Administrative Team

Marci Martindale

Head of School
Accreditations:  AMS, AMI, NMI, CMTE, MACTE, National Network of Montessori Advocacy

Marci Martindale founded CTMS over 20 years ago out of her home, with the goal in mind to provide an alternative educationally based option for preschool age children. Marci’s dreams have come true with the expansion into our new facility and formation of an elementary program. After the birth of her first daughter she discovered the Montessori Method of teaching. She went back to school and became a certified teacher for the preschool and elementary aged students, holding Montessori Teaching certificates for 3-12 year olds.  Marci continues to attend classes and trainings to expand her knowledge and help to support the staff and families at CTMS.  She is a certified facilitator of  Positive Discipline Workshops for teachers and parents.  She enjoys a good book, a cup of tea, cooking, dancing, shopping and spending time with family.
Email: Marci
Phone: (860) 388-3536

Nicole Atwood

Administrative Assistant

Nicole worked in retail as an Assistant Manager for six years before becoming a full time Mom to her three children.  She joined the CTMS staff in 2008 as our art teacher and has continued to be involved at CTMS as a parent. In 2011 she became our full time Administrative Assistant. Though Nicole’s passion and education is in interior design, she has discovered a new love in the Montessori Method. Over the summer of 2012 Nicole became certified as a Montessori Teacher’s Assistant as well as a Teacher Trainer for Positive Discipline. She enjoys hiking, skiing, camping, boating, reading and spending time with her family.
Email: Nicole
Phone: (860) 388-3536

Judy Chappell


Judy Chappell resides in Westbrook, CT with her husband Bruce and beloved dogs Fiona and Butch.  As Marci’s mother she has been the bookkeeper for The Children’s Tree since it’s beginning.  Judy has a business degree with a focus on accounting.  When she retired she decided to pursue a more peaceful career and became a licensed medical massage therapist. She currently owns and operates A Therapeutic Touch in Westbrook. She enjoys boating, gardening and reading in her spare time.

Teaching Team: Toddler Community

Caila Martindale

Toddler Teacher
Accreditations:  AMS, MACTE

Caila has been part of CTMS since its conception.  She was a Montessori student here through 6th grade, and fell in love with the Montessori philosophy.  Caila continued to work and volunteer at CTMS through high school and college.  After graduating college with a degree in animal sciences, she came back to CTMS inspiring our youngest students. Caila  is now pursuing an additional degree in early childhood education as well as her Montessori Certification through Xavier University.  During her free time, she plays with her Chihuahua, Chewy, loves art, the beach, and dabbles in photography.
Email: Caila

Yoonju Um

Toddler Teacher
Accreditations:  AMS, MACTE

As a South-Korean native, YoonJu got her Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration and the Master’s degree in Communication. After many years of working in Korea as a TV producer, an educational film producer, and an IT marketing account executive, she moved to the U.S. to settle down with her husband. While she was raising her two boys, she was highly attracted to child education, which drove her to become a certified Music Together teacher. As a CTMS mom, she was very impressed by the Montessori method and teachers, which lead her to work in our toddler program. In 2016, she went back to school and became a certified teacher in 2017 for infant and toddler students, holding Montessori Teaching certification for birth to 3 year olds through Northeast Montessori Institute. During her free time, she enjoys playing piano, reading books, singing, baking, and handcrafting with her boys.
Email: Yoonju

Erin Weinrod

Toddler Teacher, Music Teacher
Montessori Toddler Teacher Assistant Training: Northeast Montessori Rising Stars

Erin became certified by the Red Cross as a babysitter and started babysitting at the age of 9. By age 11 she had a job selling flowers. In high school she worked as a party host, clown and face painter until she started waitressing and face painting for Texas Roadhouse for 6-7 years. She then worked with the West Haven Health Department developing programs for families with at risk children for obesity and completed certification for professional fitness training in 2010 until she became a stay at home mom of 2. Erin enjoys reading, gardening, raising chickens and ducks, playing with her kids and has 15 pets.
Email: Erin

Teaching Team: The Children’s House 3-6 year olds

Pam Gozzi

Primary Teacher
Accreditations:  NMI, CMTE

Pamela Gozzi started with The Children’s Tree in 2005 as an assistant teacher. Pam is a busy wife and mother of two children who lives in Westbrook, CT.  She owned her own dance studio for several years that specialized in preschool and elementary aged children, she also ran a decorating company with her sister.  After being introduced to the philosophy of Montessori learning she was thrilled to be able to work at the Children’s Tree. Pam has been training at CTMS each year and has completed the advanced assistant primary teacher training at the Center for Montessori Education.
Email: Pam

Bethany Kanfer

Primary Teacher, French Teacher
Accreditations:  AMS, MACTE

Bethany is a Waterford native. She studied French, Latin, and Education at Wheaton College, which is where she first began to fall in love with the Montessori philosophy. This interest was continued when she moved to Flagstaff, AZ after graduating, and worked as an Assistant in a small Montessori school. When moving back to CT, Bethany worked as a nanny and Montessori Assistant.  She was inspired during the 2015 school year to obtain her Montessori Certification through NEMTEC.  In her free time, she loves knitting, crocheting, cuddling with her cats, sewing, and baking.
Email: Bethany

Meredith Hug

Primary Teacher
Accreditations:  AMS, MACTE

Meredith Hug is very excited about beginning her first year at Children’s Tree. She received her Bachelor’s degree from Gordon College in 2015 in Early Childhood Education and Psychology and trained as a primary Montessori teacher at NEMTEC. She has experience working with children of all ages both in formal and informal setting; babysitting, as a camp counselor, nanny, student teaching and as a toddler teacher. Her favorite thing about teaching is watching her students change and grow in all aspects of their lives each week, month, and year. Seeing a child at the end of the year and knowing how far they have come and how hard they have worked is more of a reward than she could ever ask for. In Meredith’s free time she enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time with my friends and family.
Email: Meredith

Laura Salazar-Hardy

Primary Assistant Teacher
Accreditations: AMS, MACTE

Laura is an assistant teacher in the primary classrooms. She is originally from Mexico and moved here in 2009 to study English and worked as an au pair. She fell in love with working with young children and has since been working with children as both a Spanish teacher and Montessori teacher. In 2012 she began her career in Montessori as an assistant teacher and graduated from New England Montessori Teacher Education Center in Massachusetts with her Montessori Primary Certification. She also holds an associates degree in education and worked in a Montessori primary classroom until her son Logan was born. We are happy to welcome her son Logan to the Maple classroom. Laura moved to CT last year with her family. She enjoys cooking, going on hikes with her family, yoga and board games in her spare time.
Email: Laura

Teaching Team: Elementary School: 1st-6th Grade

Lena Pacheco

Elementary Teacher, Martial Arts Teacher
Lena started at CTMS as a parent and fell in love with the Montessori Method.  She graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a Bachelor of Arts in Gender Studies, where she received the Helen Warren Smith Award for outstanding leadership and service.  Immediately following graduation, she joined Teach For America, launching her 8 years as an elementary school teacher in the greater Hartford area. During her tenure as teacher, Lena took on many instructional leadership roles, facilitating professional development for new educators and writing curriculum materials.  She then went on to become the Director of Education at Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame. She is currently in training for her Montessori Elementary Certification for ages 6-12. Lena is also an accomplished martial arts instructor and practitioner. She currently holds the rank of 2nd degree Black Belt in Kenpo Karate, Level 1 Jeet Kune Do Instructor Certification, blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and rank in Modern Arnis.  She also enjoys the arts, particularly drawing, painting, and Latin and Ballroom dancing. She currently resides in Cromwell, Connecticut with her husband and her daughter.
Email: Lena

Ashley Dion

Elementary Teacher
Accreditations:  AMS, NMI,  MACTE

Ashley will be returning to class after the winter break and is excited to rejoin our elementary group.  Ashley graduated from Colby-Sawyer College in 2008 with a BA in Child Development, majoring in Early Childhood. From 2005-2008 Ashley worked in NH teaching and assisting in classrooms from Pre-k to 3rd grade. In 2010 Ashley joined our teaching team and attended the Advanced Assistant Training at North East. She went on to received her Montessori Primary certification in 2012.  Ashley grew up in Chester, CT where she sat on the Board of Education. She graduated from Mercy High School, enjoys spending time with her husband James and daughter Audrey, hiking, dog sledding, tea, and curling up with a good book.
Email: Ashley

Teaching Team: Enrichment

Jen-TaylorJen Taylor

Circus Arts and Yoga

Om-Fly is Jen Taylor’s unique and innovative approach to teaching dance, yoga and mind/body mindfulness to children & adults in a focused but relaxed manner.  As a dancer, yoga instructor, teacher and philosopher, Jen approaches teaching the art of body movement and mindful creativity from a rich diversity of traditions and perspectives. Trained in creative movement play, tumbling, trapeze and acrobatics, as well as African dance and improvisation, Jen helps children and adults discover their native inner bodily wisdom and youthful flexibility through interactive and imaginative exercises and games. More information on her can be found at
Email: Jen T

Bethany Kanfer

French Teacher, Primary Teacher
Accreditations:  AMS, MACTE

Bethany is a Waterford native. She studied French, Latin, and Education at Wheaton College, which is where she first began to fall in love with the Montessori philosophy. This interest was continued when she moved to Flagstaff, AZ after graduating, and worked as an Assistant in a small Montessori school. When moving back to CT, Bethany worked as a nanny and Montessori Assistant.  She was inspired during the 2015 school year to obtain her Montessori Certification through NEMTEC.  In her free time, she loves knitting, crocheting, cuddling with her cats, sewing, and baking.

Lena Pacheco

Martial Arts Teacher, Elementary Teacher

In addition to serving alongside Ms. Ashley as an Elementary Teacher in the Willow Room, Ms. Lena is an accomplished martial artist with approximately twenty-five years of experience. She began training Kenpo Karate at the age of six, and was promoted to Black Belt at the age of seventeen. She has since earned her Second Degree Black Belt and is certified by the New England Martial Arts Teacher’s Association.
In recent years, she has expanded her training to include more functional self-defense tactics. She has received her Blue Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as well as her Level One Instructor Certification in Jeet Kune Do under Professor Roy Harris of Harris International. She was featured in Knack Self-Defense for Women in 2011 and co-owned the Modern Self-Defense Center in Meriden, Connecticut from 2011 – 2014, serving as the Director of Children’s Programs.

Erin Weinrod

Music Teacher, Toddler Teacher

In addition to serving alongside Ms. Yoonju and Ms. Caila as a Toddler Teacher in the Maple Room, Ms. Erin’s love of singing and music lead to her to become trained in the In-School Music Together Curriculum. She provides the curriculum to the parent-child classes, toddler, primary and elementary classes.

Mali Dwyer

Fine Arts

Ms. Mali has had an interest in becoming a teacher since she was a child. And with a great appreciation for art and beauty, and a deep passion for working with children, she and her two children joined the CTMS community in the Fall of 2018.
Ms. Mali grew up in Madison, graduated from DHHS, and went on to study Human Development and Sociology at Boston College. Ms. Mali enjoys traveling and lived in a remote area of Hawaii for 8 years. She also enjoys yoga, singing, gardening, reading, and spending time with her family at her home in Madison.