The Upper Elementary Program

Learning Through Community

The Upper Elementary program at JBMA is designed for students 9-12 years old.  The Upper Elementary class is a multi-age community that works together collaboratively to achieve both individual and group goals.  Community building is a core component of our program and students work together to support each other and bond through experiences that require problem solving, cooperative effort and community service in order to better understand their place in the world both locally and globally. Children learn to share ideas, listen to others and respect different perspectives.

The Montessori curriculum offers each student introductory lessons that are sequenced in each of the content areas.  From these initial lessons, students follow their natural curiosity as they acquire the skills necessary to research, inquire and show independence in their own learning.  The Montessori philosophy supports an integrated approach where the content areas of math, geometry, language, science, history and geography are interwoven.  The Upper Elementary classroom is filled with maps, charts, artifacts, fossils, scientific equipment, an aquarium and beautifully crafted Montessori learning materials.

Meet Our Upper Elementary Teachers!

Zechariah Hook

Zechariah Hook grew up in Chattanooga, Tennessee where he attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and earned his B.A. in theatre. He is currently training for his Montessori Elementary II Certification. As an actor, he enjoyed telling stories that made people think and challenge their ideas.  While living in Los Angeles and pursuing a career as an actor, a series of life changing events led him to environmental education.  He realized that what he truly wanted to be was a teacher!

Zechariah learned about a special place called Camp McDowell Environmental Center.  They saw his potential and hired him as a teacher/naturalist.  He knew he had found his calling.  Teaching and learning came easily in such a free-form hands-on environment.  For three and a half years, Zechariah grew as an educator and a leader, becoming McDowell’s resident storyteller. Zechariah is excited to continue his journey as an educator and lifelong learner while helping our children grow into passionate, motivated, thoughtful students themselves.

Chris Gallas

Chris Gallas was born and raised in Saint Louis, Missouri. She attended Saint Louis University and earned her Bachelors in Sociology and Education with an emphasis in Math and Science. Chris is married with four daughters. She is an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan and enjoys traveling, photography, kayaking, and playing Scrabble.

Salima Jan

Since a very young age, Salima enjoyed playing a teacher, with her dolls being the students. One of her pivotal inspirations was her own teachers at school. They had such an enormous impact on her, from the way they spoke to the way they dressed. She always felt obliged to please them and tried to do more than what they expected of her.

After finishing a teacher’s certification program, She joined the Ivy League School in Pearland as a Kindergarten teacher without wasting any time and was relishing every moment of her newfound career. Salima also holds her Montessori Elementary II Certification.

Being a teacher has become so immersed in her life and personality that she cannot picture herself in another profession. She believes very strongly that one never ceases to learn and even more so for teachers because they are in an environment where learning is continuous. Completing her Masters in Montessori from a graduate school last year has only given her more tools and confidence to work and shape these young minds.

April Smitherman

April Smitherman is a native of Birmingham, Alabama, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She is married and has two children who are both alumni of JBMA. April has prior teaching experience in both middle school and community college. She is a strong supporter of the Montessori philosophy. She believes that teaching is a privilege and is very excited to be a part of the JBMA faculty and community.