“The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination” .- Maria Montessori

Our staff reflects professionalism at all levels.  Everyone most hold undergraduate or advanced degrees in education, or Montessori specialization.  All are life-long learners.  Our students also benefit from parent and community collaborators and specialty teachers in the areas of Art, Spanish, and Movement.


Our Toddler and Primary Classes have a student teacher ratio 8:1.

Our Lower and Middle Elementary classes (6-7, 8-9 year olds) have a student teacher ratio varying from 9:1 to 8:1.

Our Upper Elementary (10-12 year old class) has a student teacher ratio varying from 10:1 to 8:1.



Our Lead Teachers:





Autumn Wise


Autumn, originally from Baltimore, Maryland, has been a resident of Santa Fe since 2005, and a dedicated teacher at DMS since 2006.  Her love for Montessori began when she chose a Montessori pre-school for her own child.  Inspired by the Montessori approach, and the way her daughter flourished, Autumn decided to pursue Montessori teacher training.

Autumn acquired her Primary (Ages 3-6) Montessori certification through North American Montessori Center in 2007, and taught in our Pre-K/ Kindergarten classroom for five years.  During that time, Autumn completed trainings in MACAR (Montessori Applied to Children at Risk for Learning Differences) and SEE (Sequential English Education).  She served on the DMS Board of Directors for two years, and is currently serving as the Board’s Teacher Representative.

Autumn is now teaching our youngest community of children (2-4) with Page Meneely (Road Runners).  She considers herself an assistant to the children, following each child’s development.  Children are free to explore according to their needs and interests with Autumn providing a stimulating, yet peaceful and structured environment.  This dynamic allows children to learn through their experiences and develop independence and confidence.








Page Meneely


Page Meneely is entering her third year as a Montessori teacher and her second year at Desert Montessori School.  She received her Primary Montessori Certification in the spring on 2011 and will be starting her first year as Lead Teacher for the toddler class this fall 2012.  Page was a Montessori child herself, having attended Odyssey Montessori (now Growing Up Montessori) from grades 1st through 5th.

Page’s years at Odyssey were unforgettable and life-changing.  Becoming a Montessori teacher was a path for which page always had a calling and she is very proud and excited to be a member of the Desert Montessori Team.  Her goal for the toddler classroom is to provide a peaceful, consistent, and nurturing classroom in which the children are free to explore and discover while being gently guided through the steps of their early growth.


Melia Lewis


Melia is absolutely delighted to be the lead kindergarten teacher at Desert Montessori! She has been involved with Montessori education since 1989 when she began directing the after school program at Montessori Children’s House in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1996, she began co-directing the summer camp program there with an emphasis on environmental education, appreciation, and stewardship. She embarked on her teacher training at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in Boulder, Colorado in 2006 and received her American Montessori Society Early Childhood certification in 2007. Melia is a firm believer that nature is the best teacher and she delights in sharing children’s excitement, curiosity, and wonder about the world we live in. As such, she strives to bring nature into the classroom as much as possible through hands-on exploration, field trips, and high quality teaching materials.

Melia has enjoyed a variety of paths in her adult life. She received her undergraduate degree in Wildlife Resources from the University of Idaho in 1979; became a certified massage practitioner in 1984 after studying at Heartwood Institute in Garberville, California; studied for 3 years at the Elisabeth Kubler-Ross Hospice Training Institute in northern New Mexico; and trained in wilderness rites of passage at The School of Lost Borders in Big Pine, California in 1993. She co-guided vision quests and wilderness writing retreats for women on the Colorado Plateau from 1994-2000, as well as continuing her work with Montessori Children’s House until August 2010.

Melia’s passion is exploring the natural world and traveling. In 2014, she was chosen as a National Endowment for the Humanities scholar and studied Ancestral Puebloan cultures at Crow Canyon Archaeological Center and Mesa Verde National Park. She was a live-in volunteer in an orphanage in Mfuleni Township, Cape Town, South Africa in 2010 before moving to the seaside village of Hermanus,SA. Her insatiable curiosity about the world keeps her pouring over the empty places on maps and plotting her next adventure. She has a particular affinity for the Colorado Plateau and the wilds of British Columbia. She is the happy mother of a 28 year old daughter who grew up in Montessori education and who travels the world teaching and exploring. Melia looks forward to sharing her love of the world with the children at Desert Montessori!







Winifred Krause


Winifred is looking forward to working with the students, staff and parents as a member of the teaching staff at Desert Montessori School. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with a dual major in Early Childhood Education. She also has a Master of Arts degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Reading with an emphasis in learning disabilities. Both of these degrees were received from the University of New Mexico. She has held certification as an instructional leader for over 15 years. Winifred went back to school and received an Education Specialist degree in Educational Leadership the spring of 2006 at UNM and has a New Mexico Administrative License. She has 26 years’ experience as a teacher in grades K – 5 and 6 years’ experience as an administrator.

Throughout her educational career, Winifred has been involved in initiatives to improve teaching and learning. At a teacher, she participated in reading/balanced literacy workshops, hands on math workshops such as the Exxon Math Initiative, and the Intel “Teach to the Future” Master Teacher program. As Team Leader for the “Jornada: Hand in Hand” multiage team in Las Cruces, she collaborated with team members to obtain Action Research grant funding, gain administration, staff, parent and community support for program implementation and development including a differentiated curriculum designed to meet the needs of all students, both gifted and special needs. She presented at local, regional, and national conferences during this time on the topics of balanced literacy, differentiated curriculum and developmentally appropriate education that recognizes the social, emotional, physical and intellectual needs of all students.

Winifred’s extensive educational background demonstrates her strong foundation and commitment to empowering students to become caring citizens who contribute to their local, national, and global communities.


Lisa Grogan


Lisa Grogan is thrilled to join the dedicated teaching staff at Desert Montessori School! She recently earned her New Mexico level-three instructional elementary license, has been working as a substitute teacher with the Santa Fe Public Schools, and as a volunteer at The Gentle Nudge Preschool.

Before moving to Santa Fe, Ms.Grogan enjoyed eight years as a lead teacher in first and third grade at John Muir Elementary School in Antioch, CA. As an enthusiastic and energetic teacher, she designed creative hands-on lessons while developing a nurturing learning environment for all children.

In 1997 Ms.Grogan earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA where, in 1994, she received a BA in geography and environmental studies. She also received her California professional clear multiple subject teaching credential, and CLAD (cross cultural language and development) certificate.

As a student, Ms. Grogan spent a semester at the University of Hawaii studying geology and geography (at times getting extremely close to the active Kilauea Volcano). In addition, she completed an internship at The Conservancy in Naples, FL where she worked in environmental land management, conservation and education, and sea turtle protection.  In her free time, Ms. Grogan enjoys ballet, singing, traveling, and spending valuable time with her two little girls, Lily and Gigi.



Valera Sovcik

Valera Sovcik has thirty-one years of teaching experience and holds a New Mexico Level Two Professional K-8 Elementary Teaching License. In addition to teaching Kindergarten through Sixth Grade, Valera has also been a reading and writing tutor, an educational consultant, a mentor teacher for Santa Fe Public Schools, and a Performing Arts teacher.

Valera’s dedication to her students’ well-being and academic excellence has been publicly recognized with several awards and accommodations. She was nominated for the Golden Apple Foundation of New Mexico Award and has received the Great Teacher Award from Century Bank, the Muchas Gracias Award from the City of Santa Fe, Teacher of the Month Award from KNYN Radio, the Teacher Who Inspires Award from Partners in Education, and in 2004 Acequia Madre Elementary School named their theater “The Sovcik Theater” in honor of Valera’s dedication to the performing arts.

Valera is a dedicated and resourceful educator who establishes a learning atmosphere that is nurturing, calm, and inviting, as well as an educational environment that emphasizes a strong academic curriculum where the students are engaged and active participants.  Valera also values the importance of the arts in a child’s education.



Julianne Wagner

Julianne Wagner has taught for thirty-one years and continues to do so with the enthusiasm of a new teacher. She began teaching in inner-city Los Angeles and moved to a math and science magnet school. Mary Laycock mentored her in teaching mathematics.

Julianne taught mathematics, computer science, social studies, science, and language arts for 17 years in the International Baccalaureate Program at Washington International School, in Washington, DC.

After moving to Santa Fe, Julianne missed teaching and was delighted to join DMS four years ago. Julianne continues to teach upper elementary students as they are her favorite age group.

In addition to teaching children, Julianne teaches adults through school district programs for in-service teachers, at George Mason University preparing aspiring teachers to receive their teaching credentials, and for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program. Julianne has also given presentations at professional conferences including the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), and the National Council Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). She has been a mentor teacher and a student teacher supervisor.

Julianne is a Fulbright Memorial Fund-Japan Scholarship Awardee.  She also has received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching, and the Outstanding Mathematics Classroom Teacher Award from the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Julianne holds a K-12 Clear Teaching Credential from the State of California and a State of New Mexico K-8 Level Three-A Professional Teaching License.

Based on her many years of classroom experience, Julianne believes that all students can meet and exceed their own expectations in a supportive environment.


Our Assistant Teachers:


June Bellew

June, was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and is now living in Glorieta, New Mexico. Before coming to the United States, she worked for fifteen years as a tutor in Life Drawing and Anatomy at the Edna Manley School for the Visual Arts in Kingston, Jamaica.
June worked in Special Education for six years with the Santa Fe Public Schools from 2000 – 2006, when she left for Florida to look after her parents. While there she worked in a Montessori classroom quite by chance. She loved it and received her Montessori training in both Pre-K and Early Elementary. She very much enjoyed working with children in both areas in Florida.
She has received the beginning MACAR training at the Shelton School in Dallas, Texas, this summer, and is confident that it will be useful for working with all children.
On her spare time she loves to draw, weave, read and garden.
She is delighted to be back in New Mexico, and especially to be working with Ms. Melia and her students in the Kindergarten classroom at Desert Montessori School!



Our After Care Teachers:


Lita Brunello, After Care


Miss Lita has worked at DMS for four and half years. She has worked with multiple age groups between 2-12 years. She is very excited to be in the After Care once again. This year will be fun, exciting and entertaining for all grade levels. Lita welcomes all children and hopes to see you there.


Our Specialty Teachers :


Colleen McCalla


Colleen has taught at Dessert Montessori for four years.  She has enjoyed watching her students grow over the years and feels lucky to have them for more than one year as a specialty teacher.  She has a level one New Mexico teaching license and 8 years of teaching experience.

Mrs. McCalla has a degree from Whitman College in Fine Art and completed the Santa Fe community college teachers academy.  In Chicago she completed the Urban Life Center’s “City Arts” program with internships and Lil Street Gallery and Little Black Pearl Workshop.  She studied drawing and painting in Florence Italy as part of the SACI study-abroad program.  She was an Americorp volunteer in Las Cruces, NM and lead arts integration projects at Even Start (bi-lingual pre-school), Dona Ana Elementary School, Hatch Elementary and High schools, and Pioneer Alternative High School.  During her time in Las Cruces she also created large murals for the Dona Ana Volunteer Fire Department and the Club Fusion Teen Center.  Mrs. McCalla was promoted to Lead Artist of the “Aqui se Puede” arts-based violence prevention program for high school students on long-term suspension.

Mrs. McCalla enjoyed learning Spanish as a child from her mom who grew up in Peru.  In addition to college course work in Spanish, she worked with the cross-border “Amigos de Las Mujeres de Juarez”, attending a human rights conference in Chihuahua, Mexico.  She continued her education attending a intensive Spanish language program “El Proyecto Linguistico Quetzalteco” in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala.  Mrs. McCalla lived and worked at “Pimpollo Ciudad de Los Ninos” in Juchitan, Mexico.  She volunteered at the Mexican orphanage as a mentor and art teacher.  She fell in love with the kids of Pimpollo and Mexico and almost became an ex-patriot.   Her Spanish classes emphasize useful vocabulary and conversational Spanish.




Judith Mace, Spanish Teacher, Judith joined the Desert Montessori Staff in August 2013.  She received her Bachelor’s in Business Administration in Marketing in 1992 from Northeastern State University and her Master’s in Education with emphasis to teach foreign language in 1999 from the University of Tulsa.  She first taught English as a Second Language in Maracaibo, Venezuela in 1995.  She also studied abroad at El Centro de Estudios Linguisticos y Multiculturales in Cuernavaca, Mexico and at the Universidad de Málaga Cursos para Extranjeros in Malaga, Spain.  She has experience teaching in the Montessori classroom as a Spanish Teacher, Assistant Teacher and shadowing an autistic child.  She is certified to teach K-12 Spanish and she has taught in Waldorf, public, and private education.

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