Debbie Jernegan, Head of School

Miss Debbie, Head of School, was appointed in summer 2012 and is looking forward to beginning her 11th year at VMS. As the Head of School, Debbie is delighted to embrace the work of providing a high fidelity Montessori experience for children and their families. She feels fortunate to have a passionate and dedicated staff with her on this journey.

Debbie has been a resident of the Vineyard for 37 years, is married and has three grown children, Laura, Alex, and Ella, and a golden retriever named Bentley. She has over 24 years of experience in education and 31 years of administrative experience, receiving a Masters in Management from Lesley University, Cambridge MA. Last year she graduated from Tufts Institute for Nonprofit Practice with a certificate in Nonprofit Leadership. Additionally, Debbie recently became the Vice President of Montessori Schools of Massachusetts (MSM) where she has volunteered for the last 6 years, joining the work of the Advocacy and Professional Development committees. For the past three years she has chaired the MSM Professional Development Committee, coordinating and building professional development and networking opportunities for Montessori teachers throughout New England.

Aela Mass, Advancement Director

Miss Aela joined the Montessori administration team in 2022 after nine years at the MV Chamber of Commerce. She brings her professional experience in business development, marketing, communication, and strategic planning with her, and looks forward to growing with the school and community. Aela lives just a few short blocks from our school with her wife, Sara, along with their two daughters and two dogs.

Rhiannon Fernandes, Director of School Operations

Miss Rhiannon began working at VMS in 2016 and brings many years of office experience to her role. She holds a degree in Architecture and worked in engineering and design before moving to the Island. She attended King’s Wood Montessori School in Foxboro, as did her son Lukas, a MVRHS grad. Rhiannon lives in Oak Bluffs and loves to travel, hike and garden.

Cristina Martino, Assistant

Miss Cristina 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 completed her first year as Lead Teacher and earned her AMS Lead Teacher certification. She also led the Spanish language curriculum at VMS until her maternity leave.

Now with two young children, Cristina has returned to VMS in a new capacity to assist in the Primary office! She enjoys spending her free time with her family, traveling and going to the beach.

The Elementary Team is a mixed-age classroom for ages 9-12 at our satellite campus in downtown Vineyard Haven.

Irene Jackson, Lead Teacher

Miss Irene felt right at home during her first visit to VMS. It was fun watching science experiments and helping a little bit with math lessons, and she enjoyed talking with the students about the pros and cons of living on the island. Given that the strongest con was not having a Target, she thinks she will be okay. Miss Irene is a gardener, a cook, a walker, and a person who loves to learn.

Irene attended Brown University, where she earned a degree in American Civilization. She taught in both public and private schools before attending graduate school at the University of Maine, where she earned a master’s degree in English. Both during and after graduate school, Irene taught college writing courses where she learned a great deal from the work.

Irene’s child attended a wonderful Montessori school near where they lived in Old Town, Maine, and she became an upper elementary and middle school teacher there. When her family moved to Massachusetts, she became a founding teacher at the Tremont School in Concord, which serves neurologically diverse students. Most recently, she has been teaching fifth grade at the Applewild School in Fitchburg.

Miss Irene is happy to return to a Montessori environment, as this is where she has felt most comfortable and inspired as a teacher. We are truly excited for her to begin this adventure with our students.

Irene Wendt, Lead Teacher

Miss 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 Master’s 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.

Irene has found that working with 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.

Primary classrooms are located in the original school building on our main campus. The Primary Building consists of the Primary 1 and Primary 2 classrooms, and the Kindergarten-Elementary I classroom.


Chris Rasmussen, Primary Team Coordinator & Primary 2 Lead Teacher

Miss Chris joined the teaching staff at VMS 2002 as an assistant and quickly moved into the lead teacher position. She also had the opportunity to be the Director for a couple of years but knew that her heart lay in the classroom with the children. Miss Chris received her 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 her training, she taught in the oldest Montessori school in the United States, The Whitby School in Greenwich, Connecticut. She had the privilege of teaching there for 17 years before moving to the island in 2001. Miss Chris has three sons, all of whom attended The Whitby School through first grade. She was very fortunate to watch her children blossom in a Montessori environment while working just a classroom away. Some things she enjoys doing when she is not spending time in her classroom are reading, gardening and most of all, spending time with her family.

Deborah Dayal, Primary 1 Lead Teacher

Miss Deborah’s daughter Maria attended VMS many years ago. She adored her first school classmates and teachers and she’s still in touch with some of her VMS friends!

Prior to starting a family, Deborah was teacher/director of VMS for 9 years. She left the island to accept a position as interim director of the Litchfield Montessori School. A few years later, and baby Aaron on the way, she moved to Washington, CT and joined The Washington Montessori School community. She was blessed with a third child, Noah, and all three of her children attended and graduated from Washington Montessori School after 11 years of Montessori education each. They’re all thriving young adults and she’s the proud grandma of one-year old Luka, her daughter Maria’s beautiful baby boy.

While at WMS Deborah worked as a primary classroom teacher, reading tutor, learning support teacher, created and developed a yoga and mindfulness program for children, staff and parents at both WMS and Sunflower Montessori School, co-directed cultural enrichment for two years and helped design, plant and tend the school gardens as well as attend countless soccer, basketball and baseball games!

In addition, Deborah loves to dance, sing, practice yoga and meditation, walk the beaches, swim, sail, explore nature, garden, cook and of course spend time with her growing family, friends and beloved pets.

Natalie Flood, Primary 1 Teacher

Miss Natalie grew up in Upstate NY and spent her summers visiting her grandmother in Falmouth. After living in New Orleans for years, she and her son Addison, a VMS student in Miss Ty’s class, made Falmouth their home. Miss Natalie worked at a Montessori school in Falmouth for four years before joining the Primary 1 classroom at VMS last year. Natalie is currently attending The Prepared Montessori Institute and working towards her Montessori Teacher Diploma (3-6). She is eager to share her passion for science and nature with her students as she works alongside Miss Deborah.

Sally Renear Listo, Primary 2 Teacher

After graduating from the University of Massachusetts with a Bachelor’s degree in Science, Miss Sally ventured out to expand her Dressage training and teaching. Soon she found herself back on the island teaching dressage and having two wonderful girls. When her daughters were 3 and 4 years old, she realized her love for the preschool classroom and became an EEC qualified Pre-K teacher. She has devoted her love and skills to many island children since. While living in Vermont, Sally had the opportunity to work at School Street Montessori where she discovered hands-on learning, self directed play and working together allowed children to make amazing choices. Since then, she has always managed to implement the Montessori philosophy into her teaching and curriculum. She has also had the opportunity to teach using other methods: Emergent Curriculum, Developmentally Appropriate and in the public school system in Vermont as a Special Educator for grades K – 6. Sally is delighted to be returning for her second year at VMS working alongside Miss Chris.

Victoria DeLeon, Kindergarten & Elementary I Lead Teacher

Miss Victoria arrived last year to Martha’s Vineyard from two other US islands – St. Croix and Saipan. Her extensive Montessori trainings, multiple master’s degrees, and global teaching experiences have taken her around the world many times (to six of the seven continents!). Although she has attempted to retire twice, she continues to be lured back by her love of children and desire to stay a useful and productive member of the World. Miss Victoria looks forward to another wonderful year in the Kindergarten/Elementary I classroom.

Lisa Augustave, Primary Support Teacher & Extended Care Teacher

Our Summer Camp Director Miss Lisa has decided to make the island her home and joined the Primary team in 2022. For the past 20 years Lisa has educated South Florida youths on the importance of self and creative expression. She loves to watch their bravery as they explore their curiosity and untouched thoughts and ideas. With that in mind, she finds her own principles and values are in line with the Montessori philosophy and looks forward to sharing and learning with everyone this school year.

Our Toddler classrooms offer much needed year-round childcare to working families. The Toddler program is in our new building on our main campus.

Felicia Williams-Hart, Toddler Team Coordinator & Toddler Lead Teacher

Miss Felicia is excited to be returning to her second year in our Toddler program. She worked at VMS for over two years as a teacher in our Primary classroom, as well as the summer camp Director. Over the past few years she obtained her Lead Teacher certification in both preschool aged children and toddlers. Felicia has two young children of her own and enjoys observing them, as well as her students, as they explore the world around them. She is honored to be a part of your child’s learning journey!

Liz Burnham, Lead Teacher

Miss Liz grew up on Martha’s Vineyard and has lived in Edgartown for most of her life. She graduated from MVRHS and went on to earn a BS in Early Childhood/Special Ed at Fitchburg State College. She has almost 40 years of experience as a childcare professional, and spent 33 of those years as an Infant/Toddler Teacher at Martha’s Vineyard Community Services. Liz is an integral part of our Toddler program since joining the team in 2021.

Ella Jernegan, Lead Teacher

After working at VMS Summer Camp where she was a counselor in 2019, Miss Ella returned to our school as a Toddler teacher in 2021. She has many years of infant and toddler experience at Mass General, Brookline public schools, and Harvard Yard CCC, and holds a degree in Psychology from UMass Boston. Ella was recently accepted into the Erikson Institute in Chicago’s online Master of Social Work program where she will be studying infant/child mental health.

Andri Coca-Jose, Teacher

Miss Andri grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico where she earned her college degree as a Registered Nurse. In 2016 she was assigned a nursing job on Martha’s Vineyard, where she quickly fell in love with the community. For years her goal was to become a teacher, and eventually she earned an assistant teacher position in Edgartown. After having a child, she happily discovered the Montessori school during an open house event. “It’s a real honor to be part of the Montessori team,” Andri says.

Board of Trustees

The school is organized as a non-profit organization that is governed by a Board of Trustees. Read on to learn more about who our Trustees are as they answer the question, “Why do you volunteer your time in support of VMS?”

Erin Ready, Chair
“You get what you give! Montessori is an incredible place – for my kids and also for our community at large – and the investment of my time and support comes back tenfold. Like most nonprofits, the school accomplishes so much with a small (but mighty) staff, so I know my help has an impact. VMS is a wonderful community to be a part of.” ~Erin Ready, Edgartown Board of Trade, Executive Director | Edgartown Meat and Fish, Owner

John Talanian, Vice-Chair
Owner, Paul Daniele Home Inspections
“After seeing how our daughter has blossomed in so many ways after attending the toddler program at Vineyard Montessori School, I immediately knew I wanted to help support the school further, beyond just the tuition. It’s wonderful to see children of all ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds develop into self-motivated, creative, independent thinkers. The VMS is a loving, supportive, and collaborative community that all has the same goal in mind of helping children begin and engage in a lifetime love of learning. Donating my time as well as supporting the VMS philanthropically is my way of giving back just a small piece of what has been given to us through our daughter’s development by each and every person who works at Vineyard Montessori School.”


Peter Ryan, Treasurer
Literary Agent & Vice President, Stimola Literary Studio

“VMS is an incredible school and I give my time and energy because I want it to continue to be an incredible place for children to learn and grow. The entire team at VMS safely and successfully cared for our children through the depths of the Covid crisis with grace, compassion and diligence. Our children have grown and learned so much from VMS and I hope that families for many years to come will see the same for their children.” 


Christina Simmons, Clerk
VMS Alum, and Mom to Hazel, Charlotte, and Avery
“I volunteer at VMS because I love being able to support and give back to a place that offers so much to the community, and to be a part of my children’s learning. VMS has been an integral part of my children’s lives and because of their nurturing and dedication to students my children have gained a sense of independence, curiosity, and a love of learning. Early childhood education is such an important and formative part of a child’s life and VMS is an incredible place. I am so happy to be able to support the VMS community and give back.”

Amy Mancina,
Human Resources Project Manager, Eataly | Skyla & Chase’s Mom
“I volunteer at VMS because I love being a part of my kids’ days and contributing to their learning! I believe teachers and school staff are our teammates in parenting and they have a tremendous impact on children, both academically and socially. Investing together in our children’s growth and education will lead to a brighter future.”


Dhakir Warren, Chief Executive Officer at Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club

Kristen Scheller-Menard, Kristen Menard Scheller, Esq., Owner of Menard Lawyers, LLC.
“I volunteer my time at VMS because VMS is an amazing place. It touches the lives of each child and our community in such a unique and monumental way, and truly imparts the building blocks for a lifetime of success and a love of learning. The time and support provided is the least I can do in return for the impact our school has on our children’s day-to-day lives. I am honored to be a part of the VMS Family!”


Rich Soo Hoo, Owner, Sterling Insurance Group
“I volunteer on the board because I enjoy helping out and contributing what I can to the community. Volunteering is a great way to get involved in my children’s lives and to develop relationships with awesome people. Work hard, play hard, and celebrate with everyone at the Big Night Out!”


Shimmy Mehta
CEO/CFO/Advisor | Angelwish.org | Island Health Care

Katelyn Carvalho, Financial Paraplanner, Hansen Financial 
Vineyard Montessori School has been such a nurturing and beautiful environment for my daughter Elena, and soon my daughter Sofia, to grow and learn in. I am consistently impressed with the curriculum, teachers and community involvement at the school. It is an honor to be a part of the board and contribute what I can to continue to give back to the VMS community.

Ex Officio Member:
Debbie Jernegan, Head of School

The Board of Trustees is responsible for governance of the school, ensuring adherence to the school’s mission, and supporting 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.

2025 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 2025 below.