Cindy Acker


Cindy is the founder of The Child Unique and The Montessori Elementary School of Alameda (MESA), and has served as principal for over 30 years. She has several degrees in education, human development, spirituality, cultural studies and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from UC Berkeley. Cindy is also a public policy adviser, representing Montessori schools in California. Apart from her passion for education, Cindy is a singer and choir director in Marin and Guerneville and a mom of adult children. Cindy speaks Dutch and Spanish.

Tiffani Battle

Teacher at Taylor Campus

Tiffani Battle has been a teacher for 12 years. She has a degree in Elementary Education, her Montessori Primary Certificate and an administrative certificate. She fell in love with Montessori after receiving her degree in education and has never been happier. She loves how Montessori fosters the whole child and teaches peace. She has been a site director, head teacher, toddler teacher and elementary teacher in her journey as an educator. She is the proud mother of 2 beautiful children (a boy and a girl) and she is excited to join The Child Unique community.

Nicole Baptista

Asst. Teacher at Taylor Campus

Nicole Baptista was a Montessori child! She was born and raised in the Bay Area and attended Seaview Montessori, a public Montessori school in San Pablo. She is thrilled to continue with The Child Unique Montessori School community this year. She feels passionate about Montessori education and is currently enrolled in Montessori training and Early Childhood Education courses at Contra Costa College. Nicole hopes to inspire everyone at The Child Unique with her love of crafting and gardening.

Nurgun Karacylak

Asst. Teacher at Taylor Campus

We are so happy to welcome Nurgun Karacylak back to The Child Unique this year. She holds a BA is in linguistics and spent 30 years as an instructor at the State University in Turkey, where she was born and spent most of her life. She and her husband settled down in the United States to be with their adult twin children. They love Alameda, with its beautiful nature and friendly people. She enjoys working as a CA state licensed preschool teacher, where she can appreciate young students and their pure loving energy. Nurgun loves literature, especially poetry, music, cycling, swimming, cooking and knitting.

Raina Ford

Asst. Teacher at Pacific Campus

Raina Ford was born and raised in Oakland, California. As the oldest child of five, she helped her mother with the younger siblings and learned early on that she wanted to work with children. She began assisting in a classroom setting in high school as a tutor and went on to pursue a Bachelor's of Science degree in Psychology (to be completed the summer of 2017). She is very excited to work at The Child Unique and looks forward to being a part of the community here. In her free time, Raina enjoys watching movies, reading and spending time with her family.

Monaz Kathawala

Teacher at Pacific Campus

Monaz Kathawala is from Mumbai, India. She was a fashion designer by profession, until her love for children inspired her to pursue an AMI degree. Since that time, she has been teaching as a head teacher at a private Montessori in India. In her spare time, Monaz has been working as a volunteer to educate underprivileged children. She loves singing, dancing, caring for animals and helping out at the local animal shelter.

Emily Lavender

Admin. Asst. at Taylor Campus

Emily Lavender studied English and Art as an undergraduate at Grinnell College in her home state of Iowa. She moved to California and earned her Master’s in Counseling Psychology at JFKU. She has been a volunteer at Cat Town for several years where she fosters and socializes shy cats and kittens. She is the mom of two young sons and loves living in Alameda. She is also a voracious reader of all types of books and always welcomes new recommendations.

Porshia Lewis

Teacher at Taylor Campus

Porshia has been a teacher here at The Child Unique since 2006, working as both a Pre-primary and Toddler Teacher. She has studied psychology and holds a certificate as a Lactation Consultant (through Alta Bates Medical Center). She is happy to have been accepted into the National University bachelor’s program for Early Childhood Development Multiple Subject Credential. Her current goals are the completion of her Montessori Infant/Toddler Credential and ECERS assessor through the Montessori Teacher Education Center.

Hurma Majid

Teacher at Encinal Campus

Hurma Majid was born and raised in Pakistan. She was married soon after completing her Bachelor's degree in Commerce from the University of Karachi in Pakistan. Hurma is happy to have recently received an A.M.I Diploma from The Montessori Teacher's Training in Karachi, Pakistan. She likes to spend most of her time with her family, to include her four year old daughter and her husband, who is the source of inspiration for her. His support, trust and love has allowed her the confidence to become the person that she is today.

Johanny Marte

Teacher at Encinal Campus

Johanny was born in Santo Domingo and has worked in a Montessori classroom in the Dominican Republic for 14 years. She received her Montessori teacher certification from the American Montessori Society in 2005. She has a degree in clinical psychology, specializing in children with learning disorders and also has a degree in elementary education. She is the mother of two beautiful children who inspire and encourage her to a better person. In her spare time, Johanny likes to read, watch documentaries about space and nature and spend time with her family.

Marisela Mascorro

Site Director/Teacher at Pacific Campus

Mari is very excited to begin her 12th year with The Child Unique. She has a degree in Liberal Arts and Child Development and is currently completing her Montessori Early Education Credential. Mari is the proud parent of three beautiful daughters. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family and going on adventures with her daughters and husband, Jon. She loves the family like aspect of The Child Unique and the peace education that is helping to make a better world.

Karen Mitchell

Assistant to Principal/Website Maintenance/Public Relations

Karen Mitchell has been seen around The Child Unique since 2008 both in and out of the office. This year, she returns as Cindy's executive assistant, and the website, enewsletter and public relations contact. Karen studied Voice Performance and Communication Studies at UCLA for her undergraduate degree and received her Teaching Credential from SFSU. She enjoys spending time with her husband, 12 year old daughter and puppy, singing, reading, painting, traveling and writing stories.

Jeanna Nagle

Asst. Teacher at Pacific Campus

Jeanna Nagle loves working with children and is very happy with her position at The Child Unique. She has studied child development at Merritt College, where she earned a Child Development Assistant Certificate, and has experience volunteering at several childcare centers. She likes to swim and play soccer and basketball and attend Giants, A's, and Cal games.

Joseph Niles

Site Director/Teacher at Encinal Campus

Joseph Niles was born and raised in the Bay Area. He completed his Montessori training at the Montessori Teacher Training Center in San Leandro. He is completing a degree in history. Before finding a passion for working with children, Joseph had a short career in film and photography. In his spare time he loves working on his soon-to-be bestselling novels, photo design, martial arts, and hiking.

Katsuko Ono

Asst. Teacher at Encinal Campus

Katsuko Ono graduated from Hiroshima University in Japan with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. After working in the fashion industry for fifteen years, she changed careers and began studying education. She is very happy to be working at The Child Unique Montessori School. Katsuko used to practice Judo regularly and is a black belt. Currently, her interests are yoga, hiking and the arts.

Nina Peret

Teacher at Taylor Campus

Nina Peret grew up attending a Montessori school in the Philippines. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing at Perpetual Help College of Manila. Since that time, she has loved the Montessori Philosophy. She came to the United States in 2011 to train at the Montessori Teachers Education Center in San Mateo. Nina holds two Montessori credentials, Infant/Toddler and Early Education. She is bilingual and is looking forward to teaching Tagalog this year.

Fatma Shoukry

MESA/Elementary Teacher at Taylor Campus

Fatma lived in Cario, Egypt before coming to the Montessori Elementary School of Alameda. Fatma has been working with children for 18 years. She holds a degree in Education and her Montessori Primary teaching credential. She has been a Montessori Guide at private schools in Egypt since 2008. Fatma is currently completing her Elementary Montessori credential. In her spare time, she loves reading, traveling and working out.

Jazmin Silva

Assistant/Spanish Teacher at Taylor & Encinal Campus

Jazmin Silva has been working with children since she was 15 years old and began as a tutor for an after school program in Oakland. She has spent time as an Arts & Crafts lead mentor and, coming from a large family, she always enjoys being around a large community of children. In her spare time she likes to create art, read and pursue healthy activities. She has a strong interest in history (like her mom) and likes attending sports events. She is looking forward to bringing her passion to The Child Unique. Jazmin is fluent in Spanish and will be teaching it this year.

Steve Slater

Music Teacher

Steve Slater has been playing drums for nearly twenty-five years. Steve attended Santa Barbara City College and San Jose University. He is a percussion instructor at Allegro Music and has his own studio in Fremont called School of Drums. Shortly after beginning to teach private lessons he was recruited to lead the drum line at Mission San Jose High School and has done so for ten years. In addition to working as a music instructor, Steve plays drums in three San Francisco Bay Area rock bands as well as for his own jazz ensemble, Park St. Trio, based out of Alameda. He is the primary songwriter for Park St. Trio, which has released two albums of original music.

Uta Tsai

Office Manager

Uta studied Social Pedagogy in Germany. After several years of traveling, she settled down in Alameda, where she is raising her two sons. She first heard about Montessori during her studies and was delighted when she was able to send her two children to a Montessori preschool. She is excited to be part of the office team at The Child Unique and loves to see children grow and flourish in the Montessori environment. In her free time she enjoys gardening, exploring the outdoors with her husband and sons, and visiting family in three continents.

Erin Marie Vanegas

P.E. Coach at Encinal Campus/Office Assistant

Erin Vanegas was born and raised in Alameda. She grew up playing on local soccer, basketball, and softball teams and competed at the varsity level in Redwood Christian School’s tennis and softball teams where she was voted MVP of the softball league her senior year. Erin worked as an assistant teacher at the elementary campus of Redwood Christian Schools for three years. She is passionate about working with children and finds that watching them grow and learn each day is a blessing. She is excited to work at The Child Unique this year.

Steph Wades

Teacher at Taylor Campus

Steph completed her training at the Montessori Teacher Education Center in Sunnyvale, California in 2010 and earned her Montessori credential from the American Montessori Society. She has been a caregiver since her teen years. One of the oldest of 29 grandchildren, Steph was reliably called upon to look after her many younger cousins at family functions. In High School, she received a vocational award in child care, and went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science with a Minor in Education. Steph worked as a Toddler room co-teacher in Michigan and as a Montessori teacher for the past 8 years. She loves learning new things every day from our young scholars of the world. In her free time, Steph loves going dancing, being out in nature, and going on walks with her chihuahua.