Meet the Staff
Every teacher has a philosophy of education. Here’s mine: To educate a child is to improve the future – for the child certainly, and for the world. By educating, we leave the world better than we found it.
After twenty-eight years in secondary public education, I am transitioning to Director for Excel Learning Academy. Excel provides what students and parents need, and what every classroom teacher wants: positive intervention and tutoring, centered on the individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Excel’s unique approach to learning ensures success for everyone. What makes us different from the others? Our staff of tutors are highly qualified professionals in their fields of study. Each staff member has a degree in their teaching area and has served as a public educator for at least five years – some as many as thirty-five years! I’m proud to be associated with them and I’m proud to be leading this team of exceptional educators.
I believe a person’s story reveals the core of who they are. Let me share the best part of mine:
I’m a Christian. I believe the most vital relationship in my life is my relationship with Christ. Ask me about it sometime.
I’m a wife. Forty years ago I married my best friend and I feel like the luckiest woman in the world because he chose me to be his wife.
I’m a mom. I have four intelligent, delightful children – Tommy, and wife, Tara, and Chelsea, and husband, Kody. Between the two families, they have given us six incredible, unique, adorable grandchildren. Those kids have taught us more about life, parenting, and unconditional love than any other experience we’ve ever had.
I’m a teacher. Not because I have to be or because I couldn’t do anything else, but because I’m called to be. I love what I do and I’ve come to understand that a great teacher can be one of the most influential people in a child’s life.
I have taught seventh through twelfth grade, and am certified in English 6-12, English As A Second Language, Reading (all level), and Speech. I’ve spent the past twenty-six years of my teaching career within Arlington Independent School District, with twenty-four years at Martin High School, teaching freshman-senior English. TSI, SAT, and ACT tutoring/test preps have also been a part of my yearly schedule. I’ve received two Teacher of the Year nominations, and have served as Level Leader for Senior English for the past three years.
Excel Learning’s vision and mission is to provide exceptional educational opportunities for every student we work with. Please send an email or give us a call to see how we can best serve you and your student!
Mrs. Rynthia Clements
Rhonda Dunn received her Bachelor of Science in Education from the University of Nebraska. She has been teaching English for the past twenty-four years. Her classroom experience includes: English I, English II, English III, English IV, Pre-AP English II, AP Literature and Composition. She has a special emphasis in Writing. Rhonda currently teaches AP Literature and Composition to seniors, and has experience teaching ESL students in a regular, as well as advanced classroom setting. Rhonda is trained and practiced in teaching close reading and analytical writing strategies. She especially enjoys helping seniors craft and shape essays for college applications and scholarships.
Rhonda lives in Arlington with her husband, Patrick, who is also a teacher and coach, and her four children. Rhonda coaches volleyball and soccer, and loves coaching children of any age and skill level. Her Saturdays are spent on one of Arlington’s athletic fields, and her Sundays are spent at Lake Church where she volunteers in the Children’s Ministry as a teacher in KidsRock, and as a drama leader in Cross Trainers.
Lydia Berry graduated from Trinity High School in Euless, Texas. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Texas A&M University, and a Masters in Business Administration from Texas A&M University. Lydia is certified to teach high school Chemistry, Biology, and Math. She has taught Honors Chemistry and Advanced Placement Chemistry for thirteen years at Martin High School, and has been a teacher in AISD’s prestigious STEM Academy for the past five years. Her life’s purpose is helping young adults achieve their college and career goals. She takes joy in seeing her former students become successful dentists, doctors, engineers, and achieving their future aspirations.
Lydia lives in Arlington with her husband, Patrick. She has two children, Cade, who works as a mechanical engineer and Katie, a recent graduate of Rice University. She enjoys walking, hiking and the mountains. Lydia would love the opportunity to help your student achieve their educational goals and dreams.
Elementary & Secondary English Special Education
Sally Cagle graduated from Texas A&M University with a BA in Speech Communications. She has been teaching English Language Arts for ten years. Sally is certified in ELA 4th-12th grades, Education Generalist 4th-8th grades, English As A Second Language, and Special Education. Sally enjoys working with students to improve their reading and writing skills, study skills, as well as building test taking confidence.
Sally was born and raised in Arlington. She enjoys family life with her husband, Brady, and their two children, Scout, age six, and Ranger, age three. You can find them on the soccer fields, riding bikes along Arlington’s biking paths, or camping on the weekends. Sally loves to laugh and strives to create an environment for learners that is positive, creative, and fun.
Reading/General Elementary Ed
Pam Elliott grew up in Arlington, Texas, and attended Arlington schools. She is a hometown girl and knew she wanted to be an educator in Arlington. Pam attended Texas A&M – Commerce, receiving a degree in English and Sociology with teaching certification. She returned to Arlington and fulfilled her dream: teaching secondary English and Sociology for thirty six years, with the last twenty three years teaching at Martin High School. Upon retirement, Pam chose to tutor elementary and high school students for AISD. Her areas of expertise are Reading and Writing, as well as building self-esteem and confidence in the students she works with.
Pam lives in Arlington with her husband, Kevin. She enjoys reading, working out, visiting friends, and singing. Pam has two grown sons, Nick and Grant, one grandson, Declan, and another grandson due in July. She is passionate about teaching and looks forward to using her time and gifts to help students.
Brianna Lavelle, a beach girl at heart, has lived in Arlington for eighteen years. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her juris doctorate from Southwestern School of Law in Los Angeles. She began teaching five years ago at Martin High School and loves it more each year. Algebra I and Algebra II, Pre-AP and Regular, as well as Geometry, are her favorite classes to teach. She understands that building confidence and encouraging students to think creatively makes learning math more personal and more fun!
Brianna lives in Arlington with her husband, Jim, their three children, and dog. She enjoys traveling, exercising, reading, and spending time with her family. Brianna’s heart is truly the heart of an educator – she loves helping others.
Susan Hall graduated from Texas Tech University earning a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with a Music Certification and a Master of Education in Supervision. She taught Kindergarten and First Grade for 33 years total and 30 years in Arlington ISD. During her tenure in Arlington she earned certifications in English as a Second Language and Gifted and Talented studies. Since retirement, Susan has been tutoring Reading, Math, and Science for grades K-6 at Duff Elementary where she spent the last 28 years of her career.
Susan has been married for 40 years to Murry, her college beau. They have 2 adult sons, 2 wonderful daughters-in-law and 4 grandchildren ranging from newborn to 5 years old. In her choice time, she enjoys attending Lake Church, cooking, playing board games, watching sports (pre 2020, anyway), traveling, and time with family and friends.
Speech and Language Development
Rosemary Sheives graduated from Baylor University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Speech Pathology with certification by the Texas Education Agency for speech and hearing therapy in public schools in Texas. She took additional graduate hours at the University of Texas at Arlington, earning her certification as a general education teacher in elementary education. These dual certifications gave her a unique knowledge of the link between appropriate speech and language skills and success in the school curriculum. She served as a public school speech therapist for 25 years, primarily in Arlington ISD. Since retirement, Rosemary has been consulting in speech and language development in various settings.
Rosemary lives in Arlington and has served the last few years as a Bible teacher in Women’s Ministry at her local church. After she became a widow last year, Rosemary began mentoring other widows and young married women facing challenges in their marriages and in the balance of work/life issues. She has two married sons who live in the Washington, DC and Frederick, MD areas. Both sons grew up in Arlington and hold Texas dear in their hearts as “home.” She also has a “daughter and son-in-law of the heart,” given to her by God. They serve as missionaries in Thailand. She has 4 grandchildren and 2 God-given-grandchildren, ranging in ages from 5 years through 22 years. Her granddaughter is following her in the profession of teaching, completing her first year of elementary school teaching. Rosemary enjoys working with children and teaching women in Bible studies. She is an avid reader and loves to travel to see family, especially the grandchildren!
Dean Parlin is a proud product of Arlington ISD. He graduated from Stephen F. Austin State University, earning a degree in Speech Communications with a teaching certification. Dean added an additional teaching endorsement in Math and has taught secondary Mathematics, with specialization in Algebra and Geometry for the past twelve years. He has also coached football, basketball, volleyball, track, and soccer. Dean currently teaches Algebra and Geometry at Martin High School.
Dean lives in Arlington, sharing the blessings of life with his beautiful wife, Katrina, and their amazing one-year old daughter, Tea. He enjoys golf, bicycle riding, gardening, and changing diapers! He considers it an honor to serve his community as a teacher and coach.
Reading, K-5th Grade
AVID/ Organizational Skills/ English
I knew at an early age that I wanted to be a teacher of young children. Growing up in Arlington, I attended area elementary and junior high schools, and graduated from Arlington High School. I attended UTA, graduating with a BA in English and Elementary Education. Soon after, I began my teaching career at Ditto Elementary, where I taught first grade, and then fourth grade.
As my children were born, I was a stay-at-home-mom, yet expanded my interests and worked part time jobs which included proofing and scoping for court reporters. It wasn’t long before I returned to early childhood education, becoming the Director of the Early Childhood Program at Lake Arlington Baptist Church for six years.
I returned to public education in 2001, teaching first grade at Mary Moore Elementary School, until my retirement in 2015. My certifications include: English As A Second Language as well as Gifted and Talented endorsement. After retirement, I tutored kindergarten at Dunn Elementary and then transitioned to Literacy Tutoring for Kinder-2nd grade at Duff Elementary. My goal is to share my love and passion for reading with the students I teach and tutor.
I’ve been a member of Lake Church for 37 years and have been blessed with three grown married children, as well as nine grandchildren, ranging in age from two years old to seventeen years old. My happiest and most joyous times are when I am able to spend quality time with my children and grandchildren, as well as extended family and friends.
Noreen Offerman graduated from Seton Hall University in Orange, New Jersey, where she grew up. She happily retired in 2016, after 41 years in public education. She has taught grades first through eighth, and spent the majority of her teaching career at the elementary level teaching math and reading. Noreen spent ten years in California working as a dyslexic teacher at the prestigious Prentice School for Dyslexic students. Her most recent experience was as a dyslexia specialist at Williams Elementary in AISD. Noreen is passionate about helping students develop the joy of learning and empowering them to be life-long learners.
Noreen grew up in New Jersey and made her way to Texas via Colorado, Wisconsin, and California. She lives with her husband, Dean in Arlington in the winter and Minnesota in the summer. Noreen has two adult daughters, Pam and Tara, and she is a proud Nana of four grandsons. You can often find her riding her bike, golfing with friends, gardening, crafting, or kayaking at the lake.
Angela Carter grew in up Grand Prairie, Texas. She went to the University of North Texas for undergraduate school and graduated from the Honors College with a recognition of Summa Cum Laude with her bachelor’s degree in Speech Language Pathology & Audiology. She attended the University of Texas at Dallas for graduate school and received her master’s degree in Communication Disorders. She has worked in Arlington ISD schools since graduating from graduate school. She has a passion for helping children learn to communicate so they can fully participate in the world around them and have meaningful relationships with others. She truly believes communication is the key to success and wants to help each child reach his or her fullest potential.
Angela and her husband, Andrew, live and work in Arlington. They have a one-year old daughter, Sophia, who they love dearly. Angela loves to spend time with her family and actively participates in her church community.
Deborah Conant has been teaching Spanish at Martin High School since 2003, the year she moved from New York to Texas. Although her college degree is a B.A. in Spanish, her initial intent was not teaching. While raising three children, Deb worked as a youth director at a YMCA. Besides promoting children’s programs and daycare, she taught aerobics and tutored various kids. She substitute taught for awhile to see if teaching was a good fit. Feeling that teaching actually was her calling, Deb furthered her education and obtained her teaching certification and Master’s degree in Education. After teaching Spanish in a local high school for 3 years in NY, the south was calling her! She has taught levels 1-4 and currently teaches levels 2 and Advanced 3.
Her favorite pastime is FaceTiming with her 4 grandchildren in NY. Deb also enjoys spending time with her family, walking, swimming and playing cards.
Laura Ebanks graduated from Texas Christian University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Middle School Science Education, and has a Masters Degree in Education, also from Texas Christian University. Laura is certified to teach 4-12 Science, and has experience teaching Astronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Advanced Chemistry, Earth and Space, and Environmental Science. She has taught for eleven years, the last five in Arlington ISD at Martin High School.
Laura is a Google Certified Educator, a club sponsor at Martin, and loves volunteering when she can. She enjoys traveling and exploring new places, with the dream of visiting every state and continent (she’s half-way there!). One of her favorite things to do is read about scientific and historic discoveries that she can incorporate into her teaching to give students real examples that can be applied to their learning.
Reading/Reading Improvement/ Language Arts
Janet has been married to her high school boyfriend, David, for the past 43 years! David and Janet have two beautiful daughters, two fantastic sons-in-law, and four precious grandchildren. Janet was born in Arlington and never left.
Janet graduated from Texas Wesley University with a degree in elementary education and taught in AISD for 36 years at Butler and Dunn. She has taught Kinder, 1st, 3rd, and 5th grades and was the Team Lead for 5th grade from 2005-2019. Janet received two Teacher of the Year awards from AISD - 1981 from Butler Elementary and 2016 from Dunn Elementary. She also received the Masonic Teacher of Excellence award for the Arlington High School cluster in 2016 and was additionally awarded the Masonic Teacher of Excellence award for AISD that same year. In her honor, Dunn Elementary now gives an exceptional 5th grade student the "Moore Giving Award" for giving "more" to everything: academics, behavior, service to school and community. Janet's legacy of going above and beyond continues to be recognized in the lives of the students at Dunn Elementary.
Teresa Wilson is currently serving in her 48th year in public education. She obtained a B.A. degree in Education (English major/ History minor) from Howard Payne University and a Masters of Education/Administration degree from Tarleton University. Teresa taught 7/8 English in Everman ISD for 11 years, served as an adjunct Professor in the UTA Department of Education for 16 years, and then taught for 21 years on the campus of Young Jr. High by tutoring, starting the Grade Recovery Program, teaching 7/8 English, and then implementing and coordinating the AVID Program for 11 years. After her “official” retirement in 2017, she continues to remain active on that campus as an AVID tutor and a substitute.
Teresa and her husband David are west Texas natives, moving to Arlington in 1975. Their two children grew up attending Arlington ISD schools. She is an avid community volunteer, with long years of service on the Miss Arlington Board of Directors, Junior League of Arlington, and A.W.A.R.E Foundation Board of Directors, as well as numerous other community volunteer capacities. Teresa is a proud Texas PTA member since 1985, having served on Pre-School, elementary, junior high, and high school PTA boards. She looks forward to having a positive connection with your students and assisting them in being successful in their educational pursuits.
AVID/ Organizational Skills/ English
Pre-K – 4th Reading, Writing, Math, Science, Social Skills and School Readiness
Teaching and seeing students work through their difficulties and succeed is a passion of mine. I believe that every child can learn and all kids can be successful. Perhaps that passion comes from my own personal experience. I am dyslexic and struggled to learn in my early school years. Therefore, I quickly became frustrated and felt as though I was less than others. Through wonderful teachers and a mom that encouraged and helped me push through things that were “hard” I realized that I was just as intelligent as others and I could be successful. Because of this experience and 22 years of teaching, I believe that first a child needs to realize they can do most things if they put in the work. Second kids need to feel safe to stumble in the learning process and know that someone is in their corner and will help them through it. Third, everyone needs to see a purpose and a future use for the skills or topic that they are learning so that they are willing to put in the work.
As I stated previously, I have been teaching for 22 year, 20 of those in Kindergarten and 15 years at Mary Moore Elementary where I still teach. I have been individually tutoring for 15 years. I attended Texas Tech University and have a B.S. in Human Development and Early Childhood/Elementary Education. My certifications are Early Childhood and Elementary Education (birth – 6th), English as a Second Language, Gifted and Talented. I am also a member of NAEYC (National Association for the Education on Young Children)
In my free time, I enjoy serving in my church, Christ Community Bible Church, spending time with my friends and family, sports, reading and traveling.
“Education begins the moment we see children as innately wise and capable being, only then can we play along in their world.” – Vince Gowmon
Ukulele Instructor for All Ages!
Prior to graduating with honors from ATI Career Training Institute in 1996, Pat was a stay-at-home mother and school and church volunteer. After graduating, she began her award-winning Graphic Design career with a local design firm. After three years of rush hour traffic, the decision was made to do free-lance graphic work, and as of last year, another monumental decision - RETIREMENT!
Seven years ago, after reading about the adventures of a women’s-only camping group, Pat purchased a vintage travel trailer and started her “glamping” journey. Shortly after joining the group, she was introduced to the ukulele and helped a group of gals in California put together a ukulele song book to be used in a large camping event. She combined the best of all three worlds - graphics, camping, and ukulele! At the very beginning of her camping/ukulele adventures, while attending a campout, the hostess of the next event announced that there would be a ukulele workshop at her campout, and that Pat would be leading it! Now, six years later, Pat has taught multiple workshops in campgrounds around the state of Texas, sharing the love of ukulele with hundreds of women. She is excited about teaching ukulele with adults and children at Excel Learning!
I believe that every student can learn to confidently write well and deserves to see writing as a gift and not a chore. Students can learn to write well for any purpose, audience, or occasion, and I am passionate about helping them fall in love with writing.
I received my Bachelor of Arts in English from Texas A&M University, and then I went on to get my Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. I have been teaching for thirteen years and my classroom experience includes both nine years teaching at the high school level and four years teaching at the elementary level. I have taught kindergarten, fifth grade, and English I, Pre-AP English I, English II, Pre-AP English II, World Experience: Pre-AP World Literature, English III, and AP English III: Language and Composition. I firmly believe that God has given me opportunities to work with both elementary and secondary students in order to bridge the gap between them and develop strategies for both alignment and confident content acquisition for writing in kindergarten through twelfth grade. While I am certified in ELAR and ESL, I most love helping students discover and improve their writing skills.
I live in Arlington with my husband, Brandon, and our three sweet kiddos. I love Jesus and love serving in my local church. I love to walk and spend time adventuring with my family. I currently teach 5th grade English and History at a local elementary school, and I have the privilege of working with teachers to help students EXCEL in their writing! I’d be honored to partner with you to catalyze your student’s success in writing!
Loretta Ross is a retired Elementary Teacher and Elementary Principal. She retired from Grapevine Colleyville ISD in 2009. She has taught 3rd, 4th and 5th grade in the school setting. She has also taught 3-year old’s and Kindergarten in her church. She is currently teaching 2nd graders in Sunday school each Sunday. Ms. Ross has enjoyed retirement but has not left teaching children. She teaches Bible Study Fellowship children and is a CASA volunteer for foster children. Ms. Ross loves planning and teaching children.
Loretta Ross is a single lady who truly loves children. She enjoys being with her friends and family. She loves to laugh, watch sports, play games and working jig saw puzzles. There is always a puzzle up on a table at her house. Ms. Ross has a new dog whose name is Dirk. He is named after the great Dirk who is probably the tallest man, she knows that every played basketball. The most important thing about Ms. Ross is she loves Jesus and loves sharing Jesus with children.
Alyssa Dewitt-Davis grew up in Bixby Oklahoma and attended Bixby Public Schools. She always knew she wanted to be an educator. Alyssa graduated with a double major in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Oklahoma Baptist University. She taught 4th grade for one year in Oklahoma before moving to Arlington, Texas where she now teaches 3rd grade for Arlington Independent School District. Alyssa is fully certified to teach in Oklahoma and Texas.
Alyssa has been married since 2019 to her husband, Ajaé, and has a crazy puppy named Sunday. Alyssa enjoys traveling to new places, spending time with friends and family, and playing board and card games. Alyssa believes students learn best when they are given opportunities to engage in hands on learning experiences. She also knows the importance of giving students room to take ownership of their learning. Alyssa’s desire is to show students how fun learning can be.
Speech and Language Development
Nanette Shannon graduated from Hardin Simmons University, earning a Bachelor of Education in Speech Pathology with certification by the Texas Education Agency for Speech & Hearing Therapy in Texas public schools. During her thirty-year career, Nanette served twenty-six years as a public school speech therapist, three years as a teacher for Program for Preschool Children with Disabilities (PPCD) and one year as an Early Intervention Specialist for an early childhood intervention program serving children ages birth to three years.
Nanette lives in Mansfield with her husband Ray, and a calico cat named Mystie. Together, she and Ray share five children and their spouses, three married grandchildren, and eleven more ranging from “bun-in-the-oven” to twenty-six years old. Being Nonnie to them has been one of her greatest joys. She enjoys teaching three-year-olds in Sunday School, traveling with Ray, sewing, scrapbooking, decorating, and reading.
Mathematics, 1st-9th Grades
Debbie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics and a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas at Arlington. Debbie taught 8th grade math and Pre AP Algebra I for 26 years at Gunn Junior High in Arlington, Texas. She also taught high school Geometry in Mansfield.
Debbie lives in Arlington with her husband, Curtis. They have two adult children, Alison and her husband Chris, and Jonathan and his wife Bethany. Debbie is a very proud Nana to Jonathan and Bethany’s adorable sons Caspian(3) and Theo(1). After retiring in 2018, Debbie has enjoyed a variety of hobbies including quilting, gardening, traveling, and volunteering. Debbie looks forward to sharing her passion for math with her students.
David Rakes is a transplant from the East Coast where he grew up in Maryland and Virginia. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Duke University in Computer Science and has worked as a Systems and Software Engineer for over 43 years. His job brought him to Arlington over 25 years ago, and he is glad to be here! David has taught classes at his company in C++ and Monte Carlo simulations. He is a registered math tutor with the AISD school system.
David is married to Carol Rakes, who recently retired from Martin High School where she worked over 16 years as an Attendance Clerk. They raised three children, all graduates of Martin High School and Baylor University. They also have five grandchildren with one on the way! David is looking forward to retirement where he can travel with his wife as well as help students excel in their studies, particularly in the area of math.
Dyslexia/General Education/Special Education
Penny Thompson received her Bachelor of Science degree in Education, with special distinction from the University of Oklahoma. She has taught students from second grade through twelfth grade. Penny is currently teaching ESL, Special Education, Reading Improvement, and Dyslexic students at the junior high level. Her teaching career spans 25 years. Penny’s goal is to teach children the skills of encoding and decoding, so they become successful readers. She makes lessons fun and engaging to encourage students to become lifelong learners. Penny is excited to become a part of students’ journeys to success!
Penny lives in Arlington and is mom to Bodie, 18 years old, and Chloe, 15 years old. She enjoys yoga, reading, podcasts, movies, and traveling. She also shares her home with Violet, her Great Dane, and Blue, her Husky. Penny loves spending time with her family and friends. There is never a dull moment in the Thompson household!