Meet Our Staff

Mary Ellen Cooper

Owner/Director/Elementary Lead Teacher - North Campus

Mary Ellen is the proud owner of Sunrise Montessori, and she has been for 40 years! Mary Ellen began her teaching career in high school, teaching Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. She earned her BA in Elementary Education and taught in the Washington and Mesa School Districts for 4 years. She took a leave of absence to have her first child and never went back to public school. She heard about Montessori in college, but did not hear anything positive about it. When she began looking for a preschool for her oldest daughter, who would soon be 3, a close high school friend told her to go observe her son’s Montessori school. After visiting every other type of preschool, she finally went to see the Montessori school recommended by her friend. As she sat observing the class, tears rolled down her cheeks. How she wished she could have taught the Montessori way to all the children she had taught while teaching in public school! She enrolled her daughter immediately. A year later, her daughter’s Montessori teacher had to leave the school after having a baby. So, Mary Ellen opened her home and they began Sunrise Montessori in a spare bedroom. With the naiveté of youth, she had no idea there were rules and regulations to operate a preschool and that she could not have one in her home. So with a school of 10 children and more than 20 on a waiting list, the school began looking for a property in which to continue the school. A church was found on 33rd Avenue and Larkspur where Sunrise Montessori stayed for 8 years. A new pastor came to the church and the school was asked to leave. A hunt was on for a new facility! A parent at the school drove by a big house for sale on her way to school every day. After looking at it, Mary Ellen realized with a few minor tweaks, it would make a perfect school. And so 31 years ago, the school moved into the big gray house with the blue tile roof on 47th Avenue. Mary Ellen received her Montessori training in Oakland, CA in 1983 and has taught at every level – toddler through elementary. She has been very grateful that all 4 of her children were able to continue their Montessori education through sixth grade. Mary Ellen believes that if Maria Montessori had been a man, her method of education would be in every school around the world. After teaching in public schools and watching her own children’s lives be enriched by the Montessori education, she is convinced the Montessori Method of education is absolutely the very best way for the children to learn and love learning. In 1995, to keep the Arizona State teaching certificate current, she had to get a Master’s degree. Because Montessori is out of the mainstream of education, she decided to pursue a Master’s in counseling. This degree has been very beneficial in helping the families of Sunrise Montessori School. 

Ms. Alissa

Lead Toddler Teacher/Director - South Campus

Ms. Alissa has been working at Sunrise Montessori since November of 2013. She began by working in the primary room at our North Campus. She received her Montessori Primary Teacher Certificate in the Summer of 2015. During this time, she was also the Director of the Before/Aftercare Program, which is where she realized her loved for working with the toddlers. 

In June of 2015, Ms. Alissa moved to our South Campus to become the Lead Toddler Teacher. The 2018/2019 school year will be her third year as the lead toddler teacher. 

Alissa is known around the Sunrise Montessori Community as the "Toddler Whisperer."  

Ms. Madison

Office Manager - North Campus

Ms. Madison attended Sunrise Montessori from ages 3-12. After graduating from Sunrise. she went on to attend a Montessori Middle School and a Charter High School in the Phoenix area. After graduating in 2016, Ms. Madison has gone on to attend Northern Arizona University in the pursuit of a Master's Degree in Social Work. 

In her free time Ms. Madison enjoys being with friends and family, dancing, and watching movies.  

Ms. Kayla

Lead Primary Teacher - South Campus

Miss Kayla is joining us for her 4th year at Sunrise as a lead teacher! She's very excited to see what the new school year holds for her in her Montessori journey. In her free time, she enjoying spending quality time with her friends, family, and her dog Stark!

Ms. Ashleigh

Lead Primary Teacher - North Campus

Ms. Ashleigh moved to Arizona in 2007 from Michigan. She worked at  Sunrise Montessori 8 years ago, but left to have her 3 beautiful girls. After returning, she took on the roles of Outdoor Environment Teacher for the primary class. She then moved into the office manager position at the South Campus. This school year she has become the Lead Primary Teacher at the North Campus. 

Ms. Kayla

Lead Toddler Teacher - North Campus

Ms. Kayla began her journey with the Montessori Method by finding out about Sunrise Montessori through the children of a family for which she was a nanny. When a position became available at Sunrise, Kayla took the opportunity to apply and she was hired! She started as the outdoor environment teacher, and she was also the Assistant Toddler Teacher at our North Campus for three years. She loves working with the children and is exceptional with them. This year, Ms. Kayla is beginning her journey as the Lead Teacher in the Toddler class at our North Campus! 

In her free time, Ms. Kayla enjoys making arts and crafts to create her "Spooky Town." 

Ms. Tracie

Elementary Phonics Teacher - North Campus

Ms. Tracie started at the school as a parent in 2002, she fell in love with the philosophy. She has two daughters, Madison and Rhenn, who both attended Sunrise Montessori through sixth grade. Ms. Tracie began working with Sunrise Montessori in 2005 when an opportunity opened for the job as an Outdoor Environment teacher. She has worked with every age group and in every classroom at our North campus. 

Ms. Tracie also has her own business as a hairstylist. 

Ms. Kelly

Assistant Toddler Teacher - North Campus

Ms. Desirae

Assistant Primary Teacher - North Campus

Ms. Chelsie

Assistant Primary Teacher - South Campus

During Ms. Chelsie's visit last school year, she realized how rewarding working with children can be. She is joining us for her first year at Sunrise Montessori as a primary class assistant teacher. In her free time, she enjoys painting, music, and spending time with her friends, family, and her three dogs Carli, Daisy, and Ace. 

Ms. Jenna

Assistant Toddler Teacher - South Campus

Ms. Jenna is beginning her first year with Sunrise Montessori at our South Campus. Ms. Jenna loves exploring and expressing her creativity by drawing and painting in her spare time. She is a dog lover, with her two girls Rosie and Gracie. She enjoys taking them on adventures and enjoying nature. Working with children bring her great joy and watching them learn new things every day is very rewarding for her. 

Coach Ron

P.E. Coach - North & South Campus

Ron was born in Switzerland and attended Swiss business school, graduating from the University of Gran Canarias Spain. He then became the Executive Vice President of Tag-Heuer watches in New York. Coach Ron has 20 years of experience teaching various youth sports to all ages, preschool through high school.  He began to see the beauty of Montessori when his son enrolled in the toddler program at Sunrise. After he sold his business, Coach Ron began working at Sunrise Montessori as the Physical Education Teacher for both our North and South Campuses. Coach Ron is a beloved teacher by all the students, past and present, as he has continuously worked so hard to make P.E. fun for all the students. 

Ms. Betty Jo

Art Teacher - North & South Campus

Ms. Betty Jo is the elementary and kindergarten art teacher. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Art Education (K-12) from Nazareth College of Rochester, New York. Betty Jo started at Sunrise as a parent in 1999 when her oldest daughter, Anna, enrolled in the preschool class. The following year she began helping in the Mother’s Day Out program as an assistant teacher. From there the opportunity arose for her to become the Art teacher for our kindergarten and elementary programs. She has been working with our students for many years and has made art both a fun class period and a very educational one. Students both past and present remember and enjoy Ms. Betty Jo's art classes. 

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"Free the child's potential, and you will transform him into the world"

-Maria Montessori