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Our Jacksonville Montessori School team is made up of passionate educators, innovators and parents who want to make a change in the world today. 

Their contribution is invaluable and goes a long way in our quest to making a difference, one child at a time. 

Harvey "Mr Skip" Brinkley

   Director of Outdoor Exploration 

Mr. Skip, as he is fondly called, was born in the South, but has lived in 5 foreign countries and has traveled through all 50 states. He served in the USA, 10th Special Forces Group. Florida has been his home for most of his life and he even married his Central-Florida high-school sweetheart. Skip’s great-grandmother was a Creek Native American and she began the family tradition of mastering Native Plant Lore; the practical usage of all Southern Plants. A born naturalist; he spent most of his youth in the South’s Swamps and Forests, and was fortunate to have a father as his first teacher in the stewardship and use of wild resources. As parents of four children, Skip and Sheila were among the first pioneers in the homeschooling movement of the early 1980’s; eventually recognized for impacting worldwide homeschoolers, via seminars and published materials. The Wild Outdoors became Skip’s best teacher and forged his philosophy of “Staying Connected to Creation”.  He is self-enrolled in the school of lifelong learning; he seeks to inspire the very young and even the very old to do the same. He is a writer, artist, photographer, horticulturalists, and a true storyteller. He is passionate about creating and maintaining quality environment education practices; guiding children as they encounter Nature’s Classroom and gently assisting as they begin their own journey of discovery. He is centered on creating structures out of natural elements, encouraging a world of free play in the outdoors; unstructured flow learning, child-inspired emergent curriculum; and the mastery of inquiry-based teaching style; fostering a lifelong connection with the natural world.

Heather brinkley

 Explorer Studio Teacher

Heather Brinkley was born in the South where faith, hospitality, and family values shaped her deep respect and love for people and the natural world. She grew up in a military family, the youngest of four children. She spent a better part of her childhood in the Midwest where gardening, nature walks, and seasonal changes inspired her childhood with colorful expression. In 2000, she made her way back home to north-east Florida, where she continues to live today. 

Heather has spent the better part of her life leading, teaching, and guiding children and youth of all backgrounds and ages. She believes deeply in the power of positive affirmation and joyful celebration of each individual’s gifts and abilities. She is a passionate advocate for personal growth and creative expression through art and other imaginative media. She believes that one of the highest virtues a person can possess is that of a teachable spirit and a willingness to learn and overcome. Her motto is, “life is a classroom, truth is the guide, wisdom comes from experience, and faith is the courage that empowers us to achieve the impossible.”

Eliot Tucker

   Music/Drama Teacher

Eliot Tucker is a native of Florida, having graduated from Florida State University with a degree in Acting and Directing. At the end of his senior year, he received the award for “Best Actor”. After graduating from FSU, Eliot taught drama at the American College in Lucerne, Switzerland and, following that school year, he moved to Los Angeles to study acting. There, he worked with famed acting teacher Lela Bliss Hayden, whose earlier students included Debbie Reynolds and Marilyn Monroe. At the same time, he pursued his songwriting career, eventually becoming a staff writer with Warner Bros. Music. During this time he also taught and was a director of drama at the Rowe School in Massachusetts.
During his career, Eliot has had songs recorded by such artists as Johnny Mathis, The Jets, Frankie
Laine, and others, as well as having recorded his own CD, Isn’t That Me. He has also had his songs appear in various network TV movies, as well as on PBS, and was asked by composer Lalo Schifrin (Mission Impossible) to compose a song for the James Garner movie Tank. He has collaborated with other composers such as Mark Snow (Blue Bloods) and has had hit songs in the European market.
Before leaving Los Angeles to return to the East Coast, Eliot appeared in the nationally‐televised, comical commercial for Rheem, entitled “The Cold Shower”. 

Eliot now resides in North Florida where he continues to write and produce music. Enchanted by the beauty of its surroundings and by the sweet philosophy of its instruction, he now teaches music and drama at River Oak Academy.


Leah Mc Dermott, M.Ed.

Leah is a homeschooling mother of 2, and a former Master Educator who spent her early career working in inner city public schools, where she realized how little interaction students had with nature and quality literature on a daily basis. It has since become her mission to help parents and teachers around the world bring more natural elements to their children’s everyday learning experiences. She does this mainly through her nature-inspired curriculum and through multiple professional development training programs for educators and parents.  

Leah has over 15 years of experience educating and working with children of all ages, from infancy to college years. She has two Masters of Education degrees as a Reading Specialist, K-12 certification, and Curriculum and Instruction Design. She has been featured on The Huffington Post and has been speaking and offering virtual and live workshops for teachers and parents around the world for the past four years. 

Sara Chakkaphak, M.Ed.

Sara is a Pre-school teacher and mother to a 6-yr old little boy. She spent her childhood mainly on the East Coast but considers Washington State to be home. Having worked in a diverse array of educational settings: public and private schools in the US as well as international schools abroad, Sara realized her passion for creating classrooms where each student feels inherently valued and nurtured. She tries to achieve this goal mainly by taking the time to get to know every child and making sure that lessons are student-led and student-focused. She firmly believes in the unique talents and potential of every child.

Sara has over 10 years experience working with students from toddlers to undergraduates in college. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Vanderbilt University and a Master’s degree in Education from Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College. In her spare time Sara enjoys playing Legos with her son, reading memoirs, and cooking Italian and Thai foods.