Lighthouse Staff

Lighthouse Montessori Education Center offers quality education and child-centered hands-on experiential approach to learning. We are a gospel-based Montessori early learning center for ages 6 weeks – 10 years. We are a ministry of the the LaGrange First Church of God. Each individual on our staff is trained in Montessori practices through Trine University or Seton Montessori Education Center (Chicago) or through in-house training. Our staff come to our center with a variety of experiences, and with a commitment to provide the best early learning program possible for your child.

“Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3

Lisa Howe Director

Lisa Howe has lived in LaGrange County for 25 years. She has 4 children and 3 grandchildren. She grew up in Fort Wayne and attended Summit Christian College (formerly Fort Wayne Bible College). She has a BA in Christian Counseling, and a Montessori Administrative Credential.  She has worked with families and children through a Crisis Pregnancy Center, Healthy Families, and Early Education for the past 20 years. She has been the director for Agapé Child Care Ministry for 15 years, and now also Lighthouse Montessori Education Center. She lives on a farm and enjoys the outdoors and gardening. She finds joy in being with my family and feel blessed to be involved in a church in Stroh and Kendallville, and LaGrange. She loves that Agapé and The Lighthouse are putting light into the lives of so many little children. Our Montessori approach encourages discovery, independence, and a joy for learning. This is a passion for her, and she feels blessed God has chosen her to serve in his kingdom in this capacity.

Sara Pruitt Operations Manager

Sara Pruitt grew up about ten minutes away from Lighthouse on Lake of the Woods where her mom and dad still live today. She was a graduate of Prairie Heights in 2009 and graduated cum laude with her Bachelor’s Degree from Trine University in 2012. Sara has always felt a drive to serve others and has experience as a direct support professional, behavioral coach, ABA therapist, and Wraparound Provider. Sara has also recently married her best friend Jason. She feels truly blessed to be a part of making Lighthouse a unique educational experience for their daughters, Myla, Susanna, and Juliette. “I am beyond thankful to have been called to serve children in this way. My job makes my heart feel so full, and I truly love waking up knowing I get to come to Lighthouse to make new memories with all of our students.”

Emem Smith Lead Infant Teacher

Emem Smith was born and raised in Nigeria within a large Godly and loving family. She graduated with a bachelor in Computer Engineering from Enugu State University of Science and Technology. She is a believer in our Lord Jesus Christ. She is married to her best friend Corey whom God brought them together as one in 2012. They are blessed with a lovely son and daughter; they bring so much joy to her family. Montessori was first introduced to her in 2016 when she took her son to Agape. It blew her mind to see how precious it is to nurture children in the way of the Lord and also encourage their independence; bringing the characteristics God has instilled within them to light.  She has her Montessori certification in Infant/Toddler. Her personal philosophy of life in children is;  that every child is special and has so much potential that God has put within them just waiting to come out. She loves working with children! They are our future!

Michelle Garcia Lead Teacher Young Tots

Michelle is married and has 2 sons. Her previous work experience includes running the infant room at a childcare, assisting families and children at Head Start Preschool, and counseling and teaching geared to pregnancy through age 5. I look forward to working with your children, connecting with families, and working together to see your little ones grow.

Amanda Lauer Assistant Teacher Young Tots

Amanda grew up in Fremont, and now lives in Pleasant Lake. She has two sons and loves to watch them grow. She has a passion to help children reach their developmental milestones. She grew up with a mom who worked with children with special needs. Amanda took child development classes in college, and in 2016 she attended The Ramp School of Ministry for Preforming Arts. There she learned how to awake a generation and equip them for their purpose and send them out to change their world. She has a passion to pray for families and to foster children to grow into who God has made them. Amanda likes many outdoor water sports, gardening, and hiking. She is on the Steuben Purdue Extension Board and helps with the public relations committee for the Angola Chamber.

Kiley Gingerich Lead Teacher Toddler 1

Kiley has background experience in Early Childhood Education from Ivy Tech as well as Montessori Experience from Elkhart Montessori school. She worked as a Teen Services Librarian and has been a part of the Garrett Public Library for ten years. Kiley has attend Montessori Training in the summer of 2021 and is in the process of finishing her credential. When not in the classroom, she can be found spending time with her family and pets, watercolor painting, crafting, enjoying her musical hobbies, or focused on reading a novel.


Brittanee Shrader Lead Primary 2 Teacher

Brittanee Shrader is wife and mother of 3 who lives local here in Ashley. She ran an in-home childcare for 3 years after having her youngest child. She enjoys spending time with family, hiking, photography and crafting. Montessori is completely new to her but she is totally for it and wishes she had learnt about it years ago. Brittanee is now lead of our Primary 2 class and is awaiting training within the next year.

Jennifer Alvarez Assistant Teacher

Jennifer Alvarez is from Ft. Wayne, IN. She has 3 children, all who which attend Lighthouse MEC. This school is her first introduction to Montessori and she wishes she had known about it sooner.  Waking up, greeting all of the amazing kids in mornings, watching each child learn and grow more each day is something she looks forward to daily. Jennifer’s 2 year goal is to pursue a degree in Social Work and Child Development. During her free time, Jennifer loves exploring new places with her children, customizing t-shirt’s, and building her Photography Portfolio. 

Maddison Busche Assistant Primary 2 Teacher

Maddison graduated high school in 2017 and went on to attend Purdue University for Psychology, but she put a hold on that to explore life. Some of her hobbies include; kayaking, hiking, writing poetry, boxing, and collecting stones/crystals. She doesn’t have her “own” family yet, but the family she does have is held very close to her heart. She used to work for the Early Learning Ministry and was a lead toddler/preschool aged teacher for a little over two years.

Vanessa Souliere Lead Primacy 1 Teacher

Vanessa grew up in many different cities and towns in Ontario, Canada but has always called Toronto her home. She holds an Associates diploma in Children and Youth Counselling, a Bachelor of Arts in Children and Youth Care, and has a specialization certificate in Autism and Behavioral Science. 
She has spent majority of her career helping children and families in Toronto, Ontario. She was an ABA Therapist to young children with Autism, working with the provincial government of Ontario. Vanessa has also worked with and supported young Native American mothers and their children with the Native American CPS in Toronto. Recently, she gained Montessori Primary experience as an assistant teacher at St Mark’s Early Learners in Auburn, Indiana.  Vanessa attended her Montessori training in the summer of 2022 and will be finishing up her credential soon. When not at work or working, Vanessa enjoys spending time with her husband Max and their two boys. You can always find them outside hiking at any state park on the weekends, spending vacation time near a National Park hiking, or at the Fort Wayne Farmers Market on Saturdays.  

Karissa Gram Lead Toddler 2 Teacher

Karissa was born and raised in Avilla but graduated from Garrett high school. Her and her family go to church at Legacy in Kendallville. They like to spend their Sundays together after church. Karissa and her family all meet at her parents house where we bring all 5 of our dogs to play together. Her whole life she has known she has wanted to work with children. She found her home at Lighthouse where she has fallen in love with the atmosphere, children and staff. Lighthouse truly feels like family and it’s beautiful to see all the love each and every member has for our children. 

Diane Miner Assistant Infant Teacher

My name is Dianne Miner. I was born and raised in Jackson Michigan. I have lived in Indiana for the last 37 years. I am a 63-year-old Mother of one daughter. I am recently widowed. My husband Tom and I met in Jackson MI Married and moved to Indiana in 1984. Our daughter was born in 1988. When she turned 3 we moved to Ashley, she now has 3 children of her own. My favorite thing in the world was being a mother until I became a Grandmother. I spent my younger years working in quality in 3 different industries and have several certifications in this field and an associate degree in business. I love to camp, garden, sew, crochet/knit. I have always enjoyed children, I have taught Sunday school and taken care of the children in the nursery. I feel the love and patience that I have for children is a gift from God. I am a member and a Deacon of the St. Andrew Evangelical Presbyterian Church.

Amber Shire Young Totts Assistant

Amber graduated high school in 2017 and is currently attending Indiana Tech. When she is not working you can find her with her dog Tanner or long boarding. Amber’s dream is to work/live on the ocean and hopefully find a way to save the coral reefs and stop shark finning.

Jaclyn Kenney Toddler 1 Assistant Teacher

I graduated from Mooresville High School in 2002. I played college basketball at Vincennes University and graduated from Ivy Tech CC with an Associates Degree in Applied Science in Paralegal Studies. I moved from Fishers to Angola in April of 2022. I have a teenage son who goes to Angola HS. I am the oldest of seven children, and have one nephew and two nieces which I love to spend time with. I love spending time with family, watching and playing sports, going to to church and worshiping God! My favorite team is the Pittsburgh Steelers!

Alyssa Wolfe Assistant Teacher

Alyssa grew up in Hamilton Indiana. She lives with her parents and her younger brother and sister. She is currently attending Ivy Tech for Early Childhood Education. She loves to skateboard and spend time with family and friends.

Melody Wegesin Operation Managers Assistant

Melody was born and raised in Angola, graduating from Angola High School. I am a blessed mom of 6 wonderful children ranging from 29 – 9 years of age. I am also a grandma of 4. Before joining
the Lighthouse team, I was the Early Childhood Director of First Assembly of God in Fort Wayne. I did that job for 7 years and loved every minute of it. I actually spent 20 years in somecapacity or another working with preschoolers at F.A. but life took a turn that brought me back to
Angola, so now I get to work at Lighthouse. One of my responsibilities at Lighthouse is to
provide the Infant through Toddler classes with Christian Curriculum. I love brainstorming and modifying paper curriculum into different Montessori works. The way the children are drawn to the information through hands-on activities is inspiring. I truly believe the Montessori method is
the best learning style for most children. It’s so exciting to see them grow and stretch into really
neat humans learning to love God. In my free-time or when I can multitask, I like to listen to
Audio books. Last year I consumed over 125 books and hope to do that well again this year. I also like to sew but life was so busy for a while that that hobby had to be shelved. I am slowly finding time to enjoy it again.

Autumn Whitaker Assistant Teacher

Autumn grew up in Waterloo and attended Dekalb High School. She is currently getting her degree in Psychology with a focus in child development with hopes to become a children’s counselor so that she can better prepare the world’s next generations for life’s ups and downs. Outside of work and classes she has many hobbies including hiking, crocheting, reading and watercolor painting! 

Alissa Shaw Infant Assistant

Alissa is originally from Michigan, but has been a resident of Butler for the past 15 years. She graduated from Eastside High School in 2012. She is happily married and has 4 wonderful children. Alissa has worked in healthcare and childcare for over 10 years. When she is not working you can find her spending time with family outdoors enjoying the sunshine and spending time with friends.

Samantha Pfenning Toddler 2 Assistant Teacher

I am a wife and mother of a new baby girl. I lived in Shipshewana until I was 18 then moved to South Bend/Mishawaka for 8 years. I graduated from Westview High School in 2014 and went to attend college at Indiana University South Bend where I majored in elementary education/early childhood. I have a little over 3 years experience working with children, ranging from infants to 12 years of age. I spent a year substituting in a public school after college, but quickly found my passion was to work with younger children. I love seeing the growth in the children every day, and feel a great sense of pride in knowing I’m making a positive impact in their lives. Outside of work I enjoy crafting and spending time with my family.

Let us partner with you in providing excellent care and education for your child.


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