OUR SCIENCE TEAM
Owner/Proprietor Giardino Bertucci Events center August 2012 – Present Team 418 G.I.P.
FIRST Robotics2000 – Present (21 years)FRC Team 418 G.I.P.FTC Teams 4290, 5998, 9874,& 9875
Robotics InstructorLiberal Arts & Science Academy of Austin August 1979 – Present (45+ years)
Lead mentor/Sponsor LASA Robotics team 1995 - present
Sponsor/Founder Fencing Team
Co-creator of SciTech
Teacher of Robotics, applied physics, metal working, wood working, photography, vocational drafting and jewelry making.
Robotics Instructor GIP Liberal Arts & Science Academy 1979 – 2020 (45 years)
Curriculum Developer Veteran Tutors August 2007 – May 2009 (1 year 10 months)
Robert Chin, PhD has been teaching at LASA for seven years, teaching Pre-AP Chemistry for 7 years and AP Chemistry for 6 years. Prior to coming to LASA, Dr. Chin founded Fabrico Technology and GeneXpress Informatics (GXI). Before starting off on his own, he was Vice President of Research for 10 years at Systems & Processes Engineering Corporation(SPEC) where he managed an 11 member technical staff of PhD’s, engineers and scientists. He holds 10 plus US patents. He held the position of Deputy Director of the Center of Strategy and Innovative Technologies (CSIT) and a program manager of the Chemical & Biological CountermeasuresProgram at the Institute of Advanced Technology (IAT) at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dr. Chin holds a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Rice University and a BA in Chemistry from Cornell University. Dr. Chin has also been the principle investigator to a number of Army, Air Force and NASA SBIR projects to develop number of pathogen detection technologies and commercial diagnostic devices
Dr Chin enjoys meeting, teaching and mentoring LASA students and hopes he can maintain these types of relationships throughout this year. Yes I am a little bite absentminded and yes I'll also miss-pronunciate names and words! So it's going to take me a while to get know all of your names.
Monica Cong will be starting her 4th year at LASA where she currently teaches Planet Earth.
Prior to starting at LASA, she worked for several years as a wildlife biologist. She conducted surveys for threatened and endangered birds, reptiles, and mammals throughout California, worked on conservation projects with sea turtles and iguanas in the Carribean, and surveyed birds in central Texas. She has a M.S. in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin, where she researched songbirds and habitat use, and a B.S. in Biology and Zoology from the University of Texas at Austin.
Mrs. Cong lives outside Austin with her husband, two young children, and a couple of crazy dogs. Outside of work, she enjoys hiking and camping trips with the family, running, art projects, anything Harry Potter related, and a good game of ping pong.
Jon Croston has been teaching and coaching at LASA for eight years. He teaches AP Physics and AP Calculus and also coaches Golf. He has over 20 years teaching too many different subjects at various schools, including the Croston School of Math. He was also a librarian in NYC and manager at a local Paintball field.
Mr. Croston grew up in Kansas City and South Florida. He loves sports and is a big fan of the Kansas City Royals and Chiefs. He graduated from Wheaton College (outside Chicago).
Mr. Croston lives way north of Austin with his wife, three wonderful children, and a zoo of animals. Currently this is 6 cats, 3 dogs, 2 bunnies and 2 guinea pigs. Although this may have expanded since this was written, his family is pushing for chickens. He wants an otter. When he actually gets a break he enjoys spending time with the family and most of the pets, reading and playing Fantasy Football.
Neno December teaches Pre-AP Biology and AP Environmental Science; he has also taught chemistry, math, and physics. He graduated from Loyola University of Chicago majoring in anthropology, biology, and philosophy. He has contributed to research in weapons development, evolutionary biology, ethnographic art, and public health. Additionally, Mr. December is the assistant wrestling coach and the science fair coordinator.
Prior to teaching, Mr. December served in the Army, Peace Corps, and had been employed in various roles within the private sector. When not in school, he enjoys reading, writing, playing the guitar, cycling, learning new skills, and spending time with his dog.
Hello everyone! My name is Ms. Estifanos and I will be the Med Micro and Pathophysiology teacher this school year. I grew up in the Austin area, but have been living in the DFW for the past 5 years for school. I am looking forward to an amazing school year at LASA and meeting all of my students in August.
Ana Hernandez is from Mexico. She graduated from Texas State University, majoring in Biology-Microbiology and minoring in Biochemistry. This upcoming school year, she will be teaching AP Biology and Advanced Magnet Biology.
Prior to teaching, Ms. Hernandez worked in the medical field and volunteered as a tutor/mentor for other first-generation students like herself. She is excited to join LASA and is looking forward to learning from her students and empowering them!
When she is not teaching, she loves being outdoors, listening to audiobooks, reading, and traveling to Mexico to see her family and friends.
Allie Hill has been with LASA for three years and has taught three years of Pre-AP Biology, one year of Chemistry, and coaches the boys and girls water polo teams. For the upcoming 2020-2021 school year she will teach Pre-AP Biology and AP Psychology. Prior to joining the LASA team, Ms. Hill spent time at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA and took graduate coursework in Health, Exercise, and Sports Sciences while also working with the Division I Water Polo Men's and Women's water polo teams. Ms. Hill also taught Chemistry at Ross S. Sterling High School in Baytown, TX for two years while also coaching water polo. Ms. Hill has always loved science, and she earned a B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Maryland. Ms. Hill lives in Austin and has a slight obsession with pugs. You may sometimes see photos of her family pugs, Milo and Otis. She enjoys reading, swimming, and playing masters (AKA old people) water polo.
Hi, this is Amy Moore and I have been at LASA since 2007 and have taught Chemistry, Forensics, Wicked Problem Project, and now am teaching SciTech and Engineering Design, although those course names have changed. Prior to that, I taught in Indianapolis and Chicago. I am not a native Texan and even though this is the longest I have ever lived anywhere, my family moved a lot as a kid to stay one step ahead of the law (just kidding), I don’t know if I will ever be able to claim Texas as home. Cleveland rocks!!!!
Before becoming a teacher, I worked in the oilfield as a well stimulation engineer, fracking, in Mexico and Wyoming before giving it to become a teacher, which is not as lucrative but much more rewarding.
I studied Polymer Science and Engineering from Case Western Reserve and have a Master’s in Education and Instructional Design from DePaul University and the University of North Texas. I also have two daughters, whose heads will show up from time to time during class and the best husband who likes to build me stuff.
Joseph Oleniczak holds a MS in Biology from Fordham University and BS in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently and Adjunct Professor at Austin Community College in the Biotechnology Department as well as a Secondary Science Teacher at the Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School in Austin, Texas. He has taught biology, chemistry, introduction to biotechnology, and cell culturing on the secondary and higher education levels for the last 18 years. Currently, Joseph teaches Dual Enrollment Biotechnology and Research Internship courses through AISD and ACC. Joseph has led several campus level, district level, and state level teacher professional developments over the years. Joseph is involved at the state and national level in Career and Technical Education initiatives and regularly attends and presents at meetings. Additionally, He has worked on a number of different National Science Foundation funded projects over the years in a various capacities.
Hi! I’m Ellen Owens, this will be my 6th year at LASA. One year teaching Algebra 1, AB Precal, and robotics. One year teaching Sci Tech and now 3 years teaching SciTech and Astronomy. Before LASA I taught Algebra 1 & 2 at Harmony School of Excellence here in Austin for 2 years.
My mother was a high school choral director for 35 years in suburbs around Dallas, growing up she would take my older brother and I to choir rehearsals, competitions, musicals and every other vocal event under the Texas sun. I absolutely accredit watching her during those years with giving me my inspiration to teach. I got my first taste when I started teaching swim lessons and coaching competitive swimming in my late teens.
I studied Physics, English, and history at Texas A&M University -- College Station where I also spent a great deal of time playing guitar in jazz, funk, and rock bands. Ive been fascinated with physics and space since I was in 2nd grade after reading an entire series from my school library on the solar system. Working with almost every 9th grader in the wood shop is a very special role I truly enjoy. I sponsor the LASA Astronomical Society, Diversity Council, and the Dungeons and Dragons club. My favorite part of the year is hosting evening observations around town for all LASA students who want to come and stargaze.
I live here in Austin with my partner and two cats (Kitty & Sneaker) and spend copious amounts of time in my kitchen cooking and baking.
Maron Pettes is a Science Academy Graduate (class of ’88). He has been teaching High School Science and coaching High School Athletics for 18 years in California. He teaches most of the Sciences and coaches Softball (HS & Travel), Football, and Basketball. For the past ten years, he has mentored Robotics teams that have competed at the Super Regional and World levels. Outside of teaching and coaching, he is either performing music, playing poker, playing chess, or watching CITY play. He is also the proud father of two adult children ages 28 and 26.
"I am looking forward to working with the students at LASA, and I am happy to be home." ~ Mr. Pettes
My name is Carl Seagren and I am one of the SciTech (aka Engr Design & Presentation) teachers in the infamous dungeon at LASA. I have been teaching at LASA for the past ten year and have also taught physics and advanced woodworking while at Lasa. I have been teaching for over 25 years at schools in Austin, San Antonio, Bandera and Harlingen Texas. I graduated from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State) in San Marcos and have also attended Pan American in Edinburg and Texas A&M in College Station (once an Aggie always an Aggie, WHOOP!).
I have been married 36 years to my best friend Beverly, who I met at TAMU and we have one daughter, Samantha. She is married to her best friend Bryan Davis, a major in the USAF, and they have two amazing boys, Benaiah 4 and Callen 1 (our grandsons that we love to spoil).
We also have two dogs, "Lieutenant" a Anatolian shepherd and "Ranger" a rescue dog with a mix of lab, chow and possible Anatolian shepherd (they could be cousin looking at them).
We live on the north side of Hutto, on five acres with several pecan trees and lots room to work and play.
In my spare time, which is a rare treasure, I enjoy woodworking and reading. My wife and I make a great team in the kitchen as we both love to cook. I am also an amateur magician (sleight-of-hand kind).
Besides teaching I have worked as a carpenter, firefighter/EMT, engineer and owned my own hobby & craft store. But my greatest pleasure/joy is being a teacher and inspiring students to see how much more they can achieve. I look forward to seeing the class of 2024 this year.
Best of Success!
David Walker has worked in the LASA science department since 2010. He teaches Planet Earth and Organic Chemistry and coaches the Science Olympiad team.
Mr. Walker grew up in Austin before attending Middlebury College in Vermont, where he majored in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. He studied science education at the University of Texas at Austin from 2009-2010 and obtained his National Board Certification in 2017. Prior to working at LASA, he spent three years working in the biomedical research field at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
His favorite thing about teaching is making the natural world more interesting for his students. Since beginning his career in education, Mr. Walker has participated in field expeditions and research in Antarctica, the Arctic, the Gulf of Mexico, and Baja California Sur. This work has included laboratory research in field biology, organic chemistry, and aquatic geochemistry. He loves using these field and research experiences to create activities and projects for his classes.
Mr. Walker lives in Austin with his wife and two cats (Atticus and Boo). He enjoys backpacking, flyfishing, and birdwatching in his free time. He is currently trying to hike the Pacific Crest Trail in sections over his summer breaks.
Shontel Willie has been with LASA since 2017 teaching Chemistry and Forensics. Prior to joining the LASA team, Mrs. Willie spent twelve years as an Environmental Chemist with experience in Organic, Inorganic, and Nuclear chemistry.
Mrs. Willie discovered her interest in science began when she attended her first science fair in middle school and spent summers with her 7th grade science teacher watching human anatomy videos on reel-to-reel. Mrs. Willie continued to learn about science as an undergraduate student at the University of Northern Colorado (Go Bears!) where she obtained a B.A. in Chemistry, minoring in Biology. Before establishing her high school teaching career, Mrs. Willie worked as a contractor for the Environmental Protection Agency based out of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Mrs. Willie lives in the woods with her husband, Lamar Scottie/McCallum Knights sons, and rescue pup, Floppy. When she isn't working or at the baseball fields, Mrs. Willie enjoys traveling with her family, cooking, painting, riding dirt bikes and reading (I especially love book suggestions from my students).
After teaching science around the State of Texas for ten years I joined Austin ISD, first at Akins High School and then landing at LASA in the fall of 2015. Besides teaching I am honored to serve as LASA's Campus Innovation Connector (CIC). In this role I support students, staff, faculty and the LASA community in the use of AISD's learning positioning system, BLEND (Canvas). I am also passionate about blended and personalized learning and the use of transformative technology to improve student outcomes. When I'm not on BLEND (and honestly... I spend a lot of time there) I love on educational technology, kettlebell workouts, paleo/keto eating, Spotify and my little family - my husband Josh and a black-throated monitor lizard named Titan (who is truly a LASA Raptor!)
Caught between a desire for a livable wage and a stress-free life, I chose neither and double majored in philosophy and physics. I am easily distracted and go head-first into too many tangents that I find interesting. The biggest lie that I will teach you is that your school subjects are all separate, and that there's a distinct divide between the liberal arts and the sciences. I'm an optimist.