Aster Montessori Staff

Caring, Trained, Experienced, and Creative!

Aster Montessori boasts well-trained and passionate educators dedicated to nurturing each child’s unique needs. They pledge to provide a safe, supportive, and engaging learning environment where children can explore, discover, and learn at their own pace. With their in-depth knowledge of Montessori education and their caring approach, the staff at Aster Montessori School will help your child develop a solid foundation for lifelong learning and success.

All teachers, including the directors, are certified by the American Montessori Society. All our teachers have at least a bachelor’s degree with several years of experience in teaching young children.

Aster Montessori School Staff

Aparna Masalkar

Founder & Director, Aster Montessori

My passion is providing quality education to young children and ensuring their social and emotional growth. I had heard about the Montessori Method for a long time and decided to explore it for my daughter’s preschool education. I was impressed to see children of different ages working harmoniously in a classroom, each involved in activities according to their abilities and interests. The Montessori Method is highly successful in providing a solid foundation that includes a positive attitude towards school, a sense of inner security and order, pride in their physical environment, enduring curiosity, the ability to concentrate, make decisions, take the initiative, and be persistent, self-discipline, and a sense of responsibility to others. This foundation enables children to acquire knowledge and skills faster throughout their schooling and career.

I started Aster Montessori in 2009 to make a quality school available to the children of our area. I am an American Montessori Society (AMS) certified teacher. In addition, I have BS and MS degrees in Microbiology and Environmental Sciences. I am also a Washington state-verified STAR trainer with over twenty years of teaching and administrative experience. I actively participate in refresher training in childcare and management and hold various workshops to share my knowledge with the parents and staff. Apart from English, I speak Japanese and Indian languages, and my multicultural knowledge and experience are an advantage for the children.

I enjoy listening to classical music and spending time with my husband, our two lovely daughters, and our dog in my free time.

Rita Calcagno

Director, Aster Montessori - Issaquah Highlands Center

I bring over 20 years of experience in Montessori education at the classroom, program, and center levels. I have always loved children, learning, health, and nature. From an undergraduate interest in Economics and as a mom, I discovered Montessori. My trajectory shifted to acquiring a teaching certification and a post-baccalaureate degree in Human Development. I recently pursued a master’s degree in education, focusing on Montessori. Most recently, I earned a Montessori coach’s certification.

Separate from Montessori, I cultivated a yoga practice by formally training to instruct Yoga. I enjoy friends and family and, whenever possible, explore the world’s beautiful landscapes through travel.

Patti Schlegelmilch

Office Manager and Program Coordinator

I am excited to be the Office Manager and Program Coordinator at Aster Montessori. I am passionate about education and the Montessori method, and I have worked in Montessori education as a lower elementary teacher for many years. I am pleased to bring my skills and experience to a new role. My three children all attended a Montessori school, and I have witnessed first-hand, as a parent and a teacher, the benefits that Montessori provides. Outside work, I enjoy hiking, yoga, gardening, and sewing.

Rakhi Joshi

Lead Teacher

I have been at Aster Montessori since 2015. I am a Montessori teacher certified by the AMS. I also have a bachelor’s degree in Botany. I adore Montessori philosophy and enjoy working with the children in a Montessori environment. Both my children went to a Montessori school. Outside of work, I like to read books and spend time with my family, gardening, or hiking.

Ketaki Deshpande

Lead Teacher

I have been a part of Aster Montessori since 2019. I am a certified Montessori Teacher from the AMS and hold a master’s in commerce. I love teaching preschool-aged children and watching them thrive in the Montessori environment. Some of their questions and actions are so innovative that they allow me to learn. I enjoy cooking and spending time with my family in my free time.

Rajika Kumari

Lead Teacher

I am excited to be a part of the Aster Montessori. I am a firm believer in Montessori philosophy. I started being curious about the Montessori Method when I enrolled my older son in a Montessori school when he was 3, just one week after we came to the USA! I have two sons; both attended Montessori school till it was time for middle school. My older son is now almost 18 years old, and I am continuing my journey, immersing myself in Montessori philosophy, which has helped me to be a better mother, an educator, and a person. I received my AMS certification in 2016. The Montessori Method guides children to be independent, confident, respectful, logical thinkers, kind, gracious, and considerate.