Head of School: Karin Niehoff
Karin Niehoff wears many hats at Crescent. She is the Head of School and Senior Elementary teacher, as well as our school’s Founder! In 1994 Karin founded Crescent Montessori School, and over the last 22 years, she has successfully guided the school through the rigorous process of full academic accreditation with WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) and an approved application for non-profit status. Developing the school’s programs to include the complete developmental passage from ages 2-14 (preschool to middle school) is one of her proudest accomplishments.
Everyone who meets Karin knows she is passionate about Montessori education and learning. Guiding the faculty at weekly meetings, mentoring the school’s teachers and staff on individual challenges and serving as a resource to the school’s families in raising their children are all roles she takes seriously. It’s in the elementary classroom that the joy in her life’s work shines through.
A native of Pennsylvania, Karin and her husband Ken moved to Sonoma 30 years ago from Chicago. Looking for a place where the “outdoor” life was right outdoors led them to a continuation of her career in Montessori here at the Sonoma Community Center. “I think of this historic building as a crossroads where the possibility of meeting creative people is a fact of everyday life. How lucky the children are who spend their school years in such a diverse community.”
It’s in her personal life that Karin embodies the school’s motto of lifelong learning. Her avocation is practicing music as a singer and art as a painter. “My working philosophy is this: to develop as a teacher, always find a way to be a student.”
Primary Program: Minha Yoon
Minha discovered her passion for the Montessori Method after the birth of her nephew Ethan. She committed to creating an authentic Montessori learning environment while providing care for him from infancy to 3 years old. She then left the New York fashion industry to become a Montessori teacher. A South Korean native, Minha’s family immigrated to the United States when she was 9 years old. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, sharing classroom ideas with her husband Brendan, who is also a Montessori teacher (Upper Elementary), and taking care of their two beautiful dogs, Coco and Kong.
Central Saint Martins in London, UK
B.A. Fashion Design
M.F.A Academy of Art University in San Francisco
Minha received her AMS Early Childhood credential from Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. Before joining Crescent in 2017, Minha taught at Montessori schools in Berkeley, American Canyon and Santa Rosa.
It is an honor to practice Maria Montessori’s educational philosophy, based on the belief that the role of education is not to dictate knowledge, but to assist the natural course of human development. I am grateful to be working with children in this important phase of their growth, assisting in their task of reaching their natural born potentials.
Junior Elementary: Casey Richter
Casey started at Crescent in 2013 as the Middle School teacher. She is in her second year as the Junior Elementary teacher.
Casey has nine years of teaching experience in elementary schools and four years of experience with high school and college students as a trip leader for experiential education programs on six continents.
The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.
Casey earned her B.A. and was able to study in 10 different countries and 3 Hawaiian islands during her 4 years at Evergreen.
New York University
Casey earned a masters degree in Childhood Education and graduated with a 4.0 GPA.
Casey completed the most comprehensive AMI/NAMTA orientation for the Middle School (Adolescent Program) offered. She also holds the Elementary I certification from AMS.
Why do you love being a Montessori Teacher?
I love being a Montessori teacher because I get a front row seat to witness the truly wondrous process of child development in a pure and joyous form. Dr. Montessori pioneered an approach to education that supports and optimizes the child’s innate tendency towards growth and learning rather than impeding it and I’m proud to follow her lead.
What do you love about Crescent?
It’s hard to pick one favorite thing about Crescent, but I suppose it has to be the kids. That may sound like a line, but something about the way the children are respected and allowed to develop their own little cohesive society brings out the best in them and makes them a delight to be around. I’ve never known an administrator as authentically committed to putting the children first, ahead of all other priorities or convenient shortcuts, as Karin, so of course it shows up in the quality of the student body!
Senior Elementary: Karin Niehoff
Karin has over forty years of Montessori education experience.
As the founder of Crescent Montessori, this is her twenty-third year with the school.
Karin holds a bachelor’s degree in Consumer Studies from Penn State.
Karin holds two Montessori diplomas for AMI Primary and AMS Elementary. She completed the AMI Orientation to Adolescent Studies in 2010 prior to developing the Middle School program at CMS. She spent 30 years as a Primary teacher and for the past 12 years has been a teaching Head of School at the Elementary level.
Faculty Emeritus: Pam Higi
Pam has 40 years of Montessori teaching experience, and taught at Crescent since it opened in 1994 through 2017.
Pam received an AMI Montessori Diploma in 1975 from the Montessori Institute of Los Angeles. She has been a Montessori Directress for the past 40 years, teaching in Southern California, Santa Rosa and at Crescent.
Pam walked into a Montessori classroom for the first time when she was 14 years old. She was babysitting for a family who were realizing their dream of opening a Montessori classroom in southern California. Pam spent that summer helping the family convert an old house into the beautiful three classroom Montessori school. There was a lot of work to do, including painting, sewing curtains and tending three children as the old house transformed into a school not so different from Crescent Montessori. This transformative experience introduced Pam to the discoveries of Maria Montessori, and she knew that becoming a Montessori Directress was the work she wanted to do.
Working with the families and staff of Crescent Montessori as we support children through an essential time in their development is an honor and joy. Crescent is a nurturing and supportive place to learn through discovering, which brings out the best in me, and all of us!