Meet Our Administration
“The Secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination.” – Maria Montessori
After graduating from Law School at Istanbul University in 1991, Raife Cebeci moved to the U.S. with her husband. Her first child inspired her to make a change of career path, so, while raising three young children, she completed her master’s degree in Educational Psychology at the College of St. Rose in Albany, NY. During the course of her master’s program, she was introduced to the Montessori philosophy of education, and her love of Montessori was born. She later received her American Montessori Society (AMS) teacher certification from the Princeton Center for Teacher Education in New Jersey.
She opened her first school in Schenectady, New York and later moved with her family to the Philadelphia area, opening a second school there. She then set out to bring a new vision to life: International Montessori Schools (IMSchools), whose goal is to provide the highest quality of Montessori education to children of all cultures, faiths, and backgrounds. Shortly after starting the first location she and her husband partnered with another couple and close family friends. From 2004 to 2012 they opened five schools in Pennsylvania. In 2011, IMSchools acquired its sixth school in Wilmington, DE, which houses the Montessori Institute for Teacher Education (MITE). Since then, Raife has been the Executive Director of the program.
In 2014, she started traveling to her home country, Turkey, to guide the growth and spread of Montessori philosophy there, opening a state-of-the-art laboratory school and teacher training program. In 2017, the teacher training program became the first and only program in the country to be accredited by MACTE (Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education) and affiliated with the AMS as the additional location of MITE. Raife directs and teaches at the summer intensive teacher training program there.
All the while, Raife has raised her five beautiful children according to the Montessori philosophy. She loves nature, traveling, and children.
Jacky Ekins, Admissions Director
Ms. Jacky is from the UK and first moved to the US in 2000. She has a BSc in Biochemistry and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Cardiff in Wales. She has worked in the Pharmaceutical Industry for over 10 years and has been working for IM Schools for the past 4 years. Before taking her current position Ms. Jacky worked in the Primary Classroom as an Assistant Teacher in our Paoli School, working in the multi aged classroom as well as and helping to run our Pre –K program. She takes great pride in seeing young children grow and develop as they progress through our Montessori program. She has been married to John for 19 years and with their three children Theo, Christopher and Annabelle they enjoy many activities including gardening, golf and walking their dogs.
Amy Nessen, Compliance Director
Ms. Amy joined IMSchools in January 2014 as the primary teacher and is currently the director at our Great Valley location. She has a degree in Elementary Education from West Chester University. Ms. Amy has created a supportive and welcoming environment for our families, students and teachers.
Kaelin Scott, Director, IMSchools at Great Valley
Ms. Kaelin holds her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Alabama, with an Instructional 1 certificate in teaching kindergarten through sixth grade. Ms. Kaelin also holds a Master’s degree in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Chestnut Hill College, with a concentration in trauma studies. She has experience working with children, adolescents, and families in a variety of clinical and educational settings. Prior to joining IMS in 2018, Ms. Kaelin worked as an outpatient therapist and also spent time working as a supervisor at Starbucks. In her spare time, Ms. Kaelin enjoys reading, painting, yoga, and spending time with her little “zoo”; a hamster named Dobby, a sun conure named Sherbert, and a Peekapoo named Sammi. She is excited to join the IMS family, and looks forward to working with the staff, children, and families at Great Valley!
Jennifer El Helou, Director, IMSchools at Malvern
Ms. El Helou holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Temple University. She also completed a number of courses towards her Masters degree in Spanish. She studied music since the age of 6 and holds a piano diploma from the Lebanese Conservatory in Beirut. She has completed her Montessori Certification in 2013. Before becoming a Montessori teacher, Ms. El Helou worked for the Office of Student Affairs at Temple University for 5 years. She grew up in Beirut, Lebanon and has traveled to many countries in Europe and Middle East. In addition to English, she speaks French, Arabic, Armenian and Spanish. Ms. Jennifer has two children, current students of IMSchools, and is married to our wonderful music teacher Mr. Serge.
Laura Hoffman-Dimery, Director, IMSchools at Paoli
Ms. Laura has been in education administration for eleven years. Ms. Laura has a Master’s degree in Elementary and Special Education from Chestnut Hill College and Bachelor’s degree in Art Education from Temple University. She holds a certificate in Distributed Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education and a Pennsylvania Principal’s certificate from Immaculata University. In 2011, she served as founding principal of a new school in an under-resourced neighborhood in North Philadelphia. Ms Laura has two children who have been with IM Schools since 2015 and she joined IM Schools in 2017.
Tara Thies began her Montessori journey as a student at New Horizons Montessori. She holds a B.S. in Elementary and Early Childhood Education from Millersville University. In addition, she holds an Elementary Montessori teaching Credential that she earned from Princeton Center for Teacher Education. She taught Pre-Primary at New Horizons after graduating high school and then went on to teach Elementary students at The New School of Lancaster, Friends School Haverford and Wilmington Montessori. Three of Tara’s four children began attending Montessori at IMS at Great Valley in 2005. She loves the nurturing environment and holistic approach to learning that a Montessori education provides. She enjoys spending time with her family, cooking, gardening, and interior design in her free time.
Kishyia McKnight, Director, IMSchools at West Chester
Kishyia began her Montessori career in 1994 when she entered the field as an assistant teacher. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services and in 2002, Kishyia earned her AMS Primary teaching credentials. Over the years Kishyia has worked in the field of education as an Assistant Teacher, Lead Teacher, Director, Consultant and Teacher Trainer. As a young child, Kishyia attended a Montessori school for a short time; however, the memories of her experiences there were long lasting. Kishyia has 2 wonderful children, born 20 years apart, and is a proud grandmother of 3 energetic boys. She continues to be inspired by the sense of wonder that children exhibit.
Jill previously served as the Pre-Primary lead teacher and the Pedagogy & Environmental Design instructor for MITE. Jill has served in the Montessori community for over 17 years and has been in the field of education for 26 years. She has hosted myriad parent education events focused on everything from nutrition to discipline to curriculum. Ms. Slader is a member of the American Montessori Society, which is an information center for its members, the media, and the public; a voice in the public policy arena; and a mobilizing force for the global Montessori community through support services, research, and professional development events. Jill’s own sons started their academic journey in Montessori and continued through kindergarten; she utilizes Montessori principles, not only in her school, but also in her own home.
Holly Knox, Montessori Education Coordinator/Toddler Specialist
Holly Knox is the IM Schools Montessori Education Coordinator and Toddler Specialist. Holly is an AMS certified Montessori educator for Infants and Toddlers specializing in supporting the unique developmental needs of children from birth to 3 years of age. For the past 24 years, Holly has been designing classrooms, nurturing children, educating families, mentoring interns, and training Montessori teachers. Most recently, Holly has served as School Director at IMSchools at West Chester. Holly’s focus is supporting the Pre-Primary environments and Montessori staff development. Holly believes strongly in the Montessori philosophy and is committed to teaching others the importance of giving each child respect as they learn to become independent. Holly lives in Wilmington, Delaware with her husband and 2 girls, Kalynne and Erin. When she is not at school, she enjoys reading, being in nature, gardening, and cooking.
Timothy John Moore, Admissions Director & STEM Teacher
Tim has worked as a Montessori Assistant teacher for over ten years in both Pre-Primary and Primary classrooms. He first became involved in Montessori education when his three children, who are now in college, attended Montessori programs. Tim holds a BA in English Literature from The University of Vermont, and lives in Glen Mills, PA with his wife Teresa and their three dogs. Tim enjoys skiing, tinkering with old cars and woodworking. Tim brings a deep wealth of life experience to his STEM class and his students greatly enjoy every new experience they have while exploring together.
Melissa DePaula, Elementary Program Coordinator
Ms. Melissa holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and Art History from Rutgers University. She is certified by the New Jersey Department of Education and the Pennsylvania State Board of Private Academic Schools in Elementary Education. Ms Melissa has been a lead elementary teacher at the IM Schools Paoli location since the fall of 2010. Prior to joining IM Schools, she worked as an elementary teacher in the East Brunswick Public School District in New Jersey for six years. Ms. Melissa is married to a biomedical engineer and they have two daughters who both began their education in Montessori early childhood programs. Ms. Melissa finds working in the IM Schools community very fulfilling because its’ educators are strongly committed to developing self-confident, curious and independent learners who aspire to become capable and compassionate global citizens.