Meet the Staff
Karen Kuse is our Head of School. Karen has been in Montessori since 1990, beginning her career as a lead teacher in the elementary classroom. She has been a Montessori Head of School in Florida, North Carolina and now South Carolina. Karen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and a Master of Science in Elementary Education. Karen also holds two certifications with the American Montessori Society and is certified in School Management. Additionally, she is an adjunct professor at Lander University and is a Montessori teacher trainer.
Heather Hinchey is our Development Director. Heather graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in History from the College of the Holy Cross, a Master’s Degree in Communications from the University of Hartford, and a law degree from the University of Connecticut. Heather directed the Annual Fund at the Salisbury School in Salisbury, CT, and she is eager to begin fundraising work with the MSC community.
Shannon McDonald is our administrative assistant. Shannon graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in Political Science. She worked in adult protective services at DSS for three years and then worked as the office manager at Harmony School for thirteen years.
Leslie Greene is our lead teacher in the primary classroom. Leslie graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in Experimental Psychology, Cognate in Child Psychology. Leslie earned her 3-6 certification from the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in Raleigh, North Carolina. Leslie is also a certified children’s yoga instructor.
Viji Saravanan is one of our lead teachers in the primary program. She has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Madras, a diploma in Computer Applications from Loyola College, and is certified in Montessori at the primary level. Viji interned for three years and taught for seven years at the Montessori Children’s House with Ms. Mani and Ms. Cheryl.
Mani Seneviratne is one of our lead teachers in the primary program. Miss Mani, as she is known to generations of children and parents in Columbia, has worked as a Montessori teacher for more than thirty years at the Montessori Children’s House of Columbia. Mani was trained as a Montessori teacher in her native country, Sri Lanka.
Jessica Smith is one of our preschool assistants. She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Winthrop University and has taught children at The Art and Play Therapy Center and Bethel United Methodist Preschool. Jessica is a level 230 yoga instructor which means that she has fantastic posture and is certified to teach yoga to children and adults.
Heather Connor is one of our primary classroom assistants. Heather received a Bachelor of Business Administration with a Minor in Marketing and Spanish from Campbell University. Heather has extensive experience managing bookstores on college campuses, and she has also helped to develop children’s programs at Urban Village Church in Chicago and Lexington United Methodist Church in Lexington, SC. Heather also enjoys volunteering as a gardener in various community initiatives.
Betty Namuddu is one of our primary classroom assistants. Betty graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Education; History, Economics from Makerere University Kampala. She was a preschool assistant teacher at Jubilee Academy and before that a volunteer teaching assistant at Columbia Montessori Children’s House.
Cat Catalano is in charge of our primary aftercare program. Cat graduated the University of South Carolina with a degree Hospitality.
Misty Dickson is our lead teacher in the lower elementary class. She graduated from USC with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and returned to USC for a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. Misty taught first grade in South Carolina for two years and spent five years teaching first and second grade in Indiana. Misty earned her Montessori elementary certification at the Seacoast Center for Education in New Hampshire.
Kathy Young is a lower elementary teacher, who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of South Carolina, and she earned her Montessori lower elementary certification at the American Montessori Society North Carolina Center for Montessori Teacher Education. Kathy was an owner/administrator/teacher at the Montessori School of St. Andrews in Columbia, and she taught lower elementary Montessori at the Montessori Community School in Durham, NC. Prior to her work as a Montessori teacher, Kathy had extensive editorial and writing experience at various South Carolina newspapers, schools, and businesses.
Shaye Heiskell is a teacher in our lower elementary class. Shaye holds a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Theater from West Virginia University but her love for Montessori is no act. Prior to settling in Columbia, Shaye worked for four years as a substitute teacher at Coastal Montessori Charter School and the Montessori School of Pawleys Island. Shaye is earning a Montessori elementary certification at the Seacoast Center for Education in Charleston, SC. She is fluent in American Sign Language.
Jim Young is our lead teacher in our upper elementary class. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Slavic Languages and Literature from the University of Virginia and an AMI elementary teaching diploma from the Washington Montessori Institute in Washington DC. Jim taught lower elementary for four years and upper elementary for nine years. He began his Montessori career at The Butler School in Darnestown, Maryland. Jim and his wife Kathy founded St. Andrews Montessori School in Columbia, where he was the administrator and a lead teacher.
Erin Knox is our upper elementary assistant. She is a MSC alumni and has earned a bachelor’s degree from the College of Charleston and an AMI elementary teaching diploma from Montessori Northwest in Portland, Oregon.
Finnbarr Dunphy is our 3rd grade through 6th grade teacher of Latin and Spanish. He has more than thirty years experience teaching in American International Schools abroad. He received his bachelor’s degree in English with a minor in Irish and Latin from St. Patrick’s College of Dublin, Ireland. He has earned a 3.0 in Spanish at the Foreign Service Institute in Virginia, having attained the level of competency in the Spanish language required of U.S. diplomats posted abroad. Finnbarr holds the title of Distinguished Member of the International Society of Poets, and has written three historical fiction manuscripts based on Ireland. He has also coached and played soccer, tennis, and golf.
Rebecca Ridgill is our preschool through second grade Spanish teacher. Rebecca earned a degree in Spanish from the University of South Carolina and has extensive experience with children. Rebecca was a lifeguard at Trenholm Park, an assistant teacher at Harmony School, and an assistant teacher at Rocky Mountain Montessori Academy.
Alan Knight is our upper elementary music teacher. Alan received his Bachelor of Arts in Guitar Performance from the University of New Orleans and a Master of Music in Guitar Performance from the University of South Carolina. He is a certified Suzuki instructor and has three certifications in Studio Recording. Alan teaches music at Brockman Elementary, Columbia College, Limestone College, and Carolina Music Academy.
Jennifer Roche is our preschool and lower elementary music teacher. She has a bachelor’s degree in music and is a certified K-12 music instructor. Jennifer is also trained in Montessori elementary education and enjoys incorporating music with the Montessori curriculum. She plays the piano and has taught music to children both in public and private schools in South Carolina.
Brielle Hayes is our elementary art teacher. Brielle graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art with a concentration in Printmaking. She has worked as an aftercare teacher at MSC. Brielle helped to organize the Girls Rock Camp Columbia, and she has done photography and screen-printing work for Post-Echo, a local music label.