Faculty & Staff

Samantha Schlazer (Sam)



Sam first discovered The Magnolia School while she was searching for a new school for her four children. Prior to their attending Magnolia School, Sam home-schooled her children here in Tallahassee. She was immediately attracted to The Magnolia School’s casual, family-like atmosphere, the emphasis on individuality, and the focus on cooperation, empathy, and expression of one's interests and passions. 

Sam has a B.A. in Anthropology, with a minor in Classic Civilizations, from FSU (summa cum laude).  She recently completed nursing school at TCC and will soon also work as a registered nurse. She has been a certified nursing assistant, birth doula, and birth assistant for many years. She also worked as a child-care provider for a local church and taught elementary school as a home-schooling parent and teacher. Sam’s professional experience has focused on working with people and families in a supportive capacity, managing a personal business, and supporting the goals and missions of those organizations.  She has served on the Board of Directors at Magnolia School (as well as other private boards in Tallahassee), acted as the after-school director, served as the PTO president for two years at Magnolia School, and loves the Magnolia School Community very much!  

Sam cares deeply for the Magnolia School Community and strives daily to foster open, positive relationships with teachers, students, and their families. Sam also loves to play the ukelele and tuba! She enjoys spending time with her children, reading, and traveling with her husband and family.  


Susan Smith

School founder

School Founder Susan Smith

Susan 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 was a member of the school’s board of directors from its inception until 2017. 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.

She has a wonderfully creative husband who 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.


Pam Maldonado 

K-2nd grade teacher

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Pam enjoys learning and experiencing life alongside the students as they explore all areas of the world. 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 five years at Wee Care as a pre-K teacher, five years at Head Start in Oregon as a pre-K teacher and a term at Tallahassee Junior Museum as a Saturday pre-K teacher.

Pam enjoys spending time with her four adult children and three grandchildren. Her life is more complete with the many adventures she shares with her family. 


Juniper Bambach


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 pursuing a job in public school as she'd planned, she became a “front-room” teacher. When her youngest daughter Ayana was born, she felt “the love and support I got from this community proved what I have always known—this is my home.”


Stacey McConnell

3rd-5th grade teacher


Stacey 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. 



Melinda Stuart-Tilley

3rd - 5th grade teacher


Melinda began teaching in the 3rd-5th grade classroom in 2018.  Melinda is a Tallahassee native and SAIL High School graduate. She has eight years of experience in homeschooling her children (Charlotte, Josephine, James, and Thomas), and recently earned a Master of Liberal Arts in Government from Harvard University.  Melinda has a BA in Communications and Theology, and is a certified OWL sexuality education facilitator.  Melinda also serves as the director of Religious Exploration at the UU Church of Tallahassee, and has many years of experience working with children and families as a nanny, camp director, and teacher. Her interests include volunteer work, racial and economic justice, films, history, journalism, trivia, karaoke, and pop culture.


Paige Brey

Middle-school teacher

Paige Brey

Paige discovered The Magnolia School in the summer of 2000 when she was searching for a more academically-challenging environment for her oldest child. Since then, she's attended 17 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 and 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 teaching, Paige enjoys hiking in the mountains with her husband, Bill, and visiting her children Amelia (Magnolia class of ’08) and Max (class of ’12).


Casey Gooding

Middle school and explorations teacher

Casey leading blacksmith guild

Casey 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 Forbes

Jason 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.

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