Our staff consists of State certified and Montessori trained individuals who have completed an undergraduate degree in education or similar field and/or a Montessori training at an American Montessori Society approved training center. Each classroom has a Montessori trained teacher. Additionally, Durango Montessori is committed to refining and developing Montessori philosophy and methodology in the classroom. In order to do this in our remote location, DMS has local Montessori teacher trainers on staff that provide in house training on an as needed basis so that teachers can continue to develop and refine their teaching skills and methods.
The Montessori teacher must go through a rigorous certification process to learn how to effectively use the materials. This training includes the study of full curriculums in math, geometry, language, physical science, biological science, geography, and history in their certification programs.
Upon completion of their training teachers are equipped to demonstrate:
- Effective use of Montessori materials
- Complete elementary curriculum
- Skills to provide a peaceful community in the classroom setting
- Observation and evaluation of students
For more information on Montessori teacher certification please go to the American Montessori Society (AMS) website by clicking here.
Michelle Herringer, shares the position of co-director with the school’s founder, Mary Polino. She has a passion for education which stems from her passion for learning. She is an AMS Montessori Certified teacher, has a Masters degree in reading instruction, holds a Colorado Teaching License (for which she received the Linda Ekman Simmons Award of Excellence for Outstanding Post Baccalaureate Student in Teacher Education), and is a Sounds in Syllables dyslexia teacher. Prior to becoming the director of Durango Montessori, she taught at DMS for four years. Additionally, she was a teacher in the public schools, at a community college, and at a nature education non-profit organization. In total, Ms. Michelle has been in the field of education for over 19 years. In addition to her years of teaching experience, Ms. Michelle has served on multiple boards, and has administrative experience including staff hiring, supervision, scheduling, training, grant writing, and volunteer organization and recruitment.
Michelle moved to Durango in 1994 where she met her husband Will, and together they grew into a family with their daughter Isabelle, who graduated from Durango Montessori. How does Michelle feel about being the director and a parent of a graduate of Durango Montessori? “I have an immense amount of gratitude for our school; it gave my daughter a place to truly enjoy her learning experience, enhancing her intellectual curiosity; it gave Will and I a place to entrust our daughter’s education to, and I have been provided with an outlet to creatively play a role in the education of children, in a manner that is respectful of children and their families.” Contact Michelle: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mary Polino founded Durango Montessori in 2005 and has returned to DMS to share the role of director with Ms. Michelle. Her love of Montessori began while researching alternative teaching methods, when she wandered into a Montessori school in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the early 1990’s. Mary was so impressed with what she saw there that she convinced the school director to hire her on the spot. She quickly worked through the ranks, received her American Montessori Society Upper and Lower Elementary (Elementary I & II) certifications, and a New Mexico state teaching license. She taught in Montessori schools in Albuquerque until moving to Durango. She came to Colorado equipped with a Colorado state teaching license, and during her attempt to secure a teaching position in the school district, decided that her respect for the Montessori philosophy, and the belief that it is truly an inspired way of teaching shouldn’t be lost. Durango needed a Montessori elementary school!
Durango Montessori opened its doors in 2005 with 13 students and the help of supportive families and community members. DMS has thrived under the care of the most “dedicated, loyal, and reliable group of teachers” every successful school needs. Since then the school has grown to average 45-50 students per year. This fact is a proud and collective achievement of its founder and staff.
When Mary isn’t beaming with pride over the school, she is usually beaming with pride over her family. She enjoys traipsing all over the state and country supporting both of her children and her husband in their mountain bike racing aspirations. When she is not cooking an extremely healthy, vitamin, mineral, protein-packed, carb-loaded, and perfectly balanced meal for her athletes, she is doing her own biking, hiking, Nordic skiing, and of course, reading. Contact Mary: email@example.com
Cait Callahan, the upper elementary teacher at DMS, grew up in the Southwest suburbs of Chicago and eventually moved to Durango, Colorado. During her enrollment at Fort Lewis College, she completed the requirements for an endorsement in Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education to critically evaluate best practices and serve language learners. She graduated Cum Laude, while earning a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education.
She has had the opportunity to assist and support first, second, fourth, and fifth grade classrooms in various elementary schools in the local Durango area, and the learning environment of three to five year olds at an early childhood education center. She completed her student teaching in a fifth-grade classroom at a dual language school in Costa Rica. Consistently having witnessed children who are English Language Learners or historically marginalized struggle with grade-level expectations, she has developed a strong concern for an equal education for all students.
She plans to integrate art, music, and other media in the classroom, promote learning and unique experiences by implementing Montessori methods, and build social-emotional competence by incorporating mindful moments practices. She is dedicated to helping students at Durango Montessori School develop more accurate perceptions of the world, while broadening their social, national, and global perspectives.
Contact Cait: firstname.lastname@example.org
Erin Williamson is the lead teacher in the lower elementary classroom. She has a master’s degree in special education and is a certified elementary school teacher and Montessori school teacher. She has been a teacher for 14 years, mostly in the public schools. At the beginning of her career she became instantly intrigued and fascinated with the philosophy and teaching approach of Maria Montessori when she taught preschool at Children’s House Montessori in Durango. Since then, she has taught kindergarten, first grade, middle school (as a resource teacher) and the Affective Education program (for students with challenging behavioral and emotional needs, K-5th grade). She is thrilled to be back in a Montessori setting.
Erin believes that every child has the potential to learn, grow and be inspired. She is passionate about her role as a teacher- to be a part of a child’s learning… watching them grow and embracing their interests. Erin has lived in Durango for almost 20 years, and loves our town and community. Erin has two sons who are the love of her life, so when she is not teaching she is playing with them!She loves yoga, mountain biking, reading, painting, spending time with friends, and enjoying Durango’s backyard. Contact Erin: email@example.com
Ashley Hill is a teacher in the lower elementary classroom. She holds a B.A. in American History from the University of Colorado, Boulder. Following college, her love for the American West brought her to Canyonlands National Park where she worked as an Interpretative Park Ranger. Giving campfire talks and public walks on the history, geology, flora, and fauna of the area sparked her love of teaching. She found it satisfying working as a guide and teacher for the public, and as an advocate for the preservation of the Utah desert. Ashley eventually moved on to Santa fe, to attend the New Mexico Academy of Healing Arts, and became a CMT. She moved to Durango in 1996 with her husband Todd, and had a private practice for ten years. With the arrival of two children, now ages 12 and 9, Ashley was lucky to stay home as a full time mom. She eventually joined the staff at Children’s House Montessori and worked as the school cook, and later as co-teacher in the Math and Sensorial Room. Ashley is honored to be a part of the exemplary staff and student body of Durango Montessori School. She believes in young people, and strives to nurture their potential and love of learning. When she is not in the classroom, Ashley is in the studio teaching Nia, a somatic movement practice that is similar to Montessori in its philosophy. She also adores spending time with her family and Boston Terrier Frankie, and enjoying the wonders of the outdoors. Contact Ashley:firstname.lastname@example.org