Laura Manack
Head of School

Welcome to Butler Montessori!

As Head of School, I am inspired by the opportunity to fulfill the unique mission of Butler Montessori, which is guided by the work and writings of Dr. Maria Montessori (1870–1952).

At its core, our philosophy is simple: Follow the child.

At Butler Montessori every child is a unique individual, naturally driven to grow, develop and learn. Educational goals include a love of learning, the ability to make appropriate choices and respect for oneself, other people and their physical surroundings. We believe this educational experience works best when each child connects deeply with a caring, compassionate and empathetic adult who strives to provide them with this opportunity.

Thank you to those families who are members of our Butler community. It is an honor and a pleasure to work with your children as their presence here at Butler Montessori enriches the lives of everyone at our school.

For those who are considering joining Butler Montessori, please feel free to schedule a tour! We look forward to sharing the Butler experience with you.


In the beginning

In the 1960s, a re-discovery of Dr. Maria Montessori’s revolutionary approach to child development spread across the United States. Rilla Spellman, founder of Butler Montessori, was among the first wave of educators who embraced Dr. Montessori’s philosophy.

In this process of discovery, Rilla became one of the founding members of the Washington Montessori Institute and enrolled in the first Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) Primary Training Course offered in Washington, D.C. Over the next five years, Rilla became directress in two different Montessori schools.

When her family moved to Seneca, Maryland, in 1969, Rilla recognized there was no Montessori education available for the children of Upper Montgomery County. Rilla’s appreciation of Dr. Maria Montessori and a desire to develop a school that would best reflect Dr. Montessori’s philosophy led her to take the step of opening the first class of what is now Butler Montessori.

From idea to reality

The school’s initial location was at the Fairhaven United Methodist Church in Darnestown and was called “Fairhaven School.” The year was 1970, and Darnestown was really still “the country.” Quince Orchard Road was barely paved and wound its way to Gaithersburg. The first Safeway, and a few more stores, had opened at Quince Orchard and Route 28.

Posters at the Safeway and a few other places informed the community about this new Montessori program for preschoolers, and information spread easily. The school color was bright yellow, with yellow stationary and enrollment forms. Parents came to meet with Rilla, learn about Montessori and fill out their forms. Soon there were 13 3- and 4-year-old children enrolled in the school’s first Primary class.

Rilla spent a great deal of time explaining that Montessori was not another nursery school but an entirely different opportunity. She met with each and every parent, often more than once to help parents feel comfortable with this new idea and to give them confidence in the step they were taking.

A Real Montessori environment


Sufficient enrollment made it possible to place the first order for real Montessori materials with Nienhuis in the Netherlands. It is hard to imagine the difference between intercontinental commerce then and now.

The materials were ordered by letter and paid by certified check. They were then shipped to the Port of Baltimore, and to pick them up at the dock, one needed to be a bonded agent or hire a third party to perform this step. It is quite a different story now when one can sit at the computer and simply order, pay online and have anything delivered to your door.

Throughout the year, new materials were added to the classroom, and the children were eager for all of the possibilities. The year sped by, and the students seemed to soak up knowledge every day. A few more students were added to the class during the winter so that at the end of the year the enrollment in that class was up to about 17 children, leaving room for seven new 3 year-olds to be added for the coming year.

The first year was a success. The children were excited to learn everything they touched and parents seemed pleased to have them continue and to tell their friends and enroll their younger children.

After several years, Fairhaven School outgrew its original location due to growing demand. The school acquired its current 22-acre campus in 1983, expanded to 6th grade and was renamed Butler School. The Intermediate Program for young adolescents opened in 1995.

In 2012, Butler School once again realized the need for a new name that reflects its continuing evolution. In an effort to highlight the roots of our educational principles to those who might not yet know us, the school was renamed Butler Montessori.

AMI Certificate of Recognition

Butler Montessori is certified by Association Montessori Internationale (AMI).

AMI was started by Dr. Maria Montessori to ensure that teachers are trained in a specific manner and schools continue to be operated according to her design and methods.

To be eligible for an AMI Certificate of Recognition, a school must have:

  • One teacher holding an AMI diploma (for the appropriate age level) for each class.
  • Children in classes of mixed age levels (3–6, 6–9, 9–12).
  • A complete set of AMI-approved materials for each classroom from a manufacturer of approved materials.
  • A philosophical approach consistent with what is given in AMI training courses.

An AMI Certificate of Recognition recognizes the comprehensive adherence to the Montessori principles and practices. Butler Montessori is one of a handful of schools in Maryland that meets AMI’s strict criteria for its Certificate of Recognition for programs serving ages 3 through 12.

Maryland State Board of Education

Butler Montessori is fully accredited by the State of Maryland and holds a Certificate of Approval from the Maryland State Board of Education for its Primary, Elementary and Intermediate programs.

Member of AISGW

Butler Montessori is a member of AISGW (Association of Independent Schools in Greater Washington, formerly Independent Education).

Diversity Celebrated Here

At Butler Montessori, we encourage and embrace cultural diversity. One way we do so is by celebrating a variety of religious and ethnic events throughout the year.

With an attitude of respect and a desire for knowledge, students participate in activities recognizing cultural and religious celebrations, even those they do not share. These celebrations do not constitute religious practice but show respect for various beliefs and traditions. We respect people as individuals and their rights to observe the religion or culture of their choice.

Non-Discrimination Policy

A large part of the Montessori philosophy is the practice of peace. Dr. Montessori lived through two world wars, which made her a strong advocate for peace. She firmly believed that the education of children was the key to future peace. Peace Education and the Peace Curriculum are based on the teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori and her son, Mario Montessori. “Avoiding war is the work of politics; establishing peace is the work of education” is one of the basic tenets of Maria Montessori. Her vision and goal was the reconstruction of society and the establishment of world peace through education.

Per our committed practice of the Montessori philosophy, Butler Montessori admits students of any race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and national or ethnic origin with all the rights, privileges, programs and activities generally accorded or made available to students at our school. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion or national/ethnic origin in administration of our educational policies, admissions policies, financial aid program and other school-administered programs.

In accordance with the Maryland State Department of Education, Butler Montessori teachers hold bachelor’s degrees (or equivalent) from accredited institutions of higher education. Many of our staff members also hold master’s degrees. Additional training in education principles and techniques is an ongoing part of professional development for all staff.

All teachers at Butler Montessori also hold an AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) diploma or certificate. This is in accordance with AMI’s high standards for its Certificate of Recognition.

Training to obtain an AMI Montessori Primary or Elementary Diploma is undertaken at an AMI training center. Many staff members have both certificates. The training is a rigorous, yearlong course during which each trainee writes his or her personal teaching albums. Intermediate teachers hold a Certificate of Adolescent Studies from North American Montessori Teacher’s Association.

Kelly Beall ~ Primary Assistant


Dani Beaulieu ~ Art Specialist


Rainey Blomgren ~ Lower Elementary Guide

B.A., Florida State University, Tallahassee, Fl
AMI Montessori Elementary Diploma
M.Ed., Loyola University, Maryland

Sandy Bodine ~ Lower Elementary Assistant


Miki Boulin ~ Community Engagement Coordinator

Community Engagement Coordinator ~ Marketing Lead and Administrative Assistant

Aubrey Bursch ~ Development Consultant

Kenna Bradford ~ Intermediate Guide

B.A., University of Florida
M.S., George Washington University,Washington D.C.
AMI Montessori Elementary Diploma
AMI Montessori Certificate of Adolescent Studies
M.Ed., Loyola University, Maryland

Bertha Castillo ~ Spanish Specialist, Extended Day Lead, CMT, Intermediate Guide

B.A., Metropolitana University, Puerto Rico
M.Ed., Metropolitana University, Puerto Rico
AMI-NAMTA Adolescent Certification

Scott Chidakel ~ Business Manager

B.S., University of Maryland

Linda Cook ~ Primary Assistant

B.A., Columbia Union, Maryland
M.Ed., University of Maryland
AMI Primary Diploma

Colleen Coughlin ~ Equestrian Director

B.S., University of Delaware

Amy D’Elia ~  Admissions Director

B.A., Monmouth University, New Jersey

Lisa Daly ~ Director of Programs, IT Specialist, Intermediate Guide, CMT

B.A., Virginia Tech
M.A., Hood College, Maryland
AMI-NAMTA Adolescent Certification

Rachel Dietrich ~ Supervisory Nurse

RN, BSN, University of Maryland at Baltimore
M.Ed., George Washington University, Washington D.C.

Bridgette Downer ~ Environmental Education Guide

B.S., Florida Tech, Melbourne, FL


Regina Dyson ~ Licensure Coordinator, Assistant Camp Director, Extended Day, Bus Driver Lead


Anastasia Jantz ~ Lower Elementary Assistant


Maria Kamezawa ~ Young Children’s Community Assistant

B.A., Tecnologico de Oaxaca, Mexico
AMI Intro. to Assistants to Infancy Diploma

Christine Kruszewski ~ Speech & Language Consultant

Laura L. Manack ~ Head of School

B.S., Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science
AMI Montessori Primary Diploma
AMI Montessori Elementary Diploma
M.Ed., Loyola University, Maryland

Lindsay Manack ~ Extended Day


Cinzia Maddalena Mattiace ~ Music & Performing Arts Director

B.A., Music Conservatorium, N. Piccinni, Italy
M.A., Piano Performance Conservatorium, “S. Gesualdo de Venose”-Italy
PhD., Pedagogy, Università degli studi di Bari Aldo Moro, Italy

Holley Mattson ~ Art Specialist

B.A., Alfred University, New York

Mary Kelly McDermott ~ Upper Elementary Assistant

AMI Montessori Assistant Certificate

Jennifer Mitchell ~ Band Director

B.A., James Madison University, Virginia
M.A., University of Memphis, Tennessee.

Danielle Morgan ~ Primary Assistant, Bus Driver


Kelly Nguyen ~ Lower Elementary Guide

B.A., University of North Carolina at Charlotte
AMI Montessori Elementary Diploma

Heather Pelkey ~ Licensure Specialist, Lead CMT,
Summer Camp Director

Certified Nursing Assistant for School Health
Certified Medical Technician
University of Akron, Ohio

Suzanne Phillips ~ Primary Guide

B.A., Hood College, Frederick, MD
AMI Montessori Primary Diploma

Eriq Powers ~ P.E. Specialist, Webmaster, Marketing Assistant, Intermediate Guide


Emma Rodwin ~ Intermediate Guide

B.A., Dickinson College, Pennsylvania
AMI Montessori Certificate of Adolescent Studies

Rhonda Lucas-Sabater ~ Primary Guide

B.Sc., The University of the District of Columbia
AMI Montessori Infant, Primary, Elementary Diplomas, Adolescence Certificate
M.Ed., Loyola University, Maryland

Natasha Soderberg ~ Administrative Coordinator

Administrative Coordinator, Community Outreach Coordinator ~ Development Lead, Staff BPC Liaison

Gina Sorrentino ~ Young Children’s Community Guide

B.A., St. John’s College, Maryland
AMI Primary Diploma
AMI Assistance to Infancy Teacher Training

James Wilson ~ Facilities Manager


Linda Wilson ~ Upper Elementary Guide

B.S., Philadelphia University
AMI Montessori Elementary Diploma
M.Ed., Loyola University, Maryland

Natalie Xander ~ Primary Guide

B.A., Emmanuel College, Boston, Massachusetts
AMI Montessori Primary Diploma
M.Ed., Loyola University, Maryland

The Board of Trustees (BOT) is a dedicated group of widely talented individuals committed to preserving and improving Butler Montessori and its mission as an AMI Montessori School serving toddlers through young adolescents. The Board of Trustees is responsible for ensuring that the Head of School has the resources, guidance and support needed to successfully operate Butler Montessori and the Butler Camp and Equestrian programs. Passionate about ensuring Butler Montessori’s continued success of providing an outstanding education on its exceptional campus classroom, the Board of Trustees meets regularly and carries its work forward through standing committees: Finance, Development, External Marketing and Buildings, Grounds and Stewardship. The Head of School, Business Manager and a staff/teacher representative (non-voting members) round out the Board.

Butler Montessori Board of Trustees – Voting Members


Freddie Gratz

Connection to Butler/Interest in Serving on the Board

Passionate about education and helping nonprofits

BOT Role, Committee Membership and/or Expertise

Finance Committee chair

Day Job

Squire, Lemkin + Company LLP, Senior Auditor


Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, West Virginia, M.B.A.

Shepherd University, B.S., Accounting and Business Administration

What I love about Butler Montessori

“Butler Montessori prioritizes the educational and developmental needs of every student, individually and as a class, and fully embraces that each child has an innate ability to be their best when given the choice and the opportunity.”


Janet McDonell

Connection to Butler/Interest in Serving on the Board

Passionate about Montessori education, former Butler Montessori teacher

BOT Role, Committee Membership and/or Expertise

Montessori expert

Day Job

Loyola University, the Washington Montessori Institute, Director of Training at the Primary level


Loyola University, M.Ed., Montessori Education
Ohio Montessori Training Institute, American Montessori Institute (AMI) Elementary Diploma; Montessori Teacher Training Institute of Northern California, AMI Special Education Diploma
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, B.A., comparative literature

What I love about Butler Montessori

“In 1976, Butler gave me my first – and best – teaching job!”


Jim Merriam

Connection to Butler/Interest in Serving on the Board

Parent of four Butler graduates and interested in giving back to the school

BOT Role, Committee Membership and/or Expertise

Buildings, Grounds and Stewardship Committee member, Master Electrician for 30 years; as a 20-year business owner, brings level-headedness and both technical and business expertise to the board

Day Job

JKM Electric Inc., President/Owner


Walter Johnson High School, Bethesda, Maryland
Ferrum College, Ferrum, Virginia, Four-year electrical apprentice graduate (going to school two nights a week while working 40+ hours a week in the trade)

What I love about Butler Montessori

“All of my children have excelled because of the education and values received during their years here.”


Christine Neigh

Connection to Butler/Interest in Serving on the Board

Parent of current students

BOT Role, Committee Membership and/or expertise

Development Committee Chair, Human Resources and Leadership Coaching expertise

Day Job

Neigh Consulting, LLC, Owner


Johns Hopkins University, M.S., Strategic Human Resources and Organizational Development; Chatham University, B.A., Political Science with Minors in Economics and Philosophy; Company Certified Executive Coach

What I love about Butler Montessori

“Our family is blessed and grateful to have found a wonderful community at Butler Montessori with a community that respects and nurtures our children, fosters our love of learning, and not only encourages but expects independence and responsibility.”


Lynn Perry Parker

Connection to Butler/Interest in Serving on the Board

Passionate about education

BOT Role, Committee Membership and/or expertise

Provides legal counsel to Butler Montessori

Day Job

LPP Law, Principal Owner and Attorney
Education The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law, Doctor of Law (J.D.); The George Washington University, B.A., Political Science with an Economics Minor

What I love about Butler Montessori

“The dedication and authenticity of the school’s teacher staff, leadership, and community to developing lifelong learners.”


Kim Krause Schwalm

Connection to Butler/Interest in Serving on the Board

Parent of two Butler graduates

BOT Role, Committee Membership and/or Expertise

External Marketing Committee Chair; past President of Butler Parent Connection (BPC); creative, growth-oriented business builder with nearly three decades of marketing experience

Day Job

Creative Synergy Inc., Copywriter and President


Loyola University Maryland, M.B.A., Marketing; Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, B.S., Mathematics and Statistics

What I love about Butler Montessori

“Knowing my children had the best possible educational experience and environment during their years here from age 3 through 8th grade, which helped lay the foundation for them growing into responsible, independent and happy young adults.”


Deborah Sholtes

Connection to Butler/Interest in Serving on the Board

Parent of two Butler graduates

BOT Role, Committee Membership and/or Expertise

Board of Trustees President

Day Job

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Center for Tobacco Products, Program Analyst


Partnership for Public Service–Excellence in Government Fellows; Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, Senior Executive Fellows; Washington University in St. Louis, M.S., Engineering and Public Policy; Beloit College, Beloit, Wisconsin, B.S., Environmental Geology

What I love about Butler Montessori

“Butler Montessori allowed our family to follow the interests of our children and not the narrow requirements of a limited curriculum. The confidence my children gained has helped them both work towards realizing their dreams.”


Amy Silins

Connection to Butler/Interest in Serving on the Board

Parent of current students

BOT Role, Committee Membership and/or Expertise

Finance Committee Member, expertise in Information Technology, Strategic Planning and Program and Portfolio Governance

Day Job

Emergent BioSolutions, Senior Director, Project Management Office


University of Vermont, B.S., Computer Science with an Economics Minor

What I love about Butler Montessori

“We are thankful to have found Butler Montessori. It has been a special place that has supported the development of our daughters’ whole self through experiential learning of academics, music, arts, nature and physical education. It has guided them toward independence and created the basis for education as a lifelong endeavor.”


Sandy Wright

Connection to Butler/Interest in Serving on the Board

Parent of two Butler graduates

BOT Role, Committee Membership and/or Expertise

Buildings, Grounds and Stewardship Chair

Day Job

Perkins Cole LLP, International Trade Analyst


University of New Hampshire, B.A., Political Science and Economics

What I love about Butler Montessori

“The creative, independent, yet collaborative, disposition that the education at Butler Montessori developed in my two young adult children.”

Butler Montessori Board of Trustees – Non-Voting Members


Scott Chidakel

Connection to Butler/Interest in Serving on the Board

Parent to former Butler Montessori students

BOT Role, Committee Membership and/or Expertise

Finance Committee

Day Job

Butler Montessori, Business Manager


University of Maryland, B.A.


Lisa Daly

Connection to Butler/Interest in Serving on the Board

Parent to former Butler Montessori student

BOT Role, Committee Membership and/or Expertise

Staff Representative

Day Job

Butler Montessori, Media and IT Specialist/Intermediate Math Teacher


Hood College, Frederick, Maryland, M.A.; Virginia Tech, B.A.

AMI Montessori Certificate in Adolescent Studies


Laura Manack

Connection to Butler/Interest in Serving on the Board

Parent to current Butler student and former Butler Montessori Teacher

BOT Role, Committee Membership and/or Expertise

Member of Standing Committees

Day Job

Butler Montessori Head of School


Loyola College, M.Ed.
AMI Montessori Elementary Diploma
AMI Montessori Primary Diploma
Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science, B.S.