Mr. Omar Yanar
Omar Yanar is the Founder and CEO of the El Paso Leadership Academy (EPLA). Prior to forming the EPLA, Yanar graduated at the top of his class at Franklin High School and went on to receive a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History and a Master’s degree of Education from Stanford University. Yanar then worked as a teacher for six years until he returned to school for a Master’s of Public Policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Yanar believes that combining his educational experience with public policy expertise can provide him with the necessary tools to effect change in his beloved community of El Paso, Texas. The students and citizens of El Paso are a top priority in his life and looks forward to working with the community for the advancement of its youth through innovative curriculum and teaching methods.
In addition to his responsibilities at the El Paso Leadership Academy, Mr. Yanar is also a founding board member and Vice President of Progress321, an El Paso-based organization that works to empower and connection professionals across sectors, disciplines, generations and cultures. He is also founding board member of the National Hispanic Institute’s Alumni Association Board and a member of the Borderplex Alliance Education Task Force.
Ms. Emily Levario
Chief Financial Officer
Emily Levario currently serves as Chief Financial Officer of the El Paso Leadership Academy with more than 10 years of central administrative experience in public schools. She previously served as the Finance Director for the Anthony Independent School District as well as an accountant at El Paso Independent School District.
Ms. Levario is responsible for planning and managing the charter school’s annual budget and developing long-range budget plans to ensure the school’s financial stability and growth. She also manages the day to day financial operations of the school.
Emily Levario earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas at El Paso and she holds an active certified public accountant’s license. She and her husband, Jose D. Levario, have been married 10 years and have two children.
Ms. Dianne Jones
My name is Dianne Jones. The phrase “A dream come true” describes how I feel about becoming the Principal at EPLA beginning in 2019-2020. As a native El Pasoan, I’ve been blessed to have had the privilege of working in education as a math teacher, business teacher, student activities manager, assistant principal, principal, and educational consultant at several campuses throughout my career–at the middle school, high school, and college levels.
Through these experiences, I have worked with numerous educators who work tirelessly to ensure the scholars in the El Paso community have the opportunity to achieve any goal they wish to pursue. The first time I walked into the EPLA campus, it felt like “family”. As I met the teachers, administrators, and support staff, I realized the entire team was dedicated to and focused on the scholars being served, something that spoke to the climate, culture, and leadership characteristics within EPLA.
Observing and participating in the interactions everyone had with the parents/community partners also reinforced the school’s mission of assisting the community in opening doors for the scholars at EPLA. As the incoming principal, my goal will be to remove barriers, build bridges, and support the outstanding educators at EPLA in continuing to best serve its most precious gift—the scholars.
Mr. Paul Ward
Assistant Principal of Instruction
Hello! My name is Paul Ward, I am EPLA’s incoming Assistant Principal of Instruction. I am proud to have been born and raised in El Paso! As a graduate of New Mexico State, I received an MA in History, in addition to a BA in Education. The last ten years of my life have been devoted to the field of education in various capacities. I’ve taught at the elementary level up to college, was named a Top Ten Teacher of the Year for YISD, and have been a leader and advocate of the Blended Learning movement; a practice that is truly modernizing the world of education.
As a writer at heart I have been published twice in history, and twice in the area of economics. I have been a public speaker for many conferences on topics related to global finance and Blockchain technology, even to the likes of NASA and Virgin Galactic. I am also a business owner and currently serve on the Tigua Inc. Board of Directors. In my spare time I love being with my family; quality travel time with my wife, who is also an educator, is everything to me! To relax, I playing video games…I am a true gamer at heart. I have an intense enthusiasm for creating and recording music; I play four instruments and enjoy productive sessions in my recording studio. I am also an avid photographer and videographer and have produced three YouTube channels among other projects. I have lots of energy and just love to keep busy; life is too short to not learn all you can!
Education is everything to me, and I am through-the-roof excited to be a part of El Paso Leadership Academy! As a life-long learner myself, teacher and scholar success is what I am truly passionate about; everything begins with learning. Being able to work alongside EPLA’s amazing team of educators for the sake of our scholars has me thrilled! My goal is to work together to motivate, teach, and inspire so that everyone, both teachers and scholars alike, can meet their full potential and achieve greatness.
Mr. Julian Casillas
Director of Operations
Mucho gusto! I’m Julian Casillas the Director of Operations here at EPLA. El Paso born and raised, proud son of two immigrants, and first generation college student from the University of Texas at El Paso. It gives me great honor to be able to serve a campus whose mission is to ensure that all students, regardless of background or obstacles, have the ability to achieve their academic and life goals.
Before joining the EPLA family I worked in property management and professional school admissions in the San Francisco Bay Area where I pursued a Master’s in Public Administration at the University of San Francisco. I also had the opportunity to serve our comunidad as an undergraduate recruiter at UTEP. My passions are rooted in social equity, and outside of my time at EPLA, I serve as Board President of the Borderland Rainbow Center.
Ms. Selene Fierro
Hello! I am Selene Fierro the Campus Supervisor at the El Paso Leadership Academy, and I am the mother of two current students. I started as a volunteer for crosswalk duty in the founding year. The following year, Mr. Yanar and Mr. Benitez offered me this opportunity, and I gladly joined the team. As a parent, I share your concerns. This helps me as a staff member to be more alert and aware of the scholars here at the El Paso Leadership Academy.
Ms. Andrea Vazquez
Hello! My name is Andrea Vazquez, and I am the Office Coordinator at the El Paso Leadership Academy. I love working here, and I love the supportive environment we have! Every day is different and exciting, and I am always learning something new from our scholars and parents. I am always motivated by our scholars to accomplish my goals and to become a better person for them. It is simply amazing to see them grow each year.
Mr. Knick Gomez
Hello, I am Knick Gomez the Facilities Manager at the El Paso Leadership Academy. My goal is to ensure a safe and comfortable building for our amazing scholars and staff. I have been with EPLA for one year. Born and raised in El Paso and a proud graduate of Socorro High School, I believe I work for our students who are our future leaders.
6th Grade Science Teacher
The El Paso Leadership Academy is the perfect fit for me because together we are the present teaching our future. EPLA is a humble, enthusiastic team which can impact the community to make and create a great future. Being born and raised here in El Paso, I can’t think of a better place to teach than in the heart of El Paso where numerous students have so much to give and are clamoring for a better education, but the rest of the city doesn’t hear. We, however, at EPLA will make sure that our scholars are heard because that is our priority.
6th Grade Humanities Teacher
Born in El Paso, raised in California. I am a graduate of New Mexico State University. I have studied in Korea, at Yeungnam University, and enjoyed every bit of that cultural exchange. My interests lie in Asia, having focused my studies on Chinese history. Outside of my history degree, I am also published in a book about literature and language. What does this tell you? I am someone who moves around a lot and appreciates every new experience that comes my way. This is what led me to EPLA, they give me the power to use what I have learned and what I have experienced to enhance my teaching.
6th Grade Math Teacher
Hello! My name is Danielle Willis and I am the 6th-grade Math teacher at EPLA. I was born and raised in El Paso, TX and proudly earned my degree in Mathematics from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). As a first-generation college graduate, the EPLA mission profoundly resonates with me and aligns with my core belief – excellent education should be a right, not a privilege. I have chosen EPLA because I want to take part in building the foundation for future generations of free-thinkers and game changers. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, watching the latest Netflix originals, hiking with my pup, and testing my knowledge of random facts at a weekly trivia competition.
7th Grade Humanities Teacher
In a way, the El Paso Leadership Academy is, in itself, a contradiction by offering both access and excellence. This fits perfectly with my personality and core beliefs–by serving as a “both/and” institution, ELPA chooses not to “think outside the box;” rather, it creates a new “box.” Furthermore, I feel social justice is a full-time job and one which is best performed while young minds are still forming. Returning to EPLA, this year affirms my dedication to optimism over oppression, choice over chains, and future over futility.
7th Grade Science Teacher
Born and raised in central El Paso, I always knew I wanted to give back to my community. I attended Transmountain Early College High School then proceeded to attend the University of Texas at El Paso where I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology during the Fall of 2016.
Attending an early college taught me to become independent and pave my own path to success. EPLA not only teaches scholars to be independent, but EPLA puts their scholars needs first and prepares them for the challenges ahead by giving them a college based education. What better way to give back to the community than to teach and guide our future leaders! Go Griffins!!!
7th Grade Math Teacher
A person willing to learn every day from the people around her. Dedicated to her family, work, and scholars, making them her main priorities. Easy going, always trying to find a solution to any problem that arises.
This is my second year at EPLA, and I am very excited to start a new year with new teachers and new scholars. I chose to teach at EPLA because it is a different school, where the connection and commitment with our scholars is our number one priority. EPLA offers different opportunities for learning, not only for us as teachers, but for the community.
8th Grade Social Studies Teacher
Born and raised in Chivas Town/Central El Paso, I was raised by a loving single Mexican mother who never spoke a word of English. Working from the age of 11, I quickly learned that if you want anything in this world, especially coming from my socio-economic background in El Paso, you must work twice as hard for it. To this day, I enjoy the beautiful struggle which I share with my wife, family, friends, and EPLA community.
I chose to teach at EPLA for three reasons: 1) Community and location. EPLA is in Central El Paso where my heart is because I grew up in Central and continue to live in Central (I live 4 minutes away from EPLA!). 2) Unique and inclusive school. EPLA is a unique school where students are given a voice and because of the smaller class sizes are allowed more individualized attention. 3) We Build. We Lead. I believe in EPLA’s mission to prepare local youths with an academically rigorous curriculum that will prepare them for college by reinforcing the idea that they WILL attend and graduate college regardless of background.
8th Grade Science Teacher
Hello, I am Terry Davila the 8th grade Science teacher! I was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. I attended El Dorado High School and proceeded to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Texas at El Paso in December of 2016. GO MINERS!
My passion for mentoring and working with the youth began my Sophomore year when I was given the opportunity to work as a high school tutor. I worked my way on to other positions that focused on college preparation. I have also worked with multiple educational grants and programs such as GEAR UP, Princeton Review and AVID. This type of experience has allowed me to understand student diversity and promote all students’ learning.
Fall 2017 was my official first year of teaching! As time is progressing, I find myself very thankful to have found an amazing school such as EPLA. The atmosphere at this school is beyond anything I have ever personally experienced. I hope to be able to continue to make an impact in the lives of our young generation through education. My ultimate goal is to motivate and mentor my students to reach their full potential!
8th Grade Math/Algebra I Teacher
Hello Future Leaders! My name is Azereth Mendoza and I teach 8th grade Math. Teaching has been my goal since I graduated from Mission Early College High School and attended the University of Texas at El Paso and Texas Tech University at Lubbock. I started at EPLA as a TAP tutor supporting Math and Reading for 6th grade. I then taught 8th grade Math and now expanding the scholar’s horizons with Computer Coding! I depart from the philosophy that children from the age of 10-14 start their path to who they want to be when they grow up. Encouraging and strengthening their education is vital at this point. EPLA is a great place for any scholar to blossom!
8th Grade English & Language Arts Teacher
I am a curious and optimistic person. I like to learn new things everyday. The more you know, the more topics you will always have to engage in interesting conversations with the people you meet. Life is full of constant learning. I was born in Mexico City and raised in this amazing border region. I enjoy being a part of EPLA, because here we really understand what El Paso culture is and we know that teaching needs to evolve with the rest of our society. I have been teaching English to non-native speakers for 5 years and I love seeing their great progress. As a teacher, I strongly believe that you can inspire your students to do great things in life. I can’t wait to see what amazing things my students can do and help them to reach their goals!
Physical Education Instructor
With a passion for physical activity and thriving, I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology with an Exercise Science concentration and minor in Biology, seeking a career in physical therapy. I wanted to provide and support for those athletes who give it their all on the field. My career took a favorable turn, and I was provided the opportunity by EPLA to be the one to find those athletes, teach proper form, engage, challenge and provide a foundation for enjoyment and social development through physical activity. I am fortunate to be the 6th and 8th-grade physical education teacher.
7th Grade Fine Arts Instructor
Hello, I am Dania Vance, and I am an aspiring rapper/YouTube personality, just kidding. To let you know a little about myself, I am born and raised in El Paso and have been a Westsider for life. All jokes aside I am a first generation American and the first to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in my family (UTEP). I love art, food, and animals, and can’t get enough of any of them. I am excited to join the Colectivo at El Paso Leadership Academy. This being my first teaching job on its own is very exciting but after meeting the admin team, I cannot wait to meet everyone else. The new co-workers, my own scholars, and the community, is an adventure that I am anxiously awaiting. I want to help everyone get a love for art and allow their creativity to blossom. Just can’t wait to meet everyone and I am looking forward to a wonderful school year. 2019-2020 here we come!