Sara Hruska founded Spark Montessori because she was passionate about her children, her community, and the power of the Montessori Method for child development.
Sara has 12 years of experience in the corporate world learning how to build and maintain client relationships, develop brands, and lead teams. And while this experience has taught her much, she always had the entrepreneurial itch to start an organization with a more meaningful mission. Having children provided Sara with the ‘Spark’ of inspiration that she needed to launch Spark Montessori, a modern, authentic Montessori school that promotes and supports the values that are both personally meaningful and culturally relevant.
Sara attended Southwest Montessori Preschool in Palos Park and has a Bachelors in Speech Communications with an Italian minor from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
Margaret Combs is Spark Montessori’s Head of School. Margaret started her work with Spark when it was merely a beautiful idea and a very raw space. She is deeply committed to bringing the full vision of the school to life each and every day. She is responsible for overseeing all parts of Spark’s educational program. strategic planning, creating continual alignment with Spark’s mission and values, building a healthy culture for staff, engaging staff in professional development, and building community across all of the school’s stakeholders.
Margaret brings 20 years of experience as a lead Primary guide and Lower School Coordinator at Alcuin Montessori, one of the most established Montessori schools in the Chicagoland area.
Margaret has presented in numerous conferences on topics such as Creativity in the Montessori Classroom, The Mathematical Mind, and Building Generation Kindness. In addition, she educates the next generation of Montessori teachers as a consultant and guide at Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center and The Center for Guided Montessori Studies. She also consults for other Montessori schools in the area.
Margaret holds her Early Childhood credentials from Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center and is certified through the American Montessori Society (AMS). She also holds two Masters Degrees in Fine Arts.
Minjung Kim is Spark Montessori’s Toddler Program Director as well as the Lead Montessori Guide for the T1 classroom. Her position as Director helps to provide support and consistency across Spark’s Toddler classrooms. Minjung fell in love with the Montessori philosophy after she had her first daughter and connected with Spark’s founder just as the school was about to open. She has a deep passion for the toddler program and loves seeing the children develop as they reach their milestones. Her strengths are building up the community around her and mentoring her team. She also enjoys helping new parents to feel welcome and supported.
Minjung has been at the school since before it opened and is committed to its vision and mission. She values collaboration, positivity, and proactive problem-solving.
Minjung has a Bachelor of Music in Cello Performance from Gangneung-Wonju National University of South Korea and studied in the Master’s program at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory in Russia. She brings her love of music, harmony, and different cultures into the classroom.
When not serving the children of Spark, Minjung spends time exploring Chicagoland and traveling with her two daughters (who attend Spark’s primary program) and her husband. She also enjoys connecting with Spark families in the neighborhood.
Assistant Head of School
Linda Bechtle is the Assistant Head of School and supports the administrative functions of the school. Linda is responsible for managing the general day-to-day operations of the school which includes staffing schedules and coverage, procurement, vendor management, enrollment, and facilities management.
Linda has served in various teaching and administrative roles in Montessori education throughout the years, most recently as Head of School at Midwest Montessori Demonstration School in Evanston and Guidepost at Edgewater. She has her Masters of Education from Plymouth State University and is Montessori certified in Early Childhood and Lower Elementary from the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center, where she served as a lecturer and Early Childhood Coordinator. She discovered Montessori as a parent more than 25 years ago and her daughter is currently working at a Montessori school in Evanston. Her interest in Native American culture led her to launch her own non-profit, focused on building a curriculum that brings the history of Native Americans to life.
Outdoor Program Co-Director & Outdoor Lead Guide
Sarah Bethel (She/Her) is one of Spark Montessori’s Outdoor Program Co-Directors, as well as the Lead Outdoor Guide for the P2 classroom. She works alongside Stacy Niemiec in bringing outdoor, nature-based education to the Spark children on a daily basis.
Sarah has worked in environmental education for the past eight years, three of those years being at an outdoor preschool in Seattle, WA. Her experiences in nature-based learning, garden education, and all-weather fun, have prepared her to help expand and solidify Spark’s Outdoor Program. Sarah has presented on nature-based early childhood education at the Natural Start Alliance’s annual conference, as well as the Northern Illinois Natural Preschool Association conference and is excited to continue this important work here at Spark!
Sarah has a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon and a Masters of Education from Antioch University.
When not out at Horner Park with the Spark kiddos, Sarah can be found taking bike rides around the city, baking up a storm in her kitchen, or out walking her dog Lew with her husband Max along the beautiful Lake Michigan waterfront.
Outdoor Program Co-Director & Outdoor Lead Guide
Stacy Niemiec (She/Her) is one of Spark Montessori’s Outdoor Program Co-Directors, as well as the Lead Outdoor Guide for the P1 classroom. She works alongside Sarah Bethel in bringing outdoor, nature-based education to the Spark children on a daily basis.
Stacy has worked with young children for the past 10 years in environmental education, outdoor learning, and developmental therapy. Her joyful and wondrous experiences being with children outdoors, in all weather, have fueled her passion for Spark’s Outdoor Program.
Stacy has a Bachelor of Science in Earth and Environmental Science from UIC, and a Masters degree in Child Development from Erikson Institute.
When not in Horner Park enjoying a beautiful afternoon, Stacy can be found taking local hikes, long bike rides, hanging at the beach and camping with her son, Levi, who is a P2 student!