Wayside: REAL Learning Academy Leadership

Kierstin Howard, Principal

Originally from Austin, Texas, Kierstin Howard has chosen to maintain her native Texan roots by making an impact on children and their families by helping to provide a meaningful education. Her teaching experience began with 4th grade students in Bastrop, Texas. In 2012, she joined the Wayside team and helped open Wayside: REAL Learning Academy in its inaugural year. Mrs. Howard taught 3rd and 4th grade at REAL Learning Academy for two years before she was named the Assistant Principal in 2014. The role created a new-found passion and appreciation within education for Mrs. Howard. She was named Principal in 2018, and is looking forward to the opportunity to work alongside an amazing staff of educators who work tirelessly to nurture our students.

Mrs. Howard graduated from Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, where she received a Bachelors degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Soon thereafter, Mrs. Howard decided to return to school and received her Masters Degree in Educational Administration through Concordia University.

Kierstin is looking forward to a great year, working with teachers and families to support each student’s journey through the International Baccalaureate program. During her free time, she enjoys traveling, shopping and spending time with her husband and two young sons.

Lourdes Taylor, Assistant Principal

Lourdes Taylor joined Wayside Schools the summer of 2012.  She was initially attracted to Wayside: REAL Learning Academy because of its social justice mission and commitment to bringing the International Baccalaureate curriculum framework to traditionally underserved populations. Lourdes values diversity and enjoys being able to use her Spanish language skills to the benefit of the school community.

Lourdes grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico and attended college in San Marcos, Texas. After college, she moved to France with the purpose of learning the language and later to New York City, where she worked at a human rights organization assisting refugees and asylum seekers. Within a few years, she returned to the U.S.- Mexico border to work at a Mexican Consulate helping Mexican immigrants abroad with educational programs. Lourdes has always had a passion for serving others and it is that desire that brought her to the field of education.  Prior to becoming an assistant principal, she was an instructional coach, and intervention specialist, and a teacher. She holds a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Lourdes is happily married and is the proud mother of a beautiful little boy. She feels very grateful for being part of an organization that works  relentlessly to bring the best possible educational opportunities to the children of Central Texas.

Noemi Garza, Dean of Scholars

Noemi Garza grew up in Robstown, Texas and attended Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi where she earned her Bachelors degree in Interdisciplinary Studies in 2008. She later attended Sam Houston State University and earned her Masters degree in school counseling in 2013.

Ms. Garza’s teaching experience began in Houston, Texas as a bilingual teacher with Aldine ISD. Aldine is where she taught for four years before relocating to Austin in the summer of 2012.  Shortly thereafter, Ms. Garza joined Wayside Schools and helped open Wayside: REAL Learning Academy as the 1st grade bilingual teacher. In 2013, Ms. Garza was promoted to ESL/Bilingual Program Coordinator. She worked for Wayside: Real Learning Academy in this position through 2018.  Last year, Ms. Garza took the year off to travel and spend time with family, but feels lucky to have had the opportunity to do what she loves and circle back around to her second home here at REAL once again.

Though her passion for bilingual education and biliteracy will always be a special part of her work as an educator, she is looking forward to promoting a positive school climate and supporting families, scholars, staff and the community as Dean of Students this year. Ms. Garza absolutely loves the community at Wayside and is especially eager to be back to supporting scholars in their academic, personal, and social development.

In her free time, Ms. Garza enjoys being creative, traveling, a good cup of coffee, and spending time with her family.

Maritza Gladyn, Assistant Campus Operations Manager

Maritza Gladyn was born and raised in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Growing up in a large, low-income family, her parents always instilled the idea that if she and her siblings wanted more in life, they had to work hard to achieve it.

Gladyn recently made the decision to go back to school to receive a higher education. Since then, she has completed her Associates Degree at Wenatchee Valley College and is currently working on her Bachelor’s Degree at Grand Canyon University. She takes great reward in her education, and the knowledge that every challenge starts with a dream, and everything is within reach.

Gladyn has been in the educational field for five years. Her journey began in Taylor, Texas as a receptionist and quickly led to becoming Principal Secretary within six months. After three years, Gladyn moved back to the Pacific Northwest to work as a Secretary/Office Manager for two years.

Gladyn says her ultimate objective is to do everything in her power to meet the needs of the scholars, teachers, staff and community. 

Judith Sanchez, Receptionist

Judith Sanchez is originally from Nuevo Leon, Mexico and moved to Austin, Texas in 2005. Her family has been very important in her life as they have helped her develop a loving and caring character towards others, especially children. 

Mrs. Sanchez has previous experience in the medical field as she acquired a certificate in 2012 and began working at St. David’s Medical Center in 2013. There, she quickly became a leader and took on additional responsibilities as a unit secretary. Her dedication and desire to help children has brought her to the Wayside community. She began as a substitute teacher, and is now eager to further develop and share her skills with our school as a Receptionist. She is very happy with her new role and is looking forward to a successful school year. She also loves to spend quality time and travel with her husband and her two beautiful children.