OUR STAFF

OFFICE

Karen Kuse

Head of School

Karen has been in Montessori education since 1990 when she began her career as a lead teacher in a lower elementary classroom. She has been a Montessori Head of School in Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina. Karen holds a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and a Master of Science in Elementary Education. She also holds two certifications with the American Montessori Society and is certified in School Management. Additionally, Karen is an adjunct professor and teacher trainer for Lander University and is a board member for the South Carolina Montessori Alliance.

Leslie Greene

Assistant Head of School

Leslie graduated from the University of South Carolina with a Bachelor’s degree in Experimental Psychology, Cognate in Child Psychology. She earned her 3-6 certification from the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in Raleigh, North Carolina. Leslie is a level 250 certified yoga instructor for children and adults.

Becky Carter

Director of Development

After years of volunteering with MSC’s development office, we hired Becky as our Director of Development in the fall of 2016. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Health from Emory University and a B.S. in Nursing from McMaster University. Wanting a change from the nursing and public health industry, Becky joined MSC as a philanthropy specialist.

Heather Connor

Administrative Assistant

Heather Connor received a Bachelor of Business Administration with a Minor in Marketing and Spanish from Campbell University. She 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.

ELEMENTARY

Misty Dickson

Lead Teacher - Lower Elementary

Misty 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. She taught first grade in South Carolina for two years and spent five years teaching first and second grade in Indiana. In 2011, Misty completed her Montessori elementary certification at the Seacoast Center for Education in New Hampshire.

Erin Knox

Lead Teacher - Lower Elementary

Erin is an MSC alumna, having attended from age 3 through the sixth grade. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies from the College of Charleston with a minor in Studio Art. After graduating college, Erin moved to Portland, Oregon where she obtained her AMI elementary teaching certificate from Montessori Northwest.

Sidney Little

Lead Teacher - Lower Elementary

Sidney graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of South Carolina and has since worked with all age levels of our school in roles such as extended-day teacher, physical education director and summer program counselor. Prior to his career at MSC, Sidney volunteered at Tutor Eau Claire and was a professional baker for Publix. He’s completed his first summer of training at the Montessori Elementary Teacher Training Center in Lexington, MA.

Michael Thigpen

Lead Teacher - Lower Elementary

A career student, Michael has three degrees from the University of South Carolina and one degree from Lander University. He holds a Master of Education, a Master of Arts in Teaching, a Master of Public Administration, and a Bachelor of Psychology. Michael completed his Montessori elementary training in 2015. He taught in the public school system for ten years before becoming a Montessori teacher and joining the Montessori School of Columbia.

Jim Young

Lead Teacher - Upper Elementary

Jim 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. Before joining MSC, Jim taught lower elementary for nine years and upper elementary for four years. He began his Montessori career at The Butler School in Darnestown, Maryland. Jim and his wife, Kathy, founded the Montessori School of St. Andrews in Columbia, where Jim was the co-administrator and a lead teacher.

Rebecca Townsend

Assistant Teacher - Upper Elementary

Rebecca is studying Visual Art and Art History at the University of South Carolina. She is also earning an AMI Elementary Assistant’s Certificate from Loyola University in Maryland. Rebecca worked as an after-care teacher at MSC for two years before moving into the upper elementary classroom. In addition to her role as an assistant teacher, Rebecca plans and oversees our summer program.

PRIMARY

Betty Namuddu

Lead Teacher - Primary 1

Betty graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Education; History, Economics from Makerere University, Kampala Uganda. She worked as a primary assistant teacher at Jubilee Academy and as a volunteer teaching assistant at Columbia Montessori Children’s House. Betty earned her Early childhood Montessori credential at the Institute of Advanced Montessori studies in Maryland.

Sarah McCants

Assistant Teacher - Primary 1

Sarah is completing her undergraduate studies in early childhood education at the University of South Carolina. She has been working at MSC since 2015 and has worked as a classroom assistant, extended-day teacher, and summer program counselor. Before joining MSC, Sarah worked to create and establish her family’s hydroponic gardening company in Ridgeway, SC.

Viji Saravanan

Lead Teacher - Primary 2

Viji Saravanan 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. Before joining MSC, Viji taught for 10 years at the Montessori Children’s House of Columbia.

Janeta Radieva

Assistant Teacher - Primary 2

Janeta received her Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Master’s Degree in Pedagogy and Primary Education from the University of Sofia in her native country, Bulgaria. She holds more than 30 years of experience working with children, 13 of which were spent as a primary teacher in Bulgaria. After moving to the U.S., her focus has been working with preschool children and she has spent the last 6 years teaching in Montessori schools.

Mani Seneviratne

Lead Teacher - Primary 3

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, and has been teaching children using the Montessori Method since 1976.

Liana Saffioti

Assistant Teacher – Primary 3

Liana is completing her undergraduate studies with the goal of becoming a children’s speech pathologist. Before discovering Montessori and MSC, Liana worked in the food and beverage industry at Cannon Borough Beverage Company and Publix Supermarkets. Liana is originally from Florida and she has an extensive background in in theatrical performance.

ENRICHMENTS

Ashley Clarke

Art Instructor

Ashley Clarke holds a Master of Arts in Education and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Education, both from the University of Georgia. While living in Georgia, Ashley served as a docent for the Georgia Museum of Art, traveled to Italy where she studied art history and water colors, and taught art at The Westminster School in Atlanta. In 1998, she returned to her home state of South Carolina to raise her two sons and teach art at Pine Ridge Middle School in West Columbia.

Finnbarr Dunphy

Spanish & Latin Instructor

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

Music Instructor

Jennifer 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.

Jessica Smith

Yoga & Art Appreciation

Jessica 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 500 yoga instructor which means that she has fantastic posture and is certified to teach yoga to children and adults.