Meet Our Team

Director of Early Childhood Education & Early Childhood Lead Guide

Allison Jones

Allison graduated from the University of Tennessee Knoxville with a degree in child and family studies and an emphasis on community outreach. She received Montessori training through Montessori Educators International (MEI). Allison has more than 10 years of teaching experience and taught at LRMS throughout her college career before finding a permanent position there in 2011. Her experience is primarily with preschool/ kindergarteners, but was also a toddler lead teacher for two years. Allison believes that Montessori is not only a philosophy of education, but a way of life. Her mother was a Montessori teacher for more than 20 years and Allison was a Montessori child through 6th grade. She says, “The most wonderful part of being a teacher is that we learn just as much from them as they learn from us.”

Toddler Assistant Guide

Rayana Hamilton

Rayana moved to Tennessee in 2017 and currently resides in Knoxville, TN, where she graduated from West High School. Rayana is active within the LGBT community around East Tennessee. In her free time, she enjoys watching shows with her fiancé, hanging out with her friends, and spending time with her animals. She is so excited to be joining the Little River Montessori family and is thrilled to be able to work with Tennessee youth. Her favorite thing is being able to watch the kids grow up and flourish.

Early Childhood Assistant Guide

Rachel Elwell

Rachel was born and raised in Vero Beach, Florida until the age of 14, when her family made the move to Tennessee. She and her son live in Friendsville. Rachel has worked in the childcare setting for over 2 years. Her dream has always been to work with children and she is so happy for her dream to come true.

Aftercare Director & Early Childhood Assistant Guide

Blake Jones

Blake Jones is our Early Childhood Assistant. He holds a BS from MTSU in Media Production. About himself, Blake says, “There is nothing I enjoy more than being around children. Well, maybe cheese. Either way, children have brought so much joy into my life and it’s an honor to be able to work with them every single day.”

Elementary Lead Guide-in-Training

Claire Heatherly

Claire is a senior studying Child and Family Studies with an emphasis on community outreach at the University of Tennessee. She started her time at LRMS as an aftercare teacher and now works as a guide in the elementary classroom. Claire is a Dayton, Ohio native but is loving life in Tennessee. She enjoys being outside, seeing live music, and spending time with family and friends.

Toddler Guide

Danaya Randolph

Danaya is currently finishing her Biochemistry bachelor’s degree at Maryville College. She has worked with young kids in various settings for about 8 years. In her personal time, she likes to read, write poetry and spend quality time with her friends and family. She also enjoys dog-sitting and babysitting. Maya Angelou and Winnie the Pooh are some of her greatest inspirations. Danaya has a “passion for meeting kids where they are, loving them as they are and helping them grow into who they want to be.”

Early Childhood Lead Guide-in-Training

Samantha Cobb

Samantha lives for herbal tea and tending to her tropical plant collection. She has over 5 years of teaching experience, with students from preschool to high school. This Knoxville native and mother of 2 is completing her bachelor’s of science in History in 2022. An avid gardener, artist, and animal lover who has a passion for educating our future generation. 

Principal & Elementary and Adolescent Lead Guide

Jamie Watts

Jamie comes to us from Chattanooga where he taught at the Preschool and Elementary levels and directed the Summer Program. Prior to that Jamie worked as the Executive Director of Sylvan Learning Center in Chattanooga. He is a two-time graduate of the North American Montessori Center and graduated Suma Cum Laude from Bryan College. His favorite part about Montessori is seeing the joy that the children express each time they learn something new.

Business Manager & Social Worker

Jessica Smith


In 2014, Jessica graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Montevallo with a bachelors degree in social work. As a social worker, Jessica worked with students in grades 6th through 12th within the public school system, foster youths aging out of state care, survivors of domestic and sexual assault, and residents in a skilled nursing facility. Jessica is a Licensed Bachelor Social Worker with the Tennessee Board of Social Workers. In 2018, she received her masters degree from Troy University in Human Resource Management. She has worked in the Human Resources field for over 3 years. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys reading, crafting, and visiting the The Dragon.


Named for Maria Montessori’s only son, Mario is an adopted neighborhood cat. He is the first staff member here in the mornings and greets each subsequent arrival with an impatient nod towards his food bowl. Mario enjoys teaching the children how to pet with gentle hands and how to give just the right head scratches. When he’s not working, Mario enjoys napping on the picnic tables, climbing trees, and headbutting staff to get affection.

Early Childhood Assistant Guide

Nicole Holmquist

Nicole has been teaching in the preschool setting since 2006, primarily with infants and toddlers. She received her Child Development Associate Certificate in 2014. Nicole is currently working on her bachelors degree in Child and Family Studies with a concentration in Community Outreach and a minor in Psychology at the University of Tennessee. Nicole and her spouse live in Fountain City with their five bunnies and two dachshunds. 

Early Childhood Lead Guide-in-Training

Tyler Newman

Tyler graduated from the University of Tennessee Knoxville with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. He came to love Montessori because of how his son, Emrys, has flourished in that environment, and how it has given Emrys the independence that he and his wife want for him. Tyler is a photographer in his spare time. He enjoys reading, gaming, and being outside.

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