KIPP STRIVE Academy Staff
Randall Bezeau, Building Engineer
Randy is a Building Engineer for KIPP STRIVE Academy. Previously, he was the Maintenance Supervisor for JWB Realty Services. Randy has forty years of experience in the building maintenance field. He also has extensive knowledge of hospital, office, and retail building repairs and maintenance.
Kimberly Bradley, Campus Director of Academic Support
Kimberly is the Director of Academic Support. She began her career as a Teach for America corps member in New Orleans as a 4th and 5th grade learning coach. She continued her journey with TFA as a learning team leader, an admissions selector, and was honored to be selected as a regional finalist for the Sue Lehmann Teaching Award in her second year. Kimberly Bradley graduated from The University of Georgia with a degree in Psychology.
Denise Bringslid, 5th Grade Math Teacher
Denise is the 5th grade math teacher. She began teaching in 2011 in the Mississippi Delta region through the Teach for America program. She spent two years in Lake Village, AR, teaching 6th grade math, 8th grade math, and algebra. In 2012, Denise received an Outstanding Educator Grant from ExploreLearning to use their ReflexMath program to build math fact fluency with her 6th grade students. She has a B.S. in History, Technology, and Society from Georgia Tech.
Amber Cochran, Maintenance Support Technician
Amber serves as a Maintenance Support Technician. She has worked in construction for over ten years and comes from five generations of construction workers. Amber attends Gwinnett Technical College and is pursuing a degree in Construction Development. She is excited to be a part of KIPP Metro Atlanta and hopes to make a difference in the lives of students.
Alicia Copeland, Front Office/Student Data Manager
Alicia is the Front Office/Student Date Manager. Previously, she served as part of the Operations Team for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions at Georgia State University. Prior to working at Georgia State, she served for seven years in secondary education for Clayton County Public Schools. She has a BFA in Fashion Marketing and Design from American Intercontinental University.
Abby Currens, 5th Grade Reading Teacher
Abby currently serves as a 5th Grade Foundations teacher. Abby began her teaching career with Teach For America in Atlanta. Abby graduated from DePauw University with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a minor in Art History.
Elizabeth DiRenzo, 8th Grade Science Teacher
Elizabeth serves as the 8th grade Physical Science teacher. She began her teaching career as a Metro Atlanta corps member with Teach For America and worked in DeKalb County as a 7th grade Life Science teacher. Elizabeth holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology/Psychology Interdisciplinary studies from Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland.
Ayana Dunston, Instructional Coach
Ayana currently serves as an Instructional Coach at KIPP STRIVE Academy. Ayana has been an educator for 12 years and has previously worked as the Dean of Students at various high performing charter schools in Brooklyn, NY. Ayana received a BA in Sociology and a BA in Primary Junior Education from York University.
Jennifer Freeman, 7th Grade Science Teacher
Jennifer serves as 7th Grade Science Teacher. She began her career in education as a Teach for America corps member in Atlanta teaching 7th grade science. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Teaching Science Education at Emory University.
Christy Harris, Principal
Christy currently serves as the Principal. She began her teaching career as an English teacher at Ben Carson Honors Prep School through the Teach For America program. During her term with TFA, she served as a School Site Coordinator and Secondary English Learning Team Leader. She attended the KIPP Pathways Leadership Institute and became the Lower School Dean of Culture at Achievement First. She received a B.A. in English from the University of Georgia and a M.A. in English from Georgia State University.
Kenneth Johnson, Physical Educational Teacher
Kenneth serves the Physical Education Teacher. He has been coaching youth sports for the past 15 years. He is also a former DeKalb County 8th grade math teacher. He worked for ten years as a marketing manager with General Electric before moving into a career in education. He has a BS in Business Administration/Marketing from Barber-Scotia College.
Stephanie Jones, 6th Grade Math Teacher
Stephanie is the 6th Grade Math Teacher. Stephanie began her educational career as a 4th Grade Teacher at an Atlanta Public School through the Teach For America program. Stephanie is a graduate of the Westminster Schools and the University of Pennsylvania and she holds a Master’s degree from Georgia State University.
Kimberly Karacalidis, Upper School Dean
Kimberly is the Upper School Dean. She began her career as a Teach For America Corp Member in Atlanta, and worked with students from several different grade levels at Oglethorpe Elementary School, where she taught for three years. Kim was a founding teacher at KIPP WAYS Academy, the vice-principal and later principal. Kim received a BA in Religious Studies from Agnes Scott College and a Master's in Early Childhood Education from Georgia State University. She has a master’s in leadership from National Louis University.
Adeel Khan, 7th Grade Social Studies Teacher
Adeel currently serves as the 7th Grade Social Studies Teacher. Prior to joining KIPP STRIVE Academy, Adeel was a Teach for America corps member in Atlanta. Last summer, he was selected to serve as an Urban Leaders Fellow, working on public policy for Senator Mike Johnston, one of President Obama’s top education advisors during his 2008 campaign. Additionally, he completed the School Board Fellows program. He received a degree in Accounting and Information Systems from Virginia Tech.
Elizabeth Korthof, 7th Grade Math Teacher
Elizabeth is the 7th Grade Math teacher. As a Teach For America alumna, she has taught across subjects and grade levels throughout the country. This is her second year teaching at KIPP STRIVE. Elizabeth has BA in Painting and Arts Education from the University of WI-Milwaukee.
Elizabeth Leipold, Learning Specialist
Liz is currently a Learning Specialist for 5th and 6th grades. Liz began her teaching career as a DC Teaching Fellow. She previously worked as a learning specialist in DC Public Schools with grades Pre-K through fourth. She has also worked with Georgia Teaching Fellows as a coach for new teachers. She has a BA in Psychology from Georgetown University and is completing a Masters in Reading Education at Georgia State University.
Mike Mainzer, 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher
Joshua Mathews, 6th Grade Science Teacher
Joshua serves as 6th Grade Earth Science Teacher. Upon completing college he taught middle school in Arkansas. He then moved back to Georgia to accept a teaching opportunity with a middle school in Austell. He taught 6th grade Earth Science for four years and was nominated for Teacher of the Year in his 3rd year. Joshua earned his degree from Valdosta State University.
Kristal McCreight, Learning Specialist
Kristal is the Learning Specialist for 7th and 8th grade. Throughout her nine years of teaching, she has worked with Cobb County Schools, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Explore Charter School in Brooklyn, New York. Kristal received her BA in elementary and special education from the University of Iowa and an MA in Educational Leadership from the University of West Georgia.
Sharon McDaniel, School Operations Manager
Sharon currently serves as School Operations Manager. She has a corporate background in the field of law, and she is also a 2010 Founding Parent at KIPP STRIVE Academy. She earned her degree from the State University of New York at Farmingdale.
Celeste McNeil, 6th Grade Reading Teacher
Celeste is currently the 6th Grade Reading Teacher. As a member of Teach For America’s Eastern North Carolina Corps, Celeste taught Language Arts for three years in North Carolina. In her time there, she served as the Content Learning Community co-leader for the region’s middle school ELA teachers and was nominated for the Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award. She is a graduate of Clemson University, where she majored in English.
Maiesha McQueen, Drama Teacher
Maiesha serves as the Drama Teacher. After beginning her teaching career as a Teach for America Corps Member, she has spent the last eight years working in private, pubic, and charter schools in both New York and the metro Atlanta area. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in theatre and Masters in education from Fordham University
Sharonda Merritt-Wilson, 6th Grade Teacher
Sharonda is the 6th Grade Social Studies teacher. Her teaching career spans more than ten years. She has held many positions for the Dekalb County School System, including first, second, and third grade teacher as well as instructional coach. Sharonda received the Montclair Elementary School Teacher of the Year Award for the school year 2007-2008. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Tennessee State University.
Johanna Mitchell, 7th Grade English Language Arts Teacher
Johanna currently serves as 7th Grade English Language Arts Teacher. At Santa Clara University she spent a semester teaching preschool on an Army base in Germany, built homes in Tijuana, and wrote her senior thesis on the oppression of Salvadoran youth after an immersion experience El Salvador. Johanna was a TFA Corp member. She graduated cum laude with a BA in Communications from Santa Clara University, specializing in Broadcast Journalism.
Marquita Moore, 6th Grade English Language Arts Teacher
Marquita is the 6th Grade ELA Teacher. She formerly taught study skills in the Midwest and mathematics for Dekalb County Schools. She has a BA in English from Colgate University and a MAT in Middle Childhood Education from Georgia State University.
Grady Morris, Facilities & Technology Manager
Grady is a founding member of the KIPP STRIVE Academy team. He has always had an interest in understanding the workings of anything mechanical, computer related and the building construction process. He decided to pursue a career path related to these interests and has held positions in maintaining the condition and operation of corporate motor yachts, to the upkeep of a library's network, to housing construction and renovation. Grady graduated from Georgia State University with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and later earned a Juris Doctor from John Marshall Law School.
Sekou Muhammad, 8th Grade Mathematics Teacher
Sekou is the 8th Grade Mathematics Teacher at KIPP Strive Academy. He has taught for two years but has been involved in education for over five years. He served as a Teach for America Corps Member and Mathematics Teacher in Miami, Florida from 2011-2013. He also served as a tutor and mentor for Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics, and Computing (C.E.I.S.M.C.) from 2007-2010. He holds a B.A. in International Studies from Morehouse College.
Mary Beth Mullikin, 5th Grade Nonfiction Teacher
Mary Beth is the 5th Grade Nonfiction teacher. She has experience teaching 4th grade and 1st grade in Fulton County Schools. In 2012, Mary Beth was awarded Teacher of the Year and was a Fulton County Teacher of the Year Finalist. She has a BS in Elementary Education from the University of Alabama and a MS in Educational Psychology from Georgia State University.
Crystal Nasir, Director of Business Operations & Community Affairs
Crystal is the Director of Business Operations. Although a business major, she served as an Administrative Lead with both the Marin City Children's Program (MCCP) of Marin City and The Making Waves Education Program of Richmond, California. She has also worked as a marketing executive within the health care industry. Crystal graduated from Dominican University of San Rafael with a degree in International Management with an emphasis on Global Marketing.
Jamila Smith Owens, 5th Grade Foundations Math Teacher
Jamila serves as a 5th Grade Foundations Math Teacher. She previously served as a KIPP Teacher Fellow and Georgia Teaching Fellow. She has also worked as the Senior Program Officer and Director of Marketing for the Georgia Humanities Council, where she worked behind the scenes with grantmakers, schools, libraries and museums to promote humanities education. Jamila has an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Clark Atlanta University. She also earned her MBA from the Stetson School of Business at Mercer University.
Kerry Perkins, Cafeteria Manager
John Rajeski, Director of Teacher Development
John is the Director of Teacher Development. Prior to teaching, John spent twelve years in the television industry including several years on the staff of the Emmy award winning show, "Frasier.” He later joined Teach For America and taught 4th grade at PS 153 in Washington Heights. After two successful years there, he accepted a position at KIPP STAR College Prep Charter School in Harlem as their 5th grade founding writing teacher. In 2006, John joined several other KIPP teachers and school leaders to launch the KIPP World Class Writing Project, a study of the most effective strategies used in classrooms across America to create strong student writers. John graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in writing from the Newhouse School of Communications.
Elease Slaughter, School Counselor
Elease is the School Counselor. Elease uses her expertise to help lay the foundation to prepare scholars for academic, personal/social, and career success. She graduated from Spelman College with a degree in Economics. She later earned an Education Specialist degree in Counselor Education from the University of South Carolina.
Amber Stewart, Gifted Coordinator
Amber is the Gifted Coordinator for KIPP STRIVE Academy and KIPP Vision Academy. She began her career as a first grade teacher with Teach for America. Amber graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism.
Mike Stewart, Lower School Dean
Mike is the Lower School Dean. He previously served as the 5th Grade Math Problems Solving teacher. Before teaching, he spent four years with Sears Holdings Corporation, during which time he enjoyed much success as the Operations Manager of the largest store in the Atlanta district. He ultimately decided to leave the business world to join Teach For America and enter the classroom. He served his commitment with the corps as the 4th grade mathematics teacher at Seaborn Lee Elementary in Fulton County where he was named the 2009-2010 Teacher of the Year. Mike was a 2003 graduate of the University of Georgia with a degree in Marketing. He completed a Master's Degree from the University of Georgia in Educational Administration and Policy.
Jennifer Trapp, RTI Coordinator and 5th Grade Reading Foundations Teacher
Jennifer currently serves as the RTI Coordinator and 5th Grade Reading Foundations Teacher. She began teaching fourth and fifth grade English and social studies in Newark, New Jersey through the Teach for America program. After completing her two-year commitment, Jennifer worked as the Fifth Grade Reading Teacher and reading coach at KIPP WAYS Academy for four years. Recently, she worked at North Star Academy, part of the Uncommon Schools network. She earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Ilantha Ushry, Administrative Assistant
Ilantha is an Administrative Assistant. She is also a KIPP parent and has committed more than 500 service hours to several office projects prior to coming on board with the KIPP STRIVE Academy administrative team. She oversees the parent communication tool, the Monday Folder.
Samonique Ward, Music Teacher
Samonique serves as the Band and Music Teacher. She previously taught band and orchestra in the Dekalb County School System where performing groups received consistent superior ratings. Samone received her BS in Music Education from Tennessee State University.
Danielle Washington, 5th Grade Writing Teacher
Danielle serves as the 5th Grade Writing teacher. Previously, she taught sixth grade English language arts at Busbee Corbett Elementary Middle in Aiken, SC. Danielle earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in mass communications from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Education from Columbia College in 2011. She is currently working toward her Education Specialist (Ed.S) degree in curriculum, instruction, and professional development through Walden University.
Jean Wilson-Stayton, SST Coordinator
Jean is the SST Coordinator. Previously, she served as the 5th Grade Language Arts Teacher at KIPP WAYS Academy. Jean began her career in education with Teach for America as an Atlanta Corps Member. During college, she focused much of her extracurricular energy on teaching English as a Second Language to Davidson community members. Jean graduated from Davidson College with a Bachelor of Arts in English.