top of page

MEET OUR TEAM

DEEPROOTS-279.jpeg

Crissia Villacres

Director

An early childhood teacher for more than a decade, Crissia's love for teaching children and being a part of their foundational years has been in her heart since high school. She received a B.S. in both Spanish and Art History at Rutgers University and is a certified early childhood teacher (PreK- 3rd) as well as K-8 Spanish teacher. She taught for 10 years in urban cities and then went on to homeschool her 3 daughters for 6 years. During her years as a home educator, she also worked as the director of children’s ministry in her local church. It brings Crissia so much joy to support and nurture children during this very significant stage of their early developmental years. She loves to build relationships with them and guide them as they explore the world and people around them. Crissia is passionate to see children at Deep Roots School flourish as individuals both academically and in their character through the Montessori method. Crissia loves being a wife to her husband and mom to her 3 daughters, Elizabeth, Emma and Ella and her son David. She enjoys serving others at her local church by teaching the Bible to women. Her favorite pastimes are cozy nights at home with her family and Goldendoodle, hosting family and friends around good food and coffee, traveling, and time at the beach.

IMG_0900.jpg

Diana Aiello

Teacher & Founder

Diana has been teaching young children for over fifteen years. Early on in her career, she earned a Child Development Associate Credential, seeing the early years of a child’s life as the most precious and the essential time for laying the foundation of a balanced and purposeful life. Growing up, Diana spent much of her free time with her siblings and cousins exploring the outdoors, and was always awestruck by the beauty of nature. As a young adult, she traveled to many places around the world, meeting people from other walks of life and experiencing their cultures. Her own love for nature and the world are two things that Diana has passionately handed down to all the children she has taught. Eventually, Diana’s nontraditional views of education led her to complete her Montessori training at Princeton Montessori, where she was mentored by inspiring educators who shared a similar view of children and education. She believes that if every child has the ability to gain an understanding of their own value and potential, as well learn to see and appreciate that in others, the world would be a better place! Deep Roots is the realization of a dream for Diana, to be able to create a place where each child has that opportunity.

IMG_0828.jpg

Lindsay Psolka

Lead Teacher

With experience in classroom settings, camp, and youth groups, Lindsay has been working with children for over ten years. She has earned a B.S. in Elementary Education with a concentration in English from Liberty University, a certificate in the Spanish language from Peruwayna Language School, and a certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language from the International TEFL Academy. She taught as a 3rd grade teacher at the International Christian School in Lima, Peru for 2 years and then worked as a paraprofessional in her childhood elementary public school. Lindsay also has 5 years experience working with toddlers-kindergarteners at the YMCA and in day schools. Throughout her years of public schooling and university, she performed as a flutist in the Concert Band, Wind Ensemble, Flute Choir, and Marching Band. Lindsay believes life should be celebrated, be filled with lots of color, and explored with wonder.

ERO_DEEPROOTS0919.jpg

Jenny Mondigo

Lead Teacher

Jenny first gained her passion for teaching eight years ago when she taught in her local church’s Sunday school. She saw the beauty of making valuable connections with children, and found joy in the teaching process. After she completed two years at Summit International School of Ministry in Grantville, PA, she directed a drama workshop at the school's summer camp. The workshop fostered creativity and confidence in kids ages 5-15, by teaching them basic acting skills. That led Jenny to intern at a preschool, working with ages 0-4 and she’s been working in various preschools ever since. Jenny was born and raised in Virginia, but moved to New Jersey shortly after she got married. She now has a spunky two and a half year old daughter named Melody. In her free time you’ll find her enjoying coffee, time outdoors with family, or baking something yummy. She is elated to join the Deep Roots School community and looks forward to all this season holds in teaching and nurturing little ones.

ERO_DEEPROOTS0933.jpg

Kim Urgiles Medina

Support Teacher

Kim is currently a student enrolled at County College of Morris. She has enjoyed babysitting for different families over the past few years and last summer she worked at Jeff Lake Camp in Stanhope, NJ. While she was working there she realized that in college she wanted to pick a major where she would have the opportunity to work with kids. Kim is planning to major in Nursing and she would like to become a pediatric nurse one day. As an assistant teacher, she loves supporting students on their educational journey and creating a positive and inclusive classroom environment where each one feels valued and motivated to learn. Whether she's providing one-on-one support or assisting with classroom activities, her goal is to make a positive impact. Seeing students grow and succeed is incredibly rewarding, and Kim is excited to be a part of their learning experience. She believes in fostering a love for learning and empowering students to reach their full potential.

IMG_2804.JPG

Samantha Matthews

Art Teacher

Sam is a working artist from Warren county and has been in arts education since she graduated with her BA in fine artin 2015. She has been the Deep Roots art teacher since 2019. Her passion for creative outlets has taken her all over the world but recently has brought her close to home. Through her business Art Across Borders she has traveled across the state offering creative outlets through parties and events to people of all ages. She has also taught art at several art centers in the state including the Center for Contemporary Art, Hunterdon Art Museum, and The Visual Arts Center. In 2022 she opened her own art studio in Stewartsville, NJ called Propagate Studio that is a community art studio, event space, and maker market for local artists. She loves coming to Deep Roots once a week to create with the kiddos. During her art sessions she highlights personal creativity, fine motor skills as well as learning techniques from past and contemporary artists.

DEEPROOTS-251.jpeg

Emma Hastrup

Enrichment Teacher

Emma is currently attending Montclair State University working to earn her degree in the field of Family Science and Human Development with a focus in Child Psychology. Her educational pursuits support her in working toward achieving her certification as a Child Life Specialist, with the hope to support the emotional well-being of patients in a pediatric hospital setting. Her job training experience at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has encouraged her to utilize her knowledge of child development theories during play sessions and academic lessons in the classroom. Emma’s joy for working with children is also reflected in her volunteer work, as she spends time playing with children in local hospitals and counseling adolescents at therapeutic camps throughout the year. Emma’s creative nature and playful approach is present throughout all aspects of her life, as she enjoys crafting, board games, and baking.

IMG_0877.jpg

Joanna Maulbeck, Ph.D.

Movement/Storytelling Teacher

& Founder 

Joanna has experience teaching Pre-K through Grade 2 in South Africa, Mali, and the United States. She has earned a B.S. in Elementary Education and Child Psychology from The College of New Jersey, a M.S. in Global Affairs from Rutgers University, and a Ph.D. in Global Affairs/Urban Education from Rutgers University. Joanna is passionate about child-centered, holistic learning, as well as equity and diversity in education. Her research investigates ways to advance social justice through education, particularly through curricular and systemic reforms. She is currently Lecturer of Education at Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York (CUNY). Her hope is that Deep Roots is a place where theory seamlessly meets practice. Joanna is a mother to Maks, an awesome, inquisitive eight-year-old, and Leon, an amazing, creative five-year-old. She keeps them, as well as the needs of current and former students, at the forefront while contributing to the design of Deep Roots, striving to create a positive and empowering space.

IMG_9559.JPG

Colleen Wechter

Founder

Colleen has been teaching in both urban and suburban public schools for over ten years. She has been a classroom teacher of second, third, fourth and fifth grade. Colleen holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and Psychology, with a concentration in Child Development, from The College of New Jersey. She also holds a K-8 mathematics endorsement. Over the past decade, Colleen has earned over 500 hours of professional development, as well as a certification in Gifted & Talented Education from Rutgers University. She believes that all children deserve a high-quality learning environment, one where they are able to demonstrate their unique talents and abilities. Her varied experiences within public education have helped her gain an insightful perspective that continues to fuel her passion for teaching and learning. Colleen is ecstatic to help create a beautiful, supportive, and enriching learning environment for children here at Deep Roots School, which has been a longtime dream transformed to reality.

OUR ROLES AS EDUCATORS

advocate - one who supports or promotes the interests of a group or individual.

guide - one who leads or directs another’s way, conduct or course of life.

OUR FOUNDING STORY

Joanna and Colleen crossed paths at The College of New Jersey while studying Education. After graduating, Joanna and Diana taught together for a year in Scotch Plains, NJ. They created a special atmosphere for their kindergarten class, which was often referred to as “the little family in the church basement.” Even though Joanna, Colleen, and Diana eventually followed their own paths, pursuing studies, teaching, and travel experiences in different settings, they stayed in touch. Sharing a passion for the potential of education, the trio had routine conversations about their varied experiences within the field, often resorting to describing the education system as it is and dreaming about what it could or even should be. This lasted for about a decade until Joanna, Diana, and Colleen finally decided to put ideas into writing and put writing into action, ultimately founding Deep Roots School.

 

The school is a reflection of their dream. It is their contribution to the world. Deep Roots has been planted to foster the development of the whole child - mind, body, and soul. In doing so, it gives rise to a community that collectively strives to be self-conscious, while being locally and globally aware and active. The community stands up, in the most innovative of ways, for all of God’s creation - its diverse people and the beauty that nature has to offer.

IMG_4747.JPG
bottom of page