KORI MCLAIN | Founder and Executive Director of Lake Travis STEM Academy
Prior to launching LTSA, Ms. McLain’s was in the commercial design business and excelled as an award-winning designer and project manager. In an entrepreneurial move, she and a couple of friends started a Design company which still exists today. As a project manager she was responsible for the planning, organizing, leading, and controlling the project. Because of her background and experience in commercial design, she has been able to bring a business acumen and a business sensibility to LTSA which has been her goal.
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 holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design and Architectural Design and was project manager for two nationally recognized Architectural Design firms where her designs won several national awards. Her eclectic and accomplished background provided leadership opportunities and the confidence to start a new kind of school (STEM and Experiential Learning) for her own children -- and the children of Austin. She created an LTSA Advisory Board who offer academic suggestions and assistance with educational decisions and direction. These members are Chairperson Dr. Brad McLain of U of Colorado at Boulder; Dr. Beth Moreno, formerly at UT Austin, and Dorothy Mclain also formerly of UT 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.”
ERIC BENNETT | Middle School Math, Technology and Physical Education Instructor
Mr. Bennett is our resident Modern Renaissance Man. Why? He is a guy dedicated to keeping his mind sharp and his body in good shape because the mind needs a healthy body so that it can function fully to achieve all that it can, and learn all it can. According to some definitions, a Modern Renaissance Man is one who is in a constant state of learning and is open to new experiences and is not afraid to be who he is. He is a role model to his students, even when they don’t see it. Mr. Bennett is an achiever, a learner. He has been a Math teacher for over seven years at various schools. He is a Certified Personal Trainer through the American College of Sports Medicine.
He holds a Master of Education degree in Physical education from Texas State University and taught undergrad courses in Jogging and Conditioning, Soccer, Badminton, and Lifetime Fitness and Wellness. He has experience in design coding, web design and web programming. He is an avid gamer who collects vintage games and designs new games. He enjoys teaching design and coding skills to students of all levels.
He was a lead counselor for Wonder Space Technology Camp and taught courses in Digital Video and Special Effects, 2D Game Design, and Digital Photography.
He completed two terms of service with Americorps teaching Math and being a Language Arts tutor. In Las Cruces, New Mexico, he was an instructor in photojournalism and arts. He enjoys fitness in running and resistance training. He is an avid golfer and played on his college team. He loves reading contemporary adult fiction and some Sci-Fi like The Martian by Andy Weir, and Ready Player One by Ernest Cline or The Circle by Dave Eggers. Whether Mr. Bennett 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 brings many learning opportunities and experiences into his teaching and is always encouraging his students to do their best. He has enough experience to know that there is always a lot to learn.
“Positive relationships with my students build confidence and inspire enthusiasm for learning.”
CHRISTINA CARPENTER | Spanish Teacher, STEAM Elective Instructor
A product of a culturally-diverse family, Christina 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 a Spanish teacher for Lake Travis STEM Academy students. Her many experiences have added to her teaching knowledge base making her classes very interesting to her students.
Mrs. Carpenter was born in Austin to a French-German, American mother and a Bolivian father, and has always been proud of her diverse cultural heritage. As a child, English was the primary language used in her home, even during the 11 years that she spent living in South America. However, after they moved to La Paz, Bolivia when she was four, she also learned to speak Spanish. Her mother was always impressed by her daughter’s Spanish speaking ability after only a few short months of attending her Spanish-only preschool. She actually surpassed her mother’s college instructed Spanish speaking ability. Mrs. Carpenter’s fluency with Spanish so impressed her parents that they enrolled her in an all French school for kindergarten.
After moving back to Austin, Mrs. Carpenter finished high school in AISD and won the National Spanish Exam as a native speaker her sophomore and junior years which is an exceptional achievement. She earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from UT and began a career in the high tech industry with companies like Motorola/Freescale and Advanced Micro Devices. As a multi-lingual International Marketing Manager for Wayport, Inc., she traveled to countries like Switzerland, Spain, and Mexico affording her many different cultural experiences.
Mrs. Carpenter has excelled in learning in many different areas which gives her a wealth of information to share and inform her students’ learning in many areas. She considers her most important job as that of being Mom to her three children. She continued using her Spanish talents by doing consulting work while being a Mom. She has successfully transitioned her career from international business to education and has taught at several different schools in the area, including Lake Travis STEM Academy.
Mrs. Carpenter says this about her students at LTSA: “ 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 I 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.”
DANNI PETERSEN | 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 her students together with her fun-loving and energetic vibe, as well as her curiosity and love of learning. She knew from an early age that she loved science as she explored the world through a scientific lens by touring many national parks frequenting science centers, and always excelling in her school science courses. Yet, another passion emerged in a love of the arts in the forms of theater and dance as she became a regular in community and school performances.
Miss Peterson enthusiastically shares her passions for science and the arts in her classrooms inspiring her students. She completed a year of training in film acting with the Professional Actors Workshop in Salt Lake City, Utah and continued her education earning a Bachelor of Science from Utah Valley University.
She completed course work in in many branches of science before finding her niche in cognitive science and neuroscience. She has presented research in Psychology topics at various conferences including the American American Association of Behavioral and Social Sciences. She later discovered an interest in teaching while a teacher’s aide along with managing a a pedagogy research lab. Miss Peterson ‘s students connect with her and she with them as they learn and grow.
When she is not working, she enjoys being outside skiing and mountain biking. In her downtime, she reads absurdist literature and views films. “The deliciously ironic thing about teaching is that we never really know who’s doing it. I want to help my students realize that they have something new to teach the rest of the world, even if they haven’t found it yet.”
JESSICA RICE | Lead Elementary Teacher
“I love animals! Mrs. Rice has known this about herself since childhood. She not only loves them but she is very curious about them. What or “who” do they eat? Are they friendly or scared of humans? How big are they?
Students have lots of questions about animals, tame ones and wild ones. Mrs. Rice’s love of animals and attendant science led her to pursue a Bachelors Degree in Science from A&M University.
After graduation, she began her professional career with the Houston Humane Society running the volunteer and outreach programs to schools and businesses, recruiting volunteers, and educating the public about animal cruelty. She also assisted with animal rescue and animal adoptions.
Upon moving to Austin she accepted a job with Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation and was immediately awed by their commitment to animals. The organization aides over 7,000 native wildlife per year and provides permanent sanctuary for over 6,000 non-native animals. Her job here was to educate the public about the organization’s mission, as well as how to care for native wildlife, and how to advocate for non-native animals in captivity. Mrs. Rice ran the intern program, training and teaching these interns in the organization’s commitment.
AMBER SPROUSE | Elementary and Math Teacher
Amber’s sense of adventure and exploration fuels her natural curiosity which she shares with her students and inspires them to join in the adventure and exploration of learning.
She has taught students from the smallest to middle schoolers and has loved the challenges and rewards of teaching all of these different groups.
She earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and has taught children in Special Ed. and ESL and is currently teaching an online ESL course to students in China. She loves using games and activities to make learning fun whenever she can.
Amber has lived a life of adventure in many different states and also in Japan. While in Yokosuka, Japan, she ventured into a business and began a Child Development Home (CDH). To prepare to be an owner required extensive vetting through an examination interview explaining beliefs and practices for child development. Also required were 20+ hours of training in developmentally appropriate practices including small business training.
She and her husband have three children, two of elementary age and one an infant, and are all very new to the Austin area coming here from Spartanburg, South Carolina. The whole family shares Amber’s enthusiasm for adventure by traveling and learning about other cultures. through first-hand experiences, which she loves to share with her students--and LTSA is all about Experiential Learning. They also enjoy swimming and hiking.