Julia Thompson


Toddler 1 Lead Teacher

Kristen Marrisett, the founder of Wake Forest Montessori, has her Montessori Certification from the North American Montessori Center and a BS in Psychology from UCLA. Kristen is a proud mother of 4, all of whom have either graduated from WFM or are currently attending.  Kristen has a strong passion for teaching and a deep love for children. She brings a firm, but loving approach to the classroom, and makes learning fun and interesting for the students.



Toddler 1 Assistant Teacher

Leah Riker received her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She taught elementary school for two years in Durham and Chapel Hill. Prior to that, Leah volunteered in her church’s nursery where she took care of infants and toddlers. Leah also has experience working as a director and counselor of a mixed-age summer camp program in Greensboro. She is excited to be working with toddlers this year, helping to mold young minds and hearts! When she is not working, Leah enjoys dancing, singing, and spending time with her dog, Lucy.


Toddler 2 Lead Teacher

I recently moved to the Wake Forest area from Durham. I had been working at a Montessori school for the past four years that I loved dearly, but the commute was going to be too much. I believe that education is vitally important in early childhood and strive to keep my classroom ever changing to keep children interested and engaged. Coming from a home with three younger siblings, I find that patience, compassion, and fairness are key to a successful learning environment. I want my students to have wonderful and memorable moments that they take home to their families. I enjoy organizing events that bring the community together such as charitable food drives, or educational nights for parents to come see what they are working on. Outside of work, I spend a lot of time with my family. There are a total of six siblings and we all get along extremely well (now that we’re older) and spend tons of time together! I like to read, discover new places, and any event that involves being social!

I have my Montessori Certification for Infants/Toddlers from NAMC, my North Carolina Early Childhood Credential, the Infant/Toddler and Child Development certification through Durham Tech. I am also currently a student pursuing a degree in Early Childhood Education.



Toddler 2 Asistant Teacher

Kristina was born and raised in Mississippi and moved to Wake Forest in 2014 to pursue her Master of Arts in Intercultural Studies. She graduated from Mississippi College with her BS in History, and while in college she worked with toddlers and elementary-aged children. After graduation she worked as a Kindergarten Teacher’s Assistant for a year and then moved to North Carolina. Though she has numerous years of childcare experience, she was new to the Montessori method.

WFM welcomed her on as an aftercare toddler house teacher and showed her the differences between traditional education and the Montessori method. Over this past summer she became Assistant Teacher to Jackie in Toddler House 2 and is thrilled to learn more about children 18 month-3 year. Though it is difficult to see the children age out to the Children’s House classrooms, she is amazed at the intellectual and emotional progress made by the children she has seen since their start in the Toddler House.
During her spare time, Kristina enjoys finding local restaurants and shops, reading and crafting, and the beautiful outdoors with her husband, Drew.


Children’s House 1 Lead Teacher

Denise Leonard, a New England native, moved to Wake Forest with her family in 2006.  She became interested in the Montessori Method when her own children attended Montessori schools in Massachusetts.  Denise believes the Montessori Method of Education most closely mirrors her own philosophy that each child is unique and should be allowed to develop emotionally, intellectually and physically at his or her own pace in a safe, stress-free environment that nurtures the child’s self-esteem, confidence and individuality.

Denise holds a Bachelor of Arts degree, with a major concentration in Psychology, an American Montessori Society Elementary I certification, and has completed her Primary training through Center for Guided Montessori Studies.   As a Montessori guide, Denise has had the opportunity to work with children in Primary, Lower Elementary, and Upper Elementary classrooms.

When not teaching or spending time with her family, Denise enjoys creating new materials for her classroom, knitting, and reading.


Children’s House 1 Assistant


Brianna discovered the world of Montessori two years ago and fell in love with its focus on building children’s independence, creative hands-on method of teaching and focus on matching cognitive milestones with a child’s natural development. She started working in the Toddler Division at the Greensboro Montessori School and was welcomed into Wake Forest Montessori in November of 2016 after moving to Raleigh. She was beyond excited to become the Children’s House 1 Assistant Teacher and get to be a part of cultivating and inspiring young minds. Brianna graduated with a Bachelors in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is currently working on her Masters Degree in Developmental Psychology. She intends to go all the way and pursue her PhD in Developmental Psychology with a specialization in early childhood development after finishing her Masters. When Brianna isn’t working she is more than likely studying, but there are moments when she gets to spend time with her boyfriend Glen and two fur children Albus and Enzo.



Children’s House 2 Lead Teacher

Sallie Hale lives in Youngsville with her husband, 2 dogs and a cat. She is the mother of 5 children and the Grandmother to 2 grandsons and a granddaughter.

Sallie has her BSBA in Business Administration, Associates in Early Childhood Education and her Primary Age Montessori Teachers Certificate. Sallie moved to NC from the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Area where she owned, directed and taught at a Montessori Preschool for the past 16 years. Although, Sallie has taught all ages from 6 weeks to 6 years, she says the Toddler Classroom is her favorite group of students. This is the time in a child’s life when they are absorbing all the excitement and wonders of their environment. Sallie loves being a part of such an important stage of development. Through practical life, language, sensorial, math, art and music the children in the toddler class will be independent, self-confident and establish a true love for learning.

When Sallie isn’t teaching or making new materials for her classroom, you might see her running the trails of Wake County. She likes to train for marathons!



Children’s House 2 Assistant Teacher

Melissa McElveen has worked with preschool children as a lead teacher and a director. Her teaching experience includes over 11 years of working with children, parents, and staff. Her goal is to provide a safe, fun, and engaging environment for all children to learn.  Her vast experience in a variety of areas allows her to effectively nurture and support children inside of the Montessori environment. Melissa is very passionate about teaching and loves working with children and their families. In Melissa’s spare time she enjoys her morning coffee, reading, walking and being involved in her church. Most of all she loves spending time with her husband Chad, her 2 children Emma and Matthew, and her dog Zoey.