About Our Staff

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 24 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 (18) and Eli (13)–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.

Program Director

Crystal Oliver joined the Emerson Family Sep 2016. She earned her Child Development Associate Credentials 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 and loves to see all the children at Emerson Academy grow and learn.

Yvonne Gomez

Assistant Director

Yvonne Gomez- Brown Yvonne is currently the Assistant Director at Emerson Academy and has been here for a little over 2 years. She has been in childcare for over 10 years and truly has a passion for working with children.  Yvonne was Born is Austin, Texas and raised here in Round Rock. She has 5 beautiful kids and a dog named Luna. She has been with her husband, Dominic for over 10 years. In their free time, her family enjoys hosting BBQ’s, camping and watching movies together.  Her 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.

Infants 6 weeks -12 Months

Melva Zapata – Melva was born in Del Rio and moved to Round Rock in 2013. Melva is deaf and uses ASL (American Sign Language) as her primary method of communication.  She started working at Emerson Academy in 2013 and her favorite age group is the infants. Melva obtained her Child Development Associate Credential in 2015 and has participated in many trainings such as  Conscious Discipline, curriculum development, Emotional Mayhem, Infant, Toddler & Pre-school Early Learning Guidelines and Frog Street Infant Curriculum. She really enjoys working with infants and their families. It lights up her day to see the babies smile and watch her ASL signs. When not teaching at Emerson Academy, Melva likes to spend time with her family, watch movies, and traveling and exploring different states.

Codi Hartzler– Cody was born in California and moved to Texas at a young age.  She has two sons, Andrew and Anthony, who are the light of her life. Cody received her Child Development Associate Credential in 2017. She has an affinity for toddlers, especially one year-olds, because she loves teaching them new things. She loves seeing their faces light up when they have learned a new skill or word.  Cody has over 5 years experience in licensed child care. She has recently returned to college in order to obtain a degree in Child  Psychology. In her free time, she enjoys doing anything outdoors and exploring Austin.

Toddlers 12 months-24 months

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.

Connie Bishop – Connie has many years experience working with children and their families. She currently holds a  in Child Development Associate Credential in Infant and Toddler Early Childhood Education. She recently moved to Hutto from Fort Hood, Texas, where I worked for the military at the Ft. Hood Child Development Center. Connie loves working with the one year-olds and finds joy in their daily achievements.

Toddlers 2 years – 3 years

Pamala Smith – Pamala is from Amarillo Texas and moved to Austin in July 2015. Her family nickname is “Hunni”.  Pamela has over 20 years of experience in Childcare. She has been married for 10 years and is the grandmother of two beautiful kids. In her free time Pamela enjoys shopping with my daughters and planning trips with her family. Pamela teaches in the older toddler class and, according to her, her students are amazing and each has a place in her heart.  Connie’s favorite thing about Emerson Academy is that every day is different! One of her goals is to travel the world when she retires.

Yvette Gomez  – Yvette was born and raised in Austin and currently lives in Hutto. She has a daughter, Ciara, who is in Kindergarten.  Yvette has been working in childcare for a little over 4 years and has been at Emerson Academy for 2 years. Yvette is working toward her Child Development Associate Credentials and hopes to achieve her goal this year. Yvette loves spending time with her daughter and making memories that will last a lifetime.

Toddlers/Pre-K 2 1/2 years – 4 years

Dragonfly Class

Marisa Sembrano 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

Dragonfly Class

Mireya Montes

Mireya joined the Dragonfly Class as an assistant teacher. Mireya is originally from south Texas. Mireya is studying to become a physical therapy assistant. Mireya enjoys time with her bunny, Gizmo. She also loves Dancing. Mireya has taught tap, jazz and ballet classes.

Bumblebee Class

Crystal Zavala Crystal, who goes by Criss, has worked in the child care field on and off since she was in high school. Criss loves kids and is the mother of three wonderful girls and two sweet boys. She grew up in Florida but she and her family have lived in Round Rock for six years. Criss is a big Dallas Cowboy fan and enjoys watching the games with her family.

Bumblebee Bee Class

Jhaslin Cashaw My name is Jhaslin and I am returning teacher. I have a five month old daughter. Her name is A’Lise Joy Bell and she is my Joy. My passion is helping children learn as they grow and I am very excited to be back and part of the team once again.

Bumblebee Class

Gabbi Valdez Hello! I have been in childcare for five years and have enjoyed every minute. Since I was young, I knew that my passion would be to help guide and teach young children. I am having my first child this year and cannot wait to meet him!

Pre-K 4 years to 6 years

Alison “Ali” Santos – Ali is excited to be a part of your child’s growth and development. She have been working in the Early Childhood Development for over a decade, including raising two children of her own. Aubrey is 10 years old and Adam is 8 years old. Ali has Child Development Associate’s Degree from Penn Foster University. In my spare time she coaches my children’s softball and basketball teams.  She loves teaching through experiences and learns to grow and learn along side her students.

Ceille Dickerson – Ceille has been working in child care for a little over three years. She grew up in Texas City and moved to Austin in 2014 to attend UT. She graduated from UT and holds a Bachelors of Science in Applied Learning and Development. Cielle  has been working at Emerson for a year and a half and she loves it! In her free time, Ceille enjoys spending time with her family in Houston, especially her niece and nephew. Everyday, Cielle looks forward to forming meaningful relationships and creating learning experiences for children.

After School and Summer Camp

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

Support Staff

Priscilla Martinez – My name is Priscilla. I am 23 years old and have been in childcare for 3 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 classes, 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 children new things to explore and helping them find words to better express their needs.

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.

Quincy James is a 7 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 four 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 for children and parents alike.