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Julie Rutenberg graduated from St. Petersburg Junior College in 1997 with an AA in Public Administration. In 2000 she received her AS in Sign Language Interpretation from St. Petersburg Junior College then continued her education at the University of South Florida and graduated Cum Laude with a BA in Educational Interpreting for the Deaf. Ms. Rutenberg spent seven years working with deaf children and their families at the former Friends of Deaf Service Center, Inc. It was there that she saw the need for a different way to educate deaf children and their families. In 2003, Ms. Rutenberg founded Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf. She brings extensive knowledge of the individual needs and uniqueness of each child and their families. In addition to being the Director of Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf, Ms. Rutenberg is a member of the American Montessori Society.
Ms. Rutenberg has lived in Florida her whole life. When she isn’t at Blossom, she enjoys spending time with her family, going to the beach, traveling, and scrap-booking.
Lisa Wilson joined Blossom staff for the 2013-2014 school year as our Director of Development. Ms. Wilson holds two Bachelor of Arts degrees as well as a Masters in Nonprofit Management from the University of Central Florida. Ms. Wilson is responsible for cultivating relationships in the community, and executing strategies and campaigns for development.
She has previously worked with organizations that assist at-risk youth, children with disabilities and most recently, adults with disabilities. Her continued life’s mission is to help individuals live fulfilling independent lives in their community.
Ms. Wilson is a Florida native, but is new to the Tampa Bay community. She loves to travel and has had the opportunity to visit 16 different countries. She enjoys photography and is really looking forward to Pinellas County’s picturesque landscapes.
Tara Bonano is responsible for all aspects of the day-to-day administration of Blossom, working with our teaching staff, students, families, vendors, contracted personnel and others. Ms. Bonano manages all record keeping, accounts, student records, personnel, and other business functions of the school.
Ms. Bonano was a lifelong resident of New York where she graduated from Westchester Business Institute in White Plains, NY in 2000 Cum Laude with an A.A. in Occupational Studies/Computer Applications Management. She worked for the Production Department of Reader’s Digest Children’s Publishing in Pleasantville, NY until she relocated to Florida in 2005.
Ms. Bonano enjoys the Florida lifestyle with her family by watching the sunset at our beautiful beaches!
Colette Derks has been working at Blossom since it opened in August of 2003, starting as a teacher’s assistant and progressing to a classroom teacher. She has been involved with the Deaf community since 2001. Ms. Derks started at the Deaf Service Center (now known as the Deaf and Hearing Connection of Tampa Bay) as the receptionist, where she learned American Sign Language (ASL). Once proficient with ASL, she started working for the Deaf Service Center’s After School Program.
Ms. Derks is Montessori Certified for ages 3 -6, has attained her Child Development Associate Equivalency (CDAE) and her Child Care Director’s Credentials, and has been teaching in the Preschool classroom since 2005. She is now working on attaining her Montessori Certification for ages 6-9.
Ms. Derks has two beautiful sons and a little girl. When she is not at Blossom or in class, she is spending time with her family, taking her children to the park, or attending ‘play dates’ with her children.
Katelyn Vetter joined Blossom’s teaching team as the 6 – 9 Classroom teacher in 2012. Mrs. Vetter has taught at the Delaware School for the Deaf in Newark, Deleware. Prior to that she had teaching experience at the Berwick Middle School in Berwick, Pennsylvania and the Ward L. Myers Elementary School in Muncy, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Vetter received her Bachelor of Science in Education Degree from Bloomsburg University with a dual major in Elementary and Special Education, specializing in Deaf education. She is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in Deaf Education from McDaniel College and is working on attaining her Montessori Certification for ages 6-9.
Amanda Livesay teaches students ages 9 – 12 years old at Blossom. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education: Deaf Studies and a Master’s Degree in Special Education: Deaf Education from the University of North Florida. Growing up, she always knew she wanted to be a teacher. Later in her life she became interested in deafness through a family member who was working as an interventionist. By pairing her two interests she decided to start her journey into Deaf education.
Along her journey, she was introduced to the Montessori philosophy of teaching. She was amazed at how Montessori experiences were so readily absorbed by students of all ages. When she saw the opportunity to teach at Blossom she was sure that it was the perfect place for her.
Mrs. Livesay is fluent in ASL and enjoys the direct communication she has with each of her students. “My journey has been amazing and I look forward to many more years of success at Blossom.”
Darlene Guzman teaches students who ages 12 – 15 years old at Blossom. She is originally from New Jersey, but moved to Pennsylvania when she was a teenager. Mrs. Guzman attended Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, a Master of Science in Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing and a minor in Spanish. She taught in Pennsylvania for two years as a Spanish teacher and two years as a teacher of the Deaf/HH before joining the Blossom Family.
Mrs. Guzman and her husband, Edgardo, decided that moving to Florida was the best choice for them and that is when they heard of Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf. She looked into the school, read about the Montessori philosophy, and thought that the concept of Montessori and deafness was brilliant. It became a personal goal to become a teacher at this school. Mrs. Guzman joined Blossom in February 2012 and has loved every day of it.
Mrs. Guzman is fluent in English, ASL and Español. She enjoys traveling and watching movies of all kinds from all eras. She enjoys working with her students and watching them grow in so many aspects. “I want them to thrive in their culture, in the social lives and with their families. I very much look forward to many years to come at Blossom.”
Jamie De Jesus joined Blossom’s staff as a Classroom Assistant in 2012. Mrs. De Jesus currently works with Mrs. Vetter in our 6-9 Classroom. Mrs. De Jesus has teaching experience at several pre-school and elementary schools in the Tampa Bay Area since receiving her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Flagler College in 2003. Mrs. De Jesus also received her Associate of Science Degree in Sign Language Interpreting from St. Petersburg College in 2011.
Elaine Hampton assists in the teaching and growing of the children of Blossom to show by example that all things are possible if you never give up! Mrs. Hampton is a Classroom Assistant in our 9-12 Classroom, as well as our Art Teacher for all ages.
Mrs. Hampton attended Ringling College of Art and Design and graduated with her BFA degree in Illustration. Her desire is to teach Deaf children about the wonderful world of art . She came from a big family of six and is the only one in her family who is deaf. She was not born deaf but lost her hearing after contracting spinal meningitis as an infant. Mrs. Hampton is married to her husband, William, who is hard of hearing and they have four beautiful children Anna, Nicholas, Rebekah, and newborn Jacob – all of whom are hearing. Mrs. Hampton and her family live in Largo.
When Mrs. Hampton is not at Blossom she is spending time with her big family and friends, doing freelance art, going to her Deaf church, missionary trips, helping the pastor as the Deaf secretary at church, spending time outdoors, traveling, swimming, and watching closed captioned movies.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. — Helen Keller