Our Directresses have a deep seated passion and commitment to children. They exude kindness and warmth; they inspire and they know how to laugh. They have found their life's work with the children and make Full Circle the special place that it is.
Ms. Caroline Halaby happily returns to FCMS as a Lower Elementary Directress after having completed her AMI Elementary training/M.Ed from WMI/Loyola University in Spring of 2015. Ms. Halaby served previously as a Primary Classroom Assistant in both the BUP2 and FRED classrooms. She started at FCMS without any previous Montessori experience, but quickly fell in love with the method and found herself drawn to the work of the elementary classroom. From there, FCMS sponsored her Elementary training and she is thrilled to have had her experiences with primary to prepare her as she enters the Elementary classroom! She spent many summers working for her mother's art camp, and assisting at FCMS was her first job after graduating from Davidson College in 2012. An East Coast transplant from Northern California, Ms. Halaby loves having all four seasons and being close to so many museums and monuments. When she's not working, you can find her sampling new restaurants in DC, reading outside in a park, or giving her friends tours of the Air and Space Museum!
Ms. Andrea Meszaros Lower Elementary Directress Ballston
Andrea Meszaros came to Full Circle after spending the 2007-2008 school year as an English teacher in China. She thoroughly enjoyed the cultural experience as well as working with children, and returned home looking for an opportunity to continue her work in the classroom. Andrea was fortunate enough to come upon Full Circle and was immediately inspired by the enthusiasm of the staff and the culture of the school community. She served as classroom assistant to Ms. Woellhaf at the FRED. Her time as an assistant taught her invaluable lessons about what it means to work with children from a Montessori perspective. At the same time she realized that she wanted to pursue her Montessori studies further, Full Circle was ready to expand. She jumped at the opportunity to train at Loyola University/Washington Montessori Institute. After a leave of absence to complete the Master of Education degree program in 2010, Andrea was thrilled to open Full Circle’s first Elementary class. Andrea is delighted to bring “Cosmic Education” to Full Circle, and to explore the universe right along with the children!
Ms. Julia Clark Upper Elementary Directress Ballston
Julia Clark is the Upper Elementary Directress at Full Circle. Julia holds an AMI Elementary diploma from Washington Montessori Institute and a Masters of Education from Loyola University Maryland. Before finding her interest in Montessori Education, she completed a Bachelor of Art degree in English Language and Literature and was a member of the Honors Humanities program at University of Maryland, College Park. Julia's interest in Montessori Education began concretely when she served as a caregiver for an infant and elementary child. While caring for these two children and reading Maria Montessori's writings on human development, she was struck by the universal truths expressed in Dr. Montessori's observations of childhood and was compelled to pursue a vocation as a Montessori Elementary guide. Julia is a lifelong learner with a literary leaning. She is particularly excited by the culture of storytelling in the Elementary classroom which provides a constant source of inspiration and opportunity to engage the children in grand explorations of the human experience. She is the oldest of eight siblings in a lively, happy family from Baltimore County, Maryland.
Sumayyah Lafraie returns to FCMS after having spent the past year completing her AMI Primary Montessori training and M.Ed. at WMI/Loyola University Maryland. She joined FCMS as an assistant to the Jordan classroom in 2013 and has never looked back! Prior to FCMS, Sumayyah worked at an elementary school in London, UK and on weekends worked for an educational charity helping refugee children catch up with school work. Sumayyah was born in Honolulu, Hawaii to Afghan parents, but grew up mostly in New Zealand. She holds a bachelors degree in Information Science with minors in Marketing and Design from Otago University, New Zealand, and a postgraduate diploma in Fashion Design from UCOL Whanganui, New Zealand. Sumayyah spends most of her free time catching up with her “babies”: her two nephews and niece. Sumayyah loves (trying!) to learn new languages, exploring different countries and cultures, and has a special childhood love for Bollywood movies. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband who is studying towards his Ph.D. at Georgetown University.
Ms. April Dunn Primary Level Directress Ballston | BDOWN
April was born in Victoria, British Columbia, and grew up in Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, and upstate New York. Her family followed her dad’s career as a university professor from college town to college town, and so the teaching bug bit her early on. She studied anthropology and art history at the State University of New York at Albany, and went on to work in museum programs at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History’s Arctic Studies Center. She made her way back to education, earning a master’s degree in special education from The George Washington University, then teaching in Montgomery County Public Schools (MD) until she became a mother in 2003 (and again in 2006!) and took a seven-year break from working outside the home.
When she was ready to return to work, she had developed an interest in Montessori and had read some relevant theory and research. As luck would have it, she encountered an opportunity to work as an assistant in a Montessori Primary environment. Within a few short weeks, she knew that Montessori was the right fit for her and set about attending an accredited training course as soon as possible. She is happy to report that she regards this as her best professional experience ever, and she is thrilled to be part of the team at Full Circle that champions the child’s best interest above all, and exemplifies a culture of mutual respect and support.
At home, April enjoys reading, music, and cooking, spending time outdoors and with friends, and being with her husband, Mike, their two children, Eleanor and Eamon (both Montessori Elementary children), and their pup, Mathilda.
Ms. Amy Lawniczak Primary Level Directress The Fred
Amy, a native of Ohio, grew up in a small town where her upbringing influenced her to be socially aware and steered her to pursue education in furtherance of her ideals. Amy left Ohio to attend the University of Wisconsin where she was an active member of both the campus and local communities and majored in political science. Through her passion for social justice, she broadened her academic scope to include courses in education and realized that the primary key to positively impacting society resides in the quality and purposeful education of its youth. At the end of her sophomore year, Amy began a simultaneous certificate program in Educational Policy Studies and followed it through to graduate-level coursework. After conducting independent research on young women’s education in Africa, Amy traveled to Ghana, spending a few months teaching under-served primary age children and furthering her understanding of African education. After moving to Washington, in 2009, Amy joined the Full Circle family as a classroom assistant at The Fred, a wonderful experience that introduced her to Montessori theory and practice. Impressed by Montessori’s astute observations on childhood development and ability to foster organic learning, Amy pursued a Master’s degree in education and concurrently received her AMI Montessori Certification. Since obtaining her M.Ed and AMI Certification, Amy has been the Directress of BUP2 and has this year moved back to the Fred. Outside of FCMS, Amy loves to spend time with her family, to cook, and travel.
Ms. Natalie Yeh Primary Level Directress The Jordan
Natalie joined Full Circle Montessori School in 2012, after completing her AMI Primary training. She spent part of her childhood in Maryland, where she herself was a Montessori child in Germantown, MD. She spent the largest portion of her formative years in Kansas, however, and considers herself a native Kansan.
She studied art history and graphic design while at the University of Kansas, where her extracurricular activities included volunteering in the community and at the college radio station as a DJ. During that time, she gained extensive experience with young children while working in both traditional and alternative preschool settings. She also volunteered with The Boys and Girls Club and with local after-school programs, both of which served elementary-aged children. After college, she worked in the fields of advertising and graphic design at a multi-media advertising company in Lawrence, KS.
In 2009, Natalie decided to return to working with children in the world of Montessori, first as an assistant at a Montessori school in KS, before moving to Portland, OR to receive her AMI Montessori training at the Montessori Institute Northwest. Concurrently, she did further studiestowards a Master's in Education at Loyola University of Maryland. Additionally, she holds a TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certificate.
In her free time, Natalie enjoys biking and swimming and is a dedicated yogi. She strongly believes that physical movement not only keeps the body healthy, but the mind, too. Other interests include reading, writing, hand crafts, music, traveling, learning new languages (she studied Mandarin, French, and Spanish) and spending time with family and friends.
Young Children's Community
Ms. Mariana Vicéns Primary Level and Assistant to Infancy Directress Young Children's Community
Mariana was born and raised in Humacao, Puerto Rico. As a Montessori child, she knew from an early age that her passion is working with children and making a difference in the world. She attended the University of Florida (Go Gators!) where she got a bachelor in Sociology and Latin American Studies. She continued her education at The Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico earning a master’s degree in Special Education. During this time she worked as a Teacher Assistant at a local Montessori school and knew she had found her calling. She returned to the United States for Montessori Training and graduated with a master’s degree in Montessori Education from the Washington Montessori Institute (AMI) at Loyola University. It was her good fortune to meet a group of amazing women and she found the Full Circle Montessori School community where she opened her own classroom and began the adventure of a lifetime. After 5 years teaching the Primary level, she decided to continue her education and she received her Assistance to Infancy Diploma from The Montessori Institute in Denver Colorado.
She loves her Caribbean roots and high positive energy for living life, and incorporates the Puerto Rican rhythm, love, and language in her classroom. With each passing day she reminds herself that children inspire her to become a better person. She always acknowledges that she is in fact not a teacher, but that the children are the ones that teach her everyday about the Montessori method and the simplicity of life. In her spare time she enjoys doing outdoors activities, dancing, traveling, learning about other cultures, and trying new things. She is a proud aunt of a boy called Gabriel and a beautiful girl named Cecilia and on Novemeber 2017 she and her husband will welcome their first child, Manuela Catalina.