Teaching Staff


Indu Agnihotri 

Indu Agnihotri founded Center Grove Montessori in 2007. After spending decades working with young children, she decided to open her own school.

“What impressed me the most was the children in a Montessori room, happy, peaceful and engaged profoundly. I believe that Montessori education supports a young child to unfold into a responsible, compassionate, and confident human adult.”

Upon being introduced to the Montessori pedagogy in the early 1980’s, Indu immediately felt close and comfortable with it. The philosophy was something she felt was missing in her prior five years of traditional teaching and Indu gradually began to incorporate it into her personal life. This grew naturally into a lifestyle; one she is proud to continue to this very day.

Since starting in a basement of a church with only eight students, Center Grove Montessori has now grown into its own building and continues to serve the community of south-central Indiana.

 

Claire Olson 

“Montessori philosophy holds a very special place in my family and I am thankful to our guides and staff at CGM that provide an environment rich in academic opportunities and kindness for all children.” – Claire Olson
Claire is our Director at Center Grove Montessori School. She works closely with the school’s owners, staff and community to create an environment that supports growth among students and staff alike.
Claire started as a Montessori parent in 2014 and was also in a Montessori program as a young child herself.  She has an immense appreciation for Montessori philosophy and how Center Grove Montessori upholds an authentic Montessori environment for all students. She believes strongly in the work of Maria Montessori and is thankful she can be a part of a school that focuses strongly on respecting each child and family in the community in their journey through life.

 

Jama McKinney 

“I love Montessori, and every chance I get I like to tell people about the philosophy and the freedom of learning found in the classroom.” Jama McKinney
Jama McKinney’s passion for education naturally lead her to the Montessori approach while researching education opportunities for her daughter. The Montessori method more closely resembled her and her husband’s own philosophy about child rearing and learning. She became an advocate after seeing the success her daughter, Sarah, found after coming to Center Grove Montessori. She believes that the opportunities in the Montessori classroom provide a more natural learning environment for children and loves to see the “glow” on a child’s face when a concept comes together for them. Jama has been a frequent volunteer in the classroom and was very excited when she was asked to join the staff. She is the Administrator for Center Grove Montessori.

 

Anora Smith 

“Children are so very capable when they are given opportunities to do things for themselves.  I enjoy watching them learn and grow!” – Anora Smith

Anora first learned of Montessori when seeking a preschool for her eldest daughter.  She found the Montessori philosophy to be a great fit.  She had volunteered in the classroom over the years when her children attended and then was given an opportunity to become an assistant teacher.  This is her third year as an assistant.  In her free time she enjoys music, reading, outdoor activities and spending time with her family and friends.  She enjoys being with children and is looking forward to a wonderful future at Center Grove Montessori.

 

 

Chi Chi Bardell 

Chi Chi Bardell was introduced to the way of Montessori over 6 years ago. She enjoyed every opportunity she got to teach, grow, and experience in the classroom. She loved being able to observe and also play a small part of the transformational success of each of her students through Maria Montessori’s methods and techniques. When she is not professionally or personally practicing Montessori, Chi Chi loves to spend her time crafting with her friends, reading any sensational book she can get her hands on, and shopping for her family of three.
“It is such a disadvantage to the educational system that Maria Montessori isn’t welcomed with open arms into every public school! But if I do my job well enough my students can take the Montessori mentality with them in every new chapter of their life and hopefully inspire others who don’t know about the wonders of this type of teaching”

 

 

Darci Hemmer 

 “Childhood is not a race to see how quickly a child can read, write, and count. Childhood is a small window of time to learn and develop at the pace which is right for each individual child.” -Maria Montessori
 
Darci Hemmer and her husband moved to Indiana to be closer to her two grown daughters and grandson. She has now been part of the Center Grove Montessori family for 11 years. Prior to coming to CGM, she taught preschool for 15 years, the last four as a Montessori Assistant. She respects the Montessori philosophy that all children are unique and distinctive and each child has their own time table for development. She would love to help your child develop their own sense of order and self reliance.

 

Donalee Atardo 

Donalee received her PhD in linguistics from Purdue University and has been a specialist and administrator in the field of educational technology in higher education for more than 20 years, first at Purdue University, then at the University of Minnesota.  She joined CGMS in the fall in Miss Faby’s classroom as an assistant, where she is starting a new career that builds on her passion for teaching and love of small children.  She begins training in October 2019 at the Center for Guided Montessori Studies to become certified as a Montessori Early Childhood Education teacher.

 

 

 

Faby Denny 

“Children are remarkable and I truly find so much joy in working with and learning from each one of them!”
– Faby Denny

Faby first heard about Montessori when she was in college getting her ESL degree, but it was not until she had her oldest daughter that she began to seriously read and learn more about it. When IMCS (our former sister School) opened in 2014 she enrolled her daughter and volunteered to teach Spanish once a week for the next 2 years. She got to know more about Montessori during that time and became very interested in one day getting her Montessori certification. Then in 2016, she finally got the chance to start her 18 months training through the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. She did her internship at IMCS with Ms. Genie Garrett as her mentor. Today she is very humbled to the lead the Maple room and is looking forward to a wonderful school year!

 

 

Holly James 

Holly has been with Center Grove Montessori for over nine years and has been certified by the American Montessori Society as an instructor for children 2 ½ – 6 years of age. She graduated from Ohio University in 1992 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism and Advertising Management.
“I have been an ardent supporter of the Montessori method and philosophy since my children were in preschool. I found such peace and happiness watching children learn and grow in this environment as a parent volunteer, that I decided to become more involved as a trained guide as well as a Montessori advocate for teaching children with respect and love to establish communities of giving and caring individuals.”

 

 

Karren Young 

Karren is our extended day teacher at Center Grove Montessori. She enjoys her 5 grandchildren, antiques and likes to travel to historical sites. She loves to be around children.
Karren recently attended a session at the Montessori Fundamentals Training Series.

 

 

 

 

 

Melissa Plunkett 

“This is it; Montessori is what I love, working with children is what I love, I love watching them discover and learn and learning alongside them.  I love the opportunity to share something I have discovered, and I reveal in the genius that is the child. I am thankful each and every day to come to a job I love with people I love (short & tall) and that my own children were blessed with this same experience; of going to jobs they love with people they love, who also love them. We are lucky people!” –Melissa Plunkett
 
Melissa majored in Physical Education with a minor in business and non-profits at IUPUI and received her Elementary 6-12 teacher training certification from the Center for Guided Montessori studies, an I.M.C. affiliate. She has her Orton-Gillingham certification and serves as a Field Consultant to other guides who are working on their certification. Melissa has recently become a teacher coordinator for the Montessori Model United Nations program.
 An avid 17 year volunteer for the American Cancer Society, she also spent 15 years at the YMCA working in various departments from Aquatics (lifeguard, swim lesson/safety teacher) to Office (as a desk worker to Assistant Manager) until her final years with the Y as the Assistant Program Director working with the Before and After School Program and as Summer Camp Director.  While she always knew she wanted to work with children she never felt called to be a traditional teacher. This is where Montessori entered her life when she was searching for a school for her 2-year-old! She knew this is what her child needed and soon realized this is where she also felt at home, not teaching but guiding and being a generalist in many different subjects while still getting to enjoy her specialties of math and health/fitness.   As a mother of 4 and an exchange student mother of 16 and counting (as of 2019) she finds joy and is blessed with the time she can spend with such wonderful humans! She enjoys running, camping, reading, international travel, playing volleyball and spending time with her family.
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