Richard J. Toymil – Executive Director
I was born in the Bronx, New York and attended Cardinal Spellman High School in the Bronx and then two years in the City University system at Lehman College. I transferred to the University of Oregon and completed a Bachelors of Science with an Elementary Education Certification.
I taught in Eugene, Oregon from 1978 to 1984 then moved to Alaska in 1984 and worked in the Alaskan Bush with Inupiat Natives until 1997. I received a Masters of Educational Administration from the University of Alaska, Southeast in 1991. I was an Elementary school principal in Homer, Alaska from 1997 to 2002 working with students aged 5 to 7. I moved back to the Bering Strait School District from 2002-2004 as Director of Instructional Support traveling around the 50,000 square mile region visiting all 15 schools in our district.
I believe I am a transformational leader honoring the skills and aptitudes of staff and students. With the “Quality Schools” model I have led staff, students, and community in maintaining a positive and proactive school climate.
I have worked as a recruiter and trained teachers in cultural orientation to the Alaskan Native Community. I developed community-based suicide prevention programming through outdoor camps for students. I am an avid networker and problem solver.
In May of 2010 I was selected to be the National Distinguished Principal from the State of Alaska. I traveled to Washington, DC with other awardees from around the country where we received recognition for our work. It was a true honor.
In 2012 I had another honor, that of being selected as the Executive Director of Anchorage Montessori School. I have long seen the positive effects on children who were guided by educators trained in the Montessori method. The move to the private non-profit sector has been very rewarding, and each day I learn more from my staff, students, and families.
Toddler Program Director
Birch Community Toddler Lead
Liz Hamlin has been working at Anchorage Montessori School for 19 years. Fifteen of these have been as a Lead Teacher in a Toddler classroom. Liz is a passionate educator. Her enthusiasm for children, families, and learning is of the highest degree.
Ms. Hamlin respects each child’s individual strengths and areas of needed growth. She is a keen observer and is able to recognize children’s developmental stages. She has the intuitiveness and professional training to guide the child toward fulfilling his or her needs. Liz is a strong advocate and practitioner of Montessori philosophy and methodology.
In addition to her longstanding and successful classroom work, Liz is a leader and mentor for the younger staff members. She is the Program Director for the Toddler Community and has often led tours of the program for prospective parents.
As part of the leadership team Liz provides thoughtful insights and ideas for the day-to-day operations of our school, as well as, helping to brainstorm and craft more long term vision and goals.
Aniceta Sanchez- Toddler Assistant
Kathleen Liwanag- Willow Community Toddler Lead Teacher
Wild Iris Community, Toddler Lead Teacher
Hello! My name is Chrishelle, the Wild Iris Toddler teacher. I began my time with Anchorage Montessori school in 2008 working as an assistant in the primary class, eventually moving to the full day toddler environment. Right away, I admired the unique qualities of the Montessori classroom. The beauty of a child led environment, the grace of the teacher observing, the fundamental life skills each child was learning with every task. This was my first glimpse of the Montessori classroom from an educator’s perspective, and I loved it! My mother, Kelly Hamlin and sister, Elizabeth Hamlin have worked at Anchorage Montessori school since the 90’s. Because of this I have been brought up around many wonderful Montessori educators and families, all of whom truly embodies the Montessori spirit. For this I am overwhelmingly grateful. In 2013 I made the choice to stay at home while my husband and I grew our family by one more. I enjoyed many awesome years at home with my children and I am forever thankful for that time. In the summer of 2018, I was asked back to Anchorage Montessori School to do a few weeks of substituting. During my time back, I fell in love all over again and decided to enroll my youngest child. When my time as a substitute had ended, I was invited to stay and teach the Wild Iris, Full day toddler program. I kindly accepted the offer, and I am overjoyed to be here!
Azia McKoy-Toddler Assistant
Fireweed Community Lead Teacher
My name is Madi Masuhara, this year will be my 8th school year at Anchorage Montessori School! This summer I went Nevada for my Montessori Training, I’m so excited to share what I’ve learned and to continue learning. The rest of the school year is going to be quite the adventure and I can’t wait to see where it takes us!
Just a little more about me, some of my favorite things are, books, horses and making stained glass. I also did kung fu for 15 years! I have a 10 year old son, his name is Raedyn, we like to spend our days at the library, and during the summer we’re always outside.
My name is Erin Ballantyne and I was born and raised in the Anchorage area. I have a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Colorado Christian University and an American Montessori Society teaching credential from the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies. I am in the process of attaining a Masters of Montessori Education degree from Sarasota University with a projected graduation date of 2021. I have been a lead teacher at Anchorage Montessori School since 2016.
Maria Montessori was a genius and created a learning environment in which children can flourish physically, emotionally and academically. I feel incredibly fortunate to spend my days with children in an atmosphere of inquisitiveness, creativity and expectation. I feel that giving children the opportunity to spend time outside in the natural world is highly advantageous for development, and our daily schedule reflects this value.
I have a farmer husband and two kids who are students in the elementary program here at AMS. We love fostering children and puppies and spend lots of time outside. During the spring, summer and fall we live a subsistence lifestyle of fishing, foraging and hunting. We also love biking, hiking, ice skating, sledding, skiing and picnicking. We are major foodies and love using local ingredients to make spectacular meals to share with friends and family. I also enjoy reading, sewing and gardening.
Jessica Stroman, Primary Assistant Madison Masuhara-Montessori Intern
Ling Zhou-Lupine Community Lead Teacher
My name is Ling Zhou and I am from China. I graduated from the Zhejiang University of Technology with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Pharmaceutical Engineering. I have a Montessori teaching credential from the Center for Guided Montessori Studies and have been at Anchorage Montessori School since 2010. I am very interested in hands on, experiential learning and am very detail-oriented. At home I garden, cook, sew and create music and art.
I resonate with the Montessori method of learning, and love observing and guiding children at the primary (ages 3-6) level. Children are focused on developing concentration, coordination, order and independence at this age, and I trust and respect their character. I enjoy creating a safe learning environment for children to explore.
Lisabeth Croft-Primary Assistant
Lindy Risinger Elderberry Extended Day, Primary Lead Teacher
I am Lindy Sandison (Risinger). I am born and raised in Anchorage and was a West High graduate in 2003. I hold a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Early Childhood Education from University of Nevada, Las Vegas, a Primary 3-6 Early Childhood Credential through the American Montessori Society and a Masters of Education in Montessori Integrative Learning from The Institute for Educational Studies at Endicott College, Boston. I was the head teacher in the Lupine classroom at Anchorage Montessori School from 2018 to 2021. I am over the moon excited to be moving to the Kinnikinnick classroom to lead our extended day class at the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.
I have a wonderful husband who is a blacksmith by hobby and a heavy equipment mechanic by trade and a beautiful little girl who is currently in our toddler program and will be moving to the primary program after her birthday in November. I feel incredibly fortunate to have my daughter grow up in this community and to be the catalyst of my passion for the Montessori philosophy.
My passion for the Montessori philosophy derives from the individuality it entails. As Maria Montessori shared, “it is about educating the human potential.” My goal is to truly see each of my students for who they are, and provide them the tools necessary to develop their own knowledge, interests and passions. I hope to be the bridge between our primary and elementary programs and to make each child’s 3rd year in our program a magical and memorable experience that fills them with a lifelong love for learning!
Darien Elam-Montessori Intern
Elementary Program Director
Silverberry Community, Elementary I Lead
My name is Greta Seitz, and I am the Lower Elementary teacher. I started at AMS in 2005, and have greatly enjoyed my time at this wonderful school! One of the reasons I love teaching in the first, second, and third grade classroom is the energy the students bring every day, along with their inquisitive natures. They teach me just as much as I teach them, and never cease to make me smile with their jokes and anecdotes! One of the many things I love about the Montessori approach to education is the fact that I get to know the students over the course of the three years they are in my classroom. It’s a privilege to be a part of people’s lives like that, and there’s nothing quite like seeing students grow in knowledge, confidence, and skills over the course of the year! In my spare time I love to be outdoors and enjoy the beautiful wonder that is Alaska. On those days when the weather makes it nicer to just be inside, I also enjoy curling up with a great book and a cup of hot chocolate topped with a dash of whip cream.
Melissa Thompson- Elementary I Assistant
Salmonberry Community, Elementary II Lead
I am excited to be returning to Anchorage Montessori next year as the Upper Elementary Lead Teacher. I am an experienced and ardent educator with a mission to facilitate learning that provides children the skills to advocate for themselves, their communities, and a better world. I received my Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, which is ranked first in the nation in elementary and secondary education. I was a member of the Global Educators Cohort Program which afforded me the opportunity to study with education leaders in China and through language immersion in Spain. In 2014, I was selected as a Fulbright Hays Scholar in Tanzania where I studied culturally responsive teaching and responsible representation of Africa. After leading four classroom communities as a first and sixth-grade teacher, I discovered that I continuously used Montessori philosophy and materials in my practice and they spoke to my heart as an educator. I began my Montessori training in June of 2018 and stepped into the Lower Elementary Classroom to enrich and continue my practice. I am passionate about my mission to teach children to lead with peace and excellence and will continue this work with the community of Anchorage Montessori.
Hunter Simmons–Elementary II Assistant
Enrichment Program Staff
Jennifer Wagner-Instructional Coach
Amanda Bradley/Primary Before Care/ Assistant
Elementary After Care
Darien Elam, Lisabeth Croft, Jessica Stroman
Primary After Care Assistant
Erik Lambertsen- Teaching Assistant
Maleia Schaezlein –Office Manager/Accounting/Compliance Support
Kolotita Saunoa –Administrative Support
Stephanie Scott-Office Assistant
Kelly Hamlin –Auxiliary Services & Substitute Coordinator