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
Lead Children’s House Teacher

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.

FullSizeRenderMr. Charles Neadom
Children’s House Teacher Assistant & Arts Program Coordinator

Hailing from way upstate New York, Mr. Charlie developed a love of literature and language from a young age, his first and favorite book being a copy of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary gifted to him by his father at the age of four (which still rests beside his bed at night). His passion for writing was fully realized in college when after a few well-written physics papers, he unintentionally fell into the English department where he earned a Bachelor’s in Academic Writing from Potsdam University.

Years of travel and adventure, including a bike trip from coast to coast, proffered him many experiences, which led to mentor roles of all kinds including camps, youth groups, tutoring and classroom teaching positions. After about seven years in Portland, he recently ventured north to Fairbanks where his plans include exploration and understanding of our vast and curious state as well as snagging a Master’s in Education. He hopes a Montessori experience will teach him a thing or two about the development of impressionable  students and the value of a nurtured educational experience. Following in the footsteps of his grandmother, Mr. Charlie awaits the opportunity to have a classroom of his own in which to share his affinity for the written history of our species and the continuance of academic appreciation.

Mr. Charlie joined Spruce Tree Montessori in January 2015 as the Children’s House Teacher Assistant where he is eager to participate in the fostering of young minds of the future.

Jana BenedixMs. Jana Benedix
After School Program Guide & Physical Education Coordinator

Hello! My name is Jana Benedix. Born in Wiesbaden, Germany and raised in a military family, I moved around a lot and was never in one place for long growing up. In 2000, the military moved my family and I to Fairbanks. My parents, originally from International Falls, MN, naturally fell in love with this beautifully frozen state and my dad has since retired here. As a result I was able to graduate high school in Fairbanks, and decided to attend UAF. Alaska is the place I have lived the longest and while at first I couldn’t stand the cold and dark, I have grown to love it here. Alaska is my home.

During my time at UAF, I earned my BS in Psychology and took classes in sports psychology, sports management, nutrition, chemistry, biology, calculus, and various business classes. I was a member of the women’s cross country running team from 2008-2012 where I eventually earned my spot as team captain my
senior year.

After graduation, I moved to Anchorage where I became child and adult CPR and First Aid certified and worked as a preschool teacher assistant at Anchor Lutheran School. I dedicated my time outside of work to learning everything I could about yoga.

I returned home to Fairbanks this summer, and began working toward becoming a certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist with International Sports Science Association (ISSA) and National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM).

I feel very fortunate to be able to work as the After School Program Guide and Physical Education Coordinator for Spruce Tree Montessori. My hope is to guide children to fun and active ways to be and stay healthy – mind, body and soul.