Faculty

Toddler

Toddler

Lynn Gulick has led the Assistants to Infancy ("Toddler") Program at Marin Montessori School since 1994, and is an AMI Consultant at the same level. A graduate of Sonoma State University, Lynn received her AMI training in Colorado before joining the MMS faculty. In addition to her work with the children in the Toddler classroom, Lynn has guided a series classes designed to help parents' better guide the development of their young children. She has also worked independently as a post-partum care provider in Marin. Lynn credits her wonderful family with having enabled her to achieve her life goal of supporting young children in their development to create a better world for everyone.

Deirdre Thomas
joined the Sandpiper classroom in 2016 as the Toddler Assistant. Deirdre grew up in San Francisco and has been enjoying the wonders of Montessori education since the age of 4½.She received her Bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Development from California State University, Sacramento. She then received her AMI primary diploma from the Montessori Institute of San Diego and her Masters of Montessori Education from Loyola College, Maryland, after which she taught for 13 years. She is excited to assist in the toddler program while she and her husband enjoy the world of parenting with their two beautiful daughters.

Primary

Primary

Cheryl Chretien, a Primary directress, has been a faculty member at Marin Montessori since 2008. Before joining the faculty, she worked as an assistant in the Primary level at MMS for 2-1/2 years. Cheryl studied Child Development and Education at the University of Auckland in New Zealand and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She received her AMI training at the Montessori Institute of San Diego and has her Masters in Education from Loyola College in Maryland. In her free time, Cheryl loves running, hiking, and experimenting with mixed media art.

Desiree Dorfman has been the classroom assistant for Cheryl Chretien in the Great Blue Heron since 2012. Desiree graduated with highest honors from the University of California at Santa Cruz with her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology. While there, she completed an honors level thesis on gender. She also studied cross cultural psychology as an exchange student at the American University of Paris. She went on to get her AMI diploma at the AMI Montessori Teacher Training Center of Northern California. She could not imagine doing anything else, as working with children was her lifelong dream. Outside of school, you can find her reading, hiking, traveling, and taking photos.

Roshini Fernando has been a faculty member at Marin Montessori School since 1992. Prior to moving to California, Roshini taught at Milwaukee's Urban Day School and Lake Shore Montessori. A native of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Roshini received her AMI Primary training in Sri Lanka and earned her AA degree in General Education/Child Psychology from the Milwaukee Area Technical College. She is a regular participant in AMI refresher courses and conferences. Aside from her passion for teaching young children, Roshini enjoys cooking, dancing and reading.



Gloria Pastor graduated from University of California, Davis with a BA in Psychology in 2008. Her dedication to early childhood education developed during the five years she spent working at a preschool for emotionally troubled children. Passionate about child development, Gloria began her Montessori teacher training in September of 2015 with the goal to have her own classroom one day. She is delighted to be a part of the MMS team and assisting in the Mourning Dove classroom.


Colleen McAree, Primary directress of the Quail classroom, has been teaching at Marin Montessori School since 1999. After graduating from Boston College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education and Human Development, she received her AMI Primary training in northern California. Colleen began her Montessori teaching career at the Corvallis Montessori School in Oregon. She enjoys sharing her love of ceramic work, knitting, and drawing with her students, and spends much of her free time outdoors with her husband and twin sons, Nick and Gerry.

Pippa Whelan joined Marin Montessori in February of 2015. Originally from Dublin, she travels to Ireland often. With a Fine Arts background, Pippa is passionate about painting. She exhibits her work throughout Northern California. Pippa is also enrolled in the Liberal Studies Program at Sonoma State University. She completed her AMI Assistant Training in San Francisco and is delighted to be assisting Colleen McAree and being a part of the Quail classroom.

Pam Wisner's association with Marin Montessori School began in 1976 as a classroom assistant. In 1981, she rejoined the MMS community as a Primary directress. Pam also served as Director of Education and Admissions from 2000-2003. She earned an AA degree in Early Childhood Education and received her AMI Primary training from the Montessori Institute of Atlanta. Pam is a regular participant in AMI refresher courses and conferences. She has training in outdoor education, children's literature, story-telling, positive discipline, Schools Attuned program for educators, and the Perceptual Enrichment Program. She is the parent of a 2003 graduate of Marin Montessori School. In her free time, Pam and her family enjoy hiking, backpacking, kayaking and bicycling.

Melissa Lari has been assisting Pam Wisner in the Pelican classroom since she joined MMS in 2010. Melissa is a San Diego native and received her Bachelor of Arts in Spanish Literature from the University of San Diego. While she studied Early Childhood Education, she worked as an elementary assistant at the Montessori School of San Diego. She enjoys spending time with the children in the MMS community. During her free time, Melissa likes cooking, hiking, and relaxing at the beach with her husband, Omar, and her two children, Aiden and Milla.

Susan Larson (Resource/Primary Support)
Susan loves her job because it invites joyful collaboration within the classrooms. She finds it extremely rewarding to create Montessori materials that invite children to explore, use their senses, and engage. Susan has an AMI Assistant Certificate, Primary Montessori Certificate, and California Child Development Program Director Permit. At Sonoma State University she earned a M.Ed degree plus Multiple Subject and Single Subject-Art credentials. Susan taught kindergarten and K-8 art for over ten years in public and charter schools before joining MMS in 2011.

Cynthia Oliva (Primary Support Assistant)
Cynthia Oliva joined MMS in 2016. Cynthia grew up in Guatemala and studied there to become a preschool teacher. She moved back to the United States in her early 20’s and began working with children in school environments and as a caregiver (nanny). Cynthia loves working with children, teaching, and playing. When she’s not working she enjoys photography, music, museums, and the outdoors.

Brie Burkett (Primary Garden Program)
Brie joined the Marin Montessori School Community first as a parent in 1996 and then as a classroom Assistant in 2003. In 2006 Brie began her current role as the garden teacher for Primary children. Brie has completed course work in early childhood education and Montessori Assistants training. Her greatest joy is working with the children in the garden, for observing their curiosity and excitement with each new discovery is itself awe-inspiring; this allows Brie to see the beauty and wonder of nature through the children’s eyes.

Joey (Iris) Heusler (Primary Movement Specialist)
Joey was born and raised in Germany. She studied art and English at the University of Cologne, Germany, and received her teacher training at The Institute for Pedagogicsin Cologne. She moved to the United States in 1987.

Joey believes in everyone’s ability to experience a state of natural joy and general physical and emotional well being, especially when introduced to an active lifestyle at an early age and in a non-threatening and happy environment.

For twenty years Joey taught physical education at Ring Mountain Day School. She came to Marin Montessori in 2012 to lead the Movement program. Joey teaches Physical Education classes to the older Primary students and coaches after-school soccer. During the summer Joey teaches kayaking and guides kayak trips. During the winter months she volunteers as a Wildlife Docent at the Point Reyes National Seashore, teaching visitors about elephant seals and the California Grey Whale migration. Joey has an adult daughter, and lives with her partner and an array of animals in West Marin.

Tasmin Pesso (Taz) (ASC Coordinator)
Taz is a Kidpower teacher with a focus on people safety and healthy boundary setting skills, and a PCI (Parent Coaching Institute) certified parent coach. She earned her BA and MA with an emphasis on Media Literacy at San Francisco State University. She is excited to join the Montessori community and support the healthy growth of young children. Tasmin and her husband are proud parents of two young adults. She enjoys commuting to school by bike, hiking, skiing, and geocaching.

Melissa Ruiz (ASC Assistant)
Melissa is very excited to be a part of the MMS community to continue the work with children she has done for over 10 years and to learn about Montessori education. Melissa studied Early Childhood Development at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill. She was born and has lived her whole life in the Bay Area. In her spare time, she is passionate about the welfare of animals and being outside enjoying nature.

Elementary

Upper Elementary

Joni Perry has been teaching at MMS since 1996. Unlike most of her colleagues at Marin Montessori, Joni has taught in public schools as well as Montessori schools, from Chicago to Hawaii, and from Santa Cruz to Marin. Recipient of a BA in Fine Arts from the University of Missouri and a Masters degree in Education from Loyola College of Maryland, she also holds an Elementary AMI diploma and has been certified to teach K-8 (multiple subjects) in California and K-12 (single subject/Art) in Missouri. She has presented on the subject of art at AMI summer training programs. Joni brings her love of art into the classroom, and uses her free time to travel in pursuit of artistic inspiration. When not traveling, she is at home tending to her American bulldog, Harriet.

Ryder Metzger was born and raised right here in Marin County, from the suburb of Novato to the marinas of Sausalito. After graduating from Novato High, he went on to San Francisco State University. Ryder loves working at MMS because the community, the campus, and the culture are all breathtakingly inviting and inspiring. Outside of school, Ryder enjoys hiking, basketball, and playing guitar.

Minnie Wales began her Montessori education at age three in San Francisco. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara with a BA in Cultural Anthropology. In 1997 she earned her 6-12 Elementary AMI diploma and an M.Ed from Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland. In 2001 she completed the AMI primary training in Phoenix, Arizona. Since becoming a Montessori guide, she has continued to discover and rediscover the gift that a Montessori education offers to children, families, and society. Minnie is happy to be sharing her life here with her husband and her three not-so-young children.

Tabitha Gaffney was born in San Francisco and raised in San Rafael. She values the vast beauty of the Bay Area and feels grateful to have received an education that emphasized the expressive arts and a relationship with nature. Singing and the dramatic arts have been huge driving forces in Tabitha’s life. She has performed with choirs and in theater since she was 9 years old, and she trained in New York City at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. She has participated at the U.N. Indigenous Forum and performed with the original cast of Hair in Golden Gate Park. Tabitha has been with Marin Montessori School in varying capacities since 2005, and feels honored to be part of this inspiring community!

Lower Elementary

Allwyn Fitzpatrick was a graduate of former MMS teacher Phyllis Pottish-Lewis’ first AMI Elementary course in 2002, and has been a director of the elementary programs at Santa Barbara Montessori School for the past decade. She has worked closely over the years with MMS teachers Minnie Wales and Joni Perry. Allwyn got her BA in Psychology/Journalism from California State University at Northridge, followed by her AMI Elementary Diploma at the Montessori Institute of San Diego. She lives with her son, who attends the MMS Junior High, and her partner, and their two dogs. In her spare time she enjoys playing volleyball, reading, knitting, drawing, hiking, traveling, and anything to do with music.

Heidi Newell is a mother of two Montessori-educated children and began her career at Marin Montessori School as an on-call substitute assistant in 2013. After two years of alternating between substituting and freelance industrial design projects, Heidi became a full-time Elementary assistant in the Red Tailed Hawk classroom. She is a graduate of Phillips Academy, Smith College, and Pratt Institute and was a tri-Varsity athlete in soccer, track, and crew. Heidi helped to build schools in Brazil and Senegal as a teenager and has an abiding respect for the power of education. Her past design projects range widely from children's nursery furniture to Wall Street trading systems. In her free time Heidi enjoys an active outdoor life with her multi-cultural family and does her best to manage a 200-acre ranch in Mendocino. In the fall of 2015 Heidi will begin her AMI Primary training.

Anna Mitchell had her first Montessori experience as a child in Virginia. She loved the years she spent as a child in her primary class, so after studying Anthropology at James Madison University, Anna relocated to San Diego to pursue her AMI primary certification. She received a Masters in Education from Loyola in 2004 and returned to Harrisonburg, Virginia, where she taught in a Montessori primary class for seven years. Anna found herself gravitating toward lessons with the older children, prompting a return to Loyola during the summers to obtain the AMI elementary teaching certification. Anna founded a lower elementary class at Woodland Montessori School in Harrisonburg and taught for two years before relocating to the Bay Area to teach in the Burrowing Owl class at Marin Montessori. Anna is thrilled to join the MMS community and brings with her a love of the Montessori philosophy, baking, yoga and the outdoors.

Rachel Williams grew up in New Jersey and spent her undergraduate years at Smith College where she majored in English and minored in Studio Art. After teaching at a preschool in Northampton, MA, she headed back to school and was awarded a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a focus on teaching middle and high school English. Rachel took the plunge and moved to San Francisco after teaching at a middle school in Springfield, MA, for two years. She has lived in San Francisco for six years now, and this is her fourth in the Burrowing Owl classroom. Her favorite things about Marin Montessori are its friendly children, loving teachers, supportive parents, and beautiful views. When she’s not at school, Rachel enjoys ice cream, tomato season, hiking, learning yoga, writing, sketching, visiting art museums, reading on the beach (or most anywhere), and meeting with her book club.

Patricia Benedict (Spanish Specialist)
María Patricia Benedict is from Colombia, South America. She studied architecture at St. Thomas Aquinas University, and worked for eight years in City Planning. In the U.S., she completed her AMI Primary Montessori training in Dallas, Texas, and worked for St. Catherine of Siena as the Spanish Assistant and then as the lead Guide. Patricia came to MMS in 2013 as the Elementary Spanish teacher and runs the Spanish after school program for Primary. Patricia is very active in the St. Dominic's community, and she loves to help children in their development. Her favorite pastimes are making friends from all over the world, talking, and singing.

Matthew Stratton grew up in Anchorage, AK, surrounded by a tight knit Montessori community, and enjoyed a formal Montessori education from primary through elementary. He graduated from Sonoma State University with a degree in International Studies. While pursuing his degree and studying abroad in Italy he worked with an NGO supporting children of families that were political refugees, which energized his passion for working with youth and the Montessori approach. Matthew enjoys sharing his joy of cooking, ultimate frisbee, soccer, nature, and exploring the outdoors, and is excited to be a part of the MMS community.

James Yeager (Elementary PE)
James started his life in New York and spent his formative years in Louisville, Kentucky. However, he has deep ties to Marin County. Both his grandmother and his father were raised in a house that is just a few miles from MMS! While attending UC Santa Cruz, his ambition was to be a professor of anthropology. For a while his love of the outdoors led him in a different direction, including becoming a ropes-course instructor. A call to request that he teach physical education at a Waldorf School brought him back to his original interest in education, and this move to our school is part of a serious commitment to physical education.

Junior High

Junior High Program

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Anna Yarbrough is an East Coaster who moved west with her husband in 2006. Anna attended Colby College and graduated with a double major in math and education. After college Anna worked for five years as a middle school math teacher in a suburb of Boston and completed her M.Ed. in Math Education. Upon moving to the Bay Area Anna got a job at a Leadership Public High School, a charter college preparatory school in Richmond. After having her first son, Anna wanted to join a Montessori community for herself professionally and her family. Anna’s mother-in-law is an upper el teacher, and her husband attended a Montessori school through 8th grade. She began working at the Junior High in its founding year as a math specialist.Anna completed the AMI Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies and expanded her role, teaching both microeconomy and physics, among other subjects. In 2014 Anna took on the role of Junior High Director, supporting students, teachers, and families. In her free time Anna enjoys spending time with her husband, and two sons on the hills and beaches of Marin.

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Heather Brinesh holds a Master of Fine Arts in Illustration from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature (Victorian and Modern Chinese) from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.Heather’s passion for independent, student-driven learning began as a Primary child at Marin Montessori School. Heather has worked in education and art instruction at a number of different schools. She rejoined the Marin Montessori family as an assistant in Phyllis Pottish-Lewis’s Upper Elementary classroom. Beginning as an art teacher, Heather fell in love with the pedagogy and community at Marin Montessori’s Junior High. As an accomplished woman, Heather draws, paints, plays pianoforte, and occasionally falls prey to a three-volume novel.

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Ali Canter joined the MMS Junior High faculty in 2014. Prior to this, she spent three years as an Upper Elementary Assistant at a nearby Montessori school, an experience that affirmed her passion for Montessori. Ali holds an AMI Elementary diploma and has been certified to teach K-8 (multiple subjects) in California. She earned a BA in Environmental Studies and a M.Ed. from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Ali brings to the Junior High program her love of place-based education, honed during five years as a Naturalist at nearby Walker Creek Ranch Outdoor School. When Ali is not teaching, she enjoys exploring the great outdoors, camping and swimming in rivers whenever possible.

Kim Cyphers joined MMS in 2016 in the role of the Junior High administrative assistant. Kim comes to us from the horticultural nursery business, where they* spent five years working for two prominent East Bay nurseries as both a plant authority and an administrative specialist. Kim holds a BS in Biological Science from Chapman University in Orange County and spent a semester studying environmental science in South Africa. In addition, Kim holds a Master’s degree in Theological Studies from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. Kim worked briefly at the Junior High as a guest expert, sharing broad horticultural expertise with the Orchard class. Kim appreciates the opportunity to bring rich and varied experience, knowledge of environmental science and horticulture, and administrative expertise to the Junior High community. A strong believer in ecological conservation, Kim enjoys reading, traveling, and exploring the numerous botanical gardens and museums in the Bay Area.
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Jessie De Jonghe first came to MMS as an assistant in 2013 and joined the Junior High in 2014 as an administrative assistant. In addition to her AMI Orientation to Adolescent Studies diploma, Jessie holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Rhode Island School of Design and is pursuing her M.Ed. in Interdisciplinary Education from Dominican University. When she is not on campus she can be found tending her bees or painting in her Petaluma studio.



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Andrew Gaertner has served as farm manager, house parent, and teacher at Marin Montessori’s Junior High since the fall of 2014. He credits his experience in his family’s garden when he was three to six years old for a life-long love of growing plants and digging in the soil. Given this start, it is fortuitous that he found a career Montessori adolescent education. Prior to joining MMS, he spent 14 years as the farm manager for the Lake Country Land School, a Montessori farm-based adolescent program in Wisconsin. He also brings experience: managing an independent farm business; working as a protected areas Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras; and gaining a BS in Biology from Valparaiso University in Indiana. Andrew enjoys living in West Marin and having adventures discovering what coastal California has to offer.

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Liesbeth Koning has been a faculty member at Marin Montessori School since 2012. Previously, she has taught in schools in Kansas and Chicago. After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Education from Western Michigan University, Liesbeth served in the Peace Corps in Thailand. Further training includes earning a Master in Educational Leadership from Fort Hays State University and the AMI Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies in Cleveland, OH. Liesbeth enjoys sharing her passion for the outdoors, theater, and music with her students. When not at school, Liesbeth enjoys spending time with her wife, Melissa, and children, Grace and Phoenix.


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Seth Kroschel joined MMS in 2015. His previous teaching experience includes an international school in Tokyo, public high schools in Okinawa, an alternative learning center for troubled youth, and another Montessori adolescent program in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is originally from the Twin Cities area and graduated from St. Olaf College in 2004 with a BA in Mathematics and Education. His M. Ed. is in process at the University of Minnesota, and he has held teaching credentials in the area of secondary mathematics in both Minnesota and Oregon. Seth is a strong believer in the constructivist approach to education and strives to role model the behavior of a reflective learner and a global citizen. In his free time, he enjoys reading, running, and cyclo-touring.

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Minnie McBride is a third generation teacher and a Marin native who currently lives in West Marin. After college she discovered Marin Montessori when substituting in the primary classes in 2007, which informed her future interest in Montessori pedagogy. Minnie earned her teaching credential in science at Dominican University of California in 2009. She was thrilled to join the Junior High in its second year as a science guide, and that summer she completed the AMI Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies. Six years later, Minnie has a new role overseeing the weekly reflection class for the Junior High; she is guided in shaping the course from her training with Mindful Schools and also from a Mindfulness for Teachers summer workshop. Minnie is currently pursuing her Master of Education from Dominican University.
Monica Roney has committed her educational career to the Spanish classroom for over 15 years. In addition to acquiring her BA in Spanish Literature from California State University Long Beach, she completed her El Certificado de Perfeccionamiento from the La Complutense of Madrid. Several years in Madrid and travel to South America has given her authentic resources to bring into the classroom. She is looking forward to incorporating her hands-on real life skills and adding to the Marin Montessori curriculum.



*Pronouns are words used to refer to people in place of their names. Some people choose to use gender neutral pronouns, while others prefer gendered ones. 'They' (them/their/theirs/themself) is a commonly used gender-neutral pronoun.

Learning Specialist

Learning Specialist

Patti Lutke has worked with alternative learners for over twenty years in both public and private schools and has taught all grade levels. Patti offers an insightful view of the alternative learner through the lens of current neuroscience. She is a strong proponent of student-centered education and supports children in self-advocating according to their learning styles and strengths. Patti is a resource for students, teachers, and parents. She holds an MA in Education, specializing in learning differences, from Santa Clara University, as well as a BA in Psychology from San Jose State University; Patti holds clear California teaching credentials in both general and special education. In addition to teaching, Patti loves spending time in nature—especially the beach—and is grateful to live in the beautiful San Francisco Bay Area.

Transportation

Transportation Department

Carol Finnegan-Pisetsky, MMS Transportation Coordinator (not pictured)
Carol joined the MMS Transportation team in early 2015. Carol was born the only girl of eight children and is now married with two adult sons, a dog, and a parrot. She has been an early childhood educator since 1981, including 16 years as a site director of award-winning after school programs. She has owned and operated her own summer camp since 2005. In addition to her profound love of children, she has served as a volunteer for many years in wildlife rehabilitation and education. In her spare time she works with Birds of Prey and trains adults how to handle raptors.

Anthony Byrd, Driver
Anthony has been a part of the MMS Transportation team since 2015. He was raised in San Francisco where he was the sixth child out of eight. Anthony attended Chico State University and majored in English. He has a strong love for basketball and has passed on that passion to his three sons. He loves the 80’s and enjoys being an MMS driver because of all the awesome and incredible kids he gets to interact with.

Matt Godfrey, Driver
Matt has been driving morning and afternoon MMS student shuttles—including the SF route—since 2011. He is a tech-savvy Marin native who works on audio-visual production and computer software development between MMS transportation commitments and enjoying life. In a previous life Matt designed and installed state-of-the-art electronics on world-class yachts. He’s a San Rafael resident.

Steve Kelly, Driver
Steve was born in New Jersey and has lived in Marin County since 1964. He enjoys taking long hikes, playing guitar, and baseball.




Gilles LeSage
Gilles joined the MMS transportation crew in 2013 and drives the northern Marin/Terra Linda route. His background is diverse—he’s been a teacher, a sports car designer and a home remodeler. Gilles enjoys reading, football and tinkering with anything mechanical. He keeps our fleet looking great. Gilles lives in Sausalito.


Darcy McCarthy, Driver
Darcy has three sons who she raised in Santa Monica where she was an active volunteer in her sons’ schools and the community, and recently earned AA and AS degrees from Santa Monica College. Darcy worked as a classroom assistant last school year before moving to Marin County in the summer of 2016 to be near her sons, who all moved to Northern California for college. Driving for MMS was a natural choice for Darcy with her love for children, many years of experience driving her sons’ water polo teams throughout Southern California, and experience in education.

Andrew Samuels, Driver

Andrew grew up in New Jersey, but has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for over 20 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and holds a BFA in fine arts printmaking from the Academy of Art College in San Francisco. After working in the sign industry for 20 years he has switched gears to take up driving for Marin Montessori. His primary passions include taking care of his family, devouring movies, reading books, collecting junk, building stuff, the arts, pop-tarts, and driving your children safely.

Richard Stirling, Driver
Rich has been driving for MMS since 2015. He was born and raised in San Rafael. Rich earned a degree from California State University, Chico and moved to San Francisco where he worked in sales and customer service in the telecommunications industry. Rich enjoys spending summers in Clearlake boating and fishing, winters in Reno/Tahoe snow skiing, and watching football at the Peppermill Sportsbook.


Pete Hudson, Substitute Driver
Pete has been driving MMS students since May 2012. He and his wife, Anna, are the parents of MMS students Turner and Mac. They live in Sausalito. When Pete isn't juggling the van and driver schedules, he works as an engineering geologist for a San Francisco-based environmental and engineering firm.

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