Meet Our Staff

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Meet Our Staff

At MDS, we are a team of dedicated individuals who are committed to offering quality Montessori education to our students.

Toddler Program

Kathryn Procko

Toddler Directress

Kathryn Procko joined MDS as our Toddler directress in 2017. She had worked in the Norwich Public Schools for eight years as a pre-K special education teacher’s assistant before deciding to pursue Montessori Infant/Toddler training. Her relationship with MDS began when her son Henry attend our school so it was no surprise that she was very excited to help us open our toddler program. She completed her Infant/Toddler training at the Center for Montessori Education in New Rochelle, New York and her received her AMS Infant/Toddler certification in 2018. Kathryn holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education from Charter Oak State College and plans to continue her education by pursuing a Master of Education with a minor in Montessori Studies.

Julie Sinvil

Toddler Assistant

Julie Sinvil joined MDS as a Toddler assistant in 2017. Julie’s background is in social work in the medical sphere. She has worked with children and adults in times of medical stress, assessing their needs and helping to provide appropriate interventions. She is a native of France and came to the United States in 2016 with her family. She studied Modern Literature at the University of Versailles and is a Salutatorian Graduate from the Social Work Institute in Versailles.


Karla Downey-Laffin

Primary Directress

Karla Downey-Laffin joined Montessori Discovery School as a primary directress in 2018. She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Connecticut and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Geography with a minor in Psychology from Central Connecticut State University. She received her AMS 3-6 certification from the Montessori Teachers Institute at Three Rivers Community College in 2005.

Karla served her internship year at Mt. Hope Montessori School in Mansfield, CT. She served as Primary Directress at Windsor Montessori School from 2005 – 2015 and at Longmeadow Montessori School from 2015 through 2018. Karla has a passion for Montessori education and has been involved with both the NAEYC and AMS accreditation processes. Karla is particularly interested in integrating STEM into the Montessori classroom. She has also studied using the Montessori approach to help people with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and through her volunteer work with Alzheimer patients has seen the benefits of this approach.

Ericka Schaedler

Primary Assistant

Erica joined Montessori Discovery School as a primary assistant in 2018. She received an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Three Rivers Community College in May, 2018. While studying for her Early Childhood degree, Ericka observed MDS’ Primary classroom and was impressed with how independent the children were. Prior to joining MDS, Ericka worked at Thames Valley Community Council for Action Childcare Center as a floating teacher’s aide. This gave her experience with toddlers through preschool aged children. All the while, however, she remembered the Montessori classroom. She was thrilled to join MDS to learn firsthand about the Montessori approach. Ericka is an animal lover and has ridden horses “since before I can remember.” She rides competitively and is looking forward to learning how to care for our llamas.



Patrice Champagne

Head of School

Patrice has served as head of school since 1986. She first visited the school in 1983 while looking for a program for her then 3-year-old son, Robert. Patrice has Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in American History from Connecticut College and a Senior Certificate in Conflict Resolution from the University of New Haven. She attended the first Montessori Administrator’s training course at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in 1987-88. Patrice is a past president of Montessori Schools of Connecticut and continues to be an active member. Prior to joining MDS, Patrice and her husband operated their real estate agency specializing in selling historic houses. Patrice enjoys reading, knitting, 18th century architecture and especially spending time with grandsons, Henry and John Paul.

Annie Cappiello

Administrative Assistant

Annie Cappiello joined MDS as administrative assistant in 2018. Prior to joining the staff, Annie was an active parent in the MDS community, serving in several capacities during our re-accreditation work and also serving as a coordinator of the MDS Connects parent organization as well as handling our social media presence. Annie has over four years of office management experience in the medical field and two years of administrative assistant experience in the insurance field. Annie holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Early Childhood Development from Ashford University.

Contact us to schedule a visit.

We offer weekly on-site observations of our classrooms so you can see how Montessori works.