Our Staff

EMILY LEUTGEB   Executive Director
Emily has worked in Montessori classrooms since 2008 – first as an assistant, then as a Lead Teacher after she got her Early Child Montessori Credential from St. Catherine University in 2010.  She has taught in a one-room school, a school serving toddlers through Grade 6, and a school serving infants through age six.  After finishing her Master’s in Education at St. Kate’s, she is thrilled to work alongside the Heartwood community as School Director.  Emily loves spending time with family, in nature, gardening, and cultivating community with children.

JULIA CARLSON   Lead Guide (Maple Room)
Julia shares a genuine wonder and excitement in education and loves to create opportunities for children to explore on their own. She is a lifelong learner, with a masters degree in Cultural Studies from Toulouse, France. She began as an assistant at Heartwood in 2016, and was inspired to complete her Montessori training from the Montessori Center of Minnesota in 2018. Julia loves bringing her travel experiences in the classroom through storytelling, and travels each day with the children with inquiry and imagination.

ERICA MELLUM   Lead Guide (Willow Room)
Erica enthusiastically joins the Heartwood community with a shared vision of empowering children. She earned her Montessori credential in 2006, followed by her Master’s in Education the following year. She offers children the opportunity to develop the values, attitudes and skills to live in harmony with oneself, others and the natural environment. The Montessori method also guides Erica’s approach to parenting her four children – one of whom gets to join the Heartwood community this year! Erica and her family live in South Minneapolis and enjoy making potions, after dinner performances, endless loads of laundry and belly laughs.

KATIE GRAVES   Lead Guide (Cedar Room)
Katie received her Association Montessori International Primary Diploma from the Montessori Center of Minnesota in May 2020. In addition to her Montessori training, she has a Masters in Education from the University of Minnesota with K-6  Teaching Licensure and a Bachelor’s degree in Geography and French from Syracuse University. Katie is originally from a small college town in Western New York and has called Minnesota home since 2013. She has many hobbies, including: sewing/crafting, playing board games, gardening, skiing, reading, and spending time with friends and family.  She lives in Saint Paul with her husband, Eric, and their dog Miss Matty.

KATY HAYS   Afternoon Guide (Maple Room)
For 15 years, Katy has taught music and theatre as an artist-in-residence at Miniapple Montessori Preschool, Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, Pratt Community School, Hiawatha School, Marcy Open School, Wee Bop, and Early Childhood Special Education of Minneapolis. Katy also runs music camps in Northeast Minneapolis for children during the summers. In 2015, she wrote, directed, and produced a well-reviewed, sold out show for the Minnesota Fringe Festival that featured 14 children ages 9-15. Katy has performed with various Twin City based bands including ‘The Pizazz Band’, ‘Blazing Saddles’, and ‘The R-Factor’. She has also performed at the Guthrie, The Lab Theater, Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, the Old Arizona Theater, and Hey City Stage in. Katy performs regularly in Happy Birthday Janis: A Janis Joplin Tribute. She is beyond excited to be back in a Montessori environment and looks forward to enhancing the children’s experience with dramatic play and music. Katy is a very proud Mom of two amazing people, Joey and Viv.

ASHA YOUSEF   Assistant Guide
Throughout her undergraduate career, Asha has studied Child Psychology at the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development, and has assisted in various classrooms throughout Minneapolis. She is thrilled to work alongside the many new and returning kids here at Heartwood. In her spare time, Asha enjoys thrifting, collecting vinyl records, and spending time with family and friends, including her pet cat, Nala.

ALONDRA RUIZ   Assistant Guide