The Governance of the Academy is the responsibility of a volunteer board that consists of alumni, alumni parents, current parents, community members, and ex-officio officers, including the Executive Director, Finance Director and Academic Director. It is the mandate of this group to ensure the legacy of Montessori Academy of London and that strong Montessori education in London is protected for years to come.
This mandate requires the group to assume strategic and financial responsibility for the Montessori Academy of London. The group meets regularly throughout the school year and is responsible for several board-mandated committees. MA families receive communication of the board’s work periodically throughout the year, including our Annual Report.
Learn more about our board members below:
Julie Elgie, President, Current Parent
Julie is a graduate from the Faculty of Law at Western University. She has worked and volunteered in the community economic development field for non-profit, charitable and academic organizations and has specific experiences with the design and coordination of community programs, and the development and delivery of training workshops. Her fund development background includes proposal writing, major and planned giving fundraising and partnership facilitation. She believes in the principles of a Montessori education and brings expertise and support to fund development and special event activities. She experiences the impact a Montessori education can have on a child each day as her twin daughters are current students in the school.
Christine Haas, Vice-President, Alumni Parent
Christine is a chemical/biochemical engineer by education and graduate of Western University. She spent many years working in Pharmaceutical and Food & Beverage manufacturing, which gave her the tools to found an industrial equipment company. She feels fortunate to be part of the MA community – and it continues to be a tremendous experience for her. Christine was regularly impressed by the depth of her children’s learning during their time at MA. She sees MA’s future as the primary responsibility of the Board of Governors: to be continuously inspired by the school’s vision, and to plan for long-term health and success. Her hope as the MA board president is to contribute experience and expertise to the school team as they make decisions and plan for the future.
Rick Santos, Treasurer, Community Member
Rick was born and raised in London, Ontario, attending University at Western and obtaining a BACS – Finance Administration and Diploma in Accounting, with Distinction, in 2002. He obtained his Chartered Accountant designation (CA) in 2005 and his Certified Financial Planner Designation (CFP) in 2006. Rick became a partner at Davis Martindale LLP in January 2009 where his practice is focused on Non-Profit Organizations and Owner-Managed businesses. He is a part-time faculty member at King’s University College, where he teaches “Introduction to Taxation” and “Introduction to Auditing.” Rick joined the board of governors for Montessori Academy in July 2013. His other volunteer experience includes serving as treasurer of the Rotary Club of London, London Community Foundations’ Engage Program and advising numerous not-for-profit organizations in their financial and governance processes. In 2014 Rick was recognized by Business London Magazine and Emerging Leaders London as Top 20 under 40. Rick is married to his wife Andrea and has two children, Lauren and Harrison.
Sarah Kirshin-Neilans, Secretary, Alumna
Sarah is a lawyer specializing in personal injury and insurance litigation at Nicholson Smith & Partners LLP, in London, Ontario. This job requires, compassion, good judgment, accuracy, time management, and excellent communication skills, all of which were principles of Sarah’s education at Montessori Academy of London, from Casa through Grade 8. Sarah still recalls and credits her successes to the tenets about working and learning she was taught at Montessori, including choosing challenging work, and doing all tasks (even those that may seem unimportant) with a certain degree of mastery. Because she values the education she received at Montessori, Sarah accepted an appointment to our Board in the spring of 2013, and hopes to foster continued excellence from the school for future generations in this role.
Sarah Harding, Founding Member representation
Sarah was part of the first group of children to attend the Montessori Academy of London – a truly formative experience. As time went on her education took her across Canada (McGill and Dalhousie), to England (Oxford) and eventually to the United States (Yale). She is currently a law professor in Chicago. Her primary areas of specialty are matters relating to indigenous peoples, antiquities, cultural property and comparative constitutional law. Sarah brings Board knowledge and expertise to MA’s Board of Governors: for 11 years, she was a member of the Board of Trustees of Chiaravalle, her children’s Montessori school. During that time she served in almost every position on the Board including president. She has been involved in three head-of-school searches, three capital campaigns (one that she chaired), a complete overhaul and redrafting of by-laws and the creation of a new yearly head evaluation process. She was also on the founding board for Beacon Academy, an innovative Montessori-based high school that just opened in the Chicago area. She is currently president of the board of the Haymarket Opera Company, a small start-up Baroque opera company in Chicago.
Karen Conway, Community Member
Karen joined the Board on May 31, 2010. As she watched her dear friend’s daughter grow up at Montessori and develop into an independent, clever, polite, young woman, she was inspired by MA’s teaching methodology and values. Karen works in the Human Resources Department at the Ivey Business School. She joined the business school after more than 10 years working in Human Resources in the health care and manufacturing industries. Karen has a passion for ongoing learning and development, and is a Certified Human Resources Professional and Certified Executive Coach. As a board member, she provides input into the direction and priorities of the Academy to help ensure it stays true to its vision and mission.
Jim Middlemiss, Current Parent
Jim Middlemiss is a communications consultant and award-winning business affairs writer whose work appears regularly in North American business, legal and consumer publications. A former press secretary to an Ontario Attorney General, Jim provides media and strategic communications advice to a wide range of organizations. A member of the Institute of Corporate Directors, Jim is a graduate of Dalhousie Law School. Born in Calgary, he holds a journalism and political science degree from the University of North Dakota and an Associate Arts degree from what is now Mount Royal University. Jim has taught at Western University Law School and Western Engineering. He moved to London in 2011, and his daughter attends Montessori.
Deborah Ward, Alumni Parent
Deborah has over 30 years of experience in human resources and operations in various industries including retail, financial services, transportation and technology. After gaining experience in roles as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Human Resources Officer, Deborah now runs her own consulting practice helping entrepreneurs achieve big goals by attracting, engaging and retaining the right talent. Deborah’s current volunteer experience includes St. Joseph’s Health Centre – Human Resources Committee, Children’s Health Foundation – HR advisor and past experience includes over five years with the United Way.
Wilma McIntyre, Community Member
Wilma is a business and technology professional with extensive experience in managing, leading and coaching businesses through process re-engineering and technology implementation. Over her career, she has worked in a variety of sectors, including the financial industry, municipal government, industrial wholesale distribution and as a self-employed consultant. Though retired from her career in IT, she continues to consult with organizations to streamline and improve their business processes and technology strategies. Wilma is also on the board of directors for the Women’s Canadian Club of London, a non-profit organization providing a forum for the London community to attend speaker events on a variety of topics. She also served as London Chapter Coordinator for the Tetra Society of North America (for 3 years), a non-profit organization that recruits skilled volunteers to create customized assistive devices for people with physical disabilities.
Geoff Connors, Alumni Parent & Current Grandparent
Geoff W. Connors has worked in the pipeline industry since graduating from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Applied Science and a degree in Civil Engineering in 1980. He is a Professional Engineer in Ontario (PEO) and has held the P.Eng designation since 1982. As the president of PipeSak Pipeline Products & Services, he is a leader in the pipeline industry and brings more than 30 years of business knowledge to Montessori Academy of London’s Board of Governors. He is a Montessori Academy parent and grandparent.
Margaret Whitley, Executive Director, Ex-Officio
Margaret’s goal in life is to effect positive change in society and our future through children. She strongly believes in the potential of the child, which is often not supported through our adult perspective; she is passionate about inspiring shifts in thinking so that true potential is realized. She advocates a Montessori approach to everything, but particularly as a way to help bring about change in how we view children and the possible solutions to many challenges society faces. She founded Canada’s first Montessori Junior High program in 1988 – Montessori Academy of London’s own program. She has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators (CCMA) for nine years and on the London Children’s Museum Board for four years. Margaret is currently the Director of Consultation for CCMA.
Kristen Crouse, Academic Director, Ex-Officio
Kristen Crouse was trained as a Casa teacher through the St. Nicholas program and has been working at the Montessori Academy of London for 15 years. Kristen has a Bachelor of Science degree (Foods and Nutrition) from Brescia University College and a Bachelor of Education from McGill (primary/junior divisions). She also completed the Special Education Part 1 Course at Althouse College at Western University. Kristen taught for two years in the Casa program, and then accepted a position in MA’s Junior High program, where she taught science, language and math for eight years. For two of those years, she worked part-time as the Coordinator of the Junior High program. Kristen then took on the full-time position of Coordinator for both the Junior High and Elementary programs for six years. In 2014, Kristen’s role evolved again into the Academic Director, overseeing all levels of the school. Kristen brings a broad vision of the Montessori Philosophy to the table, having taught in the Casa program at one end of the spectrum to Junior High at the other. She also serves on the Canadian Council of Montessori Administrators (CCMA) accreditation team.
Tina Sartori, Current Parent, Admissions & Development Coordinator, Ex-Officio
Tina believes that Montessori grads are the change makers in the world, which is why she profoundly trusts the method of education and strives to ensure its influence continues to grow in London. She has been a part of Montessori Academy for 15 years. Being AMI trained from the Foundation for Montessori Education, she taught in the casa program for 12 years before moving over to the Administration team as the Development Coordinator four years ago. Since making this shift in her career, Tina has successfully created and implemented a fundraising program for MA that is on its way to raising $500,000 for the school. Three years ago Tina also took on the role of the Admissions Coordinator, guiding new families through the process, from inquiry to enrolling into the school. Tina has a Bachelor of Applied Science degree (Child Studies major) from the University of Guelph. She is a member of London Region Fundraising Professionals and continues to grow professionally completing course work with the Pillar Non-Profit Network, Western Continuing Studies and Montessori governing bodies.
David Pasquino, Finance Director, Ex-Officio
A CPA, CMA with over 20 years of finance, accounting and human resource experience in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, David brings a wealth of knowledge to the Montessori Academy of London as the current Finance Director and as an Ex-Officio member on the Board of Governors. David’s previous roles at St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation, College of Physiotherapists of Ontario and the United Way of Greater Toronto have given him a solid background in not-for-profit organizations, working with Boards and financial reporting for a wide variety of stakeholders. David also serves as the Chair for the Original Kids Theatre Company, and is an actor in London’s community theatres.
Our vision is a community of confident, compassionate and engaged citizens who think globally, act responsibly and collaborate successfully to create a humane world.
To provide a world-class Montessori education that promotes academic excellence and prepares children and young adults to engage the world as active citizens and successful leaders.