Elementary Teaching Staff

Carie Modeer

Lower Elementary North Lead Teacher

Carie joined the Khalsa School in 1999 as a Lower Elementary assistant. After graduating from Penn State University with a degree in Elementary

Education and traveling across the country, she decided to head west to Arizona. Her immediate family, along with a change of environment, brought her to Phoenix. Outside of gaining her degree in education, Carie worked for six years as an assistant teacher in a Christian Daycare in Pennsylvania. She also held part-time positions in childcare throughout her college years. After experiencing Montessori for the first time at Khalsa and gaining a passion for the Montessori method she made the choice to become trained as a Montessori Lead Teacher. Carie has been a Lower Elementary Lead Teacher since 2004.

In her free time, Carie enjoys playing Taiko (Japanese drumming) and has been a member of the Phoenix Taiko dojo since 2001. She also enjoys reading and spending time outdoors hiking and camping.

Lauren Puglisi

Lower Elementary North Assistant




Laurie Alejo

Lower Elementary South Lead Teacher

Laurie joined Khalsa Montessori School in October 2019 as an Elementary Extended Care Assistant and Substitute Assistant Teacher. Laurie recently moved to Phoenix, AZ from Las Cruces, New Mexico. She graduated from New Mexico State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary education. In the past, she taught reading and math at Sylvan Learning Center for eight years. Laurie loves animals, Italian food, and farmer’s markets. She also enjoys baking, arts and crafts, and Flamenco dancing.


Meredith Cole

Lower Elementary South Assistant

Meredith joined Khalsa in 2018. She has many years working as an assistant in the field of early childhood and is currently finishing up her B.A. in early childhood special education. For the 2018-2019 school year, she  assisted Ms. Shannon in Primary North. This year, she will be assiting in the Lower Elementary South classroom. In her spare time, Meredith enjoys cooking, baking, yoga, painting, and nature photography. She lives with her two rescue cats, Jake and Astral.

Helen Williams

Lower Elementary East Lead Teacher

Helen fell in love with Khalsa Montessori when observing and substituting in classrooms in the early spring of 2020 and soon after joined as a staff member. Originally from Sweden, she has spent most of her adult life in the U.S. creating homes with her husband and three children in ten different states over the span of three decades. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston and later a Post-Baccalaureate certificate in Elementary Education at Eastern Michigan University. After many years as a stay-at-home mom, she entered the education field. She has seven years of teaching experience in elementary, middle school, and adult education
and is very proud of being a teacher and life-long learner. Currently studying in the Arizona Montessori Teacher Education Program, she feels as if she was always meant to be a Montessori teacher.

Besides teaching, she loves healthy cooking, hiking, and visiting her three adult children who are spread out across the country. Her special interests are language learning and children’s literature.

She is looking forward to contributing to the caring culture at Khalsa and giving children an exceptional experience every day.

Rachel Won

Lower Elementary East Assistant


Lani Corbett

Upper Elementary West Lead Teacher

This is Lani‘s first year teaching at Khalsa Montessori School as an Upper Elementary teacher. Her love of Montessori comes from being a Montessori student from 1st grade to 5th grade. She graduated from Cal State Channel Islands with a Bachelor’s Degree of Liberal Studies teaching focused. Lani has worked in Education and Special Education as a teacher, assistant teacher, and Behavior Therapist for the past 18 years. Teaching K-12 , various levels and subjects in California, Australia, and now in Arizona. 
In her free time she likes to go hiking, visiting national parks, road trips, making candles, and cuddling with her cat Kauai.

Melanie Junio

Upper Elementary West Co-Lead Teacher

This will be the 3rd school year in Upper Elementary for Miss Melanie. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Social Work and has worked with Khalsa ever since. Melanie is from Seattle Washington and enjoys any outdoor activity that the Arizona sun has to offer. In her spare time, Melanie loves traveling, hiking, gardening, and spoiling her dog Yuki.


Upper Elementary West Assistant Teacher

Dru Sottnick

Middle School Lead Teacher

Genieveve Godwin

Middle School Assistant Teacher



Aundrea Austin

Elementary Extended Care Director

Aundrea Austin is the Elementary Extended Care Director at Khalsa Montessori Elementary School. She recently joined the Extended Care program at the start of the 2021-22 school year. 

She was born in Chicago, IL but grew up in Sierra Vista, AZ from the age of 3. Aundrea got her first job working with children her senior year in high school working for an afterschool and summer program. She relocated to Indianapolis, IN where she resided for 11 years, during which she received her Bachelor’s in Psychology. While in Indiana, she worked for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis for 5 years, 2 of which were served through the AmeriCorps State and National program. In 2020, Aundrea returned to Arizona where she entered the classroom environment working as a teacher’s aide and substitute in her hometown until moving to Phoenix to pursue her Masters in Social Work at Arizona State University.

Aundrea enjoys working with youth immensely, especially those who really need caring, positive, and supportive adults in their lives. Her hobbies include painting, reading, watching horror or Marvel films, and historical documentaries. She has two cats named Moon and Onyx. She also loves going to museums and learning about people of different cultures and backgrounds.

Renee Soldanels

Elementary Extended Care Assistant

Miss Renee is happy to be in her fourth school year at Khalsa. She is an Arizona native, but really enjoys traveling, especially to California. Her favorite places are Disneyland and San Francisco, but she also enjoys other big cities where you can walk for miles and miles. Renee spends her time sewing and crafting, hanging with her half-time kid, reading and studying, gardening and landscaping, and playing with her two cats, Daisy and Shim. Renee is currently a student at Grand Canyon University, working toward a B.S. in Elementary and Special Education.

Anthony Gutierrez

Elementary Extended Care Assistant

I was raised here in Arizona, specifically in Peoria. Ever since I was a child I loved to play music as well as listen to music. Once I was in elementary school I picked up playing the saxophone and haven’t stopped for 8 years now. I also like to write music as well as write about psychology and mental health. Currently I attend Paradise Valley Community College pursuing a degree in Psychological Sciences/Counseling. My future goal in life is to become a successful Clinical Mental Health Counselor.

Mark Dugan

Gardening and Physical Education Teacher

Mark Dugan started at Khalsa Montessori Elementary School in the fall of 2007 as a substitute and as the elementary physical education teacher. During the summer school 2008, Mark was the van driver and elementary after school program director. He became the Lower Elementary East Assistant in May of 2008. He is currently the Elementary P.E. Instructor and Elementary Gardening Instructor.

Mark worked at the Gentle Strength Co-op for several years; he has also worked for Life’s A Garden Organic Landscaping Company and the Green Goddess Nursery.

Ashley Burns

Yoga Instructor

For Los Angeles native Ashley Burns, yoga is curiosity, trust, and freedom- her soul has been rich with these elements her whole life! Thankfully, the practice focused these energies toward shaping a balanced and conscious lifestyle.
As co-founder and Creative Director, Ashley has been sharing yoga and creating accessible and inclusive spaces to expand the systemic boundaries of the practice in the valley with her organization DiRTYOGA since 2012.
She received her first 500-hour Yoga Teacher Training at The Southwest Institute of Healing Arts. In 2015 she was gifted the opportunity to continue her education in Costa Rica with Jenn Chiarelli’s Anahata Soul 200-hour Intensive. And most recently, in 2021, Ashley received a 60-hour Yoga Nidra certification from Tracee Stanley + Chanti Tacorante- Perez with the Empowered Wisdom Yoga Nidra Teacher Training.
Ashley is a BELIEVER driven to serve her community and is enthusiastic about upholding yoga with the Khalsa students and teachers.