Get To Know Our Staff
Executive Director, Level II & Level III Catechist
A Montessori child herself, Laura remembers what a joy it was for her to attend Montessori School. Graduating from the University of Virginia, she and her husband Mark incorporated Montessori principles in the home education of their nine children. Since being introduced to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd program in 2000, Laura has received CGS certification in Levels I, II and III, and is additionally recognized as a CGS National Formation Leader. Laura is coordinator with St. John’s parish for John XXIII’s Sacramental preparation, volunteers with St. John’s Religious Education program, and is a founding Board member of John XXIII. A proud Nana, she is delighted that five of her grandchildren attend at the Center. Additionally, Laura & Mark operate Briarmead Farm, a “beyond organic” grass-fed farm producing beef, lamb and dairy; a Slow Food DC “Snail of Approval Award” recipient for the past several years.
Administrative Director & Registrar
Nancy Briggs has been involved with John XXIII Montessori Center since its early years as a parent, and has served as Registrar since 2008 and Administrative Director of the Center since 2011. A graduate of Christendom College and Catholic University, Nancy has held a variety of part-time academic and administrative positions at Christendom College. Nancy and Douglas are blessed with nine children and five grandchildren.
Doreen Murtagh Wilfong
Doreen graduated from St. Nicholas Montessori College in Dublin, Ireland, where she trained to teach in the Montessori method to ages 2-12. She has also completed CGS Level I training and is a Wilson Reading System specialist. During her over 30 years’ work in Montessori education, Doreen has taught in Ireland, Canada and Virginia; has owned and operated a Montessori school; and has taught all levels from toddler through elementary. Her three children have all attended Montessori schools, and she and her family reside in Frederick County, VA.
Eileen Janaro graduated with a Masters in English from the University of Dallas. She has been teaching for 20 years, inspired by Montessori principles for the last 17 years, and has been the Center’s Montessori elementary directress since 2009. Eileen completed her AMI Elementary certification as well as a Master’s degree in Montessori Elementary Education at The Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola University of Maryland. Eileen and her husband, John, have been blessed with five children.
Elementary Assistant Directress
Colleen Hencken graduated with a BA in History from Christendom College in 1999. She has been teaching for 10 years. Colleen completed her AMI Elementary Certification and Masters Degree in Montessori Elementary Education at the Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola University in Maryland. Since 2005, she has been certified in Level I CGS and is in formation for Level II certification as well. She was Siena Academy’s Elementary Directress for three years and then went on to work part time as an Elementary Assistant at Mountain Laurel Montessori School for two years. Colleen began to assist the Center in the Spring of 2014. She is blessed with three children; Gabriel, Clare, and Roisin.
Level II Atrium Assistant Catechist
Kristin graduated with a BA from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001 and was introduced to Montessori and the Catechism of the Good Shepherd in 2006, when she started her Level I training at John XXIII. She began to assist at the Center in 2008, and was the lead catechist in the Thursday afternoon Level I Atrium 2009-2014. Kristin has recently completed her Level II certification and is currently the Tuesday afternoon Level II Lead Catechist. Kristin and her husband are blessed with five children, all of whom attend the Center.
Corinne graduated with a BA in English from Franciscan University of Steubenville. She received her AMI Primary certification from The Montessori Institute of North Texas, and her Level 1 CGS certification here at John XXIII. With 10+ years of experience working in the Atrium (Levels 1 and 2) and in the Primary Classroom, she was happy to rejoin the John XXIII staff in 2015. She has a daughter, Joy, who has inspired her to become more interested in Dr. Montessori’s work with the child under 3, and who joins her in the Toddler Atrium each week.
Thursday & Friday Level II-III Atrium Catechist
Susan graduated from Christendom College in 1990 with a BA in English. She began her CGS training and assisting at John XXIII in 2006. Certified in all three levels of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, Susan says that CGS training is a beautiful personal retreat with the Good Shepherd and feels extremely blessed to be able to share this work with children in the beautiful Atrium environment. Susan and her husband Chip have 13 children and live in Bentonville, VA.
Level I & Level II Atrium Catechist
Michelle Castellan has a B.A. in Theology from Christendom College and a M.T.S. from John Paul II Institute for Studies in Marriage and the Family. Michelle is certified in Levels I and II of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She has been a catechist with John XXIII Montessori Children’s Center since 2005, currently serving as the Three Morning Program Level I Lead Catechist and as a Lead Catechist in a Level II Atrium. Michelle and her husband, Bill, have five children, all of whom have attended John XXIII.
Level I Atrium Catechist
Jessica graduated with a BA in Philosophy from Christendom College where she was introduced to the work of both Maria Montessori and Sophia Cavelletti. She completed her Level I Catechesis of the Good Shepherd training in 2012 and was Assistant in the Atrium for 2 years. Jessica is lead catechist in the Level I Atrium on Friday mornings. Jessica and her husband, Jacob have been blessed with four children: Rose Marie, Samuel, Benjamin and Grace.
Level I Thursday Atrium Catechist
Marie graduated from Ave Maria University and is currently the Thursday Level I Catechist.
Level I After School Thursday Catechist
Elizabeth Powell graduated with a BA in Theology from Christendom College in 2008. With the arrival of her first baby in 2009, she began to learn more about Montessori and fell in love with the work of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. She began assisting in the Primary classroom in 2010 and completed the Level I Catechesis training in 2012. This year she is the Level I After School Thursday Catechist. She and her husband Joe have two girls, Zoey and Lucy.
Level II Friday Atrium Catechist
Emilia Benyo resides in Rappahannock County and attended Marymount and Northern Virginia Community College. She earned her Master Catechist Certification from the Arlington Diocese in 2013. When her youngest son attended John XXIII, she was introduced to the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and her love with the Good Shepherd began.
In 2015 and 2016, she received her formation and certification in Level I and Level II, respectively. As the catechist for the traditional 2nd grade Sacramental preparation using the faith formation program at St. Peter Catholic Church, Washington, VA, she transitioned the program into the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd. This year she is the Catechist for Thursday and Friday Level II Atrium session. Her husband, Bob, is a Permanent Deacon in the Arlington Diocese and they have two boys.
Lead Adolescent Guide, White Oaks Middle School
Joe Hambleton was born and raised in Northern Virginia. He worked in landscaping and lawn care for 14 years before discovering his love of Montessori. In 2015, he moved to Front Royal with his wife and daughter to help start White Oaks Middle School. He has completed the AMI Montessori Orientation Programme to Adolescent Studies (ages 12-18), and his work with the middle school students is greatly enriched by his experience in the business world.
Adolescent Guide, White Oaks Middle School
Sarah graduated with a B.A. in history from Christendom College and has taught humanities, language arts, SAT prep and math at the middle and high school level since 2007. She began educating herself in the Montessori method the following year upon the birth of her first child, and has incorporated Montessori both at home and in the classroom these many years since. With two children on the Autism Spectrum, she intimately recognizes the value of Montessori’s individual and communal approach to learning. Sarah joined White Oaks Middle School in its maiden year and teaches history, language arts, and math. She also volunteers as a 7th grade catechist at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. Sarah and three boys attend John XXIII Montessori Children’s Center.