Who’s Who of Special Education Staff at Armstrong
Mary Turner- Campus Coordinator
Mary joins the Armstrong team in 2016 as campus coordinator with 17 years of experience as a special education teacher and educational diagnostician in Lewisville ISD and Frisco ISD. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas State University and a master’s degree from Texas Woman’s University. She is knowledgeable and experienced in the evaluation process for students with learning differences, and has a passion for working with families and teachers to develop individualized plans to support various learning needs.
Carol Spears- LIFT Teacher
Carol grew up in Abilene, Texas, and graduate from Cooper High School. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Hardin Simmons University with an emphasis in elementary education and special education. Carol has a total of 10 years of teaching experience in a wide variety of special education classroom settings, during which time she also took time to raise a family. Most recently, she has worked as a developmental teacher in Richardson ISD with students with a wide range of abilities, including autism, intellectual disabilities, and medically fragile students. She loves making learning fun through music, games, cooking, and other relevant, authentic life experiences.
Susanne Aills- LIFT Assistant
Susanne grew up in Germany where she graduated with a degree in Business Administration in 1978. She moved to Texas with her husband and son in 1994 after her husband retired from the United States Air Force. Susanne came to Armstrong Elementary from Mesquite ISD where she worked as a Special Education Instructional Assistant in an elementary school. Prior to becoming a Special Education Instructional Assistant, she taught foreign language studies at the Fulton School in Rockwall and worked as a substitute teacher for Mesquite ISD. In her free time, Susanne enjoys baking and cooking as well as spending time with her family.
Kari Jones- LIFT Assistant
Kari grew up in Georgetown, Texas. She attended Texas Tech University where she earned a degree in Public Relations. Following 17 years as a flight attendant for Delta Airlines, she spent her time at home raising her son. In past years, she spent much of her time volunteering as a parent at Armstrong and was honored to serve as a chair on the PTA. Kari began her career in HPISD as a substitute teacher in 2009, working in the Resource and LIFT classes at Armstrong. She became an Instructional Assistant in the LIFT program in 2011. She enjoys spending time with her family and being part of the HPISD community both as a parent and an assistant.
Alyssa Sloan- LIFT Assistant
Alyssa grew up in Mesquite, graduating from Poteet High School. While there, she volunteered with children with special needs and lettered in two varsity sports. After high school, Alyssa moved to California and later North Carolina. Living in North Carolina she volunteered with Special Olympics, Hope for the Warriors, Wounded Warriors, Purple Heart Organization, Toys for Tots and for children of deployed service men and women. Back in Dallas, she volunteers as a varsity softball coach and is excited to join Armstrong and follow her passion for working with children with special needs.
Patricia Wadhams- LIFT Assistant
Pat grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee and was involved in a theater group for children during her middle school years. She graduated from nursing school from St. Mary’s and worked as a pediatric nurse at University of Tennessee Memorial Research Center and Hospital. She has four children and was an HPISD parent. Pat has been an Instructional Assistant in the LIFT program at Armstrong for 11 years. She has 4 grandchildren and is an animal lover. Pat makes sock bunnies for the children's program at Nexus Recovery Center in her spare time.
Devin Edgemon- Resource Teacher
Devin graduated from Heath High School in Rockwall, Texas. She attached the University of North Texas, where she received a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies and elementary education. Her experience from student teaching in Plano ISD and as a special education inclusion teacher in Community ISD has ranged from 1st grade to 12th grade, in addition to experience as an athletic coach. Her passion is for creating a welcoming and respectful classroom environment that recognizes the diverse needs of individual learners. She is excited to join the Armstrong team.
Alicia Seeton- Resource Teacher
Alicia grew up in Wylie, Texas, and graduated from Wylie High School. She attended East Texas Baptist University where she received a Bachelor of Science in Education. While finishing her degree, she worked in a private clinic as an ABA Therapist. Alicia became a Special Education teacher in Community ISD in 2012. There her focus was inclusion and co-teach. Alicia has concentrated her continued learning on the social and emotional development of students with high functioning Autism and emotional disturbance. She is excited to join Armstrong and continue following her passion for children with special needs.
Claire Chambers- Resource Assistant
Claire grew up in Richardson and went to J.J. Pearce High School. She attended Texas A&M University-College Station where she received a Bachelor's degree in History. While working on her degree, she volunteered at the Down Syndrome Association of Brazos County and worked for the local Early Childhood Intervention Center in Bryan, Texas. Claire began her career in HPISD as a long-term substitute teacher in 2015, working in multiple special education settings throughout the district. She joined the Resource program at Armstrong as an Instructional Assistant in 2016.
Kristina Watkins- Structure Teacher
Kristina grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and special education from Arizona State University, going on to complete her master’s degree with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis. She worked for two years in a structured teaching classroom for students with autism in Phoenix. While completing her BCBA certification, she worked as an ABA therapist, and then taught for another year in a private therapeutic school for students with autism. She relocated to Dallas in the spring of 2016 and is excited to join the Armstrong team.
Jim Calams- Structure Assistant
Jim grew up in the Chicagoland area, and began his professional career in criminal justice. He served almost 20 years as a police officer, first in Arizona and then California, before moving his family to Texas. He joins us from his most recent position has a special education assistant in Richardson ISD, supporting students in the transition program and supporting students with behavioral needs. Jim’s wide range of experiences with people of all ages and stages has given him an understanding and commitment to treating all people with respect. He is excited to join the Armstrong team.
Contrenia Jefferson- Structure Assistant
Contrenia grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and later lived in New Orleans. She worked as a Special Education Paraprofessional and Activity Specialist in Plano ISD from 2005 to 2015. Trina recently graduated from Texas A&M Commerce with a Bachelor’s of Science in Global Learning. Her continuing education is focused on earning her EC-6th grade teaching certification through Texas Teachers. Trina’s future goals include completing a Master’s in Orientation and Mobility to teach students with visual impairments. She has great passion for serving students with special needs. Trina joined the Armstrong team in 2015.
Shamela Thompson- Structure Assistant
Shamela grew up in Garland Texas, where she graduated from high school in 2005. She promptly began her career in education as an early preschool assistant. Shamela joined the HPISD family in 2011 when she worked with students in the Life Skills/Transition class at Highland Park High School. Shamela brings to our team more than 10 years of experience working with children with special needs. Shamela is currently working on her degree in behavioral science at the University of Phoenix. When not studying or spending time with family, Shamela volunteers with Best Buddies, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity and the Make a Wish Foundation of North Texas.
Laura Walker- Speech-Language Pathologist
Laura grew up in Waco, Texas and received a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business and Marketing from Baylor University in 2005. After working in business for six years, she went back to school to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. Laura received a Master of Science in Communication Disorders from University of Texas at Dallas in 2013. As a Speech Therapy Intern at Hyer Elementary in 2012, Laura gained experience in the school district and the LIFT classrooms. She joined the Armstrong Team in 2013. Laura brings her love of education and enthusiasm for children with special needs to Armstrong.
Julie Kilgore- Occupational Therapist
Julie graduated from Texas Woman’s University in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy and received a Master of Arts degree from Texas Woman’s University in Occupational Therapy in 2000. She has been working for Highland Park ISD since 1994 and has also worked for Medical City Dallas Hospital, Integrative Pediatrics, SPOTS, and The University Texas, Dallas campus, CARE summer program. She is a member of Highland Park’s Assistive Technology team. Julie is married and has two children that keep life very exciting. She spends her weekends with her family and at her children’s sporting events.
Amee Patel- Occupational Therapist
Amee grew up in Fort Worth, Texas and has lived in Dallas since 2007. She received a Bachelor’s of Art degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2002 and a Master's of Occupational Therapy from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in 2007. Prior to the HP team, she worked with adults and seniors in acute care and rehabilitation settings in Austin, Texas. Since working in Highland Park she has had the opportunity to work with children from ages 3-22 with varying needs. She is a member of the district's Assistive Technology team as well as the Autism Evaluation team. During the summer months, Amee also works at SPOTS, a sensory integration pediatric outpatient clinic.
Lydia Boudreaux- Physical Therapist
Lydia received her degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Oklahoma in 1990. She worked with adults with brain injuries and other neurological injuries, orthopedic injuries, cardiac patients, and in wound care until finally coming to Highland Park more than 15 years ago. Since then, she has worked exclusively with the pediatric population. She continues to work in a clinic specializing in Sensory Integration based interventions and has an additional certification for evaluation and treatment of this population (SIPT). Lydia also received additional training in Cranial Sacral therapy.
Jennifer Garrison – Adapted Physical Education (APE) Specialist
Jennifer grew up in Copperas Cove, Texas and has been teaching APE since 2001. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sport Studies from Texas Wesleyan University in 2000 while attending on a basketball scholarship. She earned her Master of Science in APE from Texas Woman’s University in 2004. Jennifer initially began her Highland Park career in 2004 through 2007 as the district’s APE specialist before moving on to Region 10 Education Service Center as an APE Consultant for the past six years. She is extremely excited to be back at HPISD and working closely with students with special needs, the staff and parents. In her spare time, she is heavily involved with volunteering for Special Olympics Texas in leadership roles for softball, basketball, and athletics and officiating goal ball which is a sport for blind and visually impaired individuals. She is also one of the founding group of individuals that started the annual Kid-netic Games held at St. Mark’s School of Texas, which is a multi-sporting event for school aged children with physical impairments. Jennifer also loves life with her boy/girl twins that were born in June of 2013.
Darlene Canales- Music Therapist
Darlene is a board certified music therapist, who has been practicing music therapy for over five years. She has worked with various populations throughout her career including: children-adults with special needs; Geriatrics; Hospice; Autism; Traumatic Brain Injury; Deaf Education; and other health impairments. Darlene has also performed in various musicals, operas, and country music venues including: The South Texas Opry, The Johnnie High Country Music Revue, and Carnegie Hall.
Rachel Funderburg- Educational Diagnostician
Mrs. Funderburg is the Educational Diagnostician at Hyer Elementary. She received her Bachelor’s in Science of Education degree from Baylor University in May 2004. She is certified to teach 1st through 8th grades in the General Education setting and Early Childhood through 12th grade in the Special Education setting. Mrs. Funderburg taught for four years as a special education teacher before starting her career as an Educational Diagnostician. She became a diagnostician in 2008 and came to HPISD in 2013.
Jennifer Farley- Licensed Specialist in School Psychologist
Jennifer grew up all over as her father was in the Air Force. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2004. She was a special education teacher for six years before ultimately becoming a LSSP. Jennifer's practicum and internship years were spent in Community ISD. In 2014, Jennifer graduated from Texas A & M Commerce with a Specialist in School Psychology degree. She served as the NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) Vice President student leader during graduate school and received her NCSP (Nationally Certified School Psychologist) license in 2014. Previously, Jennifer has served as lead evaluator, autism team leader, and in-home training coordinator. Her professional development/research focus has been on crisis intervention in public schools. Jennifer joined HPISD in 2015.