Administrative Team

Debbi Scarborough – Head of School

Debbi Scarborough and her husband Matthew founded Cumberland Academy of Georgia after a frustrating battle of searching for the right school for their son Steven who has Asperger’s. From 2007 to present, Mrs. Scarborough has been the Head of School and served on the Board of Directors for this non-profit, special needs school that focuses on children with high functioning Autism, ADD, and ADHD. She has built the academy from one student to now over 100, and continues to run the day to day operations. Cumberland has received full accreditations from Southern Association of Colleges & Schools / Council on Accreditation & School Improvement (SACS / CASI) and Georgia Accrediting Commission (GAC). Prior to beginning Cumberland Academy of Georgia, Mrs. Scarborough started a national executive search firm over thirty years ago. Kreisler & Associates, LLC has been listed as one of the top ten Executive Search firms in Atlanta for the past ten years. In 2009 she decided to sell her business and focus on building Cumberland. 

Happily married over 20 years, Matthew and Debbi are the proud parents of two boys, Steven and Sam. With a strong sense of civic pride, they have been involved in numerous charities throughout Georgia. Mrs. Scarborough has been on the Board of Directors for the March of Dimes for over 15 years. She has published articles about autism and has been a guest speaker as an authority on Asperger’s.

Dr. Kathrin Meskell – Assistant Head

Dr. Kathrin Meskell grew up in Atlanta. She attended Tucker High School and graduated from South Gwinnett. Dr. Meskell joined Cumberland Academy of Georgia as the Assistant Head of School starting the summer of 2020. Dr. Kathrin Meskell is a dedicated educator and child advocate who possesses a wealth of varied academic experiences. Dr. Meskell has been in the education arena for 26 years. She was formally with Woodward Academy for 16 years and her latest position was as the Director of the Lower School with Deerfield-Windsor. Dr. Meskell received her Ph.D. in Education Leadership at Mercer University, her M.Ed. in Special Education from Georgia State University, and her B.A. in Special Education from Furman University.

Dr. Meskell is the proud mother of three children. Her hobbies include gardening and tennis. She enjoys spending time with her family and her two dogs.

Doug Long – Principal

Doug Long graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University (Richmond, Va.) in 1986 with a Bachelor of Music Education degree. He began his teaching career in 1988 at Dean Rusk Middle School (Canton, Ga.), as a band director. During his tenure in Cherokee County he taught band and general music at the high school and elementary levels. During this time he earned a Masters of Music Education from VanderCook College of Music (Chicago, Ill.) and Specialist in Education in Administration from Northwestern State University (Natchitoches, La.). In 2000, Mr. Long took an administrative position as Assistant Principal at Cass Middle School (Cartersville, Ga.). He was the administrator for Special Education while at Cass. After six years, he then became Principal of Southeast Elementary School (Rome, Ga.). Southeast Elementary served the Rome City Schools elementary autistic population, as well as mildly and moderately impaired elementary students. In 2011,  Mr. Long was at Dallas Elementary as the music specialist until 2017.

Mr. Long is married to Lisa Long and they have two children, Nigel and Josie. He enjoys playing tennis year round in the ALTA leagues. He has been a soccer and football referee for 14 years and is a trustee of the Etowah Valley Soccer Officials Association.

Mihkel Allpere – Dean of Students 

Mihkel Allpere joined Cumberland for the 2013/14 academic year.  He was raised in Austria and then spent his adolescence in the Atlanta area. He is a graduate of the Atlanta International School and attended Denison University where he graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Environmental Studies with an interdisciplinary concentration in Education. He then began teaching at outdoor schools in California and the Great Smoky Mountains. In 2005, Mr. Allpere returned to Atlanta to become one of the first members of the Georgia Aquarium’s education team building the curriculum for visiting school students from K-12. While working at the Aquarium, Mr. Allpere developed curriculum for special needs students in the summer camp program and field trips and decided to move back into the classroom to be able to work with students on a longer term basis. More recently, he has served as a Math and Science teacher for students with ADD and on the Autism Spectrum. Since joining Cumberland Academy of Georgia, he spearheaded the Science department and other experiential learning projects like the trout hatchery and learning garden program which was launched through a grant with the Captain Planet Foundation.

Cathi Arora  – Development Advisor 

Cathi Arora joined the Cumberland Advancement Team after 11 years as a volunteer. While her son Shale, a 2018 Graduate was a student, she helped with fundraising, teacher appreciation, and strategic planning.

She has over 25 years of experience in communications, public affairs, and fundraising. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Ms. Arora moved to Charleston, S.C., after college where she worked for the Medical University of South Carolina and the Charleston County School District. She has been in the Atlanta area for the past two decades. During that time, she worked for Heery International and IPG. She left the corporate world to spend more time with her family but still remained an active volunteer as PTA president, Huntcliff Swim and Tennis Club President, freelance writer, and potter. Ms. Arora holds a BS in journalism from Ohio University and an MPA from the College of Charleston.

She and her husband Manny live in Sandy Springs with their dogs Bisky and Rafa. Their son Shale attends Beacon College and daughter Avani attends Washington University. They have traveled extensively including England, France, Korea, China, Singapore, India, Vietnam, and Cambodia.

Floyd Bushey – Director of Operations

Floyd Bushey has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and International Relations from Elmira College, as well as a Master’s of Science Degree in Education from Alfred University in Alfred, New York. Mr. Bushey worked for 20 years at Emory University working in both Student Life Development and University Relations. He brings both his business experience and academic acumen to Cumberland. Mr. Bushey started with Cumberland when it began in 2007 and manages all aspects of the day-to-day operations. He will ensure the quality of excellence is maintained at Cumberland, as well as research innovative ways to keep Cumberland on the cutting edge of education and technology.  Mr. Bushey is married and has two children.

Rodney Carlock- Athletic Director & Project Coordinator

Rodney Carlock came to Cumberland in 2014 from Shreiner Academy in Marietta.   Rodney majored in Audio Production at the Art Institute of Atlanta and uses his skills in many ways at Cumberland. Rodney works in IT support, building maintenance, coaching, and teaching.  Mr. “C”, as the students call him, works with students in Audio & Film Production and is a gifted basketball coach. Rodney also developed Cumberland basketball clinics and a summer camp sports week.  In his spare time, he enjoys competing in independent film festivals and has won multiple awards in film.  Rodney grew up In St. Louis, MO and Hiram, GA.  He is married to Heather, and they have two sons and a daughter.

Jamie Fencl- Director of Development

Jamie Fencl comes to Cumberland with eleven years of experience in independent school settings.  Originally from Texas, she received her BA from Denison University in Religion with a minor in English Literature. After graduating college, she held positions in a variety of independent schools in the Dallas, Texas area – teaching, working in the business office, and also in admissions for a local school focusing on learning differences. She moved to Atlanta almost 6 years ago where she started her career in advancement at St. Martin’s Episcopal School. She is very excited to combine her knowledge of fundraising and her passion for special education into her role at Cumberland. Jamie lives in Roswell with her husband, two children, and cattle dog, Henry.  She loves traveling and exploring Atlanta’s restaurant scene.

Sally Jetmundsen – Director of Admissions 

Sally Jetmundsen became Director of Admissions in May 2021, but she joined the Cumberland family long before that. She was the parent of a Cumberland student for 8 years and worked in the front office for 5 years. Sally was born in western NY, but moved to the Atlanta area in 1983 and still lives in the community where she grew up. She is married with 2 sons in college. She enjoys reading, baking and walking her dog.

Valerie Laura- CFO

Valerie Laura grew up just north of Nashville, Tennessee in the small town of Hendersonville. She attended Western Kentucky University where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting. After graduating, Mrs. Laura traveled all over Europe with her best friend for just over a year. Upon returning to the States she started her accounting/finance career working for Ingram Entertainment Inc. located just outside of Nashville. Mrs. Laura worked for Ingram for six years as an Accountant, Financial Analyst, and Senior Financial Analyst.

In 2004 Mrs. Laura left Nashville and moved to Atlanta to be closer to her sister and nephews. In Atlanta, she worked as a Financial Analyst in the Planning, Strategy, and Finance Group for the North American headquarters of Randstad. She worked for Randstad North America for two years before joining Debbi’s team at Kreisler & Associates, LLC as the Director of Accounting & Finance.

In 2007, Mrs. Laura assisted Debbi in starting Cumberland Academy of Georgia. She has been with the school since the beginning and has seen it grown by leaps and bounds. As CFO of Cumberland, Mrs. Laura is responsible for all financial and fiscal aspects. She provides leadership and coordination in the administrative, business planning, accounting, and budgeting efforts.

Nancia Leath, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, CPCS – Director of Counseling Services 

Dr. Leath is a Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselor (LPC) in the State of Georgia. Dr. Nancia Leath is also a National Certified Counselor (NCC), a credential given by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and Certified Professional Counselor Supervisor (CPCS). Dr. Nancia is an Integrative Psychotherapist, which means that she utilizes a variety of orientations and therapies, according to the client’s individual needs. Dr. Nancia has provided leadership development for teens with special needs, diversity/inclusion, and team cohesion trainings to Fortune 500 companies’ directors and managers. She has been on national television and done many radio interviews as an expert for mental health to assist parents who have children with mental health diagnoses. Dr. Leath has inspired many by being keynote speakers for many different types of conferences in the United States and globally. She is a published author of many self-help books that you can find on amazon. Owner of private practice, Inward Core Healthcare, Inc. and non-profit organization called Teens Help Other People, Inc 501c3.

Dr. Nancia has four degrees: Ph.D., two MA(s), and BS. She was granted lifetime membership in Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology in recognition of outstanding scholastic achievement and excellence. Received Gold Volunteering Awards from two Presidents of the United States of America: President Obama (2015) and President Trump (2018) because she empowers others to become communities’ leaders. Dr. Nancia has over 25 years of counseling, industry, and private practice combined experience. Dr. Nancia combines her clinical counseling expertise with her business knowledge to offer clients a unique perspective of problem solving.

Kelli Ritter, Ph.D., LPC, NCC – Advisor/Counseling Services

The Founder and President of Effective Parenting, LLC in Atlanta, Dr. Ritter earned her Ph.D. in counseling from Georgia State University where she specialized in child and family counseling.  Dr. Ritter is trained as a play therapist with many years of experience and research in child and family therapy.  She possesses a unique approach to helping families by utilizing concepts and skills from both Play Therapy, Individual Psychology, and Positive Psychology.

Dr. Ritter inspires parents to make the most of play with their children. Through her classes, workshops and products, Dr. Ritter’s FEEL Method helps parents by engendering confidence in, and control over, their own parenting style.  Dr. Ritter’s parenting book & DVD, Come Play with Me!, illustrates her true passion for working with parents, caregivers, and teachers to enhance relationships with children.  Dr. Ritter is also an inspiring public speaker and presenter.

Nikki Taylor – Director of Marketing and Communications

Nikki Taylor graduated summa cum laude from Kennesaw State University with a major in English and a minor in Spanish. Nikki has worked in a school setting for over 15 years, having served as a teacher, Admissions Director, Marketing Director, among other roles. Nikki acts as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Cumberland and enjoys showcasing the school through social media, email campaigns, and other platforms.

Nikki lives in Dallas, GA with her husband Savon and they have two beautiful children. Nikki enjoys reading, watching classic movies, and spending time with family and friends.

Janet Tucker – Administrative Assistant

Janet Tucker joined Cumberland Academy of Georgia in September 2020 as an Administrative Assistant in the front office. Janet has lived in Atlanta all of her life. She graduated from Belhaven University in Jackson, MS with a degree in Secretarial Science. After college, she helped start KEH Camera Brokers here in Atlanta. As her family grew, she left the corporate world and began working at Buford HS as a Fine Arts Parapro, Front Office Assistant, Registrar, and Principal’s Administrative Assistant where she stayed for 18 years. Janet has been married for 40 years and has 9 grandchildren. She loves the beach, reading, and traveling.

Jeff Twomley – Director of Finance

Jeff grew up in southwestern Michigan and attended Indiana Academy, a boarding high school, where he met his future wife, Kim.  He earned a Finance degree from Michigan State University and soon moved to Atlanta, working as the controller for a die manufacturer.  After 17 years, he accepted the Treasurer position at Bass Memorial Academy in Mississippi, working there for 7 years while earning an MBA from the University of Southern Mississippi.  He then moved to Virginia and worked as VP of Finance at Shenandoah Valley Academy for 5-1/2 years. Needing to be closer to family (3 children and 6 grandchildren), Jeff & Kim relocated back to Atlanta in 2015.

An avid sports enthusiast, Mr. Twomley enjoys golfing and playing softball. Music plays a major role in his life. Beginning in high school, he has sung both individually and in various groups and choirs, and currently plays trombone in Zephyr Instrumental…a 21st century orchestra.

Shari Wright – Director of Student Advancement

Shari Wright graduated from Furman University with a B.S in Business and a minor in French.  After college, Ms. Wright began her career in sales and marketing with Turner Broadcasting.  She spent several years selling CNN, Headline News, TNT and Cartoon Network to cable systems across the country.  From Turner, Ms. Wright accepted a position at a regional sports network in Detroit.  She spent several years working for various broadcasting entities before moving to the west to raise her family. Ms. Wright volunteered in various fields of education.  Using her French background, she began working in a public school French immersion program and also worked with Americorps in a reading retention program. Ms. Wright moved her family to Atlanta and began working at Cumberland in various staff roles. This is her 10th year at Cumberland.

Haley Scarborough – CFGO Emeritus, Canine Therapy

Sweet Haley was the founder for our canine therapy program.  She began working when Cumberland was one student and watched as the school grew to 100 students. Students loved working with Haley and she was tremendously successful in her work with the special needs student population. She will always be remembered and Cumberland students are awaiting her successor in the canine therapy program. 

 

Teaching Staff

Nicholas Barker – Teacher

Nicholas Barker has a B.A. in History with a Minor in Political Science from the University of West Georgia. He has been teaching special education for 7 years, but this is his first year at Cumberland Academy of Georgia. During his time teaching, he has acted as the lead data specialist for behavior intervention programs. Nicholas was a collegiate athlete and started college on a wrestling scholarship where he was a two time national tournament contender.  Over the years, he has coached a number of sports that include: football, basketball, wrestling, cross country, baseball, soccer, softball, and volleyball. 

He has a wife named Celeste and two dogs named Archer and Odin. When he is not in the classroom he likes to organize a variety of clubs and activities for the school.

Mary Bishop – Teacher

Mary Bishop has thirteen years of teaching experience, all at Cumberland.  Mrs. Bishop graduated with an art history degree from Berry College, where she met her husband of eight years.  Mrs. Bishop completed her master’s degree in special education from Valdosta State University in May of 2014.  A voracious reader, Mrs. Bishop enjoys sharing her passion for young adult literature with her students.  In her free time, Mrs. Bishop enjoys hiking trips, cheering for the Pittsburgh Steelers, reading young adult fiction, walking her cat, Atticus, and spending time with her kids, Augustus and Josephine.

Lara Blackwell – Teacher

Lara Blackwell is thrilled to be joining Cumberland for her first year of teaching. Prior to teaching, Mrs. Blackwell worked in therapeutic foster care and ministry settings. She has a bachelors in Human Development and Family Science, specializing in Early Intervention Services and Administration of Non-Profit Programs, from the University of North Texas. Go Eagles!

In her free time, Mrs. Blackwell enjoys spending time with her husband, Justin, their cat, Merlin and their Collie, Apollo. Mrs. Blackwell is extremely passionate about student success, both in and outside the classroom. She wants to see every student reach their full potential, and believes every student has the potential to change their world for the better.

Greg Bodeep – Social Studies Teacher

Gregory Bodeep will be joining the Cumberland team this year as a Social Studies teacher and Coach. He is thrilled to share his passion and wisdom for history and sports with the students. Mr. Bodeep holds a bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Georgia State University and a master’s degree in Special Education from the University of Phoenix. Mr. Bodeep has 15 years of teaching, coaching, Social Studies Department Head, and transportation coordinator experience.  He works with students to help them understand their full potential in education as well as in sports.  Mr. Bodeep believes everyone has the ability to learn and enjoy the opportunities of education. If someone has the heart, the child has the path to education. The other belief that he has is studying Smarter Not Harder, understanding the way the student learns is the key. Mr. Bodeep has assisted several students transitioning from High School to College and look forward to assisting more students reach their full potential.

Mr.  Bodeep was born in New Jersey and moved to Georgia in 1995 and has been in Georgia for nearly 25 years. Where he lives now in the Canton area with his wife Amy, teenage son Bryson, and pug Moose. When not in the classroom or out on the field he is very involved in the Knights of Columbus organization doing multiple types of community service projects, hiking, camping, fishing.

Claire Casteel – Teacher

Dr. Claire Casteel grew up in Arlington, Texas and graduated from Texas A&M University in 1996 with a degree in biology and minors in chemistry and psychology. She also pursued a M.S. in Rehabilitation Counseling Psychology from Southwestern Medical School where she interned at Children’s Medical Hospital in Neuropsychology. She has always had a passion for education and taught special education in Dallas. She went on to earn a M.S. in Special Education and a PhD in Educational Psychology from Texas A&M at Commerce with research emphasis on special education teacher burnout. Claire was most recently employed as the Educational Director at a nonprofit for children with Down syndrome. Her responsibilities included developing and implementing curriculum for children with differing ability levels. Claire is Orton-Gillingham trained and also privately tutors children with various abilities.

Claire met her husband, Brandon, in college and they have been married for almost 19 years. They are the proud parents of five children (two sons and three daughters), as well as three dogs and three cats. They love traveling together as a family and just spending time together (especially cheering for their Dallas teams!) In her spare time, she loves outdoor activities, crafting, and oil painting.

Paige Chiarito – Teacher

Paige Chiarito grew up in Atlanta. She is entering her first year teaching the Pioneer’s at Cumberland Academy of Georgia after relocating to Atlanta from Brunswick, GA. She previously taught middle grades Inclusion Math for five years in the Long County School District. Ms. C earned her Bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education, Math and Science from the College of Coastal Georgia, and her Master’s degree in Middle Grades Math and Science from The University of North Georgia. She went on to obtain her Specialist degree in Middle Grades Math from Kennesaw State University. She is certified in Special Education and all middle grades content. Teaching has been a lifelong dream finally fulfilled. Ms. C believes that teaching is a way to help her students fulfill their potential in school and in life.

Sophia Decker – Drama Teacher

Sophia Decker is so excited to be joining the Cumberland family. Born and raised in Rockdale, Georgia she has always had a passion for theater and dedicated her life to sharing her art. Over the years, Sophia has found immense joy in fostering young minds to find their own voice and presence on and off-stage. Sophia graduated Summa Cum Laude from Reinhardt University with a BFA in Musical Theatre. Afterwards, she began breaking into the Atlanta theater, opera, and performance scene. She started her own voice studio in Mcdonough, Georgia in 2015. Two years later she had the pleasure of bringing her teachings to Orbit Arts Academy.

Sophia has a private voice studio with Orbit and continues to grow her studio with immensely talented students. Though Sophia’s time is mostly spent teaching, she still performs with numerous companies in and around the Atlanta area. She has had the honor of being Callanwalde Concert Band’s lead vocalist for 4 years and looks forward to starting back with them in 2021. Sophia loves teaching children and finds some of her proudest moments are when her children find within themselves all she knew they were capable of. Her free time is spent outdoors hiking, biking, and taking her two favorite fur babies for long walks.

Stuart Downs – Explorer Lead Teacher

Stuart graduated from Dartmouth College with a degree in Mathematics. He has been teaching math in the Atlanta area for over 15 years. When not in the classroom, Mr. Downs works with students in a private tutor setting to assist them in preparing for the SAT, ACT and various track classes. Although Math is his first passion, he enjoys playing piano and guitar and has also coached ultimate frisbee extensively.   Of note, in 2006 he coached the UGA Bulldogs to the National semifinals!  Stuart is also an active volunteer with an organization promoting peace and conflict resolution through ultimate frisbee play.

Gloria Gomez –  Spanish Teacher

Ms. Gomez has many years as a teaching professional. She earned her Bachelor of Education degree at the University of Toledo (specialization in Special Education and Minor in Spanish). In addition to formal training, Ms. Gomez spent over 19 years teaching in the Cobb and DeKalb County school systems. She is fluent in both English and Spanish and has coached competitive gymnastics. At Cumberland, look for her to assist with the volleyball team in addition to teaching in the high school. Ms. Gomez has three children, one son-in-law, and two beautiful grandsons.

Tiffany Klein – Art Teacher

Tiffany Klein is Cumberland’s Art Teacher, and she is excited to share her passion for visual art with our exceptional students. She looks forward to working with students on problem-solving, collaboration, and creative expression through the process of creating artwork. Tiffany holds a Bachelors degree in English Literature from Georgia State University and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in Art Education. She has 4 years of experience in early childhood education. She is trained in the “Conscious Discipline Approach” and is a certified life coach, which makes her passionate about helping students curve behavior and achieve their goals by nurturing emotional regulation and offering positive reinforcement. She is an active participant in the Atlanta visual arts community; she has volunteered for local galleries and curated art shows. When not teaching, Tiffany enjoys drawing, cooking, performing arts, and seeing movies. Tiffany will be starting her fourth year here at Cumberland.

Jennifer Liang – Teacher/Instructional Technology Specialist

Jennifer Liang graduated from Georgia State University in 2005 with her Bachelor’s in Middle Childhood Education and has completed coursework towards a Master’s Degree in Special Education. Jennifer is a BrainPOP Certified Educator, and a Common Sense Digital Citizenship Ambassador. A lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy, Jennifer is the Chair of JordanCon and the current Vice President of the Southern Fandom Confederation, the Southeast’s oldest regional science fiction fan club. Jennifer has been a featured presenter at science fiction conventions around the country and served as a volunteer programming Director at DragonCon for nearly twenty years. Jennifer has also been featured as a presenter for GISA, GAETC, NCTE, and other conferences on Google Apps for Education with students with special needs, Digital Citizenship, and other topics in Instructional Technology. She was BrainPOP’s Educator of the Month for March 2020 and was a finalist for the Inclusive Learning Network’s Outstand Educator award in 2017.

Laurie Mensing – Navigator Lead Teacher/Curriculum and Scheduling Coordinator

Autism Spectrum Disorders became Mrs. Mensing’s passion after spending a summer as a camp counselor at a specials needs camp.  Mrs. Mensing returned to the University of Georgia that fall and changed her major to Special Education.  Since then Mrs. Mensing has earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Special Education from UGA and her Specialist Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Piedmont College. Mrs. Mensing has completed TEACCH, ABA, and Orton-Gillingham workshops and training.  For the last 10 years, she has accepted the challenge of teaching middle school mathematics while reducing math anxiety and increasing independence.  As Mrs. Mensing starts her 24th year of teaching and 15th year at Cumberland, she remains excited by the challenges that each individual must overcome to reach their true potential.  Mrs. Mensing strives to teach her students academic, social, and behavioral skills that will allow them to experience success in all future endeavors.

Sebastian Ottaplackal – Teacher

Sebastian Ottaplackal received a Bachelor’s degree from Georgia State University, with additional coursework focused primarily on students with special needs.  Sebastian also received a Master of Education (M.MEd) degree from the University of Georgia.

Sebastian has a real passion for teaching students with special needs and has always wanted to serve students with learning differences in the education system. Most recently he has served two years as a teacher’s aid in both MID and ASD classrooms in the public school system. He also tutors private violin students to general and special needs students at the Gwinnett School of Music. 

Inspired by one of the most influential pedagogues of the Twentieth Century, Ivan Galamian, Sebastian’s goal is to motivate and assist his students in achieving their ambitions in a way that relates to them personally.

Chris Reeves – Teacher 

Christopher Reeves has a B.A. in History with a minor in Geography and a M.A.T in Secondary Education from Georgia College and State University. He graduated in 2013 and has been working in South Korea since graduation. He has been teaching English as a Foreign Language since 2013. This is his 1st year at Cumberland Academy of Georgia. In his free time, he enjoys playing tennis as well as rooting for the best collegiate football team in the country, the Clemson Tigers. He is an avid reader and enjoys writing and journaling in his free time.

Melissa Sessoms-Harris – Teacher 

Melissa Sessoms-Harris, is a first year Language Arts teacher at Cumberland Academy of Georgia. Her love for children, passion for teaching along with significant life changes, prompted her to reflect on her life’s purpose. She is altruistically dedicated to serving her students in hopes that they will prosper, become successful academically, and become lifelong learners. Given the fact that her mother was a career educator, Melissa is no stranger to the importance and impact of a quality education. Growing up education was the thing, if not the “only” thing.

Prior to becoming a part of the Cumberland Academy family, Melissa’s career in the music and entertainment business found her working with people from extremely diverse backgrounds. She was the founder and managing partner of both an entertainment talent procurement firm, as well as a full-scale public relations firm.

Melissa attended the University of Miami obtaining both a Bachelor of Science, with a double major in Broadcast Journalism and English as well as an M.A. Degree in Public Relations. Her hope is to “make a difference” as she helps students develop and thrive while learning as much as they can.

Dr. Judi Shakula – Teacher 

Dr. Judi Shakula has a B.S. in Biology from the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine from the Dr. W.M Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine.  Judi practiced Podiatry for many years until she decided to take a break and take care of her daughter and husband.  During that time away from practicing, Judi was a substitute teacher at her daughter’s school.  She also previously taught at Life University.  Another opportunity to teach at the high school level arose and Judi stepped in to teach students with special needs and learning differences.  She has enjoyed working with these students and is thrilled to have the opportunity to work with the students at Cumberland Academy of Georgia.  When she is not teaching, Judi enjoys cooking, gardening and exercising with her husband, and spending time with her daughter.

Michael Smith – Teacher 

Michael has taught and coached at the high school and middle school levels in both private and public school settings for over 19 years. For the last seven years, he taught high school Algebra, Geometry and Personal Finance to students with learning challenges such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, and spectrum disorders. Over the years, Michael has also taught Earth-Space Science, Biology and Physical Science and been involved in coaching boys’ and girls’ soccer and golf at all levels. Michael’s philosophy for all students regardless of learning ability is based on the core principles of teaching respect, responsibility and organization first.

Michael received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in Sports Management and is an avid Gator fan. When not in the classroom, you can find him playing soccer or disc golf with his family.

April Taylor – Teacher 

Ms. April D. Taylor holds an A.S. in Literal Arts, a B.A. in Elementary Education, a M.S. in Curriculum Instruction, and a M.A. in Teaching Science 6-12.  She is currently working on my certification in Special Education, she has many certificates and accredited hours working in the special needs field.  April was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; she is a mom of three. April is a diehard STEELERS FAN! And also a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc, OO-OOP! When April is not at school she plays sports, takes her son to practices, and spends time with her loved ones.  She enjoys flowers, cooking, reading, writing, music, dancing, and all things related to FAMILY. Ms. Taylor has been teaching for over 20+ years and on an administration team for the past 6 years.  She promises to begin her new year with passion, dedication, and commitment. This year she wants to become a partner with you and your child’s educational adventure.  She admits she’ll only have your child for a short time and wants to make a CONTRIBUTION to be with them for a LIFETIME.  Ms. Taylor knows teaching begins with making your child feel comfortable and welcomed, so she promises to develop a rapport with your child and focus on their individual needs.