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Administration & Staff

  • Sowing the Seeds of Organic Learning

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JCMSOG is dedicated to providing an authentic Montessori environment for its children and families. To do this, we search for and invest in individuals that have demonstrated a commitment to the Montessori system of education. Meet our wonderful JCMSOG staff:

Ashraf Meherali Punjani, Owner

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I earned my Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Education from the University of North Texas and my Masters of Education in Philosophy and Education from Teacher’s College – Columbia University in New York. I am a certified Elementary Teacher.
 
Born in Mumbai, I immigrated to the US in 1989 to pursue higher education. I discovered Education as a passion through voluntary service as a teacher in our house of prayer religious education program. I have over 20 years of teaching and School Administration experience. I continue to serve actively in the community in education and youth development. I moved to Atlanta, GA after getting married in 2002. I belong to a family of entrepreneurs engaging in retail and wholesale businesses. I currently reside in Johns Creek with my husband, Akbar Punjani, and our son, Kayden.
 

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I believe my purpose in life is to learn and to seek to understand all that life has to offer.  I aspire to instill the love of learning in all around me. My goal is to provide a meaningful, authentic and holistic academic program; one that offers a strong and resilient foundation that will aid students, parents, teacher and staff to maximize their existential potential and life experiences.
 
The vision for my organization is that AMP Academics be an institution of prestigious schools that are recognized for their excellence.
 
The mission of Johns Creek Montessori School of Georgia is to nurture a love for learning by inspiring individuals to realize their full potential. We do this by investing in strong staff, promoting family unity, and partnering with the community.

Denise Harold, Director

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I fell in love with the Montessori system of education and its approach to children when I experienced it through the eyes of my youngest daughter, Kristen.
 
I have been a Montessori Guide since 2004.  I obtained my first Montessori Early Childhood credential from the North American Montessori Centre in British Columbia that same year.  Because of my love of the Montessori philosophy, I decided to pursue a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education with a concentration in Montessori Education.  I graduated with honors in July 2007 and also received my Montessori Early Childhood teaching credential from the Pan American Montessori Society in 2008.
 
My graduate thesis compared the behaviors of children in traditional classroom with the behaviors of children in a Montessori environment.  Even though the Montessori classroom used in the study was not a truly authentic Montessori environment and was experiencing some turmoil in the loss of a teacher, the study still demonstrated that the children in the Montessori environment showed a statistically significant greater emotional and social maturity than their counterparts in the traditional environment. I am reminded of this phenomenon every day as I observe the children and how much more they can accomplish when given freedom within an environment designed for their developmental needs.
 
Prior to coming to Montessori, I worked extensively in Sales, Marketing, and Training.  I worked with adult learners for over 20 years before beginning my work with the children.
 
I came to Johns Creek Montessori School of Georgia in 2013 charged with the mission to create an authentic Montessori program. We redesigned the classrooms, invested in professional, well-trained Montessori Guides, and reinforced basic Montessori principles throughout the school. Since that time, our school has grown from 2 small classrooms with about 20 students to 5 much larger classrooms with about 90 students! We have built a strong community of families that believe in what we offer and support each other. I am very proud of the excellent Montessori program we offer our families and their children today.
 
I live in Johns Creek with my husband, Jeff, my 2 daughters, Julia and Kristen, and our dog Shorty.

Jennifer Gaulding, Assistant Director

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Born and raised in Orlando, Florida, I moved to Georgia in 2002 to attend Emory University, where I received my Bachelor’s degree in Biology with a minor in Music.  After a brief stint in clinical research administration, I decided to pursue my passion – Science Education – and went on to get my Master’s in Teaching from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Though my husband, Jeff, and I loved North Carolina, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to come “home;” so when I was recruited for a science teaching position at Northview High School, we happily returned to the Atlanta area.  Since then, I have taught in a variety of educational settings including middle school, high school, and college in both public and private schools.  I have also tutored students in many subjects and at nearly all levels, with a focus on academic test prep for high school students.
 
Meanwhile, I was fortunate enough to became a mom!  In 2014, I came to JCMSOG as a parent who was vigorously looking for an educational program that worked for my child – a place that would meet her where she was, notice and respond to her unique attributes, and provide her with a supporting environment that would allow her to thrive.  Since that moment, everything that I have both lived and studied about Montessori has resonated deeply with all that I believe about education and child development.  I was hired as the Assistant Director in May 2016, and I am thrilled to be embarking on the next phase of my journey as a Montessori educator.  My daughters, Kaitlyn and Caroline, are students at JCMSOG, and we are all very grateful for this opportunity to love and grow with your family!

Debra Markham, Pre-Primary Level Manager and Peace Community Lead Guide (Toddler)

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My childhood was spent mostly in Europe though my family settled in Georgia when I was eleven. I earned a BA in Elementary Education from Augusta University and taught 7th and 4th grades in an inner city school for 3 years before moving to Atlanta in 1982.
 
I was hired by Marlene Lerer, founder of The Suzuki School in Atlanta, that same year and taught a 1st/2nd grade combination, a 3rd/4th grade combination and Kindergarten before becoming an Assistant Director in 1987. Several years later, I became a Director and in 2006, become the Head of Schools for what had evolved into the three Suzuki campuses. In January 2014, I worked with the Suzuki staff in the opening of the Montessori Teacher Education Institute here in Atlanta; this training center is accredited by both MACTE (Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education) and AMS (American Montessori Society).
 
I was trained by Dr. Feland Meadows, the Goizueta Endowed Chair of Early Childhood at Kennesaw State University, in 2007 and received my 2.5-6 year old credential from the Pan American Montessori Society in 2013. I have completed one year of PAMS Infant/Toddler training at Kennesaw and have also completed the AMS Infant/Toddler training with Christine Frost of the Princeton Center for Teacher Education in the fall of 2015. I received my Birth to Three credential from the American Montessori Society in the spring of 2016
 
I realize that in going back into the classroom, I have come full circle and am delighted to be once again at the heart of what I have always loved: the children and the classroom that they create within a school that is fully committed to excellence.
 
I live in Marietta with my husband. My daughter and her husband, both Montessori teachers themselves, live nearby and have given us our first grandchild, a little girl named Adelaide who is currently enrolled in the Joy Community. My passions are teaching, gardening, cooking and books and I look forward to sharing all of these – and more – with your children!

Anu Rawat, Peace Community Assistant (Toddler)

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I was born in Delhi, India. I earned my Bachelor’s & master’s degrees in Commerce & Education before coming to USA. While in India, I gained 8 years of valuable teaching experience in Elementary School education. After coming to USA, I had an opportunity to teach in a Montessori school in Cleveland, OH for 2 years. That was my first chance of exposure to Montessori method of education. I quickly fell in love with the philosophy and the approaches used in letting the child develop his/her innate capabilities. I love the fact that Montessori classrooms are not run by the teachers alone. Students are taught to manage their own community and develop leadership skills and independence. I took a break from teaching when my son was born in 2013.
 
I recently moved to Johns Creek, GA with my husband Ajit (Mechanical Engineer) and our son Vihaan. Once he was ready to start his school, I knew for sure that he would flourish in a Montessori environment. I joined JCMSOG in August 2016. I am very excited to be a part of the JCMSOG family that provides a true Montessori environment for the development of young minds.

Ji You, Respect Community Lead Guide (Toddler)

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I am very excited to introduce myself to all of you! My name is Ji You. I was born in South Korea and spent my younger childhood there. When I was ten, my whole family came to Atlanta, GA, so I consider Atlanta my home.
 
I have a Bachelor in Early Childhood Education, Birth through Kindergarten, with a concentration in Montessori Education from Kennesaw State University. I hold a MACTE-accredited Pan American Montessori Society Teaching Certificate and a GA State Teaching Certificate, both for children from Birth through Kindergarten.
 
I am honored to be a part of your child’s journey as they strive to reach their potential.  The Montessori Method best matches my own philosophy of teaching – children learn best through play, having large uninterrupted blocks of time to explore and discover on their own, with windows of opportunity for specialized learning unique to each child, just to name a few. I strive every day to make sure that each child in my classroom feels special, safe and happy!

Naomi Douglas, Respect Community Assistant (Toddler)

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I was born in Atlanta and raised in the Lawrenceville-Suwanee area. I am married to Neil and have a beautiful son, Jackson. I realized my love for children while babysitting in high school and decided to pursue a career doing something I loved. I received my Technical Certificate of Credit in Early Child Care and Education in the summer of 2016.
 
I learned about the Montessori method of teaching while I was in school and was intrigued. I had heard about it before and wanted to learn more. I took a tour of JCMSOG and was amazed at how polite and organized the children were and how very independent they were. I knew immediately it was something of which I wanted to be a part.
 
I started working as the Respect Community Assistant in Fall 2016 and my son Jackson enrolled in the Peace Community. I am excited to continue my own learning and plan to start my Montessori Training in 2017.

Pooja Verma, Joy Community Lead Guide (Infant)

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I was born and raised in Shimla, India and call Johns Creek, GA my home since 2011.
 
I received my Bachelor’s degree in Education in 2006 with and Master’s degree in English in 2010. I also hold a certification in Computer Applications. I have a penchant for teaching and technology.
 
I also received certification in Fundamentals of Montessori and apply that knowledge at work and at home to help shape the future of America. I am happy to be part of the JCMSOG family.
 
I love being around kids and have friends of all ages. I feel optimistic, energetic, give a helping hand and an ear to listen. Some of my interests are gardening, doing yoga, reading and hiking.
 
I am a wife to an awesome Software Engineer, Neerav, and a mother to a cutie we call Aria!

Silvia Torres, Joy Community Assistant (Infant)

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I was born in Tamaulipas, Mexico and moved to the United Sates in 2008. I am working on my Bachelor’s degree in Pedagogy. I was teaching middle school in my country as part of my professional practice. I was also teaching adults to finish the basic education in Mexico. When I moved to Tennessee, I worked in a church school.
 
I am very excited to join Johns Creek Montessori School of Georgia. During my schooling, I learned the theory about the Montessori system of education. I am excited that now I have the opportunity to practice and learn more about it. I love children and I enjoy working with them.
 
I live in Johns Creek with my husband Omar, my son Alan, and my daughter Atenea.

Andrea Marin, Infant-Toddler Community Assistant

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I am of Venezuelan decent, but was born and raised in Lawrenceville Georgia. During my free time, I enjoy hiking, traveling, and swimming.
 
I spent most of my childhood playing soccer and volunteering at church. As an only child, I was always interested in young children. I felt that the public schooling I received was very basic and that there had to be another way of teaching that keeps students involved and interested in learning.
 
Through research, I found out about and was intrigued with the Montessori style of teaching. I was excited for the opportunity to join the Montessori Teacher Training Program at Kennesaw State University for children ages 2.5 to 6 years old through the Pan American Montessori Society. I am looking forward to receiving my certification and graduating from the program in May of 2017.
 
I joined Johns Creek Montessori School of Georgia in July 2015, where I have the opportunity of a lifetime to be a role model for the children. I hope to continue to learn from my peers and become the Best teacher I can be.

Camilla Estrada, Infant-Toddler Community Assistant

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I am graduating from Georgia State University in May 2017 with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, and a concentration in Early Childhood Development. I look to further my education at Emory University to become a Pediatrics anesthesiologist.
 
I am bilingual in Spanish and English and am an older sister to one younger brother, JP. Due to an 8 year age gap, my parents always told me to be a role model for him. I loved seeing how he grew and how curious a child’s mind truly is. Over time my love for children grew. In high school, I worked part-time in day cares. I also have been volunteering for the past 4 years to assist with the Children’s Assembly of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.
 
If there is a certain group of people I could always be around, it’s surely kids. I am excited to watch your children grow and see how they develop while here a Johns Creek Montessori School of Georgia.

Tyler Norwood, Honesty Community Lead Guide (Primary)

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I was born in Kennesaw, Georgia, grew up in historic Acworth, and graduated from North Cobb High School.
 
I studied the Montessori system of education under Dr. Feland Meadows at Kennesaw State University. I received my Montessori teaching certificate for children ages 2.5-6 years old through the Pan-American Montessori Society in 2013.
 
I say Montessori found me because I started working at The Suzuki School as an intern. Then one day I was needed to substitute in a classroom and immediately fell in love. I was mesmerized at how new concepts were presented to the children and how they had the freedom to do what interested them the most. I started teaching in 2009 at The Suzuki School and left to find a more authentic Montessori environment. I taught at Nesbit Ferry Montessori until joining JCMSOG in June of 2015.
 
I share JCMSOG’s commitment to providing a true Montessori experience for all of our children. I love to work with the children in the garden and to find ways to bring them closer to the nature world.
 
I live in Historic Marietta with my wife, Zoe, and our daughter, Adelaide, who was born in July 2015!

Carrie Bailey, Honesty Community Assistant (Primary)

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I am so thrilled to be working at Johns Creek Montessori School of Georgia as the Honesty Community Assistant!
 
I have a Bachelor’s degree from Guilford College in Education and Sociology and a master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh. I have worked as a school librarian in a private K-8 school in Virginia, a traditional preschool teacher in Austin, TX, and most recently, as a program assistant at a non-profit camp for children with type 1 diabetes in Atlanta.
 
When I was looking to make a career change in early 2016, the idea of working in a Montessori environment really excited me. I love working with children and the idea of “following the child” and everything about the Montessori system of education falls right in line with my own teaching philosophies. I am currently training for my Montessori primary teaching certification at the Pan American Montessori Society and I hope to take my qualifying exam in the spring of 2017.
 
On a personal note, I live in Snellville, GA with my husband, two teenage daughters, and our two dogs. I am so pleased to be a part of the warm and welcoming JCMSOG community and I can’t wait to see what the future holds!

Jenny Brands, Honesty Community Assistant (Primary)

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I was born in Middlesex, New Jersey and I moved to Georgia when I was 8 years old. In July of 2016 I married my best friend and now live with Luis and my mom in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
 
I graduated high school in 2012 with a passion for teaching and helping others. I started college in 2013 for Early Childhood Care and Education. I soon learned about the Montessori System of Education and I immediately fell in love. A few months later I was able to work at a regular daycare and an elementary school but things never truly felt right in the way I wanted to teach.
 
When I graduated in 2016 from Gwinnett Technical College with my Associates Degree, I spent a few days observing at JCMSOG. I enjoyed the level of independence that the children demonstrated and how they were able to choose their own work. I realized that as a teacher, I would no longer need to sit at a desk and making worksheets; instead I would be able to be active and have one on one time with the children.
 
I am very lucky to be able to work with such an amazing team in the JCMSOG Honesty Community!

Zoe Ammatuna, Love Community Lead Guide (Primary)

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I was born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised in Marietta. I have lived in several different Georgia cities, but I now live in Historic Marietta with my daughter, Adelaide, and my husband, Tyler. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, museums, and exploring Historic Marietta Square!
 
In 2010, I transferred to Kennesaw State University and began working part time at the Suzuki School. At that time, the directors of the Suzuki School had just recently become acquainted with Dr. Feland Meadows and the Pan-American Montessori Society. The directors and several teachers enrolled in his Primary course, and enlisted me to help proofread their manuals. That was my first glimpse into the world of Montessori, and the beginning of my love for it.
 
As I continued to work at Suzuki, I spent more and more time substitute teaching in the classroom – at every level, from Infants to Primary – discovering my passion for teaching and my love for the children. As my dedication grew, I made the decision to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education rather than in English.
 
I attended Dr. Meadows’ training program in the summer of 2013, and I hold my Montessori teaching certificate from the Pan-American Montessori Society for ages 2.5 – 6 years. I have worked in Montessori classrooms in various capacities (Substitute, Intern, Assistant Guide, and Lead Guide) for six years.
 
I joined Johns Creek Montessori School of Georgia in September of 2015, and have treasured being a part of the community that has been built for our students and families!

Subha Thangaswami, Love Community Assistant (Primary)

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I am from Tamilnadu, India and graduated from Bharathiyar University. I have my Bachelor’s degree in Technology. In 2005 my family moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and I started substitute in my son’s Montessori classroom. I was so impressed with the children and I asked so many questions to his teacher. She encouraged me to do observations, that was an eye opener. I believed in that so I did my AMI Primary training and received my teacher certification at Navadisha Montessori Institute, Chennai in 2010. I was volunteering as a substitute teacher in my children school for the past few years.
 
My favorite areas are Practical life and Sensorial and that is the foundation for all the Montessori magic. My best Montessori moments are children care about their environment and solve their own problems in front of the peace table.
 
I joined JCMSOG as the Love Community Assistant in January 2015 and I am excited to be a part of the JCMSOG family.

Feena Wong, Substitute Teacher

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I was born in Selangor, Malaysia. I am married to my husband Keith Yee and together, we have 2 lovely children. My son is 8 years old and my daughter is 4 years old. My hobbies are floral arrangement and cooking. I graduated from Victoria University in Australia with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, specializing in International Business in 2001.
 
I joined Johns Creek Montessori School of Georgia (JCMSOG) in Sept of 2016 as a substitute teacher. Prior to joining JCMSOG, I taught children at the kindergarten level. I have also taught as a volunteer teacher at church for the past 2 years. I have observed differences in the children and teaching in a traditional kindergarten versus JCMSOG. Children at JCMSOG are very independent compared to other children of the same age. The teachers in JCMSOG encourage learning and exploring through a variety of different activities and the children are able to learn independently. I like the education system and hope to continue to teach, and at the same time learn more about the Montessori education system in the near future.

Archana Patra, Substitute Teacher

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I was born in the eastern part of India and I have a Master’s Degree in Physics. I taught in India before moving to USA with my husband in 1999. I am blessed with two wonderful children, Arjun and Esha. I have been living in the Atlanta area with my family since 2003.
 
My first interaction with Montessori education was when I enrolled Esha at Preston Ridge Montessori in 2005. I quickly noticed the difference between Montessori education and the regular preschool my son attended in Florida. Impressed with my daughter’s early development, I read a couple of books written by Dr. Maria Montessori and also started volunteering in my daughter’s class. I joined another Montessori school as a teacher’s assistant in 2005. When I moved to Johns Creek in 2010, I took a short break to help my husband set up his consulting company, but I found I was missing the interaction with the children and working in a classroom. When I searched for another Montessori school, I came across Johns Creek Montessori School of Georgia and was impressed with its perfect Montessori environment. I joined JCMSOG in 2014 and have been working as a substitute teacher since then.

Gloria Jew, School Operations Lead

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My Name is Gloria Jew. I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. I have two grown children, Paul and Rose, and a grandson named Kamina.
 
When Paul started school, Rose and I would visit my mother, who worked in a childcare center. I enjoyed seeing how happy working with children made her. When Rose started school, I began volunteering, and then I started to take classes in childcare.
 
After taking some classes and a being a substitute at different childcare facilities, I began working at Tot Town Academy as an Assistant Director. I love working with children. It makes me happy to see them develop the skills that will help them later in life.
 
When I moved to Georgia, I started working at Discovery Point, first in Pre-K, then as an Assistant Director. I joined the Johns Creek Montessori School of Georgia family in 2012 and I love to work with the children. I am very impressed with the Montessori System of education and the skills children learn at such a young age. My experience here has made me a stronger educator and I am excited to continue learning more about Montessori and child development.

Daisy Arias, School Operations Assistant

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I was born in Honduras, then moved to the United States in 1997 so that my family could pursue the many opportunities that America has to offer.  After working in the kitchen at a restaurant and running a house cleaning company, I was happy to begin working at Johns Creek Montessori School of Georgia.  As a mother of three children, I love working with kids!
 
My children, Juan, Fernando, and Allie, my two nieces, my brother, my sister-in-law, and I currently live in Lawrenceville.  We have two pet turtles, Rosa and Choche.  In my free time, I enjoying singing, playing the guitar, and spending time at my church, where I lead Bible Study classes for both children and adults.

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