Our Staff

Mesa, Arizona

DENNIS O’REILLY – HEAD OF SCHOOLS

Dennis O’ReillyMr. O’Reilly started working with young people as a volunteer junior high basketball coach back in 1990, and has been in education for over twenty years, starting as a middle school math teacher back in 1993. Mr. O’Reilly has been an administrator since 1999 serving as Curriculum Coordinator, Assistant to the Principal, Principal, and Head of Schools at three different private schools in Tucson, Arizona and earned his Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Chapman University. Mr. O’Reilly has been married for sixteen years to his beautiful bride Krissy, and will have two scholars attending Leman Academy, Conner and Adeline.

doreilly@lemanacademy.org


DIANE MEZA – PRINCIPAL

Diane Meza

Principal Meza comes well prepared to Leman Academy of Excellence with over 29 years teaching experience in both the private and public school sectors. She is a previous teacher of the year in Mesa and has been both a Principal and Vice Principal. She has close to two decades worth of experience as both a technology and curriculum director, and has earned her Masters degree in addition to 30 hours towards her leadership certification. Ms. Meza has attended Arizona State University-BA, Northern Arizona University-M. Ed, the University of Phoenix Leadership certification program and has taught all grades K-8.

Ms. Meza's educational position aligns with the Leman Academy of Excellence mission statement. It is important to consider the cognitive, social and emotional make-up of each scholar while positively partnering with parents to deliver the most effective education possible for each individual.

diane.meza@lemanacademy.org

Jacki Houchens - Lead Administrative Assistant

Jacqueline Houchens
Jacki was born and raised in Denver, Colorado, graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with her degree in Business Management Administration. Jacki has over 30 years of experience with Office Administration associated with home building, K-12 education, adult continuing education, event/meeting planning and membership organization support. She was hired in the spring of 2018, after retiring from Arizona State University, to assist with the opening of the Mesa Campus. She is enjoying getting to know the Mesa families and scholars and enjoys the team she works with every day.

jacki.houchens@lemanacademy.org

Aimee Robins - Kindergarten Teacher

Aimee Robins
Aimee Robins radiates a love of working and building relationships with her scholars and families. She taught kindergarten in a private school for 2 years. Aimee also taught preschool for 5 years, where she readily prepared her scholars for the exciting world of kindergarten! As a Day Camp director for the City of Lancaster, Aimee worked with elementary children kindergarten to 6th grade. She also served as a director in Tucson for an after school program for 3 years. She received her Early Childhood degree in November of 2014. She is a Tucson native, who shares her life with her best friend and husband Luke. When Mrs. Robins isn’t teaching, she loves spending time with family, traveling, and has a passion for learning photography. She has loved being a part of the amazing Leman Academy for the past 3 years and looks forward to starting a new year at the Mesa campus. She loves Leman and partnering with their families and community.

arobins@lemanacademy.org

KIRSTEN BEARS - 1st Grade Teacher

Kirsten Bears

Kirsten Bears was born in Iowa and grew up in Illinois. She began working with young children in 2013 as a student aide at Northern Illinois University’s childcare center. Kirsten graduated cum laude from NIU in 2016 with a Bachelor’s of Science in Early Childhood Education. She served as a first grade teacher for two years in Illinois and was awarded Teacher of the Year for the 2017-2018 school year. In her free time. Kirsten enjoys hiking, reading, and music. She relocated to Arizona with her family during the summer of 2018 and is excited to join the Leman Academy team in the upcoming school year.

kirsten.bears@lemanacademy.org


Alanna Kellogg - 2nd GRADE Teacher

Alanna Kellogg

Hello! I am Mrs. Kellogg and I am so excited to be teaching 2nd grade! This will be my first year teaching at Leman Academy but my third year educating kiddos grades K-12. I spent two years teaching primarily at a local charter school in grades K-4. I then built/taught the health and wellness program at an east valley high school!

I graduated with honors from Northern Arizona University with my Bachelor of Science in Public Health. Additionally, as part of my internship hours I worked with a local AZ farm as we built and implemented a Community Support Agriculture program. This program allowed us to go to special events and teach the public about the importance of fresh fruits, vegetables and how to prepare them. I also worked with a youth soccer team for a season teaching them about the importance of hydration, nutrition and adequate sleep while exercising.

I grew up in Bristol, England and moved to America when I was eleven. My family and I just went back to visit family in England and see some of the world this past summer. We are a family that love adventure, history and travel. I have been married for almost 14 years to my high school sweetheart and we have two absolutely amazing boys! I have two dogs, a Newfoundland and German shepherd as well as two cats and a grumpy angel fish. I enjoy working out in my spare time; especially Zumba and boxing! I also paint with acrylics and just finished up a giant octopus mural.

I cannot wait to continue learning and growing with my students and look forward to all of the fun we will have the remainder of this year!

alanna.kellogg @lemanacademy.org


MRS. ANDREA KIRKLAND - 3rd GRADE Teacher

Mrs. Andrea Kirkland

Andrea Kirkland began working with children as a teenager, first as a children’s photographer, and then as a lifeguard. After marriage she became a stay at home mom to her three boys, and later went back to school to earn her Bachelor’s Degree in Education at ASU. Andrea has taught various elementary grades, along with Junior High Spanish and French. Andrea strives to make each scholar believe in themselves, and know they are a valuable contributor to the classroom.

In her spare time, Andrea enjoys family dinners and celebrations, (of which there are many), reading, traveling, antiquing, crafting, and attending family school and sporting events. She lives in Mesa with her husband Pete, and their rescue dog, Sophie.

Andrea is delighted to be part of the educator team at Leman Academy in Mesa. She looks forward to working with and getting to know her students and their families, and to contributing to the development of future generations of strong and exceptional scholars.

andrea.kirkland@lemanacademy.org


MRS. JEN KOTKIN - 4th GRADE Teacher

Mrs. Jen Kotkin

This is Mrs. Kotin's first year at LAE and she is eager to get started and meet everyone. she is proud to say that she will am going into her 20th year of teaching and have had a vast amount of experience with children of all ages. Mrs. Kotin especially enjoy children's literature and doing collaborative hands-on projects. When not teaching, she enjoy volunteering in her community and spending quality time with her husband, children and 5 dogs.

jennifer.kotkin@lemanacademy.org


JENNIFER SANDBERG - 5th GRADE Teacher

Jennifer Sandberg

I was born in Tucson and attended the University of Arizona, where I earned a BA in Classics. I then taught at a small Episcopalian school for two years, before attending the University of Texas at Austin, where I earned a M. Ed. in special education. After that I taught for one year in Maryland, right outside Washington, DC, before returning to Tucson to be near my family. My parents and older brother still live in Tucson. I taught in Tucson school at a therapeutic preschool for one year and at a charter high school for one year. Then I stayed at home with my own children for many years. I home schooled my children for many of those years using a classical model as much as I could. However, my sons are dyslexic, so much of our time was spent on learning to read! After my children began to attend public school, I began teaching Latin and classics at another charter school in Mesa. I have also worked as an exceptional student services coordinator for that same charter school system. I also spent a year working for an online charter school before finding my true calling here at Leman Academy of Excellence!

In addition to my parents and older brother in Tucson, I have a younger brother in Parker, Colorado. My children are Kate (16), Howard (18), and Luther, (20).

jennifer.sandberg@lemanacademy.org


MRS. DIANA STOLL - 6th GRADE Teacher

Mrs. Diana Stoll

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

Mrs. Stoll is thrilled to be a part of Leman Academy of Excellence. She is a native of Arizonan and a proud mother of 4 children. She began her teaching career 20 years ago in the private sector teaching Social Studies to 7th & 8th graders. The past 10 years have been spent teaching 6th grade Language Arts/Social Studies. Her goal is to create a motivating learning environment where her students are enthusiastic to come to class every day to learn. Mrs. Stoll is looking forward to a wonderful year!

Her Education:
Bachelor of Science in Business Management
Elementary and Secondary Teaching Certificates with a Structured English Immersion endorsement
Master of Arts in Education in Curriculum and Instruction
Master of Arts in Education in Educational Administration

diana.stoll@lemanacademy.org


MR. HAMLET OPAZO - Art & Physical Education Teacher

Mr. Hamlet Opazo

Mr. Opazo grew up in California and Paraguay, South America. Hamlet's parents emigrated to the United States from Argentina and Paraguay and have traveled back and forth several times to each continent.

He has received his Bachelors degree in Art Education and Secondary Education from Grand Canyon University. Upon completion of his degree and marriage to his wife, they both moved to Kuwait to inspire the kids in art while in the Middle East. He ad his wife moved back to the United States to complete his Masters Degree in Art Therapy Counseling where he was invited back to the Middle East and guided students in helping direct them for emotional, behavioral and academic success.

Mr. Opazo has also worked with starting up Art Therapy programs with students living with special needs and people who are experiencing life with Alzheimer's/dementia and other degenerative diseases.

He and his wife Anita and son Phoenix have now completed a year of living back in the U.S. after having lived and worked in North Africa, Morocco as the school counselor.

Mr. Opazo and his family have enjoyed the excitement, struggle and adventure of living and experiencing different cultures and meeting people around the world. He has a passion for creating and coming up with functional designs in artistic craftsmanship. His interest in classic cars and building has him enjoying his projects and teaching his son the ways of investing in the younger generation.

He looks forward to investing and hopefully inspiring the scholars that will be attending the Leman Academy of Excellence. It is his desire and goal to guide, teach and direct his students to excellence while the opportunity exists.

hamlet.opazo@lemanacademy.org


MELANIE YARGER - MUSIC Teacher

Melanie Yarger
Melanie Yarger, a native Arizonan, graduated with a Bachelor degree in Music Performance at Northern Arizona University. After completion of her degree, Melanie moved to New York City where she held Principal positions with the New York Festival Orchestra, the Celebrity Symphony Orchestra, the Koscuiszko Opera Orchestra, Staten Island Symphony, New York Symphony and the New York Chamber Symphony. Her teaching credentials include positions at Packer Collegiate Institute and the Berkeley/Carrol School, both in Brooklyn, NY, and the resident cello teacher for the Arts and Education Group for Children in Maui, HI. Melanie has had the honor and privilege of being the cello, special instruments and music theory teacher for Metropolitan Youth Symphony’s large summer music camp. She has taught masterclasses and sectionals for area High Schools in Mesa and Gilbert. She also has maintained a large private studio.

Miss. Yarger has had the honor of touring such countries as Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, France and the Caribbean as well as the United States and Canada.
Melanie’s playing has been featured in 944 Magazine, Desert Living Magazine, The Arizona Republic, The Mesa Tribune and Maui Times. She also has been featured on many commercials and video promotional tools such as Catholics Come Home, The Muscular Dystrophy Association, Grand Canyon University and The Arizona Music Project, a collaboration of local musicians commissioned by The Arizona Office of Tourism and endorsed by former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano.

Melanie has shared the stage with International acts such as Clay Aiken, Andrea Boccelli, Game of Thrones International Tour, Mannheim Steamroller, Il Divo, Jackie Evancho, DJ Radar and William Joseph. She has opened for performances by Jason Alexander, Halle Berry, Seal, John Fogerty and Howie Mandel. She has studied with Takayori Atsumi, Mary Beadell-DiBartolo, Thomas Landschoot, Robert Nichols, Maxine Nuemann and Irene Sharp and has performed in master classes for Carter Brey, Andreas Diaz, Alexis Pia Gerlach, Irene Sharp and Brinton Smith.

Since returning to Arizona, Melanie has maintained a career as a professional freelance musician performing with The Phoenix Symphony Orchestra and the Arizona Opera Orchestra. She also has played on various private and commercial recordings and has co-founded Arizona’s only electric rock string quartet, Urban Electra which allows her to display her versatile, multi-genre playing style. It’s not just her playing style that is versatile, Melanie is the only cellist in the country performing in aerial silks and aerial hoop. Her greatest passion is to explore diverse performance opportunities and show her audiences that anything can be done if it’s desired strongly enough.

Melanie is supported in all her endeavors by her amazing family, her talented and witty 8 year old daughter and wonderful husband.

melanie.yarger@lemanacademy.org


Robert Mileham - Facilities Coordinator

Robert Mileham
Mr. Mileham joined the U.S. Air Force immediately after graduation from high school. While serving in the Air Force he earned his bachelor’s degree in Business (B.S.B.A.) from Tusculum College, Greenville, TN. After serving 22 years, he retired as a Chief Master Sergeant (E-9) and moved to Arizona where he started the Air Force Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (AFJROTC) program at Mesa High School. While teaching JROTC he earned his Masters degree in Educational Leadership (MA.Ed.) from the University of Phoenix. His educational leadership positions include several years as an Assistant Principal, Principal, as well as Human Resources Coordinator and Director of Maintenance and Operations at the District Office level. After serving 20 years in the Arizona Education System Mr. Mileham retired in 2013. He returned to work with Leman Academy at the Mesa campus in 2018.

robert.mileham@lemanacademy.org

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