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, Lead 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, Garden Lead Teacher

karen_payneKaren has been teaching in Montessori classrooms since 1992.  She joined SAMS in 2000 and now enjoys the position of Garden Lead Teacher.  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 firmly 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 and holds an Associate’s degree in both Child Development and Social and Behavioral Sciences.  In addition, she holds a BA in early Childhood Studies and a MA in Education from Sonoma State University.  She is currently working on a Doctorate degree and is continuing her research of technology integration in early childhood.  Outside of school, Karen enjoys catering, hiking, art, and photography, as well as spending “family time” with her two adult children.


Pamela Spitz, Lead 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 American Montessori Society teaching credential.
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 Lange,  Afternoon Program Teacher

Danielle has been teaching young children since 2010, after working many years in the food and wine industry.  She earned her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Brooklyn College.  During her studies, Danielle did field work in and was exposed to many different approaches to early education.  This included working as a substitute teacher for a play-based preschool in Brooklyn for over two years, as well as working as a student teacher in a progressive, constructivist Kindergarten program.  Since moving to California, Danielle has focused on working with children aged 2-5.  She has come to love in-depth, child-driven project work and has experience implementing the Reggio approach.  Danielle is very passionate about art and places a strong emphasis on meaningful studio experiences in which children gain competency and confidence in using various art media.  She believes art is a powerful form of communication with children.

Danielle also believes in  the importance of supporting children’s social-emotional development.  She takes great satisfaction in helping children learn to identify, express, and manage their emotions as well as how to resolve conflict.  Danielle is certified in Children’s Yoga and regularly implements mindfulness strategies to help children navigate their experiences.