The Cedars International Academy Team


Shirlee Medlock
Pre-Kindergarten
Hi! I am Shirley Medlock and I currently teach Pre-K. I have a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Concordia University, Bachelor or Arts in Early Childhood Education and a Masters in Early Childhood Education with specialization in Curriculum and Instruction both from Ashford University and I am in entering the last year of my doctoral program in Early Childhood Education at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. I have been teaching 16 years and I am entering my 12th year at Cedars. I have had the privilege of teaching Pre-K through 4th grade. My philosophy is "Every child can and will learn given the resources and opportunity."
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Margaret Reed
Pre-Kindergarten
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Kara O'Dell
Kindergarten
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Mara Pfund
Kindergarten
• Graduated from German High School in Bonn, Germany • Bachelor's: Amherst College • Masters in Elementary and Special Education: Boston College Cedars has been my professional home for the past 10 years. Prior to Cedars I taught in AISD, a Montessori school in Austin, in Berkeley and Oakland, California, where I began my teaching career in Special Education. My passion is watching young children become readers and writers and meet challenges through creative problem solving as they encounter them. I love seeing children become excited about learning about people and places of the world.I share my life with my partner, Jay, and our two sons. Cody, who was born in Holland during the two years we lived there, is in his second year of college and Fox is a junior in high school. We love traveling and exploring as a family, including camping, hiking, and cross-country skiing. When our children were much younger we spent a year in Puerto Rico where I learned enough Spanish to get along and enjoy practicing it when possible. We returned with two dogs from Puerto Rico and love to snuggle with them.
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Katie Brand
Grade 1
This will be Mrs. Brand's third year teaching First Grade at Cedars. She graduated from The University of Texas at Austin, and is certified for ESL EC-6th and English Language Arts and Reading Grades 4-8. Hook em’ Horns!! She is originally from El Paso, Texas, but has made Austin her home for the past ten years. She is married to her wonderful husband Ryan, and has two beautiful sons, Liam and Quinn. She believes that each student is extremely unique, bringing their own knowledge, skills, interests, and backgrounds to the table. Her job is to take all of those into consideration to craft lessons that are meaningful and relevant to these children. By giving her students the tools and resources they need to experience success she hopes to build lifelong learners who will enjoy education, feel confident in challenging themselves, and continually reach the potential within.
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Ymarie Leija
Grade 1
Hello, my name is Ymarie Leija. This is my fifth year teaching first grade at Cedars. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Learning and Development from the University of Texas at Austin. (HOOK 'EM HORNS!!!) I am certified to teach Early Childhood - 6th grade, ESL students. I am originally from Del Rio, Texas, but have lived in Austin for nearly ten years now. Teaching is my passion and I am so thankful to have a job that I enjoy coming to every single day.
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Rachel Sher
Grade 1
Hi! My name is Rachel Sher and this is my first year teaching at Cedars! However, I have taught for 4 years in both Israel and Cambodia, before moving back to my hometown of Austin. I have a Bachelor of Science Degree in Applied Learning and Development from the University of Texas at Austin and a Masters in TESOL from Bar Ilan University (in Israel). I am very excited to have moved back to my beloved Austin and continue my passion for teaching!
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Margo Black
Grade 2
Margo Black was born and raised in Northern California. She fell in love with teaching after assisting her high school mentor with a preschool class and the rest is history. She attended Sacramento State University where she received her BA in Liberal Studies and then obtained an elementary teaching certificate, with additional high school authorizations in language arts and social studies. She taught in California for three years before moving to the great state of Texas in 2013. Mrs. Black is ESL and GT certified and is also working on her masters degree in Educational Psychology, specializing in creativity and cognition. She is honored to be a part of the Cedars team. When Mrs. Black is not working or studying, she enjoys drawing, traveling and being with her family.
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Patrice Isaacks
Grade 2
I have been teaching school the last 20 years.  I have experience in all grade levels from Kinder to high school.  I have a bachelor degree in Elementary Education with a Reading Specialization.  I also am certified to teach Kinder, ESL and 9-12 ELA. I am very excited to be at Cedars International Academy.
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Megan Smith
Grade 2
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Amber Ellis
Grade 3
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Vedia Miles
Grade 3
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Tara Norman
Grade 4
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Shana Simpson
Grade 4
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Unhee Gilbert
Grade 5
◦ I was born in Korea and have bachelor’s degree in English and master’s in Film Studies. I got my teaching certificate(EC-8th generalist, ESL, and ELA) at Texas State University. ◦ This is my 4th year at Cedars and 7th year teaching elementary students. ◦ Love reading, watching movies, decorating a house, and bargain shopping ◦ Every year is a new year for me. I am very excited at meeting new wonderful students and their families in the 4th grade.
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Amy Jo Martinez
Grade 5
Ms. Amy Jo Martinez was born and raised in Brownsville, Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas at Brownsville with a Bachelors Degree in Special Education and a specialty in General Education. She was a 4th grade teacher for 7 years at Sharp Elementary in Brownsville, Texas. Martinez moved this summer to Austin, and has just joined Cedars International Academy this year as the 5th grade Math and Science teacher. In her class, she instills the motto, "Failure is Not an Option". Meaning that as long as you try, you can never fail. There is always a solution.
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Kay Hill
Grade 6-7 Language Arts
Ms. Kay Hill was born in Minnesota, grew up in Iowa, and then moved to Texas for high school. Upon graduation in 1994 she headed to Austin, TX and has been here ever since. While earning her Bachelors of Arts degree in English from University of Texas here in Austin, she taught preschool for five years and still loves Early Childhood Education (luckily her 6 year old daughter loves doing “activities” and going on “field trips” all summer). Ms. Hill was certified to teach English 6th-12th in 2003 and later earned a Master of Liberal Arts degree in Writing from St. Edward’s University in 2012. Now in her 13th year of teaching English, she once served as Head of the English Department for the Austin charter school ranked #3 in the TOP TEN SCHOOLS by "Children at Risk." She spent 5 years as a Reader for College Board's AP Language and Composition Exam and has experience teaching English/Writing at the middle school through college levels. Passionate about smaller learning communities, Ms. Hill is excited to continue her 2nd year at Cedars International Academy as the 6th and 7th Grade English Language Arts teacher. Ms. Hill is a proud mother of a six-year old girl, once ran her own in-home daycare, loves: reading, writing, camping, hiking (hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon for her 30th birthday—and yes, made it back up to the top), road trips, the Dallas Stars, and sci-fi (hint: she’s a BIG Whovian, and if you fail to get her references she’ll just say “I’m sorry; I’m so sorry.”)
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Christopher Capers
Grade 6-7 Social Studies
My name is Chris Capers and I am excited to be here at Cedars International Academy. I have over 7 years experience being a teacher/instructor either in public schools or in the military. In the military I taught leadership and promotional courses and was an SK in the Navy. I am an elected official with the Northtown Municipal Utility District and am active in my church. My hobbies include running, playing/coaching indoor soccer and sand volleyball, reading, and spending most of my free time with my amazing twin daughters and wife. History is my favorite core subject to read and teach. Finally, I graduated from Saint Edward’s University, am certified to teach 4-12 grades, and really enjoy educating the youth of today.
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Virginia Caldwell
Grade 6-7 Math
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Kimberly Vargas
Grade 6-7 Science
Mrs. Vargas has been teaching for 17 years. This is her fifth year teaching at Cedars. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Education degree from the University of West Georgia in 1997 and her Master Science Teacher certification from Region 12 in 2008. When she's not teaching, Mrs. Vargas enjoys reading, taking her dog to the dog park and spending time with her three children.
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Jacqueline Dixon
ESL Specialist
Jacqueline Dixon has been with Cedars for 5 years now. She went to Texas Sate University and graduated in 2011. She came to Cedars as a student teacher and has been with us ever since. Mrs. Dixon taught Kindergarten for 3 years before she became the ESL Specialist. She has just started her Masters Program at The University of Kansas. Mr. and Mrs. Dixon are expecting their first child to join them in September. She believes that all children have the ability to learn and should be pushed to reach their highest potential.
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Allyson Reichenau
Reading Specialist
This is Allyson Reichenau’s seventh year at Cedars International Academy. She graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biomedical Science. She also received a Master’s in Education from Texas State University. Mrs.Reichenau is starting her second year as the Reading Specialist at Cedars and is very excited to promote literacy on campus. In her spare time she loves to read, travel, and spend time with her husband and two daughters.
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Robert Richardson
Music, Gardening, and Guitar
Hello. I am proud to say I have been teaching music and gardening at Cedars International Academy since 2005. I grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and I attended Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where I received a B.A. in Comparative Religion. I moved to Austin in 1990 to play music and in 1997 I was lucky enough to join the legendary blues band called the Blues Specialists. We regularly perform here in Austin and elsewhere around the country. I began teaching in 2001 and became a fully certified music teacher in 2008. Besides teaching and playing the guitar and piano, I also love travelling, learning about other cultures, being anywhere outdoors, and eating delicious food.
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Layla Asmar
Special Education
Layla has been with Cedars for a combined 6 years. She taught special education and Kindergarten, previously, in her hiatus she worked in Escazu, Costa Rica as a Special Education consultant to embassy children and returned last year as a Kindergarten teacher. This year she is moving back into the Special Education role and couldn't be more excited. She graduated from Texas State University in 2009 with a degree in Psychology and Child Development. She lives happily in south Austin with her three dogs Gus, Kane and Keira. Layla loves to be active with her dogs and at the gym. Layla believes that every child can learn and has the right to a solid education so they can reach their maximum potential.
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Cade Eliason
Physical Education and Athletics
Coach Cade is from Billings, Montana. His family is full of teachers. Both of his parents, his grandparents, his sister, and his wife are or were teachers. He is very excited to be a new part of the Cedars faculty. He and his wife moved to Austin after finishing college at Montana State University-Billings. He received his bachelors of science in outdoor adventure leadership. Coach Cade loves all types of sports and outdoor recreation. When he isn’t teaching or coaching he is partaking in some of his favorite outdoor activities. Coach Cade loves to travel, cook, and spend as mush time as possible with friends and family.
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Maria Elisa Hernandez
Counselor
Ms. Hernandez was a long time resident of Brownsville, Texas before moving to Austin, Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College (UTB/TSC) with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and was certified as an EC-4th Bilingual Generalist teacher. She then obtained her Master of Arts Degree from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio as a Bilingual Counselor. She has worked for Fort Worth ISD, Arlington ISD, and Austin ISD as a 1st grade Bilingual teacher. Ms. Hernandez has attended the TABE (Texas Association for Bilingual Education) conference several times and was named Staff of the Month the first semester of the 2016-2017 school year at Cedars. She is excited to be part of Cedars International Academy.
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Liz Evers
Spanish
My name is Liz Evers, and was born and raised in Cali, Colombia. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Ed. from the University of Georgia, and a Master’s in Elementary Ed. from the University of Alabama. I have been a teacher for more than 25 years, and have taught in Colombia, Mexico City and Detroit, MI. My husband, Carlos, my son Pablo and I have lived in Austin for almost 2 years now. My daughter Margarita stayed in Michigan, where she goes to school. We’ve lived in different countries due to my husband’s work and that has helped us all realize how cool and important it is to get to know different cultures and different people! I love being able to teach my language and my culture, and am very happy to be part of the Cedars community.
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Angela Moore
Art
Creativity has been a life-long passion of mine. As a child you could invariably find me doodling, or building 3D objects out of paper, or inventing universes and mapping them out or some other such imaginative pursuit. It's just the way my mind has always worked. It's what ignites me. As I grew into a young adult I had various opportunities to work with children. Even then I realized that being a positive influence in the lives of children was something I felt a strong pull towards. After graduating from the University of Texas with a Bachelors in Fine Arts, I spent some time creating my own artwork and getting by doing graphic and website design. After a short time I discovered that there was something missing. It dawned on me that the reason my work wasn't fulfilling is because it lacked the deep meaning and joy that working with children used to bring me. From that moment on I got back into teaching and spent six years teaching art at the preschool level. Many happy years were spent refining my teaching style in that environment but I knew that if I was going to push myself excel as an educator that I needed step out of my comfort zone in order to grow. After spending my evenings earning a teaching certificate from Huston-Tillotson, I found exactly the position I was looking for in Cedars. I couldn't be more thankful and excited to spend my days teaching at Cedars. Being able to help children grow their creative capacity and being able to pass on my passion for art is truly a unique and wonderful blessing to me.
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Renee Allaire
Teaching Assistant
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Ashley Brito
Teaching Assistant
I was born in McAllen, Tx and I moved to Austin when I was 9.  I have three lovely kids that keep me busy. I enjoy outdoor activities, music and dancing. Tejano is my favorite. I started as a volunteer at Cedars when my son began Pre-K. I loved it so much that I decided to pursue my passion for education. I am currently going to school to achieve a long range goal to be an educator.
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JaQuan Byrd
Teaching Assistant
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Aisha Cyphers
Teaching Assistant
4 year paraprofessional at Cedars.  Attending college majoring in Education. Simply here to make a difference in our students lives.
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Susan Rosete
Teaching Assistant
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Janice Garrett
Cafeteria Manager
A 10 year veteran of Cedars International Academy I love to interact with the students Work as an Aftercare counselor totaling 6 years Even though interacting with the students is a great experience, my passion is providing nutritious meals for children of all ages High School Graduate Various Certificates from Region 13 Service Center Food Manager Certified
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Tonica Sheats
Cafeteria Assistant
Tonica Sheats has worked for Cedars International Academy for 1 year. She is part of our cafeteria staff. She assist in preparing healthy and nutritious meals for the students and staff. She also works as an Ace counselor in the after school program with 7th and 8th grade.
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Cornelio Avila
Custodian
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Rosa Santamaria
Custodian
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Donna Bowen
Administrative Assistant
I have a B.S. in Social Work from the University of Texas and over 15 years experience in the IT industry in Sales and HR fields. I have two beautiful daughters, Odessa and Sequoia, and several pets. My children began school at Cedars in 2006, and I've been the Office Manager at Cedars since April 2013.
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Ana Silva
Administrative Assistant
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Heather Rauls
Principal
•Doctorate Degree (In Progress) - Northcentral University Principal Certification - Texas A & M - Central Texas • Masters of Educational Administration - Capella University • Bachelors of Education - Baylor University Over 6 years as an Administrator - Recognized school - 2010 - Wrote and received a playground grant for over $70,000 - Met Standard with Distinction for 3 years - Met Standard every year -Principal Advisory Board for Region 13 - 2016 Over 5 years as an instructional coach and teacher: ◦ Classroom Coach/Tutor of the Year - 2009 - 2010, Austin ISD, Blackshear Elementary ◦ Teacher of the Year - 2007 - 2008, Waco ISD, West Avenue Elementary ◦ Wrote & received a playground grant at West Avenue Elementary for $57,731.98
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Michael Blalock
Business Manager
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Mark Diaz
Superintendent
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Les Simpson
Director Of Technology
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