To educate the community for a better future.
To achieve its vision, Star Learning seeks to contribute to the community by creating an equal opportunity for learning and to ensure that every one has access to shape their future by educating themselves through programs we create.
Emrah Beytur is a nationally recognized math teacher who joined Star Learning in 2013. Emrah taught math for six years in Little Rock, Arkansas before joining Star Learning. In 2008, Emrah was recognized by the Mathematics Association of America with their prestigious Edyth May Sliffe Award for Distinguished Mathematics Teaching; he was one of only 51 middle-school teachers nationally that were awarded that recognition. Emrah coached state-champion MATHCOUNTS teams in Arkansas in 2008 and 2009.
Dr. Zachary Franco completed his B.S. at Harvard in mathematics and continued to finish his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of California Berkley. In the past, he taught math to gifted high school students at Hampshire College Studies Program, Young Scholars Program, and Center for Talented Youth, Indiana ARML. He is also the founder and director of Houston Math Circle. Dr. Franco is one of the questions writers for AMC and ARML. Dr. Franco helped coach the 1985 and 1986 USAMO teams, which finished 1st and 2nd place at IMO. He has helped coach students USAMO for the last 20 years. As a math contestant participant, he has led the Stuyvesant HS Math team and Harvard Putman Team.
Joe Bernhart has been teaching secondary English Language Arts for the past 20 years in Houston and Fort Bend ISD. He is certified in gifted and talented education and English Language Arts (6-12) by the Texas Education Agency. Currently, he teaches ELA grades 7 and 8 at the Quail Valley Middle School Academy for the Gifted and Talented. He is a published author of Stand Up! Speak Out! The Social Action Curriculum for 21st Century Learners and was featured in the Corporation for Public Broadcasting/Maryland Public Television professional development video series called Making Meaning in Literature. He is also co-owner of GTInnovators, LLC, a company that provides teachers around the state of Texas with professional development specifically in the area of teaching gifted learners. He earned his master’s degree in teaching from the University of Houston-Downtown in 2005, graduating with honors. He also has over 5 years of experience teaching SAT Reading and Writing and offers a plethora of strategies to help students progress in their reading and writing skills in general.
Mr. Kaya has 2 Masters of Science degrees in Mathematics, and is currently working on his Doctorate. His experience includes 18 years of national and international Math Olympiads, and 20 years of working in education. He served as a math teacher and Olympiad Coordinator for high schools and universities in Turkey. He has 7 years of experience as a public school Dean of Academics. Mr. Kaya has organized and presented numerous Mathematical Olympiads and Science Fairs, and he has published four books on the subjects of Combinatorics, Algebra, and Number Theory. His students have won over 200 medals from these competitions. He can teach all levels of Math Olympiads, including IMO, USAMO, AIME, AMC 8-12, and Mathcounts.
Dana Godfrey began teaching English right out of college, and has been teaching for the past 12 years. She is certified in English Language Arts (6-12) and Speech by the Texas Education Agency. Dana graduated from The University of Texas at Austin where she also received a scholarship to play basketball there. Before coming to Houston, Dana taught in the Mansfield ISD school system, where she also acted as the campus Academic Advisor. She revitalized the English department’s goals and assisted her school in becoming a recognized campus. In 2007 Dana initiated a plan to incorporate more technology into the classroom by writing a grant for Mansfield ISD and as a result her school received $3000 in grant money to purchase Kindles. She is a committed teacher whose goal is to help students succeed and to help prepare them for the future.
Robin Maly is a teacher for 6th and 7th grade ELA students at Quail Valley Middle School, and also the mother of 3 young children. Robin enjoys reading and writing in her spare time, and attributes much of her success in the classroom to ABYDOS training. Robin has taught ages Pre-K through high school the subjects of Science, ELA, Interdisciplinary Studies, Theology, and Theater Arts. And while her history with the performing arts holds a special place in her heart, the last 3 years that Robin has spent teaching ELA at Quail Valley has proven to be a favorite part of her career journey. Ever grateful for opportunities to challenge and sharpen young minds, Robin is happy to be a part of the innovative and empowering work taking place at Star Learning.
Gwen Curtice has been teaching for 40 years with 30 years in elementary and the last 10 years in middle school, specifically mathematics. She opened the Quail Valley Middle School Academy for Gifted/Talented and currently teaches 6th and 7th grade mathematics and the Competition Math Elective. She initiated and coaches the Raidermath Math Club that took first place in General Math in the 5A division at the Texas Math and Science Coaches Association (TMSCA) State Competition in 2014.
Chandra West-Fort has been an English Language Arts educator for twenty years. Before coming to Houston, she taught English to secondary students, from at-risk to gifted and talented, in Georgia and Alabama and has tutored students for the SAT, ACT, and graduation exams. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of English Language Arts Education at North American University where she teaches a variety of writing and education courses. She also supervises English Language Arts interns.
Dr. Ming Zhang graduated from University of Science and Technology of China and obtained his Ph.D. from Rice University with background in mathematics and computer science. He has worked as an assistant professor at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley. With over 15 years of algorithm development and trading experience, Dr. Zhang now enjoys teaching students in mathematics, statistics, physics, computer science and investments.
Megan Kent has been teaching math and science in Sugar Land for 10 years. She started with elementary students at Southminster School, then moved up to 6th-9th grade math at Cornerstone Christian Academy, and has spent the last 2 years at Quail Valley Middle School. She co-taught the award winning math competition team with Mrs. Curtice and Mrs. Nal in the 2014-2015 school year. Mrs. Kent has a special talent for relating to young people in ways that foster a level of comfort and safety. Mrs. Kent, her husband, and 3 children have lived in Sugar Land for 25 years.
Troy Drayton is co-author of Stand Up, Speak Out: The Social Action Curriculum for Building 21st Century Skills. He has been a classroom teacher at Quail Valley Middle School in Fort Bend ISD for 14 years, earning distinctions as a Fort Bend ISD Secondary Teacher of the Year Finalist in 2009 and Texas Association of Gifted and Talented (TAGT) Gulf Coast Teacher of the Year in 2012. In addition to his role in the classroom, he has served as English/Language Arts Department Head, curriculum writer, instructional coach, professional development provider, and interventionist. After presenting for Fort Bend ISD and the TAGT and Texas Council of English Language Arts (TCTELA) state conferences independently for many years, he co-founded the GT Innovators LLC in 2011 and travels over the summer engaging teachers in high quality, interactive professional development in districts across Texas. Since earning his Master’s Degree from the University of Houston in Educational Administration and Supervision in 2008, he has remained in the classroom because of the challenge and inspiration found through daily interactions with students.
Mr. Sunny has a Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering and a Master's Degree in Environmental Engineering. He has more than 20 years of experience as a software engineer and has primarily worked in the oil and gas industry. As the coach of the Math & Science Team at Beckendorff Junior High comprising of about 55 students, Mr. Sunny has had the joy of building an academic team from the ground up to a state level contender in TMSCA in the past 3 years. Beckendorff Junior High took 2nd place in Texas in the 2016 Math Counts State Competition and 3rd place in Texas for the 2015 and 2016 TMSCA State Championships.
As a volunteer event coach at Beckendorff, Mr. Sunny has also coached State Champion and National Runner Up teams for specific events in Science Olympiad. In addition, Mr. Sunny has coached his son (Shanth Koka), a key member in the above award winning teams. Shanth has finished 2nd place (five times) in the State of Texas at the TMSCA State Championships and is also the current Texas State Champion in several Science Olympiad events. Shanth has also won 1st place across multiple categories and events at various TMSCA State Qualifiers and Science Olympiad Invitational Tournaments.
Morgan Allen has been teaching at Beckendorff JH for 4 years and is certified by the Texas Education Agency in Math (4-8), General Education (EC-6), and ESL (K-12). She is also GT Certified through Katy ISD. Morgan has been the sponsor of the TMSCA Math & Science Team for 3 years, the coach of the Math Counts team for 2 years and is the coach for the Science Olympiad team that won the State Championship this year. Morgan graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Agribusiness, and then obtained a Master’s degree in Elementary Education from Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. Before moving to Houston, Morgan taught at Flour Bluff Junior High.
Tina Faris graduated from San Diego State University in California where she received her certification in General Education and English (1-8) and ESL (1-8). In her 15 years of teaching she has taught grades 3-5 in California, as well as here in Katy. Four years ago, she made the move to junior high where she join the Beckendorff Jr. High team teaching 7th grade English Language Arts. Tina believes that all students can succeed with the right support system and is excited about her role here at Star Learning.
Dr. Namli taught advanced math, including Calculus I, II and Advanced Problem Solving, at Louisiana State University for six years as he worked towards obtaining his Ph.D. As a high-school student, Dr. Namli won the bronze medal at the International Mathematics Olympiad, a world-wide Mathematics Competition with over 100 countries participating. He has a passion for Math and works to inspire all of the students he teaches.
Mr. Berkowitz is certified by the Texas Education Agency in Mathematics (7-12 and 4-8) and has been a long-term substitute teacher at Taylor High School for the past 8 years. Before becoming a teacher, Mr. Berkowitz spent many years as an engineer, where his love for inventing blossomed. He created an inventing workshop class to inspire students to start creating from a young age. He has held over 40 inventor’s workshops and loves engaging students in math and science with practical projects.
Kenan Yesilyurt, a Texas certified math teacher currently teaching AP Statistics, AP Calculus in Harmony School of Science-Sugar land. He has been teaching with Harmony Public Schools since 2000. Before that he was teaching in a Russian Gifted Boarding school in which he was preparing his students to the International Math Olympiads. His student ranked 11th place overall Russian Olympic team. In many occasions he was recognized the Teacher of the year in the Republic of Bashkortostan in Russia. He is and has been coaching Math count, UIL Math competitions, AMC-8, AMC 10&12 competition since 2000. Married and have 3 boys.
Stancie has been involved in education for over 25 years. Formerly with University of Houston System (UH-Clear Lake, UH-Off Campus Institutes, etc.), she has served in both administrative, as well as teaching capacities. She is currently adjunct faculty with North American University, where she teaches reading, writing, education, business and law classes. She has been a tutor specializing in ACT and SAT for over 10 years.
Weston obtained his B.A. in Political Science at St. Mary's University in San Antonio and his M.S. in Higher Education at University of Pennsylvania. He began his career in education as the speech and debate coach at William B. Travis High School in Richmond, Texas. During his time leading the Travis program, the team achieved its first ever National Forensic League national qualifiers, first University Interscholastic League state qualifier, first Extemporaneous Speaking Tournament of Champions qualifiers, and First Texas Forensic Association state finalist.
Currently, Weston serves as the Director of Forensics at Obra D. Tompkins High School where he has guided the school's young team to numerous state and national qualifications its first three years of existence. This year, his team qualified four students - including a freshman - to the NSDA National Tournament (Congressional Debate, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, United States & International Extemp).