Montessori Discovery School

Meet Our Staff

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

Erika Frank-Poletto

Toddler Directress

Erika Frank-Poletto joined MDS as a toddler assistant in 2020 and became our toddler directress in the fall of 2021. Erika came to us with seven years of Montessori experience at The Homestead School in Glen Spey, New York. She served for four years as an assistant teacher in their Primary and Lower Elementary programs and then four years as head teacher in their Primary program. Erika holds an Infant/Toddler Diploma and a Primary Diploma from the North American Montessori Center. Erika holds a BA in Psychology and Sociology from Drew University in Madison New Jersey.
Erika discovered Montessori when searching for preschool options for her oldest daughter, Lily. Once her younger daughter, Clara, was old enough to begin school, Erika began her journey into teaching. She was drawn to MDS because of the warm, friendly atmosphere and the ability to bring the classroom outdoors.
In addition to teaching, Erika is a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor. She has been certified to help families make sure that all children under the age of 13 are riding safely in the car for 13 years. She has been an instructor teaching new technicians and supporting current technicians for 7 years.

Annie Cappiello

Toddler Assistant
Annie Cappiello rejoined MDS as our toddler assistant in 2021. In 2017, she volunteered to handle our social media presence and when the administrative assistant position in the office opened, she applied for the position and served in that capacity for the 2018 school year. Although she enjoyed the administrative position, when the toddler assistant position became available in the fall of 2019, Annie was excited to join the toddler classroom. She served in that position until COVID – 19 changed her plans, leading her to oversee the MDS at Home schooling for her two children. We are very pleased to have Annie with us again in 2021 serving as toddler assistant. 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 holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Early Childhood Development from Ashford University.

Primary

Haleigh Camarillo

Primary Directress

Haleigh Camarillo joined our MDS community as Primary Directress in August of 2019. Haleigh first experienced Montessori during a field trip to a Montessori school while she was pursuing her associate degree in early childhood education at Naugatuck Valley Community College. While pursuing her Bachelor degree, Haleigh worked for three years as a preschool assistant at a Reggio Emilia inspired laboratory school. She also has two years of experience working with children with autism in home, school and community settings.
Haleigh holds a Bachelor of Science degree in early childhood education and a Master of Education degree in early childhood education with a Montessori concentration from the University of Hartford. Haleigh holds an AMI Primary diploma from the Montessori Training Center, Northeast. In addition to her passionate interest in the Montessori method of education, Haleigh has been fascinated with butterflies since her childhood. She also enjoys practicing yoga and Pilates, playing the piano, and spending time with her family.

Ericka Schaedler

Primary Assistant

Ericka 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.

Elementary

Willa Biewald

Elementary Directress
From 1995 – 2021, Willa served as lead lower elementary directress at Oak Grove Montessori School in Mansfield, CT. During that time, Willa developed a rich understanding of how best to implement the Montessori method while providing accommodations and modifications for a variety of learning styles. Willa joined MDS in fall 2021 as a co-directress in our elementary program. In November, when her co-directress decided to remain home after the birth of her daughter, Willa responded by taking on full responsibility for the classroom. We would love to return to the co-teaching dynamic and are currently seeking another Montessori trained directress to join Willa this year either full time or part time (See our employment page if you’d like to apply!). Willa holds a BS in Elementary Education, cum laude, from the University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT as well as American Montessori Society Lower Elementary Training Certification from Seacoast Center, Situate, MA. Willa also completed two of three summers of AMI Elementary Training at the Montessori Training Center of New England. She was unable to finish the training due to family issues but plans to complete it in the future.

Marna Chaplin

Elementary Teacher
Marna became familiar and fascinated with Montessori philosophy in 1991 while searching for the best education for her oldest daughter. After moving from Texas to New England in 1999 and feeling the loss of a Montessori community, she discovered MDS. Marna joined MDS in the fall of 2002 as a floating substitute. In 2003, after completing a training workshop offered by Rising Stars, Marna became a primary assistant in Room 2. In 2004, she was asked to join the elementary staff as an assistant. She completed the elementary assistant training workshop at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education. Marna is particularly skilled in facilitating the social/emotional growth of her students.

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Elementary Directress

Administration

Kathryn Procko

Head of School
Kathryn Procko was appointed MDS Head of School by our Board of Trustees in 2021, having worked with founding Head, Patrice Champagne, since 2019 as Assistant Head of School. Kathryn joined MDS as our Toddler directress in 2017. She originated the Toddler Program and served as its directress until 2020. Prior to coming to MDS, Kathryn 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 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. She is also pursuing Montessori Administrators, having completed several modules of the Whole School Leadership program. Erika discovered Montessori when searching for preschool options for her oldest daughter, Lily. Once her younger daughter, Clara, was old enough to begin school, Erika began her journey into teaching. She was drawn to MDS because of the warm, friendly atmosphere and the ability to bring the classroom outdoors. In addition to teaching, Erika is a certified Child Passenger Safety Technician Instructor. She has been certified to help families make sure that all children under the age of 13 are riding safely in the car for 13 years. She has been an instructor teaching new technicians and supporting current technicians for 7 years.

Julie Sinvil

Administrative Assistant
Julie Sinvil joined MDS as a Toddler assistant in 2017. Although she really enjoyed working in the toddler classroom and is still happy to substitute when necessary, Julie was excited to join the administrative team in 2019. She studied Modern Literature at the University of Versailles and is a Salutatorian Graduate from the Social Work Institute in Versailles. Julie’s background is in social work in the medical sphere, mainly in ICU and rehabilitation. She has worked with children and adults in times of medical stress, assessing their needs and helping to provide appropriate interventions. This experience serves her well in the office, since she is the point person for staff and parents and handles all sorts of situations capably with kindness. She is a native of France and came to the United States in 2016 with her family. In her free time, Julie enjoys reading, cooking and spending time outdoors, working in her yard or hiking and discovering the beauty of New England with her husband and two children.

Patrice Champagne

Business Officer
Beginning in the fall of 2021, Patrice assumed her new role as Business Officer at MDS. Having served as the Head of School since 1986, she realized it was time to step back from the Head’s position. She is delighted to continue working with Kathryn Procko and Julie Sinvil in her new role. Patrice first visited the school in 1983 while looking for a program for her then 3-year-old son, Robert. In 1986, when the school was going to close, Patrice and her husband, both active real estate practitioners, purchased the school so their son could continue learning in the Montessori way. In 1990, they reorganized the school as a not for profit, 501c3 corporation. 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. 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.

Contact us to schedule a visit.

We offer school tours and Zoom conversations so you can see how Montessori works.