Valor Network Team

Valor | Flagship Academy Team

Sahara Evans

Compass Coach

Bio

Sahara Evans

Compass Coach

Sahara Evans is a native of Pittsburgh, PA., and has lived in Nashville since 2000. Her appreciation for numerous cultural backgrounds and her focus on community collaboration has led her to study abroad in Egypt and Spain, as well as a number of volunteer opportunities. Sahara is a strong advocate of hands-on, inquiry-based learning. She involves youth in a variety of community service, and problem-solving infused activities that provide them with opportunities to use their strengths to help others. Since 2002 Sahara has spent many years working in the nonprofit sector. She also worked at the YMCA of Middle Tennessee, where she received the Strong Woman award. Sahara enjoys traveling with her family, reading and spending time with her French Bulldog who has been described as a “lazy diva”.  Sahara received both her Bachelor of Science and Master’s Degree from Tennessee State University, in the field(s) of Speech Pathology and Audiology, and Public Administration

Jamie Gutter

Principal

Bio

Jamie Gutter

Principal

Mr. Gutter currently serves as principal at Valor Flagship Academy. Part of the founding team, Mr. Gutter previously taught math for two years, led the math department, and served as assistant principal. Prior to joining the team at Valor, Mr. Gutter worked at Glenview Elementary School, where he first became passionate about helping a diverse community of learners to reach their full potential through hard work and collaboration. Mr. Gutter began his career in education as a Teach For America corps member. Originally hailing from the Tar Heel state, Mr. Gutter has a bachelor of arts in economics and public policy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in education from Lipscomb University. In his spare time, you can find Mr. Gutter playing basketball at the YMCA, reading non-fiction books about history and politics, or spending quality time with his wife.

Alicia Hunker

6th Grade Math

Bio

Alicia Hunker

6th Grade Math

Mrs. Hunker moved to Nashville from Dallas, Texas in 2013 where she was born and raised. She studied Elementary Education at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio Texas. After teaching for seven years she discovered her teaching niche was middle school math, which led her to Valor. Passionate about motivating scholars through intentional learning experiences, positive guidance, encouragement, and feedback made joining the Valor team a natural choice.

In her free time, Mrs. Hunker loves to attend her husband’s concerts all over the country, giving them an opportunity to explore the world together. She is also an ultra-marathoner and will have completed 21 marathons by the end of the year. Mrs. Hunker is ecstatic to begin her second year at Valor!

Amelia Klug

5th Grade Social Studies

Bio

Amelia Klug

5th Grade Social Studies

Ms. Klug, a native of Florida, received her undergraduate degree in Public Administration with minors in Education and Non-Profit Management from the University of Central Florida. Passionate about serving her university, she was inducted into the Order of Pegasus–the highest honor given to a UCF student. She served on the Teach For America recruitment team for two years in college, working to bring the best and the brightest campus leaders into the field of education.

Ms. Klug joined the Valor Team as a 5th grade Social Studies teacher last year after began her teaching career as an English Language Instructor for the New York Mets Baseball Academy in the Dominican Republic. During her time with the Mets, she prepared Dominican professional baseball players for life and culture in the United States.

Ms. Klug has a strong interest in global education systems, focusing her UCF Honors In The Major thesis on factors that affect high and low performing education systems around the world. Last year she spent time volunteering in an city orphanage and indigenous village in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, where she gained passion and drive to ensure all children are given a high quality education.

Outside of school, Ms. Klug loves live music venues, coffee shops, art, volunteering, traveling, and being outdoors. She feels incredibly lucky to be a part of the Nashville and Valor community!

Alana Raybon

6th Grade Reading

Bio

Alana Raybon

6th Grade Reading

Alana Raybon found her calling to education while working with troubled teens at a youth home in Colorado, and later as a paraprofessional in a 2nd grade classroom. After graduating from the University of Northern Colorado, with a B.A. in Education, she married and moved to Texas where she taught for 10 years as as a 3rd-7th grade lead teacher to a diverse population. While teaching, she has been a mentor to new and student teachers, a school accreditation advisor, and a tutor. Now in her second year at Valor Collegiate Academies, Alana is excited about continuing her education while embarking on a master’s degree in educational policy at Vanderbilt.

Alana grew up in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the “Mile High City” of Denver. Alana’s teaching is inspired by fond memories of her teachers at the British primary school she attended during1st through 3rd grade. As a child, she competed in figure skating, took dance lessons, and loved reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Alana is also a published author, blogger and mother to three young children and a teenage stepson. In her spare time, she enjoys playing dolls with her two girls, sword fighting with her son, discussing philosophy with her stepson, exercising with her husband, and reading science fiction.

Asenat Gonzalez

Assistant Principal

Bio

Asenat Gonzalez

Assistant Principal

A Houston, Texas native, Ms. Rodriguez began her career in education at Houston’s highly ranked YES Prep in 2007 after earning a B.A. in Mathematics from Salem College. Inspired to expand her cultural lens, she moved abroad to South Korea where she taught at a public South Korean elementary school. She spent nearly two years there teaching, learning, and traveling. Nashville became a home for her three years ago when she began to pursue her graduate studies at Vanderbilt. Ms. Rodriguez’s M.Ed. in Human Development Counseling, fused with her teaching and personal experiences, informs much of her approach to nurturing balanced individuals in academic settings. It also allows her to integrate her passion for aesthetic and space design with the social/emotional experience of education.

In her spare time, Ms. Rodriguez enjoys exploring new places, dining out, and spending time out in the sun.

Matt Samples

5th Grade Math

Bio

Matt Samples

5th Grade Math

Matt Samples is currently the fifth grade math teacher and 5th house team leader at Flagship. In his third year at Flagship, he is excited to begin work with our newest scholars. Matt graduated from Vanderbilt University with a degree in Public Policy, and it was at Vanderbilt that he came to realize his passion for expanding access to excellent education for all children. Matt joined Teach For America after graduation and taught social studies and math for two years at Liberty Collegiate Academy, a charter middle school in East Nashville. After his time there, he and his wife spent six months abroad, serving in Tanzania and studying at a theological center in Switzerland. Upon his return he completed his Master’s in Education at Lipscomb University. Shortly after,  a friend introduced him to Valor and he quickly knew that he wanted to be a part of a school that held a high bar for excellence in academics and socio-emotional learning. He cannot wait to walk alongside the fifth graders as they navigate their first year of middle school!

Carlyn Wudel

5th and 6th Grade Writing

Bio

Carlyn Wudel

5th and 6th Grade Writing

Ms. Wudel moved to Nashville 30 years ago from Boston, Massachusetts. Ms. Wudel graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville with a Bachelor of Science in Communications. Ms. Wudel worked as the Assistant Director of Fundraising for Big Brother Big Sisters, Nashville for three years. In 2004, Ms. Wudel and her family moved to Michigan for two years, where Ms. Wudel was the Development Director for Spectrum; a non-profit helping children and adults with addiction. Ms. Wudel moved back to Nashville in 2006 and stayed at home to raise her three children. Carlyn has three children, ages 22, 20 and 17. Carlyn will be sending her last child off to college next fall. Becoming an empty nester has led Carlyn to pursue a Master of Education at Lipscomb University, she will finish in May, 2017.

Carlyn’s favorite past times include: spending time with her family, walking her dogs, reading great books and traveling. Carlyn is a devout Michigan football fan….GO Blue!!

Carlyn is excited to be a part of the Valor team, and looks forward to the next year as an apprentice teacher, on the Flagship 6th grade team.

Ashley Cunningham

7th Grade Science

Bio

Ashley Cunningham

7th Grade Science

Ms. Cunningham, a Massachusetts native, graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Political Science in 2009. Immediately after graduation, Ms. Cunningham moved to Seoul, South Korea to teach English as a Second Language. This adventure allowed her to combine her two biggest passions: education and travel. After returning from Korea, Ms. Cunningham moved to Nashville and began a new journey as a fifth-grade science teacher at Liberty Collegiate Academy, where her students achieved the highest 5th grade science growth scores in the state of Tennessee. While teaching at Liberty, Ms. Cunningham completed her Masters degree in Educational Studies from Johns Hopkins University. The incredible sense of community and joy at Valor as well as the focus on the social and emotional growth of its scholars is what drew Ms. Cunningham to make the move to Valor.

In her free time, Ms. Cunningham is obsessed with reading and traveling. She has traveled to 25 countries and loves trying exciting new foods, learning about different cultures and meeting inspiring people around the world.

Mike Elko

Director of Operations

Bio

Mike Elko

Director of Operations

Michael joins the Valor team after working in multiple roles for RePublic Schools including, Assistant Principal of RePublic High School, Director of Extracurricular Activities for all Nashville based RePublic Schools, and Literacy Coordinator at Liberty Collegiate Academy. Prior to working for RePublic Schools, Michael taught 7th grade literacy in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Michael graduated summa cum laude from the University of South Carolina with a B.A. in Experimental Psychology and Political Science. He is an avid sports fan and enjoys working out and reading in his spare time.

Laura Beth Hodge

Special Education

Bio

Laura Beth Hodge

Special Education

A Tennessee native raised in Georgia, Mrs. Hodge is thrilled to be starting her 2nd year at Valor! In May 2015, she graduated from Samford University in Birmingham, AL with a bachelor’s in K-6 general and special education. She then immediately began her master’s degree in High Incidence Disabilities in SPED on scholarship at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College. In the midst of graduate school, getting married, and working part-time, Mrs. Hodge stumbled on a Valor job advertisement in a Vanderbilt newsletter and immediately applied.

Valor’s unique mix of academic rigor and joy captured her attention, and she is so excited to help every scholar succeed at this wonderful school! Apart from teaching, Mrs. Hodge loves to workout, read, cook, travel, and go on walks with her husband and dog.

Arlene Martinez

Office and Operations Coordinator

Bio

Arlene Martinez

Office and Operations Coordinator

Lindsey Longoria

Special Education

Bio

Lindsey Longoria

Special Education

Longoria grew up in an Air Force home, and therefore moved around a lot during childhood. Her many “hometowns” include: Tampa, Florida, D’Iberville, Mississippi, Las Vegas, Nevada, Yigo, Guam, and Woodbridge, Virginia. Most recently, she attended Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Youth Ministry, and spent a semester abroad living and studying in Uganda. Ms. Longoria is ecstatic continue her time serving the Valor Flagship community as she pursues her Master’s of Education in Special Education at Lipscomb University. While she may be newer to the Nashville area (she just got here in June 2016), nothing can stop her passion for working with young people, particularly those with diverse learning needs. Her greatest passion in life is community-building, and she hopes to put down deep roots in this city and she continues to learn and grow here.

When she is not in the classroom, Ms. Longoria is always searching for new places to explore, including: local restaurants/coffee shops, scenic hiking spots, and new dog parks to hang out with her goldendoodle, Peter. Ms. Longoria also has experience working in a bakery, and she treats baking as a mindfulness practice, so if you are ever in need of a fresh-baked treat or recipe, seek her out.

Carley Peats

7th Grade Math

Bio

Carley Peats

7th Grade Math

Ms. Peats was born and raised in Camden, Maine and made her way to Nashville after completing her undergraduate degree from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Connecticut. Upon moving to Nashville, Ms. Peats joined Nashville Teaching Fellows and started her teaching career at Madison Middle School as a 6th grade math teacher. Following her time at Madison, she taught 7th grade math at Nashville Prep before making her way to Valor! She is ecstatic to continue teaching math and to work with the incredible 7th grade scholars at Flagship. She is currently pursuing her M.Ed at Lipscomb University.

Prior to teaching in Nashville, Ms. Peats taught English and reading at an orphanage in Lilongwe, Malawi and was a classroom assistant in Guatemala City, Guatemala where she discovered her love of teaching and helping others. Aside from teaching, Ms. Peats loves traveling, boating, and all fitness classes.

Steph Tanner

Compass Coach

Bio

Steph Tanner

Compass Coach

Born and raised in Western Massachusetts, Ms. Tanner received her BFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago. While in Chicago she worked for the Center for Community Arts Partnerships tutoring in Chicago Public Schools and running a family resource center. This, coupled with her personal experiences in the public education system, propelled her to join Teach For America in 2011. As a 2011 Appalachia charter corps member, Ms. Tanner taught Spanish to 7th-12th grade students in the small town of Barbourville, KY. During her three years teaching she was recognized as the Tri-County Teacher of the Year in 2015, as well as founded and still runs an organization that enables Appalachian high schoolers to travel and serve abroad.

While teaching, it became clear to Ms. Tanner that she loved working in a school, but teaching wasn’t quite the right role for her. She loved building strong relationships with students and families, and felt passionately about ensuring that students were being supported not just academically but also social and emotionally. Because of that, she decided to attend graduate school at the University of Virginia where she just earned her Masters in Education in School Counseling.

Outside of the education world, Ms. Tanner is a die-hard New England sports fan, can be found petting every dog that walks past her on the street, and is constantly searching for the next greatest spot to eat. She’s excited to begin her work with VCA and get to know the various communities that make up this great city.

Steve Nelson

6th Science

Bio

Steve Nelson

6th Science

Mr. Nelson was born and raised in Texas. As a young man, he played bass guitar in a garage band and earned a varsity letter for football. After high school, Mr. Nelson spent two years volunteering for his church in the Philippines. Years later, he would again volunteer, this time as an infantry soldier in the 101st Airborne Division, where he served with distinction from 2006 – 2010, deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. After his enlistment, Mr. Nelson used the GI Bill to graduate cum laude from Texas State University with a History degree. The years Mr. Nelson spent as a missionary and a soldier instilled a deep commitment to social justice and education. He loves teaching and serving the scholars at Flagship.

In his free time, Mr. Nelson enjoys tennis, jogging, reading, NPR, and live music.

Tonya Stewart

Special Education Paraprofessional

Bio

Tonya Stewart

Special Education Paraprofessional

Brooke Rogers

8th Social Studies

Bio

Brooke Rogers

8th Social Studies

Mrs. Rogers is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, where she lived most of her life. She studied History and Secondary Education at Xavier University. After graduating from Xavier University in 2013, she joined the Teach For America Indianapolis Corps. During her corps experience, Mrs. Rogers taught fourth and fifth grade, all subject areas. While teaching in Indianapolis, Mrs. Rogers studied at Marian University, earning a Master’s Degree in Arts and Teaching.

After teaching for two years in Indianapolis, she moved to Nashville with her husband. Since moving to Nashville, she has taught Middle School Writing as well as Middle School Special Education.

Mrs. Rogers loves to spend her free time reading and being outdoors. She and her husband love all different types of outdoor sports and compete in Triathlons together. Teaching is her passion, and she is ecstatic to be joining Team Valor!

Sarah Leach

7th Reading

Bio

Sarah Leach

7th Reading

Sarah Leach is an Alabama native who moved to Nashville in 2014 to pursue a career in education. She completed her bachelor’s degrees in English and Communication Studies at The University of Alabama. Upon graduating, Mrs. Leach joined the Teach For America Nashville Corp. She has spent the last three years teaching fifth and sixth grade English Language Arts and has served as the English Language Learners Teacher at a small charter school in south Nashville. Additionally, she completed her Masters of Instructional Practice at Lipscomb University in 2015. Mrs. Leach is excited to be joining the Valor Team this year!

At home, Mrs. Leach enjoys spending time with her husband, Tyler, and their two rescue dogs. They can often be found exploring the nature trails around Nashville, cheering on Alabama Football, or trying a new recipe at home.

Jamaal Haywood

5th & 6th Math Content

Bio

Jamaal Haywood

5th & 6th Math Content

Jamaal Haywood is a native of Downers Grove, IL and has lived in Nashville for fourteen years. He is returning for his second year with the Valor team after a two-year hiatus in MNPS. Haywood has dedicated his career to addressing problems afflicting African American culture in public education sector, working primarily as a math teacher and liaison to families navigating through the education system. The main thrust of his work has been directed toward improving education and helping young people realize their potential.

Haywood credits his parents with affording him the encouragement, discipline, and stability that would later become the core of his teaching for the renewal of a responsible society. As a young man, Haywood was urged to volunteer his time at his grandfather’s local convenient store, working without pay in exchange for learning firsthand how patience and consistent practice builds character. Haywood attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and received a BS in 2003. Despite his formal training in business, he has always been fascinated—and disappointed—by the educational system for students in urban areas. Inspired to implement change, Haywood completed his Masters of Education from Trevecca Nazarene University in 2009.

Jamaal has consistently improved student performance throughout his tenure as an educator and hopes to bring this standard of excellence to Valor Collegiate Academy. He is committed to the success of each and every young person under his care as well as improving the education system as a whole. Jamaal is married to fellow educator and entrepreneur, Brooke Morgan, and is the proud father of their two-year old son, August James.

Michael Bartha

Assistant Principal

Bio

Michael Bartha

Assistant Principal

Michael Bartha was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine where he earned his B.A. in History with a minor in Teaching. After he graduated, he moved to Tennessee to join Teach for America in Memphis. He taught both 8th grade math and Algebra 1 at both charter and traditional district schools. While in Memphis, he earned his M. Ed. At Christian Brother’s University. In 2014, he moved to Nashville and began working at Intrepid College Prep, a charter school in the Antioch area. He served as their Director of Academic Achievement for 2 years, while also teaching 6th grade math and 6th grade financial literacy. In his 3rd year at Intrepid, he served as the middle school’s principal. He also coached the boys’ varsity soccer team, led the Mathletes, and taught Honors Algebra 1.

Mike is an avid sports fan. He played inline hockey growing up, and now is an active ice hockey player in several of Nashville’s recreational leagues. He and his identical twin brother are moving with their puggle, Stella, to the south Nashville area, where they recently purchased a condo.

Dino Saldajeno

7th Social Studies

Bio

Dino Saldajeno

7th Social Studies

Dino Saldajeno was born in the Philippines and his family migrated to California when he was 13 years old. He received a B.A. in International Economics from San Diego State University and an M.A. in Community and Youth Work from Durham University in the U.K. Before joining Teach for America Nashville, he managed a department for a Conservation Corps in San Diego, giving a second chance to young adults in getting their high school diploma while receiving training in recycling and conservation work. He has also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Suriname, taught ESL in Japan and worked with Refugees in England.

In his spare time, you’ll find him doing outdoor activities with his 2 kids and his wife, trying local restaurants and sampling all the coffee roasters in town. As a travel buff and someone who seeks new adventures, he is excited to explore Tennessee and all the Southern States. He is very thrilled to be part of the Valor community!

Abigail Fagin

5th & 6th Writing

Bio

Abigail Fagin

5th & 6th Writing

Ms. Fagin is a Columbus, Ohio native who joined Teach For America in Nashville, Tennessee upon graduation. She earned a dual degree in Early Childhood Education and Spanish from The Ohio State University. During her first two years in Nashville, she earned her Master’s degree at Lipscomb University in Instructional Practice. Ms. Fagin taught 6th grade literacy and Social Studies in Metro Nashville Public Schools at Apollo Middle School located in the Antioch cluster. In addition to teaching, she also was the Track and Field coach for the 2017 season. Her mission and vision of educational equity led her to Valor Collegiate Academy where she is excited to continue working in the Nashville community.

In her free time, she loves to be active, travel, watch OSU football beat any and all opponents, eat and experience new cuisines, read, cook, and enjoy time with friends and family. She is eager to jump start the 2017-2018 school year at Valor!

Gabriel Cralley

8th Science

Bio

Gabriel Cralley

8th Science

Upon his departure from the cornfields of Southern Illinois, Gabriel Cralley became the first person in his family to attend college. During his time at Washington University in St. Louis, he earned his BA in Religious Studies and Spanish, and developed a desire to help other first generation college students become successful. He found an opportunity to strive toward this goal through Teach for America; he joined the Memphis Corps in 2013. During his time in Memphis, he taught Spanish I, Spanish II, and Poetry, and developed college readiness curriculum for the nonprofit, The College Initiative. After three years in Memphis, the cornfields beckoned again, and Gabriel heeded their call. He returned home to teach computers while he planned his next move.

This fall, Gabriel will begin his MS of Education through Johns Hopkins University. He cannot wait to move to Nashville to become the mad scientist he’s always aspired to be and to journey with Valor’s students toward success.

Elena Lopez

5th Science

Bio

Elena Lopez

5th Science

Originally from Michigan, Elena Lopez is the second oldest of six kids. She is moving to Nashville from Dallas, Texas where she spent the last two years working with high school students as part of the college readiness and success program, mentor2.0. She received a B.F.A. in Printmaking from Siena Heights University in Michigan and a M.F.A. from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Prior to moving to Dallas, she lived and worked in Australia, Thailand, Montana, Michigan, and New Mexico. She is an incoming member of Teach For America’s 2017 Corps and will also be pursuing a Master’s degree at Lipscomb University.

In her free time, Elena loves taking long walks with her 70lb mutt, Johnny, playing pick-up soccer, swimming, and just generally being outside. She also loves good food, good conversation, and a good podcast. She is sooo excited to be moving to Nashville and to be joining the Valor community!

Becca Shmoys

8th Math

Bio

Becca Shmoys

8th Math

Becca Shmoys is incredibly excited to join the Valor team! After working as a federal analyst in Washington, D.C., while also volunteering as a tutor, Ms. Shmoys moved to Nashville to pursue education full time with Teach for America. She has been a founding 6th and 7th grade math teacher at the Nashville Academy of Computer Science, and served as the 7th and 8th grade Math Curriculum Lead for RePublic Schools.

Ms. Shmoys earned her undergraduate degree from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, where she also played on the women’s soccer team. She is currently pursuing her M.Ed. in Instructional Practice from Lipscomb University.

When she’s not nerding out about math, Ms. Shmoys loves spending time with her family and friends. She also enjoys playing any and all outdoor sports, traveling to new places, and reading.

Jennie Blake

Art

Bio

Jennie Blake

Art

Originally from a small town in Ohio, Jennie has been living and teaching in Bowling Green, Kentucky for 11 years. Jennie is the third of six children and found her love of teaching art to her talented little brothers and sisters. She is overcome with joy at the opportunity to move to Nashville, and work at Valor!

Jennie is a dedicated art teacher who is excited about the opportunity to learn, grow and lead. This upcoming year will be her 12 year of teaching art. Along with her love of teaching art she also enjoys creating herself! She currently explores watercolor, painting, pottery, sewing, and relish the experience of attending live concerts. She is a graduate from Ohio University with a Bachelors of Fine Arts and Art Education and holds a Masters Degree in Education from the University of the Cumberlands.

Teaching takes passion, and her passion is teaching, particularly art. Jennie is an artist, always exploring new mediums and methods of artistic expression that push the boundaries of her ability. As a teacher, she remains fixed on continual development as a professional educator and development of her students.
Jennie is beyond excited to join the Valor Community and cannot wait to instil the love of the Visual Arts in our scholars!

Jeremy Summitt

5th Reading

Bio

Jeremy Summitt

5th Reading

Born and raised in a small, rural town in southeast Michigan, Jeremy grew up a lover of music, sports, and literature. Those interests took him through high school and onto college where he earned a B.A. in English and Film from the University of Michigan. Shortly thereafter, Jeremy moved from Ann Arbor, MI to Nashville after joining Teach For America in the summer of 2015. The past two years, he has spent ample time teaching literacy at Rocketship, an elementary school in East Nashville. When he isn’t doing novel studies and digging into books with kids in the classroom, he’s reading somewhere in a hammock or catching one of his favorite bands somewhere within driving distance of his home.

On fall Saturdays, Jeremy can always be caught watching Michigan football and singing the best college fight song in the nation. During winter months, he stays glued to the TV whenever the Detroit Red Wings take the ice. While music, sports, and literature have remained constant passions over the years, Jeremy’s energy and motivation is rooted deeply in education and the kids that walk into his classroom every day. He is looking forward to meeting the Valor scholars and their families as we work together to realize how literature can push us to make positive change in our lives and our communities.

Sarah Scott

7th & 8th Math

Bio

Sarah Scott

7th & 8th Math

Sarah Scott was born in the Bronx, NY as Sarah Fowler. She acquired the last name Scott after marrying the love of her life, Emmanuel Scott in 2013. In August 2016, she gave birth to a perfect baby girl named James Elizabeth. Being a teacher has become one of Sarah’s greatest joys in life, and after a years hiatus, she is returning back in the classroom this fall.

In May 2010, Sarah received her bachelor’s degrees in Religion and International Business. Her goal was to work for and ultimately start her own international development non profit organization. When she left school, she moved back to New York and found a job working in marketing for Kaplan Test Prep. When that job didn’t feel right, she stumbled into a four year career at J.Crew. Sarah fell in love with fashion. Moreover, she fell in love with helping people feel good about themselves. Ultimately, however, she wanted more. Sarah wanted to grow communities. She learned in her international development class that the top two ways to develop a community, both domestically and internationally, are through education and healthcare. As her husband is currently pursuing his MD on a path to become a Radiation Oncologist, Sarah thought she would become a teacher.

This will be Sarah’s third year as a teacher. Her most noteworthy moment was receiving Tennessee’s Educator of the Week from The Tennessee State Lottery and Channel 2 News. Though this moment was an honor, her greatest accomplishments come every day as she works with students to build them academically, and socially and emotionally. She loves math but values her relationship with students more. Her hobbies are shopping, eating Jenis Ice Cream, working out, and blogging. Her favorite place to be is anywhere with her husband and daughter. Finally, like any good vegetarian in your first conversation with them, Sarah will tell you that she doesn’t eat meat… but she will attend your BBQ for the dessert.

Rachel Godfrey

Math Apprentice Teacher

Bio

Rachel Godfrey

Math Apprentice Teacher

Rachel was born and raised in the great city of Nashville, TN. Wanting to spread her wings after high school, she made the decision to head to North Carolina’s Appalachian State University for what would become some of the best years of her life. A few major changes later, she graduated with a B.S. in Communication Studies with a minor in Sociology (and more than enough credits for an Interior Design minor). But surprise! Rachel will be a Middle School Math resident in the 2017-2018 school year. While searching for a job post graduation, Rachel found nothing that excited her, but then Nashville Teacher Residency appeared on her search one day. Her passion for students, learning, and the city of Nashville reassured her that this was the right decision. After going through the process, she could not imagine doing anything else.

In her free time, Rachel loves to travel both internationally and domestically, cook for her friends, and snuggle her overweight chocolate lab, Tennessee. She has a passion for art, music, and all things style. She also loves to read and write, so send book suggestions her way!

Rachel is over the moon to be joining the Valor team and can’t wait to learn as much as possible from the incredible Valor staff over the next year!

Bree Burchette

Math Apprentice Teacher

Bio

Bree Burchette

Math Apprentice Teacher

Bree Burchette was born in California, but raised in Memphis, TN. She moved to Nashville in 2011 because of its diverse population and the ability to be able to better myself and my career. Bree has two children, a 11 year- old son and a daughter, who is 2- years old. She wed on August 19, 2016 to her wonderful husband.

Bree received her B.S in Psychology at The University of Phoenix and is currently working towards a Master’s degree in School Counseling at Capella University. She has always had a passion to work with students and work towards pushing individuals to reach their highest potential. Bree doesn’t want students to see her as just their teacher, but also as their friend and mentor.

Bree has many hobbies and interest. She loves being a mom and finding new activities that interest her children. Bree loves to dance, attempt to sing, style hair and makeup, and travel. Her friends and family consider her to be goofy, loving, and an overall laid back person. Her family also knows that Bree will work hard and accomplish anything she sets her mind to do.

Rose DeMasi

8th ELA

Bio

Rose DeMasi

8th ELA

Rose DeMasi is a New Jersey native who moved to Nashville in 2013 to pursue a career in education. Before making her way to Tennessee, she graduated Furman University with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature. Shortly after, she joined the Nashville Teaching Fellows program to receive her teaching certification and graduated in the top 10% of her cohort. She began her teaching career teaching 7th and 8th grade social studies at a small charter school in South Nashville and continued to complete three additional years teaching 7th and 8th grade English and serving as Team Lead. She loves her time spent in the classroom, creating thematic and relevant units that boost student investment and excitement in content and hopes to pursue leadership roles in the future. Currently, she is pursuing her masters in Educational Leadership at Lipscomb University and finishes in December!

When she’s not teaching, Ms. DeMasi enjoys the outdoors by hiking and canoeing with friends and has a recent obsession with Pilates and Vinyasa yoga. She also has the travel bug and is making a trip to South Africa this fall with a volunteer abroad program. She is so excited to be joining the Valor team and embark on this new chapter!

Jim Tablazon

Compass Teacher

Bio

Jim Tablazon

Compass Teacher

Jim Tablazon is from North Carolina who found a new home in Nashville by the way of the Nashville Teaching Fellows in 2015. He earned his B.A. in History from Wheaton College (IL) while also finding a passion for working with high school refugee students in Dupage County. His senior year, Jim studied in Israel-Palestine and developed a heart for the overseas Filipino workers he met there. It’s an interesting story – you should definitely ask him about it. After Wheaton, Jim joined the Boston Fellows, a service-learning program partnered with Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. He joined the Nashville Teaching fellows in 2015 and taught seventh grade ELA at Intrepid College Prep, a charter middle school in Antioch, for two years.

In his free time, Jim loves playing board games, catching up on British detective shows, and listening to audiobooks. He just finished listening to Brandon Sanderson’s “Words of Radiance.” Every summer, his group of friends make sure to canoe down the Harpeth and cliff jump at Percy Priest. He is very excited to join the Valor team!

Renee Clifford

Drama

Bio

Renee Clifford

Drama

Renee Clifford is a Georgia native, and move to Nashville three years ago to join Teach For America. She received her BSW in Social Work from The University of Georgia and her Masters of Education from Lipscomb University. Renee got her start in education by way of Teach For America where she joined the 2014 Corps. She has spent the last three years teaching right down the road at Whitsitt Elementary.
During her time teaching, she developed a love for different cultures and getting to know her students families. On the weekends you can often find her attending students soccer games, birthday parties and everything in between! When she’s not with students you can find her enjoying a spin class, filling her home with freshly cut flowers, trying out a new recipe, or going on a long walk around her neighborhood. She is excited to take the jump from elementary to middle school and join the Valor family!

Preston Messer

6th Social Studies

Bio

Preston Messer

6th Social Studies

Preston Messer will be joining the Valor Collegiate Academy team this fall to teach 6th grade social studies. He is originally from rural Southwest Georgia. In 2011, Preston moved to Nashville to pursue an undergraduate degree in religious studies from Trevecca Nazarene University, focusing in philosophy, theology, and history. He found his passion for teaching youth while working as a middle school educator in his local church.

Preston went on to briefly study at Vanderbilt Divinity School, where he found his interest in justice work at the intersection of race, class, education, and faith communities. After careful discernment, he chose to leave graduate school to pursue a vocation in teaching with the Teach for America 2017 corp., wanting to get involved in these issues at the ground level.

Preston believes that education is the single best way that people can find access to an equitable future and where communities can be unified and transformed.
Preston loves spending his free time with his wife and their two dogs, reading, hiking, traveling, and cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs during football season.

Wayne Smith

Physical Education and Girls Basketball Head Coach

Bio

Wayne Smith

Physical Education and Girls Basketball Head Coach

msgirlsbasketball@valorcollegiate.org

Valor | Voyager Academy Team

Jamie Bennett

5th Grade Science

Bio

Jamie Bennett

5th Grade Science

Jamie Bennett will join the Voyager family as the 5th grade Science teacher. She was born in Nebraska, spent her younger years in Massachusetts, and has lived in Tennessee since she was eight.

Jamie recently graduated from Tennessee State University with a Masters in Elementary Education and K-6 licensure. In 2011, Jamie graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin with a Bachelor’s in Cell and Molecular Biology, but was unsure of her future goals. In 2012, she started teaching Pre-K and instantly knew she belonged in the classroom. In 2015, Jamie joined the Valor team as an apprentice teacher. She has also been the director for Camp Eagle Pride summer camp for the last two summers.

In her spare time, Jamie loves crafting, reading, and spending time with her husband Josh and their German Shepherd, Duke.

Amber Buchanan

Compass Teacher

Bio

Amber Buchanan

Compass Teacher

Mrs. Buchanan is a native Nashvillian. She earned her Bachelor’s in social welfare and creative writing from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois in 2014. While in college, Mrs. Buchanan spent her summers working for a non-profit called Mountain TOP located in Grundy County, Tennessee. She helped develop and run a day camp program for 6-11 year olds in the community which focused on developing perseverance while breaking the cycle of poverty. After graduating, Mrs. Buchanan moved back to Nashville to be an Americorps service member at the Martha O’Bryan Center. She loved the work she did with young people in diverse communities and decided to pursue this passion at Valor in 2015.

Mrs. Buchanan recently attained her Master’s in Elementary Education with an ELL certification at Lipscomb University.  When not at Valor, she enjoys hiking with her best friend Ms. Landry, visiting new countries with her husband, and cheering on the Tennessee Volunteers.

Katie Castellón

Assistant Principal

Bio

Katie Castellón

Assistant Principal

Mrs. Castellón’s is thrilled to be returning to the Valor|Voyager team this year! Her love of teaching began overseas while working at an orphanage in Cochabamba, Bolivia with children between the ages of 1 to 6. This experience motivated her to launch into a career helping diverse student populations find success both in the classroom and in life. She spent six-months working with Communities in Schools of Richmond, serving at-risk students and helping them to stay in school. In the end, her heart called her back to Bolivia where she spent three years teaching 6th grade and coordinating ESL at the American International School of Bolivia.

Originally from Wilmington, Delaware, Mrs. Castellón completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Notre Dame, majoring in Sociology and Peace Studies. Aside from attending football games, during her time at Notre Dame, she spent countless hours in area schools volunteering with a conflict-resolution program (Take Ten) and giving ESL lessons. She continued her formal education from abroad while in Bolivia and completed her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction for English Language Learners at George Mason University in 2014.
After five years overseas, Mrs. Castellón came to Nashville to be closer to her family and to join the Valor community. In her free time, she enjoys exploring Nashville with her husband, running, reading, and trying her hand at new recipes. After five years overseas, she is excited to be back in the US and looks forward to the year to come!

Jessica Corriveau

5th Grade Reading

Bio

Jessica Corriveau

5th Grade Reading

Jessica Corriveau most recently hails from Michigan where she attended the University of Michigan and obtained her undergraduate degree and master’s degree in urban pedagogy. While in Michigan, Mrs. Corriveau met and married her husband, and she taught middle and high school in Detroit as a Teach for America corps member. Before Michigan, she lived with her family in Shanghai, China and Taiwan for eleven years even though her family claims the many Italian American enclaves of New York City as their hometown.

Mrs. Corriveau followed her husband to Nashville a year ago, so he could begin his medical education at Vanderbilt University. She was excited to discover the city also contains her ideal teaching job– a place that values strong academics and student emotional learning. She is thankful to begin another year teaching her favorite subjects, reading and writing, to Voyager’s incoming fifth graders.

Matt Cutler

8th Grade Reading

Bio

Matt Cutler

8th Grade Reading

Born and raised in California, Matt grew up in Los Angeles and received a B.A. in Modern Literary studies from UC Santa Cruz. After college he spent a few years in Chicago, where he gained experience as a volunteer after-school tutor for a diverse group of middle and high school students. It was this work (and more particularly the young folks he met while there) that inspired Matt to pursue a Masters in Education and secondary-level teaching certification at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College.

Matt is excited to return to VCA for his second year, having begun his Valor story as an apprentice teacher. Matt is a firm believer in the power of stories, and he is particularly passionate about supporting scholars as they develop their creativity and self-empowerment through writing. When he is not talking to others about expressing themselves or communicating their ideas, Matt can usually be found bicycling, gardening, or spending some quality time with his pet cat, Kiki.

Sarah Giblin

Principal

Bio

Sarah Giblin

Principal

Ms. Giblin began her career as an educator in 2005 as a Teach For America Miami-Dade corps member. She taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade reading and writing in one of most sunny, but educationally divided cities in the country. Ms. Giblin also worked on staff at Teach for America, where she served as an instructional coach for new teachers and piloted a Literacy professional learning community that led all teachers to nearly double their impact on scholar reading growth.



A graduate of Loyola Chicago, Ms. Giblin moved back to the Windy City in 2009 to join the founding leadership team of Rowe Elementary School, a college-prep elementary charter school, where she worked as a teacher, literacy interventionist, and Academic Dean (the founding second grade class just graduated from 8th grade this past June!) During that time, she also completed graduate coursework at Dominican University to deepen her instructional knowledge.



Ms. Giblin joined the Valor team in 2013 (“Year 0”) and worked to write the curriculum for Valor’s founding year. (She also recruited Dr. Commons to move to Nashville and become the principal at Flagship!) She moved to Nashville in the spring of 2015 to become the founding principal for Voyager. Ms. Giblin’s favorite thing about Voyager is the diverse community of scholars, families, and teachers. She also loves morning arrival, literature seminar, and Weekend Rollout!

In her free time, when she isn’t reading about balanced literacy or strategic reading behaviors, Ms. Giblin enjoys spinning, yoga, running (she recently ran a Personal Best in a half marathon), knitting, and spending time with her niece.

Kylea Weir

Compass Coach

Bio

Kylea Weir

Compass Coach

Kylea moved from California to Nashville in July of 2015. Days after her move, she joined the Voyager team as they prepared for their founding year.  Kylea came to Voyager with 6 years of behavioral support experience, working for a mental health agency as a behavior counselor for at-risk youth. She graduated in 2014 from Pepperdine University with a Master’s in Psychology.  Kylea just got married this past May and is super excited to start her 3rd year at Voyager as Mrs. Weir (formerly Ms. H

Emily Peterson

Director of Operations

Bio

Emily Peterson

Director of Operations

Ms. Peterson is entering her second year at Valor and is excited to be joining the Voyager team as the Director of Operations. Previously, she was the Operations Coordinator supporting both Valor schools. Ms. Peterson joined Valor Collegiate Academies after spending 2 years as the Central Operations and Data Manager at Match Education in Boston. At Match Education, she supported in-district high school math tutoring programs, including a gold-standard study by the University of Chicago Urban Education Lab on the efficacy of 2:1 tutoring in improving outcomes and reducing violence in at-risk youth. Prior to that, she was a Match Corps Fellow at Match Middle School, where she tutored 6th through 8th graders and supported new school development.

Ms. Peterson graduated from the University of Oregon in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. Following graduation, she taught English to small groups of 7th through 12th grade students in rural Spain.

In her free time, Ms. Peterson enjoys traveling and exploring new places, diving into a good book, and riding horses.

Liza Landry

8th Social Studies

Bio

Liza Landry

8th Social Studies

Ms. Landry was born and raised in Amherst, New Hampshire. She earned her Bachelor’s in Sociology with a minor in Philosophy at Keene State College in Keene, New Hampshire. After graduating from Keene State in 2014, she moved to Nashville to begin her career working with children as an Americorps Elementary Education Specialist at the Martha O’Bryan Center. After her service year, Ms. Landry chose to work at Valor for its attention to diversity and passion for social emotional learning. She worked as the 2016-2016 6th grade Math Specialist and is excited to continue this role. Ms. Landry is currently in the Nashville Teacher Residency program to pursue her teaching license. In her spare time, Ms. Landry enjoys cooking, baking, hiking and hanging out with her best friend Mrs. Buchanan.

Katie Marshall

5th and 6th Writing

Bio

Katie Marshall

5th and 6th Writing

Katie first discovered the joy of teaching while she was in high school, when she was asked to serve as a tutor in a struggling Algebra 1 class. She loved helping students master something they had previously struggled with. From there she went to Oklahoma Christian University, where she graduated with a B.F.A. in 2007. After her college training, Katie moved to Yichang, China, where she taught English for two years at the China Three Gorges University. Living in China deepened her appreciation for different perspectives and for strong community.
Katie moved back to the U.S. in 2010 to manage a small law firm in Oklahoma City, while she prepared for graduate school. During that time, Katie’s passion for literacy led her to volunteer with the Oklahoma City Literacy Center, helping adults learn to read and write. She then moved to Chicago and earned her M.A. in English from Loyola University Chicago in 2012, where she continued to volunteer, this time with the Loyola Literacy Center. After earning her master’s degree, Katie taught writing and literature courses at both the City Colleges of Chicago and Prairie State College in Chicago. She also worked as a tutor in the college’s writing center. Teaching in Chicago increased Katie’s passion for diversity in education, and her desire to give every student access to outstanding instruction. Katie moved to Nashville in 2014 to teach English at Nashville Prep Charter School in northwest Nashville. She taught 7th grade literacy and global lit to an amazing group of students before joining Valor’s team in 2015.
Aside from her love of literacy, Katie also enjoys running, biking, and mountain-climbing. She reads voraciously in her free time and can’t wait to share many of her favorite books with her students.

Dan Nealis

6th Grade Math and RTI

Bio

Dan Nealis

6th Grade Math and RTI

After having graduated with a B.A. in Political Science from Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, Dan’s first real experience in education came while serving as a Corp’s Member with City Year Greater Philadelphia. There he served as a mentor, tutor, and role model to at-risk students in a West Philadelphia high school. After completing his year of service, Dan taught English abroad in South Korea. While abroad, he taught students ages 5-16 and truly immersed himself in Korean culture.

Upon returning home to Philadelphia, Dan committed to becoming a certified teacher. He was soon accepted into the Philadelphia Teaching Fellows program and taught high school and middle school math for 2 years at Mastery Charter campuses. With the desire to explore a new city and part of the country, he accepted a position at KIPP Academy Nashville last year.

Dan is extremely honored and excited to join the Valor community. He is most excited about growing as a teaching professional and forging relationships with both students and colleagues at Valor. During his free time, you can find him working out, playing or watching basketball, rooting on Philadelphia sports teams, and attempting to learn to cook.

Emily Smith

5th Grade Social Studies

Bio

Emily Smith

5th Grade Social Studies

Ms. Smith joined the Valor team after teaching in her hometown of Arab, Alabama for two years. She had the pleasure of teaching 9th and 10th grade World History her first year, and Pre-AP United States History the second year. She is a sports enthusiast and has enjoyed coaching both soccer and basketball at her previous school. Ms. Smith received her Bachelor’s degree in History and Secondary Education from the University of North Alabama in 2013. She is very eager to be a part of the Valor team because of the outstanding reputation and potential of the school.

In her free time, she enjoys reading, drinking coffee, doing Zumba, watching history documentaries, listening to live music, watching Alabama football (roll tide) and spending time with friends and family. Ms. Smith developed a passion for traveling after studying abroad in London with the history department at UNA. She loves meeting new people, experiencing different cultures, and going on adventures. She recently led an educational trip to Italy and Greece with a dozen of her former students. She looks forward to sharing her love for history and learning with her students at Valor.

Shaina Tey

6th Grade Math and RTI

Bio

Shaina Tey

6th Grade Math and RTI

Ms. Tey is so excited to move up with her Valor scholars to the 7th grade this year! Her passion for teaching and career in education began in 2010 when she joined the Nashville Teaching Fellows. Ms. Tey taught 7th and 8th grade math and science for three years at JFK Middle School in Antioch, earned her M.Ed. from Belmont University in 2012, and joined the 7th grade founding team at Cameron College Prep in 2013. In 2015, she joined the founding team at Valor Voyager.
At Cameron College Prep, Ms. Tey and her team were able to make significant academic gains with their students, achieving the highest mathematics growth scores in the state of TN during the 2013 -2014 school year. At Cameron, she taught ELL 8th grade math and Algebra I, and she also served as an instructional coach and as 8th grade level chair. Ms. Tey loves teaching mathematics because she loves using challenging problems to help her students cultivate the skills and mindsets that will be required for post-secondary success, including persistence, resilience, resourcefulness, and a view of mistakes as learning opportunities.
Born in Oklahoma, Ms. Tey spent her childhood years in Singapore, where most of her extended family still lives. She went to middle school in the Bay Area of California and high school in Houston, Texas. In 2006, Ms. Tey moved to Nashville to attend Vanderbilt University (Go Dores!), graduating in 2010 with a degree in Human and Organizational Development and Economics. When she is not teaching, Ms. Tey loves being active – she especially enjoys rock climbing, Barre classes, and running outside! She also enjoys exploring new cities, reading, baking and cooking for her friends, watching live hockey (Go Preds!), and spending time with her adorable niece and nephew.

Kim Worley

Special Education Paraprofessional

Bio

Kim Worley

Special Education Paraprofessional

Mrs. Worley is a native of Nashville, Tn. Graduated from Antioch High School in 1988. Worked in the Metro School System for 10 years as a paraprofessional and 10 years as a private ABA therapist. She is very passionate about special needs children and helping them reach their fullest potential.

In her free time she loves spending time gardening, grilling out, spending time with her husband of 28 years, 3 children, 5 grandchildren and friends.

Yessenia Islas

Special Education Paraprofessional

Bio

Yessenia Islas

Special Education Paraprofessional

J. Robert Lindsey

Theater

Bio

J. Robert Lindsey

Theater

Mr. Lindsey is thrilled to join the Valor team as a sixth grade science teacher at Voyager. Mr. Lindsey was born and raised in Kentucky, but made his way to Nashville in 2012. Before moving to Music City, Mr. Lindsey taught fifth grade science for two years in Kentucky. While living in Nashville, Mr. Lindsey taught sixth grade science at Liberty Collegiate Academy (where his students had the highest state science test scores in all of Nashville that year), and, most recently, Mr. Lindsey taught third grade literacy and math at Inglewood Elementary in east Nashville.

Along with education, Mr. Lindsey’s other passion is theater. Before teaching in Nashville, Mr. Lindsey traveled around Mexico, South America, and Alaska as a performer for Disney Cruise Line. He has also had the opportunity to perform with many professional theatre companies in Kentucky and Tennessee as well as serving as a teaching artist for The TheaterBug, a Nashville-based children’s theater.

When he’s not teaching or performing in a show, Mr. Lindsey loves running, yoga, baking, and spending time with his dog, Payton.

Maribel Hernandez

Office and Operations Coordinator

Bio

Maribel Hernandez

Office and Operations Coordinator

Maribel joins the Valor team after working as an Office Manager for Citizens of the World Charter School Williamsburg in Brooklyn, New York. She was one of the founding staff for CWC-NY when they opened two schools in the Brooklyn area. Maribel is fluent in Spanish and is familiar with American Sign Language.

Maribel enjoys spending time with her teenage boys and enjoys playing video games with her family and friends. On a serious note, she has an Associate’s degree in Business Management with Kaplan University where she graduated with honors and on the Dean’s list.

Sydney Omweg

6th Grade Science

Bio

Sydney Omweg

6th Grade Science

Ms. Omweg was born and raised in Yorktown, VA. She was drawn to Nashville in 2012 when she was recruited to play soccer for Belmont University, and soon fell in love with the city. While at Belmont, she obtained a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Psychology, and she obtained a Master of Arts degree in Teaching. This will be Ms. Omweg’s second year at Valor, and she is very excited to return here. Outside of school, Ms. Omweg enjoys coaching soccer, going to country music concerts, and watching football.

Steven Palmer

7th Grade Reading

Bio

Steven Palmer

7th Grade Reading

A Middle Tennessee native, Mr. Palmer grew up just outside of Nashville in Coopertown, TN. From there, he attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga where he earned his B.S. in Political Science with a minor in English Literature. While completing his academic work, Mr. Palmer held many leadership roles at UTC including Vice President of the Student Body and two-time Social Issues, Equity, and Diversity Chairperson for the Student Government Association.

After completing university, Mr. Palmer joined the Teach for America Appalachia Corps and was placed at Harlan Independent in Harlan, KY. During his tenure at Harlan Independent, Mr. Palmer taught courses in 8th Grade ELA and Writing, 9th Grade ELA, 11th Grade ACT Prep, and 12th Grade Writing Seminar. As Director of the Harlan High Drama program, Mr. Palmer directed both The Odd Couple and The Mind of Ray Bradbury. Furthermore, he served as both the Harlan Elementary Academic Team Coach and the Harlan High School Assistant Academic Team Coach.

In 2016, he was able to share his experiences of teaching in rural Appalachia back to Chattanooga by being a keynote speaker in the TEDX Chattanooga event. Mr. Palmer’s TEDX speech, entitled “Learning Appalachia: My Time Teaching in Coal Country” detailed the need for the region to invest in retaining the most creative and brightest young minds to spur economic and cultural development.

When not teaching, you can find him drinking way too much coffee with his nose in a book, trying out new restaurants around Nashville, and playing Pokemon GO with his niece.

Keana Russell

6th Grade Reading

Bio

Keana Russell

6th Grade Reading

Born in Ohio and raised in Goshen, Kentucky with her five younger brothers, Ms. Russell moved to Nashville to pursue a degree in Public relations, but after accidentally being placed in an Education class, found a love for teaching Elementary and Middle School scholars. She went on to pursue a degree in Education at Lipscomb University. Outside of teaching, Ms. Russell enjoys spending time reading, watching Science Fiction movies, and seeing live music in all the great spots that Nashville has to offer!

Kendra Shirey

Assistant Principal

Bio

Kendra Shirey

Assistant Principal

Ms. Shirey was born and raised in Sparta, MI. She attended Michigan State University, where she  double majored in Arts & Humanities and Professional Writing and spent time volunteering with organizations dedicated to underserved students. After graduation, Ms. Shirey moved to Nashville as a 2012 Nashville Teach for America corps member and spent two years teaching 5th grade ELA and Social Studies while also earning her Master’s in Education from Lipscomb University. Ms. Shirey continued teaching middle school English for an additional two years and developed leadership and coaching skills through her role as a grade team leader. Ms. Shirey’s passions for creating positive classroom cultures and supporting all scholars to meet high expectations led her to the Compass Coach role at Valor in 2016. She is honored to serve the Voyager community as an Assistant Principal this year, and looks forward to the many memories and moments of joy to come!

JD Skipworth

5th and 6th Grade Math Teacher

Bio

JD Skipworth

5th and 6th Grade Math Teacher

Mr. Skipworth is a recent graduate from the University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s in Supply Chain Management and International Business. Throughout college he was exposed to many diverse communities that sparked a passion for empowering communities and after graduating college, the past experiences of working with kids and families continued to form a desire in him to seek opportunities to work in creating space for others to flourish. Joining Valor as an apprentice in partnership with Nashville Teacher Residency has provided the perfect opportunity to live out his passion for empowering communities through the opportunities of excellent education. The culture of joy and the opportunity for diverse groups to come together and learn from and grow with each other makes valor so attractive to him. He is excited to work and learn alongside so many amazingly talented and passionate teachers and staff.

When not at Valor, Mr. Skipworth enjoys being with friends, sharing good food, experiencing a great story, being active and finding the next outdoor adventure to be had. He also enjoys getting to know the city of Nashville and all of the amazing people and places that make it so special.

Mia Steele

6th Grade Social Studies

Bio

Mia Steele

6th Grade Social Studies

Kaitlyn Vanhook

5th Grade Math

Bio

Kaitlyn Vanhook

5th Grade Math

Born and raised in Texas, Mrs. VanHook grew up in Austin and received a B.A. in Political Science from Texas Christian University. While in college, she gained experience as a volunteer after-school tutor in Fort Worth and participated in a community development project in Nicaragua. These experiences (and the students she met) inspired her to pursue a career in teaching. She moved to Nashville and joined Teach For America in 2012 and earned her Master’s of Education at Lipscomb University while teaching. Mrs. VanHook is a self-proclaimed “math nerd” and absolutely loves teaching fractions. In her free time, she enjoys traveling, reading, playing board games, and going on walks with her husband.

Reggie Whatley

Special Education Paraprofessional

Bio

Reggie Whatley

Special Education Paraprofessional

Lauren Woodson

Special Education Teacher

Bio

Lauren Woodson

Special Education Teacher

Mrs. Woodson was born and raised in Selma, Alabama. She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Auburn University in the field of K-12 Special Education, with an emphasis in Transition Studies. While in college, Mrs. Woodson served with the Best Buddies and Special Olympics programs, making her even more passionate about working with individuals with disabilities. She is thankful to be returning to Valor for her third year of teaching.

In her spare time, Mrs. Woodson enjoys spending time with her husband, playing board games with friends, exploring new restaurants, traveling, and watching Auburn football.

Natalie Pendley

7th Social Studies

Bio

Natalie Pendley

7th Social Studies

Natalie Pendley is a Texas native, who is excited about living in Nashville! She earned her B.S. in Youth and Community Studies from The University of Texas at Austin and has been working at Yes Prep North Central in Houston for the past six years. At North Central over six years, she taught 6th, 7th, and 8th grade and served as the Dean of Students for the Middle School for three years.

In her free time, Natalie loves to be outside, and play sports like flag football and basketball. When she is not playing sports, she is probably reading or spending time with her two dogs Molly and Monroe. Ms. Pendley is STOKED about coming to Valor and meeting all of the parents and students! She is also excited about exploring Nashville and would love any recommendations!

Makenzie Torres

Special Education

Bio

Makenzie Torres

Special Education

Makenzie Torres is a New Jersey native, who moved to Nashville after joining the Teach For America 2015 corps. She earned her B.S. in Psychology from Lafayette College and her Masters in Special Education at Lipscomb University. For the past two years she has worked as a special education teacher for grades 7 & 8 in North Nashville, while also serving as the school’s special education coordinator.

During her years as a special education teacher she developed a passion for differentiation in order for her students to reach their fullest potential. At some point during her first year teaching she went to a local non-profit to get donated books for her classroom and ending up meeting her future husband, JC. They were married a Casa Azafran, right down the street from Valor!

At the moment, Makenzie enjoys running at Shelby Park, trying new recipes and drinking large amounts of coffee. She is always on the lookout for ways to make lessons more engaging, and uses this as justification to spend a lot of time/money at the dollar spot in Target. She can’t wait to join the Valor team next year!

Elizabeth Ponce

Art

Bio

Elizabeth Ponce

Art

Ms. Ponce is originally from New Orleans, La. She lived in Ecuador, for her middle school and high school years. This experience of growing up in her father’s home country, shaped her into the person she is today. She earned her undergraduate degree in Studio Art from Georgia State University, and earned her Master of Science in Education from Johns Hopkins University. Ms. Ponce taught Spanish at Grassland Middle School in Williamson County, for 6 years. She also produced the daily morning announcements broadcast for 4 years. She was also the set director for the school play, for 5 years in a row.

In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, painting, photography, reading, and cooking. She loves spending time with family and friends. Ms Ponce is very excited to join the Valor Collegiate Academy team in the 2017-2018 school year!

Alesha Harmon

7th Math

Bio

Alesha Harmon

7th Math

Alesha is the mother of Michael Jeremiah, a young man of Valor Flagship, and Ava Marie, a vivacious two-year-old. Although both of her children have been born and raised in Nashville, Alesha is originally from Chicago, IL. She moved to Antioch, TN as a high school junior and is a graduate of Metro Nashville Public Schools.

Alesha received her Bachelors of Journalism from the University of Missouri- Columbia. She went on to obtain her M.Ed in Instructional Practice as well as her Educational Specialist degree from Lipscomb University. Over the past 6 years, Alesha has had the pleasure of teaching 6th and 7th-grade students as well as coaching teachers leading 2nd-11th grade STEM classrooms.

In addition to her passion for education, she has a heart for the arts. She has been involved in dozens of musical theater productions across the country, teaches Zumba classes, and is a former cheerleading coach (hoping to dust off her pom poms in the near future). She enjoys merging her passions, so you are likely to hear our students singing and chanting about the rules of adding/subtracting positive and negative numbers.

Raleigh McCool

7th & 8th Writing

Bio

Raleigh McCool

7th & 8th Writing

Raleigh is from — wait for it — Nashville, Tennessee, and has tried to leave several times, only to be drawn back by family, friends, food, and lately, the exciting educational opportunities in his hometown.

After graduating from Lipscomb University with an English degree in 2011, Raleigh spent five years working at Crema Coffee Roasters (Nashville’s best, in his estimation) and freelance writing, where he covered his beloved Memphis Grizzlies for a popular blog. He always knew he wanted to teach, though, and returned to Lipscomb for his certification in 2016. Raleigh comes to Valor after completing his first year as an English and Social Studies teacher at Thurgood Marshall Middle Prep, also in south Nashville.

When he’s not at school, Raleigh makes time for reading, writing, going on walks, and eagerly shouting for the Grizzlies and Atlanta Braves. He is extremely jazzed to join the Valor team!

Ja’Mille Donaldson

Special Education

Bio

Ja’Mille Donaldson

Special Education

Ja’Mille is a native of Greenville, MS and absolutely loves her southern roots. She is the only girl of four boys. She loves basketball, reading and her family. After teaching in her hometown’s school district for a year and a half, she decided that it was time to show off her Delta flare.

Ja’Mille received her undergraduate degree in special education from Mississippi State University. While at State she realized that her presence in the classroom wasn’t an option. She needed to teach and nothing was going to stop her. She finds great pleasure in educating young minds.

Ja’Mille is extremely excited to be moving to a new city, relaunching her career and meeting all of the scholars of Valor.

Mary Cooper

8th Math

Bio

Mary Cooper

8th Math

Mary is a Nashville native who is so excited to be returning home after living in Washington D.C. for the past three years. She earned her B.S. in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she also served as Student Body President. During her time as Student Body President she became passionate about education (and college basketball). After graduating, she joined Teach For America in Dallas where she taught Physics and AP Physics for two years. She then moved to Washington D.C. to teach Algebra 1 and Geometry in Washington D.C.

When she isn’t at school, Mary can be found at the some of the great parks around Nashville with her Mom and dog, Sirius, doing yoga, or exploring the great Nashville restaurants. Mary is so excited to be back home in Nashville and join the Valor community!

Derek Henson

Compass Coach

Bio

Derek Henson

Compass Coach

Growing up, Derek split time between rural East Texas and Pittsburgh, PA. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a B.A. in English Literature and an M.A.T. in Secondary English Education. After graduation, Derek spent three years as a middle school English teacher in Houston, TX. Most recently, he worked as a Wilderness Therapy Field Instructor in Asheville, NC.

When Derek isn’t working, you will most likely find him sitting in the shade with a good book, hiking through the wilderness, catching a baseball or hockey game, or listening to spoken word poetry. Derek misses the mountains of Western North Carolina, but is super jazzed to join the Valor team!

Brandi L. Tucker

7th Science

Bio

Brandi L. Tucker

7th Science

Ms. Tucker began her teaching career at John Early Paideia Magnet Middle School in Nashville, TN in 2006 where she taught 7th and 8th grade science. After relocating to Memphis, she continued to teach middle school and elementary school science. Each year, Ms. Tucker has seen her students grow academically and socially. Ms. Tucker loves teaching science and it is her goal to have each of her students to think, speak, and act as a scientist would.

During her career, she has been afforded numerous opportunities to expand her knowledge in her field and has had the opportunity to serve in various leadership positions. She has been featured in Science Scope Magazine for the National Science Teachers Association. The article gave information about her involvement and the positive effects of the Vanderbilt University “Scientist in the Classroom Partnership” with Metro Nashville Public Schools. In addition, Ms. Tucker served on the McGraw-Hill Tennessee Advisory Science Textbook Committee in 2008 to design a science textbook that addressed the needs of all learners. The textbook was adopted in 2009. Ms. Tucker has also had the opportunity to coach and implement school improvement plans specifically for science teachers as an Educational Consultant in various school districts.

Originally from Daphne, AL, Ms. Tucker is truly a southern girl at heart. Ms. Tucker received her B.S. in Biology from Alabama A&M University and an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from Middle Tennessee State University. She believes in giving back to her community as well. She has implemented mentoring programs for young girls as a classroom teacher, serves as an alumni consultant for the Youth Motivation Task Force for Alabama A&M University, and participates in other community service projects. In her free time, her hobbies include reading, hanging out with family and friends, and traveling.

Kayla Pratt

Special Education

Bio

Kayla Pratt

Special Education

Mrs. Pratt is a West Virginia native moving to Nashville. She attended Glenville State College receiving her degree in Elementary and Multi-categorical Special Education. She is currently pursuing her masters in Education Leadership through Marshall University. During the last three years, Mrs. Pratt taught Special Education and had the privilege of working with students of all exceptionalities. She has a passion for education and lifelong learning opportunities, and cannot wait to join the Valor team in the 2017-18 school year.

When she’s not at school, Mrs. Pratt and her husband enjoy the outdoors, music, and spending time with friends and family. They cannot wait to enjoy all the things Nashville has to offer!

Brent Harper

Physical Education

Bio

Brent Harper

Physical Education

Brent was born and raised in a small town just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. After graduating from Austin Peay State University with a degree in Health and Human Performance, Brent and his wife moved to Nashville. Last October they both welcomed their beautiful daughter, Eden Elizabeth, into their household. He spent last year teaching PE at LEAD Southeast, a charter middle school located in Antioch.

In his free time, he loves spending as much time as possible with his wife and daughter. He also enjoys Volunteer football, being outside, lifting, cooking, trying new restaurants, and reading, preferably while drinking a cup of coffee.

Brent is excited to be joining the Valor team and can’t wait for the 2017-2018 school year.

Alyssa Telang

Special Education

Bio

Alyssa Telang

Special Education

Ms. Telang is a proud Michigan native. She attended the University of Kentucky, where she studied Kinesiology and also played on the women’s soccer team (GO WILDCATS!!) for four years. She then moved to Nashville to be an assistant coach for the women’s soccer team at Lipscomb University for two years. Her most recent adventure was the fulfillment of a childhood dream, spending a year overseas in Iceland playing professional soccer. Teach for America has brought her back to Nashville in 2017, and looks forward to joining the Valor Team this year!

Ms. Telang is passionate about mentoring and building fun, trusted relationships. She enjoys spending time with people (over tea, riding bikes, rollerblading, or anything outdoors), reading, or playing sports. Music is her love language; she also loves laughter, pancakes, peanut butter, and a good oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. She’s stoked to join in the joy of being a part of the Valor community!

Sam Clements

8th Science

Bio

Sam Clements

8th Science

Sam grew up in Athens, GA and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill with degrees in Biology and Chemistry. He is joining the Valor team this year as an 8th grade science teacher at Voyager. Sam found his passion for child development and teaching while working at Cheley Colorado Camps, a summer camp in the Rockies. Through these many experiences, he decided to join the 2017 Teach for America Corps in Nashville after graduation to continue his interest in serving diverse communities.

When Sam is not at school, he enjoys watching any and all UNC sports (Go Heels), exploring the outdoors and hiking, listening to the live music that is offered in Nashville, and reading. He is really excited about this year and joining the Valor team!

Bill Hosko

Paraprofessional

Bio

Bill Hosko

Paraprofessional

Originally from Michigan, I spent five years working with adults with special needs in the role as a mentor. I taught job and independent living skills to adults seeking employment, with the hopes of one day living independently. After moving to Tennessee, I spent an additional two years working within schools as an associate teacher counselor, as well as an assistant director of an after school program.

I have obtained degrees in both Religion and Education from Liberty University over the last few years. I am currently enrolled in a Masters of Education program, with an emphasis on Special Education. After completing my graduate degree, I aspire to continuing working in the education sector as either a teacher or a counselor.