Head of the Elementary School: Virginia Luff
Elementary Campus Manager: Jote Khalsa
Early Elementary Meadowlarks (Grades 2-3)
Early Elementary Owls (Grades 2-3)
Upper Elementary Phoenixes (Grades 4-5)
Upper Elementary Thunderbirds (Grades 4-5)
Elementary Support & Specials Staff
- Beth Berman, Music Teacher
- Lucille Berrones, Gardening Teacher
- Karen Blais, Academic Learning Specialist
- Caleb Davis, Elementary Support & Creativity Club
- Jennie Glass, PE & Outdoor Leadership
- Erica Hudgeons, Creativity Club Support
- Amanda Johnson, Elementary Support & Creativity Club Director
- Deco Moreno, Creativity Club
- Erin Sheppard, Spanish Teacher
- Brannon Via, Art Teacher
Facilities & Shuttle
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. 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 Primavera, and I am ecstatic to have found my teaching 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.
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.
Jennifer Giroux, Cardinal Guide
I obtained my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and Music from Southwestern University in Georgetown, Texas. After graduation, I stumbled upon a job teaching at a church preschool in Houston. I hadn’t worked there long before I was completely hooked. Those little minds grabbed and kept my attention in a way that was far more profound than anything I had ever studied in school. After two years in Houston, I moved to Germany for a year; then returned to the U.S. to pursue a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I obtained my M.A.Ed. from Washington University in St. Louis in 1995. Since that time, I’ve taught pre-k, kindergarten, and 1st grade in both public and private schools.
I discovered Headwaters in 2010 while exploring school options for my then four-year-old son. As a veteran teacher, I had high standards for the school setting I wanted for my child. Headwaters had it all! I was struck by the beautiful classroom environments, the school’s emphasis on peace education, and the incredibly dedicated and knowledgeable teaching staff. Within minutes of walking through the doors, I knew that I had found the ideal school for my son, as well as for myself. In 2012, I received my Montessori training from the Houston Montessori Center (AMS). I am thrilled and honored to be a part of this incredible community where I get to teach K-1 with the amazing Jennifer Phillips.
Jen Phillips, Cardinal Guide
I am a lifelong learner and eager student of the gifts of childhood and human potential. I was fortunate, in my late teens, to find a path into the marvelous world of Montessori Education and have spent my entire adult life in grateful service to hundreds of amazing and unique young children and their families. My biggest passion in working with children is to be an advocate and facilitator in the growth of the WHOLE child; helping to weave mind, body and spirit together in each child’s quest for self-actualization. I immensely love exploration, expression and connection through the arts and sciences, the pursuit of knowledge and sharing in the wonders of this amazing and beautiful world.
I have two Montessori teaching credentials, received from the American Montessori Society (AMS) in 1994 and the Association Montessori International (AMI) in 2000. And this year, I celebrate my 25th year of Montessori Education in Austin! I am a founding member and “proud mama” of Primavera Montessori School, and have led in the development of the Primary program from its inception. I currently guide within the K-1 program and feel completely blessed to continue my Montessori journey into the Elementary years and the Cosmic Curriculum.
Beautiful from the beginning, our school’s mission has perpetually manifested itself into being, threading together a vital group of Visionaries—educators, parents, and children—committed to a peaceful, empowered, and interdependent village. It has been pure joy to behold our school’s unfolding over the past decade, and to welcome and collaborate with all those who were drawn to come, to share in our vision, and to bring their passionate and amazing talents with them! Each of us is continually surrounded by wonder, inspiration, and unwavering support. Headwaters School is truly an optimal learning environment for us all, cradle to college… and beyond! I look forward to the expansive growth we will continue to create together in Headwaters’s bright and innovative future.
Katherine Hopkins-Pauciello, Doves Guide
I am honored to be a part of the Headwaters Elementary teaching team. My dependents came to Texas in 1843, settling in San Antonio, where I grew up. I graduated from Texas State University with a degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Biology. My Montessori journey began unexpectedly. I discovered the Montessori method when I decided to send my son to a Montessori school. I was asked to teach at the school and I followed this new path, becoming a Montessori teacher.
I am passionate about the Montessori method. Dr. Montessori sought to discover the secrets of childhood and the miracle of creation. “If survival depended solely on the triumph of the strong, then the species would perish. So the real reason for survival, the principal factor in the struggle for existence, is the love of adults for their young.” Our genes and DNA do not make a human being–our destiny is to construct our own personalities through a lifetime of learning and experiences. Dr. Montessori was the first to discover that the brain has sensitive periods for learning. Doctors and educators are continuing to build on this discovery.
At Headwaters School, we seek to understand our students–the whole child–providing an environment for the children’s personalities to self construct. My mission as a teacher is to prepare the environment; letting the children acquire physical independence by being self sufficient and become independent learners, using freedom and their own power of choice.
I love to witness children discovering their abilities in a peaceful environment, developing a joy for learning. I look forward to each exciting year of teaching.
Yvonne Solorio, Doves Guide
I first came upon Montessori in 1991 while employed as an assistant in a primary classroom. I was moved by the amount of respect and level of independence apparent in the children. The children were dignified and happy in their work. The practices and philosophies immediately struck a chord with me. I knew right away I wanted to be a part of this method of education as a pathway to peace.
In August of 2000 I received my AMI Primary Certification. Upon my graduation I was offered the opportunity to begin a new primary classroom and a few years later established an all-day Montessori program. I have been working in Montessori classrooms now for the past 23 years and continue to be inspired and motivated by the unique potential within every child. It is an honor to collaborate with others in the shaping of mankind through the support of human development. Preparing environments to provide the means for the education and independence of the young child is a creative aspect I enjoy puzzling through.
I shall enjoy spending my days with the charm and intellect of the five and six year old children as I enter into my third year with The Headwaters School. For years I was an admirer of Primavera Montessori and would occasionally stop by to say hello to old friends and enquire about the school. It’s energizing to now be a part of this honest, open-minded and vibrant culture. I look forward to broadening and texturing my experience with education as the school continues to grow and take shape.
In my free time I relish the simple pleasures of life: taking long quiet walks, spending time with my family, cooking, gardening, discovering new tastes and smells, reading, and travel.
Chris Larson, Swifts Guide
My experience in Montessori goes all the way back to when I was first born. My mother, aunt, and uncle are all life long Montessorians, so I was indoctrinated into the philosophy from a young age. I attended Montessori school until the 6th grade and my experience and the memories I made with my Montessori community is what inspired me to become a Montessori Guide myself. I have been working in Montessori communities for over 12 years and have enjoyed my journey every step of the way. I am honored to now be a part of the Headwaters School and to share my passion for Montessori education with this amazing community!
Leslie McDaniel, Swifts Guide
As an experienced and passionate educator, I am excited about my third year at Headwaters School and working with Chris in the Swifts classroom.
I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology – Sports Administration with a minor in Psychology and graduated with honors from the University of Houston. I have taken all the classes necessary for the alternative teaching certification in early childhood education, and I have passed the early childhood state exam. However, I feel that the Montessori teachings are a more appropriate direction for me.
I have more than ten years of experience working with a wide range of youth, from newborn babies to young adults. Positions I have held include nanny, swim lesson instructor, Red Cross certified lifeguard instructor, and most recently, I worked at a local children’s shelter with at-risk youth 0-21 years of age. While there, I helped tutor clients, facilitated age appropriate group activities, coordinated house schedules, and maintained a safe and nurturing environment for everyone. My greatest assets are my patience and experience working with children!
Rendi Nutt, Owls Guide
I have been teaching at Headwaters since 2007. My first two years, I was a Primary assistant, and since then I have been a Guide in the Early Elementary classroom. Before teaching at Headwaters, I studied Cultural Anthropology and Peace Studies at the University of North Texas. My focus was on Tibetan refugees living in India, and I was fortunate enough to spend a summer in the Himalayas studying the ways they obtain their culture through education, language, and religion. Before moving to Austin I taught high school for a year in the Marshall Islands. I obtained my Early Elementary AMS certification from the Houston Montessori Center. I love to dance, perform, travel, and soak up all of my sweet baby’s smells, sounds, and love.
In my first two years at Headwaters, I learned more about the philosophy of Montessori. I was inspired by the unique and compassionate way the guides at Headwaters care for all of the precious children. The importance Headwaters places on a child’s emotional and social development coupled with a strong academic focus resonated with me, and I decided to go deeper in my personal education of the Montessori method. Throughout my experience at this school, I have grown as a person. My relationships with my partner, family, friends, and co-workers have strengthened. The teachers, children, and parents in this community amaze me daily. I look forward to my family growing with this incredible community.
Bonny Edwards, Owls Guide
After graduating with a B.A. in English and trying unsatisfying professions in retail and design, I observed at area schools and found my passion as a teacher. I certified in special education, where I felt I had the opportunity to do the most good. In 2003, I was hired at Mathews Elementary as a special education K4 teacher and later, as a 6th grade classroom teacher. In 2008 I left Mathews to start a family and focus on raising my children.
While volunteering as a reading coach at my daughter’s school and substituting at my son’s preschool, I began the search for a new path in education for myself and my children. It was very clear that my philosophy of education and teaching style were aligned with the Montessori methodology, so I began to study Montessori and observe at different schools around Austin. After touring Headwaters several times and falling in love with the school, I applied for a substitute position and worked primarily in the Owls classroom. It was kismet that I later had the opportunity to apply for a teaching position with Rendi! I am honored to work with a team that truly cares for, nurtures, and honors each child.
I’ve lived in Austin since 1998, and enjoy volunteering, gardening, raising chickens, and exercise. My favorite activities are taking my kids anywhere outdoors that gives us the opportunity to study nature. We enjoy bike riding, camping, and making and listening to music.
I hold current Texas EC8 Generalist and EC12 Special Education certifications, and began a ten-week course this summer through the Center for Guided Montessori Studies that will be a precursor to my certification course beginning in January. The Center is accredited through the International Montessori Council (IMC) and the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE).
Deborah Way-Salinas, Meadowlarks Guide
I consider myself one of the luckiest people in the world for having the opportunity to co-create this incredible elementary program, and at the same time raise my daughter in this community’s loving arms since she was in kindergarten. I began working in the Montessori community as Gail Allen’s assistant teacher back in 1988. I completed my AMS teacher training courses for 3-to-6-year-old children at Oklahoma City University, and taught for eight years at The Montessori Center. After that I worked at St. James Episcopal School as founding director and teacher. In 1998 I took the AMS teacher-training courses for 6-to-9-year-old children at the Houston Montessori Center, and taught Early Elementary at Parkside Community School for two years until I became a mother. For the next three years I created a Montessori program in my home for my daughter and her peers. In the spring of 2005, I reunited with beloved colleagues at Primavera to teach Primary, and a year and a half later launched the Elementary program.
I studied Cultural Anthropology at the University of Texas. Some of my hobbies include hiking, journaling, cooking, and listening to and making music with my family. Every day I am inspired by the children, my colleagues, and the amazing community of parents at our school.
Dawn Roe, Meadowlarks Guide
I am absolutely thrilled to begin working with Deborah in the Meadowlarks classroom here at Headwaters! This past December of 2015, following a five month Sabbatical in Australia, I relocated to Austin from the SF Bay area to be closer to my wonderful family. As I went about my search for an Austin teaching position, what spoke to my heart in a profound way was the joyful, connected spirit among the staff and students at this school. This aligned so perfectly with my personal mission in teaching and life which is to do all that I can to create joy, confidence, connection, compassion, contribution, and creativity. I am so happy to be a part of this community!
Beginning in 1990, I have been a lead or co-lead teacher of Lower Elementary classrooms at five Montessori Schools in Illinois and California, teaching grades 1-3 in all of them. I simply love the boundless creativity of this age! Most recently I was one of the founding teachers at Golden Oak Montessori Public Charter School in Castro Valley, CA. Back In 1994, I obtained both my AMS Montessori Certification for Lower Elementary from The Midwest Montessori Training Center in Chicago, Illinois and my Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from UW-Madison, Wisconsin. While at UW-Madison, my education also included in-depth studies in Theatre Performance and Fine Arts. I pursued acting professionally for several years prior to discovering my love of teaching. I have been blessed to have been able to share this passion for theatre arts with my students over the past 20+ years in my role of Montessori Teacher. Each year, in addition to our rich academic curriculum, my classroom has created a play, integrating what we have been studying in the Cultural Areas with literature, art, music, writing, math, drama, song, and dance.
In addition to my passion for integrating the arts, I am very interested in peace education, emotional intelligence, and the many new findings in neuroplasticity. I recently certified to become an Ageless Grace facilitator and am working to get several classes up in running. I have enjoyed using NVC (non-violent communication), HeartSmarts, mindfulness, and other peacemaking activities, practices, and projects in my classroom. I have discovered a genuine passion in me for synthesis and combining a variety of elements that make for joyful learning and deeper connection.
Hannah Syburg, Phoenixes Guide
It wasn’t always clear that I would end up working with children. I graduated with a B.A. in Business Administration from Rhodes College in 2005 before going on to pursue a Master’s degree in Human Resources from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. Quickly finding out that I was ill-suited for the corporate world and missing my volunteer experiences with children in college, I embarked on a what would become a three-year journey to Germany where I worked as a nanny and an English teacher for adults and children. The totality of this experience changed my life and my goals.
Upon returning to the U.S., I started my search for opportunities to begin working with children in earnest. Reading Maria Montessori’s books and witnessing my aunt’s career devoted to Montessori education in Chicago led me to pursue my AMI 6-12 certification and M.Ed. in Montessori Studies at Loyola University Maryland. After graduation, I spent three years outside of Manhattan at a Montessori school teaching Upper Elementary and Middle School, earning IB certification at various levels in Language A, Humanities, and in implementing the IB MYP curriculum. I believe that the IB philosophy and curriculum is a wonderful fit for Montessori children and parents, so I was very excited to find this fantastic opportunity at Headwaters, a school that has the distinction of being an IB Diploma Programme school. I am truly inspired by the staff’s dedication to Montessori, the students, and the community at Headwaters, and look forward to finding out what the future holds for me in Upper Elementary.
In my free time, I enjoy cooking, reading, visiting museums, being outdoors, watching documentaries, and traveling.
Christi Wilson, Phoenixes Guide
I have been teaching at Headwaters since 2010. I moved here from northwest Arkansas, where I taught Upper Elementary at a Montessori school in Bentonville, to join this incredible team. My children Ivy and Gage have grown up in Montessori, and they attend the Rio Grande campus.
I graduated from Texas A&M University with a B.A. in English. I obtained my Primary Montessori training through the Maria Montessori Training Center, an American Montessori Society (AMS) affiliate; and my Elementary training through the Houston Montessori Center (also AMS). I have experience teaching high school English and American History, Montessori middle school, and all levels of Montessori elementary. I love to travel, and spent several years in my twenties traveling around the USA. I lived in France for a year, and I am also a certified yoga teacher. I like to camp, hike, read, go on bike rides, and play Bananagrams.
I am so happy to have landed at Headwaters! I was led here by friends: Deborah Way-Salinas and I go back for years. I love the commitment to peace education and beautiful communication, and I feel totally supported here. I am happy to teach at a school that honors the earth and the child. The respect and love that radiate through the Headwaters campuses are truly beautiful, and my appreciation for this community grows every day.
Jennifer Skiffington, Thunderbirds Guide
I love Headwaters School because it embodies the Montessori principles of peace through education and communication, along with meeting the needs of each individual child through the concept of “following the child.” I am continually inspired by the passionate work of my colleagues and the eagerness of the children to learn. As a teacher in the Upper Elementary, I strive to inspire the children with surprising and engaging lessons that tap into their insatiable curiosity for new knowledge. In order to explore their world and their relationships with each other, I aim to create a nurturing, caring classroom community, in which the students can feel comfortable to be themselves and discover their own successes.
Before moving to Austin in 2011, I was the middle school Language Arts & Social Studies Teacher for several years at Khalsa Montessori School in Tucson, AZ. I first became interested in Montessori education as the middle school’s Spanish Teacher and was inspired to pursue a Secondary I/II Montessori certification from CMSTEP and a Masters of Education at Xavier University, both in Cincinnati, OH.
I am currently working towards my Elementary I/II (Early El & Upper El) Certification at the Montessori Education Teacher Training Collaborative (METTC) in Lexington, MA. The coursework and practicum for the program will take place over the span of three years and is overseen by some of the most experienced and dedicated Montessorians in the country.
I received a Bachelors of Arts degree in English and French from the University of Arizona and, after graduation, completed a 4-month intensive course of Spanish. I’ve lived in Chennai, India; Guadalajara, Mexico; and Chambery, France (where I taught English to Elementary-aged children). Needless to say, I love traveling and experiencing the diversity of foreign cultures. My other hobbies include scuba diving, yoga, bicycling, sewing, cooking, and dancing.
Eduardo “Lalo” Martinez, Thunderbirds Guide
I am a proud father of two children who have been in Montessori since they began their education outside of our home. I fell in love with the method when my wife and I realized that our parenting style was naturally aligned with it. Nine years of being a “Montessori Dad” along with being married to a Montessori Guide, I realized that I too wanted to be in the Montessori classroom. I am currently working toward my Early and Upper Elementary Certification at the Center For Guided Montessori Studies (CGMS) based at the New Gate International Montessori IB School in Sarasota, Florida. The course is a two-and-a-half year program founded by some of the most respected and forward thinking Montessori educators in the country.
When I joined Headwaters, I began supporting the specials programs on our elementary campuses. This included roles as P.E. assistant, Art Co-Guide, Garden Co-Guide, Creativity Club Guide, and a private support guide for elementary children. I have been certified as one of our Low Ropes Challenge Course Facilitators, and look forward to using this unique course as an extension of our classrooms. With our Low Ropes Challenge Course in the Bird’s Nest at the Brodie Campus, we are taking team building to a new level for our students and staff.
In the U.S. and internationally, I have studied environmental design, performing arts, healing arts, studio arts, industrial arts, and Capoeira Angola. I am a licensed massage therapist (LMT). I enjoy kites, boarding sports, swimming, being a disk jockey, up-cycling functional art, health, wellness, sustainable living, organic gardening, reading, and spending quality time with my family.
The Headwaters School community inspires me, and I am thankful that my family is part of it.
Beth Berman, Music Teacher
My teaching adventures began over 25 years ago in New York State, where I received a Bachelor of Music (Music Education) with a concentration in voice and piano. Throughout my early years of teaching, I pursued a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education (math concentration) as well as the highest level of Orff Certification for music teachers. A colleague and I published See Kids Listen: 10 Lessons to Activate Minds. Our techniques for active music listening led us to facilitate workshops throughout New York State and at national Orff conferences during the 90s and early 2000s until she retired and I moved to Texas.
As someone who enjoys variety, I have taught K-12 Music, Choir, 2nd/3rd grade Math, middle and high school Yoga, and 9th grade Health in previous public and private schools. In the music classroom, I am an “Orff Specialist.” The teaching philosophies created by Carl Orff and Maria Montessori are beautifully compatible. In an Orff classroom, children sing, play instruments, and experience movement/dance in nearly every class. Through imitation, then exploration, our class “orchestra” moves towards musical experiences that may be deeply felt and even transformative. While the music room is an environment of play, multisensory learning and high engagement can be readily observed. It is with great joy and anticipation that I embark on musical journeys with our precious Headwaters children.
Outside of school, my husband and I are fortunate to have our college daughters in Austin and San Antonio in the UT system, one studying Anthropology, and the other studying Biology. At home, I enjoy being at the piano, arranging or playing music with my husband and friends. I also enjoy travel, cooking, yoga, biking, reading, and exploring Austin with friends and family.
Lucille Berrones, Gardening Teacher
My passion for gardening and restoring native habitats started well over a decade ago and keeps on growing.
Aside from the benefits of eating home-grown food, there’s nothing better (I’m a bit biased) than spending every day gardening with children! Along with 15 years as a home gardener, I’ve pursued courses in botany, native plants and wildlife habitats, urban farming, and others. However, the real (and endless!) learning is in the garden.
My love for Maria Montessori started more than 20 years ago. I was inspired and guided by Gail Allen, (Headwaters’s Montessori Consultant), who was Director of The Montessori Center. I also met Montessori Guides Deborah Way-Salinas and Jennifer Phillips. They poured their hearts into creating (then) Primavera Montessori School. I joined the school as a parent, and became a staff member in 2007.
Teaching in a school garden did not come to my mind until Luna, our daughter, was born 11 years ago. While gardening at home, I saw her eyes light up when we planted tiny carrot seeds, pulled out the sweet and colorful roots, and munched on them fresh and clean! My vision to teach in an Elementary school garden began to grow.
Gardening with school children weaves together many longtime passions. If just one child tries kale for the first time and exclaims, “This tastes great!” If just one student realizes that gardening is more than just growing foot but restoring native habitats, then I’ve done my job. Thank you for giving me that opportunity with your child.
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.
Caleb Davis, Elementary Support & Creativity Club
I began working with elementary school children in a private school setting in 2008 and immediately fell in love with the natural learning process. One of the most gratifying things for me personally is seeing the expression on a child’s face when they have a “eureka!” moment after working to understand something that they previously had no knowledge of.
In 2011 I helped in starting Progress School Austin, which is focused on K-3rd grade learning in natural environments. There I facilitated emotional and educational growth through imaginary play, team play, and exploration.
I was introduced to Montessori education in 2013, working at Hawthorne Montessori. There, I was a guide in an 18 month – 3 year old classroom, which required a certain level of patience I was unaware existed in human beings. It was also where I latched onto the “follow the child” philosophy of Montessori education, to which I find myself constantly reaffirming.
Being able to see a child fully, and to help facilitate a child’s navigation through murky waters (emotional, social, and educational) is the richest payback of all.
Jennie Glass, Physical Education (PE) and Outdoor Leadership
I cherished the time I spent in a Montessori school as a child, and I always wanted to be a teacher when I grew up. I spent many years babysitting and working with children in various settings. After graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a degree in Journalism and a minor in French, I found a job in advertising, but I missed being around children, and the variety, joy and excitement that they bring, so I found my way back to Montessori.
I received my 3-to-6-year-old AMS certification from Houston Montessori Center in 2002, and have been teaching in a Montessori setting for 12 years. I joined the Headwaters family in 2011, and after teaching K-1 for four years, I am excited to return to the outdoors and lead P.E. and our new Elementary Outdoor Leadership program! I played various sports growing up (and volleyball for 12 years!), as well as spent numerous summers as a camper and counselor in Colorado, and I’m excited to return to these passions. My other passions include peace education, permaculture, homesteading, cultural studies and geography, music, and caring for animals (especially my three chickens!). Professionally, I am currently driven by the Coyote Mentoring method and Guide to Connecting with Nature, and am excited to intern at Earth Native Wilderness School this year, as well as lead the Headwaters chapter of Austin Families in Nature.
My son, my joy, came into my life in 2009, and has taught me more than I ever could have imagined. I am so grateful for this wonderful community in which my son and I can grow and learn, and I wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else!
Erica Hudgeons, Creativity Club Support
More information about Erica coming soon!
Amanda Johnson, Elementary Support & Creativity Club Director
This will be my second year as Director of Creativity Club, and I cannot wait to get back into the world of Headwaters. I ventured here after working at Dougherty Arts Center for four years as a Creativity Club teacher. Prior to that, I had worked at Child’s Day Preschool and Dallas Children’s Theatre. I have always had a passion for theatre, and as I graduated college I realized that my greatest passion was to teach drama, specifically to elementary children. The world of art is a place where children can let their imaginations soar, without boundaries or limitations. It’s also a place where we, as teachers, can explore almost limitless possibilities. This is what draws me to teach theatre, especially at an elementary level, where children are often deprived of the arts (specifically theatre). Headwaters is a place where inspiration, originality and creativity are not just taught, they are practiced daily. That, combined with the love and support of the staff, have made my time here so far incredibly warm and inviting. I hope to continue nurturing the students’ creativity through art, drama, and even video production throughout the coming years.
When I’m not working at Headwaters, I am often involved in a theatre troupe I co-founded with my best friend, called “The Dramazons.” We perform original plays around Austin (wherever we can afford to rent space)! This allows me the freedom to continue acting, which is a great passion of mine. I also enjoy reading, hiking, amateur songwriting, and playing with my animals: my dog, Tazzy and three cats: Cleo, Mitch and Stevie Nicks!
Deco Moreno, Creativity Club Guide
My first experience with the Montessori method began when I was a child and found my passion for learning in the six years I spent in Montessori school. Even after moving on, the lessons I learned as a child of exploration, independence, and community have stuck with me to this day.
While earning my B.S.A. in Nutrition and Journalism at the University of Texas, I joined Mariposas Spanish School and was excited to work as a teacher in the same kind of Montessori setting that had taught me so much. Being able to see children explore their interests in a safe and supportive environment, as well as seeing them feel accomplished when they discover new things within themselves, is the reason I love working with children. I am thrilled to be a part of the Headwaters community and can’t wait to help nurture a passion for learning about the world, others, and themselves, in all the children that I am lucky to work with.
Erin Sheppard, Spanish Teacher
The ways of Maria Montessori have been a natural path of living and guiding. I incorporated Montessori for years without having a name to it. As a nanny, I guided children as their independence unfolded; as a public school teacher, I let students work on their own, experiment, discover, and take ownership of their learning and journeys. As a parent, my children use their hands as they shape their own futures. All of these relationships have been based on respecting each other and the world around us with peace as a way of life. Imagine my joy to discover the Montessori philosophy that encompassed my own philosophy and practices!
My professional Montessori experience includes serving as lead guide of the Nido environment, after-care guide for Young Children’s Community, and Spanish camp guide (all at Mariposa Montessori) as well as an in-home infant/toddler Montessori child-care. I also have experience teaching bilingual education in both an orphanage and a bilingual private school in Mexico, cross-curricular English as a Second Language, Spanish, Math (including for Spanish speakers), and private project-based classes. I have also developed curriculum for Austin homeschool families as well as tutored professionally. My teacher certifications include Bilingual Education (Early Childhood – 6th grade), ESL (Early Childhood – 12th grade), Generalist (Early Childhood – 6th grade), Generalist (grades 4-8), Math (grades 4-8).
Though I love to travel the world, Austin is my family’s home. We love to play outside with friends (and our dog, Pixie), exploring for secret streams, sparkly crystals, and enchanted corners of the city. I also enjoy learning languages, live music, and curling up with a good book.
Brannon Via, Art Teacher
I believe in the “it takes a village” approach to raising our young people. I have experienced first-hand the importance of working effectively as part of a team. After college, I worked as an Americorps member, with a team of diverse individuals. Together, we ran an educational program for elementary school students with a focus on service work and making a difference in the community. The experience inspired me to start my own after-school art program, and since, I’ve continued to teach art to a diverse population of children in a variety of settings.
When the opportunity to work in the Elementary Art program with the incredibly talented Jane Hill arose, I jumped to the occasion. I knew, given my interests, abilities, and experiences, that this role would allow me to more fully serve the Headwaters community.
I am excited to see what the year brings alongside people who share my passion for helping children grow and learn–as I myself look to grow and learn!
In my free time I enjoy working on creative projects, swimming, gardening, experimenting in the kitchen, and going on long walks with my sweet dog, Bean. My latest hobby: I will be spending most weekends this fall fixing up the home my beau Eric and I just bought in East Austin.
Marc Gaston, Campus Maintenance and Shuttle Driver
More about Marc coming soon!
Ken Russell, Shuttle Driver
More about Ken coming soon!