“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 Preschool Guide : Puddle Jumpers
Curriculum Design Specialist
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 Preschool 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.

Olivia Yavorek
Lead Nature Preschool Guide: Tree Huggers
Olivia is currently undergoing her graduate studies in Natural Science and Environmental Education; she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Behavior, Ecology and Conservation and has experience working in wildlife refuge and animal care, prior to beginning her career in early childhood education. Most recently, she served as a lead teacher at the San Antonio Zoo nature preschool. She is a certified Natural Leader through Children in Nature Network, has completed the Archimedes Earth Forest Schools Level 1 training and is a Natural Start Alliance Member.

Colleen Smith
Assistant Nature Preschool Guide: Tree Huggers
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.

Jacy Moyer
Lead Nature 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.

toddler community staff

Chinarose Stayskal
Lead Toddler Guide: Butterflies
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.

Lilliana Cuevas-Valentin
Assistant Toddler Guide: Butterflies
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 completed the CGMS Montessori Beginnings Training for ages 0-3 years in 2021 and is undergoing additional training through Trillium Montessori.

Adrienne Wood
Toddler Guide: Caterpillars
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.

Emily Bailey
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 is currently completing the Trillium Montessori Assistant’s Toolkit and our school-specific Seeds & Roots training.


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 co-owner of The Connection Corner. This is her fourth year at The Garden providing an enriching and mindful yoga experience to our students.

support staff

Seiarra Dix
Floating Support Guide
Seiarra has spent the last 8 years working with infants and toddlers as an assistant and lead teacher at a child development center. She recently moved to the area and will be supporting all of our classrooms as she works through our training program.

Deja Smith
Substitute Guide
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.

Besty Yamron
Substitute Guide
Betsy holds a bachelor’s in Art History and has spent the majority of her career in retail where she also developed children’s programming at a book store and hobby supply store/art studio.

Shalin Stanback
Substitute Guide
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 across the school.

Jaycie Tonelli
Substitute Guide
Jaycie just graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in Psychology. She has worked as a nanny and as a support professional for children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Kiely McNeal
Substitute Guide
Kiely has run her own in-home daycare for nearly 5 years supporting families and children ages 0-4 years. She holds a certificate in Early Childhood Education.

Heather Millard
Substitute Guide
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.


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.

Kate Bigelow
Assistant Director
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Kate comes to us with 13 years of experience as a lead Montessori Guide with an AMS Early Childhood credential, a BA in Early Childhood Education and a Masters in Education with Concentration in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Wyoming.

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