Staff Directory

Maria Alvarez, director/owner/teacher graduated from St. Mary’s College in Moraga with a B.A. in Liberal and Civic Studies: TFT Program. She continued her graduate studies at St. Mary’s and attained a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, M.A. in Teaching, and an American Montessori Society Credential in Early Childhood. She has taught in both Montessori and traditional classrooms, but loves the Montessori curriculum. During her free time, Maria enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter, attending family events and traveling.


Rachel Smith, director/teacher is a professionally trained scientist who joins us after discovering her passion for Montessori education. While she loved bringing research products to market in her previous career, what inspires her most is teaching and inspiring a love of learning. Rachel obtained her PhD. in zoology/molecular biology from Monash University, Australia, and her American Montessori Society Credential in Early Childhood from St Mary’s Kalmanovitz School of Education, Moraga. Rachel enjoys traveling, hiking and spending time with her family in addition to being an adult Montessori teacher trainer at East Bay Montessori Training facility.


Ruiko Watanabe, teacher

Completing her AMS Montessori 3-6 yrs credential last year as an intern teacher at Myrtle Farm, Ruiko joins us this year as both a Myrtle Farm parent and teacher. In addition to her formal Montessori training, Ruiko has deep experience in the education sector as a Japanese language teacher for multiple grade levels and as a lower elementary school educator.


Berenice Hernandez, teacher

Berenice’s love of Montessori education developed when she began working at the Concordia Montessori school over 20 years ago. During this time Berenice has raised her four children in the Montessori community, which has given her the opportunity to become more deeply involved in our local Montessori Charter school. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family. She also enjoys her role as a dog trainer and doing community outreach with a local non-profit dog rescue organization.


Malissa Lucas, teacher

Malissa is a formally trained Montessori teacher with years of experience in Montessori classrooms; and she is a former Myrtle Farm parent! She also worked and taught alongside Ellen and Krista Ericson, the founders of Myrtle Farm. She began teaching again at Myrtle Farm in 2021 as a substitute and summer program teacher before continuing on as a teacher in our PM program.


Alice Saliba, teacher

Montessori has informed Alice’s life and work since she started as an assistant, read Maria Montessori’s books and became inspired to obtain her Montessori certification.  She has worked in Montessori schools in Washington state, mostly in preschool and also as a teaching intern in a Montessori middle school as part of her Masters in Teaching program.  Alice has worked with children and youth ages 15 months – 21 years in a variety of venues and educational settings and enjoys incorporating Montessori’s approach to learning at every level.  


Ronda Deplazes, substitute teacher

Ronda is a highly experienced Montessori teacher with over 30 years experience working with preschool and toddler age children. Ronda has deep roots in the Bay Area Montessori community. She has enjoyed a variety of roles during her time at Fountainhead Montessori School, Diablo Valley Montessori and Beginnings and Beyond including head teacher and school directress and teacher at Myrtle Farm.