AMelia Island Montessori School Faculty

AIMS attracts top talent from around the country. What these educators and administrators have in common is a dedication to the classroom, to the vitality of the school, and to the Montessori philosophy. Come meet these kind ambassadors to the school.

*MORE PHOTOS ARE COMING SOON. Thank you for your patience!*

  • Dee dee neal, upper elementary directress

    A.S., Behavioral Science, Georgia Military College. B.S., Interdisciplinary Studies, Western Governor's University. Toddler and Primary Montessori Certifications, North American Montessori Center. Lowrer and Upper Elementary Montessori Certification, Seacoast Montessori Training Center. Teacher Certificate PK - Sixth Grades.

    Ms. DeeDee can often be found outside or reading. Her favorite part of the day is mid-morning when lessons have begun and students are focused, eager, and learning. DeeDee was drawn to Montessori while she was working in social work and referred some families to a Montessori school to help a child. Fascinated by the style of learning, she quickly secured a job as a Montessori assistant and never looked back. DeeDee is married to Mike and has a wonderful stepdaughter, Chloe. She especially enjoys the mid-morning moments in her classroom when everyone is working in harmony. 

    "Wisdom begins in wonder" ~Socrates

  • debbie hodsdon, lower elementary west directress

    B.A., Virginia Intermont College w/ emphasis on Education, Notrh Carolina Center for Montessori Teacher Education, Lower and Upper Elementary Montessori Certification.

    Debbie comes to AIMS with over 30 years of teaching experience, the last fourteen of which have been in Montessori education. Along with her degree and Montessori credentials, a portion of her experience was spent in a special education program where she worked with children with learning differences in the area of math, reading and language. Her special area of interest and continuing education is in the field of Wellness and the link between one's diet and brain health.

    "The things (one) sees are not just remembered; they form a part of his soul." - Maria Montessori

  • sarah mayes, toddler east assistant

    BS, Sociology, Oklahoma State University

    Sarah enjoys the morning arrival of her students and how they gather at circle time. Married to her high school best friend Brandt, she is the mother of a son who is an AIMS student.

    "Be who you are and say what you feel. Because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

  • susie hildebrand, toddler west

    BS, Special Education (Minor in Humanities, Indiana State University, Certification as a Deaf and Blind Facilitator and Behavior Interventionist.

    Susie’s experience in education spans thirty-three years in both public and private settings. After retiring in education and moving to Amelia Island, she sought a relaxed environment in which to formally use her experience. She called AIMS and was drawn to Montessori for several reasons: the Philosophy, the Curriculum, the interview with the HOS and the welcoming impression she had of the school.

    Susie is a single mom of two grown children: a daughter, Crysta Jeanette, and a son, Victor Theron; both live in Chicago. She also has two cats, Chloe and Maddie.  

    "Be still, and know that I am God." -Psalm 46:10

  • sandra ara, primary east directress

    El Camino College, Early Childhood Education, Santa Monica Montessori Institute, ICS Montessori Training

    Sandra appreciates the foundation that a Montessori education gives children, and she finds that it becomes a way of life for those who experience it. She loves to travel and enjoy life to the fullest. Married for 31 years, she is the mother of two children.

    "The world is my classroom" - Maria Montessori

  • kati mcclurg, primary south directress

    BS, Early Childhood Education, University of Wisconsin, Montessori Primary Certification, Summit-Questa

    A teacher with 25 years of experience in a wide variety of locales and settings, Kati loves sharing stories from Africa and Alaska and how children live and learn there. She has two daughters who attend AIMS and is excited to be a part of the Montessori community worldwide.

    "Come forth into the light of things - let nature be your teacher" - J. Willam Wordsworth

  • krystal lawnick, primary east assistant

    Americana Prep College, currently enrolled at FSCJ

    Krystal, the mother of two boys, was drawn to Montessori by the way that the respect of the child is held above all. She enjoys seeing the children in her classroom become self motivated and excited about their work.

    A mind that is stretched by new experience can never go back to its old dimensions. -Oliver Wendell Holmes

  • tania castro, primary south assistant

    Tania comes to AIMS from Cuba, where she earned a Bachelors Degree from ESE.

    She was drawn to Montessori by the peaceful learning environment and the independent way children learn. She is the mother of three children aged 14 months to 16 years old.

    "All grown-ups were once children...but only a few of them remember it." - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

  • kim philo, lower elementary west assistant

    BA Psychology, Florida State University

    Kim formally joined the staff of AIMS in 2012 as an assistant in Lower Elementary after four years of substituting in our environment. Her favorite time of the day is at drop off and the morning work time when they are engaged in their lessons.

    Kim was initially drawn to Montessori as a parent. Her children attended AIMS for a combination of sixteen years. Her appreciation of the methods and philosophy of Montessori has contributed to her joining us as a staff member. 

    She is married to Ron and has a son, Ryan, and a daughter, Shannon, along with their “fur child”, Maddie.

    "Never, never, never give up." - Winston Churchill

  • beth perkins

    Centenary University

    Beth came to Montessori as a parent - her daughter has been at AIMS since she was a toddler (and is now in Middle School.) She previously worked with the Nassau Humane Society and the Cat Clinic of Fernandina.

  • edie blankenberg, middle school directress

    University of Florida, BA in Education

    With over 20 years of teaching experience, Edie appreciates the beautiful way in which the Montessori philosophy honors and celebrates each child. The Morning Meetings she has with her Middle School students are full of amazing conversations. Edie is married to Randy and her son Konnor is an AIMS Upper Elementary student. They share their home with two cats, a fish, a guinea pig, and a puppy.  

    "You are braver than your believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. - Christopher Robin (A.A. Milne) 

  • destini wilson, after school program