Montessori Country Day has passionate Montessori-certified teachers in all of our primary classrooms. We also have dedicated toddler teachers that have many years of experience and may have Montessori certification, college degree or both. All of the teachers undergo continual early education classes each year.

Teachers are selected not just for their professional abilities, but for their genuine concern, respect and joy with children.

Montessori Country Day is committed to providing our children the social, emotional, and intellectual needs in accordance with the Montessori philosophy.

Maggie Whitmire

Director

Maggie Whitmire

Under the direction of founder and head guide Maggie Whitmire, Montessori Country Day has grown from modest beginnings to a thriving community of children, parents and teachers.

“Our teachers are the heart of our school.”

Maggie began her career in the corporate world in both Michigan and Texas, but when looking for a school for her daughter in 1985, she fell in love with the Montessori method of education. Leaving the corporate world behind, she obtained her Montessori Certification and began teaching at Montessori Country Day in Texas, namesake of our own Montessori Country Day. As a parent, she enjoyed watching her own children blossom in a Montessori environment.

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When her family moved to North Carolina she worked in an Asheville Montessori school for twelve years. In 2004, Maggie founded the first Montessori Country Day in Arden. In 2012, she opened the Hendersonville campus.

With the quick growth of both schools, Maggie sold the Arden location in 2016 to a long-time teacher allowing her to put all her energy in the Montessori Country Day Hendersonville school.

Maggie’s sincere love for children has been the driving force behind three decades of teaching. She strives to provide them with the best possible environment to be nurtured, learn and grow.


Rufus Whitmire

“Mr. Rufus” (as the children call him) is the co-owner and business manager of Montessori Country Day. When he’s not busy with the business of MCD, he plays as much golf as possible.

Rufus has a BA in Accounting and an MBA in Finance. After a career in the corporate world and commercial real estate, he owned and operated Whitmire Monument Company and Montessori Country Day.

The Whitmires’ greatest joys are being with family, especially their three children and two grandchildren. Their daughter, Melissa, lives in New York City. Their son, Derek, lives in Charlotte and is a financial planner with Vanguard. His wife, Sara, is a therapist and mom of two. Their youngest son, Austin, is a sophomore at AB Tech.


Laurie Wilkins

Assistant Director

Laurie

Children and teachers alike enjoy seeing our Assistant Director. You will find her in the office and around the school assisting all of us.

A note from Laurie:

“It is a pleasure to be working with the staff at Montessori Country Day. I have been working with young children for 30 years as a teacher, staff educator, and program manager in a variety of programs and places. I thought I was ready to retire, but missed being with children, families, and the early education community.”

“When I have time off, I play outside. My husband and I hike several times a month, and I am a gardener-in-progress. Any other time is spent with my grandchildren (ages 4 and 7) and my daughters. All wonderful subjects for my rediscovered interest in photography.”

“I hold a master’s degree in early education, and I am excited to extend my learning to the Montessori method. I have learned so much in the last year here at MCD. I look forward to seeing returning students and getting to know all the new families, too.”



Gerri Stover

Toddler Teacher

Hello! My name is Gerri Stover and I am excited to join the team of teachers at Montessori Country Day. My husband and I moved to Asheville in 2019 from El Paso, TX. In 2014, I earned my Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education with a Concentration in Special Education from El Paso Community College. I have worked as an early educator for 14 years in various centers across the country, including Colorado and Texas. Outside of my time in the classroom, I am working towards my Bachelor’s in Social Work, enjoy cooking with my husband, and relaxing with craft projects.

What’s most important to me for the children are in my care are that they feel safe, loved, they know their boundaries, and that they feel free to express themselves. It is my wish for the children that come through my classroom, to be able to see the wonder in everything and always ask “why”. I look forward to continually learning from the children and helping to facilitate their learning

I truly love being around children and find I learn every day from them, their families, and my co-workers. Through working with a variety of age groups, I have discovered a love for the toddlers. I am excited to be working with toddlers currently. They each have unique ways of looking at the world.


Erin Carter

Pre-Primary

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From the stage to the classroom, Erin loves to engage imaginations.

She earned her associate’s degree in Drama from Blue Ridge Community College and has her Early Childhood Credential. She still enjoys acting in plays. (You can bet her students always have an awesome dress-up area!)

Erin is working toward a degree in Early Childhood Education. When she’s not teaching or learning, she loves to spend time with her daughter, Rose, “the most important person” in her life. She is also very close with her mother and father.

Erin appreciates how Montessori encourages a great independence and sense of achievement:

“I’ve been told that I talk with children like they are little people. Well, I do because they are.

“Montessori is the philosophy that best fits the way I view early education.”



Michelle Bennison

Primary

Michelle Bennison

Whether she’s caring for children in our primary classroom or tending her garden and chickens, Michelle knows love is the key to success.

Before coming to Montessori, Michelle had heard from a former coworker that it was a cold, unloving method of teaching.

“Boy, was she wrong!! Maggie and the teachers here changed my mind.

“MCD is the most loving, caring school I have ever worked in.

“I love the Montessori method and its focus on the individual child and hands-on learning–so much so that I am now in the process of Montessori teacher training.”

Michelle is thrilled to have completed her Montessori training & internship. She received her certification in 2019 from The Center for Guided Montessori Studies, accredited by MACTE.

Michelle’s Montessori training builds on her previous studies in elementary education and early education at Blue Ridge Community College, Haywood CC, and Mars Hill.

Outside of MCD, Michelle enjoys spending time with her husband of 20 years, Tim, and their two boys, TJ and Matthew. They have a dog, two cats, and ten chickens. For fun, she likes to work in her garden, read, sew, crochet and do embroidery.



Megan Specht

Primary

Megan has been in education for more than 12 years, and specifically in Montessori for almost 9 years. As a mom of 2 and through her early childhood education experience, she fell in love with the Montessori Method which led her on this career path. She received her American Montessori Society certification at the Montessori Teacher Training Institute in Clemson, SC in 2013.

“I feel extremely blessed to have found something I believe in and am passionate about. Watching children grow and blossom in independence and self-confidence through the Montessori Method is wonderful to observe.”

I am so excited to be coming back to where my passion for Montessori began. I previously worked at Montessori Country Day Arden for over 6 years and did my Montessori internship in Hendersonville for a year. I look forward to watching the children learn and grow in this beautiful environment.

“For the majority of my life, I grew up in Asheville, NC and feel lucky to call these beautiful mountains home. I spend most of my free time raising my two children, Jayden and Payten. We enjoy crafting, hiking, and traveling!



Faith Jost

Primary Teacher

I grew up in the South Fork of Long Island in New York and came to North Carolina for college in 1996 and never moved back. At Guilford College I double majored in Elementary Education (K-6) and Psychology. I taught at Foust Elementary School for five years and when that county decided to open a new public Montessori school, I jumped at the chance! I taught an older primary classroom for two years while doing my Montessori training on-site.

After teaching elementary school for seven years, I moved on to a private preschool that was just about to open. It was a small school of only three classrooms and I was honored to be there from the very start. I taught there for five years – with most of my days in the “Travelers” classroom (ages 1 1/2 – 3 years).

After the preschool I was a private nanny for three years until just recently moving to Asheville to be closer to my family who has settled in NC.

Clara Iliff

Pre-Primary Teacher

Hello! My name is Clara Iliff and I am the Art Teacher and Afternoon Toddler Teacher here at Montessori Country Day. You can usually find me getting my hands dirty doing a fun art project planned for the children!


I am originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and moved to Greensboro, North Carolina for college. I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Art Education at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Shortly after graduation, I became certified to teach TESOL/TESL/TEFL through Oxford Seminars. I then moved overseas to Guangzhou, China where I taught ESL and Art to
young students. During my time in Guangzhou, I taught wonderful, dedicated children. Some of the most fun I had teaching was coordinating a summer camp program where I planned a series of interdisciplinary activities for students based on their age and English level. I also had
a lot of fun teaching extracurricular art classes. I had many priceless experiences traveling throughout China, studying Mandarin, and connecting with other teachers.

Five years later, in 2020, I moved back to North Carolina to pursue a career in Early Education. Early Childhood Education is a passion of mine because not only am I able to connect with children in the classroom, I can also encourage them and foster their independence as individuals. Watching children learn and grow is the most rewarding part of being a teacher. I
believe that the teacher is also a student, because she is required to learn about and invest in her pupils. This way she can mold her teaching methods to suit the individuals in her classroom. I think learning should be an enjoyable process so that everyone involved can
create positive memories and develop a life-long passion for learning.


When I am not in the classroom, I spend my free time doing a great number of different things. Some of my hobbies include drawing, painting and printmaking. I am continuing my studies in Mandarin Chinese and am practicing Chinese calligraphy. I love listening to music, traveling, hiking and camping with my wonderful partner and our dog. I am very thrilled to be teaching your children and working along with the staff here at Montessori Country Day! Let’s take this fun learning journey together.

Kayley McCormack

Extended Day Teacher

I was born right here in scenic Hendersonville. Shortly after that my family and I moved to central Florida where I grew up and spent most of my life.

My career in early childhood education began in 2014 through the Department of Children and Families. My child care training includes child growth and development, health safety and nutrition and Preschool Appropriate Education. I have a passion for children, learning and teaching!

From 2017-2019 I focused my passions for teaching by teaching an adult with special needs sign language along with other skills needed for everyday life. This helped me to broaden my skills to those with different learning abilities.

I live teaching the little tikes here at Montessori Country Day!

Hannah Diener

Administrative Assistant/ Extended Day Teacher

Lovely to meet you! My name is Hannah Diener, and I am fairly new to the Asheville area. Upon graduating with my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Tennessee, I moved to Charleston, South Carolina where I began volunteering at the local Aquarium and discovered my love of early childhood education. For two years I worked with the Structured School Program where the Aquarium partnered with schools around the state to educate children ages K-5 on environmental conservation. I taught weekly classes on habitats, food chains, and sustainability (and learned some really fun songs!). It was indescribable the amount of joy I shared with these kids introducing them to new wildlife and ecosystems. My passion for education has only grown since this experience.

After two years in Charleston, I decided on Asheville to further my education and live closer to family. Here, I discovered Maggie and Montessori Country Day. I love the Montessori structure and the bond teachers and students can form with such an intimate learning environment. MCD fosters such a respectful and loving space for the individual. It is a truly extraordinary place to be a part of.

When I am not having fun at work, I am goofing off outside with my dog, Uluru, or painting on my patio. Any opportunity to learn something new or gain a new experience is always welcome. It is a privilege to learn alongside your children, and I hope we can always have fun while doing so!

Eleanor Palmer

Extended Day Teacher/ Art Teacher

Greetings! I hope you are enjoying a beautiful day in these lovely mountains! My name is Eleanor Palmer. I am an Extended Day Teacher as well as the Art Teacher for Primary students at MCD. I was born and raised in the Hendersonville area and I am so happy to be back. 

As a local, I started my education in the same pre-school building where I currently work! I went on to attend The Mountain Community School from k-8th grade and then moved onto Hendersonville High school. During my elementary and high school education, I spent all of my free time in the education program at The Flatrock Playhouse. I started teaching theater classes to 5-12 year olds during my junior year of high school. To this day, my theater experience not only influences my art making process but my teaching process as well. 

After high school I moved to Boone, NC and attended Appalachian State University. In the summer of 2019 I graduated with a BFA in Studio Art (focused in drawing/painting) and I quickly moved to Durham, NC to live with my partner and start work at a pottery studio, Klaystation. I worked as a studio manager and also taught wheel throwing, hand-buAmy ilding and acrylic painting classes to adults and children. The studio was able to pull through the shutdowns in 2020 but in October of that year I unexpectedly moved back to my beautiful hometown. I started working at MCD in February of 2021 and I have loved every second. The staff is incredible and I absolutely love the Montessori method of teaching. It helps children build a strong foundation of self trust, mindfulness and community.

When I’m not in the classroom you can find me on a hiking trail, in my painting studio or spoiling my two amazing cats (Baxter and Claire). Working part time allows me to also focus on my career as a local artist. In the future I plan to pursue a degree in Art Therapy and/or Early Childhood Education. I am passionate about the creative process and the learning opportunities.

Amy Brunella

Toddler Teacher

Hello! My name is Amy Brunella and I am excited to be joining the toddler classroom at MCD. I have been working in education for over 20 years. I have my Bachelor of Science Degree from Western Michigan University in Elementary Education with an emphasis in early childhood and art. I have had the opportunity throughout my career to work both as a classroom teacher and as a trainer in an early childhood setting. I spent much of my career being a kindergarten teacher and have learned invaluable lessons from my students. I am extremely interested and passionate about learning more about the Montessori Method and I am looking forward to fostering the learning of each individual child. One of my favorite quotes by Maria Montessori is “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”

When I am not in the classroom, I am enjoying my busy family. My husband, Adam, and I have four active children, 1 puppy, and 2 cats! We love spending time in the mountains hiking, visiting waterfalls, and having a picnic as a family. We also enjoy going back to Michigan in the summer and spending time on the lake and at the beach.

I am looking forward to the upcoming school year and working with a community from our youngest learners, to our staff, to our parents! It will be an amazing year!