Our faculty is comprised of dedicated, talented, and caring educators. Each of our Lead Teachers holds a Montessori Certification and a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree, with many holding advanced degrees. As master teachers, the Seton Montessori teaching faculty serve as mentors for student teachers, lecturers and advisors for the Seton Montessori Institute teacher certification programs.
Carol Florez is the Program Coordinator for the Infant-Toddler Program at Seton, and is the Lead Teacher in the All Day 2s and 3s classroom this year. She holds a B.S. in Psychology and her AMS Infant-Toddler certificate. She has been at Seton for five years, and has over ten years of experience working with children from infancy through Kindergarten. What Carol says she enjoys most is “being able to witness the children’s great accomplishments as they develop – and their smiles.” Carol is married to Mark Cozzi and enjoys reading, cooking and listening to music.
Kathy Robertaccio is a Co-teacher in the Infant Program. Kathy has been working for over thirty years as a Montessori Directress for Infant-Toddler and Early Childhood programs at our lab schools in North Barrington and Seton. Kathy has a B.S. in Biology, and her Montessori Credentials for 0-3 and 3-6. In her time outside of Seton, she enjoys sports, the performing arts and music. Kathy is married and has a grown daughter.
Georgy Monnier is a Co-teacher in the Infant Program. She has a B.A. and an M.A. in English and American Literatures from UCLA and Penn State, respectively. After years of being a “fun aunt” she started teaching art classes to toddlers at The Old Town School of Folk Music and discovered she belonged with children under the age of six. Georgy worked as an Infant-Toddler Montessori lead teacher for four years before coming to Seton and has her Montessori Infant-Toddler credential from the Seton Montessori Institute. Georgy’s three children attend Seton, two in Lower Elementary and one in the All Day program. All four of them love to dance, read poetry and prose, sing and drum, and go fishing and camping.
Faiza Shahid is an Assistant in the Infant Program. She is a native of Pakistan, and is married with two sons, one in high school and one studying to become an electrical engineer. Faiza received her degree in Pakistan, where she majored in education. From her college days she has always wanted to work with children, and she took Montessori education courses at the Ali Institute in Pakistan before coming to the Chicago area. She heard about Seton Montessori from a friend, and completed the Paraprofessional training in 2013. Faiza also worked with toddlers in Pakistan. She absolutely loves watching children grow and learn different skills, and hugs from the children are her favorite things. In her spare time she loves cooking, yoga, watching comedy movies and going out with family.
Heidi Geiger is a Lead Teacher in the Young Toddler Program. Heidi has a B.S. in Education from the Franciscan University of Steubenville as well as her AMS Infant-Toddler and Elementary I & II credentials (ages 6-12). Heidi is also trained as a Personal Health Coach from the Integrative Institute of Nutrition. Her hobbies include ballroom dancing, biking, frisbee, and preparing raw and living foods. When asked what she loves about working with the children, she says, “I love seeing their big personalities shine through a little body!”
Vicky Bautista is an Assistant in the Young Toddler program and has been for almost two years. Prior to joining Seton, Vicky attended Northern Illinois University. She was first exposed to Montessori when helping her mother in an early childhood classroom at the historical Jane Addams Hull House of Chicago. There was a Montessori classroom upstairs and the concept intrigued her. She has enjoyed learning more about the philosophy, the children and herself through her work at Seton. Vicky has completed Paraprofessional Training. With a background in physical education, Vicky enjoys walking and staying fit.
Anya Parfentyeva is the Lead Teacher in the Half Day 2s and 3s class. She holds both Infant-Toddler and Early Childhood AMS Montessori credentials from Seton Montessori Institute, and has a B.A. in German Studies from the Wesleyan University in Connecticut. This will be her third year at Seton, and she has spent many years as a very involved Montessori parent. She is married and has three children: Andrew (15), Misha (12), and George (6). In her free time, Anya enjoys attending Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts and dance performances. The trust of the child is what Anya treasures most about her work with children. “It is so meaningful that they place their trust in me, seeking my guidance and sharing their sadness and joy.”
Vanessa Paakkonen is student teaching this year in the Half Day 2s and 3s class as part of her Infant/Toddler Certification. She has a B.A in English and has worked in Montessori classrooms for the past five years. Vanessa loves working with toddlers because she is amazed to be able to witness the true essence of the human spirit shine through in each and every child. She also loves exploring the beauty of nature and the outdoors with children. Gardening and nature walks are some of her favorite activities to share with the young child! Vanessa is married and has three children. She also greatly enjoys horseback riding, walking her dogs, cooking, reading and travel.
Claire Manthey is an Assistant in our All Day 2s and 3s class this year. She has a B.S. in Early Childhood and is working toward completion of her Infant-Toddler AMS Montessori Certificate. Prior to joining Seton, Claire was a personal tutor for a child with special needs. In her free time, Claire enjoys knitting, crocheting, ice skating and cycling. What Claire enjoys most about working with very young children is watching them discover their world.
Nina Gonzalez is an Assistant in the All Day 2s and 3s class. Nina has worked at Seton in many capacities previously–as a lifeguard/pool staff during Summer Camp and as a camp counselor with the toddlers this past summer. She loves going on mission trips with her church, and hopes to bring the Montessori philosophy to the countries and children she encounters. Nina says about her work, “I enjoy working with children simply because of their innocence and pureness in who they are.”
Jenny Lopez joined Seton last year as a substitute classroom assistant in the Infant Program and continues working with us this year as regular mid-day support staff to the Infant-Toddler classrooms. Jenny is married and has a six-year-old son. She has spent a lot of time working with children of all ages as she cares for them during religious services at her church. In her spare time she loves to read and listen to music.
Jolanta Dirmontiene is a native of Lithuania and serves as an after school Assistant and regular substitute in the Infant Program for the last several years, sharing her warmth and care with Seton’s youngest students. Jolanta’s daughter, Barbara, is a junior in high school. When not at Seton, Jolanta enjoys working with her hands making crafts and is an enthusiast of the cultural arts including drama and dance.
HALF DAY 3-6 PROGRAM
Jennifer Nolan serves as the Half Day 3-6 Program as Coordinator. See her full bio on the administration page.
Melissa Mulvaney is the Lead Teacher in the Blue Room. Her first love of dance eventually led her to Seton. Melissa holds a B.F.A. in Theatre and Dance. Melissa taught dance and acting as well as directed children’s theater to students of all ages for over ten years, and has shared her talents in the Extended Day and After School programs. Working with children in the arts deepened her new love of teaching and motivated her to seek out the Montessori method. Melissa has been married to her husband, Chris, for fourteen years and they have a five year-old daughter. She enjoys sharing the joy of discovery and accomplishment with the children. Melissa loves seeing their faces light up when they exclaim, “I did it all by myself!”
Ceci Aviles is an Assistant in the Blue Room for the morning class and co-teaches in the Spanish Immersion Program in the afternoon. She knew she had found her calling many years ago when she observed a Montessori classroom and was inspired by the freedom of choice, the focus given to children as individuals, and the positive environment. Ceci began her training at Seton in 2004 and has been building on her experience each year since. Her favorite part about working with the children is their innocence and their curiosity about the world.
Miriam Audino, an Assistant in the Blue Room in the morning, is new to Seton Montessori, having just relocated from Ohio. As soon as she stepped foot on campus, she knew she’d found home. She has worked with children in many informal settings, including two years spent traveling with a youth outreach team throughout the United States, India and Nepal. She also worked as a preschool teacher while living in Ohio. Miriam studied at Nyack College in New York where she earned a B.A. in Cross Cultural Studies and Comparative Religion. She loves all things creative, but has recently been learning to knit and sew. She and her husband have two children, and as a family they love to hike, spend time in nature, cook elaborate meals and read books. She loves working with children and being present with them as they discover the joy and freedom that learning brings.
May Elqaq is a Co-teacher in the Purple Room, both AM and PM classes, and has been at Seton for thirteen years. May has two daughters, Farah, 23, who is a recent graduate of DePaul University, and Rund, 21, who is a senior at UIC. May has her 3-6 Montessori Certificate as well as an Associate’s Degree in Office Technology Information. May loves working with children because of their innocence. She finds it wonderful to teach them and watch them grow. She finds that children need our love, patience and sense of humor. May also enjoys cooking, spending time with family, and traveling with her daughters.
Joy Humphrey is a Co-teacher in the Purple Room for the morning class. She began working with children at a Boys and Girls Club while in college. Shortly before graduating with a B.A. in Communication and Culture she decided she wanted to teach and was able to teach English in South Korea for a year. Upon returning home she worked at a daycare. After observing the children’s frustration with a traditional educational approach, Joy pursued her Early Childhood Montessori credential. Joy completed her Practicum at Seton as the student teacher in the Green Room and went on to teach in a 3-6 Montessori program in Chicago. Joy and her husband, Bryan, have a son, Benjamin, and a daughter, Lucy. They love to travel, hike, listen to music, read, cook and eat. Joy loves learning from the children and is filled with gratitude to be able to see and experience wonder through their eyes.
Heather Madden is an intern, performing her practicum work for her Montessori credential in Early Childhood this year as an assistant in the Purple Room PM class. Heather is also our Student Resource Specialist, and her full bio can be read below.
Claire Willis is an Associate Teacher in the Purple Room for both the AM and PM classes. She was introduced to Seton in 2009 through the Parent-Child class. Claire earned her B.A. in Art and Anthropology. She and her partner, Jake, have a five-year-old son who is in the All Day program. In her spare time Claire enjoys music, dance, observing animals (especially horses!), being in nature and working with clay. Claire shares her love of working with clay in the After School Programs. She believes working with the children is her constant reminder that life is fundamentally beautiful, joyful and exciting. Watching a struggle turn a corner towards mastery and the smiles that come upon success…and all the other things the children teach her!
Olivia Dvorak is teaching the Spanish Immersion Program and Elementary Spanish again this year. She previously taught in Seton’s All Day and Half Day Programs and before that at a traditional Elementary school in Mexico. Olivia has a B.A. in Elementary Education, a 3-6 AMS Certificate, and is presently working on her Elementary Montessori 6-9 certification. She and her husband have a son, Diego, in the All Day Toddler 2s and 3s Program. Olivia loves to read, take walks, go to the beach on vacations and spend time with her husband and friends. She loves being with children because they teach us so much; children are instinctively accepting of you the way you are, and they do not judge people. Olivia feels that she learns something from the children every day!
ALL DAY 3-6 PROGRAM
Sue Buntrock is the Head Teacher of the Green Room and is the Program Coordinator of the All Day Preprimary Program. She has been at Seton for 38 years. Previously Sue taught special needs children, and she holds a B.S. in Applied Behavioral Science, and a 3-6 Montessori Certificate. Sue is married and has one daughter, Ashley, who is Seton’s Elementary Program Coordinator and Lower Elementary teacher. Sue loves to read and enjoys attending the theater with her husband. The spontaneous joy children have in all that they see and discover is what she likes best about working with children.
Gina Staszak is a Student Teacher this year in the Green Room, completing her practicum work for the Early Childhood credential. A native of the Philippines, Gina has spent much of her career working and teaching in schools, and also as an adult caregiver. She and her husband Mark recently relocated to the area, which brought her to Seton. Gina enjoys vegetable and flower gardening and cooking. She says she learns a lot from the children and their openness to share themselves. “I truly enjoy being with them!”
Hilda Manzanares is an Assistant Teacher in the Green Room, and has worked at Seton since 1985. She is married to José Manzanares and has four children between the ages of 20 and 30, and four grandchildren. She attended the Paraprofessional Course here at Seton. Hilda loves to take walks with José, and she most enjoys seeing the smiles on her student’s faces each day.
Tricia Giron is a Co-lead Teacher in the Yellow Room and has been at Seton for five years. Before that, Tricia worked with children teaching cooking classes, Sunday School, and running a Montessori play group. Married with two young sons, Tricia holds an B.S. in Chemistry, an M.S. in Food Science, as well as her 3-6 Montessori Credential. Tricia enjoys cooking, sewing, and music. She is interested in working with children with special needs, and makes a hobby of aviation. Tricia loves to see the thrill in children’s faces when they accomplish something they have been working on so diligently.
Shilpa Kapilavai is a Co-lead Teacher in the Yellow Room. She joined Seton last year after completing her practicum at a Montessori school in the city. Shilpa has a Bachelors degree in Engineering and a Masters degree in Computer Science, along with her Early Childhood credential from the Seton Montessori Insititute. Her son Smaran began her intrigue with child development and inspired her pursuit of Montessori teacher education. Shilpa enjoys running, reading and spending time with her husband and son. Making a difference in the life of a young child is what she enjoys most about her work.
Aida Quiles Rodriguez is going into her second year as an Assistant Teacher in the Yellow Room. She completed the Paraprofessional course at Seton and previously worked with youth at her church. Aida got her introduction to Montessori through a friend who operated a Montessori program in her home. In her free time, Aida is actively involved in youth ministry.
Riffat Sadiq is an Assistant Teacher in the All Day Preprimary Program. She has been with Seton for over twenty years, and holds her Montessori Certificates in 0-3 and 3-6 as well as a Master’s degree in Urdu. She is married and has three children, and cares for her dad. Her special interests are reading, and “wishing for writing”. Riffat loves observing, helping and being hugged by the children.
Mary Carol Kobler is an afternoon Assistant in the Green Room, and has been working at Seton since 2001. She completed her teacher training in Suzuki Method for Piano Book 1 in Summer 1999, and wrote a book, “The Importance of Nature and Animals in a Montessori Environment and at Home,” for the children of Seton Montessori. Mary Carol holds a B.A. in American Studies with a concentration in Cultural History & Literature from DePaul University. Mary Carol is a cantor at her church every weekend and also enjoys singing in DuPage Chorale at COD. She loves spending quality time with her husband David, her family, and her new baby cockatiel, Charlie.
Cristina Perry is a Seton alumnus and is the Art Specialist on campus. Cristina holds her Infant-Toddler AMS credential and received her Early Childhood credential from Xavier University as a part of her Master’s Degree in Education. Cristina has inspired young artists throughout her years in the classroom and works with children at all program levels. She opened the Summer Camp Art Studio in 2013, a summer camp favorite, and is assisting in the development of the outdoor Atelier. In her free time, Cristina enjoys doing origami and spending time with her dogs, Nicky and Rita.
Ashley Buntrock is Elementary Coordinator and Co-teacher of the Lower Elementary classroom. Ashley has been a teacher at Seton for seven years. A Seton graduate herself, Ashley holds a B.A. in Early Childhood Education from Xavier University, and her 3-6 and 6-12 Montessori credentials. Ashley is the daughter of Sue Buntrock, Head teacher in the Green Room. Teaching in the Seton Elementary Program since its inception, Ashley loves the children’s joy of learning and that every day is new. In her free time she loves the opportunity to read a good book.
Divina Cruz is a Co-teacher in the Lower Elementary class. After earning her B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy she went to law school and decided it was best to follow her passion: working with children. Upon leaving law school, Divina came to Seton to learn more about Montessori, where she completed her 0-3, 3-6 and 6-9 Montessori certifications. Divina was a Lead Teacher in a 3-6 classroom for many years. She is married with two children who both attend Seton’s Elementary Program. Divina says the best part about working with the children is watching their joy when they learn something new.
David Chorney is an Assistant Teacher in the 6-9 Elementary class. He found Seton after being urged to become a certified Montessori teacher by the faculty of Denali Montessori in Alaska where he was an aide and substitute for seven years. Previous to that, David graduated with a B.A. in English and Sociology from Augustana College. David and his wife enjoy time with their German Shepherd Husky mix dog. In his spare time, David likes to fish, hike, bike, mountain climb and climb trees. David loves seeing the growth in the children from the first day to the end of the year. He loves witnessing each child’s individual strengths and loves helping find solutions to any weaknesses.
Rumya Rao is returning to teach in the Lower Elementary classroom. With a degree in Mathematics, Rumya was a coordinator of clinical trials in a hospital prior to joining Seton. She says a combination of perfect timing and a lifelong desire to teach are what drew her to Montessori education. Rumya and her husband Sri, recently found out there will be a new addition to their family, expecting their first child in December. Rumya enjoys singing, gardening and cooking in her free time. She feels she learns even more than the children every day as she witnesses their social interaction and connects with them in the classroom.
Gwen Carr is the Head Teacher of the Upper Elementary Classroom. After teaching Montessori Early Childhood for the past six years, and assisting in Elementary in the afternoons for the past two, she is excited about the new experience of working with Elementary students full-time. Gwen has been called the “Curator of the Living Lab” as her work has been fundamental in creating and maintaining the laboratory. Along with her 3-6 and 6-12 Montessori Certificates, she holds a B.A. in Humanities. Previously, Gwen provided individualized instruction for a one-room schoolhouse of 6-12 year olds and home-schooled her own children and others for nine years. Gwen enjoys gardening, interacting with animals, reading, writing, cooking and preserving food. Gwen is married to “Harry the Sheep Farmer” and has two children, Raya, 23, and Jonathan, 25. She enjoys working with children because of the wonder in their eyes and the love in their hearts, both so willingly shared.
Cortney Kuzma is in her third year of teaching in the Upper Elementary classroom at Seton, and her sixth year teaching Montessori. Cortney has a B.S. in Integrative Biology from the University of Illinois, and she loves the opportunities she has to share her passion for science every day in the elementary curriculum. About teaching at Seton, Cortney says, “I love learning alongside the children and instilling a lifetime love of learning. I found Seton when I came here to collect ideas for my own Lower Elementary classroom, and fell in love with the authenticity of the Montessori program at Seton.” This year she is finishing her 6-12 training, and she is looking forward to getting her certification later this year.
Linda Davis joins the Seton staff this year as Curriculum Coordinator, with a primary focus on Elementary, but working wherever her input and efforts are needed. Linda Davis completed her first Montessori Teacher Training in 1971. Since then she has worked in Montessori environments with students ages 3 to 6, 6 to 9, 9 to 12, and 12 to 15. Brief encounters with groups of children from birth to three and young people older than 15 have been intriguing, but so far she has preferred one-to-one interactions with those age groups. Experiences with other work outside the world Montessori have been brief and left her convinced she has the best job in the world. Linda grew up in downstate Illinois, has lived in the Chicago area twice; spent one year in Washington, D.C.; and has lived on the West Coast twice. She is happy to have returned to the “third coast” where she can spend time with a multitude of family, friends, and former students.
Heather Madden is our Student Resource Specialist. Prior to joining Seton, Heather was Manager of Professional Learning for the Office of Early Childhood in the Chicago Public Schools. Attending Montessori herself as a child, and working five years as an Early Childhood inclusion teacher, Heather has a rich background in assisting children and coaching teachers on working with children with learning differences. Heather will be working with children in all program levels. This year, she will also be completing her Montessori Early Childhood practicum with an internship in the Purple PM class. In her spare time, Heather loves volunteering, sewing, and exploring Chicago with her dogs, Lola and Foster.