Our Staff

EMILY ERICKSON   Executive Director
Emily (she/her) is passionate about providing high-quality Montessori education to all children from all walks of life. Emily has worked in early childhood education since 2014. She completed her MBA in 2019, and has taught in classrooms with children from infants to school age. She has served as a director in Minneapolis since 2017 and is thrilled to join the Heartwood community as the school director. In her free time she enjoys reading, trying new restaurants, and spending time with her family.

JULIA CARLSON   Lead Guide (Maple Room)
Julia (she/her) 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) & Director of Pedagogy
Erica (she/her) 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 (she/her) 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 (she/her) has been teaching music and theatre as an artist-in-residence in Minneapolis. Some of her residencies include Pratt Community School, Marcy Open, Hiawatha School, Webster Community School, Miniapple Montessori, Interact Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, Wee Bop, and Early Childhood Special Education of Minneapolis. For 10 years, Katy has been running Rock and Roll 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. 

For the last 30 years, Katy has been working as an actor and a singer. She has performed at the Guthrie, Chanhassen Dinner Theatre, The Music Box, Old Arizona Theater, Hey City Stage, and The Bryant Lake Bowl. Katy performs regularly at First Avenue in Happy Birthday Janis: A Tribute to Janis Joplin. 

Katy attended the University of Wisconsin- River Falls where she studied Elementary Education. Katy and her husband Beau have been lucky enough to call northeast Minneapolis their home for the last 22 years and are very proud parents of two amazing adults, Joey and Monty. 

DANIELLE HARTEL   Assistant Guide (Willow Room)
Danielle (she/her) has worked in Montessori for over 15 years. She has an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Minnesota and Masters of Education credits from Hamline University. She is a longtime resident of Northeast and is mom to two, her youngest will be joining our Heartwood community this fall. She enjoys reading, gardening and traveling.

NATAH VANG   Afternoon Assistant (Maple & Birch Room)
Natah (she/her) received her B.A. in Women Studies from St. Catherine University. She has 12 years of experience working with children in various programs in both Minneapolis and St.Paul Public Schools. She has also taught English overseas. In 2016, Natah transition to early education, and in 2018 she received her Montessori assistant training at the Montessori Center of Minnesota. Natah believes that we should celebrate diversity, promote equity and create inclusive in schools. In 2021, she received her ABAR certificate through the American Montessori Society. Natah resides in North Minneapolis with her husband Ty and two children – Jaishaun and Juwaun.  

JANET MOLINOS Morning & Afternoon Assistant (Cedar Room)
Janet (she/her) began at Heartwood this past summer and enjoyed getting to know many of the students in the Cedar Room. For the past 5 years, she has worked with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in bilingual care settings (Spanish/English). This year is her first Montessori experience! She lives in St. Paul with her partner and their two dogs, Vivi & Zipp. She enjoys taking her dogs for a walk in the creek near her home and being in nature. Her favorite comfort food is chilaquiles.