Secondary School Staff Biographies

English & Social Studies Department

Br. Ted Hamilton (MS/HS Social Studies since 2013) is an experienced researcher and teacher having helped lead and develop several educational, interfaith religious, social, and technical institutes all over the world. Ted graduated from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He was a research associate at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, and served a World Muslim Internship at the Institute for Global Engagement in Arlington, Virginia. Ted worked at the Wisdom International School for Higher Educational Studies in the Philippines where he co-founded Al Hikmah Global, a da’wah organization to promote community education and interfaith dialogue. With his broad experience working with people from around the globe, Br.Ted brings a unique flavor to his curricular development and instructional approach. Br. Ted is also an accomplished NCAA All-American swimmer and has several years coaching swimming teams. He joined APA in 2013.

Mr. Joseph Florencio (Coach Flo) joins Austin Peace Academy with extensive teaching and coaching experience. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of Southern Mississippi in 1999 and then went on to complete his Masters degree in History in 2001. Upon graduation through to present day, he taught history at different levels for Middle and High School students including all the AP courses (US History, World History, European History, Macroeconomic), with much exposure to multi-cultural populations and a focus on critical analysis plus essay writing. Additionally, for many of these institutions he led the physical education program, along with coaching different sports, including basketball. His experience as a Dorm Parent at St. Thomas More School along with his coaching background will serve him well as APA’s new Personal Development Coach. Coach Florencio knows how to relate with students and motivates them. He previously worked at an Islamic school – Al-Noor Academy in Mansfield, MA.

Ms. Amna Rahman graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LLb Hons) and completed her Masters in English specializing in nineteenth century language and culture. She has dedicated five years to teaching Language Arts at APA to various middle and high school classes where she strives to teach content in a fun, student centered, yet challenging fashion while simultaneously aligning with AP requirements. She has completed several AP training courses at the University of Texas and her students have consistently scored above national norms in the AP examination. Ms. Amna has coached various PSIA and MIST events and has been responsible for the successful staging of four school drama productions. She focuses on building strong relationships of trust and respect with students to foster an optimal environment for holistic student growth. Ms. Amna was the recipient of the Teacher of the Year Award in 2014-5. She joined APA in 2011./vc_column_text]

Ms. Zahra Makofske returns to APA to serve as the Pre-AP English teacher for incoming 7th, 9th, 11th and 12th Grade students. She completed her undergraduate education at Bryn Mawr College in 2005, where she studied History and Literary Journalism. She also holds a Masters in Education from the University of California, Berkeley (2009) where she tutored undergraduate students in their freshman English courses for two years. Recently, Ms. Zahra developed the academic portion of the ESL refugee program at APA, and worked with several students who had recently arrived in the United States. Ms. Zahra has completed the Pre-AP English workshop intensive at UT and she looks forward to hearing APA students’ fresh perspectives on classic literature. She joined APA in 2014.

Science Department

Ms. Nahed Abou Galala has a degree in Computer Science from Mu’tah University in Jordan and also holds a diploma in High Educational Skills. She is also certified in computer science for 8-12 grades. She worked as a computer programmer in Jordan and as a teacher in chemistry and computer technology in Indiana. In addition to teaching science and computer classes in middle and high school, she is the school’s main IT support for both software and hardware areas. Ms. Nahed has attended several educational workshops in using “Mimio Interactive projectors” in the classrooms and the summer UT Summer Institute for teaching Pre-AP Science for middle school, AP Computer Science A, and AP Chemistry. She has finished 36 hours of training in teaching Forensic Science for High School. Ms. Nahed was rewarded the “Principal’s Award” for meeting and exceeding all standards in 2010 – 2011. She joined APA in 2006.

Mrs. Nadeyah Baddour  is an integral part of our teaching staff here at APA. She graduated with a Biology degree from the University of Texas- San Antonio and is certified in the state of Texas in generalist 4-8 and life sciences 9-12. Mrs. Nadeyah started the high school women’s basketball team her first year here. Since starting the program, the team has won first place three times at MIST regional’s and second place twice at MIST nationals! She is our AP science teacher and helps prepare students for college chemistry and biology. Yearly, she and Ms. Nahed organize the school science fair, and guide students to push the boundaries and think outside of the box for their projects. She has had many students win at the Austin Regional Science Fair and even had students place at the State Science Fair. Mrs. Nadeyah loves knowledge and always strives to be the best. She was named teacher of the year by her peers in the 2015-2016 school year! Mrs. Baddour started at APA in 2011.

Math Department

Ms. Maysaa Alzant holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the Islamic University of Gaza and a Masters degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a teaching certificate from Tennessee State University. She received Texas teacher certification in 2016. Ms. Alzant taught high School math classes in the American International Schools of Gaza. Her mission in life is to help students understand Math and how it applies with different aspects of life. She has also received training at UT Advanced Placement Summer Institute for Pre-AP Math. She teaches Pre-Algebra and Algebra Classes in APA. She also teaches programming languages such Python and Microsoft Small Basic. She joined APA in 2014.

Ms. Cara Bearden completed her degree in Mathematics from Alverno College in 2005. She received her Secondary Math Certification in 2007 for Texas. She taught math for seven years at Crockett High School, where she also served as the AP math teacher lead. In 2012, she joined the National Math and Science Initiative as a presenter and mentor. Ms. Bearden offers exam preparation sessions for students in AP statistics and general AP math exam preparation. At NMSI, she also mentors teachers, providing them with resources and offering support. She joined APA in 2018.


Ms. Penny Smeltzer earned a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and History, with an additional certification in English, from Western Michigan University. Ms. Penny boasts an incredibly diverse and well-rounded background in teaching Mathematics. Her passion is Advanced Placement Statistics. In addition to teaching at Austin Peace Academy, she continues to serve as a consultant for the College board, as an AP grader and rubric writer, and member of the AP Statistics Test Development Committee. Penny also works as a statistics content specialist for the National Mathematics and Science Initiative. Her dedication to professional development has helped teachers and students from coast to coast as well as in Singapore and Hong Kong. Penny’s recognition includes 2015 Presidential Award Finalist, 2011 O’Donnell AP Teacher of the Year, 2010 Intel Teacher of Merit, 2009 Texas Exes Outstanding Teacher, the 2008 national winner of the Siemen’s Teacher Award, 2007 District Teacher of the Year, and 2006 Toyota International Teacher Award. This is a result of her connecting material to the students and engaging with them on a deeper level. Ms. Penny joined the APA community from Westwood High school as a Mathematics teacher as well as a peer advisor and mentor for the APA Teaching Staff for Math and Science. Ms. Penny joined APA in 2015.

Co-Curricular Department

Ms. Shabana Tabassum has a Bachelor of Science degree from Bangalore University, India and has completed a Diploma in Software Applications. Her prior experience includes teaching at elementary school at International School in Saudi Arabia as well as computer system administration. Her artistic and creative background led to her becoming APA’s art teacher, where her high standards motivate to put forth their best into their artwork. Furthermore, her passion for the field ignites interest for the students and allows them to tap unfulfilled potential. She joined APA in 2010.

Copyright © 2019, Austin Peace Academy. All Rights Reserved.