Director, Primary Lead Teacher

Melanie Robbins Pennock, M.Ed. - Montessori Integrative Learning 6-12  Melanie is head of school and Primary lead teacher. She holds a B.S. in Psychology: Counseling and Therapy and a M.Ed. in Montessori Education (ages 6-12.) Melanie is currently working on her Montessori certification in early childhood, ages 3-6. She is certified by the Department of Children and Families, Department of Education, and is CPR/First Aid certified. She holds her Florida Director Credentials and is an active member with the International Montessori Council (IMC.) Melanie specializes in transformative and integrative learning from early childhood through adulthood, within the context of Dr. Montessori's pedagogy.  Melanie's master's thesis entitled,  "An Awakening into Macrophase Wisdom"  explores Montessori education within an eco-cosmological framework and an autopoietic learning community.  Laniakea Montessori School was founded with a mission to guide children in the spirit of humility, love and observation so they might connect with their highest calling, and their sense of purpose.  Melanie is a mom to Sage and Kelltin and a step-mom, friend and guide to Mason and Van.

Melanie Robbins Pennock, M.Ed. - Montessori Integrative Learning 6-12

Melanie is head of school and Primary lead teacher. She holds a B.S. in Psychology: Counseling and Therapy and a M.Ed. in Montessori Education (ages 6-12.) Melanie is currently working on her Montessori certification in early childhood, ages 3-6. She is certified by the Department of Children and Families, Department of Education, and is CPR/First Aid certified. She holds her Florida Director Credentials and is an active member with the International Montessori Council (IMC.) Melanie specializes in transformative and integrative learning from early childhood through adulthood, within the context of Dr. Montessori's pedagogy.

Melanie's master's thesis entitled, "An Awakening into Macrophase Wisdom" explores Montessori education within an eco-cosmological framework and an autopoietic learning community.

Laniakea Montessori School was founded with a mission to guide children in the spirit of humility, love and observation so they might connect with their highest calling, and their sense of purpose.

Melanie is a mom to Sage and Kelltin and a step-mom, friend and guide to Mason and Van.

Lower & upper Elementary Lead Teacher, Assistant director

Erin Sorel, Lead Teacher

Erin Sorel, Lead Teacher

Erin Sorel has taught in Montessori schools for the past 17 years, working with children of preschool age through Middle School. Erin's desire for a more creative role brought her to Laniakea Montessori in 2017, where, alongside Melanie, she helped found the school. Erin holds a B.A. in Spanish Education from University of Florida, the Pathways to Teaching (K-12) minor, and the Montessori 6-12 certification from the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. She has also recently earned the Director's Credential from the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Erin is a member of the International Montessori Council (IMC) as well as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC.)

Erin is passionate about nature and spent some years working for the Nature Operations Division of the City of Gainesville, where she developed and taught nature-based field trips and camp programs to children in the Gainesville community. Erin enjoys hiking, the springs, gardening, cultural events, art projects, adventures, and spending time with her family. She has 3 children, ages 11, 13, and 15.

art teacher, Elementary assistant teacher

Branislava (Brani) Lakic-McLeod, Art History, Visual Art

Branislava (Brani) Lakic-McLeod, Art History, Visual Art

Branislava was born and grew up in Serbia, in the city where classics in visual arts and music were very much appreciated. She graduated from The Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb, Croatia.

During her life she traveled a lot and lived in quite a few different places admiring different people and different cultures. She loves Florida, and Gainesville has been her home for 17 years. She received her teaching certificate at the Educator Preparation Institute at the Santa Fe College in Gainesville.

Branislava taught in various local schools and today she is a firm supporter and believer in a wholesome Montessori education that integrates with the artistic realm. Brani is a stunning artist that specializes in integrating art from different cultures, periods, and movements into Montessori education. She is most inspired by the beauty of nature and animals.

Branislava holds her certification in Early Childhood Education with the Department of Children and Family Services. She is CPR and First Aid certified.

As a teacher, she tries to show possibilities and inspire original ideas, creativity and imagination. Her students participate in various art contests and local art shows at the Thomas Center, Harn Museum, Florida Museum of Natural History, Winter Fine Arts Fair at Tioga Town Center, and more. Besides graphic arts, Branislava’s loves photography, has passion for organizing, interior design, and cooking.

She has one daughter, Sati, who is now a senior student at the College of Nursing at UF.

Primary assistant

Hannah Cowles, Primary Assistant Teacher

Hannah Cowles, Primary Assistant Teacher

Hannah has enjoyed working with children since her first job in childcare almost a decade ago. Her experience includes summer camps, working as a nanny, and assisting professional staff in schools throughout Alachua County. She has worked with children from infants to preteens and loves the opportunity to be a part of their growth and development. Hannah joined Laniakea Montessori in 2017 and has provided support and care to children, students, and families since the school’s opening day. She will be a full time teacher in the primary classroom in Fall of 2019. Hannah is certified by the Department of Children and Family Services and is CPR/First Aid certified. Outside of work, Hannah is enrolled as a student at Santa Fe College. She also enjoys visual arts, volunteering, spending time in the gym, and building meaningful relationships with friends and family.

aftercare teacher

Erica Pierluissi, Aftercare Teacher

Erica Pierluissi, Aftercare Teacher

My name is Erica Pierluissi. I am the new After School Program teacher here at Laniakea Montessori. I am very excited to be warmly welcomed into this family and I hope over the next school year, we will get to know each other better. I am originally from Chicago, IL, graduated with a Bachelors in Fine Arts from Indiana University, and traveled many places across the United States before settling down in Gainesville, FL. I began teaching preschool in 2010 and have worked with children for nearly 10 years. I cherish each moment of learning that I experience from teaching! My passion is inspiring and challenging children and myself. We are all growing together. I hold my credentialing with the Department of Children and Family Services in Early Childhood Education. I am CPR and First Aid Certified. When I am not in the classroom, I'm painting, teaching yoga, practicing Thai massage, paddle boarding down the river, hiking with my dogs, or making music with my friends.

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