Our Team

 

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.

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.

Mary Hoekje

Director of Curriculum & Instruction

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.

Anna Bathgate

1st 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. 

Abigail Beck

1st Grade Literacy Teacher

Abigail Beck is going into her fourth year of teaching at the elementary level. She moved to Texas in June 2019 from Cedar Rapids, Iowa where she taught 2nd grade and K-4th World Language - Spanish. This past year, Abigail taught 3rd grade at Montgomery Elementary in San Antonio. Her first year in Texas was an amazing learning opportunity and she was happy to serve students from a variety of backgrounds.

 

Abigail is excited to continue her teaching career as a founding 1st grade reading, writing, and social studies teacher at Promesa. She has always had a strong love for all things reading and language. Abigail’s passion for teaching comes from growing up with her father as an elementary educator. The joy she saw her father feel through his career continues to inspire her to work with children and help them achieve great things in any way possible.

 

Abigail loves being outdoors, traveling, exercising, watching Netflix, and cooking. She is overjoyed to join the founding Promesa team and can’t wait to serve students every day as their teacher!

Breanna Cadena

School 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!

Alex Casso

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 and art teacher at Promesa Academy.

Sabrina Earl

Teaching Assistant

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.

 

Sabrina has a background in early childhood education. While serving military children at various military installations overseas as well as in the United States she was able to obtain her CDA credential. The credential is based on a core set of competency standards, which guide early care professionals as they work toward becoming qualified teachers of young children. In 2015 Sabrina graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. The same year she also started working for Ft. Sam Houston Elementary School as a Paraprofessional Educator where she is currently still serving for the remainder of the school year as an integral member of the instructional team.

 

Sabrina is excited to be part of the Promesa founding team and hopes to build positive connections with students and their families. Relationships are fundamental when it comes to learning and being successful in school. The mindset that anything is possible is near and dear to her heart and Sabrina is hopeful to make a long-lasting positive impact in the community that she serves.

Neah Galloway

Special Education Teacher

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.

Hope Gilbert

1st/2nd Grade Literacy Teacher

Hope Gilbert has been a certified elementary school teacher for the last two years. She recently relocated to San Antonio, Texas, from Mississippi, where she taught 1st grade. Before beginning her career as an educator, Hope attended Mississippi State University and received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. In 2020, she received a Master of Science in Education with an emphasis in Reading. Hope has a passion for helping children discover the beauty of learning through authentic and holistic approaches to instruction. 

 

Hope has enjoyed her experience working with students from diverse backgrounds and is excited to join the Promesa founding team. She is looking forward to building meaningful relationships with the students and their families.

 

Outside of school, Hope enjoys spending time with family and friends, reading, traveling, and watching movies. She is thrilled about the upcoming school year at Promesa Academy and can’t wait to spend the year learning and growing with the students! 

Devon Heywood

Physical Education Teacher

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!

Karla Lopez

ESL & Reading Interventionist

Karla Lopez is a certified Texas bilingual teacher and Teach for America alumni. Karla is originally from Fort Worth, Texas where she attended North Side High School and participated in powerlifting and choir. Karla went to Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, where she majored in Family and Child Development. At Texas State, she worked at the Child Development Center where she gained her passion for holistic and development-centered approaches to education. Karla then joined Teach for America to teach and inspire students in underserved communities.

 

Karla has taught and served in San Antonio’s Southside Palm Heights neighborhood for the past three years, where she co-founded a girl’s leadership group 'She Is', organized her school’s annual Spanish Bilingual Spelling Bee, and served as her school’s Bilingual Lead Teacher. Karla is ecstatic to bring her love for language, education, and reading to the students at Promesa Academy. She knows that education can open many doors for children and their families, therefore she commits to providing quality education and access to relevant and helpful resources for the families and students of Promesa.

 

Karla is overjoyed to bring her experience, love, and passion to Promesa Academy as a founding teacher! ¡Karla esta emocionada al traer su experiencia, amor y pasión a Promesa Academy como una maestra fundadora!

Holly Martinez

Kinder Literacy Teacher

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!

Ashley Miller

Kinder Math Teacher

Ashley Miller earned a Masters in Teaching and Learning in 2015. Since then, she has put that knowledge to use teaching young children with significant disabilities and preparing them for a more independent future. Ashley is excited to bring her skills and knowledge to her newest adventure as a Kindergarten math teacher.

Ashley believes that each child has boundless potential just waiting for the right opportunity and support to come along to reach it. As a student herself, Ashley often translated the language of math into words her peers would understand. She’s looking forward to giving students a strong mathematical foundation to encourage deeper understanding of later concepts and knows that every child can be successful.

Outside the classroom, Ashley spends her time reading and completing DIY crafts and home improvements.

Rebecca Miller

Science Teacher

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

Jeanette Mitchell

Kinder Literacy Teacher

Jeanette Mitchell’s desire to be a lifelong learner has warranted her various experiences at various grade levels in education. She has several years of experience in kindergarten, first grade, and fourth-grade classrooms. Her most recent adventure involved teaching high school English, teaching specialized reading courses, and providing reading intervention support to students. She has loved all the grades that she has taught, but Kindergarten holds a special place in her heart.

 

Jeanette has been a voracious reader from the moment her mother began teaching her phonics from a kit purchased at a garage sale. Experiencing the ability to read and how it can change someone’s life exponentially as a young child became a turning point in her life. Jeanette passionately believes that being literate is a basic human right. She has seen entire families positively impacted by a student learning to read. Her love of teaching, reading, and passion for literacy have shaped every aspect of her life.

 

Outside of the classroom, Jeanette loves the adventure of traveling to national parks with her two daughters, impromptu road trips, reading, writing poetry, and creating new recipes. She is thrilled to be joining Promesa Academy as a founding teacher and cannot wait to share new learning experiences with her students!

Iris Nuno

Spanish Teacher

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. 

Marcella Ovalle

2nd Grade Literacy Teacher

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!

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 Grade Math Teacher

Alberto Soliz

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. 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!

Kinder Math Teacher

Christine Weaver

Kinder Literacy Teacher

Chrissi Weaver has been teaching elementary school around the country for more than 15 years. She has served as the lead language and literacy teacher, lead science teacher, and dedicated math teacher. She is most passionate about language and literacy and believes it is the foundation for everything! She has built lasting relationships with her students and families, and enjoys celebrating all of their successes through the years.

 

Although Chrissi has always been passionate about education, her professional career actually began as an air traffic controller! Since transitioning to teaching, Chrissi hasn't looked back, going on to earn her M.Ed in Elementary Education and Instruction. She continues to demonstrate dedication to and enthusiasm for her work as a joyful, lifelong learner and advocate for excellent education.

 

Outside of school, you can find Chrissi spending time with her family and two dogs, Maggie and Duke. She loves to visit her two kids in college, hike, read, play basketball, and cook. She’s thrilled to begin a new journey at Promesa Academy as a founding teacher and is excited about the student-centered focus of the school.

info@promesaacademy.org

210-560-3575

603 Merida, San Antonio, TX 78207

​©2020 by Promesa Academy Charter School

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