Faculty and Staff
Education and Training
- Educational background in diverse fields
- All staff and teachers have minimum Bachelor’s degree
- Several hold advanced (Master’s and Doctoral) degrees
- Teachers have attended educational training and workshops, and have earned numerous certifications
- Most of our teachers are ‘certified’ or in final stages of their certification
Experience and Talent
- Teachers have several years of teaching experience
- Elementary school teachers worked with children for many years
- Middle/High school teachers with previous public and private school experience
- Highly qualified staff for Arabic/Islamic Studies programs
Extra Curricular Activities
- Authored books and research papers
- Active in National Clubs
- Membership in Honor Societies
- Received scholarships and research fellowships
- Coached Speech and Debate teams at national level competitions
- Staff & teachers from diverse ethnic backgrounds and nationalities
- Well versed in multi-cultural school environment
- Several teachers are bilingual
- Major world languages spoken by our teachers and staff
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 schools.
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. He joined APA in 2009.
Director of Operations – Sr. Maisaa Hawana graduated 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. She also received her Masters of Education in Education with Principalship from Concordia University in 2017. 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 Middle/High School teacher, childhood development training and several computer certifications. In addition to teaching mathematics in 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 Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) for Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) for International Students and is the official Notary for APA. Ms Hawana also teaches High School Geometry. She joined APA in 2008.
Sister Halima Kamara serves as one of APA’s Administrative Assistants. Over the years, she has served in different capacities at APA and settled into the role of Admin Assistant in 2015. Ms Kamara assists the Principal and Head of Academics in ensuring the school’s activities runs smoothly. She is currently completing her degree. Ms Halima joined APA in 2010.
Sister Hala Khalil serves as one of APA’s Administrative Assistants. She completed her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from McGill University. Her extensive background in office management at Islamic schools and elsewhere over the years makes her an invaluable asset to APA. Ms Khalil assists in ensuring the school’s activities run smoothly and ensures that the school environment is up to the highest standards. Ms Khalil joined APA in 2015.
Pre- School Department
Mrs. 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 attended a wide variety of workshops leading to certifications. In 2011, she earned a NAMC preschool/kindergarten Teaching Diploma for Montessori Schools. Her extensive experience in the Montessori learning method and its implementation will be of great benefit to the students in fostering a love of learning through play and exploration. Her creative and artistic approach to teaching will further this dynamic in the classroom. Along with her enriching childhood education background, she has served as the lower school teacher assistant at APA for six years. This extensive experience along with her maternal and patient personality will prove an enriching and nurturing environment for our youngest students. She joined APA in 2011.
Mrs. Nahid Hassan completed her degree in Early Childhood Education from Seneca College in Toronto. In Toronto, she created engaging and enriching educational material for students of wide age ranges. Additionally, she assisted in a Kindergarten classroom where she taught and tested different levels of students. Over the past few years, she volunteered in many capacities at APA where she developed a familiarity with the the school’s mission, values, and dynamics. Ms Hassan’s educational background and past work experience provides her with the tools to create the perfect learning environment to develop these young minds. Her nurturing and patient personality, along with her background experience and education, will make her an asset to the Pre-K department. She joined APA in 2018.
Elementary School Department
Mrs. Fatima 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. She joined APA in 2014.
Ms. Dorion DeMeyer Dorion DeMeyer currently teaches first grade at Austin Peace Academy in Austin, Texas. Previously, she was a third through fifth grade reading intervention teacher for The Meadows Center For Preventing Educational Risk,The University of Texas at Austin College of Education. Prior to that, she taught a K-2 classroom at Austin Village Academy, with a focus on reading and writing instruction and social emotional learning. She has also owned her own educational consulting business since 2008 in which she tutors K-5th grades in all subjects. She collaborates with teachers on classroom design, conducts parent/homeschool curriculum workshops, and manages recreational programs for youth. From 2005 through 2008 she worked for Leander ISD as a first grade teacher, a special education teaching assistant, and an early learning environment (ELE) lead teacher. She has an undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio in interdisciplinary studies, with specializations in early childhood education (ECE) and reading, grades 1-8. Ms Demeyer joined APA in 2014.
Sister Naveen Khan returns to APA to serve as the second grade teacher. Mrs. Khan completed her Bachelor’s of Science degree in Child Learning and Development from the University of Texas at Dallas. Her vast teaching experience shines through in the classroom. Mrs. Khan has worked many years as a Montessori school teacher. Her experience in a Montessori classroom allows her to provide a different dynamic to learning that benefits the students, in which they are encouraged to explore the world around them. Her goal is to ensure that all her students have a love of learning, just as she does. Mrs. Khan was a first grade teacher at APA a few of years ago and took some time off to be with her family. During her time off, Mrs. Khan worked as a tutor to students in China. She worked for years teaching Chinese students how to read, write, and speak English. Mrs. Khan’s virtual experience teaching has provided for a new understanding of different methods of teaching. Mrs. Khan’s experience as a teacher, coupled with her ability to integrate Islamic learning, leads to an enriching and nurturing Islamic environment for her students. Ms Khan worked at APA 2014-2016 and rejoined in 2018.
Sister 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. She joined the APA team in 2016.
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. Ms Brown also teaches 7th Grade History. She joined APA in 2012.
Mrs. Casey Duck-Garcia 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. In addition to teaching 5th grade, Ms Garcia also teaches 6th Grade English. She joined APA in 2013.[/vc_column_text]
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 joined APA in 2013.
Sandra 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. She joined APA in 2014.
Mrs. Amna Rahman graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LLb hons) and completed her Masters in English specializing in nineteenth century language and culture. She has dedicated five years to teaching Language Arts at APA to various middle and high school classes where she strives to teach content in a fun, student centered, yet challenging fashion while simultaneously aligning with AP requirements. She has completed several AP training courses at the University of Texas and her students have consistently scored above national norms in the AP examination. Mrs. Amna has coached various PSIA and MIST events and has been responsible for the successful staging of four school drama productions. She focuses on building strong relationships of trust and respect with students to foster an optimal environment for holistic student growth. Mrs. Amna was the recipient of the Teacher of the Year Award in 2014-5. She joined APA in 2011./vc_column_text]
Sr Zahra Makofske returns to APA to serve as the Pre-AP English teacher for incoming 7th, 9th, and 11th and 12th Grade students. She completed her undergraduate education at Bryn Mawr College in 2005, where she studied History and Literary Journalism. She also holds a Master’s in Education from the University of California, Berkeley (2009) where she tutored undergraduate students in their freshman English courses for two years. Recently, Ms. Zahra developed the academic portion of the ESL refugee program at APA, and worked with several students who had recently arrived in the United States. Ms. Zahra will complete the Pre-AP English workshop intensive at UT this summer, and she looks forward to hearing APA students’ fresh perspectives on classic literature. She joined APA in 2014.
Middle and High School Science Department
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. SHe joined APA in 2006.
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! Ms Baddour started at APA in 2011.
Middle and High School Math Department
Sr. Maysaa Alzant 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 received Texas teacher certification in 2016. Mrs. Alzant taught high School math classes in the American International Schools of Gaza. Her mission in life is to help students understand Math and how it applies with different aspects of life. She has also received training at UT Advanced Placement Summer Institute for Pre-AP Math. She teaches Pre Algebra and Algebra Classes in APA. She also teaches programming languages such Python and Microsoft Small Basic. She joined APA in 2014.
Ms Cara Bearden completed her degree in Mathematics from Alverno College in 2005. She received her Secondary Math Certification in 2007 for Texas. She taught math for seven years at Crockett High School, where she also served as the AP math teacher lead. In 2012, she joined the National Math and Science Initiative as a presenter and mentor. Ms Bearden offers exam preparation sessions for students in AP statistics and general AP math exam preparation. At NMSI, she also mentors teachers, providing them with resources and offering support. She joined APA in 2018 as a Pre-Calculus teacher.
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. Her passion is Advanced Placement Statistics. In addition to teaching at Austin Peace Academy, she continues to serve as a consultant for the College board, as an AP grader and rubric writer, and member of the AP Statistics Test Development Committee. Penny also works as a statistics content specialist for the National Mathematics and Science Initiative. Her dedication to professional development has helped teachers and students from coast to coast as well as in Singapore and Hong Kong. Penny’s recognition includes 2015 Presidential Award Finalist, 2011 O’Donnell AP Teacher of the Year, 2010 Intel Teacher of Merit, 2009 Texas Exes Outstanding Teacher, the 2008 national winner of the Siemen’s Teacher Award, 2007 District Teacher of the Year, and 2006 Toyota International Teacher Award. This is a result of her connecting material to the students and engaging with them on a deeper level. Ms Penny joined the APA community from Westwood High school as a Mathematics teacher in AP Statistics as well as a peer advisor and mentor for the APA Teaching Staff for Math and Science. Ms Penny joined APA in 2015.
Islamic Studies, Arabic, & Quran (ISAQ) Department
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). Since working at APA, 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. Ms Samia joined APA in 2010.
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. Sh. Attia joined APA in 2012.
Dr. Nehal Khadr was born in Boulder, Colorado in a family of seven. She has lived in Texas for nearly 30 years and has been teaching Qur’an, Arabic, and Islamic Studies since 2001 at Austin Peace Academy. She completed medical school in 1998 with a focus on Internal Medicine from Alexandria University in Eqypt. She worked as a physician at Gamal Abdel-Nasser hospital in Alexandria for two years. In addition, Ms Khadr holds a diploma in teaching Islamic Studies from Toronto University in Canada and Bayyinah certificate from the Bayyinah center in Dallas, Texas by Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan. In addition to this, she holds a Flagship Arabic certificate based on teaching reading, writing and speaking the Arabic Language and an Arabic certificate from the University of Texas at Austin by Mahmoud Al Batal. In 2015, she obtained her Austin Texas Nursing certificate.
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. She joined APA in 2003 and has filled the classrooms and halls with her smile and sweet patience since.
Sr. Guyna Elabiad is in her eleventh 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. She teaches lower Elementary Arabic and Islamic Studies.
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 joined APA in 2006.
Sister Feryal Makkouk completed her Bachelor’s degree in Education, with a focus on early childhood, and Psychology from Lebanese American University in Beirut, Lebanon. She has worked with students in different capacities over the last ten years. Her education and experience will make her an asset to the APA Islamic Studies and Arabic department where she will serve as a teacher in both Upper Elementary and Middle School. Ms Makkouk contributed last year with her time as a volunteer substitute and is excited to come onboard full-time. She joined APA in 2018.
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. Her artistic and creative background lead to her becoming APA’s art teacher, where her high standards motivate to put forth their best into their artwork. Furthermore, her passion for the field ignites interest for the students and allows them to tap unfulfilled potential. She joined APA in 2010.