Shama Hinard, Head of School
Shama has over 20 years’ experience in teaching and school administration. Shama joined us in 2013 in the role of Director of Faculty and Curriculum, she was appointed Head of School in November 2015. Shama came to us after four years at The Nueva School in Hillsborough for gifted students and three years at the Assets School in Honolulu for dyslexic students. She earned her B.S. in Education from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.
Shama chose to join Athena Academy because she believes in the vision of the school to become a leading institution for Dyslexia education and is excited to work with the inspirational team of teachers, administration and families that make up the Athena community.
Katy Siegel, Lead Teacher
Taylor Hovish, Lead Teacher
Taylor Hovish holds a dual Bachelor of Science in elementary education and special education as well as a New York State teaching credential. As an undergraduate, she attended The College of Saint Rose where she created a successful learn to swim program for children with autism spectrum disorders.
Most recently, Taylor earned a Master's degree from Harvard University in the Mind, Brain, and Education program. There she conducted research on how children understand traditional teaching methods and presented her findings at the 2015 American Educational Research Association annual conference.
Taylor’s students describe her as “humorous and kind” and appreciate her ability to “make learning fun!” As a classroom teacher at Athena Academy, Taylor is excited to use her skills to draw out the creative ideas and insights of her students to make their thinking visible.
Linda Lau, Classroom Teacher
Linda Lau joined the Athena Academy teaching team in the 2014-2015 school year. She has a B.S. in cognitive science from M.I.T., where she did research on visual-spatial working memory and organized a math and science day camp for middle school girls. Next, she was a student support counselor in the Boston Public Schools while she earned a M.Ed. in adolescent risk and prevention from Harvard. She then obtained her single subject math teaching credential from National Hispanic University.
Linda came to Athena Academy after 7 years of working as math teacher at a public middle school in the South Bay. There, she was known for remembering all of her students' names, singing math songs and creating math games. Linda loves teaching dance and yoga to youth, and enjoys incorporating movement into her math lessons whenever she can.
Ericka Plough Almestar, Classroom Teacher
Ericka Plough Almestar earned her B.E in Teaching Languages from Pedagogico Nacional Monterrico in Lima, Peru. She taught English as a foreign Language at the British Council Institute for two years in Lima. Working with students from all ages helped her discover that she loved working with kids and she decided to pursue elementary school education as a vocation.
Ericka worked at the Peruvian North American Abraham Lincoln School in Lima, Peru as a 5th grade Homeroom Teacher and as a Mathematics Teacher in Middle School. She was responsible for designing curriculum, assessments and lesson plans following the International Baccalaureate inquiry-based learning design.
After moving from her home country to California to be with her husband, she was excited to join Athena Academy in the 2017-2018 school year.
Dominic Cala, Classroom Teacher
Dominic’s passion for working with children began with coaching t-ball in high school and quickly transformed into a desire to teach, he has worked with children in a variety of roles for the past 10 years. He began his work in Education as the Program Manager for the after school program at Rio Linda Preparatory School in Sacramento.
Dominic earned his B.A. in Child Development from CSU, Sacramento with an emphasis in Elementary Education.
When not at Athena, Dominic enjoys working out, going on hikes, cooking new foods, and going to Giants and 49ers games with friends and family. Currently, Dominic is pursuing his Multiple Subject Teaching Credential and M.Ed. in Inspired Teaching from National University.
Mr. Dom teaches elementary school homeroom and language arts.
Wendy Page - Classroom teacher
Wendy joined Athena Academy’s team in 2012 – 2013, serving the bright dyslexic students from day one! She has held many positions at the school including School Manager, HLC teacher, math teacher, art, drama, technology, and PE teacher. She has extensive training and experience teaching twice-exceptional students.
Wendy has been involved in education for the past 20 years. Her education includes a BA in Music Industry (music business), a California Multi-Subject Teaching Credential, and a MS in Instructional Design and Technology (online education and training). She has spent many years teaching online and creating online curriculum. She also spent 8 years teaching in person at Athena Academy and 20 years teaching in her private piano studio. One of Wendy’s passions is teaching online and improving that mode of education for learners of all ages.
In addition to teaching, Wendy loves to learn and create. Wendy is a self-taught seamstress, cake decorator and loves to learn all things about Lord of The Rings and Gaelic/Celtic culture. Wendy loves mountain biking, playing the Celtic harp and piano, sewing costumes, and spending time with her amazing family including, 7 nephews and 6 nieces.
Aaron Monroe, Classroom Teacher
Aaron spent many years working in the tech world before joining the US Navy as a Nuclear Engineer. He graduated at the top of his class and stayed on with the Navy as an instructor. From there he worked in Electrical Engineering and IT Engineering but did not feel fulfilled by any of these professions. It was time for something new!
Aaron reflected on how he always struggled in school due to his Dysgraphia but had a strong love for reading and stories. He felt that storytelling was a fun and dynamic way to learn. He decided to go back to school and explore his passion for literacy. He earned his Bachelors in English from American Military University and his Masters in Education from National University.
Aaron spent a few years teaching in the public school system before finding his home here at Athena Academy. He is very grateful that a place for students like him exists and is filled with caring and passionate people.
Kristen Freeman - Classroom teacher
Kristen joins the Athena Academy teaching team for the 2020-2021 school year.
Kristen was born and raised in Texas where she attended Texas State University. She majored in interdisciplinary studies and received a B.S. in Elementary Education. A few years later Kristen returned to Texas State to complete a M.Ed in Talent Development with a minor in Reading Instruction.
Kristen has over 10 years’ experience teaching in the elementary school setting. Kristen has taught primary through 5th grade students in public schools, a private montessori school, and a public charter school. She has had the opportunity to work with students as a classroom teacher, a reading interventionist, and as a campus gifted and talented coordinator and teacher. Kristen loves building relationships with her students and their families in order to bring out the gifts that each student has within them.
Kristen is passionate about supporting the whole child through social emotional learning in her classroom. Kristen is excited to engage with her students and learn all she can from them this year at Athena Academy.
Katherine Peckham - Distance Reading Support Specialist
Katherine Peckham has been an educator in a host of creative capacities for the past 25 years - tutoring, teaching or administering programs for children ages 3 through 8th grade. Katherine holds a bachelors degree in Child Development from Sacramento State and an Elementary Teaching Credential from Dominican University.
Katherine is a passionate champion for dyslexic children, as 3 of her 4 children (now 25, 22, 20 and 11) are also dyslexic/twice exceptional. Her youngest son, Luke, also attended Athena academy. As a young child, Katherine also struggled to learn to read. Her experiences, as a parent, child and teacher, have given her great insight into the dyslexic mind, the manner in which we learn, and the great gifts of so many dyslexic learners.
Katherine first joined the Athena Academy team in the fall of 2013, as a language arts teacher. In 2015, she and her family moved to Scottsdale, Arizona. Katherine is thrilled to be able to now return to Athena and share her gift of teaching with students remotely.
In addition to teaching, Katherine believes strongly in volunteerism. She spends time often serving the homeless, feeding food insecure families, and creating special giving events for Title One schools. Two years ago, to support both Title One schools and families of children with learning differences, Katherine created Innovate for All AZ (not yet a 501c3). Through this small Facebook presence Katherine strives to share innovative ideas in education with her home state, and to continue to give back to impoverished schools in her community.
Katherine loves the great outdoors, spending time in the White Mountains of Arizona, hiking, paddle boarding, skiing, and enjoying her family.
Ryan Zobel - Specialist Teacher - Technology
Ryan Zobel earned his B.S. in Health Science at the University of California, Santa Cruz, then pursued a career in alternative math and science education. After years of experience teaching students with dyslexia, anxiety, and other learning differences, he graduated from Ball State University with an M.Ed in Curriculum and Education Technology and a Certificate in Computer Education.
Having most of his career dedicated to the education of students with dyslexia, anxiety, and other learning differences, Ryan found a home in Athena Academy, which he joined in 2017.
When he isn’t teaching, Ryan enjoys programming, graphic design, the maker culture and CNC machines, and game design.
Derby Davidson, Specialist Teacher - Social Emotional Learning
Derby joins the Athena Academy teaching team for the 20-21 school year. He brings to
Athena Academy a decade of experience of working with students in grades K-12,
developing and delivering curricula for them around inclusivity, self-awareness and
acceptance, respect for others, and building positive relationships with others.
Derby is experienced in human sexuality education (using the Our Whole Lives series of
curricula), providing young people honest sexuality education that models and teaches
caring, compassion, respect, and justice. He also enjoys coaching middle school sports
Before joining Athena, Derby served as Director of Religious Education at a local
Unitarian Universalist (UU) fellowship. Derby found the job of guiding children through the process of building their own theology to be at times surprising and always inspiring.
Derby is looking forward to building community both online and in person, as we
navigate through these changing times, with enthusiasm and compassion.
Jill Andre, Specialist Teacher - Art
Jill Andre is a Bay Area native and a life-long artist, an observer of people who draws what she sees filtering details through her imagination, creating an irresistible composition that transports the viewer. “I love capturing those moments where you can feel people’s intensity.”
For Jill, time spent drawing is time spent really seeing. Years of sketchbooks stacked on her shelves illustrate this compulsion. As a fine artist, Jill mulls over her thousands of sketches, till one ‘speaks’ to her and begs to become a colorful painting. “I begin mixing colors till what I see is what I feel from the image in the sketch. The act of mixing colors is what links feelings to image.”
Jill’s color sense is informed by Matisse, Wayne Thiebaud, Milton Avery, and Mitchell Johnson to name a few. “I’m very excited about my limited color palette in my new series, Self-Contained. I meticulously develop color charts, intimately learning how pigments behave. I’ve found an unexpected color treat using phthalo pigments. I’m very excited to see what happens next!”
Jill has taught students all aspects of art from her studio - painting, illustration, animation; whatever art techniques the students are interested in learning, Jill will teach.
Asya Ramizova, Specialist Teacher - Physical Education
Asya is a former gymnast and competitor in Aerobic Gymnastics who was born and grew up in Bulgaria. She is seven times National Champion in Aerobic Gymnastics and 2nd place in World Championship for 2002.
Asya holds a Bachelor degree in Physical Education from the National Sports Academy in Bulgaria and a Master degree in Sports Journalism from the same University.
She is very passionate about fitness .Her smile is contagious and you can feel her positive energy right away.
Shauna Yelnick, Specialist Teacher - Drama
Shauna Yelnick holds a B.A. in theater arts, a teaching credential in English, and an M.A. in theater arts, which culminated in a master's thesis where she researched drama education in California schools. Her most recent academic endeavor was earning an M.Ed. from Santa Clara University, completing a master's thesis that explored the gender gap in literacy skills.
Shauna has been teaching middle school play production, speech & debate, theater design skills, elementary drama, and film critique since she joined Athena in 2015. She is a member of the California Educational Theater Association (CETA).
Before joining the wonderful community of Athena, Shauna's previous theater teaching experience in the classroom was at a public high school and then later at a private K-8 school. From 2007-2017, Shauna taught drama skills for afterschool enrichment and assistant directed productions for San Carlos Children's Theater. During several consecutive summers, she taught speech & debate, improv, creative writing, and film critique at numerous enrichment programs for elementary and middle school students on the Peninsula and South Bay.
Shauna's goal this year at Athena, whether through distance learning or eventually in-person on campus, is to enlighten and encourage her students to be the best version of themselves not only in the effort that they put into drama class, but also with their contributions to their school community.
Mikki Boyd, Specialist Teacher - Music
Mikki has been surrounded by music her whole life, starting with Pentecostal- Cogic gospel church roots, she began singing in her churches childrens’ and youth choirs and in her teens, she began directing these choirs. Mikki’s love for music led her to leave California for the Midwest Iowa, to a small music school where she studied both classical and jazz piano and voice under the tutelage of Grammy nominated pianist Phil Matson.
After finishing school in Iowa, Mikki moved back to the California, furthering her music studies at San Francisco State University.
She earned her Bachelors of Arts in Music and San Francisco and ventured back to the Midwest, this time, Chicago, to study music at graduate level. Mikki studied jazz composition and performance and world music at Northern Illinois University, under jazz great Ron Carter along with other noted professors Robert Simms and Liam Teague.
After earning her Master of Music, Mikki returned to California and began working in the Bay area as Music Director for a musical theater company for children. Mikki was accepted into the Red Bull Music Academy with teachers in residence Dave Matthews, Sir Mix A lot, Oh No, Theo Parrish and Questlove,
Mikki is currently working on her album set to release in the next summer, and is actively performing with various Bay Area bands and musicians, including a collaborative musician’s group ‘Mugpush’ that is set to release an album in August 2015 which features both Doug E. Fresh and Michael Eric Dyson.
Pam has thoroughly enjoyed working at Athena Academy ever since she joined the administrative team in the summer of 2015 in the role of School Manager. She has worked for many years with children in a variety of roles. She worked 6 years as the Program Coordinator and coach for the Mommy, Daddy, & Me program at Kidz Love Soccer. She additionally spent 5 years with the City of Cupertino as a Pre-K preschool teacher and Summer Camp Director.
Pam loves learning, and her studies have run the gamut from Liberal Arts, to Child Development, to Film Production. Personally, a couple of her passions include being as eco-conscious as possible to help do her part in saving the planet, and a slight obsession with musicals.
Her biggest job, however, is Mama to her two incredibly amazing little girls.
Amar is an accountant/full charge bookkeeper with extensive experience in accounting systems and HR administration. She joined Athena Academy April of 2017 as a finance manager. Amar is a native of Fiji Islands.
She is a certified payroll professional, certified CTEC and has AA in accounting. She has extensive knowledge of multi-state payroll and advanced user of many computerized payroll and accounting software. She keeps abreast of ever-changing laws and welcomes challenges and enjoys the latest and greatest computer technology.
Professionally, Amar enjoys the challenge of identifying and solving problems, listening to the needs of people, and managing the finance and human resource department.
Personal interests include traveling and learning about different cultures. She is an amateur hiker, loves outdoors, healthy lifestyle and family time with her daughter.
Anne has served as Athena Academy's Director of Admissions and Outreach since our founding academic year. As the mother of two twice-exceptional sons, Anne brings to Athena her passion for positively transforming the lives of children and their families while understanding the path they are walking.
Prior to her role at Athena, Anne served as a residence dean and assistant dean of students at Stanford University. As an undergraduate, Anne attended Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and has master’s degrees in education administration and counseling, both from Santa Clara University. An avid traveler and student of world culture, Anne tries to take at least one international trip a year and has sailed twice as a staff member with Semester at Sea.
Anne and her husband also serve as Resident Fellows at Stanford University where they work with student leaders to build a residential environment that supports undergraduate students' educational experience and personal development.
Jo Mutch, Director of Operations and Communications
Jo was part of the founding team of Athena Academy. She and Carla have worked together since 2008. When she first heard of Carla's idea to start a school for dyslexic learners using a more Visual-Spatial teaching method than was available elsewhere, she knew this school had to become reality.
She worked with Carla to set up all the finance and management systems to help make Athena Academy a reality.
Over the years her role has evolved and she is now responsible for overseeing the operations of the school along with internal and external communications. Additionally she is delighted that the school now has so many successful graduates that there is a need for an alumni affairs coordinator to keep in contact with graduates and their families.
She is mother to a young daughter and cares deeply about bringing high quality educational opportunities to all learners.