Staff Directory

The staff of Spruce Tree Montessori School share a common vision. We believe that education should be an enjoyable 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 teaching staff hold bachelor’s degrees and are CPR-First Aid certified. 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 the past 13 years she has worked as Vice President of Retail Sales and as the Head Buyer for the company.

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 and he was so engaged in his school work. Sabrina began to study the methodology. She served on the Fairbanks Montessori School Board of Directors for nearly 4 years. During that tenure, she chaired the Building Committee through Phases I and II of a three-phase, large-scale capital renovation, and led efforts through the Capital Campaign Committee to secure a state allocation upwards of $180,000 for future work on the facility. Her son Simon Binkley (10) 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 (6) began his educational experience in the Children’s House Program at Spruce Tree Fall 2013.

Ms. Jane Peppey
Lead Elementary Teacher & Program Director

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. I had the absolute pleasure to spend the last 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 to meeting the bright, promising students of Spruce Tree Montessori School this September!

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 Teacher

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 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 staff Fall 2014.

Ms. Usha Motha
Lead Children’s House Teacher

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 look forward to sharing my expertise with the staff, children, parents and the community. I am eagerly looking forward to another adventure  in the  ‘Last Frontier’. 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

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.

Our family grew this past spring with the addition of our second daughter, Hannah. The timing was such that it afforded the opportunity to pursue my growing passion for Montessori through a Montessori teacher education program.

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 join 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
Children’s House Teacher Assistant & Educational Counselor

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. Most recently, 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. I am excited to dive into the Montessori method and become a part of this learning community. 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
Children’s House Teacher Assistant & PE Teacher

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 have worked in the Fairbanks North Star School District for the past four years. My training has served me well in my most recent position within the district, where I served as an Autism Behavior Education Liaison (ABEL) Technician.

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 since 2012. 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. I currently live in North Pole, Alaska. I look forward to spending the school year with the students of Spruce Tree Montessori.

Mr. Charles joined our staff Summer 2016.

Sarah Baumesiter
Lower Elementary Teacher; Interim

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. 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 up to Fairbanks this fall and am greatly looking forward to being a part of the Spruce Tree family and teaching with Ms. Jane in the elementary classroom during my interim position. Sarah will serve as our interim March – July.

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. Oliver joined our team in November 2016.

Ms. Malia Simpson
After School Program Coordinator & PE Teacher Assistant

Hello, My name is Malia Simpson and I was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. While finishing my BS degree at Willamette University in Biology with a minor in Psychology, I became particularly interested in child development. I believe that these years are an extremely malleable time period for individuals and need to be handled with care. This is one of the reasons I am particularly interested in the alternative approach Montessori schools provide where children are able to develop in a holistic manner.

Along with my interest in child development, I am extremely invested in physical wellness through an active lifestyle. Growing up, I participated in many sports and was part of varsity teams in soccer, basketball and cross country running during high school. I earned my black belt in Tang Soo Do in my spare time. I continued my soccer career at the collegiate level where I played at Willamette University for four years. With my experience, I am excited to work alongside students and share my knowledge in teaching/learning new physical skills.

I feel extremely fortunate to be part of such an incredible program as Spruce Tree Montessori School and look forward to working with the wonderful students who attend it. I know this will be a bi-directional learning experience and I am excited about guiding students in a healthy, active lifestyle while simultaneously learning from these bright young children.

Ms. Malia joined our staff Fall 2015.

Señora Faviola Aguero
Spanish Teacher

faviola-aguero Hola amigos! My name is Faviola and I’m from Peru. My husband and I moved to the States almost two years ago. Since then, I’ve been having a great and unique experience knowing my husband’s country, the American culture and people, and accomplishing one of my goals in life: to master a new language, English. In my country, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences with a concentration in Economics. As an economist, I worked for the government of Peru for four years as a part of a great team supervising the micro-finance system. Since I was a college student, I’ve been tutoring children in Spanish language and helping them with their homework. From that experience, I realized that I have a passion for education. I really love teaching language using stories, songs, games, riddles and crafts. In my first year in the States I worked as an assistant teacher from birth to 5-year-old children in a school in Seattle. I had a wonderful time working there.

I have a strong desire to continue in the field of education and social and human services. I love helping others, language and art, and now photography – in which I recently took a class at UAF. In my free time I take pictures, write poems, short stories and am learning to play the charango (an Andean stringed instrument). I’m excited to share my language and culture with children. I truly understand the importance of learning a new language at a young age which supports their learning potential. I’m very happy to be part of the Spruce Tree team!

Señora Faviola joined our staff Fall 2016.

Ms. Olivia Gaskins,
Administrative Assistant

olivia-gaskinsHello, my name is Olivia Gaskins! I was born in Southern Carolina, but was raised here in Fairbanks. I have always found joy in working with children. From a young age, I loved helping my sisters take care of my nieces and nephews, along with participating in childcare programs of all kinds.

I attended a Montessori school for junior high, which sparked my interest and love for the Montessori approach. I graduated from West Valley High School, and shortly after started working part-time for Spruce Tree Montessori. Working at Spruce Tree confirmed my interest in early childhood development and convinced me to pursue a degree in that field at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I am excited to be a part of the Spruce Tree community, and look forward to what lies ahead!

Ms. Olivia joined our staff Fall 2015.