Heart and Hand

Montessori Teacher Education Program

Our Story

Heart and Hand Montessori Teacher Education Program (HaH MTEP) was founded by Mercedes Castle and Maria ‘Maya’ Rutkowski-Bowen in 2014. Based in Portland, Oregon, Mercedes and Maya saw a need for high quality, accessible Montessori education for the working adult learner who is either looking for a strong mentorship model to begin their early childhood journey or as an adult who is already working in the classroom and wants to elevate their level of professionalism, education, and practice. 

Today, Heart and Hand is a not-for-profit, 501(c)3 tax exempt organization that promises to prepare adults to work in classrooms with children under three. An educational institution recognized as a Private Career School by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission and accredited by MACTE (Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education, HaH is deeply rooted in the Montessori Philosophy and Pedagogy, and also integrate teachings from Magda Gerber and schools inspired by Reggio Emilia. 

Nothing is preordained but everything is possible.

Maria Montessori

Our Vision and Core Values

We envision a peaceful and functional society made possible when a careful and rich foundation is laid in early childhood, through community partnerships that support parents as teachers as well as high quality child care for all working families.


Our mission is to prepare adults for meaningful careers in the field of Montessori and Early Childhood Education. We support Adult Learners in developing knowledge, skills, and dispositions essential to becoming effective and nurturing teachers; adults who cultivate a sense of self reflection and strive to be lifelong learners. Through our program, Adult Learners will become:

  • leaders in classrooms.
  • leaders in schools/owners of their own child care homes or centers.
  • a resource for working families.
  • a service to their community.

by assisting Adult Learners to:

  • Develop an understanding of early human development making the connections between optimal development and Montessori philosophy and pedagogy.
  • Develop an understanding of the young child’s holistic development: social, cognitive, physical, and emotional.
  • Recognize and value diversity and learn to support it in an early care setting.
  • Apply knowledge of principles for environmental design to develop environments and curriculum based on individual child’s needs.
  • Develop a pedagogical knowledge and apply their skill to support the youngest child in developing a lifelong love of learning.
  • Collaborate with children, teachers, parents, and community to cultivate learning and development.
  • Develop and implement a peace curriculum.


Through our mentorship model that focuses on self-reflection, guided learning and community building, our objective is to transform adults into caregivers and educators who go out into the world to create peaceful environments for children. It is our belief that it is through all of our work as early childhood professionals that we touch the next generation.


We pledge:

  • to communicate openly and sincerely.
  • to listen to concerns and commit to finding a resolution.
  • to encourage active learning.
  • to treat each other with kindness, patience, and respect.
  • to honor privacy and confidentiality.
  • to act in a way consistent with principles of environmental sustainability.

Our Amazing Team

Mercedes Castle

Founder, Executive Director, Instructor, 

Field Consultant, Board Member

Mercedes holds a B.A. in Biology from the University of California at Santa Cruz, Infant and Toddler Montessori Teaching Credential from the American Montessori Society, an M.Ed in Educational Leadership and has completed the RIE Foundations course.  Mercedes is the co-founder of the Portland Montessori Collaborative in Portland, OR and currently serves as the Pedagological Director. She has been teaching adults since 2008. In 2012 and 2014 Mercedes received the Oregon Montessori Association’s Outstanding Dedication Award. In her free time, Mercedes enjoys singing, playing guitar and being with her dog and her famiy.

Maya Rutkowski

Founder, Program Director, Instructor, 

Field Consultant, Board Member

Maya holds a B.A in Psychology with a minor in Child Development, an Infant and Toddler Montessori Teaching Credential from the American Montessori Society and a Child Development Program Director Permit through the State of California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing. Maya is the co-founder of The Earth Tortoise Montessori School in Portland, OR serving as both a guide and the director. Most recently, she has founded a non-profit dedicated to making Montessori education accessible to the diverse population of East Portland. She has been teaching adults since 2004. Maya enjoys gardening, sewing, reading and exploring Oregon's natural beauty.

Breanne Monahan

Practicum Coordinator, Field Consultant, Board Member

Breanne holds a B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on children and families, an Infant and Toddler Montessori Teaching Credential from the American Montessori Society, and a Director's Training Certificate through the Oregon Association for the Education of Young Children. She is co-founder of Peace Tree Montessori School in Portland, OR and serves as the full time Director. She is passionate about educating teachers to their fullest potential and partnering with them to create well-rounded and joyful environments. Breanne enjoys spending time with her husband and children appreciating everything that the Portland outdoors has to offer: hiking, camping, gardening and boating on the river.

Tammy Ulrich

Instructor, Board Member

Tammy holds a B.A. in Child Development from San Diego State University, a Master's degree in Human Studies from Marylhurst University, and an Early Childhood Montessori Teaching Credential. Tammy is an active member of the Early Childhood community, particularly within Montessori education. Tammy was the founder of Child's View Montessori School in Portland, OR, served as the President of the Oregon Montessori Association and as a Team Verifier for MACTE. She currently is an Instructor at Portland Community College and serves as a Field Consultant, Instructor for a number of Montessori training programs throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Ingrid Anderson

Board Member

Ingrid holds a BA in women’s studies from San Diego State University, and an MEd in education with a focus on conflict resolution and peaceable schools from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. She earned her doctorate in educational leadership in 2014 and currently serves as assistant professor of practice in curriculum and instruction at Portland State University. She is the program coordinator for PSU’s interdisciplinary Early Childhood Council,  the program coordinator for the Infant/Toddler Mental Health (ITMH) graduate certificate, and co-coordinator of the Master of Early Childhood: Inclusive Education program. Dr. Anderson currently serves on several state committees focused on Oregon’s early childhood professional development system, including the Oregon Child Care Research Partnership Committee, the Professional Development Committee of the Early Learning Division, and on various state committees focused on Infant Toddler Mental Health.

Stacey Edwards-Russo

Board Member

Stacey is trained as a primary directress; for the past 17 years she has served as a classroom guide, educational director, school director and owner as well as business consultant.

Stacey has taught in classrooms in Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York and even Poland. In 2011, she received her Master's Degree in Child Development with a specialization in Program Administration from the Erikson Institute of Chicago. She has  sat as the Vice Chair on the Board of Directors of the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Credentialing (MACTE). as well as a Vice Chair and Advocacy Chair of the Oregon Montessori Association (OMA). 

Currently Stacey is the Director of Child's View Montessori. Above all, she loves finding moments to laugh with husband Michael and learn more about the world through the eyes of her 4 children ages 12, 4, 2 and 1! 

Organizing Documents

As a non profit organization serving educators, we endeavor to operate with transparency. We are a 501(c)(3) exempt organization as determined by the IRS on November 6, 2014.

Here are our organizing documents.

HaH Articles of Incorporation

HaH Bylaws 7:24:14

HaH Conflict of Interest Policy

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