Faculty

Shari VarsShari Vars
(Head of School)

Shari first came to AHB as a parent in 2014. Shortly after enrolling her two children, she found herself called back to the classroom (after years as a stay-at-home parent) and spent nearly 3 years teaching Humanities in Delta and Gamma. She loved teaching (and learning!) at AHB, where the nurturing environment supported creativity and curiosity alongside academic rigor. She later left to start a small business, and though much was learned in this detour, she ultimately she found herself missing the spark that comes from working with young people. When the opportunity arose to rejoin the AHB team, Shari jumped at the chance to help serve and lead the community for which she already held such deep appreciation and respect.

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 took on the role of Assistant Director when the company started its own elementary micro-school, KAMICO Academy. There, Shari enjoyed the “big-picture” problem-solving involved as she worked to coordinate and best serve the needs of students, parents, and teachers. She looks forward to similar challenges as part of AHB’s administrative team!

When not at school, Shari aims to find pleasure in keeping family life afloat: walking the dog, gardening, playing family games, and sneaking the occasional date night (or Netflix binge) amongst chauffeuring busy kids.


Alexa CorbettAlexa Corbett
(Associate Director)

Alexa has an undergraduate degree in German from the University of Texas and a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Maryland. She taught for five years in inner-city Baltimore, and then moved to North Carolina, where she worked with curriculum implementation and licensing for the NC Real Estate Commission. After many years at home with kids, she is excited to be back in her wheelhouse – working in education and organizational development.

Alexa’s family found AHB in 2013 when her oldest son started Kindergarten. All five of her children have benefitted from AHB’s unique approach to education. Alexa finds great value in collaborative learning and the work/life balance that AHB offers her family. She served as President of AHB’s Board of Directors for almost three years before accepting the role of Associate Director. She enjoys sharing AHB’s magic with families who are searching for an educational community.

Outside of school, Alexa has a passion for renovating old houses and exploring the world with her family. She is on a mission to visit all 50 states and every U.S. National Park. At home she enjoys yoga, growing vegetables and training her cat, Henry.


Kim LongacreKim 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.


Andrea PawlonekAndrea Pawlonek
(Alpha Class)

Andrea earned a B.A. in Mass Communications from UC Berkeley and began her teaching career in San Francisco. She received her M.A. in Teaching from USF in 2013. The following year she taught first grade students at a Title I school through AmeriCorps. Since moving to Austin she has had the privilege of teaching in a variety of settings – public, private and charter.

Maya Angelou said that “At our best, we are all teachers.” This resonates deeply with Andrea. She continues to be inspired by every student and is thrilled to join the exceptional team at AHB. She looks forward to building a class community that values cooperation, inquiry, and a love for learning.

Two spunky girls keep Andrea busy at home. Whenever possible she loves to pick up a good book or travel to learn more about our wondrous world.


Kelly LarsonKelly 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.


Skylar PaulikSkylar Paulik
(Beta Class)

Skylar grew up in the coastal town of Fairfield, Connecticut. She comes from a family of artists and educators, and teaching has always been her calling. She obtained her B.S. in Early Childhood and Elementary Education at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont – where she also met her fiancé John. While attending college, she had the opportunity to student teach in several local schools, but her most memorable experience was teaching kindergarten in Dublin, Ireland when she studied abroad. Upon graduating in 2017, she moved back home to Fairfield and began her first post grad job as the Permanent Building Substitute at a local elementary school. While there, she wore many hats, teaching every grade level and subject, including art, physical education and music to a student body of 400+. She hit the ground running, thrived in the chaos and made lasting friendships.

In August of 2019, she and John decided to make the leap from Connecticut to Austin for John’s field of work in Video Game Design, and new adventures. Having lost a couple of years to the pandemic, they are now on a mission to catch up on exploring everything Austin has to offer. Please feel free to make suggestions! They also adopted their two beloved and spoiled cats during quarantine, to liven things up a bit! Rocky and Poe’s antics continue to keep them laughing every day.

Skylar believes in the power of community and hopes to establish strong partnerships between school and home through open communication and family involvement. A lover of the arts, she thinks that creativity lights up the brain and is the key to unlocking a lifelong love of learning! She strives to create a classroom space that is safe, enriching and affirming for all – putting a strong emphasis on the social and emotional development of her students. She is a firm and kind leader, who shares her students’ curiosity for the world around them, and can’t wait to get started at AHB!


Ansley ThomasAnsley Thomas
(Gamma Class)

Ansley wanted to be a teacher from the moment she met her first teacher in Kindergarten! She grew up in the Carolinas and attended Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC for her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education. At Warren Wilson College she focused her interests on education, psychology, and art history. She then had the amazing opportunity to teach at a social justice charter school in Asheville for her student teaching experience and her first year in the classroom. This experience propelled Ansley into teaching through a social justice lens which led her to three years in New Orleans.

She came to Austin for graduate school at UT in 2014 and obtained a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Language and Literacy Studies. Her teaching philosophy is founded on three major principles: she believes that children have an inherent desire to push towards growth when learning is joyful, authentic, and experiential; she thinks that highly effective teachers approach their work as a craft; and she believes our classrooms should reflect and value the diverse world we live in.

Ansley has a special interest in social-emotional learning, mindfulness, and making authentic literacy experiences a part of every day in the classroom. She values having a strong community and relationships with her students and their families. Outside of school she loves camping and tries to visit a new national park every year! She also enjoys handcrafts like macrame, needle felting, and more! She has a cat that has traveled around the country with her for over a decade and lives in a tiny house in her best friends’ backyard.


Lorrie SalomeLorrie Salome
(Gamma Class)

Lorrie grew up eating very hot chiles in the border city of El Paso, Texas. There, her large Lebanese family applied subtle pressure on her to become a teacher, but she was not ready. Instead, she scurried off to the University of Texas at Austin where she changed majors each time she was on the brink of earning that degree in order to avoid a career commitment. At last, she graduated from the Senior Fellows Honors Program with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising. She put that degree to work selling homemade (artistic!) candles at the 23rd Street Artist’s market. At the behest of her father, she got a “proper” job doing project management and curriculum writing at the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB).

It was through TASB’s “Partners in Education” program that Lorrie began working at the elementary school across the way. The more she visited, the more compelled she was to stay. Thus began a joyous re-falling in love with being in the classroom. Eventually, she pursued her teaching certification and spent the next 13 years working in Eanes ISD where she tackled a variety of jobs across the educational spectrum: early literacy and math intervention for struggling learners, enrichment small group pull-out for GT students working above grade level and craving more in-depth problem-solving, regular education 5th/6th grade math and language arts classes, special education inclusion collaborative teaching and instructional coaching with an emphasis on technology integration.

Lorrie’s passion for technological fiddling led her back to UT Austin receiving a MEd in Instructional Technologies. A fork opened up on her career road again, and for the second time in her life she felt compelled to stay in the classroom working directly with students. She began teaching 5th grade math at Hill Elementary in Austin ISD, while also serving as the Campus Innovation Coach (a district position created to help provide more personalized technology support and training to fellow educators.)

Teaching throughout the pandemic helped reframe Lorrie’s emphasis on tech incorporation. Rather than blanket-use of technology to serve an educational need, Lorrie now relishes the chance to keep kids engaged in the present moment and nimbly rely on technology that enhances or engages with a willingness to go back to basics when learning needs to be more sensory and/or concrete. Turns out, effective technology integration is as much art as science. Lorrie loves exploring this terrain!

Ever the beautiful dreamer, Lorrie believes that passion fuels creativity and that creativity is the highest form of experience & expression. This “fueling” is what she hopes to do every day in the classroom, and similarly, what she hopes to inspire in her students—a love of imagination, a craving for story-telling, the urge to create something uniquely wonderful. She is absolutely thrilled at this opportunity to join the AHB community.


Kandyce WeaverKandyce Weaver
(Middle School)

Kandyce is overjoyed to join the AHB community. She graduated from Oklahoma State University in 1992 and has spent 21 years teaching everything from pre-K to 7th grade English. After 18 years in Texas public schools, she grew tired of watching children being reduced to data. She took a leap of faith and resigned, trusting that a more authentic learning environment awaited her. She knew when she met the faculty at AHB she had found her tribe.

Being the youngest in a family of seven kids, Kandyce learned early on the importance of working together, flexibility, and resilience. She developed a high tolerance for chaos and a sense of wonder about the world. These attributes, she believes, are a great recipe for classroom learning.

Kandyce and her husband have raised four children and recently joined the world of empty nesters. She delights in her grandson, Leo, and enjoys painting, sewing, reading, rehabilitating houseplants, occasionally binge-watching TV, and keeping her cat’s food dish full. She is not afraid to get her hands dirty and intends to learn taxidermy. And she once got to join humorist Amy Sedaris on stage to make a pinto bean eye burrito.

Kandyce models curiosity and an enthusiasm for learning to her students—always encouraging them to ask, “What if?” and “Why?” She strives to help them connect their classroom studies to the bigger world. She nurtures an environment of risk taking, independence, and the sheer joy of learning new things. She feels AHB is the perfect place to begin her new adventure.


Amanda SimpsonAmanda Simpson
(Middle School)

Amanda graduated from Texas A&M University Central Texas with a B.S. and M.S. in Mathematics.  She aspired to be a data miner before she became a graduate teaching assistant. Once she was in the classroom she decided to never leave. She is a fourth-generation teacher and teaching is in her blood.  She has teaching experience ranging from 5th grade to University.

She spends most of her spare time watching movies, playing video games, and caring for her fur babies with her spouse. Amanda’s more interesting hobby is volunteering as an official for the Texas Rollergirls, the original modern roller derby league here in Austin.

Amanda believes anyone can learn given quality instruction and a sprinkle of curiosity. She hopes to provide both here at AHB.


Steve TraynorSteve Traynor
(Middle School)

Steve is very excited to become part of the AHB Family. He received a degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas and his teaching degree from Western Kentucky University, where he specialized in History, Government, and Journalism Education.

Steve began his teaching career in Kentucky, then jumped back into the journalism world, working as a photographer and photo editor in Central Texas. Yearning from the classroom brought him back to teaching in 2008, and he has taught 5th grade through high school in social studies and journalism. His yearbook classes have won national awards, and he prides himself on blending current events and issues into his class discussions.

The quest for knowledge and building advanced skills fall right into Steve’s philosophy that all students can learn and achieve at high levels. As a lifelong learner himself, he has always believed that teaching is one of the most important professions in our society.

When he is not focused on his students and their needs, Steve enjoys running and biking. He is also a Disney fanatic, and, after emptying his nest of his two awesome daughters, often visits the Disney parks in Florida and California. The recent pandemic ushered in the joys of the RV lifestyle to Steve and his wife Lisa. He is also passionate about film and music, and incorporates his vast musical tastes into his teaching.


Emily Jamison GuerreroEmily Guerrero
(Music Teacher)

Emily was born in Austin and was lucky enough to attend some wonderful public schools – Gullet ES, Lamar MS, and McCallum HS. She attended The University of Texas at Austin and was a member of the Longhorn Band. She graduated with a BA in Philosophy in 2000 and then worked for Meals on Wheels as the home safety repair program coordinator (Handy Wheels).

She earned her graduate degree in Education (with a focus on literacy instruction) from Concordia University-Austin in 2006. Emily taught in the Round Rock school district for 8 years before she was offered the job of a lifetime – being a mom to Charlie (Beta-1) and Annalise (future Alpha). Educators run in the family – her mother, mother-in-law, and both grandmothers were all teachers, and her husband, Efrain, is currently in his 17th year as an Art Teacher in RRISD.

During her public school teaching career, Emily taught Elementary Music and Art, Pre-Kindergarten, and Kindergarten, but she’s been using music with children in a variety of settings for over 20 years. Her primary instruments are voice and tuba, but she also enjoys playing piano and drums, and may even be inspired to learn guitar…

She’s grateful to have the opportunity to share the joy of music with AHB kiddos!


Lauren FedakLauren Fedak
(Admin and Teacher Assistant)

Lauren is brand new to Austin and has been overwhelmed and overjoyed by the welcome she’s received from AHB and the community. Originally from Dallas, she grew up with piano and violin practice in session at all hours of the day. She has fond memories performing in ensembles with her younger brothers and herding tiny orchestra members to their next practice rooms. She is so inspired by the creativity, enthusiasm and inhibition of children and has always had a deep curiosity for how we emotionally relate to one another, so she began to pursue a degree in psychology at UTD. After two years (and realizing that medical school was not meant to be) she decided to take a step back and rediscover the world around her. All roads have led to Austin, where she is now enrolling in a nursing program and diligently feeding her screaming cat, Mo.