Children's House Faculty 

Julie Killian, Lead Teacher and Director of Admissions & Scheduling

Julie pursued her certification as a Montessori teacher because she enjoys being part of the peaceful, independent environment that is a Montessori classroom. As the mother of two daughters, she enjoys sharing the benefits of a Montessori education with all children. Julie holds a Bachelor of Science in Graphic Arts from Appalachian State University and holds the Early Childhood Credential from the American Montessori Society. Julie has been teaching at Willow Oak Montessori since the fall of 2008. She lives in Pittsboro with her husband Matt and daughters Isabel and Mary Helen.


Veda Puglia
, Lead Teacher 

Veda joined Willow Oak Montessori Children's House in the Fall of 2013. She received her American Montessori Society-Early Childhood associate certification from the Montessori Training Institute of New Jersey. Veda pursued her Montessori training because she loves working with children. She feels privileged to witness their independence and joy of learning on a daily basis. Veda holds an Associate of Arts degree from the Art Institute of Atlanta, where she studied photography. Veda also attended Queens College in Charlotte, NC.Veda moved into the Briar Chapel neighborhood in 2010 and loves living in Chatham County. She has an adult son, Nicholas.



Christine Reed
, Teacher Assistant 

Christine joined Willow Oak Montessori in August 2009. After moving to Chapel Hill over 20 years ago, Christine began raising a family while working at the University of North Carolina. Christine's children attended Montessori Community School in Durham for nine years. During that time, she volunteered in many positions, including as a member of the parent board and as a substitute teacher. Miss Christine enjoys devoting her energy to sharing the experience of a Montessori classroom with other children alongside Miss Julie. She lives in Chapel Hill with her husband Michael, son Lucas, and daughter Kaitlyn.



Kirsten Bair

Kirsten Bair, Teacher Assistant

Kirsten joins the Children’s House in the Fall of 2017. She is looking forward to working alongside Ms. Veda and spending her days with young, creative minds. Kirsten has been lucky enough to see Willow Oak Montessori grow from the very beginning. She has been a regular volunteer and substitute teacher for Willow Oak Montessori since 2007. Kirsten attended Montessori school herself and is a firm believer of the Montessori philosophy. Kirsten grew up in Minnesota and spent her summers visiting grandparents in North Carolina. After graduating high school, she left the cold winters behind and happily moved to North Carolina. Kirsten is a part-time student at Eastern Carolina University working on her studies in Birth to Kindergarten Special Education. Kirsten lives in Pittsboro with her husband and three children.



Barbara Crockett
, Music Teacher (info coming soon)




Administration & Staff   


Dr. Ayize Sabater, EdD,
 Head of School

Ayize Sabater, EdD is a dynamic social entrepreneur, author, and twenty year veteran educator.  He has co-founded several non-profits, including an independent school, an award-winning non-profit organization, and a Montessori public charter school in Washington, DC. Dr. Ayize is an alumnus of Morehouse College, the Wesley Theological Seminary, and Morgan State University. He has also completed his Montessori primary assistant training. Dr. Ayize’s innovative social justice work positioned him to be featured as the Keynote speaker to American University’s freshman class in 2009, and he was a 2010 recipient of a White House award for his non-profit work that was presented by First Lady Michelle Obama. In 2014, he authored the book “Tellin’ Children Our Story: A Fun Technique for Teaching History…” and has lectured internationally on cultural empowerment. He has leadership, financial, and grant-writing experience, and helped grow his social justice educational non-profit from a $10,000 program to one with a budget of over $500,000. Dr. Ayize is a Montessori parent and advocate who states: “I believe that Montessori education has a great potential to transform education; however, it is far too often relegated to the wealthy and well-to-do.”



Luanne Bannan
, Assistant Head of School

Luanne became the Assistant Head of School at Willow Oak Montessori Children's House in January 2016. Previously, Luanne was a long-standing member of Willow Oak Montessori's Board of Directors from 2006 to 2015. Luanne earned her Masters of Social Work from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1988 and worked full time as a social worker until 2005, when she chose to embrace parenting and volunteer opportunities following the birth of her son, Zane. She remains licensed as a clinical social worker, and has always had a special place in her heart for connecting with children and families. Luanne and her husband, Eric relocated from Chicago to Pittsboro in 1994 and love living in Chatham County, NC. Luanne enjoys having adventures with her family, dancing Nia, spending time enjoying nature, and reading.


Melissa Frey
, Business Manager

Originally from the Northeast, Melissa Frey has been living in Chatham County since 1993. Her two children, Tucker and Ava Marinne are native North Carolinians, and she can hardly believe they are young adults already! After earning a BA in Family Studies from Syracuse University and Messiah College, and being home with her young family, Melissa was the Founding Board President, Project Manager and Marketing/Owner Services Manager of Chatham Marketplace, our local co-op grocery from 2003-08. Gravitating towards new and growing endeavors, she has been involved in various projects including The Plenty local currency, Company Shops Market in Burlington, and administrative work with the former Community Independent School. Melissa is actively involved in the community, having served on a variety of non-profit boards and engaged in ongoing volunteer work, all while making as much time as possible for organic gardening, biking, and power walking. Melissa has been with Willow Oak Montessori, first as Board Vice President, since 2011.



Noemi Plata
, Office Administrator

Born in Mexico, Noemi moved to the United States at a young age. After graduating from college with a degree in business, she started to work for hospitals to help translate documents. Noemi began working for the Chatham County school system in 2005, where she has touched the lives of many Hispanic and exceptional children. After transferring to SAGE Academy, Noemi began to assist every teacher in the school and won the Best Instructional Assistant Award for four consecutive years She continues to have an impact on students who have graduated in the past. When she isn’t helping students, Noemi is an active member of her community. She is currently president of her neighborhood’s Homeowners Association, and she was previously a board member for Habitat for Humanity for four years. For fun, Noemi loves to refurbish old furniture and has made beautiful pieces of decorative furniture. She is also a photographer and loves to spend time photographing her three children and her two dogs. Noemi is super excited about the opportunity to help the community of Willow Oak Montessori!