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 9th year with Academy Prep as their 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.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2141

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 12 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.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2112

Brittany Dillard Portrait
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.  His 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. Mr. Watson really enjoys working with our families to ensure our children have a wonderful experience here at Academy Prep.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2115

Lee Lockhart - Operations Manager

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.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2122

Lee Lockhart
Terika Walters Portrait

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.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2107

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.  She is the mother of two college students, and one of her children previously attended Academy Prep. She aspires to contribute to the success of Academy Prep as a whole. She also looks forward to inspiring our students to become future lifelong stars in the community. 


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2105

Anita Reece
Terrika Dixon Portrait
Terrika Dixon - Administrative Assistant

Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Terrika was raised in Florida. She graduated from Northeast High School and continued her education at Saint Petersburg College earning an AA in Business Management, and earning licenses as both a nail technician and esthetician from the American Institute of Beauty. She plans to enroll in the Miami International University of Art & Design next year to continue her studies. Terrika is excited to be joining the Academy Prep family as the Administrative Assistant, and is looking forward to helping our scholars continue to grow and succeed, and working to best serve our families. 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! 


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2100

Josh Bagger - Maintenance Manager

Josh comes to Academy Prep from Laurel, Montana where he supervised the maintenance and custodial crew for a 280 apartment unit complex. Josh and his family recently moved to Kenneth City, Florida in August 2020 and he is excited to be a part of the Academy Prep family as it reminds him of the private school his daughter attended through the 8th grade. Josh is looking forward to the upcoming school year when he can learn more about Academy Prep and our students. In his free time, Josh enjoys the outdoors, fishing, hiking, camping, and spending time with his family.


Faculty and Staff Portrait
Mendy Kirsch Portrait
Mendy Kirsch - Front Office Assistant

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. 


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2131


Antez Brinson Portrait
Antez Brinson - Upper School Social Studies Teacher

Antez Brinson is a native of St. Petersburg, Florida.  He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Geography from Florida A&M University.  Antez has 12 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 will be teaching Upper School Social Studies for the 2021-2022 school year, but more importantly, he is looking forward to connecting with students and parents in an effort to further maintain the "AP Way."  


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.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2112

Brittany Dillard
Zach Brockett

Zack Brockett - Upper School Science & Athletic Coordinator

Zack is originally from Ohio. The son of two teachers, delving into education has always been close to his heart and he loves the idea of making an impact at a small school like Academy Prep. He 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. At AP, he teaches Upper School Science, helping students grow in confidence and teaching them about the importance of the natural world.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2110

Trenton Hughes - Lower School English 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. As an educator he passionately believes in inspiring and improving his scholars effectiveness in reading, writing and speech. Lead by faith, Trenton Hughes is looking forward to transition with his wife and 3 sons from Maryland to Florida. He is excited to be in the classroom in Lower School English and grow with the amazing scholars, parents and staff at Academy Prep!


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2116

Trenton Hughes
Sarena Sommer

Sarena Sommer - Lower School Science, STEAM, and Lead Robotics Teacher

Sarena Sommer has nine years of experience in education, teaching all grade levels in public and private sectors. Sarena has taught a variety of subjects including Biology, Marine Science, Pre-Algebra, Algebra I, Consumer Math, and Civics. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Finance with a minor in Biology from the University of Central Florida. Her first year of teaching was completed in Beijing, China where she was an instructor of grades K-12 Math, Science, and English. She has experience working in the classroom with ESOL and students with disabilities. She’s traveled to several countries and enjoys sharing experiences with students from what she has learned abroad.  


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2118

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. Miss Wilkins 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” - her curriculum embeds the importance of merging cultures and customaries through the knowledge of music.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2142

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

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. Tayelor 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!


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.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2132

Andrew Belzer 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 - 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.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2131


Jake Szasz Portrait

Jake Szasz - Director of Academic Support 

Jake is from St. Petersburg, having graduated from Shorecrest Prep 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.  After spending the last two years at Academy Prep as an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow, Jake is excited to be returning for his fourth year at Academy Prep, and to continue working to ensure that each student has their academic needs met.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2101

Quinn Dolezal - Academic Support Coordinator 

Originally from the state of Illinois, Mr. Dolezal graduated from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, where he earned a degree in English. Mr. Dolezal previously taught lower school English and is now thrilled to continue being a part of the Academy Prep family as the new  Academic Support Coordinator. 


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2113

Shannon Wright


Laura Manke - Director of Graduate Support & Head of Humanities

Laura, originally from Illinois, moved to Tampa to attend the University of Tampa and to escape the cold Illinois 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 AP! 


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2119

Laura Manke Portrait
Courtney Bynum

Courtney Bynum - Graduate Support Coordinator

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Courtney attended Academy Prep during her middle school years. She went on to graduate from St. Petersburg High before attending and graduating from Johnson & Wales University where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in Finance. Throughout Courtney’s high school and college education, she always looked for ways to volunteer with AP because of her strong desire to give back to the school.  She is thrilled to join the school, knowing that she’ll be part of an organization that not only impacts the lives of others, but certainly had an impact on hers.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2103


Lacey Miller

Lacey Nash Miller - Director of Development

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.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2109

Jennifer Silva - Development 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 AP 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. 


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2150

Jennifer Silva Portrait
Ben  Herring  Portrait
Ben Herring - Development 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.  Ben is very excited to join the Academy Prep family and get involved with the amazing enrichment program.  

Phone: 727.322.0800


Trevor Otis - Americorps Teaching Fellow

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Trevor graduated from St. Petersburg High School in 2014. After graduation, he traveled the United States and spent winters in Park City, Utah working at a ski resort as a lift foreman and summers teaching horseback riding at Camp Lohikan in Lake Como, PA.  He is an avid skier and horseback rider and enjoys sharing that passion with others. Trevor is currently attending St. Petersburg College working on a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education. He is dedicated to working with children and helping them see and reach their greatest potential. Trevor is excited to join the Academy Prep family! 

Email :

Trevor Otis Portrait
Madelyn Marchese Portrait
Madelyn Marchese - Americorps Teaching Fellow

Madelyn will be serving the Academy Prep 2022-2023 school year as an Americorps Teaching Fellow leading the new Computer Skills class! Earning a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2022, Madelyn would like to pursue continuing education to become a school counselor. She moved to Tampa Bay from New Orleans in May of 2022 and is an avid Tampa Bay Rays fan. Madelyn enjoys working with children and is excited to join the Academy Prep family!   


Andrew MacDonald - Americorps Teaching Fellow

Andrew recently relocated to St. Pete from his hometown of Stirling, Scotland, and is excited to be taking the first steps toward a permanent move to the United States. He graduated from Abertay University in Dundee with a BA in Sport and Management and is currently working on an MSc in Education Studies at Strathclyde University in Glasgow. Andrew is no stranger to American culture, having worked as a cabin counselor, mentor, division head, and most recently, Assistant Athletic Director at a summer camp in New Hampshire since 2015. He's also held a number of volunteer posts, including several years as the Captain of his local Boys' Brigade Organization. His most recent teaching position was as a Sports Coordinator at a Scottish Inclusion Support School, which focuses on meeting the needs of the most disadvantaged young people. Andrew enjoys soccer, tennis, and Formula One racing and is looking forward to learning more about traditional American sports by cheering for the Tampa Bay teams.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2135

Andrew MacDonald Portrait


Terri Scarcelli

Terri Scarcelli - Chief Financial Officer

Terri earned her accounting degree from the University of South Florida. Terri is also licensed by the Internal Revenue Service as an Enrolled Agent and has been the president and owner of Balanced Accounting and Tax for since 2009. Additionally, she worked 10 plus years as a staff accountant for Dwight Darby and Co. and Ennis CPA Associates, PA.  Her private industry experience has been in the non-profit area where she has held the position of CFO for both the Tampa Bay Builders Association and The Cambridge School, a pre K3 through 12th grade Christian school.  Terri and her husband Ron, who has been the IT Coordinator at Academy Prep for the past 6 years, have five children and four grandchildren. Terri is honored to help Academy Prep fulfill its vision by helping our students reach their potential. 


Roxane Leary - Grants Specialist

Roxane graduated in 2011 from Florida State University with a B.S. in Political Science and in 2015 from the University of South Florida with a Master of Public Administration. She has spent many years working with at risk youth in Polk and Hillsborough County as a life skills coach and substance abuse prevention counselor. After earning her master’s degree, Roxane transitioned to finance as a revenue analyst at DACCO Behavioral Health, Inc. Her passion for working with at risk youth lead her to Academy Prep Centers for Education where as a member of the development team she is able to help contribute to enriching the lives of youth in the community.   


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2150

Roxane Leary Portrait
Chris Brazee

Chris Brazee - Director of Technology

Chris originally hails from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Millersville University with a BA in Music Business and Technology. Before he started working in schools, Chris worked for Apple in New York City as a Certified Technician and Trainer for almost ten years. He has previously worked as a Technology Specialist for independent schools on the Upper East Side in NYC, and in Potomac MD, just outside of Washington D.C. Chris relocated to Tampa with his family over the summer of 2020, and he’s thrilled to be a part of the Academy Prep team.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 3133

Sarah McDonald - Marketing and Communications Specialist

Sarah comes to Academy Prep after a long career as a professional photographer, designer, and business owner. Sarah holds a BA in Journalism, with an emphasis in Advertising and Public relations from the University of Wisconsin and has also earned an AS in Photography from the International Academy of Design and Technology. Originally from Wisconsin, Sarah is the daughter and wife of educators, and as a former adjunct professor herself, she strongly believes that the success of our society depends on the quality of education our youngest generation receives, which has drawn her to the mission of Academy Prep. Sarah is thrilled to join the team where she can spread the word about Academy Prep and help to inspire and motivate positive change in the lives of our scholars as well as the community.


Phone: 727.322.0800 x 2106

Sarah McDonald