Meet Our Staff

Stephen Barnes


Mr. Stephen was born in Maine and was raised between Portland, Maine and NYC. Stephen attended the University of Arizona and then received his MBA from the American Graduate School of International Business. While working for a Spanish investment bank, in Chile, he met his wife of 15 years, Mariela. Previous to taking on the Director role, he worked for the biotech giant, Genentech. Mariela, Natalie and Stephen founded Casa del Niño Bilingual Montessori School.

Mariela Barnes

Financial Manager/Director

Ms. Mariela is originally from Chile. She is a Certified Spanish and AMS Montessori teacher. Along with a Bachelor of Business, she has her Masters in Education and 14 years of experience in bilingual education. She enjoys cooking, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

Natalie Busch

Lead Teacher, Primary II / Primary Coordinator

Ms. Natalie was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. This is her 9th year as a lead Montessori teacher and has now been apart of Montessori education for 18 years. Ms. Natalie has her American Montessori Society certification, a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services, and is a certified Music Together Instructor. Ms. Natalie enjoys playing with her daughter, watching documentaries, going to comedy shows, and working out.

Shasta Payne

Lead Teacher, Upper Elementary / Elementry Coordinator

Ms. Shasta is a native Arizonan, raised in Glendale. She earned her bachelor’s degree at ASU in Elementary Education and English as a Second Language. She also studied abroad in Mérida, Yucatán (México) for a summer. Since July 2014, she has enjoyed being a member of the Casa del Niño family, teaching in the Elementary program. Her hobbies include taking science and math classes, traveling, cooking, swimming, theatre, hiking, swing dancing, and playing with her two cats, Bernie and Groucho.

Jessica Schrader

Lead Teacher, Lower Elementary

Ms. Jessica was born and raised in Tucson, AZ where she met her husband. After taking an introduction course in education she knew that she had found her calling. She transferred to Northern Arizona University and graduated with her BA in Elementary Education with an Early Childhood endorsement. She has previously worked for the Kyrene School District and Awakening Seed Private School. Her hobbies include cooking, hiking, DIY projects.

Carolina Castillo

Teacher, Spanish Elementary

Ms. Carolina was born and raised in Chile and is a native Spanish speaker. She had a sociology degree and she has her Montessori certification in Upper Elementary from American Montessori Center. She enjoys cooking, traveling, climbing, running and spend time with her family.

Airam Gonzalez

Co-Teacher, Primary II

Ms. Airam was born and raised in El Paso, Texas and is fully bilingual. She is an AMS certified, primary level, Montessori teacher and she also holds a bachelors degree in early childhood bilingual education from the University of Texas at El Paso. This is her third year at Casa del Niño and she is enjoying her time here very much! In her free time she likes to do DIY projects, crochet, and she loves spending time with her family.

Esthefania Flores Ortiz

Lead Teacher, Primary I

Ms. Esthefania was born and raised in Mexico City. She moved to Arizona at the age of 15 and learned English during high school. She started working at Casa Del Niño in September, 2013 as a Teacher’s Assistant for the Toddler class, and obtained her Montessori certificate in May 2016. She enjoys being a mother, traveling and spending time with her family.

Nancy Obrego

Teacher’s Assistant, Primary II

Ms. Nancy was born and raised in Southern California before moving to Arizona in 2007. Before relocating, she worked for Head Start and State Preschool for eight years in California. She has two boys who attend Casa Del Niño, where she discovered her love for the Montessori method. Ms. Nancy enjoys spending time with her boys, reading, volunteering, and cooking.