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Staff Biographies

Principal Diana Abdi, M. Ed, has a Master of Education in Educational Leadership from Grand Canyon University plus Director certification for Pre-school. She has over 20 years of Administrative and sales experience. Her Community work includes the establishment of the first Islamic school in Austin and starting the High School program at APA. Since 2007, she has been working, as administrative assistant to the Principal and in 2009 became Principal. She has attended numerous educational workshops and received several certifications in Continued Education such as ‘Learning for Change’, ‘Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement’, ‘The Role of Assessment’ and ‘High school summit change’. She is a member of National Association of Secondary School Principals and a member of Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. She is also a keynote speaker at several Islamic fundraising events across the country promoting Islamic school.

Head of Academics – Mr. Alex Pritchard comes to APA from Westwood High School in Austin where he was the Director of Forensics since 2002. He graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Economics, and later attended the University of Nebraska for graduate work in Communication Studies. He obtained a Masters degree in Communication Studies from Baylor University in Waco, TX. He has worked for the past 37 years at several public and private schools as Director of Forensics. His students have been admitted to many of the most prestigious universities in the country. He has numerous teaching and coaching awards to his credit, including Speech Teacher of the Year by the Nebraska Speech Teachers Association, Debate Coach of the Year by Nebraska Coaches Association, and Baccalaureate Speaker and Teacher of the Year awards at the Creighton Preparatory School. He has been inducted into Coach Society Hall of Fame at Emory University, and the University of Kentucky. His professional associations include Kappa Delta Pi, National Forensic League Double Diamond Coach, and the National Debate Coaches Association. He has given presentations at several conventions and universities nationwide. Speech and debate teams coached by Alex have won at every major tournament in the country including Harvard Round Robin, Stanford Round Robin, and the University of Texas Round Robin. He has authored several publications in industry publications and journals. He has been ranked among the Top 10 Debate Coaches of the Century. This is his eighth year at APA.

Director of Operations – Sr. Maisaa Hawana  this is her ninth year at APA. with a B. S. degree in Computer Engineering from Iowa State University and a diploma in Communications Engineering from Public Authority of Applied Education and Training, Kuwait. Prior to joining APA, she worked for the State of Texas as a TAKS exam scorer and as a teacher’s aide at a childcare center. Her qualifications include certified math teacher, childhood development training and several computer certifications. In addition to teaching mathematics is school, she is in charge of the finances, the day to day operations and works closely with the IT department in software and hardware maintenance issues . Mrs. Maisaa has attended many workshops including Thinking Maps, training in using “Mimio Interactive projectors” in the classrooms and the summer UT Summer Institute for teaching Pre-AP Mathematics for Middle school and High school. She was teacher of the year for academic 2012-2013. Currently she is the Designated School Official (DSO) for Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) and is the official Notary for APA.

PreK Department

Kora_Sara_22Sr. Sara Kora, a native of Cairo, Egypt, has been teaching Qur’an and Arabic for eight years both as a full time teacher and a summer and  weekend school teacher. She has a B.S. in Management Science but has discovered her true love is teaching children and helping them succeed. In fact, she loves working with children so much that she has begun the process of obtaining her EC – 6th teaching certification and is committed to increasing her skills and expertise in the classroom. This year will be her 4th year with APA[/vc_column_text]

 

Jaradat_Dima_16 Sr. Dima Jaradat finished her B.S. degree in Computer Science from Yarmouk University in Jordan. She taught Computer Science from Yarmouk University in Jordan and taught computer science for high school in Jordan. She finished a Master’s of Education (MEd) in Elementary Education from University of Massachusetts-Boston. She is also a certified elementary teacher particularly teaching the core subjects from early childhood to 6th grade. She also received her middle school math certificate in 2015. Dima has taught ESL at APA for Elementary and Middle school in 2010-2011 and will be teaching PreK 4 this year. She has been with APA for 3 years.

Ms. Sumayra Hossain completed a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Women and Gender Studies from UT , Austin . She had previously majored in childhood development and has a good understanding on early childhood education and child development. Due to her experience working with toddlers. She can create a fun learning environment. Ms Sumayra loves teaching and guiding toddlers through play-based learning with a special focus on Art.  She has worked with students from different cultural backgrounds and varying learning abilities in the past and understands and addresses the needs of each.  Her pleasant, patient, and enthusiastic demeanor makes her an exciting addition as APA’s new Pre-K3 teacher. This is her first year at APA.

 

Fatima HamiltonFatima Baginda earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature at Mindanao State University. From 2008 to 2009 she served as a youth representative to the Philippine Congress and helped draft and implement nationwide programs focused on improving child literacy. After graduating she worked as an ESL teacher for Korean students at Seattle Effective Learning Center (Philippines). She previously taught Pre-K and Kindergarten at two highly prestigious schools, Kinhaven in Virginia and the Lowell School in Washington, DC. She has extensive experience with Early Childhood education and is very excited to be working at APA. Her experience in both curriculum development and in the classroom, along with her nurturing, creative, and innovative personality make her an excellent addition to our Lower Elementary School.  This is her 2nd year and she will be teaching the Kindergarten Class.

Elementary Department

Ms Dorion DeMeyer received her degree in interdisciplinary studies from the University Of Texas in San Antonio with specializations to teach reading, grades 1-8, and early childhood education.  She has 20 years of experience teaching in the classroom, tutoring, and managing youth programs.  After college, she began her career working with children by becoming a youth programs director for children’s programs on an Island in South Carolina called Daufuskie Island, where she also voluntered at a one-room schoolhouse.  Her volunteer work on Daufuskie Island impacted her educational beliefs of promoting true differentiated instruction.  From 2008-2013 she managed and ran her own school (prek-2nd grade) in her home for up to 6 children at a time.  From 2013-2015, she was the K-2nd grade teacher for the Austin Village Academy.  Currently, she is also working part time as a reading intervention teacher for the Meadows Center for Educational Risk through the University of Texas, and tutors privately in the local community.   She is very happy to be teaching first grade at Austin Peace Academy and excited for new learning adventures and discoveries. This will be her 2nd year teaching 1st Grade at APA.

Sr. Nusrat Jahan earned a Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education at the University of Texas at Arlington and is a certified teacher from EC-6 grade . She has previously worked as a second grade teacher at East Fort Worth Montessori Academy in Fort Worth, Texas. Additionally, she has many years of experience working with children as a tutor and Sunday school instructor at the Islamic Center of Irving. She was also a reading interventionist and a substitute prior to getting her degree. This is her first year working at APA as a second grade teacher and she is excited to join the amazing APA community. 

Sr. Tammy Amin received her Bachelors of Science degree from Texas State University in Family Science and Criminal Justice and a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Acacia University-Graduate School of Education in Arizona, graduating with honors and was chosen to be on the Dean’s List.  She has taken courses in Educational Administration as part of a pilot Ph.D. program with Acacia University.  In her free time, she teaches multiple graduate level courses with Acacia University.  She holds a Generalist EC-6 Texas certification, and has taken many Project Based Learning courses to further student learning in the classroom. Tammy taught Kindergarten for 7 years, and this will be her fouth year teaching 3rd grade.  This is Tammy’s fifth year at APA.

Mrs. Sheila Brown comes to Austin Peace Academy from Boston Public Schools. She has been a Fourth Grade Teacher, Math Leadership Coordinator for grades 3-5, Assessment Benchmark Coordinator for grades 3-5, Teacher Mentor/Leader for the past 24 years and State Testing Coordinator for the past 14 years. She has a Bachelor Degree from Regis College and a Masters Degree in elementary education from Framingham State College. She has taken Education Administration Leadership courses at the University of Massachusetts as well. She is certified in the following content area :Elementary 1-6, English language learner and Math ELL. She is deeply involved in looking at student work and data, including trends over time, and to inform sound instructional practices in her grade level. Her classroom was designated by Principal as a “learning site” for principals and outside staff to observe best teaching practices in Math and Readers & Writers workshop. She has led school wide workshops on ” Discourse” and how to develop it in the instructional setting to allow student discussion to enhance learning in all areas. She has organized family day events for the school as a community builder and a way to increase parent involvement. This is her fifth year at APA.

Ms. Casey Garsia graduated from an International Baccalaureate high school program in Tulsa, Oklahoma before receiving her BA from Texas Christian University, Magna Cum Laude.  Her graduate studies took place at the University of Texas Arlington, where she earned her Master of Science in Social Work, as a Presidential Scholar with Summa Cum Laude distinction.  Intermingled throughout and since this time she has worked as a licensed educator at the elementary level with English Language Learners over 15 years in small and large schools both public and private.  She taught migrant students in Colorado through AmeriCorps National Service, worked in Santa Fe, New Mexico as a special education teacher and served families and children at the Center for Creative Living in Fort Worth.  She lived and worked on the extremely remote Navajo Reservation in Arizona working with students in the gifted and talented as well as special education programs.  The past eight years she has taught in the Del Valle ISD of Austin serving students primarily in the Response to Intervention setting.  Additionally, she runs her own yoga for youth program where she works with small groups of students to integrate movement, mindfulness and problem solving skills both on and off the mat.  This will be her third year at APA.

Middle and High School English & Social Studies Department

Br. Ted Hamilton (MS/HS Social Studies since 2013) is an experienced researcher and teacher having helped lead and develop several educational, interfaith religious, social, and technical institutes all over the world. Ted graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a research associate at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and served a World Muslim Internship at the Institute for Global Engagement in Arlington, Virginia. Ted worked at the Wisdom International School for Higher Educational Studies in the Philippines where he co-founded Al Hikmah Global, a da’wah organization to promote community education and interfaith dialogue.  With his broad experience working with people from around the globe Br.Ted brings a unique flavor to his curricular development and instructional approach. Br. Ted is also an accomplished NCAA All-American swimmer and has several years coaching swimming teams. He has been with APA for four years

Sr Aimen Ansari has dedicated over a decade to building the capacities of leadership, citizenship, spirituality and communication in Muslim youth through planning camps, conferences, coaching, counseling, and teaching. She is a Texas-certified English Language Arts 8 – 12 Teacher with a Master’s degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to joining APA, Aimen taught at Brighter Horizons Academy in Dallas and Al-Noor Academy in Massachusetts. She has coached MIST (Muslim Interscholastic Tournament) for seven years, guiding two different teams to six collective regional championship titles. She has a special interest in the spiritual development of adolescents and incorporates this into both teaching and coaching. She teaches with love and high expectations, and she believes that developing meaningful relationships with students is the key to academic success. In her Engllish classroom, she focuses on developing higher level critical thinking, reading comprehension, vocabulary, and writing skills — all with the premise of cultivating a strong Muslim-American identity. She also serves as Co-Chair for the Harvard Graduate School of Education Regional Alumni Ambassador Program, writes curriculum for the Boys and Girls Club of Austin, and serves as an advisor for a local Ed-tech startup. This is her 2nd year with APA.

Sr. Kerry Brackin is a passionate educator who truly thrives on seeing her students grow intellectually. She received her B.A. in K – 12 Education and Foreign Language Pedagogy in 2010.  She has taught English in Korea, Spanish in Chicago public schools, and English Language Arts and rhetoric at a college preparatory in a Chicago suburb. Fostering literacy—be it in one’s own language or a foreign language— is especially dear to Kerry’s heart because she realizes that the exchange of ideas that come along with reading cultivate critical thought and build cultural and self consciousness in young minds.  Kerry is thrilled to have just graduated from Bayyinah Institute’s Year-Long Classical Arabic program and plans to use this added knowledge on a life-long journey towards learning from the Ultimate Author and His book, the Holy Qur’an.  Of course, like any fervent educator, she invites anyone she can to join this journey with her and is excited to be working with APA to implement a progressive Qur’anic Arabic curriculum. This is her third year at APA. Most recently, Sr Kerry has taken on the role of English Literature teacher on the middle school level, and AP Literature and Composition teacher at the high school level. As an experienced AP teacher, she understands the high intellectual stimulation and incredible satisfaction which comes from the rigor of an AP course and she looks forward to finding herself back in the AP classroom. This is her second year at APA.

Middle and High School Math & Science Department

 

                                Sr. Shaimaa Zayan is a Texas certified teacher in Math 7th-12th grade as well as Special Education certified, EC-12th grades.  She earned her Master’s Degree in  Education from the University of Texas at Austin and she holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Cairo University in Electronics and Communications Engineering.  She also completed different certification programs, including one from Duke University, as enrichment.   She has served as a volunteer teacher in several nonprofit organizations including a community school for Autism, Resala Charity Organization, and teaching in various refugee organizations.  She also taught English as a second language for House of Tutors here in Austin.  Ms Zayan completed her student teaching at Round Rock High School and we look forward to her joining the APA staff as a Mathematics teacher.

Sr. Nahed Abou Galala has a degree in Computer Science from Mu’tah University in Jordan and also holds a diploma in High Educational Skills. She is also certified in computer science for 8-12 grades. She worked as a computer programmer in Jordan and as a teacher in chemistry and computer technology in Indiana. In addition to teaching science and computer classes in middle and high school, she is the school main IT support for both software and hardware areas. Sr. Nahed has attended several educational workshops in using “Mimio Interactive projectors” in the classrooms and the summer UT Summer Institute for teaching Pre-AP Science for middle school, AP Computer Science A, and AP Chemistry. She has finished 36 hours of training in teaching Forensic Science for High School. Sr. Nahed was rewarded the “Principal’s Award” for meeting and exceeded all standards in 2010 – 2011. This is her tenth year at APA.

Sr. Nadeyah Baddour  is an integral part of our teaching staff here at APA. She graduated with a Biology degree from the University of Texas- San Antonio and is certified in the state of Texas in generalist 4-8 and life sciences 9-12. Mrs. Nadeyah started the high school women’s basketball team her first year here. Since starting the program, the team has won first place three times at MIST regional’s and second place twice at MIST nationals! She is our AP science teacher and helps prepare students for college chemistry and biology. Yearly, she and Ms. Nahed organize the school science fair, and guide students to push the boundaries and think outside of the box for their projects. She has had many students win at the Austin Regional Science Fair and even had students place at the State Science Fair. Mrs. Nadeyah loves knowledge and always strives to be the best. She was named teacher of the year by her peers in the 2015-2016 school year! This is her fifth year at APA.

Sr. Maysaa Alzant  joins APA with 2 years of Math teaching experience. Her mission in life is to help students understand Math and how it applies with different aspects of life. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the Islamic University of Gaza and a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a teaching certificate from Tennessee State University. She has also received training at UT Advance Placement Summer Institute for PRE-AP Math. This is her second year at APA.

 

Ms. Penny Smeltzer earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and History, with an additional certification in English, from Western Michigan University.  Ms Penny boasts an incredibly diverse and well-rounded background in teaching Mathematics, including Statistics, and serving as a valuable asset to a community of teachers.  Ms. Smeltzer  is consultant for College board, where her main focus is on the PSAT/SAT Mathematics  and Mathematical Writing Skill. In addition, she serves as  a consultant for the National Mathematics and Science Institute. Her dedication to professional development lends to an improved learning experience for students.  Ms Penny earned several notable awards over the years: Teacher of the Year in 2009  by the University of Texas; in 2011 O’Donnell AP Teacher of the Year Award  as the Top AP teacher in Texas; in 2013 & 2015 Presidential Award for outstanding Mathematics & Science teaching. This is a result of her connecting material to the students and engaging with them on a deeper level.  Ms Penny joins the APA community from Westwood High school this year as a Mathematics teacher in AP Statistics as well as a peer advisor and mentor for the APA Teaching Staff  for Math and Science. This is her first year at APA.

Department of Islamic Studies, Arabic, & Quran (ISAQ)


Sr. Samia Ali earned her Quran Recitation Ijaza certificate from Abdullah bin Aamer Institution in Jordan in 2009. While there, she had the privilege of being taught by several certified scholars and reciters. Samia successfully completed the required Tajweed Rules Examination and recited the Quran in its entirety to her teacher, Intisar Albalbisy, all according to Hafs on the authority of Imam ‘Aasim. Samia’s Ijazah through Intisar Albalbisy is chained all the way back to our prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Samia has been a Quran/Hifz teacher at Austin Peace Academy since 2010. Since then, she has taught and guided dozens of students to the completion and memorization of more than 15 Juza with Tajweed rules. Additionally, Samia has taught Quran recitation and Hifz in one-on-one sessions privately for six years. As such, she has awarded and certified one of her students with Quran Recitation Ijaza according to Hafs. Samia has also served different roles in managing several Quran competitions in the Austin area.

Sr. Jeehan Yaghi (ISAQ Faculty since 2013) is a university degreed and credentialed Speech Therapist from the American Speech and Hearing Association . She earned certification in speech pathology and Autism strategic school-based interventions. Jeehan also has extensive experience counseling children and adults. She is an accomplished Arabic and Quran teacher with experience teaching in universities overseas as well as local educational centers. This is her fourth year at APA.

Sheikh Attia Omara (ISAQ Faculty since 2012) earned his B.A in Islamic  Studies at the prestigious Al-Azhar Shareef University in Cairo. Fluent in Arabic and English he maintains a highly-regarded CELTA certificate in English language instruction. He leads several halaqas, is an experienced khateeb, as well as a seasoned curriculum specialist in the Islamic sciences. Sheikh Attia taught English at ASA Academy in Cairo and the University of Hail. He served as an Arabic language tutor and translator in Saudi Arabia. At Hail University he also served on the Academic Advising Committee. A natural youth leader APA is privileged to have Sh. Attia teach our Middle and High School students Islamic Studies and help lead our youth and develop the Austin community. This is his fifth year at APA.

Br. Hameem Rahman earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religious Studies from Southern Methodist University.  He also received his B.L.A from Zaytuna College, America’s first accredited Muslim college, while simultaneously completing his Masters of Art in Islamic Law and Theology from University of California at Berkeley.  Br. Hameem joins the APA staff with an impressive background in various leadership roles and teaching opportunities with students in the Islamic Sciences, including Arabic.  He will be joining the Islamic and Quranic Studies Department as an Islamic Studies teacher as well as a Spiritual Advisor. Br. Hameem is a graduate of an Islamic school IANT Quranic Academy in Richardson, Texas, where he also taught from 2010 to 2013. Br.Hameem is skilled in 4 languages: Arabic, Urdu, Bengali, and Farsi. This is his first year at APA.

Dr. Nehal Khadr has been teaching Arabic & Islamic Studies at APA and ICGA since 1998. She is a graduate of Alexandria University, Egypt, and holds a degree in Medicine. She is very passionate in Islamic and Arabic studies with a special talent for helping students memorize the Qur’an.  Her dedication to professional development through numerous workshops strengthens her teaching and professional skills each year.  Dr. Nehal is certified through Bayyinah to teach the Bayyinah Arabic Program.  She has been teaching at APA for the past fifteen years in addition to the weekend school at the Islamic Center of Brushy creek.  She is also a Certified Nurse.

Sr. Loretta Kamara holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics from Paine College in Augusta, GA., where she graduated with honors. While there, she received acknowledgement from the Lower Savannah River Authority for ‘Excellence in Math’ as well as recognition in ‘Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities’. Her other work experiences include administrative assistant in the financial sector, writing essay scorer, and teacher at an Islamic summer program. She has completed many educational workshops and  taught 3rd grade for nine years she is in her twelfth year at APA, She was recognized as the ‘APA Teacher of the Year’ in 2005-06.She is very passionate about Islamic studies and is a great role model for loving Islam. Although this will be her second year to express this Islamic passion to our students in elementary, she has been with APA for 13 years.

Sr. Guyna Elabiad is in her ninth year at APA. She has previously taught at Al-Manar Islamic School, Lebanon. She is fluent in Arabic and French. She has attended numerous workshops engaging students for the love of Arabic language and her classroom was considered by the UT LOTE department as example for the UT  Arabic interns.

 

Qerqez_Huda_188 (2)Sr. Huda Qerqez is very passionate about the Arabic language and has been teaching Arabic at different levels for many years. Prior to joining APA, she worked at an Islamic school in Knoxville, Tennessee, as well as taught Arabic and Islamic Studies in her native Gaza, Palestine. She attended the College of Saarland in Germany. Huda will be teaching advance Arabic for middle and Intermediate Arabic for high school. She is in her tenth year at APA.

 

Orom_Sandra_26Sandra Odom graduated from the University of Texas at Tyler in Kinesiology and History. She joins Austin Peace Academy as the PE, Health and World History teacher. She has twenty three years of teaching experience in both public and private schools. Her career highlights include teaching at Manor High School, and Luling High School. She has also worked in many summer camps; coached varsity and junior varsity sports in basketball, volleyball, track and softball. This will be her second year with APA.

Sr. Shabana Tabassum has a Bachelor of Science degree from Bangalore University, India and has completed a Diploma in Software Applications. Her prior experience includes teaching at elementary school at International School in Saudi Arabia as well as computer system administration. She is in her ninth year at APA.

Sr. Ambreen Saeed earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Botany, Zoology, and Geography and earned a Bachelor of Education Degree at the University of Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan. She also earned a paraprofessional certificate from ACC and has attend a wide variety of workshops leading to certifications. In 2011, she earned a NAMC preschool/kindergarten Teaching Diploma for Montessori Schools. Sr. Ambreen serves as our lower school teaching assistant. She has been with APA for 5 years

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