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 works as our JBMA Office Administrator. 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.
Dana Maxfield is our resident maintenance man and photographer at JBMA. He has two daughters Ellie and Kate. He has been a member of the JBMA community for many years.
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.
Kari Ethridge graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a bachelor’s degree in Education. She received her Montessori Infant and Toddler training at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education North Carolina.
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 thoroughly enjoys teaching at JBMA. She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and attended Birmingham Southern College. She received 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. Sarita in the Preschool Program and is proud to be a part of the JBMA community. Teaching young children is her passion.
Kim is a Montessori Certified early childhood educator that has almost 30 years of classroom experience. A long term resident of Benton Harbor, Michigan, Kim is excited to bring her many years of teaching to JBMA’s Preschool. She attended a Montessori Training Program associated with Indiana University, and gained a variety of expertise in all areas of Montessori instruction.
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.
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. This is her second 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.
Rachel is an Alabama native that will be joining our faculty this year. She attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham to achieve a degree in Psychology, and then went on to the University of Montevallo to receive a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. She is currently training to become a Montessori Certified Teacher.
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. She enjoys teaching in our preschool program 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.
Naomi Breakenridge was born and raised on a farm in Iowa. She has been a part of JBMA for over two decades. She has been married to her husband Ray for 27 years.
Zhera has been an assistant within our Preschool Programs for many years. She enjoys working with our youngest students and has always been an encouraging and positive presence here 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. She has two twin girls named Cameron Ann and Sidney Bounds.
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 a member of the Lower Elementary team! She is originally 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 son named Nate. She enjoys reading, singing, and spending time with her family.
Sara is a graduate from the University of Southern Mississippi. She has many years of experience working within the nursing field, but recently decided to make a transition to teaching. She loves to work with people, and much of her work has been managerial and care related. She has experience teaching in early childhood, and currently is working towards her Montessori Certification.
Melissa graduated from Auburn University in May 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies. She focused on Communication and Kinesiology. She believes in the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle. She has previous work experience as an activities coordinator for a skilled nursing unit but has decided to put her focus towards children. She is excited to begin working with the students of JBMA.
Melissa grew up in Auburn, AL and attends every home football game! She was formerly the 8th grade cheerleading coach for Auburn Junior High School. Melissa recently got married to her husband Jake in June 2016 and they enjoy going running and playing tennis together.
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.
Zechariah 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.
Chelsea is graduate of Wofford University and Mercer University where she studied varying areas of history and secondary education. She graduated from Wofford in 2010 and then attended Mercer University in Georgia to receive a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education. Following a year of long term substitute teaching at JBMA, she is excited to be a full time member of the faculty within the Upper Elementary Classroom. She is currently working towards her Montessori Certification. Chelsea enjoys traveling, and has been to China, Thailand, Cambodia, and New Zealand.
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 Chamberlain is originally from Annapolis, Maryland, but has lived in Alabama for almost a decade. She attended the University of Alabama and graduated with a degree in History and English, then went on to achieve a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education from Samford University. Kate is passionate about the outdoors, and finds great importance in teaching the next generation about the world. She has a dachshund named Chewbacca, coaches lacrosse, and always finds time for arts and crafts.
SPECIAL EDUCATION/ELEMENTARY SUPPORT
Sandy has enjoyed a long and educational career as a teacher. Possessing training within both Special Education and Montessori, Sandy is thoroughly excited to be working within the Montessori environment again. She has recently moved from Texas and currently lives with her husband in Montevallo.
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 our 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.
Melissa is thrilled to be working with JBMA students this year to enrich their foreign language experience. As a native spanish speaker, Melissa moved from Mexico to the states after getting married. Her experience teaching ranges from the preschool level all the way to adult learners. She is new to Birmingham and can’t wait to learn more about the city and our JBMA community.
Jordan graduated from The University of Alabama in 2016 with a degree in Human Performance and Physical Education. He recently got married and moved to the Birmingham area with his wife who is beginning medical school at UAB.