Faculty and Staff

K-2                     3-5              Middle School

Nicole McDermott
Director

Nicole Nicole first discovered The Magnolia School while she and her husband were searching for schools for their daughter, who was entering kindergarten. They were immediately attracted to The Magnolia School’s casual, family-like atmosphere, the emphasis on individuality, and the focus on cooperation instead of competition.  She quickly became an involved parent, both in the classroom and in the PTO, before becoming the School’s Director in 2016.

Nicole has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, with minors in Sociology and Religion. Nicole is also a Licensed Massage Therapist.  Nicole’s professional experience has focused on working with people in a helping capacity, primarily children and families.  She’s worked as a therapist and a Mental Health Targeted Case Manager for at-risk children.  She then worked in Therapeutic Foster Care, working with foster children with mental illnesses and significant behavior issues that made it difficult for them to be successful in traditional foster home settings.  She went on to license foster homes, eventually becoming a licensing supervisor for six counties.  She also has experience as an Admissions and Social Services Director in a skilled nursing facility.

Nicole enjoys spending her time reading, going on city adventures, trying new restaurants, and snuggling with her family.

Nicole cares deeply for the Magnolia School Community and strives daily to foster open, positive relationships with teachers, students, and their families.

Susan Smith
School founder, board chair

Susan Smith, School FounderSusan started The Magnolia School in 1985. She taught there for 15 years, and  also taught for 4½ years at other area public and charter schools. Although she is no longer a teacher at The Magnolia School, she has been a member of the school’s board of directors since its inception, currently chairs the board, and continues to work in Magnolia School classrooms as a frequent volunteer. She enjoys working both with the students and as a mentor to the teachers. Susan has a bachelor’s degree in Music (she loves singing with her students!), and master’s degrees in both Humanities and Elementary Education, all from The Florida State University. In addition, she has participated in many continuing-education experiences relating to all areas of the curriculum, including science, math, reading, writing, classroom management, and meeting the needs of diverse learners.

Susan has a wonderfully creative husband who builds custom furniture and was very involved in the early years of The Magnolia School. They have a son (now an engineer) and a daughter (now a dancer), both of whom attended The Magnolia School before the inclusion of the middle-school grades. In her free time and when the weather permits, Susan’s favorite thing is to be outside…working in her garden, reading, or just wandering or sitting. Amazed and soothed by nature, she especially enjoys planting for and rearing various kinds of local butterflies, an enthusiasm she shares in every classroom that she can.  She and her husband also enjoy traveling together—sometimes on his BMW motorcycle.

Pam Maldonado
K-2nd grade lead teacher

Pam Maldonado, K-2nd Grade Lead TeacherPam enjoys learning and experiencing life alongside the students as they explore all areas of the world. “Like an extended family” is a good way to describe the feeling she gets from working at The Magnolia School. The abundance of hugs and love she experiences feeds her desire to continue to make a difference in children’s lives.

Pam, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from The Florida State University, has been the K-2 teacher at The Magnolia School since 2000. Previous teaching experiences include 5 years at Wee Care as a pre-K teacher, 5 years at Head Start in Oregon as a pre-K teacher and a term at Tallahassee Junior Museum as a Saturday pre-K teacher.

Being a mom is a wonderful part of Pam’s life. She has four beautiful children who have helped her grow as they grew over the years. Pam enjoys spending time walking, biking, baking, cooking, working in her yard and reading. She also teaches at Unity of Tallahassee, volunteers with the gardening team and sings in the choir.

Juniper Bambach
K-2nd grade teacher 

Juniper Bambach

Juniper came to The Magnolia School in January 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from FSU and worked at The Creative Preschool before coming to The Magnolia School.  She has four children:  Sage,  Jaidyn, and Sona, Magnolia School graduates; and Ayana, a current Magnolia School student.

Juniper’s first experience with the school was as a parent. Unhappy with her daughter’s experience in public school, she enrolled Jaidyn at Magnolia. She volunteered at the school, and instead of pursing a job in public school as she’d planned, she became a“front-room” teacher. When her youngest daughter Ayana was born,“the love and support I got from this community proved what I have always known—this is my home.”

In her free time, Juniper loves to camp, sew, listen to music, and spend time with her family.

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Stacey McConnell 
3rd-5th grade teacher

StaceyStacey graduated from Florida State University in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. In 2012, shortly after enrolling her two boys at Magnolia School, she began teaching in the 3rd-5th grade classroom. Being a mom to two wonderful boys and being a teacher to children inspire and fulfill Stacey’s life. Family and education are of the upmost importance. Stacey enjoys Magnolia School camping trips, family time, and gardening.

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Paige Brey
Middle-school lead teacher

Paige discovered The Magnolia School in the summer of 2000 when she was searching for a more academically challenging environment for her oldest son. Since then, she’s attended 14 straight Halloween parties and over 20 camping trips and enjoyed teaching in both the back room and the middle school. Prior to having children, Paige taught English and Theater Arts in the Houston Independent School District at Buchholz High School in Gainesville, Florida, where she was named Teacher of the Year in 1993. She holds a B.A. degree in Anthropology and English from Rice University (cum laude) and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Webster University in St. Louis, Missouri. When she is not at Magnolia School, Paige can be found teaching Kindermusik, listening to sons Max (Magnolia class of ’12) and Jasper (class of ’08) play bluegrass music, or fantasizing about hiking in the mountains.

Casey Gooding
Middle school and explorations teacher

Casey GoodingCasey is a native of Augusta, GA and a graduate of the University of South Carolina. He began a career as a professional trumpet player at the age of 13 and has performed in multiple countries alongside some of the biggest names in the music industry. Casey was a member of the Original U.S. touring cast and Original Broadway cast of Blast!

After setting aside his full time music career, Casey worked in the design industry as a cabinetmaker, furniture maker and designer.

Casey taught private music students, high school bands and S.T.E.M. based classes for a non-profit organization prior to moving to Florida.  He lives with his wife Lori, their son and two dogs.

Jason Forbes
Middle-school and back-room math teacher

Jason ForbesJason graduated from Godby High School and majored in Math and Education through the FSU-Teach program, which allows students to pursue an undergraduate degree in a STEM field (in this case, math) and a second major in secondary teaching at the same time.

Past experience includes teaching technology and web design to middle schoolers. A long-time math tutor, Jason teaches math in both the middle school and back room.

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