Weekly Updates - July 2nd, 2020

Weekly Updates - July 2nd, 2020


Good evening Parents,


Happy early 4th of July!  During this challenging time, I hope you and your family are well and healthy.  With the new confirmed cases rising each day, it’s more important than ever that we do everything we can to keep our loved ones safe. 


HISD is continuously working on planning and safety measures for the next school year.  If you haven’t already completed our survey, please take a few minutes to complete this survey and provide your feedback to help us make the most informed plan for your family. 


While much is unknown about this fall semester due to the ever-evolving nature of the pandemic, we have been actively staffing our vacancies.  I am very excited to report that over the past few weeks, we have hired a new assistant principal, promoted a teacher to teacher specialist, and filled the middle school math, science positions and the 5th grade ELA position.  All of our new staff members bring a wealth of knowledge and many years of experience in their respective fields; and I can’t wait to see each of them shine within our MIMS family.  Please see the following bios to learn more about our staffers. Also, be on the look out for more details about an upcoming virtual meet and greet with our new team members!


Ms. Amy Aten – SLL teacher


Ms. Amy Aten obtained her Bachelor of Science and Master's Degree in Business from Texas Woman's University. Upon graduating with her Masters degree, Ms. Aten went into the medical field working in cardiac rehab. Although Ms. Aten enjoyed her career in cardiac rehab, she felt her true calling was in teaching. Ms. Aten has been teaching in the special education field for the last 4 years. 


Mr. Bin Wang – Middle school math teacher


My name is Bin Wang.  The 2020-2021 school year will be my 4th year teaching, and I cannot be happier to be serving the students at MIMS.  I am a graduate of University of Houston  with a degree in Education.  I have a passion for mathematics and I believe the skills learned in Middle School will set the foundation for a child's understanding of more advanced disciplines in High School.

Outside of work,  I enjoy spending time at home with my cat, Samuel Meow Jackson, and my 2 dogs, Duke and Daisy.   When I'm not at home, you can find me biking on trails, at the gym, or eating pizza at Luna's.


Mr. Justin Ritsema – Assistant Principal


My name is Justin Ritsema and I’m thrilled to be joining the team at MIMS! My career in education began in 2009 after my graduation from the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. I joined Teach For America and was fortunate enough to be placed in Houston. My placement school was Northline Elementary, where I taught 5th grade for 4 years. In 2012, I joined Peace Corps in the Republic of North Macedonia where I taught English in a Primary School. After another year in Houston at Northline, I then moved to Boston to attend the Harvard Graduate School of Education. After obtaining my Master’s in School Leadership, I came back to HISD where I worked as a Math/Science Teacher Development Specialist and served as Assistant Principal on two elementary campuses. I was most recently Assistant Principal at Briargrove Elementary.


Ms. Kristen Thome – 5th grade ELA teacher


My family moved to Texas in 1972 and I have been a proud Houstonian ever since. I grew up in Southwest Houston and graduated from Westbury High School. I then attended The University of St. Thomas, where I earned a B.A. in General Studies with an emphasis in English and Philosophy. I returned to UST in 1997 to attend graduate school and received my Masters in Education, followed by completion of coursework required for Educational Administration and Leadership.

I began my career in education in 1999 at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School. In 2006 I had the opportunity to join John Paul II Catholic School as the Assistant Principal for PK3-8 grade. I then joined the team at Northwoods Catholic School as Principal in 2009. For the last six years, I have served as principal of St. Thomas More Parish School. In December, I made the decision to return to teaching and it is truly an honor and a privilege to join the team at Mandarin Immersion Magnet School.


Ms. Kyla Owens – Middle school science teacher


Kyla is a native Houstonian, who lived and traveled across the globe before returning to Houston in 2016. With over six years experience working in the biomedical and public health industries, Kyla Owens is very excited to join the MIMS community as a Middle School Science Teacher, and is looking forward to bringing her love for science into the classroom.

Kyla discovered her passion for science while an undergraduate student at Georgetown University, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Science in International Health. At Georgetown, she competed as a two-sport NCAA student athlete on the Track and Field and Women’s Rowing teams. Kyla subsequently moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, to attend Tulane University, where she earned a Master of Science in Public Health and Tropical Medicine in 2014.

After graduate school, Kyla followed her passion for science and public health to Mozambique, where she worked as an Epidemiologist for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Mozambique, Kyla investigated disease outbreaks and worked on the U.S. government’s response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Upon returning to Houston, Kyla worked at Baylor College of Medicine’s Center for Space Medicine, conducting research on health issues facing NASA astronauts on the International Space Station. Most recently, Kyla worked at Texas Children’s Hospital (TCH) as the Global Monitoring & Evaluation Specialist for TCH’s Global Pediatric Hematology-Oncology program in sub-Saharan Africa (Global H.O.P.E.).

In all, Kyla has lived on four continents and traveled to every one except Antarctica.  She speaks Spanish and Portuguese, and enjoys traveling, hiking, and listening to 80’s pop music. She lives in Houston with her husband, Steve, and their dog, Lucy.


Ms. Xian Xia – Teacher Specialist


My name is Xian Xia, but I go by the name Sana. I am the new Teacher Specialist at MIMS. From an educational perspective, I completed my Bachelor of Art in Music Education at Shanghai Normal University in 2010, and subsequently completed my Master of Education, with a focus on dual language, in 2017 from the University of St. Thomas. I am currently enrolled at Lamar University, in the Principal Certification Program which I hope to complete in 2021. This year marks the 11th year of teaching and my 4th year at MIMS. 

Being an educator is my true calling. Bilingualism has been proven to provide a competitive advantage to young children, so delivering the Chinese language and culture fulfills my purpose and calling. As the Teacher Specialist at MIMS, my work involves close collaboration with multiple key stakeholders: supporting all staff members, parents, students, and closely working in with and assisting Principal Ying and Assistant Principal Ritsema.

My hobbies include playing the accordion and the piano – which I have done since when I was 6 years old. I also love to spend time with my husband, my “fur baby,” Kota Bear, and my 2-year-old son Ivan, who was born in the summer of 2018.

I am looking forward to getting to know you and your family and collaborating with our community to support student learning! My door is always open. Please for free to contact me with any questions or concerns.


Lastly, please see the following for the Book Club’s announcement.  Special thank you to Ms. Kelly Sowards Opot, Ms. Leah Stephens Ramirez, Ms. Natalie Garza, and Ms. Wendy Fong for coordinating this fun reading event!




BOOK CLUB: announcing the second installment of book club - we're reading Between the World and Me, which we chose at the end of the last meeting.


This will be a virtual meeting, hosted by Kelly Sowards Opot, Leah Stephens Ramirez, Natalie Garza, and Wendy Fong.


If you don't already own the book, the audio version is highly recommended (over kindle and hard copy). I've put the links to them below.


Audio - https://libro.fm/audiobooks/9780147520500

Hardcopy - https://www.mahoganybooks.com/9780812993547

Event RSVP:



Book: Between the world and Me

Time: Jul 11, 2020 04:00 PM Central

Join Zoom Meeting https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89697960574?pwd=NGtPTFNyZEtYV2I0SUJSSHNwMkt6UT09

Meeting ID: 896 9796 0574

Password: 065763