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Staff Bios – EII

Nikki Conyers
I was a Montessori student myself in my early childhood years and have many fond memories of loving school and learning. As a college student, I took a job as an assistant in an Elementary I classroom which led me to seek my Elementary credentials after graduating with my BA in Psychology and Communication.
Master's Degree in Education, St. Catherine University

Sakeenah Franzen
My introduction to Montessori began in 2009 as an Art Teacher at a Montessori school in northern Virginia. I quickly fell in love with the Montessori approach that so seamlessly weaves together child-centered, visual, tactile, and kinesthetic learning, and knew I wanted to expand my teaching to include all curricular areas. After completing my EI-EII training at the Institute of Montessori Studies (IAMS) at Barrie, in Maryland, I worked for 7 years as a bilingual Elementary II guide at the Latin American Montessori School in Washington, DC. I served as an Instructor for EI-EII Art, and then EII at IAMS as well before moving to Denver in 2020. After working as a Secondary Sciences (Occupations) guide at the farm school of Denver Montessori Jr/Sr High School for two years, I took a break to give birth to my daughter in 2022. We decided to return to Montessori together, and we both now attend Monarch Montessori School of Denver, where I again have the pleasure of serving as a bilingual EII guide and Upper Elementary Team Lead.
Masters of Arts in Education (MAEd) in Montessori Education, St. Catherine University

Betsy Lockhart
Betsy followed her son into Montessori when he was a toddler. Seeing how the school nurtured his independence and self-confidence opened her eyes to what a difference Montessori could make in the formation of a child. Having spent a decade working as a Geophysical Engineer, she was fascinated by the precision, beauty, and order of the classrooms (something she was unable to replicate at home!). After the birth of her daughter, she began exploring Montessori teacher training, and shortly thereafter enrolled in the very first cohort of Elementary students at MECR.

Betsy worked as a lower elementary assistant for a year and then moved to Montessori School of Evergreen, where she taught upper elementary for a decade. After a short time in the classroom, she was invited to teach earth science for the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies in Maryland (the parent training program when MECR-Elementary began). When the E-II program started at MECR, she taught E-II Science as well as Curriculum Design/Material Making at the E-I level. After a short time, she became a Field Consultant and then the Elementary Coordinator. At various times she has taught E I-II Classroom Leadership, E-II Language, Geometry II, and Math II. Her current obsession is linking contemporary research on the neuroscience of learning to the Montessori Method.

"Our aim is not only to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his
imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core." Maria Montessori
BS Geophysical Engineering, Colorado School of Mines

Dakota Prosch
Dakota started teaching in 2000 with Teach for America in the Chicago Public Schools. After 8 years, she learned of Montessori and got her training at Montessori Institute of Milwaukee. After 5 years at Near North Montessori, she returned to the public schools of Chicago and enjoyed the satisfaction of high fidelity Montessori in the public sector. She has worked for 5 years at a Dual Language Montessori School in Denver, and teaches in Spanish as well. She is a trained SEED (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) leader and has facilitated conversational communities to drive personal, organizational, and societal change toward social justice. She completed the Montessori Coaches Training with NCMPS in 2020 and loves talking with teachers about Montessori practices in their classrooms.
Masters in Education, National-Louis University

Diana Visser
Montessori Education has always been a passion of mine. I am a third-generation Montessorian; my mother and grandmother were both Montessori primary teachers and I attended Montessori Primary, so I have very deep roots in the philosophy and methods of Dr. Maria Montessori. After I completed my M.A. in Elementary Education, I taught Kindergarten for 12 years in traditional school. When my daughter was Kindergarten age, we registered her for Montessori school and I thought, "This is what I know! I need to get back to thriving in a Montessori environment!" Soon after, I completed my Montessori Elementary I-II credential from The Montessori Education Center of the Rockies (MECR) in Boulder. I joined the faculty at MECR in 2018 teaching History. During the school year, you can find me teaching Upper Elementary at DCS Montessori Charter in Castle Pines, Colorado. I embrace every opportunity to stay connected to the greater Montessori community and advance the work we are doing with children in the world.
M.A. Elementary Education, University of Phoenix

Janel Wade
Freedom within limits defines a key component of the Montessori realm for me. I came from a public education background but I was fascinated and drawn by the choice given to children both in academics and in how they learned to behave within their environment. I started as an assistant working in ‘aftercare’ while in my last year of high school. By that time, I was hooked and just couldn’t leave this wonderful philosophy which was designed to nurture the whole child. In Montessori philosophy, I found the nurturing, guidance and choice that I myself needed as I grew to adulthood. After earning my degree, I taught both lower and upper elementary classes before eventually fostering and adopting my son. I have recently specialized in forming inclusive support strategies for unique learners in the Montessori classroom. I now enjoy sharing my passion for Montessori with adults who are new to this ‘freedom within limits’ philosophy.
Masters of Arts in Teaching, Metropolitan State University