Erin Van Note

Head of School

Erin is a graduate from the University of Georgia with a degree in Education and Business Administration. Originally from Athens, GA, Erin attended Athens Montessori School for much of her early education. As a result she was drawn to the Montessori method as her children started school, all three girls have attended SVMS. Erin is very passionate about education, the Montessori method in particular, and enjoys being a part of the weekly Writer’s Workshop in the Elementary classroom. She has been serving SVMS for the past 11 years, first on the Board of Directors and now as a member of a dedicated administrative team. Erin previously worked in product development and marketing for an educational consulting company in Georgia that specializes in writing curriculum. Erin and her family have lived in the Black Mountain area since 2003, and they currently live on a small farm and raise chickens, goats and vegetables.

Diane Jackson

Office Administrator

Diane has been an educator in public schools for 33 years, and she is happy to be a part of the staff at SVMS! Most recently, she has tutored children privately at the Huntington Learning Center. Diane worked as a lead teacher in summer schools for 5 years, and as a worker at a home daycare.  She holds a NC teaching certificate and graduated magna cum laude from Western Carolina University with a BSEd.  Diane served on the committee that started the Terrific Kid Program at Black Mountain Primary school.  This was the creation of a program that went not only to be used in the United States but is still in use internationally.  She served on the School Improvement Team at BMP for 10 years and as the teacher member on the board of the BMP PTO. Diane was also on the committee that established the Crisis Response Team for Black Mountain Primary and as the teacher representative on the Owen District Advisory Board. Diane lives with her adult son in Black Mountain, in a house ruled by 3 cats.  She enjoys reading, visiting with her large extended family, and is an active member of the congregation of the Church of the Redeemer in Asheville.

Kristy Beaver

Elementary Coordinator & Student Support

Kristy has been involved in education for over 20 years as a Title 1 Reading Specialist, a private tutor, a Montessori preschool teacher, and a Montessori Lower Elementary teacher.  Her college degree is in psychology, with a NC K-6 teaching license. As a reading specialist, she has a K-12 reading license from UNCA. Kristy has the AMS 3 – 6 Montessori certification and joined SVMS as a primary teacher in 2007. She received Orton-Gillinaham training in 2014, a multi-sensory, kinesthetic, and phonics based approach to teaching reading, and is excited about incorporating this training into the classroom. Kristy has 2 daughters, one in high school and another in college. Her daughters keep her busy driving them to and attending horseback and martial arts events. Kristy and her husband of 20+ years like to camp and hang out with friends. She loves to read, cook and explore new places with her family and take naps with her dog, Kate.

Bertica Spencer

Children's House Coordinator


Ali DuFault

Firefly Lead Teacher - Children's House

My husband Cory and I, and our three children are from Rockford Illinois and have called North Carolina home for 11 years. I studied at Rock Valley College and received my Montessori Certification from Center for Montessori Teacher Education. I have a passion for The Montessori Method and will be starting my 7th year at our Awesome school.  All of my children have attended Montessori schools, two attended here at SVMS. My daughter is in her first year of Upper Elementary with Ms Atina, and my sister, Jennifer, has been the Lower Elementary teacher for 10 years. When I’m not enjoying the SVMS children, I like hiking, camping, paddle boarding and most outdoor adventures.

Karen Lawing

Firefly Assistant Teacher - Children's House

My name is Karen Lawing and I am the assistant teacher in the Firefly classroom this year. I am originally from Wellesley, Massachusetts and fell in love with these mountains when I went to Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa. I graduated from WWC with a BA in Environmental Education. It was also at Warren Wilson where I met my husband Greg.  We have three daughters, twins who are seniors at Appalachian State University and our youngest who will be a freshmen at Warren Wilson College this year. Our family has lived in Boone, NC as well. While in Boone, I went back to school and received my Elementary Education Certification. It was after we moved back to Asheville that I realized my love for teaching three to six year olds. I have been working with this age for six years now and have been working at Swannanoa Valley Montessori School as an assistant for three years.  It has been at this school where I have learned to love the Montessori teaching method and all the experienced kind staff. I love living in these mountains because of the numerous places to hike, camp, and canoe. My family and I also love to travel and learn about new places.

Rachael Pratt

Dragonfly Lead Teacher - Children's House

I was born and raised in Nashville, TN. I attended the University of Alabama where I obtained a B.S. in Elementary Education, with a focus on Kindergarten through 6th grade. From there, I moved to Atlanta in 2012 to take Montessori training, and remained there, working as a lead in Montessori schools for 5 years. I currently live in Black Mountain with my wife, Ashlee and our two pups, Blue Sky and Tuck. In my free time, I enjoy exploring the outdoors, listening to live music, indoor rock climbing, reading, and cooking. I am excited to begin my second year as the Guide of Dragonfly, and feel so privileged to be in this role. I have found a deep connection with the Montessori philosophy and ideals of respecting and nourishing the internal spirit of every child. I am sincerely committed in my efforts to facilitate within the children peacefulness, independence, confidence, and the motivation to become lifelong learners.

Charlotte Sullivan

Dragonfly Assistant Teacher - Children's House

My name is Charlotte Sullivan and I will be the assistant teacher for the Dragonfly class. I am originally from Baltimore, MD and obtained a B.S. at Towson
University in Family and Human Services with a concentration in Services to Children and Youth. I moved to Asheville with my husband Daniel and our lovely dog Petunia. I have worked at Swannanoa Valley Montessori for almost three years starting in after care and am excited to continue to be the assistant for the upcoming school year. My husband and I recently bought a house in Asheville and are happy to make our new home here. I’m enjoying the never ending thrills of homeownership and learning how to fix things on my own as well as creating various projects. I also enjoy muay thai and working in the yard with my dog. I am delighted to be a part of the enriching Montessori education that this school provides.

Mady Hancock

Floating Assistant & AfterCare Teacher - Children's House


Theresa Cross

Floating Assistant & AfterCare Teacher - Children's House


Jennifer Hermance

Lead Teacher - Lower Elementary

Jen was introduced to Montessori education when her children began attending Montessori school at age 3. She holds a B.A. degree in Elementary Education and AMS Elementary Montessori Certification.  Since 2005, Jen has been an Elementary Montessori guide, and she started at SVMS in 2009. Jen lives in Black Mountain with her two children (former SVMS students) and husband where they enjoy the outdoors–fishing, canoeing, camping, and music.

Stefanie Wielkopolan

Assistant Teacher - Lower Elementary

Stefanie is a graduate of Western Michigan University where she earned a B.A. in Creative Writing and Women’s Studies. She has been writing poetry since middle school, and in 2008 went on to earn her M.F.A. in Poetry at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. For the past 8 years, she has taught English and Creative Writing to students from the elementary level through the college level at various schools in Michigan and Pennsylvania. In 2015, she moved to Black Mountain and joined the SVMS team as Jen’s assistant in the Elementary classroom.  Since then she has developed a deep appreciation for the Montessori method and is eager to learn even more.  In her spare time, Stef likes to write, spend time with her husband, explore her new home, and read any poetry or non-fiction books she can find.

Atina Guidetti

Lead Teacher - Upper Elementary

Atina Guidetti is working on her Masters in Montessori Elementary Education at Lander University and has a Bachelors in Elementary Education from the University of North Carolina, Wilmigton. She fell in love with our school during an observation and we are fortunate that she wants to do her year long internship here at our school. Atina is described as having a warm, approachable personality, being proactive in her communication with parents, and displaying a deep passion for her job. She has also been described as “one of the most caring, articulate and promising young professionals.” Atina brings experience with both young and Elementary aged children as well as her Elementary education and commitment. Welcome to the SVMS family, Atina!

Chandra Gilmore

Assistant Teacher - Upper Elementary

Chandra comes to us with an Elementary Education Bachelor’s degree, dual Master’s in Lower and Upper Montessori Elementary Education received from Loyola University in Maryland. She also recently completed her Orton Gillingham training to help struggling readers, for example, students with dyslexia or other reading difficulties. Chandra will be completing her Orton Gillingham practicum while here at SVMS.  Chandra was born right here in Asheville, but grew up in Pennsylvania-near Pittsburgh. She was lucky enough to live here three times in her twenties in between spending a few years working for AmeriCorps, as a year round wilderness camp counselor, ropes course facilitator, and white water rafting guide. She then headed to Baltimore City to teach Music, Theater, and Dance before getting her Montessori Training and spending fours years teaching Upper Elementary in Maryland. Six years ago, she and her husband made the move from Baltimore to Asheville to call it “home.” They enjoy taking hikes and adventures with their pup, as well as, kayaking and biking around the Biltmore.  Chandra feels blessed to be a part of the SVMS community.

Jen Thorstad


Jen has been an accounting professional for 20 years in both for profit and not-for-profit settings, with extensive knowledge in the areas of budgeting, financial analysis, multi-fund accounting, human resources and operations.  She enjoys auditing, forecasting, and running scenarios for cost-savings and business strategy. A graduate of the University of Central Florida, she moved to Black Mountain in 2016 after 18 years in the Cocoa Beach area; although her roots are in the plains of Oklahoma.  Jen and her husband, Chili are the proud parents of incoming kindergartener, Joshua and his baby sister, Elizabeth.  In her very spare time, Jen enjoys camping, hiking, jewelry making and photography.

Stephanie Sulzman

Art Teacher - Elementary


Mr. Chili

Music Teacher - Children's House & Elementary


Kelly Hanson

Academic Tutor


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