Montessori School of Fort Worth Faculty and Staff

Amy Henderson – Head of School

Amy is our current Head of School, a position she has held since 2003 and is the immediate successor to Joy Sheffield, the founding Head of School. She served as the Head of the Elementary program since 1997 and has been a teacher at  MSFW since 1984. Amy holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Texas Wesleyan University, a Master’s Degree in Education from Texas Christian University, an American Montessori Society (AMS) Teaching Credential for ages 6 to 12 and an AMS Administrator’s Credential from the Houston Montessori Center. Currently, she is a faculty member of the Houston Montessori Center and engages in field consulting, mentoring and presenting to teacher education centers both nationally and internationally. Amy is an active member of the AMS. She served on the AMS Board of Directors for eight years, first as the Vice-President for Professional Development and then as President. Currently, Amy serves on various committees and supports professional development opportunities through presentations and writing. As an educator, Amy strongly believes in learning communities and is known for her own quest of knowledge, observation skills and leadership qualities. Amy enjoys family time with her husband and grown children, traveling, reading and outdoor activities.

Judy Duke – Toddler Teacher/Admissions Administrator

Judy has worked at MCH since 1982 and with the toddler community since 1984. Along with her extensive experiences as a teacher, she holds an American Montessori Society Teaching Credential for ages 0-3 from the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies (MECR) and currently serves as a field consultant and supervising teacher for other teachers. Judy also manages many of the office responsibilities as the admissions director, advises the other teachers and is a keen observer of students. Her interests  include gardening, reading, art and helping the environment. She has a reputation for her inner calmness, nurturing manner and extensive knowledge of child development. Judy enjoys gardening, reading and walking her dog.

Cecilia Aufiero – Preschool Teacher

Cecilia received her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois in Chicago and spent two years as the Motor Development Specialist in the Allegheny Valley School in Pennsylvania. She taught in Buenos Aires, Argentina for eight years prior to moving to the United States. Cecilia has been a part of  Montessori School of Fort Worth since 1998, when her eldest son  enrolled/ As a parent, she served on the Montessori Advisory Group. She received her AMS certification at the Dallas Montessori Academy and has been a part of the primary learning community since 2006. In her free time, she enjoys playing tennis with her family, reading and walking/hiking. Always positive Cecilia brings both a positive energy to the learning community and an openness to new ideas.

Katie Blair – Preschool Teacher

Katie was born and raised in Southern California, where she attended a Montessori school as a child. Her fond memories of the birthday celebration and learning how to read using the Moveable Alphabet and Sandpaper Letters led her to find a job after college as a Montessori assistant in Northern California. Katie graduated from Kenyon College in 2004 with her BA in psychology and completed her Montessori Certification at St Mary’s College of California in 2007. For five years Katie was a lead teacher at Montessori School of Louisville in Louisville, KY, where she helped start a new  Primary classroom. Now calling Fort Worth home, she is excited to have found MSFW and is happy to continue her Montessori journey. In her free time, Katie enjoys cooking, eating, traveling, sewing, being outdoors and spending time with her husband and daughter and son.

Katie Brewton – Middle School

Katie is a native of Des Moines, Iowa. Her children have attended Montessori schools since 2013, when Katie discovered Montessori education as a college educator. She has since witnessed, firsthand, the beauty and benefits of Montessori learning, and is thrilled to co-teach middle school with Dr. A this upcoming school year.

Katie holds a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University, a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, and Ph.D. candidacy from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a human development / family scientist by training, with foci on teaching and learning, statistics, and research methodology. Katie is earning her secondary I/II credential through the Houston Montessori Center.  

Katie’s teaching experience includes over 7 years of university teaching, most recently at Texas Woman’s University in the College of Professional Education. She especially enjoys teaching about family relationships. Her research can be found in the Journal of Genetic Psychology, Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship, and the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning – among others. A highlight of her research career has been a commissioned, national evaluation of financial education curricula for secondary students.

After substitute teaching in the middle school this school year, Katie is looking forward to a continued relationship with the middle schoolers and their families. In her free time, she enjoys reading, vegetable gardening, and spending time with her husband, Tyler, and kids – Emma, Jack, and Lucy. 

Amy Brimberry – Toddler Teacher/Office Assistant

Amy is a native of Fort Worth who graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington with Bachelor of Arts degree in English. She became involved with Montessori education as a parent, substitute teacher, and extended care worker at The Montessori Academy in Arlington. Amy received her AMS Teaching Credential for ages 0-3 from the Houston Montessori Center in XXX and subsequently  joined MSFW  She  strongly believes in the Montessori philosophy, and thinks that respecting and following the child, while allowing them peaceful time to complete their work uninterrupted is important. Since joining the MSFW family she  feels like she has found her “home”. Spending time with her family, walking, reading, and Formula One racing are some of her interests.

Helle Calhoun – Toddler

I became involved with Montessori education as a parent and assistant toddler teacher at The Montessori Academy in Arlington in 1999. I received my American Montessori Society Teaching Credential for ages 0-3 from the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies (MECR) in 2001.

I enjoy the challenge of supporting the many aspects of toddlers as they go through unbelievable change in a short period of time. Also, the Montessori approach with respect for the whole child speaks to my particular sense of logic.

My free time is spent with family (including pets) and friends, walking my dogs, gardening, reading, and riding Ms. Gail Corley’s bike.

Gail Corley – Primary Teacher

Gail has been a part of the Montessori community for many years.  Her journey began as a parent and Gail was so impressed with this approach to education for her own daughter that she changed the direction of her own  ten year career as a Registered Licensed Dietitian.  She  received her AMS credential for ages 3-6 through the Dallas Montessori Academy in 1994.  Gail has experience in administrative positions  and as a Montessori classroom teacher.  She holds a B. and a MS.from Texas Tech. Still interested in health and wellness,  she enjoys reading, walking, kayaking, biking and generally the great outdoors.

Catherine Fredian – Office Manager

Catherine received her Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Washington University in St. Louis. She is the proud mother to three sons who have all experienced a Montessori education. Catherine has been a part of MSFW since 2003, managing the school office since 2006. She enjoys the daily interactions with the parents, faculty and students of MSFW. She is an avid runner and enjoys attending her sons’ sporting events, cooking, and reading. Catherine is a detail oriented office manager, a welcoming voice on the phone and an enthusiastic supporter of the MSFW activities.

BranDe Hayes – Toddler

I was introduced to the Montessori method as a child, having attended a Montessori School from pre-school to fifth grade. The fond memories of that experience made me want to enroll my daughter at Montessori School of Fort Worth. As a parent I was reintroduced to Montessori education as well as a desire to teach.  As a substitute toddler teacher, I have enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing a whole new world open up as the children explore and take control of their own world.

Over the course of this upcoming school year I will attend the Montessori Development Center of DFW in order to receive my American Montessori Society teaching credential for ages 0-3.

My free time is spent enjoying time with my family and friends as well as volunteering my time to help others.

Lisa Hendricksen – Lower Elementary Teacher

Lisa graduated from Northern Michigan University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education K-8 in 1992. She received her AMS Teaching Credential for ages 6-9 from the Houston Montessori Center in 1997. Lisa became involved in Montessori education through the Fort Worth Independent School District. She says what she most likes most about teaching at MSFW is having the opportunity to work one-on-one with students and giving hands-on Montessori lessons to meet each child’s individual needs. She adds, “Having my own children attend and be part of such a wholesome, peaceful school community is invaluable to me.” Her other activities include playing poolside with her family and spending time with friends. She is characterized as outgoing, helpful and caring.

Matty Horton-Umscheid – Lower Elementary Teacher

Matty is a native to Fort Worth who graduated from Texas Wesleyan University with a double major in Business Administration and Psychology. She has been a part of the MSFW family working with the students since 2000 in aftercare and as a substitute teacher. She received her AMS teaching credential for ages 6 to 9 from the Houston Montessori Center (HMC). She currently serves as a field consultant for mentoring new Montessori teachers for HMC and teaches adult learners at the Shelton Montessori Teacher Education program.  She is especially impressed with Montessori’s ideas of following the child and fostering independence. Matty is known for her compassion; she is a thorough and dedicated teacher. She characterizes MSFW as a second home because the environment is so welcoming. When not at school, Matty enjoys time drag racing, good books, playing with her dog, cooking and most of all spending time with her family.

Cristy Lanford – Primary Teacher

Cristy began her relationship with MSFW through the enrollment of her children in 1992 and became a teacher in 1994. She is impressed with the children’s enthusiasm for learning, freedom of choice and the independence of the students. Cristy enjoys gardening, fishing, camping, crocheting and reading. She is currently one of our primary teachers and also leads our primary Spanish enrichment program. Cristy, a fun-loving, caring, sensitive and creative person, is known for her love of nature.


Rachel Nordgren – Lower Elementary Teacher

Rachel joined the elementary teaching team at MSFW in 2007. Previously, she had 12 years of teaching experience in a variety of settings: public school, European bilingual school (in Italy) and private Montessori schools. She received her teaching degree from the University of Oklahoma and holds an AMS teaching credential for ages 6-9 from the Houston Montessori Center. She currently serves as a field supervisor for new teachers and teaches adult learners at the Shelton Teacher Education Center.  Rachel likes the underlying respect that people have for one another in a Montessori school, to see a child go as far as they can and not be tied down by the group. She loves the family feel at MSFW. In fact,  it is the place she selected for her own children to grow up. Rachel enjoys traveling, reading, skiing, cooking and spending time with family.

Amanda Stone Norton – Middle School Teacher

After witnessing the cognitive, emotional and social benefits of a Montessori education with her daughter, Dr. Amanda Stone Norton left the worlds of higher education, non-profits and business ownership to teach Midle School full-time at MSFW.  Amanda earned degrees in Communication Studies (BA) from Furman University, Educational Administration (MA) from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Higher Education/Multicultural Education (PhD) from the University of Denver. She worked for ten years in higher education as a student affairs administrator and adjunct professor in teacher education, leadership and student affairs programs. When her family moved to Texas in 2008, she left higher education and joined the non-profit world as the Director of the Teacher Learning Center at the Botanical Research Institute of Texas, where she taught DFW educators to implement place-based, experiential learning—promoting the outdoors as a classroom. When her daughter was three, Amanda took time off of “work” to be a full-time mom, but during those years she volunteered as the Executive Director of the North Texas Children in Nature Network, started her own editing business and became an award- winning author of a children’s book that weaves together science and language arts in a bilingual setting.  When she’s not teaching or writing her next novel, Amanda enjoys gardening, swimming, sewing, playing the piano, kayaking, and hiking with her family.

Emily Pickell – Primary Teacher

Emily has taught in our  primary environment since 2003. She graduated from Trinity University with a BA in Elementary Education and received her Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Texas at Austin. For fourteen years she taught elementary and middle school students with learning and behavior differences in San Antonio, Highland Park, and Mississippi. She took some time off from teaching to stay home with her two boys when they were young and first became involved with MSFW in 2001. Emily likes the collaboration amongst the teachers at MSFW. She loves teaching the children in the three-year grouping and working with them as they grow and mature. She enjoys reading, walking/hiking, volunteering at her sons’ highschool and supporting their endeavors. Emily is dedicated, loving, and creative.

Gaby Rea – Primary Teacher

Gaby arrived at MSFW in 2015 with 18 years of experience in Montessori education having taught since 1997 as an infant/toddler teacher.  She also has three years experience in the 3-6 class. Gaby received her AMS teacher certification in both Infant/Toddler from the Mid-America Montessori Teacher Training Institute in Omaha, Nebraska and an AMS Early Childhood level certification from Dallas Montessori Teacher Education Program. Her two children experienced Montessori from the toddler age onwards.  Outside of school Gaby enjoys spending quality time with her family, cooking and knitting. Gaby is kind and nurturing toward children.

Michelle Romero – Upper Elementary

A native of Abilene, Texas, Michelle holds a BA in Philosophy from Schreiner University in Kerrville and a JD from St. Mary’s School of Law in San Antonio. She earned her AMS Teaching Credential for 6-12 from the Houston Montessori Center. Michelle has been teaching in the Upper Elementary classroom at School of the Woods in Houston from June 2007 until she joined MSFW in the fall of 2014. She served as the Elementary II Coordinator and has been an instructor for the Houston Montessori Center. Michelle enjoys spending time with her husband, Robert, their daughter, Jillian, and two dogs, Rylie and Aggie. She loves sports and cheering on the Rangers, Cowboys, and Stars! Michelle is thrilled to join the MSFW family.

Kathy Schimmel – Toddler Teacher

Kathy has lived in Texas  since 2000 and began her teaching career working with children with special needs.  She had the opportunity to observe in a Montessori classroom and fell in love with the philosophy.  Kathy earned her Montessori teaching credential from The Montessori Teacher Education Institute in Houston.  Kathy enjoys sailing, biking, gardening and spending time with family.  When asked about her favorite thing about Montessori education at the toddler level she replied, “it is the opportunity to promote the positive development of young children in all areas including social, emotional, intellectual, physical, and creative.  This nurturing environment is designed to foster security and happiness.”

Sarah Skinner – Lower Elementary Teacher

Sarah graduated with a bachelor’s degree in French with a Spanish minor and teacher’s certification from the University of Oklahoma.  She earned a master’s degree in Reading from Northeastern State University and taught two undergraduate courses. Sarah earned her AMS 6-9 certification from the Houston Montessori Center.  Sarah has taught Spanish previous  at MSFW for the elementary classes and has enjoyed substituting in each of the various classrooms before joining the Lower Elementary teachers in 2014.


 Julie Sphar – Primary Teacher

Julie’s journey to becoming a Montessori teacher started when her son entered the MSFW toddler program in 1999. She immediately fell in love with the school and started volunteering. Over the years she has held many positions in the Montessori Parents’ Club, including President. Later she worked in the school office, and then became a lunch-bunch teacher and substitute teacher for the preschool. She enrolled in the local Montessori teacher education course in 2004 and received an AMS Teaching Credential for ages 3-6 from the Dallas Montessori Academy. In her free time, Julie enjoys reading and genealogy. Julie says, “I feel very lucky to be able to work in such a wonderful place.” MSFW is very fortunate to have such a caring teacher that loves children and wants their education to be filled with positive experiences.

Terri Szabo – Upper Elementary  Teacher

Terri Szabo became interested in Montessori education when her children were young. In 1990, she took lower elementary training at the Dallas Montessori Academy and taught in a Lower Elementary Class for 12 years at the Montessori Academy in Arlington. She also taught Lower Elementary at the Westwood School in Dallas.

Previous to earning her credential from the Dallas Montessori Academy, Terri worked in an Upper Elementary Class as an assistant.  She recently completed her training at the Houston Montessori Center to teach in the Upper Elementary class.  She also completed her certification to be a Academic Language Therapist, an intensive program requiring 700 hours of therapy work.

Terri is married and has two daughters. Her oldest daughter, Clare, attended Montessori school for upper elementary. She is now a college graduate and lives in Austin working in the graphic design industry. Her youngest daughter, Kate, is a college student studying engineering and began Montessori school as a toddler and finished the 6th grade.  Before children, Terri received her Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance from the University of Texas at Arlington. She worked in the business field as an auditor and money manager.

Terri is passionate about Montessori education, collaborative learning and promoting a love of life long learning. On a personal level, Terri enjoys reading, exercising, and planning trips with her family.

Pat Williams – Primary Teacher

Pat joined MSFW for the second time in 2007 having previously taught at the school from 2001-2003. She began her Montessori career in Kentucky in 1980 at which time she completed the training for St. Nicholas Certification for teaching ages 3-6. In 1989, she completed AMS training from the Dallas Montessori Academy for another 3-6 year old Teaching Credential. Pat holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Texas at Arlington. She has completed the Schools Attuned training from The Learning Center of North Texas. Pat enjoys the Montessori community which develops within a classroom of learners. Away from school, Pat enjoys reading, spending time with her grandchildren and having lunch with friends. She is dedicated, dependable, and an experienced teacher.

Maarten Vanderstoel – Elementary Art Teacher

Maarten Vanderstoel teaches the elementary and middle school art classes at MSFW. He is a graduate of Dordt College in Iowa with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. Maarten owns and operates the Van Grow Art Studio in Fort Worth along with his wife, Hanna.  Together they teach most of the weekly classes and create the curriculum for all the classes and camps taught at Van Grow.

Lauren Vaught – Elementary

Lauren began her Montessori career in 2005 at the Montessori School of Central Texas in Temple, Texas. She started teaching at the Primary level, with students ranging in age from 3 to 6, and fell in love with the Montessori method and teaching style. After two years, Lauren made the decision to be a stay-at-home mom while her daughter was a toddler. She returned to teaching two years later back at the Montessori School of Central Texas, in 2009, to teach the Upper Elementary class, with students 9 to 12 years old, and found the perfect fit for herself.  In 2016, Lauren was the lead Elementary teacher for both Lower and Upper Elementary.

Lauren earned her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood from Abilene Christian University, as well as a minor in child psychology. She is certified by the American Montessori Society in Early Childhood and Lower Elementary, and is also certified by the North American Montessori Center in Upper Elementary. She believes that there is no better model of education than the Montessori model in addressing the academic, emotional, and social needs of a child. She enjoys teaching each student at their personal academic level and watching them succeed. Her favorite Montessori material is whatever sparks a child’s interest and gives them their own personal ah-ha moment. Lauren is a Texan and Californian, and loves everything about nature, astronomy, and the outdoors. She is married with two children, and enjoys spending her spare time with her family, cooking, taking pictures, hiking, and camping. Lauren writes, “I am very excited and look forward to meeting new faces and becoming part of the Montessori School of Fort Worth.”