“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

Montessori Nature School Classroom Staff

Jacy Moyer
Lead Nature Preschool Guide: Trailblazers
Jacy holds an Associate’s in Early Childhood Education form Ashford University and started her career in behavioral health. She has 8 years of experience leading the preschool program at a military youth development center where she worked with young children and families as well as mentoring a team of assistants.

Colleen Smith
Assistant Nature Preschool Guide: Trailblazers
Sports & Movement Clinic Coach
After School Nature Club Leader
Colleen recently graduated from UNC-Pembroke with a degree in Physical Education. In addition to child care experience, she has served as an intern with Scotland County Parks & Rec and completed her service learning with elementary and high school students.


Jaycie Tonelli
Lead Nature Guide: Tree Huggers
After School Nature Club Leader
Jaycie recently graduated from UNC Chapel Hill with a degree in Psychology. She has experience working with children of all ages and abilities as a caregiver and nanny, as a student assistant at UNC hospital and as a Support Professional at Arc of the Triangle.

Kiely McNeal
Assistant Nature Guide: Tree Huggers
Kiely earned her Early Childhood Education certificate in 2019 and has spent the past 4 years providing in-home child care and preschool for children between the ages of 0-4 years.


Mary Travis
Lead Nature Preschool Guide : Puddle Jumpers
Mary holds a Masters in Geography and a BS in Sustainable Development from the University of Southern Mississippi. She has most recently taught at the college level but comes to us with several years of experience in early childhood education as a Preschool teacher and through her work in children’s public library programming.

Megan Woynicz
Assistant Nature Preschool Guide: Puddle Jumpers
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 also completed the Montessori Beginnings training through CGMS in 2019.


Montessori Toddler Community Classroom Staff

Chinarose Stayskal
Lead Toddler Guide: Butterflies
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 a seasoned gardener. She completed her Montessori Beginnings training for assistants through CGMS in 2018 and is currently in the process of earning her MACTE Accredited 0-3 Montessori Lead Teacher Certification with CGMS.

Lilliana Cuevas-Valentin
Assistant Toddler Guide: Butterflies
Lilli 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 completed the CGMS Montessori Beginnings Training for assistants and the Assistant’s Toolkit training through Trillium Montessori.


Emily Bailey
Lead Toddler Guide: Caterpillars
Emily has been a nanny for the past 7 years working with children of all ages from infancy through elementary age. She attended Southwestern College and recently completed the Trillium Montessori Assistant’s ToolKit Training. Emily is on track to earn her Nido & Toddler Lead Guide Montessori Diploma through the MACTE accredited Prepared Montessorian Teacher Training Institute in 2022.

Deja Smith
Assistant Toddler Guide: Caterpillars
Deja earned her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education and went on to become a lead teacher at a daycare. She began training at The Garden in March 2021 and worked as a substitute guide. Deja is in the process of completing her Assistant Montessori Teacher training through CGMS.



Kelly Fagan Echavarria
Yoga Instructor
Kelly has decades of experience working with children both in Special Education for Moore County Schools and teaching children’s yoga and mindfulness classes. Kelly is the co-owner of The Connection Corner in Southern Pines where she holds her yoga and mindfulness classes through Namaste with Kelly for children of all ages and abilities.


Betsy Yamron
Art Specialist and Floating Support Guide,
After School Nature Club Leader
, Parent & Child Process Art Coordinator
Betsy holds a Bachelor’s in Art History from Wells College and has worked in a hobby shop and a bookstore where, as the event manager, she created and ran art classes, clubs and reading programs for children. Betsy began her Seeds & Roots training in May 2020 and has worked as a substitute guide at The Garden before moving into this role.


Shalin Stanback
Substitute Guide

Suzanne Strayhorn
Substitute Guide

Rachel Subdias-Cardenas
Substitute Guide

Nancy Lee
Substitute Guide


Kathryn Hall
Operations Director
Contact Kathryn
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 training through Holistic Montessori Solutions in 2020.

Elizabeth Demeyere
Outreach Director
Contact Elizabeth
Elizabeth earned her degree in Developmental Psychology and has spent nearly 10 years of her career in early education. She also has a Masters in Organizational Development and Leadership and is a board certified coach through the Institute of Life Coaching. She is the founder of Rooted Resiliency Coaching and offers professional and personal coaching to help people meet their goals through one-on-one or group support.

Kate Bigelow
Assistant Director
Contact Kate
Kate holds a Masters in Education with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Wyoming. She also holds a degree in Early Childhood Education and an AMS Montessori Credential. She has been a Montessori Primary Guide since 2008, also serving as a mentor teacher and active outreach committee member.

Ellen Graham
CEO & Founder
Admissions & Resources Director
Contact Ellen
Ellen earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from UNC-Wilmington. She went on to earn her NC Early Childhood Credentials and attended Graduate School at Western Carolina University for Special Education before founding 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.