Natalie Monterastelli feels beyond lucky to have found such a magical place that weaves together so many of her passions and nurtures children and families during the critical first 5 years of development!
Natalie’s creative path has taken from her hometown of Champaign, Illinois to New York City, London, Dublin, San Juan and beyond performing and teaching creative drama and improv. She is thrilled to have landed here at Bubble Academy, first in her role as the Director of Events, then as Senior Director of Programming and now as Executive Director & Co-Owner! Natalie loves witnessing the everyday wonders of little ones developing and growing, and she can’t think of a better place to do that than at Bubbles Academy!
Before her arrival at Bubbles Academy, Natalie earned her degree in Musical Theatre from Ball State University and then was off to New York City where she worked as an actress and a teaching artist. She was also an ensemble member with Freestyle Repertory Theatre, performing Off Broadway as well as in schools around New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Her work in schools inspired her to pursue her Master’s degree in Educational Theatre at New York University.
Her passion for Arts Education then brought her to Chicago where she was the Education Director for Victory Gardens Theatre, performer at Navy Pier and director for Beacon & Skyline Theatre Companies. Natalie then followed her dream of opening an Educational Theatre company in her hometown of Champaign, called Class Act, interactive education and events. Through Class Act, Natalie developed creative curriculum for all ages and led the drama and creative movement programming at Next Generation School and University Primary School, a Reggio Emilia-based lab school in Urbana, IL. Class Act continues to offer youth theatre classes and enrichment programming in Central Illinois.
These days, Natalie enjoys the challenges and learning opportunities that come from being a mom and running a business. She has fun sharing some of her observations and experiences on her blog, Stars Over the Mountain. Natalie is grateful for the opportunity to interact with the wonderful families and team each day at Bubbles Academy!
Laura joined Bubbles in December 2017 as the Director of Marketing & Business Development. Coming from over 12 years in higher education marketing, she’s excited to turn her focus towards the little ones just starting out in their educational journey.
Laura has her BA in Graphic Design from St. Xavier University, and her MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management. Her role at Bubbles is the perfect combination of creative and business – getting to work on fun bubbly collateral and social media while also building an amazing business with a mission she truly believes in.
Her two daughters love Bubbles as much as she does, and you’ll catch them running around in the open play room every chance they get.
Victoria started her Bubbles Academy career as a Music Teacher in 2011. After many years working birthday parties and teaching everything from Creative Movement to Art + Music to Preparing for Preschool, she’s thrilled to use her other skills as the Director of Finance and Operations.
In addition to teaching at Bubbles, Victoria has worked as a real estate agent, accountant, market research consultant, escape room creator, stage manager, camp counselor, and more! At the heart of it all, she loves working with people, making sense of numbers, and improving processes of all shapes and sizes.
She has a personal love of teaching financial literacy to all ages, and developed the Money Sense Math after-school class. While she’s usually at the front desk, you might also catch her subbing in a class or playing at a concert.
Samantha Maxwell joined Bubbles Academy in 2010. Sam has worked in every area of programming at Bubbles from Events to Parent Child Classes to Teaching Preschool.
Originally from Michigan, Sam moved to Chicago to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting from The Theatre School at DePaul University. During Sam’s college career, she discovered a passion for youth theatre and has been privileged to work with the Tony Award winning Minneapolis Children’s Theatre Company, The Chicago Children’s Theatre Company, Emerald City Theatre, and Theatre-Hikes Chicago. Sam’s most cherished theatrical experience was her work with The Chicago Children’s Theatre Company’s installation for children with autism and their families titled The Red Kite Project.
Sam earned her Masters of Science in Child Development from Erikson Institute with a specialization in Administration where she was the recipient of the Harris Foundation Scholarship for Excellence in Leadership. The Harris Excellence Scholarships are awarded annually to a select number of students with excellent academic credentials and a demonstrated commitment to the field of early childhood.
Sam is grateful for the opportunity to use both her theatrical expertise, and broad knowledge of needs of young children at Bubbles Academy’s arts-integrated preschool program. As an educator and leader, Sam strives to inspire confidence, independence, curiosity and creativity in each of her students, their families and our teachers every day. As a new mom herself (to son, CJ), Sam is passionate about helping new parents find support and community through Bubbles’ 4th Trimester Village as both a facilitator and child development consultant.
Brittny, a Southern native of Midway, Kentucky, is celebrating 10+ years as a teaching artist with Bubbles Academy! Combining her musical theatre, improvisation and children’s performance experience with her years of after-school enrichment programming and classroom lead teaching, Bubbles has been the most magical place to ignite Brittny’s love of teaching, mentoring teachers and inspiring young artists.
As Program Manager, Brittny develops curriculum, facilitates training and leads the Music, Movement, Art+Music & Preparing for Preschool Teams here at Bubbles. She can be found most often, ukulele and boomwhacker in hand, as the Lead Teacher for the Older Two’s Preschool Program, as well as the Preparing for Preschool Program. When she’s not making kid-magic in the classroom, you can also catch Brittny performing professionally as a musical-comedy Cabaret performer around town.
With a Bachelor’s of Arts in Theatre & Gender Studies, Brittny also received her Early Childhood Lead Teacher qualification from Truman College. As an early childhood educator, especially through our unique approach to arts-integrated programming, she cherishes every opportunity to foster creativity, bolster resilience, and boost a child’s sense of self. Brittny strives to stay curious and to live out this always-applicable Shel Silverstein phrase, “Put something silly in the world!”
Amelia’s been moving and grooving from day one. Her parents once told her that as a child she “wasn’t content until she could walk on her own.” Walking quickly turned into dancing, and she’s never stopped. Originally from Houston, Texas, Amelia spent her childhood trying to do anything she considered “artistic” until finally finding her passion in theatre and dance. She graduated from Northwestern University where she was a Theatre major, Dance minor, and graduated with a certificate in Music Theatre.
Working at Bubbles is a dream come true! The mixture of imagination, adventure, art, and music is perfect for Miss Amelia’s energetic and creative spirit. She has been working with young children since she was a teenager, and loves the opportunity Bubbles gives to combine her love of children with her love of the arts. When not working, she can be found on stage performing, teaching herself how to play musical instruments, and baking treats for friends!
Iman is originally from San Francisco, California and moved to Chicago in 2021. She is passionate about creating accessible environments in both the digital and real world through design! She has spent the last six years as an Operations Manager for a small business dedicated to being eco-friendly and supporting local artists and she is currently pursuing a BS in Digital Media & Web Technology at the University of Maryland. She is so excited to use her skills in art, administration, and sustainability at Bubbles as the Front Office Manager! When she’s not at the front desk, you can find her baking, embroidering, prepping for her book club, or playing with her pet bunny.
Born in the Republic of Benin and raised in Montgomery County, MD, Osée is an interdisciplinary artist and poet whose work focuses on documentation: of self, mourning & grief as a means of reflection and process. She holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a former Spudnik Press Fellow, Redbull Arts Microgrant recipient, and Chicago Artist’s Coalition HATCH resident.
Osée continues to be forever grateful to the educators and mentors in her life that nurtured and guided her to be her most creative and therefore genuine self and is thrilled to be able to bring her robust creative admin and customer service background to the Bubbles team! When not at Bubbles, Osée can be found screen printing her life away in the studio, exploring all the vegan cuisine Chicago has to offer or binging the latest and greatest TV hits.
Andi is absolutely over the moon to be joining a team as caring and creative as the Bubbles Academy Family!
Born in Marikina City, Philippines, and raised in Aurora, Illinois, Andi has always been surrounded by the arts in one way or another. From starting piano lessons as a little kid to receiving her BFA in Acting from UIC’s School of Theatre and Music in 2019, creative expression has always been an essential part of her identity. Now, as a full-blown-grown-up, Andi is deeply passionate about uplifting and celebrating that same creativity bubbling up inside of every little human, no matter how small.
Andi has worked with kids in all sorts of environments: from teaching after-school art classes to preschoolers, to creating devised theatre with incarcerated youth at the Cook County JTDC. Andi believes whole-heartedly that art is a language that we can all understand, and can use to bridge the gaps between our many worlds.
Outside of Bubbles, Andi can be found painting, performing, or caught up in a really good book.
Born and raised in Chicago, Antwon Funches is a music, theatre, and visual teaching artist with a B.A. in Theatre and Performance from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Antwon has taught numerous disciplines to several age ranges through organizations including Marwen Inc., Columbia College Chicago, Asian Human Services, and Chicago Public Library. He is motivated by seeing excitement and progress in his students, alway nurturing their interests and growth. Antwon is excited to educate and uplift the youth of Bubbles Academy with his vibrancy, experience, and commitment!
Caroline Tye is a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor and a registered board-certified art therapist. She is also an artist, educator and the owner of Dandelion Art Studio. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Art Education from Illinois College, however her passionate beliefs in the power of creativity lead her to discover the certificate art therapy program at Northwestern University. She completed the program, but wanted to continue to further her knowledge. She obtained a Master’s in Art Therapy with an emphasis in Counseling at Mount Mary University. Her philosophy and belief is that art and creativity can promote growth, healing and transformation.
Caroline is dedicated to working with children, adolescents and young adults. She believes that it is important that people of all ages feel seen and heard. Caroline has worked in various settings with young people as a preschool teacher, camp director, art educator and art therapist. Currently, she works at her art-based art therapy private practice and as an art therapist at a therapeutic day school. Caroline uses the creative process and her therapeutic skills to work with children and adolescents who are diagnosed with a range of mental illnesses and behavioral issues. She brings an enthusiastic, passionate, and a nurturing approach to all of her clients and students.
Chamaya is passionate about creating spaces where growing humans can be their fullest, most imaginative selves in an environment that both challenges them and nurtures the magic they bring to the world.
At a young age, Chamaya knew the arts would hold a special place in her life. Aside from being part of a musical family, she grew up performing in musicals and plays. This continued throughout high school, until finally, she decided to study Theatre in college. She graduated from Northwestern University with a major in Theatre, a minor in Business Institutions, and a certificate in Musical Theatre. Throughout her life, Chamaya has worked as a Camp Counselor at theatre camps, volunteered at nurseries, and led Theatre workshops to integrate her knowledge of the arts with her passion for helping others grow. She feels extremely blessed to be able to do what she loves as an Assistant Preschool Teacher.
When she’s not bopping around at Bubbles, she’s performing onstage, writing, podcasting, watching sci-films, or feeding her obsession with interior design.
Chloe is originally from Boulder, CO. She moved to Chicago in 2014 to pursue a BA in Playwriting with a minor in Directing. She has been working with young children since 2016, and has discovered a deep passion for the work. She currently resides in Lakeview with her cat, Madison the Catison. Apart from theatre, she also enjoys the visual arts. She is so honored and excited to be a part of the Bubbles team!
Courtney is a passionate occupational therapist, and mother herself, is committed to helping children address their physical, social, and emotional development as well as cognition and sensory processing skills. Her goal is to enhance children’s independent participation in daily life. She is driven to help children achieve these milestones and goals by following their lead and acknowledging their interests. However, Courtney is skilled and prepared to utilize other forms of treatment to achieve goals if necessary. She is familiar with a wide variety of approaches to treatment and is passionate about providing family-centered care to her clients. Courtney enjoys working with children of all ages and has experience specifically working with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Sensory Processing Disorder. Courtney earned her Master’s Degree at Mount Mary University in Occupational Therapy in 2015. She has over 5 years of clinical experience working with individuals to enhance their fine motor coordination and gross motor skills with goals to improve their independent participation in everyday tasks as a certified hand therapist. She is motivated to work with speech-language pathologists and other multidisciplinary team members to provide comprehensive care and treatment for the best outcomes of child development and skill achievement.
Cynthia Bangert has been with Bubbles Academy since 2014 and is delighted to be the lead teacher in the Jungle Room after wearing many other hats at Bubbles including lead teaching in the Preparing for Preschool Program, assisting in preschool, leading off site after school programs and as part of the event staff. Always drawn to using her imagination and performing, Cynthia has a BFA in Theatre Studies from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she was also involved in the improv scene. Cynthia received her Early Childhood Lead Teacher qualification from Truman College.
Throughout her career, Cynthia, a Chicago native, has taught kids and teens across the country including at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program in the mountains of southern California and here in Chicago at the Museum of Science and Industry and with the Chicago Children’s Theater’s Red Kite Program for children with autism. She currently teaches classes at The Second City for kids, teens and adults. She loves to foster a creative, imaginative environment where kids are free to explore, play together and be fully themselves.
Cynthia is delighted to be part of Bubbles Academy Arts-Integrated Preschool where she can use her love of theater, improv and getting messy to inspire courage, curiosity and kindness in her students. Let’s play!
Mezzo-Soprano Eunice Ayodele received her M.M in Vocal Performance from Bowling Green State University, where she studied under Myra Merritt and her B.A from Aurora University. With over a decade of experience in performance, she is versed in a range of styles, including opera, musical theatre, jazz, and blues. She comes from a long line of Early Childhood teachers and has fallen in love with exposing young minds to music. When not furiously researching African-American Art Songs, Afro-European History, or Human Anatomy, you can find her curled up on the couch watching anime or playing video games!
Giovanni is a Chicago westside native through and through, and loves everything Chicago from the Westside and Southside from the United Center to Maxwell street stores to the great Dusable museum. He studied early childcare at Northeastern Illinois University and has been teaching 3 to 5 year olds for 11 years now, bringing a wealth of experience to Bubbles Academy’s Arts-Integrated Preschool!
When not teaching you can catch him playing the latest and greatest in video gaming, lecturing, or watching a great Marvel or DC movie in live action or animated, with a little bit of WWE and AEW wrestling mixed in.
Ian is a Chicago born and raised visual artist who graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2018. They currently run an etsy store, participate in art fairs across the midwest, and participate in group shows. Ian worked as a camp counselor for 7 years, as well as working as a ceramics teacher at an after school program. When they’re not making art, they’re most likely cooking, doing yoga, or hanging out with their bearded dragon. They’re super excited to be part of the Bubbles team!
Katie is a dedicated, experienced, and licensed speech and language pathologist. Katie is energetic, fun loving, and kids love working with her! Katie has been practicing since 2008 and has extensive experience treating children with speech and language delays and disorders. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Speech and hearing Science at the University of Illinois in 2006 and received her Master’s degree in Communication Science and Disorders from the Saint Louis University in 2008. Katie is a certified speech and language pathologist in the state of Illinois, a member of the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association, and owns Crossroads Speech Therapy in Chicago. Katie is also a mother of two young children who attend Bubbles classes. You also may recognize Katie from Shred415, she has taught exercise classes there since 2012. From a speech therapy client: Katie is a pleasure to work with and is a complete professional. She gives the kids exercises that are not only tailored to their needs, but actually get them excited and are fun for them to work on at home. The progress has been beyond what I thought was possible, and working with Katie has made a huge difference! I highly recommend Crossroads to anyone in the Chicago area looking for a Speech Pathologist.
Laura Bronson is thrilled to join the Bubbles team as Art Coordinator and Assistant Teacher in the Jungle Room! Creating art and working with children are two of her greatest passions. She grew up in Alaska where she spent every summer at musical theatre camp. She recently graduated Columbia College Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts in Illustration. Her love of animals, nature, and bright colors often inspire her artwork. She hopes to illustrate children’s books in the future. Aside from teaching, Laura’s other interests include dinosaurs, snowboarding, and petting dogs.
Marcus has been working with kids since they still were a kid! A Texas native, Marcus spent their formative years singing and dancing at the Northeast School of the Arts as a musical theater major from 2014-2018, which has led to a lifelong love of the arts. Currently a Television Executive Producing and Comedy Writing major at Columbia College Chicago, Marcus is excited for what this summer has to hold! A former camp goer, Marcus prides himself on being the kind of counselor that is remembered for changing lives.
Mel discovered her love of music through afternoons spent with her musician grandparents, and quickly made the leap to theatre and the visual arts. She first began working as a teaching artist when she led creative drama classes as a Northwestern student, and she never stopped! Melanie graduated from the Northwestern University School of Communications with coursework in Theatre for Young Audiences, storytelling, musical theatre, and costume design, and immediately got to work as an actor, arts administrator, and educator.
After teaching and working at various theatre companies in and outside Chicago, Mel is so excited to now be a part of the Bubbles Academy team, where her loves of education, performing, music, and art are always working together. Outside of Bubbles, you can find Mel running around the city (literally– she’s a ten-time marathoner), performing onstage, playing with her dogs, or playing one of her many musical instruments (accordion is the current favorite).
Nate may be new to Bubbles, but he is no stranger to arts integrated learning. He is originally from Michigan and studied theatre at Butler University where he was the school mascot, a bulldog! After graduating, he pursued a career in theatre performing and teaching in many states including, Virginia, Arkansas, and New York before settling in Chicago 8 years ago.
As a teaching artist, Nate has worked with such wonderful companies as Lifeline, Chicago Children’s Theatre/Red Kite Project, and City of Evanston Parks & Recreation. Nate is also passionate about working in barrier free/inclusive theatre. He has worked with Special Gifts Theatre as a Production Manager for several locations directing the shows. Nate is currently pursuing his Masters in Child Development at Erikson Institute to be a child life specialist advocating for patients and families in the hospital environment. Nate is a lead teacher in the Jungle Room and will likely be found monkeying around with his students.
Nathan grew up in the mitten of Michigan, where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Vocal Performance from Central Michigan University. After his time at CMU, Nathan made his way to South Bend, Indiana where he pursued a Masters Degree in Sacred Music from the University of Notre Dame. While studying at ND, Nathan discovered his love of teaching music with the Notre Dame Children’s Choir where he taught the Cherub Choir (ages 5-7). After graduating from ND, Nathan made his way to Chicago to start his life after school and couldn’t be happier that he found his way to Bubbles Academy, where he is able to share his love of learning and music with all the kids at Bubbles. Nathan is a lead music teacher for the Bubbles Parent Child Music classes, and Music teacher for the Bubbles Preschool Program. In his free time, Nathan can be found making some music, growing too many plants, or riding his bike.
Oscar (O) Villalobos III is a native of North Alabama. They received their B.A. in Dance and Theatre at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. O has trained intensively in professional programs with dance companies such as the American Ballet Theatre, Gus Giordano Dance School, Inaside Dance Chicago, Batsheva Dance Company, and Abraham in Motion (A.I.M Next Step). They have danced under the direction of Cornelius Carter with Alabama Repertory Dance Theater and as an Emerging Artist with South Chicago Dance Theatre under the direction of Kia Smith. Aside from dancing, they work at the Harris Theater as an Audience Service Representative.
Aside from dancing, O has taught dance to children and teenagers of all ages in classroom settings, competition classes, and virtually. Their biggest mission in life is to integrate the arts in a person’s life to uplift their quality of life no matter who they are. O is so excited to join the events team and start celebrating with everyone!
Art allows us to develop and mature as we learn how to express ourselves.
Originally from Qingdao, China, Ruohan moved to Ohio to earn her BA in Early Childhood Education from Miami University in 2016. After finishing the program, she moved to New York and earned her MA of ECE from Teachers College in 2021. Ruohan has worked in different settings with preschool children, and she enjoys integrating different forms of arts in the classroom. Ruohan is currently pursuing photography as a hobby when not working.
Sammi grew up in Massachusetts, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art from Framingham State University. After completing student teaching as an art teacher in an elementary school in Boston, she moved to Chicago to begin her education career. Sammi has always had a passion for art and has been working with children all her adult life. She is an assistant teacher in the jungle and ocean rooms, and also teaches art classes. She is very happy to be here at Bubbles where the arts are seen as a highly valued part of every child’s education and growth. Some of her interests outside of teaching include painting and playing the drums.
Sophia has been singing and constantly putting on a show from the moment she learned to speak. She is now a Chicago based musical theatre performer and arts teacher, and she is loving every moment of it! Sophia (also known as Sophi) was originally born and raised in cloudy Cleveland, Ohio- making her a native of the midwest. In 2021, she graduated with her B.F.A. in Musical Theatre from The Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Since then, she has worked as a professional actor with multiple Chicago based companies that specialize in shows for children such as Warner Brothers (The Polar Express- Chicago) and Stages Chicago. Outside of working with children and performing, Sophia has a passion for bonding with individuals who have special needs. Something she loves more than anything in the world is singing songs and connecting with her younger brother who has autism.
When she’s not jamming out and playing pretend at Bubbles, you can find Sophia watching reality shows, online clothes shopping, playing ukulele, or socializing with almost anyone she knows.