Six Spring Branch ISD leaders including two school principals, three assistant principals and a prekindergarten program director returned to school early this month with the Rice University Education Entrepreneurship Program (REEP) Business Fellowship for School Leaders, a yearlong development and training program.
The REEP Business Fellowship is offered through the Jones Graduate School of Business to better equip campus principals or other qualifying educators with the leadership tools they will need in areas ranging from innovation and organization to marketing and staff management. REEP helps principals run their campus with a CEO mindset.
The two SBISD principals joining the 2015 REEP class are Danny Gex, interim principal at Stratford High, and Rian Evans, principal at Wilchester Elementary. Also joining the Rice program is Kim Hammer, the director of Bear Boulevard School for Early Learning.
Two assistant principals and an associate principal also joined REEP’s Business Fellowship. They are Michelle Garcia, who is Ridgecrest Elementary’s assistant principal; Linda Guzman, assistant principal at Spring Oaks Middle; and Debbie Silber, associate principal at Spring Woods High.
Participants attend one weekend session per month as part of the yearlong program, including a two-week summer institute. Classes began earlier this month. The new group expects to graduate in May 2016.
REEP’s curriculum is designed to teach strategic frameworks for identifying and solving problems, exploring alternatives and reaching solutions to improve schools, and current school systems. New academic theory is blended with practical thinking and experiences.
Classes include leadership development, organizational behavior, change management and other business and entrepreneurial courses.
“Acceptance [into a REEP Business Fellowship program] recognizes academic and professional achievements, along with their potential for outstanding personal and career development. We’re thrilled to welcome them to the RICE/REEP community as members of the seventh cohort,” states Shea Bledsoe, Reep’s assistant director of recruiting and marketing.
Six other SBISD principals and others are expected to graduate in this May.
New REEP Program Leaders include:
Rian Evans is a native of Portland, Ore. He attended both public and private schools, and these early experiences helped to broaden and expand his ideas and views on education and the tools and skills needed to be successful in multiple learning environments.
Rian originally earned a bachelor of science in history from Portland State University in Portland, Ore., later received two additional graduate degrees in education in New York City. He earned a master’s degree in special education from Hunter College as well as a master’s degree in educational leadership from Baruch College.
He began teaching as an inner city resource teacher in both middle and high schools in Manhattan. In 2007, he moved with his family to Houston and was hired as the assistant principal at Bunker Hill Elementary. Two years later, Rian was promoted to principal at Wilchester Elementary. He is serving his fifth year as a principal, and 12th year in public education.
A daughter of immigrant parents, Michelle Garcia was raised in a Spanish speaking, limited socio-economic household in southwest Houston. She attended Title I schools in Houston ISD from the beginning of her education. This opportunity allowed her to experience first-hand what economically disadvantaged communities endure and overcome. It has been the inspiration behind her service to the very same population.
Compassion is at the heart of her desire to do everything she can to help the children and their parents and teachers at Ridgecrest Elementary. She wants each child to reach their full potential so their futures will be brighter by learning problem-solving skills that will advance their own communities.
After a challenging high school experience, Michelle was determined to pursue her dream of earning a college education with the goal of becoming the influential teacher she always wanted to be since she was a little girl. She earned a bachelor’s degree in bilingual education from Houston Baptist University, and later, a master’s degree in education administration from Prairie View A & M University.
Michelle began her teaching career as a bilingual teacher in SBISD in 1997 with aspirations of touching children’s lives in an extraordinary way. Her journey as an educator continued as a reading specialist who was passionate about teaching struggling students to learn to read and write. She has planted her roots in Spring Branch were she currently serves as the assistant principal in the same school she taught her first year in education. Her SBISD roles have included intervention specialist, instructional coach, and district lead for elementary language arts. She loves working with children at school and at church, and she loves challenging herself to new heights.
Danny (Robert) Gex
A native Houstonian, Danny attended primary and secondary schools in the suburbs of west Houston. His unique educational experience molded his philosophy and outlook on education today and enables him to think differently than others, seeking ways to help his students enjoy their educational experience as much as he did.
In 1985, he left west Houston and traveled up the road about 100 miles to attend college at Texas A&M University. Danny believes that the confidence and knowledge he obtained by putting himself through college by working odd jobs allowed him to take risks and follow his dreams. He knew that no matter what obstacles he faced, he could always achieve whatever he put his mind to. By working at a camp for underprivileged kids he knew he wanted to impact the lives of children in the same way his life was impacted. He recognized then that education was his ticket to a rewarding and exciting life.
Since Texas A&M, Danny has obtained a master’s degree in education from Prairie View A&M University and doctoral work except for a dissertation, or ABD, from Texas A&M University.
Danny started teaching and coaching in SBISD in 1991 at Spring Forest Junior High and a year later at Stratford High School. He went to Katy ISD in 1996 and was an Assistant Principal at Mayde Creek Junior High for two years, and then served at Taylor High School for five years.
In 2003, Danny moved to Second Baptist School for four years as the director of student affairs and athletic director. In 2007, returned to public education and SBISD’s Stratford High. For the past eight years his roles have included science department chair, AP testing coordinator, assistant principal, and associate principal. He is currently interim principal at Stratford High.
In addition to high school duties, Danny loves doing church mission trips with his wife and four daughters.
A proud native of New Orleans, Linda Guzman is also a history fanatic, educator and devoted mother. Anyone who knows Linda knows that she is a determined, focused and competitive person. When she wants something, she makes it happen through hard work and diligence. She makes bold choices in her life and is constantly formulating new goals for herself. She is exhilarated by stretching herself to try new things. Direct in her communication style, she enjoys helping other people grow whether it’s a student, teacher or friend. She's a natural teacher.
Discovering her passion for history in elementary school, Linda chose to major in history and received a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of New Orleans. After working in the life insurance industry, Linda decided to pursue a position that enabled her to make a positive impact on people.
She began substitute teaching and soon realized that her purpose and path in life was to teach. The principal at the private school where Linda often substituted recognized her natural ability to teach and hired her as full time history and English teacher. Soon after, her path towards seeking more knowledge and experiences to better serve students and stretch her potential began.
In order to teach history in public high school, Linda received her alternative certification and began her 14-year career in SBISD at Spring Woods High. Linda had lived in the neighborhood for 24 years, and she believed that this was an excellent opportunity to serve her community.
For 10 years, Linda taught social studies and English as a Second Language (ESL) at Spring Wood High School. Her leadership opportunities at the high school included serving as team leader for world history, ESL coordinator, and department chair.
Linda received her master’s degree in educational administration from Lamar University two years ago. She is currently assistant principal at Spring Oaks Middle School. While at Spring Oaks, Linda has served as the testing coordinator, oversees Title 1 and Campus Improvement Plan, and supervises instructional programs and professional development.
Linda enjoys spending time with her family, practicing yoga, and indulging her passions for history through reading, traveling and visiting museums.
A native Houstonian, Kim’s family relocated to Knoxville, Tenn., where Kim began school. When the family moved back to Houston, Kim began second grade in Houston ISD. She struggled with reading after being taught to read by sight in Tennessee, and then found that her new school expected her to read phonetically. This struggle early on has helped shape her own passion to support diverse learners as an adult.
After high school, Kim spent her freshman and sophomore year at Texas A&M University pursing a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education. She transferred to Texas State University where she earned her bachelor’s degree.
Kim spent the first two years of her career as a special education teacher in San Marcos ISD. After receiving a full scholarship, she taught in Austin ISD while completing a master’s degree at the University of Texas. She earned several certifications at this time, too.
Missing her home town and family, Kim moved back to Houston and served the next 15 years in Alief ISD beginning as a special education teacher. Kim has the distinct honor of being the two-time winner of validation status in the State of Texas Education Agency Showcase of Promising Practices. Her classroom served as a demonstration site attracting visitors from across Texas.
She received her Principal Certification through the University of Houston at Victoria. Positions she has held: coordinator of district extended year services, special education high school department chair, district inclusion specialist, and special education instructional coordinator.
Kim also gained a national perspective with an educational consulting firm as an associate and was a coordinator of research and development for the firm. Longing to have a local impact, she returned to public education. She currently is the director of Bear Boulevard School for Early Learning in SBISD.
Kim loves to spend time with family, visiting dog parks, bird watching, and supporting her son with rocketry endeavors and interests.
Deborah Landau Silber
Deborah Silber was born in Caracas, Venezuela. She attended primary and secondary Jewish School in Venezuela. She credits her educational and upbringing experience for molding her philosophy and outlook on education.
Known affectionately as Debbie to her family and close friends, she left Venezuela at the age of 20 to pursue her dream of living in the United States. The knowledge and experience gained from studying in America fueled her ability to take greater risks. She believes that perseverance and belief in oneself does forge the path to success.
Although psychology was her first goal, life had other plans for Deborah as fate helped find her passion in education. Since moving to America to pursue an education, Deborah has obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology as well as a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in organizational behavior.
Deborah began her teaching career with Houston ISD in 1998 and worked for HISD until 2013. Her roles have included teacher, elementary assistant principal, high school assistant principal, community development and elementary principal. She has served the last two years in Spring Branch ISD as associate principal at Spring Woods High School.
Deborah loves to travel, read and spend time with her two children.