Our Team

Lead Teachers:

Cristal Garza
Lead Teacher Elementary Classroom

Cristal was raised in McFarland, a small farm town in central California. She has 18 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 to work with Anna and Oxana full time on a beautiful journey from the beginning of Valley Montessori Academy and to opening 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 9 years as a Lead Teacher and plans to teach for many more!

Cristal enjoys photography, outdoor adventures and traveling the world.

Carolina Benitez
Lead Teacher, Casa 1

Carolina was born in Bakersfield, CA. She is married, and has a four 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 Academy. Today, she leads our Primary Casa 1 classroom. She enjoys teaching the children Spanish and all about her Mexican heritage.

Carolina is certified by American Montessori Society. She is also a Certified Positive Discipline Educator. 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.

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

Graziela Freitas
Lead Teacher, Casa 2

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. In 2016, Graziela and her family decided to move to the U.S to support her husband’s career as a Research Scientist. At that time, she was not aware how her life would unfold itself. After two years as a stay-at-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.

Bianca Morales
Lead Teacher, Toddler 1

Bianca Morales was raised in Los Angeles and moved to Bakersfield in 2008. As a young adult, Bianca cared for young children by babysitting. With 10 years of child care experience, she pursued her passion for child care by obtaining her AA in child development and psychology from Bakersfield College.

After graduation, she quickly became a preschool teacher at a local center in town. There she discovered that working with children has taught her to be kind, compassionate, and to always act out of love. Children have the potential to do amazing things when they have access to the appropriate tools that are needed for them to grow. Bianca loves working with children because of their positive attitude, creativity, and how they always bring a smile to her face.

Bianca feels passionate about creating an environment that fosters a child’s independence and helps build their autonomy. As a toddler teacher, she hopes that each child leaves her classroom with a sense of independence and accomplishment. Each child should be able to exhibit what they are truly capable of doing if we, as educators, allow them to do so.

Some of her hobbies include reading mystery novels, hiking, and swimming. A personal goal of hers is to complete a 20-mile hike and compete in a 10K run, where she will be able to challenge herself physically and mentally. Bianca likes to spend weekends with her loved ones to share stories with them and be able to hear how they are doing.

Jenae Clark
Lead Teacher, Toddler 2

Ms. Jenae grew up in Atascadero, Ca and moved to Bakersfield in 2010. She has been around the sun 36 times and has been married for 9 years. She has 1 son (freshman at Centennial) and 2 daughters (4th and 3rd graders at Olive Drive Elementary). She has 2 dogs, 2 cats, 1 crested gecko, 1 tarantula, and 5 snakes. She loves the mountains and enjoys hiking, camping, and crafting.

Ms. Jenae graduated from Cuesta College in 2006 and finished the Montessori World Education Institute workshops in 2012. She received her BA in Child, Adolescents, and Family Studies from CSUB in 2014. For the last 20 years, she has been a gymnastics coach, scout leader, and teacher for children ages 18 months-18 years. Toddlers are her most favorite people to teach!

Teacher Assistants:

Mari Carpinteyro
Teacher Assistant

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

Elena Schaefer
Teaching 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.

Adriana Garcia de Tejeda
Teaching Assistant, Toddler 2

Jade McCulloch
Teaching Assistant, Casa 2

Jade is originally from Brazil, she holds a degree in biotechnology from a Brazilian University. Her life path led her to move to Bakersfield in 2021. Before coming to America, Jade started working with children and teenagers in Brazil teaching English as a foreign language as a part-time job while she was still in college. As she thought English for 3 years, she became passionate about education and fascinated with children’s minds. After recently moved to the U.S., she found a great community in the Valley Montessori Academy. Jade was always interested in learning languages, so besides being fluent in English and Portuguese, she also speaks Spanish.

     In her spare time, she enjoys watching TV series and documentaries, spending time with her cat, traveling, and trying different restaurants, all of that in the company of her husband. 

Diana Valencia
Teaching Assistant

Diana has lived in Bakersfield all of her life. Her goal is to get a degree in Child Development or Psychology. Diana is passionate about helping children in the best way possible to explore and discover their talents in a safe and stimulating environment. She likes listening to music, writing, and playing a few video games in her spare time. She also enjoys going to the beach and the mountains. Diana can’t wait to continue to learn the ways of VMA and learn from all of our lead teachers here at VMA.

Yesenia Juarez
Teaching Assistant, Toddler 1

 Yesenia was born in Oxnard CA, but raised here in Bakersfield. She was a stay at home mom while I completed her college degree. She received her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Development as well as a few certificates on the side. She started in Valley Montessori as a volunteer as a part of her early education class. Once she began to volunteer at Valley Montessori, she fell in love with the philosophy and the school. Shortly after, she was hired. Since then she is a part of the Valley Montessori team. 

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 Master’s 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 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 a trained AMS Montessori teacher for children 3 to 6 years old and a certified Positive Discipline Educator. Anna is fluent in 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.