Staff Directory

The staff of Spruce Tree Montessori School share a common vision. We believe that education should be an inspiring experience — a journey for both the child and the parent — during which a partnership between the school and family serves both through a love of learning.

All Spruce Tree Montessori School classroom teaching staff hold bachelor’s degrees and are CPR-First Aid certified. All Lead Teachers and Co-Teachers also hold Montessori credentials for the level at which they are assigned. We hold the safety and security of the children of Spruce Tree as our top priority.

Sabrina Binkley
Head of School & Founder

Sabrina was born and raised in rural Colorado and attended the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) on a volleyball scholarship. She earned a BS degree in Petroleum Engineering there and enjoyed a well-rounded experience as a college-athlete. She met her husband, Ryan Binkley, at CSM and moved to Alaska in 2001 to begin her life in Alaska and her career in engineering. After a short time with Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, she began work in the family business at the Riverboat Discovery. For 14 years she worked as Vice President of Retail Sales and as the Head Buyer for the company, and continues to consult the retail team as an executive buyer. She earned her Montessori credential in School Administration from Seton Montessori Institute, Chicago, IL, February 2017 – and became the first Montessori educator in Alaska to achieve that accolade.

She is involved in the community in several ways including past service on the United Way Board of Directors, the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, currently serving as the Chamber’s Education & Workforce Development Committee Chair, and is a charter member of the Golden Heart Rotary Club of Fairbanks where she has served as President, Vice President and Secretary over the years. She developed a passion for Montessori education when she realized how beneficial it was for her oldest son at the primary level. His interest in the process of learning was inspiring. Sabrina began to study the methodology. She served on the Fairbanks Montessori School Board of Directors for 4 years. During that tenure, she served terms as Vice President and Secretary of the Board, and chaired the Capital Campaign Building Committee. Her son Simon Binkley (11) completed the Fairbanks Montessori School three-year program (ages 3 – 6) and began his elementary adventure Fall 2012 as a first grader in the inaugural class at Spruce Tree. Her son Clive (7) began his educational experience in the Children’s House Program at Spruce Tree Fall 2013.

Ms. Jane Peppey
Lead Elementary Teacher & Program Coordinator, Tongass Community

jane-peppeyHello! My name is Jane Peppey. I am originally from Chicago, IL. I graduated from Goucher College in Baltimore, MD with my degree in English and Literature. During time spent working at my College’s Writing Center, I became inspired to begin addressing education at the elementary level. I began my journey to become a Montessori teacher at Seton Montessori Institute in Illinois, an American Montessori Society training center, and earned my EI/EII (Elementary 6 – 12) credential Summer 2014. I had the absolute pleasure to spend my practicum teaching year at Lloyd Barbee Montessori School, in the Milwaukee Public School district, where I worked with a wonderful group of students and teachers. I am very excited that the next step in my journey is Fairbanks, Alaska. I look forward each day to my journey alongside the bright, promising students of Spruce Tree Montessori School!

I often go back to a quote from Maria Montessori that I hope to incorporate into our work in the classroom this year: “Imagination does not become great until human beings, given the courage and the strength, use it to create.”

Ms. Jane joined our staff Fall 2014.

Mrs. Ellie Ishaya
Lower Elementary Co-Teacher, Tongass Community

ellie-ishayaHi, my name is Ellie Ishaya and as a lifelong Alaskan and a lifelong Montessorian, I am excited to join the Spruce Tree team! I was a Montessori student myself from ages three through 12, and am delighted to come full circle and teach Montessori elementary. I grew up in Anchorage and received a Bachelors of Science in Anthropology with a minor in dance from the University of Alaska Anchorage. I attained my State of Alaska K-8 teaching certification through the University of Alaska Southeast. During this time I was fortunate to be able to work as a teacher’s assistant in a Montessori kindergarten classroom, as well as fulfill my university practicum and internship requirements in Montessori elementary classrooms. I attended Montessori Elementary I (Elementary 6 – 9) training at the Montessori Educational Institute of the Pacific Northwest (MEIPN) and then completed a yearlong internship in a Montessori lower elementary classroom. I enjoy sharing my love of science, culture, and art with children and look forward to being a part of the Spruce Tree community.

Ms. Ellie joined our team Fall 2014.

Sarah Baumesiter
Lower Elementary Co-Teacher, Tongass Community

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 1.34.54 PMHi, my name is Sarah Baumeister and I was born and raised in Anchorage. I attended Colorado College where I majored in Biology and minored in African Studies. In 2003, I started working at Anchorage Montessori School (AMS) with Mrs. Ellie Ishaya’s parents, and fell in love with Montessori education. I received my Elementary Levels I and II training from The Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in Boulder, Colorado, earning my Montessori teacher certifications for lower and upper elementary (Elementary I/II). I then went on to be a lead teacher at AMS. In 2008 I earned my Masters of Arts in Teaching from the University of Alaska Southeast, and taught within the Anchorage School District for eight years. My last two years with that District were at Denali Montessori School in downtown Anchorage. I moved to Fairbanks Fall 2016 and now greatly enjoy being a member of the Spruce Tree family and teaching with Ms. Jane and Ms. Ellie in the elementary classroom.

Ms. Sarah joined our team February 2017.

Mrs. Kristen Roper
Children’s House Program Coordinator, Boreal & Tongass Communities

Kristen attended a Montessori preschool when she was a child. She went on to earn a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Florida. She earned her Montessori credential for the early childhood level (EC 3 – 6) Summer 2013 from the Center for Guided Montessori Studies in Florida.

Kristen joined our team Fall 2013 as our first Children’s House Lead Teacher. During the weeks leading up to the first day of school, she was instrumental in creating an inviting, fully authentic Montessori classroom environment and led our school’s first early childhood cohort along an inspiring educational journey. After a maternity leave Spring 2016, she returned as our Program Advisor until moving to California that August for a 1-year training stint with the USAF as her husband, AJ, is an F-16 pilot. Upon their return to Fairbanks this summer, she re-joined our team as our Children’s House Program Coordinator, serving as the Children’s House team advisor collaborating with the Lead Children’s House Teachers, Teacher Associates and other classroom support staff for best practices of classroom and behavioral management, academic lesson planning, presentation, follow-up, repetition, observation, assessment and mastery.

Ms. Kristen joined our staff in August 2013.

Ms. Usha Motha
Lead Children’s House Teacher, Boreal Community

usha-mothaAYUBOWAN!  (Hello in the SriLankan language of Sinhala)

I was born on the beautiful island of SriLanka. My interest in teaching young children began in my teenage years, when I had the opportunity of assisting my sister (mostly in the practical life / cultural  areas) in her Montessori School that she operated from our home. I was fascinated by the children’s independence, curiosity to explore, love of learning and their ability to learn new concepts effortlessly. This paved the path to enroll myself in a Primary Montessori teaching program, and I was fortunate to be trained under a trainee, who was trained under Dr. Maria Montessori. I worked as a Montessori Guide at a Christian Outreach Center for disadvantaged children, and a private school operated at the ‘Young Mens Christian Association’ in SriLanka.

I obtained my Diploma in Librarianship, and was the Librarian for the Primary and Elementary at an International School, in SriLanka (preparing students for the London examinations). I substituted in the Primary Montessori classrooms and enjoyed using my Montessori education in the prepared environment and organizing special events for the parents and the community.

In the United States, I obtained my AMI Montessori Certification from the Mid – West Training Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (MACTE-accredited teacher training center). I have worked in many different states as a Montessori Guide and Kindergarten Teacher in the USA.  I directed my own Montessori School in Austin, Texas, and have 20 years of experience in the field of early childhood education.

My last teaching position was in Anchorage, Alaska which gave me an opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the state. Now, I am excited to be a part of the team of Montessori educators at Spruce Tree Montessori School in Fairbanks, and enjoy sharing my expertise with the staff, children, parents and the community. In my leisure time, I love to travel, read, sew and cook. I would like to conclude with the following quotation from Dr. Montessori’s renowned works.

‘This is education, understood as a help to life; an education from birth, which feeds a peaceful revolution and unites all in a common aim, attracting them to a single center. Mothers, father’s , politicians: all must combine in their respect and help for this delicate work of formation which the little child carries on in the depth of a profound psychological mystery, under the tutelage of an inner guide. This is the bright new HOPE for mankind. (The Absorbent Mind Page, 15)

I firmly and truly believe in her quote, through my many years of experience in the field.

Ms. Usha joined our staff in November 2015.

Mrs. Jamie Foland
Lead Children’s House Teacher, Taiga Community

jamie-folandGreetings! I was born and raised in Poway, Calif. (suburb of San Diego) and I came to Alaska in the fall of 2000 to earn a degree from the University of Alaska and play volleyball for the Nanooks. I wound up getting my degree in foreign language (Hispanic studies/Spanish emphasis) with a minor in Linguistics. After graduation, I worked in the athletic department as the media relations and communications director and met my future husband, Randy, who is an Alaska Smokejumper. I stayed involved with the volleyball program as a volunteer assistant coach for 10 seasons and for the past two years I served as the full-time assistant coach. Jamie earned her Montessori Early Childhood (EC 3 – 6) credential Summer 2017 from the Center for Guided Montessori Studies in Florida and completed her practicum teaching year as Lead Children’s House Teacher, Taiga community, at Spruce Tree.

I always had an inclination I would be a teacher and a coach just like my father, a retired public school P.E. and Math teacher of more than 30 years. My Montessori journey really began when our eldest daughter, Isabella, joined the Children’s House class at Spruce Tree Fall 2014. Watching her all-around growth and development coupled with the education and exposure we got through school functions and educational opportunities fueled a deeper intrigue and grew my passion to know more, be more involved in the school’s amazing family community and to bring the Montessori way of living into our home as well.

The ultimate goal of Montessori and several of the guiding principles and methods encompass my preexisting philosophies for parenting, teaching, coaching and living life in general. Working around and with children of all ages has always been a big part of my life. As such, it was a very easy and exciting choice to pursue the path I’m on to become a Montessori teacher with an age group where I can foster and guide future leaders, providing a solid and comprehensive foundation of character, intelligence, empathy and understanding so they may grow up with the knowledge, compassion and strength to change the world.

It is a blessing and a pleasure to be a part of the amazing staff at Spruce Tree Montessori and I am looking forward to the exciting year that lies ahead.

Ms. Jamie joined our staff Fall 2015.

Mrs. Erica Nash
Educational Counselor & Children’s House Teacher Assistant, Boreal Community

erica-nashHello friends!

My name is Erica Nash and I was born and raised in Palo Alto, California and took a leap of faith by attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) to play volleyball.

I earned a BA in Psychology before pursuing a Master of Education degree in Community Counseling. Before joining the team at STMS, I worked as a mental health counselor with teens and young adults, and I truly enjoy helping people on their journey toward a positive life. Outside of work, volleyball is a major passion of mine, and I curb this craving through coaching competitive club volleyball and the Lathrop high school team. This California girl loves exploring the natural beauty of Alaska through hiking and camping and I’m looking forward to new adventures at Spruce Tree Montessori School this school year.

Ms. Erica joined our staff Summer 2016.

Mr. Charles Spencer
PE Teacher & Children’s House Teacher Assistant, Taiga Community

charles-spencerI am a graduate of Valley City State University with a B.S. in Education. My time at Valley City State University prepared me to be an informed, dynamic professional in the Health and Physical Education field, and trained me to educate and provide my students with the most current and up to date educational practices. I worked in the Fairbanks North Star School District for four years before joining the Spruce Tree team. My training in my most recent position within the district, where I served as an Autism Behavior Education Liaison (ABEL) Technician, served me well and I look forward to continuing my work with children of all ages in the Montessori environment.

While teaching is my passion, I enjoy coaching as well. As a college student, I coached organized sports for little league (co-ed basketball) in North Dakota. More recently I’ve had the pleasure of working as a high school assistant coach for football, track, and basketball at North Pole High School. I am also a graduate of North Pole High School where my experience earned me an opportunity to play at the collegiate level. I am proud to say many of the wonderful coaches and teachers I had when I was in school are now my co-workers and peers!

I was born in Germany and raised in a military family, but call Alaska home now and enjoy the adventure that each day offers.

Mr. Charles joined our staff Summer 2016.

Mr. Oliver Loftus
School Chef & Kitchen Coordinator

Hello, my name is Oliver Loftus and I have lived in Fairbanks most of my life.  I have a great curiosity for life, all the different ways to live, and all the various things to learn.  I studied philosophy and mathematics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, graduating with a BA in 2005.  In 2007 I attended Vermont Law School, and while I found the intellectual aspects fascinating I decided that a career as a lawyer was not what I really wanted.  I had been working for various surveying companies since the summer of 2001 so in 2009 I attended the Oregon Institute of Technology, graduating with a BS in Geomatics in 2011.  I worked steadily in the field until the fall of 2014 when I decided to pursue my passion for woodworking.  I attended an apprenticeship program at the Vermont Woodworking School greatly expanding my knowledge of wood craft.  

I have always had a great appreciation for good food and while I have no formal training I have been hooked on cooking since my uncle taught me how to make scallop fettucine at 13.  I have traveled back and forth across the country multiple times, I have been to Ireland, India, and Thailand, and the dishes I’ve eaten are central to many of my memories.  I have cooked over campfires, in brand new kitchens, and various setups in between.  I am excited to be a part of the Spruce Tree Montessori team and look forward to sharing all that I have learned while continuing to develop my own skills.

Mr. Oliver joined our team in November 2016.

Ms. Megan Dean
After School Program Coordinator 

Megan graduated from North Pole High School in 2008 and attended the College of Idaho for one year, majoring in Education. Upon returning to Alaska, she transferred to the University of Alaska – Fairbanks and is currently pursuing her degree in Elementary Education. She has many years of experience in home childcare and hospitality.

Ms. Megan joined our staff in May 2017.

Mrs. Claudia Gatewood
Spanish Teacher

I am originally from Guatemala and Spanish is my first language. At the age of 16, my family moved to Canada, which provided me an opportunity to learn English as well as be exposed to French. Being a part of a multicultural family has taught me that respecting other cultures and customs can open many doors beyond borderlines. It is an honor to be able to teach Spanish to a new generation, to children full of curiosity about other people and cultures. I look forward with enthusiasm and commitment to the opportunity to join the Spruce Tree Montessori team this year.

I graduated high school with a dental assistance diploma from Weston Collegiate Institute, Toronto, Ontario, and completed a dental receptionist certification program in 2005. I am currently studying online to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of the People, Pasadena, California.

Ms. Claudia joined our staff in November 2017.

Mrs. Marbie Santos
Montessori Teaching Intern & After School Program Assistant

Hi, my name is Marbie Pia Santos, and I was born and raised in Manila, Philippines. I came to Maryland in 2010 and attended Montgomery College to take Early Childhood Education classes. My husband, who is in the U.S. Army, and I moved to Fairbanks, Alaska in September 2017. In 2016, I transferred to the University of Maryland to take up Special Education. Meanwhile, I was introduced to the Montessori philosophy, which led me to embark on a rigorous Early Childhood Montessori Teacher training under Metro Montessori Institute in the summer of 2017.

I’ve been in the childcare field since 2014. One of my great experiences as a teacher was being able to introduce to young children the STEM program. Aside from having worked with children and guides in the classroom, I also delighted assisting in kickboxing classes for three to six year olds for two years.
I look forward to my journey this year with the Spruce Tree Montessori community where I will share my love for learning and taking care of our environment.

Ms. Marbie joined our staff Fall 2017.

Mrs. Annie Scott
Administrative Manager

Hello, My name is Annie Scott! I am local to Fairbanks and I am very excited to join the Spruce Tree Montessori Team!

I enjoy spending time with my family doing outdoor activities such as snow machining, sledding and berry picking. I also enjoy volunteering time as my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop Leader.

As a young adult, I worked at a local financial institution for ten years. This time brought me a great deal of experience in finance and administration that I have found invaluable. After becoming a mother in 2010, I was inspired to start an in-home daycare that I continued for the following six years. While this was an incredibly fun, love-filled, challenging experience, it was also an amazing time for me to spend nurturing the hearts and minds of my children.

Spruce Tree Montessori is a perfect environment for me to continue my passion of working with children while making effective use of my administrative abilities. I am excited and thankful for the adventures ahead!

Ms. Annie joined our team Fall 2017.