Laura was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta but has a passion for travel and adventure that took her around the world and eventually landed her in Alaska. She holds a Montessori Early Childhood credential, a Bachelor of Science from Northern Arizona University, and a Masters in Montessori Education from Xavier University.
Laura has experience in the classroom, as a school director, teacher trainer and training center director and has spoken at various international Montessori conferences. She is passionate about Montessori education and helping families communicate effectively with children.
In her free time, Laura enjoys hiking, reading, and spending time her daughter and her pets. In her travels she has worked with organizations that help bring preschool education to children in rural regions of Yunnan, China and Tibet and has co-written two children’s books, as well as worked with various animal rescue and conservation organizations. She is passionate about making a better, more peaceful world through Montessori education.
Office Manager/Accounting/Compliance Support
Birch Classroom is a half day toddler program.
Toddler Program Director
Liz Hamlin has been working at Anchorage Montessori School for 25 years. Twenty 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.
Willow Community is a full day toddler program.
My name is Kathleen Liwanag and I am from the Philippines. Although I was born in the Philippines, I grew up in Guam and then later returned home where I finished high school in Manila. In 2009 I graduated from St. Paul University of Manila with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication. I moved to Anchorage in 2010 and began my journey with Anchorage Montessori School. I worked as an assistant in the primary level for 6 years then eventually moved to the toddler program. In summer 2022, I went to Nevada to pursue my Montessori Infant/Toddler training. I am honored and grateful for the opportunity to work as a lead in the Willow classroom.
What I love the most about working in a Montessori environment is that it allows for children to work, develop, and learn at their own individual pace. I have experienced the truth articulated in Maria Montessori’s statement that “education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment”. My husband and I have two boys. One is in the primary program and the other is in the elementary program here at AMS. I am beyond grateful that our kids are able to experience the beauty of the Montessori philosophy. In my spare time I love to bake pastries. We love having movie nights on the weekends and in the summertime our family goes fishing, camping, going to parks and just enjoying the Alaskan summer.
Wild Iris Community
Wild Iris Community is a full day toddler Program.
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!
Prickly Rose Community
Prickly Rose Community is a half day primary classroom.
Primary Lead Teacher/Primary Program Director
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.
Fireweed Community is a full day primary program.
Primary 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.
Lupine Community is a full day primary program.
Primary Co-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.
Primary Co-Lead Teacher
My name is Darien Elam and I am the co-teacher of the Lupine Classroom. I was born and raised here in Anchorage, Alaska! I earned my Diploma as well as the Seal of Biliteracy in American Sign Language from East High School in 2017. I’ve been working at Anchorage Montessori School since 2018 in the primary program. In 2022, I received my Montessori Early Childhood Credential from Montessori training of Southern Nevada. I am currently enrolled at St. Catherine’s University pursing my Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education. I love the Montessori Philosophy as it facilitates a natural love for learning!
I have a wonderful family I love spending time with and coming home to everyday. My husband, son and daughter are my world. We follow the Montessori Philosophy at home and will certainly send our children to AMS from Toddlers all the way to Elementary! I love seeing our children interact with the world around them and watching them discover new things. When we are not at school, we love to get out into the community and create new experiences for our children. When I have a free moment for myself, I love playing the ukulele/guitar, reading or listening to a good podcast.
Elderberry Community offers both half day and full day primary program options.
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 Elderberry 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!
Silverberry Community is a full day elementary program for grades 1-3.
Elementary I Lead/Elementary Program Director
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.
Elementary I Assistant
Salmonberry Community is a full day program for grades 4-6.
Elementary II Lead Teacher
Hello families, my name is Hunter Simmons. I have the pleasure of being the Upper Elementary teacher here at Anchorage Montessori School. I hold a Montessori Credential for Elementary levels I & II, a Bachelor of Arts degree in Child Development from California State University of Sacramento, and I am currently pursuing a graduate degree at the Master’s level from University of Anchorage Alaska. Montessori education was a “coming home” moment for me. I absolutely fell in love with the philosophy and the deep reverence the pedagogy holds for children. Montessori education allows for a special freedom and creativity of expression for each child that speaks to my heart as an educator. I believe in the Montessori philosophy to create and promote a better, more beautiful world.
In my personal life, I really enjoy spending quality time with my family. You can find us frequenting Wild Scoops, parks, and bookstores. For my personal enrichment, I love to learn new skills and work on new projects. I find joy in reading books, listening to podcasts, sewing, gardening, and caring for my many animals and house plants.
Elementary II Assistant