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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. Julie has spent the past 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, Julie 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, Julie is a Girl Scout leader and a member of the American Montessori Society.
Julie 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.
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. Tara manages all record keeping, accounts, student records, personnel, and other business functions of the school.
Tara 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.
Tara enjoys the Florida lifestyle with her family by watching the sunset at our beautiful beaches!
My name is Darlene Guzman and I am the teacher for students ages 12 – 15 years old at Blossom. I am originally from New Jersey, but moved to Pennsylvania when I was a teenager. I attended Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania where I 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. I 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.
My husband, Edgardo, and I decided that moving to Florida was the best choice for the two of us and that is when I heard of Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf. I 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. I joined Blossom in February 2012 and have loved every day of it.
I am fluent in English, ASL y hablo Español (I speak Spanish). I enjoy traveling and watching movies of all kinds from all eras. I enjoy working with my 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.
I am Amanda Livesay the teacher for students ages 9 – 12 years old at Blossom. I hold 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, I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. Later in my life I became interested in deafness through a family member who was working as an interventionist. By pairing my two interests I decided to start my journey into Deaf education.
Along my journey, I was introduced to the Montessori philosophy of teaching. I was amazed at how Montessori experiences were so readily absorbed by students of all ages. When I saw the opportunity to teach at Blossom I was sure that it was the perfect place for me.
I am fluent in ASL and I enjoy the direct communication I have with each of my students. My journey has been amazing and I look forward to many more years of success at Blossom.
Katelyn Vetter joins Blossom’s teaching team as the 6 – 9 Classroom teacher. Ms. 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. Ms. 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.
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. Colette 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.
Colette has attained her Child Development Associate Equivalency (CDAE) and her Child Care Director’s Credentials. She is working towards her Montessori certification and has been teaching in the Preschool classroom since 2005.
Colette has two beautiful sons and a little girl. When Colette 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.
Jamie De Jesus joins Blossom’s staff for the 2012-13 school year as one of our 3 – 6 Classroom Teachers, joining Ms. Derks to complete the 3 – 6 Classroom teaching team. Ms. 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. Ms. De Jesus also received her Associate of Science Degree in Sign Language Interpreting from St. Petersburg College in 2011.
Jennifer Potter is an Iowa native. She became deaf as a result of spinal meningitis as an infant. Her two brothers and two sisters all know and use American Sign Language (ASL). During the summer months Jennifer and her family would attend the Family Learning Vacations at Gallaudet University. Attending this program each year assisted her family in learning about using ASL, Deaf culture, and the dynamics of having a deaf person in the family. Jennifer grew up in a mainstream classroom environment and understands how precious direct clear communication is when learning.
Jennifer attended Gallaudet University in 1995 and received her degree from St. Petersburg College. Her extensive experience working with deaf children ranges from her work at summer camps in Iowa to classroom work in Florida. Jennifer knows how important it is to be a positive role model to young deaf children and works hard to teach children that they can be whatever they wish to be in life – success can be attained with hard work and determination.
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!
Elaine attended Ringling College of Art and Design and graduated with her BFA degree in Illustration. Elaine’s 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. Elaine 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. Elaine and her family live in Largo.
When Elaine 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.
Because we are committed to meeting each child’s individual needs, we utilize a talented group of people we call “Blossom Partners”. Click on the links below to learn more about our “Blossom Partners”.
Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. — Helen Keller