Maria Haider

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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.

Lead Teachers

Indira Hesny
Toshia Johnson
Marina Passador

Amisha Mistry
Cecilia Campos
Marcela Mejia
Jahan Nikdel

Serette Smith
Kirsi Tehrani

Teacher’s Assistants

Michelle Coggon
Teresa Garcia
Patricia Hernandez
Smita Kar
Yelitza Poulin
Vaishali Rao
Claudia Sarmiento

Anita Desai
Mary Farr
Vandana Goyal
Radha Khaitan
Dipti Mohapatra
Nila Patel
Elizabeth Puerta
Divya Yamarthi

Heather McGuire
Carol Morris

Support Staff

Hamida Bhimani, Elementary Support Teacher
Maria Elena Garmendia, After-School Program Teacher/Floater Teacher
Prasadi Jayagoda, Primary Support Teacher
Afshan Khan, Reading Specialist

Administrative Staff

Cheena Bhargava, Operations Manager
Dania Haider, Compliance Manager and General Counsel
Maureen Skidmore, Academic Program Coordinator

Director / Head of School

Maria Haider
“It is a pleasure to be a part of a community where love of learning is at the heart of what we do.”

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.”

Toddler Teachers

Indira Hesny
“The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” – Maria Montessori

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.

Toshia Johnson
“I am very honored to have been introduced to the Montessori Method! I am most amazed at how young children can learn so much in a well-prepared environment that allows for movement and for the child to be independent in choosing their own work.”

TOSHIA JOHNSON, Lead Teacher | Toshia is a native of Sacramento, California. She has lived in Atlanta for 28 years. In search for a job as a college student, she was offered to work at a school where she learned about the Montessori approach and discovered that she dearly loves working with children. She has worked as a Teachers’ Assistant and then as a Teacher for the past 15yrs.

In 2012 Toshia pursued a music business opportunity with Musikgarten and she now holds a certification and license to conduct Music sessions with students (babies, and toddlers) and families. She also pursed an education in Montessori and now holds an AMI certification in Montessori Education from the Montessori Institute of Denver.

Toshia is a single mom and enjoys her time with her wonderful son. He is her pride and joy! For fun and relaxation, she loves conducting Musikgarten sessions for families, playing the Ukulele, salsa dancing, yoga, meditation, arts and crafts, and reading all about the Montessori method. She also enjoys providing live entertainment and performs with local bands as a jazz vocalist for restaurants, weddings, private parties, and corporate events.

Marina Passador
“It’s truly a privilege to assist the ‘fate of the future’. In Montessori’s peaceful environment children find the respect they deserve so they can happily flourish as a unique individual while developing a love of learning.”

MARINA PASSADOR, Lead Teacher | Marina is originally from Brazil. Throughout her life she had the opportunity to experience different cultures by living in several countries (Argentina, Portugal and now the United States) which enriched her life in many ways. She has two children, a husband and a sweet rescued dog that has joined the family in all their adventures since they left Brazil in 2010.

She holds an Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications having specialized in Advertising and Publicity. Although she worked in her field for many years, she always felt something was missing and choose to make a change in her career after the birth of her first child. She fell in love with the Montessori principles after taking a parent and baby class and has been eagerly learning about the method ever since.

In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family while cooking, traveling, exploring nature or making DIY projects for their home.

Toddler Teacher’s Assistants

Michelle Coggon
“The child is truly a miraculous being, and is both a hope and promise for mankind.” – Maria Montessori.

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
“I love working with toddlers, they are sweet and lovable. I’m really happy to be a part of the Crabapple Montessori School.”

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
“I feel blessed to have gotten the opportunity to work at Crabapple Montessori. I am truly enjoying the experience and learning from the children.”

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
“The journey not the arrival matters.” – T.S. Eliot

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.

Yelitza Poulin
“I believe that we can instill a love of learning in children as they are human beings to whom respect is due. The greatest gifts we can give them are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”

YELITZA POULIN, Teacher’s Assistant | 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.

Vaishali Rao
“My byline is Keep it Simple! And who better to keep it simple than kids, our ambassadors of our Future. Working with them to help shape them to be model citizens of our cosmopolitan world.”

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.

Claudia Sarmiento
“There is nothing I love more than to see these little ones grow in their independence. I am happy to be a part of shaping their lives and helping them reach their full potential. Their enthusiasm brings me so much joy.”

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.

Primary Teachers

Amisha Mistry
“Being with children in the classroom makes me feel so happy and motivated. I am truly amazed at how children explore and grow in a Montessori environment. It is a pleasure to be a part of the CMS family which is very warm and welcoming.”

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.

Cecilia Campos
“Every child is unique and comes to the world with the innate wisdom to develop his or her full potential. It is a privilege to work in an environment that with care and respect facilitates the individual journey of each child at their own rhythm.”

CECILIA CAMPOS, Lead Teacher | 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.

Marcela Mejia
“I am convinced that the Montessori philosophy provides the strongest foundation for children to develop and become independent, responsible and happy human beings. Also, children have the opportunity to develop a love for learning in a peaceful environment.”

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
“It is an absolute pleasure to be a part of these children’s lives at such a young age. I believe that investing in our children’s development from the earliest age is the single most important contribution we can make as educators.”

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.

Primary Teacher’s Assistants

Anita Desai
“The Montessori Education provides the children the tools they need to learn, discover, and grow in a nurturing environment. It is a rewarding experience and privilege to be part of the lives of children as they grow, develop social skills and learn independence.”

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
“There are few things greater in life than when you see the face of a child and you know they “get it!”. It is truly amazing when they comprehend a concept. There is a light in their eyes when the understanding settles in the depth of their being. It is pure joy!”

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
“CMS has been a nurturing home for my own children and it provided them with the tools they needed to succeed academically. I am thrilled to be doing what I love in a place that I love!”

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
“Children are like buds in a garden and should be carefully and lovingly nurtured, as they are the future citizens of this world.”

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.

Dipti Mohapatra
“There is nothing more rewarding than helping children learn in an environment they enjoy so much. I am lucky to be a part of these children who continue to enrich my life daily with their smiles and warmth.”

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
“In the Montessori classroom, it is a joy to see these little children develop a sense of order, grace, courtesy, peace and self-esteem. I feel privileged to be part of Crabapple Montessori School.”

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
“I have worked at CMS for several years but it still continues to amaze me how well children can learn in an environment that provides them freedom and responsibilities.”

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.

Divya Yamarthi
“Dr. Maria Montessori’s philosophies allows the child to develop in an environment that encourages the child to be independent. The classroom gives the child the keys to the world, to learn at their own pace and through this, helps the children develop a love for learning.”

DIVYA YAMARTHI, Teacher’s Assistant | 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.

Elementary Teachers

Serette Smith
“I love being part of an environment where each child can make choices and experience the relationship between freedom and responsibility. I’ve learned that it is one thing to see a child’s intellect blossom; it is a whole different world to watch their spirit soar.”

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. 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.

Kirsi Tehrani
“Only in a Montessori classroom children can develop their powers of mind and have an active role in their learning. Everything is spontaneous and that makes my work challenging!”

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

Heather McGuire
“There are so many things that I love about the Montessori Method, but perhaps the most precious thing of all is that moment when the teacher can sit back and watch a child understand something for the very first time. A glimpse into the deep, inner workings of a child’s mind.”

HEATHER MCGUIRE, Lower Elementary Teacher’s Assistant and Physical Education Teacher | Heather received a Masters in Montessori Education and AMS Certification in 2000. Discovering Montessori and becoming a Montessori teacher remains one of the most pivotal moments in Heather’s life, a spiritual transformation that deeply impacted her professional and personal life. Heather worked as a lead teacher in a Primary and Lower Elementary classroom for several years before having children and staying at home with them full time.

Over the sixteen years that followed, Heather has been raising two daughters, volunteering far and wide as a coach for various teams, both athletic and academic, and working from home as a writer and social media manager. Heather recently decided to circle back to her first love and is thrilled to return to the Montessori classroom.

Heather has been married for twenty years and has two daughters, one in middle school and one in high school. Heather moved from Cincinnati to Atlanta two years ago and lives in Johns Creek. She has been a runner for more than twenty years, and it is still one of her greatest sources of joy. Heather has run several half-marathons and one full marathon… so far. Heather loves spending time with her family and while she keeps hearing that teenagers are really difficult, she has found that each stage just keeps getting better!

Heather loves reading and always has at least two books going. She loves spending time with her husband, just about anything with her daughters, talking with friends, entertaining, and traveling. Heather and her family are active members of their church and she and her daughters volunteer together as teachers in the kindergarten room.

Carol Morris
“I have always been passionate about teaching children to be independent, compassionate, and responsible citizens of the world. The best gift we can give our children is to provide a place where they can grow into those citizens – to me, that place is a Montessori classroom.”

CAROL MORRIS, Upper Elementary 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.

Support Staff

Hamida Bhimani
“I am delighted to be a part of Crabapple Montessori Community. I love to work with children and, I am passionate about the Montessori method and philosophy because it sets the foundation for life in every way.”

HAMIDA BHIMANI, Elementary Support Teacher | Hamida received her AMI Primary training from the Montessori Training & Research Centre in Hyderabad, India, along with her AMI Elementary training from the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee. She also acquired her Masters of Education in Elementary from Loyola University. She has been teaching in Montessori Elementary classroom for the past 6 years.

Hamida is passionate about teaching and guiding the lower Elementary students. She brings that passion, enthusiasm, appreciation, and years of experience to the classroom. She enjoys watching students take pride in their accomplishments as their innate love for learning develops. She has also volunteered to teach at the Early childhood center in her community.

Outside of school, Hamida enjoys spending time with her family, exercising, and cooking for family and friends. She can often be found spending time with her 3 year old daughter, Aaliya, or playing her favorite sport badminton on the weekends.

Maria Elena Garmendia
“The children are the ones who have taught me to teach. I have learned to teach from the child’s perspective, from his brain, from his needs. I have adapted my gaze to his gaze. What have they taught me? Everything…and they still do.”

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.

Prasadi Jayagoda
“In a Montessori classroom’s peaceful environment, children are given the freedom to learn at their own pace. It is a joy and honor to work in a Montessori environment where love for learning is nurtured.”

PRASADI JAYAGODA, Primary Support Teacher | Prasadi is from Sri Lanka and has been living in Atlanta for the last 24 years. She has two sons who attended Crabapple Montessori School for their Primary Montessori education. Both of Prasadi’s sons are now in college.

Prasadi earned her AMI Primary diploma from the International Montessori Training Institute in Atlanta in 1998, and she also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Science. Previously, Prasadi worked at Crabapple Montessori School for 8 years.

Prasadi lives in Alpharetta with her husband and two sons. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, volunteering at the MUST Ministries summer lunch program, gardening, reading, and travelling. Prasadi also enjoyed being a parent volunteer at Crabapple Elementary School, Northwestern Middle School and Milton High School.

Ms. Prasadi supports Ms. Jahan’s classroom.

Afshan Khan
“The one thing I admire most about the Montessori curriculum is how the teacher’s role is primarily as a facilitator and guide for the children making the most of a child’s natural enthusiasm and curiosity.”

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!

Administrative Staff

Cheena Bhargava
“Education cannot be effective unless it helps a child open up himself to life.”

CHEENA BHARGAVA, Operations Manager | Cheena is originally from the city of Heritage in Jaipur, India. She moved to Atlanta 9 years ago with her husband and 2 beautiful children.

A fashionista by nature, Cheena pursued Fashion Designing for 3 years and developed her own label and store for Indian traditional and Fusion clothing. She continues to flourish not only in India but overseas t by organizing shows and catering to people following their individual requirements.

Her move to Atlanta made her aware of the Montessori philosophy. She earned her AMI Primary diploma from the International Montessori Training Institute in Atlanta. Prior to joining CMS, she worked as a Primary Lead teacher for 6 years in another school and is now a part of the administrative team at CMS.

Cheena loves to spend time with her family and is always looking forward to explore art and creativity.

Dania Haider
“CMS is dedicated to providing the highest quality Montessori education, and this is reflected in its highly trained teachers and beautiful facility. I am proud to be a part of the CMS community.”

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.

Maureen Skidmore
“Montessori classrooms are a very special place where children are allowed to grow and blossom surrounded with encouragement, respect and love. I am very happy to be a part of Crabapple Montessori School.”

MAUREEN SKIDMORE, Academic Program Coordinator | 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.