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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.

Kathy Swenson

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."

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. 

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.

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 .

RaeAnn O'Sullivan

Lunch Coordinator

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.

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.

Michelle Bouley

Teacher

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.

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.

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EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANTS

Robin Carbonell

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 Hardin

Educational Assistant

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. and 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.

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.

Hannah Nyberg

Educational Assistant

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. 

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.

Carmen de Quintanilla

Educational Assistant

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.

Skylar Rivera

Educational Assistant

Ms. Rivera grew up in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and moved to Tampa upon her marriage. She has worked as a health aide as well as dog trainer, and in her spare time she enjoys arts and crafts, sewing, surfing, and going to the gym. 

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Ms. Como in class