Our Staff

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 info@focusacademytampa.org. 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. 

ADMINISTRATION

Elisabeth Kraft

Principal

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.

Josephine Isenbergh

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. 

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.​

Heather Rodriguez

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.

Richelle Morton

ESE Specialist

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.  Before joining Focus Academy, she worked for Pepin Academies for five years where she taught middle school math and science, 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. In addition Ms. Morton coached both middle and high school soccer, stating, “I love seeing our kids in activities outside the academic setting, getting to see them shine and show off their talents.” Ms. Morton enjoys spending time with her husband and extended family (including her incredible, ridiculous basset hound). 

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.

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.

Sally Rosete

Data Processor

After many years working for the Hillsborough County Public Schools, Sally joined our administrative team as Data Processor extraordinaire. 

Christine Macaluso

Office Manager

Christine recently relocated 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. 

Denise Bryant

Student Support/Clerk

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 .

Isabel Bertram

Administrative Assistant

Isabel joins us from Waterbury, CT. She has an Associates Degree from Mattatuck Community College. She enjoys hiking and biking in her spare time.

Jean Marc Etienne

School Security Officer

Mr. "ET," as he is known to students and staff, is originally from Haiti, and came to the United States in 2010. He has a Bachelor of Science in Criminology/Criminal Justice from the University of Tampa, and served in the U.S. Army. ET lives with family in Tampa, and loves playing soccer, his passion. 

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TEACHERS

Kristi Benson

Teacher

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.

Robin Carbonell

Job Coach

Ms. Robin joined Focus Academy as an Educational Assistant before taking on a teaching role. She has worked with students in the high school classrooms, in Music, as well as in the Transition Program coaching students in their community-based training assignments.

Keri Como

Teacher

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.

Lauren Corsaut

Teacher

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.

Megan Cusack

Teacher

​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.

Lawanda Fox Broadnax

Transition Specialist

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.

Nick Gallo-Lopez

Teacher

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.

Gabrielle Groos

Teacher

Ms. Gabby is a 2015 graduate from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor of Arts degree and is also certified to teach K-12 Art. Coming to Focus in 2016 as an assistant, she is now the full-time visual arts teacher. She has had her work shown in many art exhibitions and museums such as the Louvre in Paris. Originating from Naples, Florida, she has worked with students in organized classes and group activities with the YMCA and Collier County Parks and Recreation. 

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EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANTS

Ryan Bernier

Educational Assistant

Mr. Ryan grew up in Orlando and attended the University of South Florida, where he received his BA in Theatre. He received the Lily Award as the post-undergrad winner. He is a past "Best of the Bay" nominee for Best Actor, Best Local Playwright, and Best Director. He is a founding member of Theatre Exceptional, a theatre company based in Largo that produces work by, for, and with, adults with disabilities. Mr. Ryan enjoys writing and producing sketch comedy and teaching kindergarten through 5th grade students at the South Tampa Center for the Arts.

Kelley Doty

Educational Assistant

Ms. Kelley is originally from the Finger Lakes region of New York. She received a Bachelor's Degree in Biology from Elmira College, and moved to Tampa in 2018, where she lives with her husband, two children, and rescue dog Sadie. In her free time she enjoys reading, swimming, walking, and exploring the Tampa area with her family.

Jaqueline Espinal

Educational Assistant

Ms. Jacki was born in Rhode Island, but now lives in Tampa. She is currently attending Hillsborough Community College and working on her degree specializing on Education for Children with Special Needs. Jacki volunteers with Best Buddies in her spare time, and loves playing soccer, dancing, and traveling.

Kellie Gioffre

Job Coach

Ms. Kellie grew up in Fairfax, Virginia, and has worked in the Tampa area helping students for more than seven years. She studied Exceptional Student Education at Barry University in Miami. Ms. Kellie comes from a large family with three brothers and two sisters. She loves swimming, reading, and spending time with her family.

Nathan Juliano

Educational Assistant

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.

Lena Lemire

Educational Assistant

Ms. Lena is a recent graduate of both the Focus Academy High School and Transition Programs. She enjoys spending time with family and taking care of her pets.

Mary Nasca

Educational Assistant

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.

Krystal Ortiz

Educational Assistant

Krystal grew up in Largo, FL, and is working on her Associate's Degree in Criminology. She has a small daughter and a very hyper rescue puppy. She enjoys being outside and going to the beach with her family.