Julie Ayala

Julie Ayala is the Owner and Head of School at Topsail Montessori. She attended Purdue University for her undergraduate studies, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in financial planning and swam for the Boilermakers’ Women’s Swimming Team. Julie earned her master’s degree in special education at the College of Charleston in South Carolina (1998) and then attended the Montessori Educational Institute of the Pacific Northwest, where she earned Montessori certification for lower elementary (2004). Julie has had a wide range of teaching experiences working with students of all ages in public, private and charter schools from Alaska to North Carolina, where she and her family now live. Julie’s love for children and her belief in the Montessori method inspired her to open Topsail Montessori in 2015.


Admissions Director

Trish Corbett

Trish earned her Early Childhood Montessori Certification at the Columbus Montessori Teacher Education Program and has worked in Montessori schools for over 15 years. Additionally, she holds a BS in Business. Trish’s introduction to Montessori came through her son. When seeking an alternative to daycare, a neighbor highly recommended her child’s Montessori school. After visiting the school, witnessing the children’s calm, joyful learning, Trish and her husband Rich were hooked on Montessori. Both their son Jason and daughter Elizabeth thrived in Montessori schools, Jason attending through high school. Recently Trish and her family moved to Wilmington, fulfilling their dream to live near the ocean, and she’s very excited to join the Topsail Montessori community.


Operations Director

Amanda Vincent

Amanda graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in Communications with a concentration in Public Relations. She also earned her master's degree in Higher Education at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington where she taught first year students. She has been a Hampstead local since her dad retired from the military 14 years ago. She is very excited to start her journey at Topsail Montessori to further her passion for education and working with students.


Childcare Administrator

MacKenzie Harris

MacKenzie has been a tri-county resident since pursuing her Bachelors in Social Work at UNCW in 2012. Following her graduation MacKenzie devoted her life to serving children in Child Welfare. Though she no longer desires to work in the high stakes world of protective service her love for children is never ending and she is excited to put her policy knowledge to use as the Childcare Administrator here at Topsail Montessori. In her free time MacKenzie is an active member of her church and volunteers in the community as often as possible. When not on the go MacKenzie likes to camp with her family and slow down her mind with crafting. 


Outreach Director

Victoria Hughes

Victoria graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with degrees in Sociology and Political Science. Having worked at a farm-based education center and an early childhood family support program, she later pursued her private school teaching certificate and began teaching First Grade at a Waldorf school in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. With a background as a K-8 Waldorf student, Victoria has always had a love for holistic education and hands-on teaching strategies. After teaching 1st-3rd grade at Waldorf and Waldorf-inspired schools, Victoria transitioned into being an education director at Heritage Creek Farm Camp & Education Center. There, she planned and implemented a mixed-age curriculum for students in an outdoor learning environment. Victoria shared creative and nature-based lessons with children through summer camp, afterschool, homeschool and field trip experiences. Victoria moved to Wilmington at the end of 2022 wishing to continue her work with progressive schools and education programs. After discovering Topsail Montessori, Victoria knew that her skill-set would fit well with the child-centered mission. Victoria is excited to work through the Montessori lens and join the school community!

Stepping Stones Team


Stepping Stones Lead

Ana Abab

Ana is originally from Brazil. She migrated to US in 2001 and a few months after, she met her husband. Her journey in childcare education started when she began to volunteer at preschools and daycares in Southern California. She was first introduced to the Montessori method in 2012 when she started working as a floater/assistant at a very well established Montessori school. She immediately developed a deep passion to teach young ages and she decided to follow her career. Ana earned her Early Childhood Education credits at Saddleback College and received her AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) diploma Assistant to Infancy- Birth to Three Years of Age at MISD (Montessori Institute of San Diego) in 2014. Since then, Ana had been working as a Toddler Lead teacher. She possesses a deep admiration and appreciation for the Montessori method, believing that is very fulfilling to help children develop, connect them to the prepared environment and being the bridge for them to reach their full potential. Ana and her family moved to Hampstead last Spring (2022) and she is thrilled to make a positive contribution to the Topsail Montessori community.  In her free time, she enjoys cooking, baking and exploring outdoors with her husband, her son and her dog. 


Jennifer Tecca

Jennifer graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelor of Science in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication.  She is currently enrolled as a graduate student in the English Department at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.Jennifer has worked in education for six years. She began as a volunteer parent at Sweetwater Montessori in New Bern, NC and eventually became an assistant.  Her experience with the child centered environment and style of learning inspired her to pursue a career within the Montessori school system.  Jennifer and her family moved to Sneads Ferry over the summer where she was excited to discover Topsail Montessori where she could continue her passion to assist, learn, and grow in her path of childhood education.  After graduation, Jennifer wishes to pursue a career in literature and language arts.

Primary Team


Primary 1 Lead

Jennifer Driver

Jen Driver has been with Topsail Montessori since July 2022! She grew up in Severna Park, Maryland, and moved to North Carolina to go to college at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where she received her Bachelors in Early Childhood Education. She has been teaching birth through kindergarten since 2014 in public, private, charter, and Montessori schools. She feels lucky to have found the wonderful world of Montessori in 2017 and has not looked back! She has her Montessori 3-6 Certification through the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. Some of the many things that she loves are teaching and inspiring young minds, the beach, family, running, and her dog Remi. She loves being part of the Topsail Montessori community!


Primary 2 Lead

Becky O'Connell

Becky loves the Montessori philosophy because she believes that it brings out the best in everyone, allowing the child to grow within limits and allowing the adults to support every child’s growth through love, kindness, and respect. When Becky’s daughter started Montessori school at 18 months, she fell in love with the Montessori Method and started her training to be a Montessori primary teacher. She taught for three years before taking a break from the classroom to run her mother’s business. She returned to teaching in 2018 and plans to stay until retirement. She lives her life with a constant love and desire to learn, just as the primary aged children do. She was fortunate to watch her daughter grow up in a Montessori environment and get the complete benefits of this community through elementary school. Her daughter’s love of the world, respect of her community, and joy of learning are still strong as a teenager. Becky and her family love living in the Hampstead community and plan on being here for a long time.


Primary 3 Lead

Angela McConnell

Angela, originally from Connecticut, moved to North Carolina in 2007. She has a bachelor's degree in business where she worked in banking and real estate for many years. Following her love of children, desire to teach, and passion for the Montessori philosophy, Angela received her Montessori Early Childhood Certification in 2013 and has worked in Montessori schools since. She lives in the Porters Neck area with her husband where they are enjoying life and spending time with their three adult children and grandson.

Screen Shot 2021-03-05 at 9.32.18 AM

Primary 1 Assistant

Emma Zangrando

Emma Zangrando is from Cincinnati, Ohio. Emma and her husband moved to Wilmington a little over a year ago. She is a 3-6 Montessori teacher. She attended Xavier University for graduate school where she earned AMS (American Montessori Society) and MACTE (Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education) credentials, as well as an Ohio State Preschool to 3rd-grade teaching license in 2021. She recently earned a Master of Education degree. For undergraduate school, she attended Ohio Wesleyan University where she majored in Spanish and Education. She studied abroad in Salamanca, Spain for a semester. Emma absolutely loves the Spanish language and loves teaching it! After graduation, her love of traveling and languages took her to Tokyo, Japan. She worked at a language institute called ECC for a year and a half where she worked with all ages of students. She fell in love with Japan, it was one of my favorite places she has ever lived in. She was able to study the basics of the Japanese language while living there and cannot wait to learn more! Montessori is one of her greatest passions. She grew up with Montessori education in her life. Her grandmother was a 3-6 Montessori directress, her Aunt is a Montessori 3-6 directress, and when she was 3-6 years old she attended the Xavier Montessori lab school. Emma believes so strongly in the philosophy and she wants to carry on Maria Montessori’s beautiful and profound legacy. She is thrilled to be working at Topsail Montessori! Emma and Jenn are already enjoying working together and make a great team! The children in this class are all so wonderful and sweet. She is looking forward to working with them during this school year and starting a new journey. Please feel free to introduce yourself to Emma as she can't wait to meet everyone!

20220819_090505 (1)

Christian Kelley

Raised in Wilmington, Christian knew from a young age that he wanted to work with children. After graduating from UNCW with a Bachelors in elementary education, he spent time working with children of all ages. After coming to Topsail Montessori, he fell in love with the freedom and ownership the students had over their learning. Christian has plans to go back to school for a degree in early childhood education.

Elementary Team


Elementary Co-Teacher

Molly Whiting

Molly graduated from Grand Valley State University with a degree in Natural Resource Management and Sustainability. After graduation she moved to Key Largo Florida to work for Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF). While with CRF Molly worked closely with the education department, focusing on public outreach giving divers hands-on experience restoring Florida’s Coral Reef.


Elementary Co-Teacher

Erin Kinsella

“Free the child’s potential, and you will transform him into the world.”- Maria Montessori

Erin Kinsella was drawn to Montessori after learning more about the methods and teachings of the whole child. She was born in San Francisco and grew up in Northern California and Idaho. She attended college in California focusing on early childhood education. Erin has taught in schools, from preschool to high school, for over 18 years in private, public, and Montessori. She is married and has two children. Her and her family have traveled all over the world and have finally settled here in Hampstead where they plan to finally plant their roots.

Sarah Kallquist

Sarah Kallquist from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, moved to Holly Ridge North Carolina in the spring of 2022 grew up going to the topsail beach wanted to combine my love of working with children and the ocean so I moved to North Carolina. Graduated from Allegheny community college in 2017 with a certificate in early childhood education and development , after graduating in 2017 I went to work at a private Christian school and worked as an assistant in the kindergarten program, then to move to a stem based learning school, where I really grew my love of teaching kids of  all ages, critical thinking skills, and nature base learning. In my downtime I love spending time with my family and dog , going on road trips, or in my garden.

image0 (1)

Anna Pleasant

Anna Pleasant is working in our aftercare program and assisting as a floater. She is looking forward to the mutual impact of working with your children! Anna grew up in Roxboro, North Carolina and graduated high school with her Associate in Science through dual enrollment. She went on to complete her Associate in Arts through taking a few of the Early Childhood Credential classes at her local community college while deciding where she wanted to attend university. During this 6 month period, she worked at Indigo Montessori in Durham, North Carolina in the ones classroom. Before taking on that job, she had been nannying for about 7 years. Anna always said that she didn’t know what she wanted to do when she grew up, but she knew she wanted to be working with children! Working at Indigo, she realized how passionate she was about the Montessori approach and saw the impact it had on herself and the children. Anna is now a junior at UNCW pursuing her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with a minor in Business Administration. She hopes to use her degree to work with children in detention centers and counsel them. Anna has a strong passion for watching children learn, grow, and flourish. She is glad to be back in the Montessori environment once again to assist your children in thriving!