Ms. Margie Donovan: Head of School

Ms. Margie has worked for 20 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, and is glad to return to the greater Lansing area Montessori community.

Lead Staff (Classroom Guides)

Ms. Mandi Kaufmann: Upper Elementary Classroom Lead Guide 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, 2 year old daughter, Emri, and newborn Avett. We enjoy spending time outdoors, including: canoeing, camping, biking, hiking, and gardening. I love to read and crochet when I have the time.  

Maria Miklojcik: Toddler House Lead
Hello, my name is Maria Miklojcik. I started my Montessori journey at 2.5 years old. I was a student at a Montessori School from the time I was 2.5 years old in their primary program until completion in 6th grade. I then worked at the same school I attended as an after school coordinator for 3 years. Once I had my daughter, Mackenzie, I immediately knew Montessori was the right choice for her. She is now a student at Williamston High School in 10th grade. We currently live and are a part of the Williamston Community. This journey at Stepping Stones as a Lead Guide is very much a “full-circle” Montessori fulfillment for me. This will be my 5th year as the Lead Toddler Guide at Stepping Stones.

I have experience working on educational policy for the state of Michigan. I have also worked at a Child Care Center in Lansing as a teacher as well as an assistant director of the facility. I am honored to be part of the Stepping Stones community and to have the opportunity to lead the Toddler Casa. I am eager and excited to start this new year.

My favorite Maria Montessori quote is “Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and the greater possibilities of their future.”

Ms. Erin Compton: Primary 1
I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Michigan State University in 1999, with an emphasis in Psychology and Child Development. My Montessori training includes a Certificate in Primary Education from the American Montessori Society (AMS), which I earned from Adrian Dominican Montessori Teacher Education Institute in Adrian, Michigan. I have returned to Adrian to teach Science and Family Involvement for ADMTEI. I am a member of American Montessori Society and Michigan Montessori Society.  I am also a current Board Member for the Michigan Montessori Society. I am on the Workshop Committee. I assist with the search for presenters to attend Professional Development workshops for Montessori Educators.

I worked at Stepping Stones Montessori School in East Lansing from 1996 to 2016, where I taught in a Primary Classroom, taught parent education classes, trained assistants, ran professional development for staff, and was interim Head of School.  For 2 years (2017-2018) I worked at Radmoor Montessori School in Okemos, Michigan. I was an assistant in a Primary class and ran an assistants training program for the support staff. I am pleased to say that I returned to Stepping Stones Montessori School in 2018 and have begun my 25th  year in Montessori education. 
I live in East Lansing, Michigan with my husband Chris, and children Emma and Max. 

Ms. Marcia Risch: Primary 2

Ms. Tanya VanElls: Primary 3

I was born and raised in Canada, where I completed my Bachelor of Arts Degree from Trent University, in Peterborough, Ontario.  I completed my post-graduate degree, and Teaching Certification, in Montessori Early Childhood Education from Montessori Centre International, in Toronto, Ontario.  My love of travel and adventure continued my Montessori teaching experience to the USA, including North Palm Beach Florida, and Lansing, Michigan (where my husband is from).   After 9 years of teaching, and the birth of our third child, I decided to become a stay-at-home parent to our small children. I returned to work part-time, for Grand Ledge Public Schools, for the Department of Special Education, and the Department of Human Resources.  I have also been a part of the Capital Area Literacy Coalition, teaching children and adults to read. 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.  

I am currently a member of The American Montessori Society, as well as The International Montessori Council.  It is such a pleasure to be a part of Stepping Stones Montessori School. I am looking forward to an incredible year of growth, and building strong foundations and friendships!

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.  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.

Support Staff

Ms. Alexandra DiTrapani Elementary Intern & Assistant

Ms. Maria Chavez: Toddler Assistant

Ms. Paige Martin: Toddler Assistant

Ms. Bhagwati Bischt: Primary 1 Assistant

Ms. Alex Riley: Primary 2 Assistant

Ms. Sarah Patterson: Primary 2 Assistant

Ms. Kumud Gupta: Primary 3 Assistant

Ms. Alyx Blauwkamp: Administrative Assistant