Meet Our Staff

The Montessori three year cycle allows teachers multiple years to observe each child’s emerging personality and learning styles, to encourage natural abilities, and to address the needs of the whole child.

South Suburban Montessori School’s faculty currently consists of 23 members who bring a wealth of Montessori experience to the school’s community.  All of our classroom teachers, as well as many of our classroom assistants, are Montessori trained and certified.

carol-andrzejewski-optCarol Andrzejewski
School Registrar
Carol hails from the land of snow, Buffalo, New York.  She graduated from Bishop McMahon School of Business and went to work as the secretary for the regional manager of the Maytag Wholesale Warehouse and as a part-time secretary for a physical therapist.  When her family began to arrive, she became a full-time stay at home mom and wife.  Carol moved to the Cleveland area in 1977 where she took job for  Kane Products as a seamstress and was later promoted to pattern designer and workroom supervisors.  When the business moved to Alabama, she was hired for her “dream job” as the administrative assistant as South Suburban.  She was later promoted to Office Manager and Registrar.  Carol has four successful children and nine beautiful grandchildren that keep her busy when she is not at work.

Nirmala Balasubramanian
Children’s House Guide
Nirmala is an experienced Montessori teacher who has great loyalty to the excellence of Montessori education.  She was trained under Maria Montessori’s personal assistant, Mr. Joosten and has AMI Primary certification.  She completed London Advance Level majoring in geography at Aquinas University in Sri Lanka.  Nirmala’s career began by taking a leap of faith and moving from Sri Lanka to Ohio with her husband and two young sons to work at Hudson Montessori School.  After her tenure at Hudson, she served as an Executive Director, teacher, and consultant to several other schools in Northeast Ohio.  Her passion remains with the children and she counts her vast experience, kind disposition, and firm but fair approach as gifts she shares with all children.  Nirmala is a world traveler and has established lasting connections with Montessorians and past students.  Nirmala has been selected for the 2016 Distinguished Ohio Montessorian Award for her long standing dedication to the Montessori Method and the families and children of Northeast Ohio.

ssms-20-of-279_optJeanette Chin
Lower Elementary Guide
Jeanette grew up in Ohio and has lived here most of her life. She loves the change of seasons here and having all her family close is an added bonus! She attended the University of Akron, receiving a Bachelor’s degree in education before discovering Montessori quite by accident – some call it fate. She began teaching at a Montessori school in 1999, and spent two years co-teaching with Montessori trained teachers. She loved the philosophy of choice with responsibility behind Montessori education, the hands-on materials, the high interest and enthusiasm of the students, and the supportive environment that Montessori provided. It was not long before she was hooked, and moved to Baltimore to get her Montessori training and then her Master’s degree at Loyola University. Since then she has worked in both the Upper Elementary and Lower Elementary environments. When she is not at school, she can be found baking something sweet in her kitchen, digging holes in her flower beds, reading a good piece of fiction, or playing games with her family.


sean-fleming-optSean Fleming
Children’s House Guide
Sean has a passion for Montessori philosophy and early childhood education.  He brings his love of art, music, and science into the classroom with enticing lessons.  He enjoys motorcycles, comics, and listening to music.  Most of all, he cherishes the time he spends with his amazing wife Colleen and lovely daughter Skylar in their little house in Cleveland Heights.


joann-fox-optJoann Fox
Montessori Paraprofessional & Art Teacher
Joann has been working at SSMS for more than 38 years in the 3- to 6-year-old and elementary classrooms with the last two years as the art and reading specialist on campus.  She completed her AMS Early Childhood teaching credential at Meca-Seton in Chicago.  Joann, her husband and her almost three-year-old son at the time are one of the founding families of SSMS.  They have been involved in almost all areas of the school – from being on the Board, to fundraising, to making furniture and materials, to working as the janitors, to parent education and summer camp.  Their sons and grandsons attended SSMS with the oldest grandson staying through 6th grade.  Joann’s favorite time with children at school have been during art, cooking, play practice and exploring the woods.  Her current goal is to inspire young artists at all program levels.  At home, she enjoys visiting the State Parks, doing crossword puzzles with her husband, and spending time with her sons, grandsons, and great-granddaughters.


angela-galarza-optAngela Galarza
Children’s House Guide
Angela received her AMS Early Childhood Credential at the South Florida Montessori Education Center in Boca Raton in 1992.  She also holds degrees in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Development from Palm Beach State College and Walden University.  Prior to coming to South Suburban, Angela’s previous experience includes working as a full-time mom, a Head of School, summer camp director, and music teacher.  Angela’s two sons are Montessori students.  Her youngest son is currently attending SSMS in our Upper Elementary community while her oldest son will be graduating from high school this spring. Angela enjoys gardening, exploring nature, family time, and cooking.


heather-gerheim-gladden-optHeather Gerheim-Gladden
Children’s House Guide
Heather started teaching traditional elementary school in 1998, but became involved with Montessori in 2001.  She holds a degree in Elementary Education from Miami University of Ohio as well as her AMS Early Childhood Credential from Columbus Montessori Teacher Education Center.  Heather has two boys of her own.  Heather enjoys many activities outside of school such as reading, knitting, walking with friends, playing the violin, biking, and volunteering at her church.  She also enjoys sleeping in on the weekends.  Her goals for the future include camping and traveling on a regular basis.


ssms-23-of-279_optPamela Gujrati
Upper Elementary Assistant
Mrs. G found her path to Montessori through her son’s Pre-Primary Montessori experience more than 20 years ago. Her earlier college  and graduate school majors were in Painting and Art History. She began her first of three levels of Montessori training with 3-6 training in 1996. She continued her training at the Elementary 6-9 Level while also completing her Masters in Elementary Education. Mrs. G opened the Montessori Elementary program at Canton Montessori and helped it to grow to include Upper Elementary. She next enjoyed the challenge of 9-12 training and guiding a core group of students for six years while at CMS. Mrs. G came to South Suburban as the Lower Elementary Guide in 2008. She now enjoys working with the Upper Elementary children where every day is an adventure in the truest sense. Mrs. G has been fortunate to be able to travel internationally with her husband and two children over the years. Today, two grandchildren make life very big fun.


elizabeth-hinkel-optElizabeth Hinkel
Lower Elementary Guide
Beth is entering her 8th year of teaching Montessori, which she fell in love with while studying education at Xavier University.  She loves to create – calligraphy, themed parties, intricate meals, and classroom materials.  She also enjoys spending time with her husband, Bill, and her family and friends.  She adores Cleveland and tries to support local businesses by frequenting the Cleveland Flea, new restaurants, and the West Side Market.  She has completed two half marathons with plans to complete more.  You can also find her and Bill at many local leisure cycling events.  Beth endeavors to start gardening soon, with hopes to turn her brown thumb green.


ssms-15-of-279_optMelody Just
Children’s House Assistant
Melody is a dynamic individual with diverse experience; holding professional certifications in family and consumer science, nutrition, and business.  She greatly enjoys school-age children and is passionate to facilitate their development.  Melody is a Fine Arts Instructor, locally teaching dance, musical movement, and offering violin lessons.  She choreographs performances for children and youth, and presently plays the violin in the Parma Symphony Orchestra with her husband, Marcus, a Cellist. Melody holds a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition, a Dietetic Registration, along with an M.B.A. from Kent State University.  She has taught multiple disciplines, school-age through University, and prior to joining SSMS, Melody developed and taught a “Parent & Me” preschool program for 8 years.  Melody resides in North Royalton with her husband and three children. Her family is active in the community and local church, and she is thrilled to be a part of the SSMS team!


Evelyn R. Kehoe
Children’s House Assistant
Evy has been part of the South Suburban Montessori community since 2003.  She has had the pleasure of working with students at every level from toddlers through middle school.  Evy is very proud of her work as she feels guiding children is one the most important and fulfilling jobs in the world.  When not at school, Evy spends time with her husband, children, family, and friends.  She loves swimming (and swim meets), bike riding, music, reading, and cooking with her kids!


melanie-king-optMelanie King
Director of Admissions
Melanie recently relocated to Ohio from Chicago.  She received her Bachelor’s degree from Columbia College with a concentration in Fine Arts and a minor in business and psychology. After college she became a public spokesperson from several major companies which in turn moved her into an entrepreneur role.  She ran three businesses from start-up to successful operations through effective business planning, creative sales techniques, and innovative marketing.  She is currently family focused with a daughter in the Children’s House program and enjoys every minute of family time and helping SSMS grow into a blossoming place for families and education.


terry-lemut-optTerry Lemut
Terry started at South Suburban as a helper in the office working two mornings a week.  That was 16 years ago when her sons Frank and Joseph were students in the Children’s House program.  Terry received her Associate Degree in Secretarial Science from Lakeland Community College.  She attended Notre Dame College in South Euclid and is a only a few classes from achieving a Bachelor of Science in accounting.  Terry is currently finishing up her Master Gardener certificate with The Ohio State University.  Terry appreciates working with the wonderful SSMS staff, children, and families.


amy-barr-optAmy Mackie-Barr
Head of School
Born on a Marine Corps base in 29 Palms, California, Amy spent her childhood and teen years moving to various cities both nationally and abroad with her parents and two younger brothers.  She took a part-time secretarial position at a small local Montessori school after graduating from college in 1994.  It was “love at first sight” and she has been a Montessorian ever since. Amy has her AMS Montessori teaching credentials at both the Infant & Toddler and Early Childhood levels.  Amy became the Head of School at SSMS in 2007 and led her team through the extraordinary process of AMS School Accreditation in 2013.  Although she never lived in the same place for more that four years while growing up, Amy has made Cleveland Heights home for the past twenty years.  She has two boys, Michael and Owen, both of whom have shared in her adventures as Montessori students.  Amy relaxes by reading, biking, and watching mindless reality television.  She is also a huge Jazzerciser and tries to attend class at least four times per week.


blake-minich-optBlake Minich
Middle School Assistant
Energized by the Earth’s yellow sun Blake uses enhanced abilities, unbridled curiosity, a business degree from Miami (OH), and six years of experience teaching English as a Second Language in Seoul, Korea to spread Truth, Justice, and the Montessori way.  After spending eight years as a non-basketball playing globetrotter, Blake moved back to Northeast Ohio in 2010 to take on the role of Marketing Director for a local financial services firm.  Despite being surrounded by some of the most talented professionals in the finance industry he would leave the office each day feeling unsatisfied.  Remembering the sense of accomplishment he received from leading students to knowledge Blake decided to resign from his desk job so that he could go back to school.  As an Upper Elementary assistant he has found a renewed vigor and sense of purpose in the classroom each day where he hopes to spread his enthusiasm and natural inquisitiveness to the students of South Suburban so that they can become life long learners.  When he is not in school Blake will spend his free time with his wife and children, laboring in a Sisyphean attempt at having a well-manicured lawn, reading, cooking, and catching up on sleep.


Mel Minich
Children’s House Assistant
Yeon-Hee Kim aka “Mel Minich” was born and raised in South Korea. Mel earned her bachelor’s degree in International Trade and Chinese Language and Literature. She spent a few years in Sydney, Australia before returning to Korea to teach English, Chinese, and Japanese. She taught for 10 years before taking an extended sabbatical to start a family. In 2010 she moved with her family to Northeast Ohio for better educational opportunities for her children. When not working she enjoys studying languages, teaching meditation, and knitting.


kellie-padgett-optKellie Padgett
Middle School Guide
Kellie graduated from The Ohio State University with a Bachelor’s in English Education and started her teaching career as a 7th grade Language Arts teacher in Medina, Ohio.  Kellie and her husband moved to Jacksonville, Florida where her Montessori journey began.  A fellow teacher, after observing in Kellie’s class commented, “You know, you are a Montessori teacher not a traditional teacher, right?”  After some research, Kellie enrolled in Montessori elementary training.  She then continued on to Middle School training.  Her three children are enrolled at SSMS.  When she finds some free time, Kellie enjoys exploring book stores, baking, and spending time with her family.


candyce-petrie-optCandyce Petrie
Lower Elementary Assistant
Candyce was born and raised in Northeast Ohio and graduated from The Ohio State University with a degree in Horticulture.  Candyce was introduced to South Suburban Montessori while in graduate school pursuing a degree and license in Early Childhood Education from Cleveland State University.  She was immediately interested in the Montessori philosophy and enrolled her twins, Samuel and Jenna, in the program.  Candyce has been part of the South Suburban community since then.  Candyce’s family has always lived on their horse farm in Hinckley.  She is passionate about teaching children and adults to ride in the English discipline and spends many afternoons teaching SSMS students to ride her family’s beloved horses with the help of her now grown up children!


cecelia-romito-optCecelia Romito
Toddler Guide/Administrative Liaison for the Lower School
Cecelia has served as the Toddler guide at South Suburban for eight years.  She began working with infants and toddlers twenty years ago in her hometown of Ignacio, Colorado, and received her Montessori certificate from the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies.  In addition to her teaching role, Cecelia is also the Administrative Liaison of the Lower School .  Cecelia has served as a School Accreditation Team Member for the American Montessori Society and she hopes to continue representing South Suburban on the national Montessori stage.  Recently, Cecilia moved to Hinckley where she resides with her husband.  Between the two of them, they have seven children and one grandchild.


edyta-rutkowski-optEdyta Rutkowski
Children’s House Assistant
Edyta, a native of Poland, joined SSMS in 2012 as a student teacher. Since joining our school, Edyta completed her Montessori Paraprofessional certificate and her AMS Early Childhood teaching credential at Seton Montessori Institute in Chicago.  Edyta loves teaching and working with children.  She likes to see the joy on their faces when they accomplish their work and values the opportunity to watch them grow over time.  In her free time, Edyta enjoys cooking, spending time with family, and traveling with her husband.


natalie-sanford-optNatalie Sanford
Physical Education Instructor
Natalie has been the physical education teacher at South Suburban Montessori since 2007 and loves working with all our students.  Natalie attended Kent State University to become a Physical Education teacher and then Indiana Wesleyan University to become an Intervention Specialist.  She loves to cook, read, work out, volunteer at her children’s school, and spend time with her three boys and husband.


barb-tuori-optBarb Tuori
Toddler Community Assistant
Barb is a Cleveland native, currently residing in Strongsville with her husband and three children.  Barb strongly believes in the Montessori philosophy and has seen the outcomes firsthand with her own children who have been a part of our community for the past two years.  Barb enjoys spending time with her family, reading, hiking, biking, fishing, and practically any other outdoor activity.  She is excited to be working with the toddlers at SSMS this school year!


kimberly-white-optKimberly White
Upper Elementary Guide/Administrative Liaison for Upper School
At age ten, Kim was inspired to become an educator by her fifth grade teacher, Miss Kirkham.  Miss Kirkham was firm but took time to personally connect and encourage each of her students in their quest for knowledge.  Kim strives to do the same.  While completing her B.S. in  Elementary Education from Bowling Green State University, she student taught fifth grade in an American-Brazilian school in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  After teaching fifth, sixth, and eighth grade mathematics in public school, Kim made the decision to pursue a Master’s degree in Montessori Elementary Education.  It was her desire to create an educational environment that focused on the pursuit of knowledge and the joy of learning instead of test preparation.  When not in school, Kim enjoys watching her daughters participate in their high school marching band and walking her labrador, Toby.