Photo by Kert Gartner

Photo by Kert Gartner

Laura Burla – Director, Primary Classroom Teacher:

I have been in this wonderful field of early learning for the past 14 years, and throughout my career I have had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of amazing children and their families. I am an Early Childhood Educator III, with my Specialization in Studies in Aboriginal Child Care, and have my International Montessori Teaching Diploma through the North American Montessori Center.

I attended Red River College for both my Early Childhood Educator Degree and my Studies in Aboriginal Child Care Degree.  I have recently been nominated for the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence.

I have had the opportunity to work in many types of centres over the years, including rural, inner city, and extended hours care on evenings and weekends, and have spent the past five years working in senior management positions.

I have always had a strong interest in the Montessori Method, and have learned about it through the years. So when the opportunity to join this wonderful program came, I was very excited to join the team!  Immersing myself in the Montessori philosophy, and seeing how it transcends into the classroom teachings, has been amazing these past four years.

My personal child care philosophy is that as educators, we need to embrace life-long learning, and constantly challenge ourselves to learn more, for that is the only way we are able to grow in our abilities. I also strongly believe in supporting each family’s own unique dynamics, and celebrating the life of each child. 

We are beyond pleased and proud to announce that our Director Laura Burla is one of the 2015 recipients of the Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence and Excellence in Early Childhood Education


Haley Davies - Primary Classroom Teacher/Assistant Director:

I am an ECE III, with my Studies in Child Care Management through the University of Winnipeg.  Throughout my studies I took a strong interest in the development of children and ways as an educator, that I am able to promote overall development. This is my fourth year with the St. James Montessori School.  I also have my International Montessori Teaching Diploma through the North American Montessori Center, and have recently completed my Bachelor of Arts in Child Development and my Early Childhood Educator Level III at the University of Winnipeg.

This year I am fulfilling two roles in our program; both as a Primary Classroom Teacher, and as the Assistant Director.  I will be in the Classroom most days, however will also have some scheduled Admin Time during which I will be completing Administrative Duties for the School.  During my Admin Time, Teachers Laura and Tuesday will be the in Classroom with the students.


Tuesday Chua - Primary Classroom Teacher

Tuesday has many great qualifications and experiences that makes her a strong addition to our team of educators. Not only does she have multiple years of experience working with preschool children, she is also familiar with Kindergarten curriculum, as part of her Educational Assistant (EA) studies. She also has previous experience in implementing the Montessori Method has an International Montessori Teaching Diploma through the North American Montessori Center. and is classified as a Childcare Assistant (CCA). Committed to her continuous learning,  she regularly attends parenting and early childhood educator seminars.


Gredy Jimenez - Inclusion Specialist

My name is Gredy Jimenez, and I am currently an Inclusion Specialist at SJMS.  I am in my second year with our program, and was previously a Term Primary Classroom Teacher during a maternity leave. I am currently classified as an ECE-In-Training, which means I am studying at Red River College to obtain my Degree in Early Childhood Education. I have been working in the field of early learning and child care for the last 5 years; before that in my home country I had spent ten years in Medical School studying to become a general doctor. Before coming to SJMS, I spent two years in Northern Quebec, were I started as a Early Childhood Educator, then became a Special Needs Educator for eleven months.  From there I became an Assistant and Interim Director at that daycare. Working in northern Canada provided me with great insights in different child care settings, as well as an understanding of the different regulations from Provence to Provence.


Teacher Susan Watkins, CCA - Inclusion Specialist

I have an Undergraduate Degree in Music Performance from Memorial University of Newfoundland, a Post-Baccalaureate in Performance from the University of Manitoba, and I have a long history of working with and educating children. 

From a young age, I taught piano and voice lessons, became an assistant dance teacher, worked as a French tutor, and was the coordinator of Kiwanis summer camps. Since graduating from university, I have taught through the Manitoba Conservatory of Music and Arts, and Manitoba Theatre for Young People. 

I have a strong passion for teaching which has led to many volunteer opportunities as well as the formation of my own opera company that educates and performs exclusively for children, encouraging their participation and interaction in story-telling as well as engaging their imagination. I am looking forward to my first year with the St. James Montessori School as an Inclusion Specialist. 


Rachel Pigden, CCA - Inclusion Specalist

My name is Rachel Pigden and I am very excited to be a part of the team at SJMS! I am 23 years old and I am a Child Care Assistant. My journey in childcare started 6 years ago when I got my first job as a CCA at Westwood Community Child Care that is located in Sansome Elementary school here in Westwood. I enjoyed my job thoroughly and knew I wanted to continue to share my skills, and my love for working with children in the child care field.

When I was 19 I moved to Edmonton Alberta with my family. I looked forward to a fresh start with new opportunities, seeking a job in the school division as an educational assistant. I was very blessed to get a job in a school division there as an Inclusion Aide in a kindergarten classroom working one on one with a child. I worked for one year in Kindergarten then moved to a new school to work in a pre school program. I worked in a wonderful preschool program for 2 school years before deciding to make the move back to my hometown of Winnipeg. I have spent the last 9 months working as a CCA at Horizons Children's Centre. I have a very strong love for my work and take much pride in what I do. I am very excited to learn more about the Montessori philosophy and way of learning; and to build meaningful relationships with the children and also the parents of the program.

In my spare time I enjoy weight training and playing hockey. I also enjoy spending quality time with family and friends. I have the gift of gab and love a good conversation. Come and say Hi when you see me at school. I am looking  forward to meeting you and getting to know you!


Bob the Fish - African Cichlid (Parrot Cichlid)

Hi, i'm Bob the Fish! I'm the newest addition to the SJMS Family and was adopted from one of our enrolled families.

Having living beings is crucial in a Montessori Environment (plants, fish, flowers, pets, etc) as it provides so many opportunities for preschool children to learn how to care for them, how to provide a happy, healthy and stimulating life and how to be responsible for the life of another being, like me! All of these skills fall under the "Care of the Environment, Pets" category, from the Practical Life Learning Area.

The students are responsible for all of my care, including feeding me, cleaning my tank, and providing me with a healthy and stimulating environment. The teachers ensure all students learn the skills to carry out these tasks, and maintain records to create equal opportunities for each student to engage in these daily tasks.

I'm really excited to be part of the SJMS program! Come say Hi, I have a really fun personality!


Teacher’s Responsibilities:

As the Primary Teachers, both Haley and Tuesday work every day the school is in session. Laura, as Director of the Program, has Administrative Responsibilities relating to the school’s operations, in addition to being a presence in the classroom.  Laura balances her time between teaching in the classroom, coaching and mentoring staff and practicum students, and running the centre administratively as Director.  

All of our Educators are responsible for the overall quality of programming being offered to each child, each day. The Montessori Prepared Environment is designed to create a safe, calm, and welcoming space for the children to enter into each day, and our Teachers rotate out the learning materials as the children are ready to ensure optimal learning opportunities occur. They carefully observe each child, to know when they are ready to master new skills, and when the child is ready, to teach the material to them one-on-one through demonstration.

Our Teachers are each responsible for a Primary Group of children, and plan and implement a daily Circle Time with the children in their Primary Group, wherein they learn about various topics in all areas of the children’s development – social, emotional, cognitive, and physical. You will receive the name of your child's Primary Teacher at the start of the School Year, and they will be your main contact person for your child's education and goals.  The Teachers ensure that these planned activities support the “whole child”, to ensure all areas of their development are being supported.

Circle Time is not forced upon any child who does not wish to participate; children who do not wish to join that day are welcome to read quietly in the library area until the activity is finished. As children learn best when they are actively engaged and interested, we never force any child into an activity they do not wish to perform; instead we wait until they show interest in that material, and engage them when they are ready.

We also plan special field-trips and visitors throughout the school year, which build upon what the children are currently learning about. 

There will be times where Laura, Haley or Tuesday are away (illnesses, family emergencies, etc).  If needed to fulfill ratio requirements, we call upon our list of Substitutes to fill in for that day.  All of our Substitute staff have completed Criminal Record Checks and Child Abuse Registry Checks, and have been interviewed to determine their abilities and experience with children.

Whenever possible, we try and call in substitutes that the children are familiar with, to help make them more comfortable. Families will be notified that day if a substitute was in the classroom, through a note on the Parent Bulletin Board or an email sent to families.