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OUR HISTORY
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In the fall of 2014, Blanco River Academy was organized and created by 6th grade parents  looking for a small, experiential-based middle school opportunity, that would give students the opportunity to continue to grow a love of learning and problem-solving.   

BRAc graduated its charter class of 8th graders in June 2017, and they matriculated to 3 area high schools.  Each student has achieved academic, social, and athletic success in their individual endeavors.  The foundation that BRAc gave them, and successive graduates, has prepared them to be the leaders and thinkers that they have become today.

Today, BRAc has grown into the school "home" for a fabulous group of kids from all over the area, including Wimberley, Kyle, Canyon Lake, Driftwood, San Marcos, and Dripping Springs.  

MEET OUR FACULTY
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Kelley Shand (Science)

Kelley Shand Kelley graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Biology and Psychology . She spent her first eleven years teaching Biology at Reagan High School in Austin. She then returned to her hometown of Wimberley to teach 5-7 grade science at Bowen and then Danforth. Kelley also has a love for archery having competed nationally and internationally on the U.S. National Team and Master's National Team over the past 40 years. I am so excited to be a part of the team at Blanco River Academy. I love having a learning environment that allows us to be actively involved with nature and with our community!

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Laura Haygood (English Language Arts, Speech and Debate)

Laura Haygood retired in 2014 from a 30 year career as a public high school theatre, speech and English teacher.  Upon retiring, she moved to Wimberley with her husband Marc. She has continued teaching at the college level.  She teaches speech at San Antonio College with the Alamo Colleges District and served as a supervisor for student teachers at Texas State University Theatre Education program for several years.  She has enjoyed working with the students at Blanco River Academy since 2018.  The educational concepts promoted by the school are in line with her philosophy of education. Through reading, writing, projects and discussion she hopes to provide an educational environment that is exciting, creative and fulfilling for Blanco River Academy students. 

 

In her free time, Laura enjoys reading, traveling and sharing her love of theatre with The Players at Wimberley Playhouse.  She and Marc are looking forward to becoming grandparents in December.

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Rhea Fitzgerald (Upper Elementary Language Arts, Social Studies, Math and Art)

Rhea Fitzgerald spent her working years splitting time between teaching and art. She taught in schools in Michigan, North Carolina and Texas and spent most of her teaching time in Middle Schools. Rhea was a Curriculum Director for K-12 science and helped develop the first state wide test for Science in Michigan. Her art career has been spread over 30 years. She displayed and sold her work throughout the Mid West, the South and Texas. She spent several years as a store artist for Whole Foods Market in Chicago. “My teaching goal has always been to make the classroom interesting for students. I like to blend subjects together and also make the studies relevant to life outside the classroom.As much as possible, I want the students to be active participants in their education.” Outside of school she loves to hang out with the grandkids, read, play with legos, go to the beach, and work in her home studio

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Annie Ward (History)

Annie Ward grew up in Midland, Texas and began her love of literature by reading Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine in late elementary school. Once she found the Harry Potter series, The Canterbury Tales, and "The Taming of the Shrew”, a life pursing reading, writing, and teaching was sealed. When time came to choose a university the beauty of Central Texas, as well as the San Marcos River, made the decision an easy one. After four years at Texas State University, a double major in History and English, four international mission trips to Europe, and a desire to live abroad, Annie moved to Hungary to teach English. When she moved back to Texas a part time Pre-k assistant position opened at St. Stephens Episcopal School. Two weeks after she was back in the US Wimberley was her new home, as well as St. Stephens. A few years later Annie completed a 200 hr Yoga Alliance training in July of 2014. The English/Language Arts, yoga andTexas History position at the Blanco River Academy is a perfect fit for Annie because of her background, education, and passion for the area. At the end of the day Annie’s mission is to introduce her students to new cultures, worlds, and perspectives.

 

When Mrs. Ward is not at school she is probably drinking a cup of coffee, coming up with new recipes, doing yoga on her front porch, listening to NPR, singing along with Adele, or on her couch watching a movie with her family and eating a giant tub of popcorn.

Lisl Bambas (Spanish)

Lisl, a graduate of Wheaton College (BA in English and a minor in Education) and the University of Edinburgh, Scotland (English Studies) joined Teacher Corps while also working on her Master’s degree in Education at the University of Houston. She taught in Houston for 5 years and was part of a team that developed the first Resource Center program for HISD. After moving to Austin, she worked as an assistant editor on a high school Spanish series at Holt, Reinhart, and Winston, and then joined the staff of Dripping Springs Middle School to teach the ED class. She began working at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Wimberley the year it opened where she taught World Cultures, Spanish, and Kindergarten through 8th grade. She later completed her studies with Warren Hardy in San Miguel, Mexico and began teaching Spanish at the Montessori School in Wimberley for 3 years. She returned to St. Stephen's as a volunteer to teach Spanish for 3 years. Lisl is now in her fourth year as the volunteer Spanish instructor with the Blanco River Academy. She also works as a reading tutor at the KIS Education Center in Buda.

Kyle Kunkel (Computer Technology/Coding)

Kyle has a passion for coding and founded his own company, N-C0d3 LLC, to share his knowledge with the community. He has created curriculum and activities, trained and managed instructors, and taught classes to local libraries and private schools. Kyle knows that technology is the future and there is a severe lack of computer science instruction preparing kids. He addresses this problem by teaching students that coding can enhance their passions, whether it’s creating a website to showcase their YouTube videos or musical talent, making games to play, or putting together arduino parts for an alarm system.  Kyle's students learn that coding is fun and practical as they make astounding projects.

 

"I am proud of all my students and am happy to know they are more prepared for whatever path they choose to lead in life."

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Jamie Kinscherff (Environmental Studies)

After high school and college in California, Jamie spent much of his adult life as a Luthier and owner of Kinscherff Guitars, where he was recognized as “Best Guitar Maker 1998” by the Austin Chronicle, and introduced “Beam Deflection Theory” to the guitar world. Having completed the Master Naturalist Training in Hays County, he spent 5 years on the Training Committee, and realized that he truly enjoyed explaining complex concepts of nature in a way most people can understand. He became the trainer for the ecology portion of the Canyon Gorge trail program, and was awarded “Guide of the Year” in 2019.  He has served non-profit boards for over six years, and at Ravenstar Outdoor Education in New Braunfels, teaching outdoor education and as a Certified Archery Instructor.  Jamie has been a Research Assistant for Dr. Bill Ward, Geologist, and Dr. Tom Watson, Plant Taxonomist. Currently, he serves as Outreach Coordinator for the Wimberley Valley Dark Sky Committee.

Prior to this year, he was already leading nature hikes and hosting Star parties for BRAc students. With 100’s of hours of training in Water Quality, Botany, Astronomy, Wildlife Management, Geology and Rangeland Ecology, he shares, “I want to use my knowledge of the natural world to inform and inspire others.”

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Marc Haygood (Music)

Marc Haygood is excited to be joining the BRAC community. After teaching for two decades with 15 years as an elementary music teacher, he retired from public education. Along with providing weekly music instruction at BRAC, he gives private piano lessons from his home in Wimberley and performs piano music for special occasions. He enjoys volunteering at Wimberley Players and has contributed original music and sound for theatrical productions. He earned a bachelor’s degree in piano performance from Baylor and a master’s in music education from Texas State. Marc lives in Wimberley with his wife Laura who also teaches at BRAC.

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Jackie Sova (Strength & Conditioning)

As a former collegiate athlete and certified personal trainer with 15+ years of experience of helping individuals inside and out of the gym, Jackie lovea nothing more than educating, motivating and supporting my clients and athletes as they develop and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. Jackie's goal is to help students create healthy habits and change behaviors through exercise, proper nutrition, mindfulness, and regeneration.

Jackie played collegiate basketball and earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Kinesiology from the University of the Incarnate Word.  Unfortunately, Jackie's career with the Cardinals was cut short due to chronic injury, and while her time on the court had ended, her future opened up. During her season of medical red-shirtingshe discovered kinesiology and the importance of a pain-free, high quality life. Jackie began the next chapter of her life: helping others through coaching and personal training, and teaching at her  alma mater.

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Amanda Perez (PE, Tennis and Cross Country Extra-Curriculars)

Amanda received her MSPT in 2000 from TX State (SWT) and her BS in Biology in 1997 from TX State (SWT). Most of Amanda's 23 year Physical Therapy career has been serving the pediatric population in Early Childhood Intervention, Home Health and School settings. Amanda has worked for WISD, DSISD, JCISD, Blanco ISD and for the RISE school in Dallas. She has had a small business in Wimberley teaching tennis to adults and kids in our community for the past 8 years. She loves being active and out in nature and helping where she can in the community! Seeking joy and gratitude in the everyday routines of life is Amanda's passion.She enjoys a mindset of work and helping to instill a “can do” positive attitude with those around me. She loves helping children find the fun in fitness and seeing their inner spark ignite with playful active movements during Fitness Education class as well as in extracurricular activities -- tennis and cross country!

MEET OUR DIRECTOR
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Kristie Kimbell (Director; LifeSkilz)

BOARD OF DIRECTORS 2023-2024 SY
Christine Graham (President)
Austin Weeks (Treasurer)
Suzie Yeary (Secretary)
Ariele Rosch
Anna Antoniewicz
Ann Tyler Konradi (Ad hoc Community member)
Rhea Fitzgerald (Ad hoc Faculty member)
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