Meet Our Staff


Wanda Whitehead brings extensive leadership and vision as Casa di Mir’s Head of School. She 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.


Sunita Austin, 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.

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.

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.

Olivia Shi graduated from the University of Oregon College of Education in 2016 with over 600+ practicum hours. She started her Montessori training in 2017 and will receive her American Montessori Society certificate in June 2018. She enjoys working with younger students to see their learning and growing processes.


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.

Amy Fought holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Willamette University and an AMS Teaching Credential for Elementary I from the Institute for Montessori Innovation in Salt Lake City, Utah. Amy began working with elementary aged students as an outdoor science teacher in 2010, and has been teaching in a Montessori environment since 2012. Amy joined Casa di Mir’s Lower Elementary faculty in early 2016.

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.

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.


Tyler Bourcier, 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.

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.


Trisha Bergthold holds a PhD in Mathematics with emphases in Curriculum and Pedagogy. As a specialist in Mathematics Education, she has focused on teacher preparation as well as professional development for K-12 teachers. She has designed curriculum for Kindergarten through college level. Trisha taught university-level Mathematics courses for sixteen years. She has also been active as a Scout leader, initiating an awards program in the STEM fields. Trisha joined Casa di Mir’s faculty in 2014.

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. Kelly 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 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.

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.

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.


Shailendra Baghel, JD, CPA, MBA, is Director of Finance and Operations. He brings more than 20 years professional experience in accounting, finance, audit, taxation, law, and strategic and enterprise resource planning. He has extensive management experience in the for-profit and nonprofit worlds having worked for high-profile employers in  financial, manufacturing and education sectors.

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

Diane Dunning, Director of Development and Communications, has over 20 years experience in the field of marketing and public relations, and served on the board of the Los Gatos Education Foundation as Vice President of Marketing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature.

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.

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.


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