About Us

Faculty

When my youngest sister was diagnosed with autism over 20 years ago, I began volunteering in her preschool classroom. From that point on, I knew I wanted to work with children. I have spent the years since then living that dream. I have my Masters in Special Education from the University of Texas at Austin specializing in Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities and my Bachelor of Science with a major in psychology and minor in child development from Troy State University at Montgomery.

I teach using a student-centered approach, which I have developed over the past 20 years working with individuals with learning differences from ages 3-26 years old. For preschoolers, most of the teaching will be play-based although I also incorporate Montessori elements, inquiry-based learning and cooperative learning. I'm a facilitator of learning and strive to promote independence and exploration. I believe that students learn best when they are actively involved in what they are learning. To promote critical thinking skills, I ask the students frequent questions. I prefer having lessons outdoors, encouraging full body movement and hands-on exploration. I promote student-created projects such as books, experiments, and art and I love seeing the pride on a child's face when they complete those projects.

I adore working with young children because they are so passionate about everything! Their love for learning and life is infectious and my goal is to do everything I can to keep that fire burning.

When I'm not teaching, I'm spending time with my amazing husband, Jeff, and my precious son, Connor. In my spare time, I run my photography business where I specialize in taking lifestyle photos of children with an emphasis on photographing families with a family member with special needs. If you'd like to learn more about me, please visit my professional website at dailyglimpse.weebly.com.

I have fond memories of spending parts of my summer vacations helping my aunts setting up their classrooms, organizing materials and getting everything ready for the first day of school!

I am a native from Caracas, Venezuela. I visited Austin in the winter of 1998 and was immediately drawn by the bright blue Texas sky and the kindness of the people here. I moved in the summer of the same year and made Austin home. My two lovely daughters were born and raised here in Austin, Texas.

I hold a Bachelors degree in Arts from Universidad Católica Andrés Bello majoring in Education. I have taught elementary, middle school and high school grades in Venezuela, Mexico and Austin in my more than 10 years of experience.

I am honored to join the Sankalpa Academy community and to get to know and work with your child. It gives me deep joy to witness the unique learning processes of each student, how they connect pieces of information and apply and grow their own inner knowledge. My approach to education is holistic, since I also have a Montessori background and have experienced the educational models in different cultures.

It is my earnest intention and desire to make a positive impact in the lives of my students, respecting their individuality and learning styles and providing the space to spark their inner love of learning.

In my free time I love to read, garden, do yoga, travel and spend time in nature with my family.

I started teaching during my second year living in China. I had moved overseas to study Mandarin Chinese and found the people so welcoming and helpful, I wanted to think of a way I could return the favor. A friend suggested the possibility of teaching English and I thought I would give it a try. Teaching in China was the first time I felt like I was doing what I was meant to do. It was energizing rather than draining. I taught multiple subjects on a university campus for the next six years. I lived and breathed teaching and investing in my students both inside and outside the classroom.

Later I moved to Spain and taught English and science at a private school for grades pre-K through high school. Again, I loved it so much I decided it was time to return to the States and become qualified to do what I had been doing overseas. I received my teaching certification in Texas, began teaching second grade, and started my Masters in Education.

Although I enjoy all subjects, I am especially partial to Language Arts. There is something about the way that reading opens our eyes to experience the world around us. I love being a part of helping children discover their own love for reading. I really enjoy the journey of leading them to that point where all of those sounds, letters, and words become more than just lines on a page.

I am forever committed to being a life-long learner. I am motivated by the fact that there will always be new approaches and more innovative ideas to discover. I am excited to join Sankalpa Academy, and I can’t wait to meet your children as we begin our learning adventure together.

I have been an educator at heart, since as long as I can remember. I have a love of learning, working with kiddos and helping people. I am an open-minded, fun-loving and empathetic person. After receiving my Bachelors of Arts in Mathematics at UT, I shifted my professional focus towards education. I have been working in education for thirteen years. My career began while receiving my Masters of Elementary Education from Texas State. During that time, I worked as a Nanny, Assistant Teacher and as an After School Program Leader at AISD. Once I completed my Masters, I began working at AISD, where I remained for six years.

Learning is active, social and occurs most successfully when we are not at odds with our emotions. As educators, parents and models for the future, we must provide a safe space where children feel respected and valued. If a situation arises when a child is experiencing heavy emotions and needs the tools to process, time should be made as needed. When the mind is stress free, optimal learning can occur. I feel that children have a natural tendency to try to help, they want to matter in the world. If students are given tasks that are meaningful for the real world, I believe that they will rise up to the challenge.

I feel that children are the reason I am here on this Earth, they are our future and I am grateful to have the privilege of teaching them. I hope to one day be a mother. Currently, I am a mentor at Integrity Academy. I have been fortunate to have worked with this amazing staff and community since the Fall of 2014. In my spare time, I love to bike, swim, camp, sing, dance, and act goofy with friends and family. I am thrilled to start working at Sankalpa Academy in the Fall with this amazing team, and I look forward to meeting you!

Samir Patel, M.S.
Specialist in School Psychology

One thing I've learned in my journey is that although end goals are useful to direct our path, it is the path itself where happiness is found. For me, that path has been paved by curiosity of the inner life. In my youth, I spent a considerable time exploring world philosophies, world religions, and psychological theories which thereby led to a more formal study of the mind.

I received my B.A. in Psychology from University of Texas at Austin, where I spent quite a bit of time learning about cognitive psychology and the effects of meditation on learning. It was, however, while volunteering at a school in India, that my general curiosity turned into a passion. There, I received an indelible experience of getting to know an incredibly inquisitive and bright student who also had a penchant for blurting out answers in class, making students laugh, and allowing friends to copy his homework from the previous day. He was later expelled for bad behavior and, in all my helplessness at that moment, I wondered about the exceptional students in the world with qualitatively different learning styles who are continually at risk of having their individual potentials go unnoticed, and having their inconvenient behaviors and peculiarities define them. It is intuitive that a human in one environment should act, behave, think and operate quite differently than in another; as is evident that a child's struggle to learn or behave in one environment is not completely reflective of that child's entire personality. It is, rather, only a particular response to a particular condition - much like how plants wither under the conditions of an unrelenting sun. I thereafter pursued and received my M.A. in School Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin motivated by my interest to not only learn how to identify various learning styles and capacities in students but how to effectively create supportive conditions in which every child can blossom -- to learn how to manage and mitigate impediments to the learning process so that each student can receive their needed amounts of sunlight, rainwater and nutrition to thrive. I've since been working passionately as an LSSP, removing barriers one student at a time.

I am excited that at Sankalpa, I will have the great pleasure of working with a wonderful team, collectively enriching learning conditions so that many more students can flourish far before barriers manifest themselves.

Leanne Paulin, B. Sc.
Math and Art

As many of us have experienced, there is always that one teacher who stands out among others. For me, he was the principal of our elementary school and also our fill-in math teacher. From his very first lesson, he instantly elevated the tone of the class, challenging us to create our own math questions, to label them with our own perceived difficulty (were they worthy of a second base hit or a home run?), and to share them with the class, in an ongoing game of math baseball. We were all suddenly very engaged and empowered and took a lot more pride in our work. It was a pivotal moment that left me with lingering questions about why this wasn’t the norm. I asked myself: Could there be more to education? Should there be more to education?

Based on what I have experienced, I wholeheartedly believe that the answer to both of these questions is a resounding yes. Children are natural problem-solvers, seekers, questioners, artists, story-tellers, scientists, mathematicians, and so much more. They have enormous potential, each and every one of them and they deserve to be given these opportunities.

My fourteen years of experience as an educator has taught me so much. I have served in several capacities within the Austin area homeschooling community, I have been a private tutor and finally a homeschooling mother of four. I have seen first hand the benefits that can accrue from using creative approaches to teaching, from asking the right questions, engaging students in a personalized way, seeing each child for who they are and what they offer and helping them to feel that they belong. Children need to feel empowered, valued, excited to learn and in charge of their educational goals.

I am excited to share my passion for teaching and learning with your children at Sankalpa Academy. Though I hold a B.Sc. in Chemistry, I’ve always been an artist and a mathematician at heart. That should not be surprising when you consider how art and math permeate everything and how interconnected all disciplines are. I am excited to share my love of math and art with your children, to learn together the individuality and power of art, to find areas where math and art intersect, and to help them develop a deeper understanding of the universal language of mathematics. This is what I do with my children, in my private art and tutoring lessons, and what I have done for the past three years as a teacher with Austin Area Homeschoolers Math Team.

Stacey Loop is passionate about education and considers herself to be a lifelong student around the mind/body connection and the potential for tapping into optimal wellness, which is different for each person and requires appropriate application of using the right tools at the right time.

After years of working in public schools as a Special Education Teacher, Stacey began her personal journey only after the birth of her son, who was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. Fascinated by the ancient teachings of yoga and holistic health, she embarked upon in-depth certifications as a yoga therapist and health coach. She shares this gift with her community and with her son to assist in moving them toward greater balance.

Stacey has taught over 2,500 classes over the span of 15 years in the format of teacher training, educational topics, therapeutic private lessons, mentoring, and public classes. She co-wrote the curriculum for Yoga Yoga’s Children’s Teacher Training and leads teachers in this 95 hour certification program as well as training in other programs around the therapeutic aspects of yoga and meditation.

She is known for her insight and playful approach in helping individual students move in a forward direction through the profound teachings of yoga and holistic health coaching applied strategically to meet the “bio individuality” of the student.

• C-IAYT = Certified International Association of Yoga Therapists
• E- RYT 500 hours; E-RYT 200 hours Certifications in the Hatha yoga tradition
• Children’s Yoga Certifications: Yoga Ed K-8th; Yoga for the Special Child
• Studied at the American Viniyoga Institute
• IIN Health Coach Certification
• Studied Holistic Health Coaching at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN)
• BS in Special Education, Oklahoma State University
• Public Relations assistant for Modern Holistic Health (www.modernholistichealth.com)
• Co presenter at U.T. Social Worker’s Conference 2017 on “Inner Transformation: A Holistic Approach for Kids with Neurological Issues”

Amy Pancake, M.A., E-RYT, CYRT
Yoga and Meditation

Amy Pancake learned to work with pre-school age children by working with the director of La Petite Ecole French immersion preschool in Austin. Her experience includes 16 years of yoga teaching, applied kinesiology studies at U.T. Austin, ongoing study of human movement (including developmental movement with Emilie Conrad of Continuum Movement) and over 5,000 hours of kids’ yoga classes.

Her yoga classes are fun, engaging, incorporate movement in all planes of gravity, activities to grow attention span, social time and guidance (when needed) in social interactions. She began practicing Vipassana meditation at Wat Suan Mokh monastery in Thailand in 1992. In 2015 Amy co-founded Chakra Kids Yoga children's yoga teacher training program in Austin. She works with children and adults in various settings all over Austin.

She holds a Master's degree in Liberal Arts (concentration French to English translation) and later completed the coursework required for a major in Spanish literature. Her passion for the Spanish language and Latin American culture began when she moved to Texas in 1995. At the heart of her teaching is the commitment to connect in a heartfelt way with each student so they feel safe and free to express themselves in class.

Mei Szeto, M.S.
Mandarin

Mandarin is an increasingly popular foreign language, spoken all over the world. With a Master’s in Educational Psychology from The University of Texas, and more than 20 years teaching experience, Mei Szeto is also a native speaker who presents the Chinese language and culture through fun and creative methods.

Students will sing, dance, cook, play games, make crafts, tell stories, build with Lego, plant vegetables, practice Kung Fu, and perform puppet shows about numbers, colors, animals, family members, fruit, and daily greetings. Through such methods, students will learn to understand, read and write Mandarin in newer, deeper, and more inspirational ways.

In addition to this year’s private lessons, Mei will be conducting language summer camps in 2019. For more information, please call Mei at 512-796-6708.

Shahnaz Baday-Erwin, RYT LMT
Master Chef; Nutritionist

Shahnaz Baday-Erwin RYT, LMT, is a mother, natural foods chef and teacher and a Yoga instructor in Hatha and Kundalini traditions.

Shahnaz has studied under some the finest chefs in the world. Her culinary education includes; The New School for Social Research, New York City, a branch of NYU. The Kushi Institute, a world renowned macrobiotic healing center in Becket, MA. Her stagiaire (apprenticeship) was at Le Cirque, an internationally renowned five-star classical French restaurant in N.Y.C. After Le Cirque, she went on to MEKKA, an urban soul foods kitchen and Angelica Kitchen – one of the premiere vegan restaurants in the world. There she gained vital skills that she has carried with her throughout her entire career. Shahnaz is a former senior teacher and faculty member at the Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts (NEACA). This school was one of the leading plant based culinary schools in the nation. One lesson she most definitely took away from her education: never stop learning (or tasting).

At NEACA, she helped her students identify, develop and implement healthier options for food, essentially taking food from the farm to the table. Knowing where the food is from, how it can be prepared, its nutritional values and how it can be enjoyed are important life skills for Shahnaz. Her love for teaching continued after NEACA. After twenty years in the culinary industry, Shahnaz is now a private chef and a food coach. She founded the Om Cook (formerly Food School) in 2013, and there (http://www.yourfoodschool.com/) you will find culinary classes, recipes and more. Shahnaz is experienced in the Macrobiotic, Ayurvedic, Postpartum, Plant Based, Vegan, Vegetarian, Raw/Living Foods, Gluten Free, Paleo, and Low Histamine Diets.

Shahnaz recently worked with the Engine 2 team (http://engine2diet.com/meet-the-team/) as a healthy living food coach in their immersion projects, teaching healthy eating to people with a variety of health situations. She strongly feels that learning where the food comes from is vital for everyone. Shahnaz says: “Along this culinary journey I have rekindled my childhood passion for cultivating the Earth. My parents planted this seed into my soul when I was young, of living as one with the Earth. I feel that this was one of the greatest gifts they gave me. They taught me how to cultivate the Earth, plant the right seeds and harvest the fruits of my labor. Not just in the garden, this philosophy applies to every facet of my life.”

To help spread the seeds of sustainable living and education, Shahnaz continues to cultivate her passion by working with the non-profit group, TOFGA, (Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association). It is because of her passion, enthusiasm, and her culinary skills, that TOFGA has asked her to be their Chef for their annual fundraiser banquet dinner for the past two years.

Her connection with the earth transfers to her Yogic career and teachings. She is a certified Yoga teacher in two modalities: Hatha and Kundalini. She has been teaching Yoga for over 17 years. Currently, she teaches for the Austin area YMCA. Prior to the YMCA, she taught at Yoga Yoga for over a decade, Sun & Moon Yoga Studio in the D.C. metro area, and at Asheville Yoga Center, Asheville N.C. Shahnaz says: “I have a non-judgmental approach to life. Meeting people with grace and living with the connective thread of ahimsa, which is a spiritual way of living, of nonviolence applied to yourself and others.” Her favorite mantra comes from one of her teachers, Yogi Bhajan: “Keep up and you will be kept up!”

In addition, Shahnaz is a graduate from the Lauterstein-Conway Massage school in Austin, TX. She has over 500 hours training in several modalities including Swedish, Sports, Pregnancy, and trigger-point.

Shahnaz is now proud to offer her services to the community at Sankalpa Academy. And, please also review our lunch program offering and associated curricular objectives at: https://www.sankalpa-academy.org/programs/lunch

"All these threads weave together: Mind-Body-Soul, you cannot separate one from the other!"----Shahnaz