Lower Elementary

Kerry Diaz- Team Lead

Kerry Diaz began her career in education 16 years ago, when she earned her degree in education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has taught 1st, 2nd or 3rd grades in both private and public school settings. Military life has brought her family to the area, but as her husband retires from service this year she is please to call Oceanside home. She’s currently pursuing an AMS Montessori certification from the Montessori Center for Teacher Education in San Diego. She has studied other alternative education models by participating in Expeditionary Learning and Outward Bound training and the Children’s Literacy Initiative. She enjoys hiking, swimming and going to the beach with her husband and two children.


Kathleen Decker

Kathleen has taught in Montessori schools in both the private and public sectors for the past 5 years.  She taught in San Diego schools for six years before gratefully discovering the enrichment of the Montessori Method. She has an A. A. in psychology, a B. A. in liberal studies and is currently working on her Masters.  She received her teaching credential from SDSU, then her CLEAR from UCSD. She has a love for learning, collecting certifications in all sorts of interests from reading specializations to scuba diving.  As a native Californian growing up in Huntington Beach the ocean has been her playground. She is an adventure traveler. She has lived in Australia, Brazil and Guatemala. She is a blue water sailor, sailing a 32ft. sailboat from L.A. to Australia with her husband and then the Caribbean with her kids, too. She is excited to share this love of learning and passion for life as an adventure with her students.

Kate Sullivan

Ms Kate is really looking forward to returning for her third year with the Bella Mente family! This is her third year teaching Lower Elementary, and she is excited to move from Room 103 into Room 213 in the new building. Kate received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, as well as her teaching credential through California State University San Marcos. Last year she completed her Master’s Degree at San Diego State University, where she studied Curriculum Development through the lens of Critical Literacy and Social Justice. Her studies and research focused on how we can ensure that ALL learners are supported and represented in the classroom and the school, whether it is through language development, celebrating diversity, or providing a variety of opportunities for the many learning styles in the classroom. Ms Kate’s Lower Elementary Montessori training was completed at the Maria Montessori School in San Diego. She is drawn to the Montessori philosophy for many reasons, but loves the importance placed on Peace Education most of all. In addition to her academic training, Ms Kate became  a certified Positive DIscipline Classroom Educator last year, and gained many strategies and skills to support a positive learning environment in the classroom.

Kate is a San Diego transplant who moved out from Massachusetts nine years ago. She currently lives in Encinitas with her adorable pug, Mr. Pugsly. In her free time she enjoys reading, sewing, knitting, dancing, and yoga. While she loves teaching, she also loves learning. This year she hopes to do some international travel to broaden her horizons.

Jessica Prinslow

Jessica is a San Diego native and grew up in the north county region. She lived in beautiful northern California for four years where she received a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies with an emphasis in fine arts from Sonoma State University. Having done her senior thesis with a Montessori school in Healdsburg, CA, she returned to sunny San Diego with a new outlook on the education system. After receiving her Multiple Subject teaching credential at Cal State University San Marcos, she took advice from a respected professor and began looking in to Montessori schools in the area. Bella Mente entered her life at the perfect time and Jessica is delighted to have been chosen to be a part of such a flourishing and wonderful learning community.

Aside from teaching, Jessica has a passion for all things outdoors: swimming, camping, hiking, fishing. She lives through adventure and enjoys trying new things. She loves to read, bake, garden, and dance. Jessica can’t wait to share these hobbies and passions with her students and looks forward to an exciting school year at Bella Mente!

LeeAnna Epp

Lee Anna Epp is a Lower Elementary teacher and the 2015-2016 will be her third year teaching at Bella Mente Montessori Academy.  She received her AMS Montessori teaching credential from Montessori Center for Teacher Education in San Diego, California.  She has her California State teaching credential from California State University Fullerton and her B.A. from the University of San Diego.

Amanda Lee

Having spent six years in San Francisco, it was time for her to experience the sun and swimmable ocean again. After graduating from San Francisco State University in 2011, with a BA in Liberal Studies and her California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, she moved to San Diego not only for the sun, but in hopes of finding a teaching job. Montessori “found” Amanda and she believes strongly in integrating its methods using a creative approach in all academic areas. She loves to share her hobbies of cooking, dancing, gardening, and body-surfing with her students. She is ecstatic to be a Lower Elementary teacher at Bella Mente and looks forward to many fulfilling years to come.


Lauren Sebastian

Lauren Sebastian graduated from San Diego State University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. She lived in San Francisco, and worked as an intervention specialist in Oakland Unified school district, for several years before pursuing her credential and master’s degree in Elementary Education in 2011. Lauren worked as a resource teacher at All Souls Catholic School in South San Francisco before moving back to her hometown of San Diego. Lauren is married with two little boys, ages 6 and 4 and live in Oceanside, Ca. Her hobbies include reading, running, and spending time at the beach with her family. Lauren worked as a teacher’s aid at Bella Mente last year and is looking forward to returning as a lower elementary teacher for the 2015/2016 school year.

Leona Wolf

Leona Wolf received her teaching credential from CSU San Marcos in 1991. She taught Kindergarten and first grade in Fallbrook before she began home schooling her children. While home schooling, Leona taught  classes for local charter schools and homeschool cooperatives at all grade levels. This is Leona’s second year as a teaching assistant with Bella Mente.

Janie Rebernik

Janie Rebernik was an elementary school teacher for 14 years in Texas before moving to Oceanside with her husband, where she has lived since. Before teaching, she got her education at the University of Texas at Arlington and North Texas State University, earning a BA in Education and a M.Ed. She has two sons, a junior in high school and a freshman in college, whom she homeschooled until ninth grade. In her free time she enjoys reading, cooking, and spending time with her family.

Instructional Aids:

Laura Frank (With Ms. Kathleen)

Coming Soon..

Leilani Ebiya (With Ms. Janie)

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Sonja Morgan (With Ms. Leona)

Coming Soon..

Ms. Kayoko (With Ms. Amanda)

Kayoko was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan.  After graduating Mejiro College in Tokyo with Japanese literature degree, she moved to Australia for a year to study English as a second language. She came to the U.S. in 2003 to marry to her husband. She has been a member of BMMA since its first year as a noon duty and a TA. She loves traveling and spending time with her husband, daughter and two dachshund.


Ms. Bianca (With Ms. Lauren)

Bianca originally relocated from Chicago to Southern CA for a nanny position. After having a child of her own, she decided to pursue formal education and chase after her childhood dream of becoming an early childhood educator. Bianca started with Bella Mente last year and worked with Ms. Aurora’s class as a teachers assistant. This gave her the opportunity to really experience the Montessori environment and teaching techniques. Bianca enjoys spending time with her 5 year old son Gavin, coffee, hiking with her boxer Gracie, photography, spending time with family and friends and relaxing at the beach. Bianca is currently working to finish her degree and move forward in achieving a Montessori assistant certificate.


Ms. Valerie (With Ms. Kate)

Coming Soon..

Ms. Khristian (With Ms. Prinslow)

Khristian Clark is a Lower Elementary Teacher’s Aide. She is originally from the Philippines. She has 11 years of experience working with children. She worked as a 6th grade teacher in Thailand for four years. In 2008, she moved to the States and has since worked in various schools. She has a degree in Mass Communication, Major in Journalism, as well as certificates in Early Childhood Education, Medical Administrative Assistant, and Dialysis Technician. She loves working with children because she believes that the education they get from school is a vital foundation for the kind of individuals they will become someday

Ms. Kent and Ms. Lisa (With Ms. Kelly)


Ms. Melissa (with Ms. LeeAnna)

Melissa Reilly will be starting her third year at Bella Mente.  She went to Palomar College, where she studied Sign Language.   Her interests are in nutrition, recently graduating from a year long course from Intergrative Nutrition.  She is a certified Health Coach.  Her hobbies include swimming, reading and Pilates.

She is married and has a ten year old son who attends Bella Mente.  She enjoys working with children and watching them grow academically and socially.