meet our leadership team

Mary Ellen Maunz

founder and program director emeritus
Mary Ellen earned her M.Ed. in Integrative Education with an emphasis on Montessori from Endicott College, and she holds a BS in Child Development from the University of La Verne. She also holds an AMI Montessori diploma for ages 2½ – 7 and a Pan-American Montessori Society diploma for ages 6 – 12. She has a certificate of Pastoral Care from Houston’s Institutes of Religion where she studied the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd with Dr. Sofia Cavalletti.  

She has lectured widely both nationally and internationally for more than 30 years on multiple topics relating to children and education. She founded a Montessori teacher education institution in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 2007, where she taught every summer for a number of years.
Mary Ellen also has an extensive background as a school consultant and as the co-creator of a successful business in early reading products, the Early Reading Company. She was lead author of the book, Learning to Read is Child’s Play, published in 2000.  

In addition to her personal projects and work at Authentic Institute of Montessori, Mary Ellen has been active in the Montessori community over the course of her career, serving as Commissioner for Accreditation and Member of the Board of Directors for MACTE from 1992-2000 and holding the position of Vice-President of the International Association of Montessori Educators (IAME) from 2001-2004. Her contributions were recognized in 2013 when she was honored as the recipient of the esteemed MACTE Wisdom of the Elders award.
Mother of three grown children, Mary Ellen’s great passion is exploring the deeper spiritual message of Maria Montessori. She loves to read, swim, and hike with friends and family.

Candace Babcock

executive director 
Candace started with aim in Spring of 2021 in what was supposed to be a part time position as the Educational Technology Director. Her drive, organization, and affinity for leadership proved her to be the perfect candidate for the position of Executive Director which she was promoted to in December 2021.

Candace has always had a passion for education and while being in the classroom wasn’t her calling, she learned a great deal from her post-secondary education at Eastern Washington University where she earned her Early Childhood and Secondary English Education degrees. She also spent 2 years attending Boise State University earning part of her Master’s in Educational Technology degree- a degree she hopes to complete when she figures out a way to increase the number of hours in a day!

After moving to Bozeman, Montana in 2011 Candace worked as a program administrator for a local nonprofit, then took a job at Zoot Enterprises as a developer and later a Quality Assurance Analyst and Business Analyst. After the arrival of her two children, Audra and Wade, Candace decided to put her career on hold - only to capitalize on her “extra” time to write and create a preschool curriculum for her children, which she also sells online.
This time with her children reignited a love for education, curriculum development, and technology, which eventually led her to where she is now- helping to lead a team that develops curriculum and programs for other people that love children and their many gifts!

Karen Walton

program director
Karen is AIM's Program Director.  She has been working at AIM since 2018 as the Level Coordinator for Early Childhood, Internship Coordinator and Residency Instructor.  Before that, she owned & taught at her own Montessori school in rural Montana. She has a Bachelor of Music in Music Education, an Early Childhood certificate and a Master's of Education in Advanced Montessori. Karen is newly certified in American Sign Language. 

She has taught music in the public-school sector in addition to teaching in Montessori classrooms since 2007 both in Rhode Island and Montana. At AIM, she works with interns, observes Montessori classrooms, and participates in webinars. 

When she is not working, she can be found gardening, trail running and cooking. She enjoys long walks with her dog, Jax and camping trips with her husband. 

Carolyn Sweet

marketing & communications director
Carolyn holds a bachelor’s degree in art history from The Ohio State University and advanced degrees in art history and American culture studies from Bowling Green State University. She has been teaching courses in the humanities at the college level since 2006 and has been a marketing professional for over a decade.

Passionate about supporting Montessori educators in their journey, Carolyn has been an active contributor to Montessori schools since 2013. Her roles have included serving as a marketing and admissions coordinator, a board member, and a volunteer.

At home she has the honor of raising two fiercely independent children who began their Montessori journey as infants. Her husband holds a Montessori Secondary Credential and has led and founded Montessori adolescent programs in Ohio and South Carolina. Carolyn has been promoting Montessori education as part of the AIM team since 2022

meet our admissions team

Randall Klein

registrar & admissions officer
Randall holds a bachelor’s degree in German from Carroll University (Waukesha WI).  He received his Montessori early childhood teacher certification from American Montessori Internationale (AMI) in 1977 and taught in multi-aged Montessori preschool classrooms for sixteen years.  

In 1986 he received the Master Teacher diploma from the Pan American Montessori Society after conducting numerous teacher training courses with his mentor Dr. Elisabeth Caspari, who was a friend and student of Maria Montessori. 

In 1993 he left the classroom to focus on developmentally appropriate early reading instruction as a reading coach, consultant, and seminar leader. Randall finds great satisfaction in the many opportunities he has each year to deliver the Montessori message and methods on early reading instruction to parents and to public and private school teachers throughout the country. 

In 2012 Randall joined the faculty of Authentic Institute of Montessori as assistant program director. He is currently the Aim registrar and admissions officer. 

Kirsten Guisto

sales and customer service manager
Kirsten joined the aim Team in March of 2022. She has a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from San Francisco State University. In addition to her background in education, she has worked at a University, sales and the hospitality industry.   

After college, Kirsten and her husband spent three months back packing through Europe and caught the “travel bug.” She has spent the past five years traveling with her husband, 3 children and their dog in an RV. They have been to 49 states as well as 9 of the Canadian Provinces(although home is on the Central Coast of California). She believes travel is one of the best educational experiences and feels blessed to be able do this with her family. 

meet our infant toddler faculty

Nancy McNabb

infant-toddler level coordinator 
Nancy McNabb is a parent of four adult children, a grandparent of nine grandchildren, a Montessori teacher and school administrator, a Montessori consultant and parent coach. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in counseling from Florida State University. Her love for children led to her pursuing the Montessori Early Childhood certification where she was trained by Dr. Elizabeth Caspari and Mary Ellen Maunz in 1983.

Upon graduation, Nancy founded her first school in the Twin Cities and later taught in and directed a large Infant/Toddler Community. Being in the classroom with these young children inspired Nancy to complete her Montessori Infant/Toddler certification with the American Montessori society in Boulder, Colorado in 1994. She has taught in and been the administrator of two other successful Montessori schools in Montana over the past 39 years. 

Nancy helped to develop the Montessori Infant/Toddler Teacher Course for aim which launched in September 2021. She is the main instructor of the course, and oversees and mentors the students and interns. She is delighted to work for aim fulfilling a long-time goal of training teachers and parents to observe children, prepare the environment and themselves to meet the children’s needs, and to become loving, peaceful, and positive role models for the children in their lives.  

In her spare time Nancy enjoys gardening, taking walks and playing with her nine grandchildren. 

Courtney Reed

infant-toddler assistant level coordinator 
Courtney found her passion for working with children in her college years. While studying Mathematics at The University of West Georgia and competing in the world of collegiate tennis, she found her true passion in working with children. Through her nannying career, her work for a Montessori family grasped her attention and she heavily pursued her desire to be in a Montessori community. After assisting in a pre-toddler classroom for 2 years, she learned the true basis of a Montessori environment and what intentions Maria Montessori had in creating the Montessori philosophy. Courtney chose to join Cool Springs Montessori as a toddler guide in 2019 and has accomplished many things in the last five years, including her IMC Montessori certification from The Center for Guided Montessori Studies that is also MACTE accredited.

A human can find joy in few things in life like Courtney has found in educating children, but her love for her family trumps it all. Courtney was born and raised in Bowdon, Georgia and was the middle of 3 sisters. Primarily raised by her mom, responsibilities and real-life experiences were introduced early. She became an independent and driven young woman. Through USTA tennis tournaments, she met her husband, Grant, and the rest is history (cliche--I know!). Grant and Courtney moved to Nashville in 2015, soon became engaged, and married in May of 2016. Since then, they have welcomed 2 children into their family, Tripp (6 years) and Charlie (2.5 years). They now live in a beautiful 1905 home in Eagleville, Tennessee and really enjoy all the beauty that Tennessee has to offer. Treasure hunts (antiquing), hiking waterfalls, and family movie days are just some of the things that they enjoy.

meet our early childhood faculty

Kara Renick

early childhood level coordinator
Kara is the Level Coordinator for Early Childhood. Before working at AIM Kara received her Montessori training through Age of Montessori (AIM) and started her teaching journey. She taught in  Montana as well as Colorado.

In her time in Colorado Kara had the wonderful opportunity to help open a new Montessori school with the goals and passions to have a truly authentic and positive cultured school .Kara has visited Mexico and Honduras to visit schools in several different rural cities within both countries. In those schools she worked with teachers to empower them to teach the children with all their passion as well as provided them with new materials for their classrooms.

Kara has had a passion for children since high school. She discovered the Montessori philosophy and began her journey leaning and developing herself as a teacher and guide to the children and later on other teachers as well. She hopes to inspire and empower more teachers as she works at Authentic Institute of Montessori.

Outside of school, you can find Kara looking for adventure outside, climbing cliff sides, and enjoying time with her husband, two kids, and family dog, Whiskey River.

Liz Goodman

early childhood instructor
Liz currently teaches in a primary classroom at King’s Wood Montessori School in Foxboro, Massachusetts. She lives in Sharon, Massachusetts with her husband where they raised two children, a recent college graduate and rising college junior. Liz holds a M.Ed. in Montessori Education from Xavier University, a Montessori Early Childhood Certification from aim, and a B.A. in U.S. History from Central Connecticut State University. Her experience as an educator spans over 20 years both as a high school teacher, and for the past 11 years in an early childhood Montessori classroom.  

In her free time, Liz loves to read, hike, practice yoga, travel, cook, and spend time with family and friends. She is also a huge Boston Celtics fan!

Daniel Ocampo

early childhood level coordinator español
Daniel has 8 years of experience in Montessori Education. He was born and raised in Medellin, Colombia. He heard about Montessori education for the first time when he was studying Psychology at the University Pontificia Bolivariana in Medellin, and he realized the importance of an education that truly understands the development of the child. From that point on, Daniel’s goal was to support the creation of Montessori schools in Medellin at the private and public levels.  

He moved to Bozeman, Montana in 2016. The following year he was certified as a Montessori teacher through Age of Montessori (AIM). From 2017 to the present, Daniel has been the head-teacher of a classroom in Middle Creek Montessori, in which he has been implementing the Montessori curriculum successfully. Daniel is very passionate about Montessori education! Over the years, he has travelled to Colombia to various cities to give public presentations and seminars about Montessori and how important it is for social transformation of the country.  

As part of Daniel’s passion for Montessori he has created an app using Montessori fundamentals to teach children how to read. It is called ABClyrics and is currently available in the app store.  
Daniel loves to travel and spend time with his wife and daughter. Additionally, Daniel enjoys skiing, hiking, camping, and observing the wildlife in Montana.  

Camilla Nichols

early childhood level coordinator Sweden
Camilla earned her degree in Early Childhood from the University of Lund in Sweden, where she was also born and raised.  She began her teaching career in 1994 after receiving her Birth-6, as well as her 6-9 Montessori certifications from St. Nicholas Centre in London, England.

With a passion for teaching and traveling, Camilla has since taught in Asia, Europe, and North America. Camilla was responsible for spearheading the development of the MCTD teacher education program at The Montessori Children’s Academy in Chatham, New Jersey in 2014 where she is also an instructor and advisor in addition to her role as The Senior Director of Montessori Development.

Camilla also holds an AMS Early Childhood Montessori Certification and consults to a Montessori School in Malmö, Sweden on an ongoing basis.

Camilla has raised two children who both went through Montessori Education and who are now successful college students in nursing and mountaineering degrees. Camilla was the former Essex County Director of Girls on the Run, a non-profit organization that empowers young girls mentally and physically.

Heidi Tussing

online faculty advisor
Heidi grew up in Lincoln, NE but lived in multiple states before settling in her current location of Helena, MT. Heidi has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Nebraska and a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Wyoming. She spent many years as a child and family social worker as well as teaching social work students before finding Montessori when researching preschool options for her daughter. This discovery led to her own Montessori journey.

She completed her EC Montessori certification in Kalispell, MT in 2009 and worked in several Montessori preschools in Helena. She was the teacher for the first ever public Montessori preschool in Montana which was funded by the MT Legislature. She went on to obtain her Elementary I certification from Authentic Institute of Montessori and taught a lower Elementary class at a private Montessori school in Helena. Heidi currently is a substitute teacher for the public elementary Montessori teachers.

Heidi, her three children (2 of them adults) and husband love to spend time in Montana’s beautiful outdoors skiing, mountain biking, hiking, and sometimes relaxing in a hammock.

meet our elementary faculty

Suzanne Tipton

elementary I & II  level coordinator
Suzanne Tipton found Montessori while working as a high school Math & Science teacher in Thailand. She completed the Lower Elementary course with Age of Montessori and led her own Lower Elementary classroom at Montessori School of Louisville for four years. She made the difficult decision to leave the classroom in pursuit of her passion for training teachers.

Montessori education changed her life and she is eager to help others realize the beauty of this style of teaching. She lives in Tennessee near her niece, Kathryn, and nephew, David Michael, whom she adores wholeheartedly. (They think Auntie Q is a party!)
She also loves to draw, travel, read, scuba dive, hike, camp, and especially cooking. She has been working on writing her own cookbook for a few years now so if you are interested in vegetarian recipes, look no further!  

Fana Takahashi

online faculty advisor
After completing college, Fana discovered Montessori as a teacher in an early childhood classroom. She was immediately convinced by the method and trained with Authentic Institute of Montessori in Early Childhood and Elementary I.

She also holds a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction and a B.S. in Education K-8 from Montana State University. Fana has always had a passion for teaching and has been in a Montessori classroom since 2015. Currently, she co-teaches in a Lower Elementary Classroom in Honolulu, Hawaii.

In her free time, Fana enjoys traveling the world, surfing, hiking, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.

Karla Hahn

elementary I & II instructor
Karla is a part-time instructor for Age of Montessori, where she has trained teachers in 2 upper elementary residencies, worked as a mentor and co-led webinars on dyslexia and teaching Montessori online during the pandemic.

Karla received a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in special education from Florida State University. She has over 40 years of teaching experience in both regular and special education, and during that time continued her studies in educational research, brain-based learning and obtaining her Montessori certification for ages 6-12.

During her last 15 years of teaching, Karla taught in a public Montessori school in Jacksonville, Florida. She retired in June of 2021 but continues her work with aim and as a reading tutor in a Title 1 elementary school.

When she is not pursuing her educational interests, Karla enjoys gardening, travel, cooking, Pilates and spending time with family and friends.