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

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 is also completing a Specialist’s Degree in Educational Leadership at Florida State University (grad. Date, December 2017). 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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sherri Rainer

Counselor

As a school counselor, I received my masters in education from Auburn University and have spent the past ten years serving students and families in Auburn City Schools. One of my greatest passions is helping students discover their individual ways of living a well balanced and happy life. I am committed to encouraging students to become more self-aware as they grow socially, emotionally, and academically. My growing up years occurred just two hours from the South Walton area. I’m happy to say I have sunk my toes in the sand more times than I can count! In recent years, my husband and I have been coming to our home in Sandestin from Auburn as much as possible. As the youngest child entered the college world, we finally asked ourselves, “Why aren’t we living here full-time?” The final nudge came when I discovered the amazing people and holistic educational environment of Ohana Institute. I am excited and privileged to serve as the part-time counselor for all students at Ohana with a focus on helping high school and rising high school students and their families plan and prepare for graduation requirements and college/career choices. I look forward to the days ahead!

 

 

 

 

Ashley Bell

Events Coordinator

Ashley has a Bachelor’s degree from The University of Florida with a major in Marketing.  After graduating in 2006, she moved to New York City to work for a few years, and then settled back into her hometown of West Palm Beach and began her career in education.  She has been working in education marketing and event planning since 2009 and has been the coordinator of the Ohana Institute Global Education Conference since its inaugural year in 2011.  In her time outside of work, Ashley enjoys spending time with her family and watching football (Go Gators!).  She is so excited to be a part of the Ohana family!

 

 

 

 

 

Lindsey O’Sullivan

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alba Fano Trabanco

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Wilson

Mathematics

Jennifer has a Mechanical Engineering degree from the University of Alabama… roll tide! After working in the engineering field for five years, she decided to change careers and become a high school math teacher. Jennifer received a Master’s degree in Secondary Math Education from Georgia State University. She have spent the last 16 years teaching math in Atlanta. This year, Jennifer and her husband have decided to make the beach their full-time home and she was lucky enough to find Ohana! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Vinson-Phan

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 teach Humanities this year and work with the 7th grade students; there are many new things to discover.

 

 

 

 

 

Chad Thurman

Science & 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 8 years education experience with three public school districts in grades K-5 teaching various subjects such as ESE gifted science, music, mathematics, language arts, physical education, and social studies.

As a professional musician and multi-instrumentalist representing a quarter-century span of performing, composing, and songwriting, Chad is a globally published writer and composer with musical film credits at events in such places as Madison Square Gardens and the Los Angeles International Film Festival. Thurman is also a published composer of ensemble and chamber orchestra scores for elementary and advanced students, with performances of his works by youth, college, and professional musicians alike.

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.  

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.

Throughout his time on Earth, Thurman counts many other learning experiences with making him the educator he is today. He has worked as a framing carpenter learning to build houses from the ground up. He has been the owner operator of a plant and irrigation business, and is to this day a hobby botanist with an affinity for succulents and orchids. He also once canoed across the US-Canadian border on a three-week adventure in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

In his free time, he likes to write and perform music, tinker with robots, fish and hunt, as well as any other activity that gets him into the great outdoors.

Chad is looking forward to the 2017-2018 school years at Ohana Institute where he will be teaching science and music.

Mike Sturdivant

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

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 awesome children under 2 years old- Xavier and Delilah. She also has a passion for yoga and all other things related to health and wellness.

 

 

 

 

Brian Peterson

H.O.P.E & 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

Music

Jonathan has been at Ohana since it came into existence 7 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 with some of the biggest names in the business. His passion has always been working with children and music, and this is what brought Jonathan to Ohana Institute where he created Ohana Records. Two 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. Jonathan’s programs at Ohana Records are always evolving into the next phase. Last year he introduced Ohana Live, an intimate music venue at Ohana Institute where students and national acts can perform. This year’s programs will be begin using their new mobile stage trailer to showcase the students’ musical talents. 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 leader at Chapel at the Beach located in Rosemary Beach. His other interest include fishing, gardening, camping, kayaking and golfing.

 

 

 

 

Brittany Mayo

Elements & Foundations

Brittany recently graduated Cum Laude from Flagler College 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. She 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.” Brittany also holds endorsement certifications in reading and English for speakers of other languages (E.S.O.L). When she is not teaching she enjoys reading, travel, and spending time with her family.

 

 

 

 

 

Julie Martin

Elements & Foundations

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. This is Julie’s third year at Ohana. Julie will be teaching Art & Leadership to the Elements and Foundations students as well as Fine Arts to Middle and High School students. Julie also manages both the Yearbook and Internship Programs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stephanie Jehl

Mathematics & Science

Stephanie received her Ph.D. in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics from Harvard Medical School, where her dissertation focused on how the human immune system responds to various infectious diseases, such as malaria. Born and raised in Panama City Beach, Stephanie first became interested in the fascinating world of scientific research while volunteering as an undergraduate in a lab at the University of Florida, where she thought learning to extract, slice, and dice DNA was the coolest thing ever.  In graduate school, Stephanie engaged in several science and math teaching opportunities for both primary and secondary school students and helped co-found a science journal for K-12 students to publish their scientific research. After finishing her doctorate, she spent time working as a scientific editor for a publishing company and building a laboratory for a local brewery as Walton County’s first “beer scientist”. Stephanie’s scientific endeavors have taken her from one side of the globe to the other, from working in a diagnostic lab at a children’s hospital in Cambodia to presenting her research at the University of Havana in Cuba. Outside of science, Stephanie is passionate about long-term travel and wilderness trekking, once embarking on an awe-inspiring hike to Mount Everest Base Camp in Nepal. Stephanie is excited to bring her passion for lifelong learning to the students of Ohana.

 

 

Jodie Davis

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

Elements & Foundations

Mr. Ryan, a graduate of Auburn University, has been teaching elementary school for the past 16 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 6th year leading 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. Truly a big kid at heart that wants to make learning enjoyable for all!

 

 

 

 

 

Cory Champion

Spanish

Cory graduated Magna Cum Laude with his Bachelors of Secondary Education with Spanish Major and Geography Minor from Northern Michigan University, 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

Elements & Foundations

​This is Jeanne’s second year at Ohana. ​Jeanne received her Bachelor of Science from Florida State University. Originally from Sylacauga, Alabama, Jeanne has lived in Panama City Beach since 1992. She has taught with Bay District Schools at Patronis Elementary for six years as a primary grade gifted endorsed instructor. Jeanne is passionate about education. Using innovative methods in the classroom Jeanne is able to engage and motivate students to be their best self. She encourages independence and problem-solving.

“I really love encouraging students to answer their own questions using resources and skills we utilize day to day.”

When she is not teaching, Jeanne enjoys yoga and spending time with family.

 

 

 

Kylie Bucalo

Science

Kylie is a former plant scientist and molecular biologist who joined the Ohana team in the beginning of 2017. During her career she has held research positions at both Georgia Tech and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, which involved a high level of teaching and mentoring both high school and undergraduate university students. 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. This allows students to immerse themselves in the scientific method whilst gaining important field biology and laboratory skills. When not teaching Kylie enjoys reading, hiking, exploring nature, and spending time with her husband Steve, and son Lucca.

 

 

 

Mary Brandman

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 in the classroom is where she belonged. As a high school chemistry teacher and a math tutor, Mary was 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!