Our leadership team is designed to not only optimize the administration of our school, but to support teachers in their professional trajectory enabling them to become the best facilitators for child development and exploration. To truly live Montessori principles, we rely on the expertise of our teachers to develop and adapt our curriculum to the individual needs of children and create facilitated learning environments. 


Marilyn Medrano, Founder

With over 15 years of experience in early childhood education, Ms. Marilyn is AMS certified trained in Montessori Infant Toddler education. In 2008, she realized that she wanted to provide her community with an infant Spanish immersion Montessori program and created Estrellitas Montessori School, the only Spanish language Montessori school that serves infant up to age 5 and camps for children age 3-12.  

She is proud that the Estrellitas team is self-reflective and takes satisfaction knowing that they observe classrooms to ensure high-quality programming for our students. She is so happy to have a place for children to grow and learn in a warm and nurturing environment while learning Spanish, and that the families make up a wonderful, caring community.


Cristina Encinas, Director of Education  

Ms. Cristina serves the Estrellitas community by extending her experience of Montessori Education. She has trained and earned her certification at the Northeast Montessori Institute and obtained her Infant and Toddler Certification in The New York Center for Montessori Studies. Cristina also earned a B.A. in Human Services from Springfield College, her Master’s Degree in Education Administration from Trinity College; and a second Master’s in Early Childhood Special Education from Catholic University in 2013. Cristina is bilingual, English/Spanish and has dedicated her life to education.

Ms. Encinas has been a presenter in national and international forums in bilingual education, parent engagement, early childhood development and health education in the U.S., Mexico, and Peru. She was named Most Outstanding Principal of the Year by the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools in 2014.

As co-founder and former Principal of the Latin American Montessori Bilingual Public Charter School (LAMB) Ms. Encinas led LAMB to achieve Tier 1 status for more than four years in a row based on the Public Charter School Board’s assessment tool, the Performance Management Framework and expanded the school from 57 students in 2003 when to 462 students.

Her lifelong mission is to provide environments where students thrive in a self-directed learning environment where they can exchange culture and language.


Marcela (Lala) Villa Tampe, Curriculum Director/Teacher

Ms. Marcela has over 10 years of teaching experiences, and 20 years in education administration. She has a degree in Early Childhood Education and is a Montessori AMI certified teacher. Ms. Marcela has combined her experience as a Montessori leader to create programming and curriculum for Estrellitas classroom’s as well as camps and adventures. She is cherished by children and parents alike, and is lovingly called Lala. . Ms. Marcela is the founder of SMILE Montessori, a partner of Estrellitas Montessori, and provides a variety of programs, including before and after care, summer camp programs, and “No School” camp days.  

Her encounters with children and families is always an enriching and rewarding feeling that she treasures. Every child is curious, imaginative, creative, brilliant, caring and fun. She is very glad to guide each one of our "little stars" and is happy to be an active member and contributor to our daily school experience.


Paulina Barney, Director of Enrollment and Communication

Ms. Paulina has most recently served as the enrollment specialist at a public charter school and has experience in development, grant writing, and digital communications. She loves serving on admissions teams because of the dynamic and meaningful relationships developed with parents, students, and teachers. Paulina has her Bachelor’s from George Mason University with a major in Art History and concentration in Mexican muralism. After her undergraduate studies, Paulina served in administration coordinating tutoring services to qualifying title I schools. She feels that Estrellitas combines her love of Latin American culture and meaningful educational services. As a mom raising bilingual Montessori children, she has witnessed how the methodology cultivates a joy and love of learning. Recently she completed her Master’s in Strategic Communication from American University and serves the Estrellitas community as Director of Enrollment and Communications and is the parent liaison and admissions point of contact.