Our Alumni

Leelanau Montessori loves reconnecting with our alumni and building our Montessori Family Tree. Alumni families are a meaningful part of our school history, and we are reaching out because we believe each one of our former students is a valued lifelong Montessori community member. 

 As an alumni you can help us in one of the following ways:


Call the school at (231) 994 - 2074 and leave your contact information.



Spread the word to other Leelanau Montessori Alumni!

Claire & Ellen Posner

It is not an exaggeration to say that our Montessori education, more than any other single influence, shaped who we are today. We attended Montessori Children's House and Elementary School from preschool through 6th grade and during that time we didn't often think about whether our experiences were special. It felt normal to start each morning by creating our own daily schedules, to learn abstract concepts by interacting with beautiful materials, to be empowered to do additional research on any 

Girl at School
Girl at School

topic that interested us -- essentially to feel excited to come to school everyday! Classmates of varying ages cooperated like family, parents joyfully engaged in their children’s education, guides acted from a place of respect and love, and students had the freedom to direct their own learning. 

However, over the years we have come to understand that vital components of Montessori education such as mutual respect between students and teachers, the preservation of a child’s autonomy and self-esteem, and experiential learning through solitary and collaborative play are not so “normal” after all.  Of course, we learned math, reading, science, etc. as we would have in any school, but it was the un-measurable skills that made our education truly special. Lifelong values like personal accountability, self-worth, and an understanding that everyone deserves respect even if they do things differently than us are lessons that we continue to carry with us to this day.  

We were also fortunate to have some outstanding guides who went way beyond the role of just teacher, including Nadine Elmgren, Lyn Bahle, and Gail Robinson. We were deeply saddened to hear of Gail's passing this past fall and Claire has been honored to work with the Leelanau Montessori School to set up a memorial scholarship fund in her honor. Inspired by her positive early childhood and elementary school experiences, Ellen embarked on the journey of becoming a Montessori Primary guide last fall.  She is just a few months away from graduating from Montessori Northwest in Portland, Oregon, and looks forward to working in a Children’s House in the Pacific Northwest as a trained adult this fall!

Claire now lives in New York and works in book publishing. Our parents, Marian Kromkowski and Matthew Posner, live in Suttons Bay, and our older sister, Esther, lives in Germany.

Emma Kelly, Graduating Class of 2004

Girl at School
Girl at School

Emma’s career with Leelanau Montessori began in 1994 when she was enrolled by her parents in Cathy’s toddler program and continued all the way through sixth grade.  Emma remembers those years fondly as a time where she developed her sense of community and several enduring lifelong friendships  

After graduating from Suttons Bay High School, Emma traveled south to the University of Michigan where she studied

environmental science and Latin American and Caribbean studies. There, Emma focused on freshwater resources, spending lots of time paddling the Huron River and collecting aquatic insects. Her interests in the environment and Latin American culture took her to Costa Rica for a semester where she researched the feasibility of sustainable fishing. 


In the fall of 2014, she drove west to Idaho to start a masters program in outdoor education. Through that program, Emma had the opportunity to hone her teaching skills while also taking graduate classes in ecology and curriculum design. 


Last spring, Emma got to the chance to fulfill a long-term dream by working as an educator for the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater. This organization, started by folk-singer Pete Seeger, was the inspiration ​for her father’s program, Inland Seas Education Association, right here in Suttons Bay. As lead educator aboard a schooner, Emma worked with students from all over New York City and New York state, connecting them to the ecology and history of the Hudson River. 


Now back in Michigan, Emma spends all her spare moments outdoors. Sailing, biking, and farming are some of her favorites.  Now 22 years later, Emma is back as the Upper Elementary assistant at Leelanau Montessori and is excited to give back to the school that got her started, and to work with some of her own teachers!  Emma credits her time at Leelanau Montessori with shaping who she is and her broader world view.

Lucy Queen, Graduating Class of 2012

My name is Lucy Queen.  I attended Montessori for over 6 years.  Both my brother, Clayton, and my sister, Tamanna, have been in the Montessori, but my brother graduated 7 years before me and my sister will graduate about 7 years after me.

Montessori helped me learn and helped me make friends.  In Montessori, I met my best friends Emma Grant and Amelia Hall.  Now I am in high school and involved with band, choir and some sports.  I love to be in the

Girl at School
Girl at School

plays and musicals.  I have been in about 10 different plays and musicals and recently, I was in the musical “Guys and Dolls.” 


Montessori helped me to try new things and keep on doing good work in school.  It made me appreciate helping each other.  Because I was in Montessori it made me grow up to be the better person I am now.

 Sethe Rae Zachman, Graduating Class of 2008

Girl at School
Girl at School

I moved to Suttons Bay and enrolled in the Leelanau Montessori just in time for kindergarten. One of the reasons my parents moved to Suttons Bay was because Suttons Bay had a public Montessori option. So, I was lucky enough to spend seven years immersed in Leelanau’s Montessori community. I was a very active kid and the Montessori classroom allowed me to move around and pursue my own interests.  I think I first started to understand the positive impact of Montessori when I graduated from

Leelanau Montessori in the sixth grade and became a part of a traditional public school system. Entering a traditional classroom, I quickly lost interest as the curriculum was taught out of text books, in one-dimensional ways with very little individual discovery and interactive learning. Because of my Montessori education, I did very well in my classes with little effort but I missed being challenged and the ability to explore subjects at my own pace. The alternative learning offered by a Montessori environment may not be the perfect fit for everyone, but I believe that I owe my success in Public School and now in college to the interactive, individualized and flexible way that I learned and developed as a person in my elementary years. In Montessori, I was taught by intelligent, compassionate and open-minded teachers about diversity, peace and love through lessons, songs, stories, and most importantly- through the kindness, respect and understanding that faculty and students demonstrated for each other in the classroom. I am truly grateful for my early Montessori years and the friendships I made, and how they have helped shape the person I am today.

Maggie (Spork) Koehler

I attended Montessori in Suttons Bay from age 2 through kindergarten and then again for grades 2-4 at the Montessori Children’s House and Montessori Elementary, respectively. I look back on this time as both formative and magical. The teachers who guided us at these Montessori schools were so loving, supportive, and creative. I am also still in touch with several of my classmates from that time including a few life-long, dear friends that I made during my Montessori days. Montessori allowed me room for

Girl at School
Girl at School

creativity and growth in a way that was very natural and powerful. I believe that it was my Montessori days that helped foster my love for school and provoked a great value of education in me. I truly feel lucky to have had this unique educational experience when I was young. 


Many of my fond Montessori memories are focused around recess forest explorations, unique field trips, and being a part of the “Dance of the Cosmos” where we learned about planets and space not by reading about them but by becoming them! Birthday celebrations took on new meaning, a journey around the sun, literally, as the “birthday” student carried a model of the Earth around a burning candle which symbolized the sun, in a memorable celebration of their special day. Helping to take care of the many classroom pets was something I always looked forward to. I was on the “Bird Committee” and helped pick out the classroom cockatiel, “Tommy” who proudly perched in his cage as we wondered over his perfect orange, yellow, and white feathers. Some of my favorite classroom activities were to work independently while mastering the geography of pin maps and to sit in a corner on the floor writing stories in my journal. I also loved to study the large poster of the “history of life on earth” which illustrated Earth’s various epochs and included noteworthy periods in time such as what time various fossil organisms lived and when humans evolved. 


After my Montessori days I attended Suttons Bay Public Schools for grades 5-12 and started to duel enroll at Northwestern Michigan College during my senior year, eventually earning an AA degree with a major in fine art. I then attended Ferris State University earning BS degrees biology and English Education, and from there I started graduate studies in Botany at the University of Hawaii (UH). I earned a PhD. in Botany with a specialization in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology in 2011. Since then I have lectured at UH and at the Community College in Honolulu. I am currently the State Botanist for Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources, Division of Forestry and Wildlife. I have an exciting and challenging job as botanist and administrator for the State’s Rare Plant Program. As State Botanist, I help to protect and restore over 400 federally listed native Hawaiian plant species that are found in Hawaii and nowhere else on Earth. A recent accomplishment that I am most proud of is being part of a team to discover and describe a new species of plant from the Hawaiian Islands. 


In my free time I enjoy spending time with my loving husband, Tobias, and our two dogs Magic and Koa. I dabble in cooking, botanical illustration, pottery, jewelry making, yoga, running, and scuba diving. I love to travel and stay active.