Main Street Staff


Molly Stempin – Primary Teacher

20170303_110606I want to live in a world where kids explore and learn to become independent, thoughtful and productive members of tomorrow’s society. In other words, more than a screen generation!
I became a part of Main Street Montessori in 2014 as a volunteer. My B.A. degree in American Sign Language turned out to be fantastic exposure of a new culture of the lower elementary and primary students. During my time of volunteering, I was able to get to know the Montessori environment and developed a great interest and love for the method. I was eager to get to training to become a Montessori teacher and I did so by completing my training in April 2017.
As primary teacher, I have seen the incredible potential of 3-6 year olds. The transformation of a child from Autumn to Spring is unbelievable. They have a drive to be independent and self-sufficient and the Montessori environment allows for that.
Aside from teaching, I interpret for the Deaf community when I can. I live with my husband and son in Des Moines. We often take walks and enjoy spending time as family.


Katy Severe – Elementary Teaching Assistant
Katy Severe PhotoI’m an Oregon native turned Iowan, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a Hike it Baby branch ambassador, and a lover of nature, art, and all things outdoors!
I graduated with my Master’s degree in Education in 2007 from the University of Oregon. After graduation I taught fourth grade for four years before moving to Des Moines in 2011 with my husband who was hired as a professor of Economics at Drake University. I was a substitute teacher for a few years, then stayed home with my son when he was born in 2014. In 2016 I returned to teaching part time as a Special Education teacher in Urbandale.
I have always been intrigued by the Montessori approach to learning. My nieces and nephews in Oregon attend a public Montessori school and that was my first exposure to Montessori. I knew that I wanted my son to attend a Montessori school when he was three, and Main Street felt right in so many ways. When I walked through the doors during our first visit, I knew this was a special place and I wanted to be a part of it somehow.
After teaching in the public school system for ten years, I am ready for a new adventure in teaching. I am very excited to be working part time at Main Street this school year assisting Mary Strickler in the elementary grades with the goal of attending Montessori training during the summer of 2018.
When I’m not teaching, I enjoy spending time with my family, hiking, camping, exercising, and being outside.


Mary Strickler – Elementary Teacher

stricklerIt was the mid 90s. An enthusiastic me, fresh out of college, is eager to get started. Would I teach science to junior high students? I would!  I had seven periods of class: 176 students every day.  Stacks of paperwork, hours of meetings, piles of mandated homework commandeered the rest of my waking hours. I quickly came to this conclusion: “Ye gods!”  I went to work for a low-end big box store stacking shoes. Toe, heel, laces inside, toe, heel, laces inside… I lasted 3 weeks. “Would you like fries with that?” didn’t seem like a viable option, either, and so began the great search for what a quality, reasonable, developmentally appropriate, onus of responsibility on the child, educational program for the whole of the person school would look like.  Welcome to Montessori! I have never looked back. You won’t, either.

msdividerSheri Florez – Middle School Teacher

sheri“I either love adventure, or I can’t keep a job.”  That’s what I say when people ask me why I have moved so much and lived in so many places.  I am a Norwalk girl, born and bred, but the truth of the matter is that I am challenged by new places, new experiences, and new learning opportunities.

I received my B.A. from Simpson College and a Master’s in Education Administration from Drake.  I have been teaching for 39 years in different states and countries, in different disciplines, at different levels from 7th grade to college and IB to AP English. I have always told myself that when I didn’t love going to school anymore or found challenges too much, it would be time to retire.  But, that time hasn’t come yet.  I am energized by the sheer joy of engaging kids in learning and watching them have their “aha” moments.

I took my first big leap into teaching in the Peace Corps.  I spent two years in DR Congo (known as Zaire then) living in the jungle with no running water or electricity.   When all is said and done, I have taught from Seattle to Houston to Iowa and from the Congo to Turkey to my last position in Kuwait.  I spent 15 years living in cultures that weren’t my own, listening to Kikongo, Turkish and Arabic spoken all around me, learning new (and, yes, sometimes strange) cultural norms, and making friends with teaching colleagues and students from many different countries.  I have traveled in 42 countries and have seen more than I ever imagined.

I believe all of these experiences have brought me to the Montessori and the kids I have in my middle school class.  I love where I have landed after all these years because these kids are bright, ready to learn and, most uniquely, curious.  I get to teach literature which connects to history and flows into writing.  I really believe that the Montessori teaching philosophy utilizes the best of me to nurture the best in your kids.  !  I feel like I have come full circle, and it is time to reconnect to my roots and give back to the community that nurtured me.


Tanya Apana – Middle School Teacher/Co-Director

tanyaI was a high school science teacher in my first life where I loved the subject and the students; however, the rigor of seeing 120 kids a day didn’t fit well with my style of teaching. I wanted to know so much more about my kids and how they learned. I started to search out a different niche and eventually found it when I started the original school.

Our school is special, and it is here that I found a way to thrive as a teacher. What makes it special is I have students for up to four years. Knowing my students so well, I am confident I can bring out their best.  We let our students’ interests determine the pace and direction of their curriculum, allowing them to thoroughly investigate subjects and follow their natural curiosity. I am not restricted to a set curriculum and have the freedom to do what is in their best interest.

At Main Street we firmly believe that all humans learn best when engaged in real life situations, when the learning is practical and authentic. As a teacher I actively seek out opportunities for our students to learn from their community.  I am fascinated by the idea that everyone has something to teach us. By connecting subjects to the world around our students, the information becomes relevant and helps to build a sense of each ones’ place in the world.

I received my degree in biology and my teaching certificate from Iowa State University. I didn’t start out thinking teaching would be my profession. I was actually quite opposed to it until one of my favorite professors said “I can tell you were born to teach”. Now I have been a teacher for 18 years. The last 11 have been in this special niche, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.