Our expertise is rooted in early childhood education and the arts! Meet our dynamic team members.
Executive Director | Co-Owner
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!
Director of Marketing & Business Development
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.
Director of Operations & Finance
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.
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.
Brittny, a silly Southern native of Midway, Kentucky, is celebrating eight 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, Bubbles has been the most magical place to grow Brittny’s love of teaching and inspiring young artists.
As Program Manager, Brittny develops curriculum, facilitates training and leads the 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 miss Brittny weaving musically improvised fairytales with Storytown Improv!
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 live out this always-applicable Shel Silverstein phrase, “Put something silly in the world!”
Admissions Manager & Lead Teacher
Molly has been a part of Bubbles since 2018, and has loved every second of all the different roles and facets she has been lucky enough to be a part of! With a BS in Dance & Arts Management from Oklahoma City University, she has a background in arts education as well as administration, the perfect balance for her current roles! Molly has taught dance for many years and loves incorporating music and dance into the classroom, and her admin skills are strengthened by experience as Company Manager of Chicago Tap Theatre. You’ll see her at the front desk as well as in the virtual preschool classroom; she can’t wait to help you register for class, and then have fun with you in class too!
Lead Teacher & Events Manager
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
Jamisen Paustian grew up playing outside, swimming in lakes, and making snow forts in Madison, Wisconsin. After graduating from The University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Development & Family Studies and a minor in Studio Art, Jamisen got her RYT-200 Hour Yoga Certification with an emphasis in Children’s Instruction through Cloud Nine Yoga School and Breathe for Change. Professionally, Jamie has worked with children for over fourteen years in a wide variety of settings and roles. She spent four years teaching preschool in Lincoln Park and spent the past year serving as an AmeriCorps Member in a public elementary school with Schools of Hope in Madison, Wisconsin. Jamie moved back to Chicago in August of 2021 to start a Master’s program in Art Therapy & Counseling at The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, and she is also a teacher of children’s yoga classes for Buddha Belly Kids Yoga. In her free time, she is a runner, a watercolor painter, an amateur pianist, a tree-hugging vegan, and an avid reader. Most importantly, she has a strong passion for working with children, to help them grow as individuals, discover themselves and others, and explore the world we live in.
Jessica started teaching at Bubbles Academy in the fall of 2015. She has enjoyed working as an assistant in preschool, leading story times, leading preparing for preschool classes, and teaching drama!
Growing up in Birmingham, Al, she attended middle school and high school at the Alabama School of Fine Arts majoring in theatre then received a BA in theatre performance from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. While in college, she discovered her love teaching. She started the a drama program for preschool through sixth grade at Creative Montessori School in Homewood, AL. She also enjoyed working with the Bards of Birmingham as an actor, mentor, acting coach, and director.
After moving to Chicago in 2012, Jessica worked as an intern, administrator, and teaching artist for American Theater Company. She has worked as a teaching artist for Dream Big and Mudlark Theater and as the Junior Camp Director for Northlight Theater’s summer camp. In addition to her work at Bubbles, she teaches for Northlight Theater and the Viola Project. She is a member of the 2015 cohort of the Teaching Artist Development Studio through the Center for Community Arts Partnerships at Columbia. Since moving to Chicago, Jessica has worked as an actor, producer, and collaborator with several theatre companies.
Jessica enjoys working with youth from age 6 months to high school. She believes that art builds community, develops independence and confidence, and teaches empathy and passionately believes in access to art for everyone.
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.
Front Office Assistant
Khalilah is new to the Bubbles Team and is so glad to join! She is originally from Indiana and moved to Chicago 8 years ago to further reach opportunities and goals. She started off working in a family home daycare and began working as an Assistant Teacher after her move to Chicago. Having majored in Early Childhood Education, she feels this is a great opportunity and experience to be part of the Bubbles Team. As a front desk assistant, she’s looking forward to meeting and getting to know all the parents and children and most importantly, happy to join the family!
Lucia is overjoyed to be joining the Bubbles Academy team! She loves working with children and has enjoyed being a part of the development of the child! Lucia earned her B.A. in Spanish from DePaul University and after a couple of years in NC working in therapeutics, she decided to move back to Chicago. She brings an active and enthusiastic personality to the classroom! Currently, Lucia is obtaining her Master’s degree in Social Work with a focus on Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health at Erikson Institute. If she’s not at Bubbles or studying, you can find her enjoying a long bike ride around the city!
Assistant Teacher & Art Coordinator
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 teacher with the Babies, Crawlers, and Walkers Music classes, and assistant teaches in the 4s preschool room. In his free time, Nathan can be found playing either his guitar or his ukulele, growing plants, or riding his bike.
As part of an artistic and dramatic family, Olivia enrolled in ballet classes as soon as she turned 3. Spending 18 years in the Lafayette Ballet School and Company, she developed a love for all things performance and received her BFA in Musical Theatre from Millikin University, in 2020. While living at home during the pandemic, Olivia discovered a love for songwriting and producing. In March she released an EP with her band Third Impact. Writing music changed her life and she hopes to continue performing and composing for as long as possible. While not at work, you can find her practicing guitar, painting, or laughing with her roommates.
Olivia is so excited to be working at Bubbles. She loves spending time with children and their vivid imaginations. She hopes to share her love of artistic expression and storytelling with the kids.
Bubbles at 900 Manager
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.
Paulina is over the moon to be joining the Bubbles Team! Ever since she can remember, Paulina has loved playing two roles in her life: a larger-than-life actress and a nurturing teacher. She is grateful to have found Bubbles Academy where she can continue to explore both fun filled roles!
Growing up in Philadelphia, PA, this east coast girl has always been involved in the world of the arts. Whether it was performing in her living room, taking pottery classes, or directing an original play, Paulina has emerged herself in the world of creativity. When it came time to deciding a path for college, she opted to follow her passion for theater by pursuing a B.A. in Theater at Penn State University(WE ARE!) Even though she chose the arts, her love for children never faded. She spent her summers directing children’s schools or running summer camps. After graduation, Paulina enrolled in Second City’s intensive program. The move to Chicago made her realize that she couldn’t see a life without working with children. Paulina is currently enrolled in UIC to receive her Masters in Early Childhood Education with a Special Education endorsement. She dreams of one day becoming a wacky, artsy, kindergarten teacher. When she isn’t running around the Jungle Room or writing endless amounts of papers, you can find her hiking, getting groovy on a dance floor, or curled up with her cat watching a RomCom.
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.
Sylvie is thrilled to be joining the Bubbles Team! Originally from Long Island, Sylvie grew up working at a local day camp, and later at a sleep away camp. It was here that she first amassed her now unwavering commitment to working with children. While earning her degree in Early and Middle Childhood at The Ohio State University, Sylvie took on various leadership roles with community-based programs in Columbus, Ohio. From working as a program coordinator with after-school programs, as an assistant in Head Start classrooms, interning for 3 years at an interdisciplinary research institute, and serving as a research fellow for a local food pantry, Sylvie continuously sought out opportunities to have an immediate impact on children and their families.
Sylvie has been teaching in Chicago since graduating Ohio State in 2018 and is so excited to now be joining Bubbles’ collaborative community of artists, activists, and educators. When she is not in the classroom, she can be found exploring Chicago’s parks and neighborhoods with her puppy named Ernie!
Chicago Native, Taylor Edwards, is a graduate of the University of Missouri Kansas City where she majored in Dance receiving her BFA. She received her Early training in dance from The Sammy Dyer School of Theater, Chicago Multicultural Dance Center, and The Chicago High School for the Arts. She has also trained at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy in L.A , and Deeply Rooted Dance Theater located in Chicago IL. Taylor has worked and performed with companies such as Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Owen Cox Dance Group, and Wylliams Henry Dance Company. She is fluent in many styles of dance including Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Hip Hop, Tap, Contemporary, Jazz Funk, and Improvisation. Taylor was the lead choreographer in Chance The Rappers ‘ A Chi-Town Christmas’ Virtual Concert and is currently dancing/rehearsal directing for ‘Hiplet Ballerinas’ who most recently aired on America’s Got Talent.