We are a team of former private and public school teachers and speech-language pathologists who saw the need for highly personalized academic intervention across grade levels and subjects. Each of our clients is unique and talented in his or her own way, and we believe it’s critical to begin each session by listening and connecting.
We know that our clients achieve the most success when given small, manageable chunks of new learning, where lessons build, and get more challenging slowly over time. Rather than subscribe to a single program, we pull from a variety of interventions in order to meet individual student needs. Some of these programs include: Scientific Spelling, Read Naturally, Handwriting Without Tears, Great Leaps, Academic Language Therapy, Foundations, Reading Readiness, and the Social Thinking Curriculum.
LAUREN BAJWA M.ED.
Lauren is founder and owner of Boutique Educational Services. After getting her masters degree in special education from The University of Texas at Austin, Lauren taught Special Education in AISD, where she helped coordinate the work of teachers, paraprofessionals, and related personnel in order to meet the individual needs of Special Education students. During that time she designed and implemented Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and attended Academic Language Therapy training, a systematic dyslexia remediation program. In addition to teaching, Lauren has experience consulting with program directors in private and independent schools, helping them develop best practice methods when identifying and accommodating students.
Currently, Lauren specializes in helping families prioritize next steps when their child is struggling emotionally, academically, or behaviorally. Lauren's practice focuses on school avoidant children, particularly those struggling with debilitating anxiety and other related mental health challenges. Lauren is humbled by her own three vivacious daughters, and has a deep appreciation for the parenting experience. Lauren loves reading aloud to her girls, walking her dog, and cooking with her husband. She serves on the board at All Saints' Episcopal Day School and Generation SERVE and is a Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator. Lauren also represents children's best interests in family law cases as a Guardian Ad Litem in Travis County.
CARY FYFE M.S.ED. , Director of Homeschool and Instructional Support
Cary earned her M.S.Ed. from UCLA in Bilingual Early Childhood and Elementary Education, but she maintains that the richest part of her learning sprang from the unique educational experiences of her two sons, as each navigated his way through public, private and home school environments. The learning continues as each son enters young adulthood, and her work with children now is highly inspired by a combination of her teacher training, her ten years of teaching in Early Childhood, and the educational journey of each of her sons. She is passionate about supporting and nurturing the unique abilities of each student that she encounters, and she delights in the gems of wisdom that each child brings her way.
RACHEL TARSHIS, Director of Academic Coaching
Rachel began her career in graphic design working at various creative firms in New York City. Education has always been a passion for her, having taught art to children and teenagers while in high school and during college. With that passion in mind, she began working at The Children’s School and received her Montessori training from North American Montessori Center in 2015. She fell in love with the Montessori method, and quickly recognized that she had found her calling as an educator. One of the most important aspects she believes is that students are inherently independent thinkers who feel fulfillment when they take ownership of their learning. She focuses on the individual person, encouraging their unique academic, emotional and creative growth. Rachel takes great pride and joy in helping teens and young adults with time management and development of executive functioning skills so that they can become confident, independent self advocates. She provides organization strategies, study skills, specific course help and tools to reduce stress and anxiety. Rachel communicates with her student’s teachers and advisors to make sure goals and expectations are regularly met. She has experience working with students who face challenges such as ADD/ADHD and those prone to anxiety and depression. Rachel is also formerly the lead teacher for the Torah Tots program at Temple Beth Shalom, a class that meets one Sunday a month dedicated to introducing children to Jewish learning.
Steve Hamman, Director of Parent Support Services
Steve’s passion is working with families of students to ensure an appropriate and meaningful education for their children. He is known for his collaborative spirit in working with families, principals, campus staff and community agencies and has over forty years of experience in the field of Special Education. He received his B.S. in Special Education from Texas State University, then taught in Austin ISD for twelve years, where he served students with various, significant challenges. Steve then earned both his Master’s degree in Special Education, and post-graduate certification in Mid-Management and Educational Leadership from the University of Texas.
Steve served as Assistant Principal and Principal of Rosedale School in Austin ISD. In that role, he helped develop the Family Support Cooperative, a collaborative designed to inform and support families of students with special needs. Later, as Assistant Director of Special Education for AISD, he led Special Education mediations, advocating that students with disabilities experience inclusion in meaningful educational and social environments. He also served as a member of the Children’s Partnership in Travis County, supporting parents and families of children with mental health challenges in securing quality intervention. After retiring from AISD, Steve became a Special Education Program Specialist and Consultant at Texas Education Agency. For ten years, he helped districts create more inclusive settings for students with disabilities, and hence improve student outcomes.
Steve’s wife Kathie is a Licensed Professional Counselor, and they have three adult children and four beautiful grandchildren. Gracie, their youngest grandchild was born prematurely in October of 2015, and was in neo-natal care for eight months. Though she has developmental delays, she is making tremendous progress. This personal life experience has strengthened Steve’s desire to once again work directly with children and families.
TRACI GROSSFELD, Calt, DIRECTOR OF learning SPECIALISTS
Traci Grossfeld brings the unique combination of 15 years in the business and volunteer communities to her teaching career. She is a Dyslexia Therapist with training in *Basic Language Skills, and teaching certifications in EC-6 and ESL. Her teaching experience includes four years at Rawson Saunders School where she wrote the grade level Language Arts and Social Studies curricula, and led the Lower School Social Studies Department. Her area of expertise is differentiation for reading, writing, spelling; and executive function and study skills. She has a breadth of knowledge to help students struggling with phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency, comprehension and written expressions. As the mother of two unique and growing teenagers, she has witnessed the different ways we humans engage the world around us. She understands that there is a range for how it will occur, and what milestones help us along the journey; but also appreciates the fact that while paving the paths, some of us will skip and some will dance, others may gently stroll while a few may even find a movement we have yet to imagine. She enjoys discovering what her students’ interests are so that learning can be fun and meaningful. She believes the goal of learning should be to equip students with tools and strategies that enable each of them to be successful, and to inspire curiosity.
ALISSA PINES DEITZ, ALT, learning Specialist
Alissa entered into the field of education when she moved to Austin in 2009. She pursued her teaching degree after having children of her own, because she loved working with children and had a strong desire to positively impact at-risk children and their families. Her goal is to one day tutor both English and Spanish-speaking children impacted by dyslexia in their native language.
Alissa, a certified teacher in Texas, taught in a Dual Language First Grade classroom at Sanchez
Elementary. As she provided reading and writing support, she discovered her love of helping students
who struggle specifically in these areas. She decided to pursue training in Academic Language Therapy (ALT) at The Rawson Saunders Institute, while also working as a substitute teacher at the school. Her experience at Rawson Saunders provided her the opportunity to work with dyslexic students in the classroom setting as well as in individual and small groups.
Prior to teaching, Alissa worked in local government in both New York City and San Francisco, and holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the New School in New York City. She lives in South Austin with her husband and two sons. Alissa is fluent in Spanish.
Rachel Alter, alt, learning Specialist
From an early age Rachel engaged in teaching and mentoring opportunities volunteering as a teenager, college student and later as an adult in literacy, youth programming and ESL roles. Rachel received her B.A. in Art History from Brown University and her J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She started her professional life as a corporate attorney in Manhattan and then later worked in Texas for the Texas Legislature. She took a little more than a decade outside the
traditional work world to raise her three children, two of whom are dyslexic. As a result of supporting and advocating for her own children, Rachel began studying how to help dyslexic children learn to read and write, and fell in love with the Basic Language Skills program. She studied at the Rawson Saunders Institute in Austin and began first working with her own children, before taking on the role as a reading interventionist with other families. She welcomes the uniqueness of each child and takes great pleasure in helping children to unlock the English language. She loves the looks of pride and success that children express as their confidence grows and their language skills solidify.
MARILYN CHRISTIAN, learning SPECIALIST
Marilyn earned an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Masters in Special Education from Vanderbilt University. She taught in AISD at Casis Elementary, both in Special Education and First Grade. She has a deep love for teaching reading, especially to struggling readers. Marilyn has worked with students who experienced a variety of learning challenges, and in every teaching experience, she provided an effective learning environment for each student by focusing on instruction that fit each child’s individual needs. Marilyn ensured that her students were surrounded by a team of educators who supported success and encouraged a love of learning, and has spent many hours coordinating with Speech, OT and PT teachers; technology specialists and emotional support professionals. Marilyn is now delighted with the opportunity to work with students one-on-one, where she is able to provide individualized instruction to meet the needs of struggling students and ensure that they feel engaged and successful. She finds that her students are able to make great progress academically, socially and emotionally when the instruction is focused and streamlined. Marilyn loves the bonds and relationships she can form with her students in this setting, and finds that creating a plan and setting goals with her students, their families and the schools is a win-win situation.
jennifer watson, CALT, learning specialist
Jennifer's passion is building relationships with students in order to provide positive associations with reading. She believes that all children have unique gifts, and that celebrating those gifts while learning to read is pure joy. She is grateful every day for the opportunity to do something she loves. After growing up in the Austin area, Jennifer earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of California San Diego.
She taught English for three years in Japan, and later homeschooled her children for nine years. During that time, she learned as much as her students, if not more! Raising two children, now ages 21 and 18, has been the most rewarding, humbling, and brain-frying part of her life. Wanting to expand her deep love and fascination for teaching reading, Jennifer pursued Academic Language Therapy training at Rawson Saunders Institute in 2007. She has worked as an Academic Language Therapist (ALT) for eleven years, and is a Certified Academic Language Therapist (CALT) and Certified Dyslexia Therapist (CDT). For six years, Jennifer was as an ALT for children in grades 1 through 8 at Rawson Saunders School in Austin, where she collaborated extensively with teachers, parents, and administrators to provide the most valuable education possible for her students.
Abbye Buchanan, learning Specialist
Abbye Buchanan was born and raised in Austin, and from an early age, she knew that teaching was her calling. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in English at Texas State University in 2006, then returned to Texas State in 2008, to earn a Master of Education degree in Elementary Education. Her teaching certification includes Early Childhood - Fourth, English as a Second Language and Gifted and Talented specializations.
Because of her years of teaching experience, Abbye has a strong background in working with dyslexic students, students with dysgraphia, and special education students. Abbye taught the Inclusion class in public school, as well as second and fourth grade, and first through fourth grade at a specialized school for dyslexic students, in Austin. At each campus, Abbye planned and wrote the grade level curriculum for Reading,Writing, Math, Science, and Social Studies.
Abbye is highly trained in Singapore Math. Her areas of expertise include guiding students through a deep understanding of math concepts by providing a powerful, hands-on, and visual approach. Her math instruction progresses from concrete to pictorial to abstract concepts, and her intervention develops a strong number sense, place value understanding, and foundational problem solving skills.
Currently, Abbye is an Academic Language Therapist-in-Training at Rawson Saunders Institute. Through both this training and her experience in public schools and the specialized dyslexic school, she has developed an extensive knowledge of teaching phonemic awareness, fluency, decoding, spelling, handwriting, and writing. She has collaborated with many teachers, parents, and administrators to help advocate for individual children, and because she specializes in helping children with many different learning styles, she loves using innovative ways to both challenge students and highlight their strengths. Abbye and her husband are the parents of two young boys, who are the lights of their lives.
Samantha Bloom Friedman, learning specialist
Samantha is a passionate, certified Pre-K - 12 Special Education teacher. After completing her MAT in Chicago, Samantha taught in high-need communities and schools. Her students continue to inspire her every day. She has taught in both General and Special Education settings, as well as has been Lead Case Manager in developing and implementing Individualized Education Plans. Samantha has worked with students with a wide range of behavioral/learning needs and styles. She excels at building relationships and creating a classroom community of caring, engaged, and globally-conscious citizens.
Samantha has rich experience in managing and coaching teachers in the work of transforming the lives of students, and in striving for educational equity among student populations. She has also worked with Austin's Mental Health authority, Integral Care, and in the Diversity & Inclusion space across Austin's many technology companies.
Samantha loves working with students to build their confidence, and she enjoys finding ways to make material fun and meaningful for each individual child. Having experienced the challenge of her own learning disability growing up, Samantha possesses an innate ability to connect with struggling learners. She delights in leading students towards growth in confidence and intrinsic motivation, and towards setting and following through with personal and academic goals. She strives to instill a love of learning for a lifetime!
In her free time, Samantha works with Generation Serve, leading volunteer activities for families; and she works as a postpartum doula for families and babies. Her hobbies include training her (very energetic) puppy, hanging out at the library, hiking on the Greenbelt, visiting her family, and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen.
Kelly Cruise, learning specialist
Kelly earned her undergraduate degree in Special Education from the University of Texas in Austin. After teaching in AISD at both Doss and Casis Elementary schools, she moved to China and taught at an International School. Teaching first graders - with thirteen different languages in one classroom - was fascinating, and she wanted to learn as much as possible about the art of teaching reading. This curiosity led her to return to UT Austin to pursue her graduate degree in Language and Literacy Studies. Her passion for teaching children to read, especially those who struggle, led her to become the Reading Interventionist at KIPP Austin, where she worked with small groups of students on phonemic awareness, decoding, fluency and comprehension. After meeting her husband and starting a family, she moved to Houston where she worked for three years as the Reading and Dyslexia Specialist at the School at St. George Place. This opportunity allowed her to continue working with small groups of Kindergarten-5th grade students who struggled in reading, as well as to coach classroom teachers on English as a Second Language (ESL) methods and literacy instruction. Kelly loves embracing the unique strengths and interests of each student, in order to encourage collaboration with school and family, on a plan that allows for healthy challenge and goal attainment.
Caddie Wright, math learning specialist
Caddie graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Sciences. She went on to teach in public school before realizing that she desired another outlook to the traditional approach to teaching. She completed training to become an AMS Montessori Certified Instructor at the Primary Level.
Caddie proceeded to teach in both Montessori and public school settings for several years, combining her education to create a hands on, whole-hearted approach to teaching students. She believes that meeting all of a child’s needs - socially, emotionally, and physically, as well as academically - is a key to addressing the underlying frustration a child has to learning. In the classroom, Caddie has enjoyed and thrived on the process of integrating project-based learning, STEM, Makers Space, cooperative learning, and the use of manipulatives into her instruction.
Caddie has had the opportunity to help students with issues such as ADD/ADHD, autism, dyslexia, sensory integration and emotional struggles work towards and achieve their goals, by creating the optimal learning environment for each child. Creating this environment involves working hand-in-hand with the student, the student’s family, Speech, OT, PT and Special Education teachers. Caddie’s passion is to help every single child love learning. She has found that by creating individualized and exciting lessons, every child can meet the desired goals.
For the past two years, Caddie has had the opportunity to privately tutor individuals, and loves the ability to spend one-on-one time on a lesson that is exactly what that child needs! She finds it extremely rewarding to watch students completely fill in gaps that have kept them from being academically successful. Student success is what drives Caddie and is why she is drawn to Boutique Educational Services. Caddie’s mission is to empower students with the ability to experience life-long enjoyment in learning.
Melanie Kowalik, Early Childhood Teacher
Melanie is in her seventh year of teaching early childhood students. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin and went on to receive her teaching certification in Early Childhood through 6th grade. She has training and years of experience working with children with Selective Mutism, Sensory Processing Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and ADD as well as familiarity with Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). Because of the unique needs of her students throughout the years, her teaching includes flexibility, differentiated instruction, and one-to-one guidance. In her multi-sensory approach to teaching, she strives to reach the “head, heart, and hands” of every child because she has a deep understanding that children learn best when their whole self is involved in the process. She is very interested in interpersonal Neurobiology which is the notion that the brain grows, develops, and is influenced by personal relationships, particularly between children and adults. Because of this, she believes that the relationship between a teacher and her student should be strong, loving and nurturing in order for the child to thrive, blossom and learn effectively. Because of her own background in English, Language and Literature, Melanie is passionate about not only teaching children phonics and phonemic awareness, but helping them develop a strong, solid understanding and love for language arts, story-telling and the written word. Her aim is always to incite a passion and love for learning in her students that will hopefully last a lifetime.
meredith brookner-ansel, m.a., ccc-slp
Meredith is originally from New York City and graduated with a B.A. from the State University of New York at Binghamton. She received her M.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from The University of Texas at Austin and has worked for the schools and private practices in Austin since 1998. Meredith is P.R.O.M.P.T. Certified and has received training in the Hanen Parent Training Programs, Michelle Garcia-Winner's Social Thinking Curriculum, and Interactive Metronome. Meredith has presented social skills training to schools and parent groups in town. She enjoys working with children with motor speech disorders, apraxia, children who stutter, processing disorders, language difficulties, and pragmatic difficulties. When not working, Meredith enjoys spending her time with her husband (a.k.a. The Soup Peddler) and daughter, as well as hiking, biking, reading, crocheting, dancing and cooking.
Jessica Miller, M.A. CCC-SLP
Jessica grew up in Miami, Florida and graduated with a B.S. from the University of Texas at Austin. She received her M.A. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Texas at Austin and has worked in a variety of settings in Austin, including the public school, outpatient clinic, daycares, and home (early childhood intervention and Home Health). She is a certified yoga instructor and has taught both adult and kid yoga in a variety of settings in Austin. She has extensive experience using sign language with both the hearing and hearing-impaired populations. She has received training in Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking Curriculum. Jessica has presented preschool and school age language eligibility training for teachers in private and public schools. She enjoys working with children who stutter, children with hearing impairments, expressive and receptive language disorders and children with social pragmatic difficulties. When not working, Jessica enjoys spending time with her husband and 3 children (ages 1, 3, and 6), as well as dancing, going to the movies and farmers markets around town, playing tennis, and doing yoga.
CARSON LEE, ACADEMIC COACH
Carson has nearly eight years of experience working one-on-one with students of all ages. His expertise is enhancing the executive functioning skills of students, as he mentors them in the areas of time management, study habits and organization. While he began his work in leadership roles in several youth ministries, he recently realized his true passion, which is to coach students on a more multi-faceted level. Through his work supporting students academically, emotionally and individually, he utilizes his ministerial background, and his degree in Pastoral Studies from Moody Bible Institute. Because of his rich background,Carson’s key strength is bringing a personal, fun, and open learning time to students. His first experience with mentorship and tutoring was with students in inner city Chicago. This work ignited Carson's innate interest in collaborating with students with special needs, and eventually led him to KIPP Austin Collegiate. In his role as a Special Education paraprofessional at KAC, Carson worked with students with ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Social-Emotional issues. His main goal is to lead students to experience consistent internal and external a-ha moments, as they discover that they are a driving force of creativity, knowledge, and innovation.
Jana Harker, Academic Coach
Jana's passion for education ignited as she guided each of her three unique children through their own school experiences, and she returned to school to earn her Masters Degree in Education, specializing in Instruction and Curriculum. She then taught both Health and Media Literacy classes at Challenge Early College High School in Houston. As she served as mentor and advisor to her students (many who were first generation college students), she witnessed the importance of helping students develop essential, life-affirming skills such as organization, goal setting, time management and stress management. Since moving to Austin, she has worked as a volunteer for several youth-oriented nonprofits, and she is excited to bring her passion for working with youth to Boutique Educational Services. As the parent of three grown children and a veteran of teaching in public schools, she brings a unique perspective to her work of helping students and families navigate their own individual educational paths. Jana excels at providing intentional and personalized support for each of her students.
Laura Byington, academic coach
Laura attended college at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. There, she earned a B.S. in Environmental Science, concentrating in Conservation Biology, and a minor in Global Climate Change. She completed extensive field research in New Zealand, as well as locally in Michigan. She has been working to spread her passion for STEAM subjects to children ever since, and has worked as an educator in many different settings. She taught at the Storer Outdoor School in Jackson, directed Science Day Camps in Ann Arbor, and taught science enrichment in Eanes ISD in Austin before earning her teaching certification. Laura began working as a teacher in the KIPP Austin School District in 2014, and taught 5th grade science at KIPP Austin College Prep Middle School. Laura is certified in Generalist 4-8 and English as a Second Language. Her experiences as a traditional classroom teacher as well as a hands-on educator have shown her that every child learns differently and that there is no “one method fits all” approach to education. She works with parents and students to implement strategies for success into their learning styles. She knows that organization and executive functioning are areas of struggle for many students, and that help in mastering these skills are key to a successful, low-stress school year. She enjoys working one-on-one with students and families to support in developing and maintaining strong life habits as well as focusing in on content area instruction.
Rachel Holiman, Academic coach
Rachel attended the Honors College at West Chester University of Pennsylvania where she earned a B.S. in Secondary English Education with a concentration in Writing. She is also certified in Secondary English and Math, with a focused certification in Singapore Math: Number Sense and Computational Strategies through Texas State University.
Rachel has had a passion for teaching since her youth, when she was involved in peer tutoring math, junior coaching recreational cheerleading, and teaching fifth-graders French. During her college years, Rachel became an Advanced-level, College Reading and Learning-certified tutor working with developmental college freshmen in public speaking, writing, and math. Although the focus of this job was academic, she was drawn to mentoring these students as she also provided executive functioning and emotional support. This experience sparked her love of working with students with various disabilities including ADD/ADHD, Dyslexia, and various subject-specific disabilities.
While student teaching in a seventh-grade classroom, in a low-income area of Pennsylvania, Rachel was energized as she had the opportunity to plan engaging, culturally relevant and personalized lessons for her students. After graduation, she worked as a 9th and 11th-grade Language Arts Teacher at Collegium Charter School in Exton, PA, and thrived as she went “all-in” for students. She could be found during preparation periods, lunch, and after school working with students to close gaps and push higher-level students further. During her two years there, she took on the responsibilities as the Theatre Department’s Production Manager, Creative Writing Club Founding Advisor and the 9th and 10th grade Field Trip Coordinator.
These roles instilled the valuable lesson that the learning experience extends beyond the school building, which is what attracted her to Lauren’s mission at BES. Rachel is excited to continue working to help students build positive, lifelong learning habits that fuel their individual dreams and goals. Her specialties as an Academic Coach include Mathematics grades 3 through 11, English/Language Arts, and executive functioning support. She also serves as the Assistive Technology Specialist on the BES Team, conducting assessments, guiding students through AT, and generating assessment reports for private and Montessori Schools.
Trevor Brown, Academic Coach
Trevor graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio, with a B.A. in Communications Studies and Public Relations. He later completed the Alternative Certification of Texas-Austin program, with a specific focus on reading, instructional strategies and foundations for effective teaching.
During high school, Trevor participated in the Capstone Project, where he helped children with reading difficulties integrate into the classroom. This unique experience sparked his interest in teaching, so he went on to become a STEM After-School Instructor for J.J. Pickle Elementary in Austin. After receiving his certification, he worked as a substitute teacher in AISD, and tutored students in math, science and reading comprehension.
Trevor's classroom teaching experience has been further enriched by his skills in outdoor leadership and education. He served as Director of the Counselor-in-Training Program at Echo Hill Ranch, where he trained adolescents in the development and implementation of leadership skills in an outdoor environment.
Aside but not apart from his work with children and adolescents, Trevor is a guitar and music theory instructor, and he recognizes the value of supporting students through music in their educational journeys. Trevor's strong and varied background in teaching, outdoor skills and music, coupled with his passion for supporting students in the discovery of their authentic gifts, richly colors his work with each individual student.
Stephanie Kjorlien, Academic Coach
Stephanie earned her degree in Psychology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and then began a career in sales and marketing at TOMS Shoes in Los Angeles. While on a TOMS “giving trip” in El Salvador, Stephanie visited schools that suffered from an extreme lack of resources. She was overwhelmed by these visits, and touched by the relationships that she made with the students.
When she returned to the States, she realized she craved a career where she could make a difference in lives on a daily basis, so she went back to school while in L.A., to earn her teaching credential. She taught 12th grade Psychology at a project-based learning school in L.A., then moved to Austin, where she taught a variety of subjects in Del Valle and Eanes ISD, including Language Arts, World Geography and Study Skills. In her teaching roles, Stephanie has worked with Limited English Proficient students as well as students who struggle with issues related to ADHD, dyslexia/dysgraphia, anxiety and depression. She specializes in reading and writing, organizational skills and strategies to reduce stress.
Stephanie enjoys incorporating social-emotional learning into content curriculum, and is gifted in creating strong relationships with her students as she helps them discover the skills necessary to achieve both academic and personal goals. Stephanie’s mission as an educator is to inspire student growth in knowledge, creativity, and engagement in life.
Linda Gomez, academic Coach
Linda graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a BA in International Relations and Global Studies, focusing in European Studies and French Language. She is a dual citizen of the U.S. and her native country, Spain, where she spends every summer. Her international upbringing has provided her with fluency in both English and Spanish, and also a genuine interest in learning about the different cultures and languages of various countries. Her fascination with diversity has allowed her to view education from multiple lenses, and she adamantly believes there is no right or wrong way to learn material, as long as her students grasp the content in a way that is relatable to them.
Linda is no stranger to school avoidant students, and has learned first-hand how to manage those delicate situations via regular communication between parents and staff, in order to help these students in the best way possible. Her other focus in academic coaching pertains to students who struggle with dysgraphia. Her passion for working with this particular struggle comes from her love of writing, and she hopes to make the creative process of writing link up with the mechanical process so that these students can see writing as an expressive outlet, as opposed to a mandatory task.
In addition to her subject matter knowledge, Linda prides herself in being able to help students face their academic workloads using key executive functioning tools, such as time and stress management. Linda has a heart for students who are challenged with how to integrate the conflicts of daily life with management of their school responsibilities. She is gifted in gently leading individual students towards realizing and implementing their personal strengths into their schoolwork and other areas of their life.
Carolyn Simon, Academic Coach
Carolyn Simon earned her B.A. in Spanish from Brown University and her M.A. in Spanish from Middlebury College in Spain. As an undergraduate, she enjoyed tutoring students in a nearby middle school and teaching ESL to immigrants from the Dominican Republic. She began her teaching career as a middle school Spanish teacher and dorm parent at an all-girls’ boarding school in Owings Mills, Maryland. After living in Spain for a year to earn her master’s degree in Spanish, she returned to teaching in Philadelphia, and most recently taught middle school Spanish at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School here in Austin. Throughout all of her years of teaching, she found that she most enjoyed the one-on-one time she could work with students who struggled in the larger group. She has tutored students individually on organization, writing support, and Spanish. After having a son diagnosed with dyslexia and dysgraphia, she became more aware of learning differences, and of the importance of meeting the needs of all students in the classroom.
DANA AUGUST, academic COACH
Dana graduated from Fairfield University with a BS in Biology, and concentrations in Mathematics and Environmental Studies. She began her career working as an educator in an aquarium setting, as well as a crew member aboard a Connecticut-based research vessel. These experiences combined her loves of protecting the environment and learning about ocean ecosystems, and exposed her to the world of teaching. She immediately fell in love with the excitement that is derived from knowledge and discovery, as well as the added adventure of teaching at sea. She then found herself in the Caribbean working as a SCUBA instructor, where she continued to develop her teaching skills in a not-so-typical environment. Eventually, her love of both learning and teaching lead her back to the mainland. She immersed herself into the classroom upon her return, to pursue teacher training. She has been a classroom teacher since 2013, teaching middle school science and Singapore math, and working with students who struggle with language-based learning disabilities. She has also worked closely with students as an executive functioning coach, as well as tutoring specific math and science topics. She is in the process of completing her Masters of Professional Studies degree in Science Education and Special Education. Dana's primary experience and passion are centered around students with learning differences, specifically dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and other visual/auditory processing disorders. Dana is excited to engage with new students, to model a variety of problem-solving strategies, and to empower students to own both their learning and progress.
Becca dobberfuhl, accounts manager
Becca holds a Masters Degree in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Austin and has more than 15 years of experience in the areas of affordable housing and community development. Becca started her consulting company, Vacri Development, in 1993 after several years of valuable experience working for others in the affordable housing field. Becca currently consults with both nonprofit and for-profit organizations interested in developing or expanding affordable housing opportunities. Becca has worked for a wide range of clients from small, community-based nonprofits to large, national nonprofits to develop affordable housing and secure financing. In her position as Vice President of Diana McIver & Associates, Inc., a national housing consulting firm based in Austin, Texas, as well as development manager for Foundation Communities, Inc., an Austin-based nonprofit housing organization, she oversaw the development of affordable housing projects, as well as managed the acquisition of financing through a variety of federal, state, and local programs, including Section 202, Section 811, HOME, SECO, Housing Trust Funds, CDBG, Federal Home Loan Bank’s AHP Program, and Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Becca has secured more than $100 million for affordable housing development and served as development manager for more than 30 multifamily projects across the country, but primarily in Texas. Becca was a member of the 2003-04 Leadership Austin class and served on the board of GENAustin (Girls Empowerment Network) from 2002- 2006. She is a mother of two small boys and this job currently takes up most of her time. Becca currently serves on the board of Accessible Housing Austin (AHA!).