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.
Dr. McQuestion is the Principal and supports the Special Education Program. She comes with experience working with children from birth through 12th grade. She started working at home childcare and then opened her childcare in 1990. She quickly expanded to a preschool and was chosen as one of only three private preschools to contract with Head Start in a pilot program in North County, San Diego. As her own two sons grew up, she decided to continue her education and move to serve in the public schools. Dr. McQuestion worked as an Education Specialist for middle school and high school students. She taught Biology, Earth Science, and Health at the high school level. Also, she worked as a Program Specialist for Special Education and most recently supported a small high school filling the roles as Education Specialist, Program Specialist, and Administration Designee in an inclusion program. Dr. McQuestion has also supported teacher candidates at CSUSM as University Supervisor.
Dr. McQuestion has a degree from CSUSM in Child Development and Special Education. She completed her doctorate in Educational Leadership. She loves learning and continues to explore her area of research, which is positive teacher-student relationships and positive school culture.
As a Native Californian, Dr. McQuestion and her husband raised their two sons in North County, San Diego. Her family has been blessed with two wonderful daughters-in-law and two adorable grandchildren. She enjoys spending time with family, loves all dogs, and spending time flower gardening.
Dr. McQuestion’s philosophy is, “It takes a village to raise a child.” She feels strongly in a team approach between family and school.
Coordinator of Support Services
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 was 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 people smile!
Her goal is to make sure all of our families have an enjoyable experience at Bella Mente Montessori Academy!
Jennifer is the Executive Assistant and Human Resources Assistant. She has over 15 years of experience as an 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; Jennifer is a firm believer in 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.
Coordinator of Health and Wellness
Mr. Hank Stelzl has been here at Bella Mente Montessori Academy from day one. He is originally from New Jersey the Garden State and also a graduate of Northern Michigan University with a degree in Physical Education and a minor in Psychology and holds a Multiple Subject Credential in CA.
Mr. Hank runs the school’s garden program and has been implementing school gardens and garden education since 2011. Mr. Hank is a Master Composter, has attended The Edible Schoolyard Academy in Berkeley, CA and looks to Alice Waters for inspiration.
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.
Special Education Administrative Secretary
Macarena was born and raised in Santiago, Chile, where she got her formal education and her B.S in Marketing and Advertising. She enjoys family life, basketball, friends, nature, the beach, a good book, music, and Flamenco dance.
She has been working with children for the last ten years at her church’s Children Ministry Program, as a teacher and volunteer coordinator.
She joined Bella Mente in September 2017 as an I.A. She is, once again, excited to be part of the Bella Special Education Team and see what the new year brings.
Ms. Susan has over 20 years of Administrative experience. She moved to California from Vermont as a child. In the early 1990’s she moved to upstate New York to own & operate a dairy farm. During this time, she worked as a direct support professional and later in an administrative capacity, with a local nonprofit organization that provides support for individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities.
In 2014, Ms. Susan moved back to California with her two children. She started working at Bella Mente in 2015 as an Instructional Assistant. She has also held positions, as a one-on-one aide and worked with the lunch program. She is looking forward to working in the front office as an administrative assistant.
Carol Butler moved from Vermont to California when she was a young child. She grew up in Carlsbad and graduated for Carlsbad High School. She attended California State University, Chico and earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies. She attended a teacher preparation program and received her Professional Clear Multiple Subject Credential. She also attended Montessori Center for Teacher Education in San Diego and earned her Montessori Early Childhood Teaching Credential.
Ms. Butler has been with Bella Mente since their opening in 2013 and has more than 20 years teaching experience. She has taught grades K-6 in both public and private schools. She is part of the Administration team as a Lead Teacher and Mentor Teacher, guiding new teachers through their first years of teaching. Carol also teaches at the Montessori Center for Teacher Education in San Diego, training new Montessori teachers.
Carol owns her own business where she writes and develops works for her and other teachers to use in their classrooms. When not teaching, she loves spending time with her two adult daughters and her fur children, Shadow and Ruby. She also likes to travel, enjoy the outdoors, read books and watch movies.
Jessica grew up in southern California and graduated from Rancho Buena Vista High School. She attended California State University, San Marcos and graduated with honors in 2010. She received her degree in Liberal studies with a minor in history. Aside from her bachelor’s degree and state teaching credential, Jessica is fully trained in the Montessori philosophy and earned her Montessori teaching credential in 2016.
Jessica has been teaching at Bella Mente for the past 5 years and is currently working on her Masters in Education in integrated learning.
In her spare time, Jessica enjoys spending time with her husband and two sons, Tristan and Lucas . She enjoys reading, puzzles, and playing board games with her family and friends.
I received my Bachelor’s degree and K-8 Multi-Subject Teaching Credential from Cal State University, Long Beach in 2009. I received my Montessori credential in 2010. I recently received my cleared Special Education credential for mild/ mod. I have taught Kindergarten, 2nd and 8th grade. I have loved my journey through public school and the Montessori philosophy. My heart is truly with the Montessori teaching methods and individualized lessons that address the learning style of each child. I am happy to be with Bella Mente Montessori Academy and embarking on this new journey.
I recently moved to Vista to be closer to the school. I have 1 large dog whom I love dearly. I enjoy outdoor activities with family and friends, Spartan Races, CrossFit, and of course, doggy play dates!
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 on 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 into 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.
Jennifer both grew up and attended public school here in Vista, CA. She obtained her teaching credential along with her BA in Education through National University. Her love of teaching started when volunteering in her own children’s classrooms, and then that love turned into an instructional aide position in the San Marcos Unified School District, where she spent over six years. She has taught all elementary grades and specializes in reading intervention. She believes that all children can learn. Jennifer believes learning comes from an understanding of the learning style unique to each child and engaging each to be responsible for their education. In her free time, Jennifer and her three children love to hike, go the the beach, and have “Sunday Fundays” together.
Kerry Diaz began her career in education 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 — as her husband has finished his service in the military — she is pleased to call Oceanside home. 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 has taught in Montessori schools in both the private and public sectors for several 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.
Lee Anna Epp is a Lower Elementary teacher 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.
Leona Wolf received her teaching credential from CSU San Marcos in 1991. She taught Kindergarten and first grade in Fallbrook before she began homeschooling her children. While homeschooling, Leona taught classes for local charter schools and homeschool cooperatives at all grade levels.
Ms. Yvone grew up in the North County San Diego area and in her free time has adventures with her husband and two young children. She loves to travel and enjoys trying new things like skydiving and eating new foods. Her passion for teaching has allowed her to explore the world and most notably, spent three years in Japan teaching English.
Ms. Yvone has her Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies, a Master’s Degree in Education, a California Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, and formal Montessori training. She is excited to be back at Bella Mente for her second year and is eager for the school year to start!
Meg Leonard Cull is an experienced lower and middle school teacher, as well as former administrator, from Salt Lake City, UT. Her entire career has been spent in independent schools ranging from Pago Pago, American Samoa, Salt Lake City, UT, Alexandria, VA, Shaker Heights, OH, to California. She values: the diversity of students, the commitment of families, working with a professional faculty, and the community vision one gains in schools such as these. She understands the hard work it takes to continually improve your teaching craft and live the mission of the school each day.
Meg, her husband Larry, a mechanical engineer, and their pug Pippi, moved to Oceanside in 2017. Meg and Larry have three grown-up daughters who are all working and studying in the medical field. Meg attended Utah State University and earned a B.S. in Elementary Education. Six years later, she attended graduate school at The University of Colorado – Boulder, earning an MA in Education with an emphasis in Curriculum. Meg has taught a variety of grade levels, including Pre/Kindergarten; 2nd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th. Her favorite grade levels are the upper elementary grades.
When not in the classroom, Meg has many interests including: travel, skiing, reading, trying out new restaurants, and spending time with family and friends. She is passionate about teaching, but is grateful for the re-charging time during the summer months. Meg enjoys working at Bella Mente Academy; her students and wonderful colleagues keep her smiling and laughing each day.
Kathleen is a native of San Diego, and she has been teaching at Bella Mente for several years. She loves working with her wonderful upper elementary students (which she likes to call her learning family) and being part of a great team of teachers and staff! Kathleen has taught both lower and upper elementary. She has a Montessori Teaching Credential, a Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential, and has earned a Master’s in Education in Cross-Cultural Teaching. Kathleen also earned a Bachelor’s in Social Work from San Diego State. Kathleen owned a personal tutoring company, which was instrumental in inspiring her to earn her teaching credential.
Additionally, she is a published children’s author of the book “Cotter Otter in Treasure Water,” which can be found at the San Diego County Libraries. Kathleen ran a small wedding business and worked as a wedding officiant marrying numerous couples in the past. She appreciates each new adventure and likes to encourage others to believe in and go after their dreams. She strives to spread positive energy.
Kathleen thoroughly enjoys coming to school each day to teach and work with her amazing students to instill a love for learning in a positive and creative manner and to encourage her students to teach others as well. She loves spending time with her three wonderful daughters, family, and friends in the community. Kathleen enjoys going on new and old adventures, hiking, swimming, watching a variety of movies, visiting popular community sites, going to the mountains and the beach, eating out, and going camping and traveling as much as possible. Kathleen likes to stay positive and keep open lines of communication, going with students and families to provide the best education plan possible. Please feel free to reach out to her via email or by phone for updates or to conference about your child.
Hello! My name is Andrea Matthews. This will be my 4th year at Bella and my 8th year teaching. I have worked with a wide range of students, 3rd grade to High School, although my heart belongs with the Upper Elementary age group! I strive to make a positive difference in each student’s life. My goal is to meet their academic, social and emotional needs.
In 2012, I received my Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary Education with English as a Second Language from Texas State University. I love living in sunny San Diego with my husband Ryan and our 5 pets (2 dogs, 2 cats and a tortoise). In my spare time I enjoy reading, gardening and traveling.
I am looking forward to another year working with the amazing staff and students at Bella Mente!
Teachers and the educational system have surrounded Mrs. McGraw for as long as she can remember. She came from a family of educators and learned to love children and teaching at a very early age. Meghan received her bachelor’s degree from Pepperdine University, which was followed by a teaching credential program at California State University, Northridge. She also attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and graduated as a certified Holistic Health Coach. Meghan holds a Clear Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the State of California. She has nine years of experience as a classroom teacher, which has included teaching 1st, 4th, and 5th grades in both a large, urban, public school setting, a mid-sized charter school, and a small, private, college preparatory academy. She has lived all over the country, including Chicago, Florida, Austin, Texas, and Boulder, Colorado, but prefers life at the beach, in sunny San Diego!
Meghan is a cheerful, fun-loving beachgoer, who loves nothing more than spending time with her sweet, baby boy, Bodhi. She also enjoys traveling, volleyball, hiking, and most any other outdoor activity. Meghan is thrilled to part of the Bella Mente family!
Mr. Bareno is originally from Mexico. He earned a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies K-12, holds a cleared California teaching credential, and has gone through Montessori training in Maria Montessori School in San Diego, Ca. Mr. Bareno started teaching ESL to high school students in 1998 in Mexico and the Caribbean. He worked in publishing as an editor of content and teacher trainer, but most of his experience is in teaching elementary school, specifically grades 4-6.
Mr. Bareno started in Bella Mente in 2015 – 2017 and is excited to be back. Mr. Bareno cares about his students and takes time to meet their individual needs and create lessons that resonate and create excitement. During his time off, Mr. Bareno likes to hike, swim, cook, and read.
Michael Chalmers comes to Bella Mente with over 15 years of teaching experience. His career as a teacher started young, when he would lecture study notes to his dog growing up to review for exams. He has always loved learning and loves to see others learn as well.
He grew up in Seattle, Washington, as a first-generation American to European parents. This instilled in him a curiosity to learn about other cultures and places. Michael has lived and studied in France, Spain, and Mexico. He started his teaching career as an ESL teacher in Europe. When he returned to the United States, he earned his teaching certification, and continued teaching English Language Development. Over the years, Michael has taught many age groups- from elementary to community college- and various subjects, from English Language Development and foreign languages, to language arts and social studies.
Michael loves to read, travel, and explore the world. After living and teaching in Washington state, then Texas, he considers the San Diego area his true home. From taking walks on the beach with his family, to enjoying an active lifestyle, Michael has fully embraced the California way of life.
He is a great supporter of the Montessori philosophy. Michael’s educational philosophy has always been to focus on the individual, and create a nurturing and also challenging environment, to help each child learn the skills necessary to become the best person he or she can be. Michael is very excited to be starting another year with Bella Mente!
Weston started his teaching career in Southern California, covering areas from Pomona to San Diego. His experience is mainly working in charter school systems. He has always been impressed by the attention to furthering the learning of the student in these alternative teaching programs. Weston is a product of the San Diego school system and obtained his bachelor’s in history from the nearby CSU San Marcos. His extreme love of history pushes him to encourage his students to love it and learn from it as well. He is the father of one young little boy named California who hopes one day to attend a Montessori school.
Jessica Mercado obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Arts and Sciences degree in Liberal Studies with a Science Specialization at San Diego State University. During college, she served on the executive board of Andres Bonifacio Samahan as a Filipino Cultural Director where she received recognition from La Jolla Playhouse and Old Globe Theater for her playwright and cultural dances based on her personal narrative. After completing her undergraduate studies, Jessica became a Site Supervisor and Youth Leader for a Chinese cultural arts program at Barnard Elementary Pacific Language Academy. As a daughter of an immigrant family being the first to graduate college, Jessica understood the value and importance of education. She then returned to San Diego State University to acquire a Preliminary Multiple Subjects Teaching Credential to further her pursuit in elementary education.
As a student-teacher in San Diego Unified School District and Lead Science Teacher for SDSU’s Aztec Science Camp, Jessica supported student agency and engagement for student-centered learning. In partnership with the Center for Research Mathematics and Science Education at SDSU, she collaboratively developed Next Generation Science Standard based curriculum which focused on inquiry-based instruction through the investigation of prevalent environmental issues affecting our local and global community. Jessica happily works to build positive collaboration, making learning meaningful, and fostering genuine scientific inquiry. When she finishes her day in the classroom, Jessica actively spends her time training traditional Filipino martial arts with Doce Pares Eskrima and performing with Samahan Dance Company for the San Diego community.
Eka received her B.A. from San Francisco State University and M.S. in School Psychology from National University. Coming from a family of educators and school administrators, Eka is passionate about educating children. She worked as a special education instructional assistant for several years while pursuing her graduate degree and Pupil Personnel Services Credential in School Psychology. Eka enjoys reading, nature walks, and gardening. In her free time, she takes care of her collection of cymbidium orchids.
Shelly Nevares received a B.A. in History from Brigham Young University, and her Master’s in Special Education from California State University San Marcos. A strong advocate of hands-on, inquiry-based learning, she involves her students in a variety of, problem-solving, and technology-infused activities that provide them with opportunities to access the general education curriculum. Her professional interests focus on supporting the unique educational needs and strengths of a child with special needs. She helps and encourages students by determining which instructional practices will meet the academic and behavioral needs identified for that student.
Tracy is excited to return to Bella as an Educational Specialist. Tracy has her Masters in Special Education and has a history working at alternative schools serving students with many different diagnoses. She genuinely cares for her students and takes the time to get to know them and identify the best way to help them grow and achieve their goals. Tracy loves working with the staff here at Bella Mente and is looking forward to a great year with students and collaborating with the team. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and spending time at the beach with family (husband and two children in college) and friends.
Liz started her career at Palomar College and still is adjunct faculty. She has her credentials in Arts, Media and Entertainment and Product Development, and Manufacturing in Career Technical Education (CTE). She focuses on helping the student understand what a Middle Skill Job is and how to obtain one.
Liz is a 4th generation San Diego Native and has a wonderful husband and two kids in college. She has spent the last ten years volunteering in running school foundations to help the school raise funds to fill in the gaps in education.
Lisa is a graduate of Cal Poly University and attained her teaching credential from National University. She has over twenty years of teaching experience in both private and public schools. She began her teaching career in Lake Elsinore but later married and moved to Oklahoma. Here she took a long break from teaching to raise her family and a few horses. When her kids were older, she returned to work and taught Kindergarten at a private school in Claremore, Oklahoma. She eventually returned to California and resumed teaching. She is married and has two grown children and five step children. In her spare time she likes to travel, garden, ride her horse and spend time at the beach.
Rik was born in La Mirada, California. His family moved to the Native American reservation of the Navajo Indian Tribe in Thoreau, New Mexico when he was eight years old. Rik graduated high school in Thoreau in 1986 and attended NMSU on a music scholarship for music education and performance.
He attended NMSU as a music education major but moved back to California in 1988-89, where he started his career in construction. Rik has worked in the construction industry for the past 26 years while at the same time continuing with his musical endeavors at a professional level.
Rik started as a laborer but, through the years, moved up to project manager. He started building high profile residences and businesses in the La Jolla Farms, Rancho Santa Fe, and the Fairbanks Ranch areas. Along with building homes, Rik has used his master carpentry skills to build custom furniture and has served as Master Carpenter on several Private yachts.
Rik’s experience in construction, team management, and facilities helps him to meet the demands of a growing campus and school community. “Being able to make things is great, but being able to make a difference … Well, that’s the best part of my job!.”
Jorge joined the Bella Mente team in 2015. Before he joined Bella, he worked in the landscape industry for 15+ years. He is an avid soccer player.
Join us for a bright career
Bella Mente Montessori Academy offers equal educational and employment opportunities, regardless of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, age, marital status, sexual orientation, national origin, or disability.
The Title IX Coordinator is the Executive Director, Erin Feeley, 760-621-8931 , Efeeley@bellamentecharter.org
The suicide prevention coordinator is the Executive Director, Erin Feeley, 760-621-8931, Efeeley@bellamentecharter.org.
The secondary contact is the School Psychologist, Ekarianna Zoss, 760-621-8949, Ezoss@bellamentecharter.org.