Rosalie Skakum

Director of Operations

Rosalie Skakum joined Secret Garden Montessori in 2015 and is responsible to oversee the operational needs of the school. Her passion lies in ensuring that the teaching staff and school community feel supported by the administration.

Rosalie brings many years of experience in management, creativity and therapeutic work with children to her current role.  Prior to joining Secret Garden Montessori, she worked as Director for the Expressive Therapy Department at a Behavioral Health Campus in Pennsylvania. Her deep interest in the practice of leadership and experience as an art therapist informs her daily presence and engagement with the entire school community. Rosalie facilitates professional development initiatives for the team, focusing on personal growth and team building and is excited to bring the practice of mindfulness to the school community through ongoing parent perspective meetings.

Rosalie received a Master’s in Art Therapy from New York University, NY and holds a Board Certification credential through the Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB). Rosalie earned an RYS-500 level yoga teacher training in 2012 and continues to practice yoga and its principles for ease and peace of mind.


Barbette Robillard

Lead Primary Guide

Curriculum Coordinator

Barbette Robillard joined Secret Garden Montessori in 2006 at the school’s inception as a home school cooperative. She serves as both the Lead Primary Guide in our Primary Program as well as the school’s Curriculum Coordinator.


Barbette brings 30 years of Montessori experience to SGM. She served on the Board of Trustees as a founding member from 2008-2010. Her spirit and vision have greatly contributed to the growth of the school over the years.


Barbette is a warm, nurturing, and creative classroom teacher. She loves seeing the children make discoveries every day. She feels privileged to be at the start of their journey into learning and to get a glimpse of who they will become. Both of her sons attended Montessori primary & elementary schools before the family settled in Point Pleasant, PA.


Outside the classroom, Barbette enjoys painting watercolor and making art, gardening, hiking, camping and biking. She enjoys incorporating her interests like sewing and cooking into the daily life of the class.


Barbette has a bachelor's degree in art therapy and AMI Primary Diploma (Association Montessori Internationale) from the Washington Montessori Institute.


Melissa Velez

Lead Toddler Guide

Melissa joined Secret Garden Montessori in 2012 as an active member of the School Board and Parent Council. In 2014, she began working as the Sprouts Classroom Assistant and moved into the Sprouts and Infant Lead Teacher role in 2017.

Melissa loves the calm, peaceful and prepared environment of the Montessori Classroom. She is proud to bring a felt sense of trust and integrity to her classroom by forging strong relationships with both the children and their families to ensure a feeling of comfort and safety.  Melissa feels blessed to be teaching Toddlers in their most formative years and is inspired by their honesty, curiosity and creativity.

Outside the classroom Melissa enjoys spending time with her family. Together they enjoy spending time outside and taking care of their animals. Melissa also enjoys art journaling, gardening, and sharing her love of Essential Oils.

Melissa holds a BA in Early Childhood/Elementary Education from Temple University. Prior to Secret Garden she worked at a Montessori School in Philadelphia. She recently completed her Infant/Toddler training at the Princeton Center for Teacher Education earning her credential in August 2020.


Natasha Alessandra

Primary Assistant

Natasha Alessandra joined Secret Garden Montessori in 2012 and currently serves as the Classroom Assistant in our Primary Program. Natasha feels passionate about the social/ emotional experience for each child and helping to cultivate compassionate, creative, confident leaders.


Natasha brings 15 years of early childhood experience to her role and is inspired by the Montessori philosophy. She enjoys involving the children in imaginative play on the playground, interactive storytelling, and incorporating American Sign Language into the everyday primary classroom routine.


Outside the classroom Natasha enjoys teaching and entertaining with hula hooping and flow arts. She is an experienced videographer and often films with TriTonix Recording. In the summer, Natasha can be found traveling to new hiking destinations or working on the Norma K 3 deep sea fishing.


Natasha holds a PA Paraeducator Certification as a one-on-one aid for children with learning differences. She also completed Princeton Montessori's Assistant Teacher Training. Natasha is currently working towards a degree in Psychology, and is on track to earn her Masters in Dance Movement Therapy and Occupational Therapy.

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Josephine Otto-Cole

Toddler Assistant

Josephine Otto-Cole joined Secret Garden Montessori in the fall of 2017 where she quickly identified her talent and passion for the Montessori way.  She currently serves as the Sprouts Infant and Toddler Classroom Assistant.

Josephine loves working with young children as she gets to experience the unique character of each child and enjoys watching them learn the different work that is offered in the classroom through curiosity and self-determination.  

Josephine elegantly embodies the Montessori philosophy with a grounded and gentle demeanor. Her talents and energy are a lovely fit for the young children in her care.

Outside the classroom Josephine likes to spend time with her family, and you can often find her taking long walks around Frenchtown with her daughter, Chiara. 

Josephine holds a BA in Art History from Maastricht University in the Netherlands and a Masters of Art Policy with a major in Curating from the University of London. Josephine's extensive work in the Arts spans from curating to creating to teaching. Her passion for teaching took shape in her work with various after-school programs in NYC. Additionally, she has spent time working in the arena of social justice as the Operations and HR assistant for the Center for Popular Democracy.


Shawn Koellhoffer

Extended Care Teacher

Shawn Koellhoffer joined Secret Garden Montessori in 2017 and serves as a teacher in SGM’s Extended Care Program.  After settling in Frenchtown, Shawn worked for many years for a local family physician, Dr. Lawrence King as the Medical assistant and Office manager while simultaneously homeschooling her children. Since joining the team at Secret Garden Montessori, she has developed a keen interest in the Montessori philosophy and has immersed herself deeply in it through workshops, readings and mentorship from SGM's Curriculum Coordinator, Barbette Robillard and other faculty.


Shawn believes the most important thing we can provide our young children is love and security so they can grow and thrive. Shawn brings patience and wisdom that come with age to her time with the children.


Outside the classroom, Shawn does volunteer work with a veterinarian. This includes lots of work with local rescue groups. She also loves the time she spends every week in NYC caring for her grandsons.


Shawn graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in Peace and Conflict Studies. She then spent many years working with children in residential Behavioral Health settings.

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Irene Campillo

Extended Care Teacher

Irene Campillo joined Secret Garden Montessori on Sept 30, 2019 in the capacity of Extended Care Teacher.


Irene enjoys working with small children who are discovering the world and learning to master tasks.


Irene is creative; enjoys telling stories and making up games for the children to play.

She has been working with children since the ‘70’s when she got her first social work job in New York City’s foster care system. Most of those children were traumatized and needed consistency and support in their lives, which their parent’s were unable to provide. For many of them, the only consistency was their social worker. Later she moved to Australia where she wound up working with newly diagnosed diabetic children and adolescents in a large medical center. The focus then was teaching them to adapt to their new health situation in a healthy responsible manner. Back in the US (New Jersey) she worked at a Community Mental Health Center, which also partnered with a school for children with severe emotional problems. Her function was to provide counseling for the children and their families. She also did community outreach at the local schools and helped establish a program to assist non-English speakers obtain needed services. In the ‘90’s, married with 2 small children, she moved to PA where she has lived ever since. While her children were small she worked part-time at various Counseling Centers, finally starting her own practice in 1999. Her client population was children, adolescents, adults and families. In March 2019, Irene retired from her practice. However she found retired life was not for her and luckily found a spot at this school!


Irene has a BA in psychology & anthropology From Fordham University, a Masters in Social work from New York University and Certification in marriage and family therapy from the N.J. Institute for Family Studies.


In her spare time she enjoys hiking, music, gardening and learning to build things. She has also had a 30-year love affair with the island of St. John, and it’s people and returns there as much as possible.