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An authentic Montessori School in the Heart of the Desert

Nature's Path Montessori is a charming, intimate campus nestled in the East Valley. As dedicated educators, we subscribe to the belief that children thrive and excel in their learning journey when they are connected with the wonders of nature.

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Meet the Partners


Twyla Hommert - Founding Partner and Lead Guide

Ms. Twyla's fervor for Montessori education ignited during her AMI training in 2018, propelled her towards the dream of opening her own school. Remarkably, this aspiration swiftly materialized, with the purchase of the Nature's Path campus at the close of 2021. Before this endeavor, Ms. Twyla contributed her expertise to the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC), specializing in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) for children on the spectrum. Holding certification from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) with a focus on fitness for children with special needs, she brings a unique skill set to her role. Married with two children, Ms. Twyla cherishes the collaborative effort that has transformed her dream of establishing this school into a tangible reality.

Vari Sheppard - Directing Partner and Gems Lead Guide

Ms. Vari's passion lies in the intricate world of early childhood development. She firmly believes that nurturing children in all aspects during this pivotal stage provides them with the strongest foundation for future life and education. Embracing the holistic approach of the Montessori philosophy, which supports the complete development of the child, Ms. Vari combines her Montessori AMI training with a bachelor's degree in early childhood education (ECE). Currently pursuing a master's in ECE at ASU, she remains dedicated to advancing her expertise. As the Directing Partner at Nature's Path, working alongside Ms. Twyla, Ms. Vari eagerly contributes to the Montessori community. Beyond her professional commitments, she is married with a daughter and loves to spend time with family and friends, travel, read, watch movies and work out.



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Angie Fretz - Geode's Lead Guide

Ms. Angie, our accomplished lead guide in the Geode's classroom, recently completed her Montessori training in July 2023, showcasing her dedication to progressive education. With over a decade of experience working with students aged 2 to 12 years old, she proves herself as a committed and creative educator. Ms. Angie's passion for nature, botany, and science is evident in her dynamic teaching approach. Actively participating in professional development workshops, she continually refines her teaching skills. Outside the classroom, Ms. Angie relishes moments with her daughter and engages in outdoor pursuits like hiking, swimming, and attending garden and sustainability events.

Kryss Huang - Woodland Partner

Ms. Kryss, with a natural affinity for nature, integrating her experience and expertise into our environment, enriching the learning experience for the children. Ms. Kryss not only imparts her knowledge but also fosters a deeper connection between the children and the natural world. Her multifaceted interests contribute to the dynamic and holistic approach we embrace at Nature's Path, creating a rich and engaging atmosphere for our students. Her passion for yoga, gardening, forest and flower bathing, as well as her love for travel and vintage thrifting, adds a vibrant and diverse dimension to our educational setting.

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Na'ava Israel - Gems Assisting Partner

Ms. Na'ava, our dedicated Gems assistant, effortlessly embraces the Montessori approach. Currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in early childhood education, she brings over two years of valuable experience in the childcare setting. Ms. Na'ava's natural affinity for the Montessori philosophy is evident in her seamless integration into the Gems classroom. Away from her professional pursuits, she finds joy in spending quality time with her family. Ms. Na'ava's commitment to ongoing education and her warm connection with children contribute significantly to the nurturing and enriching environment we strive to create at Nature's Path.

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Cassi Mackey - Consulting Partner

Cassi Mackey, M.Ed. is passionate about helping communities create identity-safe spaces where people are encouraged to make changes to improve relationships. Cassi has witnessed the transformational power of communities that engage in Courageous Conversation, Collaborative Coaching, and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion practices. It is a promise of more meaningful relationships, greater depth of experience, and a broader, more compassionate view of oneself and the world. These practices are essential in order to serve our children and the future of humanity. Cassi has been in the Montessori field for 30 years as a teacher and school leader. She is currently an American Montessori Society (AMS) School Accreditation Commissioner and is Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) School Administrator certified and completed the AMS Anti-bias Anti-racist certification course. She consults with and provides advice to Montessori communities that are intent on generating positive and lasting change.

Contact her via email at

Our Story

Graduates of The Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies (SIMS), Ms. Twyla and Ms. Vari are both AMI certified to work with children aged 3-6. Having collaborated in teaching previously, Ms. Twyla shared her vision for Nature's Path with Ms. Vari, who enthusiastically embraced the invitation to join. They have loved bringing her vision come to life on the picturesque campus in Mesa, Arizona. Together with their families, they dedicated themselves to renovating the school, successfully opening its doors in the fall of 2022.

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