Meet Our Team

Dr. Maria Montessori:

“Our aim is not only to make the child understand, and still less force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his innermost core.”



Wendy Poczatek, Executive Director


Ms. Wendy is a retired dentist with over 20 years of experience in business ownership, team development, and mentorship. She invigorates our community with creative problem-solving, encouraging personal and professional growth, and modeling authenticity. She’s been a volunteer with this learning community for over ten years, inspiring our students to be relentlessly curious and deeply compassionate and draw creativity from their own uniqueness and experience. Ms. Wendy now serves as Executive Director, leading our learning community to a bright future.



Krysten Griffin, Administrative Coordinator


Ms. Krysten is the friendly voice on the other end of the phone, the smiling face at the door, and the indispensable admin assistant and classroom librarian for all levels. Before joining the Hillsboro team, Ms. Krysten spent over 15 years in the public library system. She looks forward to helping kids discover the joys of reading.



Tobakeion Buxton, Administrative Coordinator for Children’s House


Ms. Tobakeion (or Ms. T) has over 20 years of experience working with people in an administrative and managerial capacity.  Ms. Tobakeion says that she has never met a stranger and that helping people is one of the reasons she was put on this earth. She loves people and enjoys seeing and helping people of all ages grow and learn their purpose in life. She loves crafts and spending time with her family in her spare time.



Anna Freiger, Toddler Teacher


Ms. Anna brings 15 years of childcare experience to our toddler class. She loves our low student-teacher ratio and the care our teachers show each student and each other. Ms. Anna loves the Montessori philosophy and enjoys how it “just makes sense” in child development and learning.



Samima Hassan, Lead Primary Teacher


Ms. Samima Hassan leads our Primary Class with unwavering kindness. She sees in her students the people they will become and never gives up on them. She holds a North American Montessori Center certification in Infant/Toddler.  Ms. Samima’s dedication to her class earned her a second Montessori certification in Early Childhood from the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. She loves teaching and using the child’s interests to connect with their learning.


Raji Thopay

Raji Thopay, Primary Teacher


Ms. Raji is family to our students. She brings to our school a decade of experience and an Infant-Toddler Certification from the North American Montessori Center.  Her class is full of energy and curiosity, and she loves finding new ways to keep them moving and learning. Ms. Raji gives each child the same love and attention they receive at home.


Liz Southard, Primary Assistant Teacher


Ms. Liz is a dedicated and enthusiastic individual currently completing her primary Assistant Teacher Certification through CGMS.   As a mother of three, she brings a unique perspective and passion for education to the classroom. Ms. Liz is committed to providing students a positive and nurturing environment and is eager to make a difference in their lives.



Lydia Edwards, Lower Elementary Teacher


Ms. Lydia will receive her Montessori certification for lower elementary in February. She will continue to further her education as she returns to school this fall for her Bachelor’s in elementary education. Ms. Lydia deeply appreciates the Montessori philosophy and fosters independence in her students.



Hannah Gonzales, Upper Elementary Teacher


Ms. Hannah Alexander is joining our Elementary Teaching Team as our Upper Elementary Guide. She is an Auburn graduate with a BS in Elementary Education with a concentration in Childhood Education. She has taught in Montgomery and Birmingham and brings much experience and passion for education and Montessori.



Taylor Steele, Secondary Teacher


We are excited to welcome Taylor Steele to our Secondary class.  Mr. Taylor is passionate about science and the environment.  His career also includes being the US Program Coordinator with Compass Education, STEM teacher and the Director of Science and Education at Cornerstone School of AL, Education Outreach Coordinator/GLOBE in AL, Environmental Research Coordinator and Trainer at McWane Center, Turkey Creek Nature Preserve Director, Volunteer & Education Operations Coordinator at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, Director of Programs at Future Energy Solutions, and Park Naturalist/Natural Resource Specialist at Oak Mountain State Park.  Mr. Taylor has a Masters’s Degree in History from the University of Alabama in Birmingham and a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Fort Lewis College in Colorado.



Madison Lawrence, Secondary Math Teacher


Ms. Madison Lawrence joins our Secondary Teaching Team as a Math & Statistics Guide. She graduated from the University of Montevallo, receiving her BS in Mathematics and a minor in Deaf Studies. Madison brings enthusiasm and passion for lifelong learning. We are excited and thrilled to have her join our learning community!



Patrick Schrader, Secondary ELA Teacher


We are excited to announce the return of Mr. Patrick Schrader to Hillsboro. He is joining our Secondary Teaching Team as our English Language Arts Guide and a Montessori Mentor for our community. Though deceptively youthful, Patrick has decades of experience in Montessori Education, training Montessori teachers and developing programs.  Mr. Patrick has a Master of Education from Xavier University and a Bachelor of Arts from St. John’s Seminary.  He holds Montessori certifications for Secondary I & II.


Areli Tarango, Spanish Teacher


Ms. Areli teaches Spanish to our Toddlers through 12th grade! Her immersive lessons are fun and silly with the Toddler and Primary students, interesting and interactive with the Elementary students, and conversational with our Secondary students. Ms. Areli makes learning Spanish an adventure by playing games, singing songs, and incorporating puppets. She studied Montessori Fundamentals at the Center for Guided Montessori Studies.


Cynthia McDaniel

Cynthia McDaniel, Aftercare Teacher


Ms. Cynthia McDaniel is our outstanding Aftercare Coordinator. She has a heart for serving and taking care of others. Helping our children become curious, compassionate, and creative comes naturally because that’s who she is!


Emily Welch


Emily Welch, Aftercare Teacher


Ms. Emily is currently in school at The University of Montevallo, working toward her Bachelor’s in Elementary Education. She was a gymnastics instructor for children and is brimming with ideas for aftercare activities. She thinks that learning should be hands-on and fun!



Interested in joining our team? We are always looking for talented Montessori teachers. Please send your resume and cover letter to