The Montessori Toddler Program


A child at twelve months is just beginning to experience the world. In the next year, he or she will probably begin to walk and run, talk in simple sentences, feed him or herself, and many other milestones. The one’s classroom at Alegria Montessori has been designed by our Montessori trained teachers to present your young toddler with a safe, engaging, and loving space in which to explore, gain confidence, and practice independence. We offer a language-rich environment that respects the autonomy and individuality of each child in our care. Sensory experimentation and movement are encouraged, with a toddler-friendly outdoor playground, covered porch, and garden.


Between the ages of 24 months and 3 years of age, your child child develops explosively – body control (running, jumping, and dancing), fine motor control (tweezing, spooning, pouring, and grasping), language development (speaking in sentences and paragraphs, telling and listening to stories, and singing), and socially and emotionally (beginning to make friends and learn social graces). Your two year old is busy! Our Montessori trained teachers offer a sensory and language-rich environment that paves the way for future successes. We offer many practical life skills to a child of this age, which hones motor control and independence. At Alegria Montessori School, we have prepared a safe, friendly, and ordered classroom for your child to practice these skills and build concentration, independence, and confidence.

Toddler Faculty:

Tanya Rotter

Tanya Rotter

Toddler Teacher: One-Year Olds / Level Coordinator

Tanya Rotter has worked at Alegria since 2006. She is currently the lead teacher and site director at our Alegria Lakewood campus. Before coming to Alegria, Tanya taught in a traditional school in Kentucky for 8 years, working with children from 1 to 12 years of age. Tanya obtained her Associate’s Degree in Child Development at Eckerd College and earned an Infant/Toddler Montessori teaching credential from Palm Harbor Montessori Teacher Education Center.

Jenni Presley

Jenni Presley

Toddler Teaching Assistant: One-Year Olds

Jenni Presley is a teaching assistant in the one-year-olds classroom. Prior to joining Alegria, she conducted regular educational sessions for one- and two-year-olds in her native Englewood, Ohio. She received a degree in print journalism and photography from the University of Kentucky in 2002 and worked for 13 years in commercial photography. She plans to further her Montessori training in the near future. Jenni’s son, Finn, has been attending Alegria since VPK.

Jessica Silva-Culbreath

Toddler Teacher: One-Year Olds

Jessica is the lead teacher in the one-year-olds classroom on the main campus. She has a bachelor’s degree in Theater from the University of Central Florida. Jessica has experience working with elementary, middle, and high school students. A St. Petersburg native, her daughter and son both attend Alegria.

Hanna Shepler

Toddler Assistant

This is Hanna’s first year with Alegria, but she has worked with children for many years. She studied early childhood development at Grossmont College in California while nannying. Hanna recently made the move to Florida to be closer to her family. She is taking a year to establish Florida residency and then plans to return to school for a BS in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences. Hanna’s goal is to work with youth in foster care.

Carrie Smith

Carrie Smith

Toddler Teacher: Two-Year Olds

Carrie has been at Alegria since 2010. She started as an intern, observing and substituting in all the classrooms. In 2013 Carrie earned her Infant/Toddler Montessori teaching credential from Palm Harbor Montessori Teacher Education Center. A native of Saint Petersburg, FL, Carrie has a son in our Elementary program, who has been attending Alegria since he was a toddler.

Soha Abdelhamed

Soha Abdelhamed

Toddler Teaching Assistant: Two-Year Olds

Soha joined Alegria in 2013. Soha was born and raised in Egypt, where she worked as a nurse for 15 years, before moving to the U.S. in 2009. She plans to further her Montessori training in the near future.


Grace Lewis

Toddler Teacher: Two-Year Olds

Grace was born in the Netherlands while her parents were on sabbatical, a trip originally meant to last half a year that was extended several times so that she was 8 when her family finally moved back to the United States. An idyllic childhood spent in the New Jersey countryside (yes it exists) was followed by an even more idyllic four years at a small liberal arts college in Iowa. There she learned to wear wool socks with Birkenstocks while hugging trees, along with a love of mathematics. She rounded out her education in New York studying graphic design. Two children later, Grace fell in love with Montessori education and followed her daughter to school at Alegria where she’s been working ever since. A lover of clean lines, Grace enjoys creating materials for her classroom where toddlers spend their days teaching her lessons in kindness, generosity, honesty, bravery, and mindfulness.

Umekua Jordan

Umekua Carty

Toddler Teaching Assistant: Two-Year Olds

Umekua Carty graduated from Boca Ciega with honors in 2010 and graduated from St Petersburg College in 2014. She began working at Alegria in the summer of 2012. Over the years, Umekua has worked with students at every level from Lower Elementary to one-year olds. For the past three years Umekua has worked with the two-year olds. In the afternoons, she helps in the aftercare program and assists with scheduling and other admin duties. In her free time Umekua enjoys spending time at the beach, listening to music, and reading.


Cheyenne Duran Castillo

Toddler Substitute

Born in Texas, raised in Indiana, but now a Floridian and graduate from SPC with AA, Cheyenne continuing her education in child development. Before Montessori she had 3 years experience with school age children, but no amount of experience can compare to the eye opening, journey since starting with Alegria Montessori. Between becoming a mom herself and learning the world of Montessori, she has learned so much more in time at Alegria. She is excited to continue gaining knowledge on child development and the world of Montessori.