Whoever touches the life of the child touches the most sensitive point of a whole which has roots in the most distant past and climbs toward the infinite future.
All of our teachers at Giving Tree are personally committed to the exciting and dynamic work of teaching children by allowing them the freedom and respect to make their own choices within our uniquely structured environment. The six fully certified Montessori teachers share a combined Montessori experience of 133 years and maintain a teacher/student ratio of 1:8.
Please meet them individually.
Gisela Tilch - Director / Teacher / Owner
Staff member since 1995
Originally from Germany, Gisela loves living in Colorado. Teaching has always been her dream ever since girlhood. She received her Montessori Early Childhood Teaching Certificate from the Montessori Institute of America (MIA) and fall 2012 is the start of her 22nd year as a Montessori teacher. Her 10-year dream of having her own Montessori school came true when GTM opened its doors in 1995. Every single day she thanks the universe for giving her the opportunity to be in the presence of the most wonderful staff team, parent group and children.
Gisela is a faculty member of the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies (MECR) in Boulder, Colorado where she teaches History as well as the very comprehensive Geography Curriculum she has developed for the Early Childhood Classroom. She was invited to Winnipeg, Canada to present that curriculum to the Manitoba Montessori Teachers Association In October 2010 as well as at the regional AMS conference in Estes Park October 2011. Gisela is the author of two teaching manuals: Geography in the Early Childhood Classroom and Material Guides for the Montessori Sensorial Materials and has developed several enrichment materials for the Geography, Peace and Sensorial curriculum areas.
Gisela has two daughters, Pamela and Chelsea, and two grandsons, Alex, a Montessori Kindergartner in South Carolina, and Carter.
Judy Feeney - Head Teacher
Staff member since 1995
2012 / 2013 marks Judy’s 34th year as a Montessori teacher in a classroom of three to six year old children. She enriches the curriculum with emphasis on peace and tolerance using her extensive music background and guitar. She has developed and implemented a wonderful peace curriculum which blends well with the Montessori approach to teaching. Judy was selected to present this curriculum entitled “A Montessori Peace Curriculum Made Simple” at the American Montessori Society (AMS) National Conferences in Miami, Chicago, Breckenridge, New York (for the 100 year anniversary of Montessori Education in 2007) and New Orleans. She has been invited to schools to hold teacher workshops, to include the Association of Montessori Teachers of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada and the Chinese Montessori Society in Beijing, China.
Judy has one son, Grant, who is a pediatrician specializing in infectious disease in Birmingham, AL. Grant and his wife Jenn had Baby Evelyn in March 2012, and Grandma goes as often as she can to see them.
Jenny Pelton - Teacher
Staff member since 2003
Jenny has lived in Colorado Springs since 1974. She has been married for 27 years and has two children, Ryan, age 23, and Amy, 14, both Montessori Kindergarten graduates. Ryan graduated in 2011 from the University of Colorado in Boulder with a degree ion Architecture and Amy is a freshman at Cheyenne Mountain High School. Jenny graduated from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs with a Degree in Letters, Arts and Sciences. In 1996 she took her Montessori Elementary Training at the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies (MECR) in Boulder and worked as an elementary school teacher in a Montessori school for the next four years. After Amy was born in 1998 she wanted to work with younger children and in 2003 returned to MECR to complete her Montessori Early Childhood Training. She served her internship at Giving Tree Montessori and has worked there happily ever since. She completed her Colorado Directors Certification for Early Childhood Development in 2012.
She feels very blessed to work in such a wonderful, peaceful school. She enjoys hiking, biking and practicing yoga.
Jessica Newell - Teacher
Staff member since 2004
Jessica grew up in Virginia and graduated from The College of William and Mary in 2001 with a degree in Biology and Environmental Science. She then became a member of AmeriCorps NCCC and was a professional volunteer throughout the western states. Jessica received her Montessori Early Childhood Teaching Certificate from the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies (MECR) in Boulder, Colorado, in the summer of 2004. She was incredibly lucky at that point to have Judy and Gisela as instructors and very quickly became part of the Giving Tree community. In February 2009 Jessica was honored to attend the American Montessori Conference as Ms. Judy's technical assistant. It was truly inspirational to witness how Giving Tree is seen by Montessorians across the country as a beacon of peace.
Jessica lives in Manitou Springs with her partner Matt and dog Shing. She feels so blessed to have found this amazing school, incredible mentors, and a beautiful home.
Amber Leusden – Teacher
Staff member since 2010
Ever since Amber can remember, teaching children was always her dream. Through various courses she was fortunate to learn about many different philosophies of early childhood education available today. Through these courses she was introduced to Montessori and fell in love with the approach. This led her to The Montessori Center of the Rockies in Boulder Colorado to complete her training in 2009. Being a Colorado Springs native she feels very blessed to be home and incredibly honored to be a part of the GTM community.
Amber enjoys spending time with her family and friends, many outdoor activities such as hiking, golf, and skiing. Amber is dedicated to child development while fostering creativity, joy, and personalized learning opportunities.
Anne Turbett - Intern
Staff member since 2012
Anne is the newest addition to the Giving Tree team. She has completed the summer training at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies and will graduate from the program in May 2013. This will be Anne’s fourth year in a Montessori primary classroom. She enjoys working with young children because everyday she gets to play, laugh, and have fun while calling it “work”.
In addition to working as a teacher’s assistant in a Montessori classroom Anne has also had the privilege of working as a nanny, an elementary P.E. teacher, and a Waldorf preschool teacher. Her first teaching experience was in Comayagua, Honduras where she volunteered as a 3rd grade English teacher at a bilingual school.
Anne is originally from Columbus, Ohio and has since lived in Oregon, New Mexico, Honduras, the suburbs of Washington D.C. and Paonia, Colorado. In her free time she likes to go sail boarding, biking, rollerblading, skiing, and swimming.
Karla Crescenta - Teacher
Peace Rose creator
Original staff member since 1995
retired in 2010 but still volunteering
The children and nature are Karla’s most cherished teachers. She has been privileged to be at Giving Tree since its inception, and still wakes eager to learn something new. It's the best school she has ever taught in, and the people, including the parents, the BEST with whom she has ever worked.
In 1971 an Omaha Montessori school became "home" to her and her son Andy (SO much better than public school teaching) and in 1974 she received her Montessori Early Childhood Certificate from MIA (Montessori Institute of America). While working as a mediator in the Colorado Springs court system, Karla found that adults cannot talk about conflict and that this skill needs to be acquired during childhood. In 1989, after attending a peace workshop given by Sonny McFarland, Karla came up with the idea of the Peace Rose as a way for children to talk about and solve their conflicts. The idea of the Peace Rose has been adopted in Montessori (and many other) schools around the world, workshops been given about its use and books have been written about it.
Many hats adorned her head: fiber artist, business owner, paralegal, ceremonialist, mediator, even laughter leader. Every experience has made her a better teacher, but none engendered so much fun as being at Giving Tree Montessori.
The teacher's task is no small or easy one! She has to prepare a huge amount of knowledge to satisfy the child's mental hunger, and she is not, like the ordinary teacher, limited by a syllabus.