Think of the best teacher you had during your school days. Then imagine a school full of these best teachers who are eager to help students succeed, using creative and innovative methods to make learning fun and interesting. Focus Academy teachers meet and exceed those expectations.
Our teachers are certified in Exceptional Student Education. Educational Assistants are in every classroom, helping students and aiding teachers in daily lessons. A low student to staff ratio ensures that every student has the personal attention they need.
If you wish to reach individual staff members, please call the main school office at 813.443.5558 or email email@example.com. If you are a Focus Academy family, you can email staff directly by logging into the Alma student information system.
Looking to join our dynamic team?
As we continue to grow we are seeking enthusiastic, energetic, and creative educators to join our dynamic team. We are dedicated to changing the lives and futures of our students and seek like-minded professionals with an openness to our innovative, unique, and highly successful approach to join us on this amazing journey.
Ms. Kraft originally hails from Florida's Atlantic coast, but has also lived in western Michigan and South Florida. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Indian River State College with a BS in Exceptional Student Education. She is a member of Kappa Delta Pi Educational Honor Society, serving as Vice President for a year, and Phi Theta Kappa. Ms. Kraft is certified in ESE, and is Reading and ESOL endorsed. She is completing her Master's in Curriculum and Instruction.
Loretta Gallo-Lopez, MA, LMHC
Executive Director of Programming
Loretta is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Registered Drama Therapist/Board Certified Trainer, with over 25 years of clinical experience with children, adolescents and young adults with special needs. She began her professional career as an ESE teacher and was in private practice in Tampa for over 20 years. Loretta is a nationally recognized speaker, a published author of both books and articles about her work, and is co-director of the ACT Project – a drama therapy and performance based social skills program.
Ms. Morton grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has a Bachelors degree from the University of South Florida in Exceptional Student Education. While at USF she was also Special Olympics chair for the Student Council for Exceptional Students. Ms. Morton taught middle school math and science for five years, and was a transitional job coach. For two years she was the ESE Specialist at Pepin, and received the Uncommon Mentor Award from Tony Dungy in 2014. She coaches the Special Olympics volleyball teams at Focus Academy. Ms. Morton enjoys spending time with her husband, dogs, and extended family.
Charnell Widnall, MA, CRC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor
Ms. Charnell is a Florida native and University of South Florida alum, receiving her M.A. in Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling as well as her MA in Applied Linguistics from USF. She has two children, and enjoys learning new languages, doing yoga, and spending time with her family.
Christine moved to Tampa from Queens, NY. She graduated Cum Laude from Kaplan University with an Associates in Business Administration and Management. She enjoys watching Netflix, listening to classic rock, writing, shopping, and baking.
After many years working for the Hillsborough County Public Schools, Sally joined our administrative team as Data Processor extraordinaire.
Ms. Denise grew up in St. Augustine where much of her family still lives, and attended the University of South Florida and the Community College of the Air Force. She is currently earning her Bachelor of Science degree in Theology at WOGAT Christian University. She is retired from the U.S. Air Force, having served for 21 years. She is a member of the American Legion, and Disabled American Veterans. Ms. Denise loves the beach, and is active with several ministries in her church .
Ms. Benson was born and raised in Seal Beach, California, moved to Florida and attended Florida College in Temple Terrace for two years. Subsequently she moved to Western Kentucky University and earned a Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education. After living in Texas for 15 years, Ms. Benson taught second grade for several years, then homeschooled her children. Ms. Benson moved back to Temple Terrace four years ago. She enjoys spending time with her husband and four kids, watching movies, and going to the beach.
Ms. Como grew up in a small town in New Jersey before moving to Florida. She obtained her degree in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida, and she is certified in Exceptional Student Education. Ms. Como lives with her husband, three children, and a yellow Lab named Jax. She enjoys spending time with family, going to the beach, and watching baseball.
Ms. Megan grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and moved to Tampa in 2014. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Saint Leo University with a degree in International Tourism & Hospitality Management. She participated in the Disney College Program, and worked in the Magic Kingdom. In her spare time, Megan enjoys going to Disney World, traveling, reading, and baking.
Mr. Nick, as the students refer to him, teaches visual & performing arts, coding, and social studies. Nick has worked as a professional animator and designer. He is certified in Exceptional Student Education.
Ms. Cindy grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and received her Masters in Elementary Education from Duquesne University. She is certified in Exceptional Student Education (ESE). In her spare time she enjoys biking, hiking, and exploring around the Tampa area.
Nathan was born in Pennsylvania but attended high school in Daytona Beach. He has a degree in Theatre Performance from the University of South Florida. He became particularly interested in the special needs community through his work with Theatre Exceptional and is very excited to work with Focus students.
Ms. Hannah grew up in Land O'Lakes and attended the University of Tampa, receiving her Bachelors degree with a major in Psychology and Fine Arts with a concentration in Art Therapy. She has a close relationship with her only brother, who resembles her so closely that many people believe they are twins. Her favorite hobbies include participating in dance parties (by herself or with friends), drawing, and watching movies.
Ms. Lena has worked as an Educational Assistant for three years. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with family and taking care of her pets.
Emma was born in St. Louis but grew up in Florida and Colorado. She previously worked as an assistant at the Colorado Lions Camp. She enjoys drawing, painting, reading, photography, and basketball, as well as spending time with her family.
Executive Director of Operations
Josephine has over 18 years in advertising experience in New York City where she started in network radio as an assistant media buyer. She was a manager at Anheuser Busch, purchasing over $10 million yearly. She subsequently was hired by LBS Communications as a vice president charged with starting up and running their newly established radio division. Additionally, Josephine served as Senior Vice President at MCA TV/Universal Studios to assist in the start up of their new TV syndicated sales division.
Senior Manager, Marketing & Technology
Originally from Ohio, Heather has a B.S. in Public Relations from Kent State University. She has experience in newspaper reporting, graphic design, event planning, healthcare marketing, and web programming/design, culminating as Webmaster at the University of Michigan Health System where she oversaw the development and maintenance of dozens of websites. She has three boys and two dogs who think they are children. She enjoys traveling, watching movies, reading, and spending time outdoors.
Ellie Thompson, MS
Therapeutic Drama Specialist
Ms. Ellie grew up in Virginia and received her B.S. in Sociology and M.S. in Counseling and Human Development from Radford University. She co-facilitated drama therapy groups for children, and has a background working in crisis and trauma counseling. She is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern, and Adoption Competent Therapist. She enjoys baking crafts, decorating, and spending time with her husband and Yorkie-Poo.
Fundraising & Development Coordinator
Kathy grew up in St. Petersburg and attended Northeast High School. She was the founder of Sydney's School for Autism and served as the school director for 10 years. Kathy's family experience with autism has driven her outside interests and career choices. Fundraising for autism-related causes became a major part of Kathy's life, and she looks forward to helping Project Focus achieve their long-term goals. Kathy enjoys the beach, spending time with her family (especially grandchildren), and taking "girls trips."
Isabel joins us from Waterbury, CT. She has an Associates Degree from Mattatuck Community College. She enjoys hiking and biking in her spare time.
Ms. Rae Ann was born and raised in Brookfield, Missouri, and received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Emphasis in Marketing, from Northeast Missouri State University. She was a member of Delta Sigma Pi Business Fraternity. Ms. Rae Ann enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, as well as bird watching and nature walks.
School Security Officer
Ms. Bouley grew up in Tolland, Connecticut, and received her Masters in Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is a member of the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of America and Outreach to Haiti. She enjoys kayaking, camping, and traveling in her spare time.
Lauren came to Tampa from Michigan. She graduated from Hillsborough Community College with an Associate of Arts degree in art, and from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Arts degree in humanities. Lauren was previously an Educational Assistant at Focus Academy for two years before moving into a teaching position. She also spent five years working with foster children and teens in a group home. Ms. Lauren is certified in Exceptional Student Education. She enjoys creating digital and traditional art, making cheesy puns, and baking.
Lawanda Fox Broadnax
Ms. Broadnax joined Focus Academy in our first year, moving to Florida from Indiana. She has a Masters in Exceptional Student Education from Indiana University NW and is a member of Phi Delta Kappa as well as the National Society of Leadership and Success. Ms. Broadnax has been a foster parent of special needs children. She currently works in our Transition Program.
Senior Job Coach
Ms. Robin is finishing her degree at the University of South Florida. She has experience in working with children at day camps and at public pools, and is certified in CPR. Ms. Robin teaches music classes at Focus Academy and is also a Job Coach for the Transition Program.
Annalyssa grew up in Texas, where her parents still live with her youngest brother and dog Phoenix and cat Picasso. Her brother attends Florida College in Temple Terrace, allowing her to see him often. She received her Bachelors degree in Liberal Studies from Florida College where she was a member of Phi Theta Kappa National Honor Society, graduating Summa Cum Laude. She intends to go back to school for a Masters in Communication Sciences and Disorders/Speech Language Pathology. In her spare time Annalyssa enjoys the outdoors, especially camping and hiking with her family. She also loves music, and plays the violin and guitar.
Ms. Mary grew up in Buffalo, NY, but has lived in the Tampa area for 25 years, and currently resides in Brandon. She is certified with Hillsborough County Public Schools as a Paraprofessional. Ms. Mary has three children, two of whom were adopted from Russia, as well as two grandchildren. She loves cooking, reading, and shopping in her spare time.
Carmen de Quintanilla
Ms. Carmen was born in El Salvador, where she attended elementary and high school at the French school, Lycée Français de San Salvador. She has a Bachelors Degree in Interior Design and Preprimary School. She moved to Tampa in 2013. Carmen enjoys working with children and youngsters. She spends her free time with family and friends, and loves walking and exercising.
Mr. Alexander was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and lived in Utah for one year before moving to Tampa. He is a graduate of Tampa Prep and is currently a full time student at the University of South Carolina, majoring in political science with a minor in Japanese. He assisted with Focus Academy's Special Olympics teams for two years. He enjoys watching anime and movies, playing video games with friends, and spending time with family and his two dogs.