Meet Our Staff


Tyler Bourcier, Head of School, trained at the Center for Montessori Education in New York, holds an AMS Montessori Credential for Elementary I and II, as well as a State of California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential. Tyler began his elementary teaching career in 2003 and taught at Montessori schools in Arizona and Delaware before joining Casa di Mir’s Upper Elementary faculty in 2007. Tyler is also an instructor at the Montessori Teacher Education Center of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Wanda Whitehead, Education Director, was the first teacher for Casa di Mir and assisted the founding board in the establishment of the school in 1989. Her key focus and vision is Maria Montessori’s “Education for Peace.” Wanda taught for 17 years in the Palo Alto Unified School District, grades 2-6. She holds a State of California Standard Teaching Credential for elementary K-8, American Montessori Society (AMS) Certification for ages 6-12, and Orff-Schulwerk Level 1 music teacher certification. Wanda is a teacher trainer at the Montessori Teacher Education Center of the San Francisco Bay Area.


Anne Nguyen, Admissions Director, has taught since 1994 and has spent most of her career at Casa di Mir with a 3 year stint teaching for the Palo Alto Unified School District. Anne holds a California State Teaching Credential from San Jose State University as well as an AMS certificate for ages 9-12 from the Montessori Teacher Education Center in the SF Bay Area.

Sue Dapkus, Administrative Assistant, holds a BA in Speech Pathology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Sue joined the Casa di Mir staff in 2000.

Hema Munshi works in the front office as an Administrative Assistant. Hema holds a BA and certificate in Administrative Assistant/Office Technology. In addition to her extensive experience working in the non-profit sector, Hema is also a graduate of a Montessori High School.

Karen Schuler is the school’s Payroll Manager and assists with special projects.  Karen served the school for over 17 years as the Business Manager.  Karen has completed the Human Resource Specialist Training, Advanced Course for School Leaders, Montessori Whole School Management, and holds a BA degree in Psychology.


Sunita Austin is our Primary Director and has been a Montessori teacher since 2007, holds an AMS Montessori Credential from the Montessori Teacher Education Institute of Adrian, Michigan as well as an Early Childhood Education Certificate. Sunita joined Casa di Mir’s Primary teaching team in 2016.

Radha Kadich received her AMS credentials in Early Childhood Education at the Montessori  Teacher Training Center of San Leonardo, CA. Radha has been a teacher since 2009. She taught at Casa di Mir from 2010 to 2015 and rejoined the primary team in March 2018. Radha also completed her chef training in South Africa and earned an associate degree in Nutrition and Catering.

Sunmin “Sunny” Lee attended Sungshin Women’s University in South Korea, receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Masters in Art History. She obtained her AMS Montessori credential for ages 3-6 from the Montessori Teacher Education Center of the Bay Area. Sunny joined Casa’s staff as an intern teacher and regular substitute in 2012, and started teaching at Casa di Mir full time in 2016.

Kristin Schwartz Studied Communication Studies at San Jose State University. Is a certified Mind Body Eating Coach from the Institute for the Psychology of Eating. Devotee of yoga, traveling, and Child Development. Currently enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program at the Montessori Teacher Education Center San Francisco Bay Area.

Martina Schilling received her AMS Montessori credential in Early Childhood from the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies in Silver Spring, Maryland. She has been a classroom teacher since 2015. Martina is originally from Germany, where she pursued extensive studies in the English, French and Spanish languages.

Whitney Williams is a primary teacher assistant. Her previous work experience includes working with school-age children in after- and before-school care for Campbell Union School District, as well as long-term pre-kindergarten substitute and lunch/aftercare teacher at Saint Andrew’s Episcopal School in Saratoga. Her most recent work experience is as a toddler teacher at Happy Childhood School in San Jose. She attended West Valley College, where she studied early childhood education and business.

Joy Yap has been teaching in early childhood level since 2004. She holds an  AMS Early Childhood credential from Montessori Teacher Education Center San Francisco Bay Area. Joy also graduated with Bachelors Degree in Psychology and with MA units in Educational Psychology.


Pheroza Doshi, obtained her Montessori credential from the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies in Silver Spring, Maryland. She has been a classroom teacher since 2007. Pheroza has lived in Kenya and is fluent in French and Swahili.

Eliana Fernandez has an AMS teacher credential from Montessori Teacher Education Center of San Francisco and Bay Area. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law from the Universidad Pedagogica y Tecnologica de Colombia. Eliana did English tutoring to children back in Colombia where she is originally from.  Eliana joined Casa Di Mir as an assistant teacher and aftercare teacher in 2017.

Pranita Patel holds an AMS Lower Elementary Credential and has specialized training in the Lindamood-Bell Learning Process. Additionally Pranita has a BA in marketing with a minor in Anthropology. Pranita has extensive experience as a Montessori teacher, and in running her own successful tutoring business.

Kai Shuart attained her Liberal Arts degree from Golden West College and her Bachelor’s in Child Development from Humboldt State University. In 2014 she got her Lower Elementary credential from NAMC. In her spare time, she loves playing guitar, reading-fiction, comics, you name it-collecting vinyl records, and knitting.

Penny Thompson is the Assistant Teacher for the Lower Elementary I classroom. Penny holds an AMI Montessori credential from the Foundation for Montessori Education in Toronto. She also holds a BS degree with a specialty in Geography. Penny joined Casa di Mir’s staff in 2011.

Cathy Zoeckler holds a MA in Education, an AMS Elementary Credential, and a BA in Business Management. Cathy has been a Montessori teacher since 1994.


Christine Forster received her Montessori Certificate for ages 6-12 from the Center for Montessori Education in New York. She began her Montessori teaching career in 1992. Christine taught at Casa di Mir from 2001 to 2007. She lived in Germany with her family from 2007 to 2014, and returned to the States to re-join Casa di Mir’s faculty in 2014.

Kevin Lang holds a M.Ed. in Elementary Education from Loyola University in Baltimore and AMI Montessori certification in both Elementary and Adolescent Studies. He has a BS in Environmental Studies from Northland College in Ashland, WI. Kevin has many years of experience as a Montessori educator with both upper elementary and middle school students. Kevin joined the Casa di Mir faculty in 2014.

Nathan Whitehead completed his AMS Montessori Elementary I certification for ages 6-9 at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in New York. Nathan also holds a BA in Spanish with a minor in Communication from San Diego State University. Nathan is the first Casa di Mir alumnus to return to work at Casa. Nathan joined Casa di Mir’s staff in 2011.


Nanette Bernales is the middle school math and science teacher. She has taught middle and high school math and science for 25 years. Nanette received her Master of Arts in Measurement and Evaluation and Bachelor of Science in Physics and Technology from Philippine Normal University-Manila. She holds a California preliminary single subject credential in science and a Philippine teaching credential.

Kelly Curtin is an experienced secondary teacher with a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and a Master of Arts in Special Education from Loyola Marymount University. Kelly holds both a California state teaching credential and an educational specialist credential. She served as a corps member with Teach for America for two years. Her career focus has included supporting student leadership and engagement and computer literacy. Kelly completed the NAMTA/AMI Montessori Orientation to adolescent studies (ages 12-18) at the Hershey Montessori Farm School in Huntsburg, Ohio. She earned her certificate as a trained Montessori Model United Nations Teacher in 2016. Kelly joined Casa di Mir’s middle school faculty in 2016.


Paula Feghhi teaches Spanish to the UE and MS students. Paula is a native Spanish speaker with over 15 years of experience teaching Spanish language to children and adults. Paula earned her undergraduate degree from University of Anhembi Morumbi in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Avani Hirway is Casa di Mir’s Science Lab teacher. Avani holds a MA in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University and previously worked as a Lead Design Engineer for 7 years. Avani joined Casa di Mir’s staff in 2010.

Renee Jones, co-founder of Casa di Mir and former RN, has been teaching UE and MS Human Growth course for 25  years. She brings her expertise and great communication skills to her students.

Jillian Tkach, our PE teacher, holds a BS in Kinesiology and has experience coaching youth soccer, leading group fitness classes and as a personal trainer. In addition to teaching Physical Education, Jillian supports the Upper Elementary and Middle School Extended Care Program.

Lily Martinez teaches Spanish at Casa di Mir.

New School Aikido, under the direction of Sensei Leslie Simmons, provides Aikido instruction to grades 2-8 as part of Casa di Mir’s Physical Education Curriculum. Sensei Simmons has been providing Aikido instruction to Casa di Mir students since 2000.

Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desires to make him learn things but the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.
– Maria Montessori