Staff Bios


Ms. Kori McLain

 Founder and Executive Director of Lake Travis STEM Academy

An award-winning commercial designer and project manager, aviator, business co-founder and founding director of LTSA, Kori McLain is also a mother who is dedicated to inspiring lifelong learning in her own children and the students of Lake Travis STEM Academy.

 Ms. McLain was motivated to found Lake Travis STEM academy after her unsuccessful mission to find an appropriate school for her own two children. She tried private schools, public schools and finally homeschooled her children. Pulling from the best of these experiences and her family influences such as her mother who was a college educator/Learning Skills Specialist, her father who is a professional engineer, a brother who is a PhD at the U. of Colorado and Director of the Experiential Science Education Research Collaborative (with which LTSA is affiliated), and another brother who owns and is Co-President of an international company, prepared her to found Lake Travis STEM Academy. Using the best of her own experiences, and relying on the latest research on STEM-based and experiential curricula, Ms. McLain founded LTSA in 2012 with just five elementary students. Since then LTSA has grown to encompass both elementary and middle school levels, and continues to add students.

Ms. McLain grew up in the Midwest with a traditional public school education, and started flying airplanes before she could drive a car. She found she thrived as she began to connect her previous knowledge to aviation–learning real-world applications of math, science and technology–aviation offered her that opportunity. She studied business at Wayne State then transferred to Minnesota State University to major in Business Aviation. After her parents moved to Austin, she ultimately attended Texas State University where she studied Interior Design and Technology, still flying when time would allow. She graduated with Honors with a Bachelor of Science in Family Consumer Sciences, with an emphasis in Design Technology.

She has more than 15 years of experience in Interior Design, Architectural Design, and Project Management, specializing in dental and pediatric design. She was a project manager for two nationally recognized Architectural Design firms. Her office designs won several national awards. The Matsco Dental Design Competition named her office design as the 2002 National Winner of the Best Solo Practitioner Practice and in 2004 her office design was named National Winner of the Best Office Design, 1-2 Practitioners. In 2006, she was part of the team that helped in the post-Hurricane Katrina recovery of the historical structure that is the home of Fleur-de-lis Dental Care in New Orleans. Ms. McLain further expanded her business acumen and cofounded the nationally known design firm, Enviromed Design Group in 2007.

Ms. McLain’s eclectic and accomplished background gave her the confidence and leadership to create a new kind of school (STEM and Experiential Learning) for her children — and the children of Austin.

“Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to regularly work from home and take an active part in my children’s education,” said Ms. McLain. “This intimacy with their school experiences – both good ones and bad ones – led me to become dissatisfied with how their education was failing to address their specific needs and potentials. Ultimately, this led to what I consider my most important achievement yet — Lake Travis STEM Academy. Together with an inspiring team of collaborating educators and parents, we constantly seek to innovate and provide the best educational experiences for our children.”

 

Mr. Eric Bennett 

Middle School Math and Digital Media Teacher / Physical Education Coach

Friday Enrichment Coordinator

Originally from Boise, Idaho, Eric Bennett has had a multi-faceted education and career that he brings to bear in his multiple roles at Lake Travis STEM Academy. Whether he is teaching a new concept in Math Class, introducing students to the game of badminton during P.E., or helping young people learn how to master technology during Friday Enrichment, Mr. Bennett is having fun and quietly encouraging the students to learn new skills.

Mr. Bennett has taught mathematics for more than seven years. Before joining the faculty of LTSA, he taught math at the Khabele School, Sri Atmananda Memorial School and Reagan High School in Austin. A graduate of Linfield College, Mr. Bennett holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Studio Art with a Minor in Mathematics. He has a Texas teacher’s certification in Mathematics for grades 8 – 12.

A certified personal trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine, Mr. Bennett also holds a Master of Education Degree in Physical Education from Texas State University. While at TSU he taught undergrad courses in Jogging and Conditioning, Soccer, Badminton and Lifetime Fitness and Wellness.

Mr. Bennett has experience in design coding, web design and web programming. An avid gamer who also collects vintage games and designs new games, Mr. Bennett enjoys teaching design and coding skills to students of all levels.

As a lead counselor for Wonder Space Technology Camp in Austin during the summers of 2015 and 2014, Mr. Bennett taught courses in Digital Video and Special Effects, 2D Game Design and Digital Photography. Early in his career, Mr. Bennett completed two terms of service with AmeriCorps: one year as a math and language arts tutor at Longfellow Elementary in Boise and another year as an arts instructor and photojournalist at Court Youth Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

In addition to his interests in video games, during his free time Mr. Bennett also enjoys fitness, including running and resistance training. He is an avid golfer, and played on his college team at Linfield College. He loves reading contemporary adult fiction with some sci-fi tendencies like The Martian by Andy Weir, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline or The Circle by Dave Eggers.

 “Positive relationships with my students build confidence and inspire enthusiasm for learning.”

 

Ms. Sydney Eddingston 

Middle School Science and Integrated Hub Instructor

Sydney Eddingston is our Middle School Science teacher! Sydney has dedicated much of her life to the exploration of both science and medicine. Sydney graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2010 with a Bachelors in Biology / Pre-Medical Sciences. That same year she went on to The University of North Texas Health Science Center to earn her Master of Science in Medical Sciences degree. After working one year in the medical field, Sydney realized her propensity for both learning and teaching, and sought out LTSA. Sydney aims to plant the seeds of passion for science within our kids, and do all that she can to foster this to fruition!

 

Ms. Susan Ward

Intermediate Elementary and Middle School Language Arts Teacher

Lifelong educator, Susan Ward, inspires students to explore their world and to think creatively and critically about their discoveries.  She achieves this by developing hands-on learning experiences that are meaningful to her students and authentic to the world around us.  Providing the tools and skills to her students to become socially and emotionally ready to take on life’s challenges is important to her as well.  Ms. Ward empowers her students to find their voice, believe in themselves and ultimately make a difference in our world.

Ms. Ward’s most recent teaching assignment was right here in Austin as the math, science and art teacher at Terra Luz Community School.  In this multi-age setting, she provided individualized instruction for both upper and lower elementary students, teaching at the appropriate skill level of each student and providing compelling individual challenges.  She has also taught in the Round Rock, Leander and Eanes school districts, as well as the Waterloo Region District School Board in Ontario, Canada.  Throughout her teaching career, Ms. Ward has specialized in experiential interdisciplinary learning and arts-integration.

Ms. Ward received her B.A. in Human Ecology—Textiles and Design from the College of Natural Sciences at UT Austin, where she also earned her certification in Business Foundations.  She received her Texas teacher certification in Elementary Education (prek-6th) while working towards her Masters of Education at Texas State University.  She also holds Texas teacher certification in Art (prek-12th) and ESL–English as a Second Language.

Growing up with parents who were professional potters; studying textiles and design in college; designing and constructing couture fashions for UT runway shows; studying culinary arts and working as a pastry chef and baker; consulting in interior design; teaching preschool art classes; specializing in arts-integration in her instruction; Ms. Ward has actively been involved in visual art and design at every stage of her life.

In her free time, Ms. Ward loves to go on outdoor adventures with her husband, three sons and two dogs.  Local nature trails and swimming holes are some of her favorite places to explore.  She also enjoys treasure hunting for vintage curios, spending time with her pets and engaging in fun science and art projects with her boys.

“I know in my heart that teaching is my calling, my passion.  It brings me great joy to see my students’ faces light up with enthusiasm and wonderment when I introduce a new activity.  Their reactions motivate me to create outstanding learning experiences, but more importantly the children are thoroughly engaged and eager to learn.”

 

Ms. Amanda Torres 

Primary Elementary Teacher

Amanda Torres is an Austin original who lives for teachable moments and opportunities to help students grow academically, emotionally, and socially.  She is an enthusiastic educator who loves working with the youngest learners.  Her goal is to give LTSA’s primary students a solid base from which to build their academic careers and to instill in them a life-long love of learning.

Prior to joining the Lake Travis STEM Academy Faculty, Mrs. Torres taught at a unique school designed for Gifted and Talented learners. She loved working with students ages five to eight in mixed classrooms serving children grades Kindergarten to Fourth. Mrs. Torres taught in a very flexible, project-based, and hands-on environment. She assisted with lesson planning, field trips, creative projects, and special classes including Science, Spanish, Art, Robotics, Emotional Intelligence, P.E., and Innovation. Three of her favorite classes to develop, plan, and facilitate were Edible Science, Brain Power, and Space Exploration.

Mrs. Torres taught Kindergarten Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, and Science in Manor ISD. She enjoyed using various technologies to assist student development. Assessment tools including Rigby, DRA, iStation, TEMI, Raz-Kids, and interactive notebooks were used to track student growth in Reading and Math. Her favorite challenge was differentiating instruction for learners during guided and whole group exploration. Mrs. Torres worked graciously with classroom parents in the joint effort of making each student’s first year of school a fun and positive experience.

A graduate of Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies, Mrs. Torres holds a Texas Teaching Certification in PreK-Fourth grades, English as a Second Language, and Gifted and Talented. She has received extensive professional development training in the areas of balanced literacy, Math and Science applications, reading and writing programs, and classroom management. Mrs. Torres has been working with students for over ten years. She substitute taught in Austin and surrounding districts before graduating college in 2006. She has taught Kindergarten, First Grade, and Second Grade in both public and private schools and believes that all children deserve individualized attention, positive reinforcement, and unwavering respect.

“My teaching philosophy is simple – I demonstrate to children, parents, and faulty that I truly care for them, and I greatly respect the art and science behind teaching. I do what it takes to provide excellent differentiated instruction to students and clear, constructive communication to all. Working with students is challenging, fun, and full of endless hands-on learning opportunities.” 

 

Ms. Cristina Carpenter

Spanish Teacher, K – 8

A product of a culturally-diverse family , Cristina Carpenter is a gifted linguist who has lived and worked abroad for much of her life. She brings her love of language and other cultures to bear in her work as Spanish instructor for Lake Travis STEM Academy students.

Born in Austin, Texas to a French-German, American mother and a Bolivian father, Mrs. Carpenter has always been proud of her diverse cultural heritage. As a child, English was always the primary language used in her home, even during the 11 years that were spent living in South America. However, after moving to La Paz, Bolivia at the age of 4, Mrs. Carpenter also learned to speak Spanish. Her mother was impressed by the fact that she was able to speak more Spanish after only a few short months of attending her Spanish-only preschool, than she herself could after several years of studying the language in college. The ease with which a 4 year old can learn a new language, given the right circumstances, so impressed her parents, that she was then enrolled in an all French school for kindergarten.

Having moved back to Austin in 1985, Mrs. Carpenter finished high school in AISD, and won the National Spanish Exam as a native speaker her sophomore and junior years. After earning her Bachelor of Business Administration from UT, she began her career in the high tech industry working for employers like Motorola/Freescale and Advanced Micro Devices. As a multi-lingual International Marketing Manager for Wayport, Inc., Mrs. Carpenter traveled to countries like Switzerland, Spain and Mexico to help the company promote some of the first Wi-Fi installations in hotels and airports during the late 90s.

In 2003, Mrs. Carpenter began her most important job, that of being a mother. During this time, she continued to work on independent consulting jobs and Spanish translation projects for companies like Green Mountain Energy. In 2007, the Carpenter family grew from 3 to 5 with the birth of twins.

Since then, Mrs. Carpenter has successfully transitioned her career from international business to education. Currently, she teaches Spanish at both Round Rock Independent School District and Lake Travis STEM Academy.

“I hope the bright, young students at LTSA look forward each week to our time together as we learn about the cultures and language of Hispanic people around the world. I hope to spark their curiosity about foreign cultures in general, and to help them be more worldly citizens. Of course, I also hope to give them a working knowledge of this beautiful romance language, which will be useful as the Hispanic population in the US continues to grow, especially in Texas.”