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.


Kristen MazzaferroKristen Mazzaferro
(Beta Class)

Kristen 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.


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.


Gus DexheimerGus Dexheimer
(Gamma Class)

Augusta Dexheimer has gone by “Gus” all her life and is named after a cowboy. She grew up in Austin, Texas where she learned to love swimming in very cold water and breakfast tacos. She moved to St. Paul, Minnesota in 2016 to attend Macalester College, a small liberal arts school where she got degrees in American Studies and Educational Studies. She has worked in various educational spaces, most recently at a middle school in St. Paul. She is thrilled to be moving back to The Live Music (and Allergy) Capital of the World and to have landed at AHB, where she is eager to continue wrestling with ideas about education and learning how it can be a tool for liberation and joy. Outside of work, she likes cooking big Shabbat meals for a crowd, low-stakes graphic design and art projects, eating ripe peaches, and reading place-specific books about sprawling families.


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.


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.