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 several 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, have achieved their Montessori certification.


Michaela Anborgh
Lower Elementary Assistant

Michaela spent most of her life on the other side of Lake Erie in London, Ontario, Canada before moving to Ohio a few years ago. Growing up in a bilingual household (English and Dutch) helped her develop a love for languages and she graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts in French Studies. Prior to becoming an assistant at SSMS, her experiences in education included being an English Language Assistant at a francophone high school in Québec and working as an English language tutor to students from all around the world. She is thankful to be part of the wonderful community at SSMS. In her spare time, she enjoys playing board games, reading, spending time in nature, catching up on her favorite podcasts, and cheering on the Cavs.



Jeanette Chin
Lower Elementary Guide

Jeanette grew up in Ohio and has lived here most of her life. She attended the University of Akron, receiving a bachelor’s degree in education before discovering Montessori. She began co-teaching at a Montessori school in 1999 and obtained her AMI Montessori certification and master’s degree at Loyola University in 2002.  Jeanette has worked with children in both the Upper Elementary and Lower Elementary environments and is the parent of a Montessori graduate. 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.



Kim Conklin
Toddler Environment Guide

With a bachelor’s degree in social work from Ohio University, and a master’s in Psychology – Counseling and Psychotherapy from Antioch University Seattle, Kim began her work life with adolescents in therapeutic settings. Following an unplanned encounter with Montessori education, she fell in love with the philosophy of freedom through responsibility and went on to attain an American Montessori Society Preprimary certificate from the Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest. Teaching in Montessori classrooms was a perfect way to apply a natural respect and appreciation for the individuality of children within a peaceful community environment. Following a period of stay-at-home parenting, Kim returned to teaching in the early childhood program at The Music Settlement in Cleveland. There, she spent nine years as a science specialist and two as a pre-kindergarten integrated-classroom teacher. In 2016, Kim joined Hanna Perkins Child Development Center as a teacher in the EPIC Program for children with Autism Spectrum diagnoses. The toddler period has a special place in Kim’s heart and she is thrilled to rejoin a Montessori school working with this age group. (Fun Facts: Many years ago, Kim was the maternity leave substitute for then-toddler teacher Amy Mackie-Barr! And Amy was Kim’s daughter’s kindergarten teacher!) Outside of school, Kim enjoys walking with her dog and/or husband, visiting their two 20-something children, trying to develop a regular yoga practice and just about anything novel.


Barbara Day
Art Guide

Barbara holds a B.A. and teaching certificate for grades 7-12. However, she discovered she enjoyed working with young children and has worked predominantly with pre-k through 3rd grade children for over 25 years. Her diverse background includes working at a cooperative pre-school as a Pre-Kindergarten teacher for 17 years and leading/teaching school groups at the Holden Arboretum and the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art. Barbara has also taught art classes for after-school programs, for various community centers and an annual summer art camp in Cleveland Heights. She is excited to be working with the kindergarten students this year as they explore and create art! Her interest in “peace education” led her to sub for several different Montessori schools before she joined the SSMS community. In her spare time, Barbara enjoys biking and hiking with her husband, pollinator gardening, tending to her many indoor plants, working on artistic projects inspired by nature, visiting northeast Ohio’s wonderful libraries, and visiting her daughter in Columbus, Ohio.


Katie Fox
Upper Elementary Guide

Katie is a graduate of Ohio University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Education. During her undergrad was when she first heard about the Montessori method. She immediately knew that was the path that she wanted to pursue for her career. Shortly after completing her undergraduate, she began her Montessori training and is now a Montessori certified teacher. In her free time, she loves to paddle board on Lake Erie, hike the metro parks with her dog, go skiing when there is snowfall, go to the gym, meditate, or do almost any activity that incorporates nature and promotes mindfulness.



Elizabeth Funk
Lower Elementary Guide

Elizabeth received her Bachelor of Arts in Art History from John Carroll University, and her Master of Arts in Art History and Museum Studies from Case Western Reserve University. Elizabeth came to SSMS seven years ago as a substitute art teacher and has since completed her AMS Montessori training (ages 6-9), as well as a Masters of Montessori Education from Xavier University. Elizabeth loves working with children of all ages, whether in the Aspen classroom, or in art. Elizabeth enjoys reading, being outside, and spending time with family, friends, and pets.



Sheri Funk
Children’s House Assistant

Sheri came to SSMS years ago as a summer camp art teacher, where she fell in love with the Montessori method. She returned as a substitute in 2021, and found a real connection with the students. Sheri values kindness, and extends compassion and courtesy in the classroom environment. Sheri enjoys working with children to promote literacy and encourage curiosity, believing those efforts will form lifelong learners.

Away from the classroom, Sheri’s hobbies include, reading, sewing, baking, riding a Vespa with her husband, and she recently began playing ukulele. She loves dogs and has more than one waiting when she arrives home! Sheri and her husband enjoy time with their children and grandchildren, as well as volunteering at their church and local food pantry.


Angela Galarza
Children’s House Guide

Angela has enjoyed teaching and working in Montessori environments for over 25 years and received her AMS Early Childhood Teaching Credential 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 SSMS, Angela’s experience includes working as a Montessori Children’s House Guide, Head of School, Summer Camp Director and Music Teacher.  Angela has also been involved in Montessori teacher education at South Florida Montessori Education Center, Summit Montessori Teacher Training Institute and The Maryland Center for Montessori Studies.  Her youngest son is currently attending Brecksville-Broadview Heights High School.  Angela enjoys spending time with her family, singing in church choirs, exploring nature, hiking/ walking in the Metroparks, and trying new recipes.


Heather Galbraith
Intervention Specialist

Heather received her Bachelor of Arts in French and Learning Disabilities, as well as her Orton-Gillingham Certification from Miami University.  She came to SSMS five years ago as a reading specialist working with multiple classrooms providing specialized reading and language therapy services to students using the multisensory, research and evidence based Orton-Gillingham methodology.  Heather has 25 years of experience in the field of education, including Montessori education, Structured Literacy, Curriculum and Instruction, Special Education, and Dyslexia.  During her spare time, Heather enjoys spending time with her three children at their various sporting events and activities.


Heather Gerheim
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 goal for the future is to complete her Montessori Applied to Children At-Risk Training.



Elizabeth Hinkel
Associate Head of School

Beth fell in love with Montessori while studying education at Xavier University, where she earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Montessori education.  She loves to create – calligraphy, themed parties, intricate meals, and classroom materials.  She also enjoys spending time with her husband, son, daughters, extended 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 Beth and Bill at many local leisure cycling events.



Gretchen Larrow
Administrative Assistant

Raised on a farm, airport, and drag strip south of Canton, OH, Gretchen found her calling early as a performing artist. At age 11, she sang her first role as a Jewish concentration camp child in “I Never Saw Another Butterfly”. Various choirs, bands, musical theater productions, summer stock, community theaters, operettas, and full operas have seen Gretchen performing all the way through Heidelberg University where she earned her Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. While pursuing a vocal career at the University of Akron, Gretchen met her husband. Her in-laws are well-known Montessori leaders of teaching, teacher-training, and accrediting while serving on multiple Montessori committees and Boards and at different NEO Montessori schools. Tom and Gretchen’s two sons started Montessori school at age 2-1/2yrs and Gretchen joined the SSMS administrative team thereafter.

Gretchen loves movies – Rom/Com, Musicals, documentaries, and suspenseful thrillers. She loves swimming and (watching) hockey, but mostly having fun with her 3 boys. Traveling, geography, and pursuing new adventures while learning about history and cultures are favorites of the family as well! She is the family genealogist and loves to talk with friends. A favorite motto is, “I hope to learn something new every day!”


Jeanette Louis
Upper School Guide

Jeanette is entering her 23rd year of teaching and has had the opportunity to work in a multitude of school environments. She began her teaching journey in a traditional school but then worked for many years with students on the autism spectrum in both an integrated school setting, as well as a private school program. Most recently she taught in a school for gifted students.  She surprisingly realized that her philosophy and style of teaching that has developed over the years lines up very closely to Montessori.  Jeanette has lived within an 11-mile radius her whole life and currently lives in Broadview Heights with her husband and four sons. She spends her free time vanning, finding ways to spend quality time with her family, reading, and binge watching Netflix.


Amy 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.


Amy Macy
Administrative Assistant

Amy has been with SSMS for five years, first joining the team as a substitute teacher, and currently as an Administrative Assistant.  She earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Mount Union College and her graduate degree in Educational Administration from The University of Tennessee.  She was a public school teacher and then spent many years at home raising her children before joining the team as SSMS. Amy and her husband Jim currently reside in Brecksville with their four children, two of whom are in college and two in high school.



Blake Minich
Middle School Guide

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 a Middle School Guide 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.


Khema Perera
Toddler Guide

Khema completed her AMI Montessori training in her home country of Sri Lanka.  She first lived in Nevada before settling in Ohio.  Khema has experience in public, charter, and private Montessori schools.  She has three lovely teenagers.  Some of Khema’s passions outside of school are cooking a variety of ethnic foods, reading, and walking in the Metroparks.




Jen Petric-Black
Executive Administrator

Jen was born and raised in Cleveland, and, except for a short stint in Chicago, has lived here all her life. She graduated from the University of Akron with degrees in Computer Programming and Mass Media/Communications, two completely opposite ends of the spectrum. But she managed to mesh those two degrees into ten years of management in software development & integration. Jen joined the SSMS Administration Team in early 2018 and brought with her some mad Microsoft Excel skills, a wicked sense of humor, and a never-ending dedication to her team. Her three children are enrolled at SSMS, and when she’s not working or chasing around her kids, you can often find her running around after the myriad of pets she and her wife have accumulated over the years. She loves to bake, and is tempted to move to England, if only to be a contestant on The Great British Baking Show. For better or worse, Jen is a staunch supporter of Cleveland football and, as most Clevelanders do, believes that “there’s always next year.”



Mara Radzialowski
Encore Director

Mara started her work at South Suburban as a Children’s House volunteer during her high school years. After accumulating upwards of 400 hours, she continued to work as a teaching assistant during the Summers. Mara graduated in May of 2020 with a Bachelor’s degree in Clinical Psychology as well as a double minor in Exercise Science and Spanish. She received the opportunity to rejoin the SSMS team during the Summer of 2022. Outside of work, Mara’s favorite ways enjoy her time include spending time in nature, road-tripping or other travel, exploring new places and trying new activities, dance classes, long boarding, snowboarding and watching sunsets, among other spontaneous activities. First and foremost though, she absolutely loves spending her time working with children of any age and is excited to be on South Suburban’s team again!


Brian Riha
Music Director

Brian has always had a passion for music, and while attending college he discovered his passion for teaching it. While majoring in classical guitar at Baldwin-Wallace College, he began as a student teacher there.

Brian picked up the guitar at age 8, and had his first public performance by age 10, at a summer bible school. Guitar lessons would soon follow.  Diverse formal instruction came later as Brian began to develop a strong dedication to teaching the instrument he loves. His areas of study have included classical training, with a bachelor’s degree in performance, as well as music theory, history, and composition.

Brian has been teaching private music lessons since the 1990’s.  He is eager to serve our community by helping to harvest the talents of our children and young musicians both as a Montessori teacher and music instructor. Brian has been a Montessori parent since 2006 and enjoys working with children of all ages. He resides in Brecksville with his wife and 3 children, enjoys serving his church, making music, vacationing with his family, home remodeling, and muscle cars.


Therese Smith
Children’s House Guide

Therese was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland and worked as an au-pair in the south of France at 17 years old. She received her 3-6 year old AMI diploma in Dublin in 1993 before starting her career at a school in Pittsburgh, PA. She met her husband there and their first son was born.

They moved to Milwaukee, WI in 1998 and she began working as a Children’s House teacher at a larger Montessori school. Their second and third children were born there and all three of their children attended this school until they moved to Ohio in 2011. She has worked at a few Montessori schools here, including SSMS in 2017.

She is delighted to be back at SSMS! Therese has always had a strong passion when working with young children and families. She loves that the Montessori method allows children to develop an interest in their own learning while also helping them be respectful of themselves, others, and the world around us. Montessori also helps children learn what it is to ‘work’, bringing forth a satisfaction from within. This then drives them to develop a greater curiosity, to try harder, and to understand that making mistakes is a part of how we grow.

Some of Therese’s hobbies include reading mystery novels, walking, traveling, and cooking. She also enjoys watching football with my family & friends.


Alyssa Trzynka
Spanish Guide

Alyssa’s passion for Spanish and Hispanic culture began at an early age while on a family vacation to Mexico. That interest in Espanol took her to Valencia, Spain for her senior year of high school. Upon returning to the U.S. Alyssa attended Thiel College and the University of Akron where she earned Bachelor’s of Arts degrees in Education and Hispanic Studies.  Although not Montessori trained she loves the philosophy.  All four of her children attend SSMS. Alyssa keeps busy with her family in the Highland Square neighborhood of Akron.  They enjoy hiking, canoeing, and the thrill of roller coasters!



Patty Zilich
Children’s House Assistant

Patty is a lifelong Ohioan and calls Newburgh Heights home.  She has worked in both public and Montessori settings for the past 21 years.  She is thrilled to be back “home” in a Montessori environment.  Patty is married and has three lovely children and three amazing grandchildren. She is a die-hard Browns, Cavs and Guardians fan. She loves attending sporting events and doing retail therapy at thrift stores.