Mrs. Amber Perryman, Principal

Mrs. Amber Perryman is a driven educational leader with a professional background working collaboratively with business and community stakeholders. She is experienced in all levels of the educational field, including classroom teacher, department chair, school accreditation, special project teams, school safety, and leadership. Mrs. Perryman also brings extensive experience in program fundraising and grant writing.

Mrs. Perryman holds a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences with a dual emphasis in Economics & Sociology (cum laude) and holds a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership & Administration (M.Ed.). She is a Florida certified Professional Educator in English (6-12), Social Science (6-12), and Educational Leadership (K-12), and has additional training in Crisis Intervention, CRISS, Ruby Payne, Kagan, Fred Jones, Charlotte Danielson Framework, Harry Wong Classroom Management, Reading Intervention, Exceptional Students Education (ESE), and English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL).

Suha A. Jaber

Dr. Suha A. Jaber, Executive Director

Dr. Suha Jaber founded Rising Leaders Academy in 2012. She served as the Principal until January 1, 2019, then became the Executive Director. She comes from the state of New Jersey, where she was a full-time university instructor. According to a popular rating website by students, she is ranked among the top 25 professors in the country out of one million. Business Insider named her as one of the best 25 professors in America. In addition, Princeton Review named her as one of the best 300 professors in the country. She received an Excellence in Teaching Award and was recognized for her course/curriculum coordinator accomplishments.

Dr. Jaber holds two Bachelor’s Degrees in Mathematics Education and Computer Science, a Master’s Degree in Applied Mathematics, and a Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership with a specialty in Curriculum and Instruction (Summa Cum Laude). She also completed Beacon courses in Gifted, Exceptional Students Education (ESE), and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). She is a certified Heroic Imagination Project workshop trainer and is certified in High-Performance Collaboration: Leadership and Teamwork through Northwest University.

Dr. Jaber brings pioneering ideas to the school and provides an education model based on sound research and proven success. She created a public charter school accessible to all children of Bay County that offers an exceptional learning environment and innovative educational solutions.

Mrs. Alison Johnson

Mrs. Alison Johnson, Coordinator of Curriculum & Instruction

This is Mrs. Johnson's 3rd year at RLA and 12th year teaching. She moved to Bay County from Cherokee County, Georgia where she was 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year.  After many years of excellent teaching, she now serves as the Coordinator of Curriculum and Instruction. She holds a Bachelors in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction, and certification for English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Mrs. Johnson is married with two adult children, one who will soon graduate from Kennesaw State University with a degree in athletic coaching and another one graduated from the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) with a degree in Education and will begin her first year of teaching this year.  Mrs. Johnson enjoys spending time with her husband shopping, fishing, traveling, and relaxing on the beach.

Shelia Murphy

Mrs. Shelia Murphy, Data Clerk

Mrs. Shelia works with the Executive Director, Dr. Jaber, on school data. She completed secretarial studies at Haney Vocational School and has completed various courses at Gulf Coast State College. Shelia’s previous office experience includes providing support to top-level corporate executives, managing an office of a local non-profit organization, and office work in the construction and medical fields. Shelia is has been at Rising Leaders for four years and enjoys working with our staff and students. Working at Rising Leaders has inspired Shelia to continue her educational pursuits, and she is working on obtaining her degree in History.

Victoria Cordell

Miss Victoria Cordell, Cafeteria Manager

Miss Victoria Cordell has been delivering nutritious school meals since 1999. She worked in several counties throughout the state of Florida. She started her foodservice career with Bay District Schools and had been elected Employee of the Year. She came to Rising Leaders Academy from Monroe County, where she also received the Year Award. She is Serv Safe certified and holds several certificates from the Florida Department of Education Division of Food Nutrition and Wellness. She made her way back to Bay County after Hurricane Michael so she can support family and friends. She loves encouraging children to choose healthily.



Lena Kharaieh

Mrs. Lena Kharaieh

This will be Mrs. Kharaieh’s third year teaching kindergarten at RLA. She is a parent of three students who have attended RLA from kindergarten. She has six years experience of teaching STEAM based preschool at, as well as Science camp, at the Science and Discovery Center in Panama City, Florida. After preparing preschool students to enter kindergarten for many years, she is very excited to help the incoming kindergarten class succeed at RLA, as well as watch some of her past students grow into successful learners.


Mrs. Sam Martone

MrsMartone has been teachingmentoringvolunteering, and serving in Bay District for over 20 years.  The majority of her experience was at Oakland Terrace Elementary School for the Performing Arts before it closed in 2019, after Hurricane Michael.  She is also known as Ms. Sam and "Mamma Sam" to the many children that she has influenced over the years. She has been married for 30 years and has 3 grown children and a grandson.  She has been a nutrition consultant for 24 years, and she and her husband co-own a local charter fishing business. She is an active member of City Church at Northside.  She enjoys anytime with her family and 5 dogs, live music, and walks enjoying the beauties of creation. This is her 5th year at RLA. Last year she taught Kindergarten at RLA.



Mrs. Tanja Villamore

Mrs. Villamor graduated in 1996 from Lakehead University (Canada) with a BSc in Natural Science and a BEd, both with first class standing. She played varsity volleyball with the Lady Norwesters and earned the Academic All Canadian. She is certified in Elementary Education K-6, and Science 6-8. She has taught over 1000 students in her 28 years of teaching in three different countries: Japan, Canada, and the United States. Mrs. Villamor has taught all levels, from kindergarten to highschool biology. Her most recent classroom teaching experience was as a middle school science teacher at Ewa Makai Middle School in Hawaii. Since moving to Panama City from Hawaii in 2020, she has focused on tutoring, subbing, and being a professional essay grader. Mrs. Villamor has mentored and helped train student teachers in both Canada and the United States. She also has specialized training in Orton-Gillingham methods, multi-sensory math, Singapore Math, AVID, ESOL, and is a trainer of trainers for Thinking Maps. Aside from teaching, she is a published author and proud military spouse. She enjoys coaching volleyball, and has had the opportunity to coach her son in the local Volley for Christ program. When not in the classroom, Mrs. Villamor enjoys outrigger paddling with her husband and two sons, as well as rock painting.

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Ms. Melissa Cash

Ms. Melissa's training comes from Florida State University's  Elementary Education program, as well as the Elementary Education course of study at Gulf Coast State College. Her classroom experience includes Kindergarten - 2nd Grade (Breakfast Point Academy), 1st Grade (Patronis Elementary Student Teaching), 2/3 ELL Inclusion (Lucille Moore Student Teaching). Ms. Melissa worked on the Lucille Moore Math Fair Team, and additionally served on the Highland Park STEM Night Team. She is passionate about early literacy in foundational grades, and loves to infuse creative activities into the learning environment. Melissa enjoys time with her family, being outdoors, baking, and singing in her church band. 


Melanie Herriges

Mrs. Melanie Herriges

Mrs Melanie Herriges has over five years of teaching experience at Rising Leaders Academy (RLA), covering all facets of elementary education. She also served in the United States Air Force for over 20 years, retiring at Tyndall AFB in 2017. She has a Bachelors Degree in Social Science with honors from Troy University. In addition, she has proven, consistent results educating students at RLA and believes that partnering with you and your child to achieve their educational goals establishes a solid foundation for their success.

Kristen 4th

Mrs. Kristin Jeffery

My name is Kristin Jeffrey. I have been married for 20 years and have 3 children with one attending RLA. I have a Bachelors degree in Elementary Education. I am Reading Endorsed and ESOL endorsed. This is my 16th year teaching and second year at Rising Leaders Academy. I have taught grades Kdg through 3rd. I also worked 2 years at The Boys and Girls Club teaching kdg through 5th grade after school. I live on 10 acres and have a farm. We have goats, pigs, ducks, chickens, quail, a dog, a cat, bearded dragons, a turtle, bees, and fish. I am a huge animal lover. I enjoy making goat milk soaps and lotions.


Mark Gregory

Mr. Mark Gregory

Mark Gregory graduated from FSU-PC, where he received his Bachelors of Science in Elementary Education. He has worked as an instructor in private education since 2003. Mr. Gregory taught both math and science at RLA for the past three years. He is certified in Elementary Education K-6, Earth-Space Science 6-12, and English for Speakers of Other Languages Reading. His 8th-grade science FCAT scores had 100 percent proficiency. He enjoys writing poetry, playing the piano and guitar, and singing with his family. As a child, Mark struggled with a condition called Erb’s Palsy, resulting from a broken nerve in his left shoulder. His parents and teachers' support helped him develop a positive “can do” mental attitude toward life difficulties.


Ms. Michelle England

This will be Ms. England’s first year of teaching 3rd Grade English Language Arts (ELA) and Social Studies at RLA.  Ms. England has 6 years of experience teaching ELA to middle and high school students in Bay county.  She is certified to teach Elementary K-6 and English Language Arts 6-12. She has worked in education a total of 16 years, with experience teaching and working with all age groups from Pre-K to 12th grade.  Ms. England is a fur mom who loves to read and write.  Some of her poetry has been published in literary magazines both online and in print. She enjoys cooking, baking, kayaking, going to the beach, and camping. 



Mrs. Sara Rodwell

Mrs. Sara Rodwell comes to us from Nebraska, where she taught third grade for seven years. She has worked in education for a total of sixteen years. Sara has a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, and a Master of Science in STEM Education from The University of Nebraska at Omaha. She is passionate about integrating curriculum to create the most meaningful learning experiences for her students while allowing them to explore their interests through passion projects. Sara is married with three children, one dog, and two cats. Her favorite things to do are read, garden, create art, swim, do yoga, kayak, go to the beach, and explore new places.   


Mrs. Amberley Schmidt

Mrs. Amberley Schmidt has lived in Bay County for two years. Her passion for learning began when she started teaching ESOL to students overseas and led her to obtain her teaching certificate and immediately begin teaching here in Panama City. Mrs. Schmidt has a Bachelor of Science in Legal Studies and is working on her reading endorsement. She is passionate about STEM both inside and outside of the classroom and believes strong relationships with students and parents is the formula for success in the classroom. Mrs. Schmidt is married with two daughters, and one fluffy cat. When Mrs. Schmidt is not teaching she is leading her local Girl Scout troop, baking, traveling, or tending her bees in her backyard apiary.


Amanda Spillane

Mrs. Amanda Spillane

Mrs. Spillane has been an elementary school teacher for over 20 years. She holds a K – 6 Educational certificate, ESE certificate, and ESOL certificate. She has been teaching at Rising Leaders Academy for six years and was ranked Highly Effective. The state of Florida also recognized her as a High Impact teacher. Mrs. Spillane taught in Texas, Alabama, and Florida in Grades K – 8. She also spent a year in Japan teaching English to Elementary-Adults and taught two years of high school drama. She maintains high expectations for her students and cheers them on as they meet them.

Mathew Bunnell

Mr. Mathew Bunnell

Mr. Bunnell will be returning for his 5th year at R.L.A. and his 8th year of teaching overall. He holds a bachelor's degree from Asbury University and is certified to teach Kindergarten through Sixth grade. During these years he has earned the rank of highly effective and teacher of the year teacher. He has experience educating in diverse settings utilizing Individual Education Plans and Behavioral Accommodations. Before he was a teacher, he worked as a para-professional in a classroom with multiple disabilities and as an assistant at an outdoors Waldorf Kindergarten and pre-school. Mr. Bunnell was also trained as a barista in Jacksonville, FL (Lilly's Coffee Bar) and has founded 'Bunnell Brew House' in his classroom with contributions from his administration and coworkers. He enjoys using his training in drama and comedy to keep students engaged through creative methods of instruction. His ultimate goal is to create a 'strict but nurturing' educational setting where students feel valued, uplifted, while being prepared for the future.


Roland Hankins

Mr. Roland Hankins

Mr. Hankins worked at Rising Leaders for 6 years as a mathematics teacher. He was recognized by the state of Florida as a High Impact teacher for his students’ high math test scores, which were the top in the district and among the top in the state, for the FSA and EOC. Mr. Hankins is a certified teacher who has taught every grade level and around 12 years of teaching experience in Bay County. Most of his experience has been in middle school science and mathematics in Bay District Schools. He is certified in Middle School Mathematics Education, as well as K-6. He also completed training in STEM at Gulf Coast College, which include programming and robotics. In addition, Mr. Hankins completed a Beacon course in teaching Exceptional Students Education (ESE).


Mr. Daniel Woodrum

Mr. Woodrum started teaching in 2022 after receiving his bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Florida State University. He comes from a long line of teachers, including his father, grandmother, and several other close family members. He is blessed with a wife and young son, and loves to spend his free time with them. Otherwise, he is an avid reader of all things historical, recreational guitar player, and often volunteers with his local church.

HIGH SCHOOL Science & Mathematics Teacher


Mr. Kevin Jacobs

This is Mr. Jacobs second year at RLA. He has 38 years in education at multiple schools. Mr. Jacobs retired from teaching in Georgia after 31 years before coming to Florida 8 years ago. In Florida he was an administrator at a local school for almost five years. He obtained a Bachelor's degree in Chemistry (B.S) from Piedmont University with minors in education and curriculum. Mr. Jacobs also holds a Master’s degree in Science Education (M.S) and a Specialist degree in Curriculum (EdS). He was nominated several times for STAR teacher while in Georgia. Over the years he has taught AP Chemistry, AP Physics (Calculus), Physical Science, Biology, Astronomy, Geology, and many science related subjects. 

Mr. Jacobs has coached multiple sports in his degree. In 2001 his girls basketball team captured the state championship. He was named the Georgia Coach-of-the-Year for the team's accomplishments. During the same year his softball team also captured the state championship.

The veteran teacher also served in the USAF for almost five years. He is a disabled veteran. Mr. Jacobs believes his approach to teaching is to make each challenge exciting for his students. He believes that students are involved in the science classroom and in a laboratory setting.

Middle & HIGH SCHOOL English Teacher

Tamara Brillard

Mrs. Tamara Brillard

Mrs. Brillard believes that each child is unique, special, and capable. She wants to help each child discover this within themselves so they become respectful, confident, and active community members. Mrs. Brillard has been working at Bay District Schools as a paraprofessional, substitute teacher, and for the last 10 years as a full-time teacher. She is an AP (Advanced Placement) certificated instructor in English and Psychology. She taught reading, writing and comprehension to students for 9 years. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology (Summa Cum Laude), focusing from Troy University. She has completed her coursework with a Master’s degree in Clinical Counseling from Troy University. Mrs. Brillard received the Teacher of the Year Award at Rising Leaders Academy in the 2020 – 2021 school and was a nominee for the Bay District Teacher of the Year. She currently holds her professional certification in K-6 Elementary Education. She has completed her ESOL, ESE, and Reading Endorsements. She is very excited to create a collaborative, hands-on environment where students thrive and learn to listen and work together. This will be Mrs. Brillard’s sixth year at RLA.



Mrs. Jennifer Tinsley

This is Mrs. Tinsley's 11th year teaching Social Studies in Florida. She attended Florida State University and earned a Bachelors degree in Social Science Education. She has experience teaching AP and Honors classes in the Social Studies realm. Ms. Young is married with 5 children and enjoys various hobbies, such as kayaking, painting and photography.



Mr. Timothy Minnick, PE Coach/Director of School Safety & Security

Coach Tim is a native of Southern Illinois and is in his second year at Rising Leaders Academy. Coach Tim is a former Illinois Law Enforcement Officer (Police Sergeant) of 13 years,  having also served as an Undercover Special Agent during that time. Coach Tim has been a Japanese Martial Arts practitioner and Instructor for over 20 years. 
Coach Tim is the founder and former owner of Shinobi Fitness. There he taught members as young as 4 years old all the way up to clients in their 70s, Obstacle Course Training, Fitness, and Martial Arts.
Coach Tim competed on American Ninja Warrior in 2014 (NBC, Season 6) and then competed on the obstacle course television show (CBS) The Million Dollar Mile, in 2018.
Coach Tim has brought his love of Obstacle Course Training along with state of the art equipment, to Rising Leaders Academy and enjoys teaching it to all ages.
Coach Tim also serves as the Safety Director, which includes training staff and students on safe school practices.


A native of Lynn Haven, FL, Ethan has been involved in athletics his whole life. He received a bachelors degree in Sport and Fitness Management at Troy University while also receiving All-Conference honors on the football field as a defensive back for the University. After excelling in college, Ethan spent some time in the NFL with the Detroit Lions. After the Lions, Ethan also was blessed to play professional football in the CFL, in which he played for the Montréal Allouettes and the Hamilton Tiger-cats. After his playing career he was the defensive backs football coach for Arnold High school in Panama City Beach, FL for 2 seasons. He has years of experience of teaching PE (K-12). Throughout his years of training students and student athletes, he has trained professional, college, high school, and adolescent athletes. He has a passion to teach the youth the skills and knowledge that he’s been blessed to attain throughout his playing, teaching, and coaching career.


Fatma Elemam

Mrs. Fatma Elemam

Mrs. Elemam has a Bachelor of Education in Arabic Language and Masters of Education from Bloomsburg University. She has over 20 years of experience in teaching Arabic. She taught all levels from kindergarten to university level, where she taught at Bloomsburg University. She has been teaching at Rising Leaders Academy for six years. She has a Teaching Certificate covering World Language.


Patricia Perkins

Mrs. Patricia Perkins

Mrs. Perkins started her career in education more than ten years ago. After two years as a para-professional for Bay District Schools, she began working as a Spanish teacher. She was awarded an Excellence in Teaching Award the four years she taught at her previous school, Panama City Renaissance School. Over the years, she has taken several courses on education and has fulfilled all the requirements to obtain her Professional Education Certification. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her background as an architect has made it easy for her to visualize and plan lessons that incorporate different forms of expression. This will be Mrs. Perkins’s 9th year at Rising Leaders Academy.

RLATV, Media, Digital Instruction Teacher

Kristen Kelly

Ms. Kristen Kelly

Ms. Kelly holds her professional teaching certification in K-6 Elementary Education and has been teaching for seven years. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Emory University and a Business certificate from Harvard Business School. She started RLATV at RLA and is she is excited to share her love of technology and digital instruction with students this year. Ms. Kelly also established RLA’s Student Council. She is eager to continue helping students find their voice and make a positive impact on their community this year through Student Council, TV, and media.

Art & Music Teacher


Ms. Rachel Cole

Mrs. Rachel Cole has been teaching Art and Music in the classroom for three years. She has also taught String instruction privately for ten years and directed the Wiregrass Youth Symphony Orchestra for eight years. Mrs. Cole studied Cello Performance at Florida State University and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from the Baptist College of Florida. She is passionate about teaching students to use their creativity and  imagination through Fine Arts.

Musical Theater TEACHER & MTSS Para

Cynthia White

Ms. Cynthia White

Ms. Cynthia White holds an Associates Degree in Theatre Arts from Gulf Coast State College. In 2005, she won the college’s, “Most Outstanding Theatre Student Award.” She continued her studies in art and theatre at Baylor University and the University of Mobile. She has directed 3 of RLA’s plays, “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” and “Frozen.” She has loved working with children’s theatre and loves to bring out the shyest of students’ talents. She looks forward to teaching her 6th year at RLA.


Yafa Nofal

Mrs. Yafa Nofal

Mrs. Nofal has a Bachelor’s Degree in Music and have been a private piano teacher for many years. She is excited to be teaching music to RLA students as we launch our music program. She plans to teach our students about different instruments and notes. Music will help develop areas of the brain related to language and reasoning. Mrs. Nofal will help promote craftsmanship and make learning fun.

Administrative Support


Ms. Pam Massimiani

Mrs. Pam is excited about her new role with the RLA family. She joins the team with over 10 years of administrative office assistant experience. Her previous work involvement included supporting corporate executives and office proficiency in the construction field. Pam has also had the privilege of volunteering and substituting in various positions for the last three years at Rising Leaders, giving her further insight into her current position. Pam believes that regardless of the area of education you work in, you still have an impact on the students, and you should make it a positive one. She looks forward to assisting students, parents, and staff to the best of her ability.