Marla Babin

PE Teacher, grades 1-5


I am beginning my third year as a PE teacher for Shady Oak Primary School.  Both my sons Jake and Josh attend Shady Oak schools.  Jake is in 3rd grade in Shady Oak Primary, Josh is in Kindergarten at Shady Oak Christian School.

I graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in Exercise and Sports Sciences and a minor in nutrition.  My current certifications are with the AFAA (Aerobic and Fitness Association of America)

My experience includes 10 years in the medical industry and 20 years in the fitness industry.  I am currently a personal trainer for the T.W. Davis YMCA for over 12 years.  It is important to me that our children correctly learn how to exercise.  Our emphasis will be on core exercises, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and cardio vascular improvement—while having fun!


Lauren Brady

Music Teacher, grades 1-5


I first became involved with Shady Oak in 2013 when I enrolled my three daughters after moving back to the Richmond area. They have all thrived and grown intellectually, socially and in a vast array of other ways while learning from some of the best teachers and role models in early childhood education. I love Shady Oak’s philosophy to focus on the whole child and can attest to the effectiveness of that principle in my own daughters.

I have been involved in teaching and performing music since 1998. Music is a universal language and essential to helping students develop important skills such as perseverance, time management, patience and cooperation. Music not only benefits the mind in terms of expanding intelligence and critical thinking, but also broadens the emotional depth and connection to those around us.

After introducing many children and adults to the benefits and mind-broadening benefits of music, I am excited to join Shady Oak in introducing its students to it as well. I have taught in Clear Creek ISD and Friendswood ISD and am currently teaching in both Lamar CISD and Fort Bend ISD. I have worked with students individually and in groups from ages seven to adult.

I received my master’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and bachelor of music degree from Northwestern University. I have performed in Oregon, California, Germany, Illinois and Texas with a wide variety of orchestras and bands. The most recent include the Houston Civic Symphony and Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra.


Rachel Brooks

Primary Teacher, grades 1 & 2


I am so blessed to join Shady Oak Primary’s team of master administrators and teachers. I graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in bilingual education (Spanish and English), and I taught bilingual first graders in Bryan, Texas before I moved to Richmond.

I absolutely love Shady Oak’s relentless commitment to children’s success in all aspects of learning. It is so wonderful to teach at a school that truly has students’ success as its main goal.

Shady Oak is outstandingly true to its philosophy, and I really see students benefit because of it. They learn through discovery, they build confidence, they gain important values, they learn people skills, and they learn to see themselves and others as valuable, kind people who have the power to make a difference.

Shady Oak knows exactly what students need to be successful, and we do not rest until we have provided just that.


Sheila Cook

Math Teacher, grades 3-5


Hi! My name is Sheila Cook. I am so excited to be a part of the Shady Oak Primary team. I am teaching the third, fourth and fifth graders this year. I have a long history with Shady Oak. All three of my children came to this wonderful and special place to learn!

The first moment we visited the school we knew it was the right place for our family. The children were engaged and happy, and learning at an age-appropriate level. The teachers were using many different techniques to teach the whole child. My children thrived here, and I am so glad to be a part of it again.

My goal is to work with each child at their learning level and learning style. I believe this allows them the greatest opportunity to succeed. I have been involved in many different educational environments (both public and private). Shady Oak allows a child to excel at their own pace, within their own distinct learning style. That is so refreshing! I believe if you allow children to fundamentally learn the basics of reading, writing, and math, then they will be able to do well with more complex subjects. Many schools don't allow the time for children to really soak up the basics of learning! The children are rushed from one subject to another. Shady Oak believes that once a child masters the basics every other subject becomes easier.

I have a degree in elementary education with a math specialization for 6-8th grades. I taught math for 8 years. I have tutored for many years and have substituted in the public schools. I also have an Educational Therapy Certification, and am truly passionate about education.

I love working with children and my passion is finding out how each child learns and using that to individualize the instruction for that strength. I am thankful and blessed to be here.


Ellen Graham

Primary Teacher, grades 1 & 2


It is an honor and a privilege for me to be joining the Shady Oak Primary School team! I have been a Special Education inclusion and resource teacher for Kindergarten through third grade with Lamar Consolidated Independent School District for the last 6 years, and a paraprofessional there for 4 years before that. I am trained in the Nurtured Heart Approach and I believe building inner wealth in our students promotes their greatness. I love teaching children about the world around them, and letting them experience it through whatever means works best for them as individuals!
My husband and I are the proud parents of two children who have been attending Gateway America Preparatory School in Richmond, Texas. We found Gateway when our daughter Irina was approaching middle school, and placed our son Alek there when he was in the 8th grade. Alek graduated from Gateway last year, and Irina is currently in her senior year. We were blessed with our children by way of Russia. While we were there to bring our son home, we were told he had a sister that would “soon” be available for adoption. When they asked if we would be interested in bringing her home as well, we immediately said, “Yes!” We adopted Alek in 1998 and Irina in 1999 exactly one year apart to the day. Through my experiences as a parent and teacher, I have learned that allowing children to progress at their own pace promotes their higher learning and self-confidence.
That is what sent me on my quest to find a school that practices the same approach to education; giving social and life skills the same emphasis as academics. I am thrilled to have found Shady Oak Primary as a school that does just that! Shady Oak’s philosophies of helping children become problem solvers during their formative years, nurturing them to make well thought out decisions about how to manage themselves and how to treat others really resonates with me. By allowing children to be children, teaching academics at age-appropriate levels, in a relaxed, positive atmosphere, we create what I believe all children have the right to experience. Shady Oak feels like home to me already. Being a life-long learner myself, I am looking forward to fostering a love of learning in our next generation of leaders! I am SO excited to be a part of this gem of a school in our community!


Rachel Higgens

Science Teacher, grades 3-5


Hello. My name is Rachel Higgens. I began my journey with Shady Oak as a parent of three students. The amazing community of staff and families that supported each other and were so willing to be involved each child's education was life altering for my family. Seeing my children thrive in this atmosphere and learn to love school, I knew that I had to become a more integral part of Shady Oak. Not just for my children, but for all the children. Shady Oak nurtures every child's strengths and talents, making learning interesting and fun. This approach is exactly what took my daughter from being physically ill from the pressures of first grade, to being the first ready to leave for school every day.

I have a degree in child psychology; while earning my degree I discovered that I am dyslexic. Despite that I graduated with honors. I am an avid reader and truly appreciate the written word. As my children grew I discovered two of them are also dyslexic. Being dyslexic gives me a real opportunity to understand why some things are more difficult for some children to learn and allows me the great joy in helping them figure out how they learn best. This partners perfectly with the Nurtured Heart Approach of learning at Shady Oak. “Learning Disabilities” are simply opportunities to learn outside the box.

As the science teacher for 3rd through 5th grade I guarantee my excitement for science will become contagious and rub off on every child. For all lessons I use at least one hand on experiment or project. This method allows children to truly learn and understand, not just be able to repeat the idea back. My goal is that all children not only understand but crave a deeper understanding of many different scientific theories and disciplines. Also that they can't wait to come home and share with you all they have learned. As an autodidact, or self-taught person, I have researched many different areas of science to its most current understanding. As a member of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) I have access to the most up to date lessons in the Next Generation Science Strategies (NGSS) as well as professional scientists to explain real world applications and practices.


Brandy Parratt

Administrative/Teacher Assistant, Art Teacher, grades 1 & 2


Hi, my name is Brandy Parratt and I am so excited and blessed to join the Shady Oak Primary School faculty this fall 2016. In 2010, I graduated from University of Houston with a Bachelor degree in Psychology and then trained through Region 4 in Early Childhood through 6th Grade and ESL. After graduating, I worked in the private school sector for a few years as a Teacher’s Assistant and later as an Art Teacher and Yearbook Director. I was born and raised in the Houston area but have lived in Richmond for the past 13 years. I have three miniature dogs named Stanley, Hiccup and Girlfriend who are truly my little "fur-babies".

I look forward to working at Shady Oak Primary School and helping to inspire students to be the best version of themselves. I love that the goal and philosophy at Shady Oak is to develop the whole child - mentally and emotionally. Each student is important and unique as an individual. I feel it is important to provide a positive, nurturing, safe school environment where students can truly learn, grow, and develop into the best young individuals they can be both academically and personally.


Nancy Wenzel

Assistant Director, Social Studies Teacher grades 3-5


I believe that, “Shady Oak exists to preserve childhood in boys and girls through developmentally appropriate education”, and this is more than a simple mantra. Throughout the 15 years I have worked here I’ve watched children blossom and thrive under this philosophy: developmentally appropriate education is not just a catch phrase, it is a method to engage children to deeper and more meaningful learning.

Every year I am filled with awe as I watch our students rise to challenges academically, socially, and emotionally; a result of the holistic education they receive here. Math skills are combined with practical life skills as children use real coins to purchase ever changing items at the school store. Social studies and science are seamlessly integrated as students of ancient Egypt learn to mummify a chicken. I love watching the yearly transition as our students learn conflict resolution, how to rectify their wrongs, how to let their voices be heard. The evolution of their responsible citizenry is tangible.

Shady Oak works because it doesn't lose sight of its mission. As a mother, as a grandmother, and as an educator I know that what we have here is special because we cherish the opportunity to educate the whole child.


Stephanie Wheatley

English Language Arts and Art teacher, grades 3-5


I have been the Primary Art Teacher at Shady Oak since 2009 and have also been a teacher’s assistant for three of those years. I am also a former Shady Oak parent and for the past 16 years have continued to support and be involved with the school. In 1998 I enrolled my children at Shady Oak. My daughter attended from readiness through 1st grade. My family had recently moved back to Richmond from a 3 year posting in Dubai and I was keen to make the transition for my children as smooth as possible. A friend recommended the school and spoke so highly of the program that I didn’t hesitate to enroll my son and daughter. My first impression was how comfortable the environment felt. Outside there were many opportunities for pretend play with the provision of dress up clothes, old cameras, kitchen utensils etc. The huge sandbox was a big favorite of my daughter’s and she still talks about the ‘prairie dog’ tunnels she would make with her friends. I loved that the children were encouraged to explore their environment from the leaves on the trees to the squirrels that lived in them. Learning through exploration and play is central to Shady Oak’s program. It is committed to fostering a love for learning in its students by making it fun. Cherishing each child as an individual is also central to Shady Oak’s program. I love how hard the staff works to instill a sense of fairness in the children. Everyone’s feelings are acknowledged and the children quickly learn to resolve conflicts through constructive language and problem solving. My children learned early on how to be part of a community through being responsible for cleaning up common play areas to working on group projects. I think the biggest and lasting impact that Shady Oak has had, has been to shape my children into independent and confident learners. These are just some of the reasons why I love teaching at Shady Oak and have been intentional about remaining connected to the school because I believe so strongly in its philosophy. I developed a passion for art 25 years ago and am delighted that I am able to teach what I love. I have worked with children in various capacities including numerous volunteer programs and as the Children’s Ministry Assistant at Faith United Methodist Church in Richmond. I received a Masters in Library Science in 2001 and hope to put these skills to use by developing the library at Shady Oak.