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


Katie Williams graduated from Appalachian State University in 2012 with a degree in Elementary Education and immediately begin working at Mountain Pathways in the Primary West classroom. She fell in love with Montessori and the philosophy and knew this was where her heart was. She worked at Mountain Pathways for four years as an assistant while attaining her Infant/Toddler Montessori Certification through NAMC along with her Infant/Toddler degree from Stanley Community College. She taught for two years at Two Rivers, primarily in the Second Grade. She returns as the Lead Pre-Primary Teacher. She brings a great deal of energy, enthusiasm, and creativity to our community!

Taylor Bumgarner graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017 with a degree in Psychology. She spent a year teaching in a traditional day care in Raleigh before moving back to the high country. She learned a bit about Montessori in her psychology course work and is very eager to learn more. She loves working with the toddlers as they learn and grow so much every day!

Elizabeth Eckel comes to us after working at Chantilly Montessori School in Charlotte. She worked in primary, lower elementary, and upper elementary during her time there. Elizabeth is excited to learn about the younger age as she joins the preprimary team. Elizabeth joins the older after school group after 4 pm every day.




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.

Tori Pendelton graduated from Appalachian State in 2017 with a degree in Elementary Education. After a year working in public school, she is excited to learn more about Montessori philosophy. She will be heading up the afterschool program for children ages 3 and up.




Brian Lynch brings Montessori experience and training in both Primary and Lower Elementary age groups. He co-taught Primary East with Sara for two years before transitioning this year to Lower Elementary. His enthusiasm for learning and teaching using the Montessori method engages children immensely. He is a strong addition to our elementary program. 

Kay Holler joins the lower elementary to assist Brian. She will help guide after school, as well. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2017. Last year, she worked for Grandfather Home for Children. She is very excited to learn more about Montessori.



Kristy Hackler is the upper elementary (9-12 year-olds) teacher at Mountain Pathways. Originally from the small, rural farming community of Stanley, North Carolina, Kristy attended North Carolina State University to pursue a degree in Landscape Horticulture. After graduation she traveled overseas and lived in Naples, Italy. With a mother and grandmother who were both teachers, Kristy serendipitously ended up assisting at a Montessori school at an international military base called AFSOUTH. It was there that she realized that she truly liked teaching and loved the students. She has been teaching Montessori for over ten years now and continues to discover, learn, and grow along with her students. “The love of learning is an infectious idea that permeates our days both inside and outside the classroom,” says Kristy. “Teaching at Mountain Pathways has been such an enriching and positive experience. I am looking forward to the continuance of watching children grow, learn, and become amazing people because of who they are and what we do.”

Emily Shack has been in Boone since 1997. She attended Appalachian State University and now has 3 children with her husband David. She has spent the almost 10 years involved in childhood education and is in the 9-12 year-old room assisting Mrs. Kristy again this year.


MPMS Assistant Director  Matt Alexander and Austin Venrick share the day in the middle school as Co-Teachers, with Matt teaching math and science in the morning and Austin taking over for English, Social Studies and more! 

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.



Ellen Lewis took the role of Interim Director in the summer of 2018. She has a BS in Business from Wake Forest University and a Master's in Montessori Education from Loyola University. After college, Ellen worked as the Operations Director for a medium-sized law firm in Atlanta. While she gained a great deal of experience in running a business, she realized after several years there that her heart is with children. She knew a bit about Montessori since she attended a Montessori school from the ages of two to eight, but what sold her on the philosophy was working as an assistant in a Montessori primary classroom. She received her AMI primary training the following year at the Washington Montessori Institute along with her Master's degree. She worked as a lead primary teacher in Atlanta for three years before taking a break to be at home with her children. When her family moved to Boone, she knew Mountain Pathways was the place for her oldest child, who was three at the time. When Sara took maternity leave, Ellen stepped in as the lead teacher in Primary West. She was lead teacher in that class for five years before taking on this new role. She is thrilled and excited to be part of the next chapter of Mountain Pathways history!



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.



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