The mission of The Montessori Infant & Toddler School (MITS) is to provide young children with a safe, prepared environment in which they can observe, absorb, and explore at their own pace and develop movement, language, and social skills to prepare them for the next steps in their education.
EXCELLENCE IN EDUCATION
Here at the Montessori Infant & Toddler School, we believe in educating the total child. In pursuit of that goal, our students are guided to activities and lessons which stimulate the mind, body, and spirit. MITS is a non-profit, non-graded, and appropriate placement educational institution licensed by the state of Texas.
Curriculum activities include sensorial experiences and practical life skills, along with language, art, music, and directed movement activities. Lessons are designed to foster independence, self-awareness, and self-esteem at a young age, and to prepare children for their future academic and social lives.
MITS is staffed by a certified professional Montessori teacher and qualified assistant teachers who have been trained to build trusting relationships with children and to create environments which present a rich array of interactive experiences.
MITS opened its doors for the first time in October of 2017, but its parent organization, The Montessori Schools of Central Texas, has been in operation since 1982. MITS offers programs for infants, ages 6 weeks to 24 months, and toddlers, ages 24 months to 3 years. These students may then graduate to our parent school next door for children ages 3 to 6.
The Montessori School accepts children without regard to national origin, race, color, creed, or religion.
The parent school, Montessori Schools of Central Texas, was founded in 1982, by Drs. Jerry and Sherry O’Donnell, as a private nondenominational Christian school for young children. The school began in a two-car converted garage at the rear of the O’Donnell’s home in McGregor, Texas, with twelve students, Mrs. O’Donnell as teacher, and an aide. The following year, the school expanded and transferred to a new location with more space. The student body continued to grow until, in 1986, the school moved to Temple, Texas. For three years, the school was located on the grounds of Trinity Church, occupying a separate building for the last two years. In 1990, the school was moved again, to what is now the current location at 1302 S. 27th Street in Temple, in a beautiful Victorian-era house. This change allowed the school to open enrollment for three classes with three different age groups, in order to offer educational opportunities to children ages 3 to 12. In 1995, the school purchased an adjacent property and house and converted it to use as another classroom. In 2003, MSCT established a satellite campus with two primary classes (ages 3-6) in Killeen, Texas. In late 2016, the O’Donnell’s decided to add a new building to the Temple property and open a school for infants and toddlers. Construction began in April 2017 and the Montessori Infant & Toddler School (MITS) opened its doors in October of 2017. Between MSCT and MITS, the Temple location will offer educational programs for children from 6 weeks to 9 years old.
MITS has its beginning from a strong foundation as MSCT will celebrate 39 years of excellence starting in the 2021-2022 school year.
- Jerry O’Donnell, PhD, Headmaster: Dr. O’Donnell’s experience in life and the work force is varied, from serving in the U.S. Army as an enlisted soldier and officer, to owning numerous businesses, acting as a professional student, and doing the work of an evangelist, pastor, and teacher. He presently serves as the President of the Board of Directors for the Montessori Schools of Central Texas and the Headmaster of the MSCT Temple Campus. Dr. O’Donnell obtained his GED while serving in the United States Army. After recognizing his need for further education, he earned seven degrees in two tracts: the world and the church. He presently holds two bachelor’s, two master’s, and three doctoral degrees. In past years, Dr. O’Donnell has been a successful psychologist in private practice, specializing in creative motivation for underachieving children. Currently, he maintains his love for education through his passionate reading of books, magazines, and research articles. Dr. O’Donnell met his wife, Sherry, in high school, and they have been married for 57 years. Together they have three children, Jheri Lynn, Jeffery, and Jennifer, and five grandchildren.
- Sherry O’Donnell, D.CE.: Mrs. O’Donnell is the principal founder of The Montessori Schools of Central Texas. She has worked hard to grow the school from one classroom in a two-car garage in 1982 to the present day, with an organization comprising of six classrooms across two campuses, and students ranging from ages three to twelve. Mrs. O’Donnell was awarded a Doctorate in Christian Education for her tireless efforts to develop and provide a quality early-childhood education, based on Dr. Maria Montessori’s teaching philosophy and curriculum, to children of all backgrounds. She is certified at the Primary Level (ages 3-6) by the Association Montessori International, and at the Lower Elementary Level (ages 6-9) by the American Montessori Society. Her 38 years of service in the field have allowed her to continually refine her techniques and curriculum within the Montessori philosophy, in order to connect with and teach every one of her students on an individual level. When not involved with the school, Sherry enjoys spending her leisure time with her family.
- Jennifer Watson, Director: Jennifer was born in Japan where her father, Dr. Jerry O’Donnell, was stationed. As the third child of the O’Donnell’s she has grown up around Montessori education and watched as the school flourished under her parent’s leadership. Jennifer has been married to Jason since 2002 and has a remarkable son, Brady, who had the privilege of attending The Montessori School from the age of 20 months through elementary. Since grading-out of The Montessori School, Brady has taken Pre-AP classes throughout middle school and plans to continue challenging himself in High School with AP classes. Jennifer has been the Director of both the Temple and Killeen campuses from 2007-2015. She left briefly to pursue her love of veterinary medicine and returned as the Director in 2020. Her leisure time is spent caring for her many animals, traveling, reading books, and the joys of being a Mom.
- Crysthal Diaz, Director of MITS: Crysthal was born and raised in Puerto Rico. From a young age she felt passionate about education and knew in her heart that one day, she would achieve her goal of becoming a teacher. She graduated from the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico with a bachelor’s in Special Education and Education from fourth to sixth. She is also an AMS certified Montessori guide in Infants and Toddlers. Crysthal has been married since 2009 and has two children who she loves to the moon and back. In 2014 she moved to the state of Texas and began working at MSCT. In 2020, the School Board recognized Mrs. Diaz’s excellent performance in her classroom and promoted her to Director of MITS so that she could shape the teachers and the infant and toddler programs to the same excellent level that is expected by MSCT. Crysthal is grateful to be doing what she loves, and we are grateful that she shares her amazing gifts with all that she leads and the young minds which benefit from her guidance. In her free time, Mrs. Diaz likes to travel, take photos and spend quality time with her family.
- LaDonna Ronelus, Lead Teacher – Toddler II: Ladonna was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1987 but raised in Brooklyn, New York. She moved to Central Texas in 2015 when her husband was assigned to Carl R. Darnall Medical Center. Previously, LaDonna worked as an Assistant Teacher at The Friends of Crown Heights in New York and then a local daycare center. At both places, as well as at The Montessori Schools of Central Texas, Mrs. Ronelus has excelled and been promoted to the Lead Teacher position. With over fifteen years of experience, LaDonna’s passion for nurturing and guiding young children has led her next goal of obtaining her AMS Montessori certification in Infants and Toddlers. During her free time, LaDonna enjoys reading, especially science fiction, cooking, traveling, taking care of her growing pet family, and spending time with her husband. Mrs. Ronelus enjoys teaching her students sign language to help develop their communication skills.
- Yesenia Armas, Lead Teacher-Toddler 1 – Yesenia Armas was born in Mexico in 1998 And moved to Harker Heights Tx with her family in 2000. She attended High School at Richard Milburn Academy in which she graduated in 2018, Shortly after she became an assistant teacher at a local Child care center where she found her true calling for taking care of children.While she was an assistant teacher she completed multiple training classes ranging from child care and child development. In 2019 she had gotten the opportunity to become an assistant teacher for Montessori Schools of Central Texas where she continued to learn and gain knowledge in her position. In 2020 She Earned the position of lead teacher of toddler one where she is currently teaching and plans on continuing her career by attending school and earning her teaching degrees. In her free time she enjoys the outdoors by travelling around the United states and hiking with her family. She loves spending quality time with her family and friends especially around the holidays.
- Candice Stevens, Lead Teacher – Infant II: Candice Stevens was born in Illinois but spent the majority of her formative years in Colorado. She still considers Colorado her home even though she has lived in many places, including many years in Europe. Candice’s degree is in Human Services, with an emphasis on family and children. While teaching in a traditional classroom, she felt something was missing. Even though she knew that she had a passion for teaching children, she felt somewhat stifled. During her research for that missing link, she learned about the Montessori method and quickly realized it was the teaching style best suited for herself and the children within her care. She began Montessori training immediately by consecutively earning an Infant-Toddler and Early Childhood AMS certification. Recruited from the Suzuki School in Georgia, she is committed to continuing her Montessori journey with the Montessori School of Central Texas.
- Tammy Clausen, Lead Teacher – Infant I: Tammy was born in Victorville, California. She is the oldest of three siblings. Her father was in the Air Force and they traveled a lot, living in Washington, Florida, Arkansas, and Germany. She graduated school in Cave City, Arkansas. Tammy is the proud mother of four boys and four grandsons. In 1998, she began working at the Cave City Public Schools as a Special Education aide for Elementary, Intermediate, and High School. She moved to Temple, Texas in 2019, and began working at a daycare. Mrs. Clausen recently married and is new to our school. She has a mothering instinct and loves working with children, especially the toddler age group. She truly believes that God directs each of our paths and places us where we need to be, happy to join our Montessori school.
- Gwen Copeland, Assistant Teacher – Toddler II: Gwen was born in Gatesville, Texas. Upon graduation, she moved to Austin and attended Austin Community College. She later accepted an opportunity to travel the USA as an assistant recruiter. She eventually returned to Texas and obtained her Texas Real Estate License, working for years in this industry. Later in life, she was blessed with a daughter. This life-changing experience altered her perspective and she began considering other career paths. Gwen’s innate love for children and desire to be a positive influence in their lives, led her here to MSCT where she is an assistant teacher in our toddler classrooms. Gwen is currently studying behavior analysis through the University of Kansas. When Gwen is not at work or studying, you will find her spending every moment with her daughter usually in nature exploring the great outdoors, engaging in practical life activities, antiquing, traveling, or planning their next adventure together!
- Shelby Spence, Assistant Teacher – Toddler I: Shelby was born in Chesapeake, Virginia. Her father is active military, which moved her to 2 countries and 6 different states. She moved to Belton, Texas in 2009, and soon called it home. Shelby graduated from Texas Wesleyan University in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. She was also a student athlete all four years, playing softball and working as a 18U coach. Shelby moved to Wisconsin after college gradation for 2 years, where she discovered her love of being in a classroom. She worked as a Site Director-teacher for the YMCA for 2 years, and as a toddler teacher at a daycare before moving back to Texas. She is happy to be a part of the Montessori family and looks forward to learning everything needed to be successful as a teacher and a leader. Outside of school, Shelby spends time glued to books and with friends and family.
- Cassie Harvey, Assistant Teacher – Infant II: Cassie Harvey was born and raised in Memphis, TN. She married her high school sweetheart who joined the military. Being in the military they have traveled a lot but now call Texas home. They have three children who keep them busy. When her children were younger, she desired to be a stay-at-home mom, so she became a nanny. As her kids got older, she started taking early childhood education classes which led her to work in a daycare. Her preferred age group is ages 1-2 years and Infant and Toddler certification is her ultimate goal.
- Diana Quick, Assistant Teacher – Infant I: Diana was born and raised in Panamá, where she also completed her bachelor’s degree in Commerce. She comes from a Christian family, and her parents are still pastors in Panamá. Diana has two boys, with the oldest born in Panamá and the youngest in Louisiana. In 1997, she moved to New York, and then continued to transfer to various states, as she considers these changes positive for her family. Diana became part of our Montessori family in January 2014. She loves working with the children and says teaching and helping is her passion. She has been blessed with many talents, from composing songs and teaching pantomimes, to crafting and helping organize various events. Her hobbies include spending time with her family and attending church. She enjoys working in the kitchen, making different Panamanian dishes for family and friends. Ms. Quick enjoys challenging her students with new Spanish vocabulary from her native tongue.
- Sofia Oaxaca, Assistant Teacher – Infant I: Sofia was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. In high school she had the opportunity to work with children in different settings, which furthered her love for working with kids. She was a private tutor to many elementary children. She helped them further their education by teaching them the subjects in new and exciting ways that would make learning fun for them. Sofia also volunteered at an evangelical Christian nonprofit organization in child and youth discipleship, called Awana. In 2020 she married her husband and moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, where he was stationed. They recently moved to Killeen, Texas. Sofia is fluent in both Spanish and English which she enjoys sharing with her students.