Administrative Team

Karen Winningham
Executive Director, Founder

I was born and raised in the Bronx, NY and graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (New York) with a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial and Management Engineering. Upon graduation in 2003, I began my career as an Industrial Engineer for the United States Postal Service in Columbia, SC. Since then I have worked in various positions across the eastern United States and ultimately worked for USPS Headquarters as an Operations Industrial Engineer implementing process improvement methods and coaching a national network of Industrial Engineers as a critical component of our Lean Deployment. I hold a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification from the USPS and am an ASQ Certified Six Sigma Black Belt (CSSBB). I moved to Winter Haven in 2012 with my family and quickly realized this is where we were meant to be.  In 2014 we created the founding group to open a Montessori charter school in order to provide this unique educational choice to all children of our community.  In August of 2016 Cypress Junction Montessori opened its doors because of the passion, commitment, and dedication of this group, and I am honored to serve as CJM’s Executive Director. As a Montessori mother, and now a Montessori administrator, I commit to ensuring our students, families, and extended community experience the Montessori environment as intended by the teachings of Dr. Maria Montessori.  Welcome to our school!  Welcome to your school!

Nicole Erol

Hello! I was born and raised in a small town in Wisconsin. After high school, I moved to Florida to attend college at UCF and graduated in 2005. After graduation, I began my career in education at Christa McAulife Charter Elementary in Cape Coral, where I taught first grade for six years. I then spent two years at Lakeland Montessori Schoolhouse. My love for Montessori education began while volunteering at my son’s Montessori school. I was in awe of the independence, freedom within limits, and the whole child centered environment. A classroom, that follows the child, led me toward my current journey. I have earned my Lower Elementary certification in Montessori Education. My husband and I have one son, Jacob who attends Harrison School for the Arts. I’m very excited to be part of Cypress Junction Montessori!

ReNata Cox
Executive Administrative Assistant

I am excited to be a part of the Cypress Junction Montessori family.  I was born and raised in Polk County and graduated from Winter Haven High School in 2001. I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Sport Management from Webber International University in 2006 and started my career in the Polk County School Board system in 2009. I really enjoy working with kids. I have two girls that keep me on the go with a variety of sports. I also volunteer coaching basketball for the Auburndale Youth Basketball League.

Tony Smith
Facilities Manager

Hello everyone. My name is Anthony Smith, and I was raised by my grandparents here in Florida. I had an awesome childhood where I attended Wahneta elementary then from there I went to Westwood middle school and on to Lake Region High School. I eventually earned my G.E.D at West Area Adult School, and I met the woman I now call my wife. After 3 years of marriage we welcomed a beautiful baby girl that weighed 7 pounds 5 ounces named Ella Nicole. I am ecstatic to be a part of the Cypress Junction Montessori community.

Kim Scott
Instructional Coach

Hello! My name is Kim Scott, and I am excited to be joining the Cypress Junction Montessori family!  I am a fifth generation Floridian, having grown up on the east coast of Florida in the small town of Vero Beach.  I attended the University of South Florida, earning a B.A. degree in education (specializing in teaching children with specific learning differences and behavior disorders).  I got married to my wonderful husband in 1998 and have two daughters.  When I heard a Montessori school was opening in Lakeland, I was curious and went to the informational meeting.  I knew at that meeting that Montessori was going to change the path of my life.  I enrolled both my daughters when they turned three.  I was a Montessori parent first.  I then began working at that Montessori school for six years as a lead primary teacher.  I earned my primary Montessori certification from the American Montessori Society.  I later spent two summers and took year-long online courses earning my Master of Montessori Education degree from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.  I then served as the principal of a public Montessori charter school.  My daughters are teenagers now, and I believe having a Montessori education helped them develop a true love of learning, intrinsic motivation to produce quality work, and respect for other people and the community as a whole.  I am truly grateful that Dr. Maria Montessori created a model and method of education that continues to apply in current times and still be true and respectful to each child.

Primary Team

Lori Brousseau

I am very excited to be a member of the faculty at CJM.  I came to CJM with over 20 years experience in various aspects of the education field.  Not only was I an early childhood educator in the private systems for both RI and MA, I also spent four years as a Director for a pre-school facility in MA.  Twelve years ago I relocated to FL from Rhode Island.  I spent two years teaching Kindergarten and first grade for Osceola County and ten years teaching fourth grade for a Polk County catholic school.  My educational background includes an AA in Early Childhood Education from Fisher College, Boston MA, a BS in Human Development and Family Studies from The University of Rhode Island, Kingston, RI, and an MS in Child Development with a concentration in Early Childhood Education from Wheelock College, Boston, MA.  I am deemed highly qualified by FL State standards possessing professional certifications in the areas of Early Childhood Education age 3 to grade 3 as well as Elementary Ed K-6.  I also holds a Director Credential with a VPK endorsement from the State of FL.

Kalani Schlenker

Hello! I am super excited to be a part of the Cypress Junction Montessori family. I was born in Puerto Rico and grew up all over the United States (PA, TX, TN, KY, and FL). My family moved to Florida during my freshman year in college and have made this our home ever since! I graduated from Warner University with my BA in Elementary Education in January of 2009. My education career began at Lake Marion Creek Elementary School teaching several grade levels over the span of four years (Dual Language Kindergarten, 3rd, 4th, and 5th). In 2012, I switched over to virtual school where I gained an immense amount of knowledge in regards to instructional technology and working one-on-one with families to individualize learning. I taught Kindergarten and 1st grade in the virtual setting and my love for primary flourished! My desire to teach Montessori began in college when I had to do a report on Dr. Maria’s philosophy. From then on, it has been a dream of mine to become a part of a Montessori school! Dreams really do come true!

My husband and I have one child, Elian, who is very curious, energetic, playful, and social! We love to spend time building at LEGOLAND and exploring Bok Tower gardens. I am beyond blessed to be a part of the Cypress Junction Montessori family!

Brenda Hart

I am a Florida native.  My hobbies center around my family and our mini farm.  My backyard is a tropical barnyard filled with mature bamboo, a small orchard of fruit trees and chickens, quail, ducks and three dogs.  I also dabble in gardening!

I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Science and have had the pleasure of working with Kindergarten children for the past 15 years.  I am thrilled to be a part of Cypress Junction Montessori and honored to be a link in the Founding Staff.  What an exciting journey we will have as we nurture, guide and cultivate our children to have a passion for learning.

Breaunna Farmer

I was born in Florida and have lived here my whole life, migrating back and forth between Lakeland and Tampa. I currently live in Lakeland and am ecstatic to be a part of the Cypress Junction team. I am now attending Polk State College, where I plan to get my Associates Degree. Aside from school, I spend my personal time painting, creating sculptures, playing guitar, and singing. I am looking forward to this school year!

Lower Elementary Team

Alexandra Brown

I was born and raised here in Winter Haven, Florida. I have always loved working with children and after working at a Montessori preschool, I knew I wanted to be a teacher at a Montessori elementary school. I recently graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Florida southern College, and am currently working on my Master’s degree, also at FSC. I am so excited to begin this new adventure with Cypress Junction Montessori!

Natalie Helms

I am so excited to join the Lower Elementary team at Cypress Junction Montessori! I graduated from Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA in 2005 with a BFA, and later completed my graduate studies with the University of Nebraska at Kearney in 2012 earning a Master of Arts in Art Education. I have been teaching elementary Art with Polk County Public Schools for the past 13 years, and the last 11 years at Elbert Elementary School. Since 2008 I have also taught summer art camp and some adult courses with the Polk Museum of Art. I am certified in Elementary Education K-6 and Art K-12, and am looking forward to guiding my students in their studies in a Montessori setting. I feel like my experience in collaborating with classroom teachers with my lessons, and fostering creativity and problem solving in the art classroom has prepared me for this type of position. I look forward to getting to know my students and their families as we work together toward a common goal of cultivating creative thought and problem solving in order to raise independent learners

Candice Perez

Hello CJM families! I am so excited to embark on this Montessori journey with you all! I was born and raised right here in Polk County, Florida where I graduated high school from Polk Community College Collegiate High School in 2006. From there, I began substitute teaching right away and took a year off to be a long term substitute, which is where I fell in love with educating young minds. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education in 2010 from the University of Central Florida and began teaching at Lake Marion Creek Elementary School in Poinciana. I spent several years at Lake Marion teaching primarily third grade before transitioning to Inwood Elementary where I have had the pleasure of teaching grades 1-4. I am married to my high school sweetheart, Christopher, and we have 3 amazing children. My oldest daughter is currently in primary at CJM and played an integral role in helping to open my eyes to the astonishing benefits that a Montessori foundation has to offer young learners. I look forward to meeting you all!

Michele Rozar

Hello CJM families! I was born and raised here in Florida. My husband and I live in Winter Haven and have 6 children. Our oldest daughter graduated high school in 2017 and we have 5 children who are students here at Cypress Junction Montessori. Most of my time is spent with my family. We enjoy going to hockey games, Busch Gardens, visiting our family in Georgia, and just being silly together. I enjoy reading, cooking with my kids, and going to the beach. I have worked for many years in the medical field, most recently the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. Over the past two years I have developed a strong interest in Elementary Education. I began substituting last school year at a nearby Charter School and immediately knew that this is the change I wanted to pursue. I am currently attending Polk State.

Upper Elementary Team

Jill Clark

I was born in Melbourne, Florida and grew up there and in Lakeland, Florida. I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from The University of South Florida and my Master’s Degree from James Madison University in French Horn Performance. I have extensive experience as a professional musician in orchestras and chamber groups. I also have over 30 years of teaching experience in the areas of private music, drum corps, concert band, jazz band, marching band, general music and physical education. My classroom experience has been in homeschooling my five sons, teaching music and physical education at Lakeland Montessori Middle School, and classroom teaching in the Polk County Schools in grades one and four. I am excited to be part of Cypress Junction Montessori because I have seen the positive benefits of a Montessori education through all of my sons, graduates of Lakeland Montessori Middle School. My youngest son  joined me at Cypress Junction Montessori as a student.

Christian Soriano

I was born in many places, but records legally show that I was birthed in Manila, Philippines. From whence, I have moved around significantly – from a few small towns in the Philippines, to a snow-covered city somewhere in New Jersey, and then settling in at Winter Haven, Florida when I was approximately 6 years old. I received my Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing in 2014 from Florida State University, and since then worked various jobs in Education and many other fields. I live mostly alone with my dog; my mother often visits. My sisters live elsewhere. I also live with a robust set of hobbies.

Whitney Ure

Hello! My name is Whitney Ure. I am originally from a small town in Morgan, Utah and grew up there. My husband and I recently moved to Haines City at the beginning of the 2018 for him to finish up his schooling in Lakeland. We are excited to welcome our first baby, a little girl, coming in June! I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Utah State University with an emphasis in Music. My teaching experiences vary from teaching at alternative high schools to first grade to children with autism at a behavior clinic to private music lessons. Through these various experiences, I realized the crucial need for autonomy and student led environments to be the center of my teaching in order for my students to become lifelong learners and leaders. It has been my quest to find an educational pedagogy that fits this learning profile and that is why I have chosen to to teach at a Montessori school. I am excited to begin my journey and to be a part of Cypress Junction Montessori!

Jami Elliott

Hello everyone! I am so excited for this opportunity here at Cypress Junction Montessori and enjoy working with all of your amazing children. I’m originally from Orlando, FL and moved to Lakeland in 2002. I have been married for 13 years and have two beautiful children. My son and daughter attend CJM. I love crafting and family and I enjoy spending our free time visiting theme parks.

When my son was born, I decided to put my career on hold; and I became a stay-at-home mom. This allowed me the privilege to help my son develop a love of learning at an early age. Once he started school, I volunteered in multiple classrooms, assisted on field trips, and helped with many school events. I had the chance to assist in my son’s third grade classroom throughout the year. I am so thankful to have had these experiences. I believe it has helped me gain the skills needed to assist your children in the classroom. I look forward to continuing my education in the philosophies of Dr. Montessori!

Brooke Warner

I was raised in Winter Haven and graduated from Chain of Lakes Collegiate High School a month after I earned my associate’s degree from Polk State College. I left Florida to attend Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, where I experienced snow for the first time. My education is in English language and I have had many opportunities teaching children and teenagers through volunteer service. I also had the opportunity to serve as the president of the Tall Club, as I stand 6’3”. While living in Utah, I met my husband and we now have a busy toddler and a welcomed a baby girl this past summer. I was fortunate to talk my husband into leaving the cold and moving our family back to Florida in 2017.  I’m looking forward to continuing to work here at Cypress Junction!

Secondary Team

Kimberly-Jo Foster

Hello Everyone! I was born and raised in Fredericksburg, Virginia. While enrolled in college, I worked as an assistant teacher at two private Montessori schools in the Northern Virginia/D.C. Metro Area. These experiences are what lead to my love of the Montessori Method and influenced my decision to become an educator. I moved to Polk County in 2010 where I worked at Winter Haven Montessori until I was hired by the Polk County School Board. I have taught English, Algebra 1, World History, U.S. History, and Civics at the Secondary Level during my career with PCSB. I was recognized as one of the Best and Brightest teachers in Florida last year. I have a Master’s in Educational Psychology, which focuses on how students learn. I was part of the CJM founding group during the early stages of developing a Montessori charter school in Winter Haven. I live in Auburndale with my husband Duane and our two children, Liam (6) and Lorelai (2). I am hoping they will be part of the CJM family soon too. I am excited to begin this new chapter of my career and life by joining the community at Cypress Junction Montessori.

Michael Stimac

Hello. My name is Michael Stimac and I am proud to be joining Cypress Junction for the upcoming school year. I was born in the “Steel City” of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I attended Plum Senior High School. After graduation I attended Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania where I majored in Elementary Education. Upon graduating, I moved to Florida and began my 20 year teaching career for Polk County Schools. I taught grades 6-8 and coached high school football. For the last 8 years I have been a Dean of Students. I am excited to get back into the classroom and I am looking forward to continuing my career at the Montessori School.”

Interested in joining our team? We are looking for highly qualified staff who are passionate about bringing Montessori to Winter Haven! Click here to find out more about open positions.