Faculty & Administration
Crabapple Montessori School Teachers are AMI-Certified and Experienced in Applying Montessori Methods
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 three decades.
They have two daughters. The older one is a graduate from the University of North Carolina School of Law and joined the school’s administrative team in 2018 after practicing law for several years in Atlanta. The younger one, a graduate of the 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 | 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.
“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.”
INDIRA HESNY, Lead Teacher | Indira Hesny was born in the Dominican Republic and has lived in Atlanta for the past 9 years. Indira loves exploring nature, learning about different cultures, cooking, and meeting new people.
Montessori has long been a part of Indira’s life as she started working in a Primary classroom as an assistant over 9 years ago. This experience gave her perspective on how the human brain works in such complex and intricate ways starting at a very young age. Now, as an AMI-trained Assistant to Infancy Montessori Lead Guide, Indira loves sharing the joy and freedom of exploration with children while guiding them through the journey of discovering new things about the world and themselves. And as the children learn, Indira finds herself learning just as much, if not more, from them as well.
Indira is very excited to be a part of the Crabapple Montessori family.
YELITZA POULIN, Lead Teacher | Yelitza Poulin (also known as Ms. Jeli) is originally from Venezuela, where she attended 3 years of college studying English. In 1995, Yelitza moved to the United States to continue her study of English, and she completed the ESL program at the ICT Institute in Atlanta.
Yelitza has been married to her wonderful husband Michael for 20 years. They have been blessed with two beautiful children, David, who went to Montessori school for 9 years and is now a junior at Cambridge High School, and Maggie Mae, who has been in Montessori since she was 14 months old and is now in the Lower Elementary program at CMS.
In 2005, Yelitza walked into a Montessori classroom for the first time and she knew that’s where she wanted her children to be. Before coming to CMS, she worked as a Teacher’s Assistant at Ivy League Montessori School for 13 years and led the Spanish immersion program for the Primary, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary Programs for many years. Beginning in 2013, Yelitza also had the privilege of working in a Toddler classroom for 3 years.
In her spare time, Yelitza enjoys spending time with her family. Her faith encourages her to be happy and to help others. Working with children has been a very satisfying experience for Yelitza, and she loves working with them and helping them reach their full potential.
Toddler Teacher’s Assistants
MICHELLE COGGON, Teacher’s Assistant | Michelle is originally from the Philippines, a country of 7,641 islands. Michelle graduated with a B.S. in Mass Communications and Journalism. Michelle loves working with children and decided to leave the media world. To further her passion, Michelle completed the Foundations of Early Childhood Education training at New Hampshire Technical College. Michelle has been working in the Montessori environment for the past 15 years, and she believes that her work with children gives her a greater purpose.
Michelle believes it is an honor to witness the miracles that unfold every day at Crabapple Montessori. Michelle is grateful to be a part of a team that focuses on the celebration of a child’s life.
Michelle feels blessed that her children grew up in a Montessori environment where they learned the value of peace and communication and how to be freely independent. She loves spending time with her family and friends, as they are her true treasures.
Michelle believes that working with children is an everyday celebration of life. She is deeply excited to continue her passion and help guide and celebrate your child at Crabapple Montessori.
TERESA GARCIA, Teacher’s Assistant | Teresa is from Guadalajara, Mexico. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Administration at the Western Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Guadalajara. While studying at the university, she worked as a computer science teacher. 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. Teresa and her husband both love living in the Atlanta area. She is a proud mother of 3 children. Her children Sara and Gustavo were born in Mexico and Gabriela was born in Atlanta.
PATRICIA HERNANDEZ, Teacher’s Assistant | Patricia is originally from Mexico. She is one of eight siblings. Growing up in a large family, Patricia was constantly surrounded by children, and her longtime dream has always been to become a teacher.
In her spare time, Patricia enjoys reading, taking walks, watching movies and going on hikes. On the weekends, she enjoys spending time with her family and shopping at the local flea market.
SMITA KAR, Teacher’s Assistant | Smita is originally from India and Atlanta is now her second home where she has been living since 2001. Her family consists of her two children, husband and a sweet and shy cat.
She holds a Master’s degree in Economics. Now that her oldest child is college bound and her younger one is in middle school, she wanted an opportunity to spend time with small kids. She read about the Montessori principles and got interested in the Montessori system of teaching.
In her spare time, she enjoys reading and traveling.
VAISHALI RAO, Teacher’s Assistant | Originally from India, Vaishali has been calling Atlanta home for 30 years. She is married with two wonderful boys, one headed to Georgia Tech this fall and the other a high schooler. Professionally, Vaishali is an accountant. When both of her sons were born with acute asthma, she decided to become a stay at home mom. This gave her free rein to unleash her passion for dabbling in arts, mainly murals and wood and glass painting.
AMISHA MISTRY, Lead Teacher | 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.
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.
JAHAN NIKDEL, Lead Teacher | Jahan was born and raised in Iran and moved to the United States 32 years ago to have a better quality of life for her and her family. She has worked with young children for over 30 years and is fluent in Farsi.
A friend spoke to Jahan about the Montessori approach and after some time of thinking about her future and a career opportunity, she decided to become AMI certified through Montessori Institute of Atlanta. Jahan has over 20 years of experience with the Montessori approach. She absolutely loves being able to teach and guide young children to prepare them for a bright future. She also greatly appreciates the relationships that are built with the families. Jahan thinks it is a great feeling being on the same team with the parents for the success of their children.
Jahan is a mother of two older children. She lives with her husband in Buford, Georgia. In her spare time, Jahan loves to spend time with her family and cook delicious Persian meals, although she has a passion for cooking foods from all over the world.
DIVYA YAMARTHI, Lead Teacher | Divya earned her AMI Primary Diploma in 2017. She moved to Atlanta 2 years ago from Richmond, VA where she was working as a research assistant in the Pharmaceutics department at the Virginia Commonwealth University. After the move, she got an opportunity to volunteer in a Montessori classroom for a few months, which had a tremendous impact on her. She was awed at the guiding principles of the Montessori system and wanted to learn more. She enrolled in the Primary program at International Montessori Training Institute (IMTI) in Atlanta.
In her spare time, Divya likes to spend time with her family, reading books, travelling and browsing through wares at antique stores.
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.
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!
RADHA KHAITAN, Teacher’s Assistant | Radha is from Kanpur, India. She earned a Master’s degree in Economics and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, both from Kanpur University.
After marriage she moved to Kolkata and also lived in Moscow, Russia for a year. She moved to the USA in 2000. She has two children – the elder son is now working in NY and her daughter is a junior in college. While raising her children, she was an active volunteer in schools, neighborhood, and Fulton County Public Library.
In her free time, she loves to spend time gardening and cooking.
POOJA MAHAJAN, Teacher’s Assistant | Pooja moved to Alpharetta, Georgia from Charlottesville, Virginia in 2009. She is originally from India and her family of five includes two beautiful daughters, husband and an adorable lab Ozzie – named after her sojourn to Australia from 2018 to 2019. Her older daughter is headed to college this year and her younger daughter is a rising eighth grader at Northwestern Middle School.
Pooja has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Delhi University, India. Her journey as a teacher in Early Childhood Education started a few years ago. It is her goal to combine her range of experiences and make a positive contribution to the kids that she teaches and the larger community. Besides teaching, Pooja loves cooking, hiking and visiting new places. She is glad to be part of the Crabapple Montessori family and looks forward to knowing you and your children.
DIPTI MOHAPATRA, Teacher’s Assistant | Dipti is originally from Orissa, India, but has called Atlanta home for the past 26 years. Dipti has a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from Utkal University, and has also earned her Child Development Associate (CDA) certification from the Council for Early Childhood Professional Recognition.
All of Dipti’s work experience has been in the field of education. She was a substitute teacher for the Cobb County School District for 4 years after which she worked as an Assistant Teacher for the Georgia Pre-K Montessori program for 5 years.
Dipti is married and has two grown sons.
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.
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.
HOPE MOORE, Lower Elementary Lead Teacher | Ms. Hope finished up her AMI Elementary certification and master’s degree at Loyola University in the summer of 2020. Before that, she worked for three years at the public Montessori school, Huntley Hills, as an upper elementary teacher.
Ms. Hope is supported and loved by her husband, Kevin, and two teenage children Garrett and Emily. Her family has two cats and a husky named Luna. Before she decided to follow her passion for children and Montessori, Ms. Hope was a corporate accountant for 15 years. She worked in the software industry, the NASCAR industry, and IT. As a controller, Ms. Hope enjoyed working with so many creative, gifted people making each company a success.
Ms. Hope enjoys new adventures and nature. She loves to travel and get outdoors for some hiking, photography, skiing, windsurfing (it’s been a while), or just lounging and reading a good book. She stays active with a neighborhood boot camp and running.
SERETTE SMITH, Lower Elementary 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. Her experience in the public schools left her wanting more, so she turned to Montessori. She received her AMI Montessori Elementary diploma from the Montessori Institute of San Diego. Serette is passionate about the collaborative environment of the Montessori classroom, and she cannot imagine herself teaching anywhere else.
Originally from Texas, Serette will always be a Dallas Cowboys fan at heart. In her free time she loves to read, write, and spend time with friends. Serette is the mother of twin sons who are very involved in music of all types. Her boys are currently in the Honor’s College at Georgia State University. Her family likes carving out time to travel, attend concerts, and enjoy foods from around the world.
KIRSI TEHRANI, Upper Elementary Lead Teacher | Kirsi recalls Michael and D’Neil Duffy’s book, Love for Learning, in which they state that “Education is not a passive experience of memorizing what a teacher or a textbook tells us. It is an active experience of taking charge of one’s own intellectual and physic development, or growing internally and mentally.” That is what she believes a Montessori education is all about. Kirsi is just one of the supporters of her students’ inner development.
Kirsi has always loved learning and challenging herself. She received her Master’s Degree in Pedagogics in Finland and worked at the Department of Teacher Training at the University of Tampere. She also received both the AMI Primary and the Elementary Diplomas in the United States. Kirsi’s teaching experiences spans over 35 years in public and private school and with various age groups.
Kirsi is a mother of two college age children and one pre-professional ballerina with the Atlanta Ballet. Her free time is spent on ballet performances, guiding her daughter with her online high school assignments, and riding a bike through downtown Atlanta. She always has time for long walks in nature, which is her way of recharging the batteries. As the Chair of the Atlanta Ballet Parent Association, Kirsi gets a chance to meet beautiful dancers and a lot of people from Atlanta and all over the world. IKirsi considers herself a very lucky person whose days are never the same.
Elementary Teacher’s Assistants
MICHELLE WILLIAMSON, Upper Elementary Teacher’s Assistant | Michelle Williamson is Ms. Hope’s Lower Elementary assistant. She is originally from Florida, but was raised and has lived most of her life in Georgia. Michelle Graduated from Walton High School and has a Bachelor’s in History from the University of Florida. She is currently studying to be a Montessori teacher at the Montessori Teacher Education Institute of Atlanta. She hopes to be a Lead Lower Elementary teacher. Michelle looks forward to a great year for learning.
MARIA ELENA GARMENDIA, After-School Program Teacher/Floater Teacher |Maria Elena was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and she moved to Atlanta at the end of 2013. She graduated as a preschool teacher at the Metropolitan University of Caracas in 1980 and then she settled in Los Angeles, California. There, she studied and obtained a degree in Child Development and in Bilingual Studies and returned to her country with an idea in mind. After experiencing working in different bilingual programs, she opened her own language academy for children and adolescents in which English, Spanish, and French were offered, and it was very successful. Today, Maria Elena alternates between tutoring Spanish K-12 as an independent tutor and working at our school.
Maria Elena has three children: Andreina is a journalist, Cristina is a psychologist, and Gustavo is a senior in high school. Maria Elena feels proud of having instilled in them the value of family, the value of respect, work, discipline, and perseverance to achieve their goals.
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!
PRIYA KRISHNAN, Floater Teacher/Administrative Assistant | Priya is originally from Chennai, India. She moved to the beloved city of Milton, nine years ago with her husband and daughter.
Priya graduated with a Bachelor’s in Accounting and Commerce and a Masters in Economics from the University of Madras and received several diplomas in Computer Applications, Teacher Training and Learning.
Prior to Crabapple Montessori, Priya worked as a Kindergarten assistant teacher at a private school in Alpharetta.
Priya’s energetic attitude towards learning and teaching fosters a caring and inspiring atmosphere for her students. In her free time, she enjoys playing badminton, listening to classical music, volunteering at women’s health non-profits and spending time with her family.
CHRIS AMORINE, Front Office Assistant | Chris Amorine moved to Georgia 28 years ago from Florida. Before starting her family, she worked for a State Farm Insurance agent helping with sales and customer service. Chris has spent the last 19 years being home with her 3 beautiful children, volunteering at their Montessori schools and being a co-landlord of rental properties. Her son is a 5th year in Miss Kirsi’s class, her younger daughter is a Junior at Cambridge High School, and her older daughter is a Freshman at Georgia Southern University. Included in her family is a 9 year old rescue Labrador mix named Lily. When she has the chance, she loves relaxing on her porch, listening to the birds sing and doing puzzles. Chris believes that the most important things in life are her family and friends. She is so happy that she found both here at CMS!
CECILIA FERNANDEZ DE CAMPOS, Education Director| Cecilia joined CMS in 2013. She is from Argentina and has an international background, having lived and worked in Europe, Africa, North and South America.
Cecilia earned her AMI Primary and Teacher’s Assistant Diplomas in Spain. She also has a degree in Special Needs Education and various yoga teacher certifications, including yoga for children.
Her passion for education has permeated her whole life. Cecilia’s journey into Montessori began when she was searching for the best way of educating her first child.
Montessori’s child-centered approach deeply resonated with her and the more she experienced and learned about it, the more she fell in love with it. Her two daughters have been in Montessori ever since and currently attend the CMS elementary program.
Cecilia and her family live in Roswell. She enjoys spending time at the beach, running half-marathons, listening to music, and practicing yoga.
ANJUM FAROOKH, Front Office Assistant | Anjum Farookh is originally from Bangalore India and Atlanta is now her second home and she has been living here for 22 years. Professionally, Anjum has been in Education field since 1990. Her journey began at the Indian Embassy School Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. It continued in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where she arrived 26 years ago to take early childhood education courses at LSU. Anjum went on to work at the Brighter Horizon School while her husband taught at the university.
The move to Atlanta, Georgia came in 1998 when her husband got a position with the Coca Cola Company. After her son was born, he attended a Montessori school and Anjum became curious about this method of teaching as she watched her independent shy son flourish in his Primary classroom. She went on to get her Montessori certification, and has been a Director at 2 Montessori schools in last 15 years. She is also trained to be a special needs teacher and has also worked at Jacob’s Ladder Neurodevelopment Center. Feeding her curious mind is important to Anjum. She has even tried her hand at Hypnotherapy and has certification in that too.
In her free time, Anjum likes to socialize and hang out with friends, watch action movies, and being a military child, she loves trying out new cuisines and traveling with her husband. She and her family love to volunteer their time. Anjum’s son is a junior at UGA pursuing degree in Biological Engineering.
DANIA HAIDER, Compliance Manager and General Counsel | Dania is a Roswell native. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia and holds bachelor degrees in International Affairs and Romance Languages. Upon graduation she was a Teach for America corps member and taught fourth grade in the Atlanta Public School System. Following this, she earned her law degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill and practiced law for several years in Atlanta. Dania has grown up with CMS and joined the administrative team in 2018.
Dania enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and reading. Dania also continues to provide pro bono legal services in the community.