JENNY VARNER – Executive Director
I obtained both a B.S. in Christian Education from Lee University as well as a Master of Education in Montessori from Baylor University. I also hold a Montessori teaching credential from the American Montessori Society (AMS).
I have spent 13 years teaching and directing Montessori programs in both Tennessee and Texas, in addition to teaching computer courses at Miller-Motte Technical College, and previously at Central Texas College.
I live with my husband, Dr. Butch Varner who is a U.S. Army retired Chaplain. We travel to Asia frequently, ministering in music, teaching, and training both evangelism teams and pastors. Our passion for people comes from our prior experience as missionaries in Northern Japan, where both of our children were born. Our two boys, who both attended Montessori from preschool through eighth grades, now attend college locally.
AMANDA PADRON – Program Director
After college, I was the Client Services Coordinator for a local non-profit, and then the Director of Client Services for a similar non-profit in Chapel Hill, NC, while my husband, Raymond, attended graduate school. I wore many hats while in these positions, but particularly gained experience in, and a love for working with people, management, and training.
After returning to Chattanooga in 2011, our family grew to include our daughter, Hazel, and son, Lucas. Both of our children have attended East Lake Montessori and we have been so pleased to be a part of the community. From the staff to leadership, families, philosophy, and principles of Montessori education itself, ELM is a community that encourages the love of God, others, work, and self. I love the Montessori approach and am delighted to be a part of the work that is changing the way we serve our neighbors in East Lake!
GEENA HUGGINS- Lead Preschool Teacher
Originally born in Iowa, my family moved to Tennessee when I was eight years old and my love for the Tennessee hills was born and has continued to grow.
I obtained my BS in Health and Human Sciences from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in 2013. Since graduating I have worked with children and families in a variety of settings: case management, residential therapy, and early childhood learning centers. I originally learned about Maria Montessori’s method during my undergraduate studies. In 2014 I took my first job as an assistant at The Montessori School of Chattanooga. Eventually, I moved to Nashville to work for Abintra Montessori School and while doing so obtained my Primary Montessori Guide certification. I have been working as a trained Montessori guide for the last three years.
I am deeply passionate about the Montessori method and its potential. Having an immediate family member with severe learning disabilities, I saw the inadequacies a typical education provided her. When I was first introduced to Montessori, I remember having an ‘aha’ moment: not all humans learn the same and there IS an environment that supports that! Along with this aspect, the emphasis on parent education, peace, and education for all are other reasons I continue to be drawn to the Montessori Method.
When I am not working in Montessori education, I also spend time teaching Yoga. Having over 400 hours of certified training hours, I enjoy bringing components of children’s yoga and mindfulness into my classrooms.
Along with teaching and practicing Yoga, I recently moved back to Chattanooga and am living with my longtime dog companion Nico. We love taking adventures into the woods! I also enjoy cooking in any way and sharing the fruits of that labor with friends and loved ones. I feel overjoyed to be joining the East Lake Montessori team and service the families and children there.
BECKY GRIGGS – Lead Preschool Teacher
I graduated from UTC with a teaching certificate in Exceptional Education and a minor in Spanish. After graduation I worked at New City East Lake for 4 years directing the ELECT program, then worked as a Family Partnership Specialist at East Lake Elementary School. I love teaching in any capacity. I have experience teaching children as young as 18 months up to teaching adults who have children and grandchildren of their own. I volunteer at a Christian non-profit here in Chattanooga that teaches literacy to adult refugees and immigrants. I have a passion for sharing the love of Jesus with people that are new to this country, and making them feel welcome and connected.
I have an amazing family! I am married and I have a two and a half year old son. My husband is an Interpreter for Hamilton County schools. My son comes here to East Lake Montessori and is in the toddler classroom. I taught in the toddler classroom here at ELM while I was pregnant with him and since then have always wanted him to attend school here. I love the Montessori way of teaching, and caring for the child holistically. I am learning so much about the Montessori way, and I feel like it is making me a better teacher and parent. I feel so blessed to be a part of this school.
AMY STUBBLEFIELD – Assistant Toddler Teacher
I am originally from Manila, Philippines. My husband and I moved to Chattanooga over 4 years ago. We have two children, Jeffrey, 5, and Julia, soon to be 4.
Being a mother while teaching my children, and watching them as they learn and grow is one of the greatest joys of my life. I enjoy sharing what I have learned from my own experience with other children as a teacher’s assistant for ELM toddlers.
I love to engage with children and help them develop a love of learning and a sense of curiosity about the world around them. I want to give them the best positive learning culture I can, as I do with my own children.
I have a BS in Computer Science. I worked in the Information Technology field for 20 years before moving to the United States in 2013.
I like to travel and go camping with my family.
BRILEY HOLBROOK – Head Toddler Teacher
This year, I will be completing my Bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Studies with a double minor in Psychology and Criminal Justice from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with plans of going on to receive my Master’s in School Counseling starting next fall. I am passionate about working with children during the crucial developmental years of life and teaching holistic skills to nurture socio-emotional wellness in early learners. I am avidly involved in Child Advocacy work across the city, and am the Vice President of Save the Children Action Network, a nonpartisan campus organization that advocates for access to quality early childhood education and other child-related issues across the country.
I have worked with children of all ages and backgrounds in the Chattanooga area in many settings, including working in a classroom as a toddler and preschool teacher for 2 years, and through volunteer work at child-based organizations such as the Chambliss Center for Children, the Chattanooga Autism Center, and the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Home. I have always loved working with children, and I believe teaching is one of the most important and fulfilling jobs anyone could have!
I am a runner and a huge lover of the outdoors and love to do anything that involves nature! In my free time, if I’m not in the woods, I love to spend time with my animals (Kylo & Juice), hang out with friends and family, or drink coffee and read a good book.
I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to get involved at East Lake Montessori and have a hand in each child’s development as they grow to love learning and develop their curiosities!
Meet Our Founder: Bethany Lane
In the summer of 2016, a group of church families from New City East Lake and I founded East Lake Montessori. From the beginning, ELM would not have come together without this special group of people.
Prior to founding ELM, I taught at The Montessori School in Chattanooga, TN, for 9 years. I am a certified Montessori Lower Elementary guide. I discovered that I loved education after working in schools in South Africa during my Peace Corps tour from 2004-2006. I have a B.A. from the University of Georgia in Anthropology with African Studies and Women’s Studies certificates.
I live in East Lake with my husband, Micheal, our two daughters, Ruby and Nemi, and our amazing community of fellow East Lakers. Each year, I look forward to rest and renewal on our annual family camping trip to Cumberland Island. I also love hosting large meals with lots of people and children running around the house.