Erin Feeley – Executive Director:
Ms. Feeley began her experience in education long before she graduated from high school. Her mother was a preschool teacher who shared her love of teaching with her daughter. When she entered college, she worked with students struggling to be the first in their family to graduate from high school and go to college. These high school students, in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program, enrolled in college readiness classes, many of which their peers never even dreamed of. She enjoyed her role as a mentor and tutor to these students who worked hard to succeed, against all odds, working after school jobs to help support their families and living in daily fear of street violence.
Ms. Feeley taught the Montessori philosophy as a Lower Elementary teacher at two public charter schools. As a public school teacher she has successfully provided leadership and expertise in blending the most effective components of Montessori education to support the requirements and mission of public school education in California. Ms. Feeley holds a BA from the University of California, Riverside, a Masters in Instructional Design and Certifications in Gifted and Talented Education (G.A.T.E.) and Reading Instruction and Assessment from the University of California, San Diego. She is currently in a degree program to obtain a Doctorate in Education with a concentration in charter school administration.
Ms. Feeley founded Bella Mente Charter School to offer a Montessori education to all students. She believes strongly in education equality and the right for all students to a high quality, free, public education using alternative philosophies of instruction.
Carrie McCraw- Principal
Carrie McCraw is our Principal and has been with Bella Mente since its first year of operation. She holds a Cleared California Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential and a Preliminary Administrative Services Credential. Carrie previously taught in both public and private schools for 7 years before joining the Bella Team. Carrie was born and raised in Hickory, NC. After high school, she attended Elon University in Burlington, NC where she graduated with a degree in Elementary Education. Carrie then moved to Atlanta, GA and taught 1st and 3rd grade for 5 years in the Cobb County School District. She was not only an inspirational teacher, but also wore many hats such as; team leader, technology trainer and math coordinator during her time with the Cobb school district. She received her Master’s in Education Administration in May 2016 from National University. Carrie wrote her thesis on the correlation between attendance and academic success.
Carrie re-located to California in 2012. She was blessed with a happy baby boy, Brody, in March of 2013. Watching him grow and discover new things is such a joy and she considers herself blessed to be his mommy! She also has a small pup, Herbie, who loves to play and is full of energy. Being with her family brings her the most happiness in life. She also enjoys being at the beach with the sand between her toes.
Carrie has a passion for people. She feels that her life’s work is to be an educational leader to elementary and middle school children. She values the school community and strives to make a positive impact on the lives of others. It is her goal to create life-long learners and leaders who have an excitement for discovering new information.
Ray Valenzuela-Operations Coordinator
Ray comes to us after retiring from public safety with 35 years of service. Ray began his career in 1978 as a firefighter in Orange County and worked his way up through the ranks to the position of Battalion Chief with the Orange County Fire Authority. During his fire service career, he held positions within Fire Operations, Fire Administration and Fire Prevention. Besides directing fire personnel at emergency scenes, he also served as a Fire Inspector, Fire Investigator, Safety Officer, Logistics Chief, the John Wayne Airport Fire Chief, Training Chief, Chief Investigator, Community Volunteer Services Chief and a variety of other challenging assignments. Ray is a proven fire service leader and a problem solver, both at the emergency scene or at the conference table.
Ray believes very strongly that education and experience mold our young ones. To that end, he does his best to always try to be a positive influence. He believes in strong support of our teaching staff and creating a safe, fun and efficient school atmosphere.
Brandy Albanese- Office Manager
Brandy Albanese is a native of Vista, California. Since 2013, Ms. Brandy has been working with Bella Mente Montessori Academy. She started as a Teacher’s Assistant in Lower Elementary and moved her way up to Office Manager. She went to Palomar College for Child Development classes and took volunteer opportunities for Oceanside Unified School District.
She is a firm believer of the Montessori philosophy, thus, enrolling her only son to Bella who is currently on his 4th year. With her positive outlook and vibrant personality, Ms. Brandy is someone whom students, parents and staff alike trust to help them with any issues that may arise involving school matters.
She loves working around children and helping other people in need. Her hobbies include spending time with her family and friends, and she enjoys bike riding at the beach. She hopes to grow with the school with Maria Montessori’s vision “The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of Responsibility and the wings of Independence.”
Gladys Espino- Student Services Coordinator
Gladys, a mother of three, has had the pleasure of having two of her three girls attend Montessori schools since their primary years. Before Bella Mente opened their doors, Gladys’s family were one of the first ones to volunteer their time to assist with the opening of the school. With her newfound passion for the Montessori Philosophy, she pursued a position within Bella Mente.
Her experience involves over 15 years of administrative and customer service employment; ranging from management, recruiting, human resource, payroll, and other various administrative support duties. Gladys has an infectious personality that is lively and genuine. She loves to make a people smile!
Her goal is to make sure, all of our families have an enjoyable experience at Bella Mente Montessori Academy!
Jennifer Meeker – Human Resources
Jennifer is the Executive Assistant and Human Resources Assistant. She has over 15 years of experience as a Executive Assistant and in customer service. She grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts. After College, she moved to California for the year round fun in the sun. After a year with Bella Mente, she is a firm believer of the Montessori philosophy and everything that if offers.
When Jennifer is not a work she enjoys reading, cooking, yoga and being at the beach with her son and husband. Jennifer, also really enjoys being a student and loves to take classes and seminars in a wide range of subjects, such as payroll law and cake decorating. She is excited to see what this year brings to the Bella Mente Community and looks forward to a great year.
Hank Stelzl – Coordinator of Health and Wellness
Mr. Hank Stelzl will be entering his fourth year here at Bella Mente Montessori Academy leading the charge He originally hails from New Jersey the Garden State and graduated Northern Michigan University with a degree in Physical Education and a minor in Psychology.
Mr. Hank runs the school’s garden program and has been implementing school gardens and garden education since 2011. He has recently attended The Edible Schoolyard Academy Farm to School Intensive and attended the ESY Academy in 2015 in Berkeley, CA and looks to Alice Waters for inspiration.
Mr. Hank is a Master Composter completed Garden Enhanced Nutrition Education, attended Green Curriculum Institute, Edible Education 101, and has been featured on CBS for his previous garden program which also was awarded “Best School Garden in San Diego County” by Edible San Diego in 2014. Mr. Hank has also been awarded multiple grants during his tenure as a Garden Program Director with his most recent support coming from Sage Garden Project which will help implement nutritional education with our students at Bella Mente.
Mr. Hank enjoys watching rugby and played for three seasons while in college. He also enjoys cooking at home, the Padres, ice hockey, catching a few waves, and spending time with his daughter.