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Our Team

“We believe we have the most thorough, hands-on approach to solving educational deficiencies. While focusing on academic needs, we also address critical executive skills such as organization, planning, goal setting, and time-management, ultimately reducing academic driven anxiety. We work with parents, teachers, and administrators to find the best solution to these problems. We are unique, in that we only accept those students and parents who desire change. If a difference is what you want, you want Engaged Academics.”

Lance A Davis – Founder / President

Mr. Davis is the founder of Engaged Academics and also the president. He earned his master’s degree from Florida State University in Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies and his bachelor’s in Education from Thomas University.

He is also the author of a children’s book series named “Blue Collar Babies”, which released its first book in 2018. Spending seventeen years outside of the field of education has shaped Lance’s approach to instruction and learning by focusing on 3 key skills every student should master: Critical Thinking, Time Management, and Teamwork.

INTERESTS: My focus is on being the best husband, father, and educator possible.

SPECIALTIES: Instructional Design • Math & Science • Project-Based Learning S.T.A.M.P. Model, Developing Learning Plans, Progress Monitoring, Customer Relations, and Team Building

Jonathan DeCeglie – Director of Operations

Jonathan graduated from Florida State University in 2018 with two bachelor degrees in Marketing and Management and minors in Communications and Hospitality Management. He is currently working towards a master’s degree in Business Administration. For nearly four years, Jonathan has worked in event services as a Production Assistant, Event Manager, and Operations Coordinator. He has a musical background, playing trumpet for twelve years, including high school marching band and FSU’s Campus Band.

He also has had the opportunity to work as an ESL teacher for elementary students of varying proficiency levels. This experience has allowed him to understand the exact student needs inside and outside the classroom setting. Having worked with most student levels and is a child at heart, Jonathan understands the necessities of working with an organization that focuses on student enhancement.   

Motto: Comes from one of his favorite childhood movies, Finding Nemo: “Just Keep Swimming!”

Interests: Jonathan loves traveling, cruising, exploring nature and being outdoors, kayaking, board games, and spending time with friends and family.

Karen Accursio – Teacher

Ms. Accursio earned her bachelor’s degree at Florida State University. She has taught for 26 years in both the public and private school settings. Karen is certified to teach grades K-6 and has  ESOL endorsement. She is currently taking online classes to add a reading endorsement to her teaching certification. 

Karen has experience in writing assessment items for various educational companies, has helped develop a section of a teacher study companion for a test prep company, and has scored third grade ELA writing assessments for Pearson.

INTERESTS: She enjoys reading, watching FSU football, spending time with her children and cats, going to the movies, volunteering at the Humane Society, and helping to prevent animal abuse and neglect

SPECIALTIES : Early Literacy, ESOL

Cindy Baisden

Cindy Baisden - Elementary Education, Reading – Teacher

Mrs. Baisden has been a teacher for over 20 years in public and private schools. She graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in Child Development and a master’s degree in Reading and Language Arts. She is certified in Elementary Education, Reading, and Early Childhood.

Interests: Cindy enjoys nature walks, bird watching, and reading. She also enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren.

Specialties: Reading, Children’s Literature, Science, Elementary Math

Roshanna Beard – Teacher

Mrs. Beard earned her bachelor’s degree in Holistic Education from Mercer University in Macon, GA. She attained a Master’s Educational Leadership from the University of West Florida.

She holds ESOL endorsement and has been teaching for 8 years in Leon County. She has a strong background in seeing both personal and academic growth in students. She specializes in math strategies and building student comprehension.

INTERESTS: 
Roshanna enjoys reading books by Chris Colfer, spending time with her family, and eating food from local places.

SPECIALTIES: Planning and Implementation • Behavior Modification FSA Preparation • Math & Reading Strategies

Katherine Boutin – Teacher

I graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I worked for Reynolds Smith and Hills as a mechanical engineer for 5 years. Most of my projects were designing systems for rocket launch pads for the Air Force and NASA.  I’ve been a teacher for 15 years.

I taught math for 3 years and physics for 12. I currently teach AP Physics 1 (algebra-based) AP Physics C (calculus-based) and Physics Honors. 

My motto: Never give up!

Hobbies: Escape rooms, board games, and logic puzzles. 

Jen Cruse – Teacher

Ms. Cruse has been a teacher for 15 years. She graduated from Flagler College with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She also has a reading and ESOL endorsement.

Recently, Jen has continued her love of reading and reading education by continuing her own education through Orton- Gillingham. 

INTERESTS: Jen enjoys playing sports, watching movies, working puzzles, reading literature, walking the beach, and spending time with her two children.

SPECIALTIES :Reading • Behavior Management • Differentiated Instruction • Orton-Gillingham

Nari Dabit

Nari Dabit- Early Childhood Education – Teacher

Mrs. Dabit earned her Child and Adolescent Development bachelor’s degree at California State University Northridge. She was born and raised in Los Angeles and moved to Tallahassee eight years ago. She has worked for an after school program for six years, worked with Kumon as a tutor, and has taught for 2 years as a fifth grade school teacher. Nari is certified to teach grades K-6. She is currently teaching English online to students in China. She has 12 years of experience with teaching and mentoring children. She enjoys getting to know her students and using their interests to help them understand the material.

INTERESTS: Spending time with her husband and sons, baking, cooking, traveling, watching plays, concerts, being involved at church, hiking and going to the beach.

SPECIALTIES: Elementary Reading, Math, Science, Social Studies, Organizational Strategies, Social Skills

Braden Foster

Braden Foster – Tutor

Braden Foster attends Maclay School and will graduate in the spring of 2022. He has a strong interest in STEM subjects, and spends much of his spare time playing tennis and creating works of art. He enjoys creating, learning and expanding his knowledge and helping younger students to do the same. Braden is equally adept at tutoring math, science, and English subjects.

Retha Lee – Teacher

Mrs. Lee graduated from Valdosta State University with a bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education with concentrations in Social Studies and Language Arts. She continued her education at Nova Southeastern University where she earned her Master’s in Educational Technology and her Ed.S in technology, curriculum, and management.  She is certified in grades 6-8 and is reading and gifted certified for grades K – 12. This will be her 23rd year in education. Mrs. Lee is also an adjunct professor at Thomas University. Continuing education is important, so she is currently working on her doctoral degree in Reading and Literacy. She loves to engage students through the use of technology. Mrs. Lee is very accustomed to online classes and can tutor face to face or online.

INTERESTS:Retha enjoys spending time with her family and reading literature. Her mission is to instill the belief in her students that they can achieve anything by empowering them to become active and life-long learners

SPECIALTIES: Middle Grades Education • Technology, Reading, and Writing • Duke Tip (SAT, PSAT, and ACT preparation)

Sara Leitman – Teacher

Sara attended the University of Florida, where she earned Bachelor’s degrees in both Environmental Science and Mathematics and was a teaching assistant in College Algebra for 3 semesters.  She is currently finishing her PhD dissertation for the University of Cambridge (UK) on her ecology research at Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. 

In over 20 years as a private tutor, Sara has gained extensive experience in tailoring pace and content to meet individual student’s needs.  She incorporates study skills into all sessions, coaching students on how to get the most out of their time spent studying.  She also focuses on decreasing academic anxiety by reinforcing basic foundation skills, building confidence, and practicing how to approach questions.

Sara has been tutoring remotely since pre-pandemic times utilizing a successful, well established system: phone audio along with an app which allows both parties to annotate photos of homework assignments.  A PDF of the session’s work is sent to the student and parent for future reference.

SPECIALTIES: High school and college level math, SAT math prep, Spanish (fluent), science, study skills

INTERESTS: Outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, and camping, travel, scientific research, and the moment when a student exclaims “that finally makes sense!” 

John Lemons – Teacher

Mr. Lemons earned his Special Education Bachelor and Special Education Master’s Degree from Middle Tennessee State University.  He is a second career teacher, with over 20 years trade work experience.  As a teacher, he has experience working within the public and private school settings, as well as tutoring.  Beliefs in using multiple modalities and strategies to assist in improving deficient areas by incorporating students’ strengths has been guided by concepts from Harry Wong, Rick Lavoie, Marvin Marshall and the Montessori method.  He enjoys and appreciates the rewards of being able to instruct ‘out of the box’ for assistance in facilitating student participation and ownership for their own accomplishments.  Currently a substitute teacher for local schools, John holds a Special Education Teaching Certificate with the state of Florida.  His two younger children and wife moved to Tallahassee four years ago.

Interests : John prefers most everything outside as well as working and learning kinesthetically.  He is active in coaching and other volunteer opportunities with his children.  Special moments include sharing time and activities with his children, and particularly, walking (hiking and camping) off into the woods.

Specialties:  John has taken specialty classes and training in mathematics up to entry level high school curricula.  His language training includes Wilson Reading and multiple reading intervention programs.  Experiences at a specialty reading/writing school for children with learning differences have helped guide his pedagogy towards one with a conceptual construct. 

Allison Medders

Allison Medders – Teacher

My name is Allison Medders and I earned a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Georgia Southwestern State University. I also have a master’s degree in Instruction, Curriculum, and Assessment from Walden University. I hold a teaching certificate in both Georgia and Florida and am ESOL certified. I have taught 4th grade for 8 years and 3rd grade for 7 years, teaching all subject areas. I also have years of experience in remediation and enrichment in all grade levels in both one on one and small group settings. I love teaching and believe everything begins with a positive, nurturing connection between me and my students. I use multiple teaching strategies to facilite learning and have a strong background in both Math and English Language Arts. I love teaching and there is no greater achievement than seeing a child’s confidence increase and have them master a skill.

INTERESTS: Watching UGA football, fishing, gardening, favorite place is the beach, and loves spending time with my husband and two sons.

Leslie Moore – Teacher

Mrs. Moore earned her bachelor’s degree  in Elementary Education and Exceptional Student Education from Flagler College. She also holds a reading and ESOL endorsement. Mrs. Moore has taught in Leon County for 11 years at two local elementary schools.

With a strong foundation in reading instruction, Mrs. Moore specializes in building reading strategies that encourage lifelong success. She also has success in developing routines and procedures in a child’s daily activities to foster ‘student behaviors’ that benefit the child as a learner.

INTERESTS: Leslie enjoys FSU football, reading, CrossFit, spending time with family, and traveling.

SPECIALTIES: Planning and Organizing • Behavior Modification • FSA Preparation • Reading Strategies

Mikayla Rich – Teacher

Mikayla Rich graduated from the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith with a bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education. Mikayla is licensed to teach students grades k- 4. She taught for three years in the public school system of Fort Smith Arkansas.  

In addition to her work in public school, Mikayla has tutored students grades 5-12 for two years and enjoys working with students of all grade levels and ages. 

She enjoys reading and karaoke in her spare time. 

Specialty: early childhood educations and Linda Mood Bell Literacy Intervention

Holly Sorenson – Teacher

Holly earned her Master’s degree in education from Southern Utah University and her Bachelor’s in elementary education from Utah Valley University. She worked in the public school system for three years, spent one year in private, and one year in charter school before deciding to take a few years off to raise her children. She specialized in fifth and sixth grade but taught second for one year as well.

Holly is a mother of two boys, and the oldest of four siblings. Watching her brilliant siblings flounder and grow up resenting school and teachers in general shaped her teaching philosophy.

She believes that all children should be empowered to embrace their own strengths, and take pride in their learning. She believes that all progress should be celebrated, and children should feel good about the process of learning, not grading.

Christine Thornton – Lead Instructor/Trainer

Mrs. Thornton earned her bachelor’s and master’s in Varying Exceptionalities from Florida State University.  She has taught learners with special needs for 19 years in the public school setting. She focuses on individual behavior strategies, academic strategies, and coping strategies to increase personal and academic success. 

She has an extensive background working with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) students, students with cognitive delays, and underachieving students in reading and math.  Her main focus is helping to enhance the “whole child.”

INTERESTS: She enjoys reading and spending time with her family. 

SPECIALTIES: Elementary Reading • Math Fluency & Comprehension • Organizational Strategies • Individual Behavior Modification • Social Skills and Daily Living Training

Kristen Ward – Teacher

I have taught in the classroom for just under 2 years.

I really enjoy teaching. I am certified to teach K-6 Elementary Education and ESE Education.

I am ESOL and Reading Endorsed. My favorite part of teaching is seeing my students grow and succeed in all of their goals. 

In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with my husband and son doing outdoor sports and activities. We also like to see new movies at the theater. 

Brianne Weathers

Brianne Weathers – Tutor

Brianne Weathers is currently a dual enrolled sophomore at TCC and LCVS. Brianne started tutoring this summer and enjoyed the experience so much that she joined the team at Engaged Academics. Brianne’s goal is to engage children and she adjusts her teaching style to meet their needs. Her mission is to instill the love of learning in her students. Brianne is available to tutor virtually or face to face.
Interests: Brianne enjoys spending time with her family andpets. Brianne also runs her own t-shirt business in her free time. Brianne is considering studying both secondary education and entrepreneurship in college.

Achievements: LCS Volunteer of the Year Nominee 2018, Tallahassee Children’s Business Fair Winner 2018, and Tallahassee Children’s Business Fair Judge 2019

Zach Valdes – Teacher

Mr. Valdes earned his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in Elementary Education and teaches 5th-grade at Florida High. Zach specializes in language arts and social sciences, but is also certified for mathematics and science.

In addition to teaching, Zach has worked in summer camps for the past 5 years with the Alachua County School Board. 

INTERESTS: Zach’s interests include enjoying  the outdoors, watching sports, and making learning fun and accessible to all students. 

SPECIALTIES: Opinion & Informative Essay Writing •  Reading Comprehension & Fluency • Differentiated Learning & Instruction • Test-Prep