Our Staff


Connect with Brandy on LinkedInBrandy Franks

Founder / President

Brandy (Warner) Franks is a graduate of Tallmadge High School. She attended Mount Union College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, and Plymouth State University, where she earned her master’s degree in Elementary Education with a Montessori Concentration. She holds a Primary (Preschool/Kindergarten) Montessori Education diploma from North American Montessori Center (NAMC). Brandy completed her post-graduate, master’s level Montessori certification from Mid-America Montessori Teacher Training Institute in Omaha, Nebraska, and received an AMS Elementary I (Grades 1-3) and AMS Elementary II (Grades 4-6) Certification. Brandy has worked with children in many settings including day care facilities, coaching athletics (softball, swimming and basketball), Montessori schools and The Cleveland Clinic Foundation treatment programs. She is a member of the American Montessori Society (AMS) and the North American Montessori Teacher Association (NAMTA).

Throughout Brandy’s life she has had a passion for teaching and guiding children. Some of Brandy’s fondest memories are of her own experiences attending Montessori school as a child. The impact this had on Brandy’s life is the reason she has chosen the Montessori Method of education for her own school. Brandy continues to pursue her dream of helping children learn and grow through Absorbent Minds Montessori School. Brandy resides in Stow with her husband and four children.


Kelly Andamasaris


Kelly (Davis) Andamasaris is a graduate of Stow-Munroe Falls High School and earned her American Montessori Society (AMS) accredited teaching credential through Mid-America Montessori Teacher Training Institute in Nebraska. She is a member of the American Montessori Society (AMS) and the North American Montessori Teacher Association (NAMTA). Kelly did not originally begin her career path with her eyes set on Montessori Education, yet the twists and turns of life opened doors and she found her calling! Kelly’s first experience with Absorbent Minds Montessori School was during its inaugural year. During that year she began to see the impact the school had on her child as well as all of the other students and their families. This impact is what led Kelly to join the administrative team of Absorbent Minds and to complete her own Montessori certification. Kelly is passionate about the Montessori approach to education.  She believes we have a great responsibility to lead and guide our next generation and can achieve this by creating the environment where a child develops a passion for learning and the confidence to succeed. Kelly continues to serve the “Smarter Families” at Absorbent Minds in managing the operations and administration of both campuses. Kelly resides in Stow with her husband and their three children and loves to spend time with family, friends and serve at her church.


Katharine Case

Directress – Cuyahoga Falls

Katharine Case (“Kate”) is a graduate of Firestone High School and the University of Akron, where she earned an Associate degree in Early Childhood Development. Kate has over ten years of experience working in the childcare field as an Assistant Director, Lead Teacher and Co-Teacher in the Pre-Kindergarten and Preschool age classrooms. Kate also has experience as an Early Learning Initiative teacher. Kate enjoys being part of the Absorbent Minds family and treasures the opportunity to use her experience and education to positively impact the children of our community. She has completed her Montessori Certification through North American Montessori Center, British Columbia, Canada. Kate loves the Montessori approach and takes pride in her prepared environment for each student. Kate is a twin and values spending time with family. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, walking and time outdoors. While a native Akronite, Kate presently resides in Stow with her husband and son.


John Kotradi

Director / Science Teacher – Cuyahoga Falls

John Kotradi holds a Bachelor of Arts in Human Ecology from The Ohio State University (O-H, I-O), and an American Montessori Society (AMS) Primary (Preschool/Kindergarten) Montessori certification from Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in Evanston, Illinois. John’s experience with the Montessori Method of education began when his own children started school. Through watching them thrive in the environment he was inspired to get involved and become a teacher. John’s passion for influencing his students shows in everything he does. John strongly believes the Montessori environment promotes independence, self-reliance and good statesmanship. In addition to John’s passion for the Montessori teaching philosophy he shares his enthusiasm for science with all of the children at Absorbent Minds Montessori School. One of John’s favorite things about teaching science is exploring through experiments and seeing the children develop their own hypotheses. John resides in Akron raising his three children. Go Buckeyes!


Kristen Minnich

Directress – Cuyahoga Falls

Kristen Minnich is a graduate of Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy and The University of Akron, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Music with an emphasis in voice. Kristen earned her American Montessori Society (AMS) teaching credential through Mid-America Montessori Teacher Training Institute in Nebraska. In addition to her affection for music, Kristen has a passion for education and making a difference in her students’ lives. She delights in bringing her love of music into the classroom. Kristen is excited to have the opportunity to teach at Absorbent Minds and to be a part of a Montessori learning environment. She feels the values that a Montessori environment offers children are crucial to a child’s successful future. She has seen first hand how the Montessori classroom promotes independence, self-esteem, critical thinking, and most importantly a love of learning. In her spare time, Kristen works at Firefly Music Studio in Akron, where she has taught voice and piano lessons for several years. She is also a member of the Summit Choral Society’s Masterworks Chorale, where she sings in the soprano section. Kristen and her husband Josh, and their cat Akali, reside in Akron.


Courtney Owens

Directress – Tallmadge

Courtney Owens is a graduate of Hudson High School and The University of Akron, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. In addition, Courtney earned her American Montessori Society (AMS) Primary (Preschool/Kindergarten) Montessori certification through Mid-America Montessori Teacher Training Institute in Nebraska, and holds a State of Ohio Early Childhood Education teaching license (Pre-K to 3). Courtney enjoys being part of the Absorbent Minds family and is passionate about using her experience to be a compassionate, enthusiastic, intelligent directress who will make a positive contribution in the lives of her students. Courtney relishes the opportunity to provide students with a foundation to mastering basic skills at their own rate. Courtney thrives on being creative, nurturing, and most of all patient. Courtney is an animal lover who enjoys spending time with her two dogs. Courtney also enjoys going biking, hiking, and running in the Cuyahoga Valley National Parks with her husband. Courtney and her husband currently reside in Cuyahoga Falls with their two children.


Ashley Steurer

Directress Elementary – Tallmadge

Ashley Steurer is a graduate of Barberton High School and Xavier University, where she found the Montessori Method for the first time. While at Xavier, she received her Bachelor of Science in Montessori Education and obtained her American Montessori Society Primary (Preschool/Kindergarten) certification, as well as her State of Ohio teaching license (P – 3, Reading P – 3). She is currently pursuing her AMS Elementary I (Grades 1-3) and AMS Elementary II (Grades 4-6) Montessori Certification from Mid-America Montessori Teacher Training Institute in Nebraska. Ashley spent two years working in a Primary Montessori classroom as an Assistant and then a Lead Teacher before joining Absorbent Minds Montessori School. Ashley is excited to continue her love of learning and teaching with the Elementary program. When Ashley stumbled upon the Montessori Method, she fell in love with the idea of educating the whole child, not just teaching to read and write, but to prepare them to make a difference as adults and to learn to live in peace with all people. Ashley grew up in Akron where she currently resides with her family. In her spare time, Ashley enjoys reading and spending time with family and friends. Ashley also practices yoga and has recently joined a group to start a community garden at the yoga studio.


Ame Bartlebaugh

Co-Directress – Cuyahoga Falls

Ame is a graduate of Deer Valley High School and is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education from The University of Akron. Ame grew up in a Montessori elementary school. That experience, along with guidance from her teachers, led her to pursue a future in education. Ame has taught in after-school programs and has been a nanny for a wonderful family in the Akron area while pursuing her Early Childhood degree. She first came to Absorbent Minds as a student observer completing field work through her program at The University of Akron and fell in love with Absorbent Minds Montessori School, the students and staff. Shortly after her field placement work, she began substitute teaching at Absorbent Minds and feels she has benefited through experience in all of our classrooms across both campuses. She hopes to bring her creativity, enthusiasm and passion for learning into the classroom. Ame grew up in Antioch, California and moved to Akron in 2010. She currently resides in Stow, and although she misses the California weather, has grown to love the area and the people she has met. In her free time she enjoys cooking, reading, being outdoors, spending time with friends and family, and traveling.


Breanna Boca

Co-Directress – Tallmadge

Breanna Boca is a graduate of Cuyahoga Falls High School and The University of Akron where she earned her Associate degree in Early Childhood Development. She first came to Absorbent Minds as part of an internship program her senior year of high school and enjoyed remaining a substitute through her college experience. Breanna loved having the unique opportunity to learn from experience in all of the classrooms throughout her time as a substitute, but is excited to now be a permanent part of one classroom and make a significant impact in her students’ lives.  Breanna loves witnessing the humor, imagination, and intelligence that children possess and the growth in each child over time. There is nothing more rewarding to her than to see the pride in a child’s eyes when their hard work pays off and they master a difficult concept. In her free time, Breanna likes to play with her little cousins and spend time with her family and friends. Breanna lives in Cuyahoga Falls with her parents and two siblings.

Ed Davis

Co-Director Elementary – Tallmadge

Edward Davis (“Ed”) is a graduate of North High School and The University of Akron, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Middle Level Education with concentration areas in language arts and science. Ed also obtained his State of Ohio teaching license (Grades 4-9). He has cared for and worked with children in many different settings, including his own younger brothers, as a counselor at YMCA summer camps, a tutor throughout high school and college, a homeschool teacher, and a mentor through field experiences. Within Montessori, Ed loves the idea of preparing each learner to become an active adult and a future member of society. He believes the only way to prepare each student for their future is to give them the tools they will need early in life, so they may become comfortable and fluent with these skills well before their own adulthood. In his spare time, Ed likes working in the garage, tinkering, building, and repairing. He also loves working on and learning about cars, especially historic imports.

Mel Minich

Co-Directress – Cuyahoga Falls

Born and raised in South Korea, Mel Minich, has earned two bachelor’s degrees; one in international trade, the second in Chinese language and literature. Mel has a love for languages and enjoys bringing her passion into the classroom. She often teaches her students words and phrases in Korean, Chinese, Japanese, German, French, and Spanish. While living in Korea, Ms. Mel taught English, Chinese, and Japanese for 10 years, before starting a family.

In 2010, she moved with her family to northeast Ohio for better educational opportunities for her children. Mel discovered Montessori education through her husband’s teaching experiences in a Montessori middle school. She has fallen in love with the philosophy and enjoys seeing her students learn and grow. When Mel is not teaching she enjoys studying languages, teaching meditation, and knitting.


Sabrina Rich

Co-Directress – Cuyahoga Falls

Sabrina Rich is a graduate of Walsh University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. Her post graduate, Master’s level Montessori certification was attained from Columbus Montessori Teacher Education Program (CMTEP), in Columbus, OH. She has over 17 years of experience in a variety of settings using the Montessori Method of education, and believes that Montessori is more than an educational method, but is also a way of life. Sabrina is grounded by her faith, and her other passions are medical and dental missions abroad with Go InterNational, which she will continue to do in the summer months of June or July. She is an avid reader, reading about 3 to 4 books simultaneously, and is trilingual. Sabrina is married to her husband Paul, of over 20 years. They reside in Canton, OH, with their 25 pound black cat.  She is very excited to be a part of the team at Absorbent Minds Montessori School!


Kathleen Souza

Co-Directress – Cuyahoga Falls

Ms. Kathleen Souza is a graduate of St. Vincent, St Mary’s High School. She has worked with children of many ages in various settings for over 20 years, including leading her classrooms in the daycare setting, caring for children in their home environment and being a Teacher’s Aid in public schools. It has always been a dream of Ms. Kathleen’s to care for and teach children of all ages. She is so excited to be a part of the Absorbent Minds family! Ms. Kathleen is an avid reader and loves books. She is also a movie buff who enjoys going out to the movies. Spending time with her family and her nephews and nieces is very important to Kathleen. Ms. Kathleen resides in Stow with her family.



Faith Weihe

Co-Directress – Tallmadge

Faith Weihe is a graduate of Cuyahoga Falls High School and Malone University where she dual majored in Early Childhood Education and Intervention Specialist, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood Education, and an AMS Primary (Preschool/Kindergarten) Montessori Certification from Mid-America Montessori Teacher Training Institute in Nebraska. Faith has worked with children in a variety of settings such as schools, tutoring, summer programs, and day cares. She enjoys working with young students and seeing their excitement for learning and being part of a collaborative classroom in the Montessori environment where the students can learn at their own pace. In her spare time, Faith volunteers at her church teaching in the children’s church, likes hiking through the Metro and Cuyahoga Valley National Parks, reading, and photography.



Brian Martinelli

Brian Martinelli

Elementary Physical Education Teacher – Tallmadge

Brian Martinelli, a graduate of Cuyahoga Falls High School, has always had a passion for physical education and sports. After the birth of his son, Zach, Brian started volunteering his time to coach t-ball, baseball and basketball…first for his son’s teams and then for others. In doing so, he found a passion for coaching children. Brian currently has a full-time job as a salesman for Cintas Corporation. But being able to teach children the importance of health and instill self-confidence in each child regardless of their athletic ability is what has brought great fulfillment into Brian’s life. Brian is grateful to Brandy for the opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives and looks forward to Fridays when he has the chance to spend time with the students of Absorbent Minds. Brian’s favorite hobbies are volleyball, racquetball, watching the Cleveland Browns and taking his family’s money in a long game of monopoly. Brian currently lives in Cuyahoga Falls with his wife, Cortney and his son, Zach, who has attended Absorbent Minds since he was 3 years old.


Renée Blankenship

Art Teacher

Renée Blankenship is a graduate of Copley High School and The University of Akron, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in Middle Level Education with a concentration in Language Arts and Social Studies, as well as a minor degree in child development. She has five years of experience teaching as an assistant in a Primary Montessori classroom, where she first fell in love with the Montessori way of learning.

Witnessing firsthand how the Montessori method encouraged each child as an individual learner changed her perspective on teaching and ultimately her own career path. Following her years as a Primary classroom assistant, Renée used what she learned creating hands on art projects in the classroom and began teaching an art summer camp for a group of young homeschooled children while starting her own photography business. Discovering how much fun teaching art was, she began working as an art instructor for Kidz Art for three years. She was able to gain further experience teaching after school art classes for elementary students, library art classes for preschoolers, middle school classes and even an art themed birthday party now and then!

Renée has spent the last three years teaching art and photography to middle school and high school students through a homeschooling co-op, where she has had the freedom to create her own curriculum, work one on one with students and organize fun events like yearly art shows. Renée has found encouraging creativity and expression, especially in young students, to be such a rewarding part of teaching art. With her background in the Montessori classroom, she is able to create a classroom experience that fosters independence from the teacher while encouraging students to work together, learn and explore the world of art.

In her free time, Renée enjoys reading, taking walks with her family and photographing weddings (or just her kids!). She loves being a mom more than anything and especially enjoys letting her preschooler experiment with art at home! She lives in Uniontown with her husband and their two children.


Carol DeeserCarol Deeser

Elementary Latin Teacher – Tallmadge

Carol is a graduate of St Vincent High School and of the University of Akron, where she received her Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Latin and her Master’s in English. Carol was a tenured teacher at Copley High School, where she taught American literature (honors and college prep), Latin 1 and II, and Greek mythology. At Copley she also served as proofreader for the student newspaper, as Ski Club adviser, as National Honor Society adviser, as a coach for English scholarship teams (which won first place in the State of Ohio three times), and as an instructor for ACT/SAT prep classes.

Carol is excited to have this opportunity to introduce students to the Latin language and to the classical culture and to guide students in exploring how the classical world still impacts modern life.

Tallmadge has been home to Carol for many years. She is active in the Tallmadge Historical Society, the Tallmadge Library Association, her neighborhood, the OLV parish, and the Goodyear Ski Club.



Lisa Adams

Music Teacher

Lisa Adams is a teacher, singer and co-arranger of music used in the Exploring Music curriculum. Lisa has a Bachelor of Arts in music education and over 20 years of teaching experience. She has also sung professionally throughout the United States. For each of her weekly classes, Lisa selects songs and develops lessons to teach many areas of music in a way young children can both understand and enjoy. Lisa loves sharing her passion for music with children.



Master Barnick

Tae Kwon Do Instructor

Master Barnick holds a 4th degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and has been studying Martial Arts since 1998. He specializes in teaching children 2.5-5 years old and has been a Tae Kwon Do instructor for Asian Sun for over 11 years. During his career at Asian Sun, Ohio’s best Martial Arts School, ranked by number of Black Belts produced, Master Barnick has produced many black belts himself and coached National Champions. He is the General Manager and Head Instructor at Asian Sun Tallmadge. Master Barnick has a passion and gift for teaching children Tae Kwon Do. He has brought the Asian Sun program to many preschools and is excited to share his passion with the students at Absorbent Minds.



Elisabeth Ihde Cavallaro

Lead Dance Instructor

Elisabeth Ihde Cavallaro received her training from the Akron Dance Institute. She was also a scholarship recipient with the Jofrrey Ballet, The Rock School and the Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. Throughout high school, she performed many leading roles with Akron University’s Repertory Dance Company. Elisabeth has performed professionally with the Ohio Dance Theater, the Pennsylvania Ballet and the Ohio Ballet. She has been teaching dance throughout Northeast Ohio for over 15 years and loves working with children of all ages and abilities. Her goal as a teacher is to instill passion and enthusiasm for the performing arts. In addition to running her own studio, IhDe Rather Be Dancing School of Dance, located in Cuyahoga Falls, Elisabeth partnered with Absorbent Minds Montessori School. Together they will utilize her talents, passion and artistic ability to bring the world of dance to the preschool environment.