Faculty and Staff
Leadership & Administration
Dr. Nance Riffe
Head of School
Dr. Nance Riffe received her Bachelor of Arts in Communication at George Mason University. There, she was a awarded a full tuition scholarship and membership to the Mason Scholars Program, an academic honors and learning community. She was awarded the University’s highest distinction, Senior of the Year. At George Mason, Nance participated in competitive public speaking and, at the National Tournament her senior year, she broke a few national records. She received her Master of Arts in Communication Studies at the University of Alabama where she was awarded several fellowships, a research assistantship, and several teaching assistantships. Dr. Riffe completed her coursework toward her Ph.D. in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin and received her Ph.D. from the University of Alabama where she was awarded the Department of Communication’s highest graduate school honor, Outstanding Doctoral Student. Her Doctorate is in the field of Communication with a concentration in Critical, Cultural, and Rhetorical Studies with a cognate in Qualitative Research Methods through Education Research. She has received several Top Paper awards at national and regional communication conferences including her field’s largest conference, the National Communication Association. After completing her doctorate, Dr. Riffe was awarded a professorship at the University of Alabama. There, she earned several grants for her department, several for her own research projects, and was asked to be the lead teacher working with the Department of Communication’s graduate student teacher training program.
When Tuscaloosa, Alabama, got a little small after a few years, Nance came back to Austin and heard about ACE Academy from a friend who had just finished working for Summer Wonders. Intrigued, she interviewed, interested in any position. She was a Red Pod Teaching Assistant for about two weeks. She then moved quickly into an accreditation management position. Having served ACE Academy in a variety of capacities, she is delighted to continue working with ACE students, students she describes as “amazing, joyful, and eclectic.” She loves working with these students who get her Tolkien references and could guess that all of her passwords used to be “wiggin,” based on a little boy named “Ender” who reminds her so much of them.
Dean of Faculty and Academic Programs
Ms. Tabitha Molett completed her undergraduate work at the University of Arizona and University of Texas at Dallas graduating with a B.A. from the School of Humanities. She continued her education at Southern Methodist University graduating with honors and obtaining a M.Ed., Master Reading Teacher Certification, and Gifted and Talented Endorsement. As a GT specialist for the Richardson I.S.D she was one of the founding members of the Enhanced Identification Program at her school; an alternative admissions and testing process developed to increase underrepresented populations in the gifted & talented program. Tabitha’s contributions to this committee led to the district-wide adopted of a 2nd grade talent pool program that is still in existence today.
Ms. Tabitha Molett has taught gifted and talented teacher-training courses and has been a lead presenter at the Texas Association for Gifted & Talented (TAGT). Her workshops include: Bringing Rigorous Education to all Children, Innovation and Creative Thinking, Twice Exceptional and the Growth Mindset, and Leadership Development for Gifted Children. She is a co-creator of the signature ACE Academy programs ODIM (Open Door Interdisciplinary Modules), a course designed for students to explore their passions in greater depth and involve them in the process of project-based learning, and ACE Innovation which is a school-wide event highlighting creative & innovative thinking strategies. In addition to teaching, presenting at educational forums, and the planning and development of curriculum programs, she co-founded an educational company that focused on bringing engagement, intrigue, inquiry, and higher-level thinking into every classroom.
Chief Financial Officer
Loren completed his BBA in Management from the Mays School at Texas A&M University and continued on to receive his MBA from the University of Texas at Tyler. Loren has spent much of his professional life in healthcare financial and operations management. He has worked with both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, managing budgets in excess of $70 million annually. He spent several years working in internal audit and internal controls for a large public company where, in addition to helping to strengthen accounting and audit procedures, he also advised executive leadership in operational improvements. A father of three gifted learners himself, Loren is very passionate about being a part of ACE Academy and helping our school through financial stewardship. When he’s not at ACE Academy, Loren can usually be found coaching and cheering his children on in their sporting events or joining his family in yelling for their Fightin’ Texas Aggies!
Director of Admissions
Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Nicki Hollums fell in love with nonprofits when she was growing up in the local area. After obtaining her B.S. in Psychology at Texas State University, in San Marcos Texas, she was inspired by her direct care work with young girls at a residential treatment facility, where she quickly developed a deep passion for child advocacy. This resolve stuck with her through her graduate degree, leading her to obtain a M.A. in Forensic Psychology from Argosy University in Dallas. After working with multiple non-profit organizations, universities, mental health communities, in a diagnostic and treatment capacity, Nicki is embarking on her second year at ACE Academy. She provides support, advocacy and relationship building as the Admissions Director. Nicki is happy working with the faculty and staff and spends her days keeping ACE an amazing school – one student at a time.
Chelsea Rodriguez received her B.S. in Radio-Television- Film from the University of Texas at Austin. During her time there she completed on the UT speech team. She received multiple national out rounds in the five events that she competed in and rounded out her senior year with a National Championship. Chelsea received her M.A. in Communication Studies from California State University – Long Beach with an emphasis in feminist rhetoric, critical and cultural studies. While in California she coached her school’s collegiate speech team assisting many students to qualify for national and state tournaments. Additionally, she had two papers accepted to the Western States Communication Association conference where she presented her work on the problematic roles for women in horror films – a very special interest of hers. Missing her family and weird yet wonderful city, she moved back to Austin, Texas to begin her professional life. You can find her catching the newest horror flick at a movie theatre, taking her dog, Jack, to various parks in the city or at a local theatre performance in Austin. She is excited to a begin a great year with an extraordinary faculty and staff at ACE Academy.
After-school Program Coordinator
Ms. Hermes graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Industry Studies and minors in both Mathematics and Business from Loyola University New Orleans. She has over 10 years of experience working with elementary students in both suburban and inner-city schools, the latter through Our Next Generation (Milwaukee) and Boys Hope Girls Hope (New Orleans). Ms. Hermes joined ACE in 2012 as Ms. Aiello’s Yellow Pod teaching assistant, taught in Austin Gifted’s Saturday Wonders program, and was a lead teacher for both sessions of Summer Wonders 2013. Ms. Hermes believes in fostering an environment for curiosity, experimentation, and adventure. She has a wild enthusiasm for learning about every topic and is dedicated to passing that passion on to this amazing population. She adores that the student interests at ACE are as deep as they are broad and that challenges are met with open arms; and couldn’t be more happy to teach at a school that embraces the same ideals.
Karin Asplin Coons
Head of Primary
Karin Asplin Coons received her degree in Early Childhood education from the University of North Texas in Denton, TX. Prior to that, she attended Centenary College of Louisiana in Shreveport, LA for a year and a half to play volleyball for the Ladies. Mrs. Coons joined ACE Academy in 2007, and is delighted to be a Blue Pod teacher this year. She has been teaching the Pre-K through first grade age group for nine years and has a passion for children this age. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with friends and listening to live music, preferably Texas Country, and playing in several volleyball leagues around the Austin area throughout the year. She also coaches juniors, aged 12-18, during the summer months in sand volleyball . In June 2014 she was married in a fun and fabulous ceremony in downtown Austin. She and her husband enjoy traveling as much as they can and following the Dallas Cowboys, no matter to what country it takes them.
Rebecca Aiello has been with ACE Academy since 2010, and is thrilled to be returning to the Yellow Pod. She graduated from the University of Texas in 2006 with a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy, with an emphasis on Child Psychology. In 2008, she returned to UT for a two-year program to obtain her teaching certification. She is certified to teach PreK-4th grade, as well as ESL classes. Her passions lie in physical movement, and she loves to bring this element into her classroom. Rebecca is a competitive west coast swing dancer, runs half marathons and marathons and loves yoga. She is also a National Parks connoisseur, and is on a quest to visit all 59!
Mr. Hardesty earned an MA in Communication Studies from the University of Alabama before going to lecture at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. Mr. Hardesty was a coach of the Forensics programs at both schools coaching several national champions and numerous national finalists and semifinalists. He is thrilled to return to teaching after taking a short break to focus on writing and performing, most recently on his monthly variety show, The Encyclopedia Show, which was named a Critics’ Pick for the Austin Chronicle’s 2010 Best of Austin.
Sara Keitges graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Science degree in Education, specializing in Early Childhood Education. She began teaching in the Red Pod in 2011 and has many years of experience teaching preschool through elementary-aged children. Her passion lies in recognizing the individual needs of each student and helping them blossom as young learners. Sara is raising three gifted children, two of whom have attended ACE. In 2013, Sara was a nominee for SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted) Honor Roll and has experience identifying and supporting students with heightened social learning needs. She is currently pursuing certification as an Academic Language Therapist and has experience working with dyslexic learners. Her other interests are reading, writing and playing with the family dogs Finn and Goose.
Red Pod TA
Travers Swan is a TA at ACE Academy, starting his first year teaching with Red Pod. Last year, as the Blue Pod TA, he discovered a passion for crafting and created art with the students at ACE and Summer Wonders. He is currently enrolled in a teacher certification program and hopes to be an educator in the near future.
Yellow Pod TA
Sharon Frazier has been at ACE since 2015. This year she will be returning as a Teacher’s Assistant in the Yellow Pod classroom. She graduated from the University of North Texas with a B.A. in History. Previous to working at ACE, Sharon was a stay at home mom to two gifted kiddos. When she isn’t at ACE building straw structures in the classroom or playing ball tag at recess, Mrs. Frazier likes to build Legos with her kids, make crafty things, and travel.
Lorena Roque Martinez
Blue Pod TA
Lorena Roque Martinez is starting her first year at ACE Academy as the Blue Pod TA. Lorena was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley and through the Gates Millenium Scholarship, she was able to graduate from UT-Austin with a B.S. in Environmental Science-Geology May 2016. After graduation, Lorena spent the summer at the Buffalo National River in Arkansas as a Karst Educator for the National Park Service. Her experience with hands-on educational programming concerning environmental hydrogeology inspired her to explore education. In her spare time, Lorena enjoys biking, rock climbing, drawing, and cooking.
Cathleen Carothers will be joining the ACE family on Monday, December 5th bringing a new zest and energy to the primary PE program. She received her Bachelor of Science with a major in Kinesiology and a minor in Health Promotion from the University of North Texas (Go Mean Green!). She also holds a Master of Science in Recreation and Leisure Studies and wrote her thesis on: Leisure-time Physical Activity and Perceived Quality of Life. She holds multiple certifications and has taught several workshops such as; yoga fit and pilates. Cathleen enjoys working with young, gifted children and looks forward to sharing her joy of physical fitness and wellness with them.
Mrs. Jew originally comes from Chicago. She studied art at The Minneapolis College of Art and Design and The McNay Art Institute in San Antonio. She was an elementary school substitute teacher and library assistant before becoming a children’s art instructor. In addition to teaching art to children, Mrs. Jew runs her own small business creating custom, handmade invitations, greeting cards, and gifts. She has also taught classes in rubber stamping, printmaking, and papermaking. Mrs. Jew lives in Round Rock with her husband and has four gifted children of her own.
Rani Sam holds a B. S. in Physics with a minor in Mathematics from the Mahatma Gandhi University, India, and an M.B.A. from Bharathidasan University, India. She has also studied various computer programming languages and done several freelance jobs. She comes to ACE Academy after working several years as a substitute teacher. Prior to that she was the 8th grade science teacher at another academy here in Austin as well as a tutor in Mathematics. She loves to go hiking, and travel around the world with her husband and two children.
Dr. Claudia Legarreta
Dr. Legarreta holds a B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Spanish from The University of Texas at Austin, a M.A. in Counseling from St. Edwards University, and a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Supervision from St. Mary’s University, where she is a member of the Chi Sigma Iota Honors Society. She comes to ACE with a background in child development, child and adolescent counseling, and international diplomacy.
Elementary & Middle School
Head of Elementary, Science
Raised in Chicago, IL, Mrs. Sreekantham’ sense of adventure and love of science led her to California for a Bachelor’s degree in Cell, Molecular, and Developmental Biology from the University of California. Wanting to learn more, she pursued a Master’s degree in Biotechnology from Penn State. She has been a tutor in both chemistry and biology. Mrs. Sreekantham has worked for 10 years for the Department of Public Safety since marrying and coming to Austin, but her love of children and belief in excellent education have brought her to ACE Academy. In her spare time, she loves to read, bake, and play with her own two kids.
Dr. Deanna Buckley
Science Department Chair
Dr. Deanna Buckley, whose background includes Biology, Chemistry, and Science Education, has been teaching science for 31 years in public and private school classrooms across three states K-16 including two separate doctoral research institutions. Her varied training includes NSF’s Institute of Inquiry at the Exploratorium in San Francisco and DNA analysis from Cold Spring Harbor’s Vector Team. Her publications include curriculum research with new courses in biomedical engineering at UT, and disquisition into teaching team dynamics in the College of Natural Sciences at UT. She designed and delivered teacher professional development using digital microscopes in six different regions throughout Texas for TEA and Girlstart, designed online science courses, mentors teams of students from UT each semester who are future science and math teachers, and currently consults and reviews for a variety of professional entities including the Journal of College Science Teaching. Dr. Buckley’s classes are fully hands-on, with students exploring genetic engineering, GMO’s, TALENs and CRISPR technologies as well as the role of statistics, probability, modeling and experimental design in data analysis. These scientific techniques and strategies can be understood by and practiced with gifted students at a much younger age than is currently the norm in many mainstream classrooms. She teaches students to ask their own questions.
Dr. Deanna Buckley is the recipient of the ACE Teacher of the Quarter Award! Her nomination letters described her as “a beautiful human being” and “a kind and generous educator” who “spreads positivity” and “lifts up everyone around her.” She encourages students to “be fearless in pursuing some bold science projects.” One parent wrote that her “kids believe that she is the kindest person at ACE.” One statement seemed to summarize the sentiment of the nomination: she has been a rock.
Born and bought up in India, Swapna Deepak holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, a second Bachelor’s degree in Physical Science, and a Master’s degree in Environmental Chemistry from the University of Calicut in Calicut, India. She is a graduate of the University of Texas UTeach certification program and obtained her Texas Teaching certification for K-12 science in 2012. Going into her fifth year at ACE, Mrs. Deepak began her teaching career in southern India, where she taught middle and high school science. She has organized school-wide science fairs and was instrumental in setting up a chemistry laboratory for a newly opened high school in collaboration with Oisca International, a Japanese organization for nature conservation. Her hands-on science classes require students to employ higher-order processing skills in order to generate solutions to complex problems. This, in turn, increases the scope of using that acquired knowledge to serve as the foundation for unlimited and boundless learning opportunities. Mrs. Deepak has taught at all levels throughout her career, and is excited for the opportunity to test her mettle among the discerning learners at ACE Academy in an inquiry-based, generative, and project-based learning environment.
Art, Social Studies, Advisor
Alex Ritzenberg teaches art, social studies, geography and US History at both the middle school and elementary school levels. She earned her M.A. in Art Education from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011 and worked simultaneously for three years as the Artist Educator at Mexic-Arte Museum. Her graduate research at UT focused on art education television programming and its multi-disciplinary implications in the modern classroom. Prior to her work in museum education and classroom teaching, she received her BA in Art History from the College of William & Mary. In addition to teaching, she is a working artist in the community, specializing in large-scale oil painting, pastel and charcoal drawing.
Adam Soto has been a member of ACE Academy since 2013. He holds an MFA in Fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a B.A. in Art History from Knox College. His work has appeared in various literary journals and magazines, and garnered recognition and awards from organizations such as the Michener-Copernicus Society of America and Narrative Magazine. He lives in East Austin with his wife and their cat.
A Texas native, Ms. Farrell graduated from University of North Texas with a Bachelor of Arts in Radio Television Film and a minor in Psychology in 1995. After graduation she assumed the role of coordinator for a children’s film festival called KidFilm and worked in programming for KERA, the PBS affiliate in Dallas. Ms. Farrell moved to Minneapolis/St. Paul for ten years and while there learned to rock climb, ice climb, sail, snowboard and ice skate. During her stay in The Twin Cities she tutored and cared for two different sets of gifted and talented children, worked as a climbing coach and as a teaching assistant in a kindergarten classroom. Ms. Farrell obtained her teaching certificate for K-6 and 5-8 Social Studies and a Masters in Teaching from Hamline University, which included attending the Rivers Institute. Missing warm weather and her family, she returned to Texas in 2011, settling in Austin. In her spare time she kayaks the rivers and lakes, hikes, dances and occasionally teaches the Austin Two Step.
It wasn’t until middle school that Bethany Rhoades was able to take her first Theater class, and she’s been hooked ever since! Her home in Southern California was ripe with opportunities to further her experience and education in the entertainment industry, so even after she received her B.A. in Theater from University of California, Irvine, she continued to educate herself amongst professional writers, producers, directors, and actors. She even spent three years with Second City Hollywood doing Improv, and collaboratively created an interactive children’s theater experience, which is now on its 12th year running! Since moving to Austin she’s done voiceover work for commercials and video games, as well as cowrote a screenplay adaptation of a best selling author’s work to make an animated film. This will be her third year as an ACE teacher, and she is super excited about sharing her enthusiasm with the students and building a strong Theater Department!
Chris Agüero earned a B.A. in history from the University of Texas at Austin and an M.A. in Education from Saint Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut. In Austin and New York City, he taught English to new immigrants in the evenings. Right out of college, he worked in publishing in Midtown Manhattan. While in New York, he taught Modern Hebrew to adults. He left his work in New York City for his first teaching job at Ezra Academy in suburban New Haven, teaching middle school secular subjects and gifted and talented elementary school math. Chris left the four distinct seasons of Southern New England to pursue a PhD in education back at the University of Texas. While in Austin, he has taught at the Austin Jewish Academy and is now in the fifth year of the doctoral program.
Chris remains an avid reader of hilarious and/or poignant fiction, bakes vegan challah weekly, and shops at every opportunity. He is an active member of Congregation Agudas Achim and tutors bat and bar mitzvah students in the Jewish community. During the summer and winter breaks, he reliably skips town, spending these last three summers in Montreal. He also frequently makes his way to the shopping in Paris and Tel Aviv, two of his favorite places.
Spanish, Film, Advisor
Robert Moncrieff has taught at ACE Academy since 2010. He teaches filmmaking classes in the elementary and middle schools, and Spanish at the primary, elementary, and middle school levels. He is also a middle school advisor, and runs an after school cinema club on Fridays. Outside of ACE Academy, he is active in the local film community. His films have been screened at theaters around Austin, and he was a first-place winner in the Vimeo/Lionsgate Cabin in the Woods short film competition. As a film teacher, he loves introducing students to the movies of Alfred Hitchcock.
As a small child, Keith Rohn was identified as a gifted learner and placed into a weekly pull-out program. This identification led to both the overwhelming joy of getting to work with like-minded students and an overwhelming dread of days when he was not in that program. These memories have drawn him to teach at ACE, and fuel his desire to create the safest possible learning environment for our very special kids.
Keith began his college education at a small, local college in Orlando but soon heard the call to move to New York City, where he lived for 11 years. He attended Brooklyn College, earning a B.A. in Film Studies and Marketing, minoring in Sociology. His desire to teach arose out of the varied experiences in his life (sales, public relations, Thespian Society, and Shakespeare Festival productions), all of which have had an aspect of training, management, nurturing and organization without the deep satisfaction that comes from teaching children. After working in numerous roles at ACE Academy over this past year, he is excited to bring his joy for learning and love of collaboration to his Entering Elementary classroom!
Emily Ayres earned a B.A. in Economics and English from Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, and also attended Reading and Oxford Universities in England. Following college, she spent three years studying and working with Sotheby’s London earning a Certification/Masters in Art History. Ms. Ayres worked in sales and marketing for over 20 years, living in both Arizona and Texas. Several years ago Emily got her teacher’s certification and began her career in the Leander school district. This will be her third year teaching at ACE. Ms. Ayres has been an avid athlete all her life. She played soccer and softball in college, had a mid-life triathlon stint, and now does cross fit. She is a huge football fan and supports the Longhorns and the Green Bay Packers. Emily loves doing pretty much everything with her 11yr. old daughter, from movie nights at the Alamo, musicals and Shakespeare plays to traveling the world, particularly Mexico.
Ms. Ayres believes in the importance of living and learning in an interdisciplinary environment, and looks forward to sharing her love of learning with students at ACE.
Skyler White is the author of four published books and seven shorter pieces. Her debut novel, and Falling, Fly (Penguin) earned a starred review from Library Journal, and was named one of the top ten sci-fi/fantasy books of 2010 by Library Journal, Barnes & Noble’s Sci-Fi Blog, and Dear Author. Booklist’s starred review called her most recent novel, The Incrementalists (Tor) co-written with Steven Brust “genius at work,” which she rather liked, as she’s been hunting genius all her life. First the sweaty kind that could turn a word-nerd suburban chick into a swan and then, because ballet left out language, as a Theater Director. The chase has led to interesting places: into advertising, through the founding of a dogma-free prayer candle company, and onto reality TV. Along the way, she picked up two degrees (B.A. and M.A.), two children (Kaki and Egan), and two writing-related apps still in progress (TheNarrowShed and aMuseBoot). She runs a book doctoring and creative coaching service, gives talks and workshops on topics ranging from myth to procrastination, and has new book coming out in January 2017, but she’s not chasing genius anymore; she’s teaching them.
Kimberly Pollini is a music teacher, Choir Director, and a vocal performer in a variety band. Kimberly has taught music privately for K-12th grade as well as for adults for over 14 years. She received a B.A. in Music, with a concentration in Vocal Performance and Music Education, from Austin College. She is Texas certified for all-level music by the State Board of Education since 2001. She is thrilled to have the privilege of teaching ACE Academy students as well as teaching a subject for which she is deeply passionate!
Her performance credits include touring Europe as a classical soloist and performing at the Majestic Theatre in Dallas, with legendary jazz vocalist and lyricist, Jon Hendricks. She has performed and recorded with The Women’s Chorus of Dallas and was a featured soloist at the Meyerson Symphony Center with Maya Angelou and Mary Wilson (of The Supremes), benefiting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation). She has additionally performed and/or recorded with artist including Alejandro Escovedo, Bruce Robison, Sara Hickman (State Musician of Texas), and The Memphis Train Revue at venues including ACL Festival and SXSW. She currently performs with her husband, a multi-faceted guitarist and vocalist, in the jazz duo, 18Karatmusic.com, and the 5-8 piece variety band, Caboosetheband.com.
Dr. Marie Walker
Marie Walker is a psychologist who works with children and adults in the Austin area. She is Plan II graduate and holds a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin. She completed her clinical internship and second year fellowship at Cambridge City Hospital through the Harvard Medical School. Upon returning to Texas, Dr. Walker practiced at the Austin Neurological Clinic as a pediatric neuropsychologist for almost a decade. A life-long advocate for the educational needs of unique learners, Dr. Walker is also a co-founder of Odyssey School. Dr. Walker is married and has a 17 year-old daughter. In her spare time she and her family enjoy ballroom dancing, pursuing the art of improv, and back-country camping.
Math Department Chair, Advisor
Charmaine Price, originally from Huntington Beach, California, moved to Johannesburg, South Africa in 1987. She lived there for 28 years where she married, raised her four children and restarted her tertiary education. She received a B.Ed degree from the University of South Africa in English and Mathematics. She went on to study Mathematics Education in South Africa at a B.Sc Honors and Master’s level. She has over eight years’ experience in high school mathematics and a total of 14 years in teaching. She is currently pursuing a Texas teacher’s certificate (Mathematics 7 – 12) from Huston-Tillotson University and is looking into further graduate studies here in the United States. She hopes, as the Mathematics Department Chair, to encourage greater depth, complexity and alignment within the mathematics curriculum at ACE and present a program that sparks a love of mathematics within the students.
Interim Head of Middle School, Social Studies Department Chair, Advisor
Tyson Rahmeier hails originally from the great small state of Delaware and spent much of his childhood visiting the various colonial, Revolutionary War, and Civil War historic sites that abounded nearby. After completing his B.A. in European History with a minor in Classics from Vanderbilt University, Tyson began his education career by teaching English as a Second Language at the International English Institute in Nashville, TN, then moved to Atlanta, GA to work on his Master’s in American History. While in Atlanta, Tyson taught college prep and honors World History at the high school level and English as a Second Language at the college level. In 2002, Tyson was awarded a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation fellowship to participate in Harvard University’s Institute on the Media and American Democracy. In 2004, he became a Lerner Fellow with the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous as well as an annual lecturer at the William H. Breman Jewish Heritage Museum’s Summer Institute on Teaching the Holocaust. During 2013, Tyson taught World History and Geography in Dubai, UAE, where he was the first and only American on staff. Although he was fascinated by Dubai, Tyson is pleased to be back in the US and teaching at ACE where he can bring his extensive knowledge and experience about history to a new group of students.
Dr. Marilee Ransom
Language Arts Department Chair
After graduating from high school in France, Véronique Amblard did two years of intensive academic training (mostly mathematics), known as classes préparatoires at the Lycée Chateaubriand in Rennes, France. She passed the entrance exam for one of the grandes écoles, higher education establishments, and enrolled in the National Graduate School of Chemistry of Montpellier, France, known as École Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Montpellier (ENSCM). She holds a Master of Science in Chemistry from ENSCM and a Master of Science in Plastic Process from the University of Montpellier, France (Université des Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc.) Before moving to the United States, she worked 13 years in the packaging industry as an R&D Engineer and Quality Manager, developing new packaging materials for the food industry. After moving to the U.S., she began working in the translation/localization industry, translating and reviewing technical documents from English to French.
Then, to return to her passion for math, she decided to embark on a new career as a mathematics teacher. In the course of becoming a Texas certified educator in mathematics (grades 4 – 8,) she did her student teaching at ACE Academy during spring 2013, where she was delighted by this wonderful community of learners. Thus, this school year will be her fourth year of teaching middle school math as a certified math teacher for middle school at ACE Academy. As the daughter of a math teacher and the mother of a gifted son who loves math, she is extremely delighted about teaching math to gifted students at ACE Academy.
Conna Oram is an Illinois native and graduated from the University of Illinois with an Honors degree in English and History. Her travels in Europe led to a fascination with languages and medieval history. She received a master’s degree from Cornell University in Medieval Studies and also a Master’s of Arts in Teaching. She has had over 20 years’ experience in teaching Latin, as well as English and Social Studies, at all levels from middle school through adult education and college. Magistra Oram enjoys spending time with her husband, her son and his wife. She volunteers at the Elisabet Ney Museum and for the Cocker Spaniel Rescue. Her hobbies include travel, photography and films of the 1930’s.
Mark Worrell is currently a PhD candidate in the Physical Education Teacher Education Program at UT Austin. Mark obtained his Master’s degree in Business Administration from Florida International University in Miami, Florida. He has approximately nine years of professional baseball experience and played in the Major Leagues for three different organizations. Mark’s research focuses on former Major League Baseball players and effective ways to prevent identity loss (in certain individuals) at the conclusion of their professional baseball careers.
Mr. Hollensbe was part of the gifted program in Picayune, Mississippi, graduated a year early, attended Pearl River Jr. College for two years followed by Mississippi State University, where he majored in Computer Engineering with a minor in Computer Science. While at Pearl River Jr. College, he led a team of programmers to win the first title for the college in a programming competition at the University of Southern Mississippi. After college, Randy was hired by Cincinnati Bell Information Systems (later renamed Convergys) as a Programmer. He stayed with the company for almost 20 years, holding titles of Programmer, Lead Programmer, Senior Programmer, Program Manager, Project Manager and Manager – Information Technology, and Senior Manager – Information Technology. While at Convergys, Randy also received his Project Management certificate from George Washington University. Randy was also educated in ITIL, ITIL 3.0, Lean Processes, and was a certified Change Agent. In his spare time, Mr. Hollensbe enjoys coaching girls’ soccer. He coached travel soccer for girls in Florida for 7 years, winning many titles. He has also been actively involved with the Board of Deltona Youth Soccer, holding positions of Secretary and Vice President of the club.
Ms. Dion earned her BA at Sarah Lawrence College in 2009 where her studies focused on the Fine Arts and French. Upon graduation she began her education career in Phoenix, Arizona where she worked as a Fine Arts teacher at BASIS Chandler. Ms. Dion continued working within the BASIS network of charter schools until 2015. During that time she acted as a Fine Arts and French teacher, the Head of the Fine Arts and French departments, and eventually grew her career to include the role of Director of Academic Programs. However, Ms. Dion’s true passions are teaching students the benefits of self-expression and the importance of art appreciation. She’s elated to be back in the classroom!
In her personal life, Ms. Dion creates and exhibits her own artwork, some of which has been exhibited in galleries in New York and Arizona. She also enjoys creating pro-bono artwork for charity auctions, the latest of which have been created for the ABC Walk for Autism organization. In her free time, Ms. Dion enjoys writing (she was recently published!), political activism, and playing with her puppy, Lafayette.