Faculty & Staff Stories

Faculty & Staff Stories

The faculty and staff at Hill Country Christian School truly set our school apart. Beyond providing a top-notch educational experience, our teachers are committed to knowing each student personally. Our promise to you is that we will know your child, we will love your child, and we will prepare your child. Read personal stories from our exceptional faculty and staff below.


  • Jessica Tracy
    Jessica Tracy
    Lower School Principal
  • Scott Horne
    Scott Horne
    Director of Athletics
  • Philip Hudgens
    Philip Hudgens
    Dean of Students
  • Ed Baptiste
    Ed Baptiste
    Bible Teacher
  • Jill Bayer
    Jill Bayer
    Middle School Teacher
  • Dave Fionda
    Dave Fionda
    High School Teacher
  • Elaine Burleson
    Elaine Burleson
    Preschool Teacher
  • April Atkinson
    April Atkinson
    Fifth Grade Teacher
  • Pete Craycroft
    Pete Craycroft
    Upper School Teacher
  • Will Scott
    Will Scott
    High School Teacher
  • Mary Lou Herring
    Mary Lou Herring
    High School Teacher
  • Dr. Art Cheng
    Dr. Art Cheng
    High School Teacher
  • Annika Jackson
    Annika Jackson
    High School Teacher
  • Karen Jasek
    Karen Jasek
    Second Grade Teacher

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Jessica Tracy
Lower School Principal

What is your role?
I am the Lower School principal, and I began serving at Hill Country in 2017 after serving in other schools for 35 years.

What do you love about Hill Country Christian School?
From the moment I began working with the staff at Hill Country, I sensed how committed they are to our school, children, and families. Their passion for teaching and serving is driven by their love and desire to honor God. Each day I am filled with such joy to see each and every child come to this school and learn the skills and lessons necessary to do well in school and grow in the truth of the Bible. I am amazed at how involved and supportive our families are. Their commitment to Christian education and academic excellence make this a great Christian school!

What do you love most about working at Hill Country?
I love the unity of the staff. Every teacher cares about each other, their students, and the families. There is a desire not only to see each child succeed academically but also to see them fulfill God’s purpose for their life.

Our tagline is “Preparing for College. Preparing for Life.” How do you help propel students toward this goal?
I begin by getting to know every child and their family. I work closely with my teachers and am intentional about knowing how each child is doing socially, emotionally, academically, and spiritually. I spend time with students daily to gain insight into the gifts and talents God has given them, and I encourage them to develop their strengths to impact God’s kingdom as they are thinking about the future.

What would you tell a family that is considering a Hill Country education?
Hill Country has the most incredible community of families. It is also a school where teachers and staff authentically partner with families to help and support them as they raise their children. In addition to a solid academic foundation taught through a biblical worldview, students have experiences that provide opportunities to grow in their friendships, the arts, sports, and their walk with God.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I am excited about what the Lord is doing at Hill Country. With the building of a new multipurpose athletic center (MAC), I believe our school will continue to grow and draw families who desire a high quality Christian for their children. I am thankful for all of the families who support our school and look forward to serving them and new families for many years to come!

Scott Horne
Director of Athletics

How many years have you worked at Hill Country?
I have worked at Hill Country for 19 years.

What is your role?
I am the director of athletics and the parent of three Hill Country students.

What do you love about Hill Country Christian School?
Jennifer and I love the sense of community and family. We love the fact that the teachers know our kids. When I am walking the halls and see a student who is having a bad day, I can stop and pray with them. Hill Country is a great place to work and to have our kids in school.

What do you like most about teaching at Hill Country?
I enjoy the small, intimate class settings. I truly have the opportunity to get to know students on a personal level and do life with them. Teaching and coaching have been passions of mine for a long time, and I have been blessed to invest in the lives of the students and families here for the past 19 years. Here’s the secret, though … If I stop to think about it, I have learned more over the years about being a better husband and father by interacting with the students and families here than I could have anywhere else.

Our tagline is “Preparing for College. Preparing for Life.” How do you help propel students toward this goal?
One great thing is that I am able to share experiences in my life and my family’s life to help students on their journey to adulthood. Teaching, preparing, guiding, and loving them through difficult times will pay huge dividends when they are out in the community changing lives for Jesus Christ.

What would you tell a family who is considering a Hill Country education?
I would tell them that Hill Country is a great school academically, and it is also a great place to do life. Jen and I have been blessed beyond measure as both staff and parents here at Hill Country. The sense of community is beyond compare.

Philip Hudgens
Dean of Students

How many years have you worked at Hill Country?
I’m serving in my 18th year at Hill Country Christian School. I also have four daughters who attend the school.

What is your role?
Head Football Coach, Head Golf Coach, and Dean of Students

What do you love most about Hill Country Christian School?
I love the people.

Tell us a story about one of your students.
In 2003, 2005 and 2006, I had the privilege of coaching a young man named Trey on our football team. He transferred to public school in 2004 but came back the following year. While attending Hill Country, Trey tried to give off the appearance of a servant’s heart. He had a lot of head knowledge but would tell you now, although he knew the answers concerning his faith and the Bible, he didn’t really believe all of them. After graduation he spent his first semester in what could be described as selfish, wild living. He was good at justifying and rationalizing his choices. It didn’t take long for Trey to realize there was a battle taking place. He had to make a decision, that he either believed all the things he had been taught, or it was all a lie. He also realized if he did believe what he’d been taught, his lifestyle was not lining up. Trey began to ask God questions, and his relationship became real and very much his own. It wasn’t his parents’ faith any longer; it was his faith. God got a hold of Trey’s heart.

After his first year in college, I asked Trey to address our football team and high school students about authentic faith. He ended with, “I’m not sure how my story will be used in the future at Hill Country, but I mean God absolutely used my time there to change my life now. I hope that my struggles are relatable but honest in a way that people don’t think less, or even more of me, but think more of our God, who pursues every one of us with His perfect timing.” Trey graduated from Texas A&M and is now married to a wonderful young lady, has a beautiful daughter and another baby on the way. Last year when he was in town, we were only able to see each other briefly because he was on his way to lead 15 young men on a weekend camp about biblical manhood. We do not always have the benefit of seeing the fruits of our labor and often don’t see the immediate change in lives we’re hoping for. But I do know that none of us labors in vain. God is absolutely and relentlessly pursuing every one of us, and His timing is perfect.

What would you tell a student or family who is considering a Hill Country education?
I don’t know if another school exists where your child would be genuinely cared about or loved more. I know this school cares for and loves students in a way that I believe God intends for believers to, and that’s one of the reasons my family is here.

Ed Baptiste
Bible Teacher

How many years have you worked at Hill Country Christian School, and what is your role?
This is my 21st year at the school, and I am the middle school Bible teacher.

What do you love most about Hill Country Christian School?
I love the freedom we have to share and unpack the Gospel of Jesus Christ every day. I also love getting to know my students and engaging with them.

What do you like most about teaching at Hill Country?
I love sharing the relentless love of Christ with my students as I teach them God’s Word. Also, my coworkers are my friends and family. We encourage and pray for one another.

Our tagline is “Preparing for College. Preparing for Life.” How do you help propel students toward this goal?
I help my students discover their purpose and challenge them to stay true to their identity in Christ.

What would you tell a family that is considering a Hill Country education?
Seek first the Kingdom of God, step out in faith, and trust Jesus. We are not perfect, but God is faithful. Your child will grow, learn, and be known. Hill Country is a great place for students to grow in faith as they gain wisdom, knowledge, and a deeper understanding of a biblical worldview.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
The greatest part of who we are is not about academics or athletics, but it’s simply about Jesus. Jesus is welcome here. I’m grateful to be a part of this community!

Jill Bayer
Middle School Teacher

How long have you worked at Hill Country?
I began teaching here in 2011.

What is your role?
I teach 6th grade English and 8th grade World Cultures.

What do you love about Hill Country Christian School?
I love that the school is small enough that we are able to get to know each student personally. I love the closeness of the faculty and the supportive, caring relationships I’ve developed over the years.

What do you like most about teaching at Hill Country?
The thing I like most about teaching at Hill Country is that I get to work with the support of a great administration and amazing families and students.

Our tagline is “Preparing for College. Preparing for Life.” How do you help propel students toward this goal?
I feel that being in middle school is an extremely important step in developing students who are prepared for college and life. I strive to make my classes meaningful and relevant to my students’ future while supplying the building blocks of history and writing that prepare them for the higher grades.

What would you tell a family who is considering a Hill Country education?
Hill Country is a safe and loving environment for your child. Not only will your child be challenged academically, but also they will be challenged to grow in their faith and their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Dave Fionda
High School Teacher

How many years have you worked at Hill Country?
I have worked here for 11 years.

What is your current role?
I am the Upper School Math and Science Department Chair and an Upper School math teacher.

What do you love about Hill Country Christian School?
I love how Hill Country is such a positive environment where people genuinely try their best to support one another.

How has your experience at Hill Country been different from other places you have worked?
The majority of my career has been in “Corporate America,” and the differences are numerous. I love teaching and coaching in general, but especially at Hill Country, where the community is so close and we are united in our desire and ability to be Christ-centered.

What would you tell a student or family who is considering a Hill Country education?
The education is truly college preparatory, the community genuinely cares for your family, and your child will be taught a solid Christian worldview that can stand up to testing.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I love how our students can engage in many sports at an extremely competitive level without being forced to over-specialize in order to compete, as is the case in many public school situations.

Elaine Burleson
Preschool Teacher

How many years have you been involved with Hill Country?
This is my 7th year to teach at Hill Country and my 15th as a parent. I have an alum and kids in 11th, 10th, and 7th grade.

What is your role?
I am a preschool teacher.

What do you love about Hill Country Christian School?
I love that Hill Country is Christ-centered. Because we are Christ-centered, families love and serve each other… it’s a great community.

How has your experience at Hill Country Christian School been unique?
I love my preschool team! They are coworkers, sisters in Christ, and true friends. My favorite part of teaching preschool is watching children grow in their knowledge of the Lord. We get to watch Him move in their little hearts and see their eyes open to His goodness and love. It is precious to hear when they have accepted Christ as their Savior and a delight to attend baptisms.

What would you tell a student or family who is considering a Hill Country education?
Your child will get a great education. But even more important than that, he/she will have opportunities to know God and worship through weekly chapels and classroom discussions in Lower School. In Upper School, students attend chapel, small groups, and have opportunities to serve through mentor programs, mission trips, and community service. Students gain an understanding that we are created to worship God and serve others.

Is there anything else you would like to share?
Often we have people ask us, “Why did you choose Hill Country?” We are humbled to say that God chose this amazing school community for us. Thirteen years ago, we received a phone call from the registrar to tell us that someone gave a personal donation to the school for our daughter to attend. Someone chose to invest in Kendal’s life, and because of their generosity, the direction of our whole family changed. We are humbled and forever grateful. Choosing to use the scholarship was one of the best decisions we have made! The next question we are asked is, “How can you afford it?” Honestly, it has been a faith journey each year, and God has provided in miraculous ways for our four children to attend.

April Atkinson
Fifth Grade Teacher

How many years have you worked at Hill Country, and what is your role?
I began teaching at Hill Country in 2014, and I am a fifth grade teacher.

What do you love about Hill Country?
I love the family atmosphere! I have felt like I belonged here from the moment I was hired.

How has your experience at Hill Country Christian School been unique?
The family atmosphere is refreshing and new to me. We are a team and truly support and help each other.

What would you tell a student or family who is considering a Hill Country education?
Hill Country provides a high quality education. Your student will graduate prepared for any university. The students’ minds are complete with knowledge, and their hearts are full of God’s love.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
I consider this job a huge privilege and honor from Jesus! I am beyond thrilled that He chose me to be a teacher at Hill Country.

Pete Craycroft
Upper School Teacher

How many years have you worked at Hill Country?
This is my 18th year.

What is your current role?
I am an Upper School teacher and the baseball coach.

What do you love about Hill Country Christian School?
I love the unity of the Spirit and like-minded purpose of the board, administration, and staff. I love how the students and faculty love each other and appreciate being part of this great school.

How has your experience at Hill Country Christian School been different from other places you have worked?
The biggest difference has been the freedom to operate completely within the context and scope of my biblical worldview. In the public schools I could still be who I was in Christ personally in the way I cared for and treated people, but educationally and in my coaching, I was frequently forced to stop short of the reason for how I acted or handled or taught something.

Our tagline is “Preparing for College. Preparing for Life.” How do you help propel students toward this goal?
I keep it real with them. I am open and honest, pulling no punches, always pointing them toward biblical truth, and reminding them that following Jesus is not religion – it’s reality.

Share a story about something you have seen in the school community.
Even though our personalities and styles are vastly different, I have felt for a long time like Philip Hudgens and I share the same brain. It has made us great friends, and I think has had a subtle, stabilizing effect on the school throughout the years. The strength of Philip’s Holy Spirit-directed personality and unwavering commitment to Christ have played a huge role in the lives of scores of young men through the years as he has inspired, and sometimes pushed, them toward manhood. There is a long list of young men who would point to Philip as one of the, if not the, most defining Christian influences in their lives. Hill Country would not be the school it is today without Philip’s consistent presence and outspoken influence over the last 17 years. (Click here to read Philip Hudgens’ story.)

What would you tell a family who is considering a Hill Country education?
Hill Country is the best place for students and families who are serious about forging a biblical worldview, living in community, and solidifying a foundation that will be impactful in the world beyond high school. If you’re serious about developing into a leader for the Kingdom, come here, throw yourself in, and soak it all up. Along the way, you will greatly enhance your college preparation, acceptance, and scholarship possibilities, and so financially it’s a great return on your investment. Also, the majority of our students have the opportunity to experience high school athletics under the mentorship of top-notch coaches who also care for their souls, something that they would not be able to experience almost anywhere else. We mean what we say: at Hill Country your child will be known, loved, and prepared.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
This may seem mundane, but I love coaching baseball at Hill Country because I get to teach the game here. It’s incredible to see some of the kids who have never really played before fall in love with the game and become competitive players. It’s great to be a Hill Country Knight!

Will Scott
High School Teacher

How many years have you worked at Hill Country and what is your role?
I began teaching at Hill Country in 2014, and I teach Upper School history, video production, and worship arts & leadership.

What do you love about Hill Country Christian School?
I really enjoy the culture at Hill Country. Humility and community is felt throughout the school. Coming from a larger school, I have really enjoyed the opportunity to truly know the leadership, my fellow teachers, and the students.

How has your experience at Hill Country Christian School been unique?
In my previous experience there was less focus on getting to know students and letting students get to know the teachers. I love that this is not the case at Hill Country.

Our tagline is “Preparing for College. Preparing for Life.” How do you help propel students toward this goal?
As a teacher at Hill Country I hope to prepare my students for college and life by aiming at three different, but not mutually exclusive, targets. I hope to take them through a curriculum that will not only teach them valid content but also help them deepen their cognitive abilities. I want them to develop deeper thinking skills that can be transferred into any domain. Secondly, I want them to learn how to use various channels to communicate effectively. I want them to gain confidence and competency in communicating what they have learned and believe. Last but not least, I want them to see how the Gospel and the truth in the Bible are woven throughout history and propel us in academics, leadership, artistry, and relationships.

What would you tell a family who is considering a Hill Country education?
Each teacher is brilliant at educating in their field and has a sincere care for each of their students. Hill Country is a school where each student can develop, grow into a leader, foster community, and be part of something bigger than himself.

Mary Lou Herring
High School Teacher

How many years have you worked at Hill Country?
This is my 15th year at Hill Country.

What is your role?
I teach high school English.

What do you love about Hill Country Christian School?
I love my students – their curiosity and questions. This job is never boring, and I learn as much from them as I could ever teach them. They make me laugh and think. I love when I see a light come on for them that wasn’t there before our class.

How has your experience at Hill Country Christian School been unique?
I love the family feeling at Hill Country – from my students, their parents, my fellow faculty members, and the administration.  Additionally, I’ve never been in a more sincerely prayer-filled place. We pray for each other, our community, and the world both in planned and spontaneous ways.

Tell us about one of your favorite Hill Country moments.
In my class, we do a lot of different types of learning, from building to writing, from coloring to commenting. I once assigned a project to create your own hero story, based on our nine traits of a hero’s journey. It was meant to be a quick lesson but turned into a quarter-long writing project for some students and sparked an interest in writing they didn’t know was there. It eventually led to the founding of the Young Authors Club, which now meets every week. These students are working on stories or poems to enter in the Scholastic Writing contest.

What would you tell a family who is considering a Hill Country education?
Hill Country is an all-in kind of education. You commit your student to us, and we covenant to work with you to bring glory to God through the education and care of that student. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is for those who want a lifelong impact for their student. We are still in touch with our students years after graduation – encouraging, cheering, and even consoling.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
I have found a second home at Hill Country. My own daughter knows I consider the Hill Country students “my kids.” Teachers here live their work and love their work. I hope to be in this family for years to come.

Dr. Art Cheng
High School Teacher

How many years have you worked at Hill Country?
I began teaching here in 2015.

What is your role?
I teach Anatomy and Physiology.

What do you love about Hill Country Christian School?
I appreciate the camaraderie among the faculty and the fellowship among the students. On our first day of class, I asked each student to introduce one of their peers to me. I was struck by the admiration, annoyances, humor, and history that they’ve shared as a family over the years. What a picture of fellowship!

What do you like most about teaching at Hill Country?
I love that I am interacting with God’s future movers and shakers. I am sincerely humbled to be a part of it. Every student in my class has enormous potential to impact the world, whether it be through business, medicine, music, interior design, aeronautics… My role as a teacher is to ultimately help them get there. In five years, they may not remember all of the bones and muscles, but I hope they will remember my encouragement.

Our tagline is “Preparing for College. Preparing for Life.” How do you help propel students toward this goal?
In terms of academics, I am using a curriculum based on the one I used at the college level. In terms of personal growth, I want them to see from my own life, flaws and all, an example of a professional, scientist, and physician trying to keep my faith first.

What would you tell a family who is considering a Hill Country education?
There are lots of places to get an excellent education, but an education grounded in a Christian worldview, alongside like-minded peers, where families are partners, is the epitome of Hill Country.

Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Another thing I’ve really enjoyed is participating in the monthly competitions between my class and the AP Biology class for the Chromosome Cup. If you have an athletic student, please sign them up for my class!

Annika Jackson
High School Teacher

How long have you worked at Hill Country?
I started teaching at Hill Country in 2010.

What is your role?
I teach Senior Thesis, Logic, and Biblical Doctrine.

What do you love about Hill Country Christian School?
The faculty truly cares about the students, and they push our students to think.

Our tagline is “Preparing for College. Preparing for Life.” how do you help propel students toward this goal?
In Logic, I am preparing students to think critically and not take all information at face value, which is imperative as they head to college and live in a media-driven world with hidden agendas. Senior Thesis helps students be prepared to write and defend a position before a panel. I feel this is invaluable to them both in preparation for writing in college and being able to speak effectively.

What would you tell a family who is considering a Hill Country education?
Your student will be known, loved and challenged to think, write, and communicate effectively. They will have a place to belong, because there are so many activities to be involved in whether it is athletics, fine arts, or clubs.

Karen Jasek
Second Grade Teacher

How many years have you worked at Hill Country, and what is your role?
This is my 15th year, and I am a second grade teacher.

What do you love about Hill Country?
The thing I love most is that we are able to pray and worship together.

How has your experience at Hill Country been unique?
I appreciate that my colleagues and I are able to pray together before school. We share our concerns and joys and support each other with the Lord’s help. I can also pray with a student who is upset or concerned about something. We pray together as a class for students who are absent, and we share about our blessings, too.

Tell us one of your favorite things about your class.
I appreciate observing the love that second graders have for their parents. We have two events in second grade that encourage students to appreciate their parents. One event is Founding Fathers. We talk about the fact that fathers are the founders of their own families. Students write stories telling what they love about their fathers. We eat breakfast together, and fathers pray with their child before they go work. We also have a Model Moms event. We talk about how moms are often a model of Christ to their children in the way they serve and bless their families. The children create cards and gifts and write a story about their moms. I am also blessed to watch moms and their children pray together. The children do all of the clean-up after both events. Serving and surprising their parents brings joy to everyone.

What would you tell a student or family who is considering a Hill Country education?
Yes, we are academically sound, and we also have the benefit of working together to serve and better our community through Christ.