Young Children’s Community Staff
Head of Early Childhood
- Madicyn Villalobos, Chickadee Casita
- Paula Sanchez, Chickadee Casita
- Lea Comte, Chickadee Casita & YCC Creativity Club
- Emily Crumley, Hummingbird Casita
- Kali Reed, Hummingbird Casita
- Elisabeth McAllister, Hummingbird Casita
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.
Madicyn Villalobos, Chickadee Casita
My passion for working with children began the day I met my daughter’s first Montessori teacher. The amount of consideration she held for each child in her care, and the absolute faith that each one was capable was immensely inspiring to me. This realization set me on the path of home-schooling myself about what Dr. Montessori’s work was all about. Shortly after that I began my classroom work as an assistant to an AMI (Association Montessori Internationale) guide at a small Montessori school in central Austin. While there I was offered a lead role and had the honor of working with Gio Bellonci, an extraordinary woman trained in the AMI Assistant to Infancy Program. In 2008, I joined the staff at Headwaters (then called Primavera) to work with the school’s youngest students. Each day in this work, I learn more about what it means to be human through the children and what it takes to create a strong community through the partnerships I share with my co-workers and parents. It is an immense task to raise little women and men and one that, I believe, brings us closer to the truth and understanding of ourselves and each other. It has certainly been a chance of a lifetime to have had this opportunity to blossom along with a community of people strongly holding the space for meaningful work and a better world.
Paula Sanchez, Chickadee Casita
My name is Paula Sanchez and I am a guide in the Chickadee Casita. I started working at our school as a substitute teacher in April 2009. I worked in Primary until spring 2013, when I had my daughter. I had the opportunity to move to the Young Children’s Community and I love it! During my time here, I’ve realized the impact a teacher can make and how a community like Headwaters can make a difference in a child’s life.
What I love about Montessori is how it allows children from an early age to be independent, and how we can create works based on their interests. What I love most about the YCC age group is that the world is new to them and everything can be a learning experience. You can see the excitement on their faces when they are successful at a task after trying a few times. I feel very fortunate to experience Headwaters as a guide and a parent–my daughter Andrea is in the Hummingbird Casita. She is making great friendships and loves to be at school. This is a special community, and I feel very blessed that my family is a part of it.
What I love about our school is the culture, and the way each relationship unfolds as a staff member, a parent, and a student. You can see that everyone deeply cares about each other. I am inspired by the many different ways to teach. I love getting to know each student and his or her family, and I’m glad to be a part of Headwaters.
Lea Comte, Chickadee Casita
I could not be more thrilled to be a new part of this community. My passion for working with children goes back to when I started babysitting as a pre-teen. The pure joy they exude in their playtime elates my heart.
I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Dallas in Human Development and Natural Sciences. From there, I moved to New York to pursue my graduate degree from Pratt Institute where I obtained my degree in Dance/Movement Creative Arts Therapy. This mental health clinician training prepared me to work with children through its approach of utilizing non-verbal communication as the source of assessment and intervention. Over the last two years, I have attended Dr. Suzi Tortora’s international webinar to become a Ways of Seeing practitioner. This program utilizes creative movement, play and the principles of dance/movement therapy, attachment theory, and Laban Movement Analysis to help further the social, physical, cognitive, and emotional health of children and families.
As a native Texan, I thoroughly enjoy being outdoors (I’m solar powered). Camping, hiking, tubing, and going to Barton Springs are amongst some of my favorite things. Anything that involves movement, i.e. dancing and yoga, I’m all in! I am a self-labeled foodie. I love everything from exploring a new farmer’s market, cooking from scratch, to growing herbs on my balcony.
I love serving YCC, Primary, and Headwaters in every way that I can.
Emily Crumley, Hummingbird Casita
After earning a B.S in Psychology from Texas State University, I decided to follow my childhood dream of teaching and returned to Texas State to complete their certification program in Early Education. While completing my student teaching, I was invited to observe a classroom at Headwaters (then Primavera), and I instantly fell in love. I was so impressed by the drive and maturity of the children, their obvious ownership of their own learning, and the caring, loving, respectful relationship between the children and guides.
When I was offered the opportunity to be an assistant classroom guide and Creativity Club guide for Primavera’s summer camp, I leapt at the chance. It was an amazing experience! The children and guides are all fantastic people. The knowledge and love of the staff is immediately apparent, and the relationships that I made with both guides and children will live in my heart forever. I am so excited to continue my work in the Hummingbird Casita this year.
Kali Reed, Hummingbird Casita
Originally from New England, I graduated from Boston College in 2008 with a Bachelors in Business Management. After graduating from BC, I left my roots behind and moved to NYC to explore a career in Financial Services at UBS Wealth Management. I worked in various roles at UBS in their NYC to Houston offices where I was able to gain a lot of experience in leading others, cultivating a positive work environment, building relationships, and thinking on my feet. As my husband and I were given the opportunity to move to Austin last year, I felt that it was my chance to transfer my professional experience into a more fulfilling and impactful career. I have always loved children and been amazed by their kindness, curiosity, and aptitude, and decided to start my exploration within Early Childhood Education. After spending just a short time working with the incredible teachers, staff, and community of children at Headwaters School, I knew that this is where I was meant to be.
I spent a year substitute teaching on both the Early Childhood Campus and Elementary Campus at Headwaters School, as well as with Mariposa Montessori. The time I spent in each and every classroom was incredibly meaningful, rewarding, and stimulating. I am amazed every day at the learning capacity of these children at such a young age and I appreciate the respectful and calm learning environment provided for them. I am so honored and excited to be a part of this community next year and look forward to this new chapter in my life.
Still feeling relatively new to Austin, I also look forward to spending my free time exploring everything this wonderful city has to offer with my husband, Chris; specifically all of the culinary amazingness! When I am not in the classroom or enjoying dining at a local restaurant, you can find me teaching fitness classes at Pure Barre Austin or out walking my dog, Ralph!
Elisabeth McAllister, Hummingbird Casita
I have been involved with Montessori for nearly my entire life either as a student, parent, or educator. I attended San Jacinto College for Early Childhood Education and Child Development, and later went on to become Montessori trained in the Primary environment. I have also studied massage therapy and Reiki, and I am a certified children’s yoga instructor. In 2013, I began my own business called Shine Your Light Yoga to bring yoga into the classroom, as well as to share yoga with parents and educators. I have seen so many positive effects of integrating yoga into the classroom, as well as the home, and I wish to continue sharing yoga and mindfulness with more students at Headwaters. I’m very excited to experience the Young Children’s Community environment and to share my love of peace education with the Early Childhood Campus.