SCMA Annual Conference

SCMA 2017 Post Card Front 







South Carolina Montessori Alliance

SCMA 2017 Post Card Front

 Lexington Four Early Childhood Learning Center
135 Lewis Rast Road, Swansea
The South Carolina Montessori Alliance is a non-profit leadership organization of individuals representing public and private schools uniting together to enhance the growth of Montessori education in South Carolina.  The SCMA Annual Conference provides an excellent forum to discuss this type of dynamic educational environment.  It provides an opportunity for Montessori educators, administrators and anyone interested in Montessori education to collaborate and share among colleagues.
We hope you will join us this year!















Julia head shot

Saturday Keynote Speaker: Julia Volkman

Julia Volkman is the founder of Maitri Learning, a recurring teaching assistant in Harvard University’s Neuroscience of Learning course, a consultant for the National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector, and a Montessori mentor. She holds an AMI primary credential and is currently working on a research study at Harvard where she is investigating the movable alphabet. She is the mother of two wildly unique children and joyfully married to a biochemist/weightlifter/poet.



South Carolina Montessori Alliance Annual Conference

SCMA 2017 Post Card Front

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Access a copy of our 2017 Brochure and QuickGuide, for an agenda and session descriptions.


2017 SCMA Annual Conference Presenters


Emily Allen

Emily Allen has been an instructional coach for 11 years. She has worked with Montessori teachers at the Lexington 4 Early Childhood Center and Sandhills Primary for the past seven years. She facilitates a monthly interactive parenting workshop called PALS where a focus on critical areas of social/emotional development, educational development, and family development are discussed.

Beth Armstrong

Beth Armstrong has been working in education and child development for 15 years and in a Montessori environment since 2009, in both lower and upper elementary. She holds a MAT in Special Education and an MEd in Literacy. Her passion for supporting the development of the whole child blossomed when she discovered the beauty of Montessori education. She has two children, both of whom have been Montessorians since birth. She and her family live on a big pond in North Charleston and love watching the birds and playing outside.

Cara Beth Brackins

Cara Beth Brackins is in her fourth year of teaching in a Montessori classroom. She currently the co-teacher of the Upper Elementary class at Montessori Elementary School of Asheville. She and her husband are both Montessori teachers and graduates of Lander University’s Masters of Montessori program. She is the proud mama of a two-year old little Montessorian.

Alex Brown Simmons

Ms. Alex has been working with infants and young children at Little Learners Lodge since 2005. She received her RIE® Foundations training with Beverly Kovach and has attended several Pikler® Intensives in the United States. She currently serves as an Infant Supervising Mentor and has provided the video demonstrations for BEING WITH BABIES.

Rachel Buechler

Rachel is originally from Lancashire, England and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina. She earned her BA in Education in 2009 and has her Infant/Toddler Montessori Certification. She has taught in a Montessori classroom with Infants and Toddlers, and is currently the Assistant Director at Charlotte Montessori School. In her spare time, Ms. Buechler enjoys volunteering with various outreach projects in Charlotte, traveling, and crafting.


Charlotte Cushman

Received AMI diploma in 1973 and taught as an assistant for two years and then as a directress until 2016. Started and operated two schools in addition to teaching. Authored Montessori: Why It Matters for Your Child’s Success and Happiness published December 1, 2015. Authored children’s book Your Life Belongs to You to be published July 4, 2017. Authored numerous articles about child development and Montessori; published in periodicals such as: “Montessori Life,” “Montessori Courier,” “Public School Montessorian,” and “Minnesota Parent.” Delivered presentations to various community groups and numerous parent groups on child development, discipline and the Montessori philosophy and method. Gave a talk to a tea party group entitled: How Public Education is Destroying Our Country.

Lara D’Eugenio

Lara D’Eugenio is the school counselor and assistant principal at East Cooper Montessori Charter School. She holds a Master’s degree in school counseling from Seton Hall University, Bachelor’s degree in Music Therapy from Charleston Southern University, a professional SC teacher’s certificate and gifted and talented endorsement. Lara enjoys developing peace lessons for students in lower elementary, upper elementary and middle school Montessori programs that focus on the students’ needs around community building inside and out of the classroom. She is an advocate for social justice education at all levels and continuously seeks new ways to bring awareness to students. Lara lives with her husband, Lou, and two Montessori children, Anna and Ethan, in Mt. Pleasant, SC.

Danielle Elliott

I am a certified teacher and administrator at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. In my public middle school experience, I taught in mostly one-to-one technology environments where I had the opportunity explore the connection between technology and project based learning. I have presented at several state and national conferences on topics related to technology integration and project based learning. When I came to the Montessori School of Anderson in 2016, I was able to integrate my knowledge of project based learning with the Montessori middle school framework. I was named as the director of the middle school beginning with the 2017-18 school year.

Vicky Garrick

Vicky has been a Montessorian for 6 years and taught previously for 4 years in a traditional setting. She is a National Board certified teacher with an administration degree from the University of South Carolina. She is AMS certified in Upper and Lower Elementary Montessori Education. She shares the same passions for teaching students how to be peaceful and have life skills.

Chandler Harris

Chandler Harris has been a guidance counselor for 11 years. She has taken Montessori classes through Sandhills Montessori Institute. She works at Sandhills Primary School. She facilitates a monthly interactive parenting workshop called PALS where a focus on critical areas of social/emotional development, educational development, and family development are discussed.

Debbie Jarrett

Debbie Jarrett received a BS in Secondary Education with majors in Biology and English from Auburn University. She taught for thirteen years in public and private schools. Since 2005, she has provided Professional Development on Technology Integration for SCETV and Discovery Education. Debbie provides training for over 3,000 teachers each year for all SC school districts as well as presenting at all the state education conferences.

Diana Kirk

Mrs. Kirk has an E1 credential. She is a graduate of the Master’s program at Lander University. This is her sixth year teaching Montessori.

Beth Langley

M.E. (Beth) Langley holds a BA from Columbia College and a MEPI credential at the Early Childhood Level. A Veriditas certified labyrinth facilitator, Beth enjoys all things creative especially sharing her love of labyrinths at conferences in the US, Mexico, Canada, and Croatia, for Montessori teachers, gardeners, art educators, and labyrinth enthusiasts. She has designed and installed permanent labyrinths including a Pelican shaped labyrinth in Florida, a Chartres-style medieval labyrinth in Greenville, SC, and “Wisdom of the Heart” at Little Heart Montessori School in Zagreb, Croatia, She lives in Boykin, SC and finds peace and contentment in country living.

Christine Lowry

Christine Lowry, M.Ed. (special ed.) was committed to inclusion during her 24 years as a classroom teacher and school head. Her workshops on a variety of topics on working with children with unique needs are appreciated and well liked.

Catherine MacIlwinen

Catherine is the school social worker at the Early Childhood Center in Swansea. She has a Bachelors degree in psychology and a Masters degree in social work from USC. For the past six years, she has worked with students in grades 3K-4. She is an ACE Master Trainer with Children’s Trust.

Arlene Marturano

Dr. Arlene Marturano is a teacher educator specializing in utilizing the garden as both the content and context for instruction in formal and informal education. As a member of the Jean Piaget Society she views learning and concept development from a biological framework.

Ray McClure

Ray studied Mathematical Physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with emphasis on quantum gravity and string theory. He has an Elementary I and II Montessori Credential from AMS. Ray works as the department head for mathematics and sciences at Heartwood Montessori School in Cary, North Carolina, where he teaches mathematics and the sciences to the Middle and High School programs. Ray is also a teacher trainer, teaching at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education/North Carolina, The Center for Guided Montessori Studies, and most recently the Montessori Institute of Poland in Warsaw, Poland, where he has developed the teaching curriculum for the Upper Elementary program.

Ashley McDonald

My name is Ashley McDonald and I have been a Montessorian now for 7 years. I taught for 5 years before this in a looping setting. I received my Master’s Degree in Montessori Education from Lander University. I am AMS certified in Upper and Lower Montessori Education. My passions lie with teaching peace and life skills.

Mary Margaret Mendenhall

Mary Margaret Mendenhall works with DHEC’s Office of Recycling as the presenter for the curriculum, Action For A Cleaner Tomorrow. Her passion and enthusiasm for recycling is evident in the way she presents pertinent information to teachers. Mary Margaret has a BS and MED from Winthrop University and taught Kindergarten and First Grade for six years. For the past 23 years, she has been traveling South Carolina training teachers on the curriculum.

John Moncure

John Moncure has served as Headmaster of the Montessori School of Camden for 15 years. He participates in the larger professional community as Vice President of Montessori Educational Programs International (MEPI), a member of the Montessori Leadership Collaborative, course director for School Administrators with the Institute for Guided Studies and as a MACTE On-Site Verifier. John holds a Ph.D. in European history from Cornell University.

Simone Mori

Simone Mori is a Curriculum Resource Teacher (CRT) at Logan Elementary in Columbia, SC. She has been teaching for 7 years. Prior to being a CRT she was a Lower Montessori Elementary classroom teacher. She has also received training in arts integration through the State Department of education Visual and Performing Arts department DAP grant programs, ABC project, and the SC Arts Commission. As a CRT in an ABC school, she works alongside teachers helping them with integration of the arts in their lesson planning.

Tom Noren

Musician, educator and STEAM advocate, Tom began his career as a performing guitarist after graduating from New England Conservatory. Technology has always been his fascination, and the fusing of music and technology through education is a seamless and natural way to integrate his passion for both. He is the Charleston littleBits Chapter leader, an active Engaging Creative Minds (ECM) partner, a MaKey MaKey “Ambassador” and a teacher at Charleston County School District’s SMAART program for students gifted in the Arts (Students Mastering the Academic Arts).

Meghan Orman

Meghan Orman is a lead toddler directress at Montessori Tides in Jacksonville Beach, FL. Prior to finding a career and home-base in Montessori education, Meghan taught in the philosophy department at the University of North Florida for six years. She is a honey bee enthusiast and an apprentice beekeeper in the University of Florida’s Master Beekeeper Program. She owns a small business, Honey Bee A Keeper, which focuses on providing educational honey bee workshops for children.

Lauren Parks

I have taught in Lexington Four for the past 12 years. This is my 8th year as a primary Montessori teacher. I earned my Masters degree in Montessori Education from Lander University. I live in Columbia with my husband and two boys.

Peter Piche

PETER PICHÉ is Montessori-credentialed (Primary, Elementary I–II). He also has experience teaching at the Secondary level. He founded the Adolescent Community at Montessori Community School in Durham, NC. He serves as a consultant to schools participating in the AMS Pathway of Continuous School Improvement and is a professional leadership coach to school leaders. He can be reached at

Robin Pothro

Robin Prothro, MS, OTR/L is a Pediatric Occupational Therapist with eleven years experience. She graduated from the Medical University of South Carolina with a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Science in Occupational Therapy. She has been a school-based occupational therapist for the past eight years, specializing in developmental delays, sensory integration, ADHD, learning disabilities, and handwriting. She has been presenting locally and nationally, for the past eight years, on various topics such as fine motor skills, handwriting, sensory integration, and motor skills and academics.

Rebecca Ricker

I am a passionate Montessorian! I have a degree in Elementary Education, a Master’s Degree in Children’s Literature, and am a certified (MACTE) 6-9 Montessori teacher. I worked as an assistant in a lower elementary classroom in Charleston, SC from 2013-2014. The following two school years, from 2014-2015/2015-2016, I taught as a lead teacher in a lower elementary classroom in the same school, James Simons Elementary. I then had my beautiful daughter and am taking the opportunity to stay home with her for a few years before returning to the classroom.

Ginny Riga

Ginny is Project Consultant for the South Carolina Public School Montessori Project, and has held numerous teaching and administrative positions in public education for over 30 years. The majority of her work has been in Columbia, SC, where she was principal of the first total Montessori public school in the state in the early 2000’s. She led the growth of Montessori in public schools throughout South Carolina as Coordinator of Montessori Public School Programs at the South Carolina Department of Education from 2008-2011. Dr. Riga earned a doctorate from the University of South Carolina in Educational Leadership and Policy and is Montessori trained in primary and lower elementary levels. She also serves on the board of directors of the American Montessori Society (AMS) and is a member of the Montessori Leadership Collaborative, a national group working towards unifying the Montessori movement in America. She is a past board member of Montessori Educational Programs International (MEPI) and a founding member and former officer of the SC Montessori Alliance.

Missy Sawyer

Missy Sawyer is an Early Childhood Montessori Teacher at Logan Elementary, a school-within-a school model, in Columbia, SC. She has been teaching for over 20 plus years, 15 as an EC Montessori teacher. She has received training in arts integration through the State Department of Education Visual and Performing Arts department DAP grant programs, ABC project, and the SC Arts Commission. Logan is an ABC Site school where they infuse academic curriculum and the fine arts into daily instruction.

Susan Scheibenzuber

Susan Scheibenzuber is an AMS trained Early Childhood Teacher who has taught for 35 years. She founded Park Montessori in 1982 and works there. Her children and grandchildren have attended Montessori schools. She owns Laughing Star Montessori and created the Beautiful Handwriting Method and Materials. She is a writing consultant and teaches workshops.

Starr Snead

Starr is the founder and principal of Advancement Connections, a firm dedicated to serving advancement professionals and volunteers in schools throughout the United States and internationally. Based in Charleston, South Carolina, Advancement Connections provides fundraising, constituency relations, marketing/enrollment, strategic planning and communications services exclusively to PS-12 schools. Prior to Advancement Connections, Starr was the executive director of the Advancement Program Council (APC) in Washington, DC. Starr has worked in independent schools since 1972 as a teacher, administrator and more recently as advancement director for Greenhill School in Dallas; Heritage Hall in Oklahoma City; and Ashley Hall in Charleston. From 1982–1997 Starr directed Starr Snead & Associates, an international consulting firm in New Haven, Connecticut. Starr holds an A.B. degree in Psychology from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, an M.A in Reading Education from the University of Rhode Island, and an M.S. in Special Education from Fordham University. She is an alumna of two Connecticut schools – Pine Point in Stonington and Westover in Middlebury. Starr served as a trustee of Pine Point from 1989–1996 and on Westover’s Alumnae Association Board of Governors from 2001–2010. In August, 2009 she joined the board of trustees at Trident Academy, a K-12 school for students with learning differences, in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, serving that school for three years. In July 2010 Starr was appointed Executive Director of the Palmetto Association of Independent Schools (PAIS) and in October 2010 she was elected to the President’s Commission at Wheaton College. She is currently a trustee at Westover School. Starr is a frequent speaker at CASE and NAIS conferences. Her popular workshops and seminars offer practical solutions to today’s development, enrollment and advancement challenges, combining more than 40 years of personal and professional experience with the “best practice strategies” of many of our nation’s leading independent schools.

Katy Stebbins Yahr

Katy Stebbins Yahr, MA, LPC, NCC is a board certified, Licensed Professional Counselor and Art Therapist in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. Katy is also a certified Internal Family Systems (IFS) Therapist through the Center for Self Leadership ( After working in Chicago, Illinois and Boulder, Colorado since 2003, she and her family moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where she is now in private practice at Coastal Tides Counseling in Mount Pleasant. While in Chicago, she worked extensively with the Institute for Recovery in Lake Forest, Illinois, and the Near North Montessori School in Chicago doing individual, group and family counseling. Katy received her Masters degree in Counseling Psychology with an emphasis in Art Therapy from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Katy has 14 years of clinical experience working with adults, children, adolescents, and families.

Sarah Stimpson

Sarah Stimpson is a lead montessori teacher at EP. Todd Elementary in Spartanburg SC. Sarah has been working in the Montessori classroom for the past 5 years. She has worked both in upper and lower elementary programs. Currently Sarah is a student in Lander’s Montessori Masters program. When Sarah is not in the classroom she enjoys developing games with her husband, working on various ceramics as well as pen and ink art projects, reading fiction, and volunteering for her local church.

Jody Swanigan

Jody Swanigan is the founder of East Cooper Montessori Charter School and has served as its principal for the past 14 years. As a Montessori educator and leader for 25 years, she is a passionate proponent of the effectiveness of authentic Montessori practices in both our public and private programs. Jody holds a Bachelor’s Degree and South Carolina State Certification in Elementary Education, Montessori certification at both the primary and elementary levels, plus a Master’s Degree and State Certification in Elementary School Administration. Her latest interests and professional growth targets revolve around STEM education in the Montessori classroom.

Luanne H Taylor

I have been teaching for 36 years. Most of my teaching has been with 5 year olds. I have been teaching 19 years in public Montessori. I work as an instructor with IGS in the summer. I have served on the Teacher Education Committee with MEPI and I have served on the MEPI board.

Slayden Thomas

Slayden Thomas holds a degree in Elementary Education from the College of Charleston where she was a Teaching Fellow Scholar. Slayden is Lower and Upper Elementary Montessori trained through Gulf Coast Montessori Teacher Education Center in Texas. She is an Upper Elementary Educator at East Cooper Montessori Charter School and Level Up Village facilitator.

Nancy H Thompson

Retired SC Science Educator with 28+ years’ experience; Serving as CEO for WILD in SC, Ltd. Co., presenting nationally- recognized environmental education workshops to other K+ Educators which are science-content strong, STREAM-relevant, and DSS Recertification-approved for 5+ years.

Ray Thompson

Retired SC Special Education Educator for 33 years; Co-CEO for WILD in SC, Ltd. Co., for 5+ years

Hillary Usher

I have been teaching Upper Elementary for eight years, the last five at Coastal Montessori Charter School in Pawleys Island. When not in the classroom, I love to read, crochet, listen to music, spend time at the beach, and be with loved ones.


Nicole Vigliotti

Nicole Vigliotti (Charleston, South Carolina) began her Early Childhood profession as an Infant Caregiver after completing her RIE® Professional Development training with Magda Gerber and Carol Pinto in 1998. She went on to receive her Early Childhood Montessori 3-6 credentials and became a RIE® Associate in 2011. Nicole is a Pikler Pedagogue candidate and serves as Program Director for Little Learners Lodge and Marketing Committee Chair for She recently completed the 3-hour video curriculum guide BEING WITH INFANTS with Beverly Kovach and consults with centers interested in putting the theories of Dr. Emmi Pikler and the work of Magda Gerber into daily center base practice.







We have two options available for those traveling from outside of Columbia:

Holiday Inn & Suites Columbia Airport
Room with Two Queen Beds is $109 per night + tax
110 McSwain Drive
West Columbia, SC 29169
Contact:  McCauley Wilder, Director of Sales

Guests can either call the front desk (803.391.4000) or they can use the booking link below. Click on the link, enter the dates you are arriving and departing and check availability. The SCMA rate code will come up and you can book your room directly.
Holiday Inn Booking


Country Inns and Suites – Columbia Airport
Room with Two Queen Beds is $95 per night + tax
2245 Airport Blvd.
Cayce, SC 29033
Group code – SCMA
Deadline for reservation – Sept. 20


We are looking for anyone interested in joining the SCMA Conference as a Presenter this year.  It is a wonderful opportunity to share your knowledge, expertise and experience with fellow Montessorians!


  • Expertise directly related to the conference theme.
  • If you have insights and experience in the needs and interests of Montessori teaching, curriculum, childcare, STEM,  or any other ideas that will benefit the Montessori community.

If you are interested in being considered as a presenter, please complete the Presenter Form.

Please note – there is a limit of one free conference admission and one $25 gift certificate PER PRESENTATION. 

The deadline to submit proposals is June 10th. Our 2017 conference will have limited sessions available for presenting.

Proposal Submission is Now Closed for 2017