Our Team

 
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Ambika Dani

CEO / Superintendent

Casandra Reyes

Casandra Reyes

Director of Operations

Mary Hoekje

Kinder/1st Director of Curriculum and Instruction
 

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.

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.

Mary has worked as a K-2 bilingual and dual language teacher on the Southeast side of San Antonio for four years. She grew passionate about education at a young age as she saw the many ways her parents shared their love of learning and passions with her and others. Her mother was a dancer and her father worked in the trades and both spent ample time teaching and learning from the community. As a result, Mary grew into a person who also felt called to share her passion with others and to support her community through public service. For her last four years as an educator, Mary became deeply invested in the community and families she served on the Southeast side of San Antonio and grew professionally to develop into a curriculum writer, mentor, and coach for new teachers.

Mary's deep connection to the communities she has taught in and her desire to change the inequities that persist in education also led her to co-found SA RISE in 2016. At SA RISE, she led grassroots community organizing efforts around education all across San Antonio.

Mary deeply believes in social-emotional development and wellness as a building block for the success of every learner and is dedicated to finding creative solutions to support every student and every teacher she encounters. Her strong linguistics background, having majored in Spanish with a minor in Latin American Studies and tutored English while living abroad, and her experience in the classroom has helped shaped how she envisions what excellent teaching, classrooms, schools, and support look like and feel like and deeply influence how she plans to support learners and teachers as Promesa Academy's Director of Curriculum and Instruction.

Julie Rothlauf

2nd/3rd 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!

Esmeralda Flores

Front Office Manager

Jacqueline Gonzalez

Administrative Assistant

Adriana Oliveira

Dyslexia Teacher/504 Coordinator

Adriana Oliveira is originally from Maryland and moved to San Antonio in 2017. She started her journey in education as a reading interventionist and later moved on to becoming a 504 coordinator and dyslexia specialist. She has been in this role for three years now and is very excited to join the Promesa Family. She is certified in core subjects EC-12 and special education EC-6. She also received training and became certified to identify and assess for Dyslexia through Region 20, San Antonio's Education Service Center.

 

Outside of school, Adriana enjoys spending time with her family. She is a mom of one toddler boy who has only fueled her passion to work with and serve the children of our community. She also enjoys cooking or going out to find new places to grab a bite to eat. When she is not busy tending to her family, she can be found curled up with a good book. She is so excited to bring her experiences to the Promesa team and start the year off strong going into year two!

Arielle Keeler

Kinder PE & TA

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 were such a heartwarming feeling she will never forget.

 

As a college graduate, now with a BA 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!

Alberto Soliz

Kinder Math

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!

Alex Casso

1st-3rd Art

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 and art teacher at Promesa Academy.

Amber Conner

3rd Literacy/SS

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.

 

Amber considers herself to be a lifelong learner, and therefore, instilling a love of learning in children is immensely important to her. Her favorite teaching moments are the “aha” moments when a child reaches understanding after grappling with a concept. Amber is excited to share her love of learning with her students.

 

In her personal time, Amber enjoys a plethora of hobbies including reading, writing, art, video and board games, puzzles, and pop culture. She adores her husband of 8 years, Sonny, and their insanely cute Yorkie, Chloe. Amber is enthusiastic to join the founding 3rd grade team at Promesa!

Anna Bathgate

1st Math

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. 

Ashley Vidaurri

3rd Math

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. It was not in her plan to become a teacher (she struggled so much as a student!), especially a math teacher. 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!

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!

Bryan Salomon

School 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!

Dawn Ard

Kinder Math

Dawn Ard has been a certified elementary school teacher for the last 5 years. She recently relocated to San Antonio, Texas in January 2021 after briefly living and teaching in Chicago as a 2nd grade accelerated teacher in the Chicago Public School system for a year. Not to worry, she did not bring the 2021 snowstorm to Texas as she is originally from the Sunshine State. In Florida, she taught 2nd and 4th grade for 4 years. Upon her arrival to San Antonio last year, she briefly worked with Promesa as a substitute before coming on full time as our in-person K-2 Math Interventionist and virtual Reading Interventionist.

 

Dawn is a first-generation, 2015 college graduate from the University of Florida with her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. She has a passion for helping young children discover the excitement of learning through making connections with their prior background knowledge and personal experiences.

 

When Dawn is not at school, some of her favorite activities include cooking, relaxing at home or by the pool, and walking around her area checking out new places. She is also an animal lover to her own dog, Candy, and foster home to neonate kittens through ACS from 2-9 weeks old until they are old enough for adoption.

 

She is thrilled to be back at Promesa Academy this year after joining midway through the founding year and cannot wait to start fresh and share new learning experiences with her students!

Devon Heywood

1st-3rd PE

Devon Heywood is a certified Physical Education teacher with four years of experience at the elementary level in Virgina. He has taught all grades Pre-K through Sixth grade and is deeply committed to starting students off early in their educational careers with high-quality physical education.

 

As he enters his fifth year of teaching, Devon is excited to be able to build the Physical Education department from the ground up at Promesa Academy. He believes deeply in the ability of every child to succeed, and the best part of his job is connecting with each student and helping them realize their full potential. Devon knows how far the positive impact of a good teacher can go and hopes to be that for each child at Promesa.

 

As a lifelong learner and in continued dedication to physical health and fitness, Devon can be found exploring new things like skydiving and would love to go bungee jumping someday! Devon loves to workout, listen to music, and spend time with his family. He is so excited to bring his experience and passion to our students at Promesa Academy!

Erika Carter

2nd/3rd Literacy/SS

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.

Genesis Dibrell

Math Interventionist

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!

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.

After graduating, Holly substituted in San Antonio ISD 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 is currently in the process of getting a Masters degree in Reading and Literacy. 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 long walks. She is so excited to start teaching at Promesa and cannot wait for an amazing year with her Kinder kiddos!

Kinder Literacy/SS

Iman Sabbahi

Iman Sabbahi began her teaching career in the Bronx, New York 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 environment. Iman 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 no matter what.

 

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 five years. She is dedicated to making sure every student can foster a love for reading and writing. 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.

 

When Iman is not lesson planning you can find her at a Zumba class or trying a new restaurant (she loves food!). Iman is so excited to join the Promesa team and can’t wait to foster a love for learning in each and every one of her students!

1st Literacy/SS

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. 

K/1 Spanish

Jaelynn Durand

Jaelynn Durand was born and raised in Poteet, TX. She went to college at Texas State University and received her Bachelor of Science in Recreation Administration. While in college, Jaelynn helped organize a club that taught conversational English to international students. Jaelynn's passion for culture grew over those two years.

 

Jaelynn has experience working with at-risk children and children with disabilities. She has a passion for working with children. She believes it is valuable to provide a healthy & safe environment for children to grow in. Jaelynn has a holistic perspective when teaching. Jaelynn has worked as a Secretarial Assistant at an elementary school and has taught preschool at a Child Development Center.

 

After graduating, Jaelynn worked doing marketing & fundraising 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. While working for an organization that helped provide resources for at-risk youth, she felt the need to work more hands-on with children in the community.

 

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

Teaching Assistant

Jamael Hunte

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.

2nd Literacy/SS

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

Jonathan Perrier

Jonathan Perrier is a recent graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, with several years of experience tutoring math ranging from pre-algebra to calculus III. He graduated with a bachelor's of science in mathematics, with a concentration in actuarial science.

Jonathan has always loved collaborating on interesting math problems and truly enjoys the 'Oh! Now I get it!' moments of discovery with students.

Outside of the classroom, Jonathan loves digital sudoku, fountain pens, 3D printing, and exercising outside with his family and beloved 120 lbs. Great Pyrenees dog Fang. Jonathan is very excited to bring his experience and love of math to Promesa Academy as a founding teacher! ​

2nd Math

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.

Kinder Art Teacher

Marcella Ovalle

In 2010, Marcella Ovalle eagerly 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, Marcella has become known for her culturally-responsive teaching approach with an emphasis on laughter, exploration, and the joy of reading!

 

As a little girl, Marcella's parents instilled a love of reading anything and everything, from comic books to novels. When she was older, Marcella 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 been guidance for Marcella as she carries out her mission and commitment to serve as an educator in her beloved west side of San Antonio. It is an honor to continue this mission with Promesa Academy!

 

Marcella 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 Marcella 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 join Promesa Academy as a founding 2nd-grade teacher, and looks forward to meeting you very soon!

Librarian/Family Engagement Coordinator

Marissa Mueller

Marissa is from Houston and has lived in San Antonio for almost 6 years. Most recently, Marissa worked as a Case Manager for the past five years with families experiencing homelessness. While serving these families, she recognized that prevention begins in childhood and in the classroom. Marissa is very excited to work with kids in a new environment and join the Promesa team!

 

Marissa loves fitness, the outdoors, and travel. She has spent time backpacking hundreds of miles in the US and abroad. She is very passionate about whole-person health.

Teaching Assistant

Mayra Cuevas

Mayra was born and raised in a small border town in the Rio Grande Valley. The daughter of a Mexican immigrant mother and a migrant worker father, she understands the value of education, family, and relationships. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from St. Mary’s University. Mayra comes to the Promesa family with 6 years of teaching experience working with K-8 students on the southside of San Antonio.

 

A former kindergarten teacher and current ESL teacher, Mayra is passionate about teaching children how to read and write, and believes firmly that in order to do so, students must feel valued and a sense of belonging. In addition, Mayra is an advocate for mental health and cares deeply about children, who are the future of our communities.

 

Outside of school, Mayra values and prioritizes spending time with her family and two dogs, Khali and Ozomatli. She enjoys reading, cooking for others, and tackling home projects with her husband. Mayra is excited to be joining a family of caring staff and can’t wait to teach and learn from the students of Promesa Academy!

Reading Interventionist/ESL Teacher

Miguel Preciado

1st Teacher

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.

Mikaela Zhou

Mikaela is excited to be joining the Promesa team this year as a First Grade Literacy Teacher! Her love for teaching began at the young age of 5 with her first class of very enthusiastic stuffed animals! Mikaela has experience teaching in first grade and special education classrooms. She loves teaching first grade because the students are so fun and creative and she is a big believer in play based learning. Mikaela believes that every student is an important part of their community and should be given the opportunity to discover and grow into the best version of themselves. She believes that the best way to do this is by providing instruction that helps them grow mentally, emotionally, and socially.

 

Mikaela has been an avid reader throughout her life and has often found herself lost in the pages of a good book. “Reading is the key to lifelong learning!” she says. Mikaela believes in igniting a love for reading and exploring the new worlds hidden in words. Mikaela believes that every student needs a strong foundation in literacy. She believes that every student can be successful when starting from the basics and building on that foundation!

 

Outside of the classroom, Mikaela enjoys hiking, scrapbooking, and reading. Most holidays you will find her on a long road trip switching between podcasts, audiobooks, and many different spotify playlists! She is so excited to meet her new students and embark on a year full of learning and discovery here at Promesa!

1st Literacy/SS

Niki Lopez

Niki Lopez is an EC-12 Certified Music Teacher in Texas with an ESL Supplemental Certificate. She graduated from Texas State University in San Marcos with a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education with an instrumental emphasis in saxophone pedagogy.

 

She is currently working on her Master's Degree in Educational Leadership and Administration from Texas A&M. She has four years of classroom experience teaching K-5 General Music. Niki loves working with children and exploring creative ways to sing, play and move to music. She is so excited to join the Promesa team as the founding music teacher this year and bring her passion for the arts to your students.

Music Teacher

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 those that are underserved. 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.

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!

2nd/3rd Spanish & TA

Neah Galloway

Neah Galloway is excited to serve as Promesa Academy’s founding Special Education and Inclusion Co-Teacher. Neah holds Texas certifications for Special Education EC-6, ESL, Spanish, and Bilingual Education. She is a lifelong learner who has worked in many different aspects of education since her teens, including working as a Spanish and Language Arts tutor, a preschool teacher, and teaching Spanish at both the K-12 and college levels in Nebraska and Kansas. Her students have ranged in age from preschoolers to senior citizens, and teaching has given her the opportunity to connect with an amazing and diverse group of individuals from all walks of life. 

 

After receiving an MA in Spanish from the University of Kansas-Lawrence, Neah’s first teaching jobs were focused on English Language Arts and Spanish Language teaching. Her later experiences as a parent and as a respite care provider/support person for individuals with disabilities led her to become certified in Special Education, with a particular interest in autism and alternative-augmentative communication, and she has been working in San Antonio schools for the past two years. Neah is passionate about supporting the development of communicative, academic, and social skills for all children in a compassionate and inclusive environment. Experience has taught her that when neurodiversity is supported and celebrated, all learners benefit. 

 

Outside of school, Neah enjoys spending time with family and friends, keeping up with her two school-aged kiddos, playing tabletop games, reading, swimming, sight-seeing, learning new skills, and attempting an assortment of DIY projects.

Special Education Teacher

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

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

K/1 Literacy/SS Teacher

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.

Kinder Literacy/SS

Samantha Bonaime

After an impactful year working with City Year San Antonio at Tafolla Middle School, Samantha (Sam), truly found her niche in education. Originally from Minneapolis, MN Samantha grew up around many diverse communities thanks to her mom Shawna who was an educator for the majority of her life. Growing up Samantha was often volunteered by her mom to work in many different classrooms in her free time whether at the YMCA, or her mom’s classroom at the Intergenerational Care Center in Eagan, MN.

 

Samantha is a 2020 graduate of Iowa State University with degrees in Political Science and German with minors in Russian and Religious studies. While in college Samantha was a part of her sororities service initiatives that included funding schools for the blind and visually impaired throughout the United States as well as working with veterans that had lost their eye-sight in combat-related situations. All these service experiences encouraged her to join City Year San Antonio for the 2020-2021 school year, where Samantha worked virtually serving the children of Tafolla Middle School in an 8th-grade classroom.

 

In Samantha’s free time she enjoys volunteering with Kinetic Kids and Special Olympics Texas, as well as reading books. During the pandemic Samantha has accumulated 300+ books, so please feel free to ask her to borrow a book or for a book recommendation. Samantha is over-joyed to be expanding her career in education at Promesa Academy and cannot wait to see what this upcoming year has in store.

Teaching Assistant