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Meet the Partners


Twyla Hommert - Founding Partner and Lead Guide

Ms. Twyla's enthusiasm for Montessori was so intense that she knew as soon as she started her AMI Montessori training in 2018, that she wanted to open up her own school. It did not take long for this dream to come to fruition and the campus for Nature's Path Montessori was purchased at the end of 2021. Previously Ms. Twyla has worked for Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC), was trained in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and worked with children on the spectrum. She also has certification through the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) where she focused on fitness with children with special needs. Ms. Twyla is married and has two children who have all taken part in making her dream of building this school a reality.

Vari Sheppard - Directing Partner and Lead Guide

Ms. Vari is fascinated with early childhood development. She believes that if we can support children at this stage in all domains, they can have the strongest foundation for future life and education; this is why she loves the Montessori philosophy that supports the whole child. She compliments her Montessori AMI training with a bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education and is currently working on a master's in Early Childhood Education and Business at ASU. Having the opportunity to support Ms. Twyla and be the Directing Partner at Nature's Path is a position Ms. Vari is very excited about and looks forward to supporting the Montessori community through this endeavor. She is married and has one daughter. Ms. Vari's family have also helped get the school up and running!




Karen Lirange - Assisting Partner

Ms. Karen’s path to Montessori started in 2005 as a parent volunteer in the primary class of her 2 children, she immediately fell in love with the Montessori philosophy. Due to her excitement and energetic attitude, she was invited to become an Outdoor Environment teacher. Over the past 12 years, she has worked in many areas of the Montessori environment. In 2017, an opportunity to become Campus Manager became available, where she focused on assisting office managers, teaching staff and the school principal throughout the day. Ms. Karen’s key effort was to develop and implement a campus standard of care and effective school principles. These principles guided the students, parents and staff by helping them successfully implement the school’s vision for a healthy, safe and successful environment for the students. Ms. Karen grew up in Mesa, Arizona. She loves cooking, being active and  traveling the world with her husband and children.

Ms. Karen is very excited to join Natures Path Montessori as Assisting Partner in the Primary program.

Angie Fretz - Outdoor Partner

Ms. Angie began her Montessori journey as a parent volunteer in 2012. After a year of working in the classroom and learning the Montessori lessons, she was invited to become an Assistant in the Lower Elementary environment. Her love of nature, botany, and science eventually brought her to become a guide of the outdoors. Her classroom was an outside area called the Peace Garden and there she was able to guide students from 2 to 12 years old in the exploration and wonder of the world around them. Throughout the past 10 years, she has taken the Montessori Assistant program, attended the Arizona School Garden Sustainability Summit, partook in the Arizona Urban Forestry Initiative curriculum by AZSA, completed the Teaching Students to Ask Their Own Geo-Inquiry Questions course with National Geographic, and participated in many Montessori Professional Development workshops. Ms. Angie is now taking her 3-6 Montessori Training with the Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies and is excited to be a part of Nature’s Path Montessori. Ms. Angie has lived in Tempe for 25 years. She loves spending time with her teenage daughter, hiking, swimming, volunteering, and attending garden and sustainability webinars and events.


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

Ms. Twyla and Ms. Vari both graduated from The Southwest Institute of Montessori Studies (SIMS) in Mesa, Arizona and are AMI certified to work with 3-6 year olds. They co-taught previously and when Ms. Twyla explained her vision of Nature's Path and invited Ms. Vari to be part of it, she jumped at the opportunity. Ms. Twyla is excited to bring her vision to life at this beautiful campus in Mesa, Arizona. Both ladies and their families have been working on refurbishing and are on track to open fall 2022! Cassi Mackey was the principal at their previous school, and when she branched out to focus on her career as a Montessori Consultant, they immediately invited her to come on board to be their Consulting Partner as they navigate this new and exciting adventure. 

An authentic Montessori School in the Heart of the Desert
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Nature's Path Montessori is a small, beautiful campus in the East Valley. We are educators who believe that children grow and learn best when they can be in touch with nature. 

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