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 believes in the spirit of adventure. It is his goal that the team will always guide each student through the incredible adventure ahead. 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.”

"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. 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.

Heidi Abatiello
Office Assistant

Ms. Heidi was born and raised in Rhode Island, where she went to Providence College. She survived 2 life threatening illnesses and then retired from the Cranston School District, moving to Florida in 2004.

Ms. Heidi a son, daughter, 3 grandchildren, and yes, Ms. Jeanne really is her sister. Ms. Heidi loves being part of the Athenian family. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her family, ceramics, crochet, and making people smile.

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.



Heather Watkins
Kindergarten Teacher

Ms. Watkins is in her 3rd year of teaching kindergarten at Athenian Academy. She is looking forward to another fantastic year with her little munchkins! She was born in Pittsburgh, PA in December; however, the family moved to the sunshine state shortly before her first birthday, so she considers herself a Florida native. In 2004, she graduated from the University of Central Florida with a bachelors degree in Elementary Education and an endorsement in ESOL. While teaching in Hillsborough County Schools, Ms. Watkins pursued a master's degree in Administration and Supervision, graduating in 2009.

Ms. Watkins has never been in a happier place in teaching then at Athenian Academy. In her free time, Ms. Watkins enjoys spending as much time with her dog, Stanley Otis, as possible, going out to try new restaurants with friends and family, reading, running, and antique shopping.

Ms. Watkins is a firm believer that all children are capable of meeting the highest expectations set in their own way and own time. She strives to learn about each child's strengths and weaknesses and use that knowledge to make each child's learning experience a positive one; while maintaining a safe, loving, family environment for all children to grow freely in.

Karen Day
Kindergarten Teacher

Mrs. Day was born in Miami, Florida and grew up in Atlanta, GA. She graduated with a degree in Early Childhood Education from Georgia State University. After teaching school for 5 years, Mrs. Day became a stay at home mom with the arrival of her first child Jackson. In addition to Jackson, Mrs. Day also has a daughter named Courtney. Mrs. Day has returned to teaching now that her children are grown and is so excited to be back in the classroom. She enjoys teaching all subjects but has a fondness for Science and Social Studies in addition to Reading and Math.

When not in the classroom, Mrs. Day loves to travel, watch her children play lacrosse, spend time with family, go boating, and cook. She is so excited for her new home here at Athenian Academy of Technology and the Arts.

Maria Temple
Kindergarten 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. She found her true calling in teaching when she realized the best way to make a difference and inspire others is to become a teacher.

This is Mrs. Temple’s 5th year at Athenian Academy, with her previously teaching 4th grade and Tier II reading/math interventions. When not teaching, Mrs. Temple loves spending time with her husband and dog, Bloo, traveling, taking photographs, hand embroidery, and reading.


First Grade

Barbara Cinelli
First Grade Teacher

Mrs. 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.

Tiffany Schaefer
First Grade Teacher

Mrs. Schaefer 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. Schaefer 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.


Second Grade

Carissa Farrell
Second Grade 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 has 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.

Susan Ehr
Second Grade Teacher

Ms. Ehr grew up in sunny Southwest Florida. She graduated from Florida State University with a Bachelors Degree in Management. She then moved to the Midwest and received her Masters Degree in Elementary Education from Roosevelt University. It was in Chicago that she began her teaching career and raised her family. Ms. Ehr is married to a very supportive husband, Jim, and they have two lovely daughters, Alex and Mackenzie.

Ms. Ehr loves being a teacher! She has taught 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grades in Illinois, Connecticut, and Florida. She is excited to be a part of the Athenian Academy family. She believes in creating a safe and nurturing environment where students can take risks, have fun, and engage in cooperative learning that develops a love for learning.

Gabriela Frankenberry
Second Grade Teacher

Ms. Frankenberry is a 2nd grade teacher who grew up in Tampa, FL. Ms. Frankenberry graduated from St. Petersburg College with a degree in Elementary Education K-6. She has also completed additional endorsements in Reading, ESOL, and ESE.

Since she was young, Ms. Frankenberry pursued teaching. She started with being a tutor, camp counselor, substitute, and now 2nd grade teacher. Ms. Frankenberry has taught 1st , 2nd, and 4th grade. When she isn’t spending time with her students, Ms. Frankenberry loves going on trips with her family and relaxing at home. Ms. Frankenberry believes that every student has a creative side to them and thrives with cooperative learning!


Third Grade

Mary Vaughn
Third Grade Teacher and K - 3 Team Leader

Mrs. Vaughn grew up in Safety Harbor Florida and graduated from Countryside High School. After high school she moved from Florida to Indianapolis, IN. and lived there for 10 years. She returned to Florida with her son, Brendon and her husband Brian in 2004.

Mrs. Vaughn graduated from St. Petersburg College with a degree in Elementary Education K-6. She has additional training in Reading, ESOL, and Clinical Education. She has taught at Athenian Academy for the past 6 years. She feels that she is very lucky to be a part of such a wonderful school with amazing staff, families, and students. She enjoys watching her students challenge each other and grow as individuals.

Ashley Gundel
Third Grade Teacher

Mrs. Gundel was raised in Tampa, Florida where she participated in marching band, chorus, and theater in school. Following graduation, she attended St. Petersburg College where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education.

Mrs. Gundel enjoys reading, writing, and helping students discover their own love of literature. She is appreciative to live right near the beach in Pinellas County, Florida. When she isn't swimming, boating or walking, you can find her spending time at home with her pets! Mrs. Gundel is thrilled to be embarking on her 5th year as an educator and to continue to be a part of the Athenian Academy 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!


5th Grade

Susanna Birdwell
Fifth Grade Teacher and 4 - 8 Team Leader

Mrs. Birdwell grew up in New England as the oldest of 5 kids. She has always loved learning and wanted to be a teacher since she was in elementary school. Mrs. Birdwell moved to Florida for college and graduated from Warner University in 2016 with a bachelors in elementary education with her ESOL and Reading endorsements. Mrs. Birdwell has been at Athenian since 2016 and cannot imagine teaching anywhere else.

Mrs. Birdwell and her husband welcomed their daughter Dahlia in October 2019. Dahlia is the light of their lives. They enjoy going to the beach together, visiting family, concerts, and trying new local restaurants.

Jannette Rivera
Fifth Grade Teacher

Mrs. Rivera is originally from Brooklyn, New York. She moved to Puerto Rico with her family at the age of 12. Mrs. Rivera received her Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education at the University of Puerto Rico and has been teaching since 2004. This is Mrs. Rivera’s fifth year as part of our Athenian Family.

Mrs. Rivera has been married since 2003 and has a 15-year-old daughter. In her free time, Mrs. Rivera enjoys listening to music and spending time with her


Middle School

Sharon Long
Science Teacher and After Care Director

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 9 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.


Nicole Swidarski
ELA Teacher

Ms. Swidarski was born and raised in Miami, Florida and moved to Deerfield Beach for high school, where she was a cheerleader and a member of the best buddies club. She ultimately made the move to Tampa to attend USF, where she received her Bachelor's of Science in Secondary English Education. While at USF, she joined the Zeta Tau Alpha sorority during her first fall semester and is now an alumna of the great organization.

Ms. Swidarski realized she wanted to be an ELA teacher when she was young and her music teacher entered one of her poems into a national writing contest, which she ended up winning an award for. Ms. Swidarski's music teacher helped her recognize the potential of her writing of all kind. Ms. Swidarski now hope to help her students recognize their own greatness and potential in their writing and help them fall in love with reading as she has. As such, she loves reading, as well as attending concerts and music festivals, exploring the outdoors, spending time with her large and spread out family, and seeing as much of the world as she can. Her hope is to provide her students with the necessary skills and tools they need to succeed as individuals and as members of society in this great, big world!

Benjamin Hitzig
History Teacher

Mr. Hitzig is an educator with a wide range of classroom experience that spans half a decade. He currently holds a Bachelors Degree in Secondary Education with a focus on Social Sciences. Since he was younger, his passion for history and his desire to educate the next generation has propelled him forward in his career. Mr. Hitzig joined the team at Athenian Academy of Technology in January of 2020.


Screenshot (175)

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

Mrs. Russek, our art teacher, is a graduate of the University of West Florida with a Master's degree in Reading Education, in addition to graduating with honors from UWF with a Bachelor's degree (concentration on Art Education, Reading Education, ESE, and ESOL Education). Currently, Mrs. Russek is working on a Master's degree in Art Education at Florida State University.

Mrs. Russek enjoys spending time with family on hikes, kayaking, fishing, and other adventures. She also loves animals, having worked with wildlife, with licenses through FWC, including birds of prey, venomous snakes, endangered species, and exotic invasive species.

Mrs. Russek believes the art curriculum is a wonderful opportunity for learning, with a focus on art history through the ages. Mrs. Russek really enjoys taking students on a journey through art and history, making the world of art come to life!

Patrick Rosanio
Physical Education Teacher

Mr. Rosanio grew up in Syracuse, New York. In High School, he captained his football team to a state championship, and continued his athletic career at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. After graduating with a degree in Physical Education, Mr. Rosanio moved to Bradenton, where he spent one year as a Minor League Strength & Conditioning Coach within the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. He followed this up with six years of experience in the Toronto Blue Jays organization, spending time in both the Strength and Physical Rehabilitation departments.

Mr. Rosanio believes in encouraging healthy lifestyle choices and promoting wellness at all ages. He believes that physical activity should not be viewed as a chore or a punishment, but rather as a tool to build overall health. His goal is to bring out the full potential of each student, and to help them find a healthy hobby that they can practice inside and outside of school.


Support Staff

Teresa Godfrey
ESE Teacher

Mrs. Godfrey is going into her 7th year at Athenian Academy. She is one of our ESE teachers, guiding students to achieve success! Mrs. Godfrey earned her teaching degree from the University of South Florida and has been teaching since 2008. Besides teaching at Athenian, she manages the morning show and yearbook.

Mrs. Godfrey has lived in Florida most of her life and is currently living in Spring Hill with her husband and mom. She has two sons, 26 and 19. The oldest is the Senior Community Outreach Coordinator for the Tampa Bay Rays and her youngest is serving in the Navy in Pearl Harbor, HI. Outside of school, Mrs. Godfrey loves to read, craft and spend time with family (especially attending South Florida football games!)

Mrs. Godfrey believes every child has the ability to succeed when given a positive, enriching and nurturing environment and teamwork is essential to building character development.

Emiko Takahara
ESE Teacher

Mrs. Takahara was born and raised in Japan. She has been living in the U.S. for 25 years. Mrs. Takahara received a Bachelor’s Degree in International Trading and Marketing from the Fashion Institute of Technology/State University of New York and worked in the apparel industry. In 2017, she completed graduate school and earned a Master Degree of Arts in Teaching for Special Education from North Carolina State University. She also worked with children providing ABA (Apply Behavior Analysis) Therapy in private school settings.

Mrs. Takahara lives with her husband, their two beautiful sons, a cat, and two guinea pigs. Her sons play baseball and tennis. Mrs. Takahara and her husband are very involved in their practices and love to watch their games, as they are a sports oriented family! On the weekend, they enjoy fishing and the great outdoors.

Mrs. Takahara believes in the philosophy of “Every child can learn.” She recognizes that each child is unique and has different abilities and strengths. She will ensure to provide support that caters to a child’s needs to promote the importance of lifelong learning.


Sandy Colado
Support 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.


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.

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, crafting, visiting water parks, attending concerts, reading, and traveling to Savannah, Georgia for weekend getaway trips.

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.


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.