Executive Director & Head of School

Shetal Walters

Shetal Walters is the founder and Head of School / Executive Director of Desert Garden Montessori. Ms. Shetal started the school in her living room back in 1996, and has devoted her energy and care to its growing community of students and families ever since. Ms. Walters holds an M.S. in Counseling and a B.S. in Liberal Arts; her professional experience includes counseling families, couples and individuals, but her most valuable skills are in bringing people together, and she is most motivated by the work of building community while educating children. Ms. Shetal enjoys traveling, music from ‘80s to Motown, banana-protein smoothies, and has a different favorite color from day to day. She loves best her two pugs, three children, and her husband, whom she’s been dating since age 15.

As executive director is fully responsible for the execution and preservation of the mission set forth by Desert Garden Montessori School. The general responsibility is to create and sustain an ongoing Montessori Educational program with full authenticity. School growth and enhancing the programs to fulfill best practice for students to prepare them for Education for Tomorrow is vital in daily duties. Building community partnerships, working with various educational institutions, cultivating lasting relationships with alumni, current parents and staff are core to the role of the Executive Director.

Shetal’s Roles & Responsibilities are:

  • School Growth
  • New Program Development
  • New Staff Recruitment
  • Coffee w/ Director
  • Management of All Programs

Admissions & Enrollment

Karen Hurlbert

Karen has been at Desert Garden since 2006 working both in the classroom and on the Administrative team. Her educational background is in psychology while her professional background is in Strategic Planning and Project Management.

In her role as the Admissions Director, Karen is responsible for outreach and recruitment, shepherding incoming families through the admissions process, managing placement and movement from program to program and providing support for all families throughout out their tenure at DGM. She also manages DGM’s scholarship & financial aid programs & is the liaison for families working with School Tuition Organizations. Karen is a passionate supporter of Montessori education and has two children enrolled at Desert Garden.

Karen’s responsibilities include:


  • Enrollments/Admissions
  • Classroom Transitions
  • Scholarship & Financial Aid
  • School Tuition Organizations

Communications & IT

Sonia Jain

Sonia joined the DGM Administration Team in 2011. She has experience in various areas not all directly related to her undergraduate and graduate degrees, which are in Computer Science. Her event management skills were developed thru her endeavors as an entrepreneur producing Arizona’s first Indus Dance Competition, and her graphic design and website development interests piqued when she stayed at home for the first couple of years after having children. Though Sonia has held positions where she has sat in a cubical developing code, she most enjoys working with real people who have good hearts.

Sonia’s responsibilities include:

  • DGM Calendar Management
  • Parent Teacher Conference Scheduling
  • Website Management
  • Circulation Editor
  • Media Photo Management
  • Field Trip Co-Coordinator
  • IT Support & Coordinator

Event Coordinator and Operations Manager

Lexi Henderson

Lexi’s responsibilities include:

  • DGM Event Planner & Manager
  • DGM Day-to-Day Operations

Finance Director

Valerie Wessel

Valerie’s responsibilities include:

  • Tuition Processor
  • Late Day Fees Processor
  • Parent Account Manager

Executive Assistant

Tracy Pace

Tracy has worked in the area of administration over 25 years. After high school she decided it was time for a change of scenery (and weather) and moved to sunny Arizona whereshe continued working in administration in various industries and then found Desert Garden Montessori, where she has been working since 2000.

Tracy’s DGM journey has been amazing both professionally & personally; from raising her own children at DGM, learning and living the Montessori philosophy, working in a child-centered, very dynamic environment, in addition to the development of personal & professional relationships over the years.

Tracy’s responsibilities include:

  • Executive Assistant
  • Front Office Manager

Administration & Front Office

Lisa Edson

Lisa is part of the administration team and works at the front desk. She has been at Desert Garden Montessori since 2009, and has over 30 years of experience working with children! She went to High School at the American School in Singapore and attended Northern Arizona University where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Recreational Leadership. She has been married for 23 years and has 2 wonderful children, Shayna and Jaryd.

Lisa’s responsibilities include:

  • On-site Director For Late Days
  • Child Care Registration Management
  • Front Office
  • Event RSVPs & Volunteer Sign-ups Assistant
  • Child Medication Management
  • B-day/WATS Scheduling
  • Management of Parent/Child Sign-in/out Log
  • Attendance Tracking
  • Sick Kids Management
  • Coordinator of Enrichments Providers
  • Enrichment Sign-up Management