D49 Public Charter School | Located in Forest Meadows

Character Development is a priority at GPA

7036 Cowpoke Rd

Colorado Springs, CO 80908

School Hours

8am - 4pm

Summer Hours

Mon - Fri 8am - 12pm


Grand Peak Academy Classrooms


This District 49 public charter school uses the Core Knowledge scope and sequence, incorporating the Colorado State Standards within a Classical education model. We provide a strong character education program via Core Virtues and stress character development and responsibility. Grand Peak Academy values the partnership of parents and the community. Parent partnership and involvement is expected at the school from both staff and parents.


Click on the classrooms below to learn about the curriculum and program for each grade.

Kindergarten - 5th (Elementary School)



Grand Peak Academy offers tuition-free full-day programs.


Children enrolling in our full-day kindergarten program must be five (5) years old by September 15th.


If you would like to get on our waiting list, please go to Enrollment and fill out the requested information.


Kindergarten Teachers

Lisa Rigby

Hello! I am Lisa Rigby, and I am excited to be teaching Kindergarten at Grand Peak Academy.  I have been an Army Wife for over 20 years, and have 3 children.  I am originally from Texas, but we haven’t been stationed anywhere close to Texas in the last 20 years.  I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin.  I later attended The University of Oklahoma, where I received a Masters of Arts in Human Relations.

I have worked with children my whole life, but it took a pandemic for me to realize how much I missed the classroom and building relationships with the students and their families.  I have been a Mothers’ of Preschoolers (MOPS) coordinator, have coached youth sports for years, volunteered in schools and classrooms in every capacity possible.  I have also worked as a substitute teacher and a school secretary.
I spend most of my time chasing my boys playing soccer and my daughter playing softball.  In my spare time, I love spending time with my husband and kids, visiting our extended families back in Texas, traveling, and doing anything outdoors.
I am so excited to be here at Grand Peak and look forward to meeting you.

Audra Tilden

My name is Audra Tilden and I am thrilled to be teaching Kindergarten at Grand Peak Academy. I have three children that have all attended Grand Peak (formerly Imagine Classical Academy) from Kindergarten to the present.

I hold a bachelor’s degree in Psychology with a minor in Art Therapy from Buffalo State College and a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Vanderbilt University. I am passionate about helping children to succeed. I have worked with children in many different capacities including foster care counselor, child life specialist, reading interventionist, teacher’s aide and mom.

In my spare time I can be found antique shopping, sewing new creations and spending time with my husband and three kiddos.

Vicky Gasco

Hi! My name is Vicky Gasco and I am so excited to be teaching Kindergarten at Grand Peak Academy. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and my Montessori Teaching Certificate.  I have spend many years working with children of all ages and most recently I was a preschool center Director.

I have always loved working with children but Kindergarten has always been a passion of mine because we are setting the stage for their whole academic career.  It is so amazing to see the sense of pride and joy in a child’s face when they learn to read.  I really love building relationships with my students and their families.

In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my husband, Ben and our two boys, Owen and Luke. We enjoy hiking, traveling and building puzzles and legos together.

I am honored to be here and Grand Peak Academy and cannot wait to get to know all of you.

First grade brings science to life with our animal habitats diorama for science fair, we go to the zoo, and we will be writing our own classroom books.  In first grade we study the human body focusing on circulatory and digestive system. We go to the Space Foundation and have the Colorado Springs Astronomical society comes to us with a Planetarium. First grade loves US history with the 13 colonies, leading into the Revolutionary War and ending with Westward Expansion. We have a fun day of food, crafts, and games after learning about ancient History with the Aztec, Incas, and Mayans.  Literature is enjoyed as we go over fairy tales and Fables.

1st Grade Teachers

Amy Amsden

My name is Amy Amsden.  I am excited to be your child’s teacher for first and second grades!
My husband, Kevin, and I are parents to seven beautiful children–four girls and three boys.  We are an active-duty Space Force (prior Air Force) family of 24 years. I own a piano studio and have taught piano lessons for 25 years.  Music is incorporated into my classroom daily!  It is a true passion of mine.  I am also a group fitness instructor specializing in Les Mills and Zumba platforms for the Pikes Peak YMCA.
Professionally, I have worked in Academy District 20 since 2020 and began teaching in District 49 in 2023.  I am trained in Yoshimoto Orton-Gillingham literacy instruction and love to instill a passion for reading in my students.  Music is woven into math beautifully and presents itself naturally in my classroom.  Writing and literacy work seamlessly together which then incorporates social studies and science into our daily discussions and classwork.
I look forward to partnering with you in your child’s educational journey.
Welcome to Grand Peak Academy!  Go Bears!

Cindi Shipman

Hello! I am Cindi Shipman, and I am honored to be your child’s teacher this year! I hold a BS degree in Elementary Education from Oklahoma Wesleyan University in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, and an MA degree in Education, Teaching and Learning from Point Loma University in San Diego, California.

My lifelong career in education has been both in and out of the classroom. I have taught First, Second, Third, and Fourth Grades in Oklahoma, California, and Colorado. In 2006, after several years in the classroom, I took the opportunity to work in Textbook Development and write curriculum. I have also worked in textbook sales and teacher certification. In 2020, I returned to my passion of teaching and molding young lives.

I have two adult sons who are pursuing their dreams of a college education and a military career. I was blessed to have been my oldest son’s second grade teacher!

I love children and I enjoy making learning fun!

Christina Young

Hi! My name is Christina Young, and I am honored to be teaching second grade at Grand Peak Academy. I am a blessed mom of  two amazing boys who attend this school as well. They keep me busy and always laughing! I come from a dual military family and have lived many places. I graduated high school in Oklahoma, and college from the University of Texas at Dallas. I go back to visit family and friends as often as I can.

When I’m not with my family or friends, I love reading and spending time outdoors hiking. Teaching is my passion, and I’m very excited to be apart of this amazing team at GPA!

How do we fit in the world around us?

In 2nd grade students are immersed in studying topics about the world around them, from Geography of where they live to Ancient Asia, Ancient Greece and Back to the Americas. Students will use their background knowledge from 1st grade to expand on the History of the United States- War of 1812, Westward Expansion, The Civil War, Immigration and the great Civil Rights leaders of our time. Each unit has a special project associated with it, but none as great as our Immigration Experience Day! Students begin their day “on the boat” arriving at Ellis Island and end with becoming citizens at the Citizenship Ceremony.

Science in 2nd grade is all about encouraging students to ask questions, make observations and seek answers. Our units include Exploring Magnets, The Digestive and Excretory Systems in the Human Body, Simple Machines, Insects, and Life Cycles. Our Simple Machines unit also gives 2nd graders the opportunity to create their own projects for the Elementary Science Fair.

Come explore the world with us!


Major Field Trips

Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (at school)

ACT Children’s Theatre

Picnic in the Park

Core Knowledge Experience days

Greek Day

Pioneer Day (with evening music concert)

Science Fair

Immigration Day

2nd Grade Teachers

Ryan Eide


Courtney Hall

Welcome! I am Courtney Hall and I am a native of Colorado Springs, Colorado. I graduated from Cheyenne Mountain High School is 2007. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from Colorado State University in Fort Collins and my masters degree in Elementary Education from University of Phoenix. I have been in the field of education for many years and I am so thrilled to be a part of the Grand Peak Academy family.

I truly feel blessed to have the opportunity to teach and grow with children each year. Other than teaching and education, I enjoy spending time outdoors with my husband and two pups! We enjoy camping, hiking, fishing, and traveling. I also enjoy crafts and spending time with family and friends.

Tina Stevens

I am very excited to be teaching 2nd Grade at Grand Peak Academy. The concept of team will be our theme this year. As a former volleyball coach, I believe strongly in an environment where teamwork is valued and encouraged paired with high expectations. Learning and bonding will take place, as a group of people work together, respect each other, and feel valued. I look forward to getting to know each of my students and helping them to discover how they are uniquely wired and how they can use their gifts to contribute to the whole.

As mentioned above, I coached club and high school volleyball for over 25 years. One of my most favorite memories of coaching was winning a silver medal in the Junior Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. My team came together during that tournament and accomplished something so incredible.  I have a wonderful husband and two beautiful children. My husband can fix anything, and my kiddos enjoy theater and dance. We also have two sweet cats that enjoy lounging on our laps.

In my free time, you will find me watching old movies, going for walks (and maybe a jog here and there), driving my kids around town for their various theater and dance classes, and organizing and cleaning my house. I love a clean house!

Michelle Wendt

Hi! My name is Michelle Wendt and I am so excited to teach second grade at Grand Peak Academy!
A little bit about me, I have a 10-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son who will be in fifth and third grade this school year. My husband and I met in college and we are celebrating our 12th year of marriage this March.
I am incredibly drawn to GPA’s educational philosophy and love the educational foundation GPA is continuing to instill. Teaching is where my heart finds its joy and I promise to continue making your child’s educational journey an amazing one! Please know I will encourage, comfort, and do my best to ensure your child’s 2nd-grade year is a positive one where your child looks forward to coming back and learning from me the next day.
I have been an interventionist, kindergarten, 2nd-grade, and 3rd grade; 2nd grade is BY FAR my favorite, and I can’t wait to share the excitement with you and your child!

What’s great in Third Grade?


Nothing is more fun and interesting than history and science!!

Third graders love learning about the conquests of the Ancient Romans and the adventures of the Vikings! Kids are amazed to learn how the Natives actually got to North America and they become passionate about what the Europeans did to the Natives while exploring the New World! The plight and success of the Colonists round out how and why we all got here!

Kids love science and in 3rd grade, we actually dissect cow eyeballs when learning about optics & the eye, as well as other parts of the human body! Kids enjoy when the zoo comes to us during Animal Classification, and Astronomy Day is the something they look forward to all year!

What ISN’T great about 3rd grade?!

3rd Grade Teachers

Amy Gavitt

Hello! My name is Amy Gavitt and I’m from Naples, Florida. I grew up there and moved to Orlando, Florida where I attended the University of Central Florida and earned my bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. I taught in Orlando for two years. I taught 1st grade and 5th grade ELA. I followed that by moving to Colorado in the summer of 2023.

I love hiking, traveling, and cooking.

I am so happy to be a part of GPA and getting to know the students and families!

Dawn King

I was born and raised in Farmington Hills, MI and graduated from Grand Valley State University with a Mathematics Degree and Distributed Minor in Elementary Education.

In 2005, I moved out to Colorado after accepting a 7th Grade Math position at Skyview Middle School. I am very excited to be at GPA this year, as it has always been a dream of mine to teach math at the elementary level!

I have 3 children, ages 15, 7, and 2. I cherish any extra time that I have reading and with my children.

I also enjoy running, sunsets, crafting with my daughter, spending time with friends, visiting family, church, and photography.

Grace Steichen

Hi everyone! My name is Grace Steichen and I am from Dilworth, Minnesota. I was born and raised there with two older brothers and a twin brother. I graduated in May of 2022 from Minnesota State University Moorhead with my bachelors degree in Elementary Inclusive Education. I love the mountains and have always known that I wanted to move to Colorado. I also love yoga, watching movies, and reading! I am so glad to be here at GPA and excited to start planting roots in Colorado Springs.

Fourth Grade “ROCKS” for so many reasons!


Along with learning more in Language Arts, Mathematics, Poetry, and Reading, we get the chance to travel back in time in History! Fourth graders have so much fun learning about Ancient China, Ancient Africa, Europe in the Middle Ages, The American Revolution, The Constitution, Early Presidents, and Early Reformers! In Science, we get to research great inventors, learn and engage in basic Chemistry, discover Electricity, study the Circulatory and Respiratory systems, and learn all about ROCKS in Geology!

We go on amazing adventures with our class novels that include Robinson Crusoe, Robin Hood, Gulliver’s Travels, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle, Pollyanna, and Treasure Island! We also get to create some extraordinary projects like Robinson Crusoe’s shelter, Gulliver’s Travels “Travel Poster”, and Pollyanna’s Glad (Board) Game! In addition, we go on some exciting field trips, in particular the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, where we get to dissect a sheep’s lung! Last, but not least, there are days that we enjoy, learn, and celebrate, such as our Medieval Feast and our Wax Museum.

Fourth grade definitely ROCKS!

4th Grade Teachers

Amanda Ashworth

My name is Amanda Ashworth and I am delighted to be teaching 4th grade English at Grand Peak Academy. A little about myself: I am from a very rural area of Tennessee, but have lived in many places because my family is a military family. Prior to working in education I worked at a children’s museum and at a public library, both wonderful places for learning in engaging environments. I hope to emulate that environment in my own classroom. I have a Bachelors of Fine Art and a Master of Arts in Teaching with a major in English.

Please know that I value each student for who they are as a whole person, outside of academia. I will do my very best to encourage, comfort, and inspire your child to make their experience as a fourth grader the best it can be. I love reading and the magic of storytelling. It is my hope to use story as an engaging way for students to learn more about themselves and others.

Shelly Benitez

I am so excited to work with our wonderful staff at Grand Peak Academy as the 4th-grade Science and History teacher. It has been my privilege to reside in two amazing states-Texas and Colorado. I grew up mostly in Allen, Texas, and I graduated from Western Governors University with my BA in Elementary Education

I have taught 2nd and 4th grade in Texas.  I have also taught reading intervention for grade K-5th. I enjoy being around the young and energetic children.  A few of my favorite things are anything Purple, the scent of lavender, and dark chocolate. I love crafting including crochet and knitting, hiking, fishing, board games.  I just moved to Colorado Springs with my husband of 18 years and our three children.  My oldest is Eli who is 14 and loves all electronics and soccer.  My daughter Sophia is 12 and loves animals and art.  She will be attending GPA this year.  My youngest is Malachi, 10, loves to play games, baseball and is also attending GPA.  We are so excited to start this new journey together.

Loretta Phares

My name is Lorretta Phares and I am your child’s 4th grade GPA Homeroom teacher and Math teacher. this year.  I am so excited to work with our wonderful staff at Grand Peak Academy as the 4th-grade Math teacher.. It has been my privilege to reside in two amazing states-California and Colorado. I grew up in Diamond Bar, California, and I graduated from UCLA and CSUF with my Multiple Subjects Teaching credential where I began my teaching career.

I have taught mostly 3rd-7th grade (public, private, charter, and homeschool) in Colorado and California, and I adore these sweet children. Gardening, decorating, hiking, biking, and spending time with my loving husband of 35 years- Jeff, my 3 adult children (and their spouses), and my 3 grandsons always bring me great joy. We have resided in Black Forest, CO for about 20 years. I look forward to encouraging and teaching your children of the joys in the mathematical world as we grow together as a class.

5th Grade

Fifth grade at Grand Peak Academy is an exciting place to be. The students make the transition from elementary school to middle school during this year and we work hard to prepare them for the skills that they will need moving forward, such as organization, goal setting, and personal responsibility. 

The Core Knowledge curriculum is so much fun in fifth grade, we travel back in time to the Renaissance period in history and literature then move forward to the American Civil War which ends in our annual Civil War battle with water balloons or flour bombs.

In the fall we go up to Denver to Ameritowne where the students spend the day running a town using the skills that have been taught in the classroom.  They manage the shops, learn to budget and spend their money wisely all while having fun. In late winter we go to Peterson AFB to attend Starbase, which is 25 hours of STEM related lessons and activities. Throughout the five days that we attend the students are actively engaged with hands-on activities.

Each year the fifth grade teachers work to bring the real world into the lessons and help your student become an engaged learner.

5th Grade Teachers

Sabrina Philpott

Hi! My name is Sabrina Philpott.  I am glad to be back at Grand Peak Academy and so excited to be teaching 5th grade.  I received my Bachelor’s degree from Utah State University and have since moved on to a graduate program with Western Governor’s University Teaching Elementary Education.  I have been in the field of Education for a number of years and am grateful for the opportunity to be back in Colorado and even more to be at Grand Peak Academy. The community of families here at GPA are amazing! Thank you for making this school great!

I love being outside and involved in the community. When not teaching you can usually catch me at one of my children’s events or sitting down to a good book reading.

Quitina Purnell

Hello! I’m Quitina Purnell and I count it a joy to teach 5th grade here at Grand Peak Academy where I know that both quality education and character development are at the very core of everything we do. I have taught elementary grades for several years now, as well as at the high school level. I hold a B.A. in Community Education where strong citizenship and community engagement is emphasized and I am currently working towards my Master’s in Education with a Specialization in Curriculum & Instruction.

I am the mother of three beautiful children and I enjoy spending time with them doing creative activities, family game night, or making dinner! I am also an author and an avid reader; I try to carve out enough time to get lost in a great book whenever I can! Choosing to become a teacher was an easy decision for me as I’ve had some great ones along the way; It is my passion to inspire each student that I come in contact with to become a life-long learner and to have fun while doing it!

Mandee Walck

Hello! My name is Mandee Walck and I am one of the 5th grade teachers at Grand Peak Academy. I have been a teacher for sixteen years. This is my fourth year at GPA. I am so excited to teach 5th Grade math this year! I am originally from Kansas and moved to Colorado in 2019. I love it here and am so excited for the adventures this year holds for us.

6th - 8th (Middle School)

6th Grade

English Language Arts

Sixth graders study a variety of world history and geography as well as American history and geography. The study of history is tied to the readings in literature—for example, while studying ancient Greece, students read The Iliad and The Odyssey. Students write persuasive pieces, learn proper research writing format and process, and produce a formal business letter.


Sixth graders study matter, energy, and heat, explore the heights and depths of the universe through the study of astronomy and the oceans, examine geology and plate tectonics, and develop an understanding of the atmosphere and ecology.


Sixth graders strengthen their skills in mathematics through the mastering of basic mathematical operations, and students build a foundation for later middle school and high school mathematics with pre-algebra and pre-geometry.


Field Trips

Ponderosa Camp

International Towne

Planetarium/Space Foundation


Special Events

Literature Dress-Up Day in October

Spirit Week before winter break in December

Pikes Peak Regional Science Fair

Character Council

Jeans for Dreams

Reading, Writing, and Math buddies with younger grades

Pi Day on March 14th





Saxon Math


iScience Texts


7th Grade

English Language Arts

Seventh graders study a variety of topics in history, including both World War I: “The Great War,” and World War II. The study of history is tied to the readings in literature—for example, while studying World War II, students read The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Students write a variety of expository pieces including descriptive, persuasive, and compare/contrast, as well as continue learning proper research writing format and process.


Seventh graders continue learning about matter, energy, and ecology, begin exploring chemistry and cellular biology, and examine genetics and evolution.


Seventh graders strengthen their skills in mathematics through the mastering of basic mathematical operations, and students build a foundation for eighth grade and high school mathematics with pre-algebra and pre-geometry.


Field Trips

Ponderosa Camp

WWII Museum

Florissant Fossil Beds


Special Events

Literature Dress-Up Day in October

Spirit Week before winter break in December

Pikes Peak Regional Science Fair

Character Council

Jeans for Dreams

Reading, Writing, and Math buddies with younger grades

Pi Day on March 14th





Saxon Math


iScience Texts


8th Grade

English Language Arts

Eighth graders study a variety of topics in history, including The Cold War and The Vietnam War. Students also study civics and develop a basic understanding of the principles and structure of American democracy. The study of history is tied to the readings in literature—for example, while studying The Cold War, students read Animal Farm. Students write a variety of expository pieces including descriptive, persuasive, and compare/contrast, as well as continue practicing proper research writing format and process.


Eighth graders continue learning about matter and energy, explore classical and fluid physics, study sound waves, and examine electricity, magnetism, light, and electromagnetic radiation .


Eighth graders finish the year very well prepared for high school math. During eighth grade, student study algebra I: foundations; functions, relations, & equations; rational expressions; linear equations & functions & inequalities; systems of equations & inequalities; and quadratic equations & functions.


Field Trips

Ponderosa Camp

WWII Museum

Washington D.C. Trip (optional)



Special Events

Cumulative Engineering Projects

Literature Dress-Up Day in October

Spirit Week before winter break in December

Pikes Peak Regional Science Fair

Character Council

Jeans for Dreams

Reading, Writing, and Math buddies with younger grades

Pi Day on March 14th






iScience Texts


Andrea Capotrio

I love teaching math and science and believe that everyone should get to like math.    I have also taught English, Social Studies, and Science.    I have four kids.  I was born and raised on a farm in South Dakota, but have come to love the small town family feel of Colorado Springs.  For fun, I like board games and to play with yarn.

John Castro

My name is John Castro. I was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas. In 2012, I graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Political Science. Moving to Colorado in 2016 was a solid decision on my part since I’ve really enjoyed my time here. I have over four years of experience in Education and hope to achieve more in the following years to come. That is why I am proud to be a part of the GPA team and look forward to a wonderful year with everyone.

Hannah Lane

Education has always been one of my favorite things in life so inspiring young people to feel the same is my passion. This is my first year teaching at the K-12 level and I’m so excited to jump right into the school year!
I was born and raised in central Ohio until I moved to Colorado Springs in 2019. I earned my B.A. in Political Science with a minor in History at The Ohio State University (2018) and my M.A. in History at UCCS (2021). Throughout my university career I contributed to multiple intensive research and writing projects at various levels, some of which have been published. I also worked as a writing fellow for the College of Education at UCCS where I held one-on-one sessions with students to improve their collegiate writing skills.
My intention was to pursue a career in adult learning after graduation, but substitute teaching at GPA led me to middle school. The connection I was able to make with kids this age was something I never expected. GPA is the place I was inspired and I can only hope to inspire your student as well. Teaching people of any age has always been my path in life!
When I’m not in the classroom, you can find me on skis during the winter or visiting my family in Ohio during the summer! I’m a foodie, historian, gym lover, hiker and, recently, a novice naturalist. Saturday’s in autumn are reserved for Buckeyes games at my house.

Daniel Newell

My name is Daniel Newell, and I am excited to be joining Grand Peak Academy this year.       I grew up in rural Iowa and in Illinois.  I graduated from the University of Iowa and have been teaching ever since.  I have taught for 16 years in the Colorado Springs area and love my job.

My teaching experience ranges from second through fifth grade and two years as a building math interventionist.   I enjoy teaching all subjects and love to break down concepts into manageable chunks to aid long-term memory acquisition for students.  Empowering students to understand how learning happens is important to creating a classroom culture geared towards learning.

I live in Colorado Springs with my wife, daughter, and my mom.  We have a dog, cat, and two bunnies. When I have time, I enjoy reading, music, comic book movies, and simple home repair/projects.

Working as a team, I know we can make this an outstanding year.

Courtney Neher

I am a Colorado Springs native, and I have been teaching since 2007 after graduating from UCCS. I have two daughters, and I enjoy spending time with them. I also love to cook and bake, read, play tennis, exercise, and travel.

Jamie LeVake

While growing up in the Black Hills of SD, I came to love Math. From SD, I traveled to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, in Prescott, AZ; where I met my amazing husband! We were married in August of 1998 and settled in Colorado Springs. I finished up my studies at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs with a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering.

For the past many years, we have been raising up four; two are here at Grand Peak and two have attended GPA/Imagine K-8 and moved on to Vista Ridge.

As a family, we enjoy camping, hiking, fishing and traveling. I enjoy gardening, keeping chickens and ducks, photography, and star gazing. I also enjoy serving the community as a Student/Family Care Volunteer at New Life Church,  Volunteer with Scouts, and Garden Club Facilitator at Grand Peak Academy.

Enrichment (K - 8)

Kelly Krupski-Chacon

My name is Kelly Krupski-Chacon. I am the Grand Peak Academy art teacher. I am from Saskatchewan, Canada. I have taught art to students of all ages in Canada, South Korea, Mexico, Qatar, and now Colorado Springs. I have a Bachelor of Education and Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in Visual Arts. I love all art media, but my favorite is clay. When I have free time I enjoy working  in my basement ceramics studio. I also enjoy hiking, biking, and swimming.


It is a pleasure as an art teacher to watch as students grow as artists. I look forward to spending more time with Grand Peak Academy artists in the art classroom!

Michael Deutsch

Bio Coming Soon

Connor Thomas

My name is Connor Thomas and I am a Colorado Native, I grew up right here in Colorado Springs and am a graduate of Sand Creek High School. It is a dream come true to be teaching in the very same district that I graduated from. I have a Bachelors Degree in Music Education from Colorado State University – Pueblo.

I have experience performing and teaching almost every area of music. I have taught band, orchestra, and guitar as well as private lessons on many instruments. I have experience performing on every band and orchestra instrument as well as guitar and choir. I am currently playing in a Jazz Combo based out of Pueblo, I have also played with the Pueblo Symphony and many other performing groups based out of Colorado Springs and Pueblo. I could not be happier or more excited to be here at Grand Peak Academy!

Robert Mery

My name is Robert Mery.  I am the Grand Peak Academy P.E. teacher and the athletic director.  I have a Bachelor’s of Art in History from UCCS with an emphasis in elementary education and an endorsement in physical education.  I have also taught 2nd grade and 4th grade. I have been with our school since 2014.  I have a US Soccer Youth Coaching E License and I have coached basketball for SOCO Basketball Club. 

My mother and grandmother inspired me to become a teacher with their love of teaching.  I enjoy watching sports and collecting sports cards and coins in my free time.  I am looking forward to having an incredible year!!!

Mandie Cornelius

I am passionate about technology and the difference it can make in our 21st-century lives. My goal is to show that technology is a tool that can make a difference and be fun to explore!  My aim is to help students be savvy, effective problem-solving explorers, willing to take chances, learn from experiences, and be creative in solutions. In addition, teach good teamwork, communication, and collaboration skills in authentic situations that students can work through, and be proud of the experiences they gain in a fun, safe environment.

A little about me, I grew up in a small town in Georgia, where I graduated High School. Then, joined the Air Force and spent 20 years as a Cyber Operations Craftsman (networking and computers) performing a range and variety computing jobs (specializing in training and help desk operations) in Alaska, Oklahoma, Virginia, Colorado, with deployments in support of active operations in United Arab of Emirates and Baghdad, Iraq.

I have attended the Community College of the Air Force (CCAF) obtaining an Associates of Applied Science in Information Systems. Later, from Strayer University a Bachelor’s of Science in Information Systems and my Masters in Education in Instructional Technology at Colorado State University-Pueblo.

My family is made up of a great husband and three great girls. I love to play Guild Wars 2, read eBooks, fiddle with my guitar, horse volunteer, and play games with my daughters.

Technology is everywhere and I look forward to exploring the possibilities of discoveries with our explorers.

Counseling | Reading Intervention | Gifted & Talented | SpEd

Lisa Gilmore (Counselor)

Hello! I’m Lisa Gilmore and I’m so grateful to be serving as Grand Peak Academy’s School Counselor since 2020. I have loved working at this school over the years since I began in 2015 as a third grade paraprofessional. I then transitioned to the Special Education team while pursuing a Master’s degree in School Counseling.  For the 2019-2020 school year, I became GPA’s School Counseling Intern and was then hired as their full-time School Counselor in January of 2020. 

Although I am not a Colorado native, I’m happy to call Colorado Springs my home. I grew up in Oklahoma and then moved to the Springs in 2006 to live closer to family. In Oklahoma, I worked as a Career Counselor at the University of Central Oklahoma for 9 years. Although I loved working with college students, once my son started preschool back in 2012-13, I soon figured out that my dream job would be working with students as a school counselor. It has been a blessing to work at the same school that my son has attended from 3rd through 8th grade as well. My mom lives in Woodland Park and we love to go on hikes up in the mountains with her. Additional family members are our three cats, George, Gracie and Miss Lulu. My favorite pastime is watching my son play baseball and basketball throughout the year and working with youth and animals. 

Candice McDonald (Counselor)

Candice McDonald is a Military Family and Life Counselor (MFLC) who supports military students at Grand Peak Academy.

Candice began as a counselor in 2017, supporting various needs in clients of all age ranges.  Candice has a master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Troy University.  She is a licensed Clinical Mental Health Therapist in the state of Colorado.

Abby Blouin (Reading Intervention)

I am thrilled to be the Reading Interventionist this year at Grand Peak Academy! Back in 1998, I earned my B.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Minnesota, Morris. After school, I ventured to southern California where I taught for a few years and I met and married my wonderful husband in 2001. Soon after, we moved to Colorado Springs and I taught a couple more years right here in D49.  I left teaching to raise our son, who was born in 2004, and his sister who followed in 2007.

Both of our children have really enjoyed their Core Knowledge experience here at our terrific school. My kids were having so much fun at school that I decided to join the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) and was the President from 2013-2017. That collaborative experience really helped me understand our incredible school community. Beginning in 2017, I enjoyed being a kindergarten paraprofessional here and it was a great step toward going back to the classroom to teach full time.

When I’m not teaching, you’ll find me studying our family genealogy, photographing my kids in their various scouting activities, and taking an occasional tap dance class. I feel blessed that we live in this beautiful city of Colorado Springs with all that it has to offer us. What a privilege and an honor it is to be teaching again!

Lindsey Barone (Gifted & Talented)

This is my fourth year at Grand Peak Academy. I taught 4th grade for the past three years and this year and I am thrilled to be teaching Gifted and Talented! I was born and raised in Colorado and have lived most of my life in Colorado Springs. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to do two things: be a mom and be a teacher. I graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Adams State University. After finishing college, I got married and am now a mother to three amazing boys. I stayed home with them until they were all school age before becoming a classroom teacher. I have always enjoyed working with children and love getting to know each of my students and watching them grow.

In my free time I enjoy reading, interior decorating, playing volleyball, and being creative. I also love spending time with my family and supporting my boys in their various activities including soccer and drama!

I am really looking forward to an incredible year and am excited to get to know a new group of amazing students. I hope to challenge them to think creatively, to become excellent problem solvers and to treat those around them with kindness!

Viola Lee (Math Intervention)

I‘m so excited to start my second year as GPA’s Math Interventionist.  I graduated from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs with a degree in Mathematics and a minor in Economics.  After college I worked for an investment management firm before becoming a stay at home mom.  I later returned to work for a software company in billing.  However, I soon realized that I wanted to see more of my children, so when an opportunity opened at their school I jumped on it.  I started here in 2012 as a first grade reading interventionist and para-professional.  I immediately fell in love with teaching and went on to teach second grade for six years before becoming a math interventionist.

I love helping students think about math visually and find new ways to solve problems.  My mission is to have students realize that anyone and everyone can be good at math!

I grew up as an Army brat and spent much of my childhood in Germany, before settling in Colorado.  My husband and I have three beautiful girls, who all attended GPA’s predecessor.  When I’m not teaching, I love to cook, read, travel, camp and spend time with my family.

Viviana Jimenez (SpEd Coordinator)

My name is Viviana Jiménez. I am originally from Texas, Rio Grande Valley, and moved to Colorado in 2019. I have started my 23rd year in special education, 18 of which have been in Texas and the last 4 in Colorado Springs. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitative Services, a Master’s degree in Autism Spectrum Disorders, and will be returning to school to earn a certificate as a BCBA. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with family, baking, and building with Legos. I have been married to my husband David for 23 years and we have two adult daughters. My oldest, Miriam, is married to my son in law, Tyler. They are military and stationed in Astoria, Oregon serving in the US Coast Guard. My youngest daughter still lives at home and is in school studying to be a surgical technician.

I am very excited to be at GPA this year!

Chelsea Quick (SpEd Teacher)

Hi! I am so excited to be part of the Special Education department at Grand Peak Academy. I had been substitute teaching since 2014 and became part of the GPA staff in March 2023. I graduated in 2009 with my BA in Early Childhood/Elementary Education and a minor in Psychology. In 2011 I completed my M.ED in Special Education. I have lived in California, Oregon, Washington, Kansas and now Colorado. 

I have been married since 2008 and was privileged to spend 5 years of those years as an Army Wife. I have 3 amazing children; all of whom have attended GPA since we moved to Colorado in 2021. I love naps, cozy blankets and a good book. Some of my favorite things to do outside of school include gardening, exploring all that Colorado has to offer, and spending time with my family at home. 

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