Meet Our Staff


Karl Zierhut
Head of School

2021-22 will mark Mr. Karl’s 27th year in the field of education. During this time, he has enjoyed working in diverse school settings, both large and small, private and public.

Mr. Karl began his career at the high school level as an educator both in the classroom and on the football field. He coached football and completed his student teaching at Mountain View High School, while earning his California State Clear Credential from San Jose State University. From there, he enjoyed teaching and coaching at the high school level at Valencia and Simi Valley High Schools in southern California.

2005 brought a move to El Dorado Hills and a new career in private education, continuing as a classroom teacher and Head Football Coach. From 2008-2014 Karl worked in high school and middle school administration with a 13 month break in those years during which he relocated to Melbourne, Australia with his family. While in Australia, Mr. Karl earned his MBA from the University of LaTrobe.

Mr. Karl sees this upcoming school year as a unique opportunity to provide leadership as Rising Sun Montessori School continues to grow significantly. He and his family look forward to watching our school community grow and flourish in the years ahead.

In his spare time, he enjoys riding just about anything with handlebars, cooking, cross-training and spending time with friends and family.

Ms. Susie is beginning her 2nd year at Rising Sun Montessori, as a Primary teacher (Guide). She has a Master of Arts in Education and is finalizing the Montessori certificate for Primary. She has three years’ experience teaching in a Montessori classroom and is in her tenth year of teaching in a public-school setting. Before that, while her own children were growing up, she was an instructional aide for 14 years in a rural school in the California foothills above Fresno, working in all grades from K to 8th and Special Ed.

Susie has a strong interest in the arts and has engaged in many different art forms from clay, weaving, all things fiber, and many more artistic endeavors. Her dream for this year is to bring as many art experiences as possible to the Sunflower students. She believes art, music, and the Montessori Method give children the chance to express themselves in a way that supports self-esteem and sense of autonomy; something that is so important for a growing child.

Susie has a fiber workshop at her house where she spends hours weaving, knitting, felting, and sewing. She also loves to travel and has been to Chile, Peru, and Spain. Her daughter, Sophie, is a mediator in the fall, winter, and spring months and runs trail crews in the high Sierras in the summer. Susie’s son, Eli, lives in New York City and works as a comedy writer, with SNL on his resume. They are 9th and 10th generation Californians, whose ancestor walked with Father Serra into Alta-California as a foot soldier.

Susie is excited about being back in a primary classroom. She has a deep love and respect for the Montessori approach and believes it is THE key to raising a well-balance individual who knows how to successfully meet the challenges of today’s world. She looks forward to this new school year and all the amazing times with the students.


Susie Carrillo
Lead Teacher TK/K


Susan Vickers
Lead Teacher TK/K

Ms. Susan Vickers resides in Sacramento, CA where she has been an educator for 30 years. She is a licensed Insurance Agent and Minister. She authored a book and is working on a second project.

Ms. Vickers has taught in both the private and public sector. She has been a substitute teacher in addition to having taught Pre School, 2nd, 4th and 5th grades. Susan earned her B.S. at Oregon State University in Exercise Sciences, her Teaching Credential at California State University Sacramento as well as an A.A. in Ministerial Studies.

This past year she served as a National Bible Study Leader with Beyond Ministry Walls. She loves to shop for antiques, watch sports and movies and enjoys taking time to pamper herself.

Ms. Vickers is grateful for the honor of working with the students and families of Rising Sun Montessori. She looks forward to the partnership and having a successful year.

Mrs. Mary is beginning her second year with us here at Rising Sun Montessori. Mrs. Mary  graduated from California State University Sacramento with a Bachelors degree in Psychology.  She has a California Multi Subject Teaching Credential from Chapman University, with authorization to teach second language learners. She also has her certificate in Early Child Development. Mrs. Mary will finish her Montessori Teaching Certificate for lower elementary (6-9 year olds) this school year.  She has been teaching for over ten years.  The lower grade levels are still her favorite age group to inspire. Mrs. Mary has a genuine caring for her students that shows in her teaching environment every day.

Mrs. Mary has been married for 21 years and has two children, Bud and Samantha.  Mrs. Mary was born in the Bay Area and now lives in Placerville with her family. 

Mrs. Mary enjoys travel; she has been to 11 countries and hopes to share some of those cultures in her classroom.  She also enjoys camping, and kayaking. In her spare time, she enjoys crafting, reading books, and playing cards with her family.  She enjoys teaching children reading, math and how to explore the world around them. From day one, Mrs. Mary has been a great addition to our family of talented educators. She looks forward to many more adventures here at Rising Sun Montessori School.

Mary Stout
Lead Teacher K-1 Immersion


Supreet Kullar
Lead Teacher 1st-3rd

Ms. Supreet was born and raised in Canada. Upon earning her Honors Bachelor of Arts at the University of Toronto and teaching credential at Niagara University, she travelled around the world and taught English in Thailand for a semester before returning to Toronto to work in Special Education.

Along this journey, she met her (now) husband at a wedding in California and made the move to the Bay Area in 2019. There she worked at a charter Montessori school in lower elementary for 2 years. She has her California Teaching credential for multiple subjects and Montessori Lower Elementary I (6-9) credential. After tying the knot in July 2021, she and her husband purchased a home in Folsom and made the move with their goldendoodle, Dex.

In Ms. Supreet’s spare time she loves to travel! She has been to 23 countries and the first item on her bucket list is to make it to 30 countries before her 30th birthday. In the meantime, she is looking forward to a great year in the Rising Sun community.

Ms. Elissa comes to Rising Sun with 8 years of Montessori teaching experience. She will be the lead teacher in the Andromeda classroom.

Ms. Elissa earned her Bachelor’s of Science from Sacramento State in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Management, where she focused on Event Planning and “experiential learning.” She
received her K-8 multiple subject teaching credential from Fresno State. Ms. Elissa received her Early Elementary Montessori Credential from The Montessori Training Center.

Ms. Elissa functioned as the lead teacher for the 1st-3rd grade levels, a Montessori Mentor, and Teacher Induction Mentor. She loves Montessori because she loves having students for three consecutive years and nurturing long term relationships with families (especially in the case of siblings.) She leaves behind a school community that loved her dearly and strong student/parental relationships.

Ms. Elissa has a deep appreciation for Montessori learning because of its emphasis on hands-on learning, social and emotional growth, and incorporation of leadership and time-management skills starting at an early age. She cultivates a classroom of warmth, comfort, and safety for the children. She facilitates learning through play, experimentation, and experiences.

Ms. Elissa has a home studio where she creates pottery, using her own pottery wheel and kiln.  She has two small dogs that she enjoys taking on long walks. She is an avid reader and loves to cook. Ms. Elissa is close with her family. This includes her father, a pastor, and her mother, a retired teacher. She also has two brothers and a nephew, who is entering 1st grade.

Elissa Moore
Lead Teacher 1st – 3rd

2023-2023 will be Ms. Raquel de la Cruz first year with Rising Sun Montessori as our Lead Middle school teacher. Ms. Raquel graduated from Patten University in 2016 with a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies. She has 12 years of experience in the educational field with three years as a credentialed Montessori teacher.

Ms. Raquel grew up in the Natomas area. Currently, she resides in Fair Oaks with her husband, Jayson, and two children, Aby and Caleb.

In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, camping, making bread, and cooking.  The Philippines is her second home with most of her husband’s family residing there.  Ms. Raquel is very excited to work with our Middle School group and create an authentic Montessori community with our future leaders.

Raquel de la Cruz
Lead Teacher 7th-8th


Stacey Gregersen
Assistant Teacher/Science Expert

Ms. Stacey earned a bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. After a career in the wine industry, she moved to El Dorado Hills with her husband and raised her 2 boys. As the boys were growing up, she was involved with their school and various sports teams. She was a “professor” for Mad Science and a children’s Director for Lakehills Church.   When Rising Sun Montessori opened in 2014, she was in charge of the extended day program and eventually started subbing in the classroom. When the opportunity for a Teaching assistant job was offered, she jumped at the chance to be part of this wonderful school. Ms. Stacey leads the middle school science program at RSMS.

She enjoys gardening, home improvement projects, and spending time with her family.

Ms. Maggie attended  Fresno Pacific University, where she received her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education.  Maggie has had the opportunity to work with children as a teacher assistant, preschool teacher, and an early Head Start teacher.

Ms. Maggie is a “military wife” and has been married to her husband for over 10 years.  About 7 years ago, they decided to put down roots in Pollock Pines.  They have two energetic kids, Ella and Alexander.  They love spending time together as a family, enjoying the outdoors.

Ms. Maggie has been at Rising Sun since 2017 and she is excited about working with your children this school year.


Margarita Thomas
Assistant Teacher


Sumita Ghorpade
Assistant Teacher

Sumita earned a Master of Science degree in Mathematics from India.  She has completed early childhood Montessori education from the Bay Area.  Sumita has been working with Rising Sun Montessori school since August 2018.  She loves working in the positive and enthusiastic environment of RSMS.  Sumita has over 5 years of experience in teaching.

Sumita fell in love with the Montessori style of teaching when her son started his preschool education over 10 years ago.  She is a very passionate early childhood teacher and loves to work with children and see them grow.

Sumita has been married for over 15 years and has 2 cheerful kids. She enjoys music, dancing, reading, cooking and spending time with family.

Ms. Michelle was born and raised in Sacramento. Currently, she lives in Folsom and has lived there for 12 years. She has graduated from California State University Sacramento with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts. She has a California Multiple Teaching Credential.   Ms. Michelle has worked at different California Montessori Project Campuses for 11 years as a
teacher assistant and in 3 of those years were in Special Education. Then she worked at a Montessori Preschool for 2 years.

In the past, she has tutored students K-8th grade in different subject areas for many years. She also enjoys volunteering for different festivals and races like the Donut Dash and Iron Man.  She looks forward to volunteering again during the summer at the children’s hospital where she was
able to play and interact with children of all ages.

Ms. Michelle has been married for 22 years and has two caring and thoughtful daughters, Emily and Allison. Allison is a senior this year at the nearby high school and Emily is studying Psychology at the nearby community college.

In Ms. Michelle’s spare time she loves to travel! In the last four months, she visited Ireland, Scotland, and Colorado for the first time. She loves adventure and enjoys the outdoors while kayaking, hiking, rollerblading, swimming, gardening, and biking. She is looking forward to her first year of adventures and new beginnings here at Rising Sun Montessori School.

Michelle Nicdao
Specialized Academic Instructor 


Mariel McDonald
 Director of Special Education

Ms. Mariel was born in Sonora California.  She grew up loving Northern California and all its wondrous beauty. As she grew, she spent countless hours playing soccer and skiing. Ms. Mariel has wanted to be a teacher since she was nine years old. When she began my educational journey, it was her intent to become a nurse. Becoming a nurse was the popular route when she was in high school, but shortly after she started college, she learned quickly that nursing life was not for her.  She changed her major to education. 

While in school she began working as a TA for a local charter school in Sonora California. She fell in love with the environment and knew that becoming an educator was the correct path for her. 
Later, she embarked on a wonderful journey that led her to Alaska. She lived in Alaska for a time continuing her education. Then, she had another opportunity to live in Hawaii. In Hawaii she lived on a military base. She was hired to be a Paraeducator at an elementary school on base. Ms. Mariel was assigned to work with a little boy in kindergarten who was living a life with Autism. In Hawaii, she experienced Special Education for the first time and graduated with an associate degree in Elementary Education. Her heart was full and had found it’s calling. 
Ms. Mariel worked in Hawaii for three years. Eventually, she moved to Washington state where she began another journey working in a fully self-contained classroom as a Paraeducator with six students living life on the spectrum. 
She graduated from Western Governors University with a bachelor’s degree in special education, then she returned to Sonora California where she was a Specialized Academic Instructor at a local Charter School. 
In 2020, she met her partner and moved to Sacramento County.  She is happy to call this area her home. This will be Ms. Mariel’s third year with Rising Sun Montessori. The Montessori way changed her life and my entire outlook on education. She is now committed to weaving the Montessori way with Special Education and the state of California. 
She will be starting her 10th year working in Special Education and her first year as Rising Sun Montessori’s Director of Special Education. In January 2024, she will begin her master’s degree in educational psychology.  She is dedicated to creating individualized environments for all of our students. She looks forward to working with her team and becoming the “portable classroom” for Rising Sun Montessori in order to be a pillar for all students to rely on as they continue their educational journey.

This will be Mr. Nick’s 2nd year at Rising Sun Montessori as our office administrator and food service director. He was originally from San Jose, CA and moved to this area back in 1990. After high school he joined the ARMY and was stationed in Germany. He has worked as a retail manager for multiple companies in multiple states. He had moved to Florida to be with his now
wife. They both moved back to the area in 2021. They got married last September and are now expecting their first child this November.

Mr. Nick enjoys snowboarding, music, skateboarding, camping, and visiting new places.

Nick Smith
Front Office & Food Service Program Director


Jenn Short
Administrative Assistant

Ms. Jenn grew up in Massachusetts where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.  Shortly after graduating, she moved to San Diego, CA, where she met her husband. After a couple years, they moved north to his home town in the bay area.  Two dogs, 2 kids and 8 years later, they relocated to El Dorado Hills with their twin daughters, Samantha and Casey. They love spending time with family and friends, traveling, and getting out to enjoy all our beautiful area has to offer.

Ms. Jenn has enjoyed teaching K-5th grade in elementary schools for eight years; as a substitute teacher, reading and math tutor, and Montessori Teacher Assistant.  After two rewarding years as an Assistant Teacher here at RSMS, she made the switch to Administrative Assistant supporting not only students, but our entire RSMS community.

Ms. Robin has Montessori teaching certifications in Early Childhood (3-6) and Elementary (6-12) and a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Education Administration.  Robin is currently enrolled in a Master’s program to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She has been teaching children and designing curriculum for over twenty years.  At a private Montessori School in Folsom, where she was a teacher and the director, Ms. Robin not only taught all grades from PreK-5, she also conducted professional development training with the teaching staff, sharing her knowledge of Montessori best practices to ensure a school-wide authentic model.

Ms. Robin is a board member and Chief Executive Officer of a local behavioral therapy company, which she co-founded in 2006.  She has vast experience serving children with diverse needs and helping families gain access to therapy services that enable their children to be contributing members of their community.

As an original founding member of Rising Sun Montessori School, Ms. Robin continues to provide her vast knowledge and support to the classrooms, teachers, students and families by ensuring RSMS provides authentic, meaningful Montessori education to all students.


Robin Zierhut
Curriculum Coordinator


Amanda Pena
Assistant Teacher

Heather Barnby
Lead Teacher 4th-6th


Amanda Grigsby
TK/K Assistant Teacher

Subhasini Mishra
TK/K Assistant Teacher

Chad Davis
Administrative Assistant/Human Resources

Kaylee Smith
Additional Adult Support