Amie Hansen | Grades K / 1
I am a Northern California native, and grew up in both the Bay Area and Roseville area. I moved to Davis over ten years ago as a student, and have been living in this great community ever since. Before teaching, I majored in Psychology and American Studies, and then went on to get a teaching credential and Masters of Education from UC Davis. As a student teacher, I had the pleasure of working briefly in the Montessori classrooms at Birch Lane, which inspired me to pursue a Montessori credential. I previously worked in Dixon at the neighborhood schools and Dixon Montessori Charter School. For the past few years I have been delighted to be a part of the wonderful community of students, families, and teachers at Birch Lane!
In addition to teaching, I enjoy spending time with my family, my cat, and chickens, as well as gardening and cooking.
Kelly Vellanoweth | Grades K / 1
Hello! My name is Kelly Vellanoweth and I am a kindergarten/first grade teacher here at Birch Lane elementary school. My family and I moved to Davis in 2013 and I was a substitute teacher in the Davis Joint Unified School district for three years.
I grew up in Sacramento where I enjoyed playing competitive soccer, club volleyball, recreational swimming, tennis, and skiing. I have always loved art and received my BA in Art Studio from Sacramento State University. While going to Sac State I worked at a Montessori preschool as an assistant teacher. I realized then that I loved Maria Montessori’s philosophy so I signed up for the Montessori Institute in Hayward to earn my Primary Montessori credential.
I worked in a Montessori classroom until the birth of my first child. I stayed home to care for my daughter then went back to work teaching art part time at an elementary school. After having my second child, a son, I went back to school and received my Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and a MA in education with a minor in Art. I then taught at the California Montessori Project in Carmichael until having my third child, a daughter. After taking on a long-term teaching assignment here in Davis in a kindergarten class, I realized how much I missed being in the classroom. I am so excited to be back in a Montessori classroom and to working with your children!
Jessica Beckinger | Grades K / 1
My name is Jessica Beckinger, and I teach a kindergarten/ first grade Montessori class here at Birch Lane Elementary School. I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Growing up, I participated in choir, horse-back riding, dance, and took piano lessons. These days, I enjoy reading, cooking, yoga, traveling, and spending time with my family and friends. I am recently married, and my husband, Adam, and I have a one year old daughter named Alana. We live in West Sacramento with our dog, Buster.
I earned my BA at UC Davis then went on to complete my Multiple Subject Teaching Credential at Sacramento State University. I am currently working on an MA degree in education with a specialization in autism studies (done in October). For the first few years of my career, I worked as a lead teacher at a private Montessori preschool in Davis. During that time, I also earned my first Montessori credential through the North American Montessori Center. Later on, I completed a second Montessori credential though the Montessori Training Center to receive AMS (American Montessori Society) certification.
Following my preschool experience, I went on to work at the California Montessori Project, Elk Grove Campus, and led a kindergarten/ first grade classroom there for three years. I then transitioned to Birch Lane, and I couldn’t be happier to be starting my seventh year here! It is very rewarding to work with such a wonderful group of students, parents, and teachers!
Cat Wright | Grades K / 1
My name is Cat Wright I am thrilled to be part of the Birch Lane community teaching Kindergarten and 1st Grade. I graduated in 2016 with my Masters Degree in Elementary Education and Teaching Credential from Oregon State University Cascades in Bend, Oregon. I am currently working through the credential program with North American Montessori Center and will be certified by the end of the year.
I spent the last year teaching 2nd grade on the Oregon Coast. Prior to that, I have worked with 4th and 2nd grade in Bend, Oregon and as a Paraeducator with 7th and 8th grade in Central Vermont. I am excited and grateful to be entering my 6th year in the classroom and working with children in public education.
I moved to the Davis area earlier this summer and couldn’t be happier to be here! I love animals, gardening, hiking, and music. I grew up in Connecticut, but have also lived in Indiana, Vermont, and Oregon. I enjoy traveling and seeing new places in the country. I hope to continue to travel the world! I feel grateful to be a new member of the Birch Lane, and Davis, community and can’t wait to learn all of the interesting and new things about this unique area. I look forward to getting to know you and your children throughout the year and am excited to be working with you. It is going to be a great year!
Sarah Vazquez | Grades K / 1 (on leave in 2017/18)
I grew up in Salinas, CA and moved up north to attend college. I graduated from Sacramento State in 2008 with a BA in Liberal Studies and 2009 with a California Teaching Credential. During this time, I student taught for a year at Birch Lane. Shortly after graduation I decided to pursue an AMS credential. I graduated from MTEC Sunnyvale with a Montessori credential in 2011. I have been a proud Birch Lane teacher since 2009. Outside of the classroom I enjoy playing with my puppy, being crafty, watching the Oakland A’s, and visiting family.
Marissa McBride | Grades 2 / 3
I am Marissa McBride. I was born and raised in Gilroy, California (the Garlic Capital of the World!). I moved to Davis to pursue my BS in Human Development and minor in Education. In my junior year of undergrad, I led the ACCESS afterschool program at Birch Lane and began interning in Amie Hansen’s Montessori classroom. In her classroom, I found that Montessori students had an intense drive to learn that I had never seen anywhere else. I loved being a part of her students’ learning and decided early on that Montessori was the way for me. I enjoyed being in a Montessori classroom so much that I kept coming back as an intern for her for nearly two years!
After finishing my bachelor’s degree, I continued at UC Davis to earn my Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. During my credential year, I student taught in Jessica Markley’s K/1 classroom at Birch Lane. In 2014 and 2015 I completed my Elementary I Montessori credential and Masters in Education while teaching 1st and 2nd grade at Birch Lane. In 2016, I transitioned into teaching 2nd and 3rd grade.
When I’m not teaching, I enjoy working out at CrossFit Davis, camping, hiking, or doing anything outside! I also enjoy cooking and going to the farmer’s market with my significant other, Jason, and taking my dog, Mia Moore, to the dog park. I have a great life here in Davis and the best job in the world.
Remy Glovin | Grades 2 / 3
I graduated with a M.A. in Education from UC Davis in 2008. I received my AMS Montessori certificate from Sacramento Teachers College in 2009. I worked at Dixon Montessori Charter School as a 2nd/3rd grade teacher for two years 2007-2009. I then worked for California Montessori Project as a Montessori assistant in a 1st-3rd grade classroom until I moved to New Zealand. I was fortunate enough to work in a fantastic little school in New Plymouth on the North Island of New Zealand as a 6-9 years old Montessori classroom teacher for three years before returning to California to be closer to my family. I then started at Birch Lane in 2013 teaching K/1st grade Montessori and moved to 2/3 the year after.
Eliza Sater | Grades 2 / 3
I decided to become a teacher when my girls were preschoolers and I realized how much I enjoyed being with children. Though I was working as an environmental scientist at the time, I launched headlong into my credential program and never looked back.
While I was teaching in the neighborhood programs at Montgomery, Birch Lane and Korematsu, my daughters, Zoë and Maddy, were enrolled in Birch Lane’s Montessori program and loving it. They came home everyday full of excitement and ideas. Their enthusiasm for the student-centered, hands-on work in their classrooms inspired me as a parent and teacher. I earned an AMS credential at Saint Mary’s College, and began teaching in the Montessori Program in 2010. I am grateful to be able to teach in this wonderful program!
Before becoming a teacher, I completed a Masters in English literature from UW Madison and a Masters in Ecology from UC Davis. I worked for 10 years as an environmental scientist at the Department of Water Resources in Sacramento, where I met my husband, Eric. We’ve lived in Davis since 2001. Eric is an avid cyclist, and keeps our family pedaling year round. Along with teaching and spending time with my family, I also love to read, run, needle-felt and bake cookies.
Emelina Villalobos | Grades 4/5
I am so very excited and honored to be a teacher at Birch Lane Elementary. I have been a teacher at Birch Lane since 2016. For two years I taught a 2nd/3rd grade classroom at the California Montessori Project in Fair Oaks, CA. Prior to that I taught as a K-5th grade English Language Development teacher in Springfield, OR. I feel very deeply connected to the Montessori philosophy and all it has to offer. This philosophy supports so many research-based "best teaching practices," such as the incorporation of small class lessons, differentiated instruction, providing hands-on manipulatives, and promoting independence and critical thinking. Professoionally I am also very interested in researching how this philosophy can be used to help close the achievement gap.
My husband and I live in West Sacramento and we share two beautiful boys. We enjoy camping, swimming, and going on bike rides. In my own spare time I enjoy reading biographies and memoirs, listening to live music, and practicing yoga. I was born and raised by the ocean in San Francisco. I attended UC Davis and graduated with a BS in Human Development and a BA in Communication. Shortly after, I attained my CA Teaching Credential and Masters in Education, also from UC Davis. Since alternative education models have always inspired me, I pursued my American Montessori Society Elementary I certificate from the Montessori Training Center in Shingle Springs, CA.
Lakshmi Aradhya | Grades 5 / 6
My teaching career started in Hawaii at Kawaiaha’o school. I landed in the Montessori classroom for an observation and was very impressed with the classroom environment. I ended up working there for 12 years and received my Montessori certification at the University.
My family and I moved to Davis in 1999 and I have been teaching at Birch Lane since then. I have taught 1-6 grades since I have been here. I’ve had the privilege of having a few of the same students for 2-3 years in my class because of the multi grade levels. It’s fascinating to see their social and intellectual development over the years. Birch Lane is a very special place and it’s amazing to see the community involvement, support for the school and the Montessori program.
Davis is a very special place for our family. My husband, Mallikarjun is a scientist and works for USDA. My daughter’s family, Shruthi and Luke along with their two adorable children, Larson and Neena live in Altadena, Los Angeles. We can’t get enough of our grandchildren. My son, Siddhartha went to school here from Willett Elementary School to UC Davis. He just got married to Ferida and is a post-doctoral fellow at Stockholm University.
Sally Palow | Grades 5 / 6
I was born and raised in Kankakee, Illinois. I have two grown children, Abby and Adam. Abby and my granddaughter Maggie (16), live in Folsom. My son Adam lives in Florida. Abby works for the CA Department of Education and Adam is at the helm of a business in Florida.
My late husband and I attended Illinois State University and Olivet University, where I earned my B.S. in education. The minute I stepped out of university I began teaching. My first job was teaching forty second graders, all by myself! I taught at that school for twelve years as a traditional classroom teacher in various elementary grade-levels 1-8. My two children attended a public school Montessori magnet program, much like Birch Lane’s Montessori. My children’s’ principal asked if I would like to take the Montessori training, earn my Montessori credential and join his staff. I jumped at the opportunity.
My Montessori training and credentialing took place at DePaul University/Midwest Montessori Teacher Training. I taught four years at the public school Montessori Center in Kankakee. I taught grades 3, 4, and 5. Moving to CA in 1988, I taught 6th grade at 99th Street School in South-Central LA. After one year at 99th Street School, I had the opportunity to join the educational product development team at Educational Insights. What a fun job…developing educational products for the school, toy and instructional products industries. While at Educational Insights, I moved to the position of special products (electronics) manager and senior staff writer/editor.
In 1994, my family and I moved to Folsom. I started my own business developing educational products for the instructional materials industries. In 2005, I learned of the Montessori program at Birch Lane and I got myself to Davis, ASAP! I have been at Birch Lane for the past thirteen years. I love teaching the Montessori philosophy and methods, interacting daily with my young learners and partnering with my parents.
OUR TALENTED TEACHERS