Staff

Lettye Burgtorf

Founder

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.

 

 

 

 

Rob Walsh

School Principal

Rob began his career in education in 2006 in Athens, GA. He is a former public school teacher and soccer coach. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics and a Master’s Degree in Mathematics Education, both from the University of Georgia. He also holds a Specialist’s Degree in Educational Leadership form Florida State University. Rob moved to 30A in the summer of 2011 to participate in the beginnings of Ohana. He committed the first four years to using a blended learning model approach to teaching all math courses 7-12th grades. Since then, Rob has taken on the roles and responsibilities of school principal. In addition to his experience in education, Rob brings to Ohana Institute a variety of experiences in the music industry (writing, recording, touring and performing). He has also traveled extensively for both service and cultural experiences throughout North and South America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific. Rob’s passion for service, leadership, community, and problem solving drives his calling to leadership at Ohana.

 

 

 

Lynn Chesser

Office Manager/Administrative Assistant

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lindsey O’Sullivan

Information and Community Manager

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 Information and Community Manager, 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Vinson-Phan

Teacher - Humanities

Elizabeth graduated from Texas A&M University with a Bachelors 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.” She is excited to continue teaching Middle Years and facilitate High School Internships. There are many new things to discover this year.

 

 

 

 

 

Chad Thurman

Teacher - Science and Music

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, and this experience further solidified Thurman’s commitment to protecting and defending our environment and educating today’s youth about the necessity and importance of a cleaner planet.

Mike Sturdivant

Teacher - Science

Mike has been a member of the Ohana family since 2012. He currently teaches the Elements and Foundations science classes. He has also provided counseling services and taught a variety of courses including Surfing and STEM. Mike is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and has been in private practice with the Destin Counseling Center for 15 years. He graduated from the University of Florida where he earned three degrees regarding Psychology and Education. Mike brings a wide range of psychology and other professional experience to our students. His broad work experience includes, university teaching, neuroscience bench research, school counseling, environmental education, as well as geology and marine biology research. Mike has worked in several science laboratories studying basic brain function, anthropology, and archeology. He currently participates in local whale shark research and also oil pollution monitoring and remediation efforts along the Gulf Coast. In this capacity, Mike serves on several boards and committees including the Healthy Gulf Healthy Communities, St. Andrew State Park Citizens Advisory, and Surfrider Foundation. Mike is an advocate for the “Citizen Science” movement and encourages Ohana students to participate in actual scientific research rather than just read about it!

 

 

Christie Stilwell

Teacher - Humanities

Christie Stilwell, a native of Michigan, obtained both her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Teaching and Curriculum from Michigan State University. Post-graduation, a MSU volunteer program put her in touch with a group of New Orleans students affected by Hurricane Katrina, and she quickly became invested in the revitalization and rebuilding efforts in Southeast Louisiana. Christie was inspired to move to St. Bernard Parish, a small community adjacent to New Orleans, and what began as a volunteer opportunity turned into 4 years of teaching high school English. 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 called Ohana home, where she teaches high school Humanities and senior-level English. Outside of the classroom, Christie stays busy as the mother of 2 fantastic toddlers- Xavier and Delilah. She also has a passion for yoga and all other things related to health and wellness.

 

 

 

 

Brian Peterson

Teacher - H.O.P.E. and Student Life

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.

 

 

 

 

Jonathan Mitchell

Teacher - Music

Jonathan has been at Ohana since it came into existence 8 years ago. He received his degree in elementary education with a minor in communication from 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. Jonathan is an accomplished songwriter and musician. He and his brothers formed the band, Georgia, and were signed to Atlantic Records from 2006-2009. While with Atlantic Records, they toured the country and recorded two records. Jonathan has been fortunate enough to tour and record with some of the biggest names in the business. Jonathan is currently recording a solo LP called My Little Life and is set to be released later this year. His passion has always been working with children and music, and this is what brought Jonathan to Ohana Institute where he created Ohana Records. Three years ago, Jonathan introduced his newest 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. In just three years, the program has played for more than 8000 students. Jonathan’s programs at Ohana Records are always evolving into the next phase. Two years ago he introduced Ohana Live, an intimate music venue at Ohana Institute where students and national acts can perform. Last year’s programs began using their new mobile stage trailer to showcase the students’ musical talents. Jonathan is quite excited about the new studio and the opportunities connected with that in 2018-2019. You can find more information on all of his programs at www.ohanarecords.com and www.rockontheroad.org. Jonathan’s wife Christine is a hygienist at 30A Smiles and also a photographer. Jonathan is also the proud owner of the school’s mascot Maggie and the worship & youth leader at Chapel at the Beach located in Rosemary Beach. His other interest include fishing, gardening, camping, kayaking and golfing.

 

 

Brittany Mayo

Teacher - Elements and Foundations

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.

 

 

 

Julie Martin

Teacher - Art and Special Programs

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.

 

 

 

 

Jodie Davis

Teacher - Humanities

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.

 

 

Ryan Cothran

Teacher - Elements and Foundations

Mr. Ryan, a graduate of Auburn University, has been teaching elementary school for the past 17 years. He spent the early years of his career teaching in Alabama and Louisiana. From there, his journey brought him to the beaches of South Walton where he worked at Butler Elementary before making his way to Ohana Institute. This is his 7th year in the Foundation’s Program at Ohana. Ryan enjoys traveling and is a die-hard Atlanta Braves fan. He also enjoys many outdoor activities including Ultimate Frisbee and Disc Golf. Ryan’s educational philosophy is to encourage the students to become lifelong learners by placing literacy as the top priority in the classroom. He is truly a big kid at heart that wants to make learning enjoyable for all!

 

 

 

 

 

Cory Champion

Teacher - Spanish

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Jeanne Carden-Royer

Curriculum and Instruction Coordinator

​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.

 

 

Kylie Bucalo

Teacher - Science and Music

Kylie is a former plant scientist and molecular biologist who joined the Ohana team in 2017. During her career she has held research positions at both Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Sydney University in Australia and a Masters degree in Natural sciences/Biology from Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia. 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.

 

 
 

 

 

 

Mary Brandman

Teacher - Mathematics

Mary has a degree in Chemistry with a minor in Art History from The George Washington University. After graduation, she worked as a pharmaceutical chemist in Michigan before moving to Florida. After substitute teaching, Mary was hooked. She knew that she belonged in the classroom. As a high school chemistry teacher and a math tutor, Mary is able to explore her passion for mathematics. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and three children. They enjoy traveling, hiking, skiing and soccer!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

Melissa Jumbeck

Teacher - Elements and Foundations

Throughout her life, Melissa eagerly anticipated the first day of school each year! From the early days of kindergarten, Melissa was blessed with creative teachers who cultivated a warm atmosphere of learning and made school a place where Melissa loved to be…in fact, she loved school so much that she often asked to stay after school or even return to school over the weekends to help her teachers grade papers and prepare activities. Suffice it to say that Melissa’s family was not surprised when she decided to become an elementary school teacher! Melissa attended college at the University of Kansas, where she received her Bachelor of Science degree (elementary education) and her Master of Science degree (curriculum and instruction). After graduate school, Melissa began teaching second grade in 2004. Since then, she has taught first, third, and fourth grades and she has enjoyed many adventures along the way. Melissa’s favorite pastime is travel because she loves to study culture and visit new places. She prides herself on being able to pack for any trip, near or far, at a moment’s notice. Melissa is thrilled to join Ohana and embark on the thrilling journey of learning together.

 

 

Andrew Morton

Teacher - Mathematics

Andrew has a Bachelor of Science from Wheaton College with a major in Mathematics. He grew up participating in math competitions where he developed a love for math. One of his passions is to pass on that love of math to students. Other hobbies include almost any sport out there, including his favorite, Ultimate Frisbee, reading and messing around on the computer he built. He and his wife recently decided to make the move from Chicago to the beach. He is excited to be teaching high school math this year at Ohana.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Missy Herrington

Teacher - Elements and Foundations


Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Missy graduated from Miami University in Ohio with a BFA in Graphic Design and a BFA in Photography. While in school, she studied design abroad in England and Prague. Upon graduating, she worked in the music business in Nashville designing album packaging and marketing materials for Arista and RCA Records. After seven years in the music business, Missy went back to school earning her Masters Degree in Education from Cumberland University in Tennessee. In 2013, Missy relocated to Naples, Florida with her family where she taught in both private and public schools, and she has both her STEAM Certification and Gifted Endorsement. As a teacher for over seven years, she believes in student-driven learning experiences that make connections across the curriculum, as well as encourages a growth mindset, problem-solving and collaboration in her students.  Missy enjoys spending time with her family at the beach, kayaking, biking and simply “hanging out.” Additionally, she loves listening to music and singing loudly in her car.

 

 

 

Andrew Moyers

Teacher - Humanities

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christine Marsan

Teacher - Elements and Foundations


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.

 

 

 

 

Tim Rondeau

Teacher - Mathematics


Tim is joining Ohana after teaching for 11 years in Georgia at Mill Creek High School, where he also coached football. At Mill Creek, Tim taught math classes ranging from Pre-Algebra to AP Calculus, and filled various roles with the football program, including three years as the offensive coordinator. Tim earned his Bachelor of Education and Master of Education in Mathematics Education from the University of Georgia, and later received an Education Specialist in Coaching Pedagogy from Valdosta State University. Traveling and learning are passions of Tim’s; he has visited countries in every continent except Antarctica. He is excited to bring his experiences and knowledge to Ohana, where he will be teaching high school math and physics.

 

 

 

Emna Walters

Teacher - French

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Morton

Administrative Assistant

Jennifer Morton grew up living in Central Florida and Papua New Guinea. She recently moved back to the area after graduating from Wheaton College with a Bachelors of Arts in Biblical Archaeology. She is joining the staff this year as an Administrative Assistant. She enjoys paying volleyball, reading, and painting when she isn’t working.

 

 

 

 

 

Johnethen Colt

Teacher - Music