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Children's Garden Montessori | Preschool for 2 to 6 year olds

Our Teachers


Joan Shankin, Director and East Class

Joan has a degree in English from Texas A&M, with minors in Education and Business. She taught in high school and middle school before she had her own retail business for ten years in Houston. She did Montessori training for the elementary level at the Houston Montessori Center in 1997, and taught in an elementary Montessori classroom for four years. She completed the Montessori preschool certification with the NCME-NM teacher training course in White Rock in 2010. Her hobbies include singing with the Santa Fe Community College Chamber Singers and officiating USA and high school swimming.


Dora Brandt, East Class

Dora is from Mazatlan, Mexico, and still brings her family back to visit every year for a seaside vacation. She went to a technical college in Juarez. Then she worked in quality control for an auto manufacturer. Dora came to Santa Fe before her sons were born. Dora became a Montessori teacher in 2002. Her hobbies include crafts, dancing, gardening and painting. 


  Julee White, West Class

Julee was born and raised in rural Pennsylvania. She grew up Montessori; her mom was a Montessori teacher when Montessori was just entering the U.S in the 1970’s. Julee helped in her mom’s schools growing up, beginning her lifelong work with children. She attended Carnegie Melon University, studying art and design, before moving to Santa Fe in 1997. Julee went back east for a few years to care for her grandfather, and worked in home health care and assisted living. Julee completed her Primary Montessori training at the New Mexico Center for Montessori Education in June 2016.  She is a swim instructor working with young children. 


Antonio Cisneros, East and West Class


Antonio went to Camino de Paz Montessori Farm School in Espanola and the New Mexico School for the Arts.  He began working here during the summer of 2013 when he was in high school, and now has chosen Montessori early childhood education as a career. 


Belle Ponder, West Class 

Belle was born and raised in Arkansas and earned a M. Ed. in early childhood development and education at Antioch Graduate School in 1975. She founded the Santa Fe Pre-School Inc. in 1975 and taught there for 20 years. Meanwhile she received a M.A. in counseling from Antioch Graduate School in 1987. Belle has been a therapist with the Youthworks Program, and the Viva Familia Program at the Santa Fe Rape Crisis & Trauma treatment Center. Belle has a thorough knowledge of early childhood development and has expertise in a variety of teaching methods for at-risk parents and children. She loves to cook, create art, sing and dance. 


Becky Stamm, West Class

Becky is a native Santa Fean who has taught for 40 years.  She is certified 0 to 9 years in Montessori from NCME-NM Teacher Training and the North American Training Center.  She has been a Montessori teacher in 1st through 5th grades, preschool, and is presently working in the toddler class.  She is an avid camper, skier, hiker and gardener.



Erin Larsen, Toddler Class

Erin grew up in Akron, Ohio. She received her Bachelor’s in Communication Studies at Wright State University in 2002. After graduation she accepted a position in Asuncion, Paraguay in South America working at a bilingual school for three years. In 2006, Erin returned to the US where she worked in the public school system as a Spanish interpreter for ESL students. Three years later, Erin moved backed down to South America, this time to Chile, where she worked in private institutions teaching English. Erin and her husband moved back to the States in 2015 and finally to New Mexico in 2016 so she could pursue her in Master’s in Art Therapy and Counseling at Southwestern College. Erin enjoys working with clay and swimming.



 Jenny Coute, Toddler Class

Jenny is from Boston, MA. Before moving to Santa Fe, she spent some time in Chiapas, Mexico, where she was working on a photo-journalism project involving ingenious human rights. Jenny is passionate about being a positive educator in children's lives. Currently, she is finishing her degree in elementary education with a dual major in special education online at Grand Canyon University. Jenny has found her home here at Children's Garden. She enjoys nature, hiking, gardening, and cooking. 

Kim Henning, West Class

Kim grew up in Connecticut developing her passion for the outdoors which led her to various adventures, from sea kayaking in Alaska to trekking in Nepal.  Kim received her  B.S. from The University of Vermont and her Master’s degree in Elementary Education from the Lesley College/Shady Hill School  in Cambridge MA. For the past 30+ years,  Kim has taught in a variety of school settings, both private and public, Montessori and traditional. For 10 years , Kim directed a nature based summer camp at The Santa Fe Tree House Camp.  Most recently, Kim was a fourth grade teacher at Wood Gormley Elementary.




Page Meneely, Toddler Class

Page was born and raised in Santa Fe and attended Montessori school from age 6 through age 10.  She received her Bachelor's Degree in Ecology and Politics in 2009 from the former College of Santa Fe.  She worked retail for several years before answering her true calling of becoming a Montessori teacher in 2010.  After five years at Children's Garden Montessori and Desert Montessori, Page took time off to raise her daughter, Meadow, and continued to employ the Montessori method at home.  Meadow now attends school at Children's Garden.  Page enjoys hiking, reading, art, and being a mom!