Alicia Rheel, Head of School
I am originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania but relocated to Wilmington, NC with my husband in 2011. Since moving here, we have expanded our family to include our two sons, AJ and Ryan. In our spare time, we like to be in the water as much as we can; whether that is at the beach, in a pool, or kayaking/boating. We also enjoy watching/playing sports and being with our family.
I earned my Bachelor's degree in Special Education (k-12) from West Chester University. I hold certifications in Special Education: General Curriculum (k-12) and Middle School Math. I have also received my Master's degree in School Administration through East Carolina University. I am completing Montessori Leadership courses this fall.
I have been with Island Montessori since 2014 as the EC Coordinator. I have worked as an administrative intern with Mr. Corrigan before moving into the role as Head of School. I value the principles of the Montessori curriculum and our school's mission. I look forward to supporting and leading the growth of our school with Montessori as the heart of our curriculum. As an Exceptional Children's teacher by trade, I pride myself on the understanding that each child is unique and learns at their own pace. Montessori education focuses on the child being the center of learning and knowing that "the child is both the hope and promise for mankind."
Carrie O’Brien Dworshak, Children's School Director
I was born and raised in Maryland alongside my three brothers. Our parents are Washingtonians and both came from big Irish families. Thus, family is everything to me!
A graduate from St. Mary’s College of Maryland with a music degree in voice, I have sang in church choirs, weddings, funerals, rock bands and took part in the mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI in Washington DC in 2008. Music is what keeps my heart beating, as well as running. The combination of the two are priceless.
Soon after graduation I came to discover the wonderful world of Montessori by chance and immediately enrolled in the primary training at Washington Montessori Institute. I was hooked from day one! Graduating in 1983 I accepted a job in Bowie, Maryland working two years then joining The Manor Montessori School in Potomac, Maryland and have been there for 30 years. I became the Educational Director of three Manor campuses in 2001 and Director of the Bethesda Campus in 2005.
My three children, daughter Avery and sons Timothy and Cal and I spend our summers in South Bethany, Delaware where our family has a beach home. The beach has always been my favorite place to be. It has been a dream of mine to work and live by the beach.
I am thrilled to join the Island Montessori Family and look forward to building a strong foundation for future education and create a happy and successful environment for all. The greatest accomplishment an educator can experience is to watch a little one grow into a confident, intelligent, kind and independent human being full of life and joy and the love of learning.
Brittany Ivey, Office Manager
Being raised in a public school setting throughout grade school, I was beyond excited to start at Island Montessori Charter School so that I could experience a whole different world than what I was used to. I graduated from UNCW with a Bachelor's Degree in Business, and as a college graduate fresh out of school, I worked as a marketing coordinator for a local company for almost two years. I was in the process of going back to school to get my teaching license when the opportunity to work at IMCS came about. I jumped at the chance to not only put my degree in use, but to also be surrounded by students all day. I can honestly say, I couldn't be happier with my decision! I enjoy every minute that I am at the school, and couldn't ask for a better team to work alongside. When I am not working, I enjoy relaxing at the beach, traveling, riding bikes, and tapping into my creative side with freelance graphic design and hands-on crafts.
Susan Avenengo, Instructional Coordinator
I am thrilled to relocate from nearby NYC to join the Island Montessori family! I value the culture and mission of IMCS, a Montessori school first. I enjoy traveling, interior design, crafts, creative writing, yoga, watersports and outdoor exercise, as well as bird identification. I also enjoy competing in half-marathon and Spartan races.
I began my Montessori journey teaching in primary and directing an afterschool program. Afterward, I established an inaugural upper elementary class, which grew to include 4th-6th grade under my stewardship. I have a Montessori teaching certificate. My approach is rooted in human flourishing and adaptation, cosmic education, and care for the whole person.
I possess what NCMPS deems a rare combination of Montessori and leadership expertise. I am a doctoral student in Creighton University’s Ed.D. in Interdisciplinary Leadership program, having also completed a school leadership graduate certificate. I received an M.Ed. in Montessori Education from Xavier University, a program affiliated with AMS and accredited by MACTE. I have a bachelor’s in psychology with a concentration in mental health. My passion for lifelong learning and holism led me to earn a certificate in Nutrition and Healthy Living from eCornell of Cornell University and participate in Harvard University’s Education Redesign, a program focused on helping all students thrive.
Judie Strauss, Exceptional Children Coordinator
I was born in Ohio, but lived all over the country and in Germany. My husband and I moved here 4 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky for his job (and because I love the North Carolina beaches and weather!). I have two grown boys, two black cats, and one very bossy Yorkshire Terrier named Prada. I have my Bachelor’s in psychology and Master’s in Special Education Mild/Moderate K-12 from Wright State University. I taught Middle and Intermediate EC resource and Inclusion in Fairborn, Ohio for 8 years. Then, I taught high school at a private Exceptional Children’s school in Louisville, Kentucky, called Summit Academy, for 1 wonderful year. I started at Murray Middle School in 2017 as the Intense Academic Support teacher in Math and ELA for 6th - 8th grades. For the past 2 years, I was the EC Department Chair and 8th grade resource teacher at Murray Middle School. My husband, Prada, and I love to drive my yellow Jeep, named Sunnie, to the beach. My husband makes sand art, we walk and collect shells, and play in the water.
Mackenzie R. Pereira, Guidance Counselor
I was born and raised in Winston-Salem, NC and came to Wilmington to attend UNCW where I earned my Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and a Minor in Health. Upon graduation, I traveled as a Leadership Coach to colleges and universities, promoting leadership skills with individuals and organizations. Traveling the country was incredible, however, I was ready to pursue my true passion working with children in an education setting! I currently attend UNC Pembroke pursuing my Master's of Education in Professional School Counseling and Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I have always had a passion for working with children and a love for promoting mental well-being, which is what led me to choose a career in school counseling. I like to incorporate solution-focused, person-centered, and choice theories in my counseling practice. I will always meet your child where they are, and motivate them to unlock their potential! In my free time you can almost always find me at the beach, but I also love to watch sports, practice yoga, listen to music, and explore new places!
Kelly Henrikson, Testing Coordinator
I was born in Portland, OR and raised in Charlotte, NC. I have a Bachelors in Teaching Theatre Arts from Appalachian State University and taught middle and high school Theatre for Charlotte Meck schools. I have always been intrigued by the Montessori method and chose to seek my lower elementary AMS certification while living in Los Angeles, CA. While there, I taught Montessori at the primary, lower and upper elementary levels. I received my upper elementary AMS certification when coming to IMS in 2013 and taught in the upper elementary classroom for 2 years. I am happy to fill the role as IMCS's Testing Coordinator and support our staff with state required testing and school wide MAP assessments. I am excited to also be the school Math Interventionist. I enjoy working with and learning alongside our students! In my free time I love spending time with my husband and two sons. We enjoy going to the beach, playing sports, and traveling together.
Jennifer Shaeffer, Front Office & Aftercare Teacher
I have recently moved to Wilmington from Connecticut and am so excited to be working at the Island Montessori School! I taught preschool special education in Connecticut for 28 years and enjoyed every day of my career! I have a bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a master’s degree in Early Childhood Special Education. I love working with young children and watching them grow to their full potential. I am blessed with four grown children and two beautiful grandchildren. I am so excited to be living at the beach, which has been a lifelong dream. I love to read and hope to share my love of literature with the little ones at Island Montessori.
Michelle Leonard, Children's School Front Office
I am thrilled to be a part of the Island Montessori family! I have always enjoyed working with children and watching them learn and grow and the Montessori method has always been something I have been interested in. I was raised in Lexington, NC and spent most every weekend and summer coming to Carolina Beach to spend time with my great-grandmother. I moved to Greensboro, NC to attend college and stayed there for most of my adult life until my children and I moved to Carolina Beach in 2010. While attending UNC Greensboro I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. I taught 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grades for ten years in at-risk schools as well as an arts-based charter school before choosing to stay home with my twins, Matthew and Elizabeth. For the last ten or so years, I have been raising my children and have been heavily involved in their school as a classroom volunteer, media center volunteer, Vice President of Fundraising and PTA President for their school. When I’m not at Island Montessori, you will most likely find me in my car driving my children to their many after school activities or you may find me taking care of our three cats, one dog, one guinea pig and two birds.
Brian Corrigan, Director of Finances and Human Resources
Mr. Corrigan has a Master's Degree from the University of Maine in Educational Leadership and a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Toledo in Science Education. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, he holds a United States Coast Guard Captain’s license.
He came to Wilmington in 2008 to be the Director of Cape Fear Center for Inquiry. Previously he spent 12 years in Maine as a Middle School Principal, Dean of Students/Athletic Director, and a High School Science Teacher. His first year as a Science Teacher was in Akron, Ohio and he also coached track and basketball for 5 years.
Mr. Corrigan is a very student centered educator that believes that hands-on, real-world experiences are the best way to teach children. Letting students tinker, figure things out on their own, and formulate their own ideas while accepting others ideas is the core foundation of his educational beliefs.