Our Team

Lead Teacher:

Cristal Garza
Lead Teacher

Cristal was raised in McFarland, a small farm town in central California. She has 17 years of experience in working with preschool and high school aged children. In college, she studied Child Development and Sociology, which both became her major. In 2012, Cristal moved to Bakersfield with an opportunity to teach in a Montessori classroom where she worked for 3 years as a lead teacher before her journey at VMA. Cristal completed her Montessori Early Childhood Diploma Program in 2013 from North American Montessori Center. Soon after, enrolled at Montessori Teacher Academy in Dana Point, CA to receive her Montessori Credential for Montessori Early Childhood Education. For Cristal, it has been a special opportunity in working with Anna and Oxana full time on a beautiful journey from the beginning of Valley Montessori Academy and currently to open our new facility. The next chapter in her life is to start a lower elementary teacher program in San Diego, CA next year as well as continuing her education at Cal State Bakersfield. She is proud to be a part of the Montessori community as she served 8 years as a Lead Teacher and plans to teach for many more!

Cristal enjoys photography, outdoor adventures and traveling the world.

Teacher Assistants:

Carolina Benitez
Teacher Assistant

Carolina was born in Bakersfield, CA. She is married, and has a three year old daughter whom she loves to see learn and grow within the Montessori environment. She has formed part of our school since we opened our doors here at Valley Montessori Acadamy. She works in the classroom and is also our Spanish teacher. She enjoys teaching the children the language and all about her Mexican heritage.

Carolina began her education in child development at Bakersfield College. She has thirteen years of professional childcare and teaching experience. Prior to teaching here, she worked as an infant and preschool teacher. She also worked with elementary and middle school children, as an activity leader for The Boys and Girls Club. Carolina has worked with children of all ages, ranking from infants to middle school age. She is very passionate about the work she does and enjoys learning and working alongside the children.

Carolina is currently attending classes at the Montessori Teacher Academy in Dana Point, CA. She is working on earning her Associate Montessori Teacher Certificate. She is also a Certified Positive Discipline Educator. 

On her free time she enjoys baking, taking pictures, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends.

Mari Carpinteyro
Teacher Assistant

My name is Ms. Mari I joined Valley Montessori Academy in 2018 after Twenty-four years as a stay home mom. I raised three wonderful children Twenty-four, twenty one and eighteen. I’m fortunate and blessed to be teaching in a school that promotes a nurturing and loving environment where children learn.

Graziela Freitas
Teacher Assistant

Graziela was born and raised in Brazil. In that beautiful and diverse country, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Education and a Specialization in Psychology of Education. She has more than 10 years of experience in this area and has been working as an Educator believing that, through good education, children can express their best potential. After living in the U.S. for one year in 2014, Graziela and her family decided to move to the U.S in 2016 to support her husband’s career as a Research Scientist. What she was not aware of was how her life would unfold itself. After two years as a home mom, she decided to invest in her professional career enrolling in the AMS Montessori Teacher Training in Lake Saint Louis, MO where she worked as an Assistant Teacher for almost one year.  Seizing a great opportunity, Graziela and her family decided to move to California. Knowing her mission as a Montessori Educator, as soon as she arrived in Bakersfield she decided to enroll in the AMS Montessori Teacher Training in Dana Point, CA. Currently attending the Montessori Teacher Training, Graziela has been making an important contribution to the Valley Montessori Academy team.
In her spare time, Graziela likes running, photography, yoga, spending time with her daughter and husband, traveling and meeting people from different cultures.

Elena Schaefer
Teacher Assistant

Originally from Ukraine, Mrs. Elena moved to the United States in 2007. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with a teaching major in Russian Language and English as a Foreign Language, and a Master of Arts degree in Linguistics. Working with children and inspire them to be the best that they can be is Mrs.Elena’s passion. She has over 10 years of professional teaching experience in a formal classroom setting.  Being a part of Valley Montessori Academy and helping children to grow is a very rewarding and exciting adventure for Mrs. Elena. She enjoys working in a warm, open, and structured environment that fosters the children’s independent growth. One of her favorite Maria Montessori quotes is “Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future… Let us treat them with all the kindness which we would wish to help to develop in them.” In her spare time, she loves reading, meditation, yoga, walking by the ocean, and spending time with her husband, her granddaughter, and their three dogs.

Administration and Staff:

Oxana Raimondo
Founder & Administrator

Oxana is originally from Russia, Siberia, where she received her degree in management and finances. She moved to California in 2010, learned English and welcomed her first VMA’s student in 2016. Oxana values an early introduction of mindfulness and yoga to young children. She has been practicing and teaching mindfulness techniques since the opening of VMA. In her free time, she enjoys spending time and traveling with her family and friends, yoga and healthy food.

Anna Dulcich
Founder & Administrator

Anna Dulcich was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. Prior to moving to Bakersfield, California at the age of 25, she received her Masters degree in Finance at Moscow State Tax Academy in Moscow, Russia; she studied International Politics at The Paris Institute of Political Studies (SciencePo de Paris) in Paris, France, and traveled all around the Europe.

Anna is married and has 3 wonderful children. Moving to Bakersfield and having children defined Anna’s future as an educator and an avid advocate for the Montessori method of early childhood education. Anna is trained AMS Montessori teacher for children 3 to 6 years old and a certified Positive Discipline Educator. Anna is fluent is 3 languages and is passionate about promoting foreign language education to children.

In her spare time Anna loves spending time with her family, taking care of her 3 dogs, reading, healthy lifestyle and traveling all around the World.