Faculty and Staff

AESA 
Faculty and Staff

The faculty and administrators at AESA Prep Academy are creative thinkers who are passionate about their disciplines and dedicated to their students. The small size of our classes allows our teachers to spend as much individual time with each student as they need, and creates an environment where students actively engage in the learning process every day. At AESA Prep Academy, every student participates!

AESA teachers are committed to both academic excellence and social development. Children are enabled to discuss and explore ideas in a safe, nurturing environment that allows them to reach their full potential both as scholars and as young men and women.

Every AESA parent is welcome to communicate directly with the teachers at AESA, and can log into our secure system to track the progress of their child.

AESA  Faculty and Staff

Leadership 
Team

Barbara Garza - AESA Prep Academy CEO & Executive Head of School

Barbara Garza

For 6 years prior to starting up AESA, Barbara was Dean of Students for the 9th and 10th grades at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School. Barbara is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.  She was Student Leadership & Wellness Department Chair overseeing Health, Physical Education, Student Leadership and the ROTC classes for McNeil High School.  Barbara was also a member of McNeil High School’s Leadership Team.

Barbara has over 30 years of educational experience, including extensive experience working with at risk students and has received the Governor of Texas Teaching Excellence Award.  She has been the Varsity Boys and Girls Tennis Coach at Katy Taylor High School, Rockwall High School and Pflugerville High School.Barbara has been an Honors Biology teacher, Health teacher, Supervisor of Student Teachers from the University of Texas, CATCH Curriculum Director for AISD, member of the AISD Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Board, a Student Government sponsor, a dorm parent, and House Leader. She developed a Special Education program entitled “Partners in PE” that was recognized by the City of Round Rock for assisting students with special needs.

Barbara founded the McNeil Spirit Blazers, a community service program with over 350 students each year.In 2014, Barbara was featured  in the Austin Women’s Magazine as the Head of School for AESA Prep Academy and was featured in the April 2015 edition of Austin Family Magazine in an article comparing the homework policies and school philosophy’s of AESA, St. Andrews and St. Stephen’s.

Jose Garcia - Associate Head of School & Head of High School

Jose Garcia

Associate Head of School & Head of High School

History Teacher
HS Student Government Sponsor

Jose graduated with a Bachelor's degree in History at St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas and aims to expand history from what is the status quo in History Education.  Jose earned his Master's in Liberal Arts Degree at St. Edwards University in 2017. Jose’s historical and educational philosophies stem from a deep understanding of the need for differentiated instruction to meet the needs of individual students.

“History is much more than just a blow off course taught by the high school football coach in his off hours. It is what makes us who we are. It defines us as a community, a nation, and as world citizens. It should not be about memorizing dates to fill in a worksheet, it should instead be a living thing that students come to know and understand. History is about understanding the story of our people, and recognizing we are all more connected than we know.”

Rick Garza - Chief Financial Officer

Rick Garza

CFO of AESA Prep Academy

Director of AESA Prep International Online

Rick earned his BBA from the University of Texas at Austin. He has 24 years of experience working in the accounting/finance field at UT where he has been responsible for annual budgets ranging from 5 to 30 million dollars. Rick served as Business Manager for the University of Texas Law School Library for 15 years and this past year left UT as the Senior Financial Analyst for PETEX in the Department of Continuing Education. Rick officially joined AESA Prep Academy in 2014, as the Director of AESA Prep International (API) and continues his duties as the CFO of AESA Prep Academy as he has done since 2009.

Rick is very happy to be working with his wife, Barbara.

Bobbi Bone - Head of the Middle School

Faculty and Staff

Head of Middle School

Chemistry | Physics 

MS Sciences

Bobbi grew up in Michigan and attended the University of Michigan, graduating with a bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering.  She then moved to Texas to work for Motorola (subsequently Freescale) in technical sales and marketing for almost 15 years.  This career took her around the world, training and working with customers and sales.  As her family grew, she gave up this career to raise her children.

Driven by a passion for working with children and teaching, Bobbi opened the Kumon Math and Reading Center in Dripping Springs.

Dripping Springs Elementary requested that Bobbi come and teach math and reading intervention, which she did for five years.  She also was a substitute teacher for all grade levels in DSISD.

Bobbie currently teaches 7th grade Science, 8th grade Science, Advanced Chemistry, and Physics.

Sarah Harbour - Head of Elementary School

Head of Elementary School

Sarah teaches kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade and enjoys working with our youngest learners. She also teaches both high school and middle school Social & Emotional Learning, Health, and Life Skills. Being the life-long learner that Sarah is, she is nearing the end of her studies of earning an Occupational Therapy Degree from St. Catherine University. This degree in conjunction with multiple Mindful School certifications, LYH children/teen yoga certification, and Growth Mindset Training have all led her on a mission of creating and enhancing the social emotional well being of young people. 

Sarah has been on multiple school and organization boards where she pursued to influence others about her mission and the importance of it. Sarah is also the owner of Just Be Yoga, which aims to enhance after school curricula and culture. Just Be Yoga is rooted in functional occupational therapy techniques, with a strong focus on body-brain connections; aimed to help children of all ages achieve a healthy and confident self identity.


Kyle Overby - Director of International Programs

Kyle Overby

Kyle received a Masters in Global Policy Studies from the prestigious LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. Kyle originally joined the team at AESA Prep Academy to teach Spanish language and Latin American culture. At AESA he continues to host the Model UN, organize field trips, and promote cultural exchange. Kyle also serves on the Board of Directors at the Mother Maryam Foundation, where he works on projects that expand access to clean water, healthcare, and education in developing countries.

Kyle has extensive experience and expertise in Latin America, the Middle East, and North Africa. He is fluent in Spanish and has achieved elementary proficiency in Arabic. In his personal life, Kyle is driven by a thirst for international travel. He has been proudly shaped by his hometown, Austin, Texas. He loves to watch live music, eat well, and go on adventures in the great outdoors.

Support 
Administration Team

Carrie Cockayne - Administrative Staff Supervisor & Attendance

Carrie Cockayne

Supervisor

Administrative Staff Bookkeeper

Substitute Teacher

A native Texan and graduate of Southwest Texas University, Carrie has been in the Dripping Springs area for over 25 years. With her degree in Home Economics, Carrie spent most of her career as a wife and wonderful mom, raising 3 (now grown) kids.

It’s her passion for children and education, coupled with her caring personality that make her a great fit for her Jill-of-all-trades role at AESA. From bookkeeping, to planning events and from substitute teaching to picking up breakfast tacos for staff meetings, Carrie ensures the AESA family is in good hands.

Sarah Harbour - Head Fund Raiser & Head Student Store Operator

Faculty and Staff

Head Fund Raiser & Student Store Operator

Sarah teaches kindergarten, 1st grade, 2nd grade and enjoys working with our youngest learners. She also teaches both high school and middle school Social & Emotional Learning, Health, and Life Skills. Being the life-long learner that Sarah is, she is nearing the end of her studies of earning an Occupational Therapy Degree from St. Catherine University. This degree in conjunction with multiple Mindful School certifications, LYH children/teen yoga certification, and Growth Mindset Training have all led her on a mission of creating and enhancing the social emotional well being of young people. 

Sarah has been on multiple school and organization boards where she pursued to influence others about her mission and the importance of it. Sarah is also the owner of Just Be Yoga, which aims to enhance after school curricula and culture. Just Be Yoga is rooted in functional occupational therapy techniques, with a strong focus on body-brain connections; aimed to help children of all ages achieve a healthy and confident self identity.

Jessica Santos - Manager of Digital Design and Online Communications

Faculty and Staff

Manager of Digital Design and Online Communications

Jessica comes to AESA Prep Academy with experience in website management and graphic design. She has expertise and experience from her positions in previous school networks and is excited to share use the knowledge to enhance communications between AESA administrators, teachers, students, and families!

Jessica believes good graphic design is not only appealing visually, but allows the viewer to readily understand the purpose of the communication. She currently acts as one of AESA's graphic designers. Jessica is the proud editor and publisher of the AESA Weekly Newsletter. 

Student
Services Team

Cindy Herring - Director of Academic Support

Cindy Herring

Director of Academic Support

Cindy is thrilled to be part of the AESA faculty and brings with her over 27 years of experience teaching and working with children.  She has a BS in Education with a Reading Endorsement from Texas State University and her Master of Education in Advanced Literacy from Concordia University.  She holds Texas Teaching Certificates in Elementary, Reading, ELAR 4-8, and ESL. She is also a Certified Advanced Reading Specialist and candidate for Certified Structured Literacy Dyslexia Specialist.

Cindy enters her 5th year on the AESA faculty and serves in a full-time role as the Director of Academic Support, providing support and services for students with academic and reading needs. This year she will also be teaching one group of 6th grade English.

She has spent time teaching elementary, middle, high, and even preschool-aged children in both public and private schools.  She has operated her own private tutoring business, conducted numerous teacher training and before she came to AESA was an instructional specialist for Austin ISD. This experience fueled her passion for providing individualized, differentiated instruction, and working with families who were seeking something unique and special for their children.

Cindy has been fortunate to teach, learn and live in several states.  Her husband spent 15 years in the collegiate and professional sports industry, where she was a dedicated “coach’s wife” and mother. As native Texans, her family was thrilled to return to Austin permanently several ago and live in the beautiful hill country, her favorite place on earth! She lives in Southwest Austin with her family and loves to read, explore Austin, and travel.

Audie Acorn - Founder of ATX Tutoring, AESA Tutor Supervisor and Test-Prep Coach

Audie-Alcorn

Audie Acorn Founder of ATX Tutoring & Academic Solutions

AESA Tutor Supervisor

Test-Prep Coach

AESA faculty alumnus Audie Alcorn is now a full-time tutor and test-prep coach, who works one-on-one with students, both during and outside of school hours, as schedules permit. Audie holds an international Montessori teaching diploma, and his ten years of classroom experience include work in both private and public schools, in elementary and middle-school classrooms, and as a full-time math teacher (through Algebra 1), math tutor, and general (all subjects) Montessori guide. Audie has also worked in the publishing industry and as a freelance copy editor, and has ten years of successful college experience (including three degrees and as a PhD student at Rice). Since founding ATX Tutoring & Academic Services in 2017, Audie has been working one-on-one with students, at home and at school, providing a variety of assistance, including: private tutoring, specifically in math or writing; helping students with organization, study skills, and the timely completion of homework; helping students catch up to ‘grade level,’ or helping them get ahead and move above grade level, into advanced classes; and coaching students through the preparation for tests such as the ACT and SAT. Audie can also help with the college search and application processes. For more information, find ATX Tutoring on the web at atxtutoring.com , or reach out to Audie at [email protected] or at (512) 817-4750.

Upper & Middle 
School Faculty

Bobbi Bone - Head of Middle School | Sciences

Faculty and Staff

Head of Middle School

Chemistry | Physics 

MS Sciences

Bobbi grew up in Michigan and attended the University of Michigan, graduating with a bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering.  She then moved to Texas to work for Motorola (subsequently Freescale) in technical sales and marketing for almost 15 years.  This career took her around the world, training and working with customers and sales.  As her family grew, she gave up this career to raise her children.

Driven by a passion for working with children and teaching, Bobbi opened the Kumon Math and Reading Center in Dripping Springs.

Dripping Springs Elementary requested that Bobbi come and teach math and reading intervention, which she did for five years.  She also was a substitute teacher for all grade levels in DSISD.

Bobbie currently teaches 7th grade Science, 8th grade Science, Advanced Chemistry, and Physics.

Bill Carey - Calculus & Statistics

Bill-Carey

Calculus 1 & 2 | UC Berkley DC Calculus 1 & 2 Statistics

Mr. Bill Carey, math teacher extraordinaire, was born in New England and raised in Florida, where he initially worked at what would become the Kennedy Space Center, to then spend 35 years teaching math at Melbourne High School. While at Melbourne, he coached football, tennis and track, and served as the Athletic and Activities Director.

In 1972, Mr. Carey received a NSF grant to attend Florida State University where he received his Master’s Degree in Math Education. Before ending up in Austin, Mr. Carey taught an additional 5 years in North Carolina at West Rowan High School.  Fortunately for AESA Prep Academy, Mr. Carey moved to Austin to be with 3 of his 10 grandchildren and has been with us for the past 2 years teaching calculus.  

Jose Garcia - Social Studies | Student Government Sponsor

Jose Garcia

Co-Associate Head of School 

HS Social Studies

HS Student Government Sponsor

Jose studied History at St. Edwards University in Austin,Texas and aims to expand history from what is the status quo in History Education.  Jose also has Master’s Degree at St. Edwards University in Education. Jose’s historical and educational philosophies stem from a deep understanding of the need for differentiated instruction to meet the needs of individual students.

“History is much more than just a blow off course taught by the high school football coach in his off hours. It is what makes us who we are. It defines us as a community, a nation, and as world citizens. It should not be about memorizing dates to fill in a worksheet, it should instead be a living thing that students come to know and understand. History is about understanding the story of our people, and recognizing we are all more connected than we know.”

Kyei Ko - Social Studies | Health

Faculty and Staff

MS Social Studies 

Health | Nutrition

My name is Kyei-Han Ko. A little bit about myself, I am ethnically Korean from South Korea. Our family immigrated to the United States back in the 90s and have lived here ever since. We first landed in the land of the Big Apple (NYC). We lived in NYC for some years before moving to the Big Easy (NOLA). Afterwards, we moved to sunny Southern California. Now, I am here in Texas!

I received my Bachelor’s of Arts in History from California Baptist University. I then received my Masters in Divinity from Baylor University. Prior to teaching, I worked in church music ministry for 10+years with amazing opportunities to meet people from around the world! Along the way, I decided to pursue teaching. I initially started as an Assistant Preschool Teacher in Fort Worth. Then I worked as a substitute teacher at Midway ISD. Afterwards, I taught Music at a local private school in Waco. Now, I am here at AESA Prep Academy!

Aside from Academics, I love food and I love to travel! I have had amazing opportunities to travel to India, Germany, Mexico, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, South Korea, Japan, and Colombia. Hopefully, next year, when all is said and done with COVID, I will finally get to go to Rio. There is so much to learn and so much to eat and I am very ready for it! So many places to visit!

Clay Laughrey - Sciences

Faculty and Staff

Environmental Science | Biology

Marine Biology | Zoology MS Sciences

Clay is a biologist dedicated to teaching students the broad mechanisms that function living organisms. In particular, he is interested in teaching the underlying importance of environmental conservation and the structure and function of various ecological communities.  In 2018 Clay graduated from Sam Houston State University with a bachelors in Biology. He worked as a research assistant for 3 years under Dr. Carmen Montana, an aquatic ecologist that specializes in freshwater fish ecology.

During this time he worked on multiple projects that investigated species co-occurrence patterns in pond microhabitats and presented this research all across the state at various ecological symposiums. In spring 2017, Clay spent 10 days in the northern region of the Amazon rainforest (Guyana) where he assisted his professor on researching the effects of mercury contamination in freshwater fish assemblages of the Mazaruni River. Throughout his experiences, he has developed immense passion for understanding the aspects of animal life and the importance of protecting ecosystems.

Outside of his teachings, Clay enjoys spending time with his wife and all their animals. He has two Australian Cattle Dogs, a cat, and two large aquariums with tons of beautiful fish. He loves to hike, explore new places and investigate the various species that dwell there. Clay also enjoys spearfishing on the reefs of the Florida Keys.

David Leal - Spanish | PE

Faculty and Staff

Spanish & PE Teacher 

My name is David Leal and I am honored to be teaching Spanish and P.E. along with such a dream team of fine educators and personalities at AESA Prep Academy. My lifelong dream to be a teacher began as a tennis coach at the Cimarron Country Club in Mission, Texas – a tenure that lasted 17 years where I acquired invaluable teaching experience as the director of the after school junior tennis program. I found that the success in using joy and humor as a key teaching component to fulfilling a student’s development on the tennis court also holds true in the classroom. My experience as coach extended to being a life mentor to my students and further fueled my passion to work in education.

Being a teacher at AESA has provided the platform to make the most of my bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. My devotion to psychology has been an ideal stepping stone into education. It provided me with an underlying teaching philosophy rooted in compassion and fostered the communications skills necessary to best maximize each student’s potential, both inside and outside the classroom.

Diego Leal - Global Languages Chair | Spanish Teacher

diego

Head of Middle School

Global Languages Department Chair

Spanish Teacher

Diego has been a very positive force at AESA Prep Academy.  For Diego,  “Teaching Spanish is much more than merely imparting on young minds the ability to read, write, and speak a foreign language.  I believes the importance of opening one’s mind to learning about and embracing other cultures, and the perspective and enrichment it brings to one’s life.

I bring a lifetime of multiculturalism that I will leverage to broaden students’ to learn a love for learning and an appreciation for other cultures, and grow up to be a successful, contributing members of society.  I was born and raised in the culturally diverse border-town of McAllen, Texas, where both Mexican and American cultures have blended together to make one very unique community. I had the privilege of experiencing both cultures first hand and was raised by parents of Mexican decent who only spoke Spanish in the household, and while assimilating into the American culture through the education system.”

Diego holds a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Texas – Pan American. Over the past ten years, he has had a wide array of professional experience, thriving in globally diverse industries by utilizing my bilingual proficiency and ability to recognize and bridge the gaps in different cultures. He looks forward to sharing his experiences and knowledge and as well as continuing to learn from my students.

Graeme Mullen - English

bio picture of Graeme Mullen

English

Writing Disciplines

Literature

Mr. Mullen is excited to return for his second semester in the AESA English Department. He holds a BA in Psychology from Stanford University and an MFA in Fiction Writing from Texas State, where he taught composition, literature, and creative writing from 2012-2020.

Graeme grew up in Zimbabwe, finished up high school in Massachusetts, and lived on both coasts before moving to the Austin area.

In terms of his teaching philosophy, Graeme believes that the best way to learn to write well is to learn to read well. He'll be assigning an eclectic mix of literary and argumentative texts from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds in his high school English classes.

In addition to his teaching duties, Graeme will also be heading up the college counselling program for AESA this year. He looks forward to tapping into his experience as a college essay coach and his inside knowledge of university admissions in order to support AESA's high school students through all stages of the application cycle

Caro Palmatier - Mathematics | SAT Prep

Faculty and Staff

Caro Palmatier is a fabulous all-level Math teacher who excels in teaching Algebra 1, Algebra 2, Geometry, Pre Calculus, Calculus, and Physics. Caro writes and constructs math problems for the Princeton Review, the SAT and the ACT. She is a resourceful and committed teacher, with excellent communication skills, relating well to all types of people. Caro has taught Math at the elementary, middle school and high school levels, and has created and introduced new curriculum for middle and high school math courses. Caro has been recognized as the teacher of the month/year many times.

Caro has been teaching for 35 years! Caro has planned and organized Math work shops and has extensive experience in PSAT, SAT, and ACT prep.  She has taught in the Lake Travis ISD, Edinburg ISD, has worked with Oakhill technology and Ignite Learning. Please check the Lakeway newspaper that recognizes Caro’s excellent teaching skills, under our News and Events tab.

Adam Santos - Mathematics | Technology

Faculty and Staff

Mathematics

Game Designe

Sports Computer Science

Adam has been a middle school math teacher for 10 years, starting in Bryan/College Station after graduating from Sam Houston State in Huntsville, Texas. Adam has lived and taught in the Austin area in both Austin ISD and Eanes ISD since his move here in 2009. He knew he wanted to be a teacher after having joined the PALS (Peer Assistance Leadership Skills) in high school and having been hired by the school district to tutor elementary students. Adam feels that it is a privilege to teach and is grateful to have been able to follow a career sought out at 16 years old!

Adam’s educational philosophy is that all people are math people, and he wants all his students to believe this! His goal is for each student to become a lifelong learner. In the spirit of leading by example, Adam will be finishing his Master’s Degree from Texas State University in Educational Technology. When Adam is not studying, he often finds himself leading various local training sessions for teachers in state-wide teaching and learning conferences as he enjoys teaching other teachers just as much as students! 

Adam is a former collegiate track & field and cross country athlete who enjoys staying active by running and swimming with his wife. Other hobbies he enjoys include watching sports with friends and playing Nintendo Switch with his kids!

Jessica Santos - Electives

Faculty and Staff

Electives

Jessica Santos has worked in Education for 10 years, serving within private and charter school settings. Ms. Santos believes in the value of a well-rounded education and is excited to teach a variety of elective courses to Middle and High School students. Her teaching philosophy revolves around creating an environment where it is safe, and even important, to make mistakes. This is because she believes it is often within recovery from mistakes that resiliency and character are built, the most important lessons of all. 

Jessica currently teaches Adulting: Life Skills, Culinary Arts, Debate, SAT Prep, Sewing & Needle Arts, Tabletop Gaming, and Yoga.

Ashley Villela - Arts

Faculty and Staff

Hello everyone!! My name is Ashley "Avia" Villela, but you all can call me "V". I am so excited to be a new part of the AESA team and am looking forward to an amazing year with all of you!

This will be my 6th year of teaching and I come to you with an advanced knowledge of 2-D art, design, photography and digital media, art history, and so much more. I am also quite an accomplished artist in my own right, being internationally published, accepted to several shows and magazines, and running my own photography business. While I am originally from Missouri, I graduated from Pittsburg State University with a BFA in Education. As I am new here, I wanted to share a bit about my philosophy as an art teacher so you better know what to expect.

What is art? What. Is. Art. That question has been asked over-and-over throughout history. How do I see art? Art is imitation and creation. It is beauty and harmony. It is a thought or a message. It is calming and chaotic. It is self-expression and communication. It is a process of thinking, connecting, and creating. Art is life; the beauty in it and even all the messy bits. Art creates a new world and new perceptions where wrong answers don’t exist and mistakes never happen. Art presents possibilities, utilizes imagination, and encourages risk-taking. Why is any of this important? Because art is something we do every day, sometimes without even thinking about it. Without art, the world would be a dull place.
            It is my goal to reintroduce art to students as something more than just another class they have to take. While some students are naturally talented in art, others find it a challenging and frustrating subject. As children grow into young adults, many lose their initial passion for art. The world starts telling them things need to be perfect; they need to fit the mold of what society is looking for. During this time, students start doubting themselves and questioning if what they are doing is good enough anymore. My hope is to inspire students to ask questions, develop theories, and think for themselves. I want to show them that art is not always “perfect,” but rather as series of imperfections that somehow became beautiful over time. That art can be realistic, abstract, animated, and even junk. It is about their own expression.
            While I will always be there to guide my students, I want to be able to step back and allow them to formulate their own opinions and ideas. It is, however, also important to teach them the basic skills and techniques in the creation process. Art is about more than just the actual making of art, though. My students need to understand how to problem-solve, critique, evaluate, and respond to their own works and works of others. Furthermore, they should develop a respect for art in history, other artists, the classroom, their teachers, and materials. They should be able to read about and research different art topics and constructively respond to them. Also, they should be able to work both independently and as a group in all aspects of the art world.
While art can be a fun and exhilarating process, it also requires discipline for both the students and the teacher. It is my responsibility to come to class every day organized, enthusiastic, and prepared to teach every student that walks through my door. Art can be subjective in nature, so it is also my duty to develop no biases, and grade each student fairly according to the objectives and materials being taught. Compassion, empathy, and communication are vital in establishing a strong relationship with my students. Finally, I plan to at all times maintain a professional demeanor with my students, parents/guardians, and colleagues. I realize there are always new things I can learn, and like everyone else, I will make mistakes along the way. Asking for help when needed, accepting constructive criticism, and constantly reflecting on how I can improve will make me a much better teacher for my students.
            Ultimately, art has been a constant source of happiness and encouragement in my life, and teaching puts everything I have come to love and value to good use. I want to show my students that any and every one of them can be a successful artist if they only set their minds to it. One day, I hope all my students can walk into and leave my class feeling confident and important. If I can change or influence even one student’s life for the better, I will know I have done my job!

In my personal life, I enjoy spending time with my two dogs, friends, family, and my amazing partner. I'm a huge nerd and completely obsessed with Grogu (baby Yoda), teas, nature (I collect cool rocks!!), and my native culture. I tend to be very bubbly and animated and love making people smile. 

Once again, I am so excited to meet all of you and be a part of your artistic journey!!

Elementary 
School Faculty

Sarah Harbour - Head of Elementary School

Faculty and Staff

Head of Elementary School | K-2nd Grade Teacher

It is my pleasure to continue to serve you as Head of Elementary this year! This is my Third
year in an educational leadership role and 8th year serving as a teacher. Prior to becoming
Head of Elementary at AESA Prep Academy I served as a teacher, Preschool curriculum
developer, and founder of a children's yoga and mindfulness company. By pursuing lifelong
learning, I intend to be an example to students that we should never stop learning and
pursuing our true passions in life.

My most important role to date is being a mother of five amazing children. There is nothing
more rewarding than helping children achieve confidence in both their social and academic
life. I feel the same level of joy and excitement assisting both my student and my own
children on that journey. It is the best part of working with children. I want to see all of our
children gain the tools to excel and become productive human beings, who have ample
opportunity to become whatever they want to be when they grow up.

It is my privilege to have the opportunity to work alongside the many talented teachers and
students here at AESA.! My goal is to continue to provide a supportive climate and culture
that is conducive to teaching and learning. By doing so, each individual student and teacher
can experience growth to their highest learning potential.

Cindy Herring - Reading and Learning Specialist

Cindy Herring

Reading and Learning Specialist

Cindy is thrilled to be part of the AESA faculty and brings with her over 25 years of experience teaching and working with children.  She has a BS in Education with a Reading Endorsement from Texas State University and her Master of Education in Advanced Literacy from Concordia University.  She holds Texas Teaching Certificates in Elementary, Reading, ELAR and ESL. She is also a Certified Advanced Reading Specialist. She is training to receive her certification in Academic Language Therapy, a rigorous two-year program that will allow her to become a Licensed Dyslexia Therapist.

Cindy has been a part of the AESA elementary staff for the past two years teaching students in grades 1st-3rd.  She will be teaching the 5th grade this year and serves as the AESA Reading and Learning Specialist, providing support and services for students with academic and reading needs.

She has spent time teaching elementary, middle and even preschool aged children in both public and private schools.  She has operated her own private tutoring business, conducted numerous teacher trainings and before coming to AESA was an instructional specialist for Austin ISD. This experience, fueled her passion for providing individualized, differentiated instruction and working with families who were seeking something unique and special for their child.

Cindy has been fortunate to teach, learn and live in several states.  Her husband spent 15 years in the collegiate and professional sports industry, where she was a dedicated “coach’s wife” and mother. As native Texans, her family was thrilled to return to Austin permanently three years ago and live in the beautiful hill country, her favorite place on earth! She lives in Southwest Austin with her husband and 15-year-old daughter, who is also an AESA Aussie. She loves to read, travel and entertain family and friends!

Anna Khayyat - Motor Movement & Spanish

Khayyat-Anna

ES Motor Movement | Spanish

Hi there AESA community! My name is Anna Khayyat, and I teach Spanish and Motor Movement. This is my first year at AESA and I’m ecstatic to be part of the team! I majored in Psychology, minored in Child Development, and have my Texas Teachers Certification.

Before I began my career in teaching, I worked for Americorps in New Orleans, conducted cognitive-behavioral studies through Texas State, and worked at Gladys Porter Zoo. I have a passion for dance, yoga, and self-expression through movement and want to share that with my students. Creating an inclusive environment for my students to feel their best and feel confident within themselves and around their peers is my goal.

Outside of my “teacher life”, I enjoy experimenting in the kitchen with new recipes, traveling, and making jewelry.

Alyssa Kitch - Elementary English, Language Arts, and Reading Teacher

Faculty and Staff

ES Teacher

My name is Alyssa Kitch, known as Ms. Kitch by my students, and I will be educating the elementary school children in English and Language Arts this upcoming school year. I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas and attended both The University of Oklahoma and The University of Central Oklahoma where I studied Education and Speech-Language Pathology. My teaching career started off in Moshi, Tanzania where I was able to combine my passions for culture, people, travel, and phonics. I have been in Austin, TX for a full year now and spend most of my time hiking, paddle boarding, and hand-throwing pottery. Being around youth has always brought me so much joy and I look forward to working with each of your families!

Peace Layton - PK-1st

Faculty and Staff

Having always been passionate about working with young children, Peace is delighted to be co-teaching in the K-1 classroom this year. After years of coaching and teaching art to elementary and high school students in the Austin area, Peace decided her future as an educator lay in the early childhood classroom. She can't wait to learn alongside the amazing students here at AESA!

In her free time, Peace enjoys spending time in nature, painting, and reading- all of which inform her joyful and literature-rich approach towards teaching.

Marge Morle - Math and Science

Faculty and Staff

Marge Morle

Math and Science

My name is Marge Morle and I am proud to be AESA Elementary Math & Science
teacher! The year of 22/23 will be my second year at AESA Prep Academy and my 5th
year teaching experience.
I believe children should be enabled to reach their potential by developing positive
self-concept within the classroom and beyond. Children are self-driven in their education
process and are capable of independence in their learning. Each child deserves trust in
their abilities and should be provided with an opportunity for presenting them. Research
highlights that emotional competence is linked with improved cognitive and academic
achievements, thus as a teacher, I focus on a positive socio-emotional development, by
providing opportunity and support necessary to scaffold their knowledge.
Personally, I have been married for 11 years. I have 3 step-kids, who live in the UK
and one child who is 7 and attends AESA. We have many fur-babies at home, including 3
cats and a recent addition - a puppy, who keeps us sufficiently busy! In my free time I love
listening to books, gardening and swimming!

Ashley Van Matre Harkness - Creative Arts

Faculty and Staff

Hi, AESA Aussies!  My name is Ashley Van Matre Harkness and I teach Elementary Creative Arts and Social Studies at AESA Prep Academy.  I received my B.S. in Applied Learning and Development with ESL from the University of Texas at Austin and come from a family of educators.  I am thrilled to begin my 10th year of teaching!

I enjoy spending time outdoors with my husband, our sweet border-lab rescue, and two adorable adopted kittens.  We are both avid Texas Longhorn alumni and exuberantly cheer in our burnt orange!

I love to read, travel, paint, sing, practice yoga, cook, hike, and be anywhere near the water.  While proudly born in Austin, I worked at NASA in high school at Johnson Space Center.

I am especially passionate about early childhood, nature, SEL, mindfulness, fine arts, and being a lifelong learner teaching tomorrow’s leaders.  I taught Second Grade for several years at Lake Pointe Elementary in Lake Travis ISD.  I also taught Kindergarten, Second, and Third Grade in Austin ISD.  I am very excited for an extraordinary year teaching tremendous AESA Aussies from all over our amazing city of Austin! 

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