ADMINISTRATION

Gina Burkett

Gina Burkett

Head of School

Gina entered the field of education shortly after earning her MBA and has over 30 years of experience as a teacher and an administrator. She is looking forward to beginning her 10th year with Academy Prep as Head of School. She brings Academy Prep the diversity of school management, marketing, and expertise within the educational realm. She has been involved in schools in New Orleans, Tampa, and St. Petersburg. She has served on the Florida Commission for ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International who partners with SACS in accrediting Florida private schools) and brings much experience in the area of school accreditation. Although she has years of experience in both the areas of technology and initiating programs that foster differentiated learning, she has a passion to ensure that APSP has a commitment to professional development for its teachers and staff to ensure cultural responsiveness within its curriculum and school environment.

Email: gburkett@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2141

Brittany Dillard Portrait

Brittany Dillard

Assistant Head of School

Born in Jacksonville, Brittany is a graduate of Edward Waters College, earning her Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education. She also graduated as senior class valedictorian.  Brittany furthered her education at Southern New Hampshire University and earned her Master of Science in Higher Education Administration as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching and Learning with Technology with a specialization in online education.  Brittany is currently working on earning her doctorate in Philosophy of Education which she will complete in March of 2024. She has over 13 years teaching experience with the youngest grade being Pre-K. Brittany loves children and evolving and shaping young minds, always reminding students that education is the most powerful tool you can have that no one can ever take from you.

Email: bdillard@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2101

Ken Watson

Ken Watson - Dean of Student Life

Ken Watson has served as Dean of Student Life at Academy Prep since 2019. He is a St. Petersburg native and holds a BS in Educational Studies from St. Petersburg College. Ken's role focuses on overseeing behavior and discipline on campus as well as guiding the enrichment activity program. Most importantly, however, he works with all of our scholars on character development and learning the 'AP Way' so they find productive ways to work through challenging situations and build stronger relationships with their peers. Ken really enjoys working with our families to ensure our children have a wonderful experience here at Academy Prep.

Email: kwatson@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2115

Terika Walters - School Counselor 

Terika Walters, a native of Miami Florida, graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, and obtained her Master’s in Social Work from Florida State University. Terika has served children, youth, and families in many different capacities over the past 9 years. Prior to joining the Academy Prep family, Terika worked as a Preschool Teacher, College Reach Out Program Camp Counselor, School Counselor, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Therapist. Terika also spent a week in St. Georges Grenada where she was instrumental in creating and implementing a curriculum on character development, and healthy relationships for adolescent mothers. Terika is motivated with a great zeal for children and youth, and always strives to ensure that she can provide emotional support, resources, and education to those that she encounters. Terika is excited to be a part of the Academy Prep family, and is looking forward to providing additional assistance to the students, faculty, and families served.

Email: twalters@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2107

Terika Walters Portrait
Lee Lockhart

Lee Lockhart - Director of Business Operations

Lee has been with Academy Prep since 2015 where he served as the Assistant Head of School before taking on his current role of School Manager in 2018. Lee previously worked at Northside Christian School for 17 years where he served as MS Principal, Dean of Students, and Superintendent. Originally from West Virginia, Lee received his Bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Marshall University and his Master's Degree in Administration from Central Michigan University. Lee was also a member of the United States Air Force where he retired after 26 years of service and has two grown children and one amazing grandson.

Email: llockhart@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2122

Anita Reece - Admissions and Scholarship Coordinator

Anita was born and raised in St. Petersburg. She has over 15 years in the corporate industry with a strong background in an administrative environment, and has been a member of the Academy Prep family for over a decade. She is the mother of two college students, and one of her children previously attended Academy Prep. Anita aspires to contribute to the success of Academy Prep as a whole and looks forward to inspiring our students to become future lifelong stars in the community. 

Email: areece@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2105

Anita Reece
Mendy Kirsch Portrait
Mendy Kirsch - Community Relations Coordinator

Melinda (Mendy) Kirsch is originally from Mobile, Alabama but has lived in the Sunshine State for the last 21 years. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice from the University of South Alabama. She went on to work in the Social Work field in the Florida Keys, specifically working with at-risk youth. After 17 years of being a stay-at-home mom and running her own social media business, she is now enjoying being a part of the Academy Prep family. She loves camping, hiking, kayaking and just spending time outdoors with her husband and two kids. 

Email: mkirsch@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2117

Terrika Dixon - Administrative Assistant

Terrika has been living in the St. Pete area since 2011 and considers herself a Florida native. She graduated from Northeast High School and is continuing her education at St. Petersburg College majoring in Middle School Education with a focus in ELA. Prior to joining the Academy Prep team, Terrika earned her full specialist certification as a licensed nail technician / esthetician. Terrika is the mother to one teenage son, loves animals, and if she had to pick one thing to eat for the rest of her life it would be peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Terrika is excited to be a part of the Academy Prep family as the Administrative Assistant, and enjoys helping our scholars continue to grow and succeed, and is always working to best serve our families. 

Email: tdixon@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2100

Terrika Dixon Portrait
Salvador Richardson Portrait
Salvador Richardson - Maintenance Coordinator

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Salvador has been living in the United States for almost 10 years and in Florida since late 2019. He comes with a background of several years of apartment maintenance experience and most recently fitness equipment repairs. Salvador enjoys outdoor activities like going to the beach, parks, and being outside in nature.  He also enjoys basketball, making art projects, and pro wrestling. Salvador is very excited about joining the Academy Prep family is looks forward to impacting the lives of our scholars in a positive way.

srichardson@academyprep.org

FACULTY

Trenton Hughes Portrait
Trenton Hughes - Lower School Math Teacher

Trenton Hughes hails from Virginia Beach, VA where he was able to display his faith and character through education and athletics. He attended the University of Maryland, College Park on a full four year scholarship. There he was able to obtain his Bachelor’s Degree in Human development and Family Sciences. Trenton eventually obtained one of his biggest goals as he reached the NFL as an undrafted free agent defensive back with the Miami Dolphins. After his experience in the NFL, he continued his passion in impacting youth through education, coaching, and mentorship. For the past ten years, Trenton Hughes has served the youth in different capacities. He was with the Baltimore County and City Public school districts for 7 years. The last 3 years he had the privilege of being a Youth Director at Set The Captives Free Outreach Center in Baltimore, MD. Trenton is excited to be in the classroom in Lower School Math and grow with the amazing scholars, parents and staff at Academy Prep!

Email: thughes@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2104


Edward  Ziesmer  - Lower School English Teacher

Originally from the state of Michigan, Ed graduated from Spring Arbor University in 2001 with a degree in Education.  Ed has been a teacher in the state of Florida for 20 years, serving 18 years in Hillsborough County, and 2 years in Pinellas County.  Edward has two daughters, his youngest is a third grader and his oldest is attending PCCA at Gibbs High School. In his free time, Ed enjoys running and playing sports, especially baseball.  On the weekends you can find him also enjoying recreational hobbies like cornhole, which he plays competitively.  Ed is very excited to join the Academy Prep family as the Lower School English Teacher!    

Email: eziesmer@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2116

Edward Ziesmer Portait
Becca Brown Portrait
Becca Brown - Lower School Science Teacher

Becca Brown comes to us originally from Russia, where she was adopted at age 7.  She is married to her husband Alex and has one son (Marcus).  She has lived in the St. Petersburg area since 1999.  Becca attended USF, majoring in secondary science and did her student teaching in the St. Petersburg area public schools.  Her past experience as a Commercial Diver allowed her to pursue her love for science and the outdoors.  Becca is hoping that her own love for gardening, fishing, animals, scuba diving, and family will be clearly evident in the classroom and not only peak her student's interest in the outdoors, but to engage and embrace it in their own lives as well.

Email: bbrown@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2118


  

Janessa Soucy - Lower School Social Studies Teacher

Janessa Soucy leverages her six years experience as an educator in underserved communities to empower student as a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) professional development leader.  Holding a Masters of Arts in Education and dual Bachelor's degrees in English and History & Social Sciences, Janessa's commitment to education extends beyond the classroom. During her second year as Head of Community and Parent Engagement, she tackled food insecurity by initiating a community garden and securing donations from major brands. Her dedication to meaningful change is further evidenced by her research contributions to studies on media representation and student discourse.  Empowering students to address real-world issues is a cornerstone of Janessa's approach. She guided seniors in crafting dissertations that tackled critical community challenges. Janessa's passion extends beyond academics, as she volunteered at the Connecticut Center for Addiction and Recovery, helping individuals with substance abuse or incarceration backgrounds with resume building and job preparation. When not fostering growth and learning, Janessa enjoys exploring culinary arts, watching the Dolphins, traveling, reading, and painting.  

Email: jsoucy@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2119

JANESSA SOUCY PORTRAIT
Antez Brinson Portrait
Antez Brinson - Upper School Social Studies Teacher

Antez is a native of St. Petersburg, Florida. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Geography from Florida A&M University.  Antez has 13 years of classroom experience in public and charter schools and has also served as an instructor with the Pinellas County Job Corps program.  He has not only served as a head football coach at the high school level, but he has also been involved in a local non-profit which is designed to assist high school student athletes obtain admission into college. Antez is looking forward to connecting with students and parents in an effort to further maintain the "AP Way."  

Email: abrinson@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2111

Nerline "Nellie" Nerlien - Upper School Mathematics Teacher

Born and raised in southwest Florida, Nerline graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Emory University. Ms. Nerlien educated students through many avenues, including teen outreach programs, private math tutoring, and traditional teaching. Her favorite aspect of being an educator is watching her pupils evolve to become confident and competent in their personal academic struggles. Her mission to be a mentor and cheerleader for students reminds her of the influence that she and her students can make to cause a positive change in our communities.

Email: nnerlien@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2112

Brittany Dillard
Zach Brockett

Zack Brockett - Upper School Science Teacher

Originally from Ohio, Zack is the son of two teachers so delving into education has always been close to his heart. He loves the idea of making an impact at a small school like Academy Prep. Zack graduated from Eckerd College with a BA in Environmental Studies and Political Science, where he also served as a College Ambassador, peer mentor, and captain of the rugby team. Zack is in his fifth year at Academy Prep where he teaches Upper School Science, helping scholars grow in confidence and teaching them about the importance of the natural world.  Zack also loves serving Academy Prep scholars as coach and assisting with the coordination of the extra-curricular athletic program.  

Email: zbrockett@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2110

Kelley Pierre-Pierre - Upper School English Teacher

Kelley is from The Bronx, New York. She moved to Brooklyn in her teenage years and graduated from Riverdale Kingsbridge Academy High School. She later pursued her higher education from the University of Hartford, where she served as the President of the Criminal Justice Club and an avid member of the skiing and snowboarding club. She graduated with a Bachelors of Arts degree in both Criminal Justice and Political Science.  Her genuine interests in the criminal justice system motivated her to intern with the New York City Police Department for four years. Kelley gained experience working with high officials like the Deputy Commissioner of Public Affairs and Police Commissioner of the NYPD.  She is an experienced Middle School English teacher who is also familiar with instructing criminal law and journalism to high school students in both private and public charter schools. 

Email: kpierre-pierre@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2119

Kelly Pierre-Pierre Portrait
Zoe Turtle Portrait
Zoe Turtle  - Art Teacher

Born and raised in Saint Petersburg, Zoe graduated from Eckerd College with a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Arts  with aa primary concentration in Visual Arts and a secondary concentration in Poetry and Theater.  She has a myriad of experience teaching including teaching in schools for two years and teaching private music lessons in violin, voice, guitar, piano, and ukulele for seven years. She is a bit of a renaissance woman, having a passion for and experience in many disciplines including art, education, music, sustainability, and non-profit. Zoe loves to explore many art mediums in her free time including painting, drawing, jewelry making, collage, printing, sculpture, and embroidery and is excited to expand scholars’ knowledge of and excitement for new mediums. Having an interdisciplinary mindset, she is also excited to encourage interplay of mediums and collaboration of art projects with other disciplines like creative writing, music, and science. Zoe strongly believes that everyone is creative and everyone can gain something from practicing art and this welcoming attitude shines through every day in her art classroom. She is excited about utilizing her unique education, background, and experiences to bring added value to scholars in the art room and beyond.

Email: zturtle@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2102

Nasja Wilkins - Music Teacher

Born in Heidelberg, Germany and raised in St. Petersburg, FL, Nasja has always had a passion for music and its intricacies. Her love for music goes beyond the classroom as she is also a working musician and writer for many artists in the Tampa Bay music circuit. Nasja is elated to serve Academy Prep’s scholars and provide the highest quality music education in order to show them culture beyond their understanding. Her motto is “music is a language that transcends all cultures” aand her curriculum embeds the importance of merging cultures and customaries through the knowledge of music.

Email: nwilkins@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2142

Nasja Wilkins Portrait
Tayelor Trotter Portrait
Taye'lor Trotter - Physical Education Teacher & Athletic Director

Taye'lor was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida, and is an Academy Prep alumnus, graduating in 2007. She attended Lakewood High School and continued on to study Community Leadership and Educational Studies at Flagler College. Tayelor recently returned home after spending seven years in Miami public school and charter schools. and is excited to return to her Academy Prep family as the Physical Education teacher. Tayelor is looking forward to making a positive difference in the lives of our scholars and serving as a tangible example of what it means to be "The Greatest!" In her free time, Tayelor loves spending time with family, swimming, reading, journaling, and staying healthy through calisthenics.  Welcome back to Academy Prep Ms. Trotter!

Email: ttrotter@academyprep.org

Andrew Belzer  - Spanish Teacher

Mr. Belzer was born in Bogota, Colombia to an American father and British mother. As a tri-citizen, Mr. Belzer grew up with a strong sense of global consciousness. Before coming to the United States at seven years old, Mr. Belzer grew up on a farm without running water or electricity. Upon arrival in the United States, Mr. Belzer and his family spent a few years in Idaho before moving to Oregon where Mr. Belzer spent his formative years. Mr. Belzer received his undergraduate degree from Portland State University in Spanish and International Studies with a focus on Latin America before moving to New Mexico where he received his masters degree in Hispanic Literature from the University of New Mexico. Mr. Belzer has eight years of experience in education, predominantly at the middle school level, and continues to be driven by his strong sense of internationalism. In 2019 Mr. Belzer was a Fund for Teachers grant recipient which he used to travel to train teachers in under-resourced schools in Bangalore, India. In addition to working in India Mr. Belzer has volunteered as a teacher in Uganda, Kenya, Argentina, and Ecuador, as well as traveling with his students to Ecuador, Peru, Costa Rica, and Panama. Most recently Mr. Belzer is returning from sailing and teaching on a Norwegian vessel in the North Sea and hopes to inspire his students by sharing his profound love for travel, culture, and language as the Spanish teacher at Academy Prep.

Email: abelzer@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2132

Andrew Belzer Portrait

ACADEMIC SUPPORT

Jake Szasz - Director of Academic Support 

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Jake graduated from Shorecrest Preparatory School before heading off to New Orleans, where he completed his BS in Psychology from Tulane University. While at Tulane, Jake was a committed volunteer with the Tulane Community Tutor Program, which centers on providing academic assistance to at-risk young people from the city's wards. Jake began his tenure with Academy Prep as an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow, then found his passion with Academic Support. While working at Academy Prep he was able to work towards and complete his MS in Exceptional Student Education from Barry University. He is excited to be here for his sixth year at Academy Prep.

Email: jszasz@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2272

Jake Szasz Portrait
Teresa Riggs Portrait
Teresa Riggs - Academic Interventionist & Full Time Substitute

Teresa Riggs has earned an Associate of Arts in Human Services from St. Petersburg College, Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, Master of Arts in Education (with special studied in Family and Community Services) from Ashford University.  In 2011, she became a member of the Golden Key International Honor Society. Mrs. Riggs has served children for well over thirty years in various schools throughout Pinellas County.  She has served as a paraprofessional, classroom teacher, mentor, private tutor, and as Children's Advocate in the Pinellas County Court System. Mrs. Riggs teaches Sunday School at her church, and also serves as a volunteer with various faith based community programs for children. She is the proud mother of four adult children, and the super proud grandmother of two grandsons.  

Email: triggs@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2272

GRADUATE SUPPORT

Laura Manke - Director of Graduate Support & Head of Humanities

Originally from Illinois, Laura moved to Florida to attend the University of Tampa and to escape the cold winters. Laura’s journey with Academy Prep started in 2012 with an internship on the Tampa campus and ultimately led her to St. Petersburg campus. In 2015, Laura became the 5th and 6th grade Social Studies Teacher. After 5 years in Lower School, and obtaining her Master's of Education from USF St. Pete in 2019, Laura followed her passion for writing and reading and moved up to the 7th and 8th grade ELA position. This experience and education prepared Laura to take on the role of Lead Humanities Teacher, beginning in 2022. Through her many years at AP, Laura has always loved keeping in touch with graduates and watching them grow. Laura is ecstatic to become the Director of Graduate Support, where she will continue to connect with and assist the graduates she once taught at Academy Prep! 

Email: lmanke@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2137

Laura Manke Portrait
Quinn Dolezal Portrait
Quinn Dolezal - Graduate Support Coordinator

Originally from the state of Illinois, Quinn graduated from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, where he earned a degree in English. Quinn has been a part o the Academy Prep family for over a decade, serving as an Americorps Teaching Fellow at Academy Prep Center of Tampa before joining Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg. Quinn has taught both lower and upper school English and has served in Academic Support. Quinn is thrilled to be joining the Graduate Support to continue to work closely with alumni as they grow into the next generation of leaders. 

Email: qdolezal@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2103

ADVANCEMENT

Lacey Miller

Lacey Nash Miller - Executive Director of Advancement

Lacey Nash Miller is thrilled to be a member of the Academy Prep family and to promote the mission of Academy Prep through philanthropy. As a third-generation St. Petersburg native, Lacey is inspired and motivated by our hard-working students, dedicated faculty and staff, and generous and committed board. Prior to joining Academy Prep, Lacey was the Director of the Annual Fund and Alumni Programs at Shorecrest Preparatory School. She holds a B.S. in Mass Media Communications from Florida State University.

Email: lnashmiller@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2109

Jennifer Silva - Advancement Manager

Jennifer is a Pinellas County native who has been working in the Tampa Bay Area nonprofit sector for over 25 years. Her career in nonprofits began the same year Academy Prep was founded and she is honored to now serve the Academy Prep family of students, faculty, donors and volunteers as Development Manager. Jennifer is inspired by Academy Prep's commitment to offering quality education in a stable, supportive environment to young scholars in our community. She holds a BA in Humanities from USF Tampa. 

Email: jsilva@academyprep.org

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2150

Jennifer Silva Portrait
Ben  Herring  Portrait
Ben Herring - Advancement Coordinator

Ben Herring was born and raised in Michigan. He attended Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC where he studied Small Business Management. Ben has an extensive background in volunteer management and community radio fundraising. Ben is also an avid record collector and radio DJ. When he's not working you can find him outside spending time in the garden with his family, as well as running, biking, and paddle boarding.

Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2131

AMERICORPS TEACHING FELLOWS

Imani Ruz Portrait
Imani Ruz - AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow

Imani was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA, but recently relocated to the vibrant city of St. Petersburg, FL, her new home. With an unwavering passion for creative learning, Imani has found her calling in the field of education dedicated to nurturing young minds. Imani's talents extend far beyond the classroom. With an extensive background in performing arts specializing in music, poetry, dance, theatre and art she brings a unique blend of creativity and artistry to her educational endeavors. In addition to her educational pursuits, Imani is a best-selling author, sharing her unique insights and stories with her community. She also curates events in the Tampa Bay area, adding vibrancy and cultural richness to the local scene. Imani’s story is one of passion, creativity, and a commitment to making a difference in the lives of those around her. Whether through education, the arts, or community engagement, she continues to leave a lasting impact on her new home in St. Petersburg, FL.

iruz@academyprep.org

Ben Turner - AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow

Born and raised in Seoul, South Korea, Ben moved to Tampa as a seventh grader. Growing up, Ben developed a passion for music when he started playing piano at a young age. During his time at H.B. Plant High School in Tampa, he committed most of his time to developing his knowledge and skills in percussion instruments. After graduating from Plant, Ben attended the University of South Florida to earn his Bachelor of Science majoring in Health Sciences and minoring in Psychology. During his undergrad, Ben spent a lot of his time teaching various percussion ensembles around the Tampa Bay area along with continuing his growth as a performer. After graduating USF, he dedicated his time to educating the youth through his love for music. Starting as an Americorps teaching fellow this year, Ben is excited to ignite our students’ passions throughout the school year. In his free time, Ben enjoys late night tennis and spending time with his friends and family. 

bturner@academyprep.org

Ben Turner Portrait
Mikayla Schell Portrait
Mikayla Schell - AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow

While earning her degree in Health Sciences from the University of South Florida, Mikayla volunteered at the Elisa Nelson Center for Gifted Studies and Literacy Innovation. This is where she discovered her love for teaching. She found joy in working with children and supporting their academic and personal development. Originally from Newburgh, Indiana, Mikayla moved to St. Petersburg in 2011 and has since made it her home. In her free time, she enjoys creating content online for various brands and products and exploring thrift stores. Through a personalized approach to learning, Mikayla aims to empower students by building their confidence, instilling a love for learning, and encouraging them to overcome challenges and reach their full potential.

mschell@academyprep.org

Terrah Reid - AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow

Terrah Reid is a native Floridian raised in St. Petersburg, FL. She is a driven, charismatic individual who enjoys working to make a difference in this world. This is reflected in her past work with youth in PAL and in support services for adults needing assistance. While she is currently studying at St. Petersburg College, she is looking forward to helping Academy Prep scholars realize their true potential and the difference they can strive to make one day at a time. 

treid@academyprep.org

 

Terrah Reid