Meet Our Faculty & Staff 2023-2024
Mary B. Austin Elementary
Hi! I am Katie Browning, and this will be my 18th year teaching. I have a bachelor’s and master’s degree in early childhood education. I began my teaching career at MBA and have loved every second! My husband, Justus, and I have four children, Cannon, Ruby, Reese, and Luke. We enjoy camping, traveling, hiking, gardening, and spending time together!
My name is Brittni Burch. My husband, Josh, and I have been married for 8 wonderful years and we have a precious little girl named Sophia. This will be my 9th year teaching. It will be my first year in Kindergarten. I previously taught Pre-Kindergarten for 7 years. Some of my favorite things are being with my family, friends, and church family, spending time at the beach, photography, crafting, and sharing my heart of teaching with little ones.
My name is Wendy Lynch and I am so excited to “Bee” at Austin teaching kindergarten!
My husband Clint and I have four children; Brooklynn, Brittni, Branden, and Brodey. We also have 3 grandbabies that we absolutely adore; Casyn, Callen, and Beckham.
I love spending time at the beach with my family, watching my boys play baseball/football, spoiling my grands, and shopping!
Teaching is truly my passion and I'm so excited to start year 24 of teaching!
My name is Jessica McDonough. I am a Kindergarten. This is my 15th year teaching and my 3rd year at Mary B. Austin. I taught kindergarten in Pascagoula for 9 years, before that I taught 2nd and 3rd grades in Hattiesburg. I have 2 wonderful children. I am originally from Slidell, LA. I attended USM where I received my Bachelor's and Master’s degrees in Elementary Education. I met my husband, Robert, while at USM and moved to Mobile 10 years ago.
First Grade Teachers
Hello! My name is Christy Trotter. This will be my fifth-year teaching first grade at Mary B. Austin. I will be celebrating 15 years of marriage on August 8th, and we have three children. Macie is 16, Makinzley is 11, and Maverick is 8. I enjoy teaching, singing, spending time with my family, watching my kiddos play soccer, getting manicures, pedicures, drinking coffee, and shopping. I am attending the University of West Alabama, pursuing my master's in school counseling.
Second Grade Teachers
Hi, my name is Townsend Bessonen! I am originally from Fairhope, where I grew up with my six siblings. I went on to graduate from Auburn University, where I met my husband, Alex, who was born and raised in Mobile. After teaching in Birmingham and Houston, we moved back home for me to start my sixth year of teaching, and we could not be more excited to plant our roots back home near our friends and family!
Hi, I am Margaux Golden, a Mobile native, one of Mary B. Austin’s second-grade teachers with 9 years of experience. I received an undergraduate degree in Communication Technology with a minor in Visual Communications from Saint Louis University and hold a master's in Elementary Education from Springhill College. I have recently completed the Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training and I am looking forward to implementing some of the new skills I have learned this coming school year. I have been married for 8 years to my husband, Matthew Golden, and have four amazing children.
My name is Chasity Jackson and I am super excited to be teaching 2nd grade again this year at MBA! I have a dual Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Early Childhood Special Education and have always had a life-long passion for learning. I’ve been married to my wonderful husband for 27 years and we are blessed to have five amazing children. I love spending time with my family, cooking, and traveling. I cannot wait to meet my students as I believe this is going to be an awesome school year as we learn and grow together!
My name is Grace O'Toole and I will be teaching 2nd Grade this school year. I am originally from the Chicagoland area, but I moved to Mobile after graduating from Spring Hill College. I completed my M.Ed. from The University of South Alabama this summer. When I am not teaching, I love to go to the beach, read, and bake. I am ready for an awesome school year!
Third Grade Teachers
Hi! I’m Nancy Haywood. Originally from Mississippi, my husband and I made Mobile our home in 1997. I earned my Bachelor's Degree from the USM in Elementary Education and my M. Ed. from South Alabama. This will be my 29th year teaching. I have taught first grade most of my career and this year I am thrilled to be teaching third! My husband and I have two boys, Mattox and Mason. We like to travel and spend time outdoors with our dog, Scout.
I was born and raised in Mobile, AL! I graduated from the University of South Alabama (GO JAGS) with a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. This is my 17th year teaching and my FIRST year in 3rd grade. I am extremely excited to learn and grow! My husband and I have two children, Kaleb and Blakely. We enjoy traveling, camping, and spending time together!
Fourth Grade Teachers
My “roots to success” grow deep at MBA as my first teaching job began here in 2001. I taught fifth grade for 13 years, then switched to fourth grade where I’ve been very happy ever since. I have two daughters, ages 21 and 26. The oldest is an attorney and the youngest aspires to be an orthodontist. I am very proud of them, as I am of all the precious learners whom God has placed in my care.
My name is Emily Reed, and I am a Fourth Grade Teacher at Mary B. Austin. This will be my 20th year teaching and my third year teaching Fourth Grade. My husband Jeff and I have two daughters and are excited to have our youngest join the Mary B. Austin family as she starts kindergarten this year. My oldest daughter will be in 2nd Grade this year. We are looking forward to a great year together!
Hi! My name is Anna Sias (pronounced “sy-as,”)! I’m so excited to be joining the staff at Mary B. Austin. I’ve been teaching for several years now, most recently at Meadowlake Elementary School and I’m eager to get started with this year's fourth-grade class. I’m a lifelong Mobile resident, graduating from Baker High School and Spring Hill College. I’m a parent, too, and I understand how important communication is with the teacher. Feel free to reach out to me anytime! I can’t wait to meet your children!
Fifth Grade Teachers
My name is Fay Dawson, and I am so excited to start my 8th year at Mary B. Austin! I am the 5th Grade Science and Social Studies teacher and I love all things STEM and history related. I look forward to making this year fun and engaging for my students. I am married to my best friend Earle, and we have three beautiful children. When I am not busy working with my classroom “children”, I watch my oldest son play basketball or drive my kids around to various activities. In my spare time, I love to read and enjoy running. In fact, I am running the New York City Marathon in November! I look forward to seeing you all soon!
My name is Jennifer Squires and I am the 5th grade ELA teacher. I am entering my 18th year of teaching, and third year here at MBA. I received my bachelor’s and master’s degree from South Alabama, and will be pursuing National Board certification this year! I am a proud aunt to two beautiful nieces and mom to one spoiled pup. I am an avid reader and a huge Alabama fan. Don’t be offended when I greet you with a big ole Roll Tide! Looking forward to an amazing school year!
Academic Content Specialist
Ramona Ardizone, Alabama Reading Specialist
My name is Ramona Ardizone, I am the ARI Reading Specialist here at Mary B. Austin. This coming year will be my 36th year as an educator. My husband Brett and I have been married for 37 years and have 3 wonderful children. I love what I do and am so happy to be part of the Mary B. Austin family!
Rachael Carter, Intervention Teacher
Hi! I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Elementary Education. I’ve taught 5th grade, Kindergarten, and Reading intervention for the last five years. I am married and have 3 children, Caroline (15), Jake (13), and Lane (8). I am excited and looking forward to teaching our Austin Innovators this year!
Maria Gronowski, Innovative Lab Technology Teacher
I have a wonderful, hard-working husband named Geoff, a beautifully smart daughter named Avery and a very vocal husky named Nimbus. When not at school, you can find me reading a book, traveling (we're currently at 32 states) or cheering on the Tide!
Ashley Miller, Title 1 Facilitator & Math Instructional Lead
I am Ashley Miller, and very excited to be a part of the incredible MBA family! I have taught for a total of 13 years, with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education along with a master's degree in Educational Administration. I am married with two beautiful children, love Dauphin Island, and drinking coffee on my back porch! I am ready for a fabulous year at Mary B. Austin.
Special Education Teachers
After receiving a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from the University of Mobile in 2004, I began my teaching career as a third-grade teacher at E. R. Dickson Elementary. I obtained a master's degree in Gifted Education in 2010 from the University of South Alabama and immediately began work with Mobile County’s Gifted Education Program, commonly called PACE. I currently teach at Mary B. Austin Elementary as the Gifted Specialist where I hold pull-out classes for identified gifted students in grades 3-5, support classroom teachers in teaching academically and creatively gifted children, and coordinate and present professional development on student engagement and meeting the needs of high ability learners. I was named the Mobile County Elementary Teacher of the Year in 2019.
Laura M. Hooper, M.S., CCC-SLP-Speech Pathologist at MBA. The 2023-24 school year marks 30 years with the MCPSS primarily serving preschool through fifth grade. Happily married 41 years to Tim, have four grown children and three grandchildren. Proud to have my granddaughter, Elizabeth, enter her final year at MBA as a fifth grader. Excited to collaborate with all of you this year to help my speech students become confident communicators.
Hi! My name is Tori Oetken. This is my 24th year teaching with MCPSS as a Special Ed Teacher, 30 years overall. I will be celebrating 30 years of marriage to my husband, and have 2 grown children. In my free time (hahaha), I own my own wedding planning business, Bella Victoria Event Planning, and Design, which tends to keep me quite busy.
Physical Education Department
My name is Keith Burt (Coach). I am a Physical Education teacher starting my 11th year at Mary B Austin. I am from Monroeville, Alabama, and graduated from Monroe County High School. I received my B.S. in Physical Education from the University of South Alabama. I am married to my beautiful wife Jackie and we are the proud parents of our two daughters Emily and Caroline.
Denise Williams, CNP Manager
For nineteen years at Mary B. Austin, I have serviced students, faculty, staff, and on special occasions families too. It has been with great pleasure meeting the nutritional needs of others through my commitment to the Child Nutrition Program here with MCPSS. In 2015, I received my Bachelor of Science Degree in Early Childhood Education from the University of Mobile. I am excited for this school year as I continue teaching students about healthy meal choices.
Mary B. Austin is the place to BEE!
Jesica Breland, Registrar
I am married with 4 children, a girl, 2 boys, and a nephew we have raised. I love college football (Roll Tide), saltwater fishing, reading, and traveling. You will usually find me laughing or with a smile on my face. I am excited to be at Mary B Austin and I am looking forward to serving the Austin Community as your school Registrar.
Ashley Spelton, Bookkeeper
My name is Ashley Spelton, and I am the Bookkeeper here at MBA. I have been with MCPSS for 30 years, and I have been at MBA for 23 of those years.
My daughters and other family members attended MBA, and I am proud to say that I have grandchildren and other family members attending MBA this present day.
I believe that every day offers us a teachable moment to help motivate each other as administrators, teachers, support staff, parents, grandparents, and guardians of our children to overcome the day-to-day challenges to strive and achieve the desires of their hearts.
MARY B is the place to “BEE” living one day at a time and enjoying one moment at a time.
Olivia Sane, School Nurse
I will be starting my fourth year as a school nurse and my fourth year at MBA. I've been a nurse for almost 10 years. I've done memory care, special needs nursing, and I'm currently PRN for a local hospice. I have just completed my Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training, which I am very proud to have completed! I am also currently working on my Master's Degree in Nursing with a focus on Patient Safety and Quality Improvement and will complete that in April. I have been married for 25 years in October and have 3 children. We love to travel! Looking forward to another great year at Mary B!
Hi, my name is Theresa Agee. I am from Mobile, AL (born and raised). I graduated from Bishop States Community College in 2003, with an Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education. I am dedicated to Mary B. Austin Elementary and have graced my role as a Paraprofessional for over 20 years. I am motivated and supported by my loving family, made up of 4 children and grandkids. Faith, Family, and Friends are the most important driving forces.
Hello, I’m Tara Mcdonald. This will be my third year at MBA and my fourth year with MCPSS, I am a special education paraprofessional and I love every single one of my babies. They are a true JOY. I have two beautiful daughters Emaleigh who is 15 and Addison who is almost 12. I enjoy beach days, time spent with my family, and boat days with friends.
Hello everyone, My name is Kayla Winkler soon to be Kayla Bumgarner. I am 24 years originally from New Jersey. I have lived down here now for almost two years. I have worked with children my whole life, and now I have a five-year-old stepdaughter. I have been teaching K2 for three and a half years now. Becoming a Paraprofessional has been a dream of mine and furthering my education. I am looking forward to meeting y’all and working with everyone.
Hi, my name is Julie Bassett. I received my undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Mobile. I have a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Arts, both in elementary education. I taught 2nd and 3rd grade and have done math and reading intervention in the past, but for the last several years I have been a stay-at-home mom. My husband and I have two boys and my oldest will be a junior at the University of Alabama this fall while my youngest turned 16 this summer and will be a sophomore at UMS-Wright.
Assistant Principal, Regina Flowers
Hello Austin Family! I am honored to begin my second year as the Assistant Principal at Mary B. Austin! It is a privilege to work with a wonderful group of students and a dedicated staff and community that work together to ensure that Austin is an amazing place for our students to learn and grow. I am married, and my husband and I have three wonderful boys: Tyler, Antoine, and Troy. This year marks my 22nd year with MCPSS, and I think this is going to be the best year yet!
Principal, Melissa Whigham
Hello, my name is Melissa Whigham. I have been the principal of Mary B. Austin Elementary since December 2018 and have been a part of the Mobile County Public School System for 25 years. I have 15 years of experience teaching at the elementary and middle school levels and have spent the past 10 years in administration. I hold a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education, as well as a master’s and Specialist degrees in Educational Leadership. Currently, I am enrolled in the Executive Doctoral Program of Educational Leadership at the University of South Alabama.
It is a privilege to work with the students, parents, teachers, and staff at Mary B. Austin Elementary, where I'm committed to fostering a culture of learning and creativity. Our aim is to provide students with numerous opportunities to explore and develop their talents. At Mary B. Austin, we strive to create an environment where students can "BEE" their best selves. I'm grateful to all the parents and guardians who have entrusted us with their children's education.
On a personal note, I love to read, run, and spend time with my family, including my husband, children, and grandbaby.
We Are Austin Innovators!