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Our Faculty and Staff

Founding Head of School

Michele Bauman Joseph serves as Head of School and a founder of Gateway Academy. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Speech Language Pathology in 1987 and a Master’s degree in Education in 1994.  Michele served students as a resource teacher for 13 years in public schools, both in Houston and Chicago. She then served as principal of The Joy School for 7 years. Her background in Speech Language Pathology, learning disabilities, and behavior disorders makes her an expert in identifying students’ specific learning deficits so that goals and plans can be made accordingly. Combined with her commitment to teacher education and training, Michele’s background has made her the natural leader for Gateway Academy. She feels blessed to have such an excellent job surrounded by this caring community of people.


Scott Adams, a founding faculty member of Gateway Academy, graduated from Baylor University in 1986 with a double major in English and Communication Studies. With his teacher certification in hand he taught for only a short time before he decided to take a foray into the financial world…the foray lasted twelve years, during which he worked for a  group insurance company and a major bank as a sales representative, client manager, and manager. There was no coincidence that during this time Scott found himself drawn into assignments that involved mentoring and training sales personnel. He is, after all, a teacher at heart. In 2004, Scott accepted a position to teach at The Joy School; a career decision driven by his desire to return to education and his understanding of the challenges of having a learning disabled child. His experience at The Joy School, coupled with an interest in Brain Based Education, offered a launching pad to accept his current role at Gateway Academy. Scott is an award winning speaker, qualifying four times for the regional level of the Toastmaster’s International World Championship of Public Speaking. He finished second at this level in 2005 and 2006, effectively making him one of the top 18 speakers in an organization of over 180,000 members.  Scott and his wife Kim recently celebrated 26 years of marriage and are amazed daily by their two beautiful children, Spence and Annie.

Dean of Student Affairs

Julie Jones, PhD, LMFT-S, LPC-S serves in an administrative position and as the lead counselor for the Gateway Academy community.  With an educational and professional background in research, counseling, and training and development, she directs research and Educational Outreach initiatives.  Julie is a community builder and appreciates collaborating with professionals, community partners, parents and students in an effort to build lasting and meaningful relationships. She frequently trains professionals on topics such as transitioning to adulthood with disabilities, selective mutism, AD/HD in teens, anxiety in the classroom, and ethics.  At home, Julie is on the cusp of an empty nest with three grown children and one looking forward to graduating from high school.  In her spare moments, she expends her energy as a triathlete, maintains a private practice in counseling, and dates her fabulously fun husband.

Assistant Principal

Randy Kelley has been a member of Gateway since its inception. He graduated from the University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in Industrial Distribution and a minor in business. Before he came to Gateway, he worked for JP Morgan managing collateralized debt accounts.  While in college and working at JP Morgan, Randy used his spare time to teach kayaking, rock climbing, and Bible studies.  Realizing that teaching gave him the ability to impact lives daily and directly, Randy pursued teaching as a profession.  Due to the generous amount of math and technology classes in his bachelor degree, Randy found a spot with Gateway as the math teacher.  Since coming to Gateway, he has put into place a wireless networking system so that the students may enjoy access to internet study aids from virtually anywhere on campus. He has pioneered the wood working elective to teach our students hands on skills they can use for years to come.  He is also a key faculty member for morning fit club and afternoon team sports.  Randy is a native Houstonian with an extensive amount of travel under his belt to locales such as Costa Rica, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, England, and Mexico. Randy’s hobbies include outdoor adventure trips, wood working, and biking. 

Admissions Coordinator

Stephen Tiemann, a founding faculty member of Gateway Academy, was raised in a family that taught the importance of learning, the dignity of each person, and the joy of serving others. Rooted in these values, Stephen prepared to continue the tradition in his studies in education and music at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville and later in his theological studies at St. Mary’s Seminary and the University of St. Thomas in Houston. He has been a successful teacher, chaplain, administrator, school board member, and pastor in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, and has also taught at The Joy School in Houston.  Stephen is an instructor of Language Arts and Spanish.  Stephen is skilled as a musician, is fluent in Spanish, and loves word games and trivia.  Stephen and his wife Lilia find abundant joy in raising their two daughters, Mariana and Cecilia.

Executive Assistant

Michelle Henderson joined the Gateway Family in July of 2011. She graduated from Texas State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in Counseling.    Before coming to Gateway she was employed for 16 years as an Administrative Assistant at a private church and school.  Michelle is a mother of three boys and enjoys swimming, music and making candles.

Event Coordinator

Plesnicher, Jackie

Jackie Plesnicher graduated from Trinity University in 1988 with BA in Philosophy, and in 1991 with an MSW from the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work.  Jackie worked at a teaching hospital as a medical social worker/field instructor, and later went to work at The University of Houston Law Center where she was the Director of Career Services.  Upon the adoption of her son, Jackie became a stay at home mom and avid volunteer, serving her faith community, promoting autism awareness and serving at several schools.  A substitute teacher and volunteer at Gateway, Jackie was thrilled to join the staff this summer as the Events and Volunteer Coordinator.  She is passionate about Gateway’s mission and students and is herself, a Gateway parent. Jackie has been married for 26 years to her husband Mike Najarian.  Along with their beloved son Avery, they share their home with three striped cats and an aging Betta.

Business Manager

John Sheahan  spent thirteen years as an independent floor trader  at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. This experience, along with management and market support in the food service research industries, prepared him for the diverse requirements of being a business manager for a small, growing, private school. He attended the University of Memphis and is currently studying to complete a masters degree in accounting at the University of Houston. John is a native Chicagoan and a long suffering Chicago Cubs season ticket holder.


Nicoletta Aliberto graduated from Niagara University with a Bachelor of Arts in Special Education with a concentration in Social Studies.Upon graduation she began working in schools in Buffalo, NY for students with special needs. Two years later she found herself in Houston and soon became a part of the Gateway Academy family. Immediately she knew it was a perfect fit and is blessed to serve Gateway as a teacher, coach, and mentor. She is passionate about education and is currently pursuing her M.Ed. and certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in order to better support our students. In her spare time, Nicoletta can be found lounging by the pool, trying out a new recipe, or jogging along Buffalo Bayou with her dog Tex.

Sadie Blount is a native of Georgia, but jumped at the opportunity to move to Houston, TX after learning about the phenomenal opportunities Gateway offers it’s students. Sadie graduated from The University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!) with a B.S. Edu. in Communication Sciences and Disorders. After graduating, she worked as a cognitive and educational therapist in a private practice in Atlanta, GA, where she gained great experience in working with students with various cognitive disabilities. She enjoys studying the latest research in neuroscience and implementing these techniques into her teaching methods. She looks forward to working with and learning from our students, as well as staying involved in the Gateway community.


Grimes, Andrew

Andrew Grimes graduated from the University of North Texas with a Bachelors of Fine Arts and has been teaching art in both Austin and Houston since 2009.  While in Austin, he worked with the Arc of the Capital Area to help create an identity for The Arc of the Arts, an art studio that provides an artistic bridge between people with developmental disabilities and the community.  In this role he developed the fine arts program to include film, digital art, and stop motion animation as well a focus on the fundamentals of traditional art through mediums such as paint and charcoal.  He has brought his love of teaching and continued learning of art techniques to Houston and is thrilled to continue his work at Gateway.

Ashley Hypes graduated from the University of Houston with a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and a minor in History. Upon graduation, she began teaching 6th grade Reading and Language Arts at Hopper Middle School in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD. While at Hopper, she helped create an after school program for at-risk students, was part of the Literacy Committee, and obtained her Gifted and Talented certification. Aside from teaching, she has served as a volunteer with the Arc of Greater Houston for the past ten years. She also has worked with teens as a mentor at the Harris County Juvenile Facility. In her spare time, she enjoys gardening, reading, and spending time with her dogs, Luigi and Lola. She feels blessed to be a part of Gateway Academy.


Jessica Harvey joined the Gateway Family in 2013, having taught in CFISD for 6 years. She graduated from the University of Indianapolis with a BS in Kinesiology and a minor in Health and Safety. She holds a Texas teaching license in Physical Education, Health, and Special Education with an emphasis in Science and Math. Jessi has always had a passion for working with and coaching children, with experience spanning from elementary to collegiate level. As a former Zumba instructor, she enjoys making fit club workouts fun and effective for all participants. She feels blessed to be a part of such an amazing community of teachers, parents, and students. Jessi and her husband, Matt, live in Cypress with their adorable daughters, Parker and Paisley.

Catriona Mairi Shiach Hoster was born in England to Scottish parents and was fortunate to grow up living around the world. It must be said, that once the opportunity arose, she got to Texas as fast as she could and quickly became a Texas A&M Aggie! After graduating with a BA in Theatre, she dabbled in the world of TV and Advertising before discovering her calling as a theatre teacher. As part of her time at Gateway, she has founded a growing theatre tradition. You can find her directing the annual school play: this year’s was Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and last year’s the delightful Wizard of Oz. She also enjoys working with the kids to prepare for their amazing year-end talent show. Outside of work she lives a life of travel with her husband David and enjoys spending time with friends and her pets Molly (woof) and Snarf (Meow). Catriona believes that a day without fun is not a day lived right!

Albert “Woody” Latham has over twenty-five years of classroom teaching experience at both the secondary and college levels, providing him unique insight into serving students with special needs and how best to prepare those who pursue higher education. Beginning his career as a college instructor of freshmen/sophomore Political Science, he discovered his true calling while tutoring at-risk children. He has taught and worked extensively with students with learning disabilities, autism, emotional disturbances, and a wide range of learning styles. Woody’s educational background includes degrees from Arkansas State University, post-graduate work at Rice University and the University of St. Thomas, plus training in phonics, dyslexia intervention, and crisis prevention. He currently teaches history, government, and economics at Gateway, while also coaching basketball and serving as the Student Council Advisor. An avid reader and traveler, Woody enjoys sharing his love of history with his students and the Gateway community.

Phillip Landry is a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern under the supervision of Crystal Collier, Ph.D., LPC-S.  He graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from McNeese State University in 2011 and an M.Ed. in Counseling from the University of Houston in 2014.  He joins The Gateway Academy as a Choices Counselor, a role involving collaborating with faculty, students, and parents to prevent the incidence of 15 high risk behaviors through dynamic prevention programming and counseling interventions.  Since graduating with his Master’s, he has worked for The Council on Recovery providing clinical services for adults, adolescents, and their families who are struggling with addiction.  He also has experience working with anxiety.  In his spare time he enjoys playing soccer, exploring Houston and the surrounding areas, and singing karaoke.  If you would like to speak with him directly, he can be contacted at

Stephanie Silva graduated with a B.A. in Literature from University of Houston Clear Lake in 2009. She finished her certification for high school English Language Arts and Reading in 2015. Stephanie loves to read, and hopes to spread that joy with the students at Gateway. She has two years experience working in Alvin ISD, including tutoring students with special learning needs and working with small groups. This will be her 5th year working at Gateway! Stephanie knew from her first day working in a school that she had found the career path for her. When she isn’t working, Stephanie enjoys reading, quilting, crafting, travel, and exercising.


Carol TenBrook joined Gateway Academy as a learning specialist in 2008, where she has taught a variety of subjects including math, science and art.   Carol graduated summa cum laude from the University of Houston with a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, with teaching certifications in Mathematics, Gifted and Talented, English as a Second Language, and Early Childhood.  Prior to coming to Gateway, she taught eight years in Fort Bend ISD.   She also earned a two year certification from The Texas Academy of Art. Carol and her husband, Kevin, live in Sugar Land where they have raised their four children.  In her free time, Carol enjoys drawing and painting, studying French and traveling.


My Day Cafe Vocational Program

Martha Pietsch is a proud Chicagoan who moved down South in 2013. Martha’s background and undergraduate degree is from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana in physical therapy. She has always loved working and volunteering with students who have academic and social learning challenges which lead her to a change in career paths. Martha earned a Master’s of Special Education and later continued school with a degree from National Louis University in ESL. She enjoys an active lifestyle and instantly fell in love with Gateway Academy’s mission to not only serve students’ academic needs, but also their growth in physical fitness and social awareness. Additionally, she is passionate about supporting students to transition them successfully into college, a career, and their community. She began our Vocational Education and Internship Program which continues to grow each year. Martha feels blessed to be a part of the Gateway Academy team!

Atkinson, Akili

Akili Atkinson received her BA in Administrative Leadership from The University of Oklahoma. In 2000, she helped create of one of the first inclusive special education programs in the Lawton elementary schools, taking into account diverse learning styles and adaptive education. Lawton, Oklahoma is a primarily military town where young children were being challenged to adapt to new surroundings making the learning process very difficult. This experience launched Akili on a quest to help young people make life’s difficult transitions. She worked for the oldest and largest community vocational training and employment centers for individuals with disabilities in Oklahoma. Starting as an Employment Training Specialist, she focused on communication styles and training techniques that create results. After three years, she became Employment Training Supervisor for the Developmental Disabilities Division where she acted as the liaison for Project Search, a program focused on community employment for individuals with disabilities utilizing internships. Akili completed her MBA in May 2016 from Southern Nazarene University. In her free time, Akili works on her public speaking skills through Toastmasters International. She is a former VP of both Public Relations and Education. In June 2016, she became the Area International Speech Contest winner. Akili is co-parenting two wonderful adult children, Jarid and Jazmin who continue to provide a constant source of inspiration.

Hannah Echols graduated from the University of Houston with Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education in 2014.  While attending college, she spent her summers volunteering at The Joy School Summer School.  Additionally, she has been a summer camp teacher at Gateway Academy for two years.  Hannah has worked extensively in the areas of Learning Disabilities, Epilepsy,  and Anxiety.   She grew up in the West University area, is a graduate of St. Agnes Academy and enjoys spending time with her family.  She is excited to join the Gateway Academy Faculty as she supports our students in their daily challenges.



Hughes, MerrissaMerrissa Hughes was born and raised here in Houston, Texas. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Stephen F. Austin and Masters in Counseling from Texas Southern University. She has 10 years of experience in various roles in the field of education. Counseling has always been what Merrissa naturally gravitated towards. She has a strong passion for helping others. In addition, to aiding in traditional education, emotional health and counseling she teaches a variety of fitness classes including Zumba. Merrissa has been married to Reggie her husband for 9 years and has 2 children- a son Carter, 7 and a daughter Khloé, 4. Merrissa feels blessed to join the Gateway Academy Staff.



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