The Little Montessori School
Board of Directors
Natalee was born and raised in central California. Her passion for travel and adventure are what lead her to her husband, Hamish, who she met in the Schipol airport in the Netherlands. They enjoy the neverending chaos, laughter, and love brought to them by their three children: Madelyn, age 6, and 3 year old twins Atticus and Eloise.
Natalee studied Business Marketing in the Honors College at Lone Star College before graduating Summa Cum Laude and continuing to the Honors College at the University of Houston’s C.T. Bauer School of Business. She has worked with The Council on Recovery, a non profit organization at the forefront of helping individuals and families whose lives have been impacted by alcoholism, drug addiction, and co-occurring mental health disorders. There, she conducted research and designed data-driven marketing and communications programs to access teens and adolescents struggling with addiction. Natalee has experience working with other Montessori schools, where she developed and implemented effective marketing strategies to contribute to sustained school growth and coordinated school-wide S.T.E.A.M. programming. In that capacity, she piloted a public outreach initiative that offered regularly held events for children aged 18 months through 6 years; instituted in-house curriculum for individual topics, activities, and guest speakers; and implemented 8-week summer programs with weekly S.T.E.A.M. topics ranging from entrepreneurship and astronomy to robotics and archeology. When she’s not busy trying a new experiment or activity with her own kids, Natalee can be found using tools to build just about anything, as well as running her own baking business, Love at First Bite.
Natalee’s passion and advocacy for the Montessori method is an expression of her commitment and belief that each child is intrinsically perfect and designed for their future. She is dedicated to an educational framework that honors students’ innate abilities and guides them on their path to individual achievement, rather than training them to fit a prescribed mold. She is proud to have the opportunity to be a part of building a community where children can develop a true passion for learning in an environment that values diversity, respect, and independence.
Mika Gardaya-Walton grew up in a military family which afforded her the opportunity to live in different parts of the US and Japan. She has been in the Humble area since 2010 and enjoys spending time with her family and friends, yoga, and once-upon-a-time (aka pre-COVID-19), traveling.
Mika holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Washington and a M.A. Counseling Psychology from Bowie State University. A licensed professional counselor in the state of Texas, she specializes in anxiety, neurodevelopmental disorders, trauma, resilience and mindfulness in mental health. She is a member of the Association for Child and Adolescent Counseling and the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development. She is a certified yoga instructor and a support group co-facilitator for the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) Greater Houston, an advocacy group which works to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness and provides free mental health resources to individuals and family members living with mental health issues.
Mika brings with her a passion for helping individuals of all ages achieve their goals and work to fulfill their greatest potential. She is a strong advocate of developing accessible educational environments that address the diverse needs of today’s learners. With over a decade working in nontraditional educational settings, both as an administrator and in the classroom, experience has taught her that the optimum learning environment is one that is fun and allows an individual to use their strengths in order to build skills and tackle academic or social challenges. She loves that Montessori education aligns with this idea in that learners work at their own pace in various academic areas. The mixed age classrooms enable children greater social opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and mentorship which ultimately leads to a greater sense of community and well-being for the child. She is honored to be a member of this community and being part of this board frequently brings to mind the quote:
"None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful." – Mother Teresa
Maribel was born and raised in Houston, Texas. She is a current Kingwood resident along with her spouse who is a first responder and military combat veteran, her son, and her three dogs, Ranger, Bravo and Delta (all named by her husband). She enjoys painting kindness rocks and walking the trails. She is also bilingual and a native English and Spanish speaker.
Maribel’s professional qualifications include a Bachelors in Science in Human Ecology from the University of Texas at Austin. She completed coursework and participated in various education-based internships through the UTEACH program for math and science educators. She completed an Executive Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Texas at Tyler. She has over 10 years of progressive management experience at various education-based nonprofit institutions. She currently works in a management capacity to achieve the education, clinical, community, and research mission objectives for her organization. She has experience in developing the pricing strategies for various service lines, hires and manages personnel, manages a portfolio of multi-million dollar projects and budgets, and specializes in program development, implementation and evaluation. She oversees a portfolio of federal, state, and foundation sponsored programs including education and social service based programs for underrepresented and vulnerable populations with local Houston community partner organizations. She has formal training in leadership, lean six sigma and rapid cycle quality improvement, and project management.
With a background in science and technology, Maribel is a strong proponent of the Little Montessori School’s integrative and personalized approach to the Montessori STEAM curriculum to provide the tools and environment that challenges and develops our future leaders and innovators.