Staff 2021-2022


Pre-K | Kinder | First | Second | Third | Fourth | Fifth

Counseling & Special Education

Additional Services

Middle School

Sixth | Seventh | Eighth




Michele Lucero

Hello! I am Michele Lucero the Director and Teacher in the Preschool program here at Grand Peak. I have been in the Early Childhood Education field for 29 years. I started as a licensed in-home provider then moved on to child care centers as a teacher working with all ages groups of children. After 17 years of teaching and more education I became a Director of large child care centers. I held this position for over 8 years then realized I missed being with the children. That led me to my position here at Grand Peak. I am extremely happy to be back with the children and part of the GPA team.

I am originally from California but I have been living on Colorado Springs since 1996. I have two grown children, a son and daughter in law and four grandchildren who all live in Colorado. Family time is my favorite time!

Working with children is a new adventure each day and I wouldn’t wan it any other way!


Nakiesha Coleman-Colby

HELLO! My name is Nakiesha Coleman-Colby and I’m the pre-school teacher here at Grand Peak.  I was born in Dayton, Ohio but I have lived in Colorado Springs, Colorado for 25 years.  I graduated from High School in 1995.  I have been in the Early Childhood field for over 20 years.  I started in the child care field as a teachers’ aide working with three to four year olds then worked my way up to a school-age teacher.  After a few years I realized that I missed working with younger children so I became a pre-k teacher (again).  I am currently enrolled at Pikes Peak Community College taking classes in Early Childhood Education for my Director’s Certificate.  I am excited to have the opportunity to continue to work with children and be a part of the Grand Peak Academy family.

I’m married and we have a son who graduated from High School in 2017.  I’m a big sports fan for the Denver Broncos, Colorado Rockies, and the Colorado Avalanche.  In the spare time I enjoy going to the movies, hiking, and spending time with family and friends.


Wendy Geisler

~ coming soon

Lisa Rigby

~ coming soon

Audra Tilden

My name is Audra Tilden and I am thrilled to be teaching Kindergarten at Grand Peak Academy. I have three children that have all attended Grand Peak (formerly Imagine Classical Academy) from Kindergarten to the present.

I hold a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Art Therapy from Buffalo State College and a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Vanderbilt University. I am passionate about helping children to succeed. I have worked with children in many different capacities including foster care counselor, child life specialist, reading interventionist, teacher’s aide and mom.

In my spare time I can be found antique shopping, sewing new creations and spending time with my husband and three kiddos.

1st Grade

Christina Young

Hi! My name is Christina Young, and I am honored to be teaching first grade at Grand Peak Academy. I am a blessed mom of  two amazing boys who attend this school as well. They keep me busy and always laughing! I come from a dual military family and have lived many places. I graduated high school in Oklahoma, and college from the University of Texas at Dallas. I go back to visit family and friends as often as I can.

When I’m not with my family or friends, I love reading and spending time outdoors hiking. Teaching is my passion, and I’m very excited to be apart of this amazing team at GPA!

Moriah Stroh

Hello my name is Moriah Stroh. I have been with this team since spring of 2016. My passion is to teach young people to love all aspects of school.

I have always enjoyed helping others succeed starting with my years in 4-H teaching others how to show and care for their animals. My life strayed from teaching in order to get a BS in Accounting at DeVry but once I started my own family I realized what I was missing. I rejoined 4-H as a leader and absolutely loved helping kids succeed at the Fair. Once my own children were old enough to be in school I volunteered and taught lessons in a virtual school CO-OP where I taught 8 to 15 students once a week. This choice brought me to a full circle and helped me take the leap to go back to school to get a Masters in Elementary Education through Grand Canyon University.

I am excited to have this chance to partner with you in order to build your child’s future!

Sue Haslinger

I have taught first grade since 2013 after completing my student teaching at Imagine Classical Academy. I feel so blessed to be a part of such a professional organization. I love the classical education model and the great curriculum we teach. I really feel like my students are getting a strong education from what we are able to teach them.  Beyond that, teaching here is like being a part of great family of committed teachers and wonderful families who I have loved to get to know over the years.

I enjoy teaching first grade because of how much students soak in and learn at that age. First grade is such and important grade as it is the foundation of all students educational career.   I have a passion for teaching reading and want to help students who struggle with reading.
I have four grown children and two grandchildren.  I love spending time with family.  Two family members are my dogs, Sochi and Buddy, who come to school from time to time to visit with students. In my free time I like to hike, camp,  travel or have dinner with friends.  I love Colorado and all that it has to offer and feel very blessed to live here.

2nd Grade

Courtney Hall

Welcome! I am Courtney Hall and I am a native of Colorado Springs, Colorado. I graduated from Cheyenne Mountain High School is 2007. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Colorado State University in Fort Collins and my masters degree in Elementary Education from University of Phoenix. I have been in the field of education for many years and I am so thrilled to be a part of the Grand Peak Academy family.

I truly feel blessed to have the opportunity to teach and grow with children each year. Other than teaching and education, I enjoy spending time outdoors with my husband and two pups! We enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, and traveling. I also enjoy crafts and spending time with family and friends.

Tina Stevens

I am very excited to be teaching 2nd Grade at Grand Peak Academy. The concept of team will be our theme this year. As a former volleyball coach, I believe strongly in an environment where teamwork is valued and encouraged paired with high expectations. Learning and bonding will take place, as a group of people work together, respect each other, and feel valued. I look forward to getting to know each of my students and helping them to discover how they are uniquely wired and how they can use their gifts to contribute to the whole.

As mentioned above, I coached club and high school volleyball for over 25 years. One of my most favorite memories coaching was winning a silver medal in the Junior Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. My team came together during that tournament and accomplished something so incredible.  I have a wonderful husband and two beautiful children. My husband can fix anything, and my kiddos enjoy theater and dance. We also have two sweet cats that enjoy lounging on our laps.

In my free time, you will find me watching old movies, going for walks (and maybe a jog here and there), driving my kids around town for their various theater and dance classes, and organizing and cleaning my house. I love a clean house!

Michelle Wendt

~ coming soon

3rd Grade

Kelly Herman

Hello everyone!  I am not a native to Colorado (unfortunately), but I have lived here for the last 12 years, I married a wonderful native Coloradoan, and have given birth to three little natives. My husband says that I am an “honorary native,” but I grew up in a really, really small town in the gold rush country in northern California.  I majored in elementary education in college and received my teaching licenses in California and Colorado, but this is my first elementary school position, and I couldn’t be more excited.  I taught high school English in Monument for a few years, then I was a financial advisor for seven years at T. Rowe Price, and most recently I taught Pre-K.  In my spare time, I love to spend time with my husband, Nick, and my three kiddos Grace, Luke, and Avonlea.  I love reading, painting, drawing, and playing with my golden retriever.

Emily Aiken

Hi everyone! I grew up in a Military family, so I am from all around, but I have lived in Colorado Springs for almost 17 years, so this is definitely home for me. I attended The Classical Academy in District 20 all the way until I graduated high school.

I am definitely a huge fan of charter schools, and I owe my amazing educational experience to their curriculum, and I hope I can provide an even better experience for your children. I graduated from UCCS with a Bachelor’s degree in their Inclusive Elementary Education program. I have been teaching since 2018 with this team and I have loved every minute. I have poured my heart and soul into this profession, and I am hoping to provide a good experience for every single one of my students throughout my career as an educator.

Other than teaching, I like to spend quality time with my family and friends, hike, read, drink a TON of coffee and clean my house. Thanks for taking a look at my bio, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me!

Kelsey Schuman

Hello! I am a native to Colorado Springs and even attended schools in District 49. I graduated from Sand Creek High School in 2008. Then, I attended the University of New Mexico (GO LOBOS!), where I graduated with my BS in Education. I have been teaching since 2014 .

I am so happy and excited to be here at Grand Peak Academy and look forward to getting to know all my students. Teaching is a true passion of mine and has been something I have wanted to do since I was young. I love to laugh and enjoy spending time with family and friends.  I have been married to my husband Cody since 2014 and I but known him since the 4th grade! We have two precious little babes, Saila and Wyatt and I can’t forget our spunky and sweet golden-doodle named Cooper.

4th Grade

Stephanie Pontius

Hello!  Welcome to 4th Grade.  I’m honored and excited to embark on this year of learning with your student.  I’d like to share a bit about myself.  I have a Bachelor of Science in Business and Marketing from Michigan Technological University and a Master of Arts in Teaching from The University of Northern Colorado.  I’m the spouse of a retired Air Force officer and the mom of two teenage daughters.  During our 20 years in the Air Force, nine of them were spent in Colorado Springs.  I have also lived and worked in Michigan, Utah, Illinois, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.  In my free time, I enjoy hiking, cooking, baking, decorating, reading, and shopping with my girls.  I can’t wait to get to know your student and have a wonderful 4th Grade year.  Let’s get learning!

I have always been dedicated to education and consider myself a life-long learner. My aim to encourage students to find something they love and can spend the rest of the lives learning about.

Lindsay Barone

I am really looking forward to an incredible year and am excited to get to know you all! I hope to inspire my students to love learning, to become excellent problem solvers and to treat those around them with kindness!

Lucy Nelson

My name is Lucy Nelson and I am one of the fourth grade teachers here at Grand Peak Academy. I am originally from South Carolina, but my husband retired from the Air Force to Colorado in 2008.  I have been in and out of the classroom most of my adult life- as a student, volunteer, substitute teacher, and classroom teacher. I am a certified teacher in the state of Colorado with a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

I am married with three children and am a dog lover. Currently we have two dogs. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, sightseeing, hiking, and traveling. I also enjoy reading a good book, going to the movies, watching college football, eating out, and appreciating a good cup of coffee. I am very excited to have the opportunity to be teaching a group of amazing kids with an exceptional curriculum.

5th Grade

Carolyn Costantino

Hello!  I am one of the 5th-grade teachers at Grand Peak Academy.  I was born in San Antonio, Texas and raised in small-town Wyoming, I attended college at Grace University in Omaha, Nebraska, where I received my BS in Christian Education and my teaching certificate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. My husband, Joseph and I have been married 38 years and we have four grown children: Aaron, married to Meagan (a dental assistant) and studying to be a PA at Red Rocks Community College; Gabriel, a freelance videographer and flooring service; Sarah, a concierge administrative assistant at the Broadmoor, and Benjamin, who is in the Air Force.

I have been in the classroom in some form or another most of my adult life. One of my favorite teaching experiences was when I home-schooled my children for nine years. Since my move to Colorado Springs in 2004, I have taught eight years at The Classical Academy and six years at Imagine Classical Academy.   My favorite grades to teach have been 4th and 5th.

I have had several years of experience with Core Knowledge and with CKLA. I have a passion for teaching history and finding opportunities to make lessons come alive for students. In my spare time, I love to read, cross stitch, take long walks with my husband, bake, and hike in the mountains

Mandee Walck

Hi everyone! My name is Mandee Walck. I have been a teacher for fourteen years. This is my second year at GPA. I am so excited to teach 5th Grade this year! I am originally from Kansas and moved to Colorado in 2019. I love it here and am so excited for the adventures this year holds for us.

Loretta Phares

My name is Lorretta Phares, and I am so excited to join this wonderful staff at Grand Peak Academy as the 5th-grade teacher. It has been my privilege to reside in two amazing states-California and Colorado. I grew up in Diamond Bar, California, and I graduated from UCLA and CSUF with my Multiple Subjects Teaching credential where I began my teaching career.

I have taught mostly 3rd-7th grade (public, private, charter, and homeschool) in Colorado and California, and I adore these sweet children. Gardening, decorating, hiking, biking, and spending time with my loving husband of 33 years- Jeff, my 3 adult children (and their spouses), and my 3 grandsons always bring me great joy. We have resided in Black Forest, CO for about 20 years. I look forward to encouraging and teaching your children of the joys in the mathematical world as we grow together as a class.

Middle School

Courtney Neher

I started my teaching career in 2007 after graduating from the teacher education program at UCCS. Prior to coming to Grand Peak Academy in 2015, I taught 9th-12th grade literature and composition at Falcon High School and online with K12. My husband and I have five girls, and we enjoy playing video games, watching movies, camping and ATVing, swimming, biking, and playing racquetball in our spare time.

Dr. Karin Papadakis

Andrea Capotrio

I love teaching math and believe that everyone should get to like math.    I have also taught English, Social Studies, and Science.    I have four kids.  I was born and raised on a farm in South Dakota, but have come to love the small town family feel of Colorado Springs.  For fun, I like board games and to play with yarn.

Lacie Cortez

My name is Lacie Cortez and I am so excited to be a part of the team at Grand Peak Academy.  I began my teaching journey in 2019, after spending 13 years in the business world.  I currently hold a Bachelors in Interdisciplinary Studies and a Masters of Education in Learning and Technology.  I also gained a lot of experience working with a company teaching students from China how to speak English.  I love teaching and helping facilitate learning for all students no matter what obstacles they face.  My husband, Reyes, and I have four beautiful children (CJ, Gio, Sophia, and Xander).  We enjoy playing board games, card games, exploring new locations, music, and archery.  I am also a big hockey fan and love attending live hockey games, when I have the chance!  I am originally from South Texas, but we are loving making Colorado our home!

Lorelei Kay

Taylor Garcia

Taylor Garcia

My name is Taylor Garcia, and I am so excited to be a part of the Grand Peak Academy family as the 7th-grade humanities and writing teacher. I am originally from Tennessee where I received my degree in middle grades education from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. I have experience teaching reading and social studies as a 4th-grade teacher in the Innovation Zone in Memphis, Tennessee. I am very passionate about literacy and am obsessed with all things history. 

Due to my husband’s military career, we are stationed here in Colorado Springs. We are very excited the Army brought us to such a beautiful place! In my spare time, I enjoy traveling, taking Spanish lessons, doing Crossfit, and hiking with our two dogs, Charlie and Hazel.

Daniel Newell

My name is Daniel Newell, and I am excited to be joining Grand Peak Academy this year.       I grew up in rural Iowa and in Illinois.  I graduated from the University of Iowa and have been teaching ever since.  I have taught for 16 years in the Colorado Springs area and love my job.

My teaching experience ranges from second through fifth grade and two years as a building math interventionist.   I enjoy teaching all subjects and love to break down concepts into manageable chunks to aid long-term memory acquisition for students.  Empowering students to understand how learning happens is important to creating a classroom culture geared towards learning.

I live in Colorado Springs with my wife, daughter, and my mom.  We have a dog, cat, and two bunnies. When I have time, I enjoy reading, music, comic book movies, and simple home repair/projects.

Working as a team, I know we can make this an outstanding year.

Kristin Newell

My name is Kristin Newell. I am so excited and honored to teach middle school at Grand Peak Academy! I was born in Elgin, Illinois, but moved to Carbondale, Colorado in 1980, where I went to elementary, middle, and high school. In 1992, I moved to Colorado Springs.

I am a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado, where I earned both my Bachelors’s Degree in Sociology and my Master’s Degree in Reading.

I have over 20 years of teaching experience. I have taught Title 1 Reading & Math (K-5), and 1st – 8th grades. I have also been a Literacy Resource Teacher and an Instructional Coach.

I have one son, Keegan, who is 16 and going into 11th grade. We have 2 cats (Belle and Luna – Luna is pictured with me to the left), a gerbil (Oreo), and a garter snake (Josephine). We love to go to movies, read, swim, golf, play basketball, and partake in outdoor adventures. We have season tickets to Air Force Men’s Basketball too:) Go Falcons!

I love to learn new things, and I love teaching my students to be lifelong learners as well.


Shanah Cooley

I am a local visual and performing artist who has lived in Colorado Springs since I was 5. Throughout my college education at UCCS, I explored visual arts: studying surrealist practices and drawing techniques while pursuing a Bachelors of Fine Arts degree and playing for the Women’s Basketball team! I graduated from UCCS in May 2018.

After teaching Kindergarten at a start-up arts-focused charter school, I had opportunities to substitute at The Classical Academy in various positions including as an art teacher. This past summer, I taught summer abstract and drawing workshops at Library 21C.

I find my passion in working with students and teaching them the basic principals, practical skills, and techniques that allow them to see the world through the lens of an artist, in hopes that they too might find they’re artistic voice amd unique expression.

Mandie Cornelius

I am passionate about technology and the difference it can make in our 21st-century lives. My goal is to show that technology is a tool that can make a difference and be fun to explore!  My aim is to help students be savvy, effective problem-solving explorers, willing to take chances, learn from experiences, and be creative in solutions. In addition, teach good teamwork, communication, and collaboration skills in authentic situations that students can work through, and be proud of the experiences they gain in a fun, safe environment.

A little about me, I grew up in small town in Georgia, where I graduated High School. Then, joined the Air Force and spent 20 years as a Cyber Operations Craftsman (networking and computers) performing a range and variety computing jobs (specializing in training and help desk operations) in Alaska, Oklahoma, Virginia, Colorado, with deployments in support of active operations in United Arab of Emirates and Baghdad, Iraq.

I have attended the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) obtaining an Associates of Applied Science in Information Systems. Later, from Strayer University a Bachelor’s of Science in Information Systems and currently working on my Masters in Education in Instructional Technology at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

My family is made up of a great husband and three great girls. I love to play Guild Wars 2, read eBooks, fiddle with my guitar, horse volunteer, and play games with my daughters.

Technology is everywhere and I look forward to exploring the possibilities of discoveries with our explorers.

Robert Mery

My name is Robert Mery.  I am the Grand Peak Academy P.E. teacher.  I have a Bachelor’s of Art in History from UCCS with an emphasis in elementary education.  I have a US Soccer Youth Coaching E License and I coach basketball for SOCO Basketball Club.  My mother and grandmother inspired me to become a teacher with their love of teaching.  I enjoy sports and collecting sports cards, memorabilia, and coins in my free time.  I am looking forward to having an incredible year!!!

Connor Thomas

My name is Connor Thomas and I am a Colorado Native, I grew up right here in Colorado Springs and am a graduate of Sand Creek High School. It is a dream come true to be teaching in the very same district that I graduated from. I have a Bachelors Degree in Music Education from Colorado State University – Pueblo.

I have experience performing and teaching almost every area of music. I have taught band, orchestra, and guitar as well as private lessons on many instruments. I have experience performing on every band and orchestra instrument as well as guitar and choir. I am currently playing in a Jazz Combo based out of Pueblo, I have also played with the Pueblo Symphony and many other performing groups based out of Colorado Springs and Pueblo. I could not be happier or more excited to be here at Grand Peak Academy!

Sandy Cox

~ coming soon

Counseling, Reading Intervention, & Special Education

Lisa Gilmore

Hello! I’m Lisa Gilmore and am excited to serve as Grand Peak Academy’s School Counselor. I have loved working at this school over the years since I began in 2015 as a third grade paraprofessional. I then transitioned to the Special Education team while pursuing a Master’s degree in School Counseling.  For the 2019-2020 school year, I became GPA’s School Counseling Intern and was then hired as their full-time School Counselor in January of 2020. I’m thrilled to be your school counselor at GPA!

Although I am not a Colorado native, I’m happy to call Colorado Springs my home. I grew up in Oklahoma and then moved to the Springs in 2006 to live closer to family. In Oklahoma, I worked as a Career Counselor at the University of Central Oklahoma for 9 years. I loved working with college students but once my son started preschool, I soon figured out that I wanted to work with elementary and middle school students. It has been a blessing to work at the same school that my son attends as well. My mom lives in Woodland Park and we love to go on hikes up in the mountains with her. Additional family members are our three cats, George, Gracie and Miss Lulu.

Another passion of mine is volunteering for a non-profit group called Above the Rest (ATR). My son and I have been involved with this youth mentoring and leadership program for over 2 years.

Abby Blouin

I am thrilled to be the Reading Interventionist this year at Grand Peak Academy! Back in 1998, I earned my B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Minnesota, Morris. After school, I ventured to southern California where I taught for a few years and I met and married my wonderful husband in 2001. Soon after, we moved to Colorado Springs and I taught a couple more years right here in D49.  I left teaching to raise our son, who was born in 2004, and his sister who followed in 2007.

Both of our children have really enjoyed their Core Knowledge experience here at our terrific school. My kids were having so much fun at school that I decided to join the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and was the President from 2013-2017. That collaborative experience really helped me understand our incredible school community. Beginning in 2017, I enjoyed being a kindergarten paraprofessional here and it was a great step toward going back to the classroom to teach full time.

When I’m not teaching, you’ll find me studying our family genealogy, photographing my kids in their various scouting activities, and taking an occasional tap dance class. I feel blessed that we live in this beautiful city of Colorado Springs with all that it has to offer us. What a privilege and an honor it is to be teaching again!

Viola Lee

I love cooking, reading, camping, the beach, and teaching second grade, especially simple machines and immigration.  I grew up as an Army brat and came to Colorado for college.  I graduated from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs with a degree in Mathematics.  When I married my wonderful husband we decided to raise our family in this beautiful state.  We are the proud parents of three beautiful girls who have all attended GPA.

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