2019-2020 Slated Candidates


Kara Swindell
Classroom Teacher
Lubbock ISD (Region 17)
Term: 3-year progression

Bio: Kara Swindell is a graduate of Texas Tech University and The University of Texas at Dallas. She started her teaching career in 2001 and has taught 6th-8th grade science, Pre-AP biology and AP biology in her 18 years of teaching. She currently teaches 8th grade science and Pre-AP biology at Talkington School for Young Women Leaders in Lubbock ISD. She has taught there for 10 years and helped open the school. She has served in many leadership roles within Lubbock ISD. She is currently the department head at her school and serves as a content focus presenter to all 8th grade science teachers in the district. She serves on the district grading committee as well as mentoring new teachers to the district. Kara has presented at many state and national conferences such as CAST, NSTA, National Middle School Association Conference, Texas Middle School Association Conference and the National CORE Knowledge Conference. Kara has been very active in STAT since 2012. Prior to being elected to the STAT Executive Board in 2013, she served as the Workshop Chair for the 2012 CAST. Since being on the STAT Board, she has served on the RFP Committee that took a charge to find a new management company, the finance committee as well as many other endeavors through STAT. Kara has been honored with awards the reflect her commitment to education such as Texas finalist - Young Women’s Preparatory Network Educator of Excellence, Texas finalist - Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, Beaumont Foundation Newton Excellence in Education Award, Teacher of the Year, Lubbock ISD, and Texas Outstanding Teacher of the Year - Texas Middle School Association. She volunteers regularly in the community. Kara is very involved with the Volunteer Center of Lubbock through activities with her students as well as her family. 

Position Statement: I have been honored to hold multiple Board positions within STAT over the years. I feel my role in each of these positions has helped me be in the position I am today to seek election for president elect. I feel my experiences on the STAT board have given me a well-rounded view of what STAT is and its effects on the science community. One of my goals for STAT over the next three years would be to increase their outreach to underrepresented regions in Texas, such as the Panhandle, the Big Ben region and the Valley. I want all science teachers in Texas to feel they are part of an amazing network of science educators, no matter where they are from. I envision STAT deliberately reaching out to science educators in the underrepresented regions and hosting events in central locations such as STAT Board meetings, helping develop mini CASTs in these regions and including representation from all over Texas on STAT and CAST committees. What a great way to begin to build these strong, diverse science education communities across the state of Texas! One of STAT’s strategic goals is to build and strengthen networks for Texas science educators and my goal aligns with this. Another goal of mine over the next three years, would be to increase the opportunities for professional development, pedagogy and networking outside of CAST. CAST is such an amazing experience that is second to none. However, I want STAT members to walk away from CAST knowing that their networking, professional development and pedagogy doesn’t end there. Our members need to know that they can receive great content and support year round. I want STAT members to see great value in their STAT membership, not just an amazing conference. I feel when they see this value, they will be more eager to step in leadership roles within STAT as well. I feel STAT can deliver this professional development and pedagogy in so many ways and the sky is the limit. I want to commit to keeping this goal of mine at the forefront of decisions that are made within STAT, in order to enhance our STAT member’s experience with our wonderful organization. Another strategic goal of STAT is to provide quality professional growth opportunities in content, pedagogy and leadership and giving our members the “full experience” of membership and belonging to a science community will certainly align to this goal. We have challenging tasks ahead of us every day as science teachers in the state of Texas, but not impossible ones. Through networking, community awareness and sound professional development, we as science teachers can shape our students’ future in ways that will resonate with them forever. By being elected the STAT president elect, I feel I can share my expertise as a STAT board member and a Texas science teacher to help implement great things for our Texas science teachers. I look forward to continuing being a voice for our Texas science teachers! 



Gianna Lopez Colson
Classroom Teacher
La Feria ISD (Region 1)
2-year term, ends 2021 

Bio: Gianna Colson is currently a 5th and 6th grade science teacher at Noemi Dominguez Elementary in La Feria ISD. Gianna is the founder and sponsor for her campus' Science Club which competes in Science Olympiad, codes with Google CS First and Scratch, and uses Project Ignite for 3D printing. Gianna places an emphasis on girls and Hispanics in science. She is currently in her 12th year with the district.

Gianna received her M.Ed. in Elementary Education with an emphasis in Science from the University of Texas Pan American. She was a mentor teacher for the Texas Regional Science Collaborative and served on the Streamlining the Science TEKS Committee representing District 2 for grades 6-8.

Gianna is a lifetime member of Texas Council of Elementary Science (TCES). Gianna was the workshop and short courses chair for CAST 2016 (San Antonio) and 2017 (Houston) and served as the marketing chair for the Texas Science Educational Leadership Association (TSELA). Gianna is the Treasurer for the Rio Grande Valley Science Association (RGVSA) and has represented said association as the voting delegate at NSTA’s National Congress on Science Education for four years. She also has affiliations with the National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA) and the Association of Texas Professional Educators (ATPE).

As a presenter, Gianna has participated in many conferences and seminars, including her campus and district staff development sessions, the Rio Grande Valley Science Conference (RGVSA), the Texas Regional Collaborative (TRC) Annual Conference, Texas Council of Elementary Science share-a-thon, the National Science Middle Level (NSML) share-a-thon, the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teachers (CAST), and the National Science Teacher Association’s (NSTA) national conferences. 

Position Statement: When I first started teaching, I didn’t know Pluto was no longer a planet. I stayed up every night until one in the morning teaching myself science content and so that I could teach it the next day. I barely slept my first two years of teaching. In order to survive, I went back to school to take relevant science classes and became a professional development junkie. I know what it feels like to be hanging on by a thread and how crucial a role STAT plays in both the teachers’ and their students’ success. Now I have passed the surviving phase and have moved on to the thriving stage of my career, I would like to help others as they continue their journey.

As a board member, I will assist STAT in:

  • Growing membership;
  • Providing science content and pedagogy;
  • Helping teachers showcase their talents, hard work and dedication; and
  • Advocating on behalf of science educators.


Leslie Harvey
Classroom Teacher
Eagle Mountain-Saginaw ISD (Region 11)
2-year term, ends 2021

Bio: I completed my degree after a 14 year hiatus, fulfilling a life long dream and I will complete my M.Ed in Curriculum Design and Instruction, Science K-12 in May 2019 from the University of Texas as Arlington. In my seven years of teaching elementary science I have also had the privilege of serving my campus as a Technology Integration Instructor, various committees as well as representing our campus as Teacher of the Year. On a district level I have served on the Science curriculum writing team, been part of the Inspire Leadership team [campus rep], District Planning and Action Committee, Aspiring Leaders Institute as well as presenting and facilitating professional development.

Position Statement: I believe that I can offer a unique perspective to the STAT Executive Boards in that I am still somewhat new to the profession, but I can also look at situations through the eyes of one with more life experiences. I have a strong sense of 'we are in this together' that extends past my campus, district, and city. The motto in my classroom is that Failure is not final unless you give up and quit. Well, I know that STAT continues to advocate not only for its members, but for each and every student that walks through our doors. It is this dedication that has inspired me to strive to better my craft and continue to seek ways to motivate and encourage those I meet. It would my honor and privilege to serve the great Science Educators of Texas.

Charles Zemanek
Classroom Teacher/Department Head
Nacogdoches ISD (Region 7)
2-year term, ends 2021

Bio: My name is Charles Raymond Zemanek, III but everyone just calls me Z – it is a pleasure to meet you! I am a proud faculty member of McMichael Middle School in Nacogdoches Texas; a sleepy little town tucked away in the Piney Woods of East Texas, where I teach 8th-grade sciences. I serve as the Science Department Head and have loved providing instructional support for our science team! I received my Bachelor of Arts from Stephen F. Austin State University, and I am in the final stretch of my Masters at Texas A&M. I am on my third year in education. In the past, I was awarded the STAT Rookie Science Teacher of the Year award – an honor that means a great deal to me! I have been a faithful member of STAT and NSTA during my teaching tenure. I have enjoyed volunteering for STAT and CAST. Like most teachers, however, my greatest accomplishment is not an award or event, but seeing my students reach new heights academically and socially – after all, they are the future!

Position Statement: Now, more than ever, our state needs quality science teachers. We have been tasked with the impossible. Our students must be equipped with the skills to be successful in careers that have not yet been invented. The reality is that many new science teachers enter the classroom without extensive experience in methods for science classes. They come from generalist backgrounds or did not intend to teach science when they first entered the classroom. I am one of those teachers. My goal was to teach social studies. However, I was placed in a science classroom and found my true passion. STAT was pivotal during my first year of teaching. I believe STAT has the potential to have an even greater role in helping introduce and prepare new science teachers to the profession.

My district, Nacogdoches ISD, is located deep in the Piney Woods of East Texas where the towns are far apart, and it is not uncommon for K-12 education to take place in the same building. We struggle to find resources and connect with teachers in other districts across the state. STAT is in a unique position to serve as a conduit for teacher networks and additional resources to help support new science teachers. If elected, my focus would be on finding opportunities for STAT to offer instructional support and resources outside of CAST; in addition to, extending membership opportunities to new science teachers fresh out of college or a teacher preparation program. Together we can facilitate a teacher network to connect educators across the state in a resource consortium. Our veteran teachers would have the opportunity to provide advice and support to our rookies that are new to the profession with the hope of reducing teacher turnover. We all have a part to play in the advancement of science teaching, so let's build the future together!

My hope is to play a small part in continuing to support the tradition of excellence that is a characteristic of STAT. I have benefited from the many services that STAT has to offer and hope to contribute back to the greater STAT community. Thank you for your consideration – together we can shape the future of science education sending Texas to the top!