- Kindergarten Teachers
- 1st Grade Teachers
- 2nd Grade Teachers
- 3rd Grade Teachers
- 4th Grade Teachers
- 5th Grade Teachers
- Middle School
- ESS Staff
- Instructional Assistants
- Art & Music Teachers
- Language Teachers
- Physical Education
- Health Coordinator
- Afterbell & Food Service
DENNIS O’REILLY – Head of Schools
Dennis O’Reilly started working with young people as a volunteer junior high basketball coach and has been in education working with young people since 1990, getting his start as a middle school math teacher. Mr. O’Reilly has been in administration since 1999 serving in a variety of capacities: Curriculum Coordinator, Assistant to the Principal, Principal, and Head of Schools at three different private schools in Tucson, Arizona; he was able to earn his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Chapman University.
Mr. O’Reilly has been married to his beautiful bride Krissy since the spring of 1999, and has two teenage kids in high school, Conner and Adeline, who both graduated from Marana Leman Academy.
Luke Kollasch – PRINCIPAL
Luke is honored to work with Leman Academy of Excellence! He graduated with a bachelor's degree in history and secondary education from the University of Arizona and accepted a teaching job in the Vail School District as a middle school social studies teacher. During his nine years of teaching middle school and coaching middle school and high school basketball in Vail, he graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Masters's degree in Educational Leadership. Prior to serving as the principal, Luke spent two years as a middle school vice-principal and upper school athletic director at an American international private school located in Casablanca, Morocco. Then he spent three years as a vice-principal with Leman Academy - two years with our Marana campus and one year with our East Tucson campus.
Luke is married to his wife Candace and they love spending time with their four children playing board games, reading, traveling, and being outdoors. He loves partnering with families and educators to bring to life the classical curriculum that is true, good, and beautiful!
Cynicka Bridenstine – VICE PRINCIPAL
Ms. Bridenstine is a certified K-8 Elementary Education School teacher with an SEI endorsement. She also holds a Bachelors of Business Administration degree in Management and Organizations from the University of Alaska - Fairbanks, and a Masters of Science in Management from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. She maintained a meritorious academic record throughout her education. Prior to becoming an elementary school teacher, Ms. Bridenstine was the sole instructor for the Transitioning Service Member Program, delivering Department of Labor (DOL) employment information to hundreds of separating military members at Davis-Monthan AFB. Additionally, she was an adjunct instructor at ITT-Technical Institute prior to their closing, and taught community college level business courses for over two years.
Cynicka has taught first and fifth grades, as well as 6th and 7th ELA, 7th grade math and 8th grade Algebra, all at Leman Academy. This will be Ms. Bridenstine's eighth year in elementary/middle school education, and her fifth year at the East Campus. Ms. Bridenstine has three amazing children, two of whom attend LAE, and one who promoted from East.
Jenny Korcheck- Assistant Principal
Mrs. Korcheck has lived in Arizona *almost* her entire life and loves Tucson. After completing her bachelor's in education at Arizona State University, she began her teaching career at a Montessori-based preschool and has taught many age groups including first grade, second grade, fourth grade, and adults. Mrs. Korcheck is currently earning her master's in Educational Leadership from Grand Canyon University. Mrs. Korcheck feels very fortunate to be a part of the Leman Academy family and is excited to continue her leadership journey here.
Mrs. Korcheck met her husband here in Tucson before moving to Australia for a short period of time while he was playing for the Australian Football League. They now have a one-and-a-half year old daughter, are expecting their second little girl, and have two crazy German Shepherds. When Mrs. Korcheck is not on campus, she can be found enjoying family time camping, running, and taking in the magnificent Sonoran Dessert surrounding our lovely city.
Katie Benson - Instructional Coach
Ms. Benson grew up enjoying the beautiful islands of British Columbia and Rocky Mountains of Alberta. She moved to Tucson in 2000, graduating from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, and from Grand Canyon University with a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. She began her teaching career on the Tohono O'odham Nation and first joined Leman in 2017. Her teaching career spans multiple grade levels in elementary and middle school, along with instructing music, PE, and drama. If you ask her what her favorite was, she would have a difficult time answering. Ms. Benson has four children, two boys and two girls. Her eldest is attending ASU as an Engineering Major, her second-born will be playing basketball for Mesa High as a Senior, and the youngest two will be developing their passion for singing and theater while enjoying a classical homeschool education. Ms. Benson looks forward to working closely with the Leman East teachers and promises to foster an exciting learning environment for everyone! Here’s to a fabulous year! Go Royals!
Trista Eikenberry - Office Manager
I am very happy to be working for Leman Academy East. I am married to my husband Eugene and together we have raised 3 children. We have been blessed with 4 grandchildren and love being part of their lives. In our free time, we enjoy camping with family and friends. We love visiting new places and seek new adventures in our travels.
COLEEN HARTING - ADMIN ASSISTANT
Originally from Las Vegas, Nevada and after taking a few detours, Coleen landed in Tucson 31 years ago. She spent the next 25 years serving the private school where her kids attended - school board member, parent association president and eventually becoming a staff member. Coleen is the mother of 3 wonderful children and 4 fabulous grandchildren. After a four-year break to work in financial services, she is very happy to be back at school!
Amanda McMurray - ADMIN ASSISTANT
Born and raised in Tucson, Az. I have been married for 10 years and together we have two wonderful children. We are a military family, spent 8 years in Texas and we loved it but we are so happy to be back in our hometown with family. I am honored to be a part of the Leman Family. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you all.
Kelly Shows - ADMIN ASSISTANT
Kelly Shows has been an Admin Assistant here at Leman East since the Fall of 2020. She enjoys getting to work with the wonderful Leman East Team and looks forward to interacting with our amazing scholars and families everyday as the Attendance Secretary. She and her husband Brian have been married 28 years and have three beautiful daughters. In her spare time Kelly enjoys spending time with her family and traveling whenever possible.
Natalia Skillicorn - SCHOLAR ACCOUNTABILITY CLERK
I am very excited to be a part of The Leman Academy East Office Team! My husband and I are the proud parents of two daughters and two Shi Tzu fur babies. In our free time, we love cooking together, swimming, family game nights, fishing up North and taking long rides exploring the beautiful Sonoran Desert and beyond.
My favorite personal hobby is gardening and being outside in my yard as often as possible.
ANDREA BROBECK - Half Day KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
Mrs. Brobeck has been teaching in Tucson for +10 years in the K through 2nd-grade levels. She and her husband are native Tucsonans! They love the city and the community. They were foster parents before having two daughters, Alice and Madeleine. They are very big on spending quality time with their families and friends. They enjoy musicals, theater, unique and local restaurants, Second Mile Church, and trips to Japan! She cannot wait to get to know about her scholars, and their family, and build a wonderful community at East Tucson Leman Academy!
MEGAN BRODERICK - KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
Mrs. Broderick is so excited to be teaching at Leman Academy of Excellence! She loves being a kindergarten teacher and has been teaching kindergarten for several years. Mrs. Broderick was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. She went to the University of Arizona and received her Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education and then later went on to receive her Master's Degree in Education from Northern Arizona University. She is certified with the state of Arizona and has received endorsements for Early Childhood Education and Structured English Immersion. She is married and has a daughter, Rebecca, who is also a scholar at Leman Academy of Excellence.
Mrs. Broderick loves animals, spending time with family and friends, and cheering on her favorite sports team, the Arizona Wildcats. Go Cats!!!
Andrea Figueroa - KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
Ms. Figueroa is so excited to be teaching at Leman Academy of Excellence! She has been with Leman for four years and has taught our Preschoolers here at Leman. She is very excited to start her journey as a kindergarten teacher. She is so excited to grow and build memories with her scholars and families.
She was born and raised in Tucson Arizona. She graduated from the U of A in 2015 with a degree in Language, Literacy and Leadership. She continued on to Grand Canyon University and graduated with a degree in Elementary Ed. in 2019. When she is not busy, she enjoys spending time with family and friends.
Megan Juhasz - KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
Ms. Juhasz is a Tucson native. She graduated from Sabino High School and attended NAU in Flagstaff, where she obtained her Bachelor's degree. She misses the beautiful weather and visits the mountain town any chance she gets. In her free time, she enjoys going to boxing and hanging out with friends and family.
Ms. Juhasz began her journey at Leman Academy of Excellence as a kindergarten teacher's assistant. She knew instantly this is a place where she would love to continue her career. She is beyond excited to start her third year of teaching at Leman Academy and is thrilled to learn and grow with your scholars.
VIVIAN RUSKOWITZ - KINDERGARTEN TEACHER
Ms Ruskowitz has been teaching for over 14 years and has taught grades from Preschool to 8th grade. Ms. Ruskowitz finds teaching Kindergarten most rewarding. She especially enjoys the excitement and energy young children bring into the classroom. Ms. Ruskowitz is a native of Tucson and received degrees in Elementary Education and Family Studies from the University of Arizona.. She loves dancing, singing, and Zumba! Most of all, Ms. Ruskowitz loves spending time with her family, friends, and pets. Finally, Ms. Ruskowitz is active with many charitable causes and strongly believes in the importance of volunteering in her community.
Bernadette Erlichman – 1ST GRADE TEACHER
Miss Erlichman is originally from a small town in Central New York called Waterville and only just moved to Tucson this summer! She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Biochemistry from SUNY Geneseo, then decided to complete a Master of Science Degree in Elementary Education. She is certified in elementary education through New York State. Her passion for education has only grown while working with elementary-aged students over the past two years and she is so grateful to continue working with first graders this year! She is so excited to join the Leman Academy team and make Tucson her home! Her greatest wish is to aid in the growth and excellence of these young scholars, and help them see how much potential they have! When she is not in the classroom, Miss Erlichman enjoys exploring this new and beautiful city, exercising, crocheting, crafting, and taking care of her house plants.
Krista Heeringa – 1ST GRADE TEACHER
Krista Heeringa has been teaching primary grades, Kindergarten and 1st Grade, for 10 years with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education as well as an Early Childhood Endorsement. With this experience, she takes pride in understanding where her scholars are coming from and where they need to be in preparation for 2nd grade. She believes each child is unique in their development into little adults becoming and she looks forward to partnering with parents to give each scholar their best opportunity for success! Her classroom motto has always been, “hard work pays off!” When she is not teaching, the relationships with her family and friends makes her world go round. Her husband serves the community as a firefighter and they are both Tucson natives. Together they have a daughter, Olivia, and a fur baby, Myla.
Valerie Lucas – 1ST GRADE TEACHER
Valerie Lucas is a Tucson native. She and her husband have three boys. Two of her boys currently attend the Leman Academy of Excellence. When she is not at school, she enjoys spending time with friends and family. In 2011, she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix.
She taught for five years in Amphitheater Public Schools, all in first grade. Her experience in 1 st grade has solidified her passion to encourage and cultivate a love of learning and exploration. She looks forward to collaborating with teachers and parents to help her scholars succeed.
Angela Nunez – 1ST GRADE TEACHER
I have been a part of the Leman Academy Family for 4 years which includes teaching preschool to being a part of the ESS team as an aide, LVA and now teaching first grade at Leman East! I am so excited to be a part of the team! My educational journey includes obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Elementary and Special Education from Grand Canyon University as well as obtaining a Special Education Certification. I have been a Tucson native for over 20 years! I enjoy watching movies, going on nature walks and spending time with friends and family be it at dinners or fun gatherings.
Kendra Starkey – 1ST GRADE TEACHER
Kendra Starkey has the best job in the world! She has a big heart for primary grades and always strives to build relationships with her scholars that will cultivate their love for learning and allow them to reach their highest potential. Her passion for this profession continues to grow as she watches little ones flourish academically, learning to read and write, and build their character through hard work and perseverance.
Mrs. Starkey graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education, a Minor in Spanish, and a certificate in Early Childhood. When she is not teaching, she loves to spend time with her husband, Jared, baby boy, Wyatt, and fur baby, Gunner. She also loves to craft DIY projects, bake and spend time outside!
Bobbee Ashfaq - 2ND GRADE TEACHER
Mrs. Ashfaq is excited to be back at Leman Academy of Excellence again this year. She has been apart of the Leman East Community since they opened in 2018 as a parent first, then in 2019 she joined the teaching staff. Mrs. Ashfaq has 9 years of teaching experience in K-8 schools in the Tucson area. She is originally from Nebraska and came to Tucson after she graduated from Midland University with a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education. Mrs. Ashfaq has three sons who are all scholars at Leman Academy, big brother Clayton and twins Callen and Cayden. They love that they can enjoy their school and learning community together. When she and her family are not at school they enjoy traveling and experiencing new places. Her favorite places to visit thus far have been London, Maui, Paris and Amsterdam. She likes watching Historical Fiction shows on Netflix and taking evening walks with her dog Reme. She cannot wait to get to know her scholars, their families, and build wonderful relationships at East Leman Academy!
Valerie Barnes - 2ND GRADE TEACHER
Mrs. Barnes was born and raised in East Texas and attended college in New Mexico where she met her husband of 16 years. As a mother of two boys, baseball is their life! Go DBacks! She holds a Master’s degree in Education Leadership with Early Childhood Education and Administration from Gateway Seminary in San Francisco, CA. and a Masters of Elementary Education. (Try to say that 5X fast!)
She has been teaching for more than 17 years with 5 years on the elementary level. She has worked with Educators around the state of Arizona leading educational seminars to help early childhood educators as well as creating workshops to empower educators. She feels privileged to help raise up leaders of the next generation here at Leman!
Maria Johnson - 2ND GRADE TEACHER
Maria Johnson is an Arizona native. She graduated from Grand Canyon University with her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She is married to her high school sweetheart, and they have 3 beautiful boys together. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and 3 dogs. Maria started her journey with Leman Academy of Excellence in the Explorer’s classroom, in the preschool. She is excited to be joining the 2nd grade team and cannot wait to build strong and lasting relationships with her scholars and their families! Maria truly understands the impact and importance of her job as a Teacher, and guiding the children to become leaders of tomorrow!
Kellie LaMasney - 2ND Grade Teacher
Mrs. LaMasney is a Tucson native and earned her B.A. degree in Elementary Education at the University of Arizona. She has 10 years experience teaching K-8. When she’s not teaching, she loves spending time with her family playing board games, attending live music events, and finding new hiking trails in Tucson to explore. Mrs. LaMasney loves being part of the Leman Academy community, getting to partner with so many wonderful families, and watching scholars grow and learn.
Danika Pinedo - 2ND GRADE TEACHER
Ms. Pinedo is a native Tucsonan and a graduate from the U of A with a Bachelor in Science in Elementary Education. She has 8 years experience teaching preschool through 5th grade in the Tucson and Benson school districts. During her spare time she enjoys escaping to the cooler temperatures of Tucson's beautiful Mt. Lemmon for hiking and camping or riding her bike on The Loop in town. She has three cats, her favorite color is leopard print and every year you can find her volunteering or participating in the El Tour de Tucson. As a teacher she enjoys most how much life can be brought to the classroom with each child's unique character and way of expression. She's grateful and thrilled to be joining the 2nd grade team at East Leman Academy and looking forward to meeting her new scholars and their families!
Kelsey Kirkendall - 3rd Grade Teacher
Kelsey Kirkendall has been working in education for the last five years and is so excited to be joining the Leman Family! Kelsey has two little babies, a girl who is two years old and a boy who is four months old. She is looking forward to her own children becoming immersed in the classical education model as well as they get older. When Kelsey is not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her children, husband, and two puppies outdoors. Kelsey cannot wait to be a part of your child's education!
Terri Macias - 3RD GRADE TEACHER
Mrs. Macias, a Tucson native, recently moved back to the area with her family after moving from Arizona in the mid 2000s. She is a graduate of the University of Minnesota and has spent the previous 12 years caring for her three young children while supporting her husband’s active duty career as a U.S. Coast Guard Judge Advocate. Mrs. Macias has embraced every community that she has called home and sought to make an impact wherever she has lived through active volunteerism. She spent three years serving as a faith-based youth and family counselor in the Twin Cities.
During this time she also had the opportunity to work with refugee children and mothers abroad while serving in immigrant shelters in Rome, Italy. She appreciates new experiences and enjoys living in New London Connecticut, Newport, Rhode Island, New Orleans, Louisiana and Honolulu Hawaii.
During her time in Hawaii, she managed the finances of a non-profit organization focused on supporting military moms with young children. During her husband’s most recent assignment in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, she invested in advancing her teaching skills and education while also working as an enrichment specialist for preschool children in an underserved community.
Mrs. Macias is eager to bring her experiences living across all parts of the United States, as well as her many travels abroad, to the third-grade scholars in her classroom. In line with the Lehman Academy of Excellence mission to propel scholars towards excellence via a classical approach, her theme this year is “Shine Like Stars.” With this theme, Mrs. Macias aims to coach her scholars towards achieving their full potential by first envisioning success and then taking the daily actions necessary to make their success a reality.
Stephanie Oman - 3RD GRADE TEACHER
I was born and raised here in Tucson, Az. I went to Pima Community College and received an Associates degree with an Elementary Education focus, which I then transferred to the U of A where I completed my bachelors degree in Elementary Education. My passion is teaching and learning. Whether I am in a classroom or a grocery store, I love turning moments into a chance to learn or teach something new. I have been in classrooms, volunteering, obtaining hours for my degree, and student teaching for eight years. However, for the past three years, I have been teaching in my own classroom. I worked for TUSD for 3 years, and I am overjoyed to be joining the Leman Family. I get to share this school and the wonderful community with my own three children, two of which are in 8th grade, and one that is in 3rd grade! In my free time, I enjoy reading, shopping, and spending time with my family and children. I also like to be outdoors, experience new places, go to church, and volunteer with my kids at food banks and the Pima Animal Care Center. Thank you so much for welcoming me into such a great community with such amazing families. I really enjoy being at Leman!
Rachel Roberts - 3RD GRADE TEACHER
Rachel Roberts has had 20 plus years of experience in healthcare, but after receiving her BA from the University of Arizona, she is very excited to join the Leman team as a 3rd grade teacher. She chose Leman Academy of Excellence for her own child’s education as it mirrors her own childhood classical education . She values the classic education and core values that Leman’s curriculum offers and is excited to embrace those while teaching. While not a Tucson native, she has been in Tucson since 1998. Her mother who is also a teacher, focused on classical education while her father has a history of military service and engineering. Due to her father’s employment, she frequently moved around while growing up. This enables her to incorporate experiences from each different part of the country to add depth to our educational curriculum. When not teaching, she enjoys time with her husband of 15 years and with their son, Ethan, who will be entering 2nd grade at Leman Academy of Excellence. In her spare time, Rachel also enjoys hiking and reading. Rachel is eager to start her journey in education and to encourage the love of learning in her scholars.
Vicki Scherwinski - 3rd GRADE TEACHER
Ms. Scherwinski grew up in northern Arizona and has lived in Tucson for twenty years. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a B.S. in Molecular & Cellular Biology with an emphasis in Chemistry. She has enjoyed the last decade raising and homeschooling her four daughters ages 10 down to 3 years of age. Ms. Scherwinski has experience teaching Montessori, Traditional and Classical methods. She has been thrilled to see her children’s minds open and blossom exponentially using the Classical method.
When she’s not teaching, Ms. Scherwinski loves spending time with her daughters by swimming, riding bikes, exploring the outdoors, getting their hands in the dirt, playing board games, reading and sitting front row to watch her daughters create plays (much like the March sisters in Little Women). Ms. Scherwinski’s motto is to treat others the way you like to be treated, to always try your best, and to be gentle with yourself and others because mistakes are an integral part of learning.
TARA CAMPACCI - 4TH GRADE TEACHER
My name is Tara Campacci and Tucson has been my only home. I grew up working for my family until I went to the University of Arizona and earned my degree in Elementary Education. I was hired at Acacia Elementary during my student teaching and worked there for four years teaching 5th grade. I left Acacia after getting married to my husband Justin, to work for a family as a private homeschool teacher for a child with autism. After five years he was ready for high school and I had my first of two boys. I was fortunate to be able to stay home and had my second son only 14 months later. I love being a mom and enjoy every minute I get to spend with my boys and husband. My boys began attending Leman during the 2019 school year and I went back to working for my family. I knew, however, that education was where my heart was and I decided to jump into Leman as a kinder aide last year. It has been a perfect fit ever since and when they offered me a position as a 4th-grade teacher, I accepted immediately! I love everything about this job and look forward to building amazing memories with your scholars.
MALISA CANNON - 4TH GRADE TEACHER
Mrs. Cannon was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona. She graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor’s in Secondary Education, English and a minor in Speech Communication. Upon graduating from NAU, she taught Public Speaking there. She got married and moved to North Carolina where she taught high school English. North Carolina was beautiful, but she and her husband wanted to be closer to family so they moved to Tucson where her husband is from. She taught middle school language arts for eleven years, and during that time she pursued and earned a Master’s in Applied Communication online. She then began teaching college-level courses online so she could stay home with her young children. Once they all began attending school it was time to get back to what she really loves: being with scholars full-time. She loves teaching 4th graders, helping them learn and grow as intellectuals. When she is not teaching she is spending time outdoors with her family or curled up inside with a good book.
Morgan Knox - 4TH GRADE TEACHER
Mr. Knox was born and raised right here in The Old Pueblo however, Honolulu, Hawaii and Santa Fe, New Mexico were home for a few years. Mr. Knox received a degree in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix after returning to Tucson from Santa Fe, NM where he got his start in education as a tutor of math, science, and computers at Santa Fe Community College.
His favorite subjects as a student were reading, science, and history; these continue to be his favorite subjects as a teacher. He and his wife are blessed with a beautiful daughter and a wonderful French Bulldog.
Ashleigh (Tukey) Halvorson - 4TH GRADE TEACHER
Ashleigh Halvorson is originally from Seattle, WA but spent most of her school years in Southern Arizona. She is a certified K-8 elementary teacher with experience teaching kindergarten, first, and second grades. After spending the last several years in Phoenix, she is excited to be back in Tucson to raise her daughter near family. When she is not teaching, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her family and playing soccer.
Catherine Wilcox - 4th GRADE TEACHER
Ms.Wilcox was born and raised in Tucson Arizona. She graduated with a Bachelors in Communications Media Studies from North Park University in Chicago, IL and went back to school, while teaching full time, to earn a post-bacc degree in Secondary Education English from Pima Community College. After completing her post-bacc while teaching full time in TUSD, she discovered her love for the classroom. Cate has spent the last 6 and a half years in middle school and high school and is thrilled to be joining Leman Academy of Excellence as a 4th grade teacher. Outside of school, Cate loves to travel and cook as well as create and listen to all types of music. Exercise and YOGA are a part of her daily routine and she is always looking for a way to keep her classroom as home away from home for her scholars. She is ready to jump in and make a meaningful experience for her scholars this year!
Tina Firlik - 5TH GRADE TEACHER
My name is Tina. I am so excited to join the Leman Academy team. I was born and raised in Las Vegas, NV. My husband is in the Air Force and we have been married for 21 years. We have 4 children, ages 20, 17, 16, and 14. Our oldest is also in the Air Force and is currently stationed in Florida. As a military family, we have traveled and lived all around the world. I really enjoy experiencing the cultures and traditions of other countries. Before moving to Tucson, we lived in Okinawa, Japan for 8 years. Before Okinawa, we lived in Portugal. We have also been stationed in England in the past. While living overseas, I attended The University of Maryland Global Campus where I earned my Bachelor's degree in Social Science with a minor in History. My next educational goal is to earn my Masters in Elementary Education. In my free time, I like to travel, read books, and work on my many unfinished craft projects. I look forward to this school year and can't wait to meet the scholars and their families.
Jana Hardin -5th grade teacher
Mrs. Jana Hardin was born and raised in the small town of Talihina, Oklahoma. She most recently called Tampa, Fl her home where she and her husband Benjamin and their three children,Jayce, Jentry and Jack were stationed. The Air Force called their family to Tucson where they now are stationed. Jana received her undergraduate degree from Liberty University in both Christian Counseling and Communications in 2013. She worked as a child abuse investigator and forensic interviewer for the state of Oklahoma before homeschooling her own children.
Jana believes that children can reach their greatest potential when they have at least one person that truly cares about them. Her greatest desire for children she works with is to establish lifelong connections that make lasting, positive impacts.
She enjoys spending time with her family and traveling. Jana is so excited to be a part of the Leman team and looks forward to an amazing school year!
Michelle Lurvey - 5TH GRADE TEACHER
Ms. Lurvey is excited to be joining the Leman Academy Family this year. Born in Galveston Texas, Ms. Lurvey was raised in Flagstaff, Arizona. She comes from a family of educators. Her father was a high school health career teacher/ athletic trainer then administrator and her mother taught elementary school. She graduated from Southern Virginia University earning her bachelors in Art and a minor in History. After graduation she moved back home to Flagstaff to begin her public service career. She worked for the City of Flagstaff for 9 years, doing administrative work for the Police Department and Human Resources. She started her career in education first serving as the STEM assistant at the same elementary school where she went to school, then went on to work for the Juvenile Courts before moving down to Tucson to teach. Outside of the classroom you will find Ms. Lurvey traveling, being active in supporting the arts by attending concerts, Broadway productions and playing multiple musical instruments. She has a love of pop culture and history and is an active family history researcher. She also has a passion for historical costuming, with a love for the Georgian and Late Victorian eras.
Kara Nichols - 5TH GRADE TEACHER
I am a certified K-8 teacher with an English as a Second language endorsement. I am from the great state of Texas and have recently moved to Arizona. I have been teaching for 16 years in grades 1-3. I have a Bachelor of Science from Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie, TX. I have been married to my husband for 20 years and he is a pastor. We have one son who just turned 10. We are active in our church and are learning all about Tucson. I look forward to being a part of the Leman family!
Kathleen Tutaan - 5th GRADE TEACHER
Ms. Kathleen Tutaan has been with the Leman Academy of Excellence family since 2018 teaching both 4th and 5th grade. As a Wildcat alum, she graduated cum laude from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor’s degree in Studio Art with a concentration in photography and a minor in Creative Writing. She has been published both for her writing and art, and some of her photography may still be found displayed in the Asian Pacific American Student Affairs center at the University of Arizona. Ms. Tutaan also has a history working in broadcast media as a Morning Show Producer sharing and teaching the great stories of Anchorage, Alaska. Born in Madrid, Spain, Ms. Tutaan grew up in a military family — her father served 21 years in the United States Air Force. She also comes from a long line of educators on her mom’s side. It was only natural that she made a career shift toward public service and education.
Currently, Ms. Tutaan is in the process of obtaining her Master’s degree in Elementary Education. She is elated to serve 5th-grade scholars this school year and to have the opportunity to be a part of their incredible scholastic journey. Her goal is to create challenging and creative experiences for her diverse scholars in an atmosphere that is based on mutual respect and caring.
As a proud Filipino-American, Ms. Tutaan travels to the Philippines every 2-3 years. In her free time, she loves to read classical novels, write/illustrate short stories, and do yoga and kickboxing aerobics. Outside of the classroom she can be found painting, biking, hanging out with her brothers, going on road trips, or taking long walks with her rescue Chihuahua, Paco. Ms. Tutaan dedicates herself to lifelong learning and professional development and looks forward to building strong and meaningful relationships with her colleagues, scholars, and their families.
Taylor Collins-Schober - 6th Grade History
Mrs. Collins-Schober has been a teacher for 7 years and is excited to continue her teaching journey with us. Mother of 4 she enjoys movies, swimming and just being with her family. She has a BS in education from the University of Arizona. Her love and fascination with history lead her to teaching middle school social studies and enjoying every minute.
Kenneth New - 6th Grade Latin
Mr. New was born in Ohio, but moved to Arizona while in middle school. He served his country in the US Army for four years after graduation, then moved to Tucson where he attended the University of Arizona and graduated with his Bachelors in Latin, History and Classics in 1993. Mr. New has taught a wide range of scholars at both the middle school and high school levels, in subjects including ELA, AP US History and Latin at the high school level, and ELA, Social Studies, Latin, Science and Math (including Algebra 1, Geometry and Algebra 2) at the middle school level.
Mr. New met his future wife Terri while still in middle school. They been married since 1986 and they have three children. Ken enjoys cooking, writing, reading, and discussing anything related to science fiction. Mr. New is very excited to be a part of the Leman family at the the East Tucson Leman Academy and to mentor scholars on their journey to become excellent, well-rounded human beings and to maximize their potential.
Claudia Rangel - 6th Grade Math
Ms. Rangel has been at Leman Academy of Excellence East since its opening and is happy to be returning once again as the 6th grade Math teacher. She was born and raised in El Paso, TX and has been living in Tucson since 2007. She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. Go REBELS! Her teaching career began in 2016 as a Math Interventionist and decided to move into the classroom in 2018 as a second grade teacher. Fast forward to now, she very much enjoys teaching scholars to think critically and learning that there is more to Math than just numbers. When she is not in the classroom she enjoys spending time with her three kids, hiking, golfing, or anything outdoors as well as reading and completing home projects.
Joy Shifflette - 6th Grade Science
Mrs. Shifflette was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona where she graduated from Catalina High School. After graduating high school, she and her husband left Tucson and moved to South Dakota where she attended Black Hills State University. While in South Dakota, her and her husband hiked, camped, and explored the beautiful Black Hills. After three years, she decided to return home to finish up her Bachelor of Science degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. While attending the U of A, she worked for an afterschool program teaching science at Drachman Primary School. She later worked at a plant science lab for the U of A assisting in plant research. In 2000, she and her husband moved to Rita Ranch where they raised their two boys. She spent many years as a volunteer for Scouts BSA and for the elementary school where her boys attended. After raising her two boys for ten years she decided to get back into the workforce. She worked at Mesquite Elementary School as a special needs paraprofessional and then taught computers there for several years. While working at Mesquite Elementary she decided to get her teaching certificate. Mrs. Shifflette is a certified teacher in science for grades 6-12. She was a substitute teacher for a year and a half, until she got the opportunity to teach 7th grade science at Old Vail Middle School. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends. She also enjoys the outdoors, hiking some of the major trails around the Tucson area, including to the top of Mt. Wrightston and Mt. Humphreys (the tallest peak in Arizona). Mrs. Shifflette is very excited to join Leman Academy of Excellence and is looking forward to teaching 6th grade science.
Rey Vasquez - 6th grade ELA
Rey is an Arizona native, born and raised in a small little border town but always dreamt big. An accomplished musician, he writes, records, and performs his own material with his band. He comes to Leman with an extensive teaching history that ranges from Algebra and Trigonometry to Elementary Ed. Fluent in Spanish, Rey taught Spanish at a middle school in the Amphitheater district. He has returned to his passion: literature, and is excited to go on adventures with the 6th grade scholars!
Parker Georgi - 7th Grade MAth
Parker Georgi grew up back east and attended "THE" Ohio State University for three years before transferring to UCSB and finishing his bachelor's degree in Liberal Studies. After graduation Parker moved to the Bay Area and received his teaching degree from San Francisco State University and began his teaching career at Everett Middle School teaching Math and P.E. Combining his love of teaching, travel, and adventure Parker relocated to Tokyo, Japan where he taught college English for five years while exploring Asia. Upon returning to the States in 1996 Parker resumed teaching Middle School math in San Francisco and Marin County. He then took a hiatus from teaching to be a stay at home dad. By far his most challenging job ever but one he loved dearly. Parker is now looking forward to getting back into the classroom and making Leman Academy and Tucson his new home.
Atalanta Hoyt - 7th Grade History TEACHER
Ms. Hoyt is a Tucson native. She earned a Bachelor's degree in History and Music Theory and a Master’s of Education in Teaching and Teacher Education from the University of Arizona. Previous to working at Leman Academy of Excellence, Ms. Hoyt taught High School history for three years. She also has extensive experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities, solidifying her belief in the immense value and importance of each person. During the summer, Ms. Hoyt enjoys working at youth recreation camps, especially in the Catalina Mountains.
Ailene Ibanez - 7th GRADE Chemistry
Ms. Ibanez was born and raised in Tucson, AZ. She earned a Bachelor's of Science at Arizona State University in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences in Psychology. Ms. Ibanez's education has provided her expertise in learning, the sciences and arts, behavior, mental health, and school-family-community partnerships. Besides being an educator, Mrs. Ibanez is a military wife and dog mom. Having a spouse who is active duty and being a teacher herself, her family believes strongly in honor, truth, and serving the community. You will most likely find her playing with her corgi Octavia, thrifting, watching cool videos about science, traveling to the beach when on vacation or at a volleyball game. Mrs. Ibanez comes ready to make science engaging and enlighten excellence in our scholars.
Kelly Mulari - 7th Grade ELA
Kelly Mulari was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. She has been married for almost 25 years, has four beautiful children, and one precious grandson. Kelly also lived for one year in Southern California and eight years near Salt Lake City, Utah. She was thrilled to move back to Arizona five years ago. Kelly enjoys acrylic painting, reading, writing, and spending time with her amazing family. Mrs. Mulari graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Human Development from Hope International University and a Master’s Degree in Education from The University of Phoenix. She has taught elementary, middle and high school. Mrs. Mulari has also worked as a behavioral specialist and treatment foster care consultant. She specializes in middle school language arts, and is excited to move forward with her journey at Leman Academy.
Jennifer Penney - 7th Grade Logic
Mrs. Penney received both her B.A. in Elementary Education (2004) and her M. Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction (2021) from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. After graduating, she began her teaching career in Louisiana before moving to Virginia, where she continued teaching grades K-1. In 2011, she moved back to Louisiana where she enjoyed time staying at home with her two young sons. The call of teaching never grew quiet, so she returned to the classroom in 2019, where she spent three years teaching second grade. In June 2022, Mrs. Penney relocated to Tucson with her husband and their two sons. You’ll most likely find the Penney family in their Winnebago on the weekends exploring as much of Arizona as they can. Mrs. Penney is thrilled to join Leman Academy as a member of the seventh grade team as the Logic teacher. She hopes to ignite a passion for learning to her scholars and commits to bring joy to the classroom and hallways at Leman.
Ramona Cantu - 8th Grade Physics
Ms. Cantu is joining us this 22-23 school year with 20 years teaching experience in Science. She has spent most of her teaching years with middle school scholars. She is an Arizona Native and after serving in the Air Force returned to study at NAU. Where she obtained her degree in Education of Science. She loves the diversity that Arizona offers to enjoy horseback riding weather its in the desert or the mountains, fishing and yes, her need for speed, Nascar.
Jennie Elmerick - 8th Grade ELA
Mrs. Elmerick grew up in New Jersey. She received her B.A. from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, and her J.D. from the University of Notre Dame Law School in South Bend, Indiana. As a former Waldorf student, military officer, and lawyer, she is grateful for her varied life experiences and her many opportunities to live and travel abroad. Mrs. Elmerick and her husband have two sons and one daughter, all Leman Academy scholars. Her family shares a love for sports and, outside of school and work, you can usually find them playing or watching whatever sport is in season!
Mark Kornachuk - 8th Grade History
I grew up in Tucson after my parents moved us from Canada (I was born in Ontario and I speak Canadian fluently). I graduated in 1986 from high school, became the first naturalized US citizen in my family (youngest sister was born in FL), took several college courses without really heading toward a degree so I joined the Army Reserves in 1992 to focus and pay for college tuition. I moved to San Diego to continue college but met my future wife and we moved to Tennessee where I graduated with a Bachelors in History/ Geography (1998) and a Masters in Education (1999). I was elected to be one of 20 students out of 3 Tennessee Universities to become a Normandy Scholar. I came back to Arizona to teach but ended up working for Learjet as an aircraft mechanic. While doing Army Reserve duty at Ft Huachuca I wandered over to the helicopters there and was introduced to the federal law enforcement Air Operations. I entered federal law enforcement in 2002 and served 20 years in California, Maine and Arizona. In those 20 years I have been Canine Handler, Academy Instructor, Firearms Instructor, Recruiter, and several other intelligence directed details. During these years I have also been able to be a volleyball coach for several teams from an NCAA Div 3 college to local high school teams. I am currently the Cienega High School girls volleybal coach for court and beach. I have been married for 28 years and have three children. I enjoy learning new things, reading, watching movies, playing sports and building/ fixing things.
Taylor Radtke - 8th Grade Math
Ms. Radtke is a Tucson native who has recently come back to the area after completing her mathematics degree and softball career at Vanguard University in Southern California. Ms. Radtke comes to Leman East after her first year of teaching mathematics at Academy del Sol. She is excited to join the team at Leman East and teach scholars who have the same shared passion for mathematics.
In her free time, Ms. Radtke enjoys spending time with family, working out, and playing sports. She is also a huge fan of the U of A’s baseball and hockey teams. Ms. Radtke is ready to begin the new school year and bring her positive energy and enthusiasm for learning to Leman East.
Alondra Rodriguez - 8th Grade Speech, Debate, and Geography
Ms. Rodriguez was born in California, but raised here in Tucson, AZ. She attended the University of Arizona and received her Bachelor's of Science in Anthropology. Before becoming the Spanish teacher, Ms. Rodriguez worked in our Afterbell program where she found a love for teaching. She enjoys reading, visiting new places, spending time with family and friends, walking her 2 dogs, and watching movies.
Laura Black - School Psychologist
Mrs. Black is a certified School Psychologist from Long Island, NY where she obtained her Bachelors of Psychology and Masters in School Psychology both from Adelphi University. She began her career in Maryland in 2008 before moving to Arizona in 2011. She has served as a School Psychologist in Sierra Vista, AZ for five years and in the Tucson area since 2016. She has served all ages of scholars from preschool through high school. Mrs. Black has been married to her husband (a Special Education teacher whom she met while working together) since 2018 and together they have two children, ages one and three. Their oldest will be attending preschool at Leman Academy East this upcoming school year.
Victoria Buck - Exceptional Scholar Services Teacher
Elizabeth "Suzie" Howe - EXCEPTIONAL SCHOLAR SERVICES Teacher
Suzie Howe was born in Tucson, Arizona but traveled around the country while growing up.
She received her bachelor’s degree from BYU-I. Mrs. Howe has been married for 28 years and has 7 children and 3 grandbabies. When she is not teaching, she loves spending time with her family, reading, and cooking. Mrs. Howe loves to be out in the sun and loves to go to the beach.
Micaela Tillis - EXCEPTIONAL SCHOLAR SERVICES TEACHER
Micaela Tillis is excited to continue working with the scholars and families at Leman East. She really enjoys working with our Exceptional Scholars. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Family Studies and Human Development and then went on to receive her Master’s degree in Elementary Education. Micaela has been working with exceptional students for over 18 years.
Micaela has been married for 16 years to Rich and her daughter Belle will be finishing up her last year at Leman in eighth grade. When she’s not at school, Micaela enjoys spending time with family and friends. She likes going to the movies and just hanging out at home. The beach is where you will find her when there is a break from school.
Tomara Moss - EXCEPTIONAL SCHOLAR SERVICES Teacher
Tomara was born and raised in NYC. She earned her Bachelors of Elementary Education at the College of Saint Rose in Albany NY followed by her Masters in Special Education at the University of Arizona. Tomara has been teaching for 14 years and has experience with general education, Autism, ED, and many other disabilities. Tomara loves sports and reading and is a huge Steph Curry fan! As an avid supporter of Howard Gardner's theories of multiple intelligences, she firmly believes all students have varying degrees of intellectual strengths and these strengths are extremely important in understanding the whole child despite possible weaknesses in other areas. Tomara has an intense passion for teaching and is able to connect with students in a positive manner that almost always motivates scholars to want to learn or be better students.
Oksana Barron - ESS AIDE
I was born in the Bay Area, moved to Arizona, and settled in Tucson, Az. I've been working in education for the last 4 years, I'm hoping to return back to school in 2023. I'm recently engaged and looking forward to getting married and starting a family soon! When I'm not at school I love going to the movies, taking care of and buying houseplants, hanging out with my friends and siblings. My scholars can always spot me with my iced coffee in hand.
Cindy Leyba - ESS AIDE
I was born and raised in Southern California and moved out to Arizona in 1999. I am a proud mom to four scholars here at Leman and come from a law enforcement background. I had been involved in law enforcement since I was 14 years old. Most recently I worked for the Tucson Police Department as a public safety dispatcher for 17 years and I am so proud of my time there. In 2017 I moved over to the City of Tucson City Clerk's office and gained a whole new perspective during my time as an administrative assistant working with the city government. I am looking forward to this new chapter in the education field and I am so excited to be working with such a wonderful group of staff, teachers and scholars.
Shelley Waters - ESS AIDE
I am very excited to be a part of the Leman East team! My husband and I arrived in Tucson in 2020. I have a Bachelor's degree in Anthropology. In addition to working in the hotel/hospitality industry, I have enjoyed being a substitute teacher and summer camp coordinator. I am interested in building relationships with scholars and partnering in their success!
Courtney Peck - Speech Pathologist
Mrs. Peck has been a clinically certified and licensed school-based Speech-Language Pathologist for the past 16 years in Tucson, Arizona. She graduated with her Master’s in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Arizona in 2005 with a minor in Special Education. Mrs. Peck is a member of the American Speech, Language and Hearing Association (ASHA) and receives yearly training in the most current research and practices within the field of Speech-Language Pathology.
Mrs. Peck has worked with children with special needs in a variety of capacities for over 20 years. She loves being in the school setting where she can work alongside teachers and other professionals to address the needs of the whole child, whether it involves communication, early reading skills, or behavior. Mrs. Peck is a strong advocate for children with differing needs and helping to create an inclusive setting for ALL children.
Katharine Childress - Scholar Success
Katy Childress has lived in Tucson most of her life, moving with her family at the age of 9 from the East coast. She has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona (Go Cats) in Child Development and a Masters degree in Counseling from University of Phoenix. Katy has worked as a therapist in the mental health field for most of her career, working with kids, families, young children, adults and couples in various environments including homes, schools, hospitals and group homes. Shifting careers slightly last year, Katy became a Certified School Counselor and came to work at Leman Academy in the Fall of 2021 and has appreciated the welcoming reception from administration, teachers, students and families. Katy is so proud to be at Leman and have the chance to use her counseling and therapy skills to help and support as many scholars and families as possible throughout the school year.
Vickie MacDonald - intervention
I am so excited to be a part of Leman Academy for my second year. I moved to Tucson from Lexington, Kentucky just a short time ago. The philosophy of Leman Academy is such a perfect fit for me. I taught for over twenty-nine years in public schools in three different districts in the state of Kentucky. I have been in education for about 40 years in different capacities. I started in my hometown, a very rural community near the college I attended, Eastern Kentucky University. I have a BS in Elementary Education and an MA is in Early Childhood Education.
During my public school teaching career I won numerous awards and recognitions. My background in teaching is from the preschool level through fourth grade. Since retirement I have taught Early Childhood Education as an assistant professor at a local community college. I also was a teaching coach for Head Start. Before moving I was a substitute teacher in the district where I retired.
I really enjoyed my first year back in the classroom, however this year I will be working as a reading specialist. I believe reading is the pathway to success for our scholars. I enjoy life in Tucson by spending time with my fiancé and my dog Lexi. Some of my favorite things are watching sports and movies, cooking, and traveling.
Janice Marks - Elementary Math Intervention
Ms. Marks received her Bachelors in Business and Economics from Hebrew University of Jerusalem where she graduated cum laude. During her studies she also became a black belt in TaeKwondo and represented Israel in the World TaeKwondo Championship at Madison Square Garden. Upon returning to the US she lived in NYC and spearheaded product marketing and website development for companies including Cheyenne Software/Computer Associates, Castrol North America, Toys R Us, and McAfee.
Ms. Marks has always enjoyed math, and after 15 years in high-tech she began her career in education to pursue teaching pre-algebra. There she found joy in teaching math, working with parents, and inspiring children to believe in themselves and thrive. This experience, along with helping her own children succeed in math, led her to Leman Academy of Excellence where she loves working with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. Watching scholars become excited about math and believe in their abilities is what makes this career so rewarding to her.
Ms. Marks is an award-winning math fluency product designer and a math board game designer. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, hiking, biking, and gardening.
Tia Edwards - 6th-8th Grade Math Intervention
Originally from Kansas, Mrs. Edwards graduated from Emporia State University with a Bachelors in Elementary Education. Shortly after graduating she and her husband, Nate, moved to Arizona and have been happy to call Tucson home since 2003. They have four children who are either current Leman scholars or Leman alumni. Together, their family enjoys exploring the outdoors, swimming, watching movies and gathering around the table. They also enjoy worshiping and serving alongside their church family. Mrs. Edwards has experience working with scholars in the classroom setting in a variety of capacities- as a teacher, as a parent volunteer, as a guest teacher, and as a community liaison. She is excited to have the opportunity to work with scholars as a math interventionist this year!
Megan LaBelle -6th-8th Grade Math Intervention
Mrs. LaBelle was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and moved to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. She received her degree in Elementary Education and continued on to get her Masters in Educational Leadership from Northern Arizona University. Mrs. LaBelle taught for six years as a fourth and fifth-grade teacher, took a break when her daughters were born, and has been working as a guest teacher for the past four years. She is thrilled to be back on campus and is excited to join the Leman team. Mrs. LaBelle is married to her husband, Tyler, and they have three daughters. She loves to be outside - running and hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time with her family.
Malinda Moquin - Reading Interventionist
Deborah Stahr - Reading intervention
It has been my pleasure to be an educator in Southern Arizona. I have taught all grade levels, Kindergarten through 5th grade. My latest position as a Reading Interventionist has allowed me to utilize and adapt the skills I have acquired throughout my career. It is always so rewarding to guide scholars in achieving their goals. I work with an incredible team and am happy with all the support I receive from my Leman family.
Melissa Crawford - Kinder TA
Melissa has her associates in business, and has lived here in Tucson almost her whole life. She is married with a daughter who attends leman. In her spare time she coaches her soccer team and she is an avid cook and reader. She hopes to open her own restaurant sometime in the not so distant future. Working with kids allows her inner child to come out and she enjoys watching them learn and grow immensely.
Jillian Eldridge - Kinder TA
I was born in Columbus, Ohio and moved around a lot as a kid and ended up in Tucson when I was 8 and have been here every since. I graduated from Ironwood Ridge High School and am currently working towards a degree in business or possibly education. In my free time I enjoy hanging out with friends and family and walking my dog on the mall at the U of A. My mom has been a teacher her whole life, most recently at Leman Marana, and watching her influence the lives of children is always something I have admired. Kindergarten is especially fun because they are just beginning their education and have such a strong eagerness to learn. I'm looking forward to the school year and excited to get to know all the scholars!
Shelby Gingerich - Kinder TA
Mrs. Gingerich has lived in Tucson most of her life. She is married with three children. Two of her children attend Leman Academy of Excellence. She has two dogs, a chocolate lab named Jake and a blue heeler named Coe. In her spare time she is usually at gymnastics with her daughter, or at BMX with her son. She also enjoys the outdoors, spending time with family, board games, and gardening. She has always loved volunteering in her children's classes, and now she loves being a bigger part of the Leman Academy family. She's looking forward to the school year and watching all the scholars learn and grow.
Vanessa Moreno - Kinder TA
Vanessa Moreno was born and raised in Tucson. She just finished her Associates degree in Early Childhood Education, and is continuing her education for a Bachelors in Early Childhood and Early Childhood Special Education at ASU. She has always dreamt of being a teacher since she was a child. Her goal after graduation is to be a kindergarten or 1st grade teacher. She enjoys cooking, baking, outdoors, reading, and spending time with her friends and family.
Nastashia "Tashia" Walsh - Kinder TA
Ms. Walsh has lived in Tucson, AZ most of her life. She has two children who attend Leman Academy of Excellence and one dog, Bruiser, who does not. In her spare time she enjoys singing on the worship team at Calvary Christian Fellowship, gardening, and traveling. Ms. Walsh is very excited to be helping the scholars at Leman Academy of Excellence this coming school year.
Roxanne Hamilton - ART TEACHER
Joining the Leman East Tucson team this year as the art teacher, Roxanne Hamilton is excited to share her love of art with the scholars. She paints professionally and has taught art to scholars of all ages for the past thirty years, most recently at Pima Community College, where she teaches painting and art history. She holds a BFA from the University of Arizona, and an MFA from the University of Hartford. She is married to a wonderful man, and has four fabulous children and 6 amazing (and adorable) grandchildren. Her favorite pastime is, of course, Art!
Matthew Wood - Art Teacher
Matt Wood was born and raised in Arizona, from the valley of the sun, all the way up to the rocky mountains of Prescott. Arizona has always been his home, but he received most of his college education in San Francisco and Pasadena, California. Mr. Wood loves his family, has a great appreciation and passion for the arts, and tries to spend as much time as he can outside in nature, where, like the great Roman poet, Horace, he sees nature as the primary source for the arts.
"Art is a poem without words" ~ Horace.
Mr. Wood has been working as a commercial artist for over a decade, with projects ranging from children's book illustration, book covers of the classics, magazine illustrations, portraiture, murals, and narrative illustration. His mural work can be seen right now in Tucson at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, at the Hotel McCoy, and in the lobby of Tu Nidito Children and Family Services, a center for grieving families. Mr. Wood has two nieces that have been attending the Leman Academy of Excellence East since the day the school opened its doors. He has been very involved with their education at the school and was inspired to join the Leman team after experiencing years of their growth in the school's classical education program. Mr. Wood's hopes are to invigorate this inspiration within the wonderful art classroom the school has provided for the scholars. The scholar's young creative minds will be challenged through fun and rewarding projects that will allow the young artists to focus on their self expression and to explore new points of view through a variety of mediums.
Christine Egan - K-4 Music Teacher
Ms. Heath is new to the Tucson area and is excited to take on the position of K-4 Music Teacher at Leman Academy East Campus! She originally hails from the corn fields of Illinois, but has lived in New York for the past 24 years, where she built a successful career as a professional theatre performer and music educator. She has devoted her entire life to music and truly enjoys teaching music to all ages! Ms. Heath was an adjunct voice professor at New Jersey City University and The College Of Saint Rose, a private voice/drama instructor for middle school and high school students at New Windsor Music Academy, and most recently the PreK-3 Primary music teacher at Tuxedo Park School. She has earned a Bachelors of Music degree from Illinois State University and a Masters of Music degree from The University Of Maryland College Park, both in Vocal Performance. Ms. Heath enjoys spending time with her two teenage sons, Jake and Sam, who are both headed to becoming part of the UA Wild Cat family! She also likes outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and walking her sweet dog, Itsy Bitsy. She is looking forward to eating tons of delicious Mexican food and exploring all the beauty Arizona has to offer!
Ricky Tutaan - Music Teacher
Mr. Ricky Tutaan is thrilled to be joining the Leman Academy of Excellence East Tucson family this school year as the new middle school Music Teacher. He graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Arts in Music with a concentration in Integrated Studies and a minor in Music Business. For the past year, Mr. Tutaan served the Leman community as a guest teacher at both the East and Central campuses.
Mr. Tutaan was born in Eglin Air Force Base, Florida and grew up in a military family. He cultivated his passion for music in Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota when he was a 4th grader learning to play the viola in his elementary school orchestra. He played orchestra for nine years. During his adolescent years, Mr. Tutaan pursued other creative endeavors by teaching himself how to play guitar and piano while also learning how to write, record, and produce his own music through analog and digital production. In 2014, Mr. Tutaan was the recipient of the Tucson Music Teachers Association Scholarship Award. For the past six years, he served Mountain Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation as the Audio Visual & Media Communications Director.
In his spare time, Mr. Tutaan enjoys spending time with his family - including his sister who is also a 5th-grade teacher at Leman East. Other than exploring other musical projects as a singer, songwriter, and musician, Mr. Tutaan also likes to cook and go biking when he’s not in the classroom. Mr. Tutaan is excited to begin this new journey sharing his love of music while learning from all his diverse scholars.
Frances Miranda - Latin Teacher
Magistra Miranda was born and raised in Southern Arizona. She attended the University of Phoenix where she majored in Psychology/Human Services. Prior to teaching, Ms. Miranda served in the community assisting families with emotionally and behaviorally challenged children. She had the privilege of being part of Leman Academy or Excellence in 2016 where she started teaching Spanish, physical education and Latin for grades k-7th.
Ms. Miranda has two sons that she is very proud of and who are in the process of being a successful part of this community. Whenever she is not teaching, she enjoys family time, gardening, interior design, and motorcycle riding! Her teaching philosophy is very simple: students do not care about how much you know, until they know how much you care.
Maria Encinas - Spanish Teacher
Ms. Maria Encinas was born and raised in Hermosillo, Sonora. México. She has a bachelors degree in Clinical Psychology from the University of Sonora, and also graduated from Pima Community College as Medical Assistant. She has more than 15 years of experience in the Education field as a Special Education Teacher, Spanish Teacher, High School Teacher, and Lead Teacher for toddlers. Ms. Encinas feels very happy and excited to start being part of Leman Academy because she knows that is one of the best Charter schools in Arizona. She loves to spend time with her family and with her first granddaughter who was born in May 2022.
Brian McWilliam - Physical Education
Mr. McWilliam was born in Tucson, and upon receiving his K-12 and community college education in San Diego, moved back to receive his Bachelors degree at the University of Arizona. Additionally, he recently received his Master's in Educational Leadership from Grand Canyon University. He strives to teach the scholars the basic fundamentals of living a healthy lifestyle and understanding that PE is a time to learn how to follow the rules of all activities. Outside of work, Mr. McWilliam enjoys watching all of his major sports teams, going to the movies, working out, and karaoke!
Ari (Pedro) Padilla - Middle School Physical Education
Mr. Padilla was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. Graduated from the University of Arizona with a Physiology degree. Lived in the rocky mountains of Colorado where he obtained a master's degree in High Altitude Exercise Physiology. Mr. Padilla is excited to be a part of Leaman Academy and their scholars as the middle school PE teacher. The goal is to teach essential body management skills, promote physical fitness as fun, develop teamwork, sportsmanship, and cooperation. When he is not on campus, he can be found hiking in Madera Canyon, or with his band playing guitar at local shows/events.
BRENDA LAIRD - HEALTH COORDINATOR
Ms. Laird has been a medical assistant for 17 years. She has worked in pediatric offices and enjoys caring for children. She was born and raised in Patagonia, AZ. She has 2 girls, ages 4 and 6, who she loves spending time with. They enjoy the outdoors, horseback riding and are very involved with their church family. It is a blessing to have this opportunity to be a part of the Leman Academy and meet all of the wonderful families.
Jennifer Sietsema - Health Assistant
I am a Tucson native but moved away for 17 years, so I also consider myself a Midwesterner. I have lived in Colorado and Iowa. I moved back to the area to be near some of my family, with my husband and 2 of my boys, at the end of 2014. My 2 oldest boys were born in Iowa and my last boy was born in Tucson. I am a boy mom! As a family, we enjoy traveling within the US and visiting family and friends in the midwest and other areas. We enjoy playing games, watching movies, spending time with family, and swimming in the summer to beat the heat. We are involved in our church and strive to find ways we can serve our community. We love Leman!
Shaundra Stull - Health Assistant
Mrs. Stull is a native to Tucson, AZ. Due to the military, both my husband and I active duty, and we lived in Dunn, NC for 13 years. During those years we welcomed 2 beautiful girls. I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 2015. In 2017 we moved back to Arizona. Shyloe (11) and Paityn(7) are scholars who attend Leman Academy as well. I decided to come back to work after 13 years to find a purpose and get out of the house. This has been one of my best decisions I have made. I love working with the scholars. It is the best part of my day. When my family and I are not at school, we enjoy traveling, biking, camping, being involved with the church, and being outdoors. It has been a blessing to be able to be a part of Leman Academy and meet all of the wonderful scholars and families.
John Houchin - After Bell Director
Mr. Houchin was born in Oklahoma and raised in Tucson Arizona and considers himself a native to the desert. He has worked in Education for 16 years where he learned how to cultivate a fun and safe environment for scholars to enjoy learning and make friends. As an extrovert, John naturally loves being around people and investing in his relationships. If people could communicate only through movie quotes, he would be fluent. He also loves to stay active by running and playing beach volleyball. It is his belief that every person has value and he wants to help them reach their full potential in life in any way he can.
Seth Wohlford - Lunch Lead
Seth has lived in Tucson for 12 years and has worked with Leman for the last 3. He considers it a privilege to be a part of the students' lives as they grow and change into better human beings. In his free time, he enjoys writing novels, as well as reading, playing games, and spending time with his fiancée and cats.
Sierra Ahrendt - After Bell Staff
Sierra is a Tucson native and loves to travel. She has been working with students for over 5 years. Sierra is currently taking general studies classes at Pima Community College. When Sierra isn’t working or studying, she is playing with her dog, reading, or volunteering with therapeutic horses and children with disabilities.
Ashley Benitez - After Bell/ Lunch Staff
Madi Low - After Bell/ Lunch Staff
Erin McGee - Cafeteria Monitor
Haley Slocum - After Bell Staff
Haley Slocum was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona. She is currently studying at Pima Community College. She is a mom of two kids and enjoys working on cars and hanging out with her family and friends.