Samantha Kickbush, Instructor
Ms. Kickbush is native to Bishop, Georgia and a graduate of Oconee County High School. She graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Agricultural Education in 2012 from the University of Georgia. She plans to earn her Masters of Education in Agriscience in December 2016. Ms. Kickbush serves as one of the FFA advisors for Apalachee High School. She enjoys teaching the Horticulture pathway and seeing students grow through their involvement in FFA.
Audio & Video Technology
Peter Burke, Instructor
Peter Burke is a Georgia native growing up in Kennesaw, GA and graduating from Harrison High School. Peter graduated from Lee University in Cleveland, TN with an education degree. Peter has a passion for media and video and came to Sims after working many years in the media industry. Peter has a wife, Jennifer, and two boys Jonah and Luke.
Michelle Beck, Instructor
678-219-3337 - Program Web Site
Ms. Beck graduated from Georgia Piedmont College with an AAS in Automotive Technology and received her BA in Administrative Management with a concentration on leadership, from Clayton State University. She has attended several General Motors and Chrysler training programs throughout her career including Hybrid, Chevy Volt, NAPA, and AC Delco training. She is currently working towards a MBA in Supply Chain Management.
While at Piedmont, she was a SkillsUSA award winner, a GOAL Finalist, certificates of achievement in all eight areas of automotive, Who's Who among students in Technical Colleges.
She has worked as an Automotive Technician and service Manager for Chrysler, NAPA in Alpharetta, and an operations/inventory mgr. for a dealership.
She is the advisor for two clubs; Motor Masters (community based - motor club) and Future Hot Rodders of Tomorrow (competition engine building team).
Dylan Clark, Instructor
Mr. Clark grew up in Winder, GA and graduated from Winder-Barrow High School. As an undergraduate he studied Environmental Economics and Management at the University of Georgia. Upon graduation Mr. Clark joined Teach For America where he served in Philadelphia, becoming a certified math teacher. He continued teaching high school math for several more years. During that time he earned a Master of Arts in Science Education from the University of Georgia and then transitioned to teaching science.
Biotechnology/AP Environmental Science/Chemistry
Lani Pacetti, Instructor
A native of Dunwoody, Ms. Pacetti attended to Berry College where she received her BS in Animal Science. After graduation she moved to Ohio in order to gain work experience on a dairy farm.
She returned to Georgia to attended the UGA Athens and Tifton campuses where she completed her MS in Animal Science and conducted research on heat stress in dairy cattle.
She become involved in teaching as part of an NSF fellowship while at UGA. After graduation she began teaching science at Turner County High School where she remained for three years before moving to Gwinnett county to teach science at Central Gwinnett High School for five years.
"Now, I am excited to be teaching Biotechnology at Sims Academy! When not teaching I am active in my church, enjoying the outdoor activities in this area, planning my next trip, or spending time with family and friends."
Trae Cooper, Instructor
Garry Baker, Instructor
Garry Baker is a native of Vienna, GA and resides in Lithonia, GA. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Architectural Engineering Technology from Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta GA, a Masters of Divinity from New Orleans, Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, LA, and a Masters of Education Leadership Administration from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Garry’s experience includes Construction Estimator, Project Engineer, Project Manager, Field Engineer, and as an entrepreneur he was a residential home builder, and Architectural Designer. Garry also has over 35 years in the Pastoral ministry. Garry is married to Vicky and they have three adult children.
Michael McEvoy, Chef/Instructor
Chef Michael McEvoy has been in the foodservice industry for over 30 years and has worked in many segments of the field. He began his career as an ACF apprentice in a fine dining restaurant and continually developed his skills and techniques in chef positions that followed. Michael realized early that training was an integral part of being a chef and began to incorporate training into his day-to-day routine. After joining the Marriott Corporation in 1990, he started a chapter of the “Marriott’s Chef Guild” for the metro Atlanta area, which had a focus on training cooks on fine points of culinary techniques. Eventually, he became a District Training Coordinator for Marriott while being the executive chef in the Georgia Power headquarters in downtown Atlanta.
Chef McEvoy has been wanting to get into a teaching position at the high school level and is very excited to part of Sims Academy. He is very much looking forward to taking the Culinary Arts pathway to the highest level of achievement possible, teaching the associates what they need to know in order to be a professional culinarian.
Laura Watts grew up in the Florida Panhandle (Crestview). She received her Bachelor of Arts in Education at the University of Florida (GO GATORS!). She moved to Georgia in 1996 and taught for 19 years in Gwinnett County. During that time, she received a Master of Special Education from Brenau University in 2007 and has been teaching Special Education ever since.
She has a husband of 18 years (Aaron) who is the Associate Pastor at their church in Lawrenceville. She and her family moved from Gwinnett to a 7-acre farm in Winder, GA where they raise chickens and are beekeepers. They have two boys: Grayson, 16, attends Apalachee High and Easton, 13, attends Haymon Morris Middle.
She transferred teaching from Gwinnett County to Barrow County due to Barrow’s strong emphasis on community and family. She previously taught Special Education at Winder Barrow High School and is now at SIMS Academy doing her DREAM job as CTI Coordinator: helping students with disabilities find their purpose and calling in life by teaching employability skills, providing support, and placing students in internships for employment.
Early Childhood Care & Education
Aretha Rankine, Instructor
Mrs. Rankine was born and raised in the beautiful tropical island of Jamaica. She attended Shortwood Teachers’ College and graduated in 1999 with a diploma in teaching Home Economics Education. A few years, after migrating to the U.S.A., she attended Charter Oak State College where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Consumer Science and Connecticut State Teacher Certification in Family Consumer Science Education. She taught Food and Nutrition, Fashion and Fabrics, Housing and Interior Design, Parenting, Child Development and Marriage and Family Life for eight years in Connecticut. She relocated to Snellville, GA with her husband and 2 daughters after living in Connecticut for 15 years. She recently graduated from the University of Bridgeport where she earned a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition.
Steven Griffing, Instructor
678-219-3323 - Program Facebook Page
Steven Griffing is a retire Nuclear Machinist Mate from United States Navy. He received his undergraduate degree in Engineering and Technology Education from the University of Georgia.
His industry experience includes 6-years on a nuclear submarine; 3-years as nuclear power plant operator, reactor operator trainee; and 6-years as an Asst. Engineer, Plant Operations and Director of Facilities for Emory Medical Centers.
Steven previously taught Advanced Engineering at Grayson Technical High School; his teams have won the Electrathon "Run for the Peaches" Competition in Quitman, GA 2-years in a row.
Leigh Snyder, Instructor
678-219-3345 - Program Facebook Page
Mrs. Snyder is a native of Walton County where she graduated from Monroe Area Comprehensive High School. After graduating from Georgia College where she received her Bachelor of Business Administration in Fashion Marketing, she worked as an executive in the fashion industry for over 20 years. Mrs. Snyder used her knowledge of business to pursue teaching credentials in business and marketing education. After receiving her Masters of Art in Teaching from the University of Georgia, she helped open the Walton Career Academy in Monroe.
While employed in Walton County, she also received her Educational Specialist Degree in Administration and Supervision from Lincoln Memorial University. She has been employed by Barrow County School System for three years and while teaching at Snodon Preparatory School, she received the recognition of Teacher of the Year for 2015-2016. Mrs. Snyder is married with a daughter in high school. She and her husband also own and operate two family businesses that relate to real estate and home improvement.
She is very excited to be teaching Financial Literacy to Barrow County’s youth because she feels this subject is vital to students understanding their financial future.
Kathryn Marcotte, Instructor
Marketing, Hospitality, and Tourism
Brandi Chitty, Instructor
Mrs. C is a Georgia native. She grew up in Gwinnett and recently built a home in Barrow. She has worked in industry since she was 15. She is an honor graduate of the University of Georgia where she earned her Bachelors degree in Workforce Education. She has taught marketing, ran a profitable school based enterprise and had DECA winners.
She and her husband were recently married. They have two Boxers (dogs) to keep them busy!
Stephanie Bridwell, Instructor
Stephanie Bridwell grew up in Lawrenceville, GA and has taught the last 10 years in Gwinnett and Jackson Counties. Her bachelor’s degree is from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Industrial and Systems Engineering with a minor in Social and Personality Psychology. Her master’s degree is from Piedmont College in Secondary Science Education. She has taught science (biology, earth systems, physical science, chemistry, physics and AP Physics) and is now using her degree to teach Mechatronics.
She was the STAR teacher system winner for Jackson County in 2014 and graduated for the Quality Plus Leadership Academy as an Aspiring Leader in 2016.
Before becoming a teacher Ms. Bridwell working in the Industry for three years as an Order
Fulfillment Supervisor at Avon Products and an Operations Analyst for Market Velocity, Inc.
Amber Chandler is originally from Pensacola, Florida. She moved to Georgia in 1995 and now considers it her home. She has worked in various types of employment which include substitute and pre-school teaching, childcare, customer service, medical assisting and transcription. Amber was, also, a small business owner of a children’s consignment store in 2008. She was a homemaker for several years until she began substitute teaching with the Barrow County School System. She is now a paraprofessional with Sims Academy.
She is a Gwinnett Technical College alumni where her focus was on a health/life science degree; she received a diploma in medical assisting and became certified in 2004. She transferred to Liberty University and continues to pursue a degree.
Amber loves to spend time with her husband and children, thrift shopping and writing. Upon the loss of her oldest child to AML – leukemia in 2010, she created a blog about a mother’s journey through life after the loss of a child to cancer. She self-published a book about her blog in 2014. After connecting with many mothers like herself, she created and administers a support group for women all over the world who’ve each lost a child to cancer.
Lisa Destiche was born in Virginia, raised in Green Bay, WI and earned her BSE in Special Education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. She has been a Georgia girl since 1984.
She has 20+ years of Special Education teaching experience in Georgia, primarily in the Fulton and Gwinnett school systems, and from 2010-2015 held a position with the University of Georgia as the High School Coordinator for a National Science Foundation/UGA grant for students with disabilities.
She has been married for 35 years to husband Kurt, and has two grown children, Danielle and Christopher. She loves to snow ski, garden, maintain her Koi pond and travel.
Maria Estevez-Sherer, Instructor
Originally from Alcalá de Henares, the city of Cervantes, in the province of Madrid (Spain) I have been living in the United States for more than twenty years. I am married and have a daughter attending the University of Chicago. I have a degree in linguistics from Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, Spain and a masters in Spanish Literature from UGA. I write as a hobby, especially short stories.
Amy Williams, Instructor
Amy Williams was raised in nearby Chamblee, Georgia. She is a graduate of Southern Tech with a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology. She has had a wide variety of teaching experiences in the last twenty-five years. She has taught in a Department of Defense Dependents school in North Carolina, then in an Atlanta Catholic school, followed by a long tenure in Gwinnett County, a short stint at a small Christian school, and finally in Barrow County where she taught at nearby Yargo Elementary. She was delighted to join the team at Sims Academy this year for a new adventure.
She has taught Spanish, Math, Language Arts, Science, and English for Speakers of Other Languages, and has enjoyed teaching many years in middle school, a few in elementary school, and is excited to learn the ropes as a high school teacher at the one-of-a-kind Sims Academy.
She has two grown kids, a daughter and a son. Her daughter, Rachel, lives and works in Athens. When Rachel’s not working, she spends time traveling abroad. Her first, and favorite, trip was to Thailand where she was seen riding an elephant down a river and cuddling a nine foot snake around her neck. Her son, John, is a First Lieutenant in the Army. He is a recent West Point grad, who is now stationed in El Paso, Texas, where he is keeping America safe, one day at a time.
In her spare time, Ms. Williams enjoys traveling, playing trivia, kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping, and orienteering, which is a competitive map and compass competition. She spent eight years coaching the Brookwood High School and the Parkview High School JROTC orienteering teams. She led both teams to national championships. One of the team’s included her son, who competed in Europe on the USA National Orienteering Team four times.
Rhonda Phillips, Instructor
Becky Phillips has been a part of Barrow County Schools for eighteen years working at Winder Barrow and Russell Middle, Kennedy Elementary, and Winder Barrow High School. She started as a Special Education paraprofessional then received her BS in Early Childhood Education from North Georgia College & State University. After teaching several years, she went back to school and completed her M.Ed in Post Secondary Education from Troy University in 2008 and her Ed.S in Curriculum and Instruction from Lincoln Memorial in 2011. Outside of school, she is actively involved in working with adults with disabilities through a social club called Club Friends along with many church related activities. Ms. Phillips has two grandgirls ages nine and five that also keep her on the move.
Suzanne Harris, Instructor
678-219-3335 - Program Facebook Page
Mrs. Harris grew up in Buford, GA and graduated from North Gwinnett H.S. She worked in Business and Industry for over 20 years, prior to deciding to return to school to receive her teaching certification and Bachelor’s degree in Business Education from the University of Georgia. Her first teaching job was a Jackson County Comprehensive High School and taught at Winder-Barrow High School for two years. She has also received her Technology education certification.
She has been a yearbook adviser, FBLA adviser, FBLA State Adviser, and has had many FBLA Competitive winners, including State and National winners. She has volunteered for over 14 years with the Boy Scouts of America. She’s been married to Brian for 28 years, with 2 children, Chase and Morgan.
Youth Apprenticeship Coordinator
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