Staff Bios

  • Bobbi Cecio

    Bobbi Cecio has spent over 24 years in the field of Education, providing learning experiences for both adults and children. Her extensive background in a variety of educational forums has made her a leader in creating working environments - both corporately and in the home - that have common communication practices, strong teams and effective tools.

    Bobbi's passion is to create environments where each and every person is known and celebrated for their unique gifts.  

    Bobbi has a Masters of Business Administration and Bachelors in Mathematics. For 14 years, Bobbi has been the Head of School for two large private Montessori schools in New Jersey. Her experience and background in Montessori education has included roles with individual schools as well as serving in a leadership capacity for six years for the New Jersey Montessori Administrator's Council - A statewide organization comprised of Montessori Administrators. In addition, she has been a speaker at several regional and national Montessori Conferences and has consulted for several schools in a variety of capacities. Her strength in the field of Education and Consulting comes not only from her background in school leadership, but also from a variety of other additional certifications and trainings: She is a Certified Corporate Empowerment Consultant, a Certified Parent Educator and Parent Educator Trainer through the International Network of Children and Families and a Certified Trainer of Redirecting for a Cooperative Classroom. Additionally, she is an Instructor for Your Infinite Life Training & Coaching Company and has facilitated classes nationally for schools, individuals, families and corporations.

  • Larry Cecio
    Co-Founder/Director of Education

    Larry Cecio has been a Montessori Elementary Teacher for the past nineteen years. He started the very first Elementary Program for a school in Central New Jersey where he taught for ten years. Larry later became the Director of Elementary Education for another Central Jersey Montessori School for four years prior to re-locating to Southern California. After college, Larry spent many years working with developmentally disabled adults. Among his triumphs were; writing several proposals on behalf of his clients that were accepted into legislation and coaching one of his clients to win two consecutive gold medals in the Special Olympics. Upon making his move into Montessori education, in addition to his Bachelor's Degree in Education, Larry is dually trained, attending both the Princeton Center for Teacher Education in Princeton, New Jersey and the New Gate School for Teacher Education in Sarasota, Florida. Larry is a certified Redirecting Children's Behavior Instructor and has an extensive background in coaching and personal growth. Larry's extensive background, affinity for children and his natural ability to connect with his students make him an incredible teacher and an asset to every environment he leads.

  • Marcus Brutlag
    Vice Principal of Elementary Education

    Having been with Village Gate since the inaugural year, over the years Marcus has overseen the language arts program, technology, physical education, and music. He is currently the Vice Principal of Elementary Education, overseeing language arts and co-teaching in the Upper Elementary classroom. He lives in Encinitas with his wife and two children. 

    Marcus was born in Minnesota but spent the majority of his childhood in Phoenix. After graduating from Arizona State in 2002 with a degree in English literature and creative writing, Marcus spent the better part of five years in Latin America, traveling, surfing, writing and teaching English.  The next move was to Los Angeles to work with friends at a small production company and to happily struggle as a struggling writer. While avoiding rent by moonlighting as manager of an apartment building in Hollywood's Little Armenia, his future in education came knocking at the door in the form of the dozen little hands of the children of the complex, who very quickly entered his life and kitchen and then living room to take part in forming an impromptu tutoring center and helping inspire Marcus towards his current path of education.

  • Jenny Waterbury
    Upper Elementary Co-Teacher

    Jenny recently relocated from North Carolina and is thrilled to be in California. Jenny grew up in a military family, moving around most of her life. She ended up in North Carolina and has been living there for the past 10 years. Jenny received her bachelor's degree in Psychology from UNC Asheville and her master’s degree in Elementary Education from UNC Wilmington. Jenny has worked with children in a variety of settings. She has been a residential counselor, therapeutic horseback riding instructor, classroom teacher and special education teacher. Jenny has experience teaching in Montessori schools, as well as NC public schools.

    Jenny is very passionate about the Montessori philosophy and is excited to have found employment at Village Gate Children’s Academy! She is looking forward to getting to know everyone and becoming a part of the school community. When not working with children, Jenny spends most of her free time hiking or at the beach with her husband and dogs. 

  • Jennifer Blackman
    Newer Elementary Co-Teacher

    Jennifer Blackman is currently one of the early elementary teachers at Village Gate Children's Academy. The 2014-2015 school year will be her fifth year with Village Gate as a teacher and her fifth year as a parent of a student.

    Jennifer received her teaching credential at Azusa Pacific University, as well as her Master's Degree in Special Education.  Her Bachelor's Degree was in Behavioral Sciences and was completed at National University. This past year she obtained her Montessori Teaching credential for the Lower Elementary Program. 

    Jennifer has completed the Redirecting Children's Behavior course and uses the methods taught through the course for classroom management.

    Previously, Jennifer was a Program Director at Developmental Services Continuum, where she managed the daily routine of three residential facilities for persons with Intellectual Disabilities. When she left, she became an active board member with DSC and served as Board President for one year.

  • Beth Hagen
    Newer Elementary Co-Teacher

    Beth received her teaching credential at Point Loma Nazarene University. Her bachelor’s degree was in liberal studies completed at California State University Chico. Beth fell in love with the Montessori method and started her career teaching at the Santa Fe Montessori school which was right around the corner from her childhood home in 1989. After 20 years at Santa Fe Montessori, Beth had an exciting opportunity to start a Montessori elementary program at a growing Vista school. Beth is elated to have the opportunity to become the newest teacher at Village Gate especially since it brings her closer to home and her three sons.

  • Catherine Cecio
    Newer Elementary Assistant

    Caity Cecio has grown up with Village Gate as part of her life since early childhood. Caity has spent time working with children from all around the world. In 2016, she spent time performing, volunteering and traveling with the organization Up with People spending some time in different parts of the US, Mexico, Bermuda, Sweden, and Denmark. After returning, she went on to a conservatory program in New York City to study performing arts, which she desires to incorporate into her work at Village Gate. 


    Before moving to the beautiful town of Cardiff, Caity was working at the Boys and Girls Club/ASES in Fullerton, CA at Valencia Park Elementary School, assisting children ages 6-13 with math and reading. She also created several other programs to support her students development in the areas of friendships and relationship building by assisting them in accessing and understanding their feelings. During this time, she was also taking courses in Psychology, Brain Development and Behavior as well as continuing to enhance her knowledge and skills of American Sign Language.


    Caity is eager to work at Village Gate with a community that understands the importance of having a child master his/her own true potential. Going forward, Caity will be be getting Montessori certified while working in the Newer Elementary classroom with Jennifer Blackman and Beth Hagen, who she's elated to learn from.

  • Delaney Ryan
    Newer Elementary Online Teacher

    Delaney Ryan is currently a college student eager to earn her teaching degree. She has a long list of children who know her as their babysitter, and she worked as an attendant in the childcare center at Eōs Fitness in Encinitas. Before she found her passion for teaching, she spent the majority of her life studying and practicing music, theatre and improv comedy. She strongly believes that her job at Village Gate teaches her valuable lessons each day that she couldn’t access from a desk in a college classroom.

  • Sarah Steele
    Kindergarten Teacher

    Sarah Steele has been in the field of Child Development for over 5 years. After moving to San Diego in 2015 from her hometown of San Francisco, she began working as a Preschool Teacher in Poway, CA. During her time as an Early Childhood Educator she helped to create age-appropriate curriculum that was engaging and fun. She has also spent time as a counseling intern where she worked with immigrant and refugee children at the elementary level in El Cajon, CA.

    Sarah has a Bachelors in Child Development, and a Masters of Education with a Pupil Personnel Services Credential,  specializing in Guidance and Counseling. 

    Sarah strongly believes that social/emotional development and academic performance coincide with one another and she always aims to provide a learning environment that is warm, loving and accepting. 

  • Shaquille Garner
    Kindergarten Assistant

    Born and raised in San Diego, California, Shaquille Garner (also known as Shaq) has always gravitated towards informal education. Shaq was a member of SeaWorld’s Education and Conservation Team, introducing the thrills of Marine Biology and research through hands-on experiences. As an Educator in the camp programs, Shaq was able to engage with children of all ages, providing a fun environment to grow their knowledge. He also spent time with the San Diego Zoo’s Education Team. He made the pathways of the Zoo his classroom, sparking curiosity for the Animal Kingdom. By using the environment around him, he was able to provide a unique learning experience for all of the guests who entered the park. He was later led to Orlando, Florida where he would become a Youth Education Series Facilitator at the Walt Disney World Resort. In this role he was able to show students a whole new world of possibilities. Making the theme park his educational playground, Shaq was able to demonstrate the real-world applications of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. He inspired young minds by taking students out of their traditional classrooms and giving them a space to witness these same subjects working in a fun and tangible way. From the development of everyone’s favorite rides, to the mechanics of a parade float, he revealed the real magic behind the scenes of the “happiest place on earth.” 

    Shaquille Garner’s involvement in non-traditional classrooms brings a fresh and engaging approach to the learning environment. When he isn’t molding the minds of today’s youth, you can find him warming up his vocal cords and exploring his love of music. He is excited to begin his journey with Village Gate Children’s Academy and meet the minds who will lead tomorrow.

  • Kathy Stenger
    Middle School Humanities and Language Teacher

    In 2011 Kathy was thrilled to discover Village Gate for her three children, Jake, Emma, and Genevieve.  They thrived in their first year and the whole family became active members of the community.  In 2012 Kathy joined the staff of Village Gate to participate in the exciting endeavor of creating a new middle school with three intrepid seventh grade students. 

    Her eclectic background in education includes earning a masters degree in art history from UCLA; establishing a Latin program at La Jolla Country Day School; teaching English literature to eighth and tenth graders at The Bishop’s School; lecturing on European and Islamic art and architecture at UCSD Extension; and tutoring high school students in all subjects.

    No matter the subject, Kathy aims to inspire students to engage with the world, to make meaning out of its chaos, and to discover ways to contribute to its beauty.

  • Caitlin Shindler
    Middle School Math & Science Teacher

    Caitlin is a graduate of MIT with several years of teaching experience in both formal and informal settings. She has worked as a science and math teacher at a private middle school and high school for four years before coming to Village Gate in 2014. Prior to teaching in schools, Caitlin worked as a science educator at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, where she taught just about every kind of science to children from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Throughout her years of teaching, she has found the mentoring relationships she has developed with her students to be the most rewarding. For three years, Caitlin served as an adviser and mentor for several after school science clubs for girls. As a result of Caitlin’s guidance and support, many of the girls continued in the clubs for multiple years. Being a part of their journey as they went from shy fourth graders to confident sixth graders was a true joy. In her previous teaching position, all classes were conducted on a one teacher to one student basis which she enjoyed because it allowed her to truly know her students and develop strong mentoring relationships with her students. In addition to her teaching experience, she created and evaluated curriculum for multiple programs at the Fleet Science Center including; the young scientists program, school workshops, after school science clubs and summer camps. Caitlin is absolutely passionate about developing programs and activities that engage learners and develop critical thinking.

  • Julie Colbourne
    Registrar/ Administration

    Julie graduated from San Diego State University in 1997 with a B.S. in Recreation Therapy, specializing in adapted sports for persons with disabilities. In 2000, she received a degree as a Physical Therapist Assistant working primarily with post hip and knee replacement patients. After staying home to raise her 4 children while they were young, she returned to the work force at Village Gate Children’s Academy. 

    “I am thrilled to be part of the Village Gate Family. Personally, my children have grown intellectually, socially and have become more confident. They have learned to be advocates for their education, independent and positive contributors to the community. I am grateful to Village Gate in being partners in parenting and guiding our students.  It is a gift to work with dedicated and compassionate teachers and staff. The staff and families at Village Gate make our school community a special place that I look forward to working with each year.”

  • Natalie Neal
    Horticulture Teacher

    This is Natalie’s first year teaching at Village Gate Children’s Academy. She had always sought out careers to fulfill her passions for teaching, writing, cooking, and gardening. 

    Natalie graduated with her Bachelors in English from the University of San Diego and soon after obtained a teaching credential from National University. 

    She taught 7th grade English following her degree, but then took time off to raise her four children, dabbling in passion projects during that time, including selling mason jar pudding from three restaurants in Encinitas and writing for various websites. 

    Natalie is an avid gardener and lives on 2 1/2 acres with chickens and 50 fruit trees. Working in the community in which she lives has always been very important to Natalie and she is very excited to share her love of gardening with our students at Village Gate. 

  • Chris Prescott
    Music Teacher

    Chris Prescott is a San Diego-based multi instrumentalist, specializing in percussion and guitar. He has been teaching since 1990 with a steady roster of private students as well as holding group classes. While working as both an educator and professional recording and touring musician, Chris completed his B.A. in Music at UCSD.  At UCSD Chris earned the highest Summa Cum Laude honors among other scholarships and college distinctions. In 2010, Chris published his first book on drumming, entitled Creative Construction. The editors of Modern Drummer magazine soon after hearing about Chris's book, commissioned him to become a regular magazine contributor.  There have been 5 pieces published in Modern Drummer at this point, with more on the way. 

    Over the past 25 years Chris has performed in over 160 cities worldwide, including concerts in Russia, Europe, Japan,Czech,  Australia, Canada and all across the United States. With around 50 releases to his credit, Chris has made a name for himself as an important and influential contributor to the San Diego music scene.  Some bands that Chris has performed with over the years include Pinback, Rocket from the Crypt, No Knife and many others.

    As a longtime Encinitas resident, Chris has deep roots in the local community and has shifted his interests more and more towards education and spending time with his family. Both of his children attend Village Gate Academy and he is looking forward to working closely in the development of a diverse and highly rewarding music curriculum.

  • Grace Colletta
    Art Teacher

    Grace Colletta is a visual artist from Encinitas. She received a MFA in painting from Boston University and focuses on drawing, painting and printmaking.  At Boston University she lead workshops and demonstrations as a teaching assistant for beginning drawing and printmaking courses.  Before going to Boston, Grace earned a BA in Art from University of California Berkeley where she participated in the honors studio art program and designed costumes for theater and dance productions.  She has been a visiting artist at the Waldorf School of San Diego and has exhibited her artwork in New York, Boston, California, and Beijing.  She is delighted to share her love of art with children in the after school program at Village Gate.


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