About Shine Behavioral Academy

About Us

We Are You…

We are first and foremost parents and professionals in the special needs industry, many of us are parents of children on the spectrum and understand firsthand how difficult the educational experience can be for not only our students but also for their caregivers and families. We know that parent/guardian involvement is essential in order for the child to be immersed in appropriate education and intervention at all times.

The course work at The SHINE BEHAVIORAL ACADEMY will be individualized for all students. The program will not be grade determinant, and the students will work at a level commensurate to his/her abilities. We accept both verbal and non-verbal students. We believe that the ability to learn comes in all forms, shapes and sizes and we must adjust our curriculum to teach to students with varied sensory, communication and learning challenges. Acceptance will be determined by the initial evaluation performed prior to enrollment.

Providing our students with that little bit of extra effort and quality makes all the difference! We offer three small classrooms with a low ratio of student to teacher and paraprofessional, every classroom has a designated teacher present at all times. We also provide an open “center” area where children can learn at their own pace or join others in group activities outside of the classroom. Little extras like a BEAM laser projection system with hundreds of educational games, a rock climbing wall, custom lighting that can be adjusted for our students and an outdoor play area for gross motor activities, socialization and a safe place to get all that energy out make all the difference!

Come on in for a visit and check us out!

Emilye Schmale

Our Founder & Head of School

Emilye Schmale

First and foremost, I am a mother. My eleven-year-old son was diagnosed 7 days after birth with his first diagnosis of Hydrocephalus. This resulted in three brain surgeries and a later diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. Just before my son’s third birthday we received yet another diagnosis, this time Autism.

I have walked this journey with many others in the DFW area for many years and I‘ve seen the pain and the joy, the success over the little things and the daily struggles and stress from a firsthand perspective. I connect with fellow ASD parents in groups, online forums, at playdates, doctor appointments and special needs functions and conferences. I have felt the desperation and desire for help and support. I saw a way to make a difference, that is why three years ago I created Shine Behavioral LLC, a high quality multi-disciplinary ABA center. We have been honored to be chosen again and again by parents in our community as their therapy center of choice. It is those same parents that asked over and over for not just a therapy center but for a SCHOOL for their unique children to be educated in a truly customized setting.

As the Founder of Shine Behavioral Academy, it is my dream that every child on the spectrum be educated the way the need to be, we must teach in the way they learn and not try to mold the student into our standard educational platforms. It is important to me to provide a safe place where students can learn & grow. After over 15 years as a sales & marketing professional in the corporate world, I am now immersed in my true passion, supporting those on the spectrum via Shine Behavioral LLC and Shine Behavioral Academy.

Jourdan Larraga

Principal of School

Jourdan Larraga

I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences (BSHS) and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the University of the Incarnate Word, and I am currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree in Educational Leadership, Policy, and Law. I hold a paraprofessional certification in behavior analysis as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). I also completed my Texas Teacher Certification Program from Texas Teachers of Tomorrow to become certified in Special Education EC–12.

As an educator, I have been privileged to work with students and teachers in various classroom settings. I have worked as a behavior analyst, registered behavior technician, instructional coach, and early intervention teacher. I also completed field-based experiences in introductory classrooms at one of the nation’s largest charter school networks, involving reflective observation of K-12 special education and conducting academic assessments. I possess the fundamental skills, knowledge, and passion for working with our learners in all Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) areas, providing individual and group instruction for children on the Autism spectrum.

In addition to my expertise in teaching, my professional and educational background gives me a holistic understanding of overall school operations and administration. I am familiar with curriculum development, assessment strategies, instructional best practices, assessments, determining special education eligibility, academic and behavioral interventions, state and federal legal frameworks, and ensuring compliance with all facets of special education. My strong leadership skills and effective communication allow me to contribute to the Academy’s overall success as Principal. I firmly believe in collaboration and teamwork and strive to create an environment where all stakeholders feel supported, valued, and confident in their abilities to contribute to the Academy’s community’s success.

Evan Skelton

Our Lead BCBA, LBA

(Clinical Director of Shine Behavioral LLC)

Evan Skelton

I hold my Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and my Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis from the University of South Florida. I am certified by the national Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) as a BCBA and I have over 10 years of experience working directly with children from ages 2-14, early intervention holds a special place in my heart. I have always felt passionate about working with children, but for me, nothing compares to working with children on the Autism Spectrum. There is something so special about getting to know each child on a personal level and seeing the beauty, intelligence, and sense of humor most others may never be fortunate enough to see.

As an ABA provider, I place a heavy focus on early intervention and school readiness. As a school-based Behavior Analyst at the Academy, it is my role to oversee and collaborate closely with other service providers and teachers to ensure each student gets the best continuity of care and attention while incorporating the principals of ABA into the school environment. For me, there is no better reward than improving the quality of life for our special need’s children and their families.

John Barnes


John Barnes

John Barnes is a committed Board Certified Behavior Analyst, with a foundation in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) that began at Western Michigan University. John moved to Texas to enrich his expertise with a Master’s degree from the University of North Texas. His experience is vast and varied, covering clinics, worksites, schools, and home settings.

His strategy focuses on developing, transferring, and reinstating learners’ repertoires through environments that are not just nurturing but specifically adapted to meet individual needs. This bespoke approach ensures that every intervention is as effective as possible. John’s passion particularly shines when working with children, driven by the tangible, rapid progress and the profound reward of seeing their development.

Moreover, John’s practice is distinguished by his use of evidence-based methodologies and innovative techniques tailored to enhance learning and behavioral outcomes. His dedication to fostering significant improvements in his clients’ lives exemplifies his role as a pivotal figure in their journey to independence.

John will also be overseeing our students at Shine Behavioral Academy and working with our Principal and teaching staff to best support them from an ABA standpoint while in a learning environment.

Anthony Sanchez

Lead Special Education Teacher

Anthony Sanchez

I am a certified Special Education PK-12 teacher in Texas with a decade of teaching experience. My educational journey includes a Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies, summa cum laude, a Master’s in Education, and soon a Ph.D. in Education.

I have ten years of service in the U.S. Army Reserves, currently holding the rank of E-5 Sergeant. Through my decade-long experience, I have cultivated a deep understanding of the principles of discipline, teamwork, and strategic thinking. Whether working with seasoned professionals or guiding students of various ages, I draw upon my military background to foster a culture of responsibility, resilience, and effective communication that allows me to teach and inspire the next generation of leaders, emphasizing the values of integrity, adaptability, and a commitment to excellence.

I have also held various teaching and leadership positions as a Lead SPED Teacher, Campus Coordinator, and SPED Coach in A-rated public and charter schools in the vibrant communities of San Antonio and the DFW area. I have played a pivotal role in fostering an inclusive and supportive learning environment for students with diverse needs, oversaw aspects of school operations, and supported and mentored teachers, ensuring the delivery of high-quality services to students with unique learning requirements.

I am actively involved in Autism community initiatives, demonstrating my commitment to making a positive impact. Excited to become a part of Shine Behavioral Academy, I am devoted to the distinctive challenge of unlocking students’ potential through personalized education. I believe in providing equal opportunities to every child and am excited about contributing to Shine’s dedication to the growth of each student.

Jakayla Shurm

Special Education Teacher

Jakayla Shurm

I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and am pursuing a Master of Education in Special Education (M.Ed.) from Lamar University. I hold a paraprofessional certification in behavior analysis as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). My expertise in an educational setting comes from years of experience working as a preschool teacher K-4, behavioral technician, early intervention specialist, behavior specialist, and now, special education teacher. I specialize in implementing direct treatment plans, skill acquisition, behavior resolution, developing age-appropriate socialization skills, applied behavioral analysis (ABA) and data collection focused on exceeding academic goals in all core subjects.

Committed to our mission and philosophy, my goal is to ensure assessment, pedagogy and curriculum are all individualized, and student-centered so that students receive the support they deserve. In addition, I take pride in utilizing my creativity by turning educational lessons into fun experiences for students. I am very passionate about helping students discover a love for learning and knowing that they can do anything they set their minds to.

Amanda Pionk

Junior Special Education Teacher

Amanda Pionk

I hold my paraprofessional certification in behavior analysis as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). I am currently enrolled in an advanced dual degree program, pursuing both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Psychology with a concentration in Special Education. In addition, I have decided to embark on the journey to become a certified Special Education teacher through the Alternative Certification Program (ACP).

My experience varies from working as a Special Education Teacher Assistant at Arlington ISD and was part of an acclaimed Social Emotional and Academic Success (SEAS) special education program where I focused on providing direct teaching, training, and reinforcement of specific skills needed for social competency. Most recently, I held a Behavior Interventionist role with Crowley ISD where I worked alongside teachers and Board Certified Behavior Analyst’s (BCBA) to identify various learning styles and diverse disabilities in working with children with autism, emotional disturbance, speech and learning impairment, and trauma-based behaviors.

One of the most fundamental principles I adhere to is the belief that each child deserves to be taught in a way that aligns with their strengths, interests, and learning preferences. I recognize that every student has their own individual set of abilities and challenges, and a one-size-fits-all approach simply does not do justice to their potential. Through my teaching, I aim to empower and inspire my students to reach their full potential by providing them with the necessary tools and support to succeed. Witnessing their progress, growth, and moments of joy reinforces my commitment to this field and drives me to continually improve my practice.

Small classrooms
Small classrooms with a warm individualized setting for each child’s needs.

The BEAM interactive educational projector

The BEAM interactive educational projector game system- to help make teaching fun and teach the way our children learn!

A safe and secure outdoor playground for gross motor, gym, socialization
A safe and secure outdoor playground for gross motor, gym, socialization and just plain ol’ fun!

Customized center area for independent and group work out of the classroom.
Customized center area for independent and group work out of the classroom.