Amanda Gilliom joined the City Garden staff in 2016. She is a painter who has lived in a lot of places (Texas, Virginia, Georgia, New Zealand, Chicago, Alaska, etc.). She has also had a lot of different jobs (barista, nanny, fisherwoman, teacher's aide, library assistant, etc.). Amanda landed in St. Louis in 1999 with her husband Todd and two children Mina and Sam. Here, she became a stay at home mom / school volunteer / bartender / lunch lady.
In her spare time she likes to cook, take care of her gazpacho community garden, dance, engage in social justice, eat tacos, ride her bike, travel and have adventures with her family, see live music, laugh and sew turtle stuffies.
She and her family moved to the Shaw neighborhood to have their children attend City Garden. It is a very treasured gift.
Amira Mogaji, Chief Academic Officer
Dr. Mogaji joined City Garden’s team in July, 2019, as the organization’s first Chief Academic Officer (CAO). City Garden created the CAO position to help strengthen curriculum and instruction, to build capacity to support expansion of City Garden, and to support the launch of City Garden’s Institute, which will house a Montessori teacher training program. Dr. Mogaji is an American Montessori Society (AMS)-credentialed administrator, having completed Montessori training that included Primary, Lower and Upper Elementary. Dr. Mogaji is also in the process of completing her doctoral degree in educational leadership.
A 23-year education veteran, Dr. Mogaji has spent her career working to create spaces where all students have equitable access to excellent educational programs and can reach their full potential, with specific attention to working with teachers and parents to disrupt and dismantle systems of oppression, ensuring instructional rigor, and following the child. Dr. Mogaji has extensive building level administrative experience that has been executed through an anti-biased, antiracist (ABAR) lens in Montessori and traditional urban school settings. She has contributed to the advancement of Montessori education in both the public and the private sector through providing relevant professional development, participating on public school Montessori panels, presenting at Montessori conferences, writing public Montessori-focused articles, and serving on both the American Montessori Society Board of Directors and the Montessori for Social Justice Board of Directors.
Dr. Mogaji believes that high expectations for all students, combined with academically rigorous Montessori instruction that is aligned with state standards and embedded in an anti-bias, antiracist (ABAR)-focused learning environment, can liberate students, so that they can fulfill their human potential. Dr. Mogaji recently served on her district’s Anti-Racism Team, is a Culturally Responsive Education (CRE) facilitator, and served on the Eliminating Racism and Creating/Celebrating Equity (ERACCE) Regional Team, which is a regional partner of Crossroads Antiracism Organizing and Training.
Amy Denother is the Junior High Math and Science Teacher. She has been teaching for 12 years. She taught high school Physics, Biology, 8th grade Math Lab, and Middle School Science prior to teaching at City Garden. When Amy is not working she enjoys running half marathons, sewing, baking, and relaxing with her family (Mike, husband; Dylan, 15-year-old son; Hazel, 15-year-old step daughter; and Campbell Jane, 3-year-old daughter). Amy believes students should guide their own learning and take ownership in their education. She also believes students should be taught content through many real life experiences.
Having started in the middle of the 2016/17 school year, Bob Busby is looking forward to his second full year with City Garden! In addition to his Outdoor Education role, he will provide supplemental small group science instruction for third through sixth graders. He has 20 years’ experience working with students Pre-K to 8th grade in science and sports. He attended Central Missouri State University and Lindenwood University to earn Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Education/Science. He is a proud dad of twins! Jude and Bennett will attend Sappington Elementary with mom, Dori Busby. His kiddos are adopted from Taiwan and China. They are proud to be travelers from other countries and residents of Missouri and Arizona; yet, they are super excited to be back in the land of the Gateway Arch near family and old friends. Dori has been an elementary counselor for 10 years and a classroom teacher for 5 years. They love their pets, parks, and opportunities to make memories! They moved to AZ for family reasons four years ago. They survived the scorpions, cactus, and melt-your-face- desert heat. They are glad to be back and experiencing life in the city (the City Museum is their backyard)! Bob's family lives in St. Charles County – it feels like a road trip to visit them. Bob thanks City Garden for the opportunity to work with the community, families, and scholars!
Catherine Dolan has been working at City Garden as the full-time speech/language pathologist since 2014. Catherine is a wife and mother of three children. In her free time, she keeps busy by trying out new restaurants, watching her sons play basketball, baseball, and soccer, and enjoying time with her daughter.
Cathy Bain has been teaching since 1987 and working at City Garden since 2011. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Special Education from the University of Kansas. She obtained her reading specialist certification from Webster University. As an avid reader, it is not surprising that she specializes in teaching all areas of language including: decoding, reading comprehension, writing, spelling, handwriting, vocabulary, and study skills. She performs two roles at City Garden. Cathy teaches Title I Reading services to the lower elementary students and is the Director of Special Education. In her spare time she can be found needlepointing on the sidelines as she cheers on her sons in all of their sporting endeavors. Her oldest son, Jonathon, is an attorney in Chicago and still finds time to play touch football, basketball, and softball. Her middle son, Trevor, attends college at Lake Forest College in Chicago and plays football. Jake, her youngest son, attends John Burroughs School and plays football, basketball, and runs track. She is a natural cheerleader and advocate for all of our students at City Garden. Let’s go team!
With a background in community organizing and social activism, Christie entered the education reform movement as a parent and community member concerned about education equity and integration in schools. She worked with City Garden’s founder, Trish Curtis, and other parents to develop City Garden’s elementary school. Christie is still a proud parent of two City Garden (Nicholas, class of 2019, and Jude, class of 2015) and lives in the Shaw neighborhood.
Chris Stevenson had the privilege of joining City Garden in 2017 as a first-year assistant, expanding his role from after school tutor to summer school classroom assistant and now City Garden's building support guide. He has spent many years working with children ranging from elementary to high school in both the classroom and athletic setting. He attended Iowa Wesleyan University where he began studying Chemistry with a Secondary Education minor, later converting to Sports Medicine with a minor in Physical Education. He is currently going into his fourth year as an assistant varsity football coach at Chaminade College Preparatory School. As a new teacher with a physical education background, Chris believes that a child’s most important work is their play, and he will strive to maintain an environment where your child can grow and thrive while exploring the world around them.
Danielle Ross-Combs graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a degree in industrial technology. After spending some time in the corporate world, she decided to switch professions. She taught as an ESL teacher in Seoul, South Korea, and undoubtedly knew teaching was the right path for her. Upon arriving back in the States, she began classes to obtain an elementary education certification. In 2016, she received a master’s degree at Lindenwood University. Danielle joined City Garden Montesssori School in the summer of 2015. She has led in lower elementary, assisted in primary, and is now the physical education and health teacher and director of the aftercare program. Danielle enjoys spending time with family and friends, exercising, traveling, and learning about new cultures.
David Blank is the Director of Finance and Operations. He has over 20 years experience in public and corporate accounting and finance. David has earned a B.S. in accounting from Truman State University and a Master's in Business from the University of Missouri - St. Louis. David was also one of the original board members when City Garden Montessori became a charter school, serving as the Chairperson of the Finance Committee.
Chief Development Officer
Deb Flores joined City Garden’s team in July, 2019 to help boost the fine framework of fundraising and marketing initiatives of City Garden. Deb brings 16 years of experience in secondary and higher education institutions successfully assisting donors fulfill their philanthropic goals and aligning them with institutional priorities. Most recently she served as the Director of Development for the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Missouri, St.
Louis, and previously worked for Ursuline Academy in St. Louis and Rockhurst University in Kansas City. Her strong critical thinking and communication skills from her background as a trained and practiced attorney foster fundraising and marketing initiatives. She finds missiondriven work most gratifying and appreciates being part of a tight-knit community.
Deb is a St. Louis native who lives in the Clifton Heights neighborhood with her family and appreciates all that city-living offers from entertainment and restaurants to diversity of people. One of the primary reasons Deb joined City Garden was because of its compelling and overarching mission to provide excellent education to a racially, culturally and socioeconomically diverse student body in an anti-bias, anti-racism framework. City Garden provides a leading model for these efforts.
Dr. Mark Davis is an inspiring champion for children and regionally recognized school leader.
He has developed his talent in key administrative roles within small and large urban educational settings, having served as a district leader and building leader in elementary, middle and high school settings.
At age 20, he earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Langston University, the only HBCU in the state of Oklahoma. His major was Agricultural Business. At age 24, he began his educational career as a business education instructor at local St. Louis high school. The same year, he earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree from Webster University in Saint Louis, Missouri. At age 26, he became an administrator in the career and technical education division for Saint Louis Public Schools, where under his leadership program offerings in agriculture doubled. At age 28, he became a vice principal in the Jefferson City School District. In 2015 at age 31, he became the lead Principal of a charter school in Cleveland, Ohio serving students in grades kindergarten through 8. During this time, he lead the reopening of the embattled school by working with the school's new charter management organization to increase enrollment and manage a $500,000 renovation project.
The following year (2016), and at age 32, he earned a Doctorate of Education degree with an emphasis in Educational Leadership from Saint Louis University and joined the Jennings School District as a building administrator. Some of the achievements credited to his leadership during his 3-year tenure at Jennings include:
-Using assessment data and implementing accountability measures to increase building level accreditation rating by 10% during the first year, eventually serving over 1000 students at 2 campuses in 3 years
- Developing a young men's mentoring program
- Implementing a building-wide common reading intervention period within the master schedule
- Working with KSDK News Channel 5 to implement the "Reading with the Stars" literacy program
- Implementing the first building wide spelling bee in over a decade
- Creating an "Ancestry Gala" to lead research for students affected by the Diaspora
- Being recognized by North County, Inc. as one of St. Louis' "Top 30 Leaders in their 30s"
Dr. Davis is excited to work with the City Garden team as the staff increases achievement for all students. He is particularly fond of the anti-bias, anti-racist philosophy of the school and seeks to ensure every learner is afforded a high quality education.
Prior to coming to City Garden in 2015, Liz Harris spent 8 years working as a receptionist at a wonderful acupuncturist’s office. She was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, where most of her family still resides. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. Liz is a photographer in her spare time and LOVES to travel, especially with her husband and two beautiful daughters.
Hannah Jensen originally hails from the East Coast, but has called St. Louis home since 2015. Back in Burlington, Vermont, she attended the University of Vermont to study French, but found that her true passion lies in education and child development. She got her start working for a community youth organization, creating and facilitating out-of-school programming for elementary ages children. After moving to St. Louis, she became interested in pursuing Montessori education (she was actually a Montessori kid herself!) and she has completing her AMS Early Childhood Credential. Joining City Garden in 2017, she's so excited to be part of City Garden’s community and looks forward to working with the children in the Primary 2 class! When not at school, she spends lots of time in the garden and the kitchen– growing food, cooking, and baking are some of her most favorite activities.
Hilary began working with children as the Artist-in-Residence for Hope Montessori Infant-Toddler Community. It was with the littlest children that she began learning about and loving the Montessori method. She received her Montessori certification shortly thereafter and has worked with preschoolers for the past twelve years, as both an art teacher, a primary lead guide, and a City Garden Primary Assistant Guide. In 2010, she completed her Master's in Elementary Education at UMSL. She also has the pleasure of teaching adult learners as an instructor for Hope Montessori Educational Institute, an accredited Montessori teacher training center. She has taught Classroom Leadership, Parent-Educator Partnership, Art, and Sensorial. Hilary is deeply committed to Montessori and social justice. She was humbled to become the Lead Guide of Primary 2 in 2017 and excited to continue being a part of this community along with her husband and two young sons! She is so looking forward to growing alongside everyone in the City Garden community. She still has much to learn and is excited by new opportunities and challenges.
Jori Martinez-Woods has been an educator for over thirty years, but who’s counting? She received her B.A. in Cognitive Psychology, Human Development, and Elementary Education.
Upon graduating she was hired by the Japanese Ministry of Education to deliver professional development workshops to Japanese Teachers of English. She returned stateside to earn her Masters in Education from Harvard GSE, where she specialized in teaching, curriculum, and learning environments. After her first son was born, she became an AMI Montessori Certified Guide. Both of her boys attended Montessori schools and the oldest went through middle school. Jori is a native of St. Louis, returned to be a lead guide at City Garden in a 9-12 classroom, and then transitioned in 2018/19 to serving as Erdkinder Specialist to Upper Elementary. She is multi-passionate; she leads expressive arts ‘playshops’, is an artist, and loves to dance!
Juliet has a deep passion for the teaching and acquisition of language, and believes that everyone is capable of learning a foreign language if taught correctly. She believes that students learn best when information is presented to them in authentic ways that take into consideration their prior knowledge, life experiences, and academic expectations or goals. She wants students to be engaged in their own language learning, and treats that learning as a facilitated, communal process, where students learn by speaking with one another and engaging in multi-modal lessons that encompass the four macro skills of language learning
Juliet holds a Bachelor's Degree in Spanish and a Master's Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language from Webster University. She has sixteen years of experience in speaking Spanish and can speak, read, write, and understand the language with native-like fluency.
Lorena Veresh is a new Lower Elementary Guide, but is not new to teaching. She comes to City Garden with 16 years of experience. Her background is in public administration, but she soon discovered a strong passion for teaching after her oldest daughter entered preschool. She holds certificates in Elementary Education grades 1-6 and French K-12 in the state of Missouri and is preschool certified in the state of Maryland. She is very excited about this new opportunity to learn the Montessori Theory of Development, because it closely aligns with her personal beliefs about how children learn. Lorena is bilingual and speaks French at home with her 3 daughters ages 19, 15, and 12.
Norman Williams III is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, songwriter, composer, music director, audio technician, computer technician, father, and husband. He was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Over the past 20+ years, he's had the pleasure of sharing the stage or performing with various local, national, and international artists, including Rodney Bryant, Bobby Jones, Robert Ray, and Brian McKnight. As a young child, he learned music by ear and was able to perform across the United States, but his formal training didn’t occur until he attended Central Visual Performing Arts High School. After graduation in 2002, Norman decided to pursue a career in instrumental music studies. In 2007, he received a Bachelor of Arts in Jazz Percussion Music. Afterwards, he continued working towards a Master of Arts in Teaching with K-12 certification in Instrumental Music. Currently, he is the Senior Tech Leader at The New Church located in South St. Louis. He is the music director for his own band Dre-Dre & Coast, as well as keyboardist for local groups, Honeyvox, E.N. Hodge & the O.G.O’s, and a freelance musician. Norman also has experience as a substitute teacher from Parallel Education. In his free time, he loves composing original music, bowling, working on cars, and spending time with his family. His mission as a teacher is to help students explore music and stimulate their creative minds. He joined City Garden in 2017 as Music Specialist.
Pat Garrett taught English and Social Studies for 15 years before joining the team at City Garden in 2011. Pat grew up in Monett, Missouri, a small town in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Pat and his partner, Jessica, and three children live near the school and moved into the neighborhood so they could attend City Garden. Pat very much enjoys his work with students and families in St. Louis and feels privileged to work in a dynamic and student-centered school. When not working, he can be found wandering around with his children, throwing a Frisbee, making food, reading books and magazines, and playing an instrument or two.
Robert Nelson is a proud native of St. Louis from a legacy of educators and was honored to join forces with the amazing team of lifelong learners and instructors at City Garden Montessori School in 2017. He is expecting an awesome, eye-opening experience. He is an English and Writing Instructor with years of rewarding experience, yet he remains excited about this fresh approach to academia that City Garden Montessori offers. Robert is a proud graduate of Alabama A&M University and Lindenwood University and a proud father and grandfather. He is passionate about many things ranging from jazz music and the arts to cars and boxing. He is amazed at the process of student learning, growing, discovering, and utilizing their gifts and talents. He looks forward to meeting each and every one that has a vested interest in the success of this amazing organization.
Shannon Adams has always had a love for school and learning and always knew that she would be a teacher. Shannon was born here in St. Louis and comes from a big family, born the fifth of eight children. She has her BA in Early Childhood Education from Harris Stowe State University and finished her Montessori training in 2018. When Shannon first started volunteering for City Garden, she noticed how warm and welcoming it was, how it felt more like a home than a school, and how it felt more like City Garden was a family, not just a group of good friends. Nearly eight years later, Shannon is still here. She reports that she has “had the chance to guide, learn from, meet, laugh, and play with so many great children and their families over the last few years and I am excited to continue. I look forward to meeting you all.”
Sharmouel Mosley worked for St. Louis Public Schools as a school secretary for 15 years before joining the City Garden family in January of 2014 as the school secretary. In August of 2015, Sharmouel was appointed to Assistant to the Principal. In this role, she is responsible for providing administrative support such as completing state reports, managing the testing systems, and organizing meetings led by the school principal, among many other tasks. She was born and raised in St. Louis and has one brother who lives in Kansas City. Sharmouel has a niece and two nephews and four dogs (Diva, Maxx, Hershey, and Honey). Sharmouel loves to travel, spend time with friends and meeting new people, and learning new things.