Faculty & Staff

Michele King, Head of School

Michele first came to SAMS as a teacher in 1997. After eight successful years working in the classroom, Michele was appointed Head of the School in 2005. In her more than 20 years at SAMS, she is dedicated to maintaining the excellence of SAMS programs and its teaching staff.  She believes that Montessori education can foster confidence and independence in students as young as three.

Michele is the mother of two boys and enjoys traveling with her family, running and spending time outdoors. She received her American Montessori Society (AMS) credential from San Francisco Bay Area Montessori Teacher Training Center and also holds a Bachelor of Science from Prescott College.


Sherie Shughart, Business Manager

Sherie began working as the SAMS office manager in 1988 when her daughter was attending the school. Sherie keeps SAMS operations running smoothly, working on communications, the auction and other school business. Before joining the SAMS staff, Sherie managed a specialty dental practice in San Francisco. Her two grown children, who are sixth-generation Californians, and her two grandchildren live in nearby. When not working Sherie enjoys playing tennis, gardening, traveling, keeping current with technology and of course playing with her grandchildren.


Denise Collins, Head Teacher / Kindergarten Teacher

deniseDenise joined SAMS in 2010, bringing 10 years of experience teaching children between the ages of two and five in Montessori classrooms. Her interest in Montessori was first sparked during an observation at a Montessori school. When she saw the students demonstrating their love of learning, self-confidence, and independence while they worked, she knew that she wanted to be a part of their world and learn more about the Montessori educational philosophy.

In addition to her Montessori Teaching Certificate, Denise has an extensive background in early childhood education. In her time away from teaching she enjoys hiking, reading, sewing, camping and adventures with her family and friends.


Karen Payne, Head Teacher and Garden Program Director

karen_payneKaren has been teaching in Montessori classrooms for over 25 years.  She began working at SAMS in 2000 as a substitute and part time teacher and in 2010 became the Head Teacher and Garden Program Director.  She has expanded the garden and greenhouse curriculum over the years with activities such as wood working, hands-on science experiments, and nature exploration that follow and build on the Montessori philosophy of learning through inquiry and discovery.  Karen believes that the outdoor environment helps develop a life-long love of learning in children and establishes a deeper understanding of the world that they live in. Karen was born and raised in England and completed her Montessori training in London. She has an extensive knowledge of Early Childhood Education having completed an Associate’s degree in Child Development and an Associate’s degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences at SRJC, as well as a Bachelor’s degree in Early Chlidhood Studies at Sonoma State Univerisity. She is currently pursuing her M.A. Ed. and is excited to be continuing her studies so that she can share her education with both her students and their familes. Karen has two adult children of her own-both presently attending college. In her spare time, Karen enjoys catering, gardening, and photography, as well as spending time with family and friends.


Pamela Spitz, Head Teacher

pamela-spitzPamela joined SAMS in 2014 and brings 17 years of private school teaching experience to SAMS. After a career in the California wine industry, Pamela discovered her knack for teaching when her older daughter attended SAMS over twenty years ago! While bringing up two young daughters with her husband Barry, she earned her requisite ECE units and taught Kindergarten math and science to Pre-K students for 10 years. Acquiring a Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential (CLAD Emphasis), she then taught Kindergarten reading before being asked to direct the Pre-K and K-5 afterschool programs. She designed and taught the Pre-K Junior Master Gardeners Program and Kindergarten Ecoliteracy curriculum as part of a school-wide sustainability initiative, followed by an experiential nature program for First and Second Graders. Pamela holds a Amercian Montessori Society teaching crediential.
Raised in California, New York, and Massachusetts, Pamela also holds a B.A. in English Literature. She loves cooking, sewing, walking, foreign films, the SF Giants, spending time with her husband, and visiting their daughters who now live in Los Angeles.


Danielle Parra, Afternoon Teacher

danielleDanielle Parra joined SAMS in 2015. She has been working with children of all ages for almost ten years. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation Administration and an emphasis in Event Management and Tourism, Danielle is decided to go back to school in order to become a Preschool Teacher. She has focused her career on working in childcare centers as a Child Care Associate, Camp Director at Bay Club Ross Valley, Assistant Director of Child Care at The Bay Club Marin, and Substitute Teacher in the after school programs for multiple schools in Tiburon, Ca. Danielle is extremely excited to be starting the next chapter in her life as the Afternoon Head-Teacher at SAMS.


Janae Gaona, Teachers’ Assistant 

image1Janae is thrilled to be part of SAMS! She grew up in Southern California where she attended community college earning an Associate degree in Child Development.  Last year she moved to Marin County to attend Sonoma State University and will soon graduate with an Bachelors in Art degree in Early Childhood Studies.  In her free time she likes to hike, explore the Bay Area and spend time with her family!