Christeen Rasmussen, Lead Teacher Primary 2 Classroom
My name is Chris Rasmussen, better known as Miss Chris. I am the lead teacher in Primary class 2. I joined the teaching staff at the Vineyard Montessori School in 2002 as an assistant and quickly moved into the lead teacher position within a few months. I have also had the opportunity to be the Director for a couple of years but knew that my heart lay in the classroom with the children so I moved back to being the lead teacher. I took my Montessori training at the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in New Rochelle, New York and became certified in both the Primary (3-6yrs) and Toddler programs. After completing my training, I taught in the oldest Montessori school in the United States, The Whitby School, located in Greenwich, Connecticut. I had the privilege of teaching there for 17 years before moving to the island in 2001.
I became interested in the Montessori method and philosophy when I volunteered in a Montessori school in Hilton Head, South Carolina. I wanted to work with young children but didn’t know anything about Maria Montessori and her philosophy. After taking that first step into the beautiful, organized and inviting classroom, I knew that I wanted to learn more about the method and returned to Connecticut to take my training. That was in the early 1980’s and I have been hooked ever since!
I have three sons, all of which attended The Whitby School through first grade. I was very fortunate to watch my children blossom in a Montessori environment while working just a classroom away. Some things I enjoy doing when I am not spending time in my classroom are reading, gardening and most of all, spending time with my family.
Tyrene Johnston, Lead Teacher Upper Elementary Classroom
Ty Johnston is a full-blooded Montessorian! Both of her parents and also two sisters were Montessori teachers. She has taught all age-levels in this method of education, but concentrated mainly on Upper Elementary (ages 9-12) and Adolescent (ages 12-15).
Her education includes a Master of Education from Lesley University. She learned from that experience that Montessori answers so many of the challenges of teaching with which traditional educators struggle. Freedom of choice, concentration, joyful learning, independent thinking, creativity… all of these attributes of being are nourished with Montessori!
Ty has taught at various Montessori schools across the country. In her previous position, she worked for 34 years at Thacher Montessori School in Milton, MA, where she taught Primary, Elementary, and Adolescent classes.
After relocating to the Island in 2014 she happily took over a Primary classroom from 2014 through 2017. In September of 2017 she began VMS’s first middle school program and continues in that position.
Besides her husband Bob, Ty has three grown children and two grandchildren who live off-island in the Boston area. Her standard poodle Monty completes her family, and offers many opportunities for walks on the beach or in the woods. Her hobbies are reading, yoga/meditation, and gardening.
Caroline Drogin, Elementary Assistant
Caroline graduated in May 2020 with her Masters in Library and Information Science, specializing in public libraries, academic libraries, and diversity and inclusion. She has been visiting Martha’s Vineyard since she was young and moved here full time in May 2020. As an educator, she is passionate about providing information access for learners of all ages. In her free time, she loves to read, crochet, sew, and spend time in nature.
Irene Wendt, Kindergarten Teacher
Irene’s first experience with the Montessori approach to education took place when searching for the best learning environment for her daughter. She and her husband immediately knew that the carefully prepared, beautiful environment of the Vineyard Montessori classrooms would help their daughter to become a confident, caring, independent learner.
Irene completed her masters in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College in Boston in 2006. The following year while assisting in the Elementary classroom, she attended the Seacoast Center for Education in NH and finished her Elementary I training. Her Elementary II training was completed through Montessori Elementary Teacher Training Collaborative (METTC) in Lexington, MA in 2015.
As VMS has expanded, Irene has transitioned to lead teacher of the Elementary Program. She has found that working with elementary students is very rewarding as these inquisitive young people are developing a sense of who they are, how they can make a difference in the world and how to challenge themselves socially and intellectually.
Cristina Martino, Lead Teacher Primary 1 Classroom
Cristina Martino was born in Cadiz, a small city in the south of Spain, and moved to Martha’s Vineyard in 2015. After assisting in the Primary classroom for two years, Cristina recently completed her first year as Lead Teacher and earned her AMS Lead Teacher certification. She also leads the Spanish language curriculum at VMS.
Cristina’s passion for teaching started when she first encountered the Montessori philosophy, and she was immediately drawn to the prepared environment as well as the freedom, independence and responsibility of the curriculum. The children are appropriately challenged and free to pursue their passions, and the uninterrupted work time helps each child build concentration, focus on internal development and develop their own unique personality.
When not in the classroom, Cristina enjoys spending her free time with her family, traveling and going to the beach.
Felicia Williams-Hart, Teacher Primary 2 Classroom
Felicia grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and attended Bridgewater State College for Business Management. Recently, after having two children of her own, she decided it was time to do what she always wanted to do and become a teacher. Felicia loves working with young children and exploring the world from their point of view. She is pursuing her EEC Lead Teacher certificate.
Rhiannon Fernandes, Office Administrator
Rhiannon joined VMS in 2017 and brings many years of office experience to her role. A Montessori student and parent, she previously worked as a kitchen designer and holds a B.F.A. in Architectural Design from MA College of Art and Design, Boston. Rhiannon is a Massachusetts native and moved to the Island in 2015. She lives in Oak Bluffs with her husband and teenage son and enjoys traveling and gardening.
Debbie Jernegan, Head of School
Andreea Iftene, Teacher Primary 1 Classroom
Nora Dyke, Lead Teacher Elementary I Classroom
Board of Trustees
The school is organized as a non-profit organization that is governed by a Board of Trustees. The board members are:
Jackie Friedman, Chair
Laura Seguin, Clerk
Tony Stratakos, Treasurer
Ex Officio Members:
Debbie Jernegan, Head of School
The Board of Trustees is responsible for governance of the school, ensuring adherence to the school’s mission, and supports the Head of School of VMS. The Head of School is responsible for the daily operations of VMS. When the Head of School is off-premises the Lead Teachers are responsible for the daily operations of VMS.
2023 Strategic Vision
The parents, leaders and faculty are preparing Martha’s Vineyard’s next generation for future success, aiming to exceed the Massachusetts State Standards for each grade by fostering each student’s potential to become bright, outside-the-box thinkers – creative and open-minded about the future. See our strategic plan for 2023 below.