Faculty & Staff

Lettye Burgtorf

Founder & Executive Director

Lettye Burgtorf

Founder & Executive Director

Growing up in Spain, Puerto Rico, and Alabama allowed me to experience many different cultures, languages and educational practices. Different parts of each school gave me a well rounded view of how people around the world learn curriculum needed for a successful life after high school. There were challenges I overcame through patience, love and understanding. I attended Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama where I received a BA in Art with a minor in Biology and Spanish. My life was an adventure where focusing on the positive prepared me to naturally choose to homeschool both my girls. Moving my family to Rosemary Beach brought homeschooling to another level. Other children became interested in homeschooling and before long my daughters, Hunter and Hannah, and I were joined in the learning process with other students in the area. This inspired me to create Ohana Institute. A school where everyone is loved and accepted and given the freedom to be who they are.

Jeanne Royer

Interim Principal

Jeanne Royer

Interim Principal

Jeanne grew up coming to Panama City Beach from her home in Sylacauga Alabama, and the beach became a part of her core. It is this love of the sun, sand and our beautiful emerald green water that inspires her every day to influence students through the lens of gratitude for where we are and what we have to experience in life that is right here before us. Jeanne’s life experiences bring a rich background added to her education experience which began nine years ago at Patronis Elementary in Bay County. During her time in public education, she found a passion for learning about gifted students and how to best reach learners that needed different delivery methods to find success in the classroom. Finding ways to engage and motivate students to be their best self, think independently, problem-solve and have the confidence that they needed to succeed was essential to her.

Jeanne is known for finding ways to teach core subjects using innovative methods such as robotics in language arts or coding in math. She believes that incorporating computer science and other innovative technology can really engage students in content that they can sometimes get lost in and if at the same time they find love for coding then that is a bonus! This is her third year at Ohana, and she is excited to expand her role this year to include supporting administration and teachers in the position of Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator.

Tanika Spears

School Counselor

Tanika Spears

School Counselor

As a native of Panama City, Florida I am accustomed to what we call the “World’s Most Beautiful Beaches” so I am so happy to return to the area and get rooted. I graduated from Rutherford High School in 1995 and then matriculated through Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), earning a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and a master’s degree in Counseling. In 2003, I married my best friend and “new adventures” partner, Coach Willie Spears. As we enter our fifteenth year of marriage we have worked in nine schools and had eleven different addresses. We have two amazing children, Tayelor, 13 and Kenneth, 12. I have worked as a substance abuse counselor, but as a school counselor since 2005, I have served at the elementary, middle, and high school levels of counseling in a variety of settings (alternative schools, detention centers, and public schools) in three states. My objective in counseling has always been to contribute to the success and growth of the lives of (young) people. As Dr. James Comer says, “No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship”. I believe that collaboration, cooperation, and open communication between home and school are keys to building a strong foundation for a successful educational program, thus leading to not just successful students, but happy, whole, balanced students that become successful, happy, whole, balanced citizens. These are ideals that I have endeavored to apply to every new class or new student I have been blessed to serve. I am excited and count it a blessing to be a part of the Ohana Family and serve as the school counselor!

Lindsey O’Sullivan

Program Specialist

Lindsey O’Sullivan

Program Specialist

Lindsey graduated from the University of Georgia in 2014, where she earned her Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.Ed.) from the department of Educational Theory and Practice. After teaching Humanities in the Middle Years at Ohana for three years, Lindsey stepped out of the role to take on the role of Program Specialist, through which she is able to share her time between the beach and the city. In her free time Lindsey likes to take her dog, Gryffin, for walks, read any book she can get her hands on, and practice her (very rudimentary) Italian.

Lynn Chesser

Office Manager

Lynn Chesser

Office Manager

Lynn is a local to the area and has a background in Business Administration with a degree from NWFSC. Lynn looks forward to greeting students and parents in the office and helping with school information, finance and paperwork. She is very involved with her family, loves kids, and enjoys reading, fishing and traveling.

Julie Reeves

Administrative Assistant

Julie Reeves

Administrative Assistant

Brian Peterson

Athletic Director, HOPE Instructor, and Student Events Coordinator

Brian Peterson

Athletic Director, HOPE Instructor, and Student Events Coordinator

Brian has a degree in Kinesiology and Sports Management, with minors in recreation and business from Troy University. While at Troy, Brian played offensive line for the Troy Trojans football team for four years. Since graduating college, Brian has owned and ran his own business, Gulf Coast Beach Service. During this time he has taken every opportunity possible to travel around the world visiting China, Europe, Ireland and Costa Rica. Brian is also an avid outdoorsman who enjoys surfing, fishing, camping and mountain biking.

Brian has been at Ohana for the past four years teaching H.O.P.E, electives and team sports. He enjoys coming up created new games and activities to keep our students active. Brian also helps organize and coordinate many of Ohana’s SEL (social and emotional learning) programs.

Julie Martin

Visual Arts and Journalism Instructor

Julie Martin

Visual Arts and Journalism Instructor

Julie Martin received her Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Georgia with special emphasis in drawing and painting. She studied art in Cortona, Italy during her sophomore and senior years of college. She attended the University of North Florida for certifications in Art k-12 and Elementary Education. She has taught in Jacksonville, Florida, Columbus, Georgia, and at Seaside Neighborhood School before accepting the position at Ohana. Both of the Martin children are graduates of Ohana Institute. Julie and her husband enjoy the creative environment and lifestyle of 30A, it is what drew them to the area in 2002.

This is Julie’s fourth year at Ohana. Julie teaches Art to Elements and Foundations, Middle and High School students. Julie also manages the Yearbook and as Parent Liaison, she will play a dual role. She will represent Ohana through parent communication and involvement and she will help plan and implement activities and events that promote the mission and vision of our school.

Andrew Moyers

Humanities Instructor

Andrew Moyers

Humanities Instructor

A native of East Tennessee, Drew earned both his BA and MA in History from the University of Tennessee and is thrilled to be teaching high school Humanities at Ohana! A passionate student of the subject, Drew also spent time working as a researcher for the East Tennessee Historical Society under the federal Enduring Visions: Teaching American History grant program where he worked to help better equip local teachers to teach the subject of US History. He is an avid baseball fan and enjoys writing, reading, camping, and traveling.

Brittany Mayo

Elements Instructor

Brittany Mayo

Elements Instructor

Brittany graduated Cum Laude from Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education. She is originally from New Albany, Ohio where she worked with youth cheerleading and gymnastics groups, which allowed her to find her love for helping others work towards and exceed their goals. Brittany holds endorsement certifications in reading and English for speakers of other languages (E.S.O.L). She is currently working towards her MA in Reading Education through the University of Florida.

Brittany has developed many individualistic learning philosophies with which she strives to foster a love for learning and curiosity in her classroom. One belief that guides her teaching practice is that if “a child can’t learn the way we teach, we should teach the way they learn.” This will be Brittany’s second year at Ohana working with Elements and Foundations and developing the E&F writing program.When she is not teaching she enjoys reading, travel, yoga, and spending time with her family.

Chad Thurman

Science Instructor

Chad Thurman

Science Instructor

Chad is from rural northwest Tennessee, where during his youth he worked on both agricultural and livestock farms. In 1999, Thurman completed a Bachelor of Arts philosophy with a minor of music theory from Middle Tennessee State University, and his first job out of college was as a new music works analyst with Nashville’s Broadcast Music Incorporated.

Thurman has been a music teacher for over twenty years teaching private lessons for all band and ensemble instruments. He has 9 years of education experience in Tennessee and Florida with three public school districts in grades K-12 teaching various subjects such as ESE gifted science, music, mathematics, language arts, physical education, and social studies.

Chad lists Carl Sagan as an inspiration and the driving force behind his interest in the field of science. In 2010, Thurman coached the Destin Elementary F.I.R.S.T. LEGO League STEM robotics team to the state championships where the team earned the place as that year’s top elementary robotics team in the state of Florida. Chad was awarded the President’s Volunteer Service Award by President Barack Obama for his volunteer service in this endeavor. He was later invited to participate in a STEM teacher training program aboard the virtual aircraft carrier Ambition CVT-11, where he learned engaging and effective STEM teaching methods and strategies that he continues to enjoy sharing with his students. Thurman also attended Air Camp in Dayton, Ohio the summer of 2018 where he increased his STEM and aerospace teaching abilities as well as learned to fly an airplane.

Chad attended and graduated from Sea School, the law school of the sea. During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Thurman volunteered as captain of a seven-vessel flotilla under the United States Coast Guard. This group was tasked with protecting the Choctawhatchee Bay from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill,

Christie Stilwell

Humanities Instructor

Christie Stilwell

Humanities Instructor

Christie Stilwell is a 14-year veteran English teacher and lifelong enthusiast of all things related to English Language Arts. Growing up in the charming, vibrant college town that is home to Michigan State University, Christie actualized her childhood goal of becoming a Spartan when she attended MSU for both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts teaching programs. Post-graduation, a month-long MSU volunteer opportunity put her in touch with a group of New Orleans students who had been affected by Hurricane Katrina, and she decided to stay in Southeast Louisiana to start her teaching career at Chalmette High School. New opportunities brought her to the Panhandle, and she spent 5 years teaching high school English in a high-performing charter school in Bay County.

Since the fall of 2015, she has enjoyed “experiencing the different” at Ohana, teaching both the blended high school Humanities courses as well as English 9-12. About her classroom goals, she says this: “My goal in English is to share my passion for literature and expose all students to a range of high-level classics that feature timeless themes and beautiful language. I want to help students make relevant connections, both with the modern world around them and with a range of historical time periods. Finally, I want students to walk away from my class having grown as human beings too-- not just able to write a solid paragraph or speak well publicly-- but conscious of bigger ideas, like mindfulness, failing forward, and  the power of gratitude.” Outside of the classroom, she is a busy toddler mother of two and has a passion for yoga.

Christine Marsan

Elements Instructor

Christine Marsan

Elements Instructor

Christine is from Dallas, Texas and attended Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. She graduated Summa Cum Laude in May of 2018 with a Bachelors of Science in Education. Her Collaborative Education Degree encompasses elementary, early childhood, and special education. Christine interned last year with Ohana and is excited to be a full-time part of the Ohana family and have the opportunity to teach in a learning environment that cultivates the passions and interests of each student. She also enjoys photography, travel, dance, reading, watercolor painting, and the beach.

Cory Champion

Spanish Language Instructor

Cory Champion

Spanish Language Instructor

Cory graduated Magna Cum Laude with his Bachelor of Secondary Education with Spanish Major and Geography Minor from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. Cory also holds foreign language certification in teaching ESL (English as a Second Language). His past teaching experiences include: teaching Spanish in grades 9 thru 12 in Michigan and teaching English and Geography in grades 8 thru 12, in the Dominican Republic. Cory comes to Ohana with highly effective leadership skills and strongly believes in the importance of community. His teaching philosophy states, “I am here not to demonstrate to the students what I personally have learned and discovered, but rather open the door for students to discover and learn for themselves.” Cory will be helping Ohana students develop effective Spanish language acquisition skills.

Elizabeth Vinson-Phan

Humanities Instructor

Elizabeth Vinson-Phan

Humanities Instructor

Elizabeth graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a double minor in Political Geography and Reading Instruction. She has worked in many different facets of education as a classroom teacher and as a volunteer parent at Ohana. Elizabeth believes in encouraging students to seek challenges to find their strengths and passion. One of her favorite educational leaders, Jean Piaget, is quoted saying “When you teach a child something, you take away his chance of discovering it for himself.”

Emna Walters

French Language Instructor

Emna Walters

French Language Instructor

Jennifer Wilson

Mathematics Instructor

Jennifer Wilson

Mathematics Instructor

Jodie Davis

Humanities Instructor

Jodie Davis

Humanities Instructor

Born and raised in a small town in Northwest Illinois, Ms. Jodie cultivated a love for learning, the outdoors and community that continues to drive her today. Ms. Jodie obtained a bachelor’s degree in Education from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Following college, she served in AmeriCorps *NCCC and traveled throughout the United States. This year of service taught Ms. Jodie the value of giving back which remains a central focus in her work.Ms. Jodie settled in Florida and began her teaching career in the public school system. When she heard about Ohana, Ms. Jodie knew it was a place she was meant to be. Being part of a community of learners who were both curious and adventurous was exactly what she was looking for. This environment encouraged Ms. Jodie to follow her instincts and explore innovative teaching strategies. Inquiry and Project Based Learning have become her passion as they allow students to take control of their education experience.Today, Ms. Jodie aims to inspire, encourage, and support students to engage in the world around them. Her hope is that being a part of an open-minded and supportive community of learners will allow them to be their true, authentic self and become productive members of our society.

Johnathen Colt

Sociology & Music Business Instructor

Johnathen Colt

Sociology & Music Business Instructor

Jonathan Mitchell

Music Instructor

Jonathan Mitchell

Music Instructor

Jonathan’s love for music started at a young age.  His family speaks of him singing harmonies at the age of 5, far before he knew the meaning of it.  Raised the son of a preacher, music was a monumental part of his life, first beginning with an affinity for old hymns and later finding influence in the music of Tom Petty and The Band. Jonathan began songwriting and touring while getting his degree in elementary education at Palm Beach Atlantic University. While at school on a golf scholarship, he received the award, Student Leader of the Year; the most prestigious award given out by the university.

After graduation, Jonathan moved to Atlanta to further pursue songwriting and within a year, joined forces with his brothers to form a band called Georgia.  The band landed a record deal with Atlantic Records and had the opportunity to cut two records on the label and toured with many of the biggest acts in the world.  After his band parted ways with Atlantic Records, Jonathan received a phone call from Mrs. Lettye asking him to move to the beach to create a music program.  His passion has always been working with children and music, and this is what brought Jonathan to Ohana Institute where he created Ohana Records.

Jonathan has had more than 300 bands come through his program since Ohana Institute came into existence eight years ago. Four years ago, Jonathan introduced a program called Rock On The Road which is known as the first ever student-led tour. In this program, students tour around the country planting the seed of music while using their custom-built mobile stage trailer. To date, they have inspired close to 10,000 students throughout the Southeast. Jonathan is also the proud owner of the school’s mascot

Kylie Bucalo

Science Instructor

Kylie Bucalo

Science Instructor

Kylie is a former plant scientist and molecular biologist, who joined the Ohana team in 2017.  During her previous career she has held research positions at both Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, and a Masters degree in natural sciences. Her professional training and passion for teaching has led her to develop a teaching style that utilizes real world science experiences to explore key biological concepts. Kylie believes that giving students a strong foundation in science allows them to feel confident and happy in the classroom, and allows them to freely explore the parts of science they love. 

Lou Vergez TeCroney

French Language Instructor

Lou Vergez TeCroney

French Language Instructor

Mary Brandman

Math Instructor

Mary Brandman

Math Instructor

Melissa Jumbeck

Elements & Foundations Social Studies Teacher

Melissa Jumbeck

Elements & Foundations Social Studies Teacher

Mike Sturdivant

Science and STEM Instructor

Mike Sturdivant

Science and STEM Instructor

Missy Herrington

Foundations Instructor

Missy Herrington

Foundations Instructor

Ryan Cothran

Foundations Instructor

Ryan Cothran

Foundations Instructor

Tim Rondeau

Math Instructor

Tim Rondeau

Math Instructor