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, worked for an IT recruitment company for over eight years before joining the school’s administrative team in 2021.
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.
Pushpa Bhardawaj, Floater and Aftercare Teacher
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.
TERESA GARCIA, Toddler Lead Teacher | 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.
Toddler Teacher’s Assistants
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.
SHEBA JEMSON, Teacher’s Assistant | Sheba lives in Milton, Georgia with her husband and her playful Westie, Spyro. She’s originally from India and holds an Architecture degree from the National Engineering College, Trichy. She has two boys who are graduates of Georgia Tech. They are Montessori alumni and she credits their success to the foundation that Montessori gave them in their formative years.
Sheba loves working with children and considers it a blessing to being a part of their tender early years. She loves gardening and spending time with her family
RASHMI TAMHAN, Toddler Assistant | Rashmi is originally from India and has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Nagpur University. She has been married for 27 years and has lived in Atlanta for the last 25 years. Rashmi is the mother of a son who recently graduated from Georgia Tech with a Master’s degree.
Rashmi has been working in childcare and education for the past 15 years. She is glad to be part of the Crabapple Montessori family. In her spare time, Rashmi enjoys cooking, drawing, shopping, and watching movies.
PUNAM VEGHELA, Toddler Assistant | Punam earned her Bachelor’s degree in Finance and Accounting, and also has an advanced degree in Fashion design.
Punam lives in Milton, GA with a caring husband and two handsome boys. She is passionate about early stage education which motivated her to join our staff at CMS. In her spare time, she enjoys community service, volunteering, listening to music, cooking, shopping, and watching motivational and funny videos.
Fun fact: Punam has travelled to more than a dozen countries across 4 continents. She has been to 33 states within the US.
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.
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
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.
ISABEL MARQUES, Teacher’s Assistant | Isabel discovered Montessori while researching ways to become a better parent and was fascinated by the kindness and respect for the child this method provided. Isabel is the mother of two daughters, who are both Montessori kids and are currently attending Crabapple.
Isabel has a professional background in Arts Education, with a Masters in Museum Studies. She completed an AMI Assistant training course that prepared her for her current position at Crabapple. Her interest in Montessori led her to further her education and is currently training to become a Primary Lead Teacher.
Isabel is originally from Portugal, but grew up in Canada. In 2012, she and her husband moved to Atlanta, where her daughters were born. In 2018 the whole family moved to Singapore for 2 years and experienced living and traveling around Southeast Asia.
She enjoys camping with the family, hiking long trails, sewing, fermentation, and bread baking. In her efforts to become a better human, Isabel works towards being more sustainable, promoting cultural diversity, enabling the circular economy, and raising independent, free-thinking daughters.
EKTA SHAH, Teacher’s Assistant | Ekta was born and raised in Gujarat, India. Being raised with siblings and cousins, she has experienced the life of being a child along with taking care of other children. She is a proud mother of 2 kids. Without a doubt, she loves spending time with children.
She is a science graduate with a major in statistics. As a home maker, she has higher standards of organization and time management. In her free time, she enjoys arts and crafts, gardening, playing badminton, volunteering and exploring new places whether it be the nearest mall or Mexico.
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
PALLAVI CHAVAN, Teacher’s Assistant | Pallavi was born and raised in India, and has called US her home for the past 26 years. Her family is comprised of her wonderful husband and two adorable daughters. Her older daughter is in medical school and her younger daughter is pursuing a degree in Computer Science at Georgia Tech.
Pallavi holds a degree in Accounting. She has volunteered in her children’s Elementary, Middle, and High schools over many years. She has also taught in preschools for a few years. She is very active in her Sunday school and has been teaching students for the last 15 years. In her free time, she enjoys nature walks, playing badminton, and traveling. Pallavi is delighted to be a part of the Crabapple Montessori team and is glad to be a part of the children’s lives.
VANDANA GOYAL, Lower Elementary 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!
PRIYA KRISHNAN, Lower Elementary Teacher’s 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.
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.
HIRAL PATEL, Reading Specialist | Hiral is originally from California where she earned my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from California State University Fullerton. She has been working with children from ages 4-10 for over 10 years. Hiral has taught PreK to 1st grades in both Public and Private Schools, and is currently working on receiving her certification in the Orton Gillingham approach to reading.
She is excited to be a part of the CMS family and to learn more about the Montessori approach.
Hiral has been married for 13 years and is the mother of two children. In her spare time, she loves to travel, cook and spend time with her family.
PUSHPA BHARDAWAJ, Floater and Aftercare Teacher | Pushpalatha (Pushpa) Bharadwaj was born and raised in Mysore, Karnataka, India. She received her education from the JSS Science and Technology University. She worked in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering for about 10 years and met her husband there. They then moved to the United States in 1998 and came to Georgia in 2000. She has two daughters: Spoorthy (the eldest), who just graduated from UGA this year and is now working as a paralegal, and Kirti, who is now a freshman at Georgia Tech. She also has one cat, Momo, a playful tabby with long whiskers!
Pushpa has volunteered in her children’ schools for several years and has also played an important role in the Kannada community. Her passion for working with children first began when she began teaching children in her community how to read, write and speak in Kannada.
JAHAN NIKDEL, Morning Floater Teacher and Tutor | 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.
DIPTI MOHAPATRA, Elementary Aftercare Teacher | 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.
CHRIS AMORINE, Operations Manager | 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!
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.
SAIRA HAIDER, Admissions and Community Relations Manager | Saira grew up in Roswell, GA. She is a graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. Upon graduation, Saira worked in the field of IT for ten years. When she welcomed her first child in June 2020, she decided to make a career change. Saira has grown up with CMS and joined the CMS Administration team in June 2021, Saira is excited to have the ability to make a positive influence in child development and education. Her role at CMS will be to support families through the admissions and enrollment process, plan community events and oversee Marketing initiatives. Saira lives in Alpharetta with her husband and son. They enjoy hiking, live music and traveling the world!
VAISHALI RAO, Administrative 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.