Faculty & Administration
Crabapple Montessori School Teachers are all AMI-Certified and Experienced in Applying Montessori Methods
All teachers at Crabapple Montessori School (CMS) have earned Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) certification based on rigorous and specialized training from centers in the United States and abroad. Crabapple Montessori School also brings in Montessori educators to train the staff and provide ongoing professional development.
Each Crabapple Montessori School classroom is remarkable for the atmosphere of calm, order and joy, where children feel at ease and encouraged to follow their intellectual curiosity. This atmosphere is created by experienced Montessori teachers who know how to prepare for and monitor the progress of individual children following their own paths of intellectual, social and emotional development.
Founders and Owners See Crabapple Montessori School as a Legacy
Crabapple Montessori School owners and founders, Mrs. Maria Haider and Dr. Wali Haider, have been a part of the Roswell community for over two decades.
They have two daughters. The older one is a graduate from the Law School at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and currently works in a law firm in Atlanta. The younger one, a graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology, works for an IT recruitment company.
Wali retired from IBM, where he was a consultant for 25 years. He was formerly a member of the faculty of Texas A&M and Lehigh University and worked for Bethlehem Steel Company.
Maria, the School Director / Head of School, taught in elementary and middle schools for several years. She took time off from work when her daughters were younger and then returned to school and became an AMI-Certified Montessori teacher. To Maria and Wali, Crabapple Montessori is a way of building a legacy for the community and our society. They believe in the Montessori Method as a way of preparing children to grow up to be happy, confident adults who make positive contributions to the world around them.
Meet Our Faculty and Administrators
Please acquaint yourself with our Crabapple Montessori School faculty and administrators through their words and brief profiles included here. We also hope you will schedule a visit to talk to us and find out more about our dedication to children and their Montessori education. The Montessori Method is a way of preparing children to grow up to be happy, confident adults who make positive contributions to the world around them.
Director / Head of School
MARIA HAIDER | “I have been blessed in my life in many ways. I have a wonderful family and the opportunity to manage a school that is making a difference in the lives of children in our community by preparing them for lifelong success and happiness.
I was introduced to the Montessori philosophy by chance through a friend. I was very impressed and decided to pursue a career that involved Montessori education.
I continue to learn more about the approach to Montessori-based education every day. It is very heartening to know that recent neuropsychological research in brain development and education paradigms advocated by leaders in the field are validating the approach to children’s growth and learning that was developed by Maria Montessori over a hundred years ago.
It is a pleasure to be a part of a community where love of learning is at the heart of what we do.”
Maria is the founder of Crabapple Montessori School and serves as its Director. She has a degree in education and has taught Elementary and Middle schools for several years. She also holds an AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Institute of Atlanta. Maria is responsible for the management and overall administration of the school including supervision of policies and financial affairs. She also works closely with the educational consultants and faculty to implement the AMI Montessori curriculum at the school and provide an excellent learning environment for the children.
SUHEIR IBRAHIM, Lead Teacher | Suheir was trained as an ETS Paraprofessional and holds a Toddler Montessori Diploma from Atlanta Montessori Teachers Education. She has years of experience working with children and has been very active in community organizations. Suheir is fluent in Spanish and Arabic.
While searching for a position as an assistant in a Kindergarten class, a friend told her about an opening at Crabapple Montessori. She thoroughly enjoyed this responsibility, where she worked as an assistant in a Primary class for three years before securing the Toddler Montessori diploma.
In her free time Suheir enjoys spending time with family, trying to fit as many outdoor activities as possible. She is a mother of three sons in college and a daughter in Middle school. She often jokes with her children saying, “You’re lucky I enjoy being a mom!”
Toddler Teacher’s Assistants
HEND EL GHAREB, Teacher’s Assistant | Originally from Libya, Hend el Ghareb moved to the United States in 2004. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Tripoli Medical Biotechnology School. Hend began working with children shortly after she moved to the United States, and in 2011 she earned recognition as a Child Development Associate through the Bright from the Start organization. After hearing about the Montessori method of education from a friend, Hend knew that it would be a great fit for her own personal philosophy of how to educate children.
Hend has been married for 9 years. Her husband is a pediatric physician, and they make their home in the Woodstock area. In her spare time, Hend enjoys reading, cooking and spending time with her family.
MARIA IDALIA GARCIA, Teacher’s Assistant | Maria is a Teacher’s Assistant for the Toddler Program and is a graduate in Accounting. She has taught Sunday school for over 17 years. She is a mother of five and loves working with children. Her hobbies are gardening and reading, and she likes to spend her free time with the family.
TERESA GARCIA, Teacher’s Assistant | Teresa is from Guadalajara, Mexico. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Administration at Western Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Guadalajara. While studying at the university, she worked as a computer science teacher in a couple of middle. After obtaining her degree she also taught at the university and took a neuro linguistic programming course.
Recently Teresa worked at a local Montessori school for two years with infants and toddlers.
She got married and later moved to Atlanta on. They both love living in the Atlanta area. She is a proud mother of 3 children. Sara and Gustavo were born in Mexico and Gabriela was born in Atlanta.
MARYAM HOSSEINPOOR, Teacher’s Assistant | Maryam is from northern Iran, close to the Caspian Sea. She attended a two year college, graduating in Accounting. She worked in an electronics store and in a day care for a brief period. After getting married, Maryam and her husband moved to Turkey where they lived for three years before moving to the United States in 2010. She is also enrolled in The Paul Mitchell School from where she graduated as a Cosmetologist.
Maryam speaks fluent Farsi. In her spare time, she enjoys going to the movies, shopping and cooking.
SEPIDEH ROUHI, Teacher’s Assistant | Sepideh (“Sepi”) moved to Atlanta about three years ago. She recently joined Crabapple Montessori School and is assisting in a Toddler classroom.
CLAUDIA SARMIENTO, Teacher’s Assistant | Originally from Colombia, Claudia Sarmiento has been in the U.S. for many years, living in both the Miami and Atlanta areas. She has been married for over 31 years and has two sons, one at Kennesaw State and the other working for a local corporation.
Professionally, Claudia is a licensed Esthetician. However, after several years in that field she decided to return to her first passion – children. She has worked for many years as a substitute teacher, and most recently worked as a Teacher’s Assistant in another local Montessori school.
Claudia’s hobbies include cooking, gardening and spending time with her family.
CECILIA CAMPOS, Lead Teacher | Cecilia is from Argentina. She recently relocated from Spain, where she earned an AMI Primary and Teacher’s Assistant Diplomas. She also has a degree in Special Needs Education.
A natural with children, Cecilia’s whole life has been dedicated to education in some shape or form: from Kindergarten to Yoga teacher. She has a rich international background, having lived in South and North America, Africa, and Europe.
A mother of two girls, who attend CMS, Cecilia enjoys painting, gardening, and spending time with her family.
FARZANA KASSAM, Lead Teacher | Farzana was born in Mumbai, India. Her family immigrated to the United States in 1989. She completed all her schooling in Atlanta, Georgia. She graduated from Wesleyan College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Business Administration in 2001.
Farzana have been a voluntary education teacher since 2001 with many teaching experiences. Her interest in the Montessori Method of teaching developed when her daughter was born in 2009. Watching her grow and develop in the Montessori education system lead her to pursue a future in early childhood education with a concentration in Montessori. She received her Montessori International (AMI) Primary Guide Diploma from the International Montessori Training Institute in Atlanta and a Masters of Education in Montessori Education from Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland in 2014.
Farzana currently reside in Suwanee, Georgia with her husband, Akbar, and daughter, Ayva. She enjoys spending time with her family, volunteering in her community and traveling. She is pleased to be part of the Crabapple Montessori School community!
MARCELA MEJIA, Lead Teacher | Marcela is a wife, a mother of two amazing boys (Nicolas who attended Montessori for a long time and is now a senior at West Forsyth High School, and Martin who also attended Montessori and is now in Vickery Middle school), and a passionate Montessori teacher. She was born in Colombia, SA, and moved to the US twenty years ago. After college, Marcela came to Atlanta to study English at the Georgia Tech ESL Institute, and then, in 1997 attended the Atlanta Montessori Institute from where she received the Primary certification through the Association Montessori International (AMI). Since then, she has been lucky to work every day for the last 17 years doing what she loves the most. Marcela currently lives in Cumming with her family along with a dog named Tank. She enjoys sewing, walking, making puzzles and riding horses.
ANITHA SHANMUGAM, Lead Teacher | Anitha has a Bachelors in Business Management and holds an AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Institute in Atlanta. She is from Tamilnad, India, and moved to the United States in 1997, when her husband’s work brought them here. Anitha has taught as a lead primary teacher in the Atlanta area since 2006. She loves to cook, knit, sew, do yoga and travel, but most of all, she loves spending time with her two sons.
Primary Teacher’s Assistants
ANITA DESAI, Teacher’s Assistant | Anita joined Crabapple Montessori in 2005 and works as an Assistant in a Primary class. She studied Medical Transcription and Business Administration at the Hammersmith and West London College in England. She completed a Child Substitute Teacher Program with the Georgia Early Learning Initiative and the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta in 2003. Anita has volunteered at the North River Baptist Church pre-school and extensively at Sweet Apple Elementary School.
Anita, her husband and two children moved to Atlanta in 1999 and live in Roswell. She is the mother of two children, a daughter currently a sophomore at UGA, and a son currently a sophomore at Roswell High School.
Anita’s hobbies are gardening, reading, traveling and spending time with friends and family. She enjoys volunteering at the high school, and her weekends are spent going to her son’s basketball games, the movies, and local area festivals.
MARY FARR, Teacher’s Assistant | Mary Farr was born in Lancaster, South Carolina, and graduated with a BA degree from the University of South Carolina. She has had emergency medical training, and worked in a hospital setting under the direction of the head physical therapy department. She has also been trained in “Brain Gym.”
She moved to Woodstock, GA after she married her husband, Jim. They have two great boys, McKendree and Taylor. Both boys started out in a Montessori school and have now graduated from the University of South Carolina.
After she had her children, she decided not to return to work and to get involved in their education. A friend introduced her to a local Montessori school. One visit was all it took. With hands-on training and training through the Modern Montessori School of London, she discovered a new way to teach. For the next seventeen years in the same school, she found her talent and shared what she learned with the many children that came through her classroom. She continued to teach in three other Montessori schools for the next five years.
She retired for a year but she missed the “Montessori Children” too much! She welcomed the opportunity to come back to what she loves, teaching and learning.
VANDANA GOYAL, Teacher’s Assistant | Vandana Goyal holds a Master’s Degree in Computer Science and a Bachelor’s degree in Science. She worked as a Primary Teacher’s Assistant at Crabapple Montessori School from 2011-2012, and has also served as a substitute at the school for several years. Her two children attended CMS from 2006 to 2012, during which period she was a room mother and a member of the CMPA.
Vandana lives in Roswell with her husband and two sons. She enjoys going through architecture/interior design books in her free time and doing anything creative – be it flower arranging or painting! Most of all she enjoys being a mom and spending time with her family and friends!
AMISHA MISTRY, Teacher’s Assistant | Amisha is originally from Ahmedabad, India and has lived in Atlanta for the last 10 years. She earned her AMI Primary diploma from International Montessori Training Institute in Atlanta. She also has a Master’s degree in Accounting from India. Prior to joining Crabapple Montessori School, she was an Assistant Guide for 2 years at another Montessori school in Atlanta. She speaks three languages and brings a love of cooking as well as crochet and art to the classroom.
NILA PATEL, Teacher’s Assistant | Nila earned a degree in accounting at A.V. Parekh Institute of India and has a diploma in designing traditional Indian dresses. She has four years of previous teaching experience working as an Assistant at a prestigious Montessori school in Metropolitan Atlanta. She lives in Marietta, Georgia, with her husband and two daughters, who attended a Montessori school for their primary education.
Nila enjoys spending quality time with her family. She also loves traveling, walking with a friend, and listening to music.
ELIZABETH PUERTA, Teacher’s Assistant | Elizabeth has a degree in Business Administration from Venezuela. She joined the CMS community in 2006 after having worked as a Spanish Teacher and Instructional Supervisor for Berlitz Atlanta Language Center for 7 years.
She moved from Venezuela with her husband where she faced new challenges and found many opportunities. They currently live in Alpharetta, Georgia.
Elizabeth enjoys spending her free time with her husband and their two dogs (Cavalier King Charles), Chester and Prince. She also loves traveling, reading, going to the movies, and spending time with friends.
SERETTE SMITH, Lead Teacher | Serette holds a bachelor’s of science in education with a specialization in early childhood from the University of North Texas at Denton. She is currently taking the AMI Montessori Elementary teachers summer training program at the Montessori Institute of San Diego.
Though originally from Texas, she and her family love to travel and have lived in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Serette loves to read, write and try new foods. She is the mother of twin boys, and on weekends, she and her family can be found at the baseball fields, on the hiking trails or home cooking together. Serette is actively involved in her church community.
Elementary Teacher’s Assistant
CAROL CRAIG, Teacher’s Assistant | Originally from New Jersey, Carol attended both Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts programs at The New York Restaurant School. She moved to Atlanta with her family in 1995 and currently lives in Roswell. She has three boys – two in college and one in high school – and they are her greatest source of pride and inspiration.
Carol’s interests include cooking for friends, traveling, working out, watching movies, and taking long walks with her two black labs.
JONI LINCH, Teacher’s Assistant | Joni (pronounced “Johnny”) relocated to Georgia from South Carolina, where she was the Director of The Clemson Montessori School. She has over 25 years of experience as a primary (ages 3-6) Montessori teacher in Michigan and Georgia and as a Montessori school director in Ohio and South Carolina. She is a Graduate of The Ohio State University with Bachelors of Art Education and received the AMI Montessori diploma from Edgecliff College, Cincinnati, Ohio. She loves bringing the passion of learning to children. One of her own passions is music, and she has trained Montessori teachers in music for the primary classrooms. Joni has two grown children and lives with her husband in Alpharetta, Georgia.
TUTTY FELICIANO, Primary Education Director | “Recently on a cool spring day, I took a slow walk through my garden. I was curious to see which plants had survived the winter and were starting to grow and show their pale green leaves. I was very careful as I stepped on the pine straw, for I was sure something would be germinating by my feet. Carefully I moved the straw and there it was: a tender leaf ready to grow and seek the light. It is such a lovely cycle that repeats itself year after year.
And so it happens in a Montessori class. I taught for 32 years, and every year I was amazed, and still am, at how these children learn. After a winter of lessons and concentrated work, one day you hear a very excited voice saying, “I did it!” – a voice that accompanies a smile as beautiful as a new spring flower. A Montessori class is a garden that is constantly blooming.
The teacher presents the lessons and allows the child to manipulate and work with the beautiful materials so he can learn and often discover new ways to use the materials all by himself. These discoveries lead the way to new facts and new relationships.
As the Education Director for the Primary classes at CMS, I observe and see the new discoveries children are making through the repetition of their spontaneous, exciting, joyful, unhurried, work. I see many happy children.”
Tutty mentors the staff and works closely with our teachers to develop and maintain the best practices in classroom teaching and management. Tutty is a graduate of Centenary College, NJ, and is an AMI-certified primary teacher. She taught in a prestigious Montessori school in metropolitan Atlanta for over 30 years and is well-known and highly respected in the Atlanta Montessori community. She lives in Marietta, Georgia, and has two children and a grandson.
AFSHAN KHAN, Reading Specialist | Afshan has a Bachelor of Science degree and a Postgraduate Certificate in Education from the University of London. She was an Elementary school teacher for several years, most of them in London, England, which is her home city. Her experience in teaching has been wide and varied from Lower Primary to Upper Elementary.
One of the most profound experiences she has had was teaching at an inner-city school in one of the most socioeconomically deprived areas of London. It challenged her in so many ways, both professionally and personally, but it also made her realize how crucial her role as a teacher was to many of the children under her care.
Within a few months of moving to the United States, Afshan volunteered as a counselor in an after-school childcare program at the Decatur–Dekalb YMCA. Then she worked as a substitute teacher at an independent school in midtown Atlanta, where she eventually became an Associate Teacher and team taught an Upper Elementary class.
Afshan took a break from teaching and spent several years as a stay-at-home mom. In the fall of 2007, she joined Crabapple Montessori School. In addition to helping with administrative duties, her main role in the CMS community is as the resident substitute teacher. A few years ago she took a course on reading instruction based on the Orton-Gillingham Methodology through the Institute of MultiSensory Education. This led to another role she plays at CMS as a reading support teacher in the Primary and Elementary classrooms.
Afshan lives in Roswell with her husband and three children. Her two daughters are both high school age, and her son is a rising 6th grader. In her spare time she enjoys reading, working out, and watching movies with her family. She loves to bake!
JUDY MCSTRAVICK, Elementary Program Coordinator | Judy has over 30 years of experience working in Montessori schools. She joined the CMS community as an Elementary Program Coordinator in 2009 when CMS was making plans to open their first Elementary classroom. After helping develop the program she has enjoyed seeing its success and growth.
Before Judy came to CMS, she was a Primary classroom teacher for 10 years at Casa Montessori School in Marietta, Georgia, where she opened the Elementary program and then served as the lead guide.
Judy completed AMI teacher training in Atlanta and Washington, D.C., in both the Primary and Elementary programs.
She is a ballroom dancer and avid birdwatcher. She loves being outside and with her grandchildren.
POLLY THOMBLEY, Elementary Support | Polly grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, and has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
With her husband, Polly moved many times in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, before settling down in Cumming 16 years ago.
Polly is a certified teacher and has home schooled her own four children for 11 years. She has also been a substitute teacher in Forsyth County schools for two years. While raising her children over the years, she has supported them in their many activities including ballet, marching band, scouts, baseball, swim team, and football. Her husband is a UGA fan, and one of her daughters is currently in the UGA Redcoat Band. Polly volunteers at her church weekly. When she can find a spare moment, she spends it square-foot gardening or scrapbooking.
NORA GILBERT, Director of Operations | Nora Gilbert has been with Crabapple Montessori for 7 years. She worked as a Teacher’s Assistant for three years and joined the administrative team in 2010. Nora holds a degree in accounting and a CPA from the University of Monterrey in Mexico. Since moving to the United States in 1996 to work in the corporate accounting, Nora has also worked with children in various youth camps and church classes. Nora teaches Spanish to various age groups, and is one of the Spanish enrichment class teachers for our children here at CMS.
Nora lives in Roswell with her two daughters. In her spare time, she enjoys going to the movies, shopping, and spending time with friends.
MAUREEN SKIDMORE, Administrative Assistant | Maureen and her husband have just moved to Alpharetta from Hudson, Wisconsin where she has spent the last 14 years working at Heartland Montessori School. After many years at home raising their three children she returned to work as an assistant in a Primary classroom. After being inspired by the mutual respect and beauty of the Montessori Method she decided to return to school her AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota.
Maureen enjoys growing a vegetable garden, cooking, beach vacations and searching antique stores for fun vintage items. With great excitement, she and her husband happily welcome two new grand babies to their family.