I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.
— John Steinbeck


Taylor Dillard graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017 with a degree in Psychology and a Human Services concentration. She spent a year teaching in a traditional five star preschool in Raleigh before moving back to the high country. After starting as one of the assistants in Pre Primary, she fell in love with the Montessori philosophy and knew this was where her heart belonged. She is so excited to be joining us as the lead teacher this year! She is currently completing training through the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in Huntersville, NC to receive her Infant/Toddler Montessori certification. She is so excited to be back this school year, she loves working with the toddlers as they learn and grow so much every day!

Maddie Carr-Andresen completed her undergraduate degree in English Secondary Education in 2017 and is currently working on obtaining two Masters' in Reading Education and English. She loves working with children of all ages, gardening, baking, and playing with her 18-year-old kitty Cottonball.

Rachel Conway is a recent graduate from Appalachian State University with a BS in psychology, concentration in sustainability, and minor in sustainable development. Rachel has a wide range of interests including learning about the human mind and behavior, maintaining a sustainable lifestyle, and learning how to maintain a homestead. When she is not at Mountain Pathways you will most likely find her rafting, exploring new trails in the High Country, or developing a new recipe with locally grown food.




Sara Drum began working in the 3-6 class at MPS in 1999 after graduating from ASU with a BS in Psychology and a concentration in Child Development, as well as graduating from the Interdisciplinary Studies program offered through Watauga College at ASU. She received her Montessori Certification in her second year at MPS at The Center For Montessori Teacher Education in Raleigh NC. She took off two years in 2013 after the birth of her twin boys and has returned back to work in the Primary East classroom. Her sons are in the other 3-6 class with Ellen. She has seen Mountain Pathways go through a lot of changes over the last 17-plus years and she is always inspired by the constant dedication and love the teachers bring to Mountain Pathways. "It is so wonderful to be a part of such an amazing community and to share the Montessori Philosophy with the incredible children that I have the privilege to teach."

Simone Santos has worked with children for many years as a mentor and caregiver. Her calm and peaceful demeanor is a wonderful fit for the primary classroom. She is excited to learn more about the Montessori philosophy. Simone has a strong love of animals- we have named her caretaker of our fish, and she is happy to give some love to any puppies who make the car ride to school!


PRIMARY WEST (3-6 years)

Deborah Young graduated from Houghton College in 2005 with a BS in Accounting and Business Administration. She discovered her true passion for early childhood education after having children and watching them learn and grow. Deborah is currently pursuing Montessori Certification through CMTE/NC. When she's not studying, Deborah enjoys cooking, baking, creating tiny objects, and getting out in nature.

Dianne Finch has been an assistant in Primary West for the last 3 years. She came to Mountain Pathways when her two daughters, who are now 11 and 13, attended school here. She has a degree in social work and worked in child care licensing, social services, and in the adoption field. She has worked with children for the last 20 years in many settings including preschools and nannying. She has lived in Boone for 11 years with her husband.  They share 60 acres with her sister and parents which gives them space for two dogs, a big fat cat, and a lion head bunny, as well as a big garden and greenhouse.

Taylor Cody spent his undergrad at UNC Chapel Hill and Appalachian State University. He completed undergrad in 2016 and is currently a graduate student in the Experimental Psychology program at ASU, focusing on researching interpersonal relationships and dynamics. He has been a member of the Mountain Pathways community for a long time. First as a student in the 3-6 and 6-9 classes as a child and then again as an assistant teacher for the 2016-2017 school year. Since then, I’ve spent time as a graduate Teaching Assistant and also taught his own psychology lab at ASU. He says, “I’ve had experience teaching 3 year olds and college undergrads!” Now, he’s back and excited to be at Mountain Pathways again this year!




Tori Pendleton - After graduating from Appalachian State University, Tori Pendleton became a licensed public school educator. Her degree in Elementary Education led her to pursue a teaching career in Wilmington, where she served as a teacher's assistant in a 1st, 3rd, and 5th-grade classroom. Tori felt her teaching experiences lacked diversity and she began to research alternative teaching methods. She found Mountain Pathways Montessori School, moved back up to Boone, and was hired in 2018 as an assistant teacher in the primary classroom. In addition to her role as a teachers assistant, she also served as the lead for Mountain Pathways after school program and this summer she was the director for DIGit_Farm Camp. Tori is motivated by the sweet faces that walk through the classroom doors every morning.

Learning about the Montessori approach alongside her students has been an invaluable experience. She is excited for another year at Mountain Pathways, teaching the elementary classroom alongside Austin Venrick.

Austin Venrick is a lifelong Mountaineer, with both of his parents attending Appalachian State. He graduated from Appalachian State in 2012 with a degree in English Secondary Education and spent three and a half years teaching high school English in the North Carolina Public School System. More recently, he has spent time at home raising his daughter. Austin has returned to Boone because his wife Heather has taken a job as a member of the clinical nursing faculty at Appalachian State. He loves comic books, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and soccer. He is excited to take the next step in his educational career with Mountain Pathways.




Matt Alexander is the Assistant Director. He first started working at Mountain Pathways in 2007 after graduating from ASU with a degree in Sustainable Development. After working several years in the office and in the Upper Elementary he went away for a few years to study Calculus, Differential Equations, Physics and whole lot more. When he came back to MPS in 2016 he was excited to share his love of math and science with the middle school. In addition to teaching math and science, Matt also serves as the Assistant Director and Director of Summer Programs.


Taylor Cody (Teacher’s Assistant in Primary West) and Rachel Conway (Teacher’s Assistant in Pre-Primary) lead our after-school program with other staff rotating in and out to assist.

Familiar faces

Sara Mason and Ann Rousseau are other familiar faces around Mountain Pathways. They have been subbing in a variety of roles over the last few years. 


Interested in joining the staff at Mountain Pathways? Learn more.