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A+ Education Partnership

Mark Dixon, President

Mark joined the A+ team on February 1, 2019. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Wake Forest University. He spent five years as Education Policy Advisor to Alabama Governor Bob Riley and later as Policy Director. With an expressed desire to learn more about nonprofit management, Dixon moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue his Master of Business Administration in Strategic Management and Public Policy from The George Washington University School of Business. While in school, Dixon held an Education Pioneers Fellowship with Teach for America where he continued his pursuit of education reform.

Following business school, Dixon joined General Electric (GE) where for the past six years he has held both corporate and business roles. A graduate of GE’s Experienced Commercial Leadership Program, Dixon helped build a commercial consulting organization, and led teams on strategic projects for senior leaders on five continents. Most recently, Dixon led market development efforts for GE Power’s steam unit in North and South America to develop projects and drive value creation for customers.

Corinn O'Brien, VP of Policy

Vice President of Policy

[email protected]

Corinn joined the A+ team on August 9, 2021, as Vice President of Policy.  Most recently, she served as the Policy and Advocacy Manager for the Birmingham Education Foundation. In this role, she built Ed’s Policy and Advocacy team, with key initiatives focusing on policy research and analysis, civic education, and issue advocacy.  Corinn launched Ed’s Community Action Fellowship, which trained over 60 community advocates in the fundamentals of equity-focused, evidence-based education policy and political advocacy.  She also spearheaded the launch of the Birmingham Coalition for Student Mental Health, a group of over 25 organizations and numerous individuals working on expanding school-based mental health supports in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Corinn began her career as an 8th-grade math teacher and 2008 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans.  Throughout her ten years as an educator, she taught in a traditional public school setting, was a founding team member of a turnaround K-8 charter school in New Orleans, and coached twelve teachers as the assistant principal of a charter middle school in Nashville.

Corinn earned her B.A. in Economics from Louisiana State University in 2008 and an M.Ed. in Learning, Diversity, and Urban Studies from Vanderbilt University in 2016. She currently serves on the Teach for America Alabama Alumni Board.  She is married to Mark, has one daughter, Louise Renee, and loves to bake cookies and make gumbo.

Megan Skipper, VP of Communications & Strategic Initiatives

VP of Communications & Strategic Initiatives
[email protected]

Megan joined the A+ team in December 2018 as Director of Communications. In 2021, Megan was promoted to Vice President of Communications & Strategic Initiatives.

Megan began her career in Montgomery at the Montgomery Education Foundation in 2016 as a communications and research coordinator. She left the non-profit world briefly to work as a political strategist during the 2018 midterm election season. Now, she continues her work in education policy and communications at A+.

She received a bachelor’s degree in human development and family studies, focused in public policy from Auburn University. She also holds a master’s degree in strategic communication from Troy University.

Originally from Daphne, AL, Megan has made a home in Montgomery with her partner, Hunter, her dogs Jack and Rocky, her cat Piper, and many loved ones.

Dawn Barranco, Chief Financial Officer

Chief Financial Officer
[email protected]

Dawn came to A+ in March 2021 as Chief Financial Officer.  Prior to A+, she worked for 31 years in public accounting specializing in audits of not for profit organizations.  She graduated from Robert E. Lee High School and then Auburn University with a B.S. in Accounting.  Dawn and her husband Steve live in Montgomery and have three children.  Dawn is also a photographer who loves shooting weddings, families, Seniors, and newborn portraits. She also serves as the treasurer for COPE which is a local crisis pregnancy center.

Charity Gardner, Policy Manager

Policy Manager
[email protected]

Charity joined the A+ team in August of 2021 as Policy Manager. She comes to A+ most recently from the Alabama House of Representatives, where she worked in the office of Rep. Bill Poole, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Education Committee, and learned the intimate details of legislative administration, advocacy, and important education issues. 

Previously, Charity has worked as an organizer and finance director for local political campaigns across the south. She is excited to continue her work pushing for change in the policy realm at A+, where she hopes she can influence the lives and outcomes of all young Alabamians, especially those of color.  

Charity is a native of Nashville, TN, and is a graduate of Tennessee State University, where she received her bachelor’s degree in urban studies.

Stirling Hutchins, Development Director

Development Director
[email protected]

Stirling joined the A+ team in September 2021, as Development Director.  Most recently, she served as the Legacy Gifts Officer and Senior Relationship Manager for United Way of Central Alabama. In these roles, she worked to grow the endowment through the strategic use of planned gift vehicles, worked closely with volunteers, individual donors, and corporate partners, and lead diverse teams of Loaned Executives through three campaign cycles. In 2019, she was the staff lead for the United Way Pacesetter Campaign, chaired by Jill Deer (Brasfield & Gorrie), raising $13.8 million, making it the largest campaign to date in both companies participating and dollars raised.

Stirling began her nonprofit career as an AmeriCorps member with Impact America, serving as a FocusFirst Coordinator, helping to lead a free vision screening initiative for preschool children. She spent three years with Impact helping to grow FocusFirst, becoming National Expansion Director and bringing the program into Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida through Head Start and Community Action partnerships.

Stirling earned her B.A. in Business from Judson College in 2013, received a Certificate in Fundraising Management from the Lilly School of Philanthropy in March 2021, and became a Certified Fund Raising Executive in January 2021. She has an only cat, Pepper, enjoys Alabama football and Braves baseball, and shows her love to others through refilling their Brita Pitchers and making them playlists.

Caroline Novak, Senior Advisor

[email protected]

As a member of the charter class of Leadership Alabama, Caroline learned about the depth of Alabama's challenges in education, and the role citizens played in organizing efforts to improve education in states such as Kentucky. Caroline challenged her class to promote excellence and equity for all children in our state. Caroline and her classmate, Bill Smith, chairman of Royal Cup Coffee, launched A+ in 1991 with the support of committed Alabama educators and other business and civic leaders.

The A+ message that we can succeed with the right mix of high expectations, support for educators and students, and accountability for all stakeholders has helped to build strong partnerships throughout the state. Caroline believes that we can create opportunities for all Alabama students to pursue their dreams by ensuring that we are constant learners ourselves. She has worked diligently to build support for improving schools and develop programs to actually deliver support to educators and students through the Alabama Best practices Center and A+ College Ready.

Although Caroline retired as founding President of A+ Education Partnership in February of 2019, she remains part of the team, serving as Senior Advisor. To stay connected to national resources and local issues, she serves on the boards of the Education Commission of the States, the Southern Regional Education Board, the Business Council of Alabama, Sterling Bank, and Leadership Alabama. She and her husband, Tabor, are proud that their children, grandchildren and grand-dogs call Alabama home.

Shannon Thornton, Administrative Assistant

Administrative Assistant
[email protected]

Shannon returned to the A+ team in October 2020 and is proud to continue supporting A+ in achieving its vital mission.

Throughout her career, she has worked in various fields and held positions that have not only enriched her understanding of the importance of quality education but have also informed her of the intricate ways in which we are all connected through the human experience. Cultivating her interest in early childhood development, Shannon has consistently worked directly with children in both childcare and teaching capacities with experience as a YMCA camp counselor, au pair in France, and as a Pre-K 4 teaching assistant. She credits her formative experiences working at A+ and at VOICES for Alabama’s Children with exposing her to the necessity of data-driven advocacy as an effective path in creating open communication and in encouraging accountability of policymakers.

Shannon is a product of Alabama school systems having attended LAMP Magnet High School, Auburn University, and Auburn University at Montgomery where she is currently pursuing her B.A. in Sociology with a concentration in Anthropology and a Political Science minor.

Shannon and her husband Michael reside in Montgomery with their son Sean Patrick and are members of Holy Spirit Catholic Church. She enjoys reading, dancing, spending time with her loved ones, and volunteering at The Cloverdale Playhouse.

Alabama Best Practices Center

Cathy Gassenheimer, Executive Vice President

[email protected]

Cathy has been with A+ from almost the very beginning, joining in August 1991. In 1999, A+ launched the Alabama Best Practices Center, which works directly with educators through our four professional learning networks: the Superintendent Leaders Network, the Key Leaders Network (school and district leaders), the Powerful Conversations Network (school teams), and the Instructional Partners Network (school-based instructional coaches).

Cathy is a life-long learner and loves nothing more than to learn more about things that matter. She's also quite a lover of all types of music! Personally, she's married to Rick Gassenheimer and together they have three children and three grandchildren. You can connect with Cathy through this website, and also on Twitter (@cathygassenheim) and the ABPC Facebook page.

Stoney Beavers, Ph.D., Assistant Director

[email protected]

Stoney grew up in Blount County, Alabama. He attended the University of Montevallo, where he completed his undergraduate degree in Spanish and English with a secondary teaching certificate. He completed his Masters in Secondary Education while teaching at Hoover High School. He then went to work with the United States Peace Corps in Paraguay, extending his service to be the Education Volunteer Coordinator and eventually was named the Assistant Director of Peace Corps Training.

Five years later, Stoney returned home, teaching English, Spanish, and drama at his alma mater, the Cleveland School, for the next ten years. During that time he finished his Educational Specialist Degree, became a National Board Certified Teacher, was inducted into the Jacksonville State University Teacher Hall of Fame, was named Alabama Secondary Teacher of the Year, and received the National Milken Family Foundation Award for Educators (the Oscars of Teaching). He also met his wife Lisa, and they started their family a few years later with the birth of their daughter, Mckinley.

In 2006, Stoney took a position as the Secondary Curriculum Coordinator for Blount County, and later the Assistant Superintendent, where he served for the next fourteen years. During this time, he received his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction Teaching and Learning from the University of Alabama.

Stoney joined the A+ team as the Assistant Director of the Alabama Best Practices Center in 2020, so as to have a broader impact on student learning: "I have seen the power of networking with other highly engaged school and classroom leaders from across the state, and I have benefited personally from the quality learning and sharing that’s really the hallmark of the work of A+ College Ready and the Alabama Best Practices Center. I will be ABPC’s first assistant director and this new position provides me with an opportunity to learn and to continue to grow with other passionate educators and educational leaders across the state who are striving every day to create great schools for every child."

Pat Johnson, Consultant

AL Best Practices Center
[email protected]

Pat cannot remember a time when she was not involved in education: she has been in school, teaching school, managing a school or consulting with schools for many years. Her career began in kindergarten in North Carolina, then to Florida, and now in Alabama. She taught multiple grade levels and content areas from kindergarten to college. In addition, she has had the opportunity to visit classrooms in Kenya, Bolivia, and Honduras.

Pat never dreamed she would leave the classroom, but when she began working as Teacher-In-Residence with the University of Alabama, she realized the importance of strong administrative leadership. As such, she spent the last years in public education in administration.

Pat's goal is to always be a learner—in education and in life. She believes that no matter the age or stage in life there is always something new to learn.

Away from the work of education, Pat and her husband enjoy traveling, involvement in mission outreach through their church, and gardening.

John Norton, Communications Consultant

Communications Consultant
AL Best Practices Center
[email protected]

John made his first connection with A+ more than 20 years ago during a chance phone encounter with Cathy Gassenheimer, while he was vice president for information at the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB). As a communications consultant for the A+ Alabama Best Practices Center, John has spent a decade writing and editing the ABPC journal Working Toward Excellence and now serves as editor for the ABPC Blog. In his first career, he reported on education for newspapers in South Carolina. He was also the first executive director of the state-supported SC Center for Teacher Recruitment (now CERRA).

A Clemson graduate, John attended "small-town" public schools while growing up near Myrtle Beach. He and his wife, Janice, live in Little Switzerland, NC, but spend lots of time in Atlanta with grandson Wyatt and daughter Laurah, an English professor at Georgia State.

Dakota Punzel, Operations Manager

Operations Manager
AL Best Practices Center
[email protected]

Dakota joined the Alabama Best Practices Center team in March of 2020.  He was born in Indiana, and has spent the last 15 years in Alabama. Since graduation from Troy University in 2015, Dakota has worked in the non-profit world in many different capacities. A recent opportunity gave him the chance to teach reading classes to K-12 students over the summer. This illuminating experience gave him an even greater appreciation for the significant challenge that teachers face every single day.

He was homeschooled from Kindergarden-9th grade and credits his mother for instilling his lifelong love of learning. He graduated from Cleveland High School in Cleveland, AL, and went on to earn his bachelor's degree in Sport Management from Troy University. Dakota proudly says “Go Trojans!” when asked whether he is an Auburn or Alabama fan, taking the non-confrontational path in that rivalry.

In his spare time, Dakota likes to read, go to the gym with his wife, spend time with his 5 dogs and 1 cat, and work on carpentry and other projects.

Christine Spear, Consultant, Ed.D

AL Best Practices Center
[email protected]

Christine grew up in Selma, Alabama. In the fall of 1968 she, along with a very small number of African American children, integrated Cedar Park Elementary School in Selma. That experience forever shaped how she viewed education and the school environment. Christine graduated from the University of Montevallo with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications. After graduation, she returned to Selma to marry her sweetheart and start a family. She initially worked in the Selma City School District as an instructional aide in a first-grade classroom. Shortly after, she worked as a control room operator and then broadcast director at WAKA-TV station in Selma. Although she enjoyed her work at the TV station, Christine never forgot the fulfillment she experienced during the year she spent with those first graders. She then enrolled at Auburn University Montgomery to pursue a master’s in education. Upon graduation Christine was hired as a teacher in Montgomery Public Schools and for the next 10 years she taught fourth and fifth grade reading, Kindergarten, First Grade and served as a Library Media Specialist. She received an Education Specialist degree from Alabama State University in Library Education Media. The last eighteen years of her K-12 education career was spent working at the Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) in the following capacities: Education Specialist for the Alabama Reading Initiative, Statewide Coordinator for Response to Instruction (RtI), Project Administrator for the School Improvement Grant (SIG) and Project Alabama Consortium for Turnaround (PACT) programs and an Education Administrator for the Office of School Improvement. In these roles at the ALSDE, she provided technical assistance to local education agencies that were engaged in school reform processes and encouraged them to organize school resources so that students received appropriate supports in a timely manner. She holds degrees in education from Auburn University, Montgomery (M.Ed.), Alabama State University (Ed.S.) Christine received her Educational Doctorate in Leadership from Concordia University-Portland.

After nearly 30 years serving K-12 education, Christine retired, but is proud to still be able to serve educators by being a part of the A+ team. Helping educators develop professionally while also being able to learn and grow is a passion of hers. Being a part of the progressive work of the Alabama Best Practices Center helps to feed that passion.

Jackie Walsh, Senior Consultant

Senior Consultant
AL Best Practices Center
[email protected]

Since 2008, Jackie has served as senior consultant to the ABPC with primary responsibilities for design and facilitation of professional learning. Previously, she collaborated with A+ in her role as consultant to the Governor’s Commission on Quality Teaching.

Jackie began her career as a high school social studies teacher and, over the years, hasworked in multiple educational organizations, including universities, a state department of education, a regional educational laboratory, and as consultant to the USDOE, national professional organizations, multiple SDEs, regional agencies, and school districts across the country. Phew! She should be really tired!

Jackie's passion is classroom questioning. She has co-authored four books on this topic, most recently Quality Questioning, 2nd Edition (Corwin Press, 2017) and Questioning for Classroom Discussion (ASCD, 2015), numerous articles in national journals, and presented at many national conferences. She partners with teachers in schools and districts across the country to improve questioning practices.

A native of Georgia, Jackie received the A.B. from Duke University, M.A.T. from the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill), and Ph.D. from the University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa). In her spare time, she enjoys time with her adult children, two granddaughters, and two grand-dogs. She also travels whenever a good opportunity arises, reads recreationally (as well as professionally), and is a huge college basketball and football fan.

A+ College Ready

Tammy Dunn, Vice President for Academic Affairs

Vice President for Academic Affairs
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Tammy is a 30 year career educator. The first 17 years of her career were spent in science classrooms in Tennessee and Hoover, Alabama, teaching biology, chemistry, physics and AP biology. In 2007, she went to work as the science supervisor for Jefferson County Schools where she facilitated the curriculum, instruction, professional learning, and assessment for 6 - 12 science education in 14 high schools and their feeder middle schools. While working with Jefferson County schools, Tammy helped manage the A+ College Ready grant program implementation in its first year, and in 2010, she became the Program Manager for A+ College Ready. In 2013, she went to serve as the Chief Academic Officer for Mathematics and Science for Hoover City Schools, and in 2016 returned to A+ College Ready as the Vice President for Academic Affairs.

Tammy earned a bachelor's degree from the University of North Alabama, a master's degree from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and an Education Specialist's Degree from Samford University, in addition to an administrative certification earned at the University of Montevallo.

Tammy achieved certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in 1999 and renewed the certification in 2009. She has mentored over 100 teachers who have undergone the NBPTS certification process. She served for nine years on the NBPTS board of directors. She received the 2001 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching and was the 2003 Alabama Teacher of the Year.

Tammy and her husband Ray love to travel and play golf. The joy of her life is enjoying her family, especially her five grandchildren, Ava, Olivia, Zadie, Caden, and Sophie.

Teri Thompson, Vice President for Operations

Vice President for Operations
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Teri has been involved with public education in Alabama for 37 years.  She began teaching in the Birmingham City System in 1984. After retiring in 2014,  she began working with A+ College Ready full time.  Her classroom experience includes teaching high school English, grades 9-12 and AP Literature and Composition in diverse educational settings from urban to rural to magnet.

In 2010, Teri became a certified Laying the Foundation trainer and has presented at summer trainings across the state as well as presenting at Advanced Placement (AP) Literature Saturday Study Sessions in Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Teri joined the staff of A+ College Ready in 2014 as the manager for Partner Schools;  she is currently the Vice-President of Operations.

Teri has served on the Board of Directors for Leadership Elmore County and is currently serving on the Board for the Montgomery Red Elephant Club.  She is married and lives in Wetumpka, AL.

Megan Cole, AP Economics Specialist

AP Economics Specialist
A+ College Ready

Megan has been teaching at Homewood High School in Birmingham for ten years. She currently teaches AP Macroeconomics and Economics, and has previously taught AP United States History and Modern United States History. Megan achieved certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in 2016 and currently serves as a mentor for teachers in the process of achieving certification. 

Megan has been involved in AP Macroeconomics reading for several years. She has participated as a reader and a Table Leader and now serves as a Question Leader at the national reading. Megan has also written multiple choice questions for the national AP Macroeconomics exam. 

Megan is a graduate of Auburn High School and received a Bachelors of Science degree in Secondary Social Studies Education from Auburn University. She earned her Masters in Education degree in Secondary Social Studies Education from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She lives in Birmingham with her husband, Hunter and daughter, Maggie.

Melissa Crook, Executive Assistant

Executive Assistant
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Melissa has served as the executive assistant for A+ College Ready since 2015. She earned a B.A. in Anthropology and Master of Public Health, both from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her passion for the education field stems from her upbringing in a small, rural town. She graduated from Fayetteville High School in Sylacauga, AL, and is encouraged by the opportunities the A+ program offers to so many students in similar settings.

Melissa lives in Sylacauga, and has two children, daughter Madelyn, and son MJ. In her spare time, she enjoys photography and spending time outdoors.

Matt Dean, Science Content Director (AP)

Science Content Director (AP)
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Matt has taught AP Biology for over 20 years and AP Physics for over 5, and is currently the Science Content Director for A+ College Ready. He has presented at numerous AP professional development conferences and Saturday study sessions across the state.

Matt attended Madison County High School in Gurley, AL, and earned Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Additionally, he earned Educational Specialist and Doctoral degrees from the University of Alabama. He was awarded National Board Certification in 2001 and 2011. He enjoys kayaking and farming in his spare time.

Katherine Dearing, Training & Data Manager

Training & Data Manager
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Katherine joined A+ College Ready as the Training Manager in 2016.  Prior to joining our team, she worked in the legal profession while pursuing a long-held interest in education and completing an M.Ed from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Katherine graduated from Tulane University with a B.A. in Political Economy, and obtained a J.D. from the Birmingham School of Law. She enjoys working as part of a team to help ensure the quality of public education and, in doing so, to open the doors of opportunity for every Alabama student.

Jenifer Glover, Director of Finance

Director of Finance
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Jenifer joined the A+ team in 2014, serving as its Finance Manager. She earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and MBA from South University. Jenifer is currently enrolled at Troy University, where she is working on her Master’s in Public Administration.

Jenifer is a native of Spring Hill, Florida: however, her roots have grown deep in Elmore County over the past seventeen years. She and her husband LaDon have four children. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and volunteering in her community.

Ginger Golson, AP World History Content Specialist

AP World History Content Specialist
A+ College Ready

Ginger Golson has been teaching in Mobile County since 1998.  Much of her career has been devoted to Advanced Placement courses including World History, European History, and Government.  Currently, she teaches AP World History to freshmen as part of Davidson High School's International Baccalaureate program.  She is certified to teach Social Studies, Language Arts, and Latin as well as being a National Board Certified teacher in Social Studies. During summers she participates in the national reading to score AP World History exams.  In her free time, she enjoys camping with her family of boys and gardening in her backyard.


Jenifer joined the A+ team in 2014, serving as its Finance Manager. She earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and MBA from South University. Jenifer is currently enrolled at Troy University, where she is working on her Master’s in Public Administration.

Jenifer is a native of Spring Hill, Florida: however, her roots have grown deep in Elmore County over the past seventeen years. She and her husband LaDon have four children. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and volunteering in her community.

Erica Griffin, English Content Director (AP)

English Content Director (AP)
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

An educator since 2000, Erica joined A+ College Ready in June of 2019 to serve Alabama’s teachers and their students as the English Content Director for AP. A graduate of Maryville College (B.A.), the University of North Alabama (M.A.), and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (Ed.S.), Erica has worked as a teacher in both Tennessee and Alabama. Prior to joining A+, she worked at Hartselle High School where she was an Instructional Partner and taught AP English Language and Advanced English 10.

Through the years, Erica has presented at numerous national conferences and has worked as a consultant for both A+ College Ready and for the National Math and Science Initiative where she presented at Saturday Study Sessions and at fall conferences, served as a LTF and E3 summer trainer, and worked as a curriculum consultant. Erica is also an adjunct professor in the College of Education at Athens State University. She currently lives in Hartselle, Alabama, with her husband and two sons where she enjoys running and watching her children play sports.

Mallory Harp, Science Content Director (6-10)

Science Content Director (6-10)
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Mallory serves as the 6-10 Science Content Director for A+ College Ready. Prior to joining A+, Mallory served nine years in the middle school classroom teaching mainly physical science while also serving in various roles with student leadership, and as an A+ Coordinator. She began working for A+ as part of the 6th and 8th grade curriculum development teams and became a Laying the Foundation and A+ summer institute trainer. Additionally, she is an AMSTI presenter.

Mallory earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Alabama in 2008 and her Master's degree in Secondary Science Education from the University of Montevallo in 2010. Originally from Trussville, she now lives in Prattville with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys time at the lake and being with friends and family.

Amanda Jordan, AP Spanish Content Specialist

AP Spanish Content Specialist
A+ College Ready

Amanda has taught Spanish for the past 14 years and is currently the A.P. Spanish Language and Culture teacher at Vestavia Hills High School. She has taught every level of Spanish, but loves the intensity, variety and difficulty of A.P. Spanish the most. The most exhilarating part of teaching Spanish is helping students make connections, build bridges, and begin a life-long learning journey of their own. She received her Bachelor’s in Spanish with a concentration in secondary education from Samford University in 2007. 

Amanda’s love of the Spanish language and culture began as a young child growing up in Lima, Peru. Her passion grew in high school and college through several travel, volunteer and study abroad experiences in Spain, Honduras, Mexico and Costa Rica. She hopes to one day visit all 21 Spanish-speaking countries and Puerto Rico. 

Amanda lives in Birmingham with her husband, Kevin, and their two children, Parker and Penny. She adores a good cup of coffee, an interesting book and a warm, sunny Saturday morning. 

Dieatra Howie, Social Studies Content Director (6-10)

Social Studies Content Director (6-10)
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Dieatra taught World History, U.S. History, U.S. Government, Economics and AP U.S. History for several years and served as the Graduation Coach. She also served as Social Studies Instructional Coach and supported both school and district level initiatives. Additionally, she served as a summer instructor for history classes for the Upward Bound Program at Troy University and as an adjunct professor for Troy University’s College of Education.

Dieatra received both her Bachelor’s Degree of Science and Master’s Degree of Science in Social Science Education from Troy University, and a Master’s Degree of Science in Instructional Leadership from Jacksonville State University. She has facilitated several professional development workshops and developed curriculum on the local, state, and national level.

Dieatra was a member of the University of Alabama Advanced Placement Team, and has been a consultant and trainer for the Alabama Department of Education with the implementation of the Social Studies Career and College Readiness Standards. She also served on the A+ College Ready Social Studies Development Team and as an AP U.S. History Saturday session presenter and was named the 2014 Alabama History Teacher of the Year.

She is happily married and the mother of one. She enjoys traveling, scrapbooking, and writing in her free time. She believes that education is the key that can open endless doors, and one of the greatest gifts educators have is the ability to truly make a difference in another’s life.

Lee Ann Latta, Mathematics Content Director (6-11)

Mathematics Content Director (6-11)
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Lee Ann joined A+ College Ready in June 2015. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education Mathematics from the University of South Alabama in 1996. She is a 19-year veteran of the Birmingham City School system where she taught everything from Algebra I to AP Statistics and AP Calculus. She also served as the AP math lead teacher for the district. Lee Ann has facilitated professional development workshops at the local, state, and national level as a trainer for the National Math and Science Initiative / Laying The Foundation and through her work with Birmingham City Schools and A+ College Ready.

Lee Ann enjoys spending time with family, traveling, reading, scrapbooking, and savoring the outdoors in warm weather. Her passion is for all kids, regardless of where they live, to receive a high quality education so that they have the opportunity to pursue any dream in their heart.

Gina McCarley, Computer Science Content Director (6-10)

Computer Science Content Director (6-10)
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Gina has been working in education since leaving industry in 1999.  Her education began with a Bachelors in Computer Science and while working in industry she received a Masters in Business Administration and later receiving an Education Masters.  Before beginning her work with A+ College Ready in 2020, she taught computer science at the high school and middle school level. Gina joined  A+ College Ready in 2020 after working in 2 A+ program schools.  She experienced the benefits from a teacher and mother’s perspective and shared in the joy of her students success with the program.

Working as a computer science consultant nationally, she has worked with organizations including College Board and NMSI.  Gina currently  serves as a teacher Advisor for Samsung.  While in the classroom she and her students found great success in competing nationally with STEM projects and Gina was recognized as a Microsoft Innovative Educator.  Her desire is the same as other CS supporters in the state to ensure every student in Alabama has the opportunity to take CS courses.  There are so many opportunities for CS to make a difference in Alabama students' lives and also for Alabama students to use their CS talents to make a difference in the lives of others.

Gina, along with her husband and son, enjoys spending time at home on the family farm which is located in Bankhead National Forest. Reading and playing with her golden retrievers is how Gina spends her some of her free time.

Kitty Morgan, Mathematics Content Director (AP)

Mathematics Content Director (AP)
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Kitty has taught AP Calculus AB and BC for over 20 years, and is currently the Math Content Director for A+ College Ready. She has served as an AP Calculus Reader, have presented at state, regional, and national conferences on math education and is a "Laying The Foundation" (LTF) presenter.

Kitty attended Stanhope Elmore High School in Millbrook, AL, and earned a degree in math education from Troy University. She holds a Master’s Degree from UAB, and earned National Board Certification in 2005. In her free time she loves to sing and twirl baton!

La’Marla Palmore, A+ College Ready Administrative Assistant

Administrative Assistant 
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Originally from Wetumpka, Alabama, LaMarla moved to Troy, Alabama to earn her Associates Degree in General Education in Business at Troy University. After earning her degree, she decided to move back to the River Region where she worked in the Hospitality industry for 9 years prior to getting hired at A+ College Ready in 2021. LaMarla has also been a licensed Realtor for 4 years and is a part of the National Association of Realtors, and the Montgomery Area Association of Realtors. LaMarla is the mother to a very active 9 year old boy who keeps her very busy with basketball, swim team, and travel baseball. In her spare time she loves traveling, Crossfit, reading, and spending time with her family.

Jess Rape, AP 2D Art & Design Content Specialist

AP 2D Art & Design Content Specialist
A+ College Ready

Jess is joining A+ College Ready as the 2D Art and Design Specialist. This is her 16th year teaching visual arts and has taught all grade levels throughout her career. She is currently teaching visual art at Mountain Brook High School in Birmingham, AL. Her classes include 2D Design, Advanced 2D Design, Foundations of Drawing and Painting, Advanced Drawing and Painting, Portfolio Enhancement, AP 2D Design and AP Drawing. Jess received her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts with a minor in Drawing and a minor in Education as well as a Master’s Degree in Art Education from Auburn University at Montgomery. 

Jess has a passion for teaching art and strives to create a classroom environment that nurtures creativity, encourages experimentation and problem solving, with a focus on technical skill to cultivate successful student artists. She knows the importance the arts have in touching the lives of children and the positive impact it has on keeping students engaged and in school. She is excited about the opportunity to support and collaborate with fellow art teachers and eager to participate in the growth of AP Visual Art programs across Alabama.     

John Richey, Leadership Consultant

Leadership Consultant
A+ College Ready
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John joined the A+ College Ready team in 2015 to serve as Leadership Consultant, working primarily as a liaison between A+ College Ready and schools involved in the program. Prior to 2015, John served as a teacher and Administrator in the Albertville, Arab, and Guntersville CitySchool systems. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Auburn University in 1986, a Master’s degree in education from the University of Alabama in Birmingham in 1988, and an educational specialist degree in Administration from the University of Alabama in 1998.

John is originally from St. Clair County and now lives in Arab with his wife, Laura.  They have three sons and a daughter by marriage. 

John enjoys travel, sports, cooking, reading, and helping schools grow academically by partnering with A+  College Ready.

Rhonda Rush, Social Studies Content Director (AP)

Social Studies Content Director (AP)
A+ College Ready
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Rhonda has taught social studies in Alabama for 33 years and is currently the Social Studies Content Director for A+ College Ready. She is a graduate of Etowah High School and earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from Jacksonville State University.  She taught her first AP course in 1986 and has since taught AP United States History at Saks High School in Calhoun County, at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa County and at Bob Jones High School in Madison County. In 1998, she began teaching at Homewood High School, where she taught AP United States History  and in 2006 added AP United States Government and Politics. She has served as an AP exam reader and a consultant leading AP Summer Institutes.

Through the years Rhonda has presented at numerous conferences on the state, regional and national level. She achieved certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) in 2009 and has served as a mentor and facilitator for NBCT candidates. Reading and sewing occupy her free time and she loves to spend time at the lake with her family.

Rebecca Thrash, AP Psychology Content Specialist

AP Psychology Content Specialist
A+ College Ready

Rebecca Thrash graduated from the University of Alabama with a BS in Psychology and an MA in Science Education in 2010.   She completed an EdS from UAB in 2020.  She is a faculty member of the Math and Science Specialty Department at the Alabama School of Fine Arts where she teaches AP Psychology, AP sciences, and research courses.  She also coordinates student work for various student research competitions particularly for Behavioral Sciences.  She has developed curriculum for ASFA’s senior research capstone program and the American Association of Immunologists.  Rebecca is also an AP Reader for the College Board.

Her work with A+ College Ready began in 2011 as a program teacher and then AP Biology presenter.  She has since been involved with developing materials for AP Environmental Science.

Pam Walker, English Content Director (6-10)

English Content Director (6-10)
A+ College Ready
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Pam joined A+ College Ready in June of 2015. She is a twenty-five-year veteran English teacher who has taught in both Georgia and Alabama public schools.  Her wide array of teaching assignments gives her the experience necessary to serve and mentor English teachers across Alabama. Pam has served as an AP study session presenter and is also a certified Laying The Foundation trainer. She was named Elmore County Teacher of the Year for Secondary Schools for 2015-2016.

Pam earned her bachelor’s degree in Language Arts Education from Auburn University in 1995. Originally from Auburn, she now lives in Wetumpka with her husband, who is also an educator.  They have three children who have recently left the nest!  In her spare time, Pam enjoys reading, writing, cooking, and traveling with her husband.

Kim Wallace, Logistics Manager

Logistics Manager
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Kim joined the A+ team in 2018.  She is a Mississippi State University graduate with a Bachelors in Business Administration. Kim grew up in Memphis, Tennessee, and now calls Wetumpka her home. She is happily married with two children. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, walking, and reading.

Carol Yarbrough, Computer Science Content Director (AP)

Computer Science Content Director (AP)
A+ College Ready
[email protected]

Carol began teaching high school in 2007, embarking on a second career after working in the computer industry for 20+ years. She taught computer science full-time at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, in Birmingham, Alabama, for 12 years before joining A+ College Ready full-time in 2018.

Carol graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a B.S. degree in Computational Mathematics. She then was employed in just about every aspect of the computer industry, doing both scientific and business programming. In addition to being a programmer, she has been a designer, analyst, system administrator, database administrator, technical architect, corporate trainer and curriculum developer. But, she always wanted to teach, so she studied Secondary Mathematics Education in the 5th year program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has been a College Board pilot teacher, a member of the course and exam development committee and a College Board Consultant for the AP CS Principles course as well as a Teacher Leader with the CS4Alabama project. CS4Alabama is training in-service teachers in Alabama to teach the APCS Principles course.

Carol enjoys working with bright and creative people and the satisfaction of knowing that her work matters.

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