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 Perry joined Bubbles Academy in 2010. Sam’s responsibilities have included roles ranging from the coordination of children’s learning and play events to her current role as lead teacher in the 4’s preschool classroom. Prior to Sam’s role as a preschool lead teacher, Sam was lead teacher for the Meeting Milestones and Preparing for Preschool classes. Sam’s expertise in supporting the needs of children is essential to the success of her classroom.
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 is the recipient of the Harris Foundation’s Scholarship for Excellence in Leadership and is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Child Development with a specialization in Administration at Erikson Institute. 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, Sam strives to inspire confidence, independence, curiosity and creativity in each of her students 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!”
Senior Director of Music
Kim Schiefelbein received what she calls her “dream job” in 2005 — when she began directing Bubbles Academy’s music and fitness programs! She holds a Bachelor of Music with a focus in Voice Performance from Miami University.
As Senior Director of Music, Kim collaborates with the music team to create enriching curriculum that will both entertain and engage young children and families. She leads our Professional Developmental Programming, partnering with area specialists to share their knowledge with us so we can further strengthen the support we provide families in reaching developmental milestones. She was excited to be able to use this knowledge to create Bubbles Academy’s newest class Bubble Reach, designed to help babies develop their core and upper body strength.
Kim, certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America, has been leading Chicago-area fitness programs since 1993. As the Stroller Fitness class teacher, she leads Moms in a positive, high-energy and transformative work out three times a week. She was honored to be chosen to represent Athleta as a Fitness Ambassador, as well as being voted as the 2013 “Mom on the Move” in the Bump Club Chicago’s BCBesties Awards.
Kim created Bubbles Academy’s Navigating the School Search series. She has developed a thorough knowledge base on the various school systems within Chicago.
Grateful to serve as a resource to parents, Kim is truly proud to pursue her favorite role everyday — being the mother to her daughter Laken.
Director of Pediatric Therapies
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.
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!
Preschool 3’s Lead Teacher
Anna is so grateful to work at a place where she gets to share her love of music and imagination with a new generation – all while being supported by an amazing team of artists and creators who make Bubbles a magical place to be!
From her first time on stage at age 4, Anna knew that music and dance would be a lifelong devotion! While growing up in Jefferson City, Missouri, she spent all of her free time at the dance studio, acting in musicals, and singing in choirs or at vocal competitions. She then followed her dreams all the way to the State University of New York at Buffalo to study Musical Theater. Anna followed her heart home to the Midwest to pursue her love of music further as a freelance vocalist. She has toured nationally and internationally as a lead vocalist for Chicago Tap Theatre, performed live in cabarets and open mics around Chicago, and worked on independent film scores.
Anna starting working with young children when she was in high school, teaching beginning dance classes at her studio. She came to Bubbles in 2014 as a Music Teacher and an assistant for Preparing for Preschool classes. A year later, she was given the opportunity to assist in the preschool program and has wanted to make that her focus ever since. She received her Early Childhood Lead Teacher qualification from Truman College in 2018 and is now living the dream as a Lead Preschool Teacher at Bubbles!
In her spare time, Anna loves to play guitar and ukulele, read sci-fi fantasy novels, discover delicious restaurants, support live theatre and music, and make complicated (and many times, experimental) baked goods!
Anna received her Early Childhood Lead Teacher qualification from Truman College.
My name is Arielle Ruby and I have worn many hats over the past 10 years. After graduating from Brandeis University with my certification in Elementary Education, I taught 4th and 5th grade for 3 years at a private school in Massachusetts. After realizing I truly loved the social-emotional aspect of my job, I decided to go back to school for School Psychology at Loyola University Chicago. After graduating with my Masters in Educational Psychology and my Educational Specialist Degree in School Psychology, I spent the next five years working with both general and special education students in Pre-K through 8th grade. The past two years, I have taken time off to raise my 3 ½-year old son and 2-year old daughter. As they are getting older and more independent, I am excited to continue my passion of supporting the social-emotional needs of students.
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.
Preschool 3’s Teacher
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!
Elliott has been working with kids since he wasn’t one, teaching everything from swimming to math to jazz squares. He graduated from Northwestern University’s School of Communication with a double major in Theatre and Gender & Sexuality Studies. While at NU he completed courses in Storytelling and Creative Drama, teaching in the District 65 Enrichment Drama program for his advanced credit. After working with professional child actors, Elliott has found the perfect combination of art and childhood at Bubbles.
In addition to his work with kiddos, Elliott has performed, written, and directed with Dog Ear Theatre Productions in Maine, Otherworld Theatre in Chicago, and FUSION Theatre Company back home in New Mexico. He’s currently working on a stage adaptation of the Greek myth of Geryon, the little red monster.
Erin Bracco is the lead Kindergarten teacher at Bubbles Academy, and co-founder and CEO of Buddha Belly Kids Yoga and is excited to spread her love of yoga to her favorite people in the world: children. For seven years, she was a kindergarten classroom teacher and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in both Elementary Education and Special Education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University. Her passion for child development is evident in her teaching style as she helps children foster newfound confidence and body awareness through the unique Buddha Belly curriculum. Erin thrives on helping little humans gain social-emotional learning strategies to explore and make sense of their world. Erin is a Registered Children’s Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has completed her 200hr teacher training at Zen Yoga Garage in Chicago, 95 hour kids teacher training and partner yoga certificate through Rainbow Yoga. Erin is a consultant for schools implementing yoga and mindfulness, is the lead trainer for Bari Koral Yogapalooza, and has completed coursework with Mindful Schools. She is currently enrolled in the 2020-2021 Mindful Teacher Certification Program.
Our dreams are coming true with Erin Bracco designing, implementing and teaching play, art and movement-based afternoon kindergarten at Bubbles Academy for the 2020-2021 school year!
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.
Jason is so excited and grateful to be a part of the team at Bubbles! He has worked in many different areas at Bubbles including the front desk, events, sibling care, and the Preparing for Preschool Program. Nowadays, he is primarily working with the kiddos in the Jungle Room as a preschool assistant teacher! As a teacher, he is particularly interested in the joyful world of pretend play, meeting individual needs in integrated classrooms, and helping the kiddos to develop their emotional intelligence and social skills!
After graduation with a degree in Theatre from Northwestern, Jason originally wanted to make it big as a playwright. However, he now finds his heart stolen by the field of Early Childhood Education! He received his Early Childhood Lead Teacher qualification from Truman College in the summer of 2019 and is hoping to attend grad school in the future. His other interests include rock climbing, spending time outdoors, and Buddhist meditation practices.
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.
Kaleb Van Rijswijck
Bio Coming Soon!
Lead Teacher & Front Office Manager
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!
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.
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.
Rich Ashworth grew up on a farm in Rhode Island where he discovered his passion for music, movement, and adventure at a young age. He received his BFA in Dance in 2007 from the State University of New York at Buffalo. During his time in New York, Rich honed his skills as a dance instructor, performer, and choreographer. He is an experienced hip-hop dance battler and historian, teaching the concepts of unity, community, and peaceful expression to students of all ages.
Currently, Rich is the rehearsal director and a choreographer for Chicago Tap Theatre as well as a freelance choreographer in and around the Chicagoland Area. He is very excited to flex and stretch his culinary muscles as an assistant in the Tastebuddies Class here at Bubbles and is stoked to be a new face in a crowd of such wonderfully talented and welcoming people.
We offer you access to a compassionate team of teaching artists; a bright community of families to form lifelong friendships with, and overall piece of mind that the experiences enjoyed with us invaluably contribute to your child’s growth, happiness and confidence.