Meet the MKU Ashburn Staff
Montessori School Staff
Directors of MKU Ashburn, VA, connect with our parents and provide leadership within the Montessori School Staff.
Head Of School: Karina Connor
My name is Karina Connor. I moved to Ashburn Village in 2006 with my husband and two children and quickly fell in love with the area! It makes me very happy to have found a home at Montessori Kids Universe where I can continue to serve my community. With an educational background in Early Childhood Education and a Director’s Certificate for Child Care Centers, I have worked in preschools as an Assistant and Lead Teacher and received specialized training in leading child care centers and preschools. My first Directorship began in 2017, and I can’t imagine a more rewarding path for myself! When I am not “shaping young minds”, I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, listening to music, walking, hiking, and generally taking in all of the beautiful sights Northern Virginia and the neighboring areas have to offer. My two favorite quotes (and pieces of advice I have received as a parent and as an educator) are: “Listen to your children about the small things, so that they will come to you with the big things.” and “Never underestimate the value and the power of a teacher.” My favorite poem is “Children Learn What They Live” by Dorothy Law Nolte.
Assistant Director: Shai Vanderstelt
Hello! My name is Shai Vanderstelt. I have been living in the Ashburn area for around ten years. My husband and I are very happy here, and I am even happier that I have found my place here at Montessori Kids Universe! When I am not at work, I spend time playing video games and going on walks with my husband. I have two cats named Hobbes and Banana! I am able to speak some German, but I am still in the process of learning. I enjoy learning new things and with MKU I feel as if I am learning something new every day! I started my career in childcare as an assistant teacher with a Kindergarten Prep class and from there I have grown, not just as a childcare professional but as a person, too. Tschüss für heute! (Bye for now!)
Our Montessori School Staff at MKU Ashburn, VA, provide a nurturing learning environment to Nurture, Inspire and Educate your child.
Lead Nido (Infant) Teacher - Donavi Bland
Hello! My name is Donavi Bland. I am an enthusiastic person that loves to take care of infants and young children. My inspiration for teaching was my mother who was always encouraging independence in me. Growing up, I loved the idea of teaching and understanding the influence a teacher has on the student, which made me passionate about pursuing child care as a career. I believe the Montessori Nido Program is the perfect fit for me. I love to see children’s independence flourish before my eyes, which is why I have decided to pursue the 0-3 Montessori Certification!
Pre-Primary 1 Lead Teacher - Eugenia M. Barreto Guzman
My name is Eugenia M. Barreto Guzman. I was born in Lima-Peru and moved to USA in 2001. I had the opportunity to get my infant and toddlers credential through Center for Montessori Teacher Education NC. I have been in the Montessori environment since 2009. I am a great believer and follower of the Montessori philosophy and I like to guide the children in the way Maria Montessori did. I have always worked with children and I just love what I do! I am a very active person, I play volleyball for a league and also do Zumba once a week. My husband is an Engineer, we have twins, one is a boy and one is a girl. I love having family time, riding our bikes, playing board games or eating out. We all love going to the beach.
Pre-Primary 2 Lead Teacher - Shoshana
Hi, my name is Shoshana and I am the Lead Teacher in the Pre-Primary 2 Classroom. For 12 years I was teaching in Frederick MD in a Montessori Preschool. I received my Montessori Diploma for Infants and Toddlers in 2009. I also attended Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY to study Therapeutic Recreation in order to work with special needs children. I worked as a special education assistant teacher for severely emotionally disturbed adolescents in the NYC Board of Education for approximately 10 years. One of my favorite songs is “Flowers are Red” by Harry Chapin. I am really looking forward to watching your children grow. I enjoy animals, photography, scrapbooking, and being a mom.
Primary Lead Teacher - Absi Oumelkheir
My Name is Absi Oumelkheir. I was born and raised in Algeria. In addition to English, I speak French and Arabic. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from M’Hamed Boukarra University of Algeria in 2004. I moved to Virginia in 2005. My introduction to the Montessori philosophy began when I was looking for high-quality education for my son. After having the opportunity to be an assistant teacher in a Montessori classroom for one year, I earned my Early Childhood Montessori Teacher Certification in 2013. I enjoy traveling, cooking, gardening, interior design, and listening to music. I am married to wonderful husband and have four beautiful children.
Assistant NIDO (Infant) Teacher - Mrs. Nahida
I’m Mrs. Nahida and I’m an Assistant Teacher in the infant’s class here at Montessori Kids Universe. I live in Ashburn, Virginia. I’m a wife and mother to six children. The oldest is 23 and the youngest are 13. I have 1 girl and 5 younger boys including 2 sets of twins. Besides taking care of my family, I enjoy taking time to relax, go shopping and go to the gym. I have worked in schools and substituted at a private school in the past for many years. Just with my children alone I have plenty of experience with kids and I love all ages! I’m happy to be working here and look forward to taking care of your kids.
Assistant Primary 2 Teacher - Angelica Bland
Hi, my name is Angelica Bland. I enjoy taking care of infants and toddlers. I enjoy seeing toddlers learn new things every day in a positive environment and helping them grow. I’m very motivated to see each child succeed on things they need to work or want to improve.
Assistant Primary 1 Teacher - Vandana
My name is Vandana, I was born and raised in India. I finished my bachelor’s degree in education and started working as a teacher there. I was raised in a family where everyone worked in the education field. I then moved to America in 1998 and began teaching in Fairfax Virginia as a pre-school assistant teacher in 2003. In 2005, I moved to Ashburn and continued teaching. I have been teaching in Montessori schools and am very passionate and loving about the work I do daily, while working with the children in my care. I have two children, a daughter who’s married and a son who’s going to college. In my spare time, I like to cook, shop and spend time with my family and friends.
Floating Assistant - Ms. Salma
My name is Ms. Salma. I am an “all-around” teacher. I’m a very positive person and enjoy working with kids. I am currently enrolled in courses to complete my associate’s degree, so I am only able to work part-time, but I always do my best to make the best of the time I do get to spend with the kids and brighten everyone’s day.
Schedule a tour of our facilities to meet our Montessori school staff, look over our campus. See with your own eyes the combination of the Reggio inspiration and Montessori philosophy reinforces and strengthens the image of the child as a self confident, creative and curious person.