Stevie Ballow

TAB Instructor


"Oh!" is perhaps my favorite expression. When a child (or teen, or adult) says, "Oh!" it means that they have discovered something, that they have figured something out. When I discovered the TAB (Teaching for Artistic Behavior) method of art instruction in 2016, I had an, "Oh!" moment myself. I knew I had to bring that teaching method to the students of Shady Oak.  As a facilitator of creativity, my WHY is to hear my art students say, "Oh!" or, "Huh?" or even, "Dude!"  I want to help them know that they have ideas that work and creative, artistic voices that can and should be heard.

If someone had told me back in 1996 that in the future, I would be teaching art to children and adults, I would have laughed. I was studying to be a Biomedical Engineer, a decidedly non-artsy career. I was into math; I just wasn't the "creative type." Fast forward to today, and even though I graduated with that BS in Biomedical Engineering, my career path has taken me in a decidedly different direction that engineering.  I have been an instructor of children and adults in many different settings for almost 15 years: high school Math, Science, English, and Bible Study; after-school Science classes; elementary Sunday School; art and craft workshops for children ages 3 - adult. I am currently the instructor/facilitator for the TAB Studio Art classes for Shady Oak Primary and Fine Art Appreciation and TAB Studio Art classes at Gateway America Prep.

I enjoy the process of figuring out how things work. I enjoy making messes. I like getting expected results and unexpected ones. As it turns out, I'm into math AND art, and I use my training as an engineer and problem-solver every single day as an art instructor.

In a TAB Studio, the child is the artist; the role of an instructor is to facilitate the students' creativity, not to dictate what projects and what style or art they choose to do. Students choose what art projects they work on and what materials they use. They are encouraged to play, to try, and to discover what works and what doesn't on their own. Students are also prompted to spend more than one class period creating artwork, allowing them a chance to dive deep into the planning and execution of projects in their particular area of interest. TAB programs also include periods of reflection and critique, building confidence and community in the classroom.

Pablo Picasso is quoted as saying, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."  The TAB classroom prepares students to be problem creators AND problems solvers, communicators and collaborators, creative and critical thinkers. Not every child will pursue a career in art. But they will leave my classroom knowing that they are creative beings with huge imaginations, that they are full of grit and gristle and that they can apply the habits and practices they're learned in art to every other part of their lives.


Rachel Brooks

Primary Teacher, grades 1 & 2


I am incredibly blessed and excited to be teaching with Shady Oak Primary’s team of master administrators and teachers for the fourth year. Before coming to Shady Oak, I taught a bilingual first grade class (Spanish and English) in Bryan, Texas.

I absolutely love Shady Oak’s relentless commitment to children’s success in all aspects of learning. This school 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 collaboration skills, and they learn to see themselves and others as valuable, kind people who have the power to make a difference.

I feel that my primary purpose as a teacher is to plant seeds in students' lives that will help them to grow into capable, contributing, and kind adults.


Ellen Graham

Primary Teacher, grades 1 & 2


It is an honor and a privilege for me to be part of the Shady Oak Primary School family for the 3rd year! Shady Oak is a school that practices a wonderful approach to education; giving social and life skills the same emphasis as academics. My goal is to give each child I work with a well-rounded education so that they may contribute to society in positive, collaborative ways both now and in their futures. The school’s philosophies of helping children become problem solvers during their formative years, nurturing them, giving them time to make well thought out decisions about how to manage themselves and how to treat themselves and 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 wish all children could have the privilege to experience.

I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in vocal performance from the Crane School of Music, State University of New York in Potsdam. Becoming a mother of two ignited my passion for teaching which led me to a certification in Special Education EC-4. I have a background as an inclusion and resource teacher for Kindergarten through third grade with Lamar Consolidated Independent School District for 6 years, and a paraprofessional for 4 years before that. I am well 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. 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. I am blessed to be able to instill a love of learning in our next generation of leaders.

My free time is spent at home with my family (which includes 2 and four legged beings!), singing in my church choir and volunteering at Fort Bend County Animal Services in their Dogs Playing for Life program.


Rachel Higgens

Science Teacher, grades 3-5


Hello. My name is Rachel Higgens, “Rae.” I have been at Shady Oak for 7 years, first as a parent of 3 students and then as a teacher. As the science teacher for 3rd through 5th grade I guarantee my excitement for science will become contagious and rub off on every child. My passion is science of all types and helping children find their love for it also. 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. When any field in science makes a new discovery, I insert it into the classroom.

I am very passionate about teaching because I do believe it takes a village. Parents and teachers together are responsible for helping mold children into amazing adults. Children are limitless in their wonder, capabilities, and potential. I have a degree in child psychology and while earning my degree I discovered that I am dyslexic. Despite that I graduated with honors. As my children grew I discovered two of them are also dyslexic. Being dyslexic gives me a real opportunity to understand why some ways of learning are more difficult for some children to learn. This allows me the great joy in helping each child figure out how they learn best. This partners perfectly with the Nurtured Heart Approach of learning at Shady Oak. I do not believe in “Learning Disabilities.” Learning disorders are simply opportunities to learn outside the box.

For all lessons I use at least one hands 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.

Brandy Parratts - Assistant Director / Yearbook

Brandy Parratt

Assistant Head of School / Yearbook


It’s important to ask one’s self, "Why do I do this job?" First and most importantly, this isn’t a job to me, it’s a true privilege and honor to be able to work at a school like Shady Oak Primary. It is a real blessing to work with such an amazing group of women who are kind and who all share the same desire of “why” we do what we do - which is 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. We believe that each student is important and unique as an individual. At Shady Oak we 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.

My name is Brandy Parratt and I am so excited and blessed to be starting another wonderful year at Shady Oak Primary School. In 2010, I graduated from University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and then trained through Region 4 in Early Childhood through 6th Grade and ESL. After graduating, I began working in the private school sector as a Teacher’s Assistant and later as an Art Teacher, P.E. Teacher, 3rd-5th grade ELA, and Yearbook Director. I prefer working in smaller, private schools as there I can give more one-on-one attention to each child. I was born and raised in the Houston area but have lived in Richmond for the past 14 years. I have two small dogs (a Yorkie and a Maltese) named Hiccup and Girlfriend who are truly my little "fur-babies".

I look forward to my 3rd year as part of the Shady Oak Primary family!

Irma Chavez, Grades 3-5 Lead Teacher

Irma Chavez

Lead Teacher, grades 3–5


The overall well-being of children gives my life purpose. I am confident that God has given me the talent I have to teach others and I know that it is why I am here in this place in this moment in time. Life if made up of opportunities and decisions and each day God gives us the ability to choose what we will do. Up to this point in my life, my decisions, opportunities and choices have led me to teach because it brings me joy, fulfillment, pleasure, and growth.

I feel so blessed to be welcomed into the Shady Oak family this school year. There are not enough words to describe my anticipation and excitement in the outcome of this year and the valuable lessons that I wish to impart to those already eager and open-minded children who will fill their reserved spot in my teacher heart! It is joyful and fulfilling to be in the company of children and I'm sure I will learn valuable life lessons from them as well. Teaching is a a vocation for me, it is using the God-given talents that I have to enrich the lives of children.

This will be my 12th year in education. I graduated from Lamar University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Applied Arts in Sciences and I was awarded credit hours for my five years of service as a teacher assistant for medically fragile and vocational students in LCISD. After graduating I taught three years in FBISD as a Special Education Teacher serving grades K-3. I was able to teach and instill my own love of reading and social studies to children when I became a 2nd grade teacher for two years. Prior to coming to Shady Oak, I served one more year as a Special Education Teacher with grades K-5.

I believe that we all must make each day better than the one before and that we should maintain a positive outlook on life no matter what situation we are in. I know that mistakes are portals of discovery if we allow ourselves to learn and grow from them.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your life and your child's life. I hope to continue to instill into every one of my students the notion I learned from my late father: knowledge is a weightless treasure that can always be carried easily.

Rachel DePavia - Math Teacher Grades 3-5

Rachel DePavia

Math Teacher, grades 3–5


Learning is a life-long journey, not a competition. When we promote learning as an adventure to be undertaken, not only as an individual but also as a community, then we empower students to rejoice in their own successes and to focus on the stepping stones most appropriate to their unique path. As both a parent and as an educator, I have experienced a wide variety of educational models, private and public. I first encountered Shady Oak as the parent of a preschooler. I loved the preschool’s emphasis on outdoor play in a relaxed positive environment where kids could choose from age-appropriate hands-on learning opportunities. As the parent of that same preschooler, I came across the street to Shady Oak Primary School to see what educational options I might have for my child in the future. I immediately fell in love with Shady Oak’s model of allowing children to work with the same educators for several years in a row. Shady Oak staff purposefully KNOW their students, and strive to create learning opportunities designed for both the individual student’s learning style and the student’s personal progress. This model also allows children of various ages and abilities to work side-by-side in the same classroom – a learning environment which enables the students to learn life lessons from one another just as frequently as from their teachers – in a society that seems to want everyone sucked into their own screen, pursuing their own interests, all the time. Shady Oak Primary School invigorates me with our bonding as a family which strives for the success of each individual member and our growth as a powerful partner to our community. Joining the Shady Oak Primary staff this year fills my heart with joy and motivates me to become the best educator possible for our kids!

I received my B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley with a double major in Comparative Literature and French, and a minor in Portuguese. I am Californian. I received my Master of Arts degree from the University of Washington in Seattle, where I met and married my husband Luis. We have 3 children, our daughter Emilia being the youngest.

In the course of my teaching career, I’ve taught English courses for Houston Community College (long ago), preschool in California, Environmental Education as an assistant Naturalist for the Orinda School District in California, and most recently at Shady Oak Christian School in the role of Naturalist. Ironically, my father was a math teacher and I grew up with my 6 siblings solving math problems on the chalkboard at the dinner table. A Full Circle – Thank you, God.

Candy Offor - Extended Day Program Coordinator

Candy Offor

Extended Day Program Coordinator


Hello, my name is Candy Offor and I am the Extended-Day Program Coordinator. I chose Shady Oak Primary because of its Purposeful education approach where learning is centered on the child by giving them a choice in how they learn. I especially love the idea of promoting positive self-talk which has a great impact on a child’s self-esteem and will mold them into being confident adults.

I am looking forward to an exciting school year and I feel very blessed to be in such a positive learning environment and be a part of dedicated team of educators.

I graduated from the University of Portsmouth, England with a Bachelor Degree in International Relation and Politics, I also have a Master’s Degree in Marketing from the University of Wales, England. Before coming to Shady Oak Primary, I had some experience teaching in an elementary school, then spent over 15 years working in various Recruiting and Training roles.

Along the way through participating in volunteer programs and church children ministry I have developed a real passion to contribute to the lives of children and Shady Oak Primary has helped me realize this desire of mine.

My husband and I have been married for 9 years and are blessed with 3 adorable children. I am super excited to be a part of the Shady Oak Primary Family and look forward to getting to know all the amazing children and parents during this new school year.

Deborah DeWitty - Extended Day Program Assistant

Deborah DeWitty

Extended Day Program Assistant


After touring Shady Oak Primary, I decided that it would be perfect for me. My name is Deborah DeWitty. I am very excited to have been given the opportunity to work with your children in the Extended Day Program. I am a grandmother of three and most recently my two youngest grandchildren lived with me for two years while their mother was working out of state.

Our home always seemed to be the gathering place for the neighborhood kids. My youngest grandchildren were seven and fourteen at the time. Although my grandchildren have been gone for two years, I still seem to attract the younger neighborhood kids whenever I am outside.

I love engaging children and I look forward to working with yours!