Frequently Asked Questions
About Our School
Establishing lifelong success with Montessori education and a community focus
“This place feels just the same as I remember it.”
We hear this often from former West Hills’ students enrolling their own children in our program. It always makes us smile because the story of West Hills Montessori is about multiple generations stepping into the same vision.
We opened our first Montessori classroom in 1968, in what has come to be known as the “Little Red Schoolhouse” on SW Vermont Street in Portland.
We opened our Lake Oswego campus in 2003, a beautiful facility in the West Lake neighborhood, right off I-5.
We are a rich and diverse learning community. Today more than 200 children, from Toddler through Elementary, are enrolled at our two campuses. We have attracted a dedicated and talented team of faculty and staff who bring diverse backgrounds and experience to their work.
As one of the oldest Montessori programs in Oregon, West Hills has for decades provided the highest quality educational experiences for our students, while spreading awareness and helping to build and support the regional Montessori community. Founder, Nancy Hildick, was instrumental in bringing AMI Montessori Teacher Training to Portland in 1979 and we continue to host teachers in training from Montessori Northwest during each school year. All West Hills teachers are certified by the Association Montessori Internationale.
Over the years our classrooms have multiplied but our mission has remained the same. Generations of children have passed through our doors and gone on to succeed in secondary school and in life. This is our proud legacy. We are honored to have earned your trust, and look forward to many more years offering the exceptional learning experiences upon which lifelong success is built.
Events & Announcements
By Ashley Keneller, Upper Elementary Guide, Vermont Street Campus: Redwood Room In every Montessori classroom at every level, students and their Guides strive to maintain a healthy balance between freedom and responsibility. This means that when an individual child or...
Anne Blickenstaff, Head of School
Anne was born in Hanover, New Hampshire and her family moved to Oregon when she was six. Born into a family of educational pioneers (her grandmother and mother founded the West Hills Learning Center and West Hills Montessori, respectively), Anne joined the West Hills staff as a Spanish specialist and After Care support staff member when she was still in high school. After earning her BA in Marketing and Finance from the University of Oregon, she attended Montessori Northwest and received her AMI Primary teaching certification in 1983. After guiding a Montessori Primary class at Vermont Street for many years, in 2000 Anne left the classroom to take the role of Administrator. Anne has made it her life’s work to continue her family’s legacy of educational leadership, vision and community.
Anne lives in Lake Oswego with her husband Todd and their dog Kenzie. Their daughter Katie (a West Hills graduate!) attends Oregon State. In her free time she enjoys family time at the Oregon Coast, reading and cooking.
Delila Olsson, Program Director
A native Oregonian, Delila grew up in Eugene and fell in love with Montessori education while working as a classroom assistant. That experience, which changed the course of her career, led her to earn an AMI Primary teaching credential from Montessori Northwest in 1988. She also holds a BA in Human Studies from Marylhurst University and an MEd from the TIES program affiliated with Endicott College. After ten years guiding Montessori classes in Dallas, Houston, and Portland, and a few years away to focus on raising her son, Delila joined the West Hills community in 2003 to help with the opening of our Lake Oswego campus. Her experience as a classroom Guide, mentor, staff trainer, and parent educator, prepared Delila for her current role as Program Director, in which she oversees program development initiatives that support our community of children, families and staff.
Delila is mother to one adult son, Elliott. Other joys include writing, making art, gardening, and hiking in the beautiful forests of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in a cottage in Lake Oswego with her cat, Staccato.
Ashley Keneller, Elementary Program Advisor
Having grown up in the suburbs of Sacramento, Ashley considers the Pacific Northwest her home. She first joined the West Hills community in 2009 as a PM Care Team Member, and later stepped into the role of assistant in the Elementary class, where she developed a passion for Montessori education. After spending a year in Italy, immersed in a course of study which included practicum teaching experiences in Norway, France and Germany, Ashley received her AMI Elementary Diploma from Centro Internazionale Studi Montessoriani. She described it as “a dream come true” to return to West Hills and resume her work in the Elementary community.
In additional to her Montessori credential, Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Oregon, where she also worked on a literary magazine. Her love of travel, cooking, crafts, camping, and reading provide additional enrichment to her work in the classroom.
Kelsey Silva, Office Director (Lake Oswego)
Born and raised in Medford, Oregon, Kelsey moved to Eugene to attend the University of Oregon where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology with a minor in Business Administration. Following college, Kelsey made her way to Portland and joined the West Hills community in 2006 as part of our aftercare team. She spent many years as a Primary classroom assistant and administrative assistant before moving into her role as Office Director at the Lake Oswego campus.
Kelsey lives with her husband and two energetic boys; both West Hills Lake Oswego campus alumni! When not working at school, Kelsey enjoys walks with her family, watching her children play all the sports, cooking, camping, time outdoors and, especially, kicking around a soccer ball.
Melissa Wilcox, Office Director (Vermont Street)
Melissa is a native Oregonian with strong ties to the West Hills Montessori community. As a child in the early 1980s, she attended West Hills. She distinctly remembers sitting in class one day, working and experimenting on the braiding frame!
During her teenage years, Melissa happily cared for the children in her neighborhood. After high school, she came full circle and returned to West Hills, this time as an employee. Melissa’s kind nature and thoughtful approach to her work led to success in a variety of roles, both in the classroom and in administrative support. Melissa enjoyed a brief adventure living in Idaho in the early 2000s, where she worked with toddlers at a local Montessori School. She then returned to the Portland area and happily rejoined the West Hills community.
Melissa’s path has always been inspired by Dr. Montessori, who overcame professional adversity and tenaciously advocated for children. “Maria Montessori found the spark in each child, and built their education on that spark,” she said. Melissa strongly believes in providing a hands-on learning environment for children, where they have the freedom to pursue what interests them, at their chosen pace. Following her passion, Melissa completed the AMI Assistants to Infancy (0-3) Diploma Course at Montessori Northwest in 2013. She was Lead Guide in the toddler community at the West Hills Lake Oswego campus from 2013-2022, before becoming Office Director at our Vermont Street Campus.
Melissa is married to her high school sweetheart, Matt. Together they have two children, Parker and Ivy, as well as a variety of beloved pets. In her free time, Melissa enjoys reading, going to concerts, gardening, and exploring Oregon with her family.
Alan Wood, Administrative Assistant (Vermont Street)
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Alan joined the staff at West Hills in 2002, as a summer swim instructor at the pool. Having previously worked in another Montessori program, his passion for working with children led him to the Montessori Northwest, where he earned an AMI Primary teaching credential in 2003. He also holds a BA in Sociology from Principia and a Masters Degree in Education from Loyola University. Over the years, Alan has worn a number of different hats at West Hills, including Assisting in the Elementary classroom, supervising the Before and After Care Programs, and assisting Teresa in Primary. He is currently an Administrative Assistant at both Lake Oswego and Vermont Street campuses.
Alan resides in Lake Oswego with his two beautiful sons, Kyle and Connor. In their free time, Alan and his family enjoy trips to the Zoo, time together with family and friends, and going to the Oregon Coast. On his own, Alan loves woodworking, movies, and the Blazers!
Jessica Sturdivant, Program Support Specialist; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisor
Jessica Sturdivant joined the staff at West Hills in 2008, first in the After School Care program, then as a Primary Assistant. Shortly thereafter, she earned her AMI Primary Diploma from Montessori Northwest (MNW) in Portland, earned a Master of Education at Loyola University, and guided the Maple Class from 2010 – 2016. Jessica earned her AMI Montessori Elementary diploma from MNW in 2017 and assisted the Upper Elementary class at West Hills for the following two years. Eager to learn what comes next for Montessori Elementary students, Jessica participated in the AMI/NAMTA Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies in Huntsburg, Ohio, and earned her Certificate in 2018. When our Lower Elementary expanded in 2019, Jessica stepped into the role of Guide for the new Ginkgo class.
In 2021, Jessica completed the AMI Montessori Administrator’s Course through the Whole School Leadership Institute, as well as the Anti-Bias, Antiracist Certificate Program through the American Montessori Society. Her broad training in Montessori education along with her many years of classroom experience uniquely prepare her for the roles of Program Support Specialist and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisor.
Jessica grew up in New York and earned a BA in Studio Art from Oberlin College in Ohio. As an educator at Echo Hill Outdoor School in Maryland, Jessica observed an innate curiosity and love of learning in the students who visited from Montessori schools. After two years coaching the Oberlin College field hockey team, Jessica moved to Portland and found West Hills Montessori. She and her husband, Skippy, have two children, Wiley and Ferdinand. They live on a farm in Warren, Oregon, where they enjoy raising sheep, alpacas, goats, chickens, ducks, and pigs.
Julie Vaillancourt, On-site Substitute (Vermont Street)
Julie Vaillancourt fell across Montessori education during a Google search in 2006. The philosophy felt so right it gave her chills! By fall of 2007, she had received her Primary AMI Diploma from Montessori Northwest, a Master of Education from Loyola College in Maryland, and was leading a Primary classroom at West Hills Montessori School. After a few years of teaching, assisting, and supporting AM Care and the Spanish program, Julie got the travel bug and spent some time teaching in Kazakhstan and Nigeria. Upon return, she worked in the medical field doing administrative work, met her husband, and had two fantastic sons. When the pandemic hit and she quit her medical job to be with her children, she realized just how much she missed the Montessori world, and rejoined it in early 2021. She is very happy to be working at West Hills, where her journey first began.
Julie is a native Oregonian who loves the rain. She used to row crew at Skidmore College, pilot single-engine aircraft, and attend local concerts. These days she loves to play with her two little boys, snag a rare date night with her husband, and hike with friends. One day, when the kids are a bit more self-sufficient, she hopes to travel, backpack, read an actual book again, and lie on the couch without guilt.
Merrie Sturgeon, Special Events
A vital part of the West Hills Schools community since 1983, Merrie spent 18 years working as a classroom Guide before joining the Administrative team. After 30 years in service to the children and families at West Hills, Merrie retired from her position as Assistant Administrator in 2016. Fortunately for all of us, she remains connected to our community through support of special projects and events – including our 50th Anniversary! – and as a substitute Guide and administrative support.
Monica Motsko, Administrative Assistant (Vermont Street)
Monica grew up in the SF Bay Area and moved to Portland 20 years ago to work at Shriner’s Hospital for Children. She graduated high school from a Waldorf farm school and earned her BA in Psychology from Prescott College, where her passion for alternative educational models blossomed. Monica explains that, “Montessori resonates deeply with my learning style of being self-directed, experiential, sensorial, logically sequenced, and interest-based with lessons individually designed and paced.”
She completed her Montessori Primary teacher training and started working here at West Hills in 2004. She also earned her M.Ed. from Loyola in 2005, and later that year, she and her husband Jason, had their first son. She worked both as a post-partum doula and substitute Montessori Guide for about 7 years while home with her two sons.
Pam Byrne, Accounts Manager
Bio Coming Soon