“Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.” Maria Montessori
“Montessori teachers are not servants of the child’s body…We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.” Maria Montessori
Geoffrey E. Bishop, hails from the bush in North West NSW, Australia. After his childhood spent on his family’s sheep station he went to an agricultural boarding school for five years, and then to University in both Sydney and Melbourne where he studied Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.
For the next 10 years he traveled the world, visiting over 80 countries, where he spent most of his time trekking in rural areas, learning cultures and understanding his place in the world.
In 1996 Geoffrey started Nature’s Classroom Institute of Wisconsin, Inc. NCI is a residential environmental education program serving schools throughout the Midwest. The Nature’s Classroom Institute program helps students understand the natural environment, participate in ecosystem exploration and study, and work together with their peers and teachers as a community. The program includes activities such as confidence-building, group challenges, historical simulations, scientific explorations, and many more hands-on academic lessons.
After developing a strong academic and environmental outdoor based curriculum, he formed Nature’s Classroom Montessori School that blends the core philosophy of Montessori with his environmental principles. The past Board Chair of the Wisconsin Association of Environmental Education (WAEE), he has been honored by WAEE as Wisconsin Non-Formal Educator of the Year.
Nature’s Classroom is on 400 acres in the small rural community of Mukwonago, Wisconsin. Geoffrey’s passionate and sustained focus over the past 15 years has been on organics and sustainability in schools while promoting getting children back outdoors and helping adults understand the importance of instinctive play in the natural world.
Carrie Benzinger joined Nature’s Classroom Institute Montessori as our Office Manager in 2018. Previously she worked with client data providing service to both employer and customer in the Customs trade compliance and transportation payment industries. Carrie grew up in the Milwaukee area, is married, has 3 sons, and currently lives in the Town of Vernon, east of Mukwonago. She enjoys cooking, baking, spending time with her family dog (Chili) and is a dedicated library patron and fan of the many resources it has available to all. Carrie is interested in what Nature’s Classroom Institute and Montessori school offers students and is eager to learn much more about it.
Deepa Shreekumar grew up having a diplomat father enabling her to experience varied countries and cultures. Just when she thought life was settling down, her husband, Rajesh’s job began to take them to many different countries and they moved to Milwaukee about 2 decades ago. Deepa has a Masters Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from India and has worked in radio, made documentary films and taught film making before arriving at teaching. Her interest in Montessori began with her mother’s teaching experience as well as running a school for differently abled children in India. It resurfaced when her older son, Advik, now working on his Doctrate, attended a Montessori school. When her younger son, Arjun, now in college, started at a Children’s House, her fascination with the Montessori philosophy peaked. She completed her Early Childhood training from Seton Montessori Institute, in 2006 and began working at Nature’s Classroom Institute Montessori the same year. In order to better serve children who learn differently within a Montessori environment, she has since completed her primary certification in Montessori Applied to Children At Risk (MACAR) from The Shelton School in Dallas. Deepa has also completed her Certification in Montessori Leadership and School Administration from Seton Montessori Institute. Since 2018, Deepa has taken on the role of Head of School while still being a Directress in the Children’s House classroom. She has been a regular presenter at local, regional, national and international Montessori and Early Childhood conferences, focusing on Montessori practice, restorative justice, building community and fostering empathy in the classroom, and connecting the indoors to the outdoors. Deepa enjoys meeting people, cooking, reading and listening to music. She greatly appreciates a sense of humor and friendship especially when made in lands far away from her own.
Esther Meier enrolled her son Matthias in the Lake Geneva Montessori School when she first moved to Wisconsin in 2014. He loved the school so much that he only wanted to go to Montessori schools from that point on. He has been enrolled in the Nature’s Classroom Institute Montessori School in Mukwonago since his first year in Lower Elementary and is currently a 6th year Elementary student. Esther is a German native and has worked as a project manager in the educational department of Volkswagen for many years where she mainly designed workshops/programs for Kindergarten and schoolchildren of all ages based on their curriculum. Because of her background in education and her love for the Montessori approach, she began working as an Assistant Teacher at the Lake Geneva Montessori School in 2017. Esther has also been teaching pre-k/Kindergarten students at the German School of Madison for the last two years where she brings a Montessori approach to her lessons. Outside of her time in school, Esther loves her weekday yoga classes. In the summer, she enjoys going to the beach and walking the lake path in Lake Geneva in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter with her husband Tom and son Matthias. She also loves going to museums (especially art museums) and travelling and exploring new places – her favorite country is Italy.
Caroline Skelton grew up on the north side of Milwaukee and after several years living in New York City, has returned to Wisconsin. She has an undergraduate degree in Studio Arts with an emphasis on Fiber Art. Her first position out of college was as a school librarian at Bayside Middle School and she also worked as an art teacher with Milwaukee Public Schools. While in New York, she stayed in the library field and held positions at Fordham University and at the Pratt Institute of Art. After moving back to the Milwaukee area, she volunteered with the Nature Preschool at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and baking, as well as working in a variety of art mediums from collage to weaving. She lives in Bay View with her husband and two cats. She is currently a student in the Masters of Education in Montessori Teaching at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls and is thrilled to put her training into practice here at Nature’s Classroom!
Lindsay Wurtzel grew up in South Texas. Lindsay spent a lot of time with family traveling, dancing, learning how to cook, and performing with theater groups. She received her Bachelors from The University of Texas Rio Grande with a minor in history and English. She spent time teaching in a deaf education classroom before moving to Boston to attend Hebrew College. Lindsay graduated with a Masters in Jewish Education and a certification in Jewish Special Education in 2004. Lindsay started in a Montessori primary classroom in 2005 and then moved into the Upper Elementary classroom. She completed her Lower and Upper Elementary certification through The Houston Montessori Center. Lindsay was state certified in Texas in EC-4 and EC-12 special education. She has lived in Vermont, Hawaii, Texas, Florida, and Massachusetts. Lindsay loves to learn, travel, bake, sew, create, and explore the outdoors. Lindsay She moves here with her small dog Minnie and a passion for life and new adventures.
Katelyn Bratz graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor of the Arts degree in History, as well as certificates in Classical History and European History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Katelyn began her career working with students through environmental education. She came to Nature’s Classroom Institute and Montessori in 2008. Since then she has taken on various roles: environmental educator, environmental Education Director, history teacher, elementary assistant and for many years now our Adolescent Directress. It is during her work in our environmental program that Katelyn came to appreciate and understand the Montessori Method. Katelyn completed the AMI/NAMTA Montessori Orientation to Adolescent Studies in 2012. She has also acquired her Secondary I-II Credential from CMSTEP and a Master’s in Montessori Education from Xavier University. Since 2008, Katelyn has worked to progress and expand our Adolescent programming. She can be found regularly hiking and working at Nature’s Classroom property with her dogs, Audi and Sitka, gardening, or tending to the farm. All of which continue to be hobbies for Katelyn and a strong connection to her environmental background.