Excellence in Knowledge, Expression, & Community

Monarch Classical School of the Arts Staff

The Monarch Team


Leigha Johnson - Director of School

Leigha Johnson is Lead Founder of Monarch Classical School of the Arts and Head of School. She is a passionate, high-performing, agent of change within public education. Leigha has over a decade of diverse classroom experience, including instructional coaching and intervention support. Additionally, she has served as a curriculum writer and consultant with several publishing organizations, specifically in the area of cross-curricular lesson structures and differentiation strategies. Leigha received several awards for her distinction within public education to include classroom achievement data, character development initiatives, and community outreach and advocacy. Her education includes a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Sociology, Masters of Art in Teaching, Masters of Art in Educational Technology, Education Specialist in Education Administration, and currently nearing program completion for Doctor of Education in K-12 Leadership.

In her free time she enjoys crafting, interior design, curling up with a compelling biography, taste-testing almost any savory cuisine, and working through her DIY and upcycle Pinterest projects. 

Leigha holds professional licenses in:

•Early Childhood-6 th Grade Elementary Education

•4-8 Math, Science, History, and Language Arts

•6-12 Family Consumer Sciences

•7-12 Career and Technical Education

•K-12 School Administration (Principal)


Pauline Eltagonde - Dean of School

Pauline Eltagonde served as a member of Monarch's founding team. She began her teaching career almost by accident. Starting out as a stay-at- home mom with a commitment to her children’s educational experience, she began working as a guest teacher in their rural Colorado school. Within a short amount of time, she decided to pursue her interest of building classrooms of excellence as a full-time profession. She has spent the last eight years teaching elementary school within the Colorado Springs area and advocating for an equitable school experience for all students. Pauline is an active member of many parent and community organizations and considers her service to our country (as an Army veteran), community, and families to be her proudest achievements. Although originally from Detroit, Michigan, Colorado has been her home for the past twenty years. Pauline received a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and Specialization in Elementary Education from Regis University. She is currently pursuing a Master of Art in Instructional Leadership.

In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, and being active with her six children and two grandchildren.

Phillip E. Williams - Dean of Instruction/Master Teacher

Dr. Williams graduated from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs with a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish, Colorado College with a Master of Arts in Teaching, and Walden University with a Doctorate in Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment. His professional experience within public education includes seventeen years as a K-8 teacher, Instructional Coach, and District Assessments & Data Coordinator. Mr. Williams has traveled to Spain and a number of South American countries to spend time as a bilingual teacher and to conduct researcher on matters within education.

Raven Couch - Attendance Administrative Assistant


Reagan Renda - Attendance Administrative Assistant

Lisa Villanueva - Teacher


Matthew R. Foster - Teacher

Mr. Foster is originally from New England-born in Boston, Massachusetts. He lived in Oakland, Maine before coming to Colorado Springs at the age of five. He earned his Bachelor of Science from the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and Master of Arts from University of North Colorado. This is Mr. Foster's sixth year teaching 5th grade. In his free time he enjoys playing baseball, guitar, and spending time with his wife and children. 


Tolley Erin Cheshire - Teacher

Ms. Cheshire graduated from Ouachita University with a Bachelor of Arts in Choral Music Education.  Upon graduation, she moved to Lafayette, Louisiana, one of America’s most diversely musical cities-with a rich history and even richer food! Thanks to the wonderful culture offered in Louisiana, Ms. Cheshire has become incredibly experienced in teaching, directing, and performing all genres of music. She has been a part of ensembles that have performed around the world and directed shows with students of all kinds, from talented teenagers to courageous kindergartners.

Ms. Cheshire always knew she wanted to be a music teacher. Starting at a young age she experienced the effect music can have when experienced daily, and witnessed the profound influence it can have over a lifetime. She has learned that developing her students into musicians is not about expecting perfection, but allowing her students to enjoy and create music in their own way. In her classroom she seeks to build intentional relationships through joyful and challenging lessons that celebrate differences, while unifying a group of individuals. She loves what she does and is grateful to be doing it! If Ms. Cheshire is not in the classroom or writing lesson plans, then you will probably find her reading a book or running outdoors, both of which are most likely accompanied by the music of Rachmaninoff or Coldplay, two of her favorite composers! Having spent the last several years far from Colorado, Erin Cheshire could not be more excited to return to her hometown of Colorado Springs to be a part of Monarch Classical School of the Arts!

"Education holds such potential for change - for the future of a community, down to improving a single moment of a child’s life. This change occurs through learning and my personal philosophy states that no significant learning can occur without significant relationship. Relationship begins through exhibiting respect to each student in my room by providing meticulously planned lessons delivered with sincere enthusiasm. Creating a culture of growth can only occur when students feel safe and connected; by respecting my students, an atmosphere for connection is established. Every student is able to grow and learn, and it is a joy to diligently pursue each path of success through constant personal reflection and persistent patience, even in the face of adversity. My responsibility as a music teacher is often a unique role in any educational setting. I have an incredible tool at my disposal to create relationships and learning, for music is not only something that improves test scores, but it can be used to challenge my students, celebrate their diversity, as well as unite a community." -Erin Cheshire

Brittany Gosnell - Teacher

Ms. Gosnell graduated from the University of Southern Maine last May with a Bachelor of Arts in History /Elementary Education. She also holds her Associate’s degree in Applied Science in Early Childhood Education. Her previous teaching experiences include teaching at the Boy’s & Girl’s Club, teaching preschool at a small multicultural child care, interning with First Graders, substitute teaching, and, most recently, teaching at a mixed age Montessori preschool. She has also gained experience in Behavioral Health, as she worked as a Behavioral Health Professional and Foster Family Support Worker while in college.

Ms. Gosnell made the trek to Colorado last June with her three cats in search of better employment opportunities and a change of scenery. She was born in a rural town in New Hampshire, and moved to central Maine later on in her childhood years. Growing up, she has fond memories of playing teacher in her basement with her cousins, and has always loved children. Shortly after becoming an Aunt, she learned just how exciting it was to teach! Beginning college at 17 originally to become an Event Planner, she switched her major to Early Childhood Education and has never looked back.

When Ms. Gosnell is not in the classroom, she enjoys hiking, camping, yoga and playing the flute. She is thrilled to teach at Monarch, and is so pleased that Monarch values collaboration and relationships just as much as she does! She firmly believes that it takes a village to educate the future generation, and cannot wait to be a part of the Monarch village!

Rachael Birkey - Teacher

Ms. Birkey graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Minor in World Languages and Cultures. She has a passion for exploring, learning through books, and spending time in nature. A fun fact about Ms. Birkey is she speaks fluent Spanish and spent classroom time in Ecuador, China, and the Dominican Republic.

Ms. Birkey is thrilled to have the opportunity to serve parents of Monarch and eagerly awaits meeting her first class of second graders. As a child, she always loved playing school and teaching her younger sister and babysitter. Although her parents thought she was a natural at teaching and predicted she'd become a teacher, Ms. Birkey grew up having dreams of owning a “root beer farm" and being an artist.

"My mission as a teacher is to equip students with a love of learning and a commitment to character, which will help them to live out their dreams and become world changers. Because of my commitment to serving others, I aspire to create a classroom where students from various backgrounds can come and learn." -Rachel Birkey


Lori Welsh - Special Education Teacher

My name is Lori Welsh and I am the Special Education Resource Teacher here at Monarch Classic School of the Arts. I married my high school sweetheart 27 years ago and have three grown children.  I live in the foothills and see deer, foxes and bears by my house. I like to hike and read history mysteries. I am very happy to be a part of the Monarch dream! So much so that my grandson will be attending here. Of course, he is a genius! I believe everyone is SPECIAL and sharing this gift is my calling. I look forward to being a part of your child's life.


Alundra Eltagonde - PE Coach

Coach Alundra is very excited to be working at Monarch Classical School of the Arts and leading  the athletics program. She was born and raised in Colorado and loves the people within it. Alundra played many sports all throughout high school and college, and can frequently be found rooting for Widefield High (her old stomping grounds and younger siblings' school), at any and all sporting events. After completing her Associates of Occupational Studies and Personal Fitness Training certifications, Alundra served as a private sports trainer and cross-fit expert until she came to Monarch. She says that in addition to teaching children the value of teamwork and cooperation through sports, her goal is to keep everyone's energy and excitement high, (and of course to build an award-winning sports program). 

Jasmine Crespo - Teacher

Jeremiah  Sutton - Teacher


Linda "Mahisha" Doss - Associate Teacher

Nichelle Walker - Teacher

My name is Nichelle Walker, and I am very excited to experience the first year with Monarch Classical School of the Arts. I have been married to my wonderful husband for twenty-six years, and we have five beautiful children. I have a great passion for teaching and I work hard to engage students by using various learning styles within the classroom. I have my Associates Degree in Elementary Education from Pikes Peak Community College and I am currently finishing up my final classes to obtaining my Bachelor’s Degree as a History Major in Secondary Education at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (UCCS). Due to my homeschooling background, of fifteen years, I have a broad spectrum of grades, subjects, and techniques I use to educate children. I enjoy the experience of seeing them have that “light bulb” moment in learning.

One of the greatest opportunities as an educator, I believe, is to challenge every child to push beyond any academic limitations and embrace learning new concepts with a determination to achieve their goals.!

Shanah  Leaf - Teacher


Shane Wood - Teacher

Mr. Wood was born and raised in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He attended Doherty High School before proceeding to receive his bachelor’s degree in Studio Art with a minor in philosophy from Fort Lewis College. Mr. Wood’s formative years saw him develop a keen interest in many things including philosophy, chess, painting/drawing, playing stringed instruments, travelling, and hiking. Last year, Mr. Wood through-hiked the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim and the Rainbow Trail of the Sangre De Cristo Mountains.

Mr. Wood has had a passion for education his entire life. Empathy and humility are central to his principles and he is intentional about creating an environment of humility that places the student first. He is passionate to see each one of his students develop a love of learning, grow and gain an understanding of the subjects that will help them excel as engaged and compassionate human beings. He is eager to begin his teaching career at Monarch Classical School of the Arts.

“I understand education as more than a profession, a societal function, or a right of passage. Education to me is something that is intrinsic to our development as human beings. Education happens organically as children learn and grow throughout their lifetime. It is my passion and my commitment to be a positive and compassionate facilitator of this growth and this experience of learning. I am eager to meet and develop relationships each of my students.” -Shane Wood


Bella Hunter - Teacher's Aide

Kim Sommer - Associate Teacher

Loretta Phares - Teacher

Joshua Abbott - Teacher

I was born in Albany, Georgia and graduated Cum Laude with my Bachelors of Arts in Spanish from Valdosta State University. I have lived in Colorado Springs since 2017.  I previously worked as a Migrant Support Specialist helping students master their core curriculum by instructing them in Spanish. I have spent the last two school years working with Kindergarten, and really enjoy setting up the foundations that will shape their education. I am currently working towards my Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. 

I would like to instill great character in my students, and teach them to love one another despite their differences. Students should leave my classroom knowing what success feels like, and how to persevere through the tough times. I believe each student is unique and I should meet them where they are. I hope all of my students can truly be themselves, and open their eyes to the possibilities in their lives.  

A quote to sum up what wonder our students have: “Everything is ceremony in the wild garden of childhood.” ― Pablo Neruda

Colleen Webb - Nutritional Program Assistant