Sr. Ops Manager for Virtual Schools
5th Grade Teacher
Dean of Academics
5th Grade Teacher
Curby’s goal is to help develop young minds that have a deep appreciation and understanding of Western Civilization and to be thoughtful, virtuous informed citizens who are prepared to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Curby graduated in 1986 from the University of San Antonio with a degree in Humanities. A few years later he decided to fulfill a lifelong ambition and joined the US Army. He was commissioned as an Intelligence Officer and served for 22 years, was a paratrooper, combat vet, earned two Bronze Stars and retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. During his service, he earned a Master’s in Human Resource Management.
After retiring, he worked as an academic dean, dean of students, and instructor at one of the largest private classical schools in Texas. He earned a 2nd Master’s degree in Cultural Apologetics from Houston Baptist University in 2018. He also earned the Project Management Professional (PMP) certification in 2020.
His hobbies include studying history, theology, philosophy and culture. He also enjoys rock tumbling, coin collecting and building his own computers. His favorite books are The Lord of the Rings and almost anything by CS Lewis and GK Chesterton.
Curby married Stephanie Graham in 2004 and they have two beautiful teenage daughters, both of whom have benefited from a classical education. He chose Optima because it is cutting edge, and he wanted to help reach students that would normally be unable to attend a classical school.
Dr. Dan Sturdevant serves as the Head of School at Optima Academy Online. Raised on a boarding school campus, where his parents served in various roles from classroom teachers, coaches, and dorm parents, to senior administrators and Head of School, Dr. Sturdevant has been in and around formal education for his whole life.
Upon graduation from Wheaton College (IL), Dr. Sturdevant moved to Charlotte, NC to begin his own teaching practice at Providence Day School. Within a few years, he married Christa (also Dr. Sturdevant) and moved to Raleigh, NC, where he continued teaching and also began to pursue a masters degree in liberal arts at Duke University. At Duke, Dr. Sturdevant’s research was focused on identifying primary skills for future student success, and the learning environments in which they are best developed.
After Duke, Dr. Sturdevant went on to UNC Chapel Hill, to pursue a doctorate in Educational Leadership. At UNC, in addition to completing coursework focused on effective academic and organizational leadership, Dr. Sturdevant completed a dissertation that evaluated charter schools in North Carolina and assessed their objective efficiency using financial data and student performance outcomes.
Dr. Sturdevant is committed to experiential education, student success, and building effective and healthy school cultures. He has spent over a decade in the classroom, and has experience leading schools of all grade levels. He firmly believes in the mission of Optima Academy Online, and the power of a classical education – delivered in virtual reality – to shape a virtuous and successful next generation.
Outside of school, the Drs. Sturdevant have two wonderful daughters, and enjoy spending time together outside, hiking, biking, and exploring new places.
Dr. John Rosenbaum serves as a junior high teacher of various subjects for Optima Academy Online. Dr. Rosenbaum hails from California, spent time in Washington, and is now settled in Texas with his wife.
Rosenbaum has worked positions as varied as Christian missions, inventory control, department management, being a purchaser, and doing small-business and personal tax accounting.
However, his life’s mission is to help others think better so as to live better. So Dr. Rosenbaum enrolled at Baylor University (TX) to earn a PhD in Analytic Philosophy. Philosophy, briefly, is a disciplined pursuit of wisdom by reason and argumentation. Rosenbaum sought to improve his own thinking skills to better be able to teach those skills. His specializations include philosophy of language (“phil language”), phil fiction, and metaphysics; though he is competent in phil science, phil religion, and the history of philosophy. Rosenbaum was also a funded fellow for research-level training in Empirical Linguistics.
While classical education is multifaceted, the Western liberal arts tradition is at its core philosophical. So as a philosopher Dr. Rosenbaum has the knowledge of, skillset for, and the ability to teach core material in a classical education. And he is passionate about doing so. For a classical education unifies human knowledge, teaches people how to think, and equips them to be virtuous and to take responsibility for their own lives. The prospect of classical education in virtual reality through Optima excites Rosenbaum in placing him at the cutting edge of a genius use of a new, soon-to-be-everywhere medium.
Favorite nonfiction books include Nicomachean Ethics (Aristotle), On Favors (Seneca), and The Theory That Would Not Die (McGrayne); favorite fiction include The Sparrow series (Russell) and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell (Clarke). When not doing philosophy or teaching, Dr. Rosenbaum is either playing board games or designing them.
Fallon McLaughlin serves as the School Operations Manager at Optima Academy Online. In addition to leading the operations work at OAO, she manages the operational work of all virtual schools for OptimaEd, LLC. Her department is working behind the scenes on the organization, systems, structure, and support for the staff and faculty. She is excited to lead this effort and is excited about what OAO will offer for families across the state of Florida.
Fallon received her B.A. in Psychology from Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts, where she also worked. Faculty and staff frequented her office, relying on her expertise for processes and resources related to enrollment and registration. At Columbus State University, she was accepted into their leadership institute with a select group of leaders across campus.
With over 10 years experience in both Administration and Customer Service, Fallon brings her expertise and leadership to OAO in its efforts to fine-tune processes and communication to support the school and families.
With over 6 years experience in higher education, Fallon brings her knowledge of supporting the student from prospective to enrolled.
Fallon spends her free time with her husband, three children, and their pup, Ozzy. They frequent the beach, parks, and enjoy their Saturday morning adventures. Fallon supports the work that her church does in their city. She loves all kinds of music. Her two favorite books are The Culture Code by Daniel Coyle and Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. Fun fact – her family are reptile owners, and at one time they had 2 ball pythons, 1 boa constrictor, 1 rainbow boa, 2 sand boas, 1 leopard gecko, and 1 panther chameleon. Three of their snakes are now in GA at Columbus State University’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center.
Francine is the assistant to our Head of School, Dr. Sturdevant. Francine is a valuable team member and ensures our Optima Academy Online (OAO) faculty are set up for success throughout the school year.
Having graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Family, Youth, and Community Sciences, Francine has always had a passion for helping others and encouraging individuals to achieve their goals. Before OAO, Francine worked in administration and with children who have autism spectrum disorder and related diagnoses. She believes that at Optima Academy Online, her prior experiences will assist faculty in maintaining an efficient classroom.
The opportunities that Optima Academy Online offers students and their families peaked Francine’s interest in joining our team, but the culture within OAO and her interest in the growth of our virtual reality educational opportunities keeps her with us.
Genevieve Price is the Elementary Art Teacher at Optima Academy Online. She will be guiding third –fifth graders through the wonder that is Art. She is very passionate about bringing a sense of creativity and confidence to her students through the exploration of art and it’s history.. Genevieve believes that Art is the bridge between our hearts and minds and learning to express thoughts and emotions in a healthy way, in a safe environment, is instrumental in childhood development.
Genevieve graduated from the University of Georgia with her Fine Arts degree in 2012, where her concentration was in Metalworking. While at UGA, she worked in the metalworking studio under a Federal Work Study grant. She also worked as an assistant to Artist and Department Chair, Mary Hallam Pearse, a mentor who pushed her to stretch her concepts and ideas.
Genevieve is a first year teacher, fulfilling a dream. She will bring great energy and passion to her scholars at Optima Academy Online, and cannot wait to incorporate VR into her teaching- the possibilities are endless!
In 2004, Mrs. Duley fell in love with classical education and began teaching elementary Latin, and she is looking forward to embarking on this adventure with OAO. Being part of groundbreaking opportunities is not a new thing for Mrs. Duley. As a pioneer in her local running community, Duley has started cross country teams for both public and home schoolers before going on to coach at the collegiate level. With five children of her own, Heather loves children, and claims that the accomplishment of which she is most proud is teaching them all to read. Her favorite books for elementary grades are The Golden Goblet, Rolf and the Viking Bow, and Johnny Tremain; however, she also has an appreciation for Captain Underpants! Heather loves to encourage others and brings a great deal of energy and positivity to her classroom, and she wants to see her students become lifelong readers and learners. Mrs. Duley chose OAO because it is a great blend of her different teaching experiences, and she is excited to be able to work from home and homeschool her youngest daughter.
My name is Jacob Goodwin, and I am the 7th & 8th grade science teacher. I was born and raised in Jackson Mississippi. I got my bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education from Mississippi State University. I have always loved science, and I would like to spread my love for science with others. When I am not working, I am usually either playing tennis, playing piano, playing video games, or playing with my dogs. If you need to get into contact with me, my office hours are Monday through Friday from 1 PM to 3PM.
Jamie Ching is a 5th grade teacher at Optima Academy Online. Her passion for teaching extends beyond the four walls of her classroom. She is intentional about making connections with her students and their families and believes that the foundation of learning begins with solid relationships. In her classroom, Jamie encourages her students to reach their full potential, and she teaches to the strengths of each student. She knows that all students can learn and that there is more than one path to success.
Jamie comes from a military family, where both of her parents served in the United States Air Force. This allowed her to be born and raised in Alaska. Jamie taught in South Korea for two years after graduating from college. She later received her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, making her a two-time graduate of the University of Central Florida. Go Knights! Jamie lives full-time in an RV with her husband. They enjoy traveling around the country and going off-roading in their Jeep. One of Jamie’s favorite books is Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.
Jamie has been teaching for a total of 11 years – two in South Korea and nine in Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida. She taught in a range of educational settings, including Title 1 schools, inner city schools, and high-performing schools in more affluent areas. Jamie was initially drawn to OAO because of the classical education aspect and the focus on student discovery and independent thinking. Her excitement to join the OAO family grew exponentially more after learning that she would be teaching at the first online school to implement virtual reality in the educational setting, exploring concepts and ideas in the metaverse.
Kim Abel is the Academic Dean at Optima Academy Online. The position is a puzzle-piece fit as her educational passion is finding ways for students to think in rich and rewarding ways. At OAO, Kim focuses on curriculum, professional development, and classroom instruction.
Kim graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Utah State University. After a few years of teaching, Kim took a sabbatical to be home with her four children. Though she left the classroom, she never left the profession. She spent her time writing high school science curriculum, forming a home-based preschool, and exploring the beauty of the Southern states with her family. Once her youngest son entered school, Kim returned to her classroom. In tandem with teaching school, she joined the South Mississippi Writing Project as a Teacher Consultant, which exposed her to writing instruction at multiple grade levels. She became National Board certified and later earned a Master’s Degree from William Carey University (MS). Currently, Kim is a doctorate student at Vanderbilt University.
In her pastime, she enjoys relaxing with her husband, children, and grandchildren as well as reading good books. A fan of the classics, Kim’s first love and all-time favorite is Jane Eyre where “I would always rather be happy than dignified.” Her nightstand has a constant stack of eclectic books to inspire educational ideas, to uplift the spiritual soul, and to purely entertain. For a quick weekend read, she has recently picked up Newberry Award winner The Matchlock Gun. Please give her a day, a night, and a cup of herbal tea before asking for a review.
Kim looks forward to reading more classics with OAO families and watching individual students grow in mind, body, and spirit through an innovative, submersible classical learning experience.
Kortni is absolutely thrilled to be a School Counselor at Optima Academy Online. Kortni’s mission as a school counselor is to deliver an effective comprehensive school counseling program; She aims to foster students’ individual strengths, a love of learning, creative problem solving, safe and responsible citizenship, and an empathetic approach to relationships. Kortni looks forward to helping scholars embrace the Pillars of Virtue as they develop academically and personally.
Kortni graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Lewis University. A lifelong lover of performing arts, Kortni worked for Walt Disney Entertainment before pursuing her Master’s Degree in Education and School Counseling from the University of Tennessee at Martin. She has had the privilege of working as a school counselor at the elementary and secondary levels. If you ask her what age group she prefers to work with, she couldn’t possibly choose! Working with kids of all ages brings her tremendous joy! As a counselor, Kortni has served on committees for trauma-informed and restorative practices, building leadership, crisis management, and career planning. She is also a trained presenter for victim advocacy organizations working to end human trafficking.
In her free time, Kortni can be found spending time with family, trying out a new restaurant with her husband, or snuggling with their fur baby (a very spirited rescue dog named Maggie). Kortni feels so blessed to be a part of the OAO family and she cannot wait to meet the scholars and their families!
Louise Raffa is the literacy coach at Optima Academy Online. As an educator, Louise’s lifelong mission is to have children learn to love and love to learn. Her goal has always been to give children opportunities to learn on their own so that they feel empowered by their own abilities.She feels this can be accomplished by building up a child’s self esteem and self confidence and it is the role of the teacher to meet the child where they are and help them reach their full potential. Volunteering and working for a scholarship pageant, in the capacity of facilitator for leadership seminars, as well as organizing volunteer service work has been an experiences that enhanced her life.
Growing up in a small beach community, she was always a very active volunteer with her church and community. She worked as the local librarian and taught parenting classes. During her college years, Louise was president of her Freshman and Sophomore class and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She owned, directed and taught at her child centered pre-school. Louise is certified in Early Childhood and Elementary education with an ESOL and Reading Endorsement. Y
ou can find her entertaining, cooking and baking with her friends and family. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Love by Leo Buscaglia, and Kramer vs Kramer are among her favorite books. They bring out great emotion and always can be referred to when reflecting on life. Over the years, Louise taught second, third and fourth grade and owned and directed My School Learning Center. Optima Academy Online, with its multi sensory approach, emphasis on virtues, and the high level of standards and expectations that are set make it a natural fit and a perfect opportunity for her.
Maddie Sullivan is our 7th grade English Language Arts teacher at Optima Academy Online. She has taught in a variety of educational settings, but she is excited to embark on this new journey with our students this fall. She has always had a passion for writing, and she loves building relationships with all of her students.
Maddie graduated from Wake Forest University with a B.A. in English and minors in Secondary Education and Film Studies. After attending Wake Forest, she moved to Wilmington, North Carolina to begin her career in education. After a year teaching 8th grade ELA, she moved to Valdosta, Georgia where she spent time teaching elementary students. She stepped back into the middle school classroom this past school year in Knoxville, Tennessee where she currently lives with her husband.
She loves visiting the beach, playing volleyball, and traveling with her family. She has always enjoyed both books and movies; her all-time favorite novel is The Great Gatsby, but she loves both the book and film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma.
Molly Bauman is very excited to be exploring the visual arts with middle school students grade 6-8 at OAO and in the metaverse this year…we are all in for a fascinating and unique experience!
Her philosophy as an art teacher is that the visual arts connect everyone and everything on some level, and inspiring students to discover those connections is her mission. Through OAO’s classical based curriculum, she is able to connect with her students in endless new and meaningful ways; historically and through their special inqueries. It will be a joy to behold how they express themselves through the creation of their unique and individual art by exploring the various mediums and techniques they will learn about and the historical journey they will experience along the way.
As a lifelong learner, Molly explored many different forms of art and interests through the years. She studied Design and Painting at the Kansas City Art institute from 1977 to 1981, and earned a bachelor’s degree in Educational Studies from Western Governors University in Utah in 2015. She has taught age groups from preK students through adult education classes in both traditional fine art forms as well as digital art, and has worked as an Art Director in print design, television and advertising. Of all her professional experiences, she finds teaching art history and art methods the most interesting, enjoyable and rewarding.
In her leisure time, she enjoys travel that involves visiting places rich in the arts and history; and when at home in Estero, FL, she can be found taking nature walks with her pup, watching a good movie or football with her husband and two grown sons, or reading a good classic like Alice in Wonderland or The Old Man and the Sea.
Mr. Birchum is extremely passionate about working together to help our young scholars succeed. As a former Americorps member, he is not unfamiliar with what it means to be on a team to bring out the best in children. He graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education with a 3.91 GPA and was on the Dean’s List every semester. He is very outgoing and loves adventure. From being an Eagle Scout to playing in-person Quidditch, Mr. Birchum thrives when doing things he loves. Mr. Birchum’s favorite books (right now) are Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Being a first-year teacher, he will bring an unparalleled level of passion and enthusiasm to the classroom. In his opinion, Optima Academy Online unequivocally delivers the best mode of learning for academic growth and is the absolute coolest school to be a part of in the world.
Tatum Warner is a fourth grade teacher at OAO She has a passion for making all of her students feel comfortable and safe in the classroom. She works hard to build relationships with her students and their families to ensure that each student reaches their full potential.
In 2017, Tatum had the privilege of spending two weeks in Uganda working in an orphanage to renovate the facility and spend time with the children. Tatum graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Elementary Education. Go Knights! Tatum is a 14th generation Floridian. She enjoys going to the beach and watching rocket launches from Kennedy Space Center. Her favorite books are the Harry Potter series and the Percy Jackson series. Tatum has five years of teaching experience – one year in a private school teaching 4th grade and four years in an affluent school teaching 5th grade. Tatum is excited to be a member of the OAO family and be a part of the first online school implementing virtual reality technology into the classroom.
Valerie Medlin teaches 6th grade English and Language Arts at Optima Academy Online. Her students are known and loved in a classroom that is motivated by curiosity and creativity. Through a literary journey among Medieval and Renaissance classics, she and her students will experience what William Faulkner called one of the great privileges of writing: “help[ing] man endure by lifting his hearts.”
Valerie majored in English and Spanish at Elon University and has taught both English and Spanish in the private and public-school systems. Her love for languages has its origin in international travel, particularly in South America and Eastern Europe. Some of her favorite authors include Flannery O’Connor, Octavia Butler, Colson Whitehead, and William Faulkner. She spent the summer of 2022 in Normandy, France learning French and reading Medieval literature. Valerie is thrilled to have the opportunity to teach while still being a student of the world.
Zahira Buchanan is the Admissions Manager at OAO. She is looking forward to meeting you and guiding your family though a successful enrollment process for the upcoming school year.
With previous experience in administration and community service, Zahira approaches this position with a philosophy of service to your family. This ensures the success of OAO’s families and scholars beyond their expectations. She strives to create unique relationships with families. Her goal is not only the success of the scholar but the participation of the family as a whole.
She looks forward to meeting you and your children soon!