Aruna Aiyar

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This is Ms. Aruna’s fourth year at Issaquah Montessori School, she’s been a Montessori teacher since 2008.

She earned undergraduate degrees in psychology, English literature and journalism from Mt. Caramel University in Bangalore, and a Master’s degree in psychology from Madras University. Ms. Aruna moved to the US in 1994, and took the early childhood Montessori training at Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest in Woodinville. Now she’s part of the teacher training staff at MEIPN, teaching the early childhood math curriculum to aspiring Montessori teachers. She lives in Sammamish with her husband, two nearly-grown-up children and a dog. While not at school Ms. Aruna reads books, spends time with friends and goes walking and hiking with her dog.

Ms. Aruna loves the independence Montessori education gives children. She believes its closest to the natural way of learning. Aruna thinks that the job of the early childhood educator is to be a liaison to learning, to help children love learning for the rest of their lives.​​

Aurélie​ Tanvez

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This is Ms. Aurélie’s fifth year on the staff at IMS. She discovered Montessori education when her family moved to the area and she looked for a preschool for her oldest child. Montessori philosophy fit really well with her family’s philosophy of education and it has become part of their way of living.

Ms. Aurélie has a Master’s degree in biology and a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Paris. She is currently working toward an Early Childhood credential at the Montessori Center for Teacher Education in Bellevue, Washington. She lives in Issaquah with her two children and husband and dog. When not at school Ms. Aurélie likes to cook and bake, do outdoor activities and has recently decided to re-learn to play the piano.

And about Montessori education: “When entering a Montessori classroom, I am always impressed by its serene and peaceful atmosphere. It is amazing to witness how independent and respectful the children are.”

Bhavani Balasubramanian



Ms. Bhavani joined the IMS community during the 2015-2016 school year as a substitute, then became an assistant teacher in Sprouts. This year Ms. Bhavani is a lead teacher in Nest.

Her educational background is in computer science in which she earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Osmania University in India. More recently she completed the American Montessori Society Early Childhood credential at the Montessori Center for Teacher Education in Bellevue, Washington.

Ms. Bhavani lives in Sammamish with her husband, daughter and son. While not at school she spends lots of time on the sidelines of her children’s sporting activities, and enjoys the occasional hike.​ ​

Gail Gnehm


Ms. Gail is in her 11th year at Issaquah Montessori School. She’s been an assistant, an intern, a co-teacher and a lead teacher during that time.

Ms. Gail attended Evergreen State College and obtained her Early Childhood Montessori credential at Montessori Center for Teacher Education in Bellevue. She lives in Issaquah with her husband and Buster, a Bassett hound. When she not at school Ms. Gail can be found zipping around on her Vespa, or on a bike or hike, or making art with paint or fabric or yarn. She is over the moon about her new grandson, Gavin, who she describes as super happy, bouncy and a very good traveler. Gavin and his family live in Texas, Ms. Gail visits them as often as possible.

Teaching in a Montessori environment fits Ms. Gail so well because she never grew up and can easily understand the perspective of the child. She loves being around children and delights in watching them learn and grow. Ms. Gail appreciates the good sense of community at IMS, the way in which everyone supports each other and the happy, loving environment.​

Katelyn Gummere

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Ms. Katelyn joined the IMS community in the fall of 2011 as an assistant teacher in the toddler room. Since then she’s completed the Infant & Toddler Credential at the Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest in Bothell. She earned an Associate’s degree at Bellevue College and a BS in Information Technology and Cybersecurity from Central Washington University.

Ms. Katelyn lives in Renton with her husband and their four dogs. When away from school she enjoys hiking, walking and finding rivers and streams for the dogs to play in, camping, and clamming. Ms. Katelyn rides her bike with a JDRF team.

Ms. Katelyn was born and raised a Montessori child, attending Pine Ranch Montessori and Arbor Montessori for a combined total of ten years. After leaving Arbor and attending a traditional school she realized her independence was cut off—she was being told what to do rather than figuring things out on her own. Ms. Katelyn most appreciates that each child has their own strengths, needs, likes, and learning style and Montessori guides each child through the learning process using the learning style and materials he may need to be successful. The child is always set up for success! She feels that the Issaquah Montessori community is a lace of love and compassion. Ms. Katelyn appreciates the families, the staff and the children, and the way that together they create a welcoming community that loves to thrive and learn.​


Leena Mane

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Ms. Leena joined the IMS community in the fall of 2017. She holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees in electronics, and an MBA from the Indira Institute of Management.

She lives in Sammamish with her husband and two nearly-grown-up children. While not at school or spending time with her family, Leena enjoys reading, traveling and interior design.

Ms. Leena appreciated the highly supportive and encouraging leadership and atmosphere that is shown from the staff at IMS. Coming from a non-Montessori background this experience has opened her eyes to a new approach to learning and education.


Manuela Negroiu


Ms. Manuela joined our community as an assistant in the toddler classroom in the spring of 2015, and moved on to early childhood over the summer.

She grew up in Romania, earning a Scientific Degree of Bachelor of Arts in Theology: Letters (English Language and Literature) from the University of Bucharest. She lives in Issaquah with her husband and two boys who keep her busy. When not at school or on the sidelines of a soccer match she enjoys baking, reading, going to the movies and crocheting.

Ms. Manuela met children who had come from Montessori environments and was impressed with their self-motivation and sense of responsibility. She decided to learn more about the Montessori Method. Ms. Manuela completed​ the early childhood education program at the Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest. Ms. Manuela is excited to use what she’s learned about child development and Montessori philosophy. She loves to see the children grow, the changes that take place and how they develop.

​Marcia Hoover


Ms. Marcia has been involved with Montessori teaching since 1975 as an assistant, head teacher and parent of children in public and private Montessori. She graduated with a B.A. in Social Welfare in from California State University at Long Beach and stumbled on Montessori one wonderful afternoon in Chico, California.  Ms. Marcia was totally taken with what she encountered in the classroom. Ms. Marcia got her training in the three-to-six classroom with Montessori Institute of America in 1985 after ten years of assisting and loved delving deeper into the philosophy.  She has stayed, happily, with Issaquah Montessori School for 21 years as a teacher and continues to be excited by her work.

Ms. Marcia truly believes that the greatest way to change the world is by showing children how to love themselves and the world and helping parents raise those children. She thinks the Montessori Method is the best way to expose humans to their potential and to the wonders of the world and living. By allowing children the freedom to explore academic and social life they grow into independent and responsible adults.  A love and respect for all of life is fostered through Montessori education and this can result in happy, productive people.

Ms. Marcia is married with three grown children, who she adores, two of whom are Montessori children.  She loves appreciating and teaching art, gardening in fair weather, exercising through yoga or biking, listening to music and singing, and caring for her home and family.


Maria Suja

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Ms. Maria is in her third year at Issaquah Montessori School. She earned an undergraduate degree in physics from Kamaraj University and a graduate degree in math and chemistry from Madurai University. Ms. Maria is currently pursuing an AA in Early Childhood Education at Lake Washington Technical College.

Ms. Maria live in Sammamish with her husband, son and dog. She enjoys walking with her dog, spending time at the gym and traveling with her family.

Nichole O’Hare

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​Ms. Nicole is in her third year as part of the IMS teaching community. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a major in psychology and a minor in English. Ms. Nicole lives in Issaquah with her husband and two elementary-school age children. As a family they enjoy camping, hiking and bike riding. Baking is Ms. Nicole’s indoor hobby—and she makes an excellent key lime pie.

Ms. Nicole attended Montessori school as a child. She came upon IMS while looking for an alternative preschool option for her youngest child. As she toured the school she was thrilled to see the materials she remembered using. While going through the classrooms she was impressed with how hard the children were working, the variety of activities, that there was something for everyone. She loves the philosophy and the self-direction as well as the opportunity for each child to follow their own interests.

Ms. Nicole appreciates the level of education, dedication, different background and passion that’s evident in the staff at IMS. She likes the small community, the ability to work together with parents and getting to know them on a level that enables her to work with their children more effectively.

Rebecca Bennett

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Ms. Rebecca joined the IMS community in the fall of 2016.  She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University. In addition, Ms. Rebecca maintains a studio of about 20 private piano students.

She lives in Preston with her husband and three teenagers. While not at school Ms. Rebecca enjoys gardening and being involved with the music community in many ways.


Shweta Bindal


This is Ms. Shweta’s fourth year at Issaquah Montessori School. She was born and brought up in India. Her family moved to the Issaquah area 13 years ago for her husband’s work. She obtained both a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree in English Literature in India, and earned an American Montessori Society Early Childhood credential from The Montessori Center for Teacher Education in Bellevue, Washington.

The main thing that attracts Ms. Shweta most in the Montessori philosophy is the respect for children. She is looking forward to learning and growing along with the children.

Ms. Shweta lives in Sammamish with her husband and two young daughters.

Vinita Varma

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Ms. Vinita has been at Issaquah Montessori School since 2008, as an assistant teacher in the Cottage classroom. She earned Bachelor’s degree in business management and a Master’s degree in commerce with specialization in finance. ​​Vinita is completing the Early Childhood credential from the Montessori Center for Teacher Education in Bellevue, Washington.

Ms. Vinita lives in Issaquah with her husband and four-year-old son, who also attends IMS. For fun, she plays tennis, reads, travels, knits and cooks.

She believes that a child grows socially and academically when he or she is in a positive and well-organized environment that follows the Montessori philosophy. Montessori makes learning fun and interesting, and grooms children so they are polite, logical and confident. Ms. ​Vinita appreciates the beautifully set-up classrooms and the wonderful staff at IMS.

Whitney Oviatt​

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Ms. Whitney comes to IMS in the role of co-teacher after 6 years in Montessori classrooms in the role of assistant teacher. She just completed her Montessori Early Childhood training at the Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing from Simpson College in Iowa.

Ms. Whitney lives in Carnation, near her family. She enjoys hiking, camping and playing volleyball.

Ms. Whitney was drawn to Montessori education by the independence of the children, and the way that they can do everything for themselves. She appreciates her amazing teaching team, the second-family feel, and the sense of community within the school. ​