About Our Staff

Sarah Johnson

Executive Director, Co-founder

Sarah Johnson, M.Ed. earned a Master’s Degree in Special Education from the University of Texas at Austin. She serves as the Executive Director of The Emerson Foundation, as well as the Administrator of record for Emerson Academy. When Sarah and her wife, Stacey Bell, M.Ed. started the Center in 2007 their aim was to address a need in our community for inclusive childcare. Sarah’s wealth of experience with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), conducting assessments, developing curriculum, as well as individualized, small group and large group instruction help her when serving as liaison to teachers, school districts, therapists and comprehensive program providers. Sarah has more than 22 years of experience working closely with children with special needs, those with Autism spectrum disorders and typically developing children. When she isn’t spending time with her wife and two children–Emery (16) and Eli (11)–Sarah serves as the Inclusion Specialist at Congregation Beth Israel in Austin, TX.

Director of Development/Co-Founder

Stacey Bell, M.Ed. is currently serving as the Director of Development for The Emerson Foundation. Stacey, the Co-Founder of Emerson Academy, has returned to the organization after a five year hiatus. Stacey worked as an investigator with Child Protective Services and Residential Childcare Licensing during her absence and learned a great deal about deficits in services for persons with disabilities in our community. Her aim is to expand programs offered by the The Emerson Foundation to include teens and young adults with disabilities as well as children, youth and adults who are socially, educationally and vocationally underserved in our community.

Crystal Oliver

Program Director

Crystal Oliver joined the Emerson Family Sep 2016. She earned her Child Development Associates in 2013 and the Child Care Administrator’s Credentials in 2015.  As a mom of two, she has much experience nurturing and caring for her own children and shows that each day while working with the students at Emerson. Crystal has more than 10 years of experience in early childhood. Crystal loves to see all the children at Emerson grow and learn.

Yvonne Gomez

Assistant Director

Yvonne Gomez- Brown I am Currently the Assistant Director at Emerson Academy and have been here for a little over 2 years. I have been in childcare for over 10 years and I truly have a passion for working with children. I was Born is Austin, Texas and raised here in Round Rock. I have 5 beautiful kids, a dog named Luna. My husband Dominic and I  have been together for over 10 years. In our free time I enjoy hosting BBQ’s, camping and watching movies as a family. My favorite part of being a part of The Emerson Academy family is watching our students reach their goals and having the ability to help families at our center.

Office Assistant

April Wilson–  I have been teaching at Emerson for 4 years now. I am excited to start my new role as Emerson Office Assistant. I have obtained my  Child Development Associate in 2018. I have had many training from Conscious Discipline, Curriculum and managing Emotional Mayhem. In my spare time I enjoy painting, Crime/ Medical shows and spending time with my family  Demorris, Dashia, and Anyssa.

Infants 6 weeks -12 Months

Melva Zapata – Hi, I am Melva. I was born in Del Rio, Texas. I moved to Round Rock in 2013. I’m deaf and use ASL sign language. I started to work at Emerson in 2013 and I really enjoy teaching in the Caterpillar classroom. I obtained my Child Development Associate in 2015. I have had many trainings including Conscious Discipline, curriculum development, Emotional Mayhem, Infant, Toddler & Pre-school Early Learning Guidelines and Frog Street Infant Curriculum. I really enjoy working with infants and their families. It always lights up my day to see infants smile and watch my ASL signs.
In my spare time, I love to spend time with my family, watching movies, and traveling and exploring different states.

Toddlers 12 months-24 months

Codi Harzler– I was born in California and moved to texas at a young age.  I have a sons named Andrew and Anthony. I  received my Child Development Associate in 2017. I have always loved 1 year olds  because I love teaching them new things. I enjoy seeing their faces light up. I have over 5 years experience in licensed child care. I have returned to school to obtain a degree in Child  Psychology. In my spare time I enjoy anything outdoors and exploring Austin.

Connie Bishop

Connie Bishop – Hello! My name is Connie and I have many years experience working with children and their families. I have a CDA in Infant and Toddler Early Childhood Education. I recently moved to Hutto from Fort Hood, Texas, where I worked for the military at the Ft. Hood Child Development Center.

Toddlers 2 years - 3 years

Pamala Smith

Pamala Smith - Hello, my name is Pamala Smith, but my family knows me as “Hunni”. I am from Amarillo Texas but recently moved to Austin in July 2015. I have over 20 years of experience in Childcare. I have been married for 10 years. I am a Grandmother of two beautiful kids. In my free time I enjoy shopping with my daughters, and I like to plan trips with my family. I am Currently the 2.5 -3.5-year-old teacher (Bumblebee Class). My Favorite thing about Emerson Academy is that every day is different and my students are truly amazing. Each child has a place in my heart. A goal I have is to travel to Africa and see the World when I retire.

Yvette Gomez

Hello, my name is Yvette Gomez. I was Born and raised in Austin, Texas and am currently living in Hutto. I have a daughter. Her name is Ciara; she is currently attending our Pre-k program and loves her teachers and friends. I have been working in childcare for a little over 3 years and have been at Emerson Academy for 1 year. This fall I am  furthering my education by taking C.D.A courses (Child Development Associates). During my free time, I love spending time with my daughter and making memories that will last a lifetime.

Preschool 2 1/2 years-4 years

Priscilla Martinez

Priscilla Martinez - Welcome to the Bumblebee Class. My name is Priscilla. I am 22 years old and have been in childcare for 2 years. I have lived in Texas my entire life. From a young age I knew working with children is something that I wanted to do. In my Class I enjoy letting the children explore through art and sensory. I recently started my Fitness Journey, so I have been enjoying learning new ways to better my health. My favorite thing about working at Emerson Academy is being able to give our Two-year old’s new things to explore and helping them find words to better express their needs.

Marisa Sembrano

Marisa Sembrano - Welcome to our Bumblebee class! I’m looking forward to starting off the new school year with everyone. We have a lot of fun activities planned! My favorite activities with our class are art and science. I love messy sensory centers! I’ve experiences all age groups from preschool teacher to being a nanny for a span of 10 years. This age group is my absolute favorite. When I’m not in a classroom, I’m usually outdoors: hiking, kayaking or on the lake. I also enjoy cooking and photography in my spare time. I look forward to getting to know our new friends and their families.

Elise Wonzy - Welcome to the Dragonfly Class!  I am excited to have the opportunity to work with your children! I really enjoy learning something new from each student and making each experience personalized to their needs so that they can reach their full potential. In my spare time, I enjoy painting and expanding my garden. I have 4 cats that keep me busy and I am looking forward to hanging out with all the animals on campus!

Pre-K (4-6 Years)

Alison "Ali" Santos - I am excited to be a part of your child's growth and development. I have been working in the Early Childhood Development for over a decade, including raising two children of my own. Aubrey is 10 years old and Adam is 8 years old. I have a Child Development Associates from Penn Foster University. In my spare time, I coach my children’s softball and basketball teams.  I love teaching through experiences. I love that I get to grow and learn alongside my students

Ceille Dickerson - My name is Ceille Dickerson and I’ve been working in child care for a little over 3 years. I grew up in Texas City, Texas and moved to Austin in 2014 to attend UT. I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Applied Learning and Development. I have been working at Emerson for about 6 months and I love it! In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family in Houston, especially my niece and nephew. Everyday, I look forward to making meaningful relationships and learning experiences for children.

Crystal Zavala - Hello my name is Crystal, but everyone calls me Criss.  I have worked in the child care field on and off since I was in high school.  I love kids and am the mother of three wonderful girls and two sweet boys. I grew up in Florida and I went to school in Florida, but have lived in Texas for 6 years.  I’m a big Dallas cowboy fan and enjoy watching games with my family.

School Age Virtual Learning

Kathy Dieteman

Kathy Dieteman - I was born in Maryland. My family and I moved to Texas when I was 13 years old. I have been teaching at Emerson for 5 years. I have received my Child Development Associates in 2016. My favorite things are my family, reading, baking and movies. I am super excited to be working with school aged children helping them engage and succeed in virtual education.


Margarita Gudino - I was born in Escondido, California. My family and I moved to Texas when I was 6 years old. I have a 5 year old daughter named Genesis. She is truly my biggest blessing. I am currently taking classes to obtain my Child Development Associate. I want to become a better teacher. I enjoy working with children because I get to make an impact in their lives. I also get to help each child reach their development milestones.

Support Staff


Briana Corondo- Briana is part of our staff support, she has been working with Emerson for over 5 months. Briana is currently studying Early Childhood Development at Austin Community College and plans to transfer to Texas State University. After getting her major in Early Childhood Development, Briana looks to becoming a Special Education Teacher.

Pedro Chapa - Hello, my name is Pedro. I have many years of experience working in restaurants, child development centers and commercial food preparation. I love to cook good, healthy food for people to enjoy. I have a great deal of experience with the federal food program and I am proud to be helping families feed their kids while learning at Emerson Academy.

Haley Lindeman - Hi! My name is Haley and I love teaching at Emerson Academy. I've wanted to be a teacher my whole life, so along with actively teaching I am attending college to earn a degree in Early Childhood Education. In my free time, I like to care for my plants, hang out with my friends and family, and watch my favorite TV shows. My favorite thing about working at Emerson is all of the amazing and unique children I get to build relationships with. I love watching and helping them grow physically and mentally every day.

Emily Montez is the  backbone of Emerson Academy!  She works diligently and tirelessly to ensure the cleanliness and sanitation of classrooms and learning spaces. Ms. Emily is invaluable to the health of Emerson students.

Quincy James is a 4 year old Golden Retriever who was rescued from the Gold Ribbon Rescue (GRR) , (opens in a new window) group in Austin. He has been at Emerson Academy for two years and works with all ages and classes. Quincy is a patient, easy-going and loving dog who has never met a child he doesn't love. His relationships with the children, especially children with special needs, is remarkable. Quincy is one of Emerson's most beloved icons and makes many a day of children and parents alike.