Elementary, Grades 1-6: Monday-Friday 8:20 am – 3:00 pm

Lower Elementary children, Grades 1-3, are beginning to move from the concrete to the abstract, and their minds are beginning to develop curiosity about time, relationships, and the variety and origins of The World. These children mature to take responsibility for their weekly work plan and build time-management and resource skills. While traditional academic studies are individually adjusted to each student’s proficiency, all students get daily exercises in spelling, math, handwriting, grammar and reading in addition to weekly intensive lessons in Music, Spanish, and Art.

See what recent alumni enjoyed most about their MCHD Lower Elementary experience.

Upper Elementary children, Grades 4-6, receive advanced work in mathematics, history and cultural studies, geography, natural science, writing, literature, foreign language, arts, and music that build naturally from the Lower Elementary years. Assignments at this level often include a wider range of creative choices in how to present material, furthering the student’s capability as a self-directed learner, an attribute Montessori children carry with them throughout life. Social mores and rituals are of increasing interest to the preadolescent; this part of the curriculum and an expectation of community service affirm the sense of social interdependence emerging at this age. Students collectively create a respectful, self-reliant community. Sixth grade culminates in a year-long project focused on representing a country at the Montessori Model United Nations in New York City, with instruction in advanced research and presentation skills on real-world topics, such as the ecological sustainability of refugee camps in Tunisia.

Learn more about Upper Elementary from former students’ perspective.


  • Chitra Alvarado

    Lower Elementary Teacher

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    Chitra joined the MCHD faculty in 1991 as co-teacher of the school’s new Elementary program. She received her Montessori certificate from the Center for Montessori Teacher Education in New York in 1988, and before moving to Durham, taught in a Montessori school in Charlotte, NC. Chitra holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the State of New York in Albany. Her love of the biological sciences, in particular nature studies, shines through in her curriculum and classroom. Chitra’s other interests and strengths are yoga, natural health, peace education and conflict resolution. Chitra is mother to two adult daughters, Huma and Naja, and is married to Gil Alvarado, a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist.

  • Johanna King

    Lower Elementary Teacher

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    Johanna has been working in a Montessori environment since 1995. She began her career as an assistant here at MCHD for six weeks in a Preschool classroom, helping acclimate a special needs child to the classroom. Johanna then worked as a nanny for two young children and was a substitute teacher whenever possible. After one year as an assistant and one year as an intern in a Lower Elementary classroom at Montessori Community School, she received her Montessori teaching certificate from the Institute for Advanced Montessori Studies in Silver Spring, MD. In the fall of 1997, Johanna became an assistant in a Lower Elementary classroom at MCHD. She became lead teacher the following year. Johanna received her Bachelor’s degree in theatre performance at the University of Maine at Orono. She is interested in gardening and herbs, singing, playing her flute and taking long walks with her dog.

  • Rob Sievert

    Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher

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    Rob was born and raised in Richmond, Va. He studied Bible, Religion, and Ancient Languages at a small liberal arts school in Tennessee where he met his wife Shawna. They moved to Durham in 2001 and played music with friends and family. Rob has been at MCHD since 2003 and is amazed at the togetherness and peace that is daily a part of this community. His two sons are also current MCHD students. He loves music, long walks, baseball, studying new things, and long slow meals.

  • Paul Hammond

    Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher

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    Paul is an MCHD alumnus with strong roots in the benefits of a Montessori education. He enjoys working with children, outdoor education, and music. Paul has worked at MCHD since 2008 as a Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher and Elementary After School Instructor. He brings a playful approach to childcare with strong conflict resolution skills. A lifelong vegetarian, his hobbies include sports, travel, and reading.

  • Melissa Lee

    Upper Elementary Teacher

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    MCHD was proud to welcome Melissa in 2014. Melissa has been working in Montessori since 2002, at the primary and upper elementary levels. A graduate of Framingham State College, she later went on to receive her Montessori certification at the elementary level from prestigious CMTE-NY in 2005. Melissa has taught at both public and private schools in Massachusetts and North Carolina. Taking a break from her passion of marathon training, Melissa is enjoying time to pursue other interests, such as rollerblading, kayaking, bowling, and napping.

  • Susannah Lock

    Upper Elementary Assistant Teacher

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    As a Durham native and MCHD alum, Susannah is thrilled to rejoin this school community. She recently moved back to Durham with her husband Ben, daughter Charlotte, and dogs Cody and Sydney. She received her Montessori Primary certificate and M.Ed. from Washington Montessori Institute at Loyola University in 2006. This will be her 11th year of teaching.