KHALSA MONTESSORI - Key Persons


Alexis Chesley

Job Titles:
  • Assistant

Aly Serrano

Job Titles:
  • Administrative Assistant
Aly joined Khalsa in July of 2022. She just recently moved to Phoenix from south Florida, where she received a Bachelor's degree in Organizational Management from Indian River State College. She enjoys traveling and exploring other cultures. She has spent several months exploring Asia, Europe and the United States. She also enjoys spending time reading, hiking and camping.

Amy Page

Job Titles:
  • Lead Teacher

Angie Martinez

Job Titles:
  • Assistant
  • Elementary Teaching Staff Member
  • Lower Elementary North Assistant
Angie joined Khalsa Montessori for the 2022-23 school year. She loves working with the students and enjoying her time assisting Ms. Carie in Lower Elementary. Prior to joining Khalsa, Angie worked with children in Pre-K and Kindergarten for over 25 years. She believes children thrive in a Montessori classroom and enjoys seeing it each and every day.

Ashley Burns - Founder

Job Titles:
  • Co - Founder
  • Creative Director
  • Yoga Instructor
  • Yoga Teacher
For Los Angeles native Ashley Burns, yoga is curiosity, trust, and freedom- her soul has been rich with these elements her whole life! Thankfully, the practice focused these energies toward shaping a balanced and conscious lifestyle. As co-founder and Creative Director, Ashley has been sharing yoga and creating accessible and inclusive spaces to expand the systemic boundaries of the practice in the valley with her organization DiRTYOGA since 2012. She received her first 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training at The Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. In 2015 she was gifted the opportunity to continue her education in Costa Rica with Jenn Chiarelli's Anahata Soul 200-hour Intensive. And most recently, in 2021, Ashley received a 60-hour Yoga Nidra certification from Tracee Stanley + Chanti Tacorante- Perez with the Empowered Wisdom Yoga Nidra Teacher Training. Ashley is a BELIEVER driven to serve her community and is enthusiastic about upholding yoga with the Khalsa students and teachers.

Ayeleth Aragon

Job Titles:
  • Molina / Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher
  • Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher
Hello Upper El Families! My name is Ayeleth and I am excited to start a fresh, new year with our new and returning students. In addition to working as a classroom assistant, I will also be this year's Spanish teacher. I look forward to mingling my heritage, Spanish language skills, and past experience in a Spanish immersion school with a curriculum that will give students the opportunity for daily classroom practice. I look forward to seeing and hearing the students grow their skills and confidence. I am a first-generation college graduate, with a B.A. in Family and Human Development from Arizona State University. I have always wanted to work with children and love what I do! I am the oldest of seven children and enjoy talking about my siblings.

Barbara Pearson

Job Titles:
  • Elementary Extended Care Assistant
Barbara Pearson joined Khalsa August 2022, as an assistant in elementary extended care. Barbara has a grandson in upper elementary and, in the past, has assisted with student field trips, and as a volunteer for four years with the Khalsa Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated from the University of Missouri, and graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Journalism. Barbara moved to Arizona after retiring, following a number of jobs in the private sector, and most recently as Director of Communications with the federal government. She loves working and playing with kids of all ages. In her free time, she likes to hike, bike, garden, play scrabble, write, and paint with watercolors. She also enjoys spending lots of time with her rescue dog Trevor.

Bryan Murphy

Job Titles:
  • Representative
Bryan Murphy is a Community Representative and former parent representative on the KMPS and KMES Board of Directors. He has a B.A. from Yale University and received his J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley. He has practiced law with a Phoenix firm since his admission to the Arizona Bar in 1980. His two children have both attended the Khalsa Montessori School.

Candy Cotto

Job Titles:
  • Assistant

Carie Modeer

Job Titles:
  • Elementary Teaching Staff Member
  • Lead Teacher
  • KMS Board of Directors, Member
  • Lower Elementary North Lead Teacher
Carie joined the Khalsa School in 1999 as a Lower Elementary assistant. After graduating from Penn State University with a degree in Elementary Education and traveling across the country, she decided to head west to Arizona. Her immediate family, along with a change of environment, brought her to Phoenix. Outside of gaining her degree in education, Carie worked for six years as an assistant teacher in a Christian Daycare in Pennsylvania. She also held part-time positions in childcare throughout her college years. After experiencing Montessori for the first time at Khalsa and gaining a passion for the Montessori method she made the choice to become trained as a Montessori Lead Teacher. Carie has been a Lower Elementary Lead Teacher since 2004. In her free time, Carie enjoys playing Taiko (Japanese drumming) and has been a member of the Phoenix Taiko dojo since 2001. She also enjoys reading and spending time outdoors hiking and camping.

Carmen Barba

Job Titles:
  • Assistant

Chloe Clift

Job Titles:
  • Lead Teacher

Colin Gennett

Job Titles:
  • Assistant
  • Khalsa in 2022 As an Assistant
  • Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher
Colin joined Khalsa in 2022 as an assistant in the Upper Elementary classroom. Prior to joining Khalsa he worked for 10 years in classrooms and administration for both private and public K-8 schools. He used a Montesorri based curriculum at his church and is eager to see it used in the classroom setting. He has lived in Phoenix for 22 years after growing up in Pittsburgh, PA and was tired of the cold weather. When not at school he enjoys many outdoor activities like biking, hiking and playing with his two dogs at the park.

Cynthia Huebscher

Job Titles:
  • KMS Board of Directors, Secretary and Treasurer
  • Primary School Assistant Director
Cynthia Huebscher joined Khalsa Montessori School in April 2016 as a Primary Guide. Her 25+ years of experience in education as a teacher, trainer, mentor, and tutor to students of all ages offers her a wide perspective. She understands where children begin and where we can help guide them for success in school and life. Cynthia received her American Montessori International Diploma from the Montessori Institute of La Jolla. She obtained her California Teaching Credential from National University and her BS in Liberal Studies from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Cynthia enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience to the Primary and Toddler classrooms and staff at Khalsa. Cynthia Huebscher joined Khalsa Montessori School in April 2016. She enjoyed 5 1/2 amazing years in the classroom before COVID began. During the challenges of COVID, Cynthia oversaw the transition to preparing packets for children to work on at home to coordinating online classes for distance learners while supporting in-classroom instruction and cohorts. Keeping everyone safe while also guiding the children on their journeys of self-discovery was hard. But as we tell the children - "You can do hard things." And, with an amazingly dedicated staff and supportive parents - we did. Currently, Cynthia supports the teachers and staff at Primary and Toddler while also guiding the charter school kindergarteners. Cynthia received her American Montessori International Diploma from the Montessori Institute of La Jolla. She trained with Sylvia Dubovoy, an AMI trainer, consultant, and examiner. Cynthia has over 25 years of experience in education as a teacher, trainer, mentor, and tutor to students of all ages. She obtained her California Teaching Credential from National University and her BS in Liberal Studies from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Cynthia is looking forward to continuing to support the Khalsa community and excited to see what this year's challenges will bring. Cynthia's favorite down-time activity is reading.

Dawn Scheurn

Job Titles:
  • Admi Ssions Coordinator
  • Khalsa in 2009 As the Elementary Receptionist
Dawn joined Khalsa in 2009 as the Elementary Receptionist and enjoyed that role for 5 years. She left to work at a Charter Middle School-High School closer to home where she worked in Administration for 5 years. She returned to Khalsa in 2019 as the Toddler Site Coordinator for 2 years and now works as the Admissions Coordinator. Dawn has 2 adult granddaughters as well as a new grandson that she is eager to spend more time with! In her spare time she enjoys hiking, art festivals, concerts and travel.

Denise Souder

Job Titles:
  • Business Manager
Denise recently joined Khalsa on August 30, 2021. She has spent the last 8 years working in the Paradise Valley Unified School district as an Administrative Assistant supporting all levels from Pre K to High School. She is originally from Chicago but has lived in the valley for 27 years. She received a Bachelor's degree in Business from Eastern Illinois University and worked in the Human Resource field until deciding to be a stay at home mom. She has 4 children and 2 grandchildren. Hobbies include spending time with her kids and grandkids, reading, movies and exercising.

Dyanna Jiron

Job Titles:
  • Lead Teacher

Elizabeth Kasen

Job Titles:
  • Director
  • Elementary Extended Care Director
Elizabeth joined Khalsa in 2022, as the Elementary Extended Care Director. She grew up on the east coast, and spent most of that time living in North Carolina. She graduated in 2021 with a BA in Applied Human Behavior from Northern Arizona University. Prior to joining Khalsa she was working in Behavioral Health and Social Work at Arizona's Children's Association. Her goals for the program are to maximize fun while learning. She has plans of introducing music and singing, with the goal of preparing a performance in the winter program from Sound of Music. The program will also place an emphasis on seasonal and local produce for weekly snack menus. She has a son who is attending Khalsa, he began in the Primary program, and now he is currently in his second year of Upper Elementary.

Erika Grady

Job Titles:
  • Toddler School Site Coordinator
  • Toddler Site Coordinator
Erika joined Khalsa in 2022 as the Toddler Site-Coordinator. She recently moved back to Arizona from Illinois and is happy to be back. Erika attended ASU and lived in Arizona for 15 years before moving to Illinois after her daughter was born. Erika is a Mom to a 4 year old daughter, Lennon, and two cats, Biscuit & Gravy, who keep her busy. In her spare time, Erika enjoys spending time with her daughter and friends.

Gretchen Sjoberg

Job Titles:
  • Assistant

Heather Kimbell

Job Titles:
  • Primary School Site Coordinator
Heather joined Khalsa Primary School in April 2018 as the Primary Onsite Coordinator. Married for several decades, she is the mother of 4 (now adult children) , foster mother of 3 (now adult children) and adoptive mom of 1 adorable Lower Elementary Khalsa student. Heather is pleased to be working with very young children again in an administrative support capacity. In her spare time, Heather enjoys being part of the Phoenix storytelling and theatrical communities. She recently took up square dancing and kayaking and hopes to add an artistic endeavor such as painting or pottery to her future.

Helen Williams

Job Titles:
  • Lead Teacher
  • Lower Elementary East Lead Teacher
Teaching is my calling. I joined Khalsa Montessori as Lead Teacher in the summer of 2020. While born and raised in Sweden, I have spent most of my adult life in the U.S. My husband and I have made a home with our three children in ten different states over the span of three decades. I earned a Bachelor's degree in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and later a teaching certificate in Elementary Education at Eastern Michigan University. I entered the education field after many years as a stay-at-home mom. My teaching experience includes elementary, middle school, and adult education. Very proud to be a teacher and life-long learner, I have obtained Arizona teacher certification and a Montessori teacher certification by American Montessori Society. The road here was long, but I feel as though I was meant to be a Montessori teacher. Besides teaching, I love healthy cooking, hiking, and visiting my three adult children who are spread out across the country. My special interests are language learning (French and Spanish) and children's literature.

Janet Vinette

Job Titles:
  • Coordinator
  • Special Education Teacher
Teaching has always been a passion as well as a vocation for Janet. She has a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Elementary Education (K-8) from Emporia State Teacher's College in Kansas. She attended the University of Kansas for several years pursuing master's level coursework in Psychology and Counseling upon deciding that the emotional piece of a classroom is vitally important in ensuring the success of students. Janet had the privilege of studying in England which gave her working knowledge of learning and teaching in the British Enfant Schools. When her love of travel and new adventures called, Janet moved to New York for several years and completed a Master's of Science Degree in Special Education with an emphasis in Specific Learning Disabilities at C.W Post University (Long Island University). She holds two certificates in education. One is Elementary Education (K-8) and the other is in Special Education (Specific Learning Disabilities K-12) with an endorsement in SEI for each. When she moved to Arizona, she taught in several private special education schools and spent 20 years in Scottsdale Unified School District as a classroom and special education resource teacher. She was an ESS case manager/teacher and coordinator at Great Hearts Academies for several years, where she worked closely with students and families while helping them gain a classical education. She cherishes those times that she spends with her son, daughter-in-law and new grandchild. She was born into a large family and loves spending time with them in all parts of the country. You will find her singing, reading and exercising when given some free time!

Jill Woodhull

Job Titles:
  • Accounting Clerk
Jill joined Khalsa in March of 2018 in the accounting department. In addition to her accounting role, Jill is the Outdoor Environment Teacher at the Primary campus. Jill grew up in Arizona and graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Fine Arts. She has been a parent of Khalsa children for the past 7 years. She enjoys travel, hiking, reading, and any activity that is with her family.

Kaitlyn Galindo

Job Titles:
  • Assistant

Karen Paxton

Job Titles:
  • Director
  • Director / KMS Board of Directors, President
Karen has been a familiar face around Khalsa School since the early 1980s. She began as a young parent, PTO Board member, and finally a staff member, substituting at every campus in the Khalsa School system in the 1990s. Her three daughters have all graduated from Khalsa School. In addition to her role at Khalsa School, she enjoys gardening, cooking, yoga, and meditation. She is a certified Kundalini Yoga Teacher. She graduated with a Bachelor's degree from Millsaps College in 1977 and worked as a VISTA volunteer before moving to Arizona in 1979. She worked in the medical field and administered a multi-site primary care practice for eleven years. She has completed graduate courses in business and education. In 2002, Karen completed her AMS certification as a Montessori Middle School teacher at the Houston Montessori Center. As the Director of Admissions for the charter elementary and the private primary/toddler schools, she coordinates the application and registration process for both campuses. She is the primary contact for communicating information about Khalsa School to prospective parents as well as maintaining effective contact with them throughout the year. She also conducts tours of the school for prospective parents. As a young parent in the early 1980's I began searching for the right school for my first child. Khalsa was lovingly recommended to me by a member of the Khalsa community. I was intrigued and enrolled my child as a two year old. My main goal was that she love learning and school and she did. Since that time, I have served in almost every role at Khalsa Montessori School. I was asked to start the middle school program in 1999 and completed my Montessori Secondary I training with Houston Montessori Center. I created the gardening program and subsequently joined administration as the Admissions Director, Primary School Director and Head of School for both the private and charter schools. My bachelor's degree was a double major in history and political science. I joined others in creating a primary care multi-specialty medical group in downtown Phoenix where I was the chief administrator. There were three locations. In the mid-1990's, I sought a change of careers that led me to Khalsa Montessori School. I believe in the transformative power of a Montessori education. I have seen my own children as well as my students who are all adults, benefit from its many facets. My commitment comes from my experience and observation of these qualities: independence of the child, the power of choice, nonviolent methods of problem-solving conflicts and a living community of learners.

Kate Sigman

Job Titles:
  • Elementary Extended Care Assistant
Kate recently moved to Phoenix from San Rafael, California. She will support Liz and Linda in Elementary Extended Care. She has over twenty years of experience assisting in Montessori primary and elementary classrooms. Kate has traveled all over the country and actually did seasonal work at five of our National Parks including Grand Canyon, Denali and Yosemite before settling in the bay area to raise her family. She enjoys drawing, food and film!

Katheryn Lane

Job Titles:
  • Assistant

Keerat Giordano

Job Titles:
  • Education & SPED Director
  • Education Director & SPED Coordinator
  • Special Education and Education Director
Keerat Giordano is currently the Special Education and Education Director of Khalsa Montessori School having served in various roles for the last 22 years. Keerat joined Khalsa School in October 2000 assisting in the Lower Elementary classroom and working with students of all age groups ranging from primary to middle school. In the spring of 2001, Keerat joined Jaswant Kaur Khalsa as her Upper Elementary assistant and she subsequently assumed responsibility as Upper Elementary Lead Teacher. In 2010, she became a part of the Administrative team. She served as the Assistant Director and the Co-Director (for the first two years) and then Director of the school from 2010 to 2020. During this time she was responsible for all the operations and overall management of the school. Due to her training and experience in the Montessori philosophy, she also oversaw all educational and Special Education decisions with input from the teaching team. In addition, she served on the KMES and KMPS Board for over 10 years in the capacities of Member, President, and Secretary. Keerat has a Master's Degree in Microbiology and Biochemistry from St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, India, and a Master's degree in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Connecticut. Keerat completed her Montessori Assistant training through the Arizona Consortium of Montessori Charter Schools. She completed her lower and upper elementary Montessori training (ages 6-12) in 2004 through Center for Montessori Training and Education (CMTE/NY). In her spare time, she enjoys traveling with her family, reading, rock climbing, experiencing various cultures, learning German, and most excitedly seeing human development unfold, firsthand, through her daughter.

Laurie Alejo

Job Titles:
  • Elementary Teaching Staff Member
  • Lead Teacher
  • Lower Elementary South Lead Teacher
Laurie joined Khalsa Montessori School in 2019 as an elementary extended care assistant then transitioned as a lower elementary assistant teacher. After falling in love with the Montessori philosophy and wanting to learn more, she decided to become a trained Montessori educator. She completed a year-long training through the Arizona Montessori Teacher Education Program in June 2022. Aside from her accreditation in Montessori, she also has a Bachelor's Degree in elementary education from New Mexico State University and tutored students at Sylvan Learning Center for 8 years. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, listening to music, and reading inspirational books.

Linda Meagher

Job Titles:
  • Elementary Extended Care Assistant
Linda joined Khalsa in August of 2022 after relocating to Phoenix from central Florida. She volunteered for 15 years as a vacation bible school teacher, classroom mom, and field trip mom for her daughters. She finds great joy in identifying and cultivating young artists. She is a mom to three grown daughters and two grandchildren. A life-long seamstress, artist, and quilter. She spent five summers teaching teens and young adults beginner sewing. Linda also enjoys travel and cycling.

Mark Dugan

Job Titles:
  • Gardening and Physical Education Teacher
Mark Dugan started at Khalsa Montessori Elementary School in the fall of 2007 as a substitute and as the elementary physical education teacher. Mark has been the van driver on many field trips and school outings. He has worked as a sub at all age levels and as an Elementary Assistant Teacher. He is currently the Elementary P.E. Instructor, Outdoor Environment Instructor and Elementary Gardening Instructor. As of 2022 the garden and sustainability program has a renewed focus on community service with Mark as the special project leader. Mark worked at the Gentle Strength Co-op for several years; he has also worked for Life's A Garden Organic Landscaping Company and the Green Goddess Nursery.

Nadia Tovar

Job Titles:
  • Assistant

Ninfa Hartley

Job Titles:
  • Assistant

Renee Soldanels

Job Titles:
  • Lead Teacher
  • Upper Elementary Lead Teacher
Miss Renee is happy to be in her fourth school year at Khalsa. She is an Arizona native, but really enjoys traveling, especially to California. Her favorite places are Albuquerque and San Francisco, but she also enjoys other big cities where you can walk for miles and miles. Renee spends her time sewing and crafting, hanging with her half-time kid, reading and studying, gardening and landscaping, and playing with her two cats, Daisy and Shim. Renee is a senior at Arizona State University, working toward a degree in Elementary Education. Additionally, she is currently working on her Elementary II certification with the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. This is her first year as the Lead Teacher in the Upper Elementary West classroom.

Revay Cargo

Job Titles:
  • Lead Teacher

Sara Park

Dr. Park received her B.A. from the University of Chicago, and her MD from the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine. She completed her residency at the Phoenix Children's Hospital & Maricopa Medical Center Pediatric Residency Program in 1995. She practiced and taught clinical pediatrics to students from the University of Arizona as well as Residents at the Phoenix Children's Hospital/Maricopa Medical Center Pediatric Residency Program at Maricopa Integrated Health System (MIHS). Her special interests include underserved and vulnerable populations and she initiated the Pediatric Refugee Program at MIHS. Dr. Park is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona, Department of Child Health. In October of 2015, she joined the Comprehensive Medical and Dental Program (CMDP) at the Department of Child Safety as a Medical Director. Her current position as a Medical Director at CMDP is right up her alley, as she has been able to continue her dedication to serving vulnerable populations, by working with and for the children in out of home care.

Satwant Singh Khalsa

Job Titles:
  • Director Emeritus
Satwant Singh began his long tenure at Khalsa in 1973. In 1980 he became the school's Director and oversaw Khalsa's Elementary program transition from private school into a public charter school. Please read more about Satwant Singh and his rich history with Khalsa Montessori here.

Shannon Pursell

Job Titles:
  • Lead Teacher

Tessa Ridarelli

Job Titles:
  • Assistant

Thomas Caglio

Job Titles:
  • Representative
Thomas Caglio is a Community Representative and former Parent Representative on the KMES and the KMPS Board of Directors. He serves as the Vice-President for both boards. Tom recently retired from the Phoenix Union High School District where he served as a Systems Analyst in the Curriculum Division and gained expertise with regard to computer programming and statistics. Two of Tom's children attended and graduated from Khalsa Montessori School.

Wendy Ramirez

Job Titles:
  • Assistant
  • Elementary Teaching Staff Member
  • Lower Elementary South Assistant
Wendy was born in Mexico, but has spent most of her life here in Phoenix. She discovered Montessori when researching what school would be best for her oldest son, who was three at the time. Wendy loves to spend time with her family, dog and bearded dragon.