Star Teachers

Kira Hnidey ~ Biological Sciences, Junk Wars
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David Petershack ~ Social Sciences, Drama
Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of Texas
In the words of the late great actor, Jack Lemmon, “It’s magic time!” This is the attitude that Mr. Petershack likes to convey to all of his Theater students. That and the need for a great sense of humor make for great theater. If you cannot lose yourself and magically create a character, you are not acting, but reciting. Of course, we have a lot of fun as well! Mr. Petershack has directed plays for the Homeschool Academics and Arts Class day (HAACDay), including a winter production of “A Christmas Carol”. He has also recently played the role of the Tin Man in a production of “The Wizard of Oz”. He is currently leading an improv group and directing a group of high school students in a production of “Much Ado about Nothing”. In addition to this, he also applies his love of creativity, learning and laughter to other classes which include History, Geography, and Government/Economics, all of which he has taught at various levels over the past four years. He is a graduate of the University of Texas in 1985 with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in marketing. He spent 14 years in corporate sales and sales training before becoming a homeschool dad. His corporate experience includes teaching Professional Skills and technology training classes, and working as a computer teacher at Rolling Hills Academy. In addition to this, he has done Web Design, edited professional newsletters, and homeschooled his children for the past eight years. David has been happily married for twenty-five years and lives in San Antonio with his wife Jean and his family.

Kitty Masi ~ Art
BFA - School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University
Kitty is a working artist, teacher, and a second generation home school mom. She began her artistic career as a teenager, and put herself through art school as a professional face painter. At the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University in Boston, she received a classical fine arts education focused on drawing, painting, sculpture, animation, and art history. She has supported her family for the last 20 years with a variety of artistic endeavors including mural painting, commissioned pieces, original art, graphic design, and teaching. Kitty is passionate about sharing her love of art with everyone! Her goal with each class is to foster confidence in her students' skills as they find their own artistic voice. Her art classes are unique and engaging, and incorporate art history and a wide variety of styles and mediums. Kitty spends her free time with her 13 year old daughter, a competitive Irish dancer and professional pastry chef. Between competitions and culinary events, they are active in church and volunteer opportunities.

Elizabeth Tapley ~ Spanish, German
BA in Spanish from University of Texas
MA in Education from Stanford
Language has always been my passion.  I studied both Spanish and German enthusiastically in high school and then in college, and have expanded my knowledge with travel and additional study.  I’ve taught Spanish, German, and ESL in a variety of settings: in public school (beginning to AP Spanish), at home as I homeschooled my kids, in individual tutorials, and in informal classes in Spanish and German for adults and for teenagers.  Dabbling in Japanese, Polish, Farsi, Hebrew, Russian, French, and Mandarin has made me an experienced beginning language student, as well.  I’ve had lots of opportunity to figure out what works in different situations!
I strive to keep study interesting, and to help students get maximum benefit from the time they invest.  I love to see their skills and confidence grow with time, and I enjoy getting to know them as they tell me about themselves in their new language.
I fill my free time with a never-static set of activities.  I love ballroom dancing, playing disc golf, walking downtown, sewing, knitting, camping, learning shorthand, birding, traveling on Amtrak, and attending Symphony concerts and musicals.

Gwen Rigdon ~ Math, Public Speaking/Speech
Bachelors of Science in Education at Ohio State University
Masters in Business Administration at the University of Houston
After graduating with a teacher’s certificate, Gwen started her teaching career with the inner city public school system of the Houston Independent School District. She taught in this position for 11 years. Gwen never quite bought into the conventional philosophy of traditional school. While she was teaching in public school, she was given a chance to teach in a pilot program that included team teaching a group of multi-grade students. Because of such a positive experience with that pilot program, Gwen couldn’t see putting her kids in traditional school and decided to homeschool. Gwen has been homeschooling her kids for 18 years now. Math has always been Gwen’s favorite subject in school, and she loves to inspire kids to enjoy it as well. Gwen also enjoys public speaking and has taught it for 3 years now at Star Academy. She has worked with 4-H kids as well as her own in entering and winning public speaking contests for 9 years. Gwen enjoyed teaching middle school Texas History at Star this past year and is looking forward to teaching middle school US History again in the coming year. In addition to teaching at Star Academy, Gwen works part time at Gatti’s Pizza teaching fractions and healthy choices for public/private school educational field trips. Gwen loves working with kids and believes that learning should be fun.

Marla Ripps ~ Physical Science, Chemistry, Physics
Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M.

I have always loved teaching and have taught many varied subjects over the years, including but not limited to sewing, quilting, college workshops, Chemistry, Physics, and jewelry classes. I helped start a local co-op and ran it until the summer of 2004. In 2002, Irene Miller and I started Crystal Sea Drama Company, a Christian school for Theater Arts and Performance. My background includes:

  • BS in Civil Engineering from Texas A&M.

  • Civil Engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation for 6 years.

  • Technical Director and head of Costume Design, Crystal Sea Drama Company, 2003 to present

  • Teacher- Chemistry with lab for 16+ years starting in 2001

  • Teacher- Physics with lab, for 6+ years beginning in 2010  

My goal as a teacher is to prepare each of my students to be ready for college. In the many years I have taught Chemistry, both regular and Honors, I have had many students successfully attend a 4 year university, major in a science related field, and come back and tell me how easy college Chemistry was for them. Some said they should have followed my advice and CLEP out of the freshman level Chemistry course because they were bored, since I covered it so thoroughly in their high school class. Recently, I have had students tell me how the Physics class they took from me really helped them to understand and master their college level physics course. I have even had students thank me for being tough and strict in making them get their work done. It gave them the work ethic to succeed in college classes.

Roger Koss ~ Archery
Associate of Art - Photography at the Houston Community College
Bachelor of Science in Biology at the University of Houston
Level III USA Archery Coach. Coaching since 2010. Began with 4-H archery and then founded Alamo Area JOAD in 2014. In addition to countless state championships, beginning in 2011, he coached medalists at 4H Nationals, NFAA National Field Championships, USAA National Indoor Championships, USAA National Field Championships and USAA National Outdoor Championships. Coached for Team USA at the World Field Championships in Bray, Ireland.
Barry is an award winning photographer winning several UIL awards for photojournalism. He was a photographer and photo editor for the Houstonian and the Daily Cougar at the University of Houston. He was also a freelance photographer for the Houston Chronicle.

Stacy Barnwell ~ English

Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin
       Minor: Art History

As a kid, I asked a lot of questions. My family encouraged and nourished this, and it's a practice I value and have never outgrown. An important reason I'm drawn to homeschooling is the opportunity it gives to ask as many questions as we want! We constantly hear how important STEM skills are for our kids to develop and function well in modern life. I wholeheartedly agree. However, communication, writing skills, and the ability to think critically are crucial for success, both in education and in life.
I have a B.A. in English with a Minor in Art History from The University of Texas at Austin. I've homeschooled for 15 years, and I have had opportunities to work with kids through both homeschooling venues and youth groups during that time.
In addition to teaching traditional areas of study such as writing, grammar, and literature, I strive to help my students develop and exercise their critical thinking skills. I urge them to stretch beyond their normal, comfortable thought processes. It's important for them to be prepared and engaged, but I know they're learning when they are asking thoughtful questions! I'm passionate about sharing great writing, both fiction and non-fiction, with your kids and look forward to learning with and from them.

    ~ Math
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