Dr. Freda Deskin
Dr. Freda Deskin is the Chief Executive Officer/Founder/Superintendent of Advanced Science and Technology Education Charter (ASTEC) Schools in Oklahoma City. ASTEC was the first start-up charter school in the state and serves nearly 1,000 inner-city students in grades 6-12. Dr. Deskin earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Central Oklahoma and a master’s degree in secondary education and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from the University of Oklahoma (OU), where she was a National Collegiate Scholastic All-American. She holds a certificate in strategic management from Harvard University and has completed additional coursework in finance at Oklahoma City University (OCU).
Dr. Deskin has been an education leader for over four decades. She taught for fifteen years at the pre-collegiate level and nine years at the University of Oklahoma. She served for six years as a university dean at Oklahoma City University until founding ASTEC Charter Schools in 2000. Dr. Deskin has been honored numerous times at every level for her teaching and leadership skills and for her community commitment. Dr. Freda Deskin has long been an innovator in education, impacting hundreds of thousands of learners. She established the “Oklahoma Odyssey of the Mind,” the Oklahoma Aerospace Academy, the International Aerospace Academy, “Team Quest,” ropes and leadership programs at both OU and OCU and co-founded For Youth Initiatives (FYI) a high school dropout awareness and prevention program. In 1985, Deskin was selected as a finalist in NASA’s “Teacher in Space” project, becoming one of only 100 individuals in the world with the official title of “U.S. Space Ambassador.” Dr. Deskin has been honored by more organizations than can be mentioned, including the Boy Scouts of America, the Girl Scouts of America and the American Institute of Architects. The University of Oklahoma Jeannine Rainbolt College of Education’s “Career Achievement Award” recognized her continued contribution to education. In addition, a host of education and business leaders have recognized Dr. Deskin with awards and citations for her outstanding contributions.
Dr. Deskin is listed in Who’s Who in American Education, Who’s Who in the World, Outstanding Women in American, 2000 Notable Women in the US, and the 2002 International Who’s Who of Professional Educators. She was named “Woman of the Year” for Oklahoma by the Girl Scouts and was named as one of the “50 Women Making a Difference” in Oklahoma on three occasions, making her eligible for the Journal Record’s “Circle of Excellence.” She received the Frank G. Brewer Award for the Southwest Region for outstanding contributions in aerospace education, the prestigious “By-liner” award by Women in Communication, and was named by Enterprising Women magazine as “Enterprising Woman of the Year.” Dr. Deskin has developed programs, curriculum guides and books for national educational organizations such as the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, NASA, Disney’s EPCOT Center and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).
Dr. Deskin has been featured in a number of national publications including Education Week and various educational videos. She is a member of the National and State “Women President’s Organization” (WPO) and the International Women’s Forum. She served on the Oklahoma Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Advisory Panel and is the chair of the Red Earth curriculum committee. Dr. Deskin is a member of Leadership Norman, Leadership Oklahoma City, and Leadership Oklahoma. She has been inducted into the Women in Aerospace Hall of Fame in Washington, D.C. and the Oklahoma Educators Hall of Fame.
Jenny Gehay was born on Canon Air Force Base in Clovis, New Mexico. As the daughter of a now retired Air Force servicemember, she has lived in Virginia and Okinawa, Japan before finally settling permanently in Oklahoma. She graduated from Carl Albert High School in 2004 and attended Oklahoma Baptist University.
After graduating with a degree in Public Relations and a minor in Graphic Design, she began working as a Marketing and Advertising Specialist for the 72d Force Support Squadron for Tinker Air Force Base. She was nominated for Civilian of the Quarter Category V "Newcomer of the Year" in 2009 and received the "Imagination and Innovation Award" in 2009.
She and her husband welcomed their first child together in August 2012. They enjoy golfing and spending time with their two dogs, Mya and Juno.
Stacey Hannan was born in Illinois and grew up in the Illinois and Indiana areas. She attended college in Illinois and has held positions in administration, management, education, customer service and hospitality. She realized her passion for individual education, advanced placement and charter schools while raising her son, whose success in education roots back to a magnet elementary school. Her son's steadfast intellectual growth spurred the development of her own home school support group in Chicago.
Her home school involvement quickly led to working with youth and young adults through the community college. That connection helped provide more opportunities for talent-based individual education in both public and private sectors within their district and the surrounding areas. Now that her son is grown, she and her two dogs have relocated to Oklahoma.
Her old school values, appreciation of cultural diversity, strong connection with nature and animals and desire to maintain a peaceful and balanced lifestyle have brought her back to the setting of some of her fondest childhood memories. While settling in Oklahoma, she was elated to find ASTEC Charter Schools and is proud to be on staff.
Stephanie Nelson was born and raise in Moore, Oklahoma. She gained on-site experience in human resources when she began working in payroll for a professional employer company. It was at that time she realized she had a passion for helping people and focused on learning as much as she could in human resources, in addition to her finance position. Ms. Nelson has spent the last twelve years in human resources for the television broadcasting industry.
Ms. Nelson has three children, 4 grandchildren and a dog named Darla. Her hobbies include reading, riding motorcycles and listening to music.
Sherri O'Neil graduated from Rose State College with an associate's degree in business administration. Since 1999, she has been raising funds for non-profit organizations in Oklahoma City. She has spent a majority of her career with the Oklahoma Division of the Arthritis Foundation. Ms. O'Neil has experience organizing several different fundraiser events, including galas, wine tastings, walks/runs, music festivals and go-kart races, just to name a few. She has also had the opportunity to work with children who have arthritis by directing a summer camp program.
Ms. O'Neil has been in Oklahoma her entire life and is married to her best friend, Timothy O'Neil. They have four children and a pug name Lilly. When they aren't working, they love to go camping, antiquing and reading. Their oldest son is an educator at Central Junior High in Moore, OK. Ms. O'Neil's passion is helping kids to be more than what they think they can be and watching them excel and overcome life's challenges.
Patrick Runnels graduated from Oklahoma State University with a degree in English education. He is currently studying finance at the University of Central Oklahoma. Patrick began his career teaching English at U.S. Grant High School in Oklahoma City. While there, he discovered a passion for teaching and creating new strategies to reach both high-level learners and at-risk kids. In the six years that he taught there, he achieved excellent results with his students and worked to train new teachers for future success in the classroom. As a team leader, he was also a prominent voice in redesigning the school’s English curriculum.
In his spare time, Patrick enjoys traveling and experiencing different cultures with his wife, designing an open-source website for curriculum, and writing a novel. They have a boisterous Schnodle named Jacques and are expecting their first child this year. He is delighted to join the ASTEC community and is eager to stay involved with dynamic learners.
Misti Ashford is a native Oklahoman and has been at ASTEC Charter Schools for thirteen years. Her first role was in the classroom as a 6th grade English teacher for which she was named ASTEC Teacher of the Year in 2003. She then worked as a curriculum coordinator for the district before transitioning to ASTEC Middle School Principal - a position she held for five years.
Prior to working in education, Ashford worked at Government Information Tracking (GIT) as editor of Capitol Network News a daily newsletter that covered the Oklahoma state legislature. Ashford earned her degree in communications from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma. As a senior in college, she was named editor of a small national magazine that covered the sport of rodeo. Upon graduation from college, she, along with her college professor, co-founded a small marketing firm that specialized in promoting equine events primarily on the East Coast. She worked in that capacity until she permanently moved to Oklahoma City. Ashford is a technology enthusiast. Away from work, she and her husband Nathan spend time pursuing their interests in music, writing and visual arts.
Leo Espinoza is a native of Southern California. He was an independent business owner in Seattle, WA for more than 25 years before moving to Oklahoma City. The ultimate problem solver, Mr. Espinoza invented an invisible process for repairing leather. He is a “Jack-of-all-Trades,” with abilities in construction, plumbing, small engines, electronics and more. Technology, music and electronics have been hobbies for more than 40 years. Mr. Espinoza has won numerous prizes and honors for his knowledge of trivia in the areas of music, history and pop culture.
In 2000, Mr. Espinoza began working with ASTEC on a voluntary basis, resulting in the savings of many tens of thousands of dollars through his abilities in procurement and technology. In the summer of 2003, Mr. Espinoza was hired by ASTEC as a network administrator and procurement officer. Mr. Espinoza retired from ASTEC in the summer of 2014 after 14 years of dedicated service.
He has three grown children, a teenage granddaughter and two schnauzers.