Sarah Powell

Dr. Sarah Powell, Ph.D. - Principal Investigator

Sarah R. Powell, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin). She is principal investigator (PI) of SPIRAL and PI or co-PI of several other research grants, such as RAAMPS, STAIR 2.0, and SCALE. Sarah’s research and teaching interests focus on students who experience difficulty in mathematics. Sarah is grateful to the Institute of Education Sciences for funding SPIRAL, Austin Independent School District and its educators and students who participate in SPIRAL, and the SPIRAL team within The Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk (MCPER).

Katherine Berry

Katherine Berry, Ed.D. - Co-Principal Investigator

Katherine A. Berry, Ed.D., works as a senior project manager in the Department of Special Education at UT Austin. Katherine manages two Institute of Education Sciences efficacy grants related to word-problem solving for third- and fourth-grade students with mathematics difficulties. She completed her Ed.D. in special education at The George Washington University. She also holds a B.A. in art history from the University of Virginia and an M.A. in special education from Trinity Washington University. Previously, she worked as a special education teacher for grades 4–6 in Washington, DC, schools. Her work has been featured in numerous journals, including Preventing School Failure, Journal of Educational Psychology, Learning Disabilities Quarterly, and Learning Disabilities: A Multidisciplinary Journal. Katherine has presented at national conferences, including the American Educational Research Association, the Council for Exceptional Children Convention and Expo, the National Arts Education Association, and the Pacific Coast Research Conference. Her expertise is in students with specific learning disabilities, evidence-based practices in mathematics, mathematics problem solving, curriculum development, teacher training, and arts-integrated instruction.

Megan Carroll

Megan Carroll, Ph.D. - Project Manager; Recruitment and Coaching Project Lead

Megan Carroll, Ph.D., is a project manager in the Department of Special Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Megan completed her Ph.D. in special education at UT Austin. She also holds a B.A. in middle grades education from Texas A&M University and an M.A. in intercultural studies from Fuller Graduate School. Previously, Megan worked as a clinical faculty professor where she taught special education courses to early educators and worked as an instructional coach. Megan is a former teacher for grades 4–8, having taught in Texas and California schools. Megan’s research interests include increasing educators’ successful implementation of evidence-based practices, instructional coaching, and teacher professional development.

Jessica Manning-Acebo

Jessica Manning-Acebo, M.Ed. - Project Coordinator; Data Project Lead

Jessica Manning-Acebo, M.Ed., is the project coordinator for SPIRAL in the Department of Special Education at the University of Texas at Austin. Jessica has worked in public and charter schools as a special education teacher, an elementary education teacher, a reading specialist, an interventionist, and an instructional coach.  Jessica also served as the Regional Director of Professional Learning for Scholastic Education where she worked closely with school districts to identify district-wide literacy goals and create a personalized professional learning pathway to achieve those goals.  Additionally, Jessica managed state-wide literacy initiatives at the University of Texas at Austin designed to ensure that every Texas child is prepared for the literacy demands of college and careers by high school graduation.  Jessica has a passion and wealth of knowledge in professional learning, coaching, and effective instructional strategies to support striving learners.

Katie Barnicle

Katie Barnicle, M.S. - Materials Project Lead; Coach

Katie Barnicle is a Ph.D. student at The University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Special Education. Her focus is in mathematics with a concentration on learning disabilities and behavioral disorders. She holds a B.S in secondary mathematics education and a M.S. in teacher leadership. Before switching gears and moving to Austin, she taught middle and high school mathematics in Meriden, Connecticut. Katie is interested in mathematics at the secondary level with a particular focus on algebra, as well as the professional development of teachers. This is Katie’s second year working on SPIRAL. Her favorite part about SPIRAL is getting to work closely with Austin ISD teachers and providing them with tools to improve their math instruction.

Alison Hardy

Alison Hardy, M.Ed - Professional Learning Project Lead

Alison Hardy is a Ph.D student at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Special Education. She is a Texas native and an alumna of The University of North Texas and Texas Woman's University. Before starting at UT, she taught second grade for five years in Denton, TX. Her research interests include early mathematics interventions, word-problem solving, and teacher education.

Jessica Jones

Jessica Jones - Follow-Up Project Lead

Jessica Jones has been a part of MCPER since 2018, serving as a testing specialist, assessment coordinator, and translator. Previously, Jessica received her B.A. in Spanish and linguistics from UT Austin and worked in bilingual early childhood education. She enjoys working in public schools with students, teachers, and administrators, and is passionate about improving educational outcomes. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her pets, reading, listening to podcasts, and hanging out with friends and family.

Karly Conroy

Karly Conroy - Coach

Before joining SPIRAL, Karly Conroy was a special educator in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for 6 years. Karly left the classroom to pursue her Ph.D. in education policy and planning. She will miss the classroom immensely but is passionate about helping students with unique learning needs through policy. Her predominant focus is students with emotional disturbances, but she has a love for all students served through special programs. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma State University, Karly attended the University of North Texas, where she grew passionate about special education. She then received a graduate certificate in special education leadership from the University of Kansas. In her spare time, Karly enjoys playing with her active toddler, enjoying music with her husband, and watching football with her family (although cheering for the Longhorns will be new to her). She is looking forward to all that is to come in the next few years!

Emilee DeKlotz

Emilee DeKlotz - Coach

Emilee DeKlotz is a former educator from Orange County, California. Emilee spent most of her teaching career as a third-grade educator, serving as the mathematics curriculum lead in a public K–5 school. She received her bachelor’s in education from The University of Arizona. Currently, she is in her second year at UT Austin to receive a master’s in educational policy and planning. She spent her first year at UT tutoring fourth-grade math students in the RAAMPS program, watching them grow in their confidence and abilities. Her commitment to fostering equitable learning environments and advocating for positive change within the education system drives her to make an impact in the field.

Elizabeth Leonard

Elizabeth Leonard, M.Ed. - Coach

Elizabeth Leonard graduated with a M.Ed. from UT in 2022 in Autism and Developmental Disabilities and subsequently received her BCBA/LBA credentials and practices locally in the Austin area. Her teaching background spans 29 years working with children with varying disabilities as an educator and district wide as a behavior/autism specialist. She currently works on the SPIRAL program in the Meadows Center for Preventing Educational Risk as a field analyst and coach.

Daniela Padilla

Daniela Padilla - Coach

Daniela Padilla is a master’s student in the Education Policy and Planning Program at UT Austin. She is originally from the Central Valley of California and earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, San Diego. Daniela is a first-generation higher education student and the daughter of immigrants. Her experience has helped inform her decade-long work around supporting K-16 students through the education system. Daniela is passionate about mentorship as a tool for navigating the education system and believes in maintaining strong roots in community as a means of informing future work. Her education policy focus is college preparation; seeking to understand how policies can best shape a K-16 educational system that prepares diverse students to be successful, on their own terms, in a higher education context.

Aminta Perez

Aminta Perez, Ph.D. - Coach

Aminta Perez, Ph.D., graduated from Southwest Texas State University and attended and worked at the University of Iowa, where she received a doctorate in history. Aminta moved to Crawfordsville, Indiana, after accepting a position at Wabash College, one of the last all-male colleges in the United States. She taught at Wabash for a few years before moving back to Austin and accepting a position at Mendez Middle School. She taught eighth-grade social studies at Mendez until July 2022.

Michaela Pernetti

Michaela Pernetti - Coach

Michaela Pernetti earned a bachelor’s in English and political science from Santa Clara University and a master’s in public policy from the University of Chicago. Michaela is a Ph.D. student in the UT Austin College of Education and is interested in education policy—particularly, equity and inclusive classrooms. As part of the Ph.D. program, she hopes to gain experience conducting interventions in schools and evaluating their efficacy. In her free time, Michaela enjoys volunteering with Kesem, a nonprofit that provides year-round support and summer camp to children affected by a parent’s cancer.

Alexandra Ryan

Alexandra Ryan - Coach

Alexandra Ryan is a graduate student at The University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy. Prior to studying at UT, Alexandra was the education coordinator for Salt Lake City’s Mundi Project; a music education nonprofit that provides equitable access to artistic opportunities. Her time with Mundi Project sparked a need to understand how birth lottery provides learning privileges to some while disenfranchising many. As such, Alexandra’s policy focus centers on amplifying the voices of school communities and ensuring all students have access to quality education.