Head of School: Ted Graf
- Ryan Phillips, Head of the Middle School & High School
- Virginia Luff, Head of the Elementary School
- Susie Demarest, Head of Early Childhood
- Gavin Wilson, Assistant Head for Finance and Operations
- Krista Phillips, Director of Admissions
- Amy Nylund, Director of Communications
- Keelan Wackman, Director of Development
- Jason Lewiss, Director of Technology
- Katie Fluchel, Accounting Specialist
- Leslie Hirsch, HR & Benefits Coordinator
- Sarah Phillips, Admissions Assistant
- Kate Shannon, Registrar
- Tom Sellstrom, IT Helpdesk Specialist
- Ryan Phillips, Head of the Middle School & High School
- Sean Fleming, Dean of Students
- Lisa Dubuque, Director of Student Life & College Counseling
- Paul Cronin, Director of Studies & IB Coordinator
- Marc Lionetti, School Counselor
- Nora Dock, International Student Coordinator
- Cait Taylor, Middle & High School Campus Manager
- Donna Shands, Front Desk Support
Ted Graf, Head of School
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.
Ryan Phillips, Head of the Middle School & High School
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 the Middle School. It is my great honor to serve as Head of the Middle & High School.
Virginia Luff, Head of the Elementary School
I began working as an assistant in a Montessori preschool, just out of college with a B.A. in Anthropology, in 2000. 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 Primavera.
In 2010, I began working at Headwaters, and I am ecstatic to have found my 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 and various bands, reading, cooking, hiking, biking, practicing yoga, and sharing fantastic conversation and garden-grown food with my husband, Zach.
Susie Demarest, Head of Early Childhood
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.”
Gavin Wilson, Assistant Head for 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!!
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.”
Amy Nylund, Director of Communications
My love affair with words and writing began as a young child, and led me to an English degree from Southwestern University. My entire professional life has revolved around connecting people with books and words, in places like bookstores, non-profit organizations, and book publishers. It is a delight to be channeling this passion into a school that I cherish so much. My goal is to help people feel a true connection to one another and to our school through our various communications channels. My son is a Headwaters Middle School student and my daughter is in the Elementary program.
Keelan Wackman, Director of Development
Having been raised in communities across the country, I learned early on that the quality of available education shapes communities’ short and long-term wellbeing. In a family full of educators, psychologists, philosophers, and activists, being a force for positive change while following your passion was a guiding principal. At a very young age I wanted to be a teacher, and by the time I was in high school I was working as an Art Educator in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 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. Yet, upon entering the public school system I quickly realized that these aspects of education and their great advantages were underrepresented in most schools. So began my career in non-profit education.
Over the last 20 years I have taught in a wide range of schools, community centers, and juvenile detention centers; with equal love for working with both the affluent and poorest communities and a special interest in the interaction between the two. First as a teacher, then as an administrator and Executive Director, I became increasingly passionate about the ways in which education helps to lift youth out of their little worlds, empowering them to become a meaningful part of the larger world.
As an advocate for progressive education and school choice, I am elated to be part of such a phenomenal community at Headwaters, where I see the best practices in 21st century 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. I thrive on collaboration, and connecting people and resources to passions. Outside of work I enjoy travel, art making, backcountry camping, rock climbing, and spending time with my family.
Jason Lewiss, Director of Technology
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 Specialist
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.
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.
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.
Kate Shannon, Registrar
I discovered a love of languages at a young age and begged my parents to get me as many books on French as possible. I fulfilled my dream of studying in Paris while completing my BA in French at UT Austin. I returned to Paris to teach English after graduation and went on to teach in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with travels in Europe and South America sprinkled throughout. My time abroad led me to work in International Education, where I loved connecting students to their own experiences across the globe. I was fortunate to return to Paris once more as a Resident Director, where I worked directly with students during their time abroad. My daughter Marion was born in Paris, and we all lived in a cozy 350 sq. ft. apartment. We are now happy to be back in Austin (though I miss the bread) and especially happy to have a bit more living space now that our son Fuller has joined the family.
We discovered Headwaters when Marion became a Chickadee in the YCC. I feel very fortunate to join such a dynamic and caring community and look forward to the adventures ahead!
Tom Sellstrom, IT Helpdesk Specialist
As an Austin native, witnessing firsthand the growth of my alluring city never ceases to engulf me with awe! Having grown up on the country outskirts of town, I lovingly embrace this sprawling city with excitement for new adventures and opportunities to learn and grow through engaging with people from all over the world.
Ever since I was a wee lad, I’ve enjoyed building computers, educating myself and other people about their technology, and fixing technology-related issues. Through the pursuit of various IT roles, I discovered a deeper passion for problem-solving in Computer Science, which I am studying at Texas State University. Along with my software development courses in San Marcos, I’m ecstatic for the opportunity to work under the brilliant tutelage of Jason Lewiss, the Director of Technology, to serve everyone here at Headwaters School! In my spare time I love to research and collect tech gadgets, do fun things around town with friends, play guitar, watch movies, fill my Steam library, browse Reddit and other social media, and just relax with a book.
Lisa Dubuque, Director of Student Life & College Counseling
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 & IB Coordinator
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. Soon after, I began my nomadic life. I traveled in the States and abroad for two years before landing at CU in Boulder, Colorado for a Master’s in Religion, and a teacher’s certification in Secondary Education: English 6-12. After a great start to a teaching career in Oakland, California, I moved abroad to begin a career in international education, particularly IB and Experiential education. My wife and I have lived in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Vienna; Austria; and 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 are now happy to end our nomadic lifestyle with a long term commitment to Headwaters and Austin. Our son, Cord, is a Starling and our daughter, Cleo, is a Hummingbird on the Springs Campus. Keely 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.
With two young ones only 18 months apart, my favorite past-time right now is finding time to sleep, although if pushed I will state that outdoor pursuits and reading are things I like to do in my “leisure” time.
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 director) 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.
Cait Taylor, Middle & High School Campus Manager
A midwest native, I came to Texas for undergrad and fell in love with Austin. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Texas and worked in freelance production for a little while. I was lucky enough to find a home at Headwaters in the spring of 2013 as your go-to person at the Front Desk. I love getting to know and help the amazing kids, parents, teachers, and staff at Headwaters. When I’m not sitting behind the Front Desk, I love to sail, bike, cook, see live music, and hang out with my family. If you have a question, don’t hesitate to ask me!
Donna Shands, MS/HS Front Desk Support
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’ve recently joined an all-female blues band! Come check us out! www.bluegardenia.co
Karen Blais, Academic Learning Specialist
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 Knezevich, Early Childhood Campus Manager
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.
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.