2023–2024 Executive Board Slate

The Science Teachers Association of Texas (STAT) Nominating Committee has selected the following candidates to serve on the 2023–2024 STAT Executive Board. If elected by acclamation, these slated candidates will join continuing 2023–2024 Executive Board members in service to STAT beginning June 1, 2023.

Read the slated candidates' bios and position statements below.

View the Full 2023–2024 STAT Executive Board Slate
Learn More About the Nomination/Election Process


Christina HotchkinChristina Hotchkin
High School Chemistry Teacher
Pflugerville ISD (Region 13)

Bio: Christina Hotchkin graduated from Texas Tech University in 2011 with a B.S. in chemistry with a minor in biology. It was toward the end of her senior year that she started working at CISER (Center for the Integration of Science Education and Research) as part of a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant. While working at CISER, she worked with students in varying grades in the Lubbock area. She helped preservice teachers with best practices for the science classroom. Specifically, she helped teach a science methods class for middle school teachers.

Initially, Christina worked on a post-baccalaureate program to obtain her teaching certification but later switched courses to complete her master’s in secondary education with an emphasis in chemistry. As part of her master’s program, Christina spent time on a Title I campus looking at the impact of educational technology in the classroom. In 2013, she moved to Central Texas where she began teaching in Bastrop.

Since then, Christina has stayed in the Central Texas area and has been in Pflugerville ISD for the past 8 years. During this time, she has served on countless committees, been a class sponsor (Class of 2019, 2020, and 2024) and PLC lead (IPC and later chemistry), written curriculum for the district (chemistry), served as the digital literacy lead (2-year term starting in 2021), led several professional development sessions, and most recently, moved into the department chair position for her campus. Christina has emerged as a science leader in her district advocating for professional development (CAST or the national conference) and implementing the new changes in the TEKS and the new STAAR question types. During her professional career, she has maintained membership status within STAT and NSTA. She has also presented at the local, state, and national levels.

Position Statement: When I first served on the Executive Board for STAT it was to become more involved. I felt like I was at a time in my career where I was ready to give back to the organization that helped inspire me in the classroom. I had a desire to help teachers feel empowered to teach their students science in the classroom. Since then, I’ve seen the importance of connection, providing rock solid professional development opportunities (in and out of CAST), and advocating for the classroom teacher.

I’m proud of the work and strategic plan the Executive Board has worked on implementing. We have been cognizant of the challenges teachers are being faced with in regard to the current state of science education. Through this plan, we have provided a clear vision on how to help STAT move the needle forward. We have specific and actionable goals that align with our mission and vision statements.

During my time on the Board, I’ve helped give a voice to teachers around the state. As an organization, we’ve celebrated teachers from various regions, backgrounds, grade levels, and teaching assignments. It has been an honor to help share these stories and connect one another despite our locations around Texas.

In addition to connecting one another, teachers need to have a place they can turn to when they need help in the classroom. Preservice teachers, new teachers, and even second career teachers, are all groups of teachers that are in need of support. By becoming the leaders in science education, STAT is in a position to offer the support that is needed. Now, more than ever, there is a need for quality science education resources. With the adoption of the new TEKS and science and engineering practices (SEPs), science teachers across the state are going to be seeking excellent, engaging, and equitable lessons as we enter the IMA phase. As President-Elect, I would aim to make sure STAT remains a leader in resources and support that provide structure to newly certified, alternatively certified, and veteran teachers to excel in the implementation of the new TEKS and SEPs.

Brené Brown defines a leader as “anyone who holds her- or himself accountable for finding potential in people and processes.” Moving into the role of President-Elect, I want to strive to be a leader that encourages the members within the association. The strength of STAT is our membership, and I am dedicated to highlighting the potential that awaits. There is a great opportunity to continue building on the foundation that has already been laid; accordingly, if I am fortunate enough to continue onward in the capacity of President-Elect, I’m excited to collaborate and problem solve within the STAT community to better Texas science education.


Christina HotchkinAriana Kay
Science Coordinator & High School Physics/AP Environmental Science Teacher
Refugio ISD (Region 3)

Bio: Ariana Kay is the district science coordinator and a high school physics and AP Environmental Science teacher for Refugio ISD in South Texas. Ariana is a Google Certified Educator and Apple Certified Educator, and she is currently working toward becoming a Google Certified Coach. In each of her last two school districts, she was instrumental in advocating for an AP Environmental Science program in which she created and designed a curriculum that promoted student success through engaging and interactive lessons.

Ariana is a devoted member of the RISD Leadership Committee aiming to evolve education within the district to better serve the culturally diverse needs of the community. Ariana has served as a member of the STAT Executive Board where she has helped address inequality in science education and has been a proponent for change in educational technology and science education in rural areas of Texas. In 2018, she was awarded the STAT Outstanding High School Science Teacher of the Year Award.

Beyond her roles within Refugio ISD and on the STAT Executive Board, Ariana has also trained new physics teachers for the ESCs in Region 3 and 9 and served as a professional learning specialist for Amplify Science where she trains teachers across the U.S. to use the Amplify Science platform. She has presented at CAST and in professional development sessions for other districts on topics ranging from technology tools that teachers can implement within their lessons, to methods for fostering student engagement, knowledge retention improvement, and active learning strategies.

Ariana is a graduate of Midwestern State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry. She earned her Master of Education degree in learning and technology from Western Governors University. As part of her continued professional growth, Ariana enjoys spending her summers taking an active role in the science community. She has participated in several National Science Foundation-funded research projects, with the most recent being conducted on the volcanology of the Andes Mountains through the Carnegie Science Institute, the University of Texas at Austin, and the University of Arizona.

Position Statement: Science is the foundation of everything. Science is a system for exploring and for innovation. It can fire our imagination to things still unknown and foster creative thinking, collaboration, observations, and keen curiosity about nature.

As an immigrant, I bring a unique perspective to my students. Growing up in a developing country where resources were not easily accessible for learning science made me appreciate the equipment and resources present for students of today. STEM is considered a high-need field in the United States, and the U.S. employs many international STEM specialists. When I first started teaching in the U.S., students came to my high school classroom wary of science, thinking that the material they have learned is boring and useless, and some held an innate fear of science. Students felt like they, themselves, were incapable of learning science, especially with acquired new and complicated vocabulary, which can be odious to teach and learn.

Over the years, I have approached science as more than an academic subject. The nature of science itself is to make observations of the natural world, try to identify patterns, ask questions, find answers, and ask more questions. I teach in an area where science is not as important and where teachers do not have the adequate tools or knowledge to help them prepare their students for the future. There is a disparity between rural area schools and urban/suburban area schools in science teaching, and it shows when our students get to college.

As part of the STAT Executive Board, I help shape policy affecting science in public education and plan to execute professional development opportunities for teachers within rural areas in science and, eventually, nationally. I intend to change the way science education is taught in rural schools within Texas and start programs to recruit and retain quality science teachers in rural schools. I help shape the future of science teaching in rural public schools by helping teachers to become more prepared and ready to handle the teaching and, more importantly, the challenges of the ever-evolving science field. If nominated, I will continue to serve and advocate for rural science teachers in Texas and work to achieve the strategic goals that previous STAT boards have in laying the foundations for the improvement of science education in Texas.


Ferleshare StarksDr. Ferleshare Starks
Senior STEM Education Manager
Chemical Educational Foundation (Region 4)

Bio: Ferleshare Starks graduated class of ’95 from Texas A&M University-College-Station with a B.S. in zoology. She received her M.Ed. in educational leadership, emphasizing curriculum and instruction, from the University of Houston-Victoria and her Ed.D. in educational leadership, emphasizing STEM education, from the American College of Education. She has 26 years of experience teaching seventh grade, eighth grade, biology, chemistry, physics, and Earth/space science.

During her tenure in Aldine ISD, Ferleshare was recognized with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and Office of Statewide Initiatives @ Region 13 Educational Leadership Award in 2004/2005 and as an Aldine ISD Shining Star in 2005. She also received an endorsement from the Texas Association for the Gifted & Talented (TAGT). In addition, as a Houston ISD biology instructor, she was selected a 2015 State of Texas Secondary Science Finalist for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.

Ferleshare has presented at CAST and TAGT conferences and served on multiple TEA committees. Ferleshare is a TEA Commissioner’s Texas Assessments Educators Advisory Committee member through the year 2025 and served in the 3–5 and K–8 science standards workgroups for TEA. In addition, she served as a science instructional specialist and a campus administrator in Fort Bend before returning briefly to the science classroom in Houston ISD. Ferleshare served as the elementary science coordinator in Beaumont ISD for 5 years, where she worked to build a 21st-century learner-centered science program. Now she serves as the Senior STEM Education Manager for the Chemical Educational Foundation (CEF), overseeing the STEM education programs and services provided by CEF. Her goal is to support teachers as they create a learning environment that is collaborative, diverse, and engaging. Students deserve engaging learning experiences that further develop those 21st-century skills needed to master future studies in STEM or take on STEM careers.

Position Statement: When I first ran for a Member-at-Large position on the STAT Executive Board in 2020, I ran with the mindset that representation is everything. As members, we all work toward a common goal of supporting initiatives and programs that move the children of Texas forward and equip them to be competitive members of society and in a job market that will be dominated by STEM careers. What I felt we lacked was an acknowledgment that representation is everything, even for adults.

In 2000, my curriculum director encouraged her science staff to join STAT and prepare presentations for the annual conference. From that first visit to CAST, I knew I wanted to remain as active as possible with STAT. I also knew that sometimes I felt like an outsider because I didn’t see many attendees who looked like me or had experiences like me in public education, both as a student and an educator. But one thing that always stuck in my head was the advice from my program director in my early teaching years. She would always admonish her teachers to be active parties to the solutions, not the problems our students and we face in science education. So while I had made many excuses through the years as to why I shouldn’t or couldn’t run for a position on the Board, I finally felt compelled to step out of my comfort zone in 2020 when I ran for Member-at-Large. 

Having served on the Executive Board as a Member-at-Large, I have seen our organization make tremendous strides toward being at the forefront of science education in Texas as we advocate for students and teachers at the state level, remain actively involved with curriculum developments at TEA, and work to broaden our base so that all teachers across Texas feel welcomed and supported. Having been an active participant in those efforts to move our collective organization in a direction that speaks to our growth as a model for equality and equity that actively engages educators’ diverse voices across the state, I would like to continue our fight to give access and resources to succeed in science to all students as a member of the new Executive Board.

We still have work to do in our push to remove barriers teachers and students across Texas face. I particularly want to continue being a voice for my colleagues and students who continue to be negatively impacted by the barriers of systemic racism and poverty. As I stated 2 years ago, STAT’s success in its mission to move for equity for all has and will continue to lie in its ability to have a diverse leadership reflective of the members and students we serve across all Texas regions. To that end, I understand that to see diversity throughout the organization and representation in leadership, we, the members, must be willing to take on roles and work as representatives of this great organization. And as always, I am ready to roll up my sleeves and lead by collaborative example.


Ramon BenavidesDr. Ramon Benavides
Biotech Lead Teacher
Ysleta ISD (Region 19)

Bio: Ramon Benavides has passionately shared the fascinating world of science in the Ysleta Independent School District for the last 12 years. He teaches high school, AP, and dual enrollment biology at Del Valle High School. Ramon also teaches biology part-time at El Paso Community College.

Ramon holds multiple degrees—a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Texas at San Antonio, a Bachelor of Arts in chemistry from the University of Texas at Brownsville, and a Master of Arts in teaching science from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). He has recently completed a doctorate from Texas Tech University in educational leadership and policy.

He believes it is essential for all students to expand their interests outside the classroom and partake in extracurricular activities, clubs, and organizations. He sponsors the anime, medical sciences, and environmental stewardship cubs. Additionally, he facilitated the creation of a new chapter for the Science National Honor Society at Del Valle High School. 

He is also a member of several professional organizations and has two publications. During his summers, he usually participates in Research Experiences for Teachers, which has allowed him to conduct scientific research with Rice University and the University of Texas at El Paso.

Ramon recognizes the importance of equity and inclusion in all classrooms, especially in science and STEM. Ramon is an agent of change and continuously advocates for educational transformation for his students, teachers, educational leaders, and policymakers. His advocacy ensures that underrepresented and disadvantaged students attain a fair chance at success in science, the STEM professions, and beyond.

Position Statement: In our journey, we must take advantage of opportunities that will enrich our purpose in life. The goal is never to be satisfied with who you are. I have undertaken this approach throughout my existence and in my profession. Every one of my experiences has been a stepping stone or milestone in who I am and who I want to become. Becoming a board member of the Science Teachers Association of Texas is one of those opportunities. It will place me on a platform where I can contribute to the growth of the organization and other science teachers.

To gain insight into who I am and what motivates me to ensure diversity and equity in the science classroom and beyond, I must begin with the story of my parents, who went from migrant farm workers to educators. Both of my parents dropped out of school to become migrant farm workers. A migrant life was not for their children. They both attained their GED, attended college, and became educators. Their plight has been influential in my drive as a teacher leader and advocate.

For the last 13 years, I have been a science teacher in an area of El Paso, Texas, which is reminiscent of my childhood neighborhood. The community is less than a mile away from the U.S.-Mexico border and is predominantly populated by Latino/a/x students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds. Throughout this time, I have been passionately trying to mold students of science as I was many years ago. Due to my humble beginnings and familial (cultural) influence, I was led to believe that science was not for a kid from the barrio. Until an influential college professor allowed me to recognize that everyone can be a student of science regardless of their background, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. As a science teacher, I have made it my endeavor to erase these erroneous beliefs/ideologies through my classroom practices and beyond.

Leaps and bounds have propelled my life within the last 3 years. I acquired a doctorate degree, increased my pedagogical understanding, and enriched my teaching philosophy. Additionally, I have been a part of two science publications, reimmersed myself into scientific research, taught dual credit biology courses, became a part-time biology adjunct instructor, was a member of several professional science and education organizations, and was named 2022 Texas Teacher of the Year. My vitality, versatility, and thirst for refining the art of science education will equate to success during my term as a STAT board member.

The best way to sustain my momentum is to become a STAT board member, which would offer an intimate platform for me to spark a reformation in high school science/STEM programs by delivering a message of change to students, teachers, educational leaders, and policymakers in hopes of seeing a shift in the current paradigm—thus ensuring Latino/a/x students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds attain a fair chance at success.


Dennis JohnsonDennis Johnson
Elementary Science Teacher
Port Arthur ISD (Region 5)

Bio: Dennis Johnson is from and works in Port Arthur, Texas. He serves as an elementary teacher at Port Acres Elementary School in the Port Arthur Independent School District. Currently, Dennis teaches fifth-grade science and social studies. Dennis also serves as a science curriculum writer and science mentor teacher. He has experience in teaching math, science, and social studies over the past 13 years that he has served in education.

Dennis is a proud alumnus of Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, where he obtained his bachelor’s degree. He was the 2021–2022 Teacher of the Year for his campus as well as his district. He was also featured in the STAT Teacher Spotlight in 2022 as well as a named as a nominee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching. Dennis is also a member of NSTA and has attended the national conference. He has also served as a teacher trainer for JASON Alliance of Southeast Texas. Dennis has also attended and volunteered at MiniCAST in Region 5 and has been a presenter at Dallas-Fort Worth MiniCAST.

Position Statement: I am always seeking ways to be more involved in science education in the State of Texas. As such, STAT is an organization that, in my opinion, is a wonderful resource and advocate for the teachers and students of the state with regards to science education. All of the times that I have attended STAT or STAT-affiliated meetings, I have found them to be great networking tools and great events for learning and experiencing things that are available to me as a teacher and for my students. The information that is published for teachers is always excellent quality, effective for classroom instruction, and informative as to what is going on in Texas. 

I would like to work to continue the mission and goals of the association. I envision STAT growing and reaching even more teachers across the state. I also envision a robust diverse group of teachers that bring ideas and methodology that is cohesive with the positions of the organization as outlined in the STAT Bylaws. If elected to the position of Member-at-Large, I will do all that I can to further the work of STAT as well as represent the organization and its members whenever appointed or needed to serve.