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Board of Directors

Sophia Montessori Academy has been blessed with an incredible team of people on our Board of Advisors.
They are dedicated to Byzantine Catholic Montessori Education, to our students and families, and to the future of Sophia Montessori Academy.


Pauline Meert

President, Treasurer, Founder

Pauline was born in France and moved to the US with her family in 1999. She always had a great love for working with children. When she was sixteen a priest friend mentioned the word Montessori and the rest is history! She received her international Montessori diploma from Montessori Centre International in 2008. She later came across the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and was deeply moved by the beauty of it all. She completed her Master’s degree in Montessori education from St. Catherine University in 2014. Her biggest dream came true in 2018 with the founding of SMA. Pauline has a deep passion for Montessori education and loves to share it with others. When she is not in the classroom she enjoys swing dancing, sewing, reading, and spending her time with friends and family. She is a parishioner of Holy Protection of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Church. 


Irene Ortega

Vice President, Founder

Irene Ortega took her Children’s House training at the Montessori College of Dublin, Ireland in 2007 and recently completed Montessori training for the Elementary Level in Bergamo, Italy. Irene’s inspiration to Montessori came from seeing a presentation on Good Shepherd when she was still in high school. She knew it was the beginning of something great! Irene was born in Germany and spent most of her young life traveling Europe and the United States. She moved to a farm with her family before college and discovered the adventures of raising cows, bees and vegetables. She is delighted to bring the joy of discovery to children through the Montessori approach. When she is not planning lessons, you can find her playing music, cooking, hiking or dreaming up a new adventure with her husband Anthony. She is a parishioner of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church.


Patty Cisle

Chairman of the Board

Patty Cisle is the Director of Evangelization at Good Shepherd Catholic Parish. Prior to that role, she was in Catholic education for 24 years, including 17 years as assistant principal at Good Shepherd Catholic School. It was there that she learned firsthand about Montessori education. Patty is married to Jim  and is the mother of three grown children. Her interests include gardening, cooking, and hiking.


Rudy Andras

Board Member

Rudy Andras started learning about Montessori in 2014. Through his studies, he found Irene and Pauline who were presenting Montessori workshops at the time. Since then, he has been a faithful support of the vision and mission of SMA, received his Montessori training from the Montessori Institute of San Diego, and is strong advocate for Montessori in Denver. He is an economist. Rudy is a grandfather extraordinaire, bringing his passion for Montessori to his grandchildren.


Father Joel Barstad

Chaplain, Board Member

Father Joel was ordained to the priesthood in October 2018. After serving on the staff of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA, from 2019 to 2022, Father Joel has returned to Denver to continue his priestly ministry. Father Joel and Pani Leslie have raised seven children and take delight in their grandchildren, whose number is steadily growing


Joseph Orrino

Board Member

Joe Orrino is a former Sophia dad. He is a practicing attorney and focuses on representing nonprofits of all sizes, assisting with formation, governance, transactions, and development. Joe earned his Juris Doctor at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and his Bachelor's at Benedictine College in Kansas. He and his wife, Emily, have three kids. They live in Littleton, where they are members of St. Mary Catholic Parish.


Very Rev. Michael P. O'Loughlin


Fr. Michael holds a Masters of Divinity from Sts. Cyril and Methodius Byzantine Catholic Seminary in Pittsburgh, PA. Father is the Vocation’s Director and Co-Director of Youth and Young Adults for the Eparchy of Phoenix. Father is the Byzantine host of Catholic Stuff You Should Know Podcast, the largest Catholic podcast in the world He regularly appears on many different Catholic media outlets bringing deeper understanding of Byzantine Catholicism.

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