Elementary Faculty

Julie Adams – Lower Elementary Teacher

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Julie Adams holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and AMS 6-9 certification. Julie first joined our faculty in 1985. She has the distinction of being Montessori School of Albany's (as WHMS was then known) first elementary teacher and taught for six years before taking time off to raise her children. Julie rejoined our faculty in 1997 and is now Head Teacher in one of our Lower Elementary classes.

 

 

 

Sandy Blakeman – Lower Elementary Teacher

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Sandy Blakeman received her bachelor’s degree in literature at Bard College in 1981. She has been teaching since 1983. She took elementary education courses at SUNY New Paltz in 1984 and received her Montessori certification for ages 6-9 in 1987 and 9-12 in 1989 at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education (CMTE) in New Rochelle, NY. Before coming to MSA in 1992, Sandy student taught in public schools in Germantown and Red Hook. She began her Montessori career at Windmill Montessori school in Brooklyn, NY and then at the Montessori House of Children in London, Ontario. Sandy has been involved in Montessori teacher education through CMTE and was also a consultant in the development of Albany Public Schools’ Montessori Magnet School.

 

Fesus OlgaOlga Febus – Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher

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Olga Febus holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Xavier Pontifical University in Colombia, South America, and completed master’s courses from Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Olga began her career as an elementary school counselor for Sacred Heart School in San Juan Puerto Rico. After living in the West Coast and Europe, Olga came to WHMS in 2004 and worked in Primary for two years prior to moving to Lower Elementary. Olga holds Early Childhood Certification from the Center for Montessori Education in New Rochelle, NY. Olga is an Assistant Teacher in Sandy’s Lower Elementary classroom.

 

00310Jackie Santilli - Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher

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Jackie Santilli has served as a classroom volunteer and substitute at WHMS, as well as co-president of Friends of WHMS for the past three years. Jackie has a bachelor's degree in child development from Syracuse University and a master’s degree in childhood education from Sage Graduate Schools. She taught elementary in schools in New York and Hawaii.

 

Cindy Bishop – Upper Elementary Teacher

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Cindy Bishop earned her bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 1993 from the State University of New York at New Paltz. In 2001, Cindy attended CMTE/NY in New Rochelle, where she received her Montessori 6-9 training. She taught in the Lower Elementary classroom for six years, when she returned to CMTE/NY to earn the Elementary II credential in 2006.  In 2016, Cindy completed her M.Ed with Montessori emphasis from Chaminade University. Cindy currently teaches in the Upper Elementary.

 

 Andrew McClain – Upper Elementary Teacher

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Andrew McClain began his teaching career in Africa in while studying for his bachelor’s degree in sociology and English at the University of Zambia. Upon his return to the U.S., he lived in Montana and Indiana, and taught at both public and Montessori schools. He received his teaching license for grades 5-9, from Indiana University and his 6-12 Montessori certification from the Center for Montessori Education in New Rochelle, New York. Andrew has taught in the Upper Elementary class since 1994. Additionally, he serves as faculty for the CMTE and was a consultant during the initial development of the City School District of Albany’s Montessori Magnet School.

 

Patrick Cartwright – Upper Elementary Teacher

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Patrick Cartwright has a bachelor’s degree in English from Hamilton College and a J.D. from Albany Law School. Patrick began teaching at WHMS in 2010. Formerly running a well-respected law firm, Patrick made a life changing decision to pursue his passion for teaching. Prior to his work as an attorney, Patrick worked as an environmental educator, ski and sailing instructor.

 

Michele Praileau – Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher

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Michele holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the State University of New York at Binghamton a master’s degree in Counselor Education from Syracuse University. She has worked with school-aged children as an Education Assistant at the Boys & Girls Clubs in New York City and with college students at Cornell University and the University at Albany. Michele has been an Assistant in the Upper Elementary classes since 2007.

 

Vinita Shekhar – Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher

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Vinita Shekhar has worked at WHMS since 2009. She served as After-Care lead teacher for the Elementary program. Most recently she worked as an Assistant Teacher in Julie’s Lower El class. Vinita has a bachelor’s in Psychology, English Literature and Economics. She also has a Post Graduate Diploma in Special Education, and a Montessori Primary overview training. Previous to WHMS, Vinita worked at The National Center for Cerebral Palsy for three years as head teacher and as Vice-Principal for a short term. She has also done voluntary work with the Special Kids Enrichment program in Atlanta, relief and support work in Bombay.

 

Anane OwusuOwusu Anane - Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher

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Owusu Anane joined the Upper El as an Assistant Teacher in 2016, working with Cindy Bishop. Owusu previously served as a Senior Legislative Analyst for State Senator Kevin Parker and for State Senator Cecelia Tkaczyk as a Senior Administrative Assistant. He also worked as a substitute teacher at Albany Public Schools, and as an Albany High School football coach. Owusu has bachelor’s in history from the University at Albany.

 

 

Howard SaraSara Howard - Elementary Assistant Teacher

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Sara Howard joins the WHMS team as an Assistant Teacher. Sara has worked at Albany Academy for 18 years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology from Hobart and William Smith College and a master's degree in psychology from Washington College in Maryland. Sara is NYS-certified in Special Education and as a Public School Teacher (Pre K, K, and Grades 1-6) She has also coached soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse for twenty years.  

Kostell Heather IIIHeather Kostell - Lower El Head Teacher

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Heather joins us at the Lower Elementary level. Heather has run her own business, Heather Kostell Art & Illustration, for eight years. She's also served as a special education teacher in Bethlehem and East Greenbush school districts. Heather has a bachelor's degree in childhood education with special education 1-6 from SUNY Geneseo, and a master's degree in Literary Education K-6 from the Sage Graduate College. She is NYS-certified in Childhood Education (Grades 1-6); Students with Disabilities (Grades 1-6); and Literacy (Birth-Grade 6).

Melinda PutneyMelinda Putney - Lower El Head Teacher

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Melinda will serve as a Head Teacher in the Lower El. Melinda was most recently an Upper Elementary Montessori teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina in a public Montessori school where she has taught for the past three years.  Prior to her work in North Carolina, Melinda taught in New York City, at the Family School and at Brooklyn Heights Montessori. In addition to her teaching work, Melinda is a published author. She has two non-fiction children’s books and has written articles for the Public School Montessorian. Melinda has a bachelor’s Degree in Russian and European Studies from Yale, and a master’s degree in elementary education from the College of St. Rose. She has (AMS) Montessori certification from CMTE in Lower Elementary.  She also has public school certification for the State of North Carolina.  

 

00152Katja Cecchetti-Higgins – Assistant Teacher

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Katja has joined WHMS in 2012. She has worked as an Upper Elementary Assistant for three years. Katja is currently assisting with Spanish and Art classes for both Lower Elementary and Upper Elementary. She also floats in the Lower Elementary classes. Katja is a Spanish Lecturer at the University at Albany. She earned her bachelor degree in Spanish from the University at Albany. She holds a Master's degree in Latin American Literature and Culture from the University at Albany.  Katja is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in Latin American Literature.

Slater JohnJohn Slater - Assistant Teacher

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John joins the WHMS faculty this year as an assistant teacher in Heather Kostell's class. John most recently worked as a Clinical Assistant at the Center for Disability Services in Albany. His prior work experience includes working at the Center for Disability Services and Unity House in Troy. John has a bachelor’s degree in childhood education from the College of St. Rose, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction there as well.