Meet the Staff
Head of School
Karen Kuse is the school’s Director. Karen has been in Montessori since 1990 and has experience as a lead teacher in lower elementary and as a Montessori Head of School. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and a Master of Science in Elementary Education. Karen holds two certifications with the American Montessori Society and is certified in School Management. Additionally, she is an adjunct professor and teacher trainer at Lander University.
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.
Rachel Tolbert is one of our preschool assistants. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion from Queens University and has worked as an assistant in a Montessori classroom since 2007. Some of Rachel’s other experiences with children include working as a nanny, teaching Sunday school, and fundraising for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Prevent Child Abuse America.
Brittni Smith is one of our preschool assistants as well as our preschool aftercare instructor. She is studying early childhood education at Columbia College and has been working as a Montessori assistant since 2007. Prior to discovering Montessori, Brittni taught at The Children’s Center in Winnsboro during 2000-2007.
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.
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.
Jacquelin Jackson is our lower elementary school assistant. She has been a Montessori assistant for more than twenty years. Jackie taught at the Montessori Preschool of Columbia for fourteen years, at Brockman Elementary School for two years, and at our preschool for one year before joining lower elementary.
Sue Cate holds a 6-12 Montessori teacher certification from the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in Raleigh, North Carolina and is the lead teacher in our upper elementary classroom. Sue worked for sixteen years as a writer in the publishing industry and lived in Europe for three years. The experiences of her own children sparked her enthusiasm for the Montessori Method. Sue is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Wake Forest University.
Jessica Oliver is the upper elementary assistant teacher. She is a graduate of Winthrop University and holds a degree in French as well as a K-12 French certification. In addition to being fluent in French, Jessica plays drums and guitar with several local bands. Jessica has been a volunteer counselor and band organizer at the Girls Rock Camp in Charleston which empowers young women to express themselves and develop confidence through music.
Ronnie Dimig is our elementary school art teacher. Passionate about the importance of art in the lives of children, she earned a bachelor’s degree in art education from Middle Tennessee State University. She taught art at the Governor’s School of Tennessee and has taught locally at Brockman Elementary School and Burnside Elementary School. Ronnie’s work has been featured in local and national shows and she received art commissions from the Office of the President at Gallaudet University in Washington DC, the American Red Cross, and from numerous private collectors throughout the United States. Ronnie currently divides her time between painting portraits and botanicals, landscape design and teaching at MSC.
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.
Jennifer Roche is our preschool and elementary music teacher. She has a bachelor’s degree in music and is a certified to 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.
Jackie Smith is our preschool and first through second grade Spanish teacher. Jackie is from Bogota, Columbia where she earned a degree in business administration. Jackie has spent many years teaching Spanish as a second language and also working as a liaison for the Columbia, SC community and the Hispanic population.
Evan Simmons is one of our elementary aftercare instructors. He has a master’s degree in instrumental performance from USC and a bachelor’s degree in applied music from Lee University. Evan teaches percussion and directs summer percussion camps at the Columbia Arts Academy.
Rebecca Ridgill is one of our elementary aftercare instructors and substitute teachers. She 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.