Our team brings decades of experience supporting schools and districts, developing leaders and teachers, building technological solutions and tools, and building strategic partnerships with agencies, foundations, business leaders, and associations.
Bertha D. Rodríguez brings experience as a public school bilingual/ESL teacher, an elementary campus administrator, and an instructor at The University of Texas at El Paso and El Paso Community College. She obtained both her master’s degree in curriculum and instruction and her mid-management certification from The University of Texas at El Paso. As a senior field analyst for the Texas Literacy Initiative, she delivers and supports professional development, as well as works collaboratively with school and district leadership teams and instructional coaches to support literacy across all grade levels.
Bomin Kim serves as a data specialist for IPSI’s College Access division as a part of the Texas GEAR UP State Grant. To pursue her aspirations, she studied at The University of Texas at Austin and received a master’s degree in educational psychology. Prior to coming to the United States and Austin, she worked at investment firms in Seoul, Korea, as an investment consultant and marketing specialist. She also holds a master’s in international economics and a bachelor’s in science education, both from Ewha Womans University.
She enjoys time spending time with her family, traveling to different places, and searching for the next good book or movie.
Cathy Moak, PhD.
Cathy Moak, PhD.
Dr. Cathy Moak is a Senior Field Trainer/Analyst and educator outreach coach for IPSI’s Texas GEAR UP grant. Dr. Moak served as the component director for School Transformation and Digital Learning at Education Service Center Region 6, where she founded the EduHero Project, an online training site for educators. Dr. Moak taught at both Texas A&M University and Sam Houston State University. She later went on to become a curriculum writer for the Texas Education Service Curriculum Collaborative and a professional training developer focused on project-based learning. Dr. Moak grew up in both McGregor and Groesbeck and now lives on a ranch outside Huntsville with her husband Sam and their two sons, Jake and Billy. They enjoy hunting, fishing, and all things technology.
Chelsea Roser received her undergraduate degree in sociology from The University of Texas at Austin in 2011 and has since been working in college access. Currently, Chelsea works with the GEAR UP program at Manor High School preparing 10th-grade students for their post-secondary options. She received her Master of Education in higher education administration at Angelo State University in 2014. Chelsea hopes to continue her journey through college access and eventually shift from working with grade school students to focusing on the retention of college students.
Chris graduated from Iowa State University where she majored in English/Secondary Education. She earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from The University of Texas at Austin. Chris taught reading and writing at Pflugerville High School and Westlake High School, and served as department chair at both. Then she worked for the Southwestern Region of the College Board to coordinate AP Professional Development Conferences and provide services to school districts with College Board programs. At IPSI, Chris facilitated online learning for teachers, participated in implementing a federal literacy grant, and currently supports the development of English Language Arts online lessons in the Texas Gateway.
Christi Garza is a college preparation advisor for the Texas GEAR UP State Grant program at John F. Kennedy High School in the Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio. Prior to joining IPSI, Christi worked for Big Brothers Big Sisters, where she cultivated an interest in the GEAR UP program through a partnership with the San Antonio Independent School District. Christi also served a year with AmeriCorps in Baytown, Texas, where she assisted with a non-profit college access program, College Forward, serving economically disadvantaged first-generation students. She has a strong interest in working with first-generation students, helping them progress toward their future educational goals, and exploring how college access programs play a role in their success.
Christi holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Texas A&M University-San Antonio and a master’s degree with an emphasis in student services in higher education from the University of the Incarnate Word.
Christina Nash is a senior field trainer with the Academic Foundation Initiatives at IPSI. She provides professional development to school districts. Christina has a bachelor’s degree in education from Sam Houston State University and master’s degrees in educational administration and language arts from the University of St. Thomas.
Christina worked at ESC Region 4 for many years, as an education specialist in the Reading/Language Arts Solutions service areas. Before her tenure at ESC 4, she worked over 25 years in Texas school districts as a teacher in PK through high school, a reading specialist, an ESL specialist, and a district ELA coordinator. She has been a part of the National Writing Project for the last 15 years. Having presented for the 50 districts in Region 4, Christina has experience with state literacy initiatives, and as a member of the ELAR TEKS review committee, she has worked to improve literacy for Texas students. In addition to having a lifetime Texas teacher certificate, she has certifications as a reading specialist, mid-management administrator, and gifted and talented educator.
Connie Dawes serves as project manager and student outreach coach for the Texas GEAR UP state grant, where she supervises the college preparation advisors and manages relationships with four school districts as part of the grant. Her interest in college access and success initiatives and ability to translate complex ideas for diverse audiences has led her to leadership roles with the National College Advising Corps at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Advise TX at The University of Texas at Austin; and Generation TX, a statewide initiative of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board that aims to promote college and career readiness, especially among first-generation students. Connie also spent three years as account director at Milkshake, a brand strategy firm in Austin, where she served as the primary point of contact for client relationships, providing expert guidance and strategic recommendations to clients.
Connie holds a master’s degree in student affairs practice in higher education from the University of Virginia, where she studied the adjustment and acclimation of transfer students.
Curtis has designed and developed the web for the past 10+ years and focuses on instructional design, UI/UX, and learning experience (ISD/UI/UX/LX.)
Curtis has worked at IPSI for the past five years as a Media Coordinator and has had the opportunity to work on several state-wide projects including OnTRACK for College Readiness, Texas Literacy Initiative, the Texas State Literacy Plan online courseand the Texas Gateway for Online Resources by the TEA.
Curtis received his Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) from Tyler School of Art at Temple University. He also has several certifications including Webmaster & Online Course Facilitation with additional training in accessibility by our local Knowbility.
Offline you will most likely find Curtis drawing/painting, producing music, or riding his mountain bike.
Darlene is an instructional specialist with the Academic Foundation Initiatives at IPSI. She provides technical assistance and professional development for teachers and instructional leaders across the state as well as helping with outreach efforts.
Darlene received her master’s degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University in Kingsville. Darlene also worked for The University of Texas system as a reading technical assistance specialist during the Reading First initiatives and served in the role of teacher, district- and campus-level instructional coach, vice principal, and principal. Darlene has over 30 years of experience in the educational field and brings knowledge and expertise in areas such as instructional rigor, response to intervention, bilingual education, and teacher and principal standards.
Daryl Michel PhD.
Daryl Michel PhD.
Dr. Michel brings a broad skill set to IPSI including school improvement initiatives, systemic change, and effective teaching practices. He led the development of the Texas Reading First evaluation, a compilation of materials that describes and highlights eight years of activities, and co-wrote reports on topics such as change, instructional leadership, and best practices in literacy instruction. He has experience in developing online courses and facilitating statewide collaborative groups with administrative teams and teachers. His current work at IPSI focuses on co-leading the Texas Literacy Initiative, leading multiple teams in the development of facilitated courses in Project Share and providing face-to-face and online professional development, and supporting districts across the state of Texas in literacy education and using data to guide instruction. Dr. Michel’s research focuses on learning communities, effective meetings, and teacher and administrator development.
Daryl Michel | firstname.lastname@example.org | 210-380-8375
Dawn Filer is a senior program coordinator with the Academic Foundation Initiatives at IPSI. She is a certified secondary English teacher whose role is to provide technical assistance and support in literacy instruction, leadership, and professional development.
Previously, Dawn was program specialist for the District Awards for Teacher Excellence (DATE) grant, an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) elective teacher, a business academy coordinator, and a high school English teacher. She earned her B.A. from Texas State University in San Marcos.
Debra White oversees human resources and staffing for IPSI, as the senior human resources representative for the department. She has worked with IPSI for almost five years and has a total of seven years of HR experience with The University of Texas at Austin. Debra works closely with IPSI’s directors and supervisors to make sure projects are fully staffed. Also, she works closely with HR on main campus to ensure compliance with state, federal, and university regulations and policies. She played an essential role in developing departmental policies and procedures for personnel. Prior to joining IPSI, Debra had a 30-year career in real estate, which included owning her own real estate company for 12 years. Debra graduated from the University of Nebraska with a Bachelor of Science in merchandising with a focus in business.
Diamond Torres is a college preparation advisor with the Texas GEAR UP State Grant program at Estacado High School in Lubbock ISD. As a college advisor, she provides direct services and support to middle school students related to high school course planning, college preparation, academic success, and career exploration. Prior to GEAR UP, Diamond served two years with Advise TX College Advising Corps as a college advisor working with high school students. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in business from The University of Texas at Austin. Diamond plans to obtain her master’s degree in student affairs and utilize the experience she is gaining in her current position to ultimately lead a non-profit organization.
Dolores Tovar has been an educator for 38 years. She has 23 years of experience as an elementary public school teacher and 12 years as a teacher leader for Curriculum and Instruction and Early Childhood. Dolores also brings experience as a Teacher Reading Academy trainer for kindergarten through grade four and as a trainer for the Texas Adolescent and Literacy Academy (TALA). Throughout her two years as a senior field trainer/analyst for the Texas Literacy Initiative, she has lead training sessions and provided guidance to school and district leadership teams, as well as community partners and instructional coaches. Dolores holds a bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at El Paso and a master’s degree from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Emily Sadler has been a project specialist with the Academic Foundations team at IPSI since 2011. Her main project is managing the registration process for the team’s various professional development trainings, and she also assists with contract management across all departments. Emily graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. Outside of work, she enjoys playing music, going to concerts, running races, the Boston Red Sox, and all things Disney.
Genise Henry PhD.
Genise Henry PhD.
She has provided professional development and technical assistance to school districts at the national level and currently supports districts funded through the Texas Literacy Initiative as a field services manager at IPSI. Her experience at the elementary and secondary levels is foundational for her work in implementing research-based and data-driven best practices for school improvement. She earned her PhD and Master of Education at Texas State University in San Marcos and her bachelor’s degree at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin.
Holmes joined IPSI in 2016 as a College Preparation Specialist at Manor High School in support of the Texas GEAR UP State Grant. He brings with him a wealth of experience from previous roles within secondary and higher education. Notable experiences leading up to Holmes’ current appointment include serving as the front-line implementer of a research-based college access program at the University of North Florida, housed in Duval County Public Schools. In addition to serving secondary school students, he spent time serving as Coordinator of Student Financial Aid (High Need) at UNF.
Holmes supports the field of College Access through professional association activities, presenting at regional conferences, and sharing best practices in the field. A proud graduate of The Florida State University (Economics) in Tallahassee, his overall goal is to improve the economic and health outcomes for at-risk and underserved populations through post-secondary training /degree attainment and financial literacy.
Iván Medina currently serves as a college preparation advisor for the Texas GEAR UP State Grant. Medina serves both of the GEAR UP student cohorts at John F. Kennedy High School and Memorial High School in San Antonio. Previously, Medina was a member of the IPSI team when he served as the Advise TX high school college advisor at John F. Kennedy High School from 2010-2012. Medina is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.
Janice Johnson Shephard
Janice Johnson Shephard
Janice Johnson Shephard has over 20-years of executive experience in academic and nonprofit industries, addressing disparity outcomes in education, health and wellness among harder-to-serve urban minority and migrant populations. Responsible for the creation of significant multi-partner collaborations which served as an advocacy voice for school reform and diverse community-needs, she has helped leverage, manage, evaluate and report on millions of dollars for direct client services, awarded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Corporation for National and Community Services, Points of Light and the Oklahoma Literacy Coalition.
As a senior field trainer analyst for the Texas GEAR UP grant, Janice works directly with four school districts to provide Family Engagement expertise, support and training.
Janice graduated for Oral Roberts University, with a Masters in Theology and Counseling, and Bachelors in Biblical Studies from the Austin School of Theology. She also holds Certifications in Nonprofit Leadership and Management, from the Center for Nonprofit and Community-based Organizations, and Volunteer Administration, from United Way Headquarters in Atlanta. Janice has taught ESL for 6-years at Austin Community College, and has lived, studied and worked abroad for extended periods of time in eight countries; her last overseas stay of 3-years was in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago – “hey mon, don’t worry be happy!”
Joanna Oliver is a senior field trainer analyst for the Texas Literacy Initiative. She provides support and professional development to public school districts across the state and their associated early childhood education providers. Joanna has a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary education with an emphasis in reading, a Master of Education degree with an emphasis in digital learning, and principal certification from Abilene Christian University. She began her career as an elementary public school teacher, transitioning into a literacy coach and then a reading technical assistant for the Texas Reading First Initiative. Joanna also brings experience from Region 6 Education Service Center as a literacy specialist and a technology integration specialist, as well as her time as a learning assistant at Texas A&M University.
Joy Whitney manages the operations team, which oversees the financial, human resources, and reporting functions for IPSI. She has over 25 years of university experience managing and maintaining the fiscal activities related to grants and contracts. Joy has played a key role in developing policies and procedures and establishing a manual for grants and contracts management regarding the monitoring/oversight of process activities for all grants and contracts received to ensure compliance with federal, state, and university rules and regulations. She works closely with The University of Texas at Austin’s Office of Sponsored Projects during the proposal and implementation phases of grants.
Joy specializes in the development of contracts, grant proposals, and financial audits.
Julie Koepke brings experience as a public school teacher, as well as university adjunct faculty instructor. She holds a Master of Arts degree from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame. She has served as a committee chair and committee member for accreditation reviews of public and private high schools and has been a leader in professional development. As a senior field trainer analyst for the Texas Literacy Initiative, she leads training sessions, provides guidance to school and district leadership teams, and works with instructional coaches to support teachers and administrators.
Karen Nelson is a national leader in literacy with over fifteen years of experience in the design and implementation of effective instruction and intervention. She managed the professional development and technical assistance for the 700 Reading First schools in Texas from 2007-2011. She is a member of the state leadership team for the Texas Literacy Initiative, which supports implementation of the new Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy federal grant program and integrates the state literacy resources for educators across Texas. She is experienced in working with district and campus leaders, delivering professional development in face-to-face and online environments, and building consensus among district, state, and national leaders. Her team supports statewide literacy initiatives for PK-12th grade through Project Share, the Texas Education Agency online platform supporting over three million users.
Karen earned a master’s degree in speech and language pathology from Texas Woman’s University.
Kathy Stoddard is a senior field trainer analyst for the Texas Literacy Initiative. She provides support and professional development to early childhood center partners, as well as elementary, middle, and high school campuses in the Lubbock Independent School District. Kathy holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from The University of Texas at Austin, a master reading teacher certification, and a literacy collaborator certification from the Texas Tech University Literacy Collaborative. During her 32- year career, Kathy has been an elementary classroom teacher, a campus literacy coach, a reading technical assistance specialist for the Texas Reading First Initiative, a district-level ELAR instructional coach, and most recently, the project manager for the Texas Literacy Initiative in the Lubbock ISD.
Kim Mennel has been working intermittently at IPSI since 2014 while pursuing her master’s degree in architecture. As an administrative associate, she has worked on both the Academic Foundations and College Access teams and has had the opportunity to work with the Texas Literacy Initiatives, Write for Texas, Literacy Achievement Academies, and Texas GEAR UP Grants.
Kim holds two degrees in architecture: a bachelor’s degree from The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a master’s degree from The University of Texas at Austin. These two degrees have given her strong problem-solving skills and a careful attention to detail, which she has been able to put to work while at IPSI.
Margaret McCaughtry brings experience as a public school teacher and campus and district administrator. She holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Education degrees from Southwest Texas State University. Her certifications are in elementary self-contained, kindergarten, teacher of young children, and mid-management administrator. She has served as project manager and a field services manager for the Texas Literacy Initiative. As a field services manager, she provides guidance to school and district leadership teams and works with instructional coaches to support teachers and administrators.
Marie Cataldi Portillo is a senior field trainer analyst with the Academic Foundation Initiatives at IPSI. She supports the implementation of the Texas Literacy Initiative with elementary campuses in the El Paso Independent School District. She is a certified reading specialist and master reading teacher whose role is to provide technical assistance and support in literacy instruction, leadership and professional development.
Previously, Marie was a campus coach with the Texas Reading First Initiative, a Texas Beginning Educator Support System (TxBESS) trainer, a mentor for classroom teachers and literacy coaches, and an adjunct faculty instructor at The University of Texas at El Paso. She earned her Master of Education and bachelor’s degrees from The University of Texas at El Paso.
Martha Santana, senior field trainer analyst for the Institute for Public School Initiatives, provides support to El Paso and Tornillo Independent School Districts with the implementation of the Texas Literacy Initiative (TLI). In her role as a state literacy liaison, she collaborates with district and campus leadership teams to provide focused professional development and support to instructional coaches, teachers, and administrators. She brings experience as a bilingual teacher in grades prekindergarten through sixth grade. She holds a bachelor of education degree with a bilingual/ESL certification and a master of arts in educational administration and supervision. Prior to joining the TLI team, she served as a district English language arts and reading/bilingual education instructional specialist, where her focus was supporting elementary and secondary campuses with the alignment of standards, assessment, and instruction. Martha also served as a reading technical assistant specialist under the Texas Reading First Initiative and supported literacy across content areas, using data to inform instruction and scientifically based reading instruction in grades K-3.
Mary Turner is a senior field trainer analyst for the Texas Literacy Initiative. She supports the implementation of the Texas Literacy Initiative with the early learning centers, elementary, middle, and high school campuses in the Lubbock Independent School District. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Texas Tech University and a master’s degree in educational leadership/administration from Lubbock Christian University. Mary brings 34 years of experience in both general and special education and as a university adjunct faculty instructor at Texas Tech University and Waylon Baptist University. She served as a literacy coach with the Texas Reading First Initiative providing professional development, guidance, and support to teachers and administrators. Mary also brings experience from Region 17 Education Service Center as an education specialist focusing on response to intervention.
Matt Orem has led public relations, philanthropy, outreach, and service programs for The University of Texas for 16 years. He secured grants from Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation, Bank of America, Texas Education Agency, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, and Association of Public Land Grant Colleges and Universities to incubate and implement programs that help low-income students complete high school, attend college, and obtain a degree or credential. Matt’s initiatives to organize community groups that demystify the college-going process have been replicated across Texas. His web-based programs to increase college awareness, financial aid, and literacy have been used statewide. His team currently supports four districts through the Texas GEAR UP State Grant.
Matt holds a master’s degree in higher education administration from The University of Texas at Austin.
Margaret Birk has been an educator for 38 years and brings experience as an elementary public school teacher and a teacher leader working with the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. She was instrumental in the design and implementation of an intensive Reading Intervention Institute developed to meet the needs of new and novice teachers in her district and has been a leader in the area of professional development. Meg holds a bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at El Paso with a special endorsement in early childhood education. As a senior field trainer analyst for the Texas Literacy Initiative, she works directly with district and campus instructional teams to provide support and training.
Michael King has nearly 10 years of program management, community outreach, marketing, and public relations experience. He has coordinated programs with Communities in Schools – San Antonio, Family Service Association, The University of Texas at San Antonio P-20 Initiatives, the Harris Foundation, and Public Allies to assist and empower students in low-income communities. Michael’s ability to connect with people has been showcased through his personal blog, entertainment company, TV, and radio show appearances. He currently supports outreach initiatives for districts served in the Texas GEAR UP State Grant.
Michael specializes in community outreach, special events, and public speaking.
Michelle Sims is the Administrative Manager for the Academic Foundations Initiative. She oversees a team of five and manages all finances for the team across more than 15 state and local grant budgets. Michelle is responsible for preparing and submitting grant applications, amendments, and financial reports to funding sources. She also manages time & effort for more than 30 employees on the Academic Foundations team.
Prior to joining IPSI in 2010, Michelle worked as a project manager for the Texas Community Development Block Grant program and as a grant writer for the Texas Planning and Capacity Building Fund. She earned a B.S. in Journalism from Texas A&M University.
Natalya White is the project specialist for the College Readiness Project at IPSI. A graduate of Oral Roberts University with a bachelor’s degree in mass media communications and print journalism, Natalya has over seven years of writing and editing experience. Her primary focus is editing and proofreading all print and online material including lessons and interactives for the OnTRACK project, contracts, and grant reports. In addition to editing lessons, Natalya was tasked with creating an online professional development and training course providing guidance to public school teachers in Texas on how to effectively and properly teach Bible literacy. In her spare time, you can find Natalya, with a cup of coffee in hand, writing for Created Woman magazine.
Noe Benavidez has worked in college access since he graduated from UT Austin in 2011. He served a two-year term with the Advise TX-UT Austin Chapter as a college advisor at Memorial High School, a part of the Edgewood Independent School District in San Antonio. Advise TX is a college access program that hires, trains, and places recent college graduates into high schools across the state to serve as full-time college advisors. As an advisor, Noe collaborated with district staff and coordinated different projects and events in Edgewood that aimed to develop and maintain a college-going culture at Memorial HS and in the Edgewood community. He also partnered with different college access programs and community leaders in San Antonio on initiatives that sought to build a citywide college-going culture. Noe is currently a college preparation advisor with the Texas GEAR UP State Project. He is serving as the Class of 2018 cohort at Memorial High School.
Olga Martinez Hickman, PhD
Olga Martinez Hickman, PhD
Olga Martinez Hickman is a senior field trainer analyst for IPSI. Her work promotes school improvement and success in the area of language and literacy. She has numerous years of experience that include supporting statewide initiatives across Texas, implementing research-based practices in leadership, literacy, and second-language acquisition for diverse learners. She earned her PhD at The University of Texas at Arlington with a focus on communities of color, which supports her aim to ensure that all students receive a fair and equitable, high-quality education.
Phyllis attended the University of Texas at Austin and has 19 years of experience in event planning with UT Austin within the University Interscholastic League department. She has spent 4 years in the corporate event planning realm with St. Jude Medical. Overall, she brings a wealth of professional experience to the GEAR UP grant, and is a great asset to our conference, meeting planning, events, training, travel, business operations, purchasing and grant administration.
Pratik Mhatre, PhD
Pratik Mhatre, PhD
Pratik Mhatre has extensive experience in program evaluation, data analysis and research, needs assessment, and survey methodology. He is proficient in data analysis and statistical research using SAS, SPSS, and R; GIS mapping, modeling, and programming using ArcGIS; and spatial statistics using ArcGIS, R, and GeoDa for analyzing social and economic change. He has previously worked with the Enterprise Foundation, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Public Policy Research Institute at Texas A&M University, and Department of Homeland Security in analyzing the relationship of public policy and the built environment, especially the intersection of public education and health policies and their impact on socioeconomic characteristics of the neighborhood/community. Pratik has publications, reports, and conference presentations to his credit covering issues in e-government, performance measures, housing policy, and neighborhood revitalization. His current work involves designing and managing data systems for the Texas GEAR UP State Grant and intends to examine academic outcomes of target school districts within the context of neighborhood change.
Pratik holds a doctorate in urban and regional science from Texas A&M University.
Rosalyn Hodge is a senior field trainer analyst for the Texas Literacy Initiative. She has over 20 years of classroom and coaching experience, and she provides support and professional development for the San Antonio Independent School District. Rosalyn holds a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education from Mississippi University for Women and is a National Board Certified Teacher, Generalist. Rosalyn began her career as an elementary public school teacher, transitioning into a literacy coach and then program facilitator for the Texas Literacy Initiative Grant.
Suzanne has worked at The University of Texas at Austin for 22 years. She specializes in procurement, travel, and administration. She has been with IPSI since 2013. Suzanne enjoys photography, sign language, religious studies, and dancing. She has worked with various non-profit and educational organizations.
Terri Pérez has over ten years of experience in education and leads her team in providing support services with statewide initiatives to schools, districts, campuses, and teachers. Her team designs and develops high-quality teacher and instructional materials for digital platforms and in-person professional development opportunities. She facilitates both online and face-to-face trainings across the state. Terri specializes in the authentic integration of technology tools for teaching and learning in the 21st century.
Terri holds a master’s degree in education leadership from the University of Saint Thomas, Houston.
Theresa Sands is an instructional specialist with the Academic Foundation Initiatives at IPSI. She provides technical assistance and professional development for teachers and instructional leaders across the state. Theresa has a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary education with an emphasis in early childhood, a Master of Education degree with an emphasis in adult and higher education, and a reading specialist certification from the University of Texas at San Antonio. She also has mid-management and superintendent certifications from Texas A&M University San Antonio.
She began her career as a teacher’s assistant, transitioning to an elementary public school teacher and then into instructional leadership roles at the campus, district, and regional levels. Theresa also brings knowledge and expertise in areas such as dyslexia, instructional rigor, response to intervention, and teacher and principal standards.
Toni graduated from the University of Houston with a BA in English education. She has a master’s in English from The University of Texas of the Permian Basin, and she is currently working on a master’s degree in public school administration with a principal certification at Texas A & M. Before coming to work for IPSI in 2010, Toni taught AP and IB English at Odessa High School in Odessa, Texas, serving also as Academic Decathlon coach and English department chair for many years. Toni and her husband William have three sons, four granddaughters, and two half-Catahoula, half-Great Dane puppies, Blanchie and Maggie.
Tricia Perez is a senior field trainer analyst with the Academic Foundation Initiatives at IPSI. She supports San Antonio Independent School District with the implementation of the Texas Literacy Initiative, serving as a district literacy liaison. Her certifications include teacher of prekindergarten through eighth grade and master reading teacher. She has a master’s degree in educational administration and supervision.
Tricia has been an educator for 22 years, bringing experience as an elementary and middle school classroom teacher and interventionist. She has provided support and mentoring to classroom teachers as a campus literacy coach, ELAR department chairperson, and campus curriculum specialist. She has previous experience with state literacy initiatives, working collaboratively with school and district leadership teams and instructional coaches to support literacy across all grade levels.
Victoria Salguero joined the staff at The University of Texas at Austin in 2009. She began working at the bursar’s office helping the students and staff with payments and deposits. In 2010, she transferred to the LBJ School of Public Affairs, working two years as an administrative assistant for 12 distinguished faculty members. In 2012, she was promoted to administrative associate at the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. Victoria now works with IPSI in the business office.
Virginia Avina is a district literacy liaison with the Academic Foundation Initiatives at IPSI. She supports the El Paso Independent School District with the implementation of the Texas Literacy Initiative. She provides technical assistance and support to elementary campuses in the area of literacy instruction, leadership, and professional development. Previously, Virginia was a reading technical assistant with the Reading First Initiative and supported campuses in El Paso, as well as provided technical support and training to various districts across Texas. She was a state trainer for Tejas LEE, TPRI, and the Texas Adolescent Literacy Academies.
Virginia earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from The University of Texas at El Paso and has over 20 years of experience in education.
Willie Castrejon currently serves as a GEAR UP advisor at IPSI. He began work with IPSI in 2010 as an Advise TX college advisor at Milby High School in Houston. As a first-generation college graduate, he is very enthusiastic when it comes to assisting students in their college degree journeys. In his spare time, you can find Willie catching up with friends and former advisees and mentees or at sporting events in the Texas area. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology from The University of Texas at Austin and a master’s in higher education administration from the University of Houston. He currently serves at Somerset High School in Somerset ISD.
Zerina Hamulić holds a Bachelor of Arts from The University of Wisconsin – Madison. As a first generation college student, she was intrigued by the power of mentorship in her own academic and professional success thus passionate about guiding others in similar endeavors. Zerina works with the GEAR UP program at Manor High School working to prepare students for post secondary options and success. Previously, she served as a Trainer for the Posse Foundation in Houston, where she recruited, trained and supported students, who earned scholarships to attend some of the nations top colleges and universities such as the University of Virginia, Colby College and Carleton College, through persisting in higher education.