HPS Austin Highlights april 2020 Edition

Dedicated Staff


It is Teacher Appreciation Week, and we are celebrating our 2019-2020 campus teachers of the year. Our dedicated staff is what makes our students succeed and flourish to become productive and responsible citizens. They do whatever it takes to help our students reach their goals and even more so during these challenging times of living through a global pandemic. Thank you, teachers! We especially want to recognize the 12 campus teachers of the year! Their perseverance and commitment to their students and the communities have not gone unnoticed. We applaud you!

Christian Longoria

Elementary Teacher of the Year

"I love seeing the excitement and joy in the faces of Mrs. Longoria's students. She has created an atmosphere where students are enthusiastic about learning. This comes directly from Mrs. Longoria's love for the not only the content but the success of students. She exemplifies the quote that student’s do not care how much you know until they know how much you care." - Mr. Waylon Stengler, Principal

Donna Edmonds

Elementary Teacher of the Year

"Ms. Edmonds has been a great asset to our 1 st grade team as she has taken on leadership roles and has shown her willingness to work tirelessly. Not only has she stepped up constantly, but she also shows a great amount of pride and care in the work she does. She has a great rapport with her students and interacts accordingly to give each individual the best possible learning environment. She has been such a valuable member of our staff." - Mr. Ilker Yilmaz, Principal

Megan Westphal

Elementary Teacher of the Year

"Ms. Westphal is a master educator, highly collaborative, and a lifelong learner herself. She is a priceless gift to her students and the HSI campus as a whole. She builds authentic relationships with her students, supports her parents though ongoing communication, and differentiates for all learners. She brings research-based practices to access her students both academically and socially-emotionally. Ms. Westphal values various student learning styles and utilizes multiple learning modalities to engage students. Ms. Westphal leaves her legacy with each of the students that have the privilege of being in her class." - Mrs. Amy Chankin, Principal

Rachel Gish

Elementary Teacher of the Year

"Ms. Gish has created an environment allowing her students to feel safe to learn from their peers and their teacher, and themselves successfully. Her well rounded mentality to what teaching should look like extends beyond the classroom, and stays with a child. The number of parents that share with me the love and appreciation for Ms. Gish is wonderful." - Mrs. Tiffany Molina, Principal

Katherine Wright

Elementary Teacher of the Year

"Ms. Wright is a hard-worker who is willing to take new challenges every day to create an excellent classroom environment for her students. She is eagerly taking up extra responsibilities and has been involved in many extra-curricular activities such as coaching middle school volleyball and basketball teams as well as being part of many school committees. Ms. Wright does not hesitate to assist her department in any way she can; notably, she is very helpful to her colleagues with innovative technologies. Ms. Wright, we appreciate all your hard work and dedication!" - Mr. Allanur Agaberdiyev, Principal 

Paul Fielder

Middle School Teacher of the Year

“Each day, Mr. Fielder greets his students at the door with a smile and fist bump. He makes them laugh and sometimes groan at his academic jokes. He challenges, encourages, and supports his students. They absolutely adore him and we all do because Mr. Fielder cares. He cares about his students, his colleagues, and the success of the school. He is the first person on the campus and the last to leave. He volunteers to help his teammates and goes above and beyond the call of duty on a daily basis because he wants to make a difference. And he does exactly that every single day with a smile and an encouraging word.“ - Mrs. Ashley Gorman, Principal

Daniel Ramirez

Middle School Teacher of the Year

"Mr. Ramirez is a favorite among students and can truly make any lesson more exciting and interesting. He is always well-prepared for his lessons and uses a variety of strategies to make his teaching more effective. Mr. Ramirez is an accessible teacher who takes the job of educating children very seriously. He is part of many after-school programs, and he recently hosted the Regional Math League Competition at our school. Harmony Endeavor is so lucky and proud to have him! Mr. Ramirez, thank you for everything you do for our students each and every day!" - Mr. Allanur Agaberdiyev, Principal

James Bartholomae

Middle School Teacher of the Year

"Mr.Bartholomae has high expectations for his students.He is not only a great teacher, but also an excellent role model for students as he is honest, caring and trustworthy. Mr.Bartholomae is always ready to help when help is needed. He is a great mentor to those team members who are new to teaching. I feel lucky to have Mr.Bartholomae in my team." - Mr. Agil Sharifov, Principal

David Strauss

Middle School Teacher of the Year

"Mr. Strauss takes every opportunity to support his students academically with differentiation by tapping into students' various learning modalities. He models respect and empowers students to take educational risks. Mr. Strauss has a global lens for campus needs and seeks to provide resources to his team and all stakeholders. He is a vital asset to our campus." - Mrs. Tiffany Molina, Principal

Jeremy Lippart

High School Teacher of the Year

"Mr. Lippart has a great rapport with students. His dedication to teaching and enthusiasm to make our school a great place for students distinguishes Mr. Lippart as one our star teachers. Mr. Lippart cares about his department and always helps teachers to overcome challenges. Students have a lot to learn from him as he sets a good example with his professional attitude and caring personality." - Mr. Agil Sharifov, Principal

Francesca Houck

High School Teacher of the Year

"Ms. Houck is an extremely dedicated Language Arts, Debate, and Theater Arts teacher. She has a positive attitude and always interacts effectively with students and colleagues. Ms. Houck is a driven and well-organized teacher who develops inspiring relationships with her students. In addition to her teaching duties, she is an excellent athletics coach, and she helped the high school basketball team advance to regionals. Ms. Houck is a great asset to our school, and we are honored to have her at Endeavor!" - Mr. Allanur Agaberdiyev, Principal

Juan Palencia Vargas

High School Teacher of the Year

“Mr. Juan Palencia is a passionate and innovative educator who had transformed our school culture and students’ outlook on science. Students who had never before expressed interest in the medical field were now bursting with curiosity and excitement. Within one year, he has made an impression on our students and staff that will last a lifetime. He makes learning fun and he inspires everyone around him.” - Mrs. Ashley Gorman, Principal

STEM for All


A 12-year-old 7th-grade student from Harmony School of Endeavor turned the coronavirus genome into music as part of his passion project for his gifted and talented class.

"It's not exactly enjoyable. It's just interesting to me that it creates rhythms."

Umar Mohammad has always been passionate about genetics, so when his teacher, Ms. Catherine Gilkey, assigned a passion project for their Gifted and Talented class, he wanted to study more about the cause of why he is no longer at school, the COVID-19. After researching more about the novel virus, he learned about "DNA music" and was curious to hear what the Coronavirus genome sounded like.

"The coronavirus genome is made of four letters, also called nucleotides," Umar said. "The nucleotides are A, G, U and C. And to make music out of them… I turned each letter into a specific note."

Umar's project caught the attention of two Austin reporters who interviewed him on his process of finding the COVID-19 music. Listen to Umar's interview and music on KUT - Texas Standard, which aired nationally, and watch the story from Spectrum News Austin.

Harmony in the News


During a time of need, Harmony staff and teachers have come together to show their support for their Harmony family. Through the government stay-at-home orders and business and school closures, many have faced difficult times. For Harmony Austin custodians, they too were affected by having their hours cut because of the school closures. Although the custodians are contracted workers, Harmony Austin sees them as part of the family. Together, teachers and school staff have fundraised close to $12,000 at three Harmony Austin campuses for their custodians. Some principals and teachers have individually given hundreds to their custodians. This kindness and care were not left unnoticed, and for one principal, Mr. Ilker Yilmaz of Harmony Science Academy - Cedar Park, he was recognized and awarded a monetary gift. Mr. Yilmaz then paid it forward again to his custodian, Mr. Felipe.

"We are stronger together."
"When Harmony Science Academy - Cedar Park principal Ilker Yilmaz found out the school's beloved janitor was out of a job because of the pandemic, he stepped in to help. Now, KVUE and Charles Maund Toyota are paying it forward."

HPS Austin Celebrates Student Success

Although schools are closed for the year, this did not stop the Texas High School Visual Art Scholastic Event (VASE) state competition from taking place and celebrating student art. Two Harmony Science Academy - Pflugerville students not only had advanced to the state competition after placing in regionals, but they also took home exemplary ratings for their art pieces.

"It was very different this year as everything was done electronically, and we were not able to attend the actual event but I am beyond proud of these two amazingly talented young ladies! " - Andrea Rogers, HSAPf Art Teacher

Window To The Soul

by Emely Maya

RATING IV – Exemplary

Follow The Fireflies

by Shaiza Gudda

RATING IV – Exemplary

Community Connections


Ten Austin area teachers from five different Harmony Public Schools campuses across the greater Austin area are working together -- but separately -- to help provide desperately-needed medical supplies for frontline workers in their community.

Working from home during their off-hours from helping Harmony students with distance learning, the teachers are using school-loaned 3D printers to build a medical-grade face shield for frontline workers across Travis County.

The first round of 80 face shields made by Harmony Science Academy - Pflugerville teachers, Dr. Danadevi Kuppala, Mr. Kagan Ulucay, Mr. Ali Yavuz, and Mr. Erfidan, was donated to the Austin Police Association, where police officers in the Edwards district will use.

"Helping in any way I can is very important," said Mr. Ali Yavuz, Harmony Science Academy - Pflugerville teacher.
Dr. Kuppala and Mr. Yavuz donate to Austin Police Association President Kenneth Casaday and Police Officer Jackson

The second round of 100 face shields, made by Harmony Science Academy - Austin teachers Mr. Alexis Castañeda and Ms. Lynn Hamilton, was donated to the People's Community Clinic for their clinicians to use in their new drive-through clinic.

"Over 11,000 patients call the People's Community Clinic their medical home. The clinic is a unique and tested model for medical care, a true safety net for Central Texas' uninsured and medically underserved," said Malu Ledezma, Referral & Diagnostics Supervisor at People's Community Clinic. "We just started our drive through-clinic and are in dire need of PPE for our clinicians."
Mr. Castañeda and Ms. Hamilton donate to Malu Ledezma of People's Community Clinic

Currently, over 300 face shields are in production by Harmony Austin teachers to be donated to more Travis County organizations in need of PPE. If you would like to help support the teachers or would like additional information, please visit https://www.harmonytx.org/donate-covid19.


Although our schools are closed, Harmony Public Schools - Austin offers free, drive-thru breakfast and lunch three times a week, on Mondays (for Monday and Tuesday) and Wednesday (for Wednesday, Thursday) and Friday (for Friday, Saturday and Sunday) from 11AM to 1 PM, for any child under age 18, regardless of enrollment status.

The meal pick-up locations are as listed:

  • Harmony Science Academy-Austin: 930 E Rundberg Lane Austin TX 78753
  • Harmony Science Academy-Pflugerville: 1421 Wells Branch Pkwy STE 200, Pflugerville, TX, 78660
  • Harmony School of Innovation-Austin: 2124 E St Elmo Rd STE A, Austin, TX 78744

Harmony Public Schools Austin

HPS Austin Leadership Team

Left to Right: Dr. Ebubekir Orsun - Director of Engagement and Talent | Clarissa Davila - Director of Communications and Marketing | Gultekin Kaya, M.S., M.Ed. - Austin Area Superintendent | Katelyn Meck, M.Ed - Director of Academics Elementary | Toraman Yayla, M.Ed MBA RTSBA - Director of Operations | Robert Navarro - Director of Finance | Aydin Yildirim - Director of Academics Secondary (not pictured) | Victoria Mancha - Director of Public Relations (not pictured)
HPS Austin District Office - 13415 FM 620 N Austin, Texas 78717

HPS Austin Schools

Agil Sharifov M.Ed. M.A Principal | Harmony Science Academy - Pflugerville

1421 WELLS BRANCH #200 Pflugerville, TX 78660 GRADES: 6TH-12TH

Tiffany Molina, M.Ed. Principal | Harmony Science Academy - Austin

930 E Rundberg Lane Austin, TX 78753 Grades: PK-8th

Allanur Agaberdiyev, M.Ed. Principal | Harmony School of Endeavor - Austin

13415 FM 620 N Austin, TX 78717 Grades: PK-12th

Ilker Yilmaz, M.Ed. Principal | Harmony Science Academy - Cedar Park

12200 Anderson Mill Rd Austin, Texas 78726 Grades: PK-5th

Waylon Stengler, M, Ed Principal | Harmony School of Science - Austin

11800 Stonehollow Dr. #100 Austin, TX Grades: K-5th

Ashley Gorman, Principal | Harmony School of Excellence - Austin

2100 East St. Elmo Rd. Austin, Texas 78744 Grades: 6th-12th

Amy Chankin, M. Ed. Principal | Harmony School of Innovation - Austin


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Created By
Clarissa Davila