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Alumni News Roundup

August 2022

Erin Van Pelt has been named assistant principal of Wilchester Elementary School in Spring Branch ISD. Van Pelt previously served as an assistant principal at Roberts Elementary School in Houston ISD and a gifted and talented magnet coordinator at River Oaks Elementary School in the district. She earned an M.Ed. in administration and supervision in 2015.

Asna Masood has been named assistant principal at Hollibrook Elementary in Spring Branch ISD. Masood previously worked as science department chair at the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at James D. Ryan Middle School in Houston ISD. She earned an M.Ed. in administration and supervision in 2021 and a B.A. in interpersonal communications from UH in 2006.

July 2022

Matthew Campbell has been appointed as the K-12 social studies coordinator for Conroe ISD. Campbell previously served as a curriculum coach in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD and an adjunct professor in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction in the College. He earned an Ed.D. in professional leadership – social studies/social education in 2018.

Karen Peña has been named assistant principal of Fred Roberts Middle School in Pasadena ISD. Peña previously served as a reading language arts content specialist in the district. She earned an M.Ed. in administration and supervision in 2022.

Krysti Turnquest has been appointed principal user experience researcher at Optum (a business of UnitedHealth Group). She previously worked as project director for the Accelerated Transfer Academy at UH-Downtown. Turnquest earned a Ph.D. in measurement, quantitative methods and learning sciences in 2022.

Shannon Ramirez has been named assistant principal of academies and career and technical education at Ross S. Sterling High School in Goose Creek Consolidated ISD. Ramirez previously worked as a career and technical education specialist for the district’s central office. She earned an Ed.D in professional leadership – literacy education in 2020 and an M.Ed. in administration and supervision in 2022.

Luis Landa has been appointed principal at Sharpstown International School in Houston ISD. He previously served as principal at Sutton Elementary and Chavez High School in the district. Landa earned an Ed.D. in professional leadership – K-12 from the College in 2018.

Laura Chaffin has been appointed assistant principal at Dr. James "Red" Duke Elementary in Alvin ISD. Chaffin earned an M.Ed. in administration and supervision from the College in 2021. She most recently served as the PASS behavior teacher at Bob and Betty Nelson Elementary in the district.

June 2022

Three-time UH graduate Salvador Barrera has been named assistant principal at Mangum Elementary, part of Southwest Schools charter school network. Barrera previously worked as a social studies teacher at Waltrip High School in Houston HISD. He earned an M.Ed. in administration and supervision in 2022, a B.S. in political science in 2019 and a B.S. in psychology in 2019.

Joshua Chronister has been appointed assistant principal at Aragon Middle School in Cypress Fairbanks ISD. Chronister earned an M.Ed. in administration and supervision from the College in 2022. He most recently served as a language arts teacher at Bleyl Middle School in the district.

Doctoral graduate Ana Aguilar has been appointed principal of Eastwood Academy High School in Houston ISD. Aguilar earned an Ed.D. in professional leadership – K-12 from the College in 2017. She most recently served as principal of HISD’s Robinson Elementary for the last three years.

Two-time alum Armando Orduña has been appointed interim executive director of Latinos for Education, Texas. Orduña earned an Ed.D. in professional leadership – K-12 from the College in 2017 and earned a B.A. in Spanish from UH in 2002. He most recently served as managing director of programs and partnerships at the organization.

May 2022

Gracie Villarreal, who earned a M.Ed. in higher education in 2016, has accepted the position of testing coordinator at the Justin Dart, Jr. Student Accessibility Center at UH. She previously served in a similar role at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.

Two-time alum Meagan Edwards has been named executive principal at YES Prep Public Schools. Edwards earned an M.Ed. in administration and supervision in 2017 and a B.S. in psychology in 1998. She previously served as principal at Fondren Middle School and Grissom Elementary in Houston ISD and worked in the district for 21 years as a teacher and administrator.

Two-time UH graduate Marcela Baez has been named superintendent of Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco ISD in Alice, Texas, about an hour southwest of Corpus Cristi. Baez earned an Ed.D. in professional leadership – K-12 from the College in 2017 and earned a B.A. in psychology from UH in 1999. She most recently served as assistant superintendent of human resources in San Marcos CISD and worked in Houston ISD for 20 years as a teacher and administrator.

April 2022

Guillermo Ortega, who earned a Ph.D. in higher education in 2020, received the 2022 Early Career Award in Education and Sport from the American Educational Research Association. Ortega is an assistant professor of higher education at the Idaho State University College of Education.

Robin Cox, who earned a B.S. in teaching in 2015, has been named 2022 Elementary Teacher of the Year at Fort Bend ISD. Cox teaches fifth grade reading and social studies at Commonwealth Elementary School in the district.

Samantha Andrade, who earned a B.S. in teaching in 2021, has been named 2022 District Rookie Teacher of the Year at Fort Bend ISD. Andrade teaches at Ridgemont Early Literacy Center in the district.

March 2022

David Graham, who earned a bachelor’s in health – kinesiology in 2009 and a master’s in curriculum and instruction in 2014, won Administrator of the Year at Texas City High School in Texas City ISD. This is the second consecutive year he has won Administrator of the Year honors.

Vanessa Trejo, who earned a B.S. in teaching in 2019, has been named Teacher of the Year at Houston ISD’s Rucker Elementary. Trejo, a graduate of the College’s Teach Forward Houston grow-your-own program, teaches kindergarten dual language at the school. This is the third consecutive year she has won Teacher of the Year honors.

Khalilah Campbell-Rhone has been promoted to assistant superintendent of transformation in Houston ISD, overseeing the turnaround of two dozen high-need campuses. Campbell-Rhone most recently served as the district’s officer of special populations and won HISD’s 2019 Secondary Principal of the Year Award for her transformational work at Worthing High School. She earned a doctorate of professional leadership, a master’s in administration and supervision, and a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies (now teaching and learning) with a minor in African American studies.

February 2022

Vanessa Cerrato, who earned a B.S. in teaching in 2017, has been named Teacher of the Year at Houston ISD’s Eliot Elementary. Cerrato teaches bilingual first grade at the school, which is also her alma mater.

Two-time UH graduate Eduardo Elizondo has been named senior career advisor specialist within Houston ISD’s Career Readiness Department. Elizondo earned an M.Ed. in educational psychology from the College in 1995 and also earned a B.A. in psychology from UH in 1991. He is a lifetime member of the University of Houston Alumni Association, serves on the UH Center for Mexican American Studies advisory council and is a board member of the Houston East End Chamber of Commerce Foundation.  

Ruth M. López, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Leadership & Policy Studies, and alumna Michelle Tovar have been selected as Latinos for Education board fellows. The training program works to diversify board governance of education nonprofits. Tovar, who earned an Ed.D. in professional leadership – social education in 2020, serves as director of public engagement at the Holocaust Museum of Houston.

Associate Professor Elsa Gonzalez, alumna Miranda Wilson and research fellow Frank Fernandez earned a book-of-the-year award from the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education for a book they co-edited titled “An Asset-Based Approach to Advancing Latina Students in STEM: Increasing Resilience, Participation, and Success.” They won in the edited volume category. Gonzalez is a professor in the higher education program. Wilson, a graduate of the higher education Ph.D. program, currently works as assistant provost of institutional research at Baylor College of Medicine. Fernandez, an assistant professor at the University of Florida, is a senior research fellow in the UH Asian American Studies Center and former faculty member in the College.

Sandra Gonzalez, who earned a B.S. in teaching in 2021, has been named Beginning Teacher of the Year at Houston ISD’s Cornelius Elementary. Gonzalez teaches bilingual pre-K at the school.

Two-time UH graduate Marcela Baez has been named assistant superintendent of human resources at San Marcos CISD. Baez earned an Ed.D. in professional leadership – K-12 from the College in 2017 and also earned a B.A. in psychology from UH in 1999. She currently serves as chief human resource officer for the district and previously worked in Houston ISD for 20 years as a teacher and administrator.  

January 2022

Adrienne Laygan, who earned a B.S. in teaching in 2018, has been named Teacher of the Year at Humble ISD’s Fall Creek Elementary. Laygan teaches fourth grade at the school.

Gilbert Garza, who earned a B.S. in teaching in 2021, has been named Houston ISD’s Pugh Elementary Beginning Teacher of the Year. Garza teaches fourth grade at the school.  

Pamela Mandujano-Gómez, who earned a B.S. in teaching in 2021, has been named New Teacher of the Year at Houston ISD’s Jefferson Elementary. Mandujano-Gómez teaches third grade math at the school. 

Diana Castillo, who earned an M.Ed. in administration and supervision in 2003 and also has a bachelor’s in history from UH, has won an Excellence in Leadership award from Houston ISD. Castillo serves as principal of Pilgrim Academy, a K-8 campus in west Houston.

Lupita Hinojosa, who earned an Ed.D. in professional leadership in 2012, has been named the new superintendent at Spring ISD. She previously served as the district’s chief of innovation and equity. Hinojosa will be the first Hispanic woman in district history to serve as superintendent.

Diane Elmore Borbon, who earned a Ph.D. in counseling psychology in 2002, has been named executive director of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Elmore Borbon currently serves as policy director for the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress and will begin her new position in February 2022. She earned the College’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2019.

Reenee Palacios, who earned a B.S. in teaching in 2015, has been named Alief ISD’s Collins Elementary Teacher of the Year. Palacios teaches first grade bilingual.

Elizabeth Matehuala, who earned a B.S. in teaching and learning in 2008, has been named Houston ISD’s Pugh Elementary Teacher of the Year and the Houston Area Association for Bilingual Educators Teacher of the Year. Matehuala teaches fourth grade.

Alex Jones, who earned a B.S. in teaching and learning in 2006 and an M.Ed. in curriculum and instruction in 2007, has accepted a position of science specialist for the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Jones previously taught STEM at Horn Elementary in Houston ISD.