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Priya Venkateswaran, Program Director, Wellan Institute Teacher Education Program 
Montessori Philosophy, Observation, Classroom Leadership, and Practical Life Instructor

Beth Black, Head of School, Wellan Montessori School

Executive Director, Wellan Institute

Parent Engagement and Human Sexuality Instructor


Jess Brennan, Record-Keeping and Practical Life Instructor

Jen Cardy, Visual and Performing Arts Instructor
Amanda Cusanno, Language and Cultural Studies Instructor

Sandra Fernandes, Math and Science Instructor

Allison Gass, Sensorial Instructor

Sachié Karmacharya, Inclusive Classroom & Human Sexuality Instructor

Kayla Stiffler, Child Development Instructor


Priya Venkateswaran

Priya was born in India and moved to the US in 2006. She was a certified primary school teacher in India, and taught in private schools before moving here. She stumbled upon the Montessori philosophy while exploring careers and fell in love when she realized how effective it is. Priya completed her training in 2010 and has been teaching in a Montessori classroom since 2009. 

Priya joined our school in 2015 as a Primary teacher. She has always been interested in growing and learning about all aspects of education. Along with teaching in a Primary class, she also helped coordinate a training class for interns and non-Montessori-trained support staff. In 2021, Priya took the position of Administrative Coordinator to begin the process of starting an adult training program for Wellan Institute. She is very excited to have this opportunity to work alongside a team of very enthusiastic educators. As the Program Director of Wellan TEP, Priya is keen to grow her career as an instructor and administrator.


When she is not teaching or convincing others about the benefits of Montessori, she likes to spend time with her family and read books.


Beth Black

Beth is a strong advocate for Montessori education through her own experiences as a child, as well as the values she has come to hold after many years working and teaching in a variety of educational settings. She believes “that real learning happens when connections are made not only in the brain, but in the heart. A child who feels safe, valued, and free to explore is able to learn and grow at a deep, spiritual level. He or she can find joy in striving, recognize mistakes as learning opportunities, and integrate abstract thinking with practical life lessons.”

Prior to joining Wellan Montessori School, Beth was the Director of Enrollment and Marketing at Lake Forest Country Day School, a Pre-K through Grade 8 independent school outside of Chicago. Before that, she was the Director of Development for Chiaravalle Montessori School, as well as a founding administrator of the Conserve School in Wisconsin. Beth has completed Montessori coursework, led a faculty committee in completing the self-study for AMS reaccreditation, presented a curriculum workshop at the national AMS conference, and even inspired an HBO producer to feature a clip of Upper Elementary students in a made-for-television poetry special!


Beth holds degrees from Fairleigh Dickinson University (B.A. in Humanities/Spanish), the University of Wisconsin, Madison (M.A. in English Literature) and Northwestern University (M.S., Learning and Organizational Change).


Beth’s return to Massachusetts brought her back to her roots, as she grew up in Andover. In her spare time, Beth enjoys reading, gardening, quilting, international travel, and spending quality time with family and friends, including her husband, Keith; her two grown children, Colin and Emma; and her granddaughter Quinn.


Jess Brennan

Jess grew up on a small island in Maine before receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminology from the University of Southern Maine. She completed her Montessori training through the Northeast Montessori Institute in 2018, after spending a few years teaching Elementary Special Education and in early childcare centers. When Jess isn’t at Wellan, she can usually be found at her home-away-from-home, Fenway Park! She and her husband, Thom, enjoy traveling to watch baseball games at new ballparks and stadiums. Jess is a retired roller derby skater, who still loves to cheer on her former teammates! She loves to spend time crocheting.


Jen Cardy

Jen holds a Bachelor’s Degree in the Humanities from the University of Chicago and a Master’s of Education with a focus in “Risk and Prevention” from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Before college, Jen graduated from the Harid Conservatory, a performing arts high school in Boca Raton, FL and went on to dance professionally with Boston Ballet II. 


The origin of Jen’s commitment to children is her own childhood experience as a Montessori student from ages 3-9. Jen has been fortunate to work with children in diverse settings and circumstances including art museums, ballet studios, mainstream preschools, non-profit organizations, charter high schools, private homes, and therapeutic daycare centers. Jen loves working directly with children; and due to her avid interest in how children form and maintain relationships, she also welcomes opportunities to support positive connections between children and the adults in their lives.  

When Jen is not at school, she can usually be found with her husband and three kids who are proud to be students at Wellan. Jen enjoys impromptu dance-parties in the kitchen, and she cherishes the few quiet end-of-day moments that family life allows. Jen is grateful to find a home at Wellan where children and the arts are highly valued.  


Amanda Cusannno

Amanda received her B.S. in Criminal Justice, Psychology and Spanish from Roger Williams University and her M.Ed. in Education and Administration from Champlain College. She has trained with the Montessori Institute of New England for her 3–6 certification, as well as the Montessori Elementary Teacher Training Collaborative for her 6–9 certification. Amanda started at Wellan in 2016 and has loved being a part of this supportive community. Outside of school, Amanda loves to spend time swimming and hanging out at the beach. 


Sandra Fernandes

Sandra was born and raised in India. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. Sandra received her Montessori training from the Northeast Montessori Institute. She brings with her over 17 years of experience as a Primary teacher at the Montessori School of Leesburg, Virginia. One of her lifelong passions is working with children and guiding them to discover, develop, and enhance their unique gifts.


Sandra has two wonderful daughters who are in college. She loves reading, traveling, going to museums, playing board games, walking and the beach! She is looking forward to exploring the Northeast with her husband. Sandra is excited to join the team at Wellan!


Allison Gass

Allison has been teaching using the Montessori Philosophy for over fifteen years. She has worked at Montessori schools in both Wellesley and the Back Bay. Allison has finally found her home at Wellan Montessori School and has been teaching here for several years. She enjoys the warm and fun-loving community that Wellan brings and is proud to be part of such a wonderful team. In her free time, Allison enjoys spending time with her two young daughters, jogging, hiking, and reading. 


Sachié Karmacharya

Sachié Karmacharya is excited to join Ms. Jutta in P1 this year! Previously Sachié was an Associate Primary Teacher at Cambridge Montessori School for the last four years; and prior to that, she was a substitute teacher at Walnut Park Montessori School. Sachié has a Bachelor's Degree from Cambridge College in Psychology with a focus on Children and Families. She is EEC certified and AMS certified through NEMTEC.


Sachié is the mother to two wonderful Wellan Elementary students. In her spare time Sachié enjoys yoga, running, reading, and spending time outdoors with her husband, Santosh, and their two sons, Ashwin and Syrus. Sachié is passionate about health and wellness and education. She is very happy to be a part of the Wellan Community!


Kayla Stiffler

Kayla is a Massachusetts girl, born and raised. She grew up in Methuen and moved to Boston after earning her BS in Elementary Education at Framingham State University. She later completed her graduate studies at the same university and earned her M.Ed in Literacy and Language. She trained in Montessori education with the Montessori Elementary Teacher Training Collaborative and received her 6–9 credentials. Before working at Wellan, she worked in both public schools as well as Montessori schools in the Greater Boston area. When she is not in the classroom, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband and two daughters.

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