Caroline Russell, Executive Director
Caroline Russell was raised in Alexandria, Virginia and attended the University of Virginia where she graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1995 with a B.A. in both French and Political and Social Thought. After college, she earned a Master’s degree in International Studies from the University of Cambridge, England. Caroline began her career promoting non-profit institutions of learning while working at the World Affairs Council in Richmond. Upon moving to the Rockbridge Area in 1998, she was appointed to a position in the Washington and Lee Development Office where she worked for six years and specialized in corporate and foundation grants, capital gifts, and stewardship. Caroline has deep ties to Woods Creek Montessori as a parent and a board officer, serving as Board President in 2004-2005. During this time, the Board oversaw an expansion in program facilities and staff, and developed a long range strategic plan. Before her position at Woods Creek, Caroline was a volunteer language arts enrichment teacher at Waddell Elementary where she taught a Great Books program. She lives in Lexington with her family: husband Chris, who serves as Circuit Court Judge, and three children: two college age daughters at Wake Forest University and Dartmouth College, and a son in high school, each of whom attended the toddler and primary classrooms at WCM.
Amy Holston, Assistant Director
A native of Tidewater, Virginia, Amy received her M.Ed. in Higher Education and Student Affairs from the University of South Carolina and her B.A. from Dickinson College. Throughout her career, she has worked in many capacities in gifted education, specifically as the Director of Student Activities at both The Georgia Academy of Mathematics, Engineering, and Sciences, and the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy. More recently, she worked for Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth, developing and managing summer programs for gifted students. Since this time, she has been busy raising two children, Kate and Ben (who was a Woods Creek Montessori student). Her husband, Ryan, is a professor at VMI. While at home, Amy also developed a small cake business, and has been an active member of Grace Episcopal Church where she served on the Vestry and in various other roles. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, walking, and gardening.
Amanda McKemy, Pre-Toddler
Amanda McKemy has been a Lead Teacher over the Pre-Toddler and infant age groups since 2001, both here at Woods Creek Montessori as well as another preschool. She received her RIE (Resources for Infant Educators) certification in Florida during the summer of 2008. Amanda truly has a passion for working with young children and finds them to be very interesting. “It is amazing what we, as adults, can learn from children.” Amanda and her husband, Eddy, are life-time natives of Rockbridge County. They have one son, Logan, who recently graduated from college and is pursuing a career in business.
Pam Supplee, Toddler
After living in Pennsylvania her entire life, Pam recently made a move to Virginia. She has worked with children since 1994. She and her husband owned a licensed daycare center from 2001 to 2008. Pam eventually found her ideal job: director/co-teacher of a Christian Montessori preschool. She was new to Montessori teaching at that point but she embraced the job and methodology with all of her heart. She found that Montessori was the best way to teach children and she loved it. Pam received her International Montessori Teaching Diploma in 2015 and her BS in Early Childhood Development from Purdue Global University in 2017. Pam has been married to her wonderful husband, Earl, for 33 years, and they have two sons, William (31) and James (27). James and his wife, Susannah, recently welcomed their first child, Evie, and Pam is thrilled to be a grandmother. Pam is excited to be a part of the WCM team, to work with your family, and to help your child navigate the many avenues of the education journey.
Tana Raynor, Toddler
Tana Raynor was born and raised in Midway, Utah and found her way out to the east coast in 2020 and plans to stay put in the beautiful Shenandoah mountains.
While studying at Southern Virginia University Tana found her passion for working with children. After working as an after school teacher here at Woods Creek for three years, she developed a love of the Montessori method and wishes to obtain her Montessori certification in the near future. Tana has since graduated from SVU with a B.A. in Liberal Arts as well as Family and Human development. She is ecstatic to continue working here at Woods Creek for the upcoming school year.
Farishte Irani, Primary I
Farishte Irani was born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland. She holds a BA in Sociology from the University of Maryland. Farishte and her family moved to Virginia in the summer of 2010 from New Hampshire. There she worked for 8 years at Mont Blanc Montessori Academy in many capacities including Lead Primary Teacher, Elementary Teacher and Middle/High School Teacher. She is passionate about the Montessori Philosophy and truly believes every child is a natural learner. Farishte lives here in Lexington with her husband, Afshad (Professor at W&L) and her two children Kaizad and Parizad.
Gretchen Sukow, Primary I
Gretchen, born and raised in New Orleans, LA received a BA in Communications from Loyola University of New Orleans and an MSW from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Prior to starting her family, she was a clinical social worker for eight years. When her youngest child entered kindergarten in 2007, she was invited to become a long-term substitute teacher at Shenandoah Preschool in Lexington, and has never looked back. She was hired as a lead teacher the next year and stayed in this position for over a decade. She also taught for one year at a Montessori/forest school, which she feels broadened her teaching “tool-kit” in many important ways.
Samee Taylor, Primary II
Samee Taylor has lived and taught all over the United States, but she calls Virginia home. She has dedicated her life to working with children in many capacities. She has taught preschool, worked as a special education instructor, hosted international exchange students, been a foster parent, and home-schooled her own children. She has a BS in Family Studies from Brigham Young University. Her teaching experience in a variety of settings and with many educational philosophies has given her a great appreciation for the Montessori method’s great respect for the individual child. Samee and her husband Mark, a violinist and orchestra conductor, are the parents of eight children and eleven grandchildren.
Nikki Jensen, Primary II
Nikki Jensen, a passionate advocate for child development, embarked on her journey at Woods Creek in 2020 as an after-school teacher. Witnessing the growth and learning of children, as well as building connections with their families, quickly captured Nikki’s heart. Nikki’s academic pursuit led her to graduate Cum Laude from Southern Virginia University, where she earned a B.A. in Psychology. Her interdisciplinary studies also encompassed diverse subjects like art, biology, and zoology, reflecting her curiosity and eagerness to explore various disciplines. With a deep appreciation for nature and creativity, Nikki finds enjoyment in gardening, drawing, and painting. She has honed her musical talents as a violinist for over a decade and is currently working on self-teaching guitar skills. Beyond her musical endeavors, Nikki’s diverse interests and passions make her a well-rounded individual. Her enthusiasm for teaching children emotional regulation, artistic expression, and connection with the world around them continue to shape her journey.
Melody Cluff, Music Specialist
Melody Cluff has taught music and provided music programs in elementary classrooms as a volunteer in San Diego, CA, Knoxville, TN, and here in our local schools for more than 25 years. While living in Knoxville, she founded and directed “Sunshine Singers,” a singing group for children grades K-5, which performed throughout the Knoxville area for several years. Teaching music, tutoring, and reading aloud to children has been a way of life for her. She continues to lead children’s and youth choirs in church settings. Melody loves living in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and enjoys spending time with her husband, an English professor at Southern Virginia University, their five children, and their four grandchildren. Melody has a deep love and respect for all children and is excited about working and learning with them at Woods Creek Montessori.
Betty Anderson, Elementary After School Teacher
Betty Anderson was born in Sedalia Missouri, moved about in the Midwest before her family settled in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. After graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in Horticulture, she received her Teaching Certification (in many fields including Vocational Agriculture) from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has taught and tutored mathematics in several schools as well as with private clients. As a Girl Scout volunteer she does Outdoor Training- teaching leaders to take Scouts hiking, camping and backpacking. She has helped lead Girl Scouts on trips to Mexico, Switzerland, Germany, Ireland, and The Isle of Man. One highlight in 2015 was leading Girl Scouts on an overnight camping trip on the south lawn of the White House. She lives in Rockbridge County with her husband Michael, a Professor at W&L. They have two adult sons and one granddaughter.