FACULTY

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Rosalie Skakum
Head of School

Rosalie Skakum serves as Head of School at Secret Garden Montessori and leads with a focus in service excellence, ensuring that the teaching staff and school community feel fully supported by the administration. Since joining the team in 2015, she has developed an immense love and commitment to the Montessori philosophy and practice.

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 of an 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 received a Master’s in Art Therapy from New York University, NY and practiced for 15 years as a Board Certified Art Therapist. She earned her RYS-500 level yoga teacher training in 2012 and continues to practice yoga and its principles for ease and peace of mind.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Elizabeth Van Freesen
Extended Care Teacher

Elizabeth Van Freesen joined Secret Garden Montessori in 2021 and currently serves as the instructor in the After Care Program. Elizabeth brings with her a double major in Psychology and Theater, graduating from an all-women's college with distinction, and a passion for Drama Therapy. She has a deep desire to be part of a safe and supportive space wherein young global-citizens may explore, experiment, and thrive- which she is thrilled to have found at SGM.

 

Elizabeth brings a lifelong love of learning, as well as over a decade of both customer service and animal care to her role, and enjoys that each day is a new adventure full of possibilities. She has been inspired by not only the education received in the Montessori method, but by the children it serves, as well. 

  

Outside of the classroom Elizabeth enjoys reading, creating, and sweeping up the never-ending hair from her dog and cats. A lover of nature, she can often be found in the clearance section of garden shops, looking for any plants that may need a little more care and attention in order to thrive.