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LePort Montessori Orchard Hills Staff

School Administration

Donna Koontz

Head of School

Ms. Donna Koontz brings over 35 years of experience in the field of education, specifically Montessori. From sharing music in infant classrooms, to integrating the philosophy in memory care with elders, her love of Montessori education knows no bounds.

While pursuing a degree in Elementary Ed./Learning and Behavioral Disorders, a chance encounter at a Montessori school led to a summer job as an assistant and the rest is history. Ms. Koontz completed her AMI training in London, England and went on to teach at the primary and lower elementary levels and honed her leadership skills while directing several Montessori Schools in Los Angeles. Ms. Koontz also brings over 20 years of parent education and staff development experience to LePort and a deep joy of building community within a school.

Ms. Koontz spends much of her free time playing guitar and singing with her husband, continuing to seek adventure locally and abroad, and spending time with her daughter, who is a former Montessori child and living in San Francisco.

Wendy DeCosta

Business Manager

A native of Orange County, California, Mrs. Wendy DeCosta began her career with LePort Montessori in 2013 as the Administrative Director for the Huntington Harbor campus, bringing a new level of excellence and service to our cherished families and staff. In 2015, Mrs. DeCosta took an opportunity to join the team at LePort Orchard Hills and serve as Administrative Director of this young and vibrant campus. With her expertise, professionalism, and warm, caring personality, Mrs. DeCosta is a true asset to the Orchard Hills students, families and staff.

Prior to joining LePort, Mrs. DeCosta operated her own successful, licensed, in-home family day care for 2 years, offering high quality, nurturing care for a number of wonderful children, including those with special needs. As any of the parents she has worked with will attest, Mrs. DeCosta’s caring warmth, compassion, and love for children is a true gift. This, coupled with her rich palette of business management and operational experience from the spa/salon and apparel industries, makes Mrs. DeCosta uniquely suited to foster the continued success and growth of our Orchard Hills campus and offer her wholehearted support to all LePort students and their families.

In her free time, Mrs. DeCosta enjoys spending time with her husband of 18 years and their two children, as well as camping, hiking, running, and spending long days at the beach.

Kim Tiongco

Administrative Support

Ms. Kim Tiongco received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music Education from California State University, Fullerton in 2012. In January 2006, she started working for a Pre-K-8th Grade private school in the LA county area as a "Before and After School Daycare Counselor" while she was finishing her degree. In 2012, she was offered the job of Administrative Assistant, and in 2013 she took on the role as Music Teacher and headed up the Kindergarten through Eighth Grade Music Program for the school until June of 2017. Ms. Kim enjoys working with children of all ages, but started developing a love for working with the Administration Team, too, which makes her a great asset to the Orchard Hills campus. Born and raised in Southern California, Ms. Kim enjoys spending time with her family and friends doing many activities like camping, going to the beach, and spending a day at various theme parks. She also loves being a part of community theater, whether directing or helping with a show, or being an actress on stage for a play or musical.

Toddler

Alex Matemate

Head Montessori Teacher (Toddler)

Ms. Alexandra Matemate earned her B.S. in Human Services from the California State University, Fullerton. After completing her degree, she earned her units in Early Childhood Education from the University of California, Irvine. Prior to joining the LePort community, Alex acquired seven years of experience working as an administrative assistant in the legal field.  Feeling drawn to find a career that provided more satisfaction in life, she found LePort Schools. First joining in 2011 as Administrative Support at the Westpark campus, she fell in love with Montessori Education and was eager to work directly with the children in the classroom.  Ms. Matemate completed her AMI Montessori teacher training for the 0 to 3 age group at the Montessori Institute of San Diego in 2014. Born and raised in Southern California, Alex enjoys spending time at the beach and quality time with her husband and daughter.

Morgan Jones

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Morgan Jones' love of children came at an early age when her mom began watching children at their home. Ms. Morgan would love to assist in taking care of the children when they would come over. At the age of 13, Ms. Morgan became friends with the foster children that came to church and would be sad to see them leave, because they would talk about how they did not like going to group homes. That is when she realized that she wanted to become a social worker and help children get into good homes. It was when she began taking her Early Childhood Education units at Riverside Community College that she knew she wanted to work with children full-time.

Ms. Morgan strives to complete her education as a social worker because she believes in helping every child inside and outside of the classroom. She is thrilled to be working for LePort and believes it was the best decision she has ever made. During her free time, Ms. Morgan enjoys going to the beach, amusement parks, and the movies, and spending time with family.

Primary

Kabita Sonowal

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Ms. Kabita Sonowal grew up in India, and moved to America with her husband in 1997. Ms. Sonowal has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology and Chemistry, as well as a Master's in English literature. Although she had already been teaching at traditional schools for many years, Ms. Kabita first encountered Montessori in 2002, when she took a job teaching at a Montessori preschool where she had enrolled her son. She was inspired by what she saw, and went on to complete the Montessori training program offered by the University of California - Irvine. She continues to be amazed at how powerful the Montessori philosophy can be in guiding children to attain joyful independence. Ms. Kabita continued her Montessori education, completing an additional AMI Primary diploma from the Montessori Institute of San Diego.

In her personal life, Ms. Kabita enjoys traveling to beautiful places, spending time with her husband and two sons, cooking and entertaining.

Alex Collins

Assistant Teacher

Miss Alex Collins was born and raised in in Orange County, CA. She has been working with children for over 13 years in all different areas from teaching to tutoring and being a nanny to young children. She graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 2015 where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology. The following year, she moved to Barcelona, Spain, where she earned her TEFL certificate and taught English for a year. She is very excited to be building upon her experience in the Montessori setting and is eager to work in such an incredible classroom experience. In her spare time, Miss Alex enjoys reading, spending time with her friends, and crafting.

Farheen Khan

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Ms. Farheen Khan received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Pakistan and has earned a certificate in Montessori education from the University of California, Irvine. She also studied early childhood education at Santa Ana College. Ms. Khan completed her AMI Montessori training in the Primary level from the Montessori Institute of San Diego and worked as a Junior Teacher before taking on the role of Head Teacher. Ms. Khan has been with LePort Orchard Hills since it opened has maintained an enthusiasm for the Montessori pedagogy from day one. In her free time, Ms. Kahn enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time with her family.

Phoebe Jiang

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Phoebe was born and raised in China. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication Engineering from the Zhejiang University City College in 2018 and earned her AMI Primary Diploma at the Montessori Institute of San Diego in 2019.

Growing up in a very lovely family provided Ms. Phoebe with a warm environment during her childhood. Spending and enjoying time with her younger cousins in her youth solidified her passion for teaching, specifically Montessori. Ms. Phoebe recounts completing her training courses was one of the most wonderful journeys in her life.

Ms. Phoebe enjoy sports, cooking, reading, music, and hanging out with friends during her free time.

Xenia Monroe

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Mrs. Monroe earned her AMI Primary Diploma at the Montessori Institute of San Diego in 2015 and received her bachelor’s degree in Child and Adolescent Development from California State University, Fullerton in 2012. Prior to joining LePort, she worked as a primary childcare teacher at another Montessori school for 4 years. Additionally, Mrs. Monroe has over 4 years of volunteer experience working with the Child and Adolescent Student Association, Club Teach, and various child-centered educational programs. Mrs. Monroe is thankful for the opportunity to work in a nurturing, loving environment where children can learn and experience new challenges that will help build their confidence while they grow. Outside of the classroom, Mrs. Monroe enjoys playing board games, reading, swimming, archery, watching documentaries, and rooting for local sport teams!

Yelena Balayeva

Assistant Teacher

Mrs. Yelena Balayeva is originally from Russia and has a degree in electronics, a certificate in business administration from Russia, as well as an Associate in Arts degree in Early Childhood Education from Long Beach City College. She has worked with children for more than ten years, both as a teacher and a teacher’s assistant. She is amazed at the Montessori philosophy based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and abilities of the children through exploration and discovery in a supportive environment. Mrs. Yelena is thrilled to work in such an incredible environment.

In her free time, Mrs. Yelena enjoys spending time with her husband, seeing interesting places. For hobbies, she loves knitting, craft-making, listening to music, archery, and hiking.

Chiho Saito

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Ms. Chiho Saito was born and raised in San Diego and graduated from the University of California, Irvine. She started a career in interior design and, after having worked with adults in that career, realized her true passion lied in working with children. Ms. Saito then worked as a preschool teacher for several years and, in that time, she was introduced to Montessori education. Wanting to learn more about this unique approach to child development and education, Ms. Saito joined LePort and, a year later, pursued the AMI Primary Training from the Montessori Institute of San Diego. Ms. Saito loves to learn so that she can teach, and she teaches so she can learn. The children at LePort teach her the greatest lesson that no one can ever instill in her, and that is to enjoy the NOW, and that is why today is called the present! In her spare time, Ms. Saito likes to teach art, children’s ministry at church, and show friends how to cook Japanese food. She also loves yoga, biking, reading, cooking, eating, getting lost, and going to the beach.

Min Hee Lee

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Min Hee Lee earned her B.A. in Early Childhood Education from Duksung Women’s University, Seoul, Korea in 1992. Throughout her college education, she was introduced to several aspects of the Montessori method and became particularly interested in the program designed by Dr. Montessori. After receiving a scholarship from her university, she received her AMI diploma from the Montessori Teacher Training Center of Northern California, Mountain View in 1994.

Prior to joining LePort, Ms. Min Hee worked in a university preschool for 8 years. After relocating to the U.S. in 2003, she put her career on hold in order to raise her children. Ms. Min Hee passion for teaching eventually brought her back to classroom, a place that most teachers call their second home.

Outside of work, Ms. Min Hee enjoys reading, taking a walk on a sunny day and spending time with her family.

Additional Staff

Vanessa Padilla

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Vanessa earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Child and Adolescent Development from California State University, Fullerton. She has worked with children for more than 5 years, both as a caregiver and as a Spanish tutor. She has a passion to teach children new things and enjoys their everyday adventures. Being in the company of children in the Montessori environment has opened her eyes to see things differently. She loves spending time with children, watching them grow and develop, and enjoys learning new things alongside them. In her spare time, Ms. Vanessa enjoys drawing, painting, music, and being with her family.

Catherine McKim

Assistant Teacher

Bio coming soon.

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