FACULTY AND STAFF

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Polly Christensen

Directress, Lead Catechist, and Elementary Composition Guide

Polly Christensen founded St. Francis Montessori in Irving, Texas with her husband, Joe, in 2009, with the support of many members of the Irving community. After attending Our Lady of Corpus Christi for her undergraduate, she received her Master's in English from the University of Dallas in 2007. In 2007, she completed her Association Montessori Internationale certification for ages 3-6. In 2010, she completed her certification for Level 1 in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. In 2013, she received her Level 2 certification and in 2015, her Level 3 certification.  

 

She continues to be the Directress, as well as a Catechist in the Level 2 Atrium and teaches composition to the SFM Elementary children ages 6-12 years old. She also prays daily with the Elementary children.  

 

Polly and Joe have six children, ages 15 to 1. The oldest two graduated from St. Francis when they were twelve and the youngest will join as soon as she is old enough. The whole family is invested in this beautiful work in God’s plan. 

 

Polly feels her life is abundantly blessed by the joy, love, and wonder that she sees daily by being with the children at St. Francis and in her own home.

Guides, Assistants,
and Administration
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Amanda Fernandes

Primary Casita Guide

Amanda Fernandes is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and holds an MA in English from the University of Dallas. After working with young children for several years, she discovered Montessori and has never looked back. She completed her AMI primary diploma in 2018 and is currently training as a Level 1 catechist with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She never tires of entering into the children’s innate sense of wonder and their joy of discovery.

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Megan Schmitt

Lower Elementary Guide

Megan Schmitt is the Lower Elementary co-guide with Carole Morris. Megan received a bachelor’s degree from the Univeristy of Texas at Austin in Child Development and Family Studies. During her college career, Megan worked for the University’s child care program and did her student teaching at the University’s lab school. Following college, Megan worked for Early Childhood Intervention of Tarrant County, a job that was rewarding and educational. Upon having children, Megan stayed home and ran an in-home childcare as well as taught preschool for a local church. Megan and her husband, Steve, decided to homeschool their children in the Catholic faith.

 

After 20 years of being a stay-at-home parent and educating her own children, the opportunity to pursue the dream of becoming a Montessorian was presented! This year will allow for the completion of that certification. Megan’s two youngest children also attend St. Francis Montessori.

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Mike Gleason

Upper Elementary Guide

After graduating from University of Dallas in 1988 (in Classics, Anc. Greek), Mike taught English at Northlake College and taught middle & high-school Algebra, Geography & Literature at Oakhill Academy (under the same roof as the Highlands School back then), where he assisted the Principal in Year 2. It was there that he saw Grace's Montessori classroom operating so beautifully. He took his AMI Montessori Elementary Training ('95) immediately after his AMI Montessori Primary Training ('94), all right after marrying Grace on St. Joseph's Day in 1993. They have been blessed with 7 surviving children (including Hanna, who worked at SFM before they did, and Susan who assists with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in Lander, WY). Raising their own and coaching plenty of others in baseball has made Mike appreciate those Montessori principles beyond the classroom. 

 

Teaching for St. Alcuin (now just “Alcuin”) Montessori in Dallas, for their own Holy Childhood Montessori at St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington, for St. Helena Montessori in the Napa Valley, and for two public Montessori schools in Milwaukee has amounted to 27 years of Montessori work at all levels from Primary to Upper El (25 in the classroom, mostly Lower El). The other 2 years saw him working on digital, Montessori-color-coded, Greek sentence-diagrams for Alpheios.net (a Classics app to run on Firefox, Chrome & Safari). The last 15 years have also afforded more education, including the NAMTA Montessori Adolescent Orientation course and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Milwaukee School of Engineering. And yet for Mike nothing has been as instructive as parenting, which allows him to see eye-to-eye with his students' first educators.

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Cecilia Burkett

Primary Casita Assistant

Cecilia's bio coming soon!

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Sarah Clemmons

Lower Elementary Assistant

Sarah is excited to return to St. Francis this year as a Lower Elementary Assistant. As a former Montessori student and the daughter of a Montessori guide, Montessori has been a part of her life for as long as she can remember. Sarah received a BA in Psychology in 2004 and a MS in College Student Affairs Administration in 2006 and spent many years bouncing back and forth between work with college students and various ministry positions, primarily working with homeless pregnant women and senior adults. Once Sarah had her own small children, she decided to return to her roots and completed AMI primary certification this summer. Sarah is so grateful to have both of her boys at St. Francis this year, in the Casa and Lower Elementary.

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Ellen Mirus

Latin

Ellen Mirus is in her fifth year of teaching weekly Latin to the Upper Elementary students at St. Francis Montessori. She is a graduate of Thomas More College in New Hampshire, where she combined a B.A. in Biology with the Humanities Core, and earned her Master of Bioethics from the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne, Australia. She has completed further courses in Education, Latin, Italian, and the Humanities at the University of Dallas. With eighteen years' experience teaching in Montessori, classical, diocesan, and home school environments, she is delighted at the rich incarnational vision offered at St. Francis and loves helping students explore Latin over the centuries and across the subjects. She practices on her three boys, all of whom are now students at the school.

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Marnie Parmenter

Records and Communications

Marnie's bio coming soon!

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Carole Morris

Teacher Support

Carole's bio coming soon!

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Angela Tellson

Primary Casa Guide

Angela Tellson began her Montessori journey when she was introduced to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd in 2016. After serving as a catechist in the level 1 atrium, she decided to pursue more formation and earned her AMI primary diploma as well as her MEd in Montessori Studies in 2019. Angela has also earned her AMI Assistants to Infancy diploma, her Level 2 CGS certification, and has completed graduate studies in theology at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She feels blessed to be a part of such a faith filled community and is honored to serve the children and their families.

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Grace Gleason

Lower Elementary Guide

Grace Gleason currently serves as one of the Lower Elementary guides. She did her AMI Montessori Primary Training immediately following graduation from Thomas Aquinas College, in Southern California. 

 

Following her first year of teaching at St. Helena Montessori school in Northern California, she took the first summer of the Elementary level training in Washington D.C. She later taught Primary level in her own Montessori environment at the Highlands school in Irving and after marrying Michael, they started and ran Holy Childhood Montessori school here, locally for five years.

 

She and Michael have raised 7 children, in a variety of Catholic Montessori schools in Texas, California, and later, as homeschooling parents in Wisconsin. Grace came back to Texas to work with children here at SFM through Michael, our Upper El guide.

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Melissa Yale

Upper Elementary Assistant

Melissa Yale currently serves as the Upper Elementary Morning Assistant. Melissa has a PhD in Educational Psychology - Research Methods and Measurement. She has been the Upper Elementary Assistant/Volunteer since 2019-20 and before that she has taught numerous graduate level classes in research and statistics. Melissa came upon the desire to work with children through Montessori at SFM through interest in the elementary program for her own children. Her two children are currently enrolled at St. Francis and have attended the school for six years.

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Emily Reiter

Primary Casa Assistant

Emily currently serves as the Primary Casa Assistant. She graduated cum laude from the University of Dallas with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Politics and a concentration in Ethics. Having cared and tutored for her own family as well as other children, she has been instilled with a deep love for the creative and unique mind of every child. Emily came upon the desire to work with children through Montessori because of her family’s involvement and because of an education course she took at the University of Dallas that examined the beauty of the Montessori method. Three of her twelve siblings, Nathan, Meghan, and Genevieve, her niece, Dorothy, and lots of cousins currently attend SFM.

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Mara Gleason

Elementary Assistant

Mara's bio coming soon!

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Berenice San Juan

Spanish

Berenice's bio coming soon!

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Anne Tierney

Financial Manager

Anne's bio coming soon!

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Rachel Skinner

Administration, Farm & Garden, Atrium Assistant

Rachel's bio coming soon!

Catechists and
Atrium Assistants
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Andrea Frank

Atrium Directress and Sacramental Preparation

Andrea Frank serves as a catechist for all three levels at SFM.  She holds bachelor's & Master's degrees in English from the University of Dallas and is a certified catechist for Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at all three levels. She is also a certified Formation Leader through the National Association of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and offers courses for adults seeking formation as CGS catechists in the Level 1 and 2 atria.  Andrea is a wife and mother of eight children, ages 17 to one, five of whom currently attend SFM. She was first exposed to Montessori through a SOLT Montessori school in her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, but working at SFM in the earliest years and watching her oldest child blossom there truly opened her eyes to the wisdom and wonder of this form of education. She studied Catechesis of the Good Shepherd alongside the growth of her family and St. Francis’s atria and is grateful for the rich experience of children’s spirituality that she experiences in the atrium each week. She is deeply grateful for the gift of working in the community of SFM’s faculty, staff, and families.

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Nece Zipper

Lead Catechist

Nece Zipper serves as a Level 3 Catechist and is certified to guide all three levels of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She graduated from Baylor University with a BA in 1999. Over the years, she has started multiple parish atria as well as a home atrium. Currently, she is serving in a Level 2 atrium at St. Mary the Virgin in Arlington. Nece has four children, one of whom graduated from SFM in 2017 and is currently homeschooled as well as assisting in the SFM atria; her younger three are enrolled in SFM casas. She enjoys working with the older children as they complete the CGS formation and also loves the material making process and preparation of the environment.

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Maria Bascom

Lead Catechist

Maria Bascom serves as a Level I catechist. She received her BA in theology at UD. This is her fourth year as a guide for Level I, and she looks forward to becoming certified in Levels II and III. She first heard of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd from her sister-in-law Andrea Frank and quickly came to appreciate its beauty and its balanced cultivation of a contemplative and active spirituality. She has six children (with a seventh on the way), four of whom attend Atrium at SFM, and is most grateful to be a part of this community.

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Libby Upham

Atrium Assistant

Libby currently serves as the Assistant for Levels 2 and 3 Atria.  She has completed CGS training for Levels 1, 2 and half of Level 3.  Though she will miss guiding a Level 1 Atrium this year, she is excited to assist in Levels 2 and 3 with the children.   Libby came upon the desire to work with children through Montessori at SFM through her own children's experience in the primary Casa and Atria.  Each of her children, Grace, Joseph, Thomas, John, and Beth have been in the Montessori Casa or Atrium for the past 12 years, and her husband Dave currently serves on the Board for SFM.  We are all grateful for the beautiful work of SFM!

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Brigid Stauduhar

Atrium Assistant and School Enrollment

Brigid Stauduhar currently serves as an Atrium assistant. Brigid came upon the desire to work with children at SFM through the beauty of the catechesis program experienced by her children. She has three children currently attending SFM in Upper Elementary, Lower Elementary, and Primary.

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Maria Jones

Atrium Assistant

Maria's bio coming soon!

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Rose Gagliano

Atrium Assistant

Rose's bio coming soon!

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Tamara Kuykendall

Lead Catechist

Tamara Kuykendall serves as a catechist for all three levels of the Atrium. She is a graduate of the University of Dallas with a BA in English and a Master of Theology degree. She is also certified to guide all three levels of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. Her passion is child education, in particular the formation of children in the Catholic faith. She taught theology for 4 years on the high school and junior high level. She later discovered the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and promptly fell in love with it in the way it recognizes and fosters the unique religious gifts possessed by the young child. She is a mother of 5 children, the oldest three attended St. Francis Montessori and all who are of age currently attend the Atrium programs.

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Laura Sercer

Lead Catechist

Laura Sercer serves as a Catechist for Level 1, Co-guide for Level 2, and Atrium Coordinator. She graduated from the University of Dallas with a BA in English. While assisting in an elementary classroom, she began training to guide Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at SFM. Laura taught Level 1 first in Irving and then down in Austin.  Finally she returned to Irving and now teaches at St. Francis Montessori. She is happy to be back at the place where her journey began. She has been teaching at SFM for three years, and has a son and daughter who currently attend SFM.

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Kelley Chaplin

Lead Catechist

Kelley Chaplin serves as a catechist in the Level 1 Atrium.  After graduating from the University of Dallas, Kelley worked in the mortgage industry until the birth of her eldest child.  After seeing the beauty of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd at work in her children, she pursued training and is now certified to guide Level 1 and Level 2 Atriums.  One of Kelley’s children has graduated from SFM, another is currently thriving in the elementary program, and her youngest hopes to follow his siblings there.

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Laura Landry

Lead Catechist

Laura Landry serves as a Level 2 Catechist. She graduated from the University of Dallas with a BA in Psychology. She worked several years at the Pines Catholic Camp, moved to Alaska to start up a new Catholic summer camp, and then spent 6 years in parish youth ministry (working primarily with 5th-8th grade students). During her time as a youth minister, she was introduced to and fell in love with Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She has two young children and looks forward when they can experience the beauty of CGS also.

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Lucy Vaughan

Atrium Assistant

Lucy Vaughan currently serves as an Atrium Assistant. Lucy served children in day care for over 33 years, and now serves as a substitute teacher and Atrium Assistant at St. Francis. She came upon her desire to work with children through Montessori through her own daughter, Polly Christensen, founder and Directress of St. Francis. A number of Lucy's grandchildren attend St. Francis.

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Mary Laurent

Lead Catechist

Mary's bio coming soon!

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Julie Wargo

Atrium Assistant

Julie Wargo currently serves as the Atrium Assistant for Level 1 Atria. She graduated from Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in International Business and Marketing. Julie is married to Patrick, and together they have two daughters, Monica & Ramona, who are both enrolled in St. Francis Montessori’s Atrium program. She homeschools her girls and enjoys working with other children as a lead teacher at a local preschool co-op in Dallas. Julie also helps run a Virtue Club for girls' kindergarten through second grade. When not spending time with her husband or daughters, she enjoys working as a wedding coordinator at Christ the King Catholic Church. She previously taught middle-school faith formation and preschool faith formation at Christ the King.