Faculty / Creative Teams


Explorers Preschool

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Adry Ross

Adry Ross is a program director with 16 years of experience working with children. Ross served as the Assistant Director for Early Learning at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission for 14 years. Focused two and a half years on the construction and strategic planning of the new AdventHealth B.E. Smith Family Center. Previous experience serving as Director for afterschool care, served as teacher’s aid and substitute. Her B.S. is in Management, with an A.A. in Pre-Education. Married for 20 years, she enjoys spending time with her husband, David, and her two teenagers, Ethan and Austin, who attend NTCA. She is passionate about early childhood and sharing the love of Jesus with children.

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Stephanie Ford


Stephanie Ford has been working with children for three years. Watching the kids get excited to learn something is what inspires her teaching. She has an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and Development from Rasmussen College. This football mom loves being her children’s biggest cheerleader. She is also a fur mom to three dogs, two cats, two birds, fish, a lobster, and a Gecko leopard. Her favorite food is all food, including steak, pizza, and Cuban sandwiches.

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Gissel Mercer

Gissel Marcer is a DCF-trained, CPR-certified teacher who has worked with children for three years. She loves being with children, seeing how fast they learn and how simple life is for them. She finds joy in watching them develop in each life stage. This mom of three is from the Dominican Republic and has been married for 16 years. She volunteers at the children’s church and believes her calling is to serve. When she isn’t working with children, she enjoys eating Vietnamese and Korean food, cooking, watching movies, and reading.


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Dashira Lizardo

Dashira Lizardo has been working in daycare for two years and teaching Bible class for 10. She loves helping students learn to think for themselves. When she isn’t working, she loves photography and eating Puerto Rican food.


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Nikky Garcia

Nikky Garcia has been working with children for more than 10 years. She has 45 hours of DCF training and is CPR-certified. She is inspired by growing children who have a curiosity streak. She is a mom to three and has been married for nearly four years. Born and raised in Tampa, this mom loves spending time with her family and eating tacos and gummy bears.


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Anna Wheatley

Working with children for five years, Anna Wheatley says she loves being able to make a difference and show love to children. She is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences, with her graduation expectancy in December. She will move on to work on a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology. When she isn’t teaching and studying, she loves reading, calligraphy, and graphic design. She hopes to start a calligraphy business in January.


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Emely Rodriguez

Emely Rodriguez loves the innocent way children see life — how everything can be special and how stress-free and unique their perception of the world is. She has 45 hours of DCF training under her belt, in addition to a CPR certification and a Bachelor’s in Business Administration. Hailing from the Dominican Republic, this mom of two loves spending time with her children, eat, dance, sing, and laugh. She loves Mexican food and espresso.


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Daniele Fonseca

Daniele Fonseca has spent the last year working with children and loves being able to relate to them and give them a safe, fun environment to learn. Her goal is to show children the fascinating world around us. She graduates in May 2020 with a B.S. in Biology-Biomedical Science. Her hobbies include drawing, reading, baking, and cooking.


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Michelle Valentin

After three years working with kids, Michelle Valentine says they challenge her to be better. She has a B.A. in Psychology and is a Registered Behavioral Tech (RBT), with a minor in religion. Her hobbies include crafting, traveling, meeting new people, event planning, and trying new food. 


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Mahali Rivera

Mahali Rivera loves seeing how happy children feel when they learn something new. She has a Bachelor’s in Industrial Engineering and is a mom to two children. She loves working in the mission field with her husband Juan. She loves pizza and pastries!


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Mishel Marler

Mishel Marler has been working with children for 10 years. The opportunity to profoundly impact her students’ lives is what motivates her. She’s addicted to the challenge of getting students more engaged and loving to learn. She has a Child Development Associate (CDA) and Florida Director Credential, with a minor in religion. In her spare time, Mishel loves cooking, traveling, spending time with family, and photography.


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Raquel Acosta

After becoming an Assistant Teacher at TAA, Raquel Acosta found her calling. Under the mentorship of now Principal Merili Wyatte, she felt her passion for the classroom grewHolding a CDA and LBN, she has five years of experience working with children. When she isn’t in the classroom, she enjoys reading, the beach, plants, music, singing, and painting.


Elisa Galdamez

Elisa Galdamez is the Administrative Assistant in Finances. With 15 years of business administration experience, she feels that God has called on her to serve others. She moved from Maryland in 2001, and her two kids attend North Tampa Christian Academy. Galdamez has a passion for wildlife conservation and enjoys spending time with her family, going to Disney, and traveling. She has four parrots and a German shepherd named Apollo.