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