An independent middle and high school based on Montessori principles
Jonathan Saylor earned his BS in Geology at Eastern Michigan University before working as a professional field geologist for nearly a decade. His field experience has taken him all over the United States, and around the globe to Puerto Rico and the Philippines. He pursued his Master’s of Education at Eastern Michigan University through the Wilson Fellowship, a program designed to equip qualified professional scientists, engineers, and math scholars to teach high school. He taught high school in Detroit and Ypsilanti, MI before moving to Harrisonburg in 2019.
When he is not at school, Jonathan enjoys playing Ultimate Frisbee and Disc Golf, battling in Pokemon Go, and spending time outside with Pam and Zadie.
Primary Teacher – After growing up in Rappahannock county, Lakota attended a boarding school in Massachusetts with a focus on the head, the hand and the heart, a sentiment she carries with her as a teacher. At James Madison University, Lakota received her BFA with a focus in ceramics and k-12 art education and a minor in special education. Lakota realized that public education was not the arena for her and came to Montessori through her sister, who’s four children attended a Montessori school. She attended the Montessori Institute of San Diego and acquired her M.Ed from Loyola University Maryland. Lakota’s favorite aspect of teaching is seeing a child’s excitement and joy from learning something new and feeling capable of anything they put their mind to. She currently lives in Madison with her wife and two stepchildren. Lakota loves participating in local theater, creating art at home, baking, singing, and spending time with her family.
Mike brings a love of nature, the outdoors, and wildlife. His energy and wily sense of humor make working with him an adventure. He enjoys sharing practical projects with students.
Mike holds a B.S. in Biology from George Mason University. He has both a theoretical and a practical interest in farming. He practices sustainable, grass-based farming. Mike studies and practices ecological growing of food and animal husbandry. He created a heating system for the schoolhouse and the farmhouse using locally available wood. He is involved with the students as a teacher and a mentor; he goes on trips with the school. Together Susan and Mike also manage Belle Meade Bed & Breakfast and Belle Meade Day Camp. In addition, Mike is serving his second term on the Rappahannock County Board of Supervisors.
Susan is a dedicated and compassionate leader who provides inspiration and vision for the school program, working towards her goals with a determined passion. Susan cares about her staff and students, working hard to ensure that each person is valued and heard.
Susan Hoffman, A.B. Smith College, Ed. M. Harvard, Ed. D. Johns Hopkins University, has a diverse educational background. She has more than four decades of experience teaching, training teachers, and writing curricula. Her love of teaching and her love of the outdoors have merged in Belle Meade School. Susan’s experience includes training teachers, developing mathematics curriculum, working as a mathematics resource teacher, classroom teaching, individual tutoring in mathematics and reading. She was twice the state level winner of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics Teaching. She also was awarded a Cafritz Foundation grant for studying mathematics in China and Japan. She teaches Mathematics and Latin and participates in many school and farm activities. She and Mike established Belle Meade Day Camp in 1994 and Belle Meade School in 2007.
Head of the Lower School and Lead LS Guide – Jami enjoys working with children of all ages and specifically loves to design learning opportunities based on the students’ individual interests.
Jami is creative and artistic. She enjoys painting, photography, acting, and vocal performance. She has a B.A. degree from Converse College in Early Childhood Education and a Master’s degree in Elementary Education with an emphasis on Montessori Philosophy. She completed the AMS/MACTE program for ages 6 to 9 at Lander University in 2008, and the 9 to 12 program at the Montessori Teacher Training institute in 2012. Jami has experience teaching kindergarten through middle school, with a strong focus on Science, and also has experience teaching Early Childhood Education at the college level.
Jami’s simple philosophy of education is to trust the method, engage the students, and most importantly to trust the children in their pursuit of learning. She can’t imagine herself in any other profession than educator. She spends her free time reading, painting, learning new things, and performing in community theatre.
Pam brings a passion for outdoor education and extensive classroom experience to her work at Belle Meade.
A jack of all trades, Pam came to teaching circuitously. She earned her BA in Theater from Eastern Mennonite University, and after graduating, went on a long and rambling journey involving goat farming, professional cooking, and theater directing and writing, among other things. During this time she was a Playwriting Fellow at the prestigious MacDowell Artist Colony in New Hampshire. She stumbled into teaching quite by accident, fell in love, and completed her teacher training through the MARC program at the University of Michigan. She has taught across a variety of age levels and content areas: forest preschool, middle school math and science, high school English, and theater for all ages. Whether teaching in rural Virginia or Detroit, MI, her favorite part of the job is watching students grow in confidence and grace as they take on bigger and bigger challenges. She is currently working to complete the AMI/NAMTA Adolescent Orientation, so she can better anchor her work in the Upper School in Montessori pedagogy.
When not at school, you can find her working in the garden, fermenting things, hiking with Jonathan and Zadie, and reading dystopian novels.