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. Hyejin Won

   Hyejin received her AMS Montessori Early Childhood Certification in 2005 and holds a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

   Prior to joining Southern Tier Montessori, Hyejin worked as a head teacher for four years and as an assistant teacher for a year at the Children’s House of Malta Montessori School in Malta, NY. She also had three years of teaching experience at the Children's of Promise in St. Louis, MO and was an intern for two years at the Chesterfield Day Montessori School in Chesterfield, MO.

   Hyejin started her career in education by receiving a BA in Spanish and Education from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Seoul, South Korea and by teaching Spanish there at a high school level. She is a mom of two boys and enjoys gardening, cooking and traveling.

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