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Head of School: Ted Graf

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Ted Graf, Head of School

ted graf-1-2 (1) headofschool@headwaters.org

Ted Graf is a career-long independent school student, teacher, and leader, who holds degrees from the University of Vermont, Brown University, and the School for International Training. His deep involvement in every aspect of education includes work with the Coalition of Essential Schools and its progenitor, Ted Sizer. Before joining Headwaters School, Ted was the Upper School Director at the Latin School of Chicago.

Dan Cummings, Head of High School


Encouraged by an inspirational college professor, I started in education immediately after graduating from Colorado State University. With a BA in English, I began my teaching career in an experiential, alternative school setting. Since then, I have taught in parochial, public, international, and independent schools. Along the way I picked up an MA in English Literature from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College and, at different points in my career, I served as Department Chair, Dean of Academics, Dean of School, and Director of Upper School. Throughout, I have maintained a teaching load, believing that the truest pulse of a school exists in the classroom. I enjoy photography, appreciate graffiti, and spend much of my free time reinvigorating old homes. I am excited to be joining the Headwaters community!

Ryan Phillips, Head of Middle School

RyanP r.phillips@headwaters.org

Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, I graduated from Texas A&M with a B.A. in English and History. After graduation, I joined the Public Policy Research Institute as a research associate studying the effects of poverty on sentencing guidelines in the State of Texas. After the report was complete, and probably read only by me, I left Texas for Annapolis, Maryland where I graduated from St. John’s College with an M.A. in Liberal Arts. While at St. John’s, I became interested in the nature of happiness, specifically in what makes me happy. Much to the horror and surprise of every teacher who had the misfortune of having me as a student, it became clear that my passion lies in education. Upon graduation I joined the staff of The Touchstones Discussion Project, a non-profit specializing in collaborative learning methodologies, where I ran discussion groups with inmates at the Maryland House of Corrections and The Juvenile Detention Center in Baltimore. In 2008 I became the Director of School Programs for Touchstones in charge of teacher training and program development. Over my time with Touchstones I had the honor of working with thousands of teachers and professionals from around the world including Brazil, Haiti, Burma, and Jordan, where I spent two weeks in 2010 as a consultant to the Ministry of Education.

At Headwaters, I have held the roles of High School Humanities teacher, Social Studies Department Lead, Dean of Culture, and Head of Middle School.

Virginia Luff, Head of the Elementary School

virginia-1 v.luff@headwaters.org

I began working as an assistant in a Montessori preschool, just out of college with a B.A. in Anthropology. I fell in love with the environment, the philosophy, and the children, and knew that I had found my calling. The following year I began Oklahoma City University’s AMS Montessori training program for Lower Elementary, then completed a Masters of Education. In 2002, I began working at a public Montessori school in Oregon, started a new classroom, and remained there for 6 years. Because of my husband’s job, we relocated to Texas and I fortunately discovered Headwaters.

In 2010, I began working at Headwaters, which was then Primavera, and I am ecstatic to have found my educational home. The sense of community is amazing, and I relish the mutual respect between parents, teachers, and the administration. Each of my co-workers inspires me to continue to learn, to think creatively, and to live a healthy lifestyle. When not working, I spend much of my time playing music with friends, reading, cooking, hiking, and sharing fantastic conversation and garden-grown food with my husband and daughter.

Susie Demarest, Head of Early Childhood

headwaters-guides-32-2016-2-2-1 s.demarest@headwaters.org

Susie brings invaluable wisdom and experience to this position and our school, having served in a range of leadership roles at both Parish Episcopal School and at St. Alcuin Montessori School in Dallas. During her time at Parish Episcopal, she served as the head of the Lower School (Pre-K − grade 4 on two campuses) and their Upper Elementary Division (grades 3 and 4). At Alcuin, she served as their Associate Head of School and Middle School Director during a 15-year tenure.

A graduate of Texas Tech and Pepperdine, Susie is thoughtful, reflective, and extraordinarily skilled as both a teacher and administrator, especially in Montessori program and philosophy. Susie writes, “Great educators are facilitators providing the structure for the child to continue a lifelong journey of personal discovery through authentic application.”

Amy Nylund, Head of Advancement

amy nylund-3 a.nylund@headwaters.org

My love affair with words and writing began as a young child, and led me to an English degree from Southwestern University. In my professional life I have managed an independent bookstore in the Bay Area, coordinated PR for the Texas Book Festival, worked in marketing at the University of Texas Press, and also attended births for several years as a birth doula.

My son joined this school in 2008, and I joined the staff in 2010 with a focus on school communications. Over the years in my communications role, my primary goal has always been to help people feel a true connection to one another and to our school. As I step into the Head of Advancement position this year, I look forward to helping our school grow and thrive by ensuring that our communications, development, and admissions efforts are aligned with each other and with our school’s Purpose.

My son is a Headwaters Middle School student and my daughter is in the Elementary program.

Krista Phillips, Director of Admissions


I am so honored to be a part of the beautiful Headwaters family! I joined the administrative team after 11 years of teaching in Reggio Emilia and Montessori classrooms. I am excited about this role, and see it as a way to serve the community in a deeper way — connecting with families, collaborating with teachers, and partnering with children in their love of learning and creative expression. When I worked in the classroom, my intention was to encourage children to inquire further, follow their passions, and find joy in the creative learning process. I still have that intention, and it’s applied to each member of this community.

I am also a Certified YogaKids Teacher. I was inspired to earn this yoga certification after seeing the positive results that came from incorporating yoga, breath awareness and relaxation techniques into the classroom experience. My children’s yoga classes are deeply rooted in community and joy, and we conclude each class with the mantra, “Peace in my thoughts, peace in my words, peace in my heart.”

Keelan Wackman, Director of Development


While growing up in a family full of educators, psychologists, philosophers, and activists, following your passions and being a force for positive change was a guiding principal. I went on to get a BFA from the Santa Fe University of Art and Design as well as a K-12 teaching license in both art and special education. First as a teacher, then as an administrator and Executive Director with various non profits, I became increasingly passionate about empowering young people to become a meaningful part of the larger world. I am elated to be part of such a phenomenal community at Headwaters School, where I see the best practices in education being brought to light each day. I look forward to contributing to the school’s success in realizing its profound vision and supporting the creation of the next generation of thoughtful change agents for our global community.

Gavin Wilson, Director of Finance and Operations


While I am new to the education world in my own career, I attended a Montessori preschool and a private high school, and I come from a family of educators/administrators, including my mother, brother, and extended family members. I graduated from Rice University with a dual degree in Economics and Business and started my career in technology and management consulting in Houston and San Francisco. In 2003 I moved to Austin and followed my heart with a career change–moving into the nonprofit sector.  Since then, I have held a number of positions in a variety of capacities, with a focus on finance and operations.  I spend my free time volunteering with other nonprofit organizations, running Town Lake, listening to live music and raising my daughter.  I am excited and honored to be part of the Headwaters community and to help the school transform into its next phase!

Jason Lewiss, Director of Technology

jason lewiss-01-2j.lewiss@headwaters.org

I was born and raised in the Dallas and Houston areas and after my first stint at UT-Austin I spent several years traveling and moving around the country. I worked in the music industry, the sports industry, tutored programming students, acted both on the stage and in front of the camera, and participated in bike races and triathlons all over the world. I eventually realized that no matter where I went I always returned to Austin, the only place I truly felt at home. I returned to UT and studied Journalism and finally Computer Science, which ultimately led me to Headwaters. In my spare time I ride my bikes, run the trails, and learn as much as I can about everything technology-related.

Katie Fluchel, Accounting Manager


I was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent most of my life dreaming of being a professional catcher for the St. Louis Cardinals. When that didn’t look like it was going to happen, I moved to NYC to get a degree at City University of New York. Some years later, I met my husband and we relocated to Austin for his job. Determination to learn from every experience and have fun doing it is what drives me every day. Well, that and my dog’s love.

Cait Taylor, Advancement Coordinator

cait taylor-3-2c.taylor@headwaters.org

I have been fortunate enough to be a part of the Headwaters community since April 2013, starting at the River Campus as the Campus Manager. My background in education starts here at Headwaters, but I attended two small private schools in Toledo, Ohio from Kinder through 12th grade and love the close-knit communities that grow in those places. I moved to Texas in 2007 as I started college, and when I graduated with my Bachelors in Journalism from the University of Texas, I knew that Austin was where I wanted to call home. I have been able to grow and learn with my amazing colleagues and the wonderful families here. As I step into my new role as Advancement Coordinator, I hope to take the strengths I learned from being Campus Manager, pair them with my passion for communication, and showcase what an beautiful community we have at Headwaters. When I’m not at work, I love to competitively sail, cook, practice yoga, listen to music in all forms, plan parties for friends, volunteer with KUTX, and reorganize my house. I am also working on not killing my houseplants.

Leslie Hirsch, HR & Benefits Coordinator


I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama where I was encouraged by my family to find strength in learning, engage in community building, and work towards positive social change. I received my BA in Anthropology and Art History as well as a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Texas. I have worked in a variety of professions including public libraries, archives and art museums, the health and wellness sector, and as a substitute teacher.

I first came to Headwaters as a parent; my three boys are now in the Elementary program. I am looking forward to being in service to our amazing teachers and staff. In my free time I like to cook, read, run, garden and enjoy the outdoors with my family.

Robin Scott, Student Services Coordinator


When our family moved to Austin in 2013, we were thrilled with the energy and environment of the city, but not so thrilled with some of the school options for our son. I’m so grateful we discovered Headwaters and we’ve never looked back. With such a nurturing, creative, and strong educational foundation, we all feel it’s the best fit for our family. When I saw this job opening highlighting skills in data management, I jumped at the chance. After attending college at the University of Colorado for music, I returned to Texas and found myself on a career path that included spreadsheets and data, go figure. But I actually enjoy it! And now I get to use my skills for this wonderful school I truly believe in, which is all I could ask for in a job. When I’m not working, I enjoy hiking and rowing on Town Lake with the Austin Rowing Club.

Sarah Phillips, Admissions Assistant


I feel very lucky to have been born and raised in Austin. I attended the Waldorf School and absolutely loved the small and unique learning environment. I graduated from Austin College with a degree in Psychology and German. My background includes many years of working with children both as a nanny and teaching at a Montessori school. I also have experience in the business realm, as I started and ran a professional organizing business, and maintained a small law firm library. I have been part of the Headwaters community in many different capacities, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work on the administration team.

Tom Sellstrom, IT Helpdesk Specialist


I chose to pursue IT because I’ve always enjoyed solving technology-related mysteries and educating myself and others about tech devices and systems. Through the pursuit of various IT roles, I’ve discovered a deeper passion for problem-solving and applying Computer Science in a variety of practical and fun ways. I choose to work at Headwaters School because I want to apply those interests towards helping our students and the faculty and staff here who faithfully impart their deeply sought wisdom with their students on a daily basis. I’m thankful that Austin is a place where Headwaters School can exist along with its caring friendships and thoughtful vision for our future generation.

Sean Fleming, Dean of Students / MS Athletic Director & Coach


After taking the road less traveled for many years, I earned a BA from Texas State University in 2005 with a double major in History and English. Ironically enough, I found myself rudderless after graduation and began searching for something meaningful to do with my life.

Fortunately, a serendipitous conversation one summer afternoon with Lisa Dubuque, a cofounder of our school, led me to sign up as a substitute teacher for the River Campus in 2008. My first assignment was subbing for a history class in Building 1, and I will never forget the feeling I had standing in that room with students and sharing my love of the humanities. I finally had my eureka moment, and realized that my passion was working with kids!

I went back to Texas State to earn my teaching certification, and hoped daily that a position would open up for me at Headwaters when I finished. Luckily for me, it did! While teaching, I completed a master’s degree in secondary education during the spring of 2016, and I am proud to say that I have spent my entire career in education here at Headwaters.

In my free time I like to hang out with my wife, Andrea, and our two daughters, Djuna and Margaux, both of whom attend the Creek campus. In addition, I enjoy storytelling in its myriad forms, and I try to incorporate those elements into my work with students.

Lisa Dubuque, Director of Student Life & College Counseling

lisa dubuque-02l.dubuque@headwaters.org

Thanks to one wonderful English teacher in Minnesota, I discovered the career path that would keep me happy and challenged in my work place for the rest of my life. I earned my Bachelor of Art with a major in English Literature and a Minor in Secondary Education. I filled up my free time volunteering at various schools in Fort Collins and mentoring at-risk youth. After an entertaining and challenging stint of teaching public school in Colorado, I made my way to Texas to teach at a private school. Soon after arriving, I was presented with the opportunity of co-founding Headwaters and have been here since. I believe that all teens deserve individualized attention, and I spend much of my time giving that to each student at Headwaters. I am the Dean of Students and College Counselor, and hail as the general go-to girl for any of your Headwaters-related needs. I recently received my certificate in college counseling from UCLA to better assist our students in their post-secondary goals.

Paul Cronin, Director of Studies


I was born and raised in Connecticut, with a move to Washington, D.C. for college, where I graduated from George Washington with degrees in Literature and Religion. I also spent time out west doing a semester long outdoor leadership program with NOLS.  After GW, I began my nomadic life, working and traveling in the States and abroad for two years before landing at the University of Colorado in Boulder for a Master’s in Religion. I focused on African-Diaspora traditions, and was fortunate enough to spend significant time in Cuba doing field research for my Master’s thesis. Somewhere between that thesis and more time in Cuba, I decided to not pursue my Ph.D. Instead, I pursued a teacher’s certification in Secondary Education: English 6-12, first in Colorado and then in California.  

After a seminal start to my teaching in the Fruitvale neighborhood of Oakland, California, I moved abroad to begin a career in international education, particularly IB and Experiential education. My wife and I lived in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and then returned to the States for one year, where I was an education coordinator for an Outward Bound program for adjudicated youth. Then it was off to Vienna, Austria and then Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. We returned to the states to live in Charleston, South Carolina, and then most recently in Boca Raton, Florida, where I was the IB Coordinator and English Department chair for a private school there.

I have taught every level and type of English from grades 6-12; courses in Humanities, Religion, and World Cultures; as well as leading faculty in curriculum, literacy, and accreditation work. I have also led school outdoor and experiential programs, with a highlight being the outdoor program in Tanzania.

My wife, Keely, and I have been happy to end our nomadic lifestyle with a long-term commitment to Headwaters and Austin. Our son, Cord, is a Swift on the Creek Campus and our daughter, Cleo, is a Bluebird on the Springs Campus. Keely is an assistant guide for the Phoenix classroom and  has a fascinating background in raptor conservation, both internationally and here in the States. If you ask, I will tell you repeatedly how cool she is.

Marc Lionetti, School Counselor


I received my undergraduate degree in Music Education from Northwestern University, and was a full-time music teacher for eight years at a small progressive private school in the San Francisco Bay Area. After that time, I felt an inner calling to interact with students as a counselor in addition to as a teacher. That calling ultimately led me to the Educational Psychology department at the University of Texas at Austin, where I received a Masters of Education in Counselor Education in 2008. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the state of Texas, and I have been serving as Headwaters School counselor (and vocal music guide) since 2009.  In addition, I am certified as a Registered Yoga Teacher at the 500-hour level, with specialized training in Kundalini yoga.  Outside of my work at Headwaters, I also perform music regularly around town with various bands, and teach private music lessons.

Nora Dock, International Student Coordinator


I received my BA in French Language and Francophone Literatures with a minor in Economics from Mills College. During my undergraduate career I studied abroad in Madagascar, and fell in love with the transformative power of an international experience. After graduation I sought out opportunities to inspire others to explore the world. My work took me to several countries in Central America, Europe, Asia and Africa—and with each chance to explore and connect with a new culture I learned more about myself and my place in the world. Most recently I worked as an International Advisor at St. Edward’s University, where I was fortunate to work closely with over 200 students each year. My role as an advisor involved providing support to faculty, university administrators, outbound study abroad students and incoming international students. I look forward to becoming a part of the Headwaters Community.

Donna Shands, Middle & High School Campus Manager

donna shands-01-2d.shands@headwaters.org

I was born and raised in East Tennessee. I got my BA from the University of Tennessee (yes, the OTHER UT!) and we began moving once I married my husband–we’ve lived in Atlanta, GA; Portland, OR; San Francisco, CA; Amsterdam, Holland; Venice Beach, CA; and in 2010 we moved to Austin to open our own ad agency with some friends.  Since moving here, I’ve looked for fun ways to exercise and make new friends. I love swimming, flying trapeze, snorkeling, Girl Guitar Austin, AND I even got into the Austin music scene for a while in an all-girl blues band!

Brianna Smith, Front Desk Support & Café Coordinator


More information about Brianna coming soon!

Jote Khalsa, Elementary Campus Manager


I have been a part of the Headwaters community for many years, first as a parent and then as a staff member. I am the Campus Manager for the Elementary campus, overseeing everyday operations for our 150+ Elementary students. Outside of my work at Headwaters, I most enjoy being behind the lens as a photographer.

Karen Blais, Academic Learning Specialist

karen blais-1-2k.blais@headwaters.org

Supporting, teaching and loving children is my passion and life work. I graduated from the University of Houston with a B.A. in psychology and speech pathology. I began working in Houston in a small private school for children with social and emotional challenges, and decided to make education my career. I moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas where I received a Masters Degree in Special Education. I have been so lucky to work in classrooms in Austin for 15 years as a special education teacher, elementary classroom teacher, inclusion specialist, gifted and talented specialist, and mentor teacher. My most recent educational accomplishment was completing a two year training course with the Dyslexia Center of Austin. I am now a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) and a Licensed Dyslexia Therapist (LDT).

Through all of my time in different public and private school environments, I have been searching for the compassionate, loving, and peaceful space that is Headwaters School. I am deeply impressed with the administration and teachers’ commitment to educating the whole child and their passionate dedication to supporting struggling learners. This marks myfourth year working with students on our elementary campus and supporting the teachers, administrators, and parents on all three campuses.

Chelsea Scott, Early Childhood Campus Manager

chelsea knezevich-01-2c.scott@headwaters.org

I came into the world on the Fourth of July in Austin, Texas and was raised south of the river near the Headwaters Early Childhood campus. Growing up in a booming city set the stage for my interest in the way people and places shape each other and led me to pursue an education in geography from the University of Texas at Austin. After graduating, I was an office and event coordinator for a multi-practice law firm and, later, a legal assistant for municipal utility districts. What brought me to Headwaters was a desire to take part in shaping society for the better by supporting the healthy upbringing of its youngest citizens. Off campus, I spend time on home improvement projects, being a proud member of the Cherry Creek Community Garden, and rubbing the belly of my dachshund, Jack. I’m also a big fan of native plants and volunteer with various groups in order to preserve wildlife habitat in and around Austin. I am fortunate to have found a warm and passionate group of people at Headwaters School and I look forward to serving as the Early Childhood Campus Manager.

Marc Gaston, Maintenance Team Member and Shuttle Driver


Denny Morehead, Maintenance Team Member and Shuttle Driver


Ken Russell, Shuttle Driver