About Us

Palencia Montessori Academy provides unique experience and expertise to the children of St Johns County.

PuzzleIn 2012, our school was founded by Babette and Curtis Weaver, owners of The Village Academy and Village Academy North – the two most highly regarded early childhood education centers in St Augustine and St Johns County.

The shared thread between Palenica Montessori Academy, Village Academy North, and The Village Academy is the emphasis we put on preparing our students for success in kindergarten and fostering a love for learning that will last a lifetime. We are dedicated to educating your children and each year we receive solid, consistent, positive feedback from teachers in the St Johns County Public Schools about how well prepared our graduates are, and how passionate they are to learn and excel.

Megan Merlini

Ms. Megan Merlini earned a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and has experience as a School and Program Director. She also has over seventeen years of teaching experience. Ms. Merlini worked as a Head Teacher responsible for curriculum in Montessori methodologies, lesson plan development, and preparation of Montessori materials. She is North American Montessori Center (NAMC) certified, and has completed coursework towards her American Montessori Society (AMS) certification. In addition, she has been trained in differentiated instruction, classroom management, and behavioral intervention. Ms. Merlini brings a unique set of skills to our school including language immersion in a Montessori environment (Mandarin and Spanish), special needs education, and she has a specialized background in math, language arts, healthy cooking and nutritional counseling.

Mary Bartholmey

Mary Bartholemey holds her Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Maria Regina College in Syracuse, NY and a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Ottawa University.  Mary has a Montessori Primary Lead Teaching Certificate and prior to joining us at Palencia Montessori Academy in Summer of 2015 had taught for a total of 10 years as a Lead Montessori teacher at Mission Montessori in Scottsdale, Arizona and at Julia Brown Montessori School in Laurel, Maryland.  Mary also taught VPK for a number of years and  has both her VPK certification and CDA in the State of Florida.

Haley Thompson

Haley Thompson is a Floridian originally from the small town of Melrose, Florida just outside of Gainesville. Haley grew up climbing trees, trail making, fort building, and becoming a mud pie master chef. She moved to St. Augustine to complete her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and graduated from the University of North Florida in December of 2014. As part of her college degree, Haley studied abroad and traveled to Belize, Central America to teach children.  It was in Belize, that she was first introduced the Montessori Method. Haley says, “The first classroom I walked in had barely enough materials for 10 children, yet there were 33. I remember watching a child on the floor playing with a pile of sand.  He looked like he was in pure bliss, moving the sand through his hands, separating it into piles and watching as some slipped through the gaps in the old floor. My professor explained that children learn through play, even with the smallest materials, like a pile of sand.  The child is practicing fine motor skills, developing senses through touch, and even sorting skills needed for mathematics. This really blew my mind.  I later learned that a woman, many years ago, had the same look on her face as I did when she watched a small child play with a pile of bread crumbs on the floor, with a huge smile on their face. This was Dr. Maria Montessori.” Haley Thompson joined our schools in January of 2015 at The Village Academy. She fell in love with Montessori all over again and started working with us at Palencia Montessori Academy in the Fall of 2015.  Haley quickly began working towards her Montessori Credentials and received her Montessori Diploma. Haley says, “I feel at home in the Montessori Environment”.  Ms. Haley also enjoys singing and playing guitar, spending time with her family, and watching Florida Gators Football.

Samudra Leitan

Samudra Leitan received her preprimary Montessori certification from London Montessori Center in England and has over 28 years of Montessori teaching experience.  Before Samudra moved to the U.S., she owned and operated a highly successful Montessori school for children ages 2 through 7 years of age. After moving to Palm Valley, California, she taught as a Lead PrePrimary Montessori teacher for 16 years. She also assisted with the launch of a new kindergarten program at her final school before moving from the West Coast. Samudra brings a wealth of primary and kindergarten experience to our program. Additionally, Samudra has several health and fitness certifications and enjoys teaching fitness and wellness to young children. Her health and fitness courses teach fundamental social skills through encouragement of active, healthy lifestyles. Samurdra also enjoys dancing, soccer, hiking, yoga, and running and is a warm, loving spirit full of energy and creativity.

Connie Phillips

Connie Phillips embraced the Montessori Method of learning originally as an assistant teacher in Winchester Massachusetts in 1988.  With great excitement and anticipation, she completed her Montessori Teaching Certification in 1990 at The Montessori Education Center in Cambridge, MA.  Connie enjoyed teaching in Massachusetts, California and now she has resided in Florida for over 25 years.  Her experience she believes has given her the ability to reach children at their level with patience, love and guidance helping them to become independent and confident.  Connie says, “Montessori works! Children learn to love learning, and isn’t that what we want for them?”

Teri L. DeLucca, PhD

Dr. Teri DeLucca is the Vice President of Operations, and is responsible for the success of all three of our learning academies. Dr. DeLucca has a dual PhD in developmental psychology and educational psychology from the University of Florida. Dr. DeLucca’s research and expertise are focused on cognitive and socioemotional development during early childhood with an emphasis on the aspects of development that are important for school readiness and academic achievement. She enjoys translating research into methods and practices that teachers can easily understand and use in their classrooms to best prepare children for kindergarten success and future academic achievement. Dr. DeLucca oversees the daily operations and curricula of our schools, extended day programs, and summer camps and provides leadership, training, and coaching to our teachers and staff so that we may continue to provide the highest quality early learning experiences within St. John’s County.

Rachel Sledge

Rachel Sledge attended Florida State University and has her B.S. in Child Growth and Child Development with a minor in Deaf Culture. She started working at The Village Academy in January of 2005 as a 2-year-old teacher and then a Florida VPK teacher. Rachel moved into administration in 2007 and was Director of The Village Academy from the summer of 2009 to the summer of 2017. Ms. Rachel draws from her education and years of experience in the child care industry and serves as a daily support to our school and program directors. She is responsible for compliance of each school and program in regards to child care regulations and national accreditation standards and actively develops, coordinates and implements new-hire training, and is responsible for the management of facility maintenance.  You can expect to see her from time to time at all of our schools or programs.

Babette Weaver

Babette Weaver is the Owner of The Village Academy and co-Owner of Village Academy North and Palencia Montessori. Those schools consistently earn the Best of St Augustine award from the parents in this area. Babette taught in public school for eight years prior to founding The Village Academy, originally named Children’s Village, in 1981. Her educational credentials include a B.S. from Northwestern University and a Masters in Education from UNF. Babette holds teacher certifications in Deaf Education; Elementary Education; and Elementary Education Administration and Supervision. She also has the Advanced Level Florida Child Care and Education Program Director Credential.

Curt Weaver

Curt Weaver is the co-Owner of Village Academy North and Palencia Montessori.  Curt was a pilot in the US Navy for 8 years, before beginning a 14 year business career with AT&T.  He subsequently opened Internet Commerce Strategies, a strategy and management consultancy with a global clientele from start-ups to the Fortune 50.  Curt closed his consulting business and joined Babette in the early childhood education industry after their marriage in 2006.

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