“She [the Montessori teacher] must acquire a moral alertness which has not hitherto been demanded by any other system, and this is revealed in her tranquility, patience, charity, and humility. Not words, but virtues, are her main qualifications.”

~Dr. Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child

wild hearts staff

Winna Pumhirun
Lead Nature Guide: Puddle Jumpers
Winna earned her BA in Elementary Education from Elon University with a Minor in Spanish. She is a licensed K-6 Teacher and a certified Yoga Instructor. She has worked as a literacy teacher, peer mentor, substitute teacher and 1st & 3rd grade classroom teacher both in the US and internationally. Winna completed the ERAFANS Nature-Based Teacher Certification program in 2020.

Megan Woynicz
Assistant Nature Guide: Puddle Jumpers
Process Art Coordinator
Megan holds a Masters in Human Services Counseling and a BA in Sociology. She has worked as a Program Assistant for a Child Development Center where she taught children ages 0-5 years, as a tutor and student assistant and has volunteered her time to open a youth shelter for her Youth Advocates group. She completed the Montessori Beginnings training through CGMS in 2019 and self-directed ongoing forest school training.

Jordan Burch
Nature Guide: Tree Huggers
Jordan holds a BS in Physical Education with a minor in Fitness Training and has 10 years of experience teaching pre-K through 8th grade P.E. She has also worked as a substitute teacher and is a volunteer with the Special Olympics.

toddler community staff

Becca McSweeney
Lead Toddler Guide: Butterfly Classroom
Montessori Parent & Child Coordinator
Becca earned her AMI A to I Diploma from The Montessori Institute of Denver and holds a Masters Degree in Montessori Education from Loyola University. She has more than 6 years of experience working with infants and toddlers both as a nanny and in a Montessori Toddler Community.

Chinarose Stayskal
Assistant Toddler Guide: Butterfly Classroom
Gardening & Nutrition Club Coordinator
China studied Early Childhood Education at Cabrillo College in California and went on to lead preschoolers and elementary aged-children in Parks and Recreation programs. China has also worked as a dance instructor and as a chef and is also a seasoned gardener. China completed her Montessori Beginnings training for assistants through CGMS in 2018 and is currently in the process of completing her MACTE Accredited 0-3 Montessori Teacher training.

Laura Rubin
Lead Toddler Guide: Caterpillar Classroom
Laura earned her BA in Psychology from Pennsylvania State University and went on to complete her Masters in Social Work at Boston University. She has many years of experience working as a school counselor, social worker, garden coordinator and most recently as an Exceptional Children’s teacher for Moore County Schools while studying Education at St. Andrew’s University. She completed her Montessori Beginnings training for assistants through CGMS in 2019 and is currently completing her 3-6 MACTE Accredited Montessori Training.

Adrienne Wood
Assistant Toddler Guide: Caterpillar Classroom
Adrienne is currently finishing up her BS in Psychology with a Minor in Early Childhood Care & Education, Studio Arts & Theatre, graduating in May 2021. She has worked with children for over 7 years in many capacities. Her experience in day cares and nursery environments, as a camp counselor, youth theater stage manager and as an intern both at an elementary school and at The Garden give her the valuable skills needed to make a huge impact on her students at The Garden.


Lilliana Cuevas-Valentin
Spanish and Floating Support Guide
Lilliana earned her BA in Psychology and has training in coaching, fitness and nutrition. She has worked as a tutor, personal trainer, elementary after school supervisor and as a cryptologic technician. She is bilingual and incorporates Spanish language learning opportunities into daily routines for her students. Lilli is currently completing her 0-3 Montessori Beginnings training for Assistants through CGMS.


Kelly Fagan Echavarria
Yoga Instructor
Kelly has over 10 years experience in Special Education and many years incorporating yoga into her teaching. Kelly is also the owner of Dream Catcher: Yoga & Mindful Learning. This is her third year at The Garden providing an enriching and mindful yoga experience to our students.

support staff

Shalin Stanback
Shalin holds a Bachelor’s in Psychology and has worked as a Direct Support Caregiver, Office Assistant and Dietary Assistant in addition to volunteering at a Medical Center. She is working with a variety of classrooms and undergoing training to learn more about our approach to early childhood education and supporting our guides and students as a floating support guide.

Heather Millard
Heather is currently completing her Bachelor’s in Special Education and has worked as a Tutor at Sandhills Community College and as a Child Care provider at Pinehurst Resort. She is undergoing training with The Garden to gain more knowledge about Montessori education and ensure effective support of our guides and students as a substitute guide.

Deja Smith
Deja earned her Associate’s degree from Fayetteville Tech in Early Childhood Development and has worked as a lead teacher in a preschool day care classroom. Deja is undergoing training with The Garden to learn more about our unique approach and how to effectively support our guides and students as a substitute guide.


Kathryn Hall
Director Of Operations
Linden Rd Campus
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Kathryn holds a BS in Environmental Science and a Masters in Educational Leadership from Lynchburg College. Kathryn has nearly 10 years of experience in higher education, working as Assistant Director and Coordinator of Residence Life and as Graduate Hall Director. She completed the Montessori Foundations 3-6 training and the Montessori Beginnings 0-3 training through Center for Guided Montessori Studies. She also completed the Mastery of Montessori Leadership through Holistic Montessori Solutions in 2020.

Elizabeth Demeyere
Outreach Director
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Elizabeth holds a degree in Developmental Psychology and spent nearly a decade of her career in early education, half of which was spent working with children with behavioral and emotional disorders. She also has a Masters in Organizational Development and Leadership and is currently working to finish her board certified training for Parent Coaching and Family Resiliency and has a big heart for supporting military families and their specific needs.

Ellen Graham
CEO & Founder
Resources, Admissions & Finance Director
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Ellen earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts through UNC-Wilmington. She went on to Graduate School at Western Carolina University for Special Education and earn her NC Early Childhood Credentials before opening The Garden in 2014. She is also the founder of Kindermusik with Ellen, an early childhood music and movement program which has been in operation in Southern Pines since 2011, and additionally has over 20 years of experience in childcare and early education with training in Montessori for Early Childhood, Developmental Play Therapy and Early Intervention for Infants and Toddlers.