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Mentor Alumni

 

Laura Castillo, Nutrition/Gardening Mentor (all Levels)

Hello!  My name is Laura Castillo, and I am a Nutrition/Gardening mentor for the kids at Integrity Academy.  My role is to help the students prepare and serve delicious snacks, while learning new things about our ingredients.  It is also to help transform, with the help of every student, our precious outdoor places into education zones for beautiful and/or edible plants that are happy to grow in Austin, Texas.  We engage in lots of hands-on activities, from cleaning, chopping, and mixing foods, to digging, weeding, and watering our communal living gardens around the campus.  
My garden at home includes herbs (basil, thyme, oregano, bay, lemongrass, and mints), trees (peach, loquat, apricot, grapefruit, lemon, lime, and fig), vegetables (tomato, okra, potato, lettuce, cucumber, and zucchini), and too many flowers and cactus to name.
My three kids (two of whom attend Integrity Academy), my husband, and I all care for the gardens and the ecosystems that pop up.  Our six chickens provide good company, entertainment (as long as they stay out of the garden beds), and eggs!  I could happily spend all day with my hands in the dirt, and like to share the fun with others.  
I also love teaching geographic awareness, and often come to class with maps, or a globe.  We look for what ingredients are local, and which ones are not.  We explore where things grow, and how they come to us.  I hope to bring the students at Integrity a deep understanding all of the systems that come into play before something ends up on our plate.

I also have a Master's degree in Acupuncture and Herbology (plant medicine).  The idea that food is medicine is deeply and thoroughly explored in this ancient body of knowledge.  I share with students both specific nutritional information about what we are growing and eating (vitamins, minerals, oils, fiber, etc.), as well as simple medicinal applications (for example, mint is good for a sore throat). 

We are planting as many native, edible, and beautiful plants as we can in our space at IA.  We are building bridges between our community and city and rural gardens, hoping to learn all we can from them.  We also support the students though projects as we learn about our school, and our place in the world.
I remain open to suggestions from students and parents as to how we can maximize the use of our space and time together.  

Dena Hope Rand, Friday Camp Mentor - Artist in Residence
 

Originally hailing from the Midwest, I moved to Austin in 2014, and fall more in love with this city everyday, especially now that I have found my home at Integrity Academy. Though my career started in Marketing, my heart has always been with educating children in a meaningful way that engages their minds, fosters their creativity, and supports their self-esteem and respect for others.

As a child, I always imagined myself as a teacher. Teaching and connecting with children has been a passion of mine since I was a teenager, when I had the opportunity to be a lifeguard and swim coach for young children at a local pool. I continually looked forward to helping kids learn new skills and abilities. My grandmother was my art teacher in elementary school, and I always thought that would be so fun! Growing up, I was heavily involved in the arts. Whether it was dance, singing or theater, I’ve spent most of my life performing in some way or another.

In 2015, I began volunteering at Green Sprout Preschool. During my time there, I was fortunate enough to learn about the value of peace education and alternative teaching methods. It was then that I realized that teaching wasn't just my childhood dream, but my true calling. After traveling to Thailand in the fall of 2015, I returned to Austin determined to find a position that allowed me to mentor children and share my love for the arts. I was hired through The Adderley School for the Performing Arts to run their after-school program for students of Integrity Academy.

I am beyond thankful for discovering Integrity Academy. In my time running the after-school program, I have studied its educational mission regarding non-violent communication techniques and the tenants of the four agreements. Realizing the power behind these methods, I have dedicated myself to learning as much as I can about these techniques as I constantly strive to better serve my students. Being involved in the Integrity community and having created strong bonds with the students has brought me such joy, and it's an incredible feeling to go home at the end of the workday already excited about my next visit with the students. I am thrilled to be joining the staff of Integrity Academy as their Friday Camp “Artist in Residence.” I look forward to sharing my love for arts & crafts, music, tinkering, and self-expression with the students of Integrity Academy.

Cera Verano,  Primary Mentor (Level 4 and 5)

It wasn’t until about 6 months into my first year of teaching that I realized how desperately I wanted to be an educator. Luckily, I stumbled upon my calling early in life and have been fortunate enough to work in academic settings ever since.  I, myself, am a product of public school education and I did fine in that environment, unaware that alternatives existed. After graduating from a large high school in Wyoming, I went on to college in Oregon to receive a BA in Creative Writing and a BA in English Literature from Pacific University.  I then moved to Massachusetts, where I discovered my overwhelming passion for teaching.  
 
My first classroom position was a lead teacher at Westside High School, an alternative extension of New Bedford Public Schools in Massachusetts. The facility catered to a unique group of low-income, minority, and at-risk teens.  Because we were understaffed and had few decent teaching spaces, we often had fluctuating student ages within the same classroom.  Students often ranged in grades of up to three years separation.  This arrangement became the perfect setting to practice project-based learning.  I found this was a much more effective way to assess their true comprehension, rather than a traditional exam or essay.  This teaching method also allowed for staff members to work together, to build projects across subjects and engage the students more by showing how an area of knowledge can be applied to multiple concepts.
 
Through this unfolding discovery, I slowly started to form my personal teaching philosophy.  To this day, it’s still fluctuating, changing. Like a living document.  And I think it always will be.  New ideas come into this world every second, and I think it’d be foolish to believe I’ve already achieved my peak potential as an educator.  However there will remain one constant: confidence.  My main priority in mentoring children, is actively maintaining their self-esteem.  I take root in the idea that if they feel good about themselves, the learning will happen naturally, because they believe they can.
 
Over the 10 year course of my career in education, I’ve taught many, many subjects. However, math is my first love.  It’s amazing to witness the transition in students who dread math (because it’s “too hard”), become engaged in the classroom, over time, and actually want to participate!  I love working with students to help them achieve their educational goals and build academic confidence.  With my drive to encourage & motivate, and Integrity Academy’s amazingly insightful philosophy, I can finally teach without constraints.  Since learning can happen in so many aspects of life that our society takes for granted or refuses to consider, I feel most students are deprived of the ability to learn naturally.  I want the freedom to inspire my students with the world around them, not a textbook. 
 
I feel unbelievably fortunate for the opportunity to be at Integrity Academy, as I’ll have the opportunity to explore both teaching and learning, right alongside your child!  I am so looking forward to this!

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Sara Ronder Business Administrator

Sara Eliza Ronder was born and raised in Austin, Texas. During her time at Travis High School, she was introduced to Casa de Luz through involvement with Students for a Free Tibet, which met weekly in support of locally based Tibetan refugees. In the fall of 2000 she was accepted to Texas State University to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in History with a focus on Multicultural and Gender Studies.

After three semesters, her college career was cut short as Sara underwent surgery and was diagnosed with stage 1C Germcell Ovarian Cancer. While undergoing chemotherapy treatment, she became involved with a local, non-profit, Planet Cancer, which existed to serve and connect young adult cancer survivors across the globe. Sara was given the opportunity to run the entire operation during the Executive Director’s 3 month maternity leave.

Over the past 15 years, Sara has been in managerial and leadership positions for companies in Texas (Ruta Maya World Headquarters, Hotel San Jose), California (Buffalo Exchange, Urban Outfitters) and Massachusetts (Whole Foods Market), and most recently finished a 7 year relationship with Home Slice Pizza. Her current calling as Business Administrator of Integrity Academy is one that fulfills many facets of her expertise and interest in operations management and keeps her close to her son, Arlo, who is a Level 2 student.   

Meghan McGrath Primary Co-mentor (Level 3)

As a child growing up in New Hampshire I spent many days climbing trees, building forts, creating musicals, eating mysterious plants indigenous to my backyard, and rough-housing with the boys next door. My wonderful, artistic mother (also an educator) always encouraged me to express myself, no matter my eccentricities. For this I will be always grateful.

I received a wonderful education in a public school system. But I always felt that teachers — who were unfortunately often overwhelmed with too many students — had little patience for me as I fidgeted constantly in my seat, doodled on every accessible page and hummed while reading “silently”. In retrospect, I had trouble concentrating and was sometimes distractible, but I was eager to learn: I just needed the right learning environment. I have since aspired to provide exactly such an environment to young scholars, in particular by integrating movement and the arts into the classroom to calm minds and therefore engender concentration.

My undergraduate education helped shape this philosophy. I double-majored in Psychology and Dance at UMass, Amherst. I have always been intrigued by the study of the human mind and behavior, especially when paired with movement, music and art. After graduating in 2005, I spent a year dancing professionally and fulfilled one passion, but left a void in another. I needed to find a way to combine movement with my growing interest in early childhood education. Happily, I discovered Lesley University’s Creative Arts in Learning program and earned my M.Ed. from a school full of professors who encouraged doodling!

While living in Boston for eight years, I taught in a variety of capacities in the Newton Public School system. The majority of my time was spent in Kindergarten and 1st grade, with my favorite year being the lead teacher of a K/1 split class. It was inspiring to see how the children naturally created a working, loving community, guiding one another along the way. This experience made me excited to work more routinely with mixed age levels. I also regularly incorporate art, music, dance and yoga into my classrooms for the benefit of all (myself included).

Over the years, I have also been successful at maintaining a balance between my educator and dancer self. In Boston I was a member of two dance companies, BoSoma(Modern dance) and Jean Appolon Expressions(Haitian/Modern dance). During this time I also had the honor of teaching yoga and dance to 50 young adults with Jean Appolon Expressions in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti for two consecutive summers (2012 and 2013). After my husband took a job at UT here in Austin, we relocated in August and I quickly joined Austin Allegro, a new contemporary dance company. I don’t like to sit still for long! I have had my eyes set on Integrity Academy for several months now and have truly enjoyed watching it grow and develop so quickly from afar. It feels like the perfect educational setting for me to continue learning, playing, moving, eating natural foods and helping to guide children through this wild, strange and exciting world.

Michelle Carbone Primary Co-mentor (Level 2)

​Born and raised in the Midwest, Michelle has traveled across the States before landing in Austin. After living in St. Louis, Milwaukee, Ohio, and even Yellowstone National Park, she has become familiar with the natural wonders existing all across the States. Once she received an undergraduate degree from Marquette University in Urban and Environmental Affairs, she began sharing her love and knowledge of the natural world.

Starting in Yellow Springs, Ohio, she became a Naturalist at Glen Helen Outdoor Education Center. Here, she spent a year educating children in natural sciences using the great outdoors, while feeding owls and perfecting the “Bird of Prey Shuffle” skit in her free time. She was invited to stay on as a Coordinator of their Summer Camp, leading staff with her genuine excitement and enthusiasm for experiential education. Michelle migrated to the South after many years of cold winters to the fair (and warmer) state of Texas to continue outdoor education at the YMCA Camp Grady Spruce in North Central Texas. As she told stories of kingdoms for possums, hummingbirds and the stars and created songs about nature, it became clear mentoring youth was her calling.

The last leg of her journey before venturing back to Texas was Yellowstone National Park, where she had the chance to climb among the Grand Tetons of Jackson Hole and back-country camp all over Yellowstone. But after her many visits to Austin, she knew her home was here, where she has since been involved with the Nature and Science Center, the Wildflower Center and was an instructor at Earth Native Wilderness School. She’s excited to bring her knowledge and appreciation of nature to Integrity, and hopes to integrate it into everyday experiences for her students. Her passions include recycling, buying local and looking for new and innovative ways to lead a simpler life with minimal impact on the environment but still maximum fun! 

 Ananda Myhre, Intern Mentor

Born and raised in Texas, my roots are set deeply into the red and black clays of the Texas savannahs.  From my home birth and home schooling, to my current enrollment at Austin Community College as a dual credit student (highschool and college credit), you could say that our family has often taken a road less traveled. The person I've become as a result of this upbringing is someone in love with nurturing children, the health of our community, and the health of the earth around us.

Taking care of children is something that I’ve always loved doing.  I began taking care of my baby brother when I was 6 years old, and have since worked as a camp counselor, activity leader, and part-time nanny. It’s my goal to always treat their big souls in little bodies with respect, and to be present with them from a place of joy.  In activities, I engage them through the senses, and offer them useful insights that they will absorb rather than memorize.

My self guided research into nutrition over the past 5 years has led me to try many different styles of eating and food preparation.  During this process, I have always inquired into the beliefs of my community members, taken advantage of libraries and the internet, and been through a lot of trial and error.  This has given me a broad perspective and hopefully some well-rounded opinions.  I believe that nourishing food can transform lives and provide a vital foundation for all the beautiful potential that we as humans hold.

Throughout my whole life I've also been learning from my father, Kirby Fry, who is a builder and permaculture designer.  Permaculture is a design system for sustainable living that creates self sufficient, high yielding, and zero waste landscapes. My father has taught me about natural building, gardening, soil and water conservation, and project management. I’ve attended so many workshops, volunteer days, conferences, and audited so many permaculture design courses that I stopped counting years ago.

It will be a great opportunity to combine all of these passions with a group of such talented and inspirational people.

Ryan Night

Ryan Knight - Preschool Mentor (Level 1)

Ryan earned his BA in English at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California, with a concentration in East and Southeast Asian Studies, areas of the world he has also traveled. While in California he worked as a childcare provider, private music instructor, academic tutor, assistant to a MFT/RN, and tutor to EFL students from East and Southeast Asia. He was also actively involved in chorale, musical theater, dance, and Yoga, which he still practices, daily. After moving to Austin in late 2011, Ryan traveled to homes throughout rural areas in Texas and Oklahoma to deliver and train eligible students to use tutorial programs on grant-funded computers.

Ryan feels fortunate that he is currently pursuing two of his main passions: music and working with children. His love for working with children has continued to strengthen and grow at Austin Discovery School, where he has worked as an AfterCare Group Leader and Substitute Teacher since September of 2012. Here, Ryan was trained to implement Becky Bailey’s model of Conscious Discipline. He also is an intern at a small recording studio in Austin and a member of a band with his two close friends from California.

Jason Phelps

Jason Phelps - Primary school Mentor (Level 2)

I have been teaching for over 10 years. Most recently, teaching 2nd/3rd grade at Austin Discovery School for the past 4 years. Prior to that, I taught at the Lake Champlain Waldorf School in Burlington, VT for 5 years, and Garden City Waldorf School for 1 year. I have a M.Ed. from Antioch/New England with a dual certification in Integrated Learning and Waldorf curricula. In addition to classroom teaching, I have also developed and taught theatre camps for ages 5-18, as well as directed dozens of class plays.

I have been involved with theatre for over 30 years. From 1991-2001 I was co-founder of Frontera@Hyde Park Theatre where I helped to launch FronteraFest, Austin’s largest annual theatre festival. I have performed at Zach Scott, Salvage Vanguard, Off Center, Hyde Park Theatre, and many non-traditional performance spaces. In addition to local theatre, I have been on tour with The Intergalactic Nemesis, The Rude Mechs, and my own solo dance theatre work as well as commercials, short films, and voice-over’s.

My specialty is integrating the arts into the academics. I love to use music and movement to teach math. I love to teach tongue twisters and silly rhyming poems to learn language arts skills. I love to let students explore in the woods to find what excites them and let their imaginations soar. My educational philosophy blends my favorite parts of a Waldorf arts-rich curriculum with Project Based Learning. I want school to be fun, engaging, and memorable.

I am also married to Margery Segal, a brilliant dancer/choreographer and body-based psychotherapist, and we have a teenage son, Javon, who is a gifted musician. I am passionate about the arts, love to cook, listen to all kinds of music, and love to be outdoors. I really look forward to meeting you.

Colleen Sears

Colleen Sears - Preschool Mentor (Level 1)

After graduating from St. Edward’s University with my Bachelor of Arts degree, I pursued Master’s studies in both child counseling and Chinese medicine (acupuncture, herbalism, & nutrition).  My greatest passions in life are dance, music, nature, self-growth, inspiring others in all ways, & children.  I have been working in childcare for 21 years including: in-home care/family assisting, after-school care directing, preschool teaching, & Montessori teaching in Austin.  

I am passionate about children because I am incapable of being around them without having a huge smile on my face & generally feeling my heart fill with love & my soul light up!  I feel so much love and compassion for them & connect easily with them.  I have a gentle, patient, positive, loving nature & am sensitive and intuitive to the needs of children.  For this reason, though I’ve worked with all ages from infancy to high school, I have had most of my experience with infants to age 5.  

My intentions with Integrity Academy are to co-teach the emerging stages (3-5 year-olds) as well as head the expressive movement classes.  I have been a musician for almost 25 years & a dancer for nearly 30 years.  In my many years of working with children, I have found that both music & dancing are very beneficial to their growth.

I love other people’s children like my own & put so much care into them.  I will work hard to nurture the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, & spiritual development of your child!

Shahnaz Baday-Erwin RYT, LMT -  Yoga, Cooking and Gardening

Shahnaz is a mother, natural foods chef, teacher, Yogini and
body worker. She is a certified Yoga instructor, registered through Yoga Alliance. Through her culinary career, she has studied under some the finest chefs in the world. She studied at The New School in New York City - a branch of NYU in their culinary school- and the Kushi Institute, a world renowned macrobiotic healing center in Becket, MA.

Her chef teachers’ advice still rings true in her teachings of, never stop learning (or tasting). Her stagiaire (apprenticeship) at Le Cirque, a world famous five star classical french restaurant in N.Y.C. “The most amazing time of my life, truly a circus, in a classic sense ” says Shahnaz. After Le Cirque, she went on to  MEKKA, an urban soul foods kitchen and Angelica Kitchen - one of the premiere vegan restaurants in the world. There she gained vital skills that she has carried with her throughout her entire career.

She celebrates her seventeen years in the culinary industry and is now a private chef, a food coach and is a former senior teacher and faculty member at the Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts. This school is one of the leading plant based culinary schools in the nation, and this is where she taught students basic tools in life.

One of her focuses at the school was for her students to identify and implement healthier options for food and following through with what
to do with it; how to prepare a delicious meal. Taking the food from
the farm to the table.
“With this knowledge they can live a long, happy and healthy life,
knowing where the food is from, how it is prepared and how it can be enjoyed.” Says Shahnaz about her former students at the Natural Epicurean. Her Love for teaching continues. FoodSchool was birthed 2013, and there you'll find culinary classes for big-n-small, and kids camps. www.yourfoodschool.com

Shahnaz recently worked under a contract with Engine 2 team as a healthy living food coach in their immersion projects, teaching people that you can still eat healthy, no matter what their current health
situation is. Learning where the food comes from is vital for everyone to know.
“Along my journey I have rekindled my passion of cultivating the
earth, which stems from my childhood. It was then that my parents planted the seed into my soul, of living as one with the earth and teaching me one of the greatest tools that would help me with my life. They taught me how to cultivate the Earth, plant the seeds and harvest the fruits of my labor. Not just in the garden, this philosophy applies to every facet of my life.”

To help spread the seeds of sustainable living and education,  Shahnaz
continues to cultivate her passion by working with the non-profit
group, TOFGA, (Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association).  It's because of her passion, enthusiasm, and her culinary skill,  that TOFGA has asked her to be their Chef for their annual fundraiser banquet dinner for the past two years.

Her connection with the earth transfers to her Yogic career and
teachings. She is a certified Yoga teacher in two modalities: Hatha and Kundalini.  She has been teaching Yoga for over 17 years. Currently, she teaches for the Austin area YMCA. Prior to the YMCA, she taught at Yoga Yoga for over a decade, Sun & Moon Yoga Studio in the D.C. metro area, and at Asheville Yoga Center, Asheville N.C

“ I have a non judgemental approach to life. Meeting people with grace
and living with the connective thread of ahimsa, which is a spiritual way of living, of non violence applied to yourself and others.”

Her favorite mantra comes from one of her teachers, Yogi Bhajan:
“Keep up and you will be kept up!”

In addition, Shahnaz is a recent graduate from the Lauterstein-Conway
Massage school in Austin, TX.    She has over 500 hours training in
several modalities including Swedish, Sports, Pregnancy, and trigger
point

"All these threads weave together: Mind-Body-Soul, you can not
separate one from the other!"----Shahnaz

Havilah Rand

Havilah Rand - Primary school Mentor (Levels 3/4)

My childhood dream to become a teacher took flight in 1996 during a journey to the Himalayan Mountains of India where I volunteered to teach English to Buddhist monks and Tibetan refugees. After a decade-long detour which bore three full length original albums and hundreds of performances as a singer-songwriter, I finally gained my Masters In Teaching degree from Woodring College in Bellingham, WA.

A gypsy at heart, I completed my teaching internship and thesis over a year in Spain and then relocated to the music capital of the world where I became a fixture in Austin's tight knit community of musicians. I released two more albums while honing my skills as an educator in the middle school classrooms of Austin's most challenging public schools. These experiences collectively produced a profound realization that fostering creativity and the development of innovative skills were what were lacking in public school classrooms and what I most wanted to accomplish as an educator. In 2011, I resigned from public school teaching and began offering songwriting workshops and camps for young people.

At this time I also received my Hatha Yoga teaching certification and took a position with a small alternative school where I taught several mixed elementary level groups of amazing kids. Our Language Arts and Social Studies class projects included movie-making, podcasting, puppetry, magazine publications and even a reenactment of The Silk Road. If my days weren't busy enough, I was even invited by renowned musician and innovator Darden Smith to present his amazing Be An Artist Program to public schools across Texas. These presentations demonstrate to students the power of creative and artistic thinking through discussion and songwriting. To date, I've written hundreds of songs with literally thousands of students across the country.

To say the least, I am thrilled and grateful that my career as a teacher continues to encompass all that I am most passionate about as an artist. My desire to infuse creativity and innovation into education has led me to join the amazing community of The Integrity Academy co-creators. I am delighted at the prospect of once again working in a learning environment that is in alignment with my own educational philosophies and where I may continue to evolve as an educator and a creative human being. I look forward to working with your children and to meeting you all. See you soon!

Nick Reed - Primary school classroom Intern (Levels 1-4)

Nick is the Primary school classroom Intern (Levels 1-4) at Integrity Academy Center for Integral Studies. His calling to work in education began while involved in a number of environmental and educational projects in Sweden. There, he developed a passion for working with youth and project based curriculum. He has a Bachelors’ in both Philosophy and Psychology from the Texas State University in San Marcos and has spoken in conferences, workshops, seminars, and classrooms for both youth and adults. Currently, Nick is living in Austin with his wife where he has been involved in start-up companies, book writing, and healthy relationship education and now is part of Integrity Academy’s educational revolution.

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Elaine Bailey Mentor Intern (All Levels), Coordinator of Special Needs

I was born the youngest of four children in a working class family in rural Ohio. I attended a small public school there through eighth grade and excelled academically. After my parents divorced when I was a young teenager, I moved with my mother to Atlanta, GA just in time to start high school. I attended public school in Georgia for two years and found myself under-stimulated by the academic curriculum and unhappy within the difficult social hierarchy of this very large school. My mother found an independent private school in Atlanta that she believed would be a better fit for me. I applied and was awarded financial aid to attend the school for my junior and senior years of high school. 

Attending that school for two short years changed my life. Enough cannot be said for a learning environment where students are given a safe place to express themselves and explore their interests, to make mistakes and learn to make amends, to form friendships through communities of support, and to see teachers and adults as allies and partners in the pursuit of the love of lifelong learning. 

After graduating from high school, I attended Barnard College in New York City and earned my BA in Sociology. Then I headed out west to Eugene, Oregon where I worked in various positions for different research grants at the Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC). The most formative of these experiences were as an assessor for the Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers (LIFT) project, and as a skills trainer for the Early Intervention Foster Care (EIFC) project. It was through these experiences that I developed my passion for working with children struggling with a variety of issues, and which eventually led to an interest in going to graduate school to study School Psychology.

I moved to Austin in 2006 and earned my Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from UT Austin. I became a Licensed Specialist in School Psychology (LSSP) and have spent the last six years working in public school districts in the surrounding Austin area. I loved working to help children with disabling conditions become more independent and self-actualized. However, I struggled with the bureaucratic “red-tape” aspects of working in public schools that resulted in barriers to treatment for many students in need. I also struggled with the effects on students and teachers of the pedagogy shift toward teaching to the state tests, which has resulted in less free-play and decreased opportunities for creative and interactive problem-solving activities for children in public schools. At the end of the 2014-15 school year, I made the difficult yet liberating decision to discontinue my work as a LSSP in public schools. I am excited to bring my passion and experience in working with children to Integrity Academy.