All Neo Immersion Montessori School (NIMS) team members have early childhood education and experience as required by San Mateo County childcare licensing, American Montessori Society, and American Montessori International accreditation. Both CORE (3-3.5 years old) through Kindergarten cohorts have MACTE qualified Montessori teachers and assistant teachers with RECE (Registered Early Childhood Educator). All members have First Aid and CPR training, along with extensive criminal background checks prior to working at NIMS. Other certification of members on-site may include Food Handlers, specialized Early Childhood Development in enrichment-focused programs, and preparation related to NIMS environment. All team members are at least 21 years of age or older. We require minimum of 2-years in Montessori training and/ or equivalent experience in order to maintain the quality standard of childcare at NIMS.
Meet Our Staff
Elina C. Chen | Executive Director
After over 14+ years of marketing communications and digital media strategy that contribute to the success of Fortune 100 organizations, Elina decide to transition into making her childhood dream and passion come true― working with young children in the early childhood education field. This bold career move gave her more freedom to focus on her family, devote to love of learning, and support children of all diverse backgrounds in her community.
She has traded-in her high-heels in the corporate world, and stepped into the Montessori school campuses with her favorite Puma sneakers, as a certified teacher from the American Montessori Society (AMS) and Yoga Alliance - Kids Yoga (RCYT) since early 2016. She specialize in Administration Management, Integrated Curriculum Design/ Planning, and Kids Yoga for Montessori classrooms of mixed-ages, ranging from 3 to 6 years old. Being fluent in dual-language (Chinese-Mandarin and English) instructions, she brings a new research-based perspective on how to introduce language immersion to young children in early childhood education. Take a look into her life journey on the NIMS Blog.
Jaene Wong | Teacher Associate
Jaene dedicates to help young children reach their full potentials ,and unlock their innate passion to learn. Having come from a big family and being the middle-child of 7 siblings, Jaene has been surrounded in taking care of children ever since growing-up. Her love to work with children begin as Summer Camp Counselor from early childhood to elementary development years. She discover children always eager to demonstrate their learning to her and provide the opportunity to become a better Teacher in return, through diligently listening and observing in the bilingual Montessori environment. Jaene obtains Major in Psychology, and Minor in Education at the University of California, San Diego. She specializes in Montessori early childhood development from Montessori Teacher Education Center at Sunnyvale, California.
Jaene come from a multi-cultural family with her mother being Italian, and dad being Chinese American. Prior to becoming a Pacifica native, Jaene have lived in Italy for 10 years, as well as Ireland. Her upbringing sparks a passion for traveling, and learning about other cultures. As she travel to various regions of the world, her life positively enrich and change from encountering new experiences. Jaene love to share her experiences, and learnings to her students in the classroom.
Xinye Zhang | Bilingual Teacher
Xinye has earned her AMS early childhood Montessori Certificate from Montessori Teacher Education Center. She earned her B.A. in English Language and Literature in Zhejiang University and holds a master’s in Education from the University of Pennsylvania. Xinye worked in a Montessori preschool for two years in the Bay Area. Now she is working on her Ph.D. degree in Linguistics in the University of California, Davis. Xinye focuses on bilingual acquisition, child language development, and sociolinguistics and has conducted several field studies on multilingual practices in classrooms, interventions for cross-cultural language learners, and the acquisition of language variation in heritage languages. Learn more about Xinye’s academic work at https://linguistics.ucdavis.edu/people/xinyez. Working with multilingual speakers and young language learners for more than 6 years, Xinye always finds joy in supporting her students in language learning. She especially loves to read stories with children and enjoy the time they can spend together in the fantastic world. In her spare time, Xinye likes watching movies, working on calligraphy and handicrafts, cooking, and doing yoga.
Marianna Chan | Bilingual Teacher
Marianna has earned her teaching credentials at City College of San Francisco in the area of General and Special Education, with emphasis on Early Intervention Focus, and certification as Health Care Interpreter who is fluent in Chinese - Mandarin, Cantonese, and English. She is a firm believer in introducing young children positive dual-language experiences through whole-child approach with fun, engaging activities, and purposeful educational games.
While being an active ballroom dancer with great passion in Chinese Calligraphy, Chinese Brush Painting and gourmet cooking, Marianna ultimately loved spending time around young children and immerse herself with their charismatic aura everyday. She has been extensively working in early childhood education and extended care programs between ages of infant to 5 years old since 2002. Not only her broad experiences expand beyond teaching in classrooms for infant/ toddlers and Pre-K children; but also advocate in educating healthy habits on good nutrition, oral hygiene, early detection of vision/ hearing challenges, and most importantly in nurturing happy memories that boost positive physiological psychology experiences within their learning environment.
As a Family Support Specialist during Marianna's career in early years, she contribute her expertise in bilingual translations for families and children of all ages with special needs. She dedicates her time outside of the classroom in working at San Carlos Elm (an assisted senior living community) to support services for residents who suffer from Alzheimer’s diseases. Her tirelessly efforts awarded as Employee of the Month by early 2008.
Gloria Guo | Chinese Academic Advisor & Lead Teacher
As a Primary Teacher from both AMI (Montessori Institute of San Diego) and AMS (Montessori Teachers Education Center, Taiwan) certifications, Gloria has been guiding early childhood children in classrooms from China to U.S. over 18 years. After extensive experience with Montessori classroom management, she pursue in opening her own Montessori preschool from 2014 to 2019. She loves to teach, design, and develop curriculum materials in Chinese language. She also specialize in training the language system to other Montessori teachers for more than 5 years. Her vision is helping more young children around world to learn and grow. Gloria firmly believes that Dr. Maria Montessori has "let us always remind ourselves, let us follow the footsteps of children, explore the mind of children... Everything we do to a child will bear fruit and not only affect his life, but also determine his life.”
Robin Wilner | Nutrition Advisor & Teacher
Robin Wilner is a San Francisco based holistic nutritionist and certified yoga instructor with a passion for moving mindfully and eating consciously. She specializes in working with people who are ready to step into a life of empowerment, human connection, conscious living and wellness and draws from a myriad of experience in the performing arts, coaching and mentorship, yoga and nutrition, and public speaking.
It was during her six years performing with the cast of Broadway’s “WICKED” that Robin began to pursue a Masters of Science in Holistic Nutrition, determined to stay healthy, fit and energized in the long-term without going to extremes. Much of her life had been spent with disordered eating patterns and viewing food as an enemy. While experimenting with more mindful eating, Robin soon discovered a severe gluten intolerance that completely changed her relationship with food. The holistic approach helped her to see herself as a whole being with a unique composition, rather than as just a body in the mirror trying to look like everyone else. The more she learned about food as medicine, the better she began to feel. And now she compassionately shares that knowledge with anyone who decides to work with her.
Since 2014, Robin has been fusing together her love of creative movement, meditation, breath work, and food as medicine, always striving to guide her clients towards a fuller and more vital sense of self and overall well-being. She graduated from the University of Iowa with a degree in Communications & Media Studies and completed her Masters in Holistic Nutrition from Hawthorn University.
Lizzie Chapman | Dance Teacher
Lizzie Chapman found her passion for dance 15 years ago when she took a dance class at a summer camp. Since then, she has danced non-stop and dabbled in just about any dance style imaginable. Lizzie’s passion inspired her to study dance in college and she received her Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Dance Studies with double-emphases in Dance Education and Choreography from Humboldt State University in 2014. She also received a minor in Theatre, Performance Emphasis.
Before being hired at Spindrift School of Performing Arts, Lizzie also taught Ballroom, Latin, and Swing as a certified instructor at Arthur Murray Dance Center in Millbrae. Lizzie currently also teaches Jazz, Ballet, and Pre-K Dance at Small Fry Dance Club in San Mateo. Lizzie looks forward to a lifetime career as a dance educator and dreams to own her own dance studio one day.
“I highly believe that everyone, no matter what background they come from, has a story to tell. I teach dance and theater because they are extremely intimate art forms where the artist can simply bear all, with barely the protection of the fourth wall. To express yourself in such a way is a very powerful thing, and that vulnerability can help people understand each other on a higher level. This isn’t just something reserved for the older or advanced students either. Even in a beginning theatre class, you begin to see the foundation of great minds, hearts, and personalities, and that’s a very special thing to see.”
Lucia Pontoniere | Music Teacher
Lucia Pontoniere began playing violin at the age of 6 years old. After pursuing classical violin seriously for 10 years, she began to explore other styles of music and instruments, picking up guitar and singing as well. Lucia graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2018 with a Bachelor’s in Violin Performance and American Roots Music. After college, she discovered her passion for teaching, especially working in early childhood education. Lucia has taught early childhood music classes at schools in city of Oakland and multiple locations in San Francisco through Blue Bear School of Music. She structures her early childhood music classes with an emphasis on educational songs, rhymes, and dances from the American Roots tradition.
Candice Choi | Music Advisor
Pianist Candice Choi is excited to bring her exceptionally unique East Coast musical training back to her hometown, San Francisco. Her imaginative and festive performance of Richard Danielpour’s Enchanted Garden crowned her the winner of New Jersey Music Teacher’s Association (NJTMA) Young Musicians Competition and her fervent interpretation of Saint Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2 awarded her the honorable 2009 Concerto Competition winner at University of the Pacific. Committed to giving back to her community, Candice Choi has presented solo and collaborative recitals for educational outreach, academic scholarship fundraising, world-wide mission trips, and for the elderly at a variety of retirement homes throughout the United States.
Ms. Choi earned her M.M. in Piano Pedagogy and Performance with distinction from Westminster Choir College of Rider University and her B.M. in Piano Performance from University of the Pacific’s Conservatory of Music.
Passionate about educating tomorrow’s world, Ms. Choi finds joy in cultivating a love and appreciation of music in her piano students! She is the owner and director of Musicians in the Making in Daly City, CA. She has held former faculty positions at The New School for Music Study in Kingston, NJ, Westminster Conservatory in Princeton, NJ, Amabile School of Music in San Francisco, CA and Toones Academic Music in Foster City, CA. Since 2014, Ms. Choi has served as a Board of Directors of Music Teachers’ Association of California, San Francisco Branch. Learn more about Ms. Choi at: www.musiciansinthemaking.com.
About Our Values
Our team members are caring, patient and enjoy working with the children at NIMS. Our administration remains mindful of our mission in quality of childcare services, strives for a standard of excellence and innovation in our programs. Our teachers adhere to our core values of inclusiveness, collaboration, integrity and accountability. We believe in being inclusive, and endeavor to remove all barriers which prevent acceptance and accessibility. We have a collaborative team which shares ideas and work together toward a common goal of providing the Neo Method® in a safe, nurturing and inspiring environment.
Core Quality Standards
The Montessori method of teaching aims to educate the whole child, ultimately preparing them to be self-directed life long learners and engaged global citizens. To that end, our school philosophy on assessment and accountability is based on consistent communication and sharing of goals between parents and teachers. Montessori education has a long history of careful observation and development of curriculum to meet the needs of every child.
We begin the year with individualized goal setting between teachers and parents. Our focus is on the children, extending to the best way we can work together and ensure a positive school experience for them – both academically and socially.
How We Teach
Our Neo Method® is to educate the whole-child through the Montessori approach, which customizes the intellectual, social, emotional, food literacy, and physical wellness of each individual child. Low student to teacher ratios for individualized lessons ensure that NIMS students are learning at their own accelerated pace both indoor and outdoor classrooms daily.
What Child Learns
Academics are highly valued, as is emotional literacy and character development. We honor and nurture a child’s spirit, religion, ethnicity, and social-economic background at NIMS. Children who complete our progressive Programs take with them a foundation of personal, gross/ fine motor, and cognitive skills necessary to build confidence in future success.