Our Team

Our faculty and staff make education a joyful and challenging proposition.

“At MHS our daughter has found wonderful adult mentors that have truly helped her become a stronger and more independent person. While I believe peer interaction is important, adult mentoring in the teen years is even more important! I feel as though many of the teachers are working with me as a parent to do what is right for my daughter.”


Reihanehimage3948 Bigdeliazari

Student Advisor and Science Instructor

With a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Northern Kentucky University, and a master’s degree in teaching from Eastern Kentucky University, Reihaneh initially volunteered at Montessori High in the Spring of 2012 and found herself becoming passionate about Montessori education and philosophy. Reihaneh, with her gentle manner and her encouraging ways, is able to bring the most complex concepts to life in the classroom, whether she is teaching basic Biology or Physics.

When she is not in the classroom, greenhouse, or with her 6 year old daughter, Reihaneh likes working out, dancing, and watching movies.



Pederson_JenniferJennifer Pederson

Director of School, Administration and Finance

Jennifer Pederson has a bachelor’s in Science in Secondary Education from Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. She taught secondary science at a local private school prior to staying home with her three children. For several years, Jennifer worked part-time in the Director’s Office at Providence Montessori School, served on Providence Board of Directors for three years, and chaired the Providence fundraising committee. Jennifer is excited that her two daughters have the opportunity to attend a Montessori high school, and she has a son who is looking forward to attending as well.

In her free time, Jennifer enjoys a leisurely stroll on the Florida beach, and sitting fireside with a good book as her dogs sleep at her feet.


image3937Patrick Wallace

Assistant Director, Student Advisor, and Arts and Humanities Instructor

Patrick received his bachelor degree from the University of Kentucky in Anthropology and his teaching certification from Western Governors University. Patrick has also completed his coursework for his AMS Secondary Montessori Credential with CMStep. In January 2015, the Board recognized Patrick’s gifts of leadership, dedication and organization and asked him to step into the role of Assistant Director. Patrick wholeheartedly accepted the position. Patrick has been an archaeologist, author, artist, musician, and business manager in addition to teaching.

Although usually too busy for hobbies, if given the chance Patrick likes to build things with his two young sons and spend time with his beautiful wife.


FullSizeRenderJeff Castro

Student Advisor, Mathematics and Science Instructor

Jeff volunteered at Montessori High in the spring of 2014 and joined the faculty at the beginning of the 2014-2015 academic year. Jeff received his master’s degree in Secondary Science Education as well as his bachelor’s degree in Geology from the University of Kentucky. During the completion of his Master’s degree in Secondary Science Education, he taught science and English at the Gaoxin High school in Xian China.

Jeff, his lovely wife, and their darling daughter, live in Downtown Lexington where they are currently restoring a historic home. When not teaching, hammering, or painting, he likes to rock climb and travel.



Phil Swenson

Student Advisor, English and Humanities Instructor

Phil comes to Montessori High School to teach History and World Literature. Originally from Texas, Phil moved to Lexington to teach writing at the University of Kentucky. Phil holds a Bachelors in English Language and Literature from Tarleton State University and a Masters Degree in American Literature from Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. Phil is also a Two-time All-American in Track and Field.

When he is not in the classroom Phil enjoys hiking, cooking, gardening, and reading.


emilie photo1Emilie Clemmens

Student Advisor, Mathematics Instructor, and Curriculum Coordinator

Emilie holds a doctorate in bioengineering from the University of Washington and a bachelors in chemical engineering from the University of Kentucky, but along the way discovered she enjoys teaching far more than laboratory work.  Emilie has taught science and math to students of all ages, from preschoolers through postgraduates, at small private schools, community colleges and a major research university.  She is committed to helping individuals discover a passion for lifelong learning, to supporting Montessori principles in education, and to changing the mind and heart of anyone who claims he is “just not a math person”.

After living on the West Coast for nearly 20 years, Emilie is enjoying introducing her husband and two kids to Kentucky’s lightning bugs and thunderstorms.  If she had time, she would read books and do yoga.


kayla pictureKayla Weiglein

German Instructor

Kayla will be teaching German at the Montessori High School. She is earning her Master’s degree in German Studies and has been teaching German at the University of Kentucky for the past two years. Kayla moved to Lexington from Atlanta after receiving her Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs.

Born in Germany, Kayla moved to the states in her high school years. She looking to make Lexington her new home. When she has spare time she likes to go running at the arboretum, bake, read, and travel.


Jacquelyn Gawel

Spanish Instructor

Jacquelyn will be teaching Spanish at the Montessori High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with an emphasis in Spanish at Martin Luther College. After spending a year teaching in the Dominican Republic, Jackie moved to the Midwest where she taught high school Spanish for 7 years. In addition to teaching, she has experience coaching softball and volleyball at the high school level. Jackie and family have lived in Lexington for just over a year now.

In her spare time, Jackie enjoys reading, traveling and exploring her new home of Kentucky with her husband and daughter.


murph 2Murphy Swenson

Resident Puppy

Murphy is a AKC registered French Bulldog. Murphy enjoys making new friends and keeping long friendships with anyone who has ever fed him. When he is not eating, Murphy enjoys naps and lazy afternoons.

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