LePort Montessori Orchard Hills Staff

School Administration

Shelina Suravarapu

Head of School

Mrs. Shelina Suravarapu was born and raised in beautiful Greenville, South Carolina and her family is from Uganda, East Africa. The field of education has always been her passion. She discovered Montessori while observing a school for a student and instantly wanted to know more about it. Mrs. Suravarapu loved the peaceful classroom and how the children had the ability to move freely and make choices while maintaining structure. It stole her heart and paved her way to where she is now.

Mrs. Suravarapu has over twelve years of experience in teaching. She completed her Bachelor's in Communication Disorders with a minor in Anthropology at Winthrop University. While continuing her education Mrs. Suravarapu was also trained to use a communication device, the Dynavox. The extensive training prepared her to effectively teach and demonstrate the device to fellow colleagues, teachers and students. Thereafter, she completed the Montessori Primary training in Atlanta, Georgia and taught in a Montessori classroom for five years. She then went to Loyola University to pursue a Master's in Education with a focus on Montessori Education.

While in Georgia, Mrs. Suravarapu held the director position of a prestigious event planning company for nearly 10 years. In many ways this helped her to direct, lead and organize projects more effectively.

Mrs. Suravarapu's hobbies and joys of life come from spending time with her family, traveling, hiking, reading, exercising, cooking, homeschooling her toddler and planning events.

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.

Toddler

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.

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!

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

Kim Tiongco

Assistant Teacher

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.

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.

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