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.
Mary Ellen is an Arizona native. She is a wife and mother to three wonderful children. Mary Ellen obtained her B.Ed in Math Education at ASU and started with Leading Edge Academy Gilbert Early College as the High School math teacher in 2013. While there she started our Dual Enrollment program and eventually obtained her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership at ASU. She then moved into administration at our Gilbert Early College campus. In 2018 she moved to the network level as our Director of Development. Then in 2019 she moved to our East Mesa campus to launch our 2nd Brick and Mortar High School. She also currently serves as the President of the Arizona State Board of Education which provides oversight to over 500 charter schools in the State of Arizona.
Keli Palmer came to Leading Edge Academy after working for the State of Arizona for over 30 years. The majority of her time was spent working in higher education. Her background includes education administration, academic advising, and financial aid. After leaving state service, Keli was looking for a new adventure and found that at Leading Edge East Mesa! She enjoys spending her free time with her husband and house full of dogs.
Mrs. Gina Strasser has been working as an Administrative Assistant II for more than 26 years and has always worked in schools. She enjoys interacting with students and getting to know them. She loves antiquing and even has her own antique booth. She also enjoys reading, cooking and traveling. She has been married to her husband Bill for 16 years, has a 32 year old daughter and is a grandma to two cats, one who is blind.
Jane enjoys reading, sewing, music, and spending time with her family. She has 3 grown children and 8 grand-children. Jane uses her many years of experience in bookkeeping and customer service in her current role as receptionist at the East Mesa campus.
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.”
Ms. Kandalec is an Arizona native and started teaching in 2010. She graduated from Ottawa University with a Bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education and Grand Canyon University with a Master’s in Reading. She has worked in a number of grade levels including Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and 2nd Grade. She is currently working as a 1st grade teacher at the East Mesa campus. Outside of school she enjoys spending time with family, reading, and hiking.
Mrs. Mariah Cuyler became a teacher in 2012 after graduating from NAU with a Bachelors in elementary education in 2011. She worked as a teacher assistant with pre-schoolers for 2 years, and soon after became a first grade teacher for 3 years. She is now working as the second grade teacher at Leading Edge Academy East Mesa campus. Outside of school she loves to bake desserts, make crafts, read, and spend time with her family.
Ms. Crystal Ramirez has been a teacher since 2004. She has taught preschool, kindergarten, and first grades. Her passion is to show students that learning can be fun and school is fun. Crystal has 1 son, 2 daughters, 4 dogs, a chicken, and a chameleon. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, swimming, camping, hiking, etc.
Mrs. Beth Carder has taught third grade for the past eight years and enjoys working with her students. She is a graduate of Ottawa University, and plans to pursue her Master’s Degree in the future. She has two children. Her son is a Marine and is currently serving in the U.S., and her daughter currently attends High School at the Leading Edge Campus. She enjoys spending time with her family and reading.
Miss Goldberg is a local to Arizona growing up in Flagstaff and graduating from NAU with a B.S. and a Minor in Spanish. Miss Goldberg has experience teaching in various class settings including Bilingual education and Montessori methods but especially has focused on teaching grades 2-4 where she has spent most of her time. Outside of work Miss Goldberg likes to be active outside running, biking and hiking.
Mrs. Jennifer Lindstrom graduated in 2011 from University of Phoenix with her Bachelors of Science in Psychology. While attending University of Phoenix, Mrs. Lindstrom worked as a paraprofessional in special education and in the school library, where she taught kindergarten through 5th grade. After graduating, she began teaching 1st grade. She taught 1st grade for two years and then moved up to 4th grade at Leading Edge Academy. She moved from Pennsylvania to Arizona in 2001 and lives in Mesa with her husband and two children. In her spare time she enjoys baking, swimming, and Zumba.
Mrs. Mindy Nelson is originally from Miami, Florida where she was born and raised. She moved to Arizona in 2009 and loves it! She is married with no kids, but does have a 170 pound dog and smallish cat both of whom she loves dearly. She graduated from Florida State University and remains an avid Seminoles fan. Mrs. Nelson has been teaching for over 22 years and has taught all grades from kindergarten to seventh grade (except for first).
Mr. Shipman was born and raised in Arizona. His only child is an English springer spaniel that is overly obsessed with food. Mr. Shipman is the Science, Engineering, and Robotics teacher for Leading Edge Academy East Mesa. He started teaching in 2019 after graduating from Arizona State University with a BAE focusing in Physics. While in his natural habitat he can be observed reading or playing video games.
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.
Mrs. Caruso was born and raised in Reno, Nevada and has lived in the East Valley for 25 years. She is married with two sons who are both in college. As a recent graduate of ASU, Mrs. Caruso is in her second year of teaching and enjoys sharing her love of math with her students. When she’s not teaching, Mrs. Caruso enjoys camping, hiking, gardening, and reading.
Charmayne is about to embark on her 7th year in education after completing the Career Switcher Program through Shenandoah University. It has been one of the best decisions she has ever made and has allowed her to pursue the career of her dreams. After college, Charmayne began a career in retail management followed by a stint in banking. She stayed home for a few years to raise her children. Her youngest child was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 and due to this had to learn all she could about education to be the best advocate she could be for him. This was a blessing in disguise that led to her future career and passion, teaching. Charmayne believes that all children can learn and must be given every opportunity possible to be successful.
Miss Carlson is originally from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She graduated from Northern Michigan University and began teaching in Ishpeming, Michigan. Later, she moved to Las Vegas to continue teaching. Finally, moving to Arizona to be with the rest of her family. Miss Carlson has been teaching in Arizona for 15 years. Away from school, Miss Carlson enjoys playing the piano/organ at church on Saturdays. She also relaxes by playing games on her iPad. When she is able, Miss Carlson also loves to go on vacation cruises. Her dream vacation would be an Alaskan cruise. Miss Carlson has 1 sister and 1 niece. Her family all lives together in Mesa. She is very excited about being a part of the Leading Edge family!
Julio Daniel graduated from Leading Edge Academy – Gilbert Early College. He has attended Chandler Gilbert Community College, Rio Salado, and Arizona State University. He has taught multiple sports such as basketball, soccer, football, and volleyball for over 4 years. He is currently the Physical Education teacher and Athletic director for the East Mesa Campus.
Ms. Janell York graduated from Daemen College in Buffalo, NY with Bachelors of Fine Arts in Drawing and Illustration. Janell has taught Elementary Art at Leading Edge Academy since 2012 and currently teaches on our East Mesa and Online campuses. She has also taught PE, Music and lead Art and Photography Club. Janell has 2 daughters and enjoys thrift shopping, antiquing and traveling with her family!