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. 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 the 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. Before 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, ranging 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 of 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. 
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 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. 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. 

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.

Gilda Gil
Lead Teacher, Toddler 2

Mrs. Gilda was raised in Los Angeles, California, and moved to Bakersfield in 2020 so she could raise her youngest in a small-town environment. Her youngest is currently learning in the Montessori environment and she is happy to see him blossom from it. She is married and has three children (6, 23, & 24). 


Mrs. Gilda has over 25 years of experience working with children, ages 3 months to 24 years old. Most recently, before working at VMA, she was a Lead teacher for Infancy/Toddlers for four years. During this time she completed her AMI Montessori International Diploma (Assistants to Infancy 0-3) as well. She is excited to use what she learned in San Diego in her classroom so she can see the children grow independently in the Montessori environment. 


In her free time, she likes bike riding, traveling, and cooking. Her favorite thing to do though is performing scientific experiments with her youngest.

Elena Schaefer

Lead Teacher, Lower Elementary 

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 inspiring 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.

Marissa Menendez,
Lead Teacher, Casa 3

Marissa Menendez was born and raised in Bakersfield. She studied Child Development at Bakersfield College and has worked at a local preschool for the past 10 years. Marissa is experienced working with infants, toddlers, and school-aged children. She has been with her high school sweetheart for 21 years. In addition to having three wonderful kids together: Arianna 20, Isaiah 18, Meadow 7, they also adopted two cats and have lots of fish. In her free time, she loves reading, cooking, looking for stars, and making beautiful memories with her family. Marissa’s goal in working at Valley Montessori Academy is to be a positive guiding light for all children.

Teacher Assistants:

Mari Carpinteyro

Assistant Teacher, Casa 1

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

Diana Valencia
Teaching Assistant, Casa 1

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.

Zainab Sidhpurwala

Assistant Teacher, Casa 2

Originally from India, Mrs. Zainab moved to the United States in 2017 after meeting her husband. She has a Bachelor’s degree in History from India as well as a Montessori diploma for 3 to 6 year old. She is currently enrolled in Bakersfield College where she is pursuing an Associate diploma as an assistant teacher. Mrs. Zainab speaks three languages: English, Hindi and Gujarati. 

In her free time, she loves to spend time with her husband and son who is also a Montessori student. She also enjoys baking, cooking, traveling, and trying new foods and activities. 

Nenethzy Andrade

Assistant Teacher, Casa 2

Nenethzy was raised in the San Fernando Valley area and moved to Bakersfield ten years ago. She has 3 years of experience working with preschool-age children. Before VMA, she has worked at a national chain daycare and a play preschool. This is her first job in a Montessori environment and so far she has enjoyed learning the Montessori philosophy for education and classroom etiquette. She is currently attending college in the hopes of completing her Bachelor’s in Human Development: Emphasis on Childhood. 
Nenethzy believes that teaching is a beautiful profession because educators are guiding tomorrow’s leaders and helpers. She believes that every child deserves a chance at a quality education to build a strong foundation for future learning.
In her spare time, Nenethzy enjoys walks, hiking, baking, reading, and spending time with her family and friends. Nenethzy loves to travel and hopes to teach abroad one day so that she can see how classrooms are taught around the world.

Remy Castillo
Teaching Assistant, Casa 3

Remy Castillo was born and raised in the Philippines. She is married and has three fantastic children who are 13, 10, and 2 years old. She completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education at Northern Mindanao College and finished her Master’s in Education major in Educational Management at Mandaue City College. She also finished an Intensive Caregiver Course at the University of Mindanao, Davao City. She has worked as an elementary teacher for five years in the Philippines. Remy says, ”I am a positive person who has an enthusiastic outlook in life. I love to teach and I feel a great sense of achievement from seeing my students develop and grow as individuals.”

She enjoys helping create a caring and loving environment in which children can flourish. She is looking forward to working together with you as partners in your child’s growth and development.

Adriana Garcia de Tejeda
Teaching Assistant, Toddler 2

Adriana was born in sunny Guadalajara, Mexico, and moved to the United States 30 years ago. She is married and has two children: a 26-year old daughter, and a 24-year old son. Her daughter works in childcare too, teaching elementary students. Adriana has worked with children for 8 years. She enjoys working with toddlers and watching them grow. She loves Mediterranean food and going to the beach on her days off.

Ramandeep Kaur
Teaching Assistant, Toddler 1

Ramandeep was born and raised in India. She earned her Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering from India. She has also completed 33 units in child development and now is pursuing her career in the teaching field. She is married and a mother of a 6 years old daughter. When she has free time, Ramandeep likes to spend it with her daughter and family. She has a passion to learn new things in life. She loves going to the beach, listening to music, net suffering, art, and craft. 

Marlyn Sanchez
Teaching Assistant, Toddler 2

Mrs. Marlyn was born and raised in Los Angeles and moved to Bakersfield with her husband and three dogs in 2021. Her love for teaching began during her senior year of high school while assisting in a toddler classroom. She completed her Early Childhood Education units through Los Angeles Harbor College. Mrs. Marlyn was first introduced to Montessori’s method in 2015. Since then, she never stopped studying, researching and working with ​the ​Montessori Method. She is fascinated by the power of observation and following the child as they unravel an intense thirst for knowledge. With a nurturing spirit, she is greatly committed to her work with children, specifically helping them build high self-esteem, discovering new cultures, and exploring the arts.

Mrs. Marlyn has a passion for children and their learning and loves that young children take nothing for granted and live each day with excitement and wonder about their environment. She is a dedicated teacher who loves and respects the children. Mrs. Marlyn is supportive of each child’s unique individuality and delights in watching their independence and love of learning grow. She takes pride in her role in assisting children in developing their minds and becoming better human beings.

In her free time, Marlyn enjoys walks in nature, traveling to new places, hiking, bike riding, spending time with her three dogs and creating new memories with family and friends.

Catherine Velador 
Teaching Assistant, Toddler 2

Catherine was born in Long Beach, California. She lived in Orange County all her life and recently moved to Bakersfield in 2021. She is currently attending Fullerton College studying in the field of Early Childhood Development. Catherine previously worked with elementary and middle school-aged children for 3 years when she worked as an activity leader for The Boys and Girls Club. She changed her career path in 2018 when she finished her education in Business Office Administration. Catherine enjoys having the opportunity to work with young children. Catherine loves every opportunity to learn about the Montessori method. She takes Montessori assistant course and plans to attend AMS conference.     In her free time, she likes cooking, listening to music, going sightseeing, and spending time with her family.

Fatema Tayabali
Substitute Teacher

Fatema was born in Canada and moved to Bakersfield at the age of 4. She is a true believer in Montessori Education as she was brought up with that education. Fatema sees the Montessori method as a solid educational foundation for children to build off of. She believes it is a method that will carry them throughout the rest of their lives. She has completed her Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Bakersfield College and is now completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Child, Adolescent, and Family Studies at the California State University of Bakersfield. She enjoys working with children because they are delightful and inspiring. She is grateful to have a job where she can support their growth and nurture their love of learning. In her free time she enjoys reading, trying out new places to eat, watching movies, spending time with family and friends, and traveling

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 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. Before 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, a healthy lifestyle and traveling all around the world.

Nadya Carr
Office Manager

Nadya was born and raised in Russia where she received her bachelor’s degree in Economics. Before moving to the U.S., she worked as an office manager in a dental laboratory. Here in the U.S. she graduated from the California State University of Bakersfield with a Master in Business Administration degree. Her favorite part of working at VMA is to greet children in the morning and ask about their day. She is passionate about supporting VMA teachers and helping them create a genuine Montessori environment that nurtures children’s social, cognitive, and emotional development. She enjoys cooking and trying food from all over the world. She is married and has two daughters, both Montessori students.