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Jen McDowell


I am thrilled to begin the journey with the wonderful children at Via Montessori!  A long time in the making, this preschool is the culmination of so many amazing things. From that life changing day ten years ago when I first stepped into a Montessori classroom in Hiawatha, Iowa, through hours of coursework, months of practicum experience, endless plans, hopes and dreams (and just a few hiccups!) along the way… Via Montessori Preschool is finally a reality.


Mom of two boys, two dogs, and a guinea pig, wife of an amazingly supportive man who stands by me always (even when I’m stressed out, overly tired, desperately hungry, or simply feeling ornery), I am so grateful for the opportunity to share my love of family and passion for Montessori education with the children of Tucson.  With a Bachelor of Science  degree in Family and Consumer Sciences from Iowa State University, full certification through the American Montessori Society in Early Childhood Education, and years of experience working with children in a variety of settings, I have the necessary tools to provide your child a full and enriching preschool experience.


For me, the Montessori environment offers the perfect blend of science, creativity, hard work, independence, and accountability. And I love that all of those things are experienced through the joys of daily life. The Montessori classroom is a very “real” environment. It’s a place where we can all go to learn, explore, and be ourselves.  We all have a destination, and we’ll all get there one way or another.  I am humbled and honored to have you consider Via Montessori as part of your family’s journey.

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Denise Volmering

Classroom Assistant

I began my journey of working with children in Montessori in 2005, and have worked in several schools in Phoenix, Chattanooga Tennessee, and Tucson. My roles have included working as an assistant in Toddlers, “Tweeners” (young 3’s), Primary, and Lead Toddler Teacher.


I love the calm but stimulating environment of the Montessori classroom, watching children learn at their own pace without judgment. The freedom children have in making decisions, the respect they have in caring for the environment and their friends, the empathy and tolerance they develop…  It is always amazing to watch their level of independence increase as the children are given the opportunity, and how it leads to self-confidence and pride in themselves.

I have been married for 35 years to my wonderful husband, Jim. We both grew up in the same small town in Michigan. Jim’s profession has provided us with the opportunity to live in Tennessee, Oregon, and Phoenix, as well as our favorite, Tucson. We have 3 adult children that live in California and the Phoenix area, two of which are married. We have 3 rescue animals that give us great joy and keep us on our toes!

I look forward to developing a strong relationship with the children and families of Via Montessori, and helping to make this school the best it can be. 


Dena Tsoukaladakis        Classroom Assistant

I have four wonderful kiddos, two dogs and a great husband to help me juggle our chaos. My parents taught me from a young age to always give to those who needed it and showed this through being foster parents for many years. Their dedication to helping those kids in need made me realize I wanted to work with children in the future. 


I was a preschool teacher for about a year an a half and loved the kids but not the chaos of the unorganized school I was working in. I left education and took the Real Estate route and then into Mortgage for many years. I was working from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily and missed my family. So when my oldest started school, I started Volunteering. I was a room mom, a reading aid, and even taught CCD for 2 years. I remembered how much I loved it! I was also the Leader in many Cub Scout Packs and have been on so many events/trips that I have lost count. 


My husband and I own Gumbati Construction, Inc. and I am the Human Resources/Bookkeeper/Payroll Accountant.  My husband is the creative artist who does amazing things to spaces and rooms making your house a home.  We have been lucky and are a word of mouth referral company and have never had to advertise in our 21 years of business. When Chris remodeled the new VIA Preschool Building, Jen and I reconnected and when she said she was looking for a Teaching Assistant, I jumped at the opportunity to work with her. She is amazing and I wanted to learn everything I could from her. ZEN rhymes with JEN for a reason. 


I love my position at VIA and consider myself lucky that I get to help nurture your little humans into the amazing adults they will one day be.  

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