Our Team

 
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Ambika Dani

CEO / Superintendent

Ambika Dani began teaching when she was 14 years old, in Lagos, Nigeria, when she gathered a group of underserved children in the living room of her apartment to help supplement the education they were receiving. Since that summer of teaching children on mats in her living room, she has dedicated herself wholly to education and to ensuring that children everywhere have equal access to the quality education they deserve.

 

Ambika comes from a strong mathematics background. During her undergraduate years in college, she provided SAT tutoring and additional after-school support to low-income students of all ages on a volunteer basis. Following her graduation from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics, she spent six years teaching math at the elementary, middle, and high-school levels in both charter and private schools. Two of the schools she taught at, THINK Global School and Saint Ann's School, have been recognized as two of the most innovative schools in the United States. These opportunities helped her recognize high-quality, effective instruction and made her further appreciate how rare it is. In 2015, Ambika returned to Columbia University to pursue a master’s degree in mathematics education from Teachers College in order to further improve her teaching practice.

As Ambika worked to found Promesa Academy, she was a New Schools Creation Fellow with the High-Tech High Graduate School of Education. Ambika continues to seek out opportunities to learn from schools around the country that are being truly innovative and student-centered to help inform the vision for Promesa Academy.

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Gabby Joseph

Principal
 

Gabby grew up in Venezuela, a beautiful country where she learned to love hiking, the ocean, reading, and writing. She moved to New Jersey as a teenager where she faced the struggles of learning a new language but was fortunate to have kind and supportive teachers who helped her find confidence and build new friendships. A year after moving to the United States, her family made another transition to The Woodlands, Texas, where she went to high school and found her love for running. She then headed off to UT Austin, with the hopes of becoming a journalist or writer. After a summer job as a camp counselor, she realized that she loved being around kids and teaching them. She decided to become a teacher and completed her degree in education while spending her free time nannying, running marathons, waitressing, and coaching other runners. Her first job as a teacher was as a 4th-grade bilingual teacher in Hays CISD. She then moved closer to home to be a 2nd-grade bilingual teacher in Austin ISD. Her second year there is when she got her first taste of leadership as a Reading First Coach, coaching teachers as they implemented Balanced Reading Instruction.

She later moved to San Antonio, where she joined Alamo Heights ISD as a fourth-grade Spanish Immersion teacher. As a teacher, she focused on getting students to love reading and writing, have fun learning, and see themselves as creators and problem solvers (and loved giving yoga breaks!). After five years, she eagerly took on a position as a bilingual interventionist, working with students from first to fifth grade. In her five years as an Interventionist, she took on various leadership roles, including the Language Program and RTI Coordinator, and helped start the Dual Language program at Cambridge Elementary. It was during that time that she was lucky enough to join the Educational Leadership cohort at Trinity University. This experience helped her grow, understand her strengths, and build a strong passion for leadership towards equitable and innovative education. Her first administrative role was as an Assistant Principal at Alamo Heights Junior School, where she learned the importance of building strong systems, proactive communication, and building a positive culture.

Three years later, she joined the amazing staff of Advanced Learning Academy as their Associate Principal of the elementary school, happy to become part of the mission to design schools where collaboration and student-centered education are at the core. She learned so much from teachers who tirelessly work towards doing what is best for students, and who are eager to learn and collaborate to design experiences to empower them. She knows the most powerful thing she can do as a leader is to support gifted and passionate educators, by building an environment where they find joy and are able to create and grow together.

She feels ready to take on the call as Promesa’s principal because of her 20 years of working with educators who are relentless in creating educational opportunities for students, with the mission to empower them to wonder, love, create, and inspire.

Casandra Reyes

Casandra Reyes

Director of Operations

A native South Texan, Casandra Reyes was the first in her family to graduate from college. She comes from a family with a mother who worked incredibly hard to support her and her three siblings and who always instilled the value of a strong work ethic. Casandra has always fostered the belief that nothing is out of reach and anything is possible through education. She studied Fine Arts, Graphic Design, and English at Texas A&M University in Kingsville. 

 

With a growth mindset, she was able to hone her skills and seek out opportunities to develop new ones. Casandra was able to expand her proficiency in the charter school world when she joined Austin Achieve, a start-up charter school.  While at Austin Achieve, Casandra served in multiple roles, including Food Services and PEIMS Coordinator. 

 

She has recently relocated to San Antonio, bringing with her a love for serving the community. Casandra believes that despite any socio-economic background or resources, all students deserve the right to quality education.

 

At Promesa, Casandra hopes to help build an environment that cultivates the same love for learning that she was fortunate enough to experience growing up. When away from the office, you can find Casandra baking away or acting as an advocate for animal rights.

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Julie Rothlauf

Director of Curriculum and Instruction

Julie Rothlauf is joining the Promesa team after teaching in the Chicago area for the past nine years. In addition to teaching Literacy, Julie has worked as an Instructional Coach, ESL Coordinator, and Academic Interventionist at LEARN Charter School – Great Lakes. During her work at LEARN she quickly grew passionate about ensuring all students have equal access to a high-quality education and is excited to serve the Promesa community. Julie is originally from Rock Island, Illinois. She attended Western Illinois University and received a Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education with endorsements in Language Arts and Social Studies.

 

While at Western Illinois she also competed as a Track and Field and Cross-Country athlete. In 2020 she graduated with a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction with Advanced Specializations in Reading and English as a Second Language.

 

Outside of school, Julie spends her time with husband, two young children, and dogs. They enjoy watching movies, being outside, and are excited to explore San Antonio!

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Esmeralda Flores

Front Office Manager

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Jacqueline Gonzalez

Administrative Assistant

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Alberto Soliz

KG-1st Instr. Coach/ 1st-Grade
Math Teacher

Alberto Soliz was born and raised in the border city of Laredo, TX, and moved to San Antonio just 3 years ago to continue his work with college students in the region. Alberto has experience working in higher education, serving as a college advisor and mentor to freshmen attending universities across the nation. He transitioned to teaching and has been a dual-language kindergarten teacher for the past two years. Now, Alberto will be teaching mathematics at Promesa Academy and looks forward to serving the west side of San Antonio!

 

As a first-generation college graduate, Alberto knows the value of education. He is not only passionate about academics, but also believes in fostering the socioemotional well-being of students, and educating them on being better citizens of the world.

 

Alberto loves to travel and appreciates cultural differences and diversity among everyone! He has traveled to several parts of Mexico, where he has learned more about his roots, and wants to continue to be a culturally-aware individual. He also studied abroad in Athens, Greece and traveled to Nova Scotia, Canada on an expedition! He hopes to bring these experiences to his classroom to make sure all of his students feel welcome and at home.

 

When Alberto is not in the classroom, he enjoys painting, playing tennis, gardening, cooking, and traveling! He loves to work in teams and collaborate with others on ideas and projects, as well. Ultimately, he is excited about Promesa’s vision and being a part of the founding team!

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Alex Casso

1st-4th Art Teacher

Alex Casso is an Artist, Educator, and Museum Professional. He recently relocated to San Antonio, Texas after working in New York for 11 years. Focused in drawing and painting, he taught art in all five boroughs and worked for almost a decade in notable NYC institutions. He was a founding member of The Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling.
 

Since moving to San Antonio in January 2020, he re-opened his studio and works at The San Antonio Museum of Art digitizing key pieces in the collection to serve as an online public resource under a grant from National Endowment for the Humanities. He is excited to be a founding member, Art Teacher, at Promesa Academy.

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Alyssa Ochoa

Special Education Aide

Alyssa is a native of San Antonio. She is excited about entering her second year serving as a behavior aide at Promesa Academy. Previously, she worked at various daycares and the Children’s shelter. Alyssa is interested in ensuring all students feel safe and supported. In addition, Alyssa is currently pursuing a degree in Child Development. She loves working and supporting the whole child. In her spare time, Alyssa enjoys reading and trying out new coffee shops.

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Amber Conner

2nd-4th Instructional Coach

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Amelia Roundtree

Autism Aide

Amber is excited to return to her South Texas roots after living and teaching in the Dallas area for the past four years! The first in her family to attend and graduate from college, Amber earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Texas A&M University-Kingsville in 2015. She has always had a passion for learning and reading, and so she began her teaching career in Alice, Texas just a few months after earning her degree. Amber taught 3rd grade literacy and social studies and loved her first group of students so much that she looped with them and was their teacher again in 4th grade! Always one for adventure, Amber and her husband Sonny made the big move to Dallas in 2017. There, Amber taught 4th grade literacy and social studies for two years and then transitioned to Pre-K through 5th grade visual arts for two years. A longing to be closer to family brought Amber back to South Texas in the summer of 2021.

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Angela Kinney

2nd-Grade Literacy Teacher

Angela was born in South Korea and has lived in 9 different states and 3 countries before settling down in San Antonio. With her husband soon retiring from the U.S. Air Force, and her 3 children starting to leave the nest, she is excited to start her career as a teacher. She will be teaching 2nd grade literacy and social studies this year.

 

Angela has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from the University of West Florida and just received her Master's in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix after student teaching at Promesa Academy in the spring of 2022. She is looking forward to a fun and exciting school year!

 

In her free time, Angela loves to read and spend time outdoors. She is training to run the Disney marathon in January of 2023, and likes to ride bikes with her family on the San Antonio trails.

Amelia Roundtree was born and raised in Washington State, the oldest and only girl in a family of five. She graduated high school in 1989 and then went into the Airforce. She met and married her husband while serving in San Antonio and has lived here since 1990. During that time she served in a humanitarian mission in Cuba. She went into education when her son and daughter were in high school. She has a special place in her heart for children at risk. She was working in a residential treatment facility on the school side when COVID hit.

 

Now being part of the Promesa family she is excited to see the growth and potential of her new family. She has a lot to offer and is anticipating learning new skills and gaining wisdom from the wonderful staff and children around her.

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Anna Bathgate

Math Co-Lead/ 4th-Grade Math Teacher

Anna Bathgate has been a high school math teacher near San Bernardino, CA for the last 11 years. She was a founding member of her current high school and the math lead for the last 5 years. In her previous role she also worked on the development of high school curriculum and vertical alignment with lower grades. She has a Bachelors in Math and a Masters in Curriculum & Instruction with an emphasis in Language and Culture. In addition to teaching students, Anna has been able to speak to members of the California Mathematics Council on how to use technology to develop a growth mindset in students.

A high school teacher Anna has worked to shift the fixed mindsets of her students from believing their math ability is something they are born with, to realizing their ability is something that can grow through reflection, perseverance, and authentic learning opportunities. There is no better time to instill this in students than when they first begin their math careers, so Anna is excited to be able to develop a strong foundation in mathematics with Promesa's students. A big misconception in math is that there is only one way to an answer, but the truth is that when creativity is let free there are an endless number of approaches. Anna is looking forward to sharing her content expertise with the families at Promesa so that they can see the big idea of where their learning is going to take them in the future.

Outside of the classroom, Anna's priority is spending time with her family, which includes her 3 children. She is an avid reader, enjoys cooking, and exploring the outdoors. She is excited to discover all that San Antonio has to offer and is ready to take on the role of being a founding teacher at Promesa.

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Anne Harrison

2nd-Grade Math Teacher

Mrs. Anne Harrison understands how crucial a successful start in education is to a student's educational career and beyond. She takes great pride in developing and nurturing her student's spark.

 

As a military spouse, she has moved often and has had the great privilege to teach across the great state of Texas in Killeen ISD, Dallas ISD, Judson ISD and Comal ISD. After her spouse retired from the Army, her family moved to make San Antonio their forever home.

 

She is so excited to teach 2nd-grade math at Promesa Academy. Her teaching passions include Early Childhood Education and Mathematics, and she has taught children of all ages from Pre-K to fourth grade. As a credit to her extraordinary commitment to her students and campus commitments, Mrs. Harrison was a finalist in the 2021 Specht Elementary School Teacher of the Year and received her Master’s in Learning and Technology through Western Governors University in the fall of 2021.

Mrs. Harrison completed her bachelor’s in Business Administration with a concentration in Management, with Magna Cum Laude Honors, from Kentucky State University. While a student at Kentucky State University, she organized and lead tutoring groups with her peers and served as a new student mentor to incoming students from Central and Southern America. She began helping others learn difficult to understand concepts by tutoring her peers in Geometry and Pre-Calculus while a senior at North Central High School in Indianapolis, IN.

In her free time away from the classroom, Mrs. Harrison loves spending time with her family, cooking and eating foods from various cultures in addition to traveling. She currently lives with her husband and 2 young daughters, and an adorable Golden Doodle named Midnight. She also shares 4 adult bonus kids  along with 2 grandchildren. Mrs. Harrison has also joyfully given her remaining free time to volunteer with Gestalt Center for Organization & Systems Development, Girls on the Run and UIL Math Clubs as well as with the Kentucky State University Dallas Metroplex Alumni chapter.

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Antoinette Avalos

Teaching Resident/ KG PE Teacher

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Arielle Keeler

1st-4th PE Teacher

Arielle Keeler is the Kinder/1st grade TA and Kindergarten PE coach this school year. She is the 3rd oldest of 8 siblings. So growing up she was familiar with working with kids all day and found out that she wanted to turn that into a career. While she was a student at UTSA, she was a nanny and a performer at SeaWorld. Helping parents out at home with their kiddos made her have a close relationship with the many different families and performing at SeaWorld brought out smiles that was such a heartwarming feeling she will never forget. As a college graduate now with a bachelors in Kinesiology, she is ready to put her experience to the test. Dancing and track will always be a passion of hers that she hopes will inspire her kiddos. Being active is a great and easy way to stay physically and mentally healthy. No time to waste, She's ready to make this a great school year!

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Ashley Vidaurri

Math Co-Lead/ 3rd-Grade Math Teacher

Ashley Vidaurri, a San Antonio native, began her journey as an educator in 2016 with Teach For America-San Antonio after graduating from Texas A&M University in College Station with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology. However in 2016, her life changed forever as she began her heart-work in the classroom and to dive more deeply into math instruction. She realized more and more how closely her “real life” problem-solving approaches connected to mathematics, and how much mathematics helps us make sense of the world. She immediately fell in love with math, and is now less than a month away from obtaining her Masters Degree in Mathematics Curriculum and Instruction.

 

One of Ashley’s biggest passions in life is instilling a love and appreciation of math and confidence in her students, encouraging them to become revolutionary agents of change in our community through their understanding and use of math. Ashley’s upbringing along with her experiences as an educator have been extremely influential in her approach to learning, teaching, loving others, and living life!

 

Outside of the classroom, Ashley participates in organizations such as Leadership for Educational Equity and San Antonio DSA. She experiences great joy when reading, being outdoors, spending time with family (animals included), playing Ukulele, traveling, and Muay Thai Boxing. She is incredibly grateful and elated to be part of such a beautiful and hardworking community here at Promesa!

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Breanna Cadena

Counselor

Breanna Cadena is a National Certified Counselor and a current Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) Associate. Originally from the Rio Grande Valley, Breanna recognized a stigma towards “mental health” amongst her community and decided to be a part of the movement towards destigmatizing the term.

Breanna moved to Austin in 2015 to attend The University of Texas at Austin where she pursued a B.A. in Psychology. From there, Breanna moved to San Antonio in 2018 to pursue a Masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at The University of Texas at San Antonio. While pursuing this degree, Breanna furthered her passion for helping others who would not get help otherwise. She felt it necessary to help psychoeducate and find resources for those who did not even recognize help was available. She is well aware we are far from destigmatizing the term “mental health” completely but believes students are the population to begin with so we can build a community surrounded in empathy.

 

Breanna recognizes how important it is to have these conversations and build relationships with not only our students, but their families as well.

She is incredibly excited to begin her counseling journey here as part of the founding team!

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Bryan Salomon

Nurse

Bryan Salomon is a born and raised Texan from right here in San Antonio. As a nurse, his entire career has revolved around pediatrics, with most of it in School Nursing. After graduating at the top of his class from the Baptist School of Health Professions, Bryan started his nursing career taking care of medically fragile children in Home Healthcare. After that, Bryan spent three years at Ft. Sam Houston Elementary School where he discovered what a joy School Nursing is.

 

Bryan is ecstatic to be Promesa's first School nurse and excited to put his talents to help children be the best versions of themselves. As the School Nurse, health and safety are paramount to him. Bryan believes that a healthy student will be the most effective in the classroom, because of this he is a huge advocate for healthy nutrition, clean hands, and regular doctor visits.

 

When he isn't at Promesa, Bryan can be found with his wife and son at the various San Antonio Parks. Bryan is also a magician when he isn't a nurse. Keep an eye out and you may see him perform here in San Antonio at birthdays, parties, and restaurants!

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Eric Bitoni

Teaching Resident

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Erica Salinas

Music Teacher

Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Eric is entering his first year in education pursuing his Texas teaching certification and master's degree in education with Relay Graduate School of Education. Prior to education Eric has built his background in sports, specifically basketball. He has spent the past three years as the Youth Ambassador Program Director for The Basketball Embassy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that builds community, empower emerging leaders and unite all backgrounds through the sport of basketball. As the director, he led the coordination, organizing and facilitating all youth basketball sessions across all sites, developing lasting relationships with all partners in the process. He has also served as a coach in camps and clinics for the organization and was a part of the cultural exchange group in 2019 that sent players and coaches to the country of Kosovo, using basketball to connect cultures in a week-long basketball camp.

Eric is also an assistant coach for the men's basketball program at Our Lady of the Lake University here in San Antonio. He serves as the first assistant coach for the men's development team where he is entering his fourth year with the program for the 2022 - 2023 season. In addition to his background in sports Eric has also earned his bachelor's degree in kinesiology at Texas A&M University - San Antonio in 2017. Outside of his career, Eric enjoys playing basketball, going to the movies, and spending time with friends and family. He is excited to bring his knowledge and experiences from sports to the classroom

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Erika Carter

Erika Carter is going into her fifth year of teaching at the elementary level. She moved back to Texas in June 2019 from Edmond, Oklahoma where she taught 3rd grade all core subjects. The past two years Erika continued to teach 3rd grade all subjects at Cambridge Elementary in San Antonio.

 

Erika is excited to continue her teaching journey as a 2nd and 3rd grade literacy teacher at Promesa. She has always had a passion for meeting kids' reading needs and sparking a love of reading and is excited to be able to focus on literacy. Erika wanted to be a teacher for as long as she can remember. It's always been something that ignites a unique passion and joy for her. Building relationships, finding unique ways to engage students, creating a safe and inclusive classroom community, as well as building 21st century skills are core practices in Erika's classroom.

 

Outside of school Erika is a huge crafter. She likes painting, crocheting, sewing, making t-shirts and many other DIY projects. She also enjoys watching movies, tv, reading and playing board games with friends and family. She is looking forward to a fantastic year and getting to know Promesa's students and families.

Literacy Lead/Dyslexia Teacher

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Gabriela Rico

Gabriela was born and raised here in San Antonio, Tx. She graduated from Luther Burbank High School and attended Texas State University. I'm a first-generation graduate and have obtained a Bachelor's in Criminal Justice. Her and her husband have two beautiful boys, one of which attends Promesa Academy!

 

Gabriela loves the outdoors, especially
during cooler weather. Her hobbies include bike riding, walking, and running trails. She love all types of music. Gabriela's family has a love of traveling, playing pokemon cards, building with legos, and playing video games.

 

Throughout her educational journey, she had teachers that inspired her to be a great person, they influenced her to make great decisions and never allowed her to give up on her dreams. She wants to be that influence for our children. She wants to encourage them to be the best that they can be, and wants to motivate them to reach for the stars no matter how high. She wants to be our children's champion, as Rita Pierson said “Every child deserves a champion—an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection and insists that they become the best that they can possibly be.”

Teaching Resident

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Genesis Dibrell

Genesis Dibrell is a Native San Antonioan who is excited to begin her teaching journey with Promesa. During her time as an undergraduate at Texas State University, Genesis worked for a non-profit whose mission is to provide quality math education for students in K-12 through curriculum, camps, and teacher training. After graduating with a degree in 4-8 Math education, Genesis resumed her work at the non-profit, serving as a bridge between the local underserved community and the educational resources that were available to them.

 

With the onset of the pandemic, Genesis noticed that there was an increased need for instructional assistance, therefore she began offering tutoring and supplemental lessons to families in San Antonio. In doing so, she was reminded of the vast inequalities present in access to quality education. As a first generation college graduate and first generation American on her mom’s side, Genesis has always understood the importance of a quality education, and she believes that all students are deserving of one. Having grown up in San Antonio’s inner westside, she is excited to give back to the community she once called home.

 

Beyond education, Genesis loves the outdoors and loves to travel. She has been to Mexico several times to visit family and has also studied abroad in Cambodia where she taught physical science to students at the elementary level. Domestically, Genesis has visited 16 states and 7 national parks. Because of her love of hiking, nature, and road trips, Genesis has made it a goal to visit all 63 national parks. Additionally, Genesis enjoys spending time with her dog Mona, and writing poetry that she sometimes performs at poetry nights throughout the city.

 

Genesis is eager to begin the new school year. She believes that anyone is capable of doing mathematics at a high level, and is excited to show her students just that!

Math Interventionist

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Grant Kreegel

504 Coordinator/Dyslexia Teacher

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Heather Sammis

Heather grew up in Oklahoma and attended The University of Tulsa, as a Division 1 rower, where she received her Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sports Science ‘03 and a Master of Art in Education, Research, and Evaluation ‘05.

 

In 2004 Heather began her teaching career at a small Montessori school in Oxford, Ohio. As her husband's career took them around the world, Heather had many opportunities to work in various capacities in the education field. She was a substitute teacher while living in England, and worked with students with autism as well as teaching at a private Korean school while living in Korea. Upon moving back to the United States, Heather received her teaching license. She subsequently taught at a GED program for one year before becoming a 1st-grade teacher for two years. In the summer of 2020, her family made their last Army move to Texas where she taught first grade for the last two years.


Heather believes all students can learn through engagement and has won several grants to provide resources and tools to students. She has a passion for literacy and phonics and has completed the Texas Reading Academy and Orton Gillingham Comprehensive Plus. She volunteers her time throughout the year with Get Your Teach On where she learns engagement techniques from master teachers. Heather has two children and three dogs (Storm [Standard Poodle], Colt and Kimber (both mini dachshunds). She enjoys running and cheering on the SAFC team.

 

1st-Grade Literacy Teacher

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Holly Martinez

Holly Martinez grew up surrounded by a family of educators and was inspired to follow in their path to become a teacher as well! She is originally from a small town in the Rio Grande Valley near the Mexican border and moved to San Antonio in 2015 to attend UTSA. At UTSA, she received her BA in Interdisciplinary Studies with her certification in Early Childhood-6th Grade in Fall 2018.


After graduating, Holly substituted in San Antonio ISD and NEISD for 1.5 years in elementary classrooms across the district to gain more teaching experience.

These teaching experiences made Holly realize that there was so much more that she wanted to learn, which is why she went back to school in Fall 2019 to get her Masters degree in Reading and Literacy and graduated in May 2022 with her degree as well as getting her Reading Specialist certification. She is excited to transfer her learning from her Masters program to her classroom at Promesa.

Outside of the classroom, Holly loves reading books, scrapbooking, watching new shows, and taking walks in parks and gardens. She is so excited to continue teaching at Promesa and cannot wait for another amazing year with her kiddos!

1st-Grade Literacy Teacher

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Iman Sabbahi

Iman Sabbahi began her teaching career in the Bronx, New York (teaching 4th grade) after graduating with a combined degree in Childhood Education at Pace University. She proceeded to move to California where she was a 5th grade lead teacher for two years. She then moved to Madrid, Spain to teach English to middle school students. Iman has always dedicated her teaching career to serving low-income communities and families. In South Los Angeles, Iman served as a 5th grade teacher and implemented a literacy program for her team. She has always had a passion for literacy and caters to her students' needs in order to create a successful learning environment. She comes from a strong literacy background and received her Master’s in Education with a concentration in reading and writing. Iman’s goal is to always make sure the student succeeds and is provided with a safe and nurturing learning environment. She also believes that a student's individual emotional needs should be taken care of before academic learning can take place. She has a passion for finding research-based strategies that fit the needs of her students.

When given the proper tools, a safe and nurturing environment, Iman believes students will reach their highest potential. She is excited to continue her teaching career and apply the skills and knowledge she has learned throughout the past six years. She is dedicated to making sure every student can foster a love for reading and writing and hopes to ignite a passion for learning within her classroom. She believes in teaching the whole child and giving them the proper tools to self-regulate and build meaningful relationships with their peers in order to prepare them for their future.

Iman’s passion for reading and writing stems all the way back to her childhood. Her mother always went to libraries to bring home books every other week so Iman could read them while she went to work. As a first generation American, Iman used reading as a tool to enhance her literacy skills and make her mother proud. With time, Iman found that reading gave her confidence with the English language and also helped her dive into another world. A love for writing followed shortly after when Iman realized she could create her own world too! Now, she enjoys attending writing workshops and creating new content for her blog. During her free time, Iman enjoys reading a nice book in nature or journaling her thoughts. She also enjoys learning new recipes and cooking. She is very passionate about anything that involves organizing or cleaning. Her goal is to bring real world experiences into the classroom and make sure students can make a connection between their learning and the world around us. Iman hopes these connections will spark her students' curiosity and encourage them to seek knowledge in order to create life-long learners!

When Iman is not lesson planning, you can find her spending time with her family or trying a new restaurant (she loves food!). Iman is so excited to be part of the Promesa team and can’t wait to foster a love for learning in each and every one of her students!

4th-Grade Literacy Teacher

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Iris Nuño

Iris Nuno born and raised in Guadalajara, Jalisco until the age of 8 when her parents made the decision to move to the United States. Living in the United States has provided her with opportunities to grow and develop, both in her personal and professional life.

 

She graduated from Southern Nazarene University with a Bachelor's Degree in Psychology and a minor in Spanish Education. She has had the honor to work for the YWCA, a nonprofit organization, for 8 years as a Parent's and Children Coordinator. This is where her passion for teaching started to flourish. In 2014, she was hired by SAISD as an Instructional Assistant and since then her love for teaching, exploring, and learning has kept growing.

 

There is so much that she is looking forward to this year, especially getting to know each family and child. She loves building great relationships and connections with everyone and is so excited to be part of Promesa Academy. 

KG-1st Spanish Teacher

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Jaelynn Durand

Jaelynn Durand was born and raised in Poteet, TX. She attended college at Texas State University where she received her Bachelor of Science in Recreation Administration. During her time at Texas State University, she co-founded a club that taught conversational English to international students.Jaelynn has experience working with at-risk children and children with disabilities. For years her passion for working with children has continued to grow, and continues to blossom in her present role. She believes it is valuable to provide a healthy & safe environment for children to grow in.

Jaelynn has worked as a Secretarial Assistant at an elementary school and taught preschool at a Child Development Center. After graduating college, Jaelynn worked in development & marketing for a non-profit in the San Antonio area. She was trained and certified in Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), a therapeutic model that trains caregivers to provide effective support and treatment for at-risk children. Jaelynn loved working with the children from her non-profit and felt the need to work more hands-on with children in the community.

That is where her path led her to Promesa! Jaelynn started as a 1st Grade Teaching Assistant during the 2021-2022 school year. During this time, she discovered her love for teaching and working with students. She then moved into the role of a 2nd-grade math teacher during the second semester. Jaelynn is one of only 20 recipients out of over 3,000 applicants in 2022 to receive a full-ride scholarship to the Teachers of Tomorrow teaching certification program. She is currently enrolled in this program.

Outside of the classroom, Jaelynn loves watching movies, crafting, and playing with her dog, Arrow! Jaelynn is excited to continue her journey with Promesa Academy!

2nd-Grade Math Teacher

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Jamael Hunte

2nd-Grade Literacy Teacher

Jamael has been teaching elementary since 2010. Since he was young, Jamael has always had a passion for learning and education, teaching himself to read at a young age and avidly seeking new opportunities to learn and experience. Recently, he moved to San Antonio from Pittsburgh, PA to be closer to family. Jamael’s teaching experience is very diverse, as he has taught in several schools and districts along the east coast. Most recently, Jamael taught 4th and 5th grade English Language Arts. Jamael graduated from Canisius College, in Buffalo, NY where he was raised in 2009 with a dual major of English and Elementary Education with a minor in Theater. In 2012 He was able to graduate with his master’s degree from the same institution with a concentration in differentiated instruction.

 

With this experience, Jamael hopes to encourage students to be lifelong learners and to use and develop critical thinking skills. He also believes that students should be given opportunities to struggle and “fail” because through this comes resilience, perseverance, and success. Jamael is excited to return to second grade, one of his favorite grades to teach and looks forward to developing lifelong relationships with students and families.

 

When he is not teaching, Jamael enjoys spending time outdoors, watching sports, staying active, and being with his family. Jamael is also a musician and enjoys singing and playing the guitar and piano. Jamael is incredibly excited and blessed to be a part of this journey.

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Jennifer Langston

Jennifer has close to 15 years experience working with children and adults with Special Needs. She began her career working with children at The Children’s Shelter of San Antonio and later on in daycares. In 2003 she moved to WA state and eventually started working one-on-one in a public school setting. She worked in the same district for over 11 years, working her way up to being a job coach, as part of a pilot program in a High School. Family and the sun brought her back to San Antonio, and now to Promesa!

In her free time she enjoys spending time with family and her cat, going on hikes, runs, and vacations, watching sports (especially soccer), and also enjoys watching movies and documentaries.

She is super excited for her new role at Promesa and could not be more thrilled to meet all of the students! She is looking forward to a wonderful and fulfilling year!


 

Austism Aide

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Joe Sifuentes

Joe Sifuentes is a San Antonio native and is excited to be a part of Promesa Academy! Joe has experience working with all grade levels ranging from K-12 in different academic settings. He received his Associates of Arts degree in Liberal Arts from Northwest Vista college. Then went on to complete his BA in history from the University of Texas at San Antonio. Joe has also volunteered with the San Antonio Youth Literacy as a “Reading buddy” to help promote reading to elementary students in his senior year of college.

He began his education career with the Northside Independent School District in San Antonio, TX. He has worked as a substitute teacher for grades K-12, an instructional assistant in a specialized unit at the middle school level and lastly in a special education setting serving as a co-teacher in an elementary classroom. He is looking forward to helping our students grow and learn.


Outside of school, Joe loves spending time with family and friends, going to state parks, watching movies, and bike riding. He cannot wait to bring his experiences and passion for education to Promesa Academy!

Special Education Teacher

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Julie Jimenez

Austism Aide

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Katie Marroquin

Katie is so excited to be joining the Promesa Panda Family! She is a second generation San Antonio native and a first generation college graduate. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in English from Texas State University, where she had a concentration in creative writing with a minor in philosophy. She is currently working on her Master’s in Teaching Elementary Education. Her teaching experience began in afterschool programs and she spent the past three years providing instructional and behavioral support to elementary students.

She is committed to student-centered teaching, the development of critical thinking skills, and the exploration of creativity. Katie has a true passion for language arts and artistic self-expression. She believes reading and writing are the key to unlocking a world where imagination and reality coexist. Every child has a story within them and it’s her goal to help them put it into words.

When Katie is not at school, she loves spending time experimenting in the kitchen, watching documentaries, and playing with her puppy Miso and her kitty Dot. She is absolutely thrilled to be starting the next chapter of  her life here at Promesa Academy! 

Teaching Resident

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Kaitlyn Howerton

3rd-Grade Literacy Teacher

Kaitlyn Howerton is going into her sixth year of teaching at the elementary level. She moved to Texas in June 2019 from Edmond, Oklahoma where she taught 3rd and 4th grade. For the past three years, Kaitlyn has taught 3rd and 4th grade reading at Specht Elementary in San Antonio.

 

Kaitlyn is excited to continue her teaching journey as a 3rd-grade literacy teacher at Promesa. She has always loved reading and is passionate about instilling a love of reading in her students. She loves to learn about her students’ passions and meet the needs of each student. 

 

Outside of school, Kaitlyn enjoys a variety of things. She spends a lot of her time reading and spending time with friends and family. She enjoys crafting of all kinds: painting, bullet journaling,  making t-shirts, and other DIY projects. Kaitlyn also enjoys spending time outside hiking, camping, and golfing. She is looking forward to a fantastic year and getting to know Promesa's students and families.

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Keira Holt

Keira Holt was born in Singapore and was adopted as an infant. She has 8 siblings who were all born overseas too! She received her Bachelor's Degree in May 2015 and Master's Degree in May 2020 at Texas State University. She taught Pre-Kindergarten and English as a Second Language for three years, Fifth grade for a year, and Second grade for a year. This will be her 6th year teaching!

She believes that Social and Emotional Learning and personal connections are a crucial part of life in both a school and home setting. She has traveled overseas and to some parts of the United States as a child and young adult. She believes that the key to student success is their unique abilities and talents that they bring to school every single day, even without realizing it. She is so excited to be part of the Promesa community and begin her journey as a Kindergarten Math teacher!

Outside of the school setting Keira enjoys spending time with her fiance, her bonus sons, and friends. She is part of a lightsaber choreography group called Saber Guild Jakku Temple. They perform and receive donations to various charitable foundations. She and the family enjoy hikes, camping, and going on adventures. She also enjoys writing, listening to music, singing, reading, playing video games, and building lego sets.

KG Math Teacher

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Krystal Hernandez

Krystal Hernandez was born and raised in San Antonio, Tx. She graduated from a Charter high school in 2016. In 2019, she began working at the YMCA afterschool program and grew to love working with children.

 

She then went to Alamo Colleges St. Philips college, to pursue a career in education. She obtained her Associate of Arts in Teaching in 2020. Shortly after graduating she began her first full-time job working for San Antonio Independent School District (SAISD) as a GEC Special Education instructional assistant for 2 years in grades K-8th.

 

While working full time she also continued her education and transferred to Texas A&m University-San Antonio to become a Special Education teacher. She is currently a senior majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies and concentrating on Special Education EC-12th and Generalist EC-6th grade.

 

Outside of work and school she enjoys spending time with her family and playing video games or binge-watching shows on Netflix. Krystal is looking forward to building relationships and supporting students along with making memories of joining the Promesa family!

Special Education Aide

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Lace Garcia

Over the last ten years, Lace Garcia has had the privilege of working with many young artists as they explore their visual culture and express their ideas and experiences through art. Her career began close to home in South Texas, took her to Austin, Texas to be part of the founding team at a now thriving public charter school, and brought her to San Antonio to work with students in residential treatment. Now a member of the Promesa family, Lace is excited to continue learning and growing as an educator alongside her budding artists and readers as an art teacher and reading interventionist.

 

Lace holds a Fine Arts degree and Bachelors of English from Texas A&M University-Kingsville. She has participated and placed in nationally-sanctioned poetry slam competitions, plays the trombone in a local wind ensemble, and writes graphic novels in her free time.

Special Education Teacher/KG Art Teacher

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Llesenia Banda

Cafeteria Manager

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Marcella Ovalle

Librarian

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Miguel Preciado

1st-Grade Math Teacher

In 2010, Marcella Ovalle returned to her hometown San Antonio to teach Reading and Social Studies at Tafolla Middle School, followed by her work as a K-8 school librarian for KIPP Un Mundo Dual Language Academy and KIPP Camino Academy. Over the years, Ms. Ovalle has become known for her culturally-responsive teaching approach with an emphasis on laughter, exploration, and the joy of reading!

As a little girl, Ms. Ovalle’s parents instilled a love of reading anything and everything, from comic books to novels. When she was older, Ms. Ovalle realized that stories serve as maps for the person you want to become. “When you leave, you must come back for the others. A circle,” Sandra Cisneros’ words have guided Ms. Ovalle as she carries out her mission and commitment to serve as an educator on her beloved west side of San Antonio. It is an honor to continue this mission with Promesa Academy!

Ms. Ovalle also loves the outdoors and she tries to incorporate this passion into her classroom as much as possible. Her work in geo-literacy and environmental stewardship has led to three affiliations with National Geographic, including expeditions to the Arctic Circle and the Galapagos Islands! This is the very mindset that she loves nurturing in her students because it encourages them to “think globally and serve locally.” In short, students learn how to give back to their community in a variety of ways.

When Ms. Ovalle is not at school, some of her favorite activities include barbecuing with family and friends, listening to audiobooks while she gardens, and hiking and swimming with her dog, Pax. She is so excited to continue her work at Promesa Academy as the librarian, and looks forward to meeting you very soon!

Miguel Preciado is a lifelong learner and has a passion to inspire and empower all children. He recently relocated to San Antonio from San Diego, California where he will continue to pursue his passion for teaching. Before beginning his career in education, he attended Azusa Pacific University where he received a Bachelor of Arts Liberal Studies in 2018.

 

Miguel is a first-generation college graduate that has created stepping stones for his family. He is passionate about being a liaison for his school’s community and is always willing to support in translating/ interpreting for the Spanish-speaking families to ensure they have an equitable experience. He has seven years of experience working with various educational needs and demographics at the elementary level.

 

Outside of the classroom, Miguel loves spending time with his animals. He rescues/ fosters animals in need. He has five cats and a dog! He also enjoys hiking, mountain biking, and spending time with family and friends.

Mrs. Banda was born in Los Angeles, California but decided to make San Antonio her for ever home. Mrs. Banda has been working in the school cafeteria for more than 6 years. 

 

She loves working with children of all ages and always makes sure that our students set a hot meal weather it is Breakfast, Lunch or Snack. 

 

Mrs. Banda enjoys baking and trying new recipes for her family and her co-workers.

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Miriam Spector

Miriam was born and raised in San Antonio. From a very young age, she knew she had a passion for both education and working alongside the marginalized. As a high school student, she began spending her summers in Mexico City with a missionary group helping a local church build a recovery house for the homeless. It was through these trips her interest in Hispanic culture grew, and she sought extra tutoring in the Spanish language so that she could better communicate with the community she fell in love with.

Miriam graduated from Dallas Baptist University with her Master of Arts in Christian Ministry in 2015. She has worked with several non-profits through local churches, volunteering with outreaches including Elf Louise, The Children's Bereavement Center, The Food Bank, and Church Under the Bridge that serves the homeless communities downtown. For the last 6 years she has served as the Children's Director/Teacher for Iglesia Bautista Hispana Camino del Rey on the city's inner East side.

Miriam loves traveling and learning about different cultures. She is a world traveler and has been to 12 different countries. In her free time, Miriam enjoys camping trips to Garner State Park with her husband and two young boys. She also enjoys watching movies with her kids and snuggling up with her cats.

2nd-4th Spanish Teacher

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Myca Lopez

Myca is an independent mom to an artistic, Elvis loving, soccer player, 7 year old daughter. She is originally from Llano, Tx and she has been in San Antonio for 10 years. On the weekends you can find her at a SAFC soccer game, Mission's game and occasionally a Lakers/Spurs game. She lives on the inner Eastside of San Antonio and she loves supporting local coffee and plant shops. Local businesses are the way to her heart and one reason she loves San Antonio so much. She feels this city is very rooted in supporting each other. With that being said, she has a special place in her heart for charter schools who are strategically placed in neighborhoods with the intent to bring a loving and welcoming educational opportunity to inner cities. Myca is a founding member of SALT and believes deeply in supporting each other and networking within our community!

 

Myca has been in education for 15+ years! Her first position was in San Angelo, Texas at the YMCA in 2005. During this time she worked within schools mentoring students and loved the relationships that teachers built with their students. Shortly after, she moved to Washington D.C. and worked for ActionAid USA, UNHCR and Child Fund, where she advocated for educational rights and food rights all while teaching Pre-k at an inner city YMCA. After 3 years of living up north she moved back to Texas and made San Antonio her home. Since moving back, Myca has taught within Southside ISD, The Gathering Place and Brooks Academies of Texas.

 

This is Myca’s seventh year within San Antonio schools and she is thrilled to be sharing it with you! One goal this year is to develop long-lasting relationships with caregivers and our students as well as a solid foundation for our special education students. Myca is so excited to be here and she cannot wait to share this year with you!

Special Education Coordinator

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Olivia Sanchez

Olivia Sanchez was raised on a ranch just outside San Antonio. She grew up helping take care of the garden, chickens and other livestock around the farm and knew from an early age that her life would be about more than just herself. With both of her parents being teachers, education has always been a fundamental part of her life and teaching was something she aspired to do.

 

Throughout high school she tutored peers and upon entering college she became a writing consultant, guiding her classmates with the writing process and resume building. During her last year of college, she co-founded Huston-Tillotson University’s first environmental student organization, Green is the New Black. The organization created hands-on lessons for campus students and neighboring elementary schools on topics such as recycling, sustainability, gardening, and the impact on our community by being good stewards of the Earth.

 

Olivia graduated from Huston-Tillotson in 2014 and continued working for the university as a program coordinator until moving back home to San Antonio in 2016 where her love of teaching continued to blossom in her work as a substitute teacher and her work in the service industry. Her love for children shines through with each interaction and her passion for science is visible. She has a natural ability to connect and form genuine relationships with students and families.

 

While at Promesa she hopes to integrate horticulture programs and practices on campus for the benefit of the school community. Olivia is excited to start her teaching career here at Promesa where she looks forward to instilling a sense of community and belonging with the students and families.

 

Outside of school, Olivia enjoys spending time with her friends and family, three dogs, and two cats. She also loves babysitting her younger brother, niece, and nephews whenever she can. She enjoys thrift shopping, reading, and adding to her plant and rock collection.

Science Teacher

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Rebecca Miller

Rebecca Miller has over fifteen years of experience in Pre-K, 1st, and 3rd grade classrooms in San Antonio. Over the years, she has enjoyed working with her students and their families as they begin their journey through school. She looks forward to creating new partnerships with families as she brings her experience and passion for science to Promesa Academy as a founding teacher.

 

Growing up, Rebecca would often seek to find the answers to her why and how questions about the world around her, often finding the answers to these questions in the world of science.  Although she once considered becoming a veterinarian, pediatrician, or forensic scientist, she finds herself extremely fortunate to have found teaching, a job that she truly enjoys and finds rewarding. She is so grateful to be able to nurture a love of learning in her students, embracing their natural curiosity and developing engaging opportunities to help them find the answers to their questions.

 

When she's not at school, you can find Rebecca reading a book, spending time in the backyard with her family and five pets, solving logic and variety puzzles, and singing along to the radio during road trips

KG Literacy Teacher

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Sabrina Earl

Sabrina Earl was born in Germany and spent her early childhood years moving around quite a lot due to her father serving in the U.S. Army. At the age of 7, Sabrina and her family moved back to Germany where her mother is originally from. Growing up in Europe, Sabrina was exposed to different cultures and ethnic groups which embedded a deep curiosity about the world and people around her. Sabrina speaks and writes German fluently and is hoping to use her gift of being bilingual to teach others about her heritage and cultural upbringing. In 2012 Sabrina relocated to San Antonio, Texas and quickly fell in love with the city's diversity and the people. The overwhelming community support is what Sabrina appreciates the most.

KG Literacy Teacher

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Samantha Buresch

Samantha is excited to enter her fourth year of teaching special education. She currently holds a Special Education EC-12 certification from the state of Texas. She was born and raised in the Chicago area and earned a BS from Northwestern University. After graduation, she joined Teach for America and taught on the Southwest side of Chicago while simultaneously earning a Master's in Teaching from Relay Graduate School of Education. During this time, she worked on creating a strong classroom community in which all students felt safe and comfortable.

Samantha is passionate about forming meaningful relationships with all students (Relate then Educate). She also is passionate about teaching students who initially struggle with reading how to crack the reading code to make it enjoyable. She is excited to continue to hone in on these passions at Promesa.

Outside of teaching, Samantha enjoys spending quality time with friends and family, working out, cooking, watching movies, and coding!

Special Education Teacher

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Shawna Thissen

Family Engagement Coordinator

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Stephanie Adams

Autism Aide

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Stephanie Fernandez

ESL Coordinator/ Reading Interventionist

Stephanie is a Texas native, she grew up in a small town east of Dallas. She has always had a passion for children. Especially ones that need extra love to make it through the day. Stephanie prides herself on being authentically true to herself, which she hopes she can pass on to the student’s of Promesa. 

 

Stephanie is a firm believer that The Arts belong in schools and that all children should have access to them. 

 

Stephanie and her husband share two daughters, who are both students at Promesa. During her down time you can find her trying to talk her family into a road trip or planning a major vacation (that she will not be taking). Her family enjoys theme parks, cooking together and their pets (Pancakes and Mochi).

Stephanie Fernandez is a daughter of immigrants. She grew up in Eagle Pass, TX and spent her time between Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico and the States. She received her Bachelor's degree in Social Work from Abilene Christian University. She worked in mental health with adults, and hearing their stories from their childhood moved her to change careers to impact children and their social emotional learning alongside their academic learning. 

 

She moved to San Antonio in 2017 with Teach for America to teach in the West Side, where she received her campus' Teacher of the Year award in 2019-2020 and again in 2020-2021. She has been interviewed in Teach for America's National Magazine, as well as San Antonio Magazine to talk about her experience with learning during the pandemic. She taught 3 years as an ESL preschool teacher, then 1 year in 5th grade teaching Social Studies and Writing. 

 

When Ms. Stephanie is not at school, she is traveling, reading, watching TV, and being a foodie through San Antonio. She is passionate about social media, community work, and event planning for organizations that support amazing work in education. 

 

Stephanie is starting her 5th year at Promesa Academy as our Reading Interventionist and ESL Teacher. She knows the power of language acquisition as she was also an English Language Learner. She is excited to interact with our children, and give them the tools they need to succeed in reading, and in their language acquisition.

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Sylvia Engel

Autism Lead

Sylvia was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and is the oldest of nine children. She has three children of her own and they are a military family, excited to make San Antonio their permanent home. 

 

Her oldest child graduated high school this year, bringing them back full circle, because San Antonio is where she started her family. Sylvia's siblings and children inspired her career. Children can come from the same environment and receive the same things yet, each one still follows an independent journey. She enjoys working with children because their view of the world is so unedited. She loves how they tell the truth about how they feel without worrying about fitting into social norms. 

 

She received her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Development - Autism Spectrum and later obtained her Master of Science in Psychology with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis through Purdue University Global. She is TEA-certified in Special Education (Grades EC-12) and Classroom teacher Core Subjects with STR Grades (EC-6). 

 

Being a part of a military family has allowed her to experience many opportunities that helped prepare her along her career journey. She began working in a daycare in Alaska. From there, she transitioned to the military Child Development Centers, beginning as a program assistant and later earning her Child Development Associate (CDA) to become a lead teacher. When her family returned to Kansas, she worked at a Youth Residential Center for incarcerated adolescents. There she filled many roles there as the Program Support Coordinator and Head of Education. 

 

She later followed her husband to San Antonio and became a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). Here, she entered Special Education, gaining hands-on experience and knowledge of the impact of services and interventions in the least restrictive environment, with all ages. For the last three years, she has worked as a special education teacher in both traditional district and charter schools. This is her purpose and passion. She believes deeply in inclusion for all. It takes an open mind and an open heart to communicate, even when there are no words.

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Storm

Therapy Dog

Hello! My name is Storm and I am a standard poodle. I was born in Missouri and moved to Texas when I was 10weeks old. My birthday is December 7th.

 

My pedigree or fancy name is Harten Ice Storm CGC,CGCA,CGCUrban. Those funny acronyms I have are my Canine Good Citizen, Canine Good Citizen Advanced and Canine Good Citizen Urban certifications.

 

I am complex certified with Pet Partners Therapy. I love children and squeaker toys though I may drive my owner crazy squeaking them!

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Lorelei

Therapy Dog

Lorelai is a 2 year old Labradoodle. She has been working really hard to be one of our therapy dogs this year.

 

Lorelai is very excited to be at school to provide comfort, giggles and joy this year! She loves hanging out with people, getting loved on, and snuggling. She also likes chewing on bones, but her absolute favorite activity is playing ball.

 

Lorelai is looking forward to meeting you and spending time together this year.