Giving Tuesday

May 26th

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Meet Our Staff

Brenna Nunes
Director of Admissions and Family Engagement

Deaconess Brenna Nunes has served people in the Chicago area since 1998. She added creativity to church and school programs, wrote curriculum and launched initiatives that brought children and their families closer to Christ, and His people. Brenna studied Psychology and Child Studies at Brock University in Canada. She earned her Deaconess certification and a Master’s Degree in Religion from Concordia University Chicago. Before coming to Texas in 2017, Brenna served on the Board of Directors for Bethesda Lutheran Communities, was a Bible Study leader at the 2013 LCMS National Youth Gathering, and has opened her home and hearts to children as foster parents since 2004.

Brenna lives in Pflugerville, Texas with her daughter Naomi (b. 2005); and Leo (b.2003) who is a foreign exchange student from Qingdao, China.

 

Audrey Walker
Campus Administrator

Audrey has served in a variety of early childhood and primary school settings for the past twelve years and has a deep passion for promoting the potential of all children. She earned her Bachelor’s of Arts in Education from Concordia University Texas in 2009 and her Master’s of Arts in Education from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri in 2011 with an emphasis in gifted education. She is proud to be a Texas certified teacher (ece-4th grade).  

As Campus Administrator, she is committed to the USAS teaching philosophy to provide academic excellence in a Christian environment, working with families and teachers to discover and develop each child’s unique gifts to their full potential. Her daily motivation is to see that every child is deeply valued, respected, and encouraged to become a life-long learner by finding joy in coming to school. A highlight of her job is seeing teachers and staff igniting children’s imaginations, provoking ideas, and encouraging problem-solving skills based on each child’s interests. 

Audrey and her husband, Andrew, have three children, Lydia, August, and Lucas.  They enjoy the simple things in life right now, going to the park, movie nights, reading, and all things Lego related.

 

Katie A. Wnukoski
Office Manager

Over the past five years, Katie has worked as a substitute teacher in public schools and inner city after-school arts and sciences programs. During that time, she developed a passion for individualized, hands-on learning. Katie will channel that passion toward enhancing Upbring’s innovative programming and connecting with families through her role as office manager. Katie earned a bachelor’s in fine arts with a major in photography and a master’s in early childhood education.

 

Miranda Mehlhaff
Admissions and Enrollment Coordinator

Miranda Mehlhaff was born and raised in NYC, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Business/Corporate Training. Before moving to Germany, she worked as a Corporate Trainer at TIAA-CREF in midtown, Manhattan. Miranda has worked in the education field for 15 years; in places such as Germany, Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, and Hawaii. She and her husband relocated from Hawaii to Austin, Texas in 2008. While working as an Enrollment Representative for 13 years with the University of Phoenix, she received a Master’s Degree in Human Resources Management. Miranda enjoys volunteering at the food bank, family time, traveling the world, reading her bible and learning Mandarin from my two exchange students from China.

 

Megan Kimberly
Office Assistant

Megan is a native of Arizona and received her undergraduate degree in education with honors from Arizona State University, and after relocating to Texas, her master’s degree in Elementary Education from Texas State University in 2017. She has a passion for the power of education to change young lives and diverse experience in child care and educational support for at-risk children, tutoring, hospital play therapy and general child care from infants to elementary age.

Megan is very excited to become part of the amazing USAS staff team and loves her new home of Austin, where she is involved with Austin Junior Forum and St. Martin’s Lutheran Church, enjoys a variety of volunteer pursuits with organizations like Austin Pets Alive, and loves to spoil her Shih Tzus, Zona and Lucca.

 

Connie Devine
Teacher

Ms. Connie was born and raised in Nebraska, but has made her home in Austin for many years. She has more than 30 years teaching experience in preschool and elementary classrooms, as well as 5 years experience operating an in-home childcare. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from Concordia University Nebraska, completed her ECE endorsement through Concordia University Texas and maintains Texas teacher certification. In 2006 she was honored to be named the Outstanding Early Childhood Educator of the year by the Texas District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Ms. Connie thoroughly enjoys working with young children and is excited to work in a Reggio Emilia inspired setting. Using the Stemscopes curriculum provides the children with many “Aha moments” as they discover and learn about the world around them. She is very excited to be teaching in the 12-month room and being part of the USAS-CA team!

 

Lindsay Dahlin
Teacher

Lindsay earned her Bachelor of Science in Apparel and Textile Design from the University of Alabama. While working in the fashion industry, she also taught sewing classes to students that ranged from ages 5 to 13. This led to the transition of going back to school to obtain her Master’s in Early Childhood Education at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Upon finishing her Master’s degree in the Spring of 2017, she and her husband came to the decision to uproot and move to Austin due to her husband’s job.

Lindsay has several years’ experience with ages ranging from 3 months to 8 years old. She loves to see the new learning that takes place with a child’s independent discoveries and interactions between classmates. She takes time with differentiating instruction to each learning style by observing the way each child synthesizes new learning. When she is not planning creative activities for the classroom, you will find her listening to her favorite comedy podcast or checking off places on her extensive list of Austin eateries!

 

Pamela Stewart
Teacher

Pamela Stewart was born in Corpus Christi, TX. She has lived in Austin since May 2016 with her husband Warren and has worked as a preschool teacher since August of 1987. Pamela received her Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood in 2004 from del Mar College and a Bachelor’s degree in Theology in 2012 from the Minnesota Bible Institute. When Pamela isn’t working, her and husband serve in their local church. Her favorite part about working in a school is connecting with families and their children.

 

Cheryl Miles
Teacher

Cheryl Miles works with children ages newborn to 17 years of age for over 26 years. She provides them with fun, exciting and learning activities that will help them learn, grow and develop. She looks forward to meeting all the families and children.

 
 

Leigh Savacool
Teacher

Leigh brings 15 years of teaching experience in New York and North Carolina to her new role at USAS. She believes education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world (Nelson Mandela), and she loves watching the “light bulb moments” with her students as they grasp new concepts.

Leigh earned her associate’s in early childhood education from Mohawk Valley Community College in New York and her bachelor’s in curriculum and instruction from State University of New York at Oswego State. She is also working toward her master’s in elementary education.

 

Jenn Simms
Teacher

JennMiss Jenn is originally from the Houston area, but has called Austin her home for the past eight years. She earned her bachelors in human development and family sciences, specializing in ECE (birth- 5), from The University of Texas at Austin! Hook’em Horns! While pursuing her degree, she has worked with children of all ages in both a preschool setting and as a personal nanny. Miss Jenn loves all children, but infants are her true passion!

Miss Jenn is currently working towards her certifications as a birthing and postpartum doula, a childbirth educator, and eventually a lactation consultant.

Her favorite aspect of working with infants is developing a close, family-like, bond with her families and the babies in her care. Miss Jenn loves watching and helping each child achieve their developmental milestones, gain a sense of self, and have a secure attachment while finding their independence. In the butterfly class, the babies will be exposed to basic sign language, music, art, sensory projects, and lots of TLC!

Miss Jenn was a World Famous Kilgore College Rangerette before moving to Austin, so you will find her dancing and singing with the babies in her care! She believes in a calming, fun, clean atmosphere and a strong line of communication!

Miss Jenn currently lives with her boyfriend, Miguel, and super cute cat, Frankie! As of right now, she has no children of her own, but loves her three nephews, Ryder, Maddox, and Jaxton, to pieces!

 

Ana Porras
Teacher

Ana was born and raised in Venezuela, where she used to live until 2014. Spanish is her native language, but she’s fluent in English as well. She lived in Panama for a while, and in 2017 made the decision to move to the United States, where her parents have been living for a couple of years. She moved to Austin, and since then fell in love with this city. She loves outdoor activities and sailing on Lake Travis.

Her passion is teaching young minds. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. She earned her degree in 2013 in Venezuela at the Andres Bello Catholic University (Guayana City). She has over five years of experience, and always had great interest in guiding and growing up alongside her students, learning and giving her best every day, and to have an inclusive class, where every student can develop themselves in their own unique way.

 

Erin Garcia
Teacher Assistant

Erin Garcia is our new addition to our Piglet room. She graduated from Texas A&M Univeristy in the spring of 2017 with a bachelor of science degree in sociology and a minor in psychology. Erin’s future goals are to obtain a Masters degree in educational psychology and to complete her Texas teachers certification.

Prior to graduation, Erin spent the last two years working for the after-school program, Kids Klub, for College Station ISD. At Kids Klub, Erin planned and facilitated clubs, daily activities, and service projects for students to participate in. In the summer of 2016, Erin interned at the Boys and Girls Club of the Brazos Valley. The Boys and Girls club provided her with the opportunity to work with youth of all ages and implement a summer learning loss prevention program. Erin loves teaching children of all ages and is very excited to join the Upbring family.

 

Alma Gonzales
Teacher Assistant

New to Austin, Alma ventured to further explore a career in Early Childhood development. She has a Bachelor of Psychology with a minor in Sociology and is currently working on her Master’s in social work. Her goal is to eventually be a Licensed Social worker to help children. She believes all children deserve to live in healthy environments no matter their gender, race, religion, health, and socioeconomic status. Alma hopes her time with the Upbring school gives her the tools and experience she needs to further her career.

Part of her dedication and determination stems from her own experience as a single mother. Alma has a 5 year old son who taught her the patience and the nurture that it takes to work with children. For Alma, the biggest reward from working with children is feeling the happiness they exude every day.

 

Linnea Walkerson
Teacher Assistant

Linnea has 30 years of experience in education. She is currently a Preschool Assistant, Resource Teacher, Academic Language Therapist, and serves children in Christian Ministry. With 30 years of experience, Linnea has taught many children to read, helped numerous students with learning differences be successful, and shared the love of God to countless individuals.

Working with children has always been her passion. Linnea enjoys helping create a caring and loving environment in which children can grow and learn about God.

 

Kelsay Jones
Teacher Assistant

Kelsay grew up in Mid-Missouri where she discovered a passion for teaching young children. After attempting college, she moved to Springfield, MIssouri where she was an Aquatics Director and then a nanny for multiple families. She has taught infant swimming lessons since 2012 and has a true passion for the education of water safety. It was in Springfield where she met her husband, Will and they married in August of 2018.

Together they have two dogs, Captain and Goose. They enjoy camping and exploring their new city in all of its dog friendly glory!
Kelsay plans to pursue a degree in Early Childhood Education to provide as much quality to infants lives as she can. Through teaching swimming lessons and nannying Kelsay has most enjoyed watching students learn new skills and gain confidence that they will carry through to adulthood.

 

Neema Pantelakis
Teacher Assistant

Neema PantelakisNeema Pantelakis is Egyptian by decent, but American by the grace of the United States. Due to Idi Amin the former President of Uganda’s actions in 1972, she became a refugee at a young age.  Before immigrating to the United States, she lived in a refugee camp in Naples, Italy where she studied the Italian language and culture.

Today, she has two sons that have lived in Texas for 23 years.  Prior to moving to Austin to join them, Neema has lived in California and in Florida where she worked for dentists.  Her educational background roots from Austin Community College, where she received an Associate degree in medical office administration in 2017. This was soon followed by completing her nursing assistant certification, with the emphasis on special needs patients in March 2018.

Neema has worked in Austin as an engineering support assistant and as a caregiver to senior citizens in our community for 20 years. Within the last couple of years, she has worked as a nanny, where she rediscovered her love of child care.  As a child from a large family and a mother, she feels blessed to have the opportunity with Upbring and to once again work with young children.

In her free time, she enjoys tea with friends, gardening, cooking, sewing, babysitting, and riding her bicycle.

 

Tina Mello
Teacher Assistant

Miss Tina was born and raised in Pennsylvania. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Early Childhood/Elementary Education at Clarion University in PA. She started teaching in Austin ISD in 1981. She taught Kindergarten for 29 years. Tina has been heavily involved in many church activities at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Cedar Park. The activities have varied from being an actress in the Follow the Star Christmas Production every year for the past five years to being President of LWML Hands of Faith; as well as, being a member of Young at Heart. Miss Tina has always had a great love for children and animals. She has several pets including an African Grey Parrot who acts just like a kindergarten student!

 

Gloria Toress
Teacher Assistant

Gloria Torres was born and raised in Austin, Texas. She is currently majoring in Family and Child Development at Texas State University. Gloria loves working with children and watching them learn about themselves as they grow. She has worked with children for two years and have loved it since the beginning. She is thrilled to be a part of the Upbring team.