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.”

Lead Staff (Classroom Guides)

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: K-2 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. 

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. Tanya VanElls: Primary Lead

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. Maria Chavez: Toddler Assistant

Ms. Alyx Blauwkamp: Office Assistant