Faculty/Staff

Administration

Desiree has been a part of the ACE family for seven years, she holds a BA in psychology and social work from Texas State and was a licensed realtor for over 15 years. Her interest in the school began when she was looking for a place to enroll both of her gifted children. Upon enrolling, she immediately immersed herself in the ACE community as a volunteer board member and as the president of the parent association. When the opportunity to be the Head of Operations presented itself, she used her previous experience and knowledge from roles in property management, real estate, being a local small business owner as well as working with youth to transition into that role. For three years, as the Head of Operations Desiree strengthen and supported the school through strategic planning, program management, and financial development. In 2021 she became the Head of School and as she begins her eighth year at ACE, Desiree continues to support and lead the school through honoring its history and foundations while embracing renewal and growth. Desiree is proud to be a member of the ACE community and is thankful to be a part of a mission that brings the joy of learning to gifted students.

Maria Selke grew up outside of Philadelphia, PA. She has her teaching certification in special education and elementary education and a master's degree from the University of Connecticut focused on gifted learners. In Pennsylvania, she worked for six years as a learning support teacher and then was a gifted resource teacher for thirteen years. Maria enjoys exploring every subject area, which is why she focused on elementary education. Maria is the mother of two gifted teenagers, one of whom is finally heading to campus this year at UTD. In her free time, you will find her reading, crocheting, cross stitching, or working out in her fitness room at home.

Nicki Hollums was born and raised in the philanthropic city Austin, Texas where she fell in love with nonprofits. After obtaining her B.S. in Psychology at Texas State University, 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 pursue a M.A. in Forensic Psychology from Argosy University in Dallas. After working a total of 15 years in various non-profit organizations, universities, and mental health organizations in a diagnostic and treatment capacity Nicki found ACE. Joining her variety of experiences and expertise, Nicki is able to welcome, support, and advocate for students and families as she embarks on her eighth school year at ACE Academy as the Director of Development.

Aerielle Anderson-Rico moved to Texas, in 2000 to go to the University of Texas, and fell in love with the city of Austin. She graduated from UT with a Mathematics degree in 2005 and from Texas State with a Masters in Elementary Education 2008. While finishing her masters, she began her career as a teacher. Aerielle has taught children ranging in age from preschool through 8th grade within the classroom. She has tutored Mathematics to children in 4th through 12th grade. Last year, she taught Mathematics and SocioEmotional skills to middle and high school students at Great Minds Learning Community, a school for 2E children in Pflugerville. Her educational philosophy is that, with a Growth Mindset and a supportive environment, all people have the capacity to learn something new. Aerielle aims to provide a safe space where children, parents and staff feel respected and valued. In her spare time, Aerielle loves spending time with her husband, Alfonso “Al” Rico and their kitties, Buddy, Pharrah and Ember. Aerielle enjoys bike-riding, gardening, live music and camping. She and her husband hope to have a youngster of their own some day. :)

Ali recently served as executive director and lead consultant at the Natural Learning Foundation, providing nonprofit startup and management services for schools and learning centers, food and natural health organizations, and ecological living communities. She holds an EC-4 teaching certificate from the State of Texas, a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin in history/applied learning and development, and an M.Ed. from Texas State University in bilingual/bicultural education. Ali served as an ESL educator in Mexico and Guatemala at Colegio Cuernavaca, Casa Xelaju, Colegio Alonzo Morelio, and La Pedrera. Always the educator, she teaches yoga to both children and adults in the Austin area. Ali has distinguished herself as a community leader, serving on the boards of numerous alternative schools and nonprofit groups that support health and social justice.

After graduating from high school, Erin lived for a few months in Hungary and India, before returning to Texas to attend the University of Texas in Austin. At UT, she received two Bachelor’s degrees: a B.S. in Social Work, and a B.A. in Plan II, an interdisciplinary honors program. After graduating, she worked at Burnet Middle and Sims Elementary School, before returning to UT to receive her Master’s in Social Work, which led her to working as a therapist in community mental health prior to joining ACE. She is a UT fan (go Longhorns!), she loves watching Marvel movies, and you can find her constantly eating yummy food with her husband and daughter.

A native of Scotland and a US Air Force veteran, Mx. Walker leads our IT Department. While attending the University of Utah for a BA in psychology, Jol spent their spare time developing skills with computers and technology, eventually leading to a career in IT lasting over 30 years. Mx Walker has gone on to receive multiple IT certifications and accreditations including A+, NET+, MCSE, Linux+,CEH, CCSP, CISSP, CISA, CSX-P, and Security+. With nearly 30 years experience in Information Technology, Jol is entering their fifth year at ACE.

Lower School

Leslie Dover earned a B.S. degree in Food Science and Technology from Texas A&M University. She began her professional career as a food scientist, working in the food-centric San Francisco Bay Area for over 15 years for consulting firms, large food companies, and as an independent consultant. In 2015, after thoroughly enjoying time spent working with children at her daughter’s school, she embarked on a second career by pursuing her passion for teaching. At ACE, she found her niche, and for the past three years has thoroughly enjoyed teaching gifted students and being a part of such a unique community. She is the parent of two beautiful children, an avid runner, reader, lover of National Parks, and likes to explore food halls in any city she finds herself in.

Valerie moved to Austin from Boston, Massachusetts three years ago. She graduated from Emmanuel College with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in Elementary Education and became a licensed educator in grades 1-6. She has taught first grade for six years and has taught third grade for four years, and this will be her 11th year teaching elementary students. During her free time, she loves to travel, go to parks with her dog Russell, and spend time with my family and friends.

Howdy! I am from Dallas, Texas, and moved to Austin last year. I graduated from Texas A&M University with a BS in Sport Marketing and Management and a minor in Business Administration. You could say teaching is my "calling" and is my passion. My mother taught gifted children for 10 years and my younger sister was a gifted student when she was in grade school and they have inspired me to teach this special group of kiddos. ACE has been my home since last year and I am so excited to start my first year of teaching here! In my free time, I am an avid "Yogi" and food enthusiast.

Tasca Shadix holds an MFA from the Michener Center for Writers. A former screenwriter with a passion for language and communication, she decided to pursue her teacher certification after realizing that all of her eclectic "extracurricular" work and life experiences – martial arts instructor, French language assistant, PTA president and stay-at-home "mum" for 10 years in Edinburgh, Scotland – added up a great love of teaching children. She is the mother of two gifted daughters who inspired her to pursue a career in gifted education at ACE, where she has learned so much, grown so much, and has even become (gasp!) a math person!

Ches was born and raised in Houston, Texas (Go Astros) until moving to Austin in the summer of 2014 to attend the University of Texas. He has had multiple years of experience as a TA and tutor in various summer camps and schools. When it comes to hobbies and interests, Ches enjoys video games, baseball, science fiction novels, animals (especially monkeys) and music. He plays multiple instruments (not super well) and is a participant in the wonderful music and arts scene Austin has to offer.

Upper School

Mr. Rahmeier hails from the glorious east coast and specifically from the First State itself - Delaware. He began his teaching career in ESL (English as a Second Language) in Nashville, TN shortly after completing his undergraduate degree in history from Vanderbilt University. Having been bitten by the teaching bug, he proceeded to Atlanta, GA where he taught high school history for many years and became involved with the educational programs run by Atlanta's Breman Jewish Heritage Museum (through which he was awarded his Lerner Fellowship). During his career in Atlanta, Dubai UAE, and Austin, Mr. Rahmeier has taught courses in history, geography, economics, and mythology, always keeping the emphasis and responsibility on the students. A former cross-country and track coach, Mr. Rahmeier is an avid runner and swimmer and can found in various places around the city either pounding out the miles or adding up the laps. He also serves as a regional and state judge for the annual National History Day competitions in Central Texas.

Tara Barron was born and raised in the Bay Area of Northern California. After the birth of her first daughter, she enrolled in college with the intent to become an English teacher, however it was during her time in academia that she fell in love with women’s history and changed her academic path. After receiving her BA in History, along with a minor in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies at UC Davis, she went on to earn a Social Science Credential and Education MA at the UCD School of Ed. In the summer of 2020, Tara and her family moved to Cedar Park, Texas, and soon after they welcomed her youngest daughter to the world! Tara has worked with students of all ages from diverse backgrounds, and is proud to be a returning member of the ACE Academy community.

Sowmya Srinivasan is excited to join the ACE community this year. She has been a high school math teacher in Philadelphia, PA for the last three years and loves working with students. Outside of school, Sowmya enjoys reading, music, and spending time outdoors with her family.

Annette Harris is from St. Louis, MO. She has a lifetime teaching certification in science and english language arts and a love for all areas in the science arena. In her last year of undergraduate studies, Annette worked on a team to create a biological pesticide for local farmers in Nashville, TN. She spent her first year out of college, working as a botanist for the Shawnee National forest in Carbondale, IL. From there she worked as a chemist in a chemical manufacturing lab and formulated strips cleaners for Boeing 737 planes. She explored more opportunities in forestry as she coordinated the efforts in the Quality Control Lab and Environmental departments at a sand mine in Pevely, MO. Although, Annette loved working in the corporate world her passion surfaced when came she obtained a MA in teaching and went back to her alumna mater to spread her love of science to middle school children. Annette then recieved an Advanced Science certificate from Washington University in St Louis that focused on science curriculum and instruction. She is excited to take on the role of STEM instructor this year at ACE. In her free time, you will find her singing, baking, reading, writing books, spending time with her teenage son, or working out in her yard planting flowers and gardening.

Mr. Hawthorn comes to ACE from Magellan International School.
Over the last two years, he developed Professional Development(PD) and
Design Thinking classes with Patrick Benfeld. His classes are cross-curricular
and blend the five domains of coding, 3-D design, hardware,rapid prototyping,
and intellectual property. His students gain familiarity with a wide variety of
tools within each of the five domains in order to become technology
generalists. Mr. Hawthorn has also served on the National Teacher Advisory
Council for Autodesk and was selected as one of the first ten Dremel Idea
Builder Ambassadors.

Before moving to Magellan School Mr. Hawthorn built the mechatronics
program at St. Raymond School in Menlo Park, California, which functioned as a
professional development hub for the San Francisco Archdiocese and other
local and international schools. He also ran professional development
workshops for the Tech Museum in San Jose and the Krause Center for
Innovation and has been a presenter at the Minolta Planetarium.
Prior to teaching Ken worked on a wide range of original prototypes from a land
speed record-setting electric motorcycle to LSPR machines. He was awarded
the U.S. Patent for a Fixed Pitch Continuously Variable Transmission. Mr.
Hawthorn was selected as the first Salzburg Scholar from the Connie L. Lurie
College of Education at San Jose State University. Mr. Hawthorn founded an
after-school introductory engineering program that served at-risk students in
17 school districts in the San Jose area for over a decade.

Jackie Hinson was born in San Antonio and raised in a little town in the Hill Country. After graduating from the University of Texas with a BA in English and a Latin minor, she became a Java programmer, as one does with an English degree. Since then she has taught high school English, theater, and computer science, become a foster parent, had several novels published, and freelanced as a line and copy editor (not all at the same time). During the pandemic, she joined ACE as the creative writing instructor and is thrilled to now teach upper school literacy, where she can share her enthusiasm for the power of language with ACE’s amazing students.

Foreign Language

Susana Lobo is a passionate teacher who enjoys impacting the development of children by exposing them to a Spanish language in their native language. Susana began her career in education six years ago, came to Austin from her home country in Spain, since there is not a single day that surprises with the potential of the "brain sponges" of young children, "a hundred times more rewarding than a balance spreadsheet".

After spending more than a decade in finance in IT services, Susana understands what is the right balance between teaching language skills and self-esteem. "It does not make sense to create perfect students if they do not believe firmly in themselves."

Susana has a degree in Economics from the Complutense University of Madrid and the European University of Madrid.

Julia Bao graduated from Shanghai University. She received her B.S. degree and certificate in International Business. She has been a Mandarin teacher at a Montessori School and Canyon Creek Elementary after school club in RRISD. She is a wife and mom to 2 wonderful boys, 18 and 14, and has a cute dog, Scooter. who is 4 years old. Julia likes Chinese food, Korean food, Sushi and sweet potatoes. She enjoys listening to violin and cello music, traveling, reading, and hanging out with fun people. Most importantly, she loves teaching kids!

Fine Arts and Electives

Bethany Rhoades graduated from University of California, Irvine with a BA in Drama. During her time in Los Angeles she spent three years at Second City Hollywood, which culminated with acceptance into their Conservatory. Ms. Rhoades sharpened her stagecraft with mentors like W. Morgan Sheppard of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Kerrie Keane, becoming a member of the Actor's Gymnasium and White Buffalo Theater Company. She studied with many voice over coaches, which lead to professional representation and a body of work. She earned professional writing and producing credits for film, including an adaption of best selling author Tad William's novel, "Tailchaser's Song." She brings enthusiasm for performance and creativity to her role as teacher!

Carole Dostie is a French native speaker with a B.A. in French from University Laval, Quebec and an M.A. in Spanish Literature from Laval University/Cordoba University, Argentina. Her 26 years of experience teaching languages and literature has spanned public, private and international schools where she has guided students with differing abilities and expectations.
She worked as a literature teacher, language specialist, curriculum builder and dedicated her last 11 years to working passionately with younger children. Her natural ability to communicate, strong organizational skills, contagious enthusiasm and flexibility at adapting to children and parent’s needs are all skills that she is honored to share with ACE Academy. She is very passionate about teaching, literature, poetry, music, cooking and dance.

Originally from the East Coast, Dana moved with her two sons and husband to Austin in 2011. She is thrilled to join the staff at ACE Academy, a school she has admired for years. Dana is excited to empower her students through her love of music and guide them in discovering the voice within them. Dana has extensive backgrounds in both education and voice. She holds a Masters in Special Education from Florida State University and has been teaching diverse populations since 2002. Some of her positions included teaching Language Arts and Theatre at Eubie Blake High School in Maryland, Assistant Principal at Jupiter Academy (K-8) in South Florida, and teaching early childhood music to children and families in Florida with her business All Together Now Music and again in Austin with Heartsong Music. She currently runs a private voice studio teaching children and adults, is a teaching artist for Austin Opera, and co-leads a childrens choir at St.David’s Episcopal Church. Dana is also a professional singer in Austin and sings with several ensembles including One Ounce Opera, Bereket (The Middle Eastern ensemble of UT) and with her band, Zahara.

Lina was born and raised in Kaunas, Lithuania. She was recruited to Washington State University in 2005, completed Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Movement Studies. Lina competed at four Pac-10 championships, WSU top 10 athlete, All American Top 50 athlete and a record holder. Lina has over 16 years of competitive swimming experience and over 12 years of Strength training and Conditioning. She has been an assistant swim coach at WSU, Texas State University triathlon coach, Swim Coach and PT at Barton Creek Country Club, Head Swim coach for St. Michael's Academy.

Lina holds Fitness Specialist and Personal trainer certificates since 2005 and has a Master’s degree in Sports and Exercise Science and PE, Texas State University. Lina believes that “Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental states.”

Consultants, Specialists & Collaborators

Adia Dawn has 15 years of combined experience working with educators, children, and families in her hometown of Austin. She has spent the last 5 years working closely with school-based special education and personalized learning teams to provide strength-based interventions to help all learners meet their highest potential. Adia has received extensive training around supporting the social-emotional needs of gifted and twice exceptional learners. She believes in helping learners explore their personal strengths, understand their emotions, and develop coping skills to successfully navigate life's stressors. In her free time Adia loves hiking and being outdoors, cooking, and anything creative or artsy. She is excited to join the ACE community where she can continue to support unique learners and their families.

Monica Clark is a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) and provides dyslexia intervention services. She received her degree at the University of Texas at Austin as a Bachelor of Science in Education. She has worked as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, and as a reading specialist. Since her retirement from Austin ISD, she has been providing therapy to students with dyslexia. Monica is passionate about helping every child see themselves as capable, life-long readers. She has lived in Austin with her husband for over 30 years.

Patrick Benfield is the Co-Founder of co.lab // Community Makers, a non-profit fabrication lab and creative studio for innovators, artists, and designers from underrepresented communities. He is also the founding director of two independent school K - 8 makerspaces in the Austin area, the Lead Maker Mentor for The University of Texas at Austin UTeach fellowship, and a Thinkery EdExchange Senior Fellow. Patrick frequently presents on Making in education around the country at Stanford, MIT, and SXSW. In those rare times when he's not making and tinkering, Patrick plays music professionally around town with a group called McLemore Avenue and is also a Dungeons and Dragons (forever) DM.

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