Belle Berry, Primary Teacher

Belle Berry received her BA in Sociology at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. While living in Charleston, she spent her time volunteering for the environmental nonprofit Earth force. She also volunteered in Costa Rica at an orphanage during her senior year of college. Belle and her husband moved to Denver in 2006, where she worked for another nonprofit, Colorado Citizen’s Campaign, where she went door to door raising awareness for local environmental concerns. Belle worked in an infant room at Montessori Academy of Colorado where she fell in love with the Montessori philosophy. She received her Montessori primary certification at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in Boulder, and taught in a primary classroom for eight years. Belle also has received education at Nutrition Therapy Institute in Denver in holistic education and has a passion for healthy living and lifestyle. She also taught in a toddler program for the last two years of her teaching at Children’s Garden Montessori School in Denver. Belle and her family moved to New Orleans in 2016.

Belle joined Cathedral Montessori School in July of 2018 as a teacher in the Cypress class, and her son, Charlie, will be starting his first year in primary. After staying home to raise her son for three years, she is excited about getting back to teaching.

Billie Andersson, Academic Administrator & Founder

Billie Venturatos Andersson received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Tulane University’s Newcomb College and her Masters degrees in Special Education and Counseling and Guidance from the University of New Orleans. She completed her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction from UNO’s School of Education in 1981. Having sent all three of her children to Montessori Schools in their early childhood, Dr. Andersson witnessed first-hand the Montessori methods’ inherent flexibility, which adapted to each child’s needs, regardless of learning style or social maturity. Dr. Andersson has spent more than twenty-five years teaching in New Orleans’ public and independent schools – as a counselor, reading and learning specialist, curriculum director, and educational diagnostician. She continues to teach graduate studies in education. As academic administrator and founder of Cathedral Montessori, Dr. Andersson has worked to assemble a faculty, committed to Montessori’s philosophy and mission and trained and certified in its method.

Jan Weiner, Director

Jan Weiner received her BA in Elementary Education and Reading Specialist from the Fairleigh-Dickinson University in Madison, New Jersey. She earned a Masters in Education with a concentration in Early Literacy and a minor in Gifted Education from the University of New Orleans in 2005, where she was named Outstanding Masters Graduate Student. She has attended summer institutes on the Teaching of Reading and Writing at Teachers’ College, Columbia University and is currently pursuing her Doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction, with a minor in Early Intervention, at the University of New Orleans.

Jan received her American Montessori Society Early Childhood Credential from Missouri Montessori Teacher Education Program, in St. Louis, Missouri in 2010. Since its inception in June, 2010, Jan has served as the Director of Cathedral Montessori School. She stays current in the field of Montessori education by attending national and international conferences and is actively involved in professional Montessori organizations. Jan is also working on attaining her Elementary Montessori certification and will be teaching full time this school year.

Before joining the faculty at CMS, Jan taught first grade for fifteen years at a New Orleans Independent School where she designed and taught language arts, math, and social studies curricula and incorporated the use of literacy workshops. She continues her involvement in literacy studies as an adjunct professor at the University of New Orleans. She writes children’s book reviews for the peer reviewed journal Childhood Education (one of ACEI’s journals), serves as an advisor on the College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) initiative; and is a certified parent educator of the Positive Discipline Association, Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way.

Charlotte Lin, Assistant Director

Charlotte Lin graduated from Louisiana State University in 2010 with a Bachelors degree in Early Childhood Education. She served as an officer for the student chapter of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. As a member of NAEYC, she helped organize events such as Earth Day celebrations and many community service projects advocating for outdoor play and developmentally appropriate practices. After graduating, she taught preschool at the LSU Child Care Center for one year. As a native of New Orleans, Charlotte moved back home in May of 2012 and joined the Cathedral Montessori School faculty in July of 2012 and has since received her Montessori Certification.

Despina Dumoulins, Teacher/Greek Teacher

Despina Dumoulins received her BA in Sociology at the University of New Orleans. She earned her Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Counseling at LSU School of Allied Health, also in New Orleans, where she focused on helping children and adults with mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.

Despina received her Montessori early childhood certification though Montessori World Educational Institute (MWEI) in Hammond, Louisiana. She joined CMS at the beginning of its very first year in August of 2010. After taking a year off, she returned to teaching in the fall of 2016. In addition to being a teacher in the Cypress Class, she will be working with Billie Andersson to design and teach the Greek program.

Neda Geyer, Teacher

Neda Geyer was born in Frankfurt Germany where she attended Montessori preschool. She moved to the United States at the age of 10. While attending San Jacinto and the University of Houston, she worked at Montessori schools in the Houston area. Her love for the Montessori Method continued, and she received her Montessori Certification from the International Montessori Course and is certified to teach both the primary and lower elementary classes. Neda has taught at Montessori schools in Houston, San Francisco, Milwaukee, and now New Orleans. She is fluent in German and has studied dance and piano. Neda joined the Cathedral Montessori faculty in October of 2014 and looks forward to many more years of teaching the Montessori way.

Shannon Markward, Teacher

Shannon Markward received her BA in Communications from University of New Orleans. During her sophomore year in college, Shannon was asked to join a small group of students selected nationally to participate in the Walt Disney World College Program. During her semester in the program, Shannon worked at and attended marketing classes at Walt Disney World, Florida. In 2005 she shifted her career to one of her long-standing hobbies–photographing children and families. Once she and her husband moved back to Louisiana and for the past 10 years, Shannon has continued to follow her passion for connecting with kids and families through her lens. Shannon’s love of working with children led her to begin working part-time as a substitute teacher in Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. After a client first introduced her to the Montessori Method in 2006, Shannon has been a follower and believer in Montessori as a teaching method that invites children to learn through exploring the prepared environment. Her son attended Cathedral Montessori School, and she became a substitute as well as the official photographer. Shannon is thrilled to join the faculty of Cathedral Montessori and is dedicated to continuing her education by pursuing her early childhood certification in Montessori education.

Nisey Shanks, Teacher

Nisey Marvella Shanks received her Association Montessori Internationale primary guide certification at The Montessori Institute Northwest in Portland, Oregon. She also received her BS in Psychology at Marylhurst University in Marylhurst, Oregon.

Nisey was introduced to educating children through her work at children’s museums. The Please Touch Museum, in Philadelphia, and later CM2, in Portland. Both of these museums brought to light the magic of children guiding themselves toward their own learning. Through her years as an assistant in a Montessori elementary classroom, Nisey learned of the nature and theory behind the Montessori pedegogy. It was here that she saw the prepared environment specifically supporting the children in their educational self development. A love was created and a career was found.

While attending college Nisey volunteered with Americorp, working at the Fransiscan Montessori Earth School assisting the children in the garden. Nisey has also volunteered at Osprey Organic CSA Farm, Float On in Portland, and many other organizations. She is currently volunteering at SCRAP NOLA as it rebuilds and begins to give art and recycling lessons in schools throughout the New Orleans area.

After 14 wonderful years in Portland, Oregon, Nisey and her husband, both Southerners, decided to move to New Orleans.  They found a city as rich in culture and as supportive of art and entrepreneurship as Portland, but with a rich southern culture as well. Nisey joined the CMS staff in July of 2015 and is looking forward to being a member of the New Orleans Montessori community.

Alison Logan, Assistant Teacher

Alison Logan has a BFA in acting from Millikin University. After graduating, she worked for Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre where she taught 75 children at a time in over 20 different cities. In just one week’s time at each location, the children performed in various musical productions. Alison has also taught CCD and Vacation Bible School at St. Mary’s in Riverside, IL. She worked as a nanny for a family and at a public school junior high until she discovered the Zen of the Montessori method. She received a Montessori paraprofessional license at Seton Montessori Institute in Clarendon Hills, IL and taught in the infant/toddler and 3-6 programs at the Montessori Academy of Chicago for eight years.

Alison is a recent transplant to New Orleans from Chicago, IL and arrived here in August of 2015.  She worked at a private preschool during the 2015-16 school year and was hired by Cathedral Montessori in August of 2016. She is excited to be joining our faculty and getting back to the Montessori way!

Ashley Holtrey, Extended Day Teacher

After acquiring two bachelors’ degrees in Studio Art and Art History, Ashley Holtrey moved to New Orleans in pursuit of creative expansion. During her enrollment at Florida State University, she was a student teacher for students of all ages and needs, ranging from pre-k to seniors in high school. After moving to New Orleans, Ashley interned at an Arts and Education Center where she earned her title as “Art Ambassador”, holding children’s art camps and workshops. Upon leaving the center, she and a dozen friends created their own local artist collective, The Krewe of Motha Roux. At the studio/gallery they rented in the Bywater, they hosted numerous children’s workshops. This gave the neighborhood kids a chance to express themselves in positive ways and taught them that art can heal. Ashley free-lanced her way to painting a mural for the jungle gym showroom at Sequoia Outdoor Supply. Her life and personal artwork are constantly inspired by the pure intuition of these whimsical kids she is blessed to encounter. Ashley joined the CMS extended-day faculty in September of 2014.

Ashley Rouen, Extended Day Teacher

Ashley Rouen is a New Orleans native, who received her BA in English from the University of Georgia in 2009. From an early age, she was impacted by her observations of the local education system, which eventually led her to seek out community service opportunities working with underprivileged youth. Post college, Ashley has worked in marketing and social media and as a writer for a local online publication. She has been an Assistant Soccer Coach for the varsity team at the Academy of the Sacred Heart (her Alma Mater,) as well as for middle school students at McGehee. Ashley is currently participating as a Community Volunteer at Lawrence D. Crocker College Prep. She is working with a 4th grade math class, which is helping her gain additional classroom experience while she journeys into the pedagogical profession.

Ashley believes our innate creative capacity as humans propels us to learn about the world and ourselves.  She has devoted her life to “the search” and would like to help children discover their own unique abilities and confidence to attain them in life. Ashley has a passion for writing, and in 2006, she won the essay category of the William Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition for a piece entitled “Along the Wire.”

Ashley joined CMS in the summer of 2015 as a member of the Summer on the Bayou faculty. She fell in love with the School, and continues on with the faculty as a teacher in the Extended Day Program. Ashley’s work with the children at CMS and her volunteer work have solidified her decision to pursue a Master of Arts in Teaching.

Jessica McNally, Elementary Teacher

Jessica graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pittsburgh where she received her B.A. in English Literature and writing. Her extensive work with school and community gardens for the last eight years will allow her to augment our science and gardening curriculum as well as our study of ecosystems. For example, she coordinated more than 800 volunteers to help install educational rain gardens, community vegetable gardens, and natural play spaces at over 50 Pittsburgh schools. She taught garden lessons for students ages 5-18. Jessica designed the curriculum for a 10-week after school garden program at a KIPP high school, which incorporated team building exercises, healthy recipe creation, and gardening lessons.

While teaching first grade this past year, she was responsible for teaching every subject area. She aligned her lesson plans with the common core state standards, administered assessments, wrote progress reports, and regularly communicated with parents. Jessica used the workshop approach to teach reading and writing. While her contract was renewed, she turned it down to return to the Montessori Method.