MCS Staff


Maegan Brusaw

Head of School

Karina Konchalski

Office Administrator

This is Karina’s first year at MCS. She is originally from New Jersey and recently moved to the Jacksonville area. She has spent most of her career in the Medical Field and is excited to be joining the MCS Community! In her free time, she likes to bake, go fishing, and spend time with family and friends.

Christina Dieffenbach

Compliance Coordinator

Ms.Christina Dieffenbach was in the Navy for four years. After the Navy, she completed a B.A. in Early Childhood Education from the University of South Carolina. She lived in Italy for three years before moving to Jacksonville in 2010. Prior to joining our staff at Montessori Children's School, she was the assistant director for three child development centers on Camp Lejeune for 11 years. Christina has two children and she enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with her family and friends.

Amanda Cruz

Accounting and Operations Manager

Abigail Boeser

Temporary Office Administrator

Stepping Stones

Alice Hampton

Stepping Stones West Lead

Ms. Hampton has been at MCS for 20 years and 3 months! She guides the 1-year olds in the Toddler classroom and is affectionately called the”toddler whisperer.” Ms. Hampton holds an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education and her Montessori Infant/Toddler credential from CMTE/NC. In her spare time, she loves to sing, and play volleyball and ping pong. While at MCS, Ms. Hampton has been the Lead Teacher in both a one-year old and a two year-old classroom.

Lorrie Hall

Stepping Stones West


Nicole Hart

Stepping Stones Floater and Elementary Aftercare

This is Nicole's first year at MCS. She started learning about the Montessori philosophy in 2019 and is pursuing a long career in Montessori Education. Nicole will be graduating with her Associates in Early Childhood Education in November of 2022 and is looking forward to completing Montessori Teacher Assistant training this year. Nicole grew up in California and moved to Jacksonville in 2019. She enjoys the outdoors, road trips, and spending time with friends and family. Nicole has a 3-year old daughter.


Kelsey Keller

Primary East

Lead Directress

Kelsey began her career at MCS in 2014 as a Teacher Assistant in the Primary West Classroom. She completed the Trillium Montessori Teacher Assistant training in 2019. In 2021, Kelsey assumed the role of a Self Guided Lead in Primary East under the mentorship of Primary Level Coordinator Maegan Brusaw. This year, Kelsey is returning to Primary East as Lead Directress. She is actively pursuing her Montessori Diploma in Early Childhood (3-6) from the North American Montessori Center. Kelsey has held a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of Kentucky since 2011. She has worked with children for over 14 years and loves that the Montessori philosophy allows children to follow their interests and learn at their own pace. She has two children who attend and love MCS. When she is not at school, she enjoys the beach, cooking, and spending time with friends and family.

Lauren Blake

Primary East

Assistant Teacher

This is Mrs. Blake’s third year at Montessori Children’s School. She assists Mrs. Keller in Primary East and is very excited for the new year. Some of Mrs. Blake’s favorite things about the Montessori philosophy are that each child is able to learn at their own pace and that it fosters such a deep level of independence. She looks forward to furthering her Montessori education. In her free time, Mrs. Blake enjoys spending time with her husband, two children and family.

Kathy Thornton

Primary East Floater and Aftercare

Carol Gayhart

Primary West

Lead Directress

Miss Carol has been working with young children for many years in the New England area. She is new to North Carolina but is glad to have made this her home. Although she has been here a short time there is so much to appreciate about this great state.

Miss Carol has a BA in early childhood and psychology. She says the most important part of her education is what she has learned from the children that she has met throughout her teaching career.

Teaching in the MCS environment is a new chapter in her life and she is grateful for this opportunity to learn, grow and develop and acquire skills that will establish her as a Montessori teacher.

She loves spending time with her husband, and says that the best times they have had in NC are just sitting outside talking, laughing and appreciating the awesome weather.She enjoys her neighborhood; she says you can step outside and there is always a friendly person inviting you over for a cup of coffee. She loves the hospitality and the kindness of the people that she has met here.

Miss Carol is also pursuing Early Childhood Montessori Diploma Training through the North American Montessori Center.

Kathy Pesquiera

Primary West

Assistant Teacher

Kathy Pesqueira is completing an Associates of Arts Degree, with an expected completion date of May 2020. She has completed the Trillium Assistant Training and holds a North Carolina Early Childhood Credential (NCECC 2016). She has been at MCS for 6 years and has been an after care lead in addition to a classroom assistant. Prior to coming to MCS, Kathy served as a Marine Corps Community Service (Family Childcare Provider) and a USAF Family Services (Family Childcare Provider). Kathy plans to obtain her Bachelor’s degree and to attend training to become a Montessori Directress. When she is not at school, Kathy enjoys cooking, baking, and spending quality time with her daughters and husband.

Bree Coffman

Primary West Floater and Aftercare

Bree is new to Montessori Children's school this year. She has her Associates in Early Childhood Education and is actively pursuing a Bachelor's Degree. Bree married her high school sweetheart in October 2007 and became a military wife. They have two wonderful daughters. This is their second time being stationed in Jacksonville, NC. It was on Camp Lejeune that she became a Licensed FCCr Provider where she created a well-rounded environment for children all the way up to age 12 years of age. To date she has received annual training to stay up to date on the CDC guidelines and is looking forward to enhancing her Montessori knowledge.

Sandra Smith

Primary South

Lead Directress

Ms. Smith

Tami Beckes

Primary South

Assistant Teacher

Tami Beckes grew up in Wisconsin. In 2005, she married her best friend, who joined the Marine Corps. Together they moved to North Carolina and have two teenage daughters. Tami has lived in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Hawaii and Arizona. Tami has a certification in Early Childhood Education and has worked with children in a variety of settings over the past years: Sunday School Teacher; Girl Scout Leader, Kindergarten Aide, CDC Preschool/Infant Classroom Assistant and most recently Art Teacher for Pre-k to 6th Grade. She enjoys the outdoors, hiking, going to the beach and kayaking, as well as loves spending time with her family and traveling. Tami will be completing Montessori Teacher Assistant Training.

Olivia Hawkins

Primary South Floater

Lower Elementary

Lilian Sawyer

Lower Elementary

Lead Directress

This will be Lilian's second year with MCS. She spent her first year under the direct mentorship of Lead Directress Alice Hampton in Stepping Stones. After completing intensive Elementary Montessori training at CMTE-NC this summer, she is moving to Lower Elementary as Lead Directress. Lilian is passionate about the Montessori philosophy and is looking forward to the new journey! In addition, she is actively pursuing a BA in Child Psychology and Development with an estimated completion date of August 2023. Lilian has two children, both in Primary at MCS. In her free time, she enjoys spending family time at the beach, traveling, fishing, crafts, and painting.

Alexandra Smeage

Lower Elementary

Assistant Teacher

Alexandra received her Bachelors of Science with a focus in sign language from Siena Heights University in Michigan. She has spent 6 years as an educational sign language interpreter in the public school system, primarily working with elementary age students. She recently graduated with her Masters degree in alternative and complementary medicine. This is her first year in Montessori. She is looking forward to experiencing a different way of learning and completing Montessori Teacher Assistant training.

Justina Lewis

Lower Elementary

Assistant Teacher

This is her first year teaching Montessori. She has been drawn to learning the Montessori way since having her son who is now 2 years old. She achieved her Bachelor of Arts from Sonoma State University. Some of her favorite things to do are painting, writing, and exploring the beauty of nature.

Upper Elementary

Pierce Clawson

Upper Elementary

Lead Director

Pierce Clawson is a third generation Montessori Teacher, AMI Graduate from the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee, and a former Montessori student himself. He enjoys his passion for music in his free time, and likes the aspect of interdependencies between all subjects in Montessori Elementary Curriculum. He believes that the spontaneity and independence the child feels in learning through the Montessori Method is both a reward to the child's sense of self and to their overall growth. Mr. Pierce has earned a BA in Photography from UNCG and holds a Master's degree from Loyola University in Montessori Education.

Maria Celeste Lay

Upper Elementary

Assistant Teacher

Maria Celeste Lay graduated from St. Joseph’s College, in the Philippines with a Bachelor's degree of Arts in Mass Communication. She worked as a producer/writer for a television company for 12 years before pursuing a Master's in Education, majoring in Special Education. The past 4 years, she had the privilege of teaching children in Asia online. Maria loves traveling and hanging out with her family which includes two dogs. With previous Montessori classroom experience, she is excited to be a part of the MCS community and to complete Montessori Teacher Assistant training. Her friends call her Celeste.

Education Specials

Bob Patterson

Environmental Education


Mr. Patterson has been at MCS for 10 years, first as the Outdoor Education Assistant and most recently as the Lead. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Financial Management and a Master of Science in Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Mr. Patterson’s two older daughters attended MCS and his youngest daughter is a student in the Upper Elementary classroom. Bob enjoys kayaking, hiking and coaching basketball.

Rachel Sauber

Literacy Specialist

Rachel is joining MCS for the second year. She holds a MED as a Literacy Specialist from University of Mary Washington. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and as well as a Minor in Elementary Education from Roanoke College. Rachel served as Title I Reading and Math teacher in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, Fourth grade teacher in Fredericksburg City, Virginia and First grade teacher in Wake County, North Carolina.

Additionally, she worked at Montessori Children’s School in the 2021-2022 academic year as a Lower Elementary Lead. Rachel treasures time with her husband and her three children, cooking, playing sports and exploring the outdoors.

Brenda Helsel

Foreign Language and Art Specialist

Brenda has extensive experience teaching French, Spanish, and English as a Second Language in private and public schools in the United States and overseas. Her experience educating children ranges from being a French/Spanish Teacher and Dorm Mom at the prestigious Stony Brook School on Long Island to teaching English Immersion classes to Belgian pre-teens in Leuze-en-Hainaut, Belgium. She has taught French and Spanish in Maryland and Georgia public schools and for the past twelve years taught the dependents of active-duty military members at Osan Middle High School in South Korea.

Brenda graduated from Wheaton College as a double major with a BA in Modern Languages (French and Spanish) and Education. She earned her master’s degree from the University of West Georgia majoring in French and Spanish Education. In addition to her teaching experience, Brenda is also a talented musician who attended the Solfege Music School im Belgium. She has years of experience singing in choirs and performing on stage in community theater.

When she is not teaching, Brenda enjoys long distance running, reading, listening to music, and spending time with her incredible husband and family. Brenda loves teaching and is looking forward to bringing her skill set to the Montessori Community.