photos by Linden Tree Photography
Bethany Headrick – Head of School
Bethany’s Montessori experience began when she was a student in the primary class at First Presbyterian Montessori. She believes that foundation shaped her character and future more so than any other aspect of her early formal education. She also feels fortunate to have grown up in a home where independence and creativity were nurtured and where values such as respect for ALL people and the natural world were instilled. As a teenager, she enjoyed the experience of attending boarding school at The Asheville School where classes and instructors were both engaging and authentic, and there were opportunities to participate in courses such as Mountaineering and Latin. Bethany holds a B.A. in English and M.A.T. in Education, both from LaGrange College, and Early Elementary Montessori certification from North American Montessori Center. More importantly, she has a love for learning that makes each day feel like an adventure. As a mission to make sure children in our community develop their own love for learning, she and a passionate group of individuals founded Hillside Montessori of LaGrange in 2010. She and her husband have four children, River, Tolan, Lennon, and Stella, who have one dog, Lightning. She currently works most of the time, but is thankful that her job embodies many of her hobbies and things she loves: her children, creating meaningful relationships, trying to grow things in the dirt, food, creative challenges, cultural studies, books, and outdoor fun.
Brenda Toone – Primary Classroom Lead
Brenda is delighted to join Hillside as the Primary Classroom Lead. She is committed to growing awareness of the Montessori educational approach and wants to support its growth in all communities for as many children as possible.
Brenda grew up in a large family in both Northern California and Utah. She graduated from Utah State University with a B.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences, with a focus on history and languages. She moved back to California after college and worked for fifteen years in telecommunications. She worked in operations, development, training, process analysis and design, and project management in San Francisco and The Netherlands.
Everything changed when her son was born. She fell in love with the Montessori philosophy when her son was two years old. She loved observing how the children exhibited independence, social grace, intrinsic motivation, and peace and wanted those qualities for her child … and for herself! She studied Early Childhood Education at St. Mary’s College of California and received her Early Childhood Credential through the American Montessori Society (AMS) in 2011. She has two years experience leading a Primary community and after taking three years off to be with her daughter, spent two years leading a toddler community.
Brenda moved to Georgia in 2007 and currently lives in Tyrone with her husband and two children. She loves to sing, read, swim, and to cook – mostly because she loves to eat good food! She also loves to learn about the cognitive development of children. She is a deliberate person with a love of process and she looks forward to providing the young children at Hillside with nurturing guidance to develop the practical, social, and academic skills necessary to learn how to “do it by myself”.
Pat Headrick – Primary Room Assistant
Pat brings twenty-nine years of Montessori experience to Hillside, twelve of which she served as both director of a First Presbyterian Montessori Preschool and Kindergarten as well as lead for a Toddler community. She received her Montessori certification through the North American Montessori Center. Originally from Dothan, Alabama, Pat graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Auburn University. She and her husband Mark moved to LaGrange shortly after marrying in 1979. They have three adult children and six grandchildren, all of whom have attended Montessori. Pat enjoys gardening, hiking, camping and spending time with the grandchildren. She served on the original steering committee for Hillside Montessori and is thrilled to join the Hillside community as the Primary assistant.
Ellen Jenkins – Lower Elementary Guide
Ellen has worked with elementary children for over 15 years in a wide variety of settings and is passionate about fostering confidence and independence in young learners. She grew up in Newnan, graduated with a BA in history from the University of West Georgia and set out to discover the world with her husband, Matt. Ellen has taught in a wide range of independent schools each with their own educational approach and philosophy allowing her to see firsthand how children truly best learn. She was incredibly fortunate to spend 8 years working and learning with the students and faculty of Duke School in Durham, North Carolina. Though not a Montessori school, Duke School embraces many of the same tenants and approaches when working with students and is nationally known for inquiry-based and student led project work. Ellen embraced the opportunity to work with students as individual learners, shaping personal learning goals and fostering independence. At the same time she also completed a Masters in Teaching through Western Governors University.
Ellen and her husband live in a 100 year old farmhouse on a 5 acres in Coweta County with two German shorthaired pointers, a bossy cat and 4 goats. She is an avid gardener with a love of native plants, a reader of historical fiction and non-fiction and a very willing travel companion. Ellen really just loves any excuse to be outside and is always game to try something new!
Miranda Howell – Lower Elementary Assistant
Miranda joined Hillside Montessori of LaGrange at the beginning of 2018 as the assistant in the Upper Elementary community. She is now the Lower Elementary assistant at Hillside Montessori and looks forward to serving the students. She is currently attending the University of West Georgia and working towards her degree in Early Childhood Education. She is also an Area Director of Drive Thru and Self Serve at the Truett’s CFA in Newnan, Ga. on the weekends and when school is out.
Miranda has always had a passion for children. She believes that adults can learn just as much from children, as children can from adults. Miranda was raised in a strong, loving family that values faith, family, relationships, respect, and education. She knows that the cycle of education never officially ends, because each day brings something new with a different perspective. Miranda believes that everyone is a life-long learner and embraces that belief full-heartedly.
Being new to the Montessori community, Miranda felt a little out of place at first. However, the faculty, students, families, and whole community of Hillside Montessori of LaGrange has welcomed her openly, encouraged her on multiple occasions, and has now found a really special place in her heart. Miranda looks forward to each day she spends in the classroom with the students, learning right along beside them. Watching the students and learning more about Montessori each and every day has helped Miranda grow as a guide, but also as an individual. After falling in love with HML and the philosophy of Montessori, Miranda plans to pursue her AMS certification in the near future.
Jennifer Dorrell – Upper ELementary Lead Guide
Jennifer Dorrell has been an AMS Montessori Elementary guide for 18 years. She is originally from Toledo, Ohio and graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Toledo. She and her family moved to Newnan, Georgia from Jackson, Michigan in 1997 as part of a job transfer. She has been married to David for 27 years and has three adult children – Elizabeth, Ellen, and William. She is a fan of Hitchcock, musical theatre, and any kind of museum.
Sallie Glisman – Upper Elementary Assistant
Sallie’s love of Montessori started at an early age. She was a Montessori student at First Presbyterian for 2 years, and those years helped form how she continues to learn and grow. Born in LaGrange, she grew up in a family that valued individuality and learning. Her father was a high school science teacher and her mother was the director of Head Start as well being on the juvenile court advisory board. She was always taught the importance of tolerance, independence, acceptance, love, equality, empathy, and a sense of humor. These are all principles she and her husband, Scott, believe in and instill in their children. Her two children, Eli and Lucy Pearl, and currently enrolled at Hillside Montessori. Eli, who currently is in the Upper classroom, is part of the inaugural class of Hillside Montessori. Lucy Pearl is in the Primary class this year. Both of her children have been in a Montessori environment since they were 2 and Sallie wouldn’t have it any other way. Her love of Montessori is why she is in the classroom. She wants every student to develop a love of learning and to be self-driven. Every day at Hillside, she learns from her students and is so grateful for being a part of their educational journey.
Sallie has been always wanted to be in the educational field. She has studied at West Ga. Technical College and LaGrange College. She will soon be obtaining her Montessori certification from the North American Montessori Center. She worked at Fling Insurance Agency for nearly 10 years and then became a stay at home mom after the birth of her second child. She enjoys going to concerts, reading, crafting, cooking, and spending time with her family.
LaBraina Render – Primary Extended Day Assistant
LaBraina has always had a passion for children every since a young age. She has been working professionally with children for 8 years now, receiving her a certificate for Early Childhood Education in 2017. She is currently working towards getting her degree at West Ga Tech. She really looks forward to working with the children at Hillside and also learning more about the Montessori philosophy.
Lele Hammock – Lead Primary Aftercare
Angela Hutchins – Music
Angela Hutchins is a Magna Cum Laude graduate of LaGrange College with a Bachelor’s in Music, emphasis in Composition & Music Technology, with over five years of experience performing and teaching guitar, vocals, and piano. She is trained in vocal performance, music theory, piano theory, guitar performance, songwriting, and composition. In 2013 she successfully crowd-funded and independently released her album “All Things Anew”, and continues to write and record original music. For the past two summers, she was the Director of the Thompson-Pound Art Program (TAP) in Troup County, a music & arts camp for children of all cultures, religions and races aged from 6 – 12. She is excited to share her passion for the creation, performance and study of music with her students and greatly looks forward to helping them hone their own musical style.
Miriam Oropeza – Spanish Instructor
Miriam Oropeza was born in Mexico City, Mexico and and studied professional dance at the Professional National School of Dance there, eventually earning a Masters in Ballet. She directed ballet schools and dance companies in Mexico before completing her four-year seminary degree. She then began teaching Art and Spanish at Christian Schools in Chihuahua and working in missions. After moving to the United States, Miriam studied Early Childhood Education at West Ga Tech and started a Sunday school class at LaGrange’s first Hispanic church. She also taught dance for 10 years at LSPA before opening her own dance studio, Le Petite Ballet and a dancewear store, Royal Dancewear. She has been teaching Spanish at Hillside Montessori for four years.
Erik Kozma – Adolescent Volunteer
Erik grew up in a military family and has lived throughout the world, experiencing many cultures. He has lived abroad for twelve years and worked in Texas, Louisiana, South Korea, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Afghanistan, and Germany.
Erik had the fortunate experience of having a front row seat at many historical events, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Asian financial crisis of 1997. These experiences illuminate different perspectives and viewpoints on every discipline he has approached. Erik has a passion for making humanities and science relevant to people’s present day experience, which is the same approach he will be using to guide our students.
Erik graduated from Tulane University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in History and Biology. At the same time, he was commissioned as an officer in the United States Army where he served as an active duty Field Artillery officer for 8 years. Erik then served as a Department of Defense Civilian with the Army and the Air Force for 6 years performing various international relations, education, and training roles with extensive travel in Europe and Israel. Erik currently serves in the Alabama National Guard and is a graduate of the Cavalry Leaders Course, Air Command and Staff College, and Command and General Staff College.
Work and family brought Erik to Georgia in 2008, and he and his family have made Newnan their home for the past eight years. As an Eagle Scout and Military Officer, Erik has been involved in traditional training and education throughout his life. He fell in love with the Montessori Method after witnessing his own children thrive in Montessori communities. This ignited a desire to guide adolescent students in an environment that encourages critical thinking and individual exploration. He obtained his Association Montessori International (AMI) Adolescent Studies certification at the Hershey Montessori School in Huntsburg, Ohio in 2014 and has two years Montessori experience as an adolescent director and lead teacher.
Erik has a zeal for fusion cooking and experiencing world culture. His favorite activities are snow skiing and SCUBA diving. He also enjoys hiking, gardening with the family, and home improvement projects. He is excited to be joining Hillside Montessori.
Christi Hu – Adolescent Specialty Instructor
Dr. Christi Hu is the specialist instructor in psychology and brain science. She has her BS in Biology from Samford University and PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is also an Associate Professor of Psychological Science at LaGrange College. Her areas of interest are biological psychology and educational psychology.
Jack Slay – Adolescent Specialty Instructor
Dr. Jack Slay, Jr., has worked at LaGrange College, mostly as a professor of English, for 26 years. During that time, he has also served as the dean of students and as the director of the Servant Scholars Program. He has a BA and Master’s from Mississippi State and a PhD in Modern Literature from the University of Tennessee. In what spare time he has, he writes.
Beth McClanahan – Adolescent Specialty Instructor
Dr. Beth McClanahan is the specialist math instructor for both pre-Algebra and Algebra 1. She has her B.S. in Mathematics from Birmingham-Southern College, Masters in Secondary Mathematics Education from Columbus State University and PhD in Mathematics from Auburn University. Dr. McClanahan is also an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at LaGrange College. She also enjoys singing in the FUMC choir, watching Auburn Football and driving her daughter, Ryleigh, to Irish dance competitions all over the southeast.
Justin Thurman – Run Club and Upper Creative Writing
Justin Thurman is an Associate Professor of English at LaGrange College and directs its writing center. He earned his BA and MA from the University of Nevada, where he studied English literature, creative writing, rhetoric and composition. He earned his PhD from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette with a primary specialty in writing studies and secondary specialties in 19th-Century British literature, 20th-Century American literature, and linguistics. He is a published short fiction writer and essayist and his research interests include creative writing pedagogy, argumentation, and theories of creativity. Since joining the faculty at LaGrange College, Dr. Thurman has presented locally and at national conferences about academic failure and persistence, plagiarism, writing assessment, and teaching argumentative organization. He lives in LaGrange with his family and both of his children are upper elementary Montessori students.
Janet English – Run Club Volunteer Coach
Janet English is a 1983 graduate of Troup High School, a 1990 graduate of the USMCR, and a 1992 graduate of the LaGrange College Nursing program. She has been employed with the Georgia Department Public Health as a Registered Nurse for 23 years. Some of her volunteer work includes serving as a Youth small group leader at NCC 8 years, and Assistant Instructor LaGrange TKD 2 years, LaGrange High Cross Country team volunteer for 4 years and Co-Leader of LaGrange Mom’s Run This Town for 5 years (current). She has been married to Richard English 28 years and has four grown children and five grandchildren.