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Meet the SEL Team

Cherie Spencer


My name is Cherie Spencer and I am the GISD SEL Coordinator. I grew up and graduated from high school in Burleson, Texas.  I attended Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. I graduated with an Early Childhood Education Degree and a Bachelor of Science.  I received my master's degree from National Louis University. Greatness starts with the heart, we as educators must remember that all children have a heart and it is our job to help mold that heart. Values and character traits are learned through purposeful interactions and it is our job to simulate those opportunities within our schools so that every child is given the chance to learn them.  

Emily Giffin


My name is Emily Giffin, and I’ve been a first grade teacher in the district for 4 ½ years.  This year I’m taking on a new role as an SEL Specialist at Collegiate Academy and I couldn’t be more excited! 

I’m a graduate of the University of Houston-Clear Lake.  I have lived on the island for over 14 years.  I’ve helped with many service learning projects (raising money for trees to be planted at the dog park, as well as, a poetry night at MOD Café for our students and community).  Before teaching, I started my own business here on the island, Little Miss Cupcake, with my twin sister.  I enjoy baking as well as rescuing animals.  I look forward to working with our students to impact our schools and community in a positive, socially and emotionally driven way.

Debbie Hopkins


My name is Debbie Hopkins and I am the SEL specialist assigned to Ball High.  I am a BOI and grew up going through the Galveston Public Schools system and a 1987 Graduate of Ball High School.  I have two children who are currently attending GISD schools and two step children who are both graduates of Ball High School.  As you can see, I am dedicated to the island and our public-school system.  I have been working in education for 24 years.  I spent the first 22 years as a classroom teacher in GISD.  I taught and/or coached every grade level from grades K-12.  I went back to school and received my master's degree in School Counseling and spent my last two years working as a school counseling in TCISD.  When the position of an SEL specialist came available I truly believe it is the perfect job for me.  I am passionate about the social and emotional aspects of students and how it affects their learning.  I am excited about working with the students and teachers at Ball High School and across the district.

Miriam Soto Bailon

Phone: 409-761-6405


My name is Miriam Soto Bailon and I am the  Administrative Assistant for Causeway Galveston-SEL.

I am a BOI (Born On the Island) and a Ball High School Tor graduate. I've worked in education for the past 8 years.

I was an Instructional Assistant for Pre-K 3 and 4 and a Teaching Fellow for kindergarten through fourth grade.

Also, I taught Pre-k 4 for one year. 

Currently, I am in school and majoring in Education.  It was a joy to have joined the SEL team in August 2018. 

Kristina Castaneda


My name is Kristina Castaneda and I am the SEL specialist at Rosenberg Elementary. I am a BOI and a graduate of Ball High School. After high school, I attended Texas A&M University at Galveston where I studied Marine Biology and received my certification for teaching. I have been working in education for the past five years as a Biology and Aquatic Science Lead Teacher. I am so excited to be apart of the SEL Team and to working with our students and teachers to create a positive and healthy community. 

L Chambers


My name is L Chambers, and I am the Social Emotional Learning Specialist at AIM, DAEP and Collegiate. Being from Galveston, I am the product of the GISD school system which has guided my passion for encouraging and strengthening the character within students from the island.  I have been working with children on the island for seventeen years, but I have been employed in the district for seven years. As a teacher I found myself focused on helping students develop to the best possible version of themselves rather than academics. While I loved the classroom and the impact I made on students, when the opportunity to become a SEL Specialist became available I knew it was meant for me. I am eager to provide skills that will influence many students on the campuses.