Our Staff

Diane Smith

Director/Lead Teacher Kindergarten Class

Diane Smith is the founder and director of Countryside Montessori School and has 32 years experience teaching preschool age children.  She started her teaching career as a Suzuki piano and preschool music teacher in 1987 after receiving her Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Western Ontario and completing course work for a Master degree in piano performance.  In 2005 Diane received her Montessori Certification from the United Montessori Association.  Diane and her husband own and operate a crop farm in Addison Michigan, where they raised their 7 children.  Out of the classroom Diane enjoys hiking, cross country skiing, knitting, and spending time with her children and grandchildren.



Maria Cowan

Program Director

Maria received her Bachelor of Early Childhood Education from Lake Superior State in 2012. She has worked in Early Childhood Education for seven years, the last four here at Countryside. She enjoys reading, traveling, and spending quality time with her husband and sons.



Annette  Helmuth

Toddler Lead Teacher 

Annette studied at the University of Southern Mississippi and earned her Montessori Certification at the Adrian Dominican Montessori Teacher Institute. She has 40 years of experience in Early Childhood Education and owned and ran the  Back to Basics Montessori School in Saline, MI for 20 years. Annette likes gardening and cooking, and she and her husband enjoy spending time with their four adult children and seven grandchildren.




Regina Olson

Primary Lead Teacher

Regina earned her Bachelor of Elementary Education  from Austria before moving to the United States. She has homeschooled her children for the past 20 years on their family farm just outside of Hillsdale. She enjoys reading, gardening and spending time with her children and grandchildren.



Tressa Stille

Primary Lead Teacher Afternoon

Tressa earned her Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education at Maranatha Baptist University in Watertown Wisconsin.  After  working at  the  University  Daycare  and  private  tutoring,  Tressa  joined  the  staff  at  Countryside  in the  summer  of  2018.  Tressa  enjoys  caring  for  her  pet  rabbit,  crocheting,  and  wood  working.



Susan Smeenge

Daycare Lead Afternoon/Toddler Teacher’s Assistant

After receiving her Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education from Ferris State University, Sue spent 20 years as the head teacher at The Camp in Holland, MI. She likes to spend time with her husband at their cottage, enjoys all kinds of water sports, and spending time with her adult son and daughter.



Nancy Livingston

Primary Teacher’s Assistant

After completing her Associate degree in Early Childhood Education, Nancy taught and became the program director of a daycare center. Nancy brings many skills to the classroom that she acquired while homeschooling her own four children. Nancy enjoys reading, gardening, and spending time with her children and grandchildren.



Jessica West

Primary Teacher’s Assistant

Jessica studied Early Childhood Education at the Branch Area Career Center and previously worked at her family business. She is very interested in Arts and Music, gains strength through mediation, and enjoys spending time with her family.



Heather Bryant

Primary Teacher’s Assistant

Heather is currently attending Siena Heights University to earn her Child Development Associate Credentials. She also holds a nursing degree from the James Madison School of Sciences and is a licensed nurse in the State of Michigan. Heather has worked in Childcare for the past five years and in her free time she likes to bake and spend time with her family and three children.


Interested in joining the team at Countryside? Please fill out the application here.