Billie Andersson, Head of School

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.

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. While living in Pittsburgh, she worked for many years in the nonprofit world serving such roles as volunteer coordinator, running a small grants program for community gardens, and teaching a gardening class for a mixed-media after-school program.

Upon moving to New Orleans she continued her work with nonprofits and further developed her passion for education. She taught and created curriculum for multiple after school and extracurricular programs across the city, ranging from pre-k through middle school. In 2017, she shifted into teaching full-time and was hired to teach first grade at Bricolage Academy.

Jessica joined the CMS staff as a garden educator and was then hired as a full time teacher in CMS’ first Elementary classroom. She completed her Montessori Elementary certification in 2019 at Barrie School’s Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies in Washington, D.C.

Jessica manages a community garden in her neighborhood and enjoys incorporating her gardening experience into the Elementary biology lessons. She looks forward to continuing shaping and growing the Elementary Montessori curriculum. 

Lya Becnel, Assistant Teacher

Lya has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition with a concentration in food management from Instituto Politecnico Nacional (National Polytechnic University) in Mexico City. She is a Chef de Cuisine and trained pastry chef. She is the founder and co-owner of La Petite Sophie in River Ridge, which has received national recognition.

Lya has been teaching her daughters using the Montessori Method at home since 2015, when her oldest daughter was three. Through her search for a school for her children here in New Orleans, she discovered the Montessori Method. She fell in love with the philosophy and created a beautiful home environment for her children while making many Montessori materials through the “do it yourself” model. Her love and excitement for the materials and the philosophy shine through every material and lesson she masters. Lya continues to create homemade Montessori materials as her children grow, and she especially enjoyed making elementary materials during the COVID-19 quarantine. Both of her daughters are enrolled in the CMS elementary program.

During the 2019-20 school year, Lya was a substitute teacher at CMS, and also taught a wildly popular Extra curricular cooking class. This class combined a nutrition curriculum with the science and math of cooking. Lya is over the moon to be working full time with Ms. Jessica in the Magnolia Class and looks forward to incorporating her nutrition expertise into the Montessori curriculum, and we all look forward to stopping by to see what’s cooking!

Stevie Knox, Elementary Teacher

Stevie graduated from the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts (Natchitoches, LA) in 2000. She received a B.A. with Honors in English/Linguistics and a minor in Spanish from the University of North Texas in 2004.

From 2008-2012, Stevie moved abroad to teach English as a Second Language to children and adults in Granada, Spain. After Spain, Stevie spent time in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, and in Pau, France, where her ESL career shifted to distance and online learning, leading to a supervisory/mentor role for other teachers at a pioneering online ESL school.

Stevie returned to New Orleans in 2012 and taught ESL and foreign language at several high schools. In 2018, Stevie discovered Montessori first-hand by working with a CMS family. This teaching method re-ignited her passion and desire to serve in the classroom. Stevie completed her Lower Elementary training in June 2020. Her Upper Elementary training was postponed due to COVID-19, and will be completed in summer 2021. Stevie loves being a part of CMS’s upward expansion and is grateful to be a part of this collaborative and supportive community.

Kalliope Vasillas-Grass, Greek Teacher, Assistant Teacher

Kalli studied Psychology and Elementary Education at Louisiana State University before receiving her Bachelors Degree in General Studies from the University of New Orleans.

Kalli joined the faculty at Cathedral Montessori in 2019 as a teacher of Greek. Born in Preveza, Greece, she immigrated to New York with her (Japanese) mother and (Greek) Father, then moved to New Orleans as a young girl. She is an active member of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church where she has served as an officer in the PTA, volunteered as an Assistant Elementary Church School teacher, and continues to volunteer as a substitute teacher. Kalli is the volleyball coach for the Greek Orthodox Youth group and enjoyed playing volleyball with this group as a child.

Kalli’s love of coaching volleyball has her very much involved at the Coconut Beach Volleyball Complex, where she has trained, coached and played for over 24 yrs. Knowledge of the game and her passion for teaching gave her an opportunity to accept a Middle School coaching position at an independent school. This passion shifted from the court to the classroom when the school offered her an assistant teaching position in first grade, which she eagerly accepted and enjoyed for three years. Also during this time, Kalli accepted the position of Assistant Director of their summer camp for two consecutive years.

Upon hearing about Cathedral Montessori School and learning of the Montessori principles, she enrolled both of her children at CMS, each at the age of 3, and witnessed for herself the positive effects of learning the Montessori way. They are both enrolled in CMS’s Elementary program, where she will be working as an Assistant Teacher, in addition to teaching Greek. To better serve the children at CMS, Kalli successfully completed an Early Childhood Assistant’s Workshop from the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies.

Caroline Christman, Assistant Teacher

Caroline Christman was born and raised in New Orleans.  She lived in Winston-Salem, NC for many years and received a B.A. in History from Salem College.  Caroline fell in love with the classroom while working as a substitute teacher at her children’s school.  She has spent many years working as a substitute as well as working as an assistant to special-needs children.

Caroline returned to New Orleans in 2012, where she worked as the Membership Coordinator at the Preservation Resource Center.  While she loved working for an organization that works tirelessly to educate on the importance of our historic architecture here in New Orleans, Caroline realized that she truly missed working with children and resigned her position in spring of 2018 so that she could get back into a classroom.  She has worked locally at both the Academy of The Sacred Heart and St. Paul’s Episcopal School before joining Cathedral Montessori in November of 2020 as an assistant in the Cypress classroom.

Caroline is married with two grown children and two dogs.  She loves all types of animals and her hobbies include baking, gardening, birdwatching, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

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. Belle and her husband moved to Denver in 2006, and began work for another nonprofit, Colorado Citizen’s Campaign, where she went door to door raising awareness for local environmental concerns.

Belle fell in love with the Montessori philosophy while working at Montessori Academy of Colorado. She received her Montessori primary certification at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in Boulder, and continued to teach 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 joined Cathedral Montessori School in July of 2018, where her son, Charlie, also attends.

Sarah Dashevsky, Assistant Teacher

A Boston native, Sarah Dashevsky studied Communications and Adventure Recreation before relocating to New Orleans. Her life-long desire to make a difference, combined with a genuine love for children, led Sarah to pursue a career in education. She has taught early childhood education for seven years and says her favorite part of teaching is watching a child develop a love for learning and grasp a new concept. She is a proud graduate of River Valley Charter School (the first chartered Montessori school in Massachusetts) having attended from PreK 3 through 8th grade. Sarah is so excited to be back in a Montessori classroom and a part of the CMS family!

Maia Cortes, Primary Teacher

Maia holds a B.A. in Sociology from University of New Orleans, with an interest in social psychology and gender studies. She enjoyed her first year of teaching at Crescent City Montessori during the 2019-2020 academic year, and also loved working at their summer camp in 2019. During her time at CCM, she gained invaluable experience and appreciation for Montessori methodology.

Maia was born and raised in New Orleans, and has a great love for the city. She is passionate about teaching children to become lifelong learners! She’s inspired by the absolute wonder that surrounds each child, and is excited to join the Cathedral family. When she’s not teaching or studying, she spends her time crafting, roller skating, and spending time with her whopping four cats.

Having completed the physical, in-class training at Oaks Montessori in Hammond, Louisiana, Maia is currently studying Montessori philosophy to complete her training. She is excited to receive her certificate in from Montessori World Educational Institute in 2021. Maia is full of enthusiasm and is brimming with new ideas for the classroom.

Sawyer Hill, Assistant Teacher

Sawyer received her BA in Theology and Social Welfare & Justice from Marquette University in Milwaukee in 2018.

Sawyer first began working with children at the Montessori School she attended as a child in Itasca, IL. It was there she learned from the director of the school and her dear mentor, Joyce, how to thoughtfully and kindly engage with children using the Montessori method. Since then, she has held a range of jobs with children. She has worked at multiple summer camps teaching outdoor skills and canoeing in Ohio and Illinois, worked as a one-to one support aide to a child in an after school program in Scotland, and as a facilitator of healthy relationships curriculum/support groups for teenagers in El Paso, Texas. Sawyer continues to coach youth climbing at the New Orleans Boulder Lounge.

Sawyer loves to be outside and In her free time, you will find her re-finishing furniture, gardening, or camping with her dog, Bruno.

Sawyer is eager to be re-immersed in the Montessori method and to build relationships with the children and family in her class.