Southern Tier Montessori


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Our Staff

Head Teacher – Mrs. Ursula Gurke (

    Ursula Gurke is an American Montessori Society (AMS)

certified lower elementary teacher. She has been the Head

Teacher and Directress of Southern Tier Montessori School

(STMS) since its founding in 2008.

    Ursula is an educator with over 30 years of experience

on the pre-school, K-3, high school and university levels,

including 16 years as a Montessori teacher. Prior to STMS,

she taught at The Brookwood School and Children’s Center

in Cooperstown, New York and The Julia Brown Montessori

School in Columbia, Maryland. Earlier in her career Ursula

was an instructor at Ohio State University and worked in

schools for the blind in the US and overseas. Ursula received

her Montessori training at the Columbus Montessori Center

(COMET). In addition, she holds an M.A. in Languages and

Literature from the University of Warsaw and a B.A. from

the Teacher’s College of Warsaw, Poland.

Teacher - Mrs. Betty Warner

   Betty has thirteen years of experience in education with children and adults. Most recently she has been a substitute teacher at Johnson City Elementary School and has also worked as a paraprofessional with special needs children in Vestal elementary schools assisting with academic and life skills. She taught medical assisting courses at Broome Community College and Ridley Lowell.

   Betty is the mother of a teenage daughter and helps her husband at his dental practice. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Education from the State University of New York at Albany and an Associate Degree in Applied Science in Medical Assisting from Westchester Community College.

Assistant Teacher - Ms. Jackie VanGorden

   Jackie is an AMI-certified Montessori educator and a parent of three young girls. She is also certified as a Teaching Assistant in NYS public school system. Jackie has over 20 years of experience in the education and child care fields, fostering learning and development of young children.

   During her career, Jackie worked in a variety of schools, both public and private, including 9 years as a Lead Teacher at CA Child Development Center in Islandia, NY.

   Jackie's responsibilities at Southern Tier Montessori include assisting in 3-5 year old classroom.

Music – Mrs. Barbara Kaufman

    Barbara Kaufman has many years of teaching experience with children of all ages and adults. For 15 years she was the music teacher at The Susquehanna School, a progressive independent school for pre-K through 8th grade. Barbara has taught music at STMS since its beginning in 2008. She also maintains teaching studios in Binghamton and Ithaca where she teaches recorder in private lessons and ensembles.

    Barbara is a well known local musician performing regularly as part of the recorder/classical guitar duo Simple Gifts and the chamber ensemble Early On.

Ms. Ursula Gurke, Head Teacher, Southern Tier Montessori School, Vestal, NY