Head of Early Childhood
Primary Sage Sparrows
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.”
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.
Isabelle Crow, Bluebirds Guide
I have a long Texas family history and was raised here from the age of three after my parents moved back from Montana, where I was born. The community in Montana that my parents were a part of had a thriving Montessori program, and from infancy I was in a Montessori classroom. This community is also where my mother received her Montessori certification and began teaching as a Montessori guide. I continued in Montessori education even after our move back to Texas, up until age 5. All these years later, my mother is now a certified Montessori Master Teacher and I have found my calling as a Montessori guide as well.
I was drawn to working with children from a young age, babysitting in my early teens and then working as a live-in nanny with a wonderful family here in Austin immediately after graduating high school. From there, I went on to pursue a degree in Visual Arts at the University of North Texas and then moved to Germany as an au pair (nanny) for a year. But, it was with my transition into motherhood that I found my own passion for teaching Montessori. In 2008 I began as an assistant in a Primary classroom at a small Montessori school in Denton, Texas. Since then, I have worked in multiple Montessori classroom settings in varying roles, including co-lead guide to infancy and lead assistant in the Primary age group, both in Denton and Austin. After competing my Montessori Teacher Certification in 2014 and spending two wonderful years co-leading the Starling’s classroom, I am thrilled to be leading the Bluebird classroom again this year.
I am passionate about inspiring and preserving a deep love of learning in children. I believe in approaching teaching holistically, which is what drew me to the Headwaters community for both myself and my son. The emphasis on emotional literacy, alongside academics, aligns with my own philosophy and sets the groundwork for the self-aware and intelligent individuals we hope our children will become. I never cease to be amazed by what these young people can accomplish when equipped with the right tools and allowed room to blossom. I pour my heart and soul into my work and am so glad to have found my home in this inspired and loving community.
Jenny Novak, Bluebirds Guide
I was raised in Virginia and attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. In Richmond, I received my BFA in Art Education and received my teaching license for Visual Arts in grades PreK-12. I previously worked at the Jewish Community Center in Virginia as an Early Childhood Teacher, Art Specialist, Summer Camp Art Counselor, and was a participant of the Mitzvah (good deed) Committee. I moved to Austin in 2011 and had the opportunity to spend two years as an Assistant Director and Teacher at Open Door Preschool, providing support for children with special needs and assisting families from varying economic backgrounds. I also volunteered as a “Big Buddy” grief counselor at Comfort Zone Camp, a free bereavement camp for children. As part of my advocacy for children and the community, I have hosted several fundraisers for Japan Red Cross, Austin Pets Alive!, and Comfort Zone Camp, raising more than $10,000.
I have always loved being creative, working with my hands to portray an artistic idea. I love working with paper and paint. I feel that one of my strengths in the classroom is my ability to enable children to appreciate and create art. I am so excited to continue this passion at Headwaters School! I feel so inspired by the amazing community of teachers at Headwaters School and I am happy to continue strengthening relationships with the wonderful community of children and their families.
I moved to Austin from Richmond, Virginia four years ago. I am half Japanese and half Polish. I love reading, watching long TV series, making handmade stationery, going to new restaurants with my boyfriend, cooking while listening to podcasts and working out in my outdoor boot camp called Camp Gladiator. My friend Leslie, also a Primary Assistant Guide, helped me foster and soon-to-adopt June from San Antonio Pets Alive! June is the sweetest dog that follows me everywhere I go!
Carolyn Daily Garza, Bluebirds Guide
I am excited about teaming up with fellow educators Isabelle and Jenny in the Bluebirds classroom. While I was born and raised just outside of the Austin area, I have spent the past eleven years growing as an educator in California. After graduating from the University of Texas with a Bachelor of Science degree and my teaching credential from the College of Education, my husband and I decided to take on the adventure of moving to a new city, Los Angeles. There I began teaching for one of the largest public school systems in the nation, The Los Angeles Unified School District, where I taught pre-K through 3rd grade. Although the transition from the small town of Buda, Texas to a large urban metropolis was challenging, I learned so much about myself, appreciating the diverse landscape of cultures in the LA area.
In addition to my role as a lead teacher, I have worked with children on many other levels, as a nanny, a tutor, a behavioral therapist, and most recently, as a parent. In 2012, I took a leave to celebrate motherhood after having my daughter, Sage Estelle. Then, in June of 2013, my husband and I returned to Austin with our daughter to be closer to all of our family and to rediscover this city as adults and as new parents. As a family, we have been drawn to the vast number of nature areas to hike and kayak, and to the Austin music spirit, as seen with the many festivals and outdoor concerts.
As I continue to lay my roots in Austin, I look forward to nurturing my professional career with an excellent team of educators and a welcoming community here at Headwaters. As both a teacher and a parent, I have had the opportunity to learn from many children over the years. They have taught me that they have a natural desire to explore the world around them and I look forward to facilitating this curiosity.
Elizabeth Vickers, Roadrunners Guide
I lived, from the age of three, on a bluff overlooking the Blanco River. My playground, my science lab, my obstacle course, my home instilled in me a love of nature, a sense of curiosity, of wonder and of play. I received my education in Wimberley, at Hays High School, and at Southwest Texas State University (B.A., Geography and History), now Texas State University. I first came to know about the methods of Dr. Maria Montessori while attending college. I had a part-time job assisting with a toddler class at Dripping Springs Montessori School and liked this way of teaching immediately. I continued with the job until graduation, marriage, and a move to Clear Lake where I worked at Armand Bayou Montessori School. There, I received my American Montessori Society (AMS) primary certification, in 1993. My husband, Cody, and I moved back to San Marcos where I worked at San Marcos Montessori. During that time, I completed my Association Montessori International (AMI) primary certification in 2000. I next worked in two other Austin Montessori schools and then took time away from teaching. One day I received a call from my friend Jennifer Phillips, a fellow student with whom I had trained. She was letting me know a position was open at Primavera (now Headwaters). Would I like to visit the school and be interviewed? I liked the school and accepted a position as a Primary Guide. That was in 2005, and I have never regretted a moment of my association with our school.
My experience at our school has been fulfilling and rewarding. I am fortunate to be part of a group of well-educated, dedicated, and loving people. The techniques of the Montessori Method resonate with me. I stay true to what Dr. Maria Montessori created; still I am encouraged to add my own creative touches to my approach at Headwaters. I give the children an experience that excites and engages them while they gain a sound foundation for their future studies. I embrace the whole child (mind, body, and spirit) and enjoy creating lessons with that in mind. I feel comfortable and confident at Headwaters, a place where our community spirit and dedication give us all a sense of purpose and a will to form well the lives of our students.
Lexi Diamond, Roadrunners Guide
I have been blessed to be a part of this community since 2005 when my son began his first year in Primary 3. As my son settled into his classroom with Rachel and Marianne, I began to spend time on campus, getting to know both the children and staff. I had paused my career in the theater arts when my son was born because the time demands were more than I was willing to commit to as a new mother. Visits to the Primary 3 classroom revealed a newly found ability for me in working with the children and an interest to spend time in the children’s environments in a professional capacity. I added myself to the school’s substitute list and soon found my transition into the classroom to be nearly effortless and very rewarding. I had found a new direction for myself which honored both my needs as a mother and my need to feel useful in a community larger than my own family.
After a year of substituting I accepted a classroom guide and after-school guide position, much like the position I hold this school year in Primary 1. In the past 7 years I have worked with both the Primary and YCC programs and have been fortunate to receive training and guidance from many of the talented teachers on those teams. The past two years have been an exciting time of growth as Primavera and Headwaters have integrated to create a new vision of education in Austin. I have watched with admiration as the programs have grown to serve more children and their families, while never compromising the core values which make our school such a fertile ground for positive change. I am honored to be a part of that change working along side Elizabeth in the Primary Roadrunners classroom!
Sophie Elias, Roadrunners Guide
Ironically, I found Headwaters at the same time I moved into a new house, yet I have never felt more at home and part of a community. I have always enjoyed working with children, even when I was one, I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to babysit. I began actively seeking childcare opportunities at the age of twelve, and progressed into tutoring throughout high school and college. While attending Southwestern University, I participated in multiple programs working one-on-one with children in the Georgetown school district.
My family travelled around a lot before landing in the suburbs outside of Houston where I grew up. Even though I felt stuck in a monotonous town, I had been exposed early on and my itch to learn and explore never extinguished. My first experience subbing at Headwaters opened my eyes to the possibility of a more promising education and future than I had previously seen within the education system. Being a product of the public school system, I am able to see the drastic changes in children’s interactions with their space and their peers when they are given room to grow and discover their own strengths and weaknesses. Headwaters’ execution of an open and individualistic learning structure is an integral part of creating a brighter future, and I am so excited to be a part of it!
Allie West, Sage Sparrows Guide
I was born and raised in Austin, a Texas girl through and through! I have lived here most of my life, except when I moved to Boulder, Colorado to study at Naropa University, where I graduated with a BA in Religious Studies and a minor in Early Childhood Education. I also lived briefly in Hawaii, where I became certified in herbal medicine. While studying ECE at Naropa, I was introduced to the philosophies of Maria Montessori, and it was here that I first learned the beauty and benefits of the Montessori approach to Education.
I have always had a calling to work with children, and have worked in a variety of schools and homes as a teacher and nanny. After moving back to Austin, it wasn’t until I came to Headwaters (Primavera at the time), that I finally felt truly at home in my working environment. Over the past eight years at this school, my calling to be a teacher has been more defined, which inspired me to pursue my Montessori training at the Center for Guided Montessori Studies. I completed my certification in the spring of 2015. The Center is accredited through the International Montessori Council (IMC) and the Montessori Accreditation Council for Teacher Education (MACTE).
Maria Montessori said, “Within the child lies the fate of the future.” I feel honored to work alongside an incredible staff of women and men who are dedicated through their work with children to creating a peaceful community and a peaceful world.
Laurie Knudsen, Sage Sparrows Guide
After receiving my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Sciences at Stephen F. Austin, I moved to Austin in 2007 and fell in love! My first few years in Austin I was a nanny for a toddler and a substitute at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. I later worked for four years as a lead teacher at Habibi’s Hutch Preschool. I found my passion for Early Childhood Education and learned a lot about promoting independent skills for children. I also loved the philosophy of valuing and recognizing the child’s spirit, the outdoor education program, and the close community of the school. When I decided to continue my path of Early Childhood Education, I knew I wanted to find a school with similar integrity, ethics, and ideologies.
This is my third year at Headwaters School and I am so excited to be joining Allie and Mark in the Sage Sparrows classroom. I love being a part of the Headwaters Community! I enjoy getting to know the children, my colleagues, and the loving families.
I enjoy being outdoors and taking in the sunshine while biking, hiking, camping, kayaking, and swimming. I love traveling and seeing the world. I’ve taken several road trips in the states and visited Germany, England, Italy, Prague, Mexico, and Thailand so far. I live in Dripping Springs with my husband and our dogs, Jasper and Indy, and absolutely love it!
Mark Lamb, Sage Sparrows Guide
I have been a professional educator for most of my career, graduating from Indiana University with a BS in Education. I received a Master’s in Reading Instruction from the University of Houston. In college, I spent a year in England on an exchange program of study, which greatly influenced my outlook on society and art. Originally from southern Indiana, I have been in Texas for many years and now live in north Austin with my son, Colton, and our two dogs (Laci and Maizy) and two cats (Lily and Lucifer). My teaching experiences have included everything from a public elementary school in Appalachia to a Montessori upper school classroom in a private school, and now, the Sage Sparrows classroom! I was a substitute teacher at Headwaters last year, and came to love the children and the wonderful staff. I am looking forward to a very rewarding year working with Allie and Laurie.
Claire Dronet, Starlings Guide
I was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, right in the heart of Cajun Country. A graduate of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, I received Bachelor’s degrees in English and German in May of 2012. After graduating, I pursued a career selling insurance, but soon decided that I belonged in a classroom with children. In 2013, I became head teacher for ages 6 through 9 at Good Shepherd Montessori in Port Barre, Louisiana. In 2014, after getting a TEFL certification, I moved to Munich, Germany where I taught ages 6 through 9 at The International Montessori School of Munich. Also during my time in Munich, I pursued a course in Montessori education for the ages 3 through 6.
After years of homeschooling, I acquired a sense of self determination which drove me to achieve a Black Belt in Shotokan Karate, travel through Europe, and find deep passions for cooking, music, and teaching.
When I have free time, I enjoy seeing new places, camping, bike riding, singing, or cooking one of my favorite Cajun dishes.
Angela Goss, Starlings Guide
More about Angela coming soon!
David Walter, Starlings Guide
I spent the past year as a Support Guide and Creativity Club Guide on the Headwaters Elementary campus. Prior to Headwaters, I worked with children as a childcare provider, in youth groups, and as a camp counselor. I am an Austin native and a singer of songs, lover of dogs, and maker of silliness. I am thrilled to be a part of the Primary team.