Dr. Carol Harle is a longtime educator and community volunteer with a Ph.D. in curriculum studies from the University of Texas at Austin and a focus on Japanese Lesson Study. Dr. Harle has served as a top administrator in curriculum and instruction in the Harlandale, Northside, North East, and San Antonio independent school districts. At CAST, she coaches principals and teachers and leads a Lesson Study pilot at CAST Med. “I have always been passionate about teaching, learning, coaching, and caring for children and the adults that are with them in schools and homes,” she said. She recalls the words of American writer and former teacher Margaret Wheatley, “at some time in your life, your heart leapt out and you had no choice but to work with children.” Dr. Harle is a UTSA College of Education professor, Northside ISD school board president, Alamo STEM Ecosystem lead, SA2020 commission on education member, State Board of Education steering committee member, Communities in Schools volunteer, and chair of the Ronald McDonald House ‘share your heart’ campaign.
Nayeli Gomez joined the CAST team with a background in data management specific to social justice organizations and electoral campaigns. Nayeli is the Data Coordinator for CAST Schools in which she collects, manages and analyses data for CAST. She attended Texas A&M University-San Antonio where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. Today, Nayeli’s passion lies in helping grow the number of underrepresented populations, including women of color, in STEM careers. “Being a first-generation college graduate, economically disadvantaged and a Latina, it was not easy launching my career in data despite having a degree in Math. I lacked the professional connections and guidance that many of my peers in college attained from their mentors, parents, or loved ones. CAST schools provide career guidance and help students attain professional connections that they can use to start their career, whether they decide to join the workforce right after high school or until after college.”
Emily Iturbe comes from a long family line of educators and has worked in the education field for the past ten years. She is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator for CAST Schools and will be aiding in promoting and keeping the public informed on CAST news, programs and special events. “When I first heard about the CAST model, I couldn’t wait to be involved. I believe every child has the right to an exceptional and stimulating education and CAST is providing just that,” she said. A San Antonio native, she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications with a focus in Public Relations at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and recently returned to her hometown after 6 years in Laredo.
Mariah Lane joins the CAST team with a background in digital marketing and advertising with a focus in brand awareness and building connected communities for brands. Mariah is the Marketing Specialist for CAST Schools in which she manages social media, assists with graphic design, website updates, and other leading marketing efforts. She attended Texas State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication. Today, Mariah’s passion lies in growing the CAST Schools brand while aiding in elevating student voice through social media strategies and other platforms. “CAST Schools not only helps students reach their full potential but also gives students a sense of belonging.” she says, “It’s always a great feeling to see students enjoying their high school experience while getting the most out of their education.”
Jen Maestas started her teaching career 20 years ago with a heart for students that have been traditionally underserved. Since then, she has served the urban core of San Antonio as an instructional coach, assistant principal, and campus principal. Working as a school design coach allows her to facilitate conversations with school leaders and community partners that result in new opportunities for students. She believes that innovation requires a mindset shift to challenge the way things have always been done and knows that CAST network is doing exactly that. She has a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Texas at San Antonio, is the co-founder of SALT, and hosts the education podcast “Miss Education”. “Great schools happen when students are given an opportunity to use their voices to shape their educational experience and school leaders are given the reins to teach with passion and creativity,” she said. “CAST Schools give teachers the flexibility they need to do their jobs with heart, while inviting students to have a place at the table and encouraging business leaders to help guide the process.”
Carol Mendenhall is an educator with 45 years of experience who has done everything from teach high school English to direct professional development for a nationally recognized school district. Mrs. Mendenhall’s commitment to equity was forged in her first teaching experience in Jacksonville, Florida but continued through her many jobs as an assistant principal, leadership coach, and educational consultant. She is passionate about student voice and believes that CAST Schools are transforming the education model by giving students the best resources and support to “determine their own path in life.” Mrs. Mendenhall has been involved with opening 40 new high schools through the Asia Society (globally focused schools) and through Educate Texas (STEM focused schools). She is a national facilitator for the Courage to Teach and Courage to Lead programs and believes all teachers deserve to take the time to remember why they became educators in the first place. Mrs. Mendenhall most recently worked as a leadership coach for Trinity University and was part of the founding design team for the Advanced Learning Academy. She now tackles a similar role for the CAST Network. “Young people are transforming themselves every day,” she said. “At CAST schools, we give them the space and support they need to develop their creativity, their problem-solving skills, and their desire to make a difference.” Mrs. Mendenhall has a Master’s in Anthropology from the University of Texas at San Antonio and Master of Science in Supervision from the University of Florida.
Alexandra Rodriguez joined CAST Schools Network in August 2021. A native of San Antonio, Alexandra is a driven, service-oriented professional working toward a meaningful and purposeful career and life. Prior to CAST, Alexandra served as Mission Support and Communications Manager at the Congregation of Divine Providence where she contributed to the organization’s development, through marketing and fundraising. Before joining the Congregation of Divine Providence, she worked with Univision Communications Inc., and the City of San Antonio’s Government and Public Affairs department and the Tricentennial Commission. She has proven experience in organizational development, public relations, communications, social media and events management. In 2019, Alexandra earned her Bachelor of Arts in Communication degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) as the school’s only fourth generation student. In August 2021, she returned to UTSA to continue her education and earn her Master of Business Administration degree. “Education has always played an important role in my life. From a young age, I learned that knowledge is power which leads to more opportunities and success. Being part of an organization that cultivates an innovative and unique environment for future leaders is extremely rewarding.” Alexandra is grateful to be a part of the CAST team and looks forward to furthering CAST’s mission of educating to prepare students for college, career, and life.
A native of Eagle Pass, TX, Heriberto “Eddie” Rodriguez benefitted from the power of his family, his teachers and his community partnering together to create a pathway for his future success. “My family stressed the importance of an education and my teachers and my community fostered a belief in me that I could do anything I wanted.” He graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing and a concentration in International Business. In 2001, he joined H-E-B, the beginning of a 15-year advertising career. He progressed through various leadership roles to ultimately lead H-E-B’s Hispanic Marketing Team. In 2016, Mr. Rodriguez was recruited by Ivie to reinvigorate the Fiesta Mart brand as Advertising Director and subsequently joined the Fiesta Mart team as Sr. Marketing Manager with the responsibility of leading partner agencies and driving brand, and growth for one of the largest international supermarket chains. Mission-focused by nature, Mr. Rodriguez consistently found ways to better connect the brand with customers, a commonality he sees with CAST’s commitment to listening to the voice of students and families. Mr. Rodriguez is excited to join CAST and highly motivated to create opportunity for students, “I look forward to creating a platform where our students, our educators and our partners can share and celebrate their achievements.”
Jeanne Russell began her nontraditional career in education as a teacher, reported on education as a journalist, and shifted into public policy work to improve not just the classroom, but the system. Her commitment to equity was shaped through early work in Oakland, East Harlem and Central America, where she also learned the value of giving students’ ownership of their own learning. She has helped create many of San Antonio’s signature education initiatives, including Café College, PreK4SA, Upgrade and SA Works. She joined Kate Rogers as part of the founding team that conceptualized CAST and was later named executive director of the growing network. Her personal passion is for student voice, and she led the San Antonio Youth Commission in the year that it presented the first youth-informed public policy agenda to City Council, also introducing the citywide civics fair Speak Up Speak Out! to San Antonio. “We learn the most when we stop to listen to students, and put their needs at the forefront,” she said. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of California-Berkeley, a master’s degree in education from the University of California-Davis and a joint master’s degree in journalism and Caribbean and Latin American Studies from New York University. Both of her children attend CAST Schools.
Dr. Sara Sherwood has 25 years of experience as a teacher and a teacher educator. She holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Trinity University and a Ph.D. in Curriculum & Instructions from UT Austin. Her research has focused on preservice teachers’ beliefs about play, educator preparation program improvement, and the university’s role in first-year teacher induction into the teaching profession.