Mary Williams (Executive Director) has over 30 years of teaching and administrative experience in both private and public school settings. She worked with infants and toddlers at Vanderbilt Child and Family Center in Nashville, and has worked with PreK – 8th grades in Austin, Chattanooga, TN, Seaside, FL. and New York City. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Vanderbilt University, and a Masters degree in Educational Leadership from Concordia University-Portland.
She is married to Hyram who is a real estate broker who would prefer to captain his own fishing boat or design things when he grows up! Their 3 boys, Isaac (20), Jackson (14) and Lucas (12) keep them busy and laughing. They recently purchased a home in NW Hills that needs a little TLC and rehab . . . especially the old lap pool that they are hoping to convert to a natural swimming pond. They are bringing back the bees that they love so much and chickens are the next step, but they have to make sure there’s enough room for their Great Dane, Athena, and their mixed-breed Boxer, Lola, to run around! An avid gardener, Mary is in the process of building new gardens for vegetables, flowers and herbs in their backyard and courtyards.
Mary is honored and thrilled to be guiding AHB forward! The mission and philosophy are completely in line with who she is as a person and as a teacher. She feels that AHB has managed to find the sweet spot between family and school life. When she first came to AHB to observe, she was struck by how happy, relaxed and warm the children, teachers and parents were, and she was moved by the thoughtfulness and commitment that AHB makes to its families.
Eliza Waugh (Alpha Class) Eliza loves to be part of a community where creative ideas are free to be explored and where learning is an integrated, joyful, collaborative and encompassing experience.
Eliza graduated with a BA from the University of Arizona in Creative Writing and Fine Arts. She became a teacher in 2005 and has taught, mentored, and developed programs at AHB since 2007 in both the Alpha and Beta classrooms. Her sons, now high school age and beyond, attended AHB and she served several years as a board member, as well. Learning and discovering with children has always been a passion for her. If you’re ever in her classroom for long you’re bound to hear her say, “We are each other’s teachers!” because she believes that children offer insight into living and learning in the moment that demonstrates the true meaning of happiness.
When not at school, Eliza loves to spend her time with her family and pursuing the joys of writing, art, the great outdoors (especially in a kayak or hiking boots), yoga, reading, cooking and being with friends
Kim Longacre (Alpha Class) Kim received her B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin. She started teaching in 1983 at Athena Montessori School, one of the original pre-schools in Austin. She and Joe McDermott founded The Phoenix School in 1985, where Kim served as both the director and as a teacher. Kim has 5 sons who have kept her delighted, inspired and a true believer in life-long learning! Kim created summer camps through The Life Empowerment Center, where she designed curriculum and taught students how their brains work and how learning happens.
In 2007 she started teaching at AHBCS in the Alpha room teaching math, science, social studies, Monday Science Lab and all after school classes – ranging from portrait drawing to Greek history, from theatre to intro to music!
In the summer of 2010, Kim became the director of education for HealthStart Foundation, a non-profit whose mission is to create healthy communities starting with early childhood education. Her main accomplishment with HealthStart was writing 9 volumes of curriculum!
Kim returned to AHB in 2013 and is thrilled to be back in the classroom singing and creating with students, alongside inspiring, supportive teachers, administrators and parents.
Alice Elder (Alpha Class) is a native Austinite who grew up in Hancock neighborhood. In 2003 she received her B.A. with Honors in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin. Alice then went on to pursue graduate studies in anthropological sciences at Stony Brook University in New York, where she completed her M.A. in 2006 and her Ph.D. in 2013. In the course of her doctoral studies, Alice spent almost two and a half years collecting behavioral, ecological, and nutritional data from wild groups of agile gibbons, siamangs, and mitered langurs in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia. This long-term fieldwork culminated in her dissertation: Competition among three primate species at Way Canguk, Sumatra, Indonesia. While entering and analyzing data, and writing her dissertation, Alice worked as a substitute teacher in the Austin Independent School District. From 2011 to 2015, she gained experience in the instruction of elementary and secondary students in general and special education settings. In the Fall of 2013 Alice took on the challenge of being a long-term substitute teacher for a vibrant class of second graders at Maplewood Elementary School.
Alice is currently working on her alternative certification through the TEACH Quest program to teach science for grades 4-8. When she is not educating herself or others, Alice spends her time exercising outdoors, gardening, cooking, or folding origami. She is very active in local USTA leagues and tournaments as a singles tennis player. Alice is also the proud mother of an abundantly fluffy cat, who she named after her hometown when missing it terribly in cold, cold New York.
Alice perceives learning as an active process that is constructed by building upon previous knowledge and aided through guided discovery, whereby teachers model and facilitate this process. She feels that curricula should be based in real-world contexts likely to be relevant to student’s global reality. Thus, Alice is excited to join the team at AHB Community School, where she hopes to flex and grow her teaching skills in a dynamic, progressive learning environment.
Kelly Larson (Beta Class) So much to learn… so much to explore… so many exciting challenges and opportunities. Kelly has felt so lucky to be able to share her curiosity of the world around her with students throughout her teaching career. Kelly received her Master’s in Education from the University of New Hampshire. She has taught in the primary grades in Barrington NH, Albuquerque NM, Salt Lake City UT, Los Alamos NM and finally here in Austin TX as she and her husband raised two boys and her husband pursued a career as a geologist.
Everywhere Kelly has taught, whether public or private schools, small or large communities, she has enjoyed taking children on a path of wonder and excitement about the world we live in. She has investigated forests and fields of milkweed in New Hampshire, and built a garden from scorched earth in Albuquerque. In Los Alamos she created a curriculum for the district to get every child in the school outside at least once a month to marvel at the amazing aspects of nature.
As the Japanese proverb states- to teach is to learn, and there is nothing more amazing than exploring right alongside children. Kelly looks forward to learning and creating memories alongside your children.
Kristen Mazzaferro (Beta Class) grew up just outside Boston, MA and comes from a family of educators! In high school she had dreams of becoming an elementary art teacher, so she took early childhood education classes and worked part time in a kindergarten class. However, these dreams were rivaled by her love of fashion. As college approached she was torn between pursuing her love of working with children by studying to become a teacher, or her love of fashion by studying design.
She chose to study fashion and costume design at Framingham State University but couldn’t give up working with kids, so she worked as a nanny during the summers. After she received her Bachelor of Science in Fashion Design and Retailing her passions amazingly merged as she landed a job at TJX Companies designing clothing for toddlers and girls. During her 7 years at the company, she also sought out volunteer opportunities to work with children, primarily volunteering at children’s community theaters helping to create costumes.
In 2016 she decided to move to Austin and leave the corporate fashion world, focusing instead on growing her own brand and developing her skills as an educator. Finding a place at AHB has been an absolute dream come true. She loves her role as an assistant in the Beta class and being a part of the close knit AHB community. Her favorite part about teaching the Beta students is helping them to discover their talents and strengths and encouraging enthusiasm for learning. She is so excited to grow and learn from the AHB staff and contribute by bringing her creativity and passion for the arts to AHB.
Kirsten Coleman (Delta Class) has taught at AHB for over 9 years, serving in various roles as Math Coordinator, Teacher Board Representative and co-teacher in the Beta, Gamma and Delta classes. Her approach to education is that learning to think and applying that thinking to making decisions is the most important and exciting thing one can do. She is always striving to find the intersection of the subject knowledge and its application. Since 2001, Kirsten has coached various teams in Math Pentathlon, Destination Imagination, Math Olympiad, and the Stock Market Game. She also tutors students in reading, writing, science & math. In what turned out to be a fun experiment, Kirsten started, directed and taught in a small private middle school located in Austin for one year. Prior to teaching children, Kirsten worked for high-tech firms on the East and West coasts. In that world she held various technical, educational, consulting and management positions and enjoyed them all. The job which helps guide her current teaching approach was one in which she was an intermediary between executive management, sales personnel and programmers, getting to travel the world seeing different industries, cultures, and types of jobs. Kirsten is a graduate of Earlham College, a small liberal arts Quaker School in Richmond, Indiana where she majored in Sociology and Anthropology and spent a semester and summer in Spain. Kirsten has also enjoyed volunteering as a Big Sister, at Heifer International, for the Girl Scouts, and for various animal rescue league outreach programs to the elderly. She has two children who have attended AHB, AISD & charter schools.
Shari Vars (Delta Class) Shari came to AHBCS through her children. Within a year of enrolling her Alpha- and Gamma-aged children, she found herself called back to the classroom and is now happy to be part of the Delta team, teaching Humanities. She loves teaching (and learning!) in this small, tight-knit community where creativity, collaboration, curiosity, individuality, emotional growth, and academic rigor can all be honored and supported.
Originally from Minnesota, Shari earned her BA in English and Secondary Education from Vanderbilt’s Peabody School of Education in Nashville, Tennessee. She met her husband there and spent the next several years teaching high school English and special education while following his work path around the country. After settling in Austin in 2001, Shari worked as a writer and editor for an educational publishing company and then took on the role of Assistant Director when the company started its own elementary micro-school. Parenthood hit in 2005, and Shari spent the next nine years enjoying life as a stay-at-home mom.
Now back in the workforce and seeking a balance of parenthood, work and play, Shari feels lucky to have so much overlap in her roles. She enjoys time spent reading, playing games, watching documentaries, gardening, hiking, traveling, and engaging in deep conversations.
Claire Hermes (The Hermes Lab) grew up in the desert of New Mexico with a scientist father, a teacher mother, and a sister as her fellow explorer. She learned to ask as many questions as she could – about nature, about school, and about how to do and make things. She learned to experiment, to tinker, and to create. Her goal as a teacher is to inspire students to find that wild enthusiasm for learning that has fueled her own curiosity, and to approach their learning from an inquisitive and explorative view.
Claire has a Bachelor of Science in Music Industry Studies and a Minor in Mathematics from Loyola University New Orleans. She had the privilege of working at Preservation Jazz Hall, as well as working as an event planner for the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, and as an intern for Canvasback Records in New York City. She also volunteered as a math tutor for Our Next Generation (an inner-city after school program in Milwaukee), and for Boys Hope Girls Hope (a program for foster students in New Orleans).
For the past four years, Claire has been teaching Yellow Pod at ACE Academy, a K-2nd pod for gifted learners. She has also developed The Hermes Lab – a company which has allowed her to offer additional enrichment classes to students in an area that they are thrilled to learn. From the moment she connected with AHB, it has felt like family. Claire is thrilled to bring The Hermes Lab to the AHB community, and to collaborate with the creative and enthusiastic families and staff within it.