LePort School Solana Beach Staff

School Administration

Stephanie McReynolds

Head of School

Stephanie McReynolds has served the greater Montessori community for over 30 years. After receiving her training through NCME/AMS under the mentoring of Maria Montessori colleague Hans Tidoni, Mrs. McReynolds began her career as a preschool teacher in La Canada-Flintridge, California. She founded her own Montessori school two years later with an enrollment of 59 students. The school experienced phenomenal growth, expanding to over 285 children and a faculty of 30, serving preschool, kindergarten, and elementary students grades 1-6. The school was commonly utilized by local college students as a model Montessori environment for visiting as they completed their early childhood courses.

A popular speaker, Mrs. McReynolds has addressed parent groups, school forums, and college classes as an effective ambassador for the Montessori Method. Always community-minded, Stephanie helped establish and implement the Propel program for at-risk teens through the STARS program, for which she received the Impact Award. She served as President of her local Little League Baseball
program for 10 years and received the Distinguished Teacher Award from U.S.C. Verdugo Hills Hospital. Her alma mater, Crescenta Valley High School, awards a scholarship in her name annually in recognition of her local accomplishments.

Stephanie holds an Associate of Science degree in Early Childhood Education with honors from Glendale Community College, and an Associate of Science - Child Development Teacher degree with honors from Glendale Community College. She graduated summa cum laude from California State University at East Bay with a Bachelor of Arts in Human Development/Child Development Concentration
and will soon receive her Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership from the same university. When not immersing herself in everything Montessori, Stephanie enjoys spending time with her husband Chris, her five children, and seven wonderful grandchildren.

Sandy Marlor

Business Manager

Originally from the United Kingdom, Mrs. Sandy Marlor obtained a Higher National Diploma in Business Studies before traveling extensively and embracing different cultures of the world. Mrs. Marlor settled in San Diego to be near her family after the birth of her twins. Extensive research brought her to the conclusion that she wanted a Montessori education for her children, and she then found the wonderful Fallbrook Montessori School, where for 10 years she was the administrative assistant.

This role brought great happiness as she deepened her knowledge of Montessori and watched her own children blossom into curious, confident beings. Mrs. Marlor worked at Santa Fe Montessori School as an administrative assistant and is excited to continue her love of the Montessori school environment with LePort. Outside of work, she enjoys art galleries, all outdoor activities, and spending time with her family.

Ayanthi Ratnayake

Education Director

Ms. Ayanthi Ratnayake was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. Her first experience with Montessori came as a child. She attended the same school where her mother taught primary children. She remembers some of her favorite Montessori materials from childhood: the color boxes and dressing frames. In hindsight, she believes that her experience as a Montessori child has led her to be more flexible in thought and more accepting of others.

Ms. Ayanthi completed her B.A. in psychology and worked at a Montessori school and a traditional preschool ever since graduating. She completed her AMI Diploma at the Montessori Institute of San Diego. In conjunction with her diploma, she earned a Master's Degree in Education with a specialization in Montessori from Loyola University Maryland. She feels strongly that the Montessori approach provides a holistic approach towards learning. She loves that each day of working with young children brings new experiences and growth over time. She enjoys working with the staff to strive for academic rigor with their students.

Outside of teaching, Ms. Ayanthi enjoys traveling and learning about different cultures, trying new restaurants, listening to music, shopping, and last but not least, spending time with family and friends.


Priyanka Jaiswal

Head Montessori Teacher (Infant)

Mrs. Priyanka has a true passion for education and is a graduate in Science and Optometry from India. In addition, she earned her certifications for infant and preschool and education in 2015 and has worked as a teacher since then. She loves to learn new skills and believes that age should never limit an individual’s quest for learning. She loves witnessing the developmental milestones of each child. She also believes that young children teach her something new everyday.

Mrs. Priyanka is known for hard work - she is dedicated to help children reach their full potential. She works to guide her students to love the process of learning.

Outside of the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two daughters, cooking and traveling to new places.

Jennifer Hull

Head Montessori Teacher (Infant)

Ms. Jennifer has been a teacher for 24 years, working with all ages. Most of her experience has been with infants and toddlers. She is currently studying at Grossmont College, where her major is Child Development with an emphasis on Infants and toddlers. She aspires to finish her Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development as well as complete her Associates Degree in American Sign Language. Ms. Jennifer likes to incorporate sign language with infants as she believes it helps them to communicate their needs with her before they have the verbal skills to do so. She would love to bring her two passions together and work within the deaf community.

Laurie Baldwin

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Laurie Baldwin has lived her whole life in San Diego County and has taught and worked with children for the past 25 years. She received her B.A. in Psychology and studied Early Childhood Education as well. Ms. Baldwin taught in traditional preschools for years until discovering the beauty of the Montessori method. Since then, she has been an assistant in Montessori classrooms for ten years.

Ms. Baldwin has always had a desire to work with children and be a positive influence in their lives. She also has a passion for animals, cooking, reading, and the outdoors.

Touran Safavi

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Touran Safavi has lived in San Diego since 2013. She has a Bachelor of Science in Midwifery from Shiraz University in Iran. Due to her deep interest in taking care of children she started studying child development and early childhood education and completed ECE units at Mesa College and Theoria Technical College. She earned her assistant teacher certificate in 2019. She started working at LePort Montessori in 2020. She has two daughters. Her older daughter is a medical doctor in Iran and her younger daughter recently earned her bachelor’s degree from UCSD. She is interested in music, dance, hiking and spending time with her family and friends. She also enjoys reading stories for children and teaching them new skills.


Fernanda Terrazas

Head Montessori Teacher (Toddler), Spanish Immersion

Ferenanda Terrazas has multiple years of experience in Montessori pedagogy. She holds an AMI Montessori Diploma Infancy from ages 0-3 and an AMI Montessori Diploma Primary from ages 3-6. She also has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology, along with three additional certifications: Early Stimulation Diploma, Infant Massage Instructor, and Site Supervisor Permit. Fernanda is deeply committed to Montessori pedagogy and sees the unlimited potential in every child. She has volunteered in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan giving workshops in Child Development, Early Stimulation, and Burnout for Caregivers to mothers and caregivers at four different orphanages.

Her unique hobby is to visit the 63 National Parks in the U.S to camp and photograph the beautiful landscapes. She is a vegetarian, with a love of animals and she dreams of eventually owning an animal shelter.

Ilse Rivera Xibille

Assistant Teacher, Spanish Immersion

llse Rivera Xibille is a bilingual teacher assistant who was born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. Ms.Ilse moved to San Diego, California to study a double major in Psychology and Criminal Justice at Southwestern College. During her journey as a full-time student, obtaining an Associate in Arts in Psychology and an associate degree in Administration of Criminal Justice, Ms. Ilse found her passion for working with children of different ages during her psychology classes. This led her to complete a minor degree in Child Development, as well as obtain a childcare license.

Ms Ilse has been a scuba diver since 2014 when she obtained her Open Water Diver certification for recreational scuba diving. Ms. Ilse discovered her passion and love for the ocean when she was a 17-year-old open ocean lifeguard volunteer in Mexico. She obtained her Open Water Diver certification, and she enjoys diving and exploring the ocean in her free time. Other hobbies include hiking, camping, and travel.

Andrea Rivera

Head Montessori Teacher (Toddler)

Andrea Rivera was born in San Diego, California and was raised in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. Andrea graduated with an Associate Degree in Social Work from Southwestern College and obtained a license in Child Development from this same institution. She has two years of experience in the area of Child Development and her area of interest is Bilingual education. Her mother was a preschool teacher in Mexico and has always been inspired by her work. Her upbringing in Mexico and studying in the U.S. have immersed her in both cultures and motivated her to pursue her professional career as a teacher. Andrea is passionate about teaching and working with children of preschool and kindergarten ages. She believes that Montessori education and Bilingual immersion programs help children develop cognitively and socially. The biggest reward for Andrea is knowing that she is having a positive impact on children and facilitating their development. Andrea loves traveling, is a cinematic enthusiast, and loves drinking coffee. She is very family oriented and loves spending her free time with them.

Nicole Anderson

Head Montessori Teacher (Toddler)

Ms. Nicole Anderson is an experienced early childhood educator with a passion for knowledge and growth. Her first experience with Montessori teachings happened to be with LePort as a substitute teacher where she fell in love with the program and faculty. Ms. Nicole has been working with children for 10 years and completed her early childhood education at Palomar College.

Ms. Nicole began her career as a nanny but eventually felt at home in the preschool setting. She understands the importance of early brain development and finds joy in being a positive and encouraging role model to many. In her free time, she enjoys nature, reading, art, and music with her husband and daughter.
Linchang Li

Linchang Li

Assistant Teacher

Linchang Li is from China. She was born and raised in a family that has been working in the education field for decades. Linchang earned her Bachelor’s Degree in International Economics and Trade in China. After graduating from college, Linchang followed her passion to study education and obtained her Master’s Degree in International and Comparative Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Concerned with the Earth’s future and the welfare of human beings, Linchang then studied climate science at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California San Diego, focusing on combating anthropogenic climate change with behavior change. Linchang earned her master’s degree in Climate Science and Policy from UCSD before she had her baby girl. Linchang developed her passion for Montessori Philosophy when raising her daughter over the last two years. She received a diploma in Montessori Infant/Toddler (0-3 Years) from North American Montessori Center in 2021. Linchang is proud to be a Montessori mom. Linchang Li is eager to find ways to help each child to achieve their fullest potential. She believes to find out what one is fitted to do and to secure an opportunity to do it is the key to happiness.

Patricia Jimenez-Castillo

Head Montessori Teacher (Toddler)

Patricia Jimenez-Castillo is from Mexico City, Mexico, and grew up in San Diego, CA. She earned her A.A. in Liberal Arts with an emphasis in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Mira Costa College. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Development from California State University San Marcos. She completed her ECE units at Mira Costa College and Theoria Technical College. Her love of Montessori pedagogy culminated in a certificate as an Infant and Toddler Teacher through North American Montessori Center.

During her free time she finds joy in spending time with friends and family as well as hiking, going to the movies and sampling different cuisine and pastries.

Magdalena Xibille

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Magda Xibille was born in Tijuana, Mexico. She has been living in San Diego, CA for the past three years. She was a kindergarten teacher in Tijuana, Mexico for over 20 years, and has a degree in Education from the National Pedagogical University of Tijuana, B.C. Magda studied at Southwestern College in Chula Vista CA., where she obtained a license in Child Development, and is currently in the process of obtaining her associate degree in Child Development. Her greatest passion in life is working with young children. The Montessori pedagogy has always interested Magda as it has such a positive impact on the way that children learn. Ms. Magda's motto is, "To work for something that you are passionate about and get paid for it? It’s the best!". Ms. Magda likes to travel with her family, and she enjoys going to the movie theater.


Lisa Reynolds

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Ms. Lisa Reynolds has worked for LePort Encinitas since October 2017, when she was hired as an Assistant Teacher and After Care Coordinator. Her strong work ethic, dedication, and commitment to the Montessori philosophy made her the ideal candidate when a Head Teacher position came available the following school year.

Before she found Montessori, Ms. Lisa worked as an ESL instructor in Shenzhen, China for four years, with children ages 3 to 17. Prior to her work in China, she taught ESL for 18 months in Yonago, Japan. She moved back to America in 2016 to train as a Montessori Primary teacher at the Montessori Institute of San Diego. She is excited to share her Montessori training, as well as her experience abroad, with her students. Outside of work, Ms. Lisa enjoys running, reading, drinking coffee, and of course, spending time with loved ones.

Manoha Ratnayake

Junior Montessori Teacher

Ms. Mano moved to the United States in 1979 after completing her AMI training in Sri Lanka. She moved to Minnesota and has over 40 years of experience working with children as a lead teacher and director in Montessori schools as well as traditional preschools. After spending decades in Minnesota, she and her family moved to California due to the warmer weather. She obtained her ECE credits shortly after moving to CA and has been working in Montessori schools ever since.

Ms. Mano believes that every day is a new day and is full of potential. She loves the energy that young children bring. She believes in the Montessori principle: "show me how to do it for myself," and enjoys seeing this come to life in the classroom.

When not at work, Ms. Mano enjoys spending time with her family, going to the beach, going to plays, gardening, meditating, and exercising. A fun fact about Ms. Mano is that her daughter is also a Montessori teacher and works at LePort Montessori Carlsbad Village!

Vrunda Patwa

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Ms.Vrunda has lived in San Diego, CA. since 2017. She was born and raised in India where she obtained a B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies. Her first position in San Diego was in a Montessori school. Here she discovered the passion to learn more about Montessori education. Ms.Vrunda completed her AMI primary teacher certification program for 3-6 years, and also obtained a Positive Discipline certification. She has several years of experience working as a teacher, both in India, and in the United States. Ms.Vrunda has worked at LePort Solana Beach since May 2019 when she was hired as an Assistant Teacher. When offered the opportunity to become a lead guide, she jumped at the chance of running her own classroom. When not at work she likes dancing, singing, and yoga. She likes to travel and enjoys spending time learning different skills.

Roya Ebrahimi

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Roya has lived in San Diego for 38 years and is of Turkish and Persian descent. Prior to joining LePort, she worked in a hospital as a medical assistant. Ms. Roya has an associate degree in medical assistance and art photography. In childcare, she worked at a private preschool in Fremont, CA. She has worked with children for over 12 years now. She enjoys interacting with children and hearing about their experiences.

In her free time, she likes to take pictures of sunsets and landscapes. She also enjoys quality time with her family and especially with her only son.

Ely Heredia

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary)

Mrs. Ely lives in Chula Vista CA. She grew up in Tijuana B. C., where she studied at a private college and obtained a B.S. in Early Childhood Education. After graduation she began to work in a Montessori school, and it is there where she began to have an interest to learn more about Montessori education.

Ms. Ely eventually moved to Chula Vista, and began the teacher certification program where she obtained a diploma from the American Montessori Society for teaching children 2 1/2- 6 years. She has several years of experience working as a Head Teacher, both in Tijuana and in the United States.

Ms. Ely decided to be a teacher when she was very young. She even attended a Montessori school during her preschool years, and she retains very beautiful memories of her preschool teachers. She loves animals, shopping, visiting cultural and historical places, and going to museums. She likes going to the gym and swimming, enjoys going to the beach and playing with her puppies. She loves to travel and spend time with family.

Elnaz Vandaie

Assistant Teacher

Miss Elle was born and raised in Cupertino, California, and moved to San Diego from Silicon Valley where she earned two degrees, an Associate in Arts in Child Development Associate Teacher, and in Liberal Arts Emphasis in Social and Behavioral Sciences. Her passion is working with children and she hopes to continue her education by taking the training to become a Montessori Teacher one day. Miss. Elle is a pianist and taught piano to young children before she pursued her dream in education. Miss Elle is also bilingual in Farsi and English. When she is not working, she loves to garden and collect different plant varieties from her travels, and also has a passion for cooking!

Michelle Aguiniga

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary), Spanish Immersion

Ms. Michelle Aguiniga was born and raised in Tijuana, Mexico. She finished her Montessori training in 2002, and started a classroom for children of all abilities. Over the years, she has worked with the parents and other non-profit organizations to empower the community, and she has given lectures in Mexico about Maria Montessori and how the Montessori curriculum can help a child's development and prepare them for a traditional classroom. She also has helped introduce interpreters (both sign language and Spanish) into the classrooms.

Ms. Aguiniga’s love of learning and interest in cultural diversity were part of her decision to come to LePort, where she is a part of the Spanish Immersion program, along with the opportunity to experience the diversity here in America. Ms. Aguiniga would love to see her students become fluent in Spanish, and she looks forward to sharing old traditions and songs that share values and respect for others. In her free time, Ms. Aguiniga loves new experiences and food, and she enjoys spending time with her family and being outdoors. She has a son, Antonio, and a daughter, Aranza, who both live in Tijuana and attend the university there.

Elga Chavez

Head Montessori Teacher (Primary), Spanish Immersion

Ms. Elga Chavez is originally from Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico. She completed a bachelor’s degree in preschool education where she carried out fieldwork applying strategies on how to strengthen autonomy in preschool children. She began her career as a teacher in public schools at the preschool level and then continued on to a master’s degree. Her research was based on providing tools to young people in special education to use in work and daily life.

Ms. Elga was interested in Montessori education early on in her studies and she began to read about it. She incorporated some of Montessori’s principles in her classroom and was impressed by the results. As a result, she completed Montessori training in the U. S.
She believes in Maria Montessori for the construction of the man of tomorrow.

In her free time she likes to do yoga, swim at the beach, draw, cook, read, write, investigate, and listen to music. She likes to spend time with her family discovering new places, trying different dishes, and being in contact with nature.


Kait DeGrazia

Head Montessori Teacher (Elementary)

Ms. Kait DeGrazia started her work with children 12 years ago working in a preschool in Orange County with pre-k and kindergarten students. She left the preschool to complete her BA in marketing management from Menlo College. After college, Ms. Kait worked in sales and marketing for four years before missing the joys of working with children. She received her AMS E1 Credential from The Montessori Center for Teacher Education in San Diego. She worked at the Maria Montessori school for 3 years before starting her career at LePort. 

Daniel Gomez

Head Montessori Teacher (Elementary)

Daniel Gomez is the son of a Montessori teacher, his life was always influenced by the method, inspiring him to become a Montessori teacher himself. Mr. Gomez has a degree in Education Sciences, and is a certified Montessori teacher from the Center of Montessori Teaching in Mexico. He has over 10 years of experience in the education field. Mr. Daniel has worked with children in primary, elementary, and high school. One of his main attributes is his love for music. He plays guitar, bass, drums, recorder, and violin (in a fashion!).

He is married and has two wonderful girls. His family is what drives him to be a great teacher. He also loves sports and plays basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, and bowling.

Mireya Pope

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Miryea Pope began her career in early child care education over fifteen years ago through volunteering at her children’s elementary schools and eventually, it became my career. She enjoys working at LePort because children learn essential life skills that stay with them forever. Most importantly, it is a place where children have fun in a safe and loving environment.

In her spare time, Mireya enjoys hiking, cooking, watching movies, and spending time with her family.

Alexandra Athanas

Assistant Teacher

Ms.Alexandra Athanas was born and raised in Cleveland, OH. She earned her BA from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, with a double major in English and Irish Studies. Following college, she was granted a full scholarship to St. Andrews University in Scotland, where she earned her M.Ltt. Upon returning to the States, she attended John Carroll University, where she earned her MEd. She taught high school English before meeting her husband and moving to Hawai'i. For the next several years, Alex worked as a background investigator for the Federal government. She and her family have moved multiple times due to her husband's military service, and have lived in Hawaii, Ohio, Georgia, Virginia, and finally, California. All three of her children have attended Montessori schools for their entire education. Alex has a passion for reading, creative writing, and hands-on learning, and loves the excitement and enthusiasm lower elementary brings to their work together.
In her free time, Alex loves to travel, bake, go to the beach, and, of course, read.

Taylor Shellhammer

Head Montessori Teacher (Elementary)

Ms. Taylor’s passion and drive to be a teacher began at a very young age when she started babysitting the neighborhood kids. The opportunity to create a safe, positive, and enriched learning environment ignited the spark to become a teacher. She graduated from Liberty University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary Education. Her goal is to ensure that every student has the opportunity to learn in a way that suits their creative and unique learning needs. She likes to encourage students to grow in positive relationships with their peers through cooperative learning and encourage self-advocacy.

Outside of work, she has a quirky and supportive family, a compassionate and silly husband, and two extremely active puppies that bring so much joy into her heart each day. Taylor was born and raised in Bristow, Virginia until she decided to start a new adventure in Yuma, Arizona. She lived in Yuma for two years until she met her husband and we moved to Jacksonville, North Carolina. Needless to say, one of her favorite hobbies is to travel, experience new places, and stuff her face with all different types of foods. Her other hobbies include walking her two beautiful dogs, Lotus and Lambo, and soaking up the sun on the beach with friends and family. She is really looking forward to exploring more of California and visiting the variety of beaches this beautiful place has to offer!

Additional Staff

Claudia Nelson

Assistant Teacher

Ms. Claudia recently relocated to California after living in Louisiana for over five years. She was an x-ray technician since 2004 until 2012. She is bilingual and looks forward to helping in both English and Spanish speaking classrooms. She enjoys learning each teacher’s approach in the classroom. She is thrilled to join LePort and work with young children. In her free time, she enjoys reading, taking walks and taking photographs.

© Copyright 2023, LePort Montessori
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