Our Team Bios

LAURA KOVALCKI

Learning Specialist--Literacy

 

 

 

Laura earned her Master of Science degree in elementary education with a specialization in reading education and her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education at the University of Houston–Clear Lake (UHCL).   She has 30+ years as a professional educator.   Laura started her career as an elementary classroom teacher and often worked privately with students needing additional academic assistance, especially in the language arts area.  In addition, Laura worked as a parent educator conducting home visits with families of diverse backgrounds, some teen parents, and various socio-economic levels who had children from birth to five years old.   Laura work from a strength-based model as she supported families in their roles as their child’s “best teacher”.   She individualized instruction and strived to assist the families to recognize their strengths as they used new literacy strategies to help with their child’s learning.    She later taught as an adjunct professor for UHCL in undergraduate literacy courses for pre-service teachers, which kept her abreast of current research-based instruction.  At LaPorte ISD, Laura was named District Elementary Teacher of the Year. 

 
 

RHONDA PONDER

Learning Specialist—Elementary Math

 

 

Rhonda earned her Master of Science degree in elementary education with a concentration in math education at University of Houston-Clear Lake and her Bachelor of Science degree elementary education at University of Houston-Clear Lake.  Rhonda has devoted 30+ years to loving and teaching children of all ages.  She has taught elementary, intermediate and middle school students.  She taught summer school and tutored students after school to provide the extra help and skills needed for them to be successful.  While teaching is her passion, ensuring the success of all students is her goal.  Early in her career, Rhonda found that mathematics was her strength and an area where she could make strong connections and a marked improvement with students.  Rhonda incorporated a variety of teaching techniques into her lessons to improve and differentiate learning, such as modeling skills and strategies, and using manipulatives, repetitive review, written cues and verbalization.  While making learning fun and meaningful, she has helped hundreds of students build confidence in themselves.  In 2008, Rhonda was named Barbers Hill Elementary Teacher of the Year.  She has served as grade level leader and in various leadership roles for both curriculum and instruction.

 

RITA GATSON

Learning Specialist—Literacy

 

 

 

Rita earned her Master of Science degree in reading education at Texas A&M and her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education at Texas A&M.  She has 30+ years of experience as a professional educator.   She has taught reading for kindergarten through fourth graders.  She is trained as a dyslexia specialist and is dedicated to identifying personal learning solutions for each student.  Rita focuses on assisting students who have difficulty learning their personal skills and strategies to read successfully.  When she personally get to know her students’ strengths and areas for development helps her to build curriculum on what motivates each of them to learn.   Watching their reading improve by employing different strategies that works for each of them, brightens her day.   All learners are individuals, who learn at different levels and rates.   Rita is dedicated to never giving up on any of her students and working with each individually until they become successful readers. 

 

KAREN GORDY

Learning Specialist—Elementary Math

 

 

 

Karen earned her Master of Music degree and Bachelor of Music degree and Bachelor of Science degree in elementary and secondary education at the University of Southern Mississippi.  She has 40+ years of experience as a professional educator.  She has taught students from pre-kindergarten through senior level in college.  Karen has taught in both public and private schools throughout her career.  She has taught a variety of subjects including math, language arts, reading, writing, science, high school choir, elementary choir, general music, and high school band.  She utilizes metacognition strategies to teach students how to evaluate their strengths and learning modalities to develop their own tools to become successful, lifelong learners.  Karen applies her love for and talent in music to help her students who are struggling to learn math.  Currently, she is working as an elementary at-risk math tutor and co-teacher in math, science and the gifted and talented for GCISD.  She is a test administrator for Oral Administration of STAAR, Benchmarks, and Curriculum Based Assessments.   Karen also continues to pursue her passion for music both as a performer and a clinician/adjudicator.  She is a music adjudicator for band solo and ensemble including an all-city judge for district wide flute auditions.  Karen continues to be an adjunct instructor for applied flute at Lee College and provides private flute instruction.

CAROL THEISS

Learning Specialist—Literacy

 

 

 

I am passionate about caring for and helping all my students learn to their highest levels, discovering what excites them, and providing families all the support and guidance they may need or want.

 

CHRISTIE HAHN

Learning Specialist—Math

 

 

I am an educator with over 20 years of professional experience teaching mathematics to middle-senior high school and adult students.  I am also engaged in leading and training other educators to improve their teaching of mathematics.  I am dedicated to creating and executing meaningful mathematic instruction for all students.  I have experience analyzing math learning data to design action plans that will impact individual learning growth and customize learning solutions.   My experience of leading the design and implementation of after-school tutorials has provided me the opportunity to work with students struggling to learn math to make significant gains.  I enjoy celebrating with my students their learning successes in math.

 
 

MICHELLE HIX

Learning Specialist—Literacy

 

 

 

I am devoted to my students and their families.  I especially love working with new ESL and ESOL students and their families.  It's exciting to develop new methods to help students learn.  My school district awarded me ESL Secondary Teacher of the Year in 2016.

KIMBERLY BRYANT

Learning Specialist—Secondary Math

 

 

 

I am a highly motivated teacher who has years of successful experience designing, developing, and delivering tailored instruction to help my students learn.  Ensuring student success is very important to me as an educator. 

 

SHERRY OTAHAL

Learning Specialist—Secondary Literacy

 

 

 

It is important to me to plan with fellow teachers individualized lessons for students. I also plan and facilitate tutorials including the development of lessons. Involving parents in their students' learning helps to improve the students' learning and motivation.

 

CLAUDIA OVALLE

Learning Specialist—Bilingual

 

 

Claudia is working on her doctoral degree in organizational leadership and special education through Grand Canyon University.  Her Master of Science degree is in multicultural education at the University of Houston-Clear Lake and her Bachelor of Science degree is in secondary education at the Higher Normal School of the State of Coahuila of Zaragoza, Mexico.  She has 20+ years of experience as a professional educator.  Claudia is an elementary bilingual and English Language Learners (ESL) teacher.  She differentiates instruction based on learning readiness, interests, learning modalities, strengths, and needs.  She strives to make learning personal and meaningful to her students by making connections to their life experiences and cultural backgrounds.  In her classrooms, Claudia works with students such as English second language, special needs, and gifted and talented learners.  She coaches first and second year teachers to create productive learning experiences and provide a balance with objectives and activities that are relevant to their students' needs.  Claudia’s passion for teaching and her students’ success is shared with students, parents and colleagues.  She continues to learn new approaches to enhance and improve her students' academic learning as well as personal development.   

 

ANA SAMANO

Learning Specialists- Bilingual Education 

BS   Interdisciplinary Studies Specialized in Bilingual Education

 

I have over 14 years experience in diversified fields of education in both English and Spanish.  I enjoy working with a team to develop individual methods to help all students learn.  I respect and appreciate all the cultures of my students, families, and colleagues I work with. 

 

CLAUDIA PITMAN

Learning Specialist—Bilingual Education

 

I have over 20 years of diversified experience in various grade levels. I love to teach and look forward to every school year.   It's important to me to work with a team of teachers to target students 'specific learning needs.  My communication skills are in both English and Spanish.