Raising Healthy, Happy Children Since 1968


Serving children 12 months through 8th grade.


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A Learning Environment With a Proven Track Record of Excellence

Sea Pines Montessori Academy has been educating children for 50 years!  South Carolina's original Montessori preschool, we currently serve children 12 months to 8th grade in beautiful Hilton Head Island.  

Our mission is to provide each child with the best foundation for character development and academic discovery while promoting leadership and confidence.

An internationally recognized private school, Sea Pines Montessori Academy is dedicated to developing the whole child – socially, emotionally, and academically.

Our teachers and facility are accredited and highly qualified.

We also have a thriving Parent Teacher Organization!  "The Sea Pines Montessori Academy PTO is dedicated to supporting the education of the students at SPMA by fostering relationships and sense of community between the students, faculty and parents.  This support is fulfilled by planning and executing school community events, fundraising campaigns, continuing education opportunities for teachers, and helping to facilitate communication between parents and staff at SPMA.  By these efforts we hope to instill in our children and their families a sense of pride in their school and a love of learning." 


Phillip EvansMiddle School Graduate, c/o 2013; Harvard c/o 2020

In my 14 some years that I was at Sea Pines Montessori Academy, I came to realize that the Montessori curriculum is the best method of education for primary and secondary age students. Coming into the public school environment I've learned to become self-motivated, I've learned to manage my time more effectively than my peers, and I've become a life-long learner that is passionate about learning just for the sake of becoming a better intellect.

​Keep reading to learn about all the Sea Pines Montessori has to offer your family. 

Welcome to the Future of Education

  • Counting down the hall
    Counting down the hall
  • Because she wants to
    Because she wants to
  • Small group learning
    Small group learning
  • Creative expression
    Creative expression

Picture this: A room of students, all aged within a few years of each other. The oldest help the youngest. The youngest eagerly learn from their peers. 

Did you know? The future of education has been around for over a century. ​

Kunich Family Alum

“We have been at Sea Pines Montessori since 1996...We have always felt there is no better or safer place for our children to attend school...Our children have learned how to respect themselves and others. They have learned to love learning. They will absolutely be better people because of the educational experiences and life lessons they have had at Sea Pines Montessori.”

Parents, Educations, and Researchers Agree

Read about the future of education, and you'll discover the Montessori Method is grounded in state of the art research and behavioral health. 

Montessori accredited teachers use advanced educational techniques that are proven to work. Traditional classrooms are catching on. Our methods work. 

  • ​Project-based learning
  • Self-directed students
  • Collaborative environment

Today's child development experts know that small group settings and community awareness encourage a healthy sense of self and are vital to meeting the social and educational needs of a child. 

Sea Pines Montessori Academy Math

The hand teaches the brain. Montessori students at work.

The GreensPrimary

We chose SPMA for our son after signs of him becoming overwhelmed at a larger school. This school is a "family unit"- all teachers and staff know my son's name and face, parent's full names, and even approved pick-up personnel. That is important to us as parents! 

Our school environment is exactly what children need to thrive. 

Sea Pines Montessori Academy on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
" ...every other education method is based on an abstract model of the child and then derives educational models from that. Maria Montessori, a doctor and researcher, went the other way around: she experimented with methods and, based on the results, built up a theory of the child, which she then tested and refined through experiment." Pascal-Emmanuel Gorby, Forbes
Lynn NguyenParent

"...My son wakes up everyday looking forward to his day at school. I would definitely recommend this school to everyone."

We Foster Your Child's Natural Love of Learning

Conventional schools assume children must be forced to learn. 

We know differently. This video explains why an accredited Montessori environment helps children thrive, in school and life. No threats of pop quizzes, homework, or tests needed. (Don't worry, students perform grade levels above "traditional" students.)  

Standardized testing and test prep are offered throughout the year. 

Sea Pines Montessori Academy exceeds testing standards while preparing students emotionally and socially for high school and beyond.

A Highly Qualified School & Staff

Our Accreditations Stand for Our Commitment to Quality Education.

Member of American Montessori Society

The American Montessori Society sets high standards for qualifying as a member school. Our school is peer-reviewed, ensuring teaching principles and standards adhere to the Montessori philosophy of educating the whole child, socially, emotionally, and intellectually. 

Southern Association of Independent Schools

Overseen by the National Association of Independent Schools, the Southern Association of Independent Schools  accreditation demonstrates a dedication to highest standards of education and ongoing assessment and self-evaluation for continual improvement.

Member of Southern Association of Colleges & Schools

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation ensures that your child receives full credit for classes taken when transferring to high school. This rigorous certification took almost two years of assessments and applications to receive.

Certified teachers, scientists, musicians, and more. Our staff has the qualifications and education that matter to your family. 

Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher

Sara Garrett is the Lower Elementary Assistant in the Moonshells.

She is dedicated to guiding children to become respectful, responsible, and well-educated individuals that are inspired to help make the world a better place.  Sara moved here from Key West where she was an assistant at May Sands Montessori.  She also has completed the Montessori Teaching Assistant training at the Virginia Center for Montessori Studies.

Two of her passions that the children especially enjoy are finding ways to work with students of all learning needs and running. She recently “ran” her first 5K event for the school- no pun intended!

Lead Middle School Teacher

John Dogger is the Lead Middle School Teacher at Sea Pines Montessori Academy.

He is dedicated to adolescent education, curriculum development, and Montessori research.

A middle school teacher since 2012, John also coached Cross Country for several years and coached at CTF.


Lead Infant/Toddler Teacher

Kayla Bass is the Lead Preprimary Teacher and is dedicated to aiding children in the independence of self-directed exploration. Her goal is to foster growth and development in a safe and complete learning environment.

  • 10+ years experience working with young children in both classroom and private setting
  • Certified Infant Toddler Montessori Teacher

As a mother to a 6-year-old girl and a 2 year old boy, Ms. Bass is committed to expanding her knowledge of child development and translating teachings into actionable developmental assistance for infants and toddlers.

With her extensive background in child care, Ms. Bass is uniquely qualified to offer Sea Pines Montessori’s youngest students a safe place to develop emotionally and physically.

Melinda Cotter - Principal Head of School Sea Pines Montessori Academy
Head of School

Mrs. Cotter is the Head of School for Sea Pines Montessori Academy. She is dedicated to advancing the academic success, social and emotional development, and independence of each student at SPMA.


  • BA, University of Virgina
  • M. Ed, George Mason University
  • Early Childhood and Elementary Montessori Certification from the Insitute for Advanced Montessori Studies
  • SLLA K-12 Certified Principal, Board of Education

Melinda enjoys reading, creative writing, and art, and believes that these activities provide a foundation for literacy. An outdoors enthusiast, Melinda can be found hiking a mountain trail, playing on the beach with her German shepherd, Hampton, or visiting new parks/nature preserves in her travels.

“When children come into contact with nature, they reveal their strength.” – Maria Montessori

Read Melinda’s Head of School Welcome .

Preprimary Assistant Teacher

Señora Gutierrez is the Light Green Room’s Assistant Teacher and is dedicated to inspiring her students to love learning.

In addition to her work in private child care, Daraiza worked in several camps helping young children in outdoor activities, the arts, and sports.  Additionally, her background includes nutrition, health, and safety trainings.  Daraiza has a contagious smile, warm personality, and positive energy.  She works with the students through daily interactions, dialogue, songs, and readings.

Anne Hinley teacher sea pines hilton head private school
Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher

Ms. Hinely is the Lower Elementary Assistant Teacher. Anne is dedicated to fostering independence, confidence, compassion, and a love of learning within each child.

Her qualifications include:

  • Joined the staff of SPMA in 1996
  • Montessori Primary Certification (3-6 years), and worked in the Primary classrooms for 14 years
  • Between 2004 and 2007, Ms. Hinley served as an administrator in a church preschool

Ms. Hinely moved into the Lower Elementary Program to expand her knowledge and practice of the Montessori Method in 2013.

Anne has a passion for missions work, especially in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She works there every summer with children at The Valentine Children’s Home, and serves on the board of The Valentine Project.

Lauren Kelley teacher sea pines hilton head private school
Primary Teacher

Ms. Kelley is the Primary Teacher in the Red Room and is dedicated to developing independent, critical thinkers.

Her qualifications include:

  • SPMA teacher for 14 years
  • MEPI Montessori Training
  • B.S. Degree, East Stroudsburg University

Lauren loves to bake, practice yoga, and read. She is often found digging into geography and finding interesting ways to teach the children.

Priscilla Kelly teacher sea pines hilton head private school
Lower Elementary Lead Teacher

Ms. Kelly is the Lead Lower Elementary Teacher. Dedicated to providing a fun, learning environment, she works hard to be a good role model for her students.

Her qualifications include:

  • High School – Hilton Head Prep
  • Degree in Elementary Education, Belmont Abbey College
  • Lower Elementary Montessori Certification, SeaCoast Training Center

Priscilla is the Club Volleyball Coach for the Low Country Volleyball Club. She went to Nationals in 2013 and 2015 after winning the region.

Lead Teacher Primary

Ashley Schilling is the Lead Teacher in the Blue Room. She is dedicated to opening the hearts and minds of young children.

Her qualifications include:

  • B.S. in Sociology and Psychology
  • M.S. in Early Childhood Education
  • Montessori Early Childhood Certification

Ms. Schilling enjoys spending time with her family. Her husband, son, and two rescue dogs are eagerly anticipating the arrival of her daughter, due in February of 2016. She often volunteers at the local animal shelters.

Board Treasurer Erika Morgan
Director of Operations

Erika Morgan is SPMA’s Director of Operations.

Mrs. Morgan worked as the Director of Finance & Operations in a Montessori school in Northern Virginia and brings with her an extensive background and knowledge of managing a large private school.  She moved to Hilton Head in 2008 and has recently served as an officer (Treasurer) in the Board of Trustees.  Erika joins us from the Financial & Accounting department at Carey & Company on the island.


Kalen Wolf Arts Educator at hilton head private school
Art Educator

Ms. Wolfe is the Art Educator at Sea Pines Montessori Academy. She is dedicated to helping students appreciate the creativity of others.

Kalen wants students to develop an appreciation and understanding of how Art reflects and impacts life and individuals. In addition to helping students create art, she teaches students to respond to art in a responsible, respectful manner.

Her qualifications include:

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts, Massachusetts College of Art
  • Master of Art, Phoenix University
  • Trained to help students answer the essential Questions of Artist: Envision, Correct, Observe, Expressive Spirit, Develop Craft, Stretch & Explore, Engage & Persist, and Reflect
  • Ongoing training in Professional Development, Arts Organization, Continuing Education, Art Workshops and Classes

Kalen is passionate about Art. She believes the arts help children learn to say what cannot be said and that the arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience discover what we are capable of feeling.

Nikki Wright Assistant Teacher Infant Toddler Program at hilton head private school
Preprimary Assistant Teacher

Ms. Wright is an Assistant Teacher to the Infant & Toddler Program. She is dedicated to helping our children learn and grow.

Her qualifications include:

  • B.A. Sociology, University of Southern Mississippi
  • Minor in Non-Profits, University of Southern Mississippi
  • Child Development
  • Mother of 2

Nikki loves reading, which she enjoys doing throughout the day with her students. She’s also a runner, which helps to stay active with the kids.

Dean St Hillaire
Guitar Instructor

Dean St. Hillaire is a music teacher at SPMA and dedicated to seeing more children involved in the arts.

Passionate about teaching music to kids, Dean is also a very successful local musician and works with some of the area’s top artists.  Dean teaches guitar instruction (individual and group) to the students.  Additionally, he helps with the school musical.

He is a graduate of Greenville Secondary School.

Athletics Director

Dat Phan brings a decade of coaching experience to Sea Pines Montessori Academy, including having coached several sports throughout his athletic career.

A graduate of Rutgers University, Coach Phan received two degrees in Exercise Science & Sport Studies and Communications. An earlier ACL tear disrupted his chance to play basketball at the collegiate level, so during his years at Rutgers, he focused on team management and coaching.  Coach Phan was a student manager for the men’s basketball team and a student intern for the WNBA’s New York Liberty.  Additionally, Dat ran his own basketball academy where he focused on skill development and tournament hosting.  These experiences allowed him to learn the nuances of running a successful program and the dedication required to be a great coach.

Over the last nine years, Coach Phan has coached various sports at the middle and high school levels, most notably volleyball and basketball, and was an Assistant Director of Athletics at established and new independent schools in New Jersey and New York.  As a coach, Dat has been blessed to work with committed athletes and supportive parents who believed in his coaching philosophies. Through the years, he was able to develop these athletes into high school and college players while also competing for league championships. Most recently, as Assistant Director of Athletics at The World School in New York City, Coach Phan was able to create a strong foundation for an athletics and physical education program that continued to evolve over the years. What began as a young and inexperienced program turned into a program that competes for division and state championships each year.

Despite his busy schedule, Dat continues to compete adult league basketball tournaments and enjoys hanging out at the beach, working out, and playing golf in his spare time.

Spanish Teacher
Preprimary Assistant Teacher

Ashley is an assistant in the Light Green Room.  She is dedicated to the care, safety, and happiness of all of the children at SPMA.  Ashley is also a certified Montessori Early Childhood teacher.

Office Manager

Marie is the school’s Office Manager. She moved from Fairfax, Virginia and graduated from George Mason University with a B.S. in Psychology. Marie maintains an open, friendly, and cooperative relationship with each child and family. In her spare time, she enjoys baking, catching fish and being able to enjoy what coastal living has to offer.

Primary Assistant Teacher

Kira Stroh is a Primary Assistant in the Blue Room.

She is dedicated to teaching students to love learning.

Kira is completing her degree in early childhood education and hopes to pursue Montessori certification shortly thereafter.  She brings her sense of humor, creativity, and consistency to SPMA, along with her two children!

School Nurse

Nurse Lauren Singer has resided in Hilton Head Island for 10 years and loves being a member of the SPMA family! She graduated from the University of South Carolina and earned dual baccalaureate degrees in Human Services and Nursing. Throughout her nursing career, she has provided quality care to individuals with communicable diseases, diabetes, first-aid needs, allergies, disabilities, behavioral health issues, and other medical challenges.  Nurse Singer currently holds a certification in Pediatric Advanced Life Support.

Her personal goal is to promote an autonomous culture through health and safety.  On her days off, you she enjoys cooking, photography, and spending time with her husband, Adam, and daughter, Ellery.

Katherine De Freitas Sea Pines Montessori Music Teacher
Suzuki Piano Teacher

Katherine G. De Freitas is the Music and Suzuki Piano Teacher at Sea Pines Montessori Academy. She is dedicated to enriching every child with a love and appreciation of music.

Her qualifications include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Organizational Communications, Minor in Music, Ohio University
  • Certified Music Together teacher
  • Certified Montessori Para-Professional
  • Suzuki Association of Americas (SAA) certified through Suzuki Piano Book

Katherine loves to sing, dance, and play all types of music. She enjoys the quality time with SPMA students and is passionate about teaching music.

With a child who attends SPMA and one who will as soon as she’s old enough, family and quality education are Katherine’s priorities.

Beth McCune Elementary Teacher Sea Pines Montessori
Lower Elementary Teacher

Beth McCune is a Lower Elementary Teacher and is dedicated to educating the whole child by helping each child gain independence, self-confidence, and an awareness of the importance of their role in a building a peaceful, cooperative community.


  • BA in Education, Major in Special Education, University of North Florida
  • Teaching certificate Special Education, K-12 (Varying Exceptionalities, Multi-Categorical)
  • Teaching certificate in ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages)
  • Montessori training for Lower Elementary (ages 6-9)

Beth enjoys spending time out in nature with her family, with a passion for the beach and kayaking local waters. She is passionate about sharing with her students the importance of preserving our island.

You can find Beth frequently researching new lesson ideas and ways to make learning more beautiful.

Kerry McKinney Teacher Sea Pines Montessori Academy
Lead Infant/Toddler Teacher

With over 17 years teaching experience, Kerry has been a valued member of the faculty at Sea Pines Montessori Academy since 2004.

Kerry is the Lead Infant/Toddler Teacher in the Light Green Room and is dedicated to fostering each child’s unique attributes while teaching them how to work as part of a community of peers.

Her qualifications include:

  • Bachelor of Science in Psychology with a concentration in Child Development
  • Preschool/Kindergarten Montessori Training for children aged 32-months to 6-years from the North American Montessori Training Center
  • Infant/Toddler 0-3 Montessori Training from Montessori Educational Programs International
  • 17+ years teaching experience

Kerry loves the outdoors and exercise. She encourages children to learn through nature and start a love for an active lifestyle.

Her family is a top priority. Learning to love and nurture the different personalities that her own children have guides her in helping the families she works with to understand and nurture the personalities of the children she has been entrusted to guide.

Meg O'Brien Primary Teacher at Sea Pines Montessori
Primary Teacher

Ms. O’Brien is a Primary teacher in the Red Room. She is dedicated to instilling curiosity and great joy of learning in her students.

Her qualifications include:

  • 27 years teaching experience at Sea Pines Montessori Academy
  • 35 years as a Montessori trained education
  • Pan American Montessori training

A graduate of William Paterson University, Ms. O’Brien love to read, cook, and is currently exploring photography.

In the classroom, she especially enjoys creating art lessons and presenting different works to the students.

Margo Fletcher SPMA teacher
Upper Elementary Teacher

Ms. Fletcher is an Upper Elementary Teacher dedicated to teaching children to love learning.

Her qualifications include:

  • Upper Elementary Certified (ages 9-12) from the American Montessori Society
  • Lower Elementary Certified (ages 6-9) through Montessori Educational Programs International (MEPI)
  • Primary Certified (ages 3-6) through MEPI
  • Certified Montessori Model United Nations Coordinator
  • Bachelors Degree from Virginia Intermont College

Margo is passionate about animals, fitness, and photography. She enjoys teaching children about animal welfare and the important of exercise to stay healthy.

Joy Krimm music teacher sea pines hilton head private school
Music Teacher, Suzuki Violin Instructor, & Enrichment Coordinator

Mrs. Krimm is the General Music Teacher & Enrichment Coordinator for Sea Pines Montessori Academy. In addition, she teaches Suzuki Violin. Joy is dedicated to fostering musical growth and appreciation for the arts in her students.

Her qualifications include:

  • Master of Music in viola performance, University of Hartford
  • Bachelor of Music in viola performance, East Carolina University
  • Completion of Suzuki Violin long-term training for Violin Books 1A-10, East Carolina University
  • Music Together teacher training

Personally, Mrs. Krimm enjoys baking, cooking, crafting, and dancing. She is also passionate about music history.

Student Life

At Sea Pines Montessori Academy, we focus on educating the whole child. From cross-country to Spanish, our students participate in fun, engaging, productive extracurriculars. Sports, games, and outdoor time help children learn.

  • Typical Classroom
    Typical Classroom
  • Cast members from the Wizard of Oz
    Cast members from the Wizard of Oz
  • Golf Instruction at The Sea Pines Resort
    Golf Instruction at The Sea Pines Resort
  • Safety lessons with the Hilton Head Fire & Rescue Dept.
    Safety lessons with the Hilton Head Fire & Rescue Dept.
  • Violin Lessons with Ms. Krimm
    Violin Lessons with Ms. Krimm
  • Happy Friends
    Happy Friends

Our group settings are exactly the right size for building confidence in your child.

How We Compare

What Sets Us Apart 

Sea Pines Montessori Academy is a private, non-profit school internationally recognized for promoting a healthy social atmosphere and recruiting stellar staff. Students consistently perform grade-levels ahead of traditionally-schooled peers. We offer an environment where students can develop the social and educational skills they need to excel in high school, college, and beyond.

  • Internationally recognized, certified teaching staff
  • Strong extracurricular and student life programs
  • Proven educational methods for developing social and critical-thinking skills

By The Numbers

Varsity Sports Participation of Grads
Top 5% Nationwide Testing Performance
High School Math in Middle School

The percentages above reflect the (M.S.) Middle School students. 

“…when strictly implemented, Montessori education fosters social and academic skills that are equal or superior to those fostered by a pool of other types of schools.”

Dr. Angeline Lillard, Professor of Psychology,

Author of Montessori: The Science Behind the Genius

Research Results here

Our Programs

Sea Pines Montessori Academy has a long-standing tradition of dedication to the community and instilling in our children confidence and compassion. SPMA is a highly qualified Hilton Head Island school serving 12-months through 8th grade. 

Sea Pines Montessori Preschool Kindergarten and Lower School Pre K-1st grade

Toddler & Preschool 

Our Early Childhood Program sets the groundwork for instilling a love of learning in children. We foster independence, good manners, play, and personal and community growth. Accepting children 12 months to 6 years.   

Sea Pines Montessori Academy Elementary School K-5 grades


A natural continuation of our Early Childhood Programs, the SPMA Elementary program offers an award-winning educational model. The Lower Elementary serves ages 6-9 and the Upper Elementary serves ages 9-12.

Sea Pines Montessori Middle School Program grade 5-8

Middle School

A socially appropriate community led by the internationally recognized Dr. Baird. The SPMA Middle School offers an engaging social atmosphere and and high school preparatory environment that meets and exceeds the needs of students ages 12-15. 

The Right School

Early Childhood Classroom | Sea Pines Montessori

Sea Pines Montessori Academy offers a unique, challenging, and nurturing social atmosphere. 

If you’re searching for a healthy, safe, and social school with rigorous academic standards, the SPMA environment could be the right fit for your child. As you explore your school options, this checklist is helpful for interviewing schools in an effort to find the best fit for your family.

The most important thing you can do when interviewing schools is to sit in the classroom. Spend 30 minutes absorbing the environment that your child will spend the next year in. Talk to the teacher and introduce yourself to the students.

We're confident your family will love all that Sea Pines Montessori Academy has to offer. ​

To experience everything Sea Pines Montessori Academy has to offer, request a tour now. 

What Innovators Have In Common

Ask the founders of Google, Steve Jobs, Julia Childs, George Clooney, and over 6000 high-performing innovators where they went to school.

Their answer? Montessori.


We're happy to answer any questions. Contact Sea Pines Montessori Academy at (843) 785-2534 of email office (at) spma.com.