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.
Kamila Fuentes, Pre-Toddler
Kamila was born in Logan, Utah and raised in Buena Vista, Virginia. She loves her home in the Shenandoah Valley but loves to explore and experience new places and cultures. Half Puerto Rican a half Chilean and having lived in the Dominican Republic for a year and a half, she is very proud of her Latino heritage and hopes to have the opportunity to live in a Spanish speaking country again. Kamila has 14 nieces and nephews (so far) and has loved working at Woods Creek Montessori for the past couple years. She’ll be graduating from Southern Virginia University in spring of 2023 with a BA degree in Fine Arts.
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.
Cassandra Johnson, Toddler
Cassandra has lived in Florida, New Jersey, Alaska, and Thailand, but Virginia has won her heart. She graduated with a B.A. in English and an International Affairs concentration from Southern Virginia University in 2019. Cassandra loves many things, including books, writing, singing, practicing Thai, studying cultures and history, and experiencing new things. She’s always loved working with children, but after spending a year teaching preschool in Thailand, Cassandra realized there was nothing she loved more than experiencing the world alongside children and assisting them in achieving their goals.
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.
In addition to teaching young children, Gretchen’s other passion is working to build a healthy and sustainable world. To that end, she serves on the board of the Rockbridge Area Conservation Council and is an active member on its Watershed and its Waste Prevention Committees. Gretchen and her husband, David, have been married for 25 years. They have two children; Carl, a high school teacher in Florida, and Ingrid, a sophomore at Brandeis University in Massachusetts.
Rhianna Schlief, Primary II
Rhianna has been teaching various age groups and settings for the past ten years. After receiving her undergrad and Masters in Elementary Education from James Madison University, she started her career in her hometown in Alleghany County. Rhianna then moved abroad to Thailand and a few years later to Poland to teach inquiry based learning at IB International Schools. Recently Rhianna and her family moved to Lexington to be closer to extended family. She enjoys the outdoors, music and theater, and spending time with her daughters and husband.
Candice Messina, Primary II
Candice recently relocated to Virginia from Kansas City. Candice has a background in social work, and has most recently worked for a food pantry. She has a passion for philanthropy and volunteerism. She has roots in Virginia and is a mother of three grown boys. She loves hiking with her husband, pilates, nutrition studies, baking, and podcasts. Candice loves children and is excited to join the Woods Creek team!
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.