“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
Outdoor Yoga Instructor
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 also 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 also completed the Montessori Beginnings training through CGMS in 2019.

Jacy Moyer
Lead Nature Preschool Guide: Trailblazers
After School Nature Club Leader
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
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
Nature Guide: Tree Huggers
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.

Bri Ross
Nature Guide: Tree Huggers
Bri holds an Associates in Early Childhood Development from Fayetteville Tech and has been working as a lead Pre-K teacher for the last 3 years.

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 earning her MACTE Accredited 0-3 Montessori Lead Teacher Certification with the CGMS as well.

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 assistants and is undergoing additional assistants 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 completed the Trillium Montessori Assistant ToolKit Training this summer. Emily is in the process of obtaining her Nido & Toddler Lead Guide Montessori Diploma through the MACTE accredited Prepared Montessorian Teacher Training Institute.

Deja Smith
Assistant Toddler Guide: Caterpillars
Deja earned her Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education in 2019 and went on to become a lead teacher at a daycare. She has been training with us at The Garden since March 2021 and working as a substitute guide in all of our classrooms. Deja is in the process of completing her Assistant Montessori Teacher training through CGMS this fall.

support staff

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

Betsy holds a Bachelor’s in Art History from Wells College and has worked in hobby shop and a bookstore where, as the event manager, she created and ran art classes and clubs for children and reading programs. Betsy has been training with The Garden since May 2020 and working as a substitute guide in all of the classrooms getting to know the children.

Shalin Stanback
Substitute Guide

Kylie McNeal
Substitute Guide

Suzanne Strayhorn
Substitute Guide

administrative team

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 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 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
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.