Secondary School Staff Biographies

English & Social Studies Department

Br. Ted Hamilton is a certified teacher with over six years of curriculum development and instruction experience. He graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He teaches a variety of middle and high school courses at APA including AP Research, Seminar and US History. Br. Ted has served as an AP Reader for Seminar and was a top 5 finalist for Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association’s Teaching Excellence Award in 2018.  He also coaches policy debate, teaches elective courses such as ultimate frisbee and hand percussion and collaborates with other educators to coordinate APA’s interfaith relationships with partner schools. He joined APA in 2013.

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 the 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 teaches Social Studies to Middle and Upper School students. She joined APA in 2012.

Ms. 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 upper 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. Ms. 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. Ms. Amna was the recipient of the Teacher of the Year Award in 2014-5. She joined APA in 2011.

Ms. Patricia Márquez joins APA in 2019 with years of experience teaching Language Arts to grades 6th-8th, English I and II to grades 9th and 10th, and AP English and SAT test prep courses to grades 11th and 12th. She holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College, where she studied liberal arts and writing, and a Masters in English from CUNY Brooklyn College. She also studied philosophy and literature abroad at King’s College London. Her writing has been published in the Austin American-Statesman, Texas Writers Journal, The Bookends Review, Mojave River Press, Pacifica Literary Review, and York University’s Canadian Journal for Cultural Studies. Her short story, “Tiger Heaven”, was awarded Notable Story by storySouth’s 2014 Million Writers Award. In addition to English instruction, she teaches journalism, drama, film theory, and creative writing. Ms. Patricia will teach Middle School English.

Science Department

Ms. 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 upper school, she is the school’s main IT support for both software and hardware areas. Ms. 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 Upper School. Ms. Nahed was rewarded the “Principal’s Award” for meeting and exceeding all standards in 2010 – 2011. She joined APA in 2006.

Math Department

Mrs. Sarah Sayegh holds a Bachelors of Business Administration in Accounting from The University of Texas at Austin and is certified to teach both Middle School Mathematics and Elementary Generalist. She returns to APA this year to serve as a Middle/Upper School Mathematics teacher. Mrs. Sayegh has previously taught in British International Schools in expat communities in Central Africa. She has attended various workshops geared towards integrating technology into the classroom. Mrs. Sayegh aspires to instill her passion for Mathematics in her students as they discover the applications in their daily lives. She strives to make her classroom a fun and engaging learning environment. She joined APA in 2013 and now returns to APA in 2019 for her third year of teaching.

Ms. Maisaa Hawana  graduated with a B. Sc. 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. Ms. 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 Upper 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 Upper School Geometry. She joined APA in 2008.

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.

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 as well as a peer advisor and mentor for the APA Teaching Staff for Math and Science. Ms. Penny joined APA in 2015.

Co-Curricular Department

Ms. 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 lower elementary school at International School in Saudi Arabia as well as computer system administration. Her artistic and creative background led 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.

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