An arts practitioner and advocate from an early age, Natalie has spent her adult life performing, teaching and leading arts and education initiatives. She has a master’s degree in Educational Theatre from New York University and 20 years of experience leading and creating arts-integrated curriculum in Chicago, New York City, Champaign, IL and abroad. She enjoys the challenges and opportunities that come from balancing life as a parent to her daughter, Mira, and running a business while continuing to develop her creative pursuits. She is driven to champion the artist in every child through Bubbles Academy’s partner non-profit, Whole Child Arts. Whole Child Arts provides free early childhood arts programming in Chicago, books and media addressing social-emotional development and teaching artist training. Natalie is passionate about Bubbles Academy’s mission to ignite wonder and compassion in children of all ages and is inspired daily by the impact investing in early childhood education can make on our collective future.
Andy started his Bubbles journey attending parent-child music classes with his daughter Laney. In 2016, Natalie and Andy teamed up to help bring about the current iteration of Bubbles Academy. Andy has dedicated his life to working in youth development and is passionate about providing meaningful opportunities for young people, to equip them with the skills needed to make positive change in the world.
Andy is also the owner and director of North Star Camp, a premier traditional boys camp in northern Wisconsin for 8-15-year-olds, as well as the owner and managing partner at The Road Less Traveled, a service and adventure travel program for youth ages 12-19. Andy works closely with several non-profit organizations including the Camp for All Kids Foundation, Four Star Fellowship, Geography of Hope, and Whole Child Arts. Andy is a National Board Member for the American Camp Association where he serves as the co-chair of the Government Relations Committee and he is also on the board of the Midwest Association of Independent Camps. Alongside his passion for youth development, Andy is an avid traveler and enjoys experiencing new countries and cultures with his daughter.
Andy’s experience in child development, experiential education, and love for community building drew him to Bubbles, where working alongside the children and their parents can help endow future generations with the confidence, character, and life skills to go out and make a difference in the world.
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!”
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.
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.
Anna’s two great loves in life are art and education, so she is absolutely ecstatic to be teaching here at Bubbles. Originally from Louisville, KY, Anna has been teaching preschool for three years and teaching drama for four. As someone who practically grew up in a theater, she has always felt the most at home among the arts. Whether acting, dancing, directing, or creating costumes, putting on a show is one of her favorite things to do! Teaching has always been second nature to Anna, and she loves helping little ones discover new things about the world around them and themselves. Anna couldn’t be more thrilled to share her love of the arts, learn, and play with the best age group in the world, preschool!
Anna is currently in school for Technical Theater at Columbia College Chicago and is planning on pursuing an additional degree in teaching after graduation. When she’s not playing at Bubbles or finishing her degree, you can find her on stage, dying her hair some new crazy color, or cuddling with her three cats and a 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 delighted to begin her journey of teaching and enriching the lives of young children at Bubbles Academy. Born in Chicago and raised on the Northshore, Chloe recently graduated Summa Cum Laude in Early Childhood Education with an ESL endorsement from DePaul University.
Chloe has thoroughly enjoyed her experiences working in a variety of different classroom environments with children ranging in ages infant to 8 years old in schools across Chicago. She has gained an understanding of how every child is unique in their own way and can be whatever they desire in their future. Chloe is committed to providing equal and quality education to all of the students she encounters. She is really looking forward to continuing to develop her skills and knowledge at Bubbles Academy to best support all of the children and their families.
Outside the classroom, Chloe loves to travel, spend time with her dogs, attend yoga and dance classes, and go to sporting events – Go Cubs!
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!
Jalyssa is thrilled to join the Bubbles family as an events coordinator. She has experience in event planning, child development, and photography. Jalyssa is native of Chicago and is currently pursuing a B.A. in Graphic Design at Columbia College Chicago. She also dabbles in animation and a goal of hers is to animate and publish children’s books one day!
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.
After graduating with a B.A. in Acting & Theater Education from Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, Linnaea worked as a paraeducator for students with disabilities in public schools and taught Youth Improv at Ryan Stiles’ Upfront Theater from 2017-2020. Linnaea moved to Chicago in 2021 and became a company member with Playmaker’s Laboratory, a non-profit that teaches creative writing and theater in Chicago Public Schools. Linnaea’s background in acting, improv, and music fosters creative play, imagination, and fun!
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).
Molly grew up in Chicago and got her Bachelor of Arts at Occidental College in Los Angeles. She then moved to Boston, where she lived and worked for several years. After exploring both of the coasts, she returned to Chicago where she got her first preschool teaching job and fell in love with the early childhood field. She is so excited to be continuing her journey and joining the Bubbles Team! Some of her favorite things to do in the classroom are reading books and exploring different process art activities with the children. During her free time, Molly loves taking ceramics classes at a local art studio, knitting, and exploring nature.
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.
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.
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.
Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Yongwoo Park discovered his passion for education by way of his work practicing and teaching theater, music, writing, and martial arts. Yongwoo graduated from Northwestern University with a BA in Radio/TV/Film and a minor in Asian American Studies, and also works as a professional actor, filmmaker, and casting director. He is passionate about social justice, mental health, and the essential role of arts and play in child development, and is beyond excited to be a part of a team at Bubbles Academy that feels the same way.
An avid martial artist, Yongwoo practices kyokushin karate, Dutch kickboxing, tai chi, capoeira, choy li fut kung fu, Brazilian and Japanese jiujitsu, and holds a black belt in ITF taekwondo. He is an assistant karate instructor at Imazaki Dojo where he primarily trains, and strongly feels everybody, kids and parents alike, should try martial arts!