Key Member Profiles

Key Member Profiles

Judith Cunningham

Judith Cunningham is the Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Montessori Model UN. Judith founded MMUN to help students find their voices, take action and build peace as a way of honoring Maria Montessori’s legacy and implementing her dream of world peace.

Michael Jacobson

Michael serves as Chair of the MMUN Board of Directors and Business Manager. He worked in collaboration with Judith Cunningham to help craft the operational structure supporting the founding of the MMUN program in her vision. In addition to serving as Board Chair, Michael acts as the liaison with the Ambassadors and UN leadership that support MMUN during the course of the year between conference dates.

©Photo Andrew Baker

Francesca Forestieri

For the past three years Francesca has been a volunteer advisor to MMUN, helping to guide the organization’s focus on sustainable programs, internal structure and growth management. Now, she is the MMUN Executive Director, responsible for managing the programs she has helped to develop. Prior to joining MMUN, for the past 20+ years, she has been responsible for the planning and deployment of new initiatives using new technologies as an advisor to governments and major corporations working globally.  She has led international teams in cooperation on research and development as well as on policy development.  She has assisted governmental organizations across Europe for the last 20 years, and prior to that worked in the US in think-tank on American policy implementation in the sustainable transport arena. She is a convinced advocate of the important role that inter-cultural cooperation plays in making critical progress for the private and public sector. As a former Montessori student, she recognizes the importance of excellence in education and has been an advocate for it within her community.  She holds a Master of Regional Planning from Cornell University 1998, as well as a Bachelor of Science from Cornell University 1993.

Gabriel Forestieri

Gabriel Forestieri, MMUN Director of Training, holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Carnegie Mellon University, MFA from New York University and the AMI Adolescent Credential.

Gabriel began working with the MMUN at the first conference in 2006 in NYC and has worked in a cross section of capacities in support of the organization. Gabriel shares, ”As I became more and more inspired by the amazing work of all the delegates I wanted to become more involved. I started to work on the Bureau and then eventually moved into teacher training. Coming from a Montessori background and having been inspired by the work of Montessori, I decided to attend the NAMTA Adolescent Orientation. From this research I developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for how special MMUN is and how perfectly it fits with Montessori’s vision for peace through education. I am honored to continue sharing this work of helping to give voice to the next generation of MMUN participants.”

Raphael Forestieri

Raphael Forestieri is the Director of Development and Procurement. He has been working with MMUN for over seven years. In which time he has worked for negotiating hotel contracts, developing new venues, organizing event travel, planning our MMUN tours, managing the audiovisual aspects of the conference and evening events. Raphael is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and also a travel agency owner. From medicine to business he has traveled, worked and lived in different countries all over the world. A true global citizen who works to develop and maintain the integrity of the MMUN program.

Michele Hutchinson

Michele Hutchinson, Director of Conference Operations,  has 30 years of organizational management experience, having operated two prominent Montessori schools, owned three successful businesses, and improved operational efficiency for other entities over the years. She has mentored Montessori teachers and managed staff in the roles of Head of School and Director of Operations and Development, and also guided Montessori elementary students in her own classroom. She holds two Montessori diplomas covering infancy through the elementary ages in addition to a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Rochester and Master of Arts in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College Great Books Program.

Angela Poyiadji

Angela Poyiadji, Director of Client Services, holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Elementary Education, a Masters of Education in Montessori, and holds both AMI and AMS Montessori certifications.  She has over 12 years of service in school environments in the USA, New Zealand, and China.  Angela has also taught in public, private, and public charter Montessori schools.  Additionally, she has trained many delegations to attend MMUN in the past.  Angela shares, “I strive to model the integrity of Maria Montessori’s life’s work into my daily interactions and with others. I never considered Montessori as a philosophy of education, but more so, a way of life. I truly find the greatest pleasure in helping others and making people feel as comfortable as possible.”

Christa Doyle

Christa Doyle is an AMS Montessori certified for ages 6-12. After a brief career in the business world working for a Japanese trading company in NYC, Christa moved to Japan to learn Japanese and teach English. After teaching in Japan, Christa returned to the states knowing her future was with children and teaching. She began working in an Upper El classroom at Montessori Children’s House and completed her Montessori Elementary training at the Institute of Advanced Montessori Studies in Silver Spring, MD in 1995. She completed her Masters’ degree from Trinity Washington University in 1996. Christa has served as curriculum coordinator and has taught in the classroom in Ireland, New Jersey, Delaware and Florida. She attended the first MMUN conference in 2007 with her class from NJ and has continued to work with MMUN to train delegates, teachers and families about the importance of helping the youth of our world find the path to a more peaceful world.

 Viviana Concas

MMUN Marketing & Communications Director, coming from a past experience of 15 years in the private sector, mainly working for the entertainment industry, intellectual property rights management and event organizers. She holds a Master’s Degree in Communications from University of Rome “La Sapienza”, a European Master in Audiovisual and Film Industry and a Master in Social Media Marketing.

Maria Mirela Nita

Maria Mirela Nita, Bureau Operations Manager, holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from the University of Lugano and is currently finishing her M.A. in European Business at the University of Fribourg. Driven by the desire to pursue a career which yields social benefits, during a volunteer internship in a Montessori kindergarten in India, she discovered the potential of this pedagogy. At MMUN, her passion for contributing to a better society is nurtured and leveraged as she works on projects that enhance global development.

Gianfranco Casini

Gianfranco Casini, MMUN Accounting Director. Coming from the automotive sector, the entertainment industry, and finally the management of intellectual property rights, Gianfranco has worked with regional finance companies in their support to small and medium enterprises, and also briefly delved into the world of film production. Numbers, data analysis, contracts, and reports were always an important part of his career.

Hope Leyson

Born, raised and lives in Manila, Philippines, Hope is co-founder and Education Director of a Montessori school for students ages 3-16. She has been an educator for more than 25 years, 16 years of which has been concurrent as university lecturer, teacher trainer and published author. She has experience in teaching students in all levels (pre-school to graduate school). With a bachelor’s degree in Psychology, she went on and pursued Master’s degrees in Psychology and Education. She finished a post-master’s Advanced Studies in Education from Loyola, Maryland. Hope is Montessori (AMI) certified for the primary and elementary levels, and obtained certification for teaching adolescents from NAMTA (North American Montessori Teacher’s Association). In 2017, she was awarded the Education Leadership Award by the World Education Congress.

Giacomo Forte

As MMUN’s Regional Director in East Asia, Giacomo supervises and coordinates the activities of MMUN participating schools throughout East Asia. He collaborates with schools in their development of MMUN Summer and After School Programs designed to prepare their students for MMUN conferences.

As Montessori Education at the Elementary and Middle School levels is new to Asia, Giacomo also acts as liaison with the various Ministries of Education to assist them in their support of MMUN and MMUN’s Global Peace Curriculum.

Xinping Li

Xinping Li is the Regional Manager for Montessori Model United Nations in China. She is also a producer for an Educational TV Station. She has distinguished herself as a pioneer in the field of education documentaries. She has made a significant and unique contribution within television production and education in her country, where she is the only one to have filmed so extensively western education. She won three First Place National Chinese Awards for her documentaries on Montessori Education.

Xinping has played a major role in promoting and developing the Montessori Model United Nations program in China that has provided Chinese students with a remarkable opportunity to enrich their lives and the lives of others.



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