The Sweet Pea Montessori community is comprised of children, teachers, and parents. Being a small school allows us to form relationships with all the families. It also means that we rely on support from families. We all offer our own skills and expertise in a collaborative manner. The Heads of School, also called Teacher-Leaders, lead the classroom and the school, serving on the board, along with another Wildflower School Teacher-Leader, and a parent or community member.
Beka Herzog, Head of School, Nido, Parent Education
After promising herself she would never be a teacher, Beka went on to study child development and education at the undergraduate and the graduate levels. She earned a BA in Studies in Education and Leadership with at focus in Peacemaking at Earlham College, an AMI diploma for age birth to 3 years at the Montessori Training Center of Minnesota, and a Master of Education from Loyola University. She continued her training as a childbirth educator, a birth doula, and a postpartum doula.
Beka’s Montessori journey began when she came back from spending her senior year of high school as an exchange student in Ecuador. Mary, who also happens to be Beka’s aunt, had just opened La Casita Montessori and was looking for an assistant. Beka worked for Mary for a year before going to college, during summer breaks, and again after college. She was so impressed with how the children thrived in the Montessori environment but wished that it was available for younger children. That led her to pursue Assistants to Infancy Montessori training for ages birth to three years. After completing her training, Beka went to work for Ann at Bright Water Montessori as the lead toddler guide. Again, she wished families had access to more support, even while they were still preparing for the arrival of a child. She started supporting families as a childbirth educator and a doula, cared for infants in her in-home Nido, and taught Parent-Infant classes at Lake Country School.
Beka’s other interests include tango and belly dance, rock climbing, canoeing, and hiking, and urban farming with an organic garden and backyard chickens. Although Beka has lived other places, she grew up in here in south Minneapolis and she still loves living here with her husband and their two children.
Mary Gazca, Head of School, Nido
Mary has been an AMI guide for children ages 3-6 since 1996 and is fluent in Spanish, with 2 bi-racial adult children . She had a small in-home Montessori school in South Minneapolis from 2002-2009 (La Casita Montessori) where Spanish was woven into the curriculum.
Her attention was drawn to the Montessori Infant environment when she volunteered in a small infant program (nido) in 2015. She served as a nanny to an infant for 2016-2017, incorporating many of the principles. She is especially interested in the motor development process, and how to naturally and playfully support infants through the developmental milestones. She has become an instructor for a motor development program used by therapists that is based on instinctual infant movements.
She loves to garden, cook, bike, bird-watch, play the guitar and sing with children. Mary has a Master’s in Holistic Health Studies from St Catherine’s University, is a Certified Clinical Aromatherapy Practitioner and a Healing Touch Practitioner-Apprentice.
Ann Luce, Head of School, Toddler Community
Ann Luce has been a Montessori guide, advocate, parent, consultant and administrator for nearly 40 years. Ann has a degree in Elementary Education and Special Education, but knew that she wanted to work with young children. She has Montessori primary training (3-6 year olds) and Assistance to Infancy Training (0-3 years), and has a Masters Degree in Learning Disabilities and Early Childhood.
Ann has always believed that all children deserve a quality Montessori Education, and has worked in public programs and nonprofits to assure that dream. In 2003, Ann received a grant from the Hiawatha Education Foundation to start a school in North Minneapolis that would serve low and middle income families with a Toddler Community and Children’s House class- Bright Water Montessori School. The school was successful and eventually expanded to a Charter Elementary . Bright Water Montessori School continue to thrive in North Minneapolis with almost 200 students. Ann left the school to return to teaching in 2013.
Ann is delighted to be a Teacher Leader at Sweet Pea Montessori. She believes that Toddlers are brilliant! She has adult children and lives in South Minneapolis with her husband. Her interests include yoga, swimming, nature walks/canoes, photography, gardening, cooking, reading, biking, and her Rotary and Book Clubs.