Our Staff

Anne Estes

Anne Estes, Head of School

Anne is thrilled to be part of the Creekside Montessori mission to provide high quality Montessori education that is accessible to all. Anne began life as a Montessori child at Lake Country School and in her 20s reconnected with her Montessori roots. For nearly two decades since then she has furthered her education and experience in Montessori education, serving as a guide to children from the ages of 8 weeks to 7 years old as well as teaching adults at the university level. Anne has a B.A. in English Writing from the University of St. Thomas, both the AMI Primary (3-6) and AMI Assistance to Infancy (birth to 3) diplomas, an M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland as well as an M.A. in English from the University of St. Thomas, and a Doctorate of Education from Hamline University. She wrote her dissertation on adult-child collaboration in Montessori toddler environments.  Anne grew up in South Minneapolis and now lives in Plymouth with her partner and two young children. She enjoys spending time with family, heading up North to the cabin, and experiencing the wonderful ​arts and culture of the Twin Cities.

Arulai Mathis

Arulai Mathis, Administrative Coordinator

Arulai Mathis was born and raised mostly in rural Pennsylvania, moving to Minnesota recently in June of 2021. She has spent the last 10 years teaching primarily in the preschool age bracket, beginning as an assistant teacher in a small school classroom in northern NY. Her work in education has taken her through various positions, teaching methods, and locations, most recently spending a year in a dual immersion Spanish/English program here in Minneapolis. She enjoys the vibrant diversity of the city, specifically the many cultures and traditions represented and celebrated here. She also enjoys biking, swimming, and generally spending time ​in and around the lakes, as the weather permits!

Saleha Asim

Saleha Asim, Administrative Support

Saleha Asim has been working in the Montessori community for the past 25 years. She graduated from the Association Montessori International (AMI) program with a Primary diploma. She worked as a Montessori Guide and Director, plus other roles, for over 17 years before coming to CMS in 2013. Saleha has worked at CMS in a variety of roles, including administrative support and mentoring Montessori teachers. Her hobbies include traveling with her husband and two children along with cooking, painting, and both interior and fashion design. She is proud to be at Creekside Montessori School!

Kimberly Sims

Kimberly Sims, Family Engagement and Outreach Coordinator

Kimberly Sims joined the CMS community in November 2021 as a substitute and support for staff.  Kim was a Montessori parent of four sons over the course of 23 years straight, and worked in their Montessori school as a substitute at all levels CH (3-6 years old) through Junior High, and then as a Receptionist, Health Care Liaison, Transportation Coordinator and Administrative Assistant over the course of 13 years.  She is a parent of 6 sons (4 biological and 2 bonus sons/step sons), grandmother to 9 (soon to be 10) grandchildren. 5 of her sons were college athletes, 1 served in the Marine Corps. 1 son is currently playing basketball professionally. Kim grew up in South Dakota and was an athlete as well as a cowgirl who competed in rodeos and horse-shows. Her past-times still revolve around sports, (from watching her youngest son in his professional career to grandchildren who are just beginning their sports journeys.)

Stephanie Melander

Stephanie Melander, Business Manager

Stephanie is incredibly proud to work at Creekside!  She is passionate about the school’s mission to serve an economically diverse community and to provide high quality Montessori learning environments that meet the developmental needs of the whole child.  This is Stephanie’s seventh year at Creekside, where she has worked directly with children in the Children’s House, and also as a member of the Admin Team. She has a B.S. in Business Administration from St. Catherine University, a Graduate Certificate in Holistic Health Studies from St. Catherine University, the AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Center of Minnesota, and a Masters in Education from Loyola University Maryland. She is a proud native Minnesotan, runner, and animal lover. Stephanie lives in St. Paul with her husband and two young children.

Natalie Friesen

Natalie Friesen, Toddler Community Co-Guide

Natalie holds a B.A. in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Theater and Music, an AMI Primary diploma from the Montessori Center of Minnesota, and a Master’s in Education from St. Catherine’s University. She has her AMI Assistants to Infancy (Birth to Age 3) training and served as lead Toddler Guide for the past two years. Natalie has eleven years of experience working with children in both Montessori and non-Montessori settings and has enjoyed the privilege of working as a Montessori guide at three different schools before finding her home at MECC. Natalie enjoys sharing her love of music, handcrafting, yoga and travel with all of those around her.

Janette Leslie

Janette Leslie, Toddler Community Co-Guide

Janette earned her AMI Birth to Age 3 Diploma from the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota and AMS Ages 3-6 Early Childhood Education Diploma from the St. Catherine Contemporary Montessori Program. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Justice and Peace Studies from the University of St. Thomas and a Master of Education degree from Loyola University Maryland. She has been involved in the Montessori Community for 25 years as a professional educator with experience working as a classroom teacher, parent educator, consultant, mentor and presenter. She has served as school administrator, school board member and a board member of the Minnesota Montessori Network. Janette, her husband, Pete, and daughter, Lili ,live in Richfield. In her spare time she enjoys travel, spending time in nature, gardening, cooking and reading. 

Sarnra Yerro

Sarura Yerro, Toddler Community Aide and Before Care Staff

Sarura works in our Toddler Community, as well as supporting Children's House students in the first part of the morning. Sarura was born in Somalia and moved to Kenyan refugee camps when she was 8 years old. Sarura's father, four sisters, and four brothers still live in the Kenyan refugee camps.  "A really difficult life," she says. Sarura grew up and got married in Kenya and had five children there. In 2009, she and her husband and their five children immigrated to the United States to start a new life. These children are now ages 12 to 18. She has three younger children who were born in the U.S. and attended CMS (including her youngest now attending). Before joining Mayflower in 2019, Sarura worked in a childcare center for four years plus worked at Macy's department store and as a home care aide. Sarura lives in Minneapolis with her family and they enjoy walking the lakes and going to the library. She enjoys cooking and her favorite dish to make is chapati (a Kenyan unleavened flatbread) with beans and spinach.

Laura Gerhardt

Laura Gerhardt, Children's House 1​ Guide

I am honored to be joining the Mayflower community. Originally from Wisconsin, I first came to Minnesota to attend St. Olaf College where I received a B.A. in Psychology and Economics. A spark was ignited to become an educator when as an 8th grader, I had an opportunity to teach a lesson in an elementary school. Honoring that memory, I found my way to teaching in 2005 and haven’t  looked back. I have a Masters in Elementary Education from the University of Minnesota, K-6 teaching license, and the AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Center of Minnesota. I have served as a Montessori lead guide for the past nine years and am eager to continue my journey at Creekside. I proudly live in the great city of Minneapolis with my husband and our dog Zoe. I love walking around the lakes and exploring all the city has to offer.

Richard Escandon

Richard Escandon, Children's House 1 Assistant

Richard has been a Montessori guide for four years. He received his primary diploma (3-6) from the Montessori Center of Minnesota spring of 2022. Having moved here from Oakland, CA he is continuing his education by attaining a Masters in Early Childhood Education. When not in the children's house he is often backpacking in the Wisconsin Dells, exploring nature, and foraging the splendors of the Twin Cities.

Zara Idris

Zara Idris, Children's House 1 Aide & Before Care Staff

Zara was born and raised in Ethiopia. She has 3 adult sons and 2 grandchildren. She has 11 brothers and sisters and too many cousins, uncles, and aunts to count! One of Zara's favorite things is being in any kind of nature, because she grew up on a farm, with a lot of animals. She moved to Minneapolis from Seattle in 2007 and started working for Mayflower in January 2011 until now! Zara loves the work, she loves working with our staff and all the children and their parents!

Deja Barber

Deja Barber, Children's House 1 Aide & After Care Staff

Deja Barber was born in Minneapolis. She began her journey at MECC in fall of 2015 and later received the AMI assistants training certificate. Deja enjoys time in the gym and most of all loves getting together and  spending time with all of her loved ones.

Heidi Quiring

Heidi Quiring, Children's House 2​ Guide

I am delighted to join the Creekside community. My Montessori journey began 20 years ago when my children attended Alpharetta International Academy in Georgia. I was so struck by the environment and the unique relationship between the teacher and the children that I have worked in Montessori schools ever since. My three children attended Montessori schools through elementary and I have been fortunate to work at both the primary and elementary levels, as an assistant and classroom paraprofessional. Finally in 2018, I received my primary diploma from the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota. I have worked as a primary lead guide the past three years. My hobbies include cooking, painting, decorating, redecorating, and playing with my granddaughter.

Christy Love

Christy Love, Children's House 2 Assistant

Christy is so excited to be joining the Creekside community! She has a BA in History and the AMI Primary Diploma from the Montessori Center of Minnesota, graduating in 1995. For the past 25 years she has worked in Montessori schools in various capacities, as lead guide, co-teacher, and assistant, in the Twin Cities and Madison, Wisconsin. Christy and her husband, Rick, live in St. Paul with their dog Radar. They have a 19-year-old son, Forrest, who attends college in Los Angeles, California. In her spare time, Christy loves long walks, reading, gardening, travel, and enjoying the lakes of Minnesota.

Fariya Osman

Fariya Osman, Children's House 2 Aide and After Care Support Staff

Fariya is from Ethiopia and her first language is Oromo. She moved to the U.S. in 2007 with her father, three sisters and seven brothers. She went to Wellstone High School here in the Twin Cities with Tamira Osman (MECC staff. member). She has four younger siblings who live in Ethiopia. She has previously worked in a childcare with 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds. Fariya has three children; her older daughter is in first grade and younger daughter and son may start at Mayflower in November. Fariya's favorite foods to cook are injera (a fermented Ethiopian flatbread), macaroni, and spaghetti. ​Her children's favorite restaurant is Chuck E. Cheese.

Sarah Walker

Sarah Walker, Children's House 3 Guide ​

​Sarah first came to Creekside as a parent. She fell in love with the school, the community and the Montessori method. She has a Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts and Art History from the University of Minnesota and her AMI Primary (Ages 3 to 6) Diploma from the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota. Sarah enjoys gardening, reading and spending time with her family.

Medora Schou

Medora Schou, Children's House 3 Assistant

Medora came to know and love the Creekside community as a parent in 2016. She enjoyed watching her children being guided so respectfully as toddlers and throughout their years in Children’s House. Recently, she took the Primary and Elementary Assistant Courses at Montessori Center Minnesota. She studied Elementary Education in her undergraduate work and then went on to earn her Master’s degree in Education from Hamline. Medora has worked with children in both independent and public school settings for over 15 years. She lives in Minneapolis and enjoys spending time outdoors with her family, especially taking walks and bike rides along Minnehaha Creek. She also likes to bake, garden, read, and practice yoga. Medora is happy to rejoin the CMS community as a staff member. ​

Gina Hoffman

Gina Hoffman, Children's House 3 Aide and After Care Lead Guide

Gina was born and raised in St. Paul, where she currently lives. Montessori has been a part of her life since she was nearly 5 years old as she was a Montessori student all through grade school. She graduated with her B.S. from St. Catherine University in 2014 and began working in a Montessori environment as an assistant that fall. She received her Montessori Assistants certificate in 2016 and graduated with her Montessori Primary (ages 3 to 6) lead teacher diploma this past May. She enjoys reading, shopping, ​hanging out with friends and going to concerts.

Gaby Orozco-Delmont

Gaby Orozco-Delmont, Children's House 4 Guide ​

Gaby was born and raised in Mexico City. After graduating from The Escuela Mundial de Turismo, she lived abroad, studying English and French in Canada for several years. When she returned to Mexico, she taught English as a second language to elementary students. Her educational work also included teaching Spanish to adult foreign exchange students at the Cemenahuac Language Institute in the city of Cuernavaca, Mexico. She has been living with her husband and two daughters in Minneapolis since 2000. She completed the AMI Primary Course at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota in St. Paul, graduating in 2010. She worked as a Montessori Assistant at Cornerstone Montessori and Little Flowers Montessori before finding a great home at Creekside in 2012. She was an assistant for four years, then became a Guide in 2016.

Tammy Ray

Tammy Ray, Children's House 4 Assistant ​

Tammy is a 2022 graduate of the 3-6 Diploma Course at Montessori Center of Minnesota. Though her prior background is not in education, Tammy has worked with many children throughout her life, both as a personal caregiver and in her customer service roles. Most recently she has worked for 14 years at the Minneapolis Institute of Art in the security department, where she has both engaged with and protected children with her vigilant always observing eyes, while developing and sharing knowledge in the art world. Working in early childhood education has been a lifelong dream of hers, and she took recent changes in her job structure as an opportunity to make it a reality. In her personal life Tammy is the eldest of three sisters, and a proud aunt to two nieces, four nephews, two great nieces and a great nephew, with one great nephew on the way. In her personal time she likes to read, ride her bike, cook delicious meals, write songs, and is an endeavoring gardener.

Dewita Nuryana

Dewita Nuryana, Children's House 4 Aide

Dewita was born on Sumatra Island, Indonesia. When she was 3 years old her parents moved to Jakarta in Jawa Island of Indonesia. She went to school in Jakarta, Indonesia. She was a full time student in college and graduated in 1991. In 1993, she attended a postgrad program and graduated in 1996. She worked in Indonesia after she graduated through 2005 at a private company in Indonesian government. On September 2005 she came to visit Canada and USA for vacation and really enjoyed seeing different things, especially the seasons. Indonesia only has two seasons: summer and rain because her country is on the equator line. In 2006, Dewita moved to the United States of America. In 2015 she started working at Montessori schools and has continued doing so up to the present. She took the CH Assistant Training in 2016 at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota. She has worked with different ages of children at different times of the year. Before care as well as extended day for elementary and junior high children, CH classroom an assistant, CH summer program, toddler summer program, subbing in different classrooms and as school support.

Nikki Barber

Nikki Barber, Aide

Nikki started working in childcare, mostly with infants and toddlers, in 1997. She began working in health care in 2009, caring for those who are unable to fully care for themselves. She enjoys working with children because she grew up in a large family full of love. She has five children and six grandchildren. Nikki enjoys music, dancing, making jewelry, doing hair, drawing, art, and home design. “Family is my life,” she says.

Mingus Robson

Mingus Robson, Mid-Day Recess Support Staff

Mingus was born in Minneapolis MN, and has lived here all his life. Mingus enjoys helping and working with people. He worked as a Customer Service member at Lunds and Byerlys grocery store and as a PCA and Resident Assistant in various homes for people with disabilities. In 2015, Mingus earned his AA degree in Liberal Arts from Minneapolis Community and Technical College. This is Mingus’ third year working at MECC and second year working as an Assistant in the After Care program. Mingus completed several Montessori workshops, and loves to connect with children and watch them grow. Mingus looks forward to working with the Mayflower children and parents to help support and guide them using the Montessori techniques.

Misty Rowan

Misty Rowan, Toddler Community Aide

Biography and photo coming soon.

Sundus Dahir, Aide

Biography and photo coming soon.

Chyanne Barber, Hallway Aide and Nap Support

Biography and photo coming soon.

What our families are saying:

"Mayflower is a joyful community for children and for families. Every classroom is a beautiful space for children to explore a wealth of Montessori materials. The gentle, patient demeanor of the teachers allows children to thrive and grow in their independence. It is amazing to see how confident the children are and how peaceful a daycare can be!"

-Lisa McKay, Parent

“I knew I wanted to be here the moment I walked past the courtyard with the trees and happy staff and children.  The staff has always been very supportive of my children’s development.  They are passionate and committed to the Montessori work here.  I’ve made many lifelong friends with other parents here.  It’s a warm, tight parent community.”

-Leah Popova, Parent 

“We chose Creekside because of the Montessori learning environment that has allowed each of our children to develop at their own pace. Well-trained guides and staff care for and about the children, making a safe and supportive environment. Creekside has provided our children with social skills, practical life skills and a strong academic foundation. This prepared our oldest for a successful transition to school beyond Creekside. ”

-Michael & Tracy Mishler

"We came to Creekside looking for a school where our oldest child could grow more confident academically and socially. We've seen huge growth during his year in the Children's house. We couldn't be more happy with the staff and community and are excited to send our next kid too!"

"Creekside Montessori was an incredible gift in our lives. As a single, queer parent and artist, I wanted to find a place for my kiddo to feel belonging and to receive learning and support from culturally diverse adults who LOVE CHILDREN. We found all this and more at this special place. At the height of the pandemic, Creekside was not only a safe place for my child to go to, it was a joyful place where my kiddo was thriving while learning about how to be a global citizen, a good friend, and a member of a community of belonging. The school not only supported her, it also offered me chances to learn about child development and how to support her as she learned how to read and do math while also equipping me with more tools to support her through some of her more challenging behaviors with clear suggestions and effective techniques I could use at home to help our lives outside of school be full of more harmony and appropriate expectations and communication. I love this school and cried and cried when she graduated. I know it will be one of the best institutions of learning she will experience in her lifetime. I am eternally grateful."

"Creekside has been the perfect early learning environment for our daughter. With the help of Montessori-trained educators and caring staff members, she has thrived. We are confident in the educational foundation Creekside has provided, and our family has benefited greatly from being a part of this community. As we head toward the next stage in our daughter’s education, we reflect knowing that we’d choose Creekside time and time again."

"I know with all my heart that my children and I are better people because of Creekside. We feel so safe and welcome every day. Everyone deserves to feel that way, especially young children who are still learning about the world. We’re so fortunate to be a part of such an inclusive community."

-Anonymous

"Before our eldest daughter Harriet came to Creekside, we had her in a standard daycare facility. I was struck by how many worksheets she was bringing home of just tracing and re-tracing letters. Sure, knowing your letters is important, but was this the way to open my daughter’s mind and was this really the highest priority for her two years before kindergarten?

Now, two years later and attending kindergarten, we are so grateful for Harriet’s time at Creekside. At her first conference, her Kindergarten teacher shared an anecdote that I think sums up the gift of her Creekside education. There’s a building block-type toy in her classroom that none of the kids had touched. Harriet became intrigued with them and figured out how to get them to fit together to build things. She then ardently taught her classmates how to use them too. And yes, she’s doing those tracing worksheets again too, but in the context of actively learning how to read."

"Our youngest daughter, Beatrix, has been at Creekside from as soon as she was eligible for the toddler room. We see her independence and curiosity unfold every day, with a spark of joy that we know is cherished by her guides. "

"Our family has been very fortunate to have Creekside with us the last few years as we weathered the difficult pandemic with young children. We always felt like we were part of a supportive community, even though a lot of the traditions and gatherings had to change and adapt. It was comforting to know that every day our kids were going to a peaceful and calm place where they would be loved and could bloom."

-Franklin

"We’ve been at Creekside since 2018 and it’s been such a big part of our family’s life since then. Our son just started his third year at Creekside and this school has been a place of joy and growth for him. His guides know him so well - his strengths and his challenges - and make his classroom a calm and happy place every day. Our daughter attended Creekside through Kindergarten, and had the most wonderful 3 years, despite the pandemic falling in that period. The community is warm and welcoming, a joyful place to drop your children 5 days a week. Montessori education is an incredible thing, and Mayflower is a wonderful place to experience it in action."

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