BOARD OF DIRECTORS

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CELEST AUSTIN MD, PhD

President

Growing up with a sister who is on the autism spectrum, Celest Austin understood at a young age the struggles of teaching language to children on the spectrum. After working as a behavioral therapist technician and graduating from University of Texas in Austin with a B.S. in Human Biology, Celest pursued a dual degree M.D. and Ph.D. from University of Texas School of Medicine at San Antonio. After 9 years of studies, she graduated in 2016 with her thesis focused on the neurophysiology of autism. Using her background in medical science and her devotion for children on the spectrum, Dr. Austin founded Modello Learning LLC, a company that is dedicated in creating a research backed learning software that will improve the vocabulary of children like her sister using the strengths of the autism mind. On her free time, Celest enjoys hiking, playing card and computer games, and playing with her Pharaoh Hound dog.

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JOSHUA LEVY MEd, MBA

Vice President

Growing up Joshua wrote stories, designed puppet shows and composed rap songs with his sister, directed plays, sang in musicals, worked on set design, and performed in plays. He started working with special needs children while in middle school and high school. Joshua has lived in Austin, Texas since 1998, and for eight years he taught special needs children at the elementary and high school levels, and he served as an assistant principal at an elementary school and at a high school. Following his career in public education Joshua was with Pearson in State Assessments for nine years including positions as a project manager, a test development manager, and a program manager. Joshua is the Founder and Executive Director for Joshua’s Stage - the premiere enrichment program for individuals with a wide range of special needs; including after-school programs, camps, and workshops in theatre arts, improv, music, dance, photography, and Create-A-Story. Joshua also teaches informal classes for adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDDs) at the University of Texas. He has an undergraduate degree in Elementary and Special Education from the University of Nebraska, a Masters of Educational Administration from Texas State University, and an M.B.A. from the University of Texas at Dallas. Joshua is married to his wife Lori, and they have two beautiful children and two dogs.

SUZANNE BYRNE, BCBA, MEd, LBA

Secretary

Suzanne Byrne is a passionate educator and advocate for individuals with developmental disabilities.  After completing her BA in Linguistics and Psychology at Rutgers University, Suzanne began her career by teaching life skills to adults with developmental disabilities in NY. After seven years of field work with adults, she decided to pursue an advanced degree in Special Education. Receiving a fellowship to attend the University of Texas at Austin, Suzanne moved to Texas with her family. While earning a M.Ed. in Special Education with a focus on Autism and Developmental Disabilities, she began working as a teacher at the Moore-Weis Children’s Center, and as an in-home applied behavior analysis provider with Aspire. In 2009, Suzanne partnered with three parents to open a non-profit school for children with autism. She opened William’s Community School in 2011, creating an integrated therapy model for education where speech therapists, occupational therapists, behavior analysts, and teachers work collaboratively on interventions to help students learn quickly and efficiently. Suzanne is passionate about the  research and technology that can supplement learning for individuals with autism or other neurological differences. She lives in Round Rock with her patient husband, three spirited daughters, and sleepy dogs and has no spare time. If she had free time, she would read books, play board games, hike, and kayak on Lake Austin with friends.​

RICHARD HURLEY, BA, BSc Arch, BArch

Treasurer

Richard studied piano with a concert pianist for ten years and has degrees in liberal arts (philosophy and German literature) as well as architecture. After working as an architect Richard founded Hurley Piano to teach music to children with special needs in Long Island. A move to Austin Texas allowed Richard to deepen his understanding of the special needs community when he took the opportunity to work at the Williams Community School, a dedicated special needs school. Working at the school allowed him to broaden his understanding of wider therapy programs and a collaboration with therapists deepened his music program. Richard then developed ChimeCandy, a music app to teach kids the names of notes, the beta version is available both on iTunes and Google Play. In 2018 Richard teamed up with Keith Guidry to start the Lillypond Project, a tech platform to bring automation and AI to the special needs community.

BILL BYRNE

Board Member

Bill Byrne is a multimedia digital artist whose work has been exhibited internationally. Bill is a graduate from New York’s School of Visual Arts Master of Fine Arts in Photography and Related Media. His visual and sound art focuses on building surrealistic, organic worlds. He makes digital-photomontage-based prints and animated installations. As well as making art, Bill is also a professional motion graphics designer and editor for television and film. He has worked with clients such as Electronic Arts, NBC, Tiffany & Co., ABC Sports, ESPN, Panasonic, Snickers and RCA Records. His film projects include the title sequence and special effects for the independent feature Red Doors (winner, best narrative feature, Tribeca Film Festival 2005). He has also directed and animated the video for “All About House Plants” for the DVD project, Addendum by the band One Ring Zero. Bill is also a writer who has written articles for Make magazine covering various electronics and multi-media topics. Bill is now a professor of design at The Art Institute of Austin, and freelance motion graphics designer for NBC’s Austin affiliate KXAN. He lives with his wife, Suzanne in Austin, Texas.

ZARA REID, MD

Board Member

Zara is a licensed physician in Austin, Texas that obtained her medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio.  She has a special interest in the intersection of technology and healthcare education which was ignited while pursuing graduate studies. She has a Master of Science in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.  From graduate school she went on to work for Abbott Spine as a Regulatory Affairs Specialist before pursuing her medical degree. In this role she learned the importance of regulatory practices that govern quality and safety in the medical device industry.  During this time her focus turned towards patient advocacy and she had this in mind throughout her medical training. She volunteered at multiple student run free medical clinics and has continued to volunteer here in Austin at the Austin Volunteer Healthcare Clinic.  She is passionate about providing tools and resources to underrepresented populations and communities. Zara enjoys spending time with her husband, five year old daughter and two year old son.

SAM SOTO

Board Member

Mr. Soto has been a dedicated educator for 16 years. He began his career as a Dual Language Kindergarten teacher in San Antonio’s Northside ISD. While at Northside, he developed an interest in working with second language learners and students with special needs. For the past 11 years, Mr. Soto has continued his advocacy of students as an educator and administrator in Austin ISD and Round Rock ISD schools. Mr. Soto has a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University-Chicago in Political Science and Philosophy, a Masters of Bilingual Education from Our Lady of the Lake Univ. in San Antonio, and a Masters of Educational Administration from the Univ. of Texas-Austin. He is currently serving as an elementary school principal with Round Rock ISD.