Foundress, Artistic Director and Teacher
Tina Sabuco, Artistic Director and Foundress of ARTS ALIVE! Inc., holds a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Drama and Children’s Theatre from The University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Northern Michigan University. She began dancing at age three in her hometown of Escanaba, Michigan and has never stopped. 2014 marks her 39th year of teaching!
Tina founded ARTS ALIVE in 1994, blending her drama and dance backgrounds to offer an expressive arts program for students of all ages and abilities. Her students include babies and their parents, children of all ages, seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and special needs populations.
Ms. Sabuco is impassioned about teacher education. She combines unique teaching methodologies with her extensive teaching experience to provide workshops in arts education for classroom teachers. She has contributed to several books on early childhood dance and creative movement and taught “Arts and the Child” to education majors as an adjunct professor at the University of Houston Clear Lake.
Tina lives in Garden Oaks with her partner of 24 years, Shellye Arnold, and their “fur family”: Elvis, Mahoney & Mini Cooper – their fun-loving, longhaired dachshunds; Clover – the ever-expanding fur ball cat; and Louie – the sleek and playful panther cat. She delights in teaching “children” ages 3 months to 103 and looks forward to continuing to live out her personal motto: “You don’t stop playing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop playing!”
Director of Operations and Teacher
Wendy Haardt joined ARTS ALIVE! as its very first employee in 1996! In 2008, Wendy became our Director of Operations. Wendy’s experience, creativity, colorful personality, and knowledge of Spanish make her a valued member of our ARTS ALIVE! family.
Wendy hails from Eustis, Nebraska and holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Houston as well as a Teaching Certificate from the Houston Independent School District. She has specialized in preschool teaching in the Houston area since 1993 when she taught in a bi-lingual pre-kindergarten program with HISD.
In her spare time, Wendy loves to play at home and all over Houston with her daughter, Serenity, and son, Ronin.
“I love seeing the joy that children feel as they move to the music in each ARTS ALIVE! adventure.”
Executive Director and Teacher
Anissa Dwiggins joined ARTS ALIVE! in December 1998. In December of 2008, for her 10th anniversary, Anissa was promoted to Executive Director. Now, in addition to teaching her wonderful classes, she is enjoying an even bigger role in the ARTS ALIVE! family!
Anissa has a BA from the University of Houston in Studio Arts, focusing on a wide range of visual arts, including ceramics, painting, drawing, and sculpture. Anissa also earned an all-level teaching certificate from U of H, where she received hands-on training for children of all ages. Since 1998, Anissa has taught thousands of children from newborns to 12 year-olds throughout Houston and surrounding areas. Anissa has 2 beautiful children – Marley Sky and Stephen Anthony. She loves traveling, especially to Hawaii and Spain to visit relatives. Her love of education, passion for life, varied interests and desire to help others makes working with children, young and old, truly enjoyable.
“ARTS ALIVE! has brought so much joy to my life. The reward of sharing this with others is priceless.”
Janet Snider joined ARTS ALIVE! in 1997 and was named ARTS ALIVE! Teacher of the Year in both 2010 and 2011!!! Originally from Liberty, TX, Janet currently resides in Alvin with her husband, Gene, and brings with her more than 30 years of experience as a teacher and nanny. Since she began spreading ARTS ALIVE! magic, Janet has led an amazing 472 parties!
In addition to creating Country Campout and Playful Picnic, 2 of our 50 themes, Janet also created our Wonderful Wizards party, based on the popular Harry Potter series. Janet’s energy inspires her students, as well as our other teachers. Parents and children love her personal approach and all the extra touches she brings to every workshop and class. In addition to dedicating her time to ARTS ALIVE!, Janet enjoys riding her recumbent “zebra” trike, being outdoors, spending time with her family and friends, scrap booking, reading, and collecting miniatures. Janet and her beloved 14 year old terrier sisters, Dottie and Lucy, recently welcomed 2 new four-legged members to her family, Buggy and Becca Pearl.
“Seeing children’s imaginations come alive and being inspired by their play makes me feel very blessed and proud to be a part of the ARTS ALIVE! family.”
Sue Shefman has delighted ARTS ALIVE! students, parents, and even her fellow teachers with her wild thematic costumes and fabulous attention-to-detail teaching style since March 1999.
Her favorite character is “Hippiclown” – her hippo-themed clown creation. Sue is an avid hippo lover whose house holds over 2000 hippopotami. She is a member of Hippolotofus, an online hippo chat group with over 900 members worldwide that holds a convention in the United States every year. Sue’s favorite hippo used to be Harmony the purple hippo-pautomobile. Harmony has been retired after 12 years of fun, so Sue’s newest favorite hippopotamus is Cheerio, the cheerful red auto-potamus with baby roof-riders Shalom and Aloha – whose names mean “Hello, Goodbye, and Peace.” Sue has participated in the Art Car Parade since 2000, however she feels as if she is in a parade every day since Cheerio is the only car that Sue drives!
Because of her interest in the unusual, Sue is a member of the Eye-Opener Committee for the Orange Show for Visionary Art, scouting out unique and different homes and places of business to visit on bus tours. Sue has a BA in Spanish from Sophie Newcomb College and a Teaching Certificate from the University of Denver. Her boundless enthusiasm for bubbles has bubbled over into all aspects of her life, from blowing them in every ARTS ALIVE! class to having a small bottle available to anyone who walks in her front door.
“ARTS ALIVE! provides the perfect place to be happy – blow bubbles, play dress up and stay young forever.”
Samhita Sunya (Sammy) joined ARTS ALIVE! in May 2007. She was born in Wisconsin, and she is, to this day, a committed Packers’ fan, aka Cheesehead! Her “cheeseheadedness” aside, Samhita is a sweet resident of Sugar Land – – all puns intended!
In 2003, she left for Texas A&M University, and she returned from College Station in May with a B.A. in English Literature. In the fall of 2007, Samhita began her graduate studies at Rice University. Receiving her M.A. in the spring of 2011, Samhita advanced to doctoral candidacy and began her dissertation research in the areas of film studies and contemporary literature. She has been an undergraduate course instructor at Rice University and at University of Houston Clear Lake, where she was an adjunct humanities instructor for a semester. A recipient of the Wagoner Foreign Study Scholarship, Samhita embarked on a 6-month-long archival research trip to India in 2012.
A 2013 Dean’s Sarofim Teaching Fellow at Rice, Samhita remains an active member of our team while simultaneously completing her victory lap at Rice.
Having worked with all sorts of children — at Bryan High School, at the Texas A&M University Writing Center, at the University of Houston Clear Lake, and at Rice University — Samhita continues to embrace ARTS ALIVE! as an opportunity to keep working with kids and schools all over her neighborhood.
“If I ever become a nutty professor, I want to be the fun, positive, energetic kind of nutty, and not the dry, serious, shriveled-prune sort of nutty. ARTS ALIVE! is basically my anti-shrivel cream!”
Extracurricular Coordinator and Teacher
Jenny Wilkerson joined ARTS ALIVE! in January 2011 and was named ARTS ALIVE! Teacher of the Year in May of 2012. Jenny is a true Texan – born and raised! She specialized in Child Development at College of the Mainland in Texas City. While in college, Jenny worked as a preschool teacher and a nanny. She relocated from Galveston County to Houston in 2008.
After taking a different road for 7 years in the field of Industrial Distribution, she returned to her FIRST love and began teaching at Three R’s Plus Montessori School in The Heights. It was there that Jenny and ARTS ALIVE! discovered each other! Jenny was able to experience the ARTS ALIVE! program every week and absolutely loved playing and learning alongside her students. She thought it was magical and after a while she knew she wanted to be a bigger part of ARTS ALIVE! That’s when she came knocking on our door!
Jenny lives with her husband, Bryan, and their two furry cat children, Rayne and Bailey. She says that if she had lots of money, lots of time and a huge home, she would rescue as many animals as possible! In addition to her love for animals, Jenny’s other interests include theatre, concerts, sports, camping, shopping, bad reality TV shows, and spending time with friends and family.
“Every time I teach a class, I feel like a kid again!”
Creator of ARTS ALIVE!’s DoReME – Music with MEaning program and Teacher
Stacey Hall is thrilled that she found a home with ARTS ALIVE! in July 2011. Stacey is a native Houstonian and a devoted Astros fan – – no matter what.
In April 2014, Stacey began a new adventure implementing the latest extension of ARTS ALIVE! magic. DoReME! – Music with MEaning, provides ARTS ALIVE! music classes to area preschools. She is quite happy to be singing, clapping and making music every day!
Stacey studied Early Childhood Development and Dance at Houston Community College. She has worked with children for over 20 years – – volunteering with San Jacinto Girl Scouts, working as a preschool teacher for infants through Pre K and teaching dance and gymnastics throughout the Houston area. After receiving her Texas Day Care Director Certification in 2000, she spent years as an Administrator for Children’s Lighthouse, Gethsemane School for Little Children and A Child’s Reflection.
Stacey lives with her husband, Shea, their daughters, Callan and Dylan, and their furry kids – Mary & Jack, the cats and Mattie the dog. When she isn’t busy playing princess fairy tea party with her girls, Stacey’s other interests include the performing arts, reading, writing poetry, camping, and karaoke.
“You know you have an awesome job when you spend most of your time dancing around in silly hats!”
Julia Wallace joined the team in February of 2013 to lend a helping hand in the bustling ARTS ALIVE! office as an administrative assistant. In the summer of 2014 she was promoted to Office Manager! There was never a dull moment behind the scenes of ARTS ALIVE! Julia spent her time keeping the office marvelously managed until October of 2015 when she transitioned into the official ARTS ALIVE! Creative Consultant, adding her amazing input and aiming her efforts at encouraging ARTS ALIVE! towards continued magical growth!
She has always enjoyed working with children, whether by being a summer camp counselor out in the Texas wilderness, being a Montessori teacher or by working with many of the amazing children’s programs in Houston. In 2008, Julia received her Bachelors from the University of Houston in painting with minors in literature and art history She has a passion for watching people’s potential unfold through creativity so she spends her time outside of ARTS ALIVE! teaching workshops and working with local artists to provide opportunities for creative growth and expression in Houston. She is thrilled to be working in alignment with her passion by being a cheerleader and advocate for all of the wonderful teachers of Arts Alive! who share the power of creative expression with so many young people.
Julia has a creative and very fashion savvy 5 year old daughter named Lily whose favorite thing is to come visit her Mommy at work and try on all the costumes in the fantastical, colorful, yet very organized, office of ARTS ALIVE!.
“Watching the teachers of ARTS ALIVE! go the extra mile to help every single child experience success and joy, no matter how many barriers stand in the way, is true inspiration!”
Meaghan Collins-Lefkowitz joined ARTS ALIVE! in May 2014. A graduate of Lamar High School, Meaghan later obtained her Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Art and Psychology from the University of Houston Downtown. She was employed for 5 years as an art teacher with HISD, but longed for something more. That’s when she found ARTS ALIVE!!
Meaghan is married to David and together they have 3 children: Zoe, Sienna, and Liam. Meaghan loves traveling with her family, dressing up at the Renaissance Festival, singing karaoke, and painting!
“Learning doesn’t have to be boring. At ARTS ALIVE!, children learn while squealing with laughter. And I get to be the reason why!”
Madolyn Whitmer is a recent transplant to Houston from her home town of Mesa Arizona. She is so happy to be a new member of the ARTS ALIVE! team and loves exploring her new city (especially finding all of the good coffee shops). She holds a BFA in theatre from Arizona State University, where she spent much of her time creating and performing in original plays. In addition to her passion for the theatrical arts, her other love has always been working with children. She has worked with kids of all ages as a theatre specialist, summer camp and after school counselor, gym/dance instructor, and recently as a nanny. After coming across an ad online and exploring the ARTS ALIVE! website, she knew that she had found an amazing opportunity and a perfect fit. She fully embraces and has a passion for their mission to educate through imagination, and is excited to bring that philosophy to her daily teaching.
Madolyn lives with her husband of three years, Eric, and their dog baby, Leo (who can sneeze on command). She loves writing, hanging out in coffee shops, reading, zombies, horror films, cupcakes, and spending time with her friends and family.
“Seeing a child’s eyes light up when they dance to a song that they love or watch bubbles floating through the air lets me know that we are doing something very special and worthwhile. I love the joy that ARTS ALIVE! brings to kids and know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be.”