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 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

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 12 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 serving on the United Way Board of Directors, the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, currently serving as the Chamber’s Education Committee Chairperson, 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 son at the primary level. His interest in the process of learning (not the product) was inspiring and he was 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 (9) 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 (5) began his educational experience in the Children’s House Program at Spruce Tree Fall 2013.

Mrs. Kristen Roper
Children’s House Program Advisor

kroperHello! I was born and raised in Southwest Florida. As a child I attended a Montessori preschool and have fond memories of washing dishes and building the pink tower. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of Florida and began my journey to follow my mother’s footsteps to become a teacher. For three years I worked as lead teacher for the 3-6 age group at Kingswood Montessori Academy in Homestead, Florida. During that time I fell in love with the Montessori Method and decided to pursue my primary Montessori certification from The Center of Guided Montessori Studies. She and her husband, AJ, an F16 pilot at Eielson Air Force Base, are excited to be in the last frontier of Alaska.

Ms. Kristen joined the Spruce Tree staff Fall 2013 as our Lead Children’s House Teacher and continues in that role this school year.

Ms. Jane Peppey
Lead Elementary Teacher & Curriculum 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 full-time staff Fall 2014 serving as our Lead Elementary Teacher & Curriculum Director.

Mrs. Ellie Ishaya
Elementary Teacher & Cultural Enrichment Coordinator

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 full-time staff Fall 2014 serving as our Elementary Teacher & Cultural Enrichment Coordinator.

Ms. Usha Motha
Lead Children’s House Teacher

AYUBOWAN!  (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.

Mrs. Jamie Foland
Children’s House Teacher Assistant

Greetings! I was born and raised in Poway, Calif. (suburb of San IMG_1325Diego) 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.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Ms. Kristen this year as the Children’s House Teacher’s Assistant and facilitate physical education for all STMS students, all while completing my certificate program’s practicum. 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.


Malia Simpson
Physical Education lead & After School Program Guide

Hello, My name is Malia Simpson and I was born and raised in Screen Shot 2015-10-20 at 4.11.05 PMFairbanks, 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.