Meet the New 2018/19 Staff!


City Garden is excited to welcome wonderful new staff to the City Garden family this year! Also, congratulations to returning staff who are entering new positions! Get to know them all:

Mr. Blake Beck, Assistant Guide, Upper Elementary

Blake Beck is from St. Charles, Missouri. He went to the University of Missouri in Columbia, where he studied English with an emphasis in creative writing. After graduating from college, Blake worked as a substitute teacher in the Francis Howell School District. He is very excited to join the City Garden community as an Assistant Guide and grow as an educator and individual. Outside of education, he enjoys reading, attending pro-wrestling events, and trying new restaurants. He goes by Mr. Beck or Mr. Blake.

Mx. Kath Leverenz, Assistant Guide, Upper Elementary

Kath R. Leverenz is an interdisciplinary creator and educator. After earning a BA in art therapy in 2012, Kath worked in a variety of community education settings facilitating creative arts programming. In 2016, they relocated to St. Louis for graduate school. Kath studied media based organizing and is passionate about the use of the arts, media, and technology for social justice. Kath is especially enthusiastic about sharing this passion with youth. Mx. Kath (Mx. is pronounced “mix”) is an assistant guide in Upper El and is very excited to be part of the City Garden community. Kath lives in Tower Grove South and is also a filmmaker and avid nature lover.

Ms. Kelly McNerney, Assistant Guide, Junior High

A native of the Bay Area, California, Kelly got her start teaching at U.C. Santa Cruz and went on to teach English as a Second Language and Academic Writing/College English for Multilingual Composers in Spain, China, and the US.  She holds an MFA  in Creative Writing and has worked as a Literary Editor, Bookseller, Curriculum Developer, and Spanish Teacher. She lives in the Shaw neighborhood with her husband (and a bunch of cats).  Ms. Kelly is beyond thrilled to be joining the City Garden team this year as an Assistant Guide in the Junior High classrooms.

Ms. Candace Robinson, Assistant Guide, Junior High

Candace Robinson is one of the Assistant Guides for Junior High at City Garden. Candace holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees from the University of Missouri- Columbia in Sociology and Psychology with a concentration in Multicultural Studies. After college, Candace’s interests in social equality, education, and urban development led her to teach English for the Ministry of Education in rural South Korea and on Chicago’s South-side. In her spare time, she enjoys laughing, reading, and cultural exploration! Candace has experienced an abundance of cultures, gained a phenomenal educational skill set, and believes in the development of young children socially and academically, which has led Candace to City Garden.

Ms. Lisa Stewart, Assistant Guide, Lower Elementary 2

Lisa Stewart is joining City Garden as a Lower Elementary Assistant Guide. She has been in the education field for five years, worked in day care for over 10 years, and graduated with her BA in Early Childhood Education Administration/Child Development in 2014. Ms. Lisa (or Ms. Stewart) comes from a large family and has one daughter who is 13 years old. Her favorite colors are red and black; she loves Mickey Mouse, writing, music, and spending time with family. She is extremely excited to be taking on her new role here at City Garden and is looking forward to building great relationships and an amazing first year!

Ms. Lorena Veresh, Lead Guide, Lower Elementary 2

Lorena Veresh is a new Lower Elementary Guide, but is not new to teaching. She comes to City Garden with 16 years of experience. Her background is in public administration, but she soon discovered a strong passion for teaching after her oldest daughter entered preschool. She holds certificates in Elementary Education grades 1-6 and French K-12 in the state of Missouri and is preschool certified in the state of Maryland. She is very excited about this new opportunity to learn the Montessori Theory of Development, because it closely aligns with her personal beliefs about how children learn. Lorena is bilingual and speaks French at home with her 3 daughters ages 19, 15, and 12.

Ms. Heather-Dawn Mitchell, Assistant Guide, Lower Elementary 3

Heather-Dawn, often reduced to Ms. HD, is a wearer of many hats. In addition to embarking on her second school year as an assistant guide at City Garden, she serves a City Garden family as a nanny, serves and manages a local restaurant, volunteers with an anti-racist collective providing childcare, and uses her yoga teaching certification in the nonprofit sector to combat yoga’s often inaccessible and grossly appropriated nature. She believes deeply that living a changeable, inspiring, lively, and multidisciplinary lifestyle is exciting, adds so much sparkle to her narrative, and empowers creative expression. Ms. HD has an associates degree in Applied Science Early Care & Education. She engineered her student field experiences at the William L. Clay Sr. Early Childhood Development Center at Harris Stowe and exceeded the required hours and objectives, which led to a full time job opportunity as an assistant preschool teacher. She believes her unabashed heart and earnestness in action can be most easily understood with a short story: A student asked his teacher that commonly asked question, “what is the meaning of life?” The teacher said “I have the answer right here in my bag,” and took out a small mirror, captured a ray of light with it, and directed the light to the young man’s face. “Can you all see how I am catching the light and directing it to his face?” he asked.”Yes.” “The meaning of life,” the Master explained, “is to gather Light and to take it where it’s needed. Your purpose is to capture some Light and take it out into the world.” Ms. HD believes in doing so through the utmost intentionality in her thoughts, words, actions, attitude, education and advocacy, and “spreading the Light”, making a smiling joyful impression wherever she goes.

Mr. Robert Nelson, Lead Guide, Upper Elementary 1

Mr. Robert Nelson has the rare distinction of having been recognized as a Missouri Highly Qualified Teacher (HQT) after meeting the standard and criteria for such a recognition. He is a proud native of St. Louis and continues a tradition and family legacy of highly qualified educators. Mr. Nelson is an award winning English Language Arts and Writing Instructor with years of rewarding experience, yet remains excited about re-imagining a fresh approach to academia that the family of City Garden
Montessori offers. He is a proud graduate of Alabama A&M University and earned a Master’s
from Lindenwood University. He continued studies and intense coursework at The University of Alabama, Webster University, Harris Stowe State University, and University of Missouri. Mr. Nelson has worked closely with learners from grades 1 though 12 and has served as a classroom educator, Reading Specialist, Instructional Literacy Coach, Academy Coordinator, Assistant Guide, and has designed and facilitated various mentorship programs. He is a proud father of three, grandfather, and mentor. He is passionate about many things ranging from jazz music and the arts to cars and boxing. “I am amazed at the process of student learning, growing, discovering, and utilizing their gifts and talents,” he says. “I look forward to meeting each and every one that has a vested interest in the success of this amazing organization. I am honored to have joined forces and been provided the opportunity to collaborate with the amazing team of lifelong learners at City Garden Montessori School. I am expecting yet another awesome, eye-opening, and life changing experience this academic school year. The best is yet to come.”