Ms. Margie Donovan: Head of School

Ms. Margie has worked for 25 years in Montessori education as a guide, consultant, Interim Administrator and Head of School.  She is AMS certified in Elementary I and II from the Michigan Montessori Teacher Education Center. She has a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education, an Early Childhood Education endorsement,  and a Masters in Human Development and Family Studies.  Margie joined the staff in June of 2017. “It is a joy and honor to be part of an authentic Montessori community, for this truly is a shining light of positive, life-affirming child, family, and community development.”

Meet the Toddler Team

Our Toddler Assistants:

Ms. Maria “M” Chavez

Ms. Hee Young Chung

Meet the Birch Casa Team

Ms. Tanya VanElls: Primary Lead

I was born and raised in Canada, where I completed by Bachelor of Arts degree from Trent University (Peterborough, Ontario) and my Montessori Teaching Certification at Montessori Centre International (Toronto, Ontario)

My love for travel and adventure continued my teaching experience in the USA, including North Palm Beach, Fl., and Lansing, MI which is where my husband is from. We have 3 wonderful children. While our children were young, I worked part-time for Grand Ledge Public Schools in the Departments of Human Resources, and the Department of Special Services. 

I have also volunteered at the Capital Area Literacy Coalition to teach reading to children and adults.  I have also enjoyed my time providing art as a therapeutic outlet for children at a community organization that provides relief for victims of violent encounters. More recently, I earned a certification to teach children’s yoga.

My love for authentic Montessori education and philosophy brought me back to the classroom at Stepping Stones Montessori School in 2019.

I am a current member of The American Montessori Society, and The International Montessori Council. It is such a pleasure to be a part of Stepping Stones Montessori School, where I can  continue to build strong foundations and friendships. 

Our Birch Casa Assistants

Ms. Amanda Green

Ms. Jody Martellini

Meet the Spruce Casa Team

Ms. Amanda Priestley: Primary Lead

Ms. Amanda has been in Montessori education for eight years as a lead directress, intern, and assistant.  She is a certified Montessori primary guide through the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in Boulder, Colorado.  Amanda is a member of the American Montessori Society and Michigan Montessori Society. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies and a Masters degree in Plant and Soil Science: Entomology as well as her Montessori teaching certificate.  Amanda joined Stepping Stones in August 2021.

Our Spruce Casa Assistants

Ms. Liv Carpenter

Mr. Gabe Osborne

Meet the Elementary Team

Ms. Mandi Kaufmann: Upper Elementary Lead

I have been the Lead Guide in the Upper Elementary at Stepping Stones since the fall of 2013.  I received my Bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Goshen College in Goshen, IN. I taught 4th grade in North Carolina for 4 years and then traveled and taught in different capacities in Indiana, South Korea, and Virginia.  I’m so happy I found Montessori and this school. I completed my Montessori training for Elementary 1 and 2 from Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in Illinois. My family includes my husband, Lane, 4 year old daughter, Emri, and 1 year old Avett. We enjoy spending time outdoors, including: canoeing, camping, biking, hiking, and gardening. I love to read and crochet when I have the time.  

Ms. Alex DiTrapani: Lower Elementary Lead

I have been working at Stepping Stones since the fall of 2016.  I started out as a substitute teacher and ran the elementary after school program.  The following year I became the Lower Elementary assistant, a position I held for two years.  After finishing my Elementary 6-9  Montessori training at Waterford Montessori Academy, I accepted my current position as the Lower. Elementary lead guide.  I also hold a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education with a focus in language arts from Michigan State University.  Before discovering Montessori, I was a Kindergarten teacher at Belding Public Schools.    

I feel thankful to have found Montessori and such a great school to practice this teaching philosophy!  I am excited and optimistic about the possibilities this school year holds!  

I live in East Lansing with my sister Danni.  We enjoy exercising together, spending time with mutual friends, and visiting our parents and their dog in our home town of Spring Lake. In my free time I enjoy: hiking, baking/cooking, reading, and exploring new places. 

Meet the Enrichment Team

Wendy Sylvester-Rowan: Art Lead

I am originally from Philadelphia, PA and I completed my Bachelor of Science in Art Education from Miami University in Ohio.  I have taught elementary through middle school art in public and private schools in Indiana, Michigan, Hawaii, Germany and have been at Stepping Stones for over ten years. I teach art to the elders in the primary program as well as to the children in the elementary classroom.  My husband and I have two children, (both of whom attended Stepping Stones!) and two rescue dogs.  I enjoy the arts, traveling and hiking.

Dianne Syal: Music Lead

Ms. Dianne is from Northwest Indiana but has lived in Michigan for the past 25 years.  Her degrees are Bachelors in Music Education from Valparaiso University and Masters from Penn State University. Ms. Dianne is also Level 1 & 2 Orff-Schulwerk Certified. She has taught in Kansas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and New Delhi India.  She taught at Stepping Stones when her 3 children attended the school from 1999 through 2008.  She is currently working with all levels – Toddlers through Upper Elementary.  She and her husband Matt are happy to be involved with the Stepping Stone’s community again.

Jim McGrath: Nature Discovery Lead

Jim McGrath has been a weekly specialist Michigan Natural Science instructor at Stepping Stones since 1992. He has a wildlife biology degree from MSU, but his lifelong interest and  focus on the natural world dates back to his earliest childhood memories. He and his wife, Carol, founded and operate Nature Discovery, a Michigan-specific wildlife education business, out of their home in rural Williamston. Their private nature center features the state’s most comprehensive zoo of Michigan-native reptiles and amphibians. Nature Discovery offers wildlife education presentations and exhibits to all ages in a wide variety of venues throughout the state. Their services are also utilized regularly by the Michigan DNR. Jim also teaches as a weekly specialist at Montessori Children’s House in Lansing and at Okemos Nursery School. Visit to find out more. You can also request to be added to an email list to receive their informative monthly newsletter.

Meet Our Support Staff

Ms. Alyx

Office Assistant

Ms. Cindy

Assistant Facilities Manager & Before Care Lead