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LePort Montessori Westpark Staff

School Administration

Ana Rivas

Head of School

Ms. Ana is an educational entrepreneur, homeschooling parent, and lifelong learner. Her experience working with children dates back to her teenage years when she took an opportunity to assist in a home daycare. From that moment, she was inspired to guide young children--particularly toddlers. Her determination for understanding their psychology and behavior led her to fill positions such as Director of Curriculum, Assistant Director, Montessori Specialist, "Parent and Child" Instructor, and Head Teacher in various educational settings. Ana has experience coaching teachers at schools on the east and west coast. She has served as an advisor and guest lecturer for training centers and schools in China and the Philippines, furthering the impact of Montessori education worldwide. Ana received a Montessori Assistants to Infancy Diploma from the Montessori Institute of San Diego. She is an alumna at the University of Hartford and is currently in the midst of Primary training at the Montessori Training Center of Northeast.

When she's not immersed in Montessori, Ana enjoys spending time with her family, exploring nature, and creating art. Ms. Ana believes education happens at every moment and in many forms. She is honored to support LePort's Montessori team as they aim to provide quality education for children across the nation.

When Ms. Ana meets a new student, she frequently recalls a quote by Dr. Maria Montessori: “It is the child who makes the man, and no man exists who was not made by the child he once was.”

Yatziri Barajas-Espinoza

Business Manager

Ms. Yatziri Barajas Espinoza moved to Orange County from Sacramento in 2008 and worked as an Assistant Manager in a Downtown Disney boutique. In her position she became inspired by all the young children that she encountered and decided to go back to school full-time. Ms.Yatziri received her B.A. in Religious Studies from California State University, Fullerton, where she enjoyed all the historical and cultural knowledge of humanity that the major had to offer. While completing her degree, she worked with a non-profit summer science camp, where she was able to assist families in extended education for their children. In her continued quest to build relationships with families and communities, she was offered the opportunity to be part of the administration team at LePort Montessori Irvine Westpark.
 
In her free time, Yatziri enjoys walks in nature, traveling to new places, learning about different cultures, and creating new memories with family and friends.

Tatiana Guerrero

Administrative Support

Tatiana Guerrero graduated from Fullerton College with an Associate of Arts Degree in Business Administration. Since then she has worked in various managing positions, such as running the day-to-day operations at her family-owned daycare center in Corona. Her work experience equipped her with strong administrative knowledge, a profound appreciation for positive relationships and valuable communication skills.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband of 15 years and their four children, as well as hiking, camping, and crafting.

Toddler

Flor Pfeifer

Head Montessori Teacher (Toddler)

Ms. Flor Pfeifer was born and raised in California and has always been extremely passionate about working with children. She first attended Orange Coast College where she completed her early childhood education and earned an associate degree in Liberal Arts. She then graduated from California State University, Fullerton in 2015, where she earned her BS in Child and Adolescence Development. In the summer of 2017, she went on to complete her AMI Montessori training from MISD.

Outside of the classroom, Ms. Pfeifer enjoys going to the beach where she can listen to the sound of the ocean, and spending time with family and friends.

Lorine Dapic

Head Montessori Teacher (Toddler)

Mrs. Dapic was born in Brazil, with strong influences from her Italian and Spanish family. These frequent interactions with languages and cultures inspired her to attain a bachelor’s degree in German Literature. She had previous professional and personal experience in the field of education, but it wasn’t until motherhood that she discovered her true calling. Prior to joining LePort, she volunteered for two different schools in Southern California. She believes there is always something new we can learn from children. In her free time, Mrs. Dapic enjoys reading, exploring the world with her children, and spending time with friends.

Maryam Mahamedi

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Maryam Mahamedi studied Early Childhood Education at Irvine Valley College in Orange County. Prior to joining LePort, she had worked as a volunteer at a kindergarten in Germany, where she began to realize how passionate she truly was about working with children. Though she implemented several different types of learning styles, she now truly enjoys working in the Montessori environment that LePort provides. She has always enjoyed spending time with young children and watching them learn and grow.

Norma Gamez

Head Montessori Teacher (Toddler)

Ms. Norma Gamez comes from the medical field where she worked as a medical assistant for over six years. Wanting to work with children, she went back to school and earned her Early Childhood Education units from North Orange County Community College District School of Continuing Education. Mrs. Gamez worked at a family childcare home with children ranging from infants to school aged before joining LePort. Outside of the classroom, Mrs. Gamez enjoys spending time with her family.

Carmen Calvo

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Ms. Carmen Calvo, the third of nine sisters, was born and raised in Mexico City. She was the first in her family to go to college, earning her B.A. in Education from the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Later, she went on to earn her AMS Primary diploma, as well as her AMI Elementary diploma. She first discovered and fell in love with the Montessori method through researching educational options for her own children. Ms. Calvo has been a Montessori directress internationally since 1993, and completed her AMI Montessori teacher training for the 0 to 3 age group at the Montessori Institute of San Diego. Additionally, she has taught Spanish as a second language to toddlers through adults. Ms. Calvo’s love of travel has sent her from New York to Panama, Hawaii to Russia; her knowledge of world cultures inspires and enriches her teaching.

Nallely Lopez

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Lopez grew up in Granienal Michoacan, Mexico and is the first member of her family to attend college. Ms. Lopez has worked with children of all different ages since she was 18 years old, and greatly enjoys watching students develop and thrive. Ms. Lopez is currently attending Cal State University, Fullerton to pursue a career as a Child Psychologist. She plans to finish her undergraduate studies and eventually complete a doctorate in Child Psychology.

Primary

Monique Nielson

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Ms. Monique Nielson graduated from California State University, Northridge with a BA in liberal studies integrated with teaching. She worked for one year as a Primary Assistant Teacher at LePort Montessori in Irvine, and then went on to earn her AMI training for the primary level at the Montessori Institute of San Diego. She now works as an Assistant Teacher in Solana Beach. Outside of work, Ms. Monique enjoys cooking, reading, doing anything outdoors, taking care of church responsibilities, and being with friends. 

Elizabeth Herlihy

Junior Montessori Teacher

Bio coming soon.

Amanda Haas

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Amanda Haas was born and raised in Orange County California, where she attended Orange Coast College and received her Associate's in Early Childhood Education. During her time there, she was a nanny for two years when she realized that she most enjoyed working with toddler through elementary-aged children. Ms. Amanda is attending Cal State Fullerton, where she is pursuing her Bachelor's degree in Child Health and Development with a focus in Early Elementary (PreK - 3rd grade) and minor in Education. After she graduates, she plans to attend either Cal State Long Beach or USC to earn her Master's in Education, in addition to her multiple credential.

When she is not at work, Ms. Amanda likes to spend time with family and friends, go hiking or camping, and enjoy crocheting and quilting.

Roshika Ruhunage

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Ms. Roshika joined LePort with over seven years of experience working as a Montessori Toddler and Primary Teacher. She fell in love with the Montessori approach after caring for her two children. Ms. Roshika earned her diploma in Primary Montessori Education at the Colombo Montessori Teacher Training Center in Sri Lanka, which is affiliated with Fairfax University in the United Kingdom. She also has numerous continuing education credits in Early Childhood Education from various colleges in the United States. Ms. Roshika describes herself as simple but strong-willed, and a passionate and kind person.

Delmy Zavala

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Delmy Zavala was born and raised in El Salvador. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology at Francisco Gavidia University. After four years of working in Human Resources, she realized that it wasn’t her passion, so she became a nanny for a child with special needs for six years. Ms. Zavala is excited to be working with the children at LePort. She enjoys spending time outdoors with her own two children, and also likes traveling.

Kristin Kintanar

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Ms. Kristin Kintanar received her B.A. in Political Science from the University of the Philippines, and went on to work for her family business for more than ten years, before earning her AMI Primary diploma from Montessori Training Center of Minnesota. She has always been interested in working with children, but it was not until she discovered Dr. Montessori’s work through a good friend who was a Montessori teacher that her interest grew into a new career path. Dr. Montessori’s convictions deeply resonated with Ms. Kintanar, and she resolved to devote herself professionally to the Montessori method.

Anita Sharma

Assistant Teacher

Mrs. Anita Sharma was born in India where she completed her bachelor’s degree in Arts. She has been involved in doing community work from a very young age and realized early that she enjoyed most working with children of all ages. She studied Early Childhood Education at Irvine Valley College in Orange County and has also studied American Sign Language. Her philosophy of education is that all children are unique and must have a stimulating educational environment where they can grow physically, mentally, and socially. In her free time, she likes hiking and listening to music.

Merel Hogeweg

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Ms. Merel Hogeweg was born in the Netherlands and moved to the United States in 2001. She grew up in Redlands, California where she attended a public Montessori high school. Ms. Hogeweg went on to attend the University of California, Irvine where she found her passion for working with students. She graduated in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Educational Sciences. Currently Ms. Hogeweg is taking the Primary Teacher Training Course at the Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies in Phoenix, Arizona. She is so excited to learn more about the Montessori method and is looking forward to what the next three summers can teach her! During her free time, Ms. Hogeweg enjoys being outdoors, going to Disneyland, and spending time with her friends.

Patricia Shaw

Assistant Teacher

Mrs. Shaw was born and raised in Mexico and moved to California in 1985. Prior to joining LePort, she worked in the medical field, but had always desired working with children. Mrs. Shaw attended Laguna Technical College to receive an education in Human Development and Childhood Education. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys reading, movies, music, and most of all, spending time with her two sons and family in Mexico.

Elementary

Jackie Chang

Head Montessori Teacher (Elementary)

Ms. Jackie Chang was born in Taiwan and raised in both Taiwan and South Africa. She is fluent in Mandarin, Taiwanese and English. She received her B.A. in English Literature in Taipei, Taiwan. She has always enjoyed experiencing and learning new things and therefore studied music, business and theater production during her college years. She began teaching language in 2007 and since then has taught in language centers, Montessori schools, bi-lingual schools and traditional schools. She has taught children from ages 1 1/2 to 13 years old. By working in different types of schools, she found her true passion in Montessori education. She saw how the children enjoyed working in the Montessori classrooms and is still fascinated about how children progress in the Montessori environment. Ms. Jackie received both her AMI Primary training and Elementary training at the Montessori Institute of San Diego (MISD). Ms. Jackie believes that each child has his/her own place in the world. Unconditional love is the most important element in her class. Outside of the class, she enjoys playing instruments and martial arts.

Elizabeth Peña

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Elizabeth Peña was born and raised in Orange County and obtained her Associate Teacher permit. Prior to working at LePort Montessori Ms. Elizabeth worked at Salem Lutheran School and the YMCA of Orange, in addition to tutoring high school-aged students in the AVID program. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with loved ones, traveling, hiking, cooking and
dancing.

Additional Staff

Cecilia Flores

Assistant Teacher

Mrs. Cecilia Flores joined LePort in 2012 after over six years of working with children from infants through fourth grade. She studied Child Development at Santa Ana College, earning her Child Development Associate Teacher Permit. She continues to further her education in this area, for instance by attending seminars hosted by the Children’s Home Society of California. She strongly believes that to fully uphold her responsibility as a teacher, she must herself be a life long learner, always seeking new techniques and growing as a professional. Ms. Flores is originally from Mexico, but has made Southern California her home for twenty years. She is the caring mother of four and spends much of her time outside of work with her family.

Blair Hurst

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Blair Hurst studied Early Childhood Education at Saddleback College in Orange County. Prior to joining LePort, she worked as a Practicum Student Teacher at Saddleback College in the Child Development Center. There she created and implemented developmentally-appropriate curriculum that addressed all learning styles. During this time, she focused on promoting good behavior by using the positive reinforcement method and encouraged children to be understanding of others. Above all, Blair is committed to providing children with a safe, friendly, and creative environment to learn.

Simin Sadri

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Simin Sadri earned her Early Childhood Education units from Irvine Valley College. Prior to joining LePort Montessori Westpark, she taught at Tutor Time for seven years. She then transferred to a retail opportunity at Macy's as a sales associate for eight years. Given her interest in caring for children, she decided to return to education and joined LePort Montessori Westpark as an assistant teacher. She finds her role as a teacher very fulfilling and truly enjoys interacting with children. In her free time, she enjoys reading and spending time with her grandchildren. 

Mireia Martinez

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Mireia Iglesias has a bachelors' degree in Primary School Teaching with an emphasis in science didactics from the University of Barcelona (Spain). She is currently completing her master's degree in Psychopedagogy from UOC (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya, Spain). While at the University of Barcelona and during 8 years in total, she was a volunteer free time youth leader in a children's association where she worked with children on Saturdays and during summer camps to contribute to their education and promote healthy and positive social values. Prior to joining LePort, Mireia finished her studies and worked as a public school teacher in Spain for two years. She moved to California and had different experiences as a Spanish teacher and Montessori teaching assistant too. Her goal has always been to work in the educational field and she loves creating and discovering new learning material for the children.

Outside of the classroom, Ms. Mireia loves to be in nature, reading and spending time with loved ones.

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