Cheryl Hersh – Head of School
Cheryl grew up in Waco, Texas, and received a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Texas at Austin. Cheryl’s teaching career began in Arad, Israel where she lived for eight years. After many years in the classroom, Cheryl moved from Waco to Los Angeles to further her education at the American Jewish University in 1997. She graduated from the University with an M.A. in Education and an MBA in Non-profit Management. Cheryl served as Director of Formal and Informal Education at Adat Ari El for two years. She then joined the staff at Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am as the Religious School Principal for one year before moving into the position as the Middle School Principal for the past nine years. Currently, Cheryl is the Head of School at Austin Jewish Academy. Cheryl’s son Ben is in medical school at Boston University and her daughter Michal recently graduated from UC Santa Cruz and is now living and working in Oakland.
David Solomon – Business Officer
David is an attorney who left his law practice to provide full time care to his twins. He now joins AJA with experience in business operations, human resources, and marketing. Prior to law, David worked in the non-profit sector. David attended Southern Methodist University where he received a Masters in Business Administration and Arts Administration. He earned his law degree from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.
Risa Ferdman – Director of Admissions
Upon learning that AJA was opening in 1997, Risa and her family ended their search for a new home and decided to settle in Austin. Risa has worked as a volunteer at AJA since that first year. She co-founded our Parent Association, served on the Board of Directors and has been an avid volunteer fundraiser for AJA. Risa is a Jewish day school graduate, earned her B.A. from Wellesley College and has over 20 years of experience as a teacher and school administrator. She and her husband have two sons, both of whom attended AJA.
Robin Littrell – Development Director
Robin grew up in Buffalo, Wyoming and recently moved to Austin, Texas from Dallas where she worked as Member Services Director at Congregation Shearith Israel. She has been engaged in the non-profit sector for over 18 years, 15 of which have been in Jewish communal work. Robin attended Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado before moving to Wyoming and beginning her family. In June 2014 Robin received her Non-Profit Management certificate through CNM Connect. She has a passion for people and enjoys working together with a like-minded team to bring an idea to fruition. Robin has three children and four grandchildren, and enjoys spending as much time as possible with them.
Stacey Eisenberg – Day School Coordinator
Stacey grew up in Brooklyn, New York and has been in Austin for almost five years. She is a proud parent of two wonderful children who attend AJA and one who has graduated from our school. She brings to the school a wealth of experience in early childhood education and a passion for helping AJA grow and thrive.
Aileen Duncan – Kindergarten
Aileen Duncan, grew up on a dairy farm in Canada with seven siblings and has seven children of her own, and now eight grandchildren. Mrs. Duncan, who holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Brigham Young University, has been nurturing and teaching AJA kindergarten students since 2000. Before joining AJA she taught many of the same children in the JCAA’s Early Childhood Program. Mrs. Duncan loves teaching children and loves teaching in the Jewish Community. She was recently honored with an Excellence in Jewish Education Award bestowed on her by the Jewish Community Association of Austin. She feels being an educator has given her valuable lessons about herself and what it means to be in a community of learners. She recognizes what a great responsibility she has in helping to shape young children’s hearts and minds and enjoys the challenge of trying to help each child move forward no matter where they are when they enter her classroom. “Although,” Mrs. Duncan adds, “teaching academics is very important, teaching life lessons is essential to help inspire these young children who will have the opportunity to make a difference in our world.” Aileen was AJA’s teacher honoree at the 2013 Gala.
Kayla Lane – First Grade
Kayla Lane is new to our staff this 2017-2018 year and is very excited to be a part of the AJA community. She earned a BA from Baylor University in Piano, Classics and Philosophy. She joined Teach for America after college, and has a cumulative of 11 years of tutoring and teaching experience, including public school systems in Texas and California; SAT/GRE preparation classes; private piano instruction; teaching English abroad in the Republic of Georgia; and teaching college students during graduate school at UCSC. Kayla enjoys composing music- even songs for her students- and she is passionate about infusing rhythm, melody, and dance into all areas of academic study. Her pedagogical philosophy includes conscious discipline, as well as incorporating mindfulness, guided meditation, the multiple-intelligences, and yoga around inquiry-based, reflective learning. In her spare time, she relishes traveling with her fiancé, reading, enjoying the performing arts, exploring the outdoors with her pug/chihuahua puppy- and, of course, beating everyone she can at board games and trivia.
Carly Fox – Second Grade
Carly was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, and received her B.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders from the University of Texas at Austin. After graduating, Carly returned to El Paso to complete her M.S. in Speech-Language Pathology, and later moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where she spent three years as a school-based Speech-Language Pathologist. In this role, Carly worked with K-8th graders with a wide range of speech, language, and social communication needs, and frequently provided speech therapy within her students’ classrooms to support daily learning. She became motivated to earn her teacher certification while working closely with parents, teachers, and administrators to help students succeed academically and socially. Carly is thrilled to be a part of the AJA team and looks forward to creating a welcoming and engaging classroom community that instills joyful Jewish identities for her students.
Felicia Frazee – Third Grade & Project Based Learning Team Leader
Felicia grew up in San Antonio and attended Trinity University where she earned her Bachelor’s and Master of Arts in Teaching. She also holds a Texas State Teaching License and has taught second grade for ten years. Felicia is thrilled to be a part of the Austin Jewish Academy community!
Meridith Rozell – Fourth Grade
Meridith is excited to join the AJA family this year! She is from Plano, TX where she grew up doing gymnastics. From there she went on to become a gymnastics coach, then eventually director of several programs at a gym here in Austin. While she thought her path was leading her to become a gym owner, she realized her love for teaching. She went back to school and graduated from The University of Texas at Dallas with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies with Teacher Certification. She, also, holds a certification in ESL (English as a Second Language). She has lived in Austin for about 12 years and absolutely loves it. Meridith is thrilled to be starting her teaching career at AJA.
Karen Hidalgo – Fifth Grade & Project Based Learning Team Leader
Mrs. Hidalgo holds a Bilingual Teaching Certification from the University of Texas along with Gifted and Talented (GT), English as a Second Language (ESL) and Bilingual Certification. She has 17 years of teaching experience in grades 3rd-6th, with most of her years focused in 5th grade. Mrs. Hidalgo has appreciated the uniqueness of the Austin Jewish Academy, where fifth grade highlights have included Environmental TED TALKS, working for an extended period of time on a farm, as well as having an annual 5th Grade Poetry Slam. With relevant and meaningful themes each year, Mrs. Hidalgo is committed to providing a differentiated, stimulating and rigorous instructional approach in which she infuses technology, and inquiry based exploration as her tools for learning. Mrs. Hidalgo is fluent in both English and Spanish and is also a certified yoga instructor and mother of three girls. She graduated on the Dean’s List with a Bachelor degree in Family Studies from the University of Arizona and then went on to the University of Texas to receive her teaching credentials. She is happy to be entering her 7th year at the Austin Jewish Academy and always excited for all that her future students will accomplish.
Kathy Rosenmann – Middle School Science and Math & Project Based Learning Team Leader
Mrs. Rosenmann, has a strong desire is to help children fall in love with learning and, in turn, to see them become life-long learners. Raised in the north, Mrs. Rosenmann first attended the University of Wisconsin where she studied psychology and French. After studying for a year at L’Universite d’Aix-en-Provence in France, Kathy moved to San Francisco to work in the social services. There she met her husband of twenty years, Yoav, and subsequently moved to Israel. Ready to return stateside, the Rosenmann’s moved to Austin, Texas where Kathy attended the University of Texas and earned her BA in psychology. It is in her position as a counselor for troubled youth that Kathy first became interested in working with young people. After the birth of her son, Izzy, Kathy began teaching preschool at the ECP. She later went back to UT, earned an honors degree in elementary education and a Gifted and Talented certification, and then began her career as an elementary teacher. She has been teaching at AJA since 2006. When she is not educating and entertaining students, Ms. Rosenmann enjoys reading, traveling, surfing, running, and spending time with her husband and son Izzy. Kathy was AJA’s teacher honoree at the 2014 Gala.
Ann Marie Girardot – Middle School Humanities (6th & 7th grades); Math (8th grade)
Ann Marie grew up in the Clear Lake area, between Houston and Galveston, during the Gemini and Apollo NASA missions. She graduated from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio with a double major in History and Mathematics, and minors in Music and Psychology. She has over thirty years of experience teaching at Reagan High and Anderson High School, where she sponsored the National Honor Society and also taught PSAT and SAT prep classes. She received her National Board for Professional Teachers Certification in 2006, and recently renewed her National Board Certification, valid through 2026. Mrs. Girardot’s goal as an educator is to develop problem solving and critical reasoning skills in her students, so they can explain concepts, interpret data and text, synthesize and apply what they know, and demonstrate perspective and empathy. Ann Marie has three wonderful children: her son plays trumpet and keyboards with The Revivalists out of New Orleans; one daughter works for Engineer Your World at the Pickle Research Campus; and her youngest daughter is in college studying vocal performance.
Deborah Graham – Learning Specialist
Deborah Graham grew up in Bay City, Michigan and received her B.A. in Human Resources at Michigan State University. Deborah began her teaching career as an assistant pre-school teacher in East Lansing, MI while attending college there. Afterward, she obtained her Masters of Special Education and dual teaching certifications (elementary education and special education) from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ. Since then, Deborah has acquired ten years experience as the director of special education programs and working with students, families, faculty, and staff in regard to the best practices for diverse learners in grades K-12. She finished her PhD program in May of 2016 in Exceptional Students with Northcentral University in Prescott, AZ. Deborah is very excited to be part of the AJA community and to have the unique opportunity to work with students, teachers, and families at every grade level!
Meredith Prukop – Music Specialist
Meredith Prukop graduated from the University of Texas-Pan American with a Bachelors in Music Education. Prior to moving to the Austin area, she was an orchestra director for McAllen ISD. During her tenure, her orchestras grew in size, consistently earned division I ratings at UIL competitions, and her students regularly won chairs in the region Orchestra. She has 20 years experience in teaching music and is excited to begin the musical journey here at AJA.
Anna Bull – Physical Education and Athletics Coach
Anna Bull has been at AJA since 2009 as PE teacher and athletic director. Before arriving in Austin from Jacksonville, Florida, she taught PE and health for the Duval County Public Schools. Prior to that position, she served as the Aquatics Manager at the Jacksonville Jewish Community Alliance where she organized a year round youth swim team. To everything that she does, Coach Bull brings a big smile and infectious enthusiasm.
Susan Slomowitz – Art
Ms. Slomowitz has been AJA’s school wide Art Specialist since 2010. Ms. Slomowitz received her degree in Fine arts, (specializing in printing techniques and graphic design), from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. She worked as an Artist and Designer in South Africa and Israel for many years. Ms. Slomowitz and her family moved from Israel to Austin in 2002. Since then, she has been actively involved in both Art and Jewish education locally. Ms. Slomowitz is fluent in Hebrew and has also taught at Bais Menachem Hebrew Academy and the Early Childhood Program at the JCC, both as lead teacher. Her daughter Emily is in Middle School at Austin Jewish Academy. Susan received the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education in 2013. This national award was designed to recognize teachers in communities across North America who have made a commitment to the field of Jewish Education and who demonstrate leadership abilities, serve as role models in Jewish education, and who implement outstanding curricular initiatives.
David Hazan – Hebrew
Born and raised in Israel, David Hazan has over 17 years of experience in education. David has a B.ED in Bible and Israel’s Studies, and Master’s degree in Jewish History and Hebrew Comparative Literature from Bar-Ilan University. Prior to teaching in the United States, David worked in Mexico City as a Jewish Studies coordinator and the Shaliach (delegate) of B’nai Akivah – the largest Israeli Zionist youth movement. David has served on numerous schools and communities, helping to create and write curriculum, strategic planning, admissions and liaison to the board. He moved to Austin from Atlanta, where he worked as Educational Director and a newspaper editor. David likes to paint, read, and write (he published three Poetry books in Hebrew and has had a weekly column in Israeli newspaper.
Heather Kantrowitz – Jewish Studies
Heather Kantrowitz was born and raised in Tallahassee, FL, where she graduated with honors from Florida State University with a BA in Religion. She then went to Brandeis University where she earned her MA in Teaching Tanakh. After working as a Youth Director in St Paul, MN, for 2 years, Heather moved to Jerusalem, Israel to learn at the Pardes Institute for Jewish Studies in their Educators Program. Heather couldn’t be happier about moving to Austin and joining the AJA family; she wants each of her students to find a personal connection to Tanakh and Judaism that will foster a strong Jewish identity and a lifelong love of learning. Heather loves baking, traveling, jogging, yoga, meeting new people and exploring new places!