Gray Matter Teachers:

(alphabetical by first name)

Ariel Higginbotham is a homeschooling mom of two years who has had a passion for American Sign Language since she started learning it at the age of 6. She even studied Sign Language in college taking 4 American Sign Language classes and 2 signed English classes. She has enjoyed teaching children sign language for the last 8 years. When Ariel isn’t spending time with her family, she is reading, volunteering, or exploring the city.

Ms. Ariel teaches: American Sign Language

Collin Eye is a graduate from the University of Texas with a B.A in English and a minor in Computer Science.  He was homeschooled and has enjoyed giving back to the community through teaching programming, and various history, composition, and literature classes at the Prometheus Academy since 2016.  He believes that learning to program can benefit everyone in pursuing their dreams; and that the arts can help shape and inspire those dreams.

Collin teaches: Advanced Composition, American History, Computer Programming, Online Computer Programming, and Ludology.

Erin Nielson is a freelance illustrator who loves to create imaginative and whimsical artwork (especially if she gets to include an animal or two in it). Her love of art started early, and she has been drawing for as long as she can remember. She attended college at Brigham Young University, and graduated with a BFA in illustration. Soon after graduating, Erin married her husband, Matt, and moved to Texas.

Erin teaches: Drawing & Painting Skills

Gaspar Escobar is the father of four homeschoolers and a life-long student with a passion for learning and teaching methods. He has spent over 20 years in various industries, specializing in adult learning processes and corporate training.

Gaspar attended the University of Arizona where he majored in Literature, with an emphasis on 20th Century American Literature and is currently pursuing a BS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology at the University of Texas, Dallas.

Mr. Escobar teaches: MS World Geography, MS English A & B, High School English, Intro to HS Writing, Intermediate High School Writing, World Literature for High School and Middle School, Middle School Writing, and Advanced Composition for High Schoolers.

Ian Seamans is currently finishing his Bachelor’s of Science in International Political Economy at the University of Texas at Dallas and is teaching full-time at Gray Matter. He is a Prometheus alumni and began TA’ing there in 2016. He began teaching at Gray Matter in 2018 with middle school science classes and high school speech and debate. In his free time he enjoys volunteer work, learning new skills at the Dallas Makerspace, and performing home maintenance.

Ian teaches: MS Life Science, MS Earth Science, HS Speech and Debate, and HS Government.

Dr. Jonathan Hochberg has committed his entire career towards his passions for business and education.  He has taught Entrepreneurship, Global Business and Leadership at the middle school, high school, undergraduate and graduate levels.  Dr.J. has a Doctorate degree in Education, an MBA degree in Global Business, and was a Mid-Career fellow at Princeton University.   His career includes: Serving as a senior investment officer at the Overseas Private Investment Corp., starting several for- and non-profit businesses, serving as the Associate Director of the EMBA and MBA programs at the University of Texas @ Dallas, leading as the first Middle School teacher at the Robert Muller Center for Living Ethics, teaching Passionate Entrepreneurship and Global Business at the former Prometheus Academy, and currently teaches online MBA courses on Global Business at Walden and Iowa Universities.

Dr. J teaches: Passionate Entrepreneurship & Global Business Foundations

Julie Poe is a homeschool mom who has loved teaching at The Prometheus Academy for three years.  She has also taught grammar, writing, reading, and listening and speaking classes in the English as a Second or Other Language program.  She has been addicted to teaching since childhood, when she lined her dolls and stuffed animals up in front of a chalkboard and started conveying all the knowledge she had.

Mrs. Poe teaches the following middle school courses:  Middle School English

Mrs. Poe also teaches the following high school courses: Spanish 1 and Spanish 2.

Katy Gordon earned her B.S. from Texas A&M University in Atmospheric Sciences/Meteorology and went on to complete her M.S. in Environmental Science at UTA. She has been teaching high school level Math and Science for 12 years, and specializes in working with students who have learning differences.  She has received multiple teaching awards and loves to teach in a diverse classroom of learners. Her teaching methods focus on student discovery through labs and other investigations. In her free time, Katy loves to volunteer with a local animal rescue and work in her garden.

Ms. Gordon teaches: Integrated Physics and Chemistry, Honors Chemistry, and Honors Physics.

Laura Woolley studied Anthropology at Texas State University.  While attending college, she worked as a teaching assistant for both Educational Psychology and General Studies. Before making the decision to homeschool her children, Laura was a teacher at Starbright Preschool in Austin for four years. Laura has homeschooled her three children for the past twenty years, each child from elementary through high school.

Her oldest child, Cameron, graduated Suma Cum Laude from SMU with both a Degree of Economics and a Degree of Philosophy after being awarded the highly-selective Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.  He is now working toward his Masters of Education in higher education policy & leadership at SMU. Her second child, Renée, is a sophomore at the The University of Texas in Austin and is working toward a degree in Radio, Television and Film. Renée was a semi-finalist for the competitive Jack Kent Cooke Foundation College Scholarship. Her third child, Emma, is a rising senior in high school. She is a very active volunteer for the S.P.C.A. in McKinney. For her senior year, Emma will be taking dual credit courses at Collin College.

Some of Laura’s homeschooling leadership roles include Secretary on the SAIL Board of Directors, Robotics Coach for the SAIL Robotics team, Girl Scout Leader, and teacher in her homeschool co-op for ten years. Additionally, she taught at The Prometheus Academy for five years. Laura is passionate about providing children with wonderful opportunities to realize their full potential and has dedicated most of her adult life to this single focus.

Laura teaches: Middle School Engineering, Critical Thinking, Introduction to Formal Logic, Lego Mechanisms, and Robotics.

Mary Kimble-Hellen earned a B.S. in Community Health and a minor in Dance from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. In 1990 her family moved to the great state of Texas where she attended Texas Woman’s University and received her Texas Teaching Certificate 1 – 8 Grade. Mary and her husband Randy raised a son who received an academic scholarship to University Texas Dallas where he graduated Magna Cum Laude and a daughter who graduated from Texas Tech University. Mary taught 11 years for McKinney ISD at the Elementary and Middle School levels. After retiring from public school in 2004 Mary opened her own tutoring business. She became a Certified Yoga teacher in 1998 and is currently teaching at Grateful Yoga in Allen. She has taught Yoga for Kids and ran several Summer Yoga Camps in McKinney. Her passion for dance led her to open Joyful Dance Studio in McKinney for 9 years. She enjoys spending time with her two granddaughters, playing with her Golden Retriever and going on bicycle rides with her husband.

Ms. Mary teaches: Yoga & Creative Writing and Texas History.

Mohamed Ibrahim earned his Master’s degrees in Microbiology at Cairo University in Giza, Egypt, and my Ph.D. in Molecular Biology at the college of Agriculture, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY. After receiving his Ph.D., he went back to Egypt and worked as a director for the Microbial Molecular Biotechnology laboratory at the Agriculture Genetic Engineering Research Institute in Egypt. During that time, his major research interest was the biological control of insect pests and fungal disease using several molecular biology and genetic engineering approaches. He also taught microbial biotechnology at Cairo University. Few years later, he moved back to the U.S. where he worked as a Research Scientist at University of Texas, Dallas, where his major research interest was protein engineering of bacterial toxins and studying toxin-receptor interaction and signal transduction pathways. Then he worked as a Senior Research Scientist for two biotechnology companies. He worked first for Biological Targets Inc. (2005- 2009) and then join Custom Gene LLC., (2009- 2016) before moving to Collin College and Richland College, where he’s currently teaching Biology and Microbiology, respectively.

Dr. Ibrahim teaches: Advanced Biotechnology

Stephen Escobar studied Political Science at the University of Texas at Austin. He worked as a youth counsellor for middle school boys in Philadelphia, PA where he discovered a passion for education and helping children grow. He then worked at the Texas State Capitol for four years before moving to Berlin, Germany to manage a hedge fund. 

Stephen believes that education should be dynamic and engaging and that history is an intertwining of complex stories, not simply a collection of dates and events.

Stephen teaches World History. He is also the brother of fellow GreyMatter teacher Gaspar Escobar.

Tammy Long earned her B.S in Mathematics from Southern Methodist University and her M.Ed. Curriculum & Instruction from Texas A&M Commerce.  She has 18 years of experience teaching math in the public, private, and homeschooling sector.  She is certified by the state of Texas to teach grades 6-12 including developmental math at the community college level.  She is working towards her masters in mathematics.  Her teaching philosophy includes fostering a growth mindset to set students up to be life-long learners.  She loves both doing math and teaching it.  Her hobbies include creating things: crochet, knitting, woodworking, gardening, Arduino boards, coding, etc.  She also enjoys hanging out with her three grown children and youngest that is still at home.  Ms. Long wants all her students to truly believe they can achieve any goal, INCLUDING MATH, with effort and practice.

Ms. Long teaches: Middle School and High School Math classes.

Vik Marcussen is an alumnus of the original Prometheus Academy, and was given the space to explore his love of the life sciences under the tutelage of Deborah Hill through two levels of biology and three levels of biotechnology. He has a passion for formal logic and the scientific method, and after earning a degree in science, he’s taking a break from school to teach and work on his own projects before pursuing a specialized degree in sustainable engineering. Vik strongly believes in the value of hands-on experience as the best way to generate a better understanding of the world, and has trained and volunteered with organizations such as the Plano Water Quality Assessment Team to further his own real-world experience.

Mr. Vik teaches: Honors Biology

Gray Matter Staff:

Andi VanGoey is an energetic and enthusiastic person. She’s been passionate about climbing for the last three years. She enjoys pushing herself, and the sense of accomplishment from completing increasingly difficult climbing routes. She loves animals of all kinds. She worked for the Boy Scouts of America as an educator about snakes and reptiles, and currently provides physical therapy assistance for a friends dog.

She’s excited to meet all her new friends at Gray Matter, and be able to help make everyone’s experience there a little more positive every day!

Jen Mrla-Gray is the owner and director of Gray Matter. She has her Bachelor of Social Work degree from the University of Texas, has been involved in several businesses since 2000, and has homeschooled her 2 kids since 2008. She has always looked for ways to outsource what she felt she could not teach (or did not want to), and happily enrolled her kids in The Prometheus Academy in 2015. When Prometheus decided to close its doors at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, she decided that this community resource was too important to shut down.

When Ms. Jen’s not knee deep in school administration, marketing, and planning, she enjoys learning about history and this amazing world through travel (and even the mysterious underwater world through scuba diving).

Ms. Jen is very excited about the opportunities that Dual Enrollment offers Texas homeschoolers!