Faculty | Infant & Toddler

Meet the Infant & Toddler teachers
Program Coordinator

Vandana Monteiro

Vandana Monteiro joined Princeton Montessori School in 2006, is a conference teacher and also serves as the educational coordinator for the Infant and Toddler programs.

Vandana loves the enthusiasm and energy that toddlers bring to the classroom each day. She enjoys sharing her passion for music, dancing, and yoga with the children.

When not at school, Vandana enjoys long walks and spending time with her two children. She practices meditation and says it is the key to her daily life.

Vandana received an MBA with specialization in Human Resources and a BS in Environmental Science from St. Joseph’s College of Business Administration, India and holds an American Montessori Society credential in Infant/Toddler through the Princeton Center for Teacher Education (PCTE), NJ. She is a field consultant and an Infant/Toddler instructor for PCTE.

Conference Teacher

Melissa Apuzzio

Melissa Apuzzio joined Princeton Montessori School in 2017 and is a conference teacher in the Infant Center.

Melissa has experience in caring for children and as a caretaker for the elderly. She loves the energy of young children, and their eagerness to learn and discover new things. When not working, Melissa enjoys hiking, baking, listening to classical music and reading books.

Melissa holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, Mexico and is also a Licensed Certified Nurse Assistant in Pennsylvania. She holds an American Montessori Society credential in Infant/Toddler through Princeton Center for Teacher Education (PCTE), NJ.

Classroom Assistant

Delmy Barrera

Delmy Barrera joined Princeton Montessori School in 1985 and is a classroom assistant.

Delmy is a gift to the Infant and Toddler program as she embodies the Montessori philosophy in her kind nature, patient disposition, and gentle guidance of our youngest children.

Delmy generously shares her love of music and cooking in her everyday interactions with the children. She enjoys introducing the children to her native Spanish through song and dance and special classroom materials in Spanish.

In her spare time, Delmy enjoys spending time with her four grown children, relatives, and friends. Frequent trips ‘home’ to Guatemala keep her connected to her extended family.

Delmy studied Montessori Philosophy and Child Development through the Princeton Center for Teacher Education (PCTE), NJ.

Classroom Assistant

Maris Barrera

Maris Barrera joined Princeton Montessori School in 2012 and is an assistant in the Infant and Toddler programs.

Maris is responsible for preparing healthy and nutritious lunches in the Toddler program. When not preparing meals, Maris assists with supporting the teachers in the Infant and Toddler programs.

Two of Maris’s three adult children attended the Princeton Montessori school when they were younger. Her nurturing, joyful, and kind disposition is an asset to the team.

Classroom Assistant

Sandhya Bemby

Sandhya Bemby joined Princeton Montessori School in 2021 and is a classroom assistant.

Sandhya Bemby brings patience and understanding to the classroom environment, so that the children feel welcome and accepted. She believes that, like the children, it is also her responsibility to grow and learn everyday. Sandhya enjoys coming up with new creative activities to keep the children engaged.

Outside the classroom, she loves spending time with her family, which includes going hiking, visiting new places, and cooking with them. Sandhya has spent 12 years pursuing Bharatnatyam, an Indian classical dance.

Sandhya majored in microbiology at the University of Bombay. She holds a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential for Infant/Toddler. Currently she is working towards her I/T certification from PCTE.

Conference Teacher

Chiara Dicondina

Chiara Dicondina joined Princeton Montessori School in 2016 and is a conference teacher.

Chiara enjoys working with the Infants and Toddlers, and believes in bringing respect and patience to the children and to the environment around them. She enjoys sharing her love of nature and the outdoors, as well as her passion for playing the piano, with the children.

When not at school, Chiara enjoys exploring what mystery and beauty nature holds by spending time outdoors and camping with her two school-aged children. She loves cooking healthy nutritious food, and also enjoys playing the piano together with her family. Chiara is bilingual and fluent in Italian.

Chiara received her Bachelors in Education with a focus in Child Development from The University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She holds an American Montessori Society credential in Infant/Toddler through the Princeton Center for Teacher Education (PCTE), NJ. She also holds certification as Holistic Health Counselor.

Classroom Assistant

Carla Dupont

Carla Dupont joined Princeton Montessori School in 2022 and is an assistant in the classroom.

Carla is passionate about early childhood education. She is a Mother of two and enjoys spending time with her family, traveling and discovering new cultures.

She holds an AMI Montessori Diploma(3-6yrs) from the institute de formation Maria Montessori in Geneva, Switzerland.

Classroom Assistant

Rebeca Franco

Rebeca Franco joined Princeton Montessori School in 2021 and is an assistant in the Infant program.

Rebeca has a passion for making each day count with everyone,especially the children. She is a positive and joyful person who loves coloring, drawing, and enjoying music.

In her free time Rebeca loves outside activities, especially hiking and she enjoys cooking. She is very involved with her church, especially the children’s ministry.

Rebecca received her nursing degree in 2014 in Brasil.

Classroom Assistant

Raphaëlle Gelineau

Raphaëlle Gelineau joined Princeton Montessori School in 2022 and is a classroom assistant.

Classroom Assistant

Vanita Gulati

Vanita Gulati joined Princeton Montessori School in 2018 and is a classroom assistant.

Vanita has a strong connection with children and feels her ability to adapt to rapidly changing situations in a very calm and peaceful way is one of her greatest strengths. She has experience teaching in both Montessori and traditional early childhood classrooms. When not teaching, she enjoys peaceful hikes, listening to music, and spending quality time with her family.

Vanita received a BS in Early Childhood Education from City College of New York, and an MS in Education from Bank Street College of Education in NY. She holds an American Montessori Society credential from West Side Montessori Teacher Education Program, NY.

Classroom Assistant

Shemi Kalappurakal

Shemi Kalappurakal joined Princeton Montessori School in 2022 and is a classroom assistant.

Shemi always has a warm smile to brighten the child's day. Shemi loves to stimulate curiosity and love of learning in young minds and thoroughly enjoys when children accomplish their goals.

When not at school Shemi loves to travel around the world and explore new places and countries with her husband and son. She practices sustainable living and truly believes in giving back to nature. She enjoys crafting and yoga. She loves gardening and growing her own fruits and vegetables.

Shemi holds an American Montessori Society credential in Infant/Toddler through Princeton Center for Teacher Education (PCTE) and an Early Childhood credential through Christopher Academy, Scotch Plains, NJ. She has a Bachelor Degree in Functional English from Calicut University, Kerala, India and Masters Degree in English from Pondicherry University, India

Classroom Assistant

Olena Kopchak

Olena Kopchak joined Princeton Montessori School in 2022 and is a classroom assistant.

Olena enjoys seeing the way children explore the world and learn new things. She loves to watch how their personalities develop and the way in which they observe everything around them.

In her free time, Olena enjoys reading and sports, especially running. She likes to hike and explore the local area with her daughter.

Olena holds a B.A. in Accounting and Audit from the National Academy of Statistics.

Teacher and After-School Lead

Elena Kurnov

Elena Kurnov joined Princeton Montessori School in 2000 and is a classroom teacher and After-School lead in the Toddler program.

Elena Kurnov joined Princeton Montessori School in 2000 and is a teacher in the Toddler program.
Elena enjoys working in the Toddler program because of the amazing, rapid growth that occurs during this period of a child’s life and the unique relationships she is able to form with each child. She brings enthusiasm and energy to the classroom and loves singing and dancing with the children.
In her free time, she enjoys being with her family and friends and taking long walks with her dog. Elena is also a translator for Ukrainian teachers when they come to the Princeton Center for Teacher Education (PCTE) to study.
Elena received a BS and an MS in Chemistry from Byelorussian State University, Minsk, Belarus and an MA in Teacher Education from Technion (Israel Institute of Technology), Haifa, Israel. She holds an American Montessori Society credential in Infant/Toddler through Princeton Center for Teacher Education (PCTE), NJ.
Classroom Assistant

Esther Lo

Esther Lo joined Princeton Montessori School in 2022 and works in the After School program.

Esther loves working with children because of their innate creativity and curiosity about the world. She is passionate about diversity and inclusivity, and strives to make each child feel fully appreciated for their unique qualities. She brings her love for the arts, especially music and literature, to the classroom.

In her spare time, Esther enjoys learning different languages and solving crosswords and sudoku puzzles.

Esther holds a Bachelor's degree in Sociology and Urban Geography from McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

Conference Teacher, Admissions Associate

Alona Procaccini

Alona Procaccini joined Princeton Montessori School in 1989 and is a conference teacher and also serves as a Admissions Associate giving Toddler program tours.

Alona loves working with infant and toddler aged-children because of their passion for exploring the world. She brings her cheerful disposition and love of reading, singing, baking, and painting to the classroom environment.

Outside of school, Alona is a freelance photographer. In the summer, she enjoys travelling abroad in search of breathtaking pictures, and her work can be found in local restaurants. She also helps with her daughter’s photo collection in raising money for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. She also volunteers at SAVE Animal Shelter.

When at home, she enjoys gardening, cooking Italian food, and making Italian desserts.

Alona holds an American Montessori Society credential in Infant/Toddler through Princeton Center for Teacher Education (PCTE), NJ. She is a PCTE Instructor and Field Consultant and a frequent parent workshop presenter on the topic of Preparing a Montessori Home Environment for the Young Child.

Classroom Assistant

Arleene Salguero

Arleene Salguero joined Princeton Montessori School in 2021 and is a classroom assistant in the Infant/Toddler program.

Arleene has experience as a babysitter for small children and most recently as a customer service rep.

She loves working with children, and in her free time, she likes to do exercise, play team sports, and draw.

Conference Teacher

Souad (Sue) Saad

Souad (Sue) Saad joined Princeton Montessori School in 2008 and is a conference teacher.

Sue is passionate about playing an important role in children’s lives as they explore, grow, and reveal themselves at such a precious and tender age. As a mother of five, she brings her motherly knowledge and compassion with eagerness and excitement to the Montessori community.

Sue enjoys living a healthy lifestyle and listening to classical music, both of which can be found in her classroom environment. She also loves spending weekends taking in the beautiful aura one finds in downtown Princeton.

Sue received a BS in Business Administration from Alexandria University, El-Shatby, Egypt, and holds an American Montessori Society credential in Infant/Toddler through the Princeton Center for Teacher Education (PCTE), NJ.

Prior to her work with Toddlers and Infants she was a teacher’s aide for special needs children.

Classroom Assistant

Marcia Shank

Marcia Shank joined Princeton Montessori School in 2021 and is a classroom assistant.

As a former Teacher’s Assistant for the Toddler Program, Marcia is very familiar with Montessori’s Philosophy. The importance of observation, and taking care of the environment in which the child will develop their inner experiences is the number one priority for her.

As a family who loves to travel and discover new places, Marcia took full advantage of living in Mexico City and Madrid, Spain to travel to different cities to enrich the experiences for her children. She especially enjoys hiking and biking with her family.

Marcia holds a Bachelor in Business Administration from IPAE, Peru. She holds an Assistant Teacher certification from The Pan American Montessori Society and has completed the Montessori Assistant teacher course, and the Child Development and Montessori Philosophy courses through PCTE. Marcia completed a ESL class at Hunter College, NYC.

Conference Teacher

Olga L. Soto

Olga L. Soto joined Princeton Montessori School in 2000 and is a conference teacher.

Olga loves working with toddler children because she enjoys being a part of their development. Each day holds new beginnings and amazing growth. She brings her love of the Spanish culture and her bilingual talents to the classroom by singing and reading in Spanish to the children.

On the weekends, Olga enjoys long walks, and swimming and biking with her husband and two sons. She is also known for raising chickens and gathering their eggs for her family and the community.

Olga received a BA in Special Education from the Universidad los Libertadores in Colombia, South America and holds an American Montessori Society credential in Infant/Toddler through the Princeton Center Teacher Education (PCTE), NJ.

Classroom Assistant

Lily Tomlinson

Lily Tomlinson joined Princeton Montessori School in 2021 and is a classroom assistant in the Toddler program.

Lily is passionate about working with younger children because of their constant drive to explore, energetic behavior, and complex abilities. She brings her enjoyment of daily mindful practices to her role. She is a lifelong learner, interested in studying topics such as the Spanish language and holistic health in her spare time.

Lily is completing her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education at Temple University. She has completed the 3-6 Overview course through Princeton Center for Teacher Education (PCTE) and attended a
Big Brothers Big Sisters "How to be an Effective Mentor" Workshop.

Classroom Assistant

Anvee Vahia

Anvee Vahia joined Princeton Montessori School in 2018 and is a classroom assistant in the Toddler program.

Montessori has come full circle for Anvee who studied in a Montessori school as a child, received training, and now has two children in a Montessori environment. She has worked in different countries and has witnessed how seamlessly the Montessori method transcends cultures.
Working with children is a pure joy and she loves to be part of their journey as they explore the world around them.

Outside the classroom, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends. Cooking together, traveling, exploring the outdoors, and sharing her passion and training in Indian music with her children are some of the things she loves doing in her spare time.

Anvee received her BA in Philosophy from The University of Mumbai. She has a diploma in Early Childhood Care and received her Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) certification from RTI Mumbai.

Conference Teacher

Shomaila Zafar

Shomaila Zafar joined Princeton Montessori School in 2022 and is a conference teacher.

Shomaila has many years of experience in Montessori environments and vast knowledge of child development, psychology and Montessori methods. She loves music and the joy it can bring to a child. Somalia tries to incorporate singing into the daily classroom routine. She loves working with toddlers because of their curiosity, eagerness and desire to explore the environment around them. She is very organized and able to adapt to the child’s needs in the classroom.

Shomaila has three young daughters and outside of school, she loves to travel, bake, go for long walks and enjoying time with her family.

Shomaila holds a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from Karachi University, and an AMI Montessori Primary and Toddler Training Diploma.



What Parents Are Saying

Our child previously attended a reputable public elementary school. During that time, she often complained that she was bored at school. I was concerned that the school's 'one-size-fits-all' education model was gradually dimming her thirst for knowledge. I wanted the flames of her engagement and curiosity to be fanned, not extinguished. She is now back at Princeton Montessori and I am happy to report that she is no longer bored. In fact, her inner flame has never been stronger!

Our Primary student is learning remotely this year due to the pandemic. He is really is enjoying all the works that come home to him. He tells me things like 'I love my Montessori works' and 'my works are beautiful.' My husband and I see him growing and learning so much even amidst our virtual constraints. Having tailored materials for him to work with makes all the difference in the world and we're grateful for the thought and care you put into curating them.

The other day I came downstairs and my 4-year-old son was listening to 'Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart' on Alexa. He told me that Mozart's dad was named Leopold and his sister was Nannerl (it took him a second to remember her name and it sounded made up, so my husband and I googled it. Sure enough he was right). We asked what else he had been learning and he rattled off Antonio Lucio Vivaldi’s full name and referenced The Four Seasons. I think my jaw is still on the floor. It turns out that the Primary children have been learning about composers this fall and listening to their music. What incredible exposure for these young children!

Princeton Montessori is the very epitome of the principles of Maria Montessori. The School offers a nurturing, creative, academic, and well-rounded development for each child. As a parent, we cannot offer our daughter a more valuable first gift.

The faculty are, bar none, the absolute best. The teachers are very knowledge both about the Montessori philosophy and the best ways to work with children. I ask for their advice and insight for any issues we’re having at home, quite often. They’re also incredibly warm and nurturing with the children in a way I have not seen at any other school.

I’m struck by how much better the Montessori toddlers are at playing and working peacefully with their peers than toddlers in other nursery school programs. I credit the gifted PMonts teachers, and the Princeton Montessori educational approach, for how confident, happy, and collaborative toddlers in the PMonts program seem.

Our son is so proud of being a third-year Primary. He has attended this incredible school since he was one year old. He had absolutely wonderful Toddler teachers and flourished under their care. Now, he is a third-year Primary and we know he will be more than ready for Lower Elementary. Thank you to all the Teachers & Staff!

The school runs with one philosophy and so every faculty member and admin personnel share the same vision for the child. This consistency is unique in our area to Princeton Montessori. Combined with the integration of the teacher training program, we can proudly say that the spirit of Dr. Montessori’s principles permeates every aspect of our school. That’s what I value the most about our school!

Education is both a gift and a right. I feel the teachers at PMonts help our children to appreciate the value of their education. Understanding the value involves looking beyond school and appreciating how education is a tool that will allow them to explore challenging goals, to grow as individuals and most importantly, chase their dreams.

I will never cease to be amazed at the capabilities of the young child. In the Montessori environment, the very youngest students show incredible independence and competence. At Princeton Montessori School the teachers truly help the children to “help me do it myself”.

When I think about my personal philosophy on education I can check all the boxes with regards to the education my daughter is receiving at Princeton Montessori. I feel the teachers motivate the students by focusing on appreciating the value of education and the diversities of peoples around the world while stressing and leveraging the power of the uniqueness in each individual student. Ultimately, the role of an educator is to shape a new generation that will create a safer and better world for the future.

Princeton Montessori School is a school that exceeds any expectations imaginable. The school follows each and every child on an individual basis and nourishes each child’s academic, social, and emotional needs. It is a school where teachers appreciate all unique qualities each child brings.

Princeton Montessori School turned out to be the best investment ever. We made some sacrifices in our lifestyle in order to be able to afford sending both children all the way through 8th grade, but now we are proud to note that we have two capable, confident, well-mannered young adults who are a pleasure to be around and who continue to love to work hard in their studies.

EXCEPTIONAL is the carefully chosen word to describe Princeton Montessori School. Our family has been part of the PMonts community from elementary through middle school. If I could give every child a gift that gift would be for them to experience the joy of learning every single day at PMonts. The multi-age classes provide the advantage of older students leading younger students and younger students watching the wonderful examples of the older children. The children recognize the strengths of others as being positive and not competitive. Princeton Montessori is much more than academic college prep - it is life prep!

Thanks for a wonderful school year thus far and for doing such a wonderful job for our children during such a challenging year. Princeton Montessori has simply been the gold standard for pandemic education, in my mind.

We love the fact that your guidelines have been clear and appropriate, and impressing upon families how their role is critical in keeping the wider school community safe. Thanks also for sourcing materials and providing seminars on parenting during this particular time. The fact that the school has remained open all this time is a huge testament to you all.

Our daughter loves being at school. She confidently reported that she was happy with the safety measures in place, and that she felt “safe” at school. This was HUGE.

We have always been thrilled with our PMonts experience, and this fall term has sent us through the roof. We are in awe of the tireless work of the faculty and administration, who have made possible such an inspiring in-person program. I have always been broadly grateful for the PMonts education my children have been so lucky to receive; this summer and fall, I felt grateful each and every day.

Princeton Montessori has done an exemplary job in keeping their classrooms open to children and young people during this challenging year. They are simply the gold standard for safely educating our children during the national pandemic.

As a parent (and faculty member), Molly and I are beyond grateful for PMonts. Our children are SO happy here. I am more of a believer than ever before. Miles was fine at his public school but the difference is really clear - here, he is not just fine - he is totally thriving and so happy! I'm amazed.

"Princeton Montessori School students are open to diverse backgrounds, curious to learn new things, strong in their leadership and presentation skills, and confident. Thank you for providing an educational environment that encourages a child's total development. We know it is an incredible gift." -Middle School Parent