Meet Us!

Erin Conway – Head of School

My career in Montessori education began in 1991 as a teacher’s assistant. It was then that I fell in love with the Montessori Method of Education and decided to pursue it as a career. In 1994 I completed my Montessori Teacher Training and became a certified teacher. For several years I worked as a Head Teacher and then in 2000 I co-founded Montessori Cottage.

Over the years, in addition to running The Cottage, I have worked as a Head Teacher, Conference Presenter, Teacher Trainer, Parent Educator, Field Consultant and Adjunct Professor at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. I am an active member the PA Montessori Heads Group and co-founder of the PA Montessori Alliance.  My husband and I have two children; a son in High School and a daughter in College (who is studying to be a teacher!). I have an Infant/Toddler Certification through the American Montessori Association as well as a Master’s Degree in Education.

Sandy Gayda – Primary Teacher/Director of Education

I have been a Primary teacher for over 25 years and become more passionate about the Montessori philosophy with each passing year. My degree is in Education and Sociology. I currently hold a NJ, PA and American Montessori Society Teaching credential.

As a young child, I often felt anxious and nervous about school. I made it my mission to pursue a career that would change the experiences of young children on their journey through school. I wanted learning to be meaningful to each individual child and ignite a fire for curiosity about the world around them. Dr. Montessori’s philosophy spoke to me and it guides me in my mission each day…to follow the child and meet him where he is.

Each day is a learning experience for me. I learn from my husband, my two older sons, my students, my colleagues, nature and the world around me. If I were asked three places I love to be, I would say with my family, in nature and in my Montessori classroom.

Erin McCallum – Toddler Teacher

I have always loved being around children. Watching them see, hear or learn something for the first time is thrilling to me! I am in awe of the promise and future of the little people that I encounter. My siblings went to a Montessori school and my parents loved the program. In college I took a part time job at a Montessori School. I fell in love with the philosophy and that began the beginning of my career. After college, I received my AMS Montessori Infant/Toddler Certification. I have worked in a Montessori Toddler classroom since 1991. I love that Montessori respects the child’s needs and that through observation, we can satisfy these needs with simple yet meaningful materials.

My husband and I have three daughters; one in elementary school, one in middle school and one in high school. I am a Board Member of the Montessori Teachers Association of PA, and in my spare time I enjoy reading, running, visiting Art museums, travel, independent movies and I love fashion! I am a proud breast cancer survivor since 2012.

Leslie Lamonsoff – Primary Assistant/Art Teacher

Following college graduation, I spent 20 years in the marketing field. After staying home to raise my son for 10 years, I returned to work and have been with Montessori Cottage since 2015.

I was first introduced to the Montessori Method of teaching by my cousin who has owned a Montessori school for over 20 years in NJ. When visiting the school, I was amazed by the children’s independence and motivation. As an Assistant teacher in the 3-6 classroom, I find great fulfilment in watching the children’s excitement and wonder every day. The open classroom environment promotes a unique community environment that is not found in typical preschool environments. I love the challenge of working with children. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a child learn and grow right before your eyes!

When not in school, I enjoy reading, bowling, and spending time with my teenage son, my family and friends.

Alissa Kovalcik – Toddler Assistant

I’ve always had a passion for children but didn’t pursue it as a career until my time in the Airforce came to an end. I joined the Airforce to help pay for a higher education. During my studies, my calling to teach children was fortified. I am currently enrolled in Early Childhood Care and Education at American Military University. There are multiple ways to teach a child, and there are many different children to teach. Among those ways, the Montessori Method of teaching is the one that calls to me. I’m excited to learn and expand my knowledge alongside my co-workers.

I was born and raised in Massachusetts but throughout my time in the military I have traveled through the US and overseas. My husband is active duty Marine Corps. We have two German Shorthaired Pointer puppies that we love with all our hearts. In my free time, I like to spend it with my husband, our families, and our dogs. I enjoy our nature, vacations, the beach, and camping.