Head of School
Rebecca is the Head of School and Director of Admissions at Joseph Bruno Montessori Academy. Rebecca has been involved with Montessori education since 1995, either as a parent or educator. She has taught in elementary Montessori classrooms and held various leadership positions over the last 14 years. She received her Masters degree in Education from Nova Southeastern University and her Montessori Certification for grades one through six from the Houston Montessori Center. She also holds degrees from Auburn University and the Cumberland School of Law. She is a member of the American Montessori Society and the Florida Bar.
Over the years, she has attended AMS conferences, Peace Symposiums, and completed the Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom Course offered through the International Network for Children and Families. Rebecca is excited to work in a school with a model education program designed to bring out the best in every child. She has a passion for education and is dedicated to providing support to students, families, staff and community members at JBMA.
Rebecca enjoys introducing people to the world of Montessori education and sharing her own Montessori experiences with current and prospective JBMA families. She loves to read biographies, spend time with family and take walks with her black lab, Calusa.
Fay Shannon has worked at JBMA as the Office Administrator for the last 2 1/2 years. She works closely with our families, staff and school board maintaining and organizing all financial records and internal system controls. Before joining JBMA, Fay spent 35 years as both Company Treasurer and Secretary of a family business. Currently, she additionally serves as the Commercial Property Manager of SRP Management. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, cooking and spending time with her family and pets.
Joan has been Administrative Assistant at JBMA since June, 2004. When she came to interview for the job and walked around the campus with Ms. Theresa, she knew this is where she wanted to be. This has been one of the most challenging, yet rewarding jobs she has had. In her spare time you will find her sitting on her back deck with a cup of coffee and a book.
Naomi Breakenridge was born and raised on a farm in Iowa. She has been at JBMA for 21 years and currently serves as a faculty assistant. She has been married to her husband Ray for 27 years.
Dana Maxfield is our resident maintenance man and photographer at school. He has two daughters Ellie and Kate. He has been a member of the JBMA community for many years.
Kari is new this year to JBMA. She is teaching the aftercare program for preschool alongside Ms. Lindsey Nichols. She just recently graduated from UAB with a degree in education. She previously taught toddlers at a nearby preschool program. She lives in Montevallo, but is originally from Habersham County, GA. She has three brothers and always states how there is never a dull moment when she visits her family. She enjoys learning about nutrition, exercising, reading, soaking up the sun, and drinking a good cup of tea.
Lindsey is a Birmingham native. She received her bachelor degree from the University of Montevallo in 2007 and her master degree from UAB in 2009. After teaching in an early childhood program in Birmingham, Lindsey taught Pre-Kindergarten overseas for three years in Damascus, Syria and Kuwait. She joined the JBMA community in 2013 as a Preschool teacher and is now teaching in the Toddler program. She started her Montessori training for infant and toddler teachers in July 2014 at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in Davidson, North Carolina. Lindsey’s hobbies include yoga, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends. She lives in Trussville with her son, Jack.
Jessica was born and raised in Birmingham. She graduated with honors from Hoover High School in 2007. Jessica then received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from The University of Montevallo. She then worked in retail for two years while substituting for Hoover City Schools. Jessica began her Montessori Infant and Toddler training at The Houston Montessori Center in Houston, Texas during the summer of 2013. She joined the JBMA faculty in August 2013 as a Toddler teacher/guide while completing her internship. Jessica completed her training and received her certification in June 2014. Jessica’s hobbies include needlepoint, knitting, creating art, reading all sorts of books, listening to 60’s music and being an avid animal lover.
Windsor Ferzli has lived in Birmingham for 15 years. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Art at The University of Alabama. After a career in graphic design and time off to raise triplets, she made the shift to teaching. This is her first year teaching in the Toddler/Preschool program. She lives with her husband, George, and her children Luke, Nicholas & Yasmine. All three of her children attend JBMA. She enjoys exercising, traveling, being outdoors, drawing, playing with her dog, Mona Lisa, and being with her friends and family.
Shelley received her Bachelors Degree in Human Development and her Masters Degree in Early Childhood/Elementary Education from Samford University. After graduation, she taught Second grade in public school. In 1999, she joined the teaching staff of Bruno Academy, teaching 3 to 6 year olds and Kindergarten. She received her Montessori certification from Memphis Montessori Institute in 2003. Shelley was first introduced to the Montessori method at 3 years of age when her parents helped start the Montessori school she attended in Tuscaloosa, AL. She still remembers with fondness many of the practical life jobs, preparing her own snacks, and, of course, the pink tower. She lives in Vestavia with her husband, Doug, and their two sons, John Douglas (JD) and Miller, who also attend Bruno Academy.
Kirsten is a Birmingham native and went to JBMA as a child. For two years, she worked as an aftercare teacher at JBMA until she graduated from Oak Mountain High School. She attended the University of Alabama. After working as a paralegal for several years, she decided she wanted to come back to her JBMA family and teach fulltime. She is now teaching in the preschool. Kirsten lives with her husband, Zack, in Hoover and loves traveling, scuba diving, and being outdoors with their dog Turk.
Sarita has her Bachelors in Literature and Travel and Masters in Early Childhood Education. She has been teaching in Birmingham for more than a decade where she has taught in both public and private school settings. She received her American Montessori Society Certification in Early Childhood Education from Memphis Montessori Institute. She joined the faculty at JBMA in 2007. She has always enjoyed working with children and their individual needs and believes the ‘Differentiated Instruction and Assessment’ approach helps them grow to their fullest potential. She lives with her husband in Inverness and has a son, who is a freshman at Auburn. She also has three sponsored children whom she is very proud of. She enjoys traveling and reading.
Kathy Jones is in her second year teaching at JBMA. She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and attended Birmingham Southern College. She recieved her B.A. degree in 1986 in Early Childhood Education. She is the mother of four children, all who attended JBMA. She is currently teaching with Ms. Shweta in the Preschool Program and is proud to be a part of the JBMA community. Teaching young children is her passion.
Jennifer Pope is from Birmingham, Alabama. She has has been employed at JBMA since 2004. She received her bachelor’s degree in 2004 from the University of Montevallo in Family and Child Studies. She attended The Barrie School in Silver Spring, Maryland and earned her Montessori Certification for the 3-6 age group in 2006. She received her teaching certificate and Master’s Degree from UAB in 2011 in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She and her husband have a son, Liam, who is three years old and is part of Mrs. Shelley and Ms. Kirsten’s Class at JBMA.
Citlalli Petrik holds a degree in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M University. After a career in consulting and becoming a mother, she made a shift to teaching Spanish at Avon Montessori Academy. She and her family moved to Alabama from Avon, Ohio last summer. This is her first year at JBMA and she is excited to teach with Ms. Jennifer in the Preschool. She strongly believes in the message of peace, mindfulness and kindness Dr. Maria Montessori’s philosophy instills in children. She and her husband, Marek, have two children; son, Zikiel, and daughter, Nayeli, as well as two dogs, two birds and a cat. Both children attend JBMA. Citlalli speaks Spanish, a little Italian and some Slovak. She enjoys practicing yoga, traveling (mainly to visit family in Mexico and Slovakia) and mowing the lawn.
Shweta Singh has lived in Birmingham for 15 years. She earned her Bachelor’s in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and her Class B, P-6 undergraduate certification from The University of Alabama. She graduated with Presidential Honors. She has previously taught first grade, and the past three years she has been teaching in the private school setting. This is her fourth year teaching at JBMA in the Preschool program. Shweta enjoys every aspect of teaching and her motto is “Teaching is learning”.
Julia Gibler comes from a Montessori background — her mother was her first Montessori teacher, and Montessori has always played an important role in her life. She has a Bachelors and Masters Degree in English from the University of Kentucky. After teaching freshman composition at the University of Kentucky, she worked in Student Services for over 10 years. She and her husband, Doug, have two children at JBMA.
Catherine McElroy grew up in Jackson, Alabama. She has a Bachelor in Science from the University of Alabama in Childhood Development and Family Studies. In 2006, she received a Master’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and holds a teaching certificate from the State of Alabama. She has been teaching various grades from toddlers to 5th grade since 2002. She joined the faculty at JBMA in the fall of 2011. She received her certification through the American Montessori Society in 2013. She is an avid runner and loves to be outdoors with her husband, Rob, and their dog, Carl.
Genie began her journey into “Montessori” here at JBMA as an assistant with the Toddler class in 1997. Through the years, she has worked in the Preschool, Upper, and Lower classrooms where she had wonderful experiences with Montessori mentors such as Ms. Margaret and Ms. Sue. She has a BS degree from the University of Montevallo in special education of the hearing impaired, plus Montessori certifications in EI and EII. She fully believes in the philosophy and methods used in a Montessori environment that encourage children to become independent learners. That is why she loves working with the students here at JBMA.
On a personal note, she has been married since December 1983 and has two sons. Her husband has been the art teacher at Pizitz Middle School in Vestavia Hills since August 1983. They enjoy sports, especially tennis. Her days as an athlete are past, but she enjoyed going to games and matches when her boys were younger and she likes watching sports now. They also work together as a family during the summer months building and installing lockers. An interesting fact about her is that she was born on Leap Year, February 29th.
Rachel Acton is the newest member of the Lower Elementary team! She is orginally from Johnson City, TN, but has lived in Georgia and North Carolina. She has a B.S. degree in Early Childhood Education from Presbyterian College and a M.Ed. degree in Curriculum and Supervision from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She has been teaching for 11 years, most recently at a STEM school in Concord, NC. She has always been interested in science and loves to observe the “ah-ha” moments that happen when students conduct hands-on science experiments. She is thrilled to join the JBMA family and looks forward to receiving her Montessori training. She has been married to her husband, Ben, for 10 years. They have a 20 month old son named Nate. She enjoys reading, singing, and spending time with her family.
Since a very young age, Salima enjoyed playing a teacher, with her dolls being the students. One of her pivotal inspirations was her own teachers at school. They had such an enormous impact on her, from the way they spoke to the way they dressed. She always felt obliged to please them and tried to do more than what they expected of her.
After finishing a teacher’s certification program, She joined the Ivy League School in Pearland as a Kindergarten teacher without wasting any time and was relishing every moment of her newfound career.
Being a teacher has become so immersed in her life and personality that she cannot picture herself in another profession. She believes very strongly that one never ceases to learn and even more so for teachers because they are in an environment where learning is continuous. Completing her Masters in Montessori from a graduate school last year has only given her more tools and confidence to work and shape these young minds.
Kim is originally from the Birmingham area. She graduated from the University of Alabama with a BS degree in Medical Technology, and worked a number of years in clinical research at UAB. Kim also took classes there to earn a BS in Geology, then a Master’s in Education through UAB’s 5th year program. She started teaching in the JBMA Upper Elementary classroom in 2007, and acquired Montessori certification for ages 9-12 through CMTE/NY.
Kim is married to Joe Josephson, and has a son and a daughter. She enjoys teaching content through the use of hands-on materials in the classroom, and conducts the Science Club after school for Upper Elementary age students. Kim likes to read, swim, play tennis, and hike during leisure time.
Zecharaih Hook grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee where he attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and earned his B.A. in theatre. As an actor, he enjoyed telling stories that made people think and challenge their ideas. While living in Los Angeles and pursuing a career as an actor, a series of life changing events led him to environmental education. He realized that what he truly wanted to be was a teacher!
Zechariah learned about a special place called Camp McDowell Environmental Center. They saw his potential and hired him as a teacher/naturalist. He knew he had found his calling. Teaching and learning came easily in such a free-form hands-on environment. For three and a half years, Zechariah grew as an educator and a leader, becoming McDowell’s resident storyteller.
When Zechariah decided to leave McDowell to start a family, he reflected on the hundreds of schools he had experienced over the years. He was drawn to the Montessori philosophy, and Joseph S. Bruno Montessori Academy stood out like a beacon to him. Zechariah is excited to continue his journey as an educator and lifelong learner while helping our children grow into passionate, motivated, thoughtful students themselves.
MIDDLE SCHOOL TEACHERS
Chris Gallas was born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri. She attended Saint Louis University and earned her Bachelors in Sociology and Education with an emphasis in Math and Science. Chris is married with four daughters. She is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and enjoys traveling, photography, kayaking, and playing Scrabble.
Kate is originally from Annapolis, MD. She has a brother and a sister, both younger. She moved to Tuscaloosa and received her Bachelor’s Degree in History and English from The University of Alabama in 2011, and just recently finished her Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Samford University here in Birmingham. She loves working with students individually to help them meet their goals and is very excited to be teaching Bruno’s 7th and 8th Graders. At 26 years old, Kate coaches girl’s lacrosse on the side, enjoys traveling, and being outdoors. She loves college football and usually watches ESPN as her morning news. She also loves keeping track of current events with her students.
Evelyn is originally from Colombia, S.A. She has 3 children and a grandson. She went to college in Colombia (Javeriana University) and did Pre-med, then she received her degree in Child Development & Early Childhood Education. She has been working with children for the last 24 years in this country and 14 years with JBMA. She worked in Colombia with the government for a few years, helping children with disabilities, teaching them how to read and write. At the same time she was the assistant at a television program for children “El Mundo de los Ninos” (The Children World). In this country she has worked in various settings: Montessori, Traditional and ESL programs. She has dedicated many years of her life to children and she loves them! She feels she can help them in many ways. Her purpose is to help them feel secure and loved, to make it easier for them to learn. Her curriculum allows the child to experience the joy of learning.
Ms. Gianna is happy to be celebrating her tenth year as Drama Teacher at JBMA. Before joining the JBMA family, Ms. Gianna graduated with honors from Troy University, where she was awarded a full academic scholarship. She then spent 13 years as an Artist in Residence at Birmingham Children’s Theatre, where she did everything from acting, designing wigs and makeup, set construction and painting, props making, to stage managing shows throughout the southeastern U.S. and teaching workshops to Birmingham children. She also taught Creative Dramatics to preschoolers at Advent Episcopal Day School through Birmingham Southern College’s outreach program, and has worked around the country with such companies as the Utah Shakespeare Festival and Atlanta’s Kids Comedy Theatre.
Shortly after Ms. Gianna started raising her own family, a theatre teaching position opened up at JBMA. It was the perfect fit! JBMA has always worked hard to find teachers that are the perfect fit for our family-like community. Since she has a family of her own and has spent so much of her adult life working with children, Ms. Gianna knows how much each child matters and has to give. And because she has had the opportunity to work in so many different positions in theatre, she has real life experience in everything she teaches.
Brad, an upstate New York native, moved to the Birmingham area in 2013 to complete his Masters at UAB. Both his undergraduate work at SUNY Brockport, and his graduate work at UAB led to degrees in Physical Education. Since moving to Alabama, he has gained experience teaching PE and working in elementary classrooms as a substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, Brad has coached lacrosse locally to various age and skill levels. In Physical Education, Brad wants the students to take away an appreciation for physical activity, as well as an enjoyment in trying new things. He hopes to connect students with many of the local resources that are readily available. Brad enjoys traveling, visiting family, or running the trails at any one of the beautiful parks that Birmingham has to offer.
Cheryl currently teaches music at JBMA. She has been a part of the faculty since 1998 following twenty-eight years at Vestavia Hills Elementary. She earned her Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of Montevallo and holds Level III Orff certification. She was Teacher of the Year in Vestavia Hills City Schools in 1993 and Alabama Music Educators Outstanding Music Educator in 1994. Cheryl has served as director of children’s choirs, and as pianist and organist, in a number of churches in the Birmingham area, and on staff at Fine Arts Week at Sumatanga. She has presented workshops throughout Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee and has taught elementary music materials and methods courses at Birmingham Southern College. Cheryl has also served as cooperating teacher for more than 100 student teachers in Alabama.
Busy hands, busy mind, always wanting to know the how and why of things. Bev loves to create and develop ideas that ultimately make people smile. She loves teaching her students about art and art history. Making real world connections through art and emphasizing the creative process helps students build a life-long appreciation of art. She is happily married with two daughters who are also artists. She received her BA in Art from University of Massachusetts Westfield. Her past experience has been in advertising, freelance design, mural work and gallery art. She is presently the Visual Arts Specialist at JBMA teaching young creative minds and has been doing so for almost twenty years. She loves the creative process and is always covered in paint! She lives in Pelham, Alabama.
Jessica is in her fourth year as the JBMA Media Specialist. She maintains the JBMA library, teaching weekly library classes to all students, toddler through 8th grade. Ms. Jessica received both her B.S. in Anthropology and Master of Library and Information Science degrees from the University of Alabama. Ms. Jessica grew up in Jacksonville, Alabama, and has lived in Birmingham since 2005. She is happily married with a son.