Welcome to Leading Edge Academy, East Mesa, home of the Roadrunners, where character is above all else! As the Principal, I am thrilled to extend a warm welcome to all our new and returning families and students.
With a strong background in K-12 education as both a dedicated teacher and experienced school leader, I am committed to fostering an environment that promotes academic excellence, character development, and student growth. Having worked extensively in K-12 schools, I understand the importance of providing a nurturing and safe learning environment where every student can thrive. I firmly believe that character education is the foundation of success, and it is our mission to instill strong moral values such as respect, integrity, and perseverance in our students.
With my expertise in curriculum design, instructional strategies, and staff development, I am dedicated to ensuring that our students receive the highest quality education. Together with our exceptional team of educators, we are committed to providing engaging and rigorous academic programs that empower our students to reach their full potential.
At Leading Edge Academy, East Mesa, we believe in the power of collaboration between parents, students, and teachers. We value open communication, mutual respect, and strong partnerships with our families, as we work together to create a supportive educational community.
I am excited to embark on this journey with each and every one of you. Together, let’s create an inspiring and enriching educational experience for our students. I look forward to an amazing year ahead, filled with growth, learning, and much success!
I am honored to serve as the principal of Leading Edge Academy at East Mesa. On behalf of the staff, I would like to extend an invitation to you to join our “family.” Every day we strive to provide a physically and emotionally safe environment in which our students know that we care about them as individuals and that we have high expectations for each of them.
We believe that by working together, our youth will find elementary school to be an enjoyable, meaningful, and rich experience that will provide them with a strong foundation to fulfill their dreams.
The Leading Edge Academy staff is here to make the school years of your student(s) as successful and educationally challenging as possible. We embrace the opportunity to make a lasting impact on their lives and look forward to celebrating their successes!
If you have questions or concerns about school-related matters, we want you to feel comfortable seeking the help of any of our trained professionals who will work hard to help you resolve such issues.
Ms Wattelet is an adventurous soul with a deep passion for hiking, camping, and staying active in nature. When she’s not exploring the great outdoors, she loves getting lost in a captivating book or cherishing precious moments with her beloved family. For nearly 4 years, Ms Wattelet has been an essential part of Leading Edge Academy East Mesa, contributing as an administrative assistant. Being part of a vibrant community and supporting its growth has been a rewarding journey and she can’t wait for more years to come.
Virginia Flores has had the privilege of being an educator for an incredible 19 years. Throughout her career, she’s had the honor of making a positive impact on the lives of many students, helping them on their educational journeys. Beyond her work, her heart belongs to her amazing family, which includes her loving husband and their six wonderful children. Family is everything to Virginia, and she cherishes every moment spent together, creating precious memories that will last a lifetime. When not in the classroom or with her family, you’ll often find her on the softball field. Whether pitching or playing in the outfield, Virginia is fueled by her passion for the game and the camaraderie of her teammates. Another passion is crafting. Whether it’s sewing, painting, or any other form of artistic expression, she finds immense joy in bringing her creative ideas to life.
Ms. Keli graduated from Northern AZ University with a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership. She came to Leading Edge Academy after working for the State of Arizona for over 30 years. Her background includes education administration, academic advising and financial aid. After leaving state service, she was looking for a new adventure and found that at Leading Edge East Mesa 5 years ago. She enjoys spending her free time with her husband and dogs, gardening, and doing home improvement projects.
Mrs. Nicole Fisher is currently teaching Kindergarten at the East Mesa Campus. She is originally from Toledo, Ohio where she was born and raised. She attended and graduated from The University of Toledo with her Bachelors in Early Childhood. She moved to Arizona almost 6 years ago to further pursue her teaching career. She has since then taught Pre-K for the last 5 years. Her favorite thing about Arizona is you don’t have to shovel sunshine. She loves spending time with her husband and 3 year old son, especially watching football. Her favorite quote is ” it takes a BIG heart to shape Little minds.”
Mrs. Kramer is a native to Arizona. She has been in the field of Education for almost 20 years. She has taught Pre K, Kindergarten, and 1st grade. Mrs. Kramer graduated from Ottawa University in 2009 with a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education and Grand Canyon University in 2018 with a Masters in Reading. In her free time Mrs. Kramer loves spending time with her husband and kids.
Mrs. Tricia Nichols is a certified educator with experience in both public and charter school settings. At Leading Edge Academy, she has had the privilege of teaching both kindergarten and 2nd grade. Mrs. Nichols places the utmost importance on ensuring that every student has a secure learning environment where they feel valued and can achieve academic success. Beyond her dedication in the classroom, she has a passion for reading and fitness. Additionally, she holds a deep affection for animals.
Mrs. Givens was born in Huntington Beach California and moved to Arizona when she was 13. Mrs. Givens teaching degree is from NAU. She has been a teacher for over 20+ years. She has taught pre-school, Kindergarten – 3rd grade. Most of her teaching experience has been in 1st grade. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her husband, 3 biological and 2 bonus children. She enjoys camping, kayaking, and swimming. When she has time alone she enjoys reading a good book and snuggling with her dogs.
Mrs. Claudia Vergamini, a seasoned educator with an impressive 25 years of teaching experience, is excited to embark on her first year teaching 3rd grade at Leading Edge Academy. A graduate of Mid-America Nazarene University with a Bachelor’s degree and the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a Master’s degree, Mrs. Vergamini is deeply committed to nurturing the academic, emotional, and physical development of her students. She values collaboration with parents, recognizing them as a child’s primary educators, and emphasizes high standards, effective classroom organization, and varied teaching methods. Building meaningful relationships with her students is central to her teaching ethos, and their daily interactions bring her immense joy. Outside the classroom, Mrs. Vergamini has a passion for quilting, sewing, reading, gardening, cooking, and baking. She eagerly anticipates connecting with students and their families and encourages them to reach out via Class DoJo or other communication channels for any inquiries or information.
Ms. Gomez has been working in the field of education for 15 years. For the last five years, she has been working at Leading Edge Academy. This is her second year at the East Mesa campus. Ms. Gomez graduated from Northern Arizona University with a Bachelor’s degree of Science in Elementary Education K-8; she received her degree with a Summa Cum Laude honors recognition. She has a love and passion for teaching. It has been her dream career since she was a young child. In her free time, she enjoys working out, reading, hiking, and spending time with her two Aussies, Marlee and Ruby.
Mr. Collins is stepping into his role as a fifth-grade teacher for the 2023/2024 school year at Leading Edge Academy. While this is his inaugural year at the academy, he brings with him a rich teaching legacy spanning two decades. His experience encompasses roles in both the public school system and a charter school in Phoenix. Mr. Collins is fervently looking forward to the academic journey ahead with his fifth graders. Together, they will delve into U.S. History, unravel the mysteries of environmental and space science, master fraction and volume concepts, craft compelling descriptive and expository essays, and foster a tight-knit learning community. Outside the classroom, Mr. Collins cherishes moments with his family, indulges in golf, immerses himself in adventure novels, and is an avid football enthusiast. He holds a vision of academic excellence and personal development for all his students in the coming year.
Tyler Brines is the Middle School Social Studies teacher at LEAD East Mesa. He attended ASU for both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in History and Secondary Education respectively. He enjoys all things History related, and has a special interest in the Medieval and Renaissance periods. Tyler enjoys spending time with his wife and three dogs.
Sarah Whitney has worked with students of all ages for the past 14 years ranging from birth to 12 years old. She received her Bachelors in Elementary Education from Grand Canyon University in 2018. Since then she has worked for Leading Edge Academy, and loves every minute she has with her wonderful students. Sarah is a mother to 3 boys herself and is married to her high school sweetheart. Sarah believes her students inspire her everyday and that she is blessed to work with such an amazing staff at the East Mesa Campus.
Ms. Shea Watkins is originally from the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. She moved to Arizona to avoid the cold winters and earn her Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University. Ms. Watkins has had a passion for helping students succeed since her first job as a math tutor, and is elated to be pursuing that dream here at Leading Edge Academy! In her free time Ms. Watkins enjoys thrifting, crocheting, and attempting escape rooms with friends – though most of that free time is actually taken up at home, spending time with her cat Elephant.
Mrs Nichols was born in Connecticut, raised in Ohio and moved to Arizona as a teenager. Her favorite subjects were math, history and music. She graduated from NAU with a BA in History and started out with education teaching piano privately at home. This encouraged her to go back to school to earn a teaching certificate certified in History and Math. Mrs Nichols lives with her husband of 22 years and her 2 boys. They like to watch movies, travel to Prescott or Flagstaff. Mrs. Nichols has many interests. She loves to play the piano and sing and enjoys being a part of the music ministry at church singing in ensembles and accompanying on the piano. Mrs. Nichols has been teaching High School and Middle School for almost 4 years in Math. She is really excited to be at Leading Edge Academy and helping students succeed and discover their potential.
Ms. Mindy Nelson is originally from Miami, Florida where she was born and raised. She moved to Arizona in 2009 and loves it! She currently lives in Gilbert with her very large Boerboel named Dembe. She graduated from Florida State University and remains an avid Seminoles fan. Mrs. Nelson has been teaching for over 25 years and has taught every grade (with the exception of first) kindergarten up to tenth grade. She loves photography and is a big gamer nerd playing Dungeons and Dragons in her spare time.
Since joining Leading Edge Academy’s East Mesa team in 2022, Mrs. Allison Baugues is eagerly embracing her new role as the High School Coordinator for the 2023-24 academic year. With a decade of experience in the educational realm, Mrs. Baugues has showcased her versatility by teaching a diverse range of subjects, from math and English to social studies. In addition to her primary responsibilities, she also spearheads the Student Council, emphasizing the development of leadership skills among students and orchestrating various campus events. Away from the academic setting, Mrs. Baugues cherishes moments of travel, delving into captivating reads, and exploring new experiences.
Mr. Harris is now in his second year of teaching Science at Leading Edge Academy-East Mesa. Before this, he was part of the Leading Edge family at the Gilbert Campus, where he served both as a teacher and a volleyball coach. With 11 years of teaching experience under his belt, Mr. Harris has taught at various levels: 2 ½ years at the high school level and earlier roles at Chandler Gilbert Community College, Grand Canyon University, and Park University-Gilbert. He earned his Bachelor’s in Athletic Training from Grand Canyon University and a Master’s in Human Movement from AT Still University. Mr. Harris is passionate about teaching kids the wonders of science, helping them understand how the world works and our role within it.
Mrs.York graduated from Daemen College in Buffalo, NY with Bachelors of Fine Arts in Drawing and Illustration. She has taught Art at Leading Edge Academy since 2012. During that time, Mrs.York has also offered many clubs on campus like the Young Illustrators Club, Drawing Club and Photography Club. Mrs.York lives in Mesa with her husband, two daughters and her dog, Birdie June. She loves road trips to cooler temperatures, thrift shopping, antiquing, and trail running. Mrs.York also enjoys illustrating children’s books any time she gets the opportunity and has even been published twice!
Coach J is a Leading Edge Academy Alumni and graduated from CCU with a Bachelors of Science in Business Marketing. He started at East Mesa as a part-time Coach and has been teaching and coaching for 5 years. Coach J is currently the Athletic Director and PE Teacher for the entire East Mesa campus.
Mrs. Denise Carlson proudly serves as the K-10 music teacher at East Mesa, bringing with her a rich tapestry of experiences spanning three decades. Hailing from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where she was born, raised, and educated, Mrs. Carlson embarked on her teaching journey in her hometown. Her path then led her to Las Vegas for three years before she settled in Arizona, drawn by the warmth of family. Over the years, she has enriched students with her musical expertise at three distinct schools in Arizona.
Outside the classroom, Mrs. Carlson has a penchant for cruises, engrossing reads, and reality TV shows—with “Big Brother,” “Survivor,” and “Amazing Race” topping her list. Her musical journey extends beyond teaching; she has graced various churches as an organist for over 35 years. The piano holds a special place in her heart, serving as both her favorite instrument and a source of relaxation. When she’s not immersed in music, Mrs. Carlson delights in the theatrical performances at Gammage Auditorium. Above all, she eagerly anticipates witnessing the musical evolution of her students each year.
A proud native of Arizona, Mrs. Sylvia Garcia boasts an illustrious academic background, having graduated from ASU and later earning her Masters in Education from Grand Canyon University. Sylvia’s roots run deep in Apache Junction, where she has resided for 16 years, raising her two teenage daughters and serving her community with pride as an educator.
Her teaching journey is both extensive and diverse, spanning over 25 years. Mrs. Garcia’s commitment to education took her beyond borders as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, where she taught English in Eastern Europe. Her passion for teaching has been enriched by her travels and experiences in various countries, bringing a global perspective to her classroom. Outside of her professional realm, Sylvia’s zest for life is evident in her love for Salsa dancing and singing. Each day, she channels her international experiences and unwavering passion into nurturing and inspiring her students.
Mrs. Melinda Erspamer proudly serves as Student Support for Leading Edge Academy, a role pivotal in guiding students through their social and emotional journeys. Drawing from her rich background in social work and advocacy, Melinda possesses a keen understanding of students’ needs, approaching them holistically to ensure their well-being.
In 2022, Melinda, along with her husband and daughter, embraced a new chapter by relocating from Colorado Springs to Arizona. The move has been a refreshing change, and the family is thrilled to immerse themselves in the vibrant Arizona community. Melinda brings to Leading Edge Academy not only her passion but also her academic prowess, holding a Master’s Degree in Social Work. Her diverse experience spans various advocacy roles, working closely with youth and families in schools, social services, and community outreach. This work with young individuals and their families fuels her passion, reinforcing her dedication to the students she serves.
Ms. M. was born and raised in Central Illinois and has called Arizona home for the past 25 years. She has three busy children and multiple pets. When she gets the opportunity, she enjoys traveling, theme parks, and binge watching various genres of movies and shows. Ms. M. started her post-secondary education at Illinois Central College followed by Illinois State University, then completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Special Education, with a concentration in Emotional Disabilities, at Prescott College. She has taught a variety of subject matters as a resource teacher and co-teacher. She started working with people with disabilities when she was 16 years old and has been working in special education for the past 24 years. She joined LEA East Mesa in October 2022.