC, where he served as a camp teacher before becoming the Assistant Director at their Creative Arts and Summer Adventure Camp (CASA). After three years at Sheridan, Phillip joined the Aidan community. In addition to managing Aidan's After School Program (ASP), Discovery, and Summer Camp, Phillip also teaches PE to the Elementary students.

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

Margaret Skor

Margaret Skor

Art Teacher

Margaret joined Aidan as Art Teacher in 2016, in a convergence of her professional background in both art and childcare. Margaret originally came to DC to study at Georgetown University. While pursuing her art degree, she had the wonderful opportunity to study curation with curators at the National Gallery of Art, and create documentary content for local non-profits. She later worked as a content creator for DC Public Schools. Margaret has worked as a photographer, nanny, and has designed art workshops and events for children throughout her career. In addition to photography, her other art passions are drawing (charcoal specifically), painting, printmaking and process based workshops. In addition to studies in Art Education, she continues to avidly pursue studies in Art History through museum programs for educators and research.

She was first introduced to Montessori learning through her niece and nephew who attended Aidan, and was so excited to become part of this community of educators where she can create unique, integrated learning opportunities for her students. Margaret loves to read, travel, see movies, visit museums, spend weekends in New York, and relax in nature. She spends a lot of her spare time back in Minnesota with her family, or on their dock in Lake Superior.

Nell Stewart

Nell Stewart

Librarian

Nell started her library career working in academic and research libraries. She worked at Georgetown University's Medical Library, and was lucky enough to get a summer position in the Reference Department of the Library of Congress, working in the beautiful Jefferson Building. After being home raising her children she became interested in school libraries, so she took courses in School Library Media and worked as a substitute librarian in independent and public schools in the DC area. Nell has Master's degrees in Library Science and in European History. Her recent Professional Development work has been in children's literature translated into English from other languages.

Nell has been in a book club for 20 years! Besides reading she enjoys biking, swimming, gardening, baking, and spending time with her family.

After-School Programs & Discovery

Natalia Fuks

Natalia Fuks

ASP Staff

Natalia Fuks joined the Aidan community in January 2022 as a member of the ASP Staff. Natalia began working with children in 2020 as a Russian Language teacher in Falls Church, Virginia.

Outside of work, Natalia loves to stay active and go to the gym.

Phillip Katinas

Phillip Katinas

Director of Auxilliary Programs

Phillip Katinas joined Aidan in 2018 and currently serves as the Director of Auxiliary Programs. Phillip’s work in education began at the Sheridan School in DC, where he served as a camp teacher before becoming the Assistant Director at their Creative Arts and Summer Adventure Camp (CASA). After three years at Sheridan, Phillip joined the Aidan community. In addition to managing Aidan's After School Program (ASP), Discovery, and Summer Camp, Phillip also teaches PE to the Elementary students.

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

Ava Pacheco

Ava Pacheco

ASP Staff

Coming soon!

Michael Pisigan

Michael Pisigan

ASP Staff
Michael Pisigan loves watching children grow and develop. He especially loves being around children because of their unbounded and pure energy. Michael's professional history includes working as an inclusion aid for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNPPC). He also worked for three years as a classroom assistant in Montessori schools. He holds a Bachelors of Science degree in Recreation and Parks Management and a minor in Sociology from Frostburg State University in western Maryland.

Montessori education has been a family pursuit for Michael. He found his way into Montessori thanks to his mother who has been working as a classroom assistant at a Montessori school for the past 10+ years, as well as formerly the assistant to Aidan's own Ms. Vicens when she was their director of the Young Children's Community (YCC). Michael loves how welcoming the Aidan community feels and is excited for the new year. Outside of school, his hobbies include hiking, traveling, different forms of exercise, and riding/working on his motorcycle!
Janet Reyes

Janet Reyes

ASP Staff

Janet Reyes joins Aidan as a member of the ASP staff for the 2023-24 school year. Prior to her arrival at Aidan, she served as a preschool and after school assistant at the Montessori School of Chevy Chase and St. Michael’s Family Day Care. Janet also worked as a senior sales and services representative for Philippine Airlines for close to twenty years.

Janet was first introduced to Montessori when her grandson enrolled in program a little over two years ago. In her free time, Janet enjoys the arts and music.

Administration

Maddie Baker

Maddie Baker

School Nurse
Maddie Baker has always wanted to become a nurse. In high school she volunteered for the pediatric ER at Anne Arundel Medical Center where she loved working with and around children. After earning her nursing degree from the University of Kansas, she then moved to Seattle to begin her career as an adult inpatient nurse. Maddie moved back to DC to be closer to family while working at Sibley Memorial Hospital as a COVID testing RN and postpartum RN. This past summer, Maddie had the opportunity to rediscover her love of working with children in a school environment after working as a camp nurse in DC.

After all of her travels throughout the U.S. Maddie is glad to be back home and closer to family in the DC area. She loves exploring the city, hanging out with friends and family, and going on trips to new places.
Blake Brophy

Blake Brophy

Chief Financial Officer

Blake Brophy brings to Aidan Montessori School more than 30 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

and spending time with his two dogs, Chauncey and Phoebe.

Julian Denizard

Julian Denizard

Director of Inclusion & Belonging

Julian Denizard is Aidan's Director of Inclusion and Belonging. Julian has served as a member of the James Madison University (JMU) and Harrisonburg activism community as a Diversity Educator at JMU, a collaborator with JMU admin in matters regarding minority student affairs, and a volunteer for the Harrisonburg On The Road Collaborative. He has also served as an executive board member for several minority student organizations under the JMU Center for Multicultural Student Services. Additionally, Julian recently had the pleasure of serving as a volunteer for Real Industry, a nonprofit organization based in California that focuses on empowering undergraduate students of color and connecting them with prominent companies and organizations for the sake of building their professional networks.

Julian’s passion for education primarily stems from his mother's longtime service as a substitute teacher in Northern Virginia and North Carolina. Combined with his expertise in dialogue facilitation, cultural awareness, and diversity education, the progressive nature of the Montessori approach deeply resonates with him and Julian is excited to be part of the Aidan community.

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 traveling to the West Coast to spend time with her two grown children and their spouses. 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.


Jackie Gibson-Barrow

Jackie Gibson-Barrow

School 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

Assistant Head of School for Operations

Nicole joined Aidan Montessori School in 2018 as the Director of Communications, Marketing and Advancement and currently serves as the Assistant Head of School for Operations. Prior to joining Aidan, Nicole spent six years at Oneness-Family School in Chevy Chase, Maryland 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, browsing local bookstores, and exploring new restaurants in and around DC. She is an avid traveler and is always planning her next adventure.

Phillip Katinas

Phillip Katinas

Director of Auxilliary Programs

Phillip Katinas joined Aidan in 2018 and currently serves as the Director of Auxiliary Programs. Phillip’s work in education began at the Sheridan School in DC, where he served as a camp teacher before becoming the Assistant Director at their Creative Arts and Summer Adventure Camp (CASA). After three years at Sheridan, Phillip joined the Aidan community. In addition to managing Aidan's After School Program (ASP), Discovery, and Summer Camp, Phillip also teaches PE to the Elementary students.

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

Ellie Lehnert

Ellie Lehnert

Business Manager

Ellie Lehnert joined Aidan Montessori School as the Business Manager 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, Arlington, and Tysons Corner. 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. In her free time, Ellie enjoys photography, hiking, sewing and watching movies.

Oscar Manzano

Oscar Manzano

Building & Grounds Coordinator

Aidan is pleased to welcome Oscar Manzano as our Buildings and Grounds Coordinator. Prior to joining the Aidan community, Oscar was employed at the National Press Club for 35 years. Before that, he was employed for five years as a Maintenance Supervisor.

Oscar was born in El Salvador and came to the United States in 1985. He currently lives in Virginia with his beautiful wife and children.

Jamie Rue

Jamie Rue

Head of School

Jamie is well-known in the AMI Montessori world. In the past four years she founded Rising Tide Montessori, an online resource center, and Sea Lavender Montessori, a micro-school associated with Wildflower Schools. Her career in Montessori education is now in its third decade, and includes more than 10 years as a classroom teacher and school administrator and over 10 years as a trainer of teachers. She is an Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) trainer, examiner, and consultant at the elementary level. She has coached teachers and advised administrators at schools around the world, and she has presented at conferences and for parents throughout the United States, and in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. She also regularly participates in the podcast All Things Montessori. Born and raised on an island in the Pacific Northwest, Jamie now lives in Washington, DC. She loves to read, cook, and travel with her family in her spare time. Jamie and her husband, Jesse Tarbert, a historian of American politics, have two grown daughters who both attended Montessori schools.

Bianca Ruggiero

Bianca Ruggiero

Graphic Designer & Publication Assistant

Bianca was born and raised in Miami, Florida where she attended Design and Architecture Senior High. She later attended Oregon State University where she majored in Graphic Design. After graduating from Oregon State, Bianca worked with the Juntos program, a program designed to empower Latino students around Oregon. Additionally, Bianca is the owner of her own online plant shop, and spends her days managing both the business and botanical aspects of the store.

After growing up around the lush tropical plants in Florida, Bianca is passionate about plants and often uses them to find inspiration for her designs. Bianca also enjoys spending lots of time with her beagle, Bowie, and two cats, Teresita and Suki.

Garret Tyson

Garret Tyson

Director of Advancement

Garret Tyson joined Aidan in the 2022-23 school year as the Director of Advancement. He holds a degree in Psychology from The George Washington University and embarked on his career in the nonprofit sector at The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. During his time there, Garret provided program and development support for research studies in behavioral sciences. His professional journey then led him to The Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where he served as the Development and Grant Manager. In this role, he played a crucial part in driving annual fund initiatives, which encompassed tasks such as grant writing, outreach to local businesses, and community engagement. Prior to joining Aidan, Garret held positions at Dumbarton House in Georgetown, where he initially served as an Advancement Officer and eventually ascended to the position of Chief Advancement Officer. In this capacity, he spearheaded numerous endeavors, including the annual fund, planned giving society, multi-year capital project fundraising, and oversight of various committees.

Garret’s hobbies and passions include film, spending quality time with family, traveling with his twin brother, and playing with his cat, Roger.

Mariana Vicéns

Mariana Vicéns

Assistant Head of School for Faculty and Curriculum

As a Montessori child, Mariana knew from an early age that her passion was working with children, helping others, and making a difference in the world. After graduating, she attended the University of Florida, where she got a bachelor's in Sociology and Latin American Studies. Mariana continued her education at The Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico earning a master’s degree in Special Education. During this time, she worked as a Teacher Assistant at a local Montessori school. Mariana returned to the United States for Montessori Training and graduated with a master’s degree in Montessori Education from the Washington Montessori Institute (AMI) at Loyola University Maryland. After 5 years of teaching at the Primary level, she decided to continue her education and received her Assistance to Infancy Diploma from The Montessori Institute in Denver Colorado.

Mariana loves her Caribbean roots and incorporates the Puerto Rican rhythm, love, food, and language into her daily life and interaction with her students and families. With each passing day, the children inspire her to become a better person. In her spare time, Mariana enjoys doing outdoor activities, traveling, learning about other cultures, and spending time with her family and friends.

Japera Walker Wilkison

Japera Walker Wilkison

Director of Admissions & Enrollment Management

Japera has worked in admissions and education since 2011. In addition to being in all roles in admissions, she has served as a primary school teacher, a professor in higher education, a Board member, the VP of Equity and Inclusivity, and a published, professional researcher in education. As a parent of a Montessori-raised child, she understands and appreciates the Montessori pedagogy and approach to learning and can comment on the benefits of a Montessori education. Japera considers herself a lifelong learner and attributes her passion in education to her personal experiences and educational journey growing up in Colorado.

As a Denver-native, she moved to the DMV with her family in 2021. She currently resides in Maryland and enjoys the diversity, pace, and access to history and cultural Washington D.C. has to offer. Outside of Aidan, she enjoys spending time with her family at the zoo, rock climbing, and doing yoga.

John Worsham

John Worsham

Security Officer

John Worsham joined Aidan in 2021 as our Security Officer and is known by all the staff and students as "Officer John." After receiving his Diploma from Crossland High School in Maryland, John joined the United States Navy, where he served as a Sailor. Before joining the Aidan community, John spent years working as a Security Officer for multiple different businesses and organizations.

John is a proud father of 7 children, and in his free time he loves to draw, paint, and listen to music.

To email a member of our faculty or staff, contact firstinitial.lastname@aidanschool.org.