Faculty & Staff

The function of a teacher in a Montessori classroom differs considerably from that of the traditional teacher, which is why at Abintra we refer to our teachers as classroom guides. Teams of Montessori-educated guides oversee students in nongraded, multi-age classrooms.


In the lower school (ages 3-7), independent student activity constitutes about 80% of the work while guide-directed activity accounts for 20% (the reverse percentages are true in more traditional classrooms). This develops the student's ability to direct his or her own work, receiving additional direct instruction from guides when needed.


In the upper school (ages 7-14), students gradually receive more direct instruction through group presentations so that, by Middle School, direct instruction comprises approximately 60% of a student's day. This allows for a student to self-organize 40% of his or her time, thus developing and gaining confidence in directing his or her learning, based upon identified weaknesses and strengths toward a balanced educational endeavor/goal. This self-awareness of learning ability/need propels our graduates positively into their next educational experiences.

Lower School

PATRICIA SALAZAR, Lower School Guide (since 2004)

Education: Universidad del Valle (Colombia) - B.A. Business Administration

Montessori Education: Early Childhood certification (ages 3-6), North American Montessori Center, Age of Montessori certification (ages 3-6)

ABIGAIL BEIER, Lower School Guide (since 2019)

Education: Lipscomb University – B.S. Elementary Ed.
Montessori Education: Early Childhood certification (ages 3-6), Age of Montessori


VANESSA SWIGGART, Lower School Guide (since 2020)

BLAIR TRAMEL, Lower School Assistant, Lower School Aftercare (since 2019)

KRISTEN SLOCUM, Lower School Assistant, Reception  (since 2017)

Education: Middle TN State University - B.S. Early Childhood Education

Montessori Education: Early Childhood certification (ages 3-6), Age of Montessori

Upper School

CARRIGA CAMP, Upper School Guide (since 2008)Education: College of Charleston – B.A. EnglishMontessori Education: Early Childhood certification (ages 3-6), North American Montessori Center, Age of Montessori certification (ages 3-6)

JOHN TOOMEY, Art Educator, Upper School Guide (since 2012)Education: Murray State University – B.F.A. Drawing, PaintingMontessori Education: Early Childhood certification,National Center for Montessori Education (ages 3-6)

LEAH GRABY, Upper School Guide (since 2007)
Education: Pennsylvania State University – B.S. Elementary and Kindergarten Education
Montessori Education: Early Childhood certification (ages 3-6), Center for Montessori Education

JODI McDANIEL, Upper School Guide (since 2004)
Education: University of New Orleans - B.G.A.
Montessori Education: Early Childhood Montessori certification  (ages 3-6), St. Nicholas Montessori Training Centre; Elementary certification (ages 6-9), Montessori World Education Institute   


JONELL SMITH, Upper School Guide (since 2009)
Education: East Tennessee State University - B.S. Elementary Education

Montessori Education: Elementary Certification (ages 6-9), Age of Montessori

CHRIS FARRELL, Upper School Assistant (since 2020)

JENNIFER GRIFFITH, Upper School Guide (since 2014)  
Education: Belmont University - M.ED., Mathematics 7-12

Centre College - B.A. English

CLAUDIA C'deBACA, Upper School Guide and Inclusion Specialist (since 1999)

Education: Vanderbilt University – M.A. Special Education; University of New Mexico – B.A. Special Education


SHERRY KNOTT, Executive Director (since 1992)
Education: Barry University – Ed.S. Montessori Education; University of Georgia – M.Ed. in Educational Psychology; Belmont University – B.A. Secondary Education and English
Montessori Education: Elementary certification (ages 6-12), American Montessori Society

MOLLY HENRY, Administrator (since 2000)
Education: Vanderbilt University - B.S. Psychology, Planned Parenthood Trained Sexuality Educator; Certified Positive Discipline Lead Trainer
Montessori Education: Early Childhood training (ages 3-6)

CELINE RIXEY, Office & Communications Manager (since 2019)

Education: College of Charleston – B.A. English and Political Science


EMILY ALLEN, Admin Support (since 2012) 

Education: University of Southern California – B.A. Psychology and Creative Writing


Support Team

EMI CANAHUATI, Positive Discipline and Human Growth & Development Facilitator (since 2017)
Education: New York University – M.A. Counseling Psychology; Florida International University – B.A. Psychology

Certified Sexuality Educator – AASECT; Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator

DAVID CLONIGER, Farm Manager (since 2017)

Education: Guilford College - B.S. Anthropology

REBECKA ROBERTS, Coordinator of Technology and School Communications, Music Guide (since 2018)

Education: Hillsong International Leadership College in Sydney, Australia - Diploma in Ministry

The royal College of Music in Stockholm, Sweden - M.A. in Music Education



GRACE WAHL, Lower School Aftercare Guide (since 2017)

Education: Middle Tennessee State University – B.S Early Childhood Education and Social Work

Montessori Education: Early Childhood certification (ages 3-6), Age of Montessori

BENTON MOORE, Upper School Aftercare Guide (since 2019)

Faculty and staff regularly complete Professional Development hours.  To see a comprehensive list of coursework completed, click here. 

Vision: Abintra develops confident, self-motivated learners who creatively meet the challenges of life.

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