425.557.​1913 fax
Facebook icon

Skip Navigation LinksPrimary-Staff

​​​​Aruna Aiyar​

Lead Teacher--SproutsAruna web site.jpg

This is Ms. Aruna's third year at Issaquah Montessori School, she's been a Montessori teacher since 2008.

She earned undergraduate degrees in psychology, English literature and journalism from Mt. Caramel University in Bangalore, and a Master's degree in psychology from Madras University. Ms. Aruna moved to the US in 1994, and took the early childhood Montessori training at Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest in Woodinville. Now she's part of the teacher training staff at MEIPN, teaching the early childhood math curriculum to aspiring Montessori teachers. She lives in Sammamish with her husband, two nearly-grown-up children and a puppy. While not at school Ms. Aruna reads books, spends time with friends and plays word games with her family.

Ms. Aruna loves the independence Montessori education gives children. She believes its closest to the natural way of learning. Aruna thinks that the job of the early childhood educator is to be a liaison to learning, to help children love learning for the rest of their lives.​​

Aurélie​ Tanvez

Intern Teacher–LoftAurelie web site.png

This is Ms. Aurélie’s third year on the staff at IMS, although she’s been involved as a parent at IMS for the past seven years. She discovered Montessori education seven years ago when her family moved to the area and she looked for a preschool for her oldest child. Montessori philosophy fit really well with her family’s philosophy of education and it has become part of their way of living.

Ms. Aurélie has a Master’s degree in biology and a PhD in neuroscience from the University of Paris. She lives in Issaquah with her two children and husband. When not at school Ms. Aurélie likes to cook and bake, do outdoor activities and has recently decided to re-learn to play the piano.

And about Montessori education: “When entering a Montessori classroom, I am always impressed by its serene and peaceful atmosphere. It is amazing to witness how independent and respectful the children are.”

Bhavani Balasubramanian


Is 009.JPG

Ms. Bhavani joined the IMS community during the 2015-2016 school year as a substitute, then became an assistant teacher in Sprouts. This year Ms. Bhavani is a lead teacher in Cottage. Her educational background is in computer science in which she earned both a Bachelor's and Master's degree from Osmania University in India. More recently she completed the American Montessori Society Early Childhood credential at the Montessori Center for Teacher Education in Bellevue, Washington.

Ms. Bhavani lives in Sammamish with her husband, daughter and son. While not at school she spends lots of time on the sidelines of her children's sporting activities, and enjoys the occasional hike.​

Cortney Henderson

Assistant Teacher--Garden

Ms. Cortney is in her second year at Issaquah Montessori School. She has spent the better part of the past nine years working in Montessori environments. Ms. Cortney obtained her Montessori training at Montessori Teacher Preparation of Washington in Kent. She lives in Bellevue with her fiancé and their cat and fish. When not at school Ms. Cortney enjoys baking, exploring the world from the passenger seat of the car and watching waves at the beach. She loves travelling, and learning about anything and everything!​

Ms. Cortney was drawn to Montessori because the children could be independent, they could do for themselves. The children got to pick their curriculum for the day and seemed to be happy and proud of their work. She appreciates that the IMS community is family-oriented and that each child is appreciated for their uniqueness.

Gail Gnehm

Lead Teacher–LoftGail web site.png

Ms. Gail is in her 10th year at Issaquah Montessori School. She's been an assistant, an intern, a co-teacher and a lead teacher during that time. Ms. Gail attended Evergreen State College and obtained her Early Childhood Montessori credential at Montessori Center for Teacher Education in Bellevue. She lives in Issaquah with her husband and Buster, a Bassett hound. When she not at school Ms. Gail can be found zipping around on her Vespa, or on a bike or hike, or making art with paint or fabric or yarn. Her favorite adventures are with her grown-up son who lives in Texas and is married to a teacher.

Teaching in a Montessori environment fits Ms. Gail so well because she never grew up and can easily understand the perspective of the child. She loves being around children and delights in watching them learn and grow. Ms. Gail appreciates the good sense of community at IMS, the way in which everyone supports each other and the happy, loving environment.​


Manuela NegroiuEmma web site.png

Intern Teacher--Nest

Ms. Manuela, better known as Ms. Emma, joined our community two years ago as an assistant in the toddler classroom, and moved to early childhood over the summer. She grew up in Romania, earning a Scientific Degree of Bachelor of Arts in Theology: Letters (English Language and Literature) from the University of Bucharest. She lives in Issaquah with her husband and two boys who keep her busy. When not at school or on the sidelines of a soccer match she enjoys baking, reading, going to the movies and crocheting.

Ms. Emma met children who had come from Montessori environments and was impressed with their self-motivation and sense of responsibility. She decided to learn more about the Montessori Method. Because of that she spent this past summer as a student in the early childhood education program at the Montessori Education Institute of the Pacific Northwest and really enjoyed the classes. During this school year she will complete the internship component of the program.

Ms. Emma is excited to use what she's learned about child development and Montessori philosophy. She loves to see the children grow, the changes that take place and how they develop.

Marcia Hoover

Lead Teacher–CottageMarcia--website.png

Ms. Marcia has been involved with Montessori teaching since 1975 as an assistant, head teacher and parent of children in public and private Montessori. She graduated with a B.A. in Social Welfare in from California State University at Long Beach and stumbled on Montessori one wonderful afternoon in Chico, California.  Ms. Marcia was totally taken with what she encountered in the classroom. Ms. Marcia got her training in the three-to-six classroom with Montessori Institute of America in 1985 after ten years of assisting and loved delving deeper into the philosophy.  She has stayed, happily, with Issaquah Montessori School for 20 years as a teacher and continues to be excited by her work.  Ms. Marcia truly believes that the greatest way to change the world is by showing children how to love themselves and the world and helping parents raise those children. She thinks the Montessori Method is the best way to expose humans to their potential and to the wonders of the world and living. By allowing children the freedom to explore academic and social life they grow into independent and responsible adults.  A love and respect for all of life is fostered through Montessori education and this can result in happy, productive people.

Ms. Marcia is married with three grown children, who she adores, two of whom are Montessori children.  She loves appreciating and teaching art, gardening in fair weather, exercising through yoga or biking, listening to music and singing, and caring for her home and family.


Maria Suja

Assistant Teacher--Nest

_MG_0470 web site.png




Mercy Pathiyamoola

Teacher–Loft Mercy web site.png

Ms. Mercy has been a part of the IMS community since 2005, working in nearly every classroom in nearly every role. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Bangalore University, and completed the International Association of Progressive Montessori certification at Montessori Teacher Preparation of Washington in Kent.

Ms. Mercy lives in Issaquah with her husband and two sons. She enjoys gardening, hiking and travelling the world.

Regarding Montessori she says, “When my son started at a Montessori School I was impressed with the freedom that he had to choose works and the ability for each child to blossom at their own pace.” She appreciates the kind, caring community at IMS, as well as the support, flexibility and freedom to grow.​


Nichole O'Hare

Assistant Teacher--LoftIs 082.JPG

​Ms. Nicole is in her second year as part of the IMS teaching community. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a major in psychology and a minor in English. Ms. Nicole lives in Issaquah with her husband and two elementary-school age children. As a family they enjoy camping, hiking and bike riding. Baking is Ms. Nicole's indoor hobby—and she makes an excellent key lime pie.

Ms. Nicole attended Montessori school as a child. She came upon IMS while looking for an alternative preschool option for her youngest child. As she toured the school she was thrilled to see the materials she remembered using. While going through the classrooms she was impressed with how hard the children were working, the variety of activities, that there was something for everyone. She loves the philosophy and the self-direction as well as the opportunity for each child to follow their own interests.

Ms. Nicole appreciates the level of education, dedication, different background and passion that's evident in the staff at IMS. She likes the small community, the ability to work together with parents and getting to know them on a level that enables her to work with their children more effectively.

Rebecca Bennett

Assistant Teacher--CottageIs 015.JPG​​

Ms. Rebecca joined the IMS community this fall as an assistant teacher in Sprouts. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University. In addition, Ms. Rebecca maintains a studio of about 20 private piano students.

She lives in Preston with her husband and three teenagers. While not at school Ms. Rebecca enjoys gardening and being involved with the music community in many ways.

Shweta Bindal

Co-Lead Teacher--Nest​Is 011.JPG

This is Ms. Shweta's third year at Issaquah Montessori School. She was born and brought up in India. Her family moved to the Issaquah area 12 years ago for her husband's work. She obtained both a Bachelor's degree and a Master's degree in English Literature in India, and earned an American Montessori Society Early Childhood credential from The Montessori Center for Teacher Education in Bellevue, Washington.

She is very excited to be in the role of lead teacher in Nest. The one thing that attracts Ms. Shweta most in the Montessori philosophy is the respect for children. She is looking forward to learning and growing along with the children.

Ms. Shweta lives in Sammamish with her husband and two young daughters.


Vinita Varma

Intern Teacher--SproutsVinita web site.png

Ms. Vinita has been at Issaquah Montessori School since 2008, as an assistant teacher in the Cottage classroom. She earned Bachelor's degree in business management and a Master's degree in commerce with specialization in finance. ​​

Ms. Vinita lives in Issaquah with her husband and three-year-old son, who also attends IMS. For fun, she plays tennis, reads, travels, knits and cooks.

She believes that a child grows socially and academically when he or she is in a positive and well-organized environment that follows the Montessori philosophy. Montessori makes learning fun and interesting, and grooms children so they are polite, logical and confident. Ms. ​Vinita appreciates the beautifully set-up classrooms and the wonderful staff at IMS.