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.

Angie Martinez

Lower Elementary North Assistant

Angie joined Khalsa Montessori for the 2022-23 school year. She loves working with the students and enjoying her time assisting Ms. Carie in Lower Elementary. Prior to joining Khalsa, Angie worked with children in Pre-K and Kindergarten for over 25 years. She believes children thrive in a Montessori classroom and enjoys seeing it each and every day.  

Laurie Alejo

Lower Elementary South Lead Teacher

Laurie joined Khalsa Montessori School in 2019 as an elementary extended care assistant then transitioned as a lower elementary assistant teacher.  After falling in love with the Montessori philosophy and wanting to learn more, she decided to become a trained Montessori educator.  She  completed a year-long training through the Arizona Montessori Teacher Education Program in June 2022.  Aside from her accreditation in Montessori, she also has a Bachelor’s Degree in elementary education from New Mexico State University and tutored students at Sylvan Learning Center for 8 years.  In her spare time, she enjoys baking, listening to music, and reading inspirational books. 

 

Wendy Ramirez

Lower Elementary South Assistant

Wendy was born in Mexico, but has spent most of her life here in Phoenix. She discovered Montessori when researching what school would be best for her oldest son, who was three at the time. 

Wendy loves to spend time with her family, dog and bearded dragon. 

Helen Williams

Lower Elementary East Lead Teacher

Teaching is my calling. I joined Khalsa Montessori as Lead Teacher in the summer of 2020. 

While born and raised in Sweden, I have spent most of my adult life in the U.S. My husband and I have made a home with our three children in ten different states over the span of three decades.

I earned a Bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, and later a teaching certificate in Elementary Education at Eastern Michigan University. I entered the education field after many years as a stay-at-home mom.  My teaching experience includes elementary, middle school, and adult education.

Very proud to be a teacher and life-long learner,  I have obtained Arizona teacher certification and a Montessori teacher certification by American Montessori Society. The road here was long, but I feel as though I was meant to be a Montessori teacher.

Besides teaching, I love healthy cooking, hiking, and visiting my three adult children who are spread out across the country. My special interests are language learning (French and Spanish) and children’s literature.

Each new year is brimming with exciting possibilities.  I look forward to guiding our students in creating a beautiful community and exceptional learning experiences every day.  

Kaylyn

Lower Elementary East Assistant

Kaylyn joined Khalsa in October of 2021 as an assistant to Ms. Helen. Kaylyn is actively developing her educational career, working diligently to become an elementary school teacher. She is currently working on her bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She started by working ambitiously with families in need of a private caretaker and is now in a Montessori environment. She understands the importance of assisting the children with problem-solving skills, and the development of their independence. Furthermore, she finds genuine gratification in observing their growth in their creativity and individuality. 

Like most people, Kaylyn enjoys her time outside of her job. With activities ranging from painting to occasional flights to North Carolina to visit her family. She finds most of her excitement by spending quality time with her cat, which at times can be more of a priority than a past-time activity. 
 
Kaylyn is very excited to start her first full year working at Khalsa Montessori, where she can personally connect with both students and staff.

Renee Soldanels

Upper Elementary Lead Teacher

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 Albuquerque 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 a senior at Arizona State University, working toward a degree in Elementary Education. Additionally, she is currently working on her Elementary II certification with the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. This is her first year as the Lead Teacher in the Upper Elementary West classroom. 

Ayeleth Aragon-Molina

Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher

Hello Upper El Families! My name is Ayeleth and I am excited to start a fresh, new year with our new and returning students. In addition to working as a classroom assistant, I will also be this year’s Spanish teacher. I look forward to mingling my heritage, Spanish language skills, and past experience in a Spanish immersion school with a curriculum that will give students the opportunity for daily classroom practice. I look forward to seeing and hearing the students grow their skills and confidence. 

I am a first-generation college graduate, with a B.A. in Family and Human Development from Arizona State University. I have always wanted to work with children and love what I do! I am the oldest of seven children and enjoy talking about my siblings. 

I look forward to the new opportunities that this school year will bring! 

Colin Gennett

Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher

Colin joined Khalsa in 2022 as an assistant in the Upper Elementary classroom. Prior to joining Khalsa he worked for 10 years in classrooms and administration for both private and public K-8 schools. He used a Montesorri based curriculum at his church and is eager to see it used in the classroom setting. He has lived in Phoenix for 22 years after growing up in Pittsburgh, PA and was tired of the cold weather. When not at school he enjoys many outdoor activities like biking, hiking and playing with his two dogs at the park.

Elizabeth Kasen 

Elementary Extended Care Director

Elizabeth joined Khalsa in 2022, as the Elementary Extended Care Director. She grew up on the east coast, and spent most of that time living in North Carolina. She graduated in 2021 with a BA in Applied Human Behavior from Northern Arizona University. Prior to joining Khalsa she was working in Behavioral Health and Social Work at Arizona’s Children’s Association.

Her goals for the program are to maximize fun while learning. She has plans of introducing music and singing, with the goal of preparing a performance in the winter program from Sound of Music. The program will also place an emphasis on seasonal and local produce for weekly snack menus.

She has a son who is attending Khalsa, he began in the Primary program, and now he is currently in his second year of Upper Elementary.

Kate Sigman

Elementary Extended Care Assistant

Kate recently moved to Phoenix from San Rafael, California. She will support Liz and Linda in Elementary Extended Care. She has over twenty years of experience assisting in Montessori primary and elementary classrooms.

Kate has traveled all over the country and actually did seasonal work at five of our National Parks including Grand Canyon, Denali and Yosemite before settling in the bay area to raise her family. She enjoys drawing, food and film!

Linda Meagher

Elementary Extended Care Assistant

Linda joined Khalsa in August of 2022 after relocating to Phoenix from central Florida. She volunteered for 15 years as a vacation bible school teacher, classroom mom, and field trip mom for her daughters. She finds great joy in identifying and cultivating young artists.
She is a mom to three grown daughters and two grandchildren. A life-long seamstress, artist, and quilter. She spent five summers teaching teens and young adults beginner sewing. Linda also enjoys travel and cycling.

Barbara Pearson 

Elementary Extended Care Assistant

Barbara Pearson joined Khalsa August 2022, as an assistant in elementary extended care. Barbara has a grandson in upper elementary and, in the past, has assisted with student field trips, and as a volunteer for four years with the Khalsa Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). She was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and graduated from the University of Missouri, and graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Journalism. Barbara moved to Arizona after retiring, following a number of jobs in the private sector, and most recently as Director of Communications with the federal government. She loves working and playing with kids of all ages. In her free time, she likes to hike, bike, garden, play scrabble, write, and paint with watercolors. She also enjoys spending lots of time with her rescue dog Trevor.

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. Mark has been the van driver on many field trips and school outings. He has worked as a sub at all age levels and as an Elementary Assistant Teacher. He is currently the Elementary P.E. Instructor, Outdoor Environment Instructor and Elementary Gardening Instructor. As of 2022 the garden and sustainability program has a renewed focus on community service with Mark as the special project leader.

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.