SSMS is very proud to introduce you to our Administration and Teachers. All of our Lead Teachers are Montessori trained ( or in-training) and experienced.

Aparna A Banka

Ms. Aparna was born and raised in India. She did her undergraduate studies in India and a Master’s degree in Birmingham U.K. She moved to the US in 2003, where she began pursuing her CPA degree. Montessori has been around Aparna and her family for many years now. Her son also went to an AMI Montessori School. Stepping Stone Montessori is a dream venture for Aparna and her family and has been launched in the name of her beloved brother, who is no longer with them. This institute has been created with lots of love, care, and hope for a bright future. Aparna has been working successfully in a family-run Apparel business for the past ten years and has now embarked on this new journey of her life.


Laurie Kennedy

Ms. Laurie was born and raised in Dunwoody, Georgia. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a BS degree in Recreation Resource Management, she moved to Colorado. Ms. Laurie started her Montessori career in 1985 in Colorado.

“The first time I walked into a Montessori classroom, I was amazed that the adults talked to children as if they were regular people. The teachers treated the children with respect and did not talk down to them.” This observation inspired me to become a Montessori educator. In 1989 Laurie began her American Montessori Society Primary teacher training and received her teaching certificate in 1990. Ms. Laurie opened her school in Lyons, CO. in 2005. After nine years of running the school, she moved back to Atlanta. One of Laurie’s passions is Peace education. She plans to incorporate this into the daily life of the classroom and school at Stepping Stone Montessori School.

In 2015 she audited the training program at MTEI in Atlanta, GA. “I was so excited to take the training again. I learned some new things, and I feel I am a better Director because of the training.” Laurie is thrilled to be a part of Stepping Stone Montessori School.


Thea Morris

Thea Morris is the Assistant Director at our Sugar Hill campus and has been with Stepping Stone since May 2018. Her career in Montessori education began in 2007. Please read below Thea’s first impression of Montessori…..

“I remember the first time I observed in a primary classroom and thought to myself, Wow! Look at these self-sufficient little humans.” There were children working independently on various lessons, all while the guide (or teacher) blended into the background. It was as though the classroom was running itself. It seemed so organic, and I was completely amazed. Ever since that day, I have been a believer in Montessori education.”

Thea has worked in several Montessori schools over the past 13 years in both teaching and administrative roles. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Master’s degree in Public Administration. Thea resides in Suwanee, GA, with her husband, two daughters, and their dog.


Cindy Chiu

Ms. Cindy Chiu is an Elementary guide at Stepping Stone Montessori School. She is from Taiwan and has been living in the united states for the past 15 years. She completed her AMI elementary training in Maryland in 2003 and has been actively involved with Montessori education ever since. She loves the Montessori idea of how adults should prepare the environment for the children, and allow them to explore the world through their senses. These concrete experiences help the children understand and grasp the abstract academic concepts in an elementary classroom. She is looking forward to the new school year at SSMS with a new and beautiful classroom.


Tandy Krajec

Tandy Krajec is the Primary Guide at SSMS. She brings energy and insight to her Montessori work. With a thorough AMI Primary training on top of her traditional teacher preparation, Miss Tandy is experienced in a variety of educational settings.
She also uses American Sign Language with children, as another form of communication. She joins us for the 2015-2016 year. Her background in art and her appreciation of nature are things that Miss Tandy will use to round-out her Montessori Primary classroom, creating a learning environment meant to inspire young minds. After experiencing traditional teaching, Miss Tandy realized that she wanted more than simply repeating the same things in her work with young children. Her research into Montessori made clear that she had “found the avenue that would help me be the most effective teacher to all children in my care.”

Miss Tandy loves the arts and has a background in the theater, which she would love to share with the children at SSMS. She sees the arts as a wonderful form of self- expression, self-exploration, and learning through error-making.


Elizabeth Ashworth

Elizabeth Ashworth is the Primary Guide at SSMS. She has been involved with Montessori Education for the last 20 years.  She grew up in Georgia and attended the University of Georgia, receiving her degree in Accounting and Management Development. She also attended Tidewater Community college in Virginia Beach. Elizabeth has owned and managed her Montessori school, been a Director of Montessori schools, and a Lead Teacher both in Toddler and Primary.

When a friend first introduced her to the Montessori Method, she was so impressed that she quickly enrolled her two children. It wasn’t long until she was volunteering to help at the school. This led to Mrs. Ashworth taking the Montessori certification program and since that time has devoted her energies to owing, directing, and teaching the Montessori Method. She is trained in AMS, CMTE/NC, and NCME.

She has been trained in Early Childhood Development and also worked in Accounting and as a Budget Analyst with Dawson County Government.


Luz Lopez

Luz Lopez is the Toddler Guide at SSMS. She joined SSMS in its inaugural year (2014). Bringing more than fifteen years of experience within Montessori toddler environments, she was the ideal person to launch the SSMS toddler program. Ms. Luz holds both an AMI 0-3 Diploma and an AMI Primary (306) Diploma. As a native of Columbia, she brings a rich cultural tradition to her work, incorporating music and Spanish. As she says, “I have been fascinated with the results and success of the Young Children’s Community (i.e., toddler program).” Ms luz brings a deep passion for her work, fueled by her understanding and appreciation of Dr. Montessori’s insight and work. She has presented workshops to parents and teachers about the Montessori birth-3 work because “it is my mission to promote and increase the opportunities of children to benefit from Montessori principles.”
When not engaged in Montessori work, Miss Luz is an avid guitar player, singer, and songwriter.


Ariana Matthews

Ms. Ariana is a Toddler Guide at Stepping Stone Montessori School. In her words, here is how she would like you to know her:

My name is Ariana Matthews, and I am an AMI certified Montessori Guide.  While Montessori is my passion for education, I am also passionate about my family; my husband, five children, two grandchildren, and my rescue dog. We spend the weekends, cooking out, hiking, traveling, and playing with our pets. I’ve called Sugar Hill, GA home for the past 20 years, and I enjoy working at Stepping Stone Montessori right here in my home community.


Dana Bican

Dana Bican is our AMI certified Nido guide for the 0-3 age group. She has graduated from The Montessori Institute of Denver, Colorado, back in 2017 under the coordination of Judith Orion and Karey Lontz. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Environment Engineering, and since she moved to the US in 2002, she has worked with children. In 2009 she began studying Montessori Philosophy by training at NAMC in Vancouver, Canada, for the 3-6 age group.

Dana is a mother of two children; Annemarie, eight years old, has grown up with an integrated Montessori experience since birth and has attended Montessori schools since she was 18 months, and Matteo, three months old.

For Dana, working at Stepping Stone Montessori School is not just a job; it’s more of civic duty: a strong personal conviction that dedicating one’s efforts to forming well-balanced, happy individuals is the key to a better society. Dana is a diligent, sociable, loving, flexible, and empathic person who enjoys reading psychology and environment studies, listening to classical music, engaging in outdoor activities with family and friends.

Miss Dana joined SSMS in its inaugural year, 2014, by launching our Infant program. She helped the program grow from 2-3 children to a full room of 12.