Mrs. Barb Labotka


The most important period of life is not the age of university studies, but the first one, the period from birth to the age of six.  For that is the time when man’s intelligence itself, his greatest implement, is being formed.” —Dr. Maria Montessori

Mrs. Barb Labotka is a product of Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic schools. She attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Glenview for grade school, St. Louise de Marillac High School in Northfield and Loyola University Chicago for undergraduate studies. She holds Montessori certification from Seton Montessori Institute in early childhood.

She holds a Masters degree in Teaching and Learning with a specialization in teaching literacy and language and a second Masters degree, M.Ed in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Catholic School Leadership with Principal Endorsement from DePaul University. Mrs. Barb has experience opening Montessori classrooms and has taught pre-k, kindergarten and elementary students for 14 years before becoming a principal.

Mrs. Barb enjoys spending time with her husband Tom, to whom she has been happily married for 26 years. They have two children in college, Hannah and Charlie. A fun fact about Mrs. Barb is that she was confirmed by Cardinal Bernardin in eighth grade!

Anupama (Anu) Kripanidhi

Business Manager & Director of Operations

“The greatest gifts we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” – Maria Montessori

Ms. Anu is our Operations & Finance Director, she has an extensive background as an operations strategy consultant with over 7 years of experience with IBM at various international opportunities and locations. She has completed her Masters in Business Administration and also is an AMI certified Assistant Teacher (Primary 3-6 year olds). Anu lives here in Lakeview area of Chicago with her dear husband and 2 lovely daughters.

The Montessori way of teaching speaks to her and to be in the field of education, to be able to make a difference in the community especially the future generation motivates & inspires her. It is deeply ingrained with her passion to work with kids. In her spare time Ms.Anu enjoys spending time with her family, listening to music and dancing.

Liana Giannoni

Directress for Primary 2 & Academic Support

Ms. Liana Giannoni has a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and an Infant-Toddler Specialist certificate from Erickson Institute. She was honored to receive one of five Kohl-McCormick Early Childhood Teaching Awards in 1998 for her dedication and service to children and their families. Ms. Liana also had the privilege to go to Italy to study the Reggio-Emilia philosophy.

In her spare time, Ms. Liana loves to try looking at the world through children’s eyes and create welcoming environments that inspire children to explore. Her other interests include swimming, crocheting, reading mystery books and picking blueberries.

Ms. Liana serves as our Directress for the infant-toddler programs and transition classes.

Ms. Nadja Jackson

Teacher Intern

Nadja has been in an out of schools servicing children and parents 0-6 in both traditional and Montessori inspired environments for the last 9 years. After moving up the ranks form Asst. Teacher, to Teacher, to Site Manager, then to Multi Site Coordinator and finally Teacher training and support, she decided to pursue Montessori Education, specifically. She became Montessori trained in 2017, and worked with CBM last year as a volunteer before taking a maternity leave and homeschooling her own kindergartener.  She is excited to be back in the classroom and is looking forward to the new possibilities this school year.

Ms. Jessica Santiago

Directress of Primary 3

“It is my belief that the thing which we should cultivate in our teachers is more the spirit than the mechanical skill of the scientist; that is, the direction of the preparation should be toward the spirit rather than toward the mechanism.” —Maria Montessori

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Ms. Jessica relocated to Chicago in 2012. She earned her BS in English from Rutgers University in New Jersey and then continued her education by obtaining her MS and Illinois State license in Early Childhood Education from Dominican University. She also retrieved a Leadership Academy certificate from the Archdiocese of Chicago and obtained her Montessori certification at the Midwest Montessori Training Center.

Ms. Jessica began her journey interning at Nickelodeon and went on to work for Simon &, Inc. in New York City after college. She then decided to pursue working with children in Chicago. She has taught enrichment classes at Catholic schools and gained experience working in a Montessori school in Oak Park. In addition, she has taught Sunday school for a few years.

In her spare time, Ms. Jessica loves hiking and traveling the world. In May 2017, she hiked the Camino de Santiago trail, extending from France through Spain. She’s also participated in several mission trips in Kenya, Israel and El Salvador. She is hoping to visit family in Dubai on her next trip! Jessica enjoys going to the beach and writing fiction.

Ms. Jessica joined the Academy in 2016 and is Primary Directress for Primary 3. She looks forward to working with the children and is grateful to be a part of such a wonderful school community.

Check out Ms. Jessica’s classroom website!

Ms. Kathy Spreitzer

Classroom Aide of Primary 3

“The child who concentrates is immensely happy.” —Maria Montessori

Ms. Kathy Spreitzer received her Para Professional Montessori Certificate from Midwest Montessori. Prior to that, she earned her BS in Elementary Education from DePaul University and her MS in Human Resource Administration from Spertus Institute. Kathy is licensed in the state of Illinois for grades K-9.

In her spare time, Ms. Kathy enjoys traveling the world.

Ms. Kathy has been with the Academy for eight years and has been with the Archdiocese of Chicago for 38.

Ms. Violet Reznicek

Directress of Primary 4

Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Ms. Violet attended the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Sociology. She recently received her Early Childhood International Montessori Teaching Diploma from the North American Montessori Center. She is very excited to be starting her first year at Cardinal Bernardin Montessori Academy following a two and a half year stint at a Montessori school in Omaha, Nebraska.

When not in the classroom, Ms. Violet enjoys baking and cooking. Her favorite treats to bake are red velvet cookies. She also loves to be outside either playing tennis or visiting the zoo with her husband. Finally, Ms. Violet likes traveling to Wisconsin to spend time with her family.

Ms. Sarah Makkawy

Catechist & Specials

“Children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of their innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future.” —Maria Montessori

Ms. Sarah earned her BA in Elementary Education from Benedictine College in Atchison, KS, and is certified to teach grades K-6. She has been teaching since Fall 2016.

Ms. Sarah loves visual and performing arts—specifically dancing, theatre and drawing.

She joined the Academy in 2018 as the catechist. Her goal is to help the children build personal relationships with Jesus, our Good Shepherd.

Ms. Diane Urgo

Office Admin & Admissions Coordinator

Adelaida Kagan

Virtue Education Coordinator

Ms. Gabriela Weikel

Marketing & Fundraising Director

Mr. Aaron Giannoni

Classroom Aide

Mr. Lester Mosio