Evan Markowitz

Mr. Markowitz is a native Floridian and was born and raised in Winter Haven, Florida. As a student, Mr. Markowitz was active in the performing arts, including being selected for the Florida All-State Ensemble on saxophone at both the high school and collegiate level. He attended Florida Southern College for a BA in Music Education and Nova Southeastern University for a Masters in Educational Leadership. Mr. Markowitz has been part of the Athenian family since 2012.

Mr. Markowitz has a passion for working with children and truly enjoys working with the school's chorus program to put on fantastic musical productions each year. He strives to help each student achieve his or her dreams and challenges teachers with the following thought, “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” Mr. Markowitz believes in providing students with an education, which engages all students through the utilization of Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures.

"Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do."

Danielle Nichols
Assistant Principal

Mrs. Nichols grew up in a military family, moving around the country and attending multiple schools across the country between kindergarten and 12th grade. In high school, she was involved in student council and cheerleading. Mrs. Nichols graduated from St. Leo University with a degree in Elementary Education and Nova Southeastern University with her Masters in Educational Leadership. She has also completed additional training in Reading, ESOL, ESE and Clinical Education.

Mrs. Nichols has a son named Landon, who is the center of her world. Mrs. Nichols has been at Athenian Academy for her entire career, moving from a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher into administration as the school's Assistant Principal. Her philosophy for learning is that each child is unique and each child learns in his/her own way. Mrs. Nichols believes in a hands-on learning experience, where students can explore their love for education and build a lifelong love for learning.

"Some people dream of success while others wake up and work hard for it."


Office Staff

Traci White
Office Manager

Mrs. White is a native of Pittsburgh, PA. She is a graduate of Saint Vincent College and earned a B.S. Degree in Business Management. Mrs. White relocated and became a resident of Florida in May 2001.

Having spent many years in the business world as a Manager combined with a vested interest in education, it was a seamless transition when she elected to establish herself professionally in the school systems in Florida. Mrs. White joined the Athenian Academy Family in 2014.

Jeanne Albuquerque
Office Assistant

Ms. Jeanne is a native of New England, born and raised in Rhode Island before relocating here to Florida in 2007. She has been involved here for many years with our Athenian Family. Ms. Jeanne was previously a Manager with Verizon Communications in New England, where she also studied Business Management.

Ms. Jeanne has a daughter Alexis, who is a student here at Athenian Academy. She also has two adult children and several grandchildren up North whom she adores immensely.

Marla Neubaum
Office Assistant

Mrs. Neubaum is originally from Michigan and moved to Florida in 2016. She graduated from Detroit Business Institute and worked as an Administrative Assistant for the State of Michigan Commission for the Blind for 14 years, retiring in 2015.

This is Mrs. Neubaum's second year working at Athenian Academy. She looks forward to continuing this new chapter in her life.

Kellee Iannucci
Data Entry Operator

Mrs. Iannucci is a native of Buffalo, NY. She is a graduate of Buffalo State College where she earned a BA in Psychology. Mrs. Iannucci relocated to sunny Florida in 1998. She previously worked in a private school setting.

Mrs. Iannucci enjoys spending time with her husband, Troy, and her two children, Natalia and Alex. She is very excited to join the Athenian Academy Family.



Carissa Farrell
Kindergarten Teacher

Ms. Farrell is very happy to be a part of our Athenian Academy family. She has a very cheerful personality and is very passionate when it comes to educating young minds. Ms. Farrell her Bachelors of Science Degree in Prekindergarten-Primary Education with Reading and ESOL endorsements from St. Petersburg College. She remained on the Dean’s List all throughout her program and enjoyed every moment she spent in various classrooms.

Being a resident of sunny Florida, Ms. Farrell loves spending her free time at the beach. She also enjoys keeping up with the latest fashions, trying out new recipes, traveling, spending time with her friends and family and building relationships with people in her community. She also enjoys concerts, sporting events and a good movie.

Heather DeCourcy
Kindergarten Teacher

Mrs. DeCourcy was born in Pennsylvania, but has spent the good majority of her life in Florida between Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. She received her Bachelor's degree from the University of Central Florida in Elementary Education with an ESOL endorsement. She graduated with a Master's degree in Educational Leadership a few years later. This is her 13th year teaching.

Mrs. DeCourcy enjoys beaches, swimming, hiking, reading and spending time with loved ones. She is very excited to be joining the Athenian family.

Kristen Brown
Kindergarten Teacher

Mrs. Brown is thrilled to be a part of the Athenian Family! She absolutely loves teaching and feels like this is truly what she was meant to do! She was born in Syracuse, NY, but has lived in Florida most of her life. She graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's of Science degree in Education. She was fortunate enough to be in the Suncoast Area Teacher Training program while at USF, where she was trained in the use of Kagan structures. This is her 13th year of full time teaching. She has taught both general education and exceptional student education over the years.

While Mrs. Brown sees each child as an individual, she also believes and develops being a team together in the classroom! She greatly enjoys working and communicating closely with her families, as she believes this partnership is pivotal in helping each child rise to his/her fullest potential and grow throughout the school year! Mrs. Brown lives in Tarpon Springs with her husband and their two children; a daughter who is 15 and a son who is 13. When she has free time, you can find her watching theater events, including local community shows that her daughter performs in, going to movies with her family, traveling with her family and just relaxing at home together!


First Grade

Barbara Cinelli
First Grade Teacher

Barbara Cinelli was born and raised in Massachusetts and moved here to sunny Florida 16 years ago with her husband and 3 children. She is a graduate of Salem State College where she received her degree in Education. She also holds a degree in Human Services.

Mrs. Cinelli has been working in the field of education for over 30 years and has been teaching at Athenian Academy since its infancy. When she is not busy in the classroom, she enjoys reading, cruising, and spending time with her family, especially the grandchildren!

Stephen Thompson
First Grade Teacher

Mr. Thompson was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida. He has a B.S. Degree from Florida State University. Mr. Thompson lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Lisa, and his daughter, Angelina.

He has taught for 10 years. Mr. Thompson enjoys art, traveling with his family, and spending time with his three dogs.

Katherine Foss
First Grade Teacher

Katherine Buiteweg Foss (Kitty) was born and raised in Michigan where she graduated from Michigan State University before moving to Maine. Mrs. Foss has been working in Education for over 30 years, including 8 years teaching First Grade. She moved to Florida in 2015 when her husband retired and her last child went out on his own.

Mrs. Foss loves to laugh, read, and is adventurous. Mrs. Foss is passionate about learning, she believes that learning is exciting and she works to inspire her students to be curious. Mrs. Foss wants the time in her classroom to be memorable, she knows a classroom is a team and we are all there to support one another in the journey. Mrs. Foss lives in Tarpon Springs with her husband David and her two dogs Jackson and Tavr.


Second Grade

Mary Vaughn
Second Grade Teacher and K - 2 Team Leader

Mrs. Vaughn was born and raised in Safety Harbor, Florida. She graduated from Countryside High School in 1994. In 2015, she earned her Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education from St. Petersburg. Mrs. Vaughn is certified in Elementary education with endorsements in ESOL and Reading.

Mrs. Vaughn and her family currently reside in New Port Richey, where she has a daughter who is a sophomore at Gulf High School. This is Mrs. Vaughn’s third year as part of our Athenian family and she is very happy to work with the students at Athenian Academy.

Jennifer Ponterio
Second Grade Teacher

Ms. Ponterio was born and raised in Florida. She absolutely loves the Sunshine State and everything it has to offer, including the beaches, nature preserves, beautiful sunsets, and great weather. This is Ms. Ponterio’s first year teaching at the Athenian Academy. She is a passionate educator who loves her job.

She earned her Bachelors degree in Education from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with certifications in all subject areas from kindergarten to sixth grade and Exceptional Students Education along with endorsements in English for Speakers of Other Languages and Reading.

Ms. Ponterio loves photography and cooking. She can cook the best Italian dishes you will ever eat and can take awesome photos to capture the best moments in life. Outside of school, Ms. Ponterio likes to go to concerts and spend quality time with her loved ones.


Third Grade

Susanna Birdwell
Third Grade Teacher

Mrs. Birdwell was born and raised in New England where she enjoyed growing up with 4 siblings. She moved to Florida in 2012 for college where she attended Clearwater Christian college until it's untimely closing after her junior year. She transferred to Warner University in 2015 to complete her senior year. She graduated in April 2016 with a BA in elementary education, Cum Laude with and ESOL endorsement. Mrs. Birdwell has had a passion for teaching children from a very young age. Mrs. Birdwell and her husband, an EMT for Pinellas County, reside in Clearwater. She enjoys the beaches, swimming, cooking, photography, spending time with family, and discovering new local restaurants. She is very excited to part of our Athenian family.

Jannette Rivera
Third Grade Teacher

Mrs. Rivera is originally from Brooklyn, NY. She moved to Puerto Rico with her family at the age of 12. Mrs. Rivera received her Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education at the University of Puerto Rico. and has been teaching since 2004. This is Mrs. Rivera's second of being part of our Athenian family. Mrs. Rivera has been married since 2003. and has an 11 year old daughter. Mrs. Rivera enjoys listening to music and spending time with her family.

4th Grade

Jami Weissman
Fourth Grade Teacher

Mrs. Weissman is a native Floridian, born and raised in Palm Harbor, Florida. She attended Florida Atlantic University for two years and then transferred to the University of Central Florida, where she received a Bachelors degree in Education and Human Performance.

Mrs. Weissman has been a part of the Athenian Academy family for three years. Her philosophy for learning is that each child learns his/her own way and that they deserve an equal opportunity to learn! Mrs. Weissman believes that students should be able to utilize resources and work hands on whenever possible. Mrs. Weissman’s goal is to provide a fun and safe learning environment.

Mrs. Weissman loves spending time with her husband, dog, and family. She also enjoys fishing, boating, and all things Disney!

Michelle Hakes
Fourth Grade Teacher

Mrs. Hakes is from upstate New York and is thrilled to be in the Sunshine State! She attended Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in elementary education.

Mrs. Hakes has been teaching upper elementary school since 2006 in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia. She believes in a hands-on teaching style, with an emphasis on cooperative learning. Mrs. Hakes approaches each lesson with a creative perspective, aiming for her students to become lovers of learning and critical thinkers and problem-solvers.

Mrs. Hakes loves spending time with her husband and cat. She loves to cook, craft, read, and sing. She can often be found out and about and involved on stage in different community theater productions.

Alaina Youngs
Fourth Grade Teacher

Ms. Youngs was born in California; however, she shortly after moved to Utah. She lived in Utah most of her life, where she received her bachelors from Weber State University. Ms. Youngs taught third grade for four years at a dual immersion charter school in Layton, Utah. Ms. Youngs decided to get away from the snow, and moved to Florida in 2017. She started teaching fourth grade and absolutely loved it! Ms. Youngs decided to go back to school and received her masters degree in November of 2017 in curriculum and instruction.

Ms. Youngs wants all of her students to feel comfortable in her classroom. She is excited to get to know each student and figure out what works best for them to learn. Every student will get the chance to set goals and strive their best to meet them. She is honored to coach them through their fourth grade year and help them to be successful. Ms. Youngs also loves spending time with her two dogs. They go to nature parks and the beach together. She recently bought a kayak and is excited to go explore in the water.


5th Grade

Sandy Colado
Fifth Grade Teacher

Mrs. Colado graduated from the University of South Florida where she received her B.A. in elementary education and her Masters in Varying Exceptionalities. She has been teaching in Pasco County for many years. Mrs. Colado feels fortunate to have been a part of the faculty who opened Deer Park Elementary School and Longleaf Elementary School. She retired from the county school system five years ago and has been happily working at Athenian Academy ever since. Mrs. Colado loves her family, golden retrievers, horses, and gardening.

Tiffany Brunton
Fifth Grade Teacher and 3 - 5 Team Leader

Mrs. Brunton is origninally from New Jersey where she graduated from Monsignor Donovan High School. In High School she participated in gymnastics, cheerleading, and track and field. Mrs. Brunton is a graduate of William Paterson University. She started teaching at Athenian Academy in 2009 and loves teaching math. She also loves the NY Giants, going to the beach, and spending time with her family.


Middle School

Sharon Long
Science Teacher, After Care Director, and MS Team Leader

Ms. Long was born in Chicago, IL. She moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama when she was three. Ms. Long attended Hillcrest High School where her high school chemistry teacher solidified her love for science.

Ms. Long moved to Florida in 2005 to attended Barry University where she received a Master’s in Biomedical Science. She moved to Tampa in 2007. She has been teaching middle school science at Athenian Academy for 8 years. When not working, Sharon enjoys reading, playing video games and watching movies.

Steven Burney
Math Teacher

Mr. Burney is a native Floridian, hailing from Bartow, Florida in Polk County. Mr. Burney received his Bachelors of Music Education Degree from Florida State University. While at Florida State, he performed with the World Renowned Florida State Marching Chiefs, the FSU Symphonic Band, the FSU Summer Band, and the University Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Burney loves to share his enthusiasm and passion for math and music with all the students here at Athenian Academy. Math was a subject Mr. Burney struggled with while he was in school. He decided to obtain his math certification so he could help students build confidence and a love for math.


Carol Norton
ELA Teacher

Carol Norton is from Central Illinois. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. She served as a YMCA Director for 10 years before obtaining her Master of Teaching degree from Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois. During her 15 year teaching career she has taught in both public and private schools.

Mrs. Norton and her husband Rob reside in Tarpon Springs. Their only child Tyler is a graduate of Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois. He is a Licensed Account Representative for NIKE Teams Division in Chicago, Illinois.

Margaret Roy
History Teacher

Ms. Roy was born in Carmel, NY and taught in both her home town High School where she had the pleasure of working with a teacher who inspired her as a student. She comes from a family of public service members and it has been a dream of hers for a very long time to follow in her family's footsteps to give back to the community.

She attended Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY and went on to teach in both Carmel, NY as well Bronx, NY. She moved to Florida in September 2015 and began working in Tampa. This is Ms. Roy's second year as part of our Athenian family. Aside from teaching, Ms. Roy enjoys going to the gym, reading, watching the latest movies that come out, and exploring new places in the Tampa Bay area.


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Alexis Silva
Music Teacher

Mrs. Silva is a native Floridian, born and raised in the Tampa Bay area. She attended the University of Tampa and received her BA in Music in 2017. Mrs. Silva has always been an avid fan of music. In the fifth grade, that passion grew to wanting to be the one who created the music to bring joy to others. She began playing the alto saxophone in the sixth grade, playing for enjoyment as well as with the school band. She continued her proficiency to all the saxophones, clarinet and French horn. While in college, she continued to expand her musical horizons, not only as an instrumentalist but as a vocalist as well.

Mrs. Silva has a passion for music that she wants to be able to share that with her students to let them experience the joy that it brings in every facet. Outside of music, Mrs. Silva enjoys crafting, seeing historical sights, and is a lifelong Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey fan.

Melinda Russek
Art Teacher

Melinda Russek is a graduate of Barron G. Collier High School in Naples, Florida and of the University of West Florida. She is currently working on her Master’s degree in reading. She is also an animal wrangler, writer, and photographer, but also a collector of scarves, rocks, seeds, books, coins, hats, gloves, and artifacts. She has great hopes for the future of our students with a focus on nature, science, math, and the arts. She has been working as an educator for more than 10 years but is pleased to be teaching art. She loves spending time with family, going on adventures such as hiking, kayaking, white water rafting, and looking for wildlife.

Jeff Dudley
Physical Education Teacher

Mr. Dudley is from a small rural town in Central Illinois. After High School, he joined the United States Army. After serving his time in the Army, he decide to move to Tampa, Florida where he had a brother in the Real Estate Industry. While doing Real Estate, he enrolled in college at Liberty University. He eventually got his Bachelor's Degree in 2013, and followed it up with a Master's Degree in 2016. After many years in the Real Estate Industry, he decided to finally do what he's always wanted to do which is to be a Physical Education Teacher/Coach.

In his time off, Mr. Dudley enjoys working out, taking runs, and attending sporting events. He loves most outdoor activities including, fishing, hunting, boating, hiking, and visiting new places. He also spends as much time as he possibly can with his family as they are his world.


Support Staff

Stephane Barrett
ESE Teacher and PBIS Facilitator

Mrs. Barrett joined our Athenian Team for the 2015 - 2016 school year. She has taught for over twenty years in the field of education. Mrs. Barrett earned her BA of education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is ESE certified and also has an ESOL endorsement.

Mrs. Barrett serves Athenian Academy in the role of its ESE Teacher as well as the school's PBIS Facilitator. In addition to her passion for teaching, she also loves dogs and has three rescue dogs. Pictured with her above is Rocky. She enjoys spending her free time with her husband, grandchildren, and dogs. Other interests are swimming, reading, and enjoying all that life brings.

Teresa Godfrey
ESE Teacher

Mrs. Godfrey was born in Lansing, MI but moved to Florida when she was 8 years old. She currently lives in St. Petersburg with her husband, Greg and her youngest son, Ryan, who is a senior at St. Pete High School and in the DEP with the Navy. Mrs. Godfrey also has an older son, Nick, who is the Coordinator of Community Outreach for the Tampa Bay Rays. Outside of school, Mrs. Godfrey spends time with family and loves watching Marvel movies and sports, especially the Bulls, Dolphins, and Rays.

Mrs. Godfrey received her Bachelor’s in Science in Elementary Education with a Reading Endorsement, English 5th-9th, ESE Certification, and ESOL Certification for K-12 from the University of South Florida. She has been teaching since 2008, the first four years as a substitute and the rest as a classroom teacher. She is very excited to team up with Mrs. Barrett in the ESE department this year, and being able to work with the students at Athenian. Aside from teaching, she also manages the school's morning show, yearbook, and Safety Patrol. Her philosophy in education is that every child has the ability to succeed when given a positive, enriching, and nurturing environment and teamwork is essential to building character development.

Maria Temple
Support Teacher

Mrs. Temple was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. In 2015, she graduated from Lesley University with a Master's in Elementary Education. Craving to live in a warmer environment, Mrs. Temple moved to Florida in June of 2015.

Mrs. Temple found her true calling in teaching when she realized the best way to make a difference and inspire others is to become a teacher. Her other passion in life is photography. Mrs. Temple loves taking film, digital, and Polaroid photographs.

Kenneth Ames
Support Teacher

Mr. Ames was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He is a graduate of St. Petersburg College of Education with a B.S. degree in Elementary Education. Mr. Ames relocated to Florida in 1988 from Palm Springs, California where he was a Food and Beverage Director in the Hospitality Industry.

Mr. Ames has found his true passion in life as an educator. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling and fishing.


Renee Hicks
Cafeteria Assistant

Renée Hicks was born and raised in New Jersey and relocated to Florida in 1999. She enjoys being a mom to her two beautiful children and is currently a student at St. Petersburg College. She is engaged to be married in the Fall and loves traveling to Savannah, Georgia for weekend getaway trips.

Renée and her family love the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and they attend a game at least once a year at Raymond James Stadium! In her spare time, she loves spending time with family, painting, visiting water parks, attending concerts, and getting lost in a good book.

Yarieli Rodriguez
Cafeteria Assistant

Yarieli Rodriguez grew up in Massachusetts and graduated from Whittier regional vocational technical high school. She also completed a course on Child Growth and Development at Northern Essex Community College.

Yarieli has a wonderful husband, two beautiful daughters, and a fur baby named Benji. Yarieli and her family relocated to Florida in 2002. They love to go hiking and bike riding on the weekends. She also loves weekend getaways and spending time with her family.

Denise Gray
After Care Assistant

Ms. Gray is from the Seminole County Public School System, where she was an Instructional Teacher for 9 Years, K- 5th grade. She graduated from Seminole State College in Medical but made a career change into Education.

She is currently employed at James Marlowe Elementary School for her 2nd year as an IA in Kindergarten and will be returning to Athenian Academy as an After Care Assistant. Ms. Gray enjoys being at Athenian’s Academy and seeing the children daily. She is looking forward to an extremely adventurous year at Athenian Academy, which will be full of fun activities and lots of learning!


Nigel Ruiz
Bus Driver

Mr. Ruiz is originally from the Island of Trinidad in the South Caribbean, and moved to the U.S in May of 1995. Mr. Ruiz recently joined our team in early October as one of our dedicated bus drivers and looks forward to contributing to the success of the students and Athenian Academy.

Mr. Ruiz is currently pursuing his studies to obtain his Para Professional Certification to be of greater assistance as needed to the educational development of students.

Shariza Rentas
Bus Driver

Mrs. Rentas was born in New Haven, C.T. She was raised in Connecticut and Puerto Rico, where she studied and graduated in the medical field focusing on the elderly and children with disabilities. Mrs. Rentas became a school bus driver, which gave her the opportunity to drive her own children to school and continue to work with children.

Mrs. Rentas has been a driver since 2010, loving every hug and smile that the kiddos give her. Mrs. Rentas moved to Florida in 2016, where she now enjoys Florida's warm weather and walking in the beautiful weather.


Rob Albuquerque
Plant Manager

Mr. Albuquerque (Mr. Rob) was born and raised in Rhode Island before moving to Florida in 2007. Before joining the Athenian Family, he worked as a Correctional Officer for several years. Mr. Albuquerque adores his daughter Alexis who is a student at Athenian Academy.

Mark Paris
School Officer

Mr. Paris was born and raised in Harrisburg, PA. After High School he received an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice. He immediately pursued his life long dream of becoming a PA State Trooper and honorably retired with 25 years of service in July, 2017.

Mark and his wife Kym followed their hearts to sunny Florida. Mr. Paris proudly joined the Athenian family as our School’s Security Officer. His desire is to serve our school, faculty, and children with the same care and professionalism as he did throughout his 25 years as a law enforcement officer.