Welcome to South Walton Montessori Academy

Thank you for your interest in South Walton Montessori Academy.

We are located at 101 Eden Gardens Road in Point Washington, FL.  We currently have enrolled approximately 80 children between the ages of 18 months through the 8th grade.


Toddler Class:
18 months up to 3 years old.  Max of 12 students with 2 teachers.

Primary Class:
3 to 6 year olds.  Max of 30 students for 3 teachers.

Lower Elementary:
First, Second and Third Grade.  Max of 20 students for 2 teachers.

Upper Elementary:
Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Grade.  Max of 20 students for 2 teachers.

Middle School:
Seventh and Eighth Grade.  Max of 10 students for 1 teacher.


**The ages listed above for each class are APPROXIMATIONS and often vary**


We follow a similar calendar as Walton County Public Schools. 
Drop off is between 8 and 8:20.
Pick up times are as follows:

Toddler:  2:30PM  Primary: 2:45 PM       Elementary & Middle: 3:00PM

All students wear uniforms.  Khaki bottoms with Navy or Grey T-shirts or Polos.

Students bring their own lunch in accordance with our healthy food policy.

The annual tuition is $9500.00 per child.   We offer quarterly payment plans and monthly payment plans.   Financial assistance is available for qualifying families.

Parents are required to volunteer at least 25 hours throughout the school year.

Parents are required to attend a minimum of 4 Parent Education nights throughout the year.  Parent Education nights are offered monthly in the evenings and childcare is provided for a nominal fee.   Parents are strongly encouraged to attend every meeting.  This is one of the most important things you can do to understand your investment in your child's education.

  • What Is Montessori?

    The Montessori Method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. Dr. Montessori’s Method has been time tested, with over 100 years of success in diverse cultures throughout the world.

    It is a view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive.


South Walton Montessori Academy Staff

Catherine Beall,
Head of School, Elementary Lead Teacher

Catherine is the Head of School as well as the Lower Elementary Teacher.  She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Louisiana State University with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Information Technology. She worked as a Consultant in Houston, TX for Deloitte Consulting for 2 years.  While in Houston, she was introduced to the Montessori philosophy by a close friend who is a Montessori teacher.


Catherine left Deloitte after 2 years, got married and moved to Spring Hill, FL (just north of Tampa) all within 3 months. Following her dream of becoming a teacher, she obtained a Montessori teaching position at Wider Horizons School in Spring Hill – taught in both the early childhood and lower elementary classes; also taught Freshman English and instituted a Manners class for the junior high and high school students.  She moved to Panama City in August 2003 for her husband, Kevin’s, new job with hopes to find a Montessori teaching position. Upon discovery that the closest Montessori school was in Ft. Walton, she decided to start a school. She happened upon a group of parents in Rosemary Beach already trying to start a Montessori School in their community.  Everyone seemed to have the same vision for the new school, and Catherine was hired to be the Director of the South Walton Montessori Academy.


Catherine completed the academic phase of the AMS Lower Elementary credential at the Houston Montessori Center summer 2004 and received her credential upon successful completion in summer 2005. Catherine received her Masters of Education in Montessori Integrative Learning through the Houston Montessori Center and Endicott University in Boston in May 2006, with a thesis titled, “Montessori Elementary Education: Nurturing a Universe of Responsible Humans.”  This is Catherine’s fourteenth year of teaching Montessori Education.

Beth Brock
Assistant Director


Beth Brock grew up in Atlanta, GA and has enjoyed vacationing along the Emerald Coast her entire life. She attended Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, where she graduated on the Dean’s List with a BS in Early Childhood Education.  She obtained her Montessori Director/Administrator Credential through AMS in December of 2012. 

Always one for adventure, she was a White Water River Guide in college and has enjoyed extensive worldwide travel. After graduation, she was the Assistant Teacher in the Toddler and Primary classrooms at a Montessori School in Breckenridge, Colorado. Beth enjoys fishing, live music, snowboarding, and spending time on the beautiful emerald coast beaches.  Beth holds the title of Assistant Director and is the main point of contact for the school.  Beth joined SWMA in 2008.

Tammy Sumner
Toddler Lead Teacher


Tammy is the lead teacher for the Toddler Community.  She received her Montessori Infant/Toddler credential in 1997 from the Montessori Education Center of the Rockies-Pacific Northwest.  Tammy was first introduced to Montessori education when observing a Montessori Toddler classroom in Anchorage, Alaska and knew it was the teaching method that made the most sense to her.  When the opportunity presented itself to move to Seattle, Washington to take the training, Tammy packed up and moved to Seattle where she taught until 2003 when she moved to Phoenix, Arizona to teach at Khalsa Montessori School.


Although she loved the Southwest, when she got married in the summer of 2005, Tammy found herself in Sylvester, Georgia.  She spent the next few years being a full time step mom for three children.  Tammy also spent time being a volunteer for CASA, a program that is a judicial advocate for children who are in foster care.  In late 2010, Tammy found an ad for a Toddler Teacher on the AMS website, and made a call to South Walton Montessori Academy.  After observing the classroom and meeting the staff, Tammy fell in love with the school and the area, and began teaching at SWMA in February, 2011.  Tammy enjoys cooking, entertaining, and reading in her spare time.

Erica Wirka
Primary Assistant Teacher

Erica was born in Fort Walton Beach, FL but started moving around soon after wherever the Air Force sent her family.  Erica has lived all over the U.S. and even Guam.  After graduating with a BA in Speech Communication from Valdosta State University in 2012, Erica’s family was once again stationed on the Emerald Coast.  Loving the area and receiving a retail management position she moved down from Valdosta, GA, closer to family.  Erica worked in retail 3 1/2 years but has always had an interest in becoming a teacher.  An opportunity to work in the Primary Classroom at SWMA arose and Erica has absolutely fallen in love with the Montessori way/philosophy, and of course the school, staff, and students! Erica is looking forward to starting her Early Childhood teacher certification program this summer in Orlando.


In her spare time, Erica loves spending time with her husband, John, family, and dog, Archer.  She enjoys being outside, trying to garden and cook, loves the ocean, scuba diving, and music.


Lauren Peebles

Lead Teacher Primary Class


Lauren Peebles relocated from San Francisco to the Emerald Coast in 2009.  With a background and business in orthopedic sales, she decided to pursue her Master's degree in Early Childhood Education. It was at this time she was blown away by the Montessori method of teaching. She pursued her Primary Teaching Certificate from the Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center in Chicago, Illinois in 2010. She completed her internship in 2012 and has been teaching in the Montessori environment for eight years. In addition, Lauren trains and certifies teachers and children nationally in the Cirque De Soleil art form of Aerial Dance. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with her family, her dog Jackson, and practicing yoga.



Julia Roberts
Spanish Teacher

Growing up in Vienna, Austria, with all its history and cultural diversity, Julia soon found her passion for foreign languages and cultures. After graduating high school with an emphasis on Spanish, Art and Psychology she started taking courses in Italian and Greek.


Working as an international flight attendant for the next 6 years, Julia spent more time in Asia, Australia, North- and Central America than at home and her wanderlust became even greater.


So she embarked on an extensive trip to Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, obtaining a Spanish diploma in Antigua, Guatemala, where she met her husband, Tim Roberts.


After getting married on the beautiful Emerald Coast in 2009, Julia decided to move to the area and help support her husband's non-profit medical clinic.


In 2011 she was offered the opportunity to teach German and Spanish at SWMA and "it was love at first sight". Within the next months Julia also started teaching P.E. and upon request by her students applied languages to the exercises to achieve an ultimate immersion. "Having the opportunity and being a part of something so wonderful, seeing students grow and the eagerness and curiosity of wanting to learn is the most rewarding experience."

Cam Ray
Upper Elementary Teacher Assistant, Music Specialist



Cam was born and raised on Amelia Island in Northeast Florida.  He attended the local Montessori school through kindergarten.   Cam began piano lessons at age 6, studying classical music for 12 years, and then began studying jazz.  He has scored top ratings at numerous competitions as well as received many scholarships and awards for both classical and jazz piano.


He graduated from the University of North Florida in 2002 with a BM Degree in Jazz Studies/Piano Performance.  After college, Cam was the instrumental director at Christ’s Church in Jacksonville for 3 years, and following that he became a full-time music instructor/performer.  Cam has been playing piano professionally for 22 years and has been a private music teacher for 16.  He has played keyboards for numerous off-Broadway productions as well as many Big-Band Theme Cruises with the MSC line. He has had the privilege of performing with the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin as well as opening for "Earth, Wind, and Fire."


While he loves performing in a variety of settings and styles, Cam is equally as passionate for teaching and sharing knowledge with others.  He loves seeing the moment when something “clicks,” and a student understands a new concept for the first time.  Cam joined SWMA in 2010 and will be starting the process to obtain his Montessori Certification this fall.

Debbie Ward
Toddler Teacher


Debbie has been working with children for many years. After observing the Toddler environment 13 years ago, she fell in love with the Montessori philosophy and joined the staff. Debbie graduated with honors in 1996 with an Associate of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Okaloosa Walton Community College. In the summer of 2012, she attended the Infant/Toddler teacher training at Montessori Education Center of the Rockies in Boulder, Colorado. She completed her training as an intern in the toddler class at SWMA and is now a certified Montessori Toddler teacher. This will be her 13th year with SWMA.

Kelly Robertson
Lead Teacher Middle School

Kelly grew up in New Jersey and relocated to Florida in 2011. As an only child, her parents kept her active and engaged with traveling/camping, music (playing instruments, singing), sports (swimming, skiing, soccer), and volunteer work. Kelly is an avid world traveler and has visited more than 30 countries and continues her love for the great outdoors!


Kelly received her undergraduate degree (B.A.) in Theology from Northpoint College and her graduate degree (M.Ed.) in Education from Regent University. Upon her arrival in Florida, Kelly took an aide position in a Montessori school and immediately went to training as she fell in love with the Montessori philosophy/methods. Kelly received her Secondary I and II credential through AMS and the Houston Montessori Center in June 2012.


Kelly joined the SWMA team in 2013. This will be her 7th year teaching in a Montessori school, and 12th year teaching overall.



Anton Petraitis
Lead Teacher Upper Elementary

Anton is our lead teacher in the Upper Elementary classroom. He hails from Chicago, where he earned his B.A. in Creativity and Innovation from DePaul University.


He worked on the trading floor at the Chicago Board of Trade in the futures industry for thirteen years before being introduced to Montessori while looking for quality education for his first child. As an active parent volunteer, he fell in love with the Montessori philosophy and pursued a career as a Montessori educator.


 In 2009 he began working at the Montessori Academy of Chicago. He completed his Lower Montessori training and worked as a Lower Elementary teacher for six years. He has spent the last two years as an Upper Elementary teacher and finished his Upper Elementary training at Midwest Montessori Teacher Training Center. Anton brings his love of nature, his passion for learning and eclectic taste in music to the classroom.



Hollie Billcliffe
Primary Assistant Teacher


Hollie grew up on a farm in Andalusia, Alabama and always enjoyed visiting the beautiful beaches of the emerald coast while on her school breaks.  After high school, she won an art scholarship to the local junior college, which she attended before moving to Niceville to pursue her AA in fashion design.  An opportunity presented itself to move overseas and she jumped at the chance.  In 2002, she moved to London and spent the next 13 years exploring the different cultures and countries in Europe.  She attended Central St. Martins school for design and organized fashion shows in Italy and in London for Aveda and T.R.A.I.D. (Textile Recycling for Aid and International Development) Her Montessori journey began in 2008 while working at a Montessori preschool in London.  She quickly fell in love with the curriculum and philosophy, and realized she wanted to get trained. Hollie received her Montessori Early Childhood (Primary) certification at MCI London in 2014. Hollie is very passionate about the teachings of Montessori and putting her methods into practice.  She said, “It gives me great joy to watch the children explore and learn with the Montessori materials and catching that moment when something ‘clicks’ within the child.”


Hollie discovered SWMA while living in London by visiting the website frequently and longing to work there.  She moved back to the states in November 2015 and began full time at SWMA in January 2016.  Her hobbies include yoga, sewing, canoeing, painting, drawing, reading, arts and crafts, stargazing, and visiting our beautiful beaches on the emerald coast.




Manda Climer
Lower Elementary Assistant


Manda Climer hails from the Ozark Hills, where over a decade ago she crafted her own business and brand as a full-time editorial photographer.


 During her career she mentored budding photographers and taught up-and-coming creatives, how to own, operate, and manage their own careers; several of which are renowned in their industry today. Her talents behind the camera eventually led her to work with organizations like America's Broadcasting Company (ABC), Buzzfeed, Better Homes & Gardens, American Eagle Outfitters, Lauren Conrad & Goodhouse Keeping, to make their features a reality.



 Coupled with her creativity, desire to educate, and subsequently finding very little accurate information available to parrot owners, Manda compiled her first hand account in parrot ownership, to create and maintain an educational YouTube channel for fellow parrot owners, covering everything from enrichment to diet.



 While honeymooning on the Emerald Coast nearly ten years ago, she and her husband knew someday they wanted to call 30A their home.  Manda moved to Santa Rosa Beach at the end of summer 2016 for her husband's teaching career at South Walton High School.  Having come from a family of teachers, following the suggestion of the SWHS principal, and with the the encouragement from her husband, Manda began substitute teaching on a daily basis for the Walton County School District. After seeing an opening at South Walton Montessori Academy, Manda knew the opportunity could be a great fit for her enthusiasm to be in the classroom. Following an observation at SWMA, Manda was moved by the atmosphere that an authentic Montessori classroom creates for students. She is looking forward to working as Mrs. Catherine's Assistant Teacher for the 2017-2018 school year and beyond.


Click >

to Access

Newsletter Archives:

South Walton Montessori Academy Inc.

101 Eden Gardens Rd

Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459

850-231-5955 phone


license # CO1WA0015