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, Technology and Physical Education Instructor

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. Danni Peterson 

Middle School Science, English and Fine Arts Instructor

Passionate about research and performing arts, Miss Petersen fosters creativity in the minds of her students as a Middle School Science and Writing teacher at Lake Travis STEM Academy.

Miss Petersen is a talented educator who brings people together with her fun-loving and energetic vibe.

Originally from Boise, Idaho, Miss Danni Petersen had the unique opportunity to explore the world through a scientific lens from a very young age. As a kid, Miss Petersen toured national parks, frequented science centers, and excelled in her science classes. In her spare time, Miss Petersen embraced a love for the arts through theater and dance. She participated in a variety of community and school performances throughout her early life.

As an adult, Miss Petersen carries her childhood enthusiasm for science and art into her classroom. After completing a year of training in film acting with the Professional Actors Workshop in Salt Lake City, Utah, she received her Bachelor of Science from Utah Valley University. During her time in college, Miss Petersen completed coursework in many branches of science before finding her greatest passions, cognitive science and neuroscience. She has presented research in Psychology at a number of research conferences including: the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association Convention, the Utah Conference for Undergraduate Research, and the American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences. Later in her college career, Miss Petersen developed a passion for teaching while working as a teacher aide and managing a pedagogy research lab.

When she’s not working, Miss Petersen loves to be outside! This includes activities like skiing during winter holidays and mountain biking on weekends. In her downtime, Miss Petersen enjoys absurdist literature and film.

“The deliciously ironic thing about teaching is that we never really know who’s doing it. I want to help my students realize they have something new to teach the rest of the world, even if they haven’t found it yet.”

 

Ms. Jessica Rice 

Lead Elementary Teacher

Mrs. Rice was born in Houston, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University in 2010. She used her bachelor of science in a variety of careers ranging from animal rescue to sales, which eventually lead her to pursue her passion for education.  Mrs. Rice began her professional career with the Houston Humane Society running the volunteer and outreach programs. In this role she was responsible for working with schools and businesses to recruit volunteers and educate the public about animal cruelty. She also assisted with animal rescue and animal adoptions.

In 2011, she moved to Austin, TX to accept a job with Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation as the Volunteer and Intern Coordinator. Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation rescues and rehabilitates over 7,000 native animals per year, and is a permanent sanctuary for over 600 non-native animals. During her time there, she assisted in educating the public about care for native wildlife and how to advocate for non-native animals in captivity. Mrs. Rice ran the intern program, training college interns who lived on site for 6 months to a year. These interns were trained in animal care, animal rescue, and animal advocacy.

After a brief stay in veterinary pharmaceutical sales, Mrs. Rice realized that what she loved the most about all of her careers was education. Training interns, student and volunteers was her true passion. In 2013 Mrs. Rice began her teaching career in Lockhart, Texas as a special education teacher. In 2015, Mrs. Rice taught for two years in Pflugerville ISD in special education.

Mrs. Rice loves animals, and loves teaching about animals even more. She loves spending time with her husband, and one year old son. She loves to travel the world whenever she gets the chance.

 

Ms. Cristina Carpenter

Spanish Teacher, K – 9

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.”