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.
Kathleen Liwanag Toddler Assistant
Willow Community Toddler Lead Teacher
Aniceta Sanchez, Toddler Assistant
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!
Madison Masuhara-Toddler Assistant
Kinnikinnick Community, Primary Lead Teacher and Program Director
My name is Jennifer Wagner and I am the lead teacher in the Kinnikinnick Room. I came to Anchorage Montessori school in 2008. I also received my Montessori certificate in 2008 from the American Montessori Society. Prior to coming to AMS I worked in traditional preschools for several years. I love how the Montessori philosophy can be applied to fit the developmental needs of any child regardless of culture or ability. Watching the children progress through the three year cycle is exciting and very rewarding.
When not at AMS, I enjoy reading, sewing, quilting, knitting, cooking and fishing.
Lisabeth Croft- Primary Assistant
Fireweed Community, Primary Lead Teacher
I am a native Minnesotan recently relocated to Alaska in search of more snow. I love getting outside to explore the wilderness and the chance to learn a whole new ecosystem here. If you have any hike recommendations I’d love to hear them!
My Montessori career started when I saw a posting for a preschool. After reading the description I immediately started researching online, then went and checked out nearly every title the library had on Montessori education. I was hooked and got a position at a nearby school. My time there convinced me to take an AMI training course so I could guide my own classroom.
I was lucky enough to build up a brand new classroom and make a beautiful environment with children who formed a tight knit and caring community. I love the freedom offered by the Montessori that allows each child to grow based on their own interest and abilities yet still allows them to build a sense of community.
Darien Elam, Primary Assistant
I grew up in Eagle River and spent much of my youth fishing, berry picking, processing game meat and playing in the woods. After graduating from Chugiak High School I attended the University of Alaska Anchorage for two years before transferring to Colorado Christian University. After receiving a BA in Psychology from CCU I worked with college students with disabilities, namely people on the autism spectrum. That led me to a Montessori school where I worked as a para educator for a student with autism.
Being in a Montessori environment was a “coming home” moment for me as I realized that the method was a calling I had to pursue. I began working in a primary classroom (3-6 year olds) and became a certified Montessori lead teacher in 2012. I was also blessed with a daughter in 2012 and chose to stay at home with her and my son after that. Being a parent has truly rounded out my education as a Montessorian and I am excited to bring that piece to the classroom. I am so grateful to have found the Montessori method because I have seen it both nurture and respect the unique way children learn. When given the opportunity, children gobble up as much knowledge as they can and a Montessori environment is tailored to give them that exact experience. As an adult I find that I am constantly learning alongside the children as well. I also value music and outdoor time because I have seen it to be an integral part of nurturing children’s spirits.
As most Alaskans do, I thrive while enjoying nature through hiking, biking, skiing, boating and practicing a subsistence lifestyle. My husband is a farmer and we relish growing our own produce. My family and I love good food and can often be found in the kitchen trying out new dishes with local ingredients. One of my favorite things is coming into my kitchen and seeing my kids peeking at our sourdough rising and kombucha brewing!
Jessica Stroman, Primary Assistant
Lindy Risinger Lupine Community, Primary Lead Teacher
My name is Lindy Risinger. I am born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska. I was a West High graduate in 2003. I completed my Early Childhood Education degree at University of Nevada, Las Vegas and went on to complete my Early Childhood Credential Primary 3-6 year training through the American Montessori Society. I am currently working towards a Masters of Education with an emphasis in Montessori Integrative Learning. I have taught primary at a wonderful school in Henderson, Nevada for the past two school years. I am now expecting my first baby, due in November. I am looking forward to returning to my home town with all of the knowledge and experience I have gained while living in Las Vegas.
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 look forward to being a part of the Anchorage Montessori School community and to having the opportunity to learn and grow alongside our children.
Ling Zhou & Paola Medina, Primary Assistants
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.
Denara McLeod – Elementary I Assistant Katherine Cortright-Montessori Practicum Student
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.
Enrichment Program Staff
Elementary Art Teacher
Darien Elam-ASL Instructor
Amanda Bradley/Primary Before Care/ Assistant
Leonor Delgado/Elementary Before Care/Special Projects
Lisabeth Croft & Denara McLeod
Elementary After Care
Kathleen Liwanag/Jessica Stroman
Primary After Care Assistants
Kevin Armstrong-Maintenance, Safety, and Security
Office Manager/Accounting/Compliance Support
Auxiliary Services & Substitute Coordinator