Dear Leading Edge Families,
I am thrilled to be the principal of our Gilbert campus serving K-12 grades. Our wonderful staff at Leading Edge Academy provides our students a full school experience with many rigorous, learning opportunities.
We are committed to helping your child flourish as a learner, preparing them for college, career and their future.
As the principal, I am dedicated to helping your child throughout their school experience. I have a passion for learning and believe we are all life-long learners. I look forward to getting to know our families and students this year. I am always available to meet with parents and families as a partner in your child’s education.
I look forward to a great school year!
Heidi Simms, Principal
Mrs. Simms joins the Leading Edge Team with more than 17 years of experience in Education. She has a Bachelors degree in education from Arizona State University and Masters degrees from Saint Xavier University and the University of Phoenix in Teaching, Leadership and Administration. Over the course of her education career she has served as principal, mentor teacher leader, and elementary teacher.
Mrs. Simms brings all her experience to Leading Edge to help us continue to build the reputation we have for strong academics, athletics, performing arts, and extra curricular activities.
Jessica was born and raised in Arizona. She is happily married to her husband (Robert) and has 5 children who all attend Leading Edge Academy in Gilbert. In 2019, Jessica worked in the school’s cafeteria as the “Lunch Lady”. In August of 2020 she accepted the position of Receptionist for Gilbert Elementary which gives her a chance to display her organizational skills and create a warm welcome to parents, staff and students.
Danielle joined Leading Edge Academy 2021 as the Jr High Administrative Assistant. She has 4 children that also attend Leading Edge Academy. Staying busy with her children’s’ sports, band and church activities; Danielle enjoys hiking, cooking and singing in her church choir and volunteering with Girl Scouts
Brenda has been married to her husband, Kevin for 28 years. They have 2 sons together. Brenda joined the Leading Edge Academy at GEC this past year as the administrative assistant to the principal and recently moved to the business specialist role.
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. Phelps lives here in Gilbert with her husband and 3 children. She loves to hike and go to the beach with her family. Mrs. Phelps attended Upper Iowa University where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education with endorsements in reading, early childhood and SEI. Her 11 years teaching experience includes teaching grades Pre-K, Kindergarten, 1st Grade and 2nd Grade.
Dianna Clute has worked in the elementary school environment for 6 years serving as a Health Assistant, Special Education Assistant, and Kindergarten Assistant Teacher. Graduated from Ottawa University in July 2021 with a dual degree in Early Childhood and Special Education grades K – 3. She enjoys spending time with her husband, and their two dogs. Typically during the school year she will have foreign exchange students living in her home who are attending high school to improve their English skills.
Anna Sawyer graduated from CSU Fresno with a BA in education and attended Chapman University as a graduate completing her studies in education. She taught two years in California and took some time off to raise her two daughters. She began teaching again in 2016 in Yuma AZ and then moved to South Carolina in 2018 where she continued to teach. Recently her husband has retired from the the military and they now live in Gilbert where she is excited to be a part of the Leading Edge family.
Ms. Diane Krueger has taught 2nd Grade at Leading Edge Academy since the fall of 2011. She absolutely loves 2nd Graders and has spent almost all of her 21 years of teaching at this grade. She earned her BS in Education from Baylor University, holds her Arizona Department of Education Certificate for teaching at the elementary K-8 level, and is Arizona Highly Qualified at the K-3 level. She and her wonderful husband, Steve, have been married for thirty years. In her time away from the classroom, Diane enjoys learning more about education, reading, knitting, and finding treasures at local estate and garage sales.
Mrs. Accurso is originally from New Jersey, where she graduated from Rowan University. After she moved to Arizona in 2017, she taught 3rd grade for a few years and is now currently teaching (and loving!) 1st grade. In her free time, Mrs. Accurso enjoys spending time with her family, going to the beach, and traveling.
Mrs. Amanda Steib has been teaching at Leading Edge Academy since 2012. She has been teaching since 2006 and absolutely loves third graders. She received my B.A. degree from Northern Arizona University. As a native Arizonan it was very hard learning to live with the snow while she was at college! When not at school she keeps very busy spending time with her 4 dogs, cat, two daughters, and husband!
Mrs. Lora Cannegieter is a 4th grade teacher at Leading Edge Academy Gilbert Elementary. She has been teaching since 2010. She has taught 1st, 4th, and 2nd grades. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Kennesaw State University in 2007. She went on to complete a Master’s Degree in Education from Walden University in 2016. When not teaching, Mrs. Cannegieter likes to spend time with her family, travel, and read.
Mrs. Connie Tinkham loves teaching and stretching children so that they reach their highest potential. She enjoys teaching project-based lessons and literature studies. She has over 16 years of teaching experience, hold an Arizona teaching certificate, and is Spalding certified. Connie has been teaching at Leading Edge Academy since 2012. She is married with children. She was formerly a missionary in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Her heroes are Jesus Christ, Corrie Tenboom, and Deitrich Bonhoeffer. Her hobbies include reading, DIY projects, and frugal shopping. Her favorite movie is Lord of the Rings and favorite TV show is Stargate SG1…but she loves any SciFi!
Ms. Cynthia Pierce joined the Leading Edge family in 2012 after teaching for 11 years in the private sector. She has a BSBA and AZ teaching certification and has taught K-8th grades (with the exception of second). While Cynthia is not busy teaching she enjoys traveling with her family, reading, gardening, and being involved in volunteer opportunities.
Ms. Buehler has been teaching middle school for 24 years and has 5 grown children and 7 grandchildren. While raising her children as a single mom, she earned a Master’s Degree in Education. Acting and directing has been a long time love for her, and she continues to write her novel for juvenile literature. Spending time with her grandchildren in Las Vegas takes the rest of her time, as she continues to look forward to achieving her next challenge.
Michele Irvine is married with two beautiful children who both attend Leading Edge Academy. She graduated from Central Michigan University in 2001 with a B.S. in Elementary Education and minors in Mathematics, Language Arts, and Middle Level Education. Mrs. Irvine has taught for 10 years in different positions including 6th grade Math and Science, 7th Grade Math, Honors Math, and worked as a K-6 Math Specialist.
Mrs. Dallas Jandreau graduated from A.S.U with a B.A. in the Multilingual Multicultural program in Elementary Education. She has taught kindergarten at Monte Vista Elementary in the Creighton School District, was a substitute teacher in all grades K-7 in the Creighton school district, and taught pre-k at Totspot Preschool . She was hired at Leading Edge in December 2015 Mrs. Jandreau loves the culture here at Leading Edge Academy and looks forward to helping your child become the best learner they can be, while building character within. While not at school, Mrs. Jandreau loves spending time with her husband and twin boys. She also enjoys polynesian dancing and camping with her family.
Mrs. Schwalenberg is originally from West Virginia where she graduated in 1980 with a B.A. in elementary education and began her teaching career. Since then, she has taught all subjects in grades 3,4,5,6, Jr. High and High School. She moved to Arizona in 1990 and got her Masters Degree from A.S.U. She has a deep love of teaching, a passion for all things history, and is excited to meet her students each year. In her spare time she loves to travel, read, watch college football and spend time with family.
Mrs. Tanya Owen has been a teacher at GEC since 2019 but has worked as a long-term sub and paraeducator since 2014. Tanya received her Bachelor’s degree in 2010 from Ashford University, now an extension of University of Arizona, Tucson where she was proud to be awarded Summa cum laude. After years in the behavioral health field, she decided to make the change to teaching, as it has been a passion of hers since 3rd grade. Mrs. Owen became highly qualified in the summer of 2019 and is proud to be a Spartan!
Mrs. Actkins was born and raised in Sycamore, Ill. She has been living in Arizona for 25 years. This is her third year teaching. After years in the health care industry she decided to make the change to teaching. Teaching has always been a passion of hers and she loves building relationships with her students through the field of science. Mrs. Actkins holds degrees in Healthcare Administration, Public Health and is currently working towards her Doctorate of Education. In her free time she enjoys traveling, watching movies, baking, spending time with family and going to the gym.
Mrs. Barbara Durant taught in Mesa Public Schools for 24 years. After being retired for one year, she took the opportunity to teach for Leading Edge Academy. Mrs. Durant has a Bachelors Degree in Special Education from ASU and a Masters Degree in Counseling from NAU. Mrs. Durant has been married for over 36 years and has three daughters and 4 grandchildren. In her spare time, Mrs. Durant enjoys spending time with family, her pets, hiking and traveling.
Ms. DeSena holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Services and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She began her teaching career over 20 years ago. She spent 15 years teaching in public schools in California which is where she was born and raised. After moving to Arizona, Ms. DeSena spent 6 years at Gilbert Christian Schools before joining Leading Edge Academy in 2021.
Ms. DeSena has a teenage son and loves hanging out with him. She also enjoys traveling and finding new vacation spots for fun adventures with friends and family. Her family and faith mean everything to her
Tanya Matt is a native of Phoenix, Arizona, as well as having the privilege of traveling through out the United States and abroad. Family is very important, and she comes from a family of Educators! Tanya graduated from East High School, went on to pursue her Bachelors of Science in Family & Consumer Science Degree from ASU. Tanya went on to complete her Masters of Arts in Education from Grand Canyon University. She has 2 children, 2 German Shepherds, and a wonderful Husband. Tanya has been teaching for over 10 years and is excited to be a part of the Leading Edge Academy team.
Mr. Garcia considers himself the luckiest teacher in the world because he gets to teach the subjects he is most passionate about which are Art, Music and PE. Mr. Garcia wants to make learning fun and strives to teach students to believe in their abilities and realize how amazing they are! Mr. Garcia has been married for 22 years and has 3 teenage sons who have all attended the Leading Edge Academy GEC campus.
Mrs. Katie Bradley received her BA in Liberal Arts and Sciences from Wichita State University, majoring in English with a minor in Speech Communication. In 2011, Katie received her Master of Arts in Communication. From 2005-2009, Katie was a starter for the Div. 1, Wichita State Shockers’ Volleyball Team and went on to play for Arizona’s professional volleyball team, The Arizona Sizzle from 2013-2014. Katie coaches the Spartan’s Varsity volleyball team, winning the 2013, D2 State Championship and received the “Coach of the Year” award. With both parents as art teachers, it came natural to love and teach art to others.
Ms. Laura Lindstrom has her BA in Vocal Performance and Speech Drama, from North Park University in Chicago, Ill. She holds a Provisional Career and Technical Education and Training Certificate. Ms.Lindstrom is a member of the NAfMe and the AMEA. She has been teaching for Leading Edge since 2004. In her spare time, Ms. Lindstrom enjoys spending time with her grown children and grandchildren as well as helping produce musicals at her church.
Charity started teaching at Leading Edge in 2014. She is very thankful and honored to work at such an amazing school! She loves the small school atmosphere, the focus on character building, and the community among the teachers. Charity has two high school students at GEC. She attended bible college in Dallas, Texas. Charity grew up in the military and her traveling experiences have given her a love for other cultures and places. Her number one bucket list item is to see New York City and return to Europe.
Mr. Adam Goldson received his BA in Music Education from Dowling College in New York. Prior to that he studied Classical and Jazz Performance at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. While there he studied Tuba with Gregory Fritze, Principal Tubist with the Rhode Island Philharmonic. Mr. Goldson has worked as a District-wide Instrumental Music Teacher and Band Director for Grades 4-8, in addition to being the High School Marching Band Director in the Attleboro Public Schools in Massachusetts. He has taught Band in the Scottsdale Unified School District and Madison School District in Phoenix.