Our Staff

rising leaders academy

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).


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 become the Executive Director. She comes from the state of New Jersey where she was a full time university instructor. She is ranked among the top 25 professors in the country out of one million according to a popular rating website by students. 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 accomplishments as a Course/Curriculum Coordinator.


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 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 solution.


Mrs. Shelia 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 2 years and enjoys working with our staff and students.


Christine Jackson, Secretary

Mrs. Jackson is very excited about being a part of the RLA family. She has over 15 years of experience as a Paraprofessional, Substitute Teacher and Office Clerical. She also carries certification in Early Education and Care for the State of Florida. She is looking forward to supporting the mission and goals of Rising Leaders Academy and helping each RLA student achieve their ultimate potential.


Victoria Cordell, Cafeteria Manager

Miss Victoria Cordell has been delivering nutritious school meals since 1999. She worked at several counties throughout the state of Florida. She started her food service 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 Employee of 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 healthy.





Mrs. Lena Kharaieh

Mrs. Kharaieh is very excited to join the RLA teaching family. She is a parent of three students who have attended RLA from kindergarten. She has five 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.


First Grade:

Ms. Katelyn Screws

Ms. Screws has more than 8 years experience working for Bay District Schools as a paraprofessional, substitute teacher, and full time teacher.  She received a WJHG Golden Apple and Bay District Starbucks teacher of the week awards, and was a Bay Education Foundation Grant Recipient in 2017/2018.  She holds a Bachelors in Elementary Education from FSU and has certificates in Elementary Education, Reading, ESOL, and ESE. Ms. Screws is a dedicated elementary teacher with a passion for education and an unwavering commitment to optimizing student success and achievement. This is Ms. Screws third year at RLA teaching first grade.


Mrs. Carrie Murchison

Mrs. Murchinson has more than 7 years experience working for Bay District Schools as a paraprofessional, substitute teacher, and full-time teacher. She has a BA in Family and Child Development and understand how important parental participation is in the development of the students and would love to incorporate this into her the classroom. She holds a Masters Degree in Education.  Mrs. Murchison sees how important project-based learning, as well as STEM, is in order to improve students’ problem solving abilities, and plans to incorporate that in her future classroom. This is Mrs. Murchinson’s third year at RLA.


Second Grade:

Mrs. Crystal Lee

This will be Mrs. Crystal Lee’s second year at RLA. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Social Science with a concentration in Sociology and History from Florida State University. She is certified in Elementary K-6 Education and Middle Grades Social Science. This is her fifth year with Bay County Schools. She has served as a paraprofessional, front office clerk, as well as taught Fifth grade Language Arts and Kindergarten. Prior to joining the education field, she worked in radio broadcasting as an on-air personality in Panama City and Fredericksburg, Virginia. She is married, has 5 kids, and a 70 pound fur baby named Pious. Outside the classroom she enjoys watching her beloved Seminoles win or lose, playing Scrabble & UNO, and being anywhere with her family.


Mrs. Reba Hazzard-Williams

This will be Mrs. Hazzard-Williams second year at RLA.  Mrs. Reba Hazzard-Williams has been teaching in Bay District Schools for the past 6 years,  and was a para for 4 years previous. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from FSU and certifications in: K-6, K-12 ESE, and PreK-12 Counseling and Guidance. She has also completed 2 years of professional development with the Cognitively Guided Instruction research study through FSU to continue developing her math instruction.  Mrs. Hazzard has achieved Highly Effective rating. She enjoys working with all students to find their strengths and passions. Working in Title One and ESE has broadened her understanding of students and their abilities. Mrs. Hazzard believes in using real life events to inform student academic and social development in her classroom.



Third Grade:

Mrs. Melanie Herriges

Mrs. Melanie Herriges has three years of experience in Bay District Schools as a Paraprofessional, Substitute Teacher, and Classroom Teacher. She is committed to student learning and success both inside and outside the classroom and has a Bachelors Degree in Social Science, Cum Laude, from Troy University. In addition, she believes that working with children to attain their educational goals, sets a solid foundation for their success in life. She will be teaching 3rd grade Reading and Writing.


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 5 years and was ranked Highly Effective. She was also recognized by the state of Florida 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 2 years of high school drama. She maintains high expectations for her students and cheers them on as they meet them.


Fourth Grade:

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 a respectful, confident, and active member of the community. Mrs. Brillard has been working at Bay District Schools as a paraprofessional, substitute teacher, and the last 6 years as a full time teacher. She has a Bachelors Degree in Psychology (Summa Cum Laude) with a focus on child development from Troy University. She has completed her coursework on a Masters degree in Counseling from Troy University and currently holds her professional certification in K-6 Elementary Education. She recently completed her ESOL and Reading Endorsements. She is very excited to create a collaborative hands on environment where students thrive and grow by learning to listen and work together. This will be Mrs. Brillard’s third year at RLA.


Ms. Kristen Kelly

Ms. Kelly has been working as a paraprofessional, tutor, and fourth grade teacher for 5 years.  It’s her third year as a 4th grade teacher in Rising Leaders Academy. She has a Bachelors from Emory University and Credential of Readiness from Harvard Business School.  She holds a K – 6 Educational certificate.  In addition to teaching 4th grade, she served as her school’s grade 4 liaison and received an evaluation rating of Highly Effective at Bay District Schools and Rising Leaders Academy.


Fifth Grade:

Mr. Mathew Bunnell

This will be Mr. Bunnell’s second year at RLA.  This will be Mr. Bunnell’s fifth year of teaching, where he started in Jacksonville, Florida. He holds a bachelors degree from Asbury University and is certified to teach Kindergarten through Sixth grade. He has experience educating in diverse settings utilizing Individual Education Plans and Behavioral Accommodations.  Before he was a teacher he worked as a paraprofessional in a classroom with multiple disabilities and as an assistant at an outdoors Waldorf Kindergarten and pre-school. Mr. Bunnell has earned the rank of highly effective and teacher of the year so far in his career as an educator. He enjoys using his training in drama and comedy to keep students engaged through creative methods of instruction. His ultimate goal is to create an educational setting where students feel valued, uplifted and like they belong while being prepared for the future. 



Middle School Science Teacher:

Mr. Mark Gregory

Mark Gregory graduated 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 two 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 which resulted from a broken nerve in his left shoulder. The support of his parents and teachers helped him to develop a positive “can do” mental attitude toward lives difficulties.


Middle/High School Math:

Dana Sullivan

Mrs. Dana Sullivan just completed her 10th year teaching. She is now in her second year at RLA.  She is a coach for the MathCounts club and competition. She enjoys teaching math and likes to collaborate with her colleagues to incorporate math in cross curricular projects and activities. Mrs. Sullivan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Appalachian State University and completed her teaching certification classes at Peace College.  She is a life-long learner and constantly seeks to enhance her knowledge through her study and experiences.  Mrs. Sullivan was awarded “Teacher of the Year” in 2017-2018. She is an enthusiastic and happy individual who encourages questions and provides a positive learning environment. She believes the best way to learn is through projects and experiences. Mrs. Sullivan is very happy to teach at Rising Leaders Academy.


Middle/High School Social Studies & Adv Programs/Testing Coordinator:

Laurie Herring

Ms. Herring teaches Social Studies at Rising Leaders Academy. She has been a classroom teacher for five years and a High School Guidance Counselor for two years. Ms. Herring has her Bachelor’s Degree in Communication and her Master’s in Counseling Psychology. She holds Professional Certification in Social Sciences 6-12 and Guidance PreK-12. Prior to a career change to Education, Ms. Herring worked for the State of Florida in Substance Abuse and Mental Health and as an Education Counselor. As a life long learner, Ms. Herring believes that learning never stops and recognizes the importance (and joy) of growth in all areas of life and shares that passion with her students.


Middle/High School Language Arts Teacher:

Shannon Knight


Physical Education Teacher:

Nancy Tilley

This will be Mrs. Tilley’s fifth year at RLA.  Mrs. Tilley relocated to Panama City from Louisiana where she was a PE teacher and director for over 13 years. She is a certified PE teacher with a Bachelors in Physical Education from Louisiana. She has experience in the development and administration of physical education curriculum and was responsible for providing a positive learning experience in PE by supervising and educating the students in a supportive culture to help them develop fitness, skill, and attitude.


Arabic Teacher:

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 6 years.  He has a Teaching Certificate covering World Language.


Spanish Teacher:

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.


Creativity Teacher

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. In college she has been a part of plays such as, “The Secret Garden,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “10 Little Indians,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” and “Crazy for You.” She was nominated for Florida College’s best theatrical lighting design in 2005. Ms. White has been a part of the Panama City Passion Play locally, the past 17 years, and the last 12 years she has co-produced/directed the play. She directed RLA’s 1st theatrical play, “The Lion King,” and this year will be directing “Aladdin.” She enjoys sketching and painting. She has loved working with children’s theatre and loves to bring out the shyest of students’ talents. She believes that art and creativity can transcend all different kinds of people, inspire them and bring them together for the greater good. Under her leadership, many of her students’ creative art work has been showcased in the local News Herald and won various awards state-wide. She looks forward to teaching Creativity her third year at RLA!


Music Teacher

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 teacher 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 helps promote craftsmanship and make learning fun.


Yoga Teacher

Jennifer Heilmann



This will be Mrs. Heilmann’s third year teaching yoga at RLA.  Mrs. Heilmann is a professional yoga instructor.  We are thrilled to have her come to RLA to do yoga with our Rising Leaders.  Introducing children to yoga at an early age helps them learn healthy lifestyle habits.  Mrs. Heilmann helps students set the foundation for a fit future.


Taekwando Teacher

Master Allan Trageser 

Master Allan has a 5th degree black belt and teaches our students Taekwando and Self-defense every week.  Master Allan participates in Martial Arts Tournament.  This will be his second year at RLA.  We are thrilled to offer our students this extremely useful program.



Michelle Dupasquier

This will be Ms. Michelle Dupasquier’s second year at Rising Leaders Academy. She relocated from Madison, AL, where she worked for more than 10 years in the Madison City School System as a Technology Assistant. At RLA, Ms. Dupasquier will serve as a paraprofessional and technology assistant. She holds an Associate’s degree from Central Texas College.


Speech Therapist

Marabeth Nichols