Vermont Street Campus

Photo Gallery

The Red Schoolhouse on SW Vermont Street

Beginning with a single Montessori classroom in 1968, over more than 50 years our SW campus has grown to include four Primary (3-6) classes and three Elementary (6-9 and 9-12) classes. Generations of children and families have come through our doors, forming the rich tapestry of community that is West Hills Montessori School.


Primary Montessori

Elementary Montessori

Childcare Programs

Summer Program

Contact Information

4920 SW Vermont Street
Portland, OR 97219
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p: 503-246-5495
f: 503-246-5496

Vermont Street Faculty and Staff

Primary Guides

Aura Sagner, Primary Guide

Aura Sagner, Primary Guide (Laurel Room)

A longtime West Hills staff member, Aura is a trained Montessori Guide with a passion for working with children.

Having grown up in Fort Collins, CO, Aura moved to Portland to attend Lewis and Clark College, where she earned a BA in History and English. A few years later she completed the Primary Montessori (3-6) teacher training at Montessori Institute Northwest, followed by a master’s degree in teaching with a concentration in Montessori from Loyola University. Having begun her teaching career at West Hills those many years ago, where she gained experience in both Assistant and Guide roles before taking some years away to focus on raising her children, stepping back into the role of Guide has been a full circle experience for Aura.

When she’s not at West Hills, Aura enjoys spending time with her husband, Matt, who is an RN at OHSU, and her two sons, Ezra and Noah. Their family also includes a tiny black and white dog named Penny.

Carissa O'Brien, Primary Guide

Carissa O'Brien, Primary Guide (Fig Room)

Carissa is a second generation Montessori Guide and has served young children since she was quite young herself. In her career so far she has been a teacher, Guide, mentor and administrator at schools in California, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon. Carissa earned a BA in Cultural Anthropology from UCSC, a M.Ed in Montessori Education from Loyola University and an AMI Primary Diploma from Montessori Northwest. She has worked as a Lead Guide at Montessori Schools since 2004 and delights in nurturing dynamic communities of joyful, compassionate students using Montessori pedagogy and supporting holistic growth through timely lessons with Montessori materials. Carissa lives in Portland with her husband and two children and together they enjoy exploring the NW wilderness in every season with their adventurous Pug and Pomeranian.

Lydia Mirocha, Primary Guide

Lydia Mirocha, Primary Guide (Maple Room)

Lydia Mirocha grew up in Oakland, California, where her mother led an established Montessori program. Lydia attended her mom’s school from the time she was a toddler through 5th grade. She transitioned into a public middle school for 6th grade, but the seeds of her future career had already been sown. After graduating from Sacramento State University with a degree in Liberal Studies, Lydia attended Montessori Northwest here in Portland, where she earned her AMI Primary Diploma in 2008. She completed her M.Ed. from Loyola University Maryland the following summer. Lydia joined the West Hills community in 2008 and was a beloved Guide in the Sunflower class for six years. She left that classroom in 2014 to devote her attention to her newborn twins, Audrey and Jack. She told us at that time that she would like to return to her work at West Hills as soon as her children we ready to attend a Montessori toddler program, and we are so glad she did! When she is not at West Hills, Lydia enjoys times with her husband, Mark, and their children. Other interests include hot yoga, cooking, and eating good food.

Morgan Bate, Primary Guide (Willow Room)

Morgan grew up in Hawaii and first moved to Portland in 2005. After several years teaching English in Morocco, she returned to Portland in 2014 and found her home in a Montessori classroom. She joined West Hills in 2016 and is delighted to be part of the West Hills community. Morgan spends most of her free time outdoors, and your children may have heard her latest tales of the Timberline Trail. Morgan earned a B.A. from St. John’s College, an AMI Primary Diploma from Montessori Northwest, and a M.Ed. in Montessori Education from Loyola University Maryland.

Lower Elementary Guides

Kelly Hale, Elementary Guide (Cedar Room)

An experienced and passionate educator, Kelly explored several educational approaches before choosing Montessori. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Humboldt State University, and has worked in a traditional elementary school program as a tutor. Kelly also spent many years working in the field of Outdoor Education, including as a SCUBA Diving Instructor for teens, which allowed her to work with a variety of children from diverse backgrounds. Through this work, Kelly had the privilege of meeting a group of Montessori students and was later invited to spend a day in their Montessori classroom. That experience changed her life and her career path. She worked for two years as a Lower Elementary classroom assistant before completing her AMI Elementary training at Montessori Northwest in Portland and her Master’s in Education from Loyola University in Baltimore. Kelly joined our West Hills community in 2014 as a Lower Elementary Guide. In her free time, she enjoys listening to live music, visiting local farmers markets, traveling, and laughing with friends.


Michelle Long, Elementary Guide

Michelle Long, Elementary Guide (Ginkgo Room)

A natural and accomplished educator, Michelle explored several educational approaches before choosing Montessori as her life work. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Liberal Studies from San Diego State University, and AMI (6-12) Diploma from Montessori Northwest, and a Masters in Montessori Education from Loyola University. Michelle has worked with children in a traditional elementary school setting, as well as a swimming instructor. In fact, it was during her 20 years teaching swim lessons to children of all ages and diverse backgrounds that she found Montessori. When a client observed that Michelle was teaching swimming in a similar way a Montessori teacher works with children, by following the child, her life and career path were forever changed. Michelle joined the West Hills community in 2019 and spent three years assisting Kelly Hale in the Cedar Room before accepting the position as Guide in the Ginkgo Room. In her spare time, Michelle enjoys swimming, snorkeling, traveling, laughing with friends, listening to music, and cooking.

Upper Elementary Guide

Jessica Sturdivant, Elementary Guide (Redwood Room)

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. In 2022, she was delighted to step in as Guide for the upper elementary community in the Redwood Room.

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.

Mary Holland, Redwood Auxiliary Assistant

Mary Holland, Redwood Auxiliary Assistant and Program Support

 A native of Portland, Mary discovered Montessori when looking for a dynamic learning environment for her son. Mary attended Primary training at Montessori Northwest and then worked here at West Hills an an Elementary Assistant. Mary continued her training in Elementary at Montessori Center of Minnesota. 

After many years as an elementary guide, Mary decided to step into a less demanding role and returned to West Hills as an Elementary Auxiliary Assistant. Mary has a Bachelor of Science from University of Oregon's School of Architecture and Allied Arts. She loves kayaking, gardening, reading, and all things related to human growth and potential.








Alejandra Murillo, Elementary Spanish Specialist and PM Care Supervisor

Ally was born in Lima, Peru, and spent the first five years of her life in her home country before moving with her family to Boston, MA. Her passion for working with children lead Ally to become a preschool teacher in 2016, later earning a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Bridgewater State University. Following college, Ally moved to Portland, where she held positions as a nanny and as a behavioral specialist. As much as she loved those jobs, Ally was drawn to once again working with children in a classroom setting and was delighted to take on the role as Spanish Language Specialist at West Hills. She dedicated to supporting children to grow in their cultural understanding and experiences.

When she’s not teaching, Ally enjoys hiking, camping, exploring, and getting behind the lens of her camera as her passion for photography continues to grow.

Liz Hayden, Drama Specialist

Liz has worked in the West Hills community in a variety of wonderful capacities since 2009. In recent years, Liz was a core contributor to our Primary program, beloved by our younger students who know her as a familiar face on campus in her role as All-School Support. A huge supporter of our Elementary program, she has assisted in our classrooms, facilitated After School Care programs, and taught Drama on campus during summer school. Liz curated a rich Shakespeare curriculum for the Redwood community which she leads each year. Liz is thrilled to be back in the classroom this year, serving as Upper Elementary Assistant in the Redwood Room.

Liz holds a BA in Theatre from Southern Oregon University, as well as an MFA in Theatre and Performance from Northern Illinois University. Following graduate school, Liz spent time in Los Angeles teaching the Meisner Technique of acting to adults, and teaching classes in improvisation and on-camera acting for children. She also managed an arts camp in Santa Monica. Since moving to Portland in 2005, Liz has taught acting and directed children’s theatre projects through the Lakewood Theatre and Northwest Children's Theater & School, as well as at many local public and private elementary schools.


Kathryn Claire, Primary Music Specialist

Kathryn Claire brings joy and enthusiasm to her work with children. She has been performing and teaching professionally since 2005 and her music has taken her across the globe. Kathryn grew up in a musical family and started singing before she could speak and dancing at the age of three. She cannot remember a time when she was not singing, dancing, creating or performing during her early years.

She began playing violin at the age of seven and composing her own music. She taught herself to play guitar in high school and has spent years cultivating her own style and approach to music as a violinist, guitar player, singer and songwriter. Strong fundamentals from her classical and traditional music background combined with a keen sense of harmony and collaboration has made her a favorite  at venues, festivals and schools around the world.

She has toured and taught extensively in the US, Japan, India, Holland, Belgium and France.

Kathryn Claire first joined the West Hills community in 2007 when she moved to Portland. In her first year she worked as an assistant in a primary classroom. She worked until 2010 in various roles including aftercare, summer specialist camp instructor and as an artist in residence.

In 2018 she began teaching Music and Movement in the toddler and primary classes at both Vermont Street and Lake Oswego campuses. She also collaborates with Drama Specialist, Liz Hayden, to produce Elementary musical theatre performances.


After School Care

Elisabeth Zarnick, Primary Nap & PM Care Supervisor

Elisabeth Zarnick, Primary Nap & PM Care Supervisor

Elisabeth joined the Primary PM Care team at West Hills Montessori in 2022, after many years of working in the service industry. She received her BA in Economics in 2016 but began as a Liberal Studies major, and always circled back to her interest in education. While pursuing a post-baccalaureate in Mathematics, she was introduced to the Montessori philosophy and model by a friend and long-time staff member at West Hills. Elisabeth quickly fell in love with the pedagogy, which led to her current position in the West Hills community. She has found great value in her role of facilitating play and a warm, caring after-school environment for children after a day of classroom excitement. Her love of music, art, and movement are used to enrich the program, and she enjoys modeling the willingness to try new things to the children in her care every day. 

Vermont Street Campus Photos