We are back with another round of introductions to our hard-working directors at Almond Acres Charter Academy. This time, we’d like to introduce you to Amber Wilkerson, our new Special Education Director and two familiar faces: Amy Baker, Program Director and Amy Brabenec, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Coordinator. Read on to find out about the varied paths each staff member took to get to AACA and what they love to do in their free time. 

Profile photo of Amber Wilkerson, Special Education Director at Almond Acres Charter Academy

Amber Wilkerson, Special Education Director

How long have you worked at Almond Acres?

I was officially offered the position of Special Education Director in June. I’ve been boots on the ground since!

When did you know you wanted to work in education?

My first teaching position was before No Child Left Behind legislation and I taught a Special Day Class prior to having my credential. From day one I knew it was my jam. I have taught for 20 plus years, all as a special education teacher, and have never felt burnt out. I think that says a lot about my passion…I can’t imagine being in any other setting. I love working with students, teachers, and families. 

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My favorite teachers were in first, second, third grade and my junior English teacher. It wasn’t one thing they did or taught, rather how they made me feel as a learner. I was a pretty big goof off in high school and I remember my English teacher telling me that he was submitting my name for Honors Senior English. He said he saw and heard something in my writing and wanted to develop it. Of course, I didn’t complete the summer pre-course work! Ha! These days, Dr.Vick, my Dissertation Chair, has become my favorite teacher. It has taken his feedback and expertise to get me this far!

What do you love most about your role?

I have been an administrator before and chose to go back into the classroom because the job was too far removed from kids. I accepted this position because it is a perfect blend of student and family interaction and supporting teachers and special education programs. I also fell in love with the philosophy of the school!

What else would you like us to know about YOU?

I love reading. I am obsessed with my yellow Lab, Sadie Mae, and my Doberman, Duke. I have 3 geese that I hatched in my classroom who follow me everywhere. I have been married for 26 years, and have three amazing daughters. My oldest will play Goalkeeper for Cal Poly next year!

Profile picture of Amy Baker, Program Director at Almond Acres Charter Academy

Amy Baker, K-8 Program Director

How long have you worked at Almond Acres?

I am one of the founders of AACA, and one of the current administrators as the Program Director. I helped to develop the Charter petition and have helped to implement the programs as a staff member since AACA opened in 2012. 

When did you know you wanted to work in education?

I wanted to work with kiddos as far as I can remember. Both of my parents were teachers. I grew up hanging out in my dad’s classroom after school, on the weekends, and during the summer. I loved playing school when I was little, and of course, I was always “the teacher”.  All of my jobs had to do with kiddos, from babysitting to working at the Boys and Girls Club and the Y, to coaching sports, to working through Americorps, etc.   

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My favorite teacher was Mrs. Leslie Moss for fourth grade at Winifred Pifer in Paso Robles.  She made all students feel cared for, listened to, and loved.  She made learning fun and engaging! We are still in contact today. 🙂  

How does AACA’s mission and vision align with your personal values?

Our mission at AACA is to help students be successful both academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body, and soul. At AACA, we use a Formation of Learning Framework and Philosophy in all aspects of our school. This allows us to focus on four key areas in all that we do: disposition, knowledge, reasoning, and creativity. We have chosen programs and curriculum that fit into our framework and philosophy. They also allow us to easily differentiate in order to meet the needs of both accelerated learners, as well as struggling ones. It aligns with my values because I helped to create the educational program for this school and is what I truly believe in as an educator.  

As an administrator, I have seen the positive impact that this school has made on so many students over the past 9 years. I have also been fortunate enough to have my daughter, Amelia, go through AACA since Kindergarten and she is now in 6th grade. Her experience at AACA has far exceeded what I could have ever imagined for her, both socially-emotionally and academically.

AACA is small, but mighty. Our faculty is extremely dedicated to all students.  They go above and beyond daily to work with students based on their individual needs in all areas.

What do you love most about your role?

I absolutely LOVE the team of people that I work with…they are so supportive personally and professionally. They bring happiness and laughter to my days! I LOVE seeing the teachers grow as educators and succeed because we truly have the most amazing educators! I LOVE watching students experience aha moments, build confidence, and shine in the ways that they are most talented. 

What else would you like us to know about YOU?

I own another business in downtown Paso, so when I am not at school, I am often there! I LOVE to spend time with my family and friends, as they are the most important part of my life. I LOVE games, especially board games, and sports, especially college basketball, professional baseball, and football. I LOVE watching productions, especially the ones that my daughter is in. I LOVE to travel throughout this country and to other countries whenever possible. I LOVE helping people.   

Profile picture of Amy Brabenec, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Coordinator at Almond Acres Charter Academy

Amy Brabenec, Multi-Tiered Systems of Support Coordinator

How long have you worked at Almond Acres?

This is my 10th year at AACA. I taught kindergarten for the last nine years at AACA! 

When did you know you wanted to work in education?

At the end of the school year, teachers would give me their extra copies of worksheets and I would play school in the summer. That is probably the first clue that I wanted to work in education.

Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My favorite elementary school teacher was Mrs. Walters in 2nd grade. She brought out the best in me.

How does AACA’s mission and vision align with your personal values?

Our goal at AACA is to teach students how to learn and to be comfortable with the process of learning. I grew up in 4-H and earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Cal Poly where the motto is Learn by Doing. There are principles and habits we teach at AACA that apply to all areas of life and I am a better wife, mother, friend, and teacher when I live by them.

What do you love most about your role?

I get to work with students of all ages and that makes me very happy!

What else would you like us to know about YOU?

We are big San Francisco Giants fans in our family, so any chance to watch a game is fun for me. At least once a day you can find me walking with my husband, Mike, and our dog, Piper. Our son, Noah, and daughter, Ava, are young adults now, and it’s an awesome gift to watch them continue to grow.

About AACA

Almond Acres Charter Academy is a public, tuition-free K-8 school that employs credentialed teachers and administers state-mandated testing to provide families in northern SLO County an additional choice in public education. Open to all students from all communities, AACA is currently in a temporary Paso Robles location until our new purpose built building opens for the 2021-2022 school year. AACA’s mission is to help students succeed academically and socially by educating the whole child: heart, mind, body and soul. We grow great kids!