Welcome to Gulf Coast Classical Academy!
Our Mission & Purpose:
At Gulf Coast Classical Academy, our mission is to support Christian families in educating their children to the highest standards. We equip them with wisdom and virtue to recognize the objective truth, goodness, and beauty that exist in the world all around us.
Our purpose is to promote the transmission of Western Civilization through a Latin-centered, classical, Christian core curriculum. GCCA is designed to develop a generation of Christian leaders who will be equipped to serve their families, churches, and communities.
What is Classical Education?
In classical education, students study the classics and the classical languages that produced them and the liberal arts: the best that has been thought and said, and the intellectual skills that equip a student to think critically. A classical education cultivates wisdom and virtue through the study of Great Books and develops basic critical thinking skills to recognize and defend truth, beauty, and goodness.
Meet Our Team & Faculty
Through God's awesomeness, this team was established to allow your child to obtain the education and knowledge they require and deserve.
Head of School, Humanities Teacher
Co-Founder of GCCA
Dr. Jennifer Johnson
Dr. Johnson is responsible for the entirety of GCCA's Academics. She has a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the College of Education at the University of South Florida. Her doctoral work focused on the use of primary sources and Socratic Seminars in the secondary classroom. Prior to her doctorate, Dr. Johnson earned a Masters in American and Ancient History from USF, a BA in both History and Religion from Palm Beach Atlantic University, and teaching certification from Saint Petersburg College. Her most memorable educational experience was during her undergraduate career when she spent a semester studying Medieval and Renaissance history and literature at Oxford University. Though she loves Florida and being an American, England is her home away from home. Dr. Johnson has 16 years of teaching experience and has taught almost every grade level from first grade through senior capstone courses at University of South Florida. She gained her years of experience teaching in public, private, and classical schools. She has also won awards for her teaching, as well as has been published in educational journals and presented at state and national education conferences. Prior to joining Gulf Coast Classical, she spent two years homeschooling her own children using the Memoria Press core curriculum while also teaching online. Dr. Johnson teaches many courses in primary grades and upper school. Her older children, Andrew (6th grade) and Katie (3nd grade), also attend Gulf Coast. She is thankful to be a part of what God is doing at Gulf Coast and is excited be a part of what she believes is the best model of education for all students—a classical Christian curriculum that emphasizes not only Latin and the great books of Western Civilization, but more importantly, the cultivating of wisdom and virtue.
Administrator & Financial Officer
Co-Founder of GCCA
Mr. Michael Mack, MBA
Mr. Mack is responsible for GCCA's areas of Operations, including: Finance, Technology, Infrastructure, Compliance, Risk Management, Marketing, and assists with Human Resources. Mr. Mack has his MBA in Advanced Finance from the University of South Florida, and his BS in Finance with a minor in Economics from the University of Florida. He is Credit Risk Certified (CRC) by the Risk Management Association and is a Certified Treasury Professional (CTP) through the Association of Financial Professionals. Mr. Mack also has his Executive Master of Accounting degree from Florida Atlantic University. Mr. Mack held multiple corporate banking positions over the last two decades. He provided cash flow and lending solutions that enabled his clients to improve margins, working capital, and ultimately the value of their company. He consulted with Owners, CEOs, CFOs, and Upper Management of companies across Tampa Bay and Southwest FL to learn about their business, assess risk in their organization, analyze their cash flows, and structure commercial loans that mitigate risks for the lender while providing optimal lending solutions for their organization's cash flow needs. He was responsible for building out the credit functions of publicly traded banks to ensure that best practices and industry standards were met. Mr. Mack developed and implemented structured credit training and education within the banking industry. In doing so, he taught formal credit training, credit policy and procedures, and other underwriting material to his teammates. Mr. Mack also recruited highly qualified and/or motivated staff and developed and implemented training for the onboarding processes, among many other banking initiatives. He worked with a diverse base of businesses in varying industries and brings years of knowledge and expertise that is applied to GCCA. He and his wife, Amy, have two children. Mr. Mack is the Treasurer of Bethel Lutheran Church, helps coach youth sports, and loves to go fishing when he is not busy helping GCCA grow.
Miss Engwall is GCCA's Kindergarten Teacher.
First Grade Teacher
Mrs. Jacqueline Pollock, B.S.
Mrs. Pollock is a Primary Grade Teacher for GCCA and has her Bachelor of Science from College of Charleston.
Second Grade & Upper Science Teacher
Mrs. Lacey Szymanski
Mrs. Szymanski is a dedicated and passionate educator known for her expertise in teaching physics, chemistry, biology, and forensic science. Five years of teaching experience has honed her ability to guide students to reach their fullest potential and nurture their curiosity for learning. Mrs. Szymanski is passionate about teaching and committed to academic excellence and student success. Mrs. Szymanski’s academic journey began at the University of Central Florida, where she pursued her bachelor's degree in forensic chemistry with a minor in chemistry. After her undergraduate, she interned at Manatee County Sheriff’s Chemistry Lab. This internship led her to gain valuable hands-on experience and insights into the real-world applications of her studies. A passion for science and education motivated Mrs. Szymanski to embark on a career in teaching. Recognizing the importance of continuous growth and learning in her profession, Mrs. Szymanski pursued a Master of Science degree in curriculum and instruction from Florida International University. This additional qualification equipped her with advanced teaching strategies and insights into curriculum development, pedagogical methods, and the diverse learning needs of the classroom. Mrs. Szymanski is in the final phase of her Doctor of Education in curriculum and instruction from Liberty University. Her doctoral research delves into the crucial aspect of college readiness, seeking to enhance students' preparedness for higher education. Through her research, Mrs. Szymanski aspires to improve educational systems and empower students for their future academic pursuits. Beyond her professional life, Mrs. Szymanski finds joy in her family. She is a mother to two children, Edelweiss and Spartacus, who attend Gulf Coast. Mrs. Szymanski and her husband cherish spending quality time with family, especially during their traveling, biking, and hiking adventures. Whether teaching, spending time with family, or exploring God's creation, Mrs. Szymanski remains focused on learning more about the world and sharing knowledge with those around her.
Third Grade & Music Teacher
Ms. Jessica Blakley, B.A.
Ms. Blakely graduated from Florida Gulf Coast University with a bachelor's degree in Music Education and a K-12 Music Teaching certificate for the State of Florida. She spent two and a half years teaching choir at a magnet middle school before branching off to bring music to different aspects of the community. Ms. Blakley teaches music classes at Gulf Coast Classical Academy and primary grade enrichment classes.
Upper Latin, Logic, & Greek Teacher
Mrs. Jessica Reule, M.Ed.
Mrs. Reule graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor’s Degree in Classics and a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction. Mrs. Reule has always had a passion for both mathematics and language learning. She initially studied Latin while a math major in college to simply meet a foreign language requirement. However, she quickly fell in love with not only the structure of the language, which felt very comfortable and familiar as a student of math, but with the deep history and rich culture that a study of Latin cannot be separated from. Mrs. Reule comes to Gulf Coast with 9 years of teaching experience in a range of subjects from Mathematics and Computer Science to Latin and Greek. She is eager to share her love for the classical model, believing that a true classical program reveals the true the good and the beautiful — the best of what is both timeless and timely.
Mrs. Carol Eichinger, M.A.
Magistra Eichinger holds a Master of Arts Degree from the Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Her Masters degree was in English, but she also attained a minor in both education and Latin. Early on she discovered her passion for Latin as so many English words had a Latin base, and English grammar was easily understood after learning the grammar of Latin. Magistra Eichinger taught English and Latin her entire career. She has traveled abroad to Europe, India, and Asia and brings her experiences to the classroom. In 2004, she moved to Orlando, Florida where she began a Latin program for the Orange County school district. She retired from full-time teaching in 2015 and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. She began teaching Latin for Gulf Coast Classical Academy in 2018. Latin has always been her educational candy and she has thoroughly enjoyed teaching this marvelous language to students of any age.
Mrs. Michelle Stille, B.S.
Michelle Stille graduated from Georgia Tech in 2007 with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. She holds current Florida teaching certifications in Mathematics grades 6-12, Mathematics grades 5-9, Science grades 5-9, and Exceptional Student Education grades K-12. Mrs. Stille began working with children as a camp counselor in high school. She founded and directed a tutoring program for at-risk youth while in college. After college, she followed her husband’s military aviation career while homeschooling her children and teaching and leading in co-ops and chess club. She also taught in public school for a short time, and is still an active volunteer there. One of her favorite duty stations was in rural Florida where her family owned a 12 acre farm. She is happy to be settled in Palm Harbor now, and three of her younger children attend Gulf Coast Classical Academy.
Science, Geography, & Christian Studies Teacher
Pastor Douglas Kirk, MTS
Pastor Kirk holds a Master of Theology from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He also has a BA in Zoology and Teaching from the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. While serving as a Pastor, he also taught in private and public schools. He has started two Marine biology curriculums in Florida and the Virgin Islands where he was the chair of the science and math departments. Pastor Kirk has been a tour leader for Worldstrides Adventures, a large educational group that features worldwide student travel experience. Pastor Kirk has also coached several sports. Although he has retired from the Pastorate after more than 40 years, he now teaches science and biology at Gulf Coast Classical Academy. Pastor Kirk enjoys sharing his passion for studying God’s creation.
Physical Education & Karate Teacher
Mr. James Gray
James Gray was born and raised in the Tampa Bay area. He and his lovely wife have a son, Isaac, who runs the Handbells program at Bethel Lutheran Church. James started his work with children and youth immediately after high school and worked for the PLACE program; an afterschool program in Pasco county. James also taught the drum line at Land O’ Lakes High School for 3 years after graduating while also working for the YMCA as a Site Director at an elementary school. After teaching at his alma matter, he was offered a more permanent teaching position as the Drum Line Caption Head at Countryside High School where he taught for 8 years. The culmination of his drum instructing was his last season’s line earning a Division Championship at the State Marching Finals. He chose to end his drum instructing to spend more time at home with his wife and son. Since then, James had started his training in Isshinryu karate to help bond with his son; James quickly fell in love with karate and earned his 2nd degree black belt in 2014. James is currently a competitor in Regional and National Tournaments and also coaches for the Pro Karate Competition team as well as instructing at the dojo since 2012. James has worked with the youth programs at Bethel Lutheran Church since 2002 either alongside his wife or independently. James has taught Sunday School for well over a decade in the Jr and Sr Youth classes while also leading and coordinating numerous youth events.
Mrs. Christine Heuchan, B.A.
The Heuchan family played a major role in the founding of GCCA. They contributed countless volunteer hours and generously donated funds that has helped lead to the successful formation of GCCA. Christine Heuchan holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications from University of South Florida. Prior to earning her degree from USF, she studied four years of psychology with an emphasis in abnormal psychology at Florida State University. After receiving her B.A. she moved to San Diego to work with Broadway group travel arrangements for 4 years and had the opportunity to meet cast and crew members of some of the biggest names in Theatre. Two of her favorite touring groups to work with were Dora the Explorer and Rent. After moving back to her hometown of Clearwater, she helped open the Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach. During this experience, she realized her passion was working with children and later joined the Educator Preparation Institute where she had the opportunity to work with many teachers in all grade levels while completing practicum hours for the program. She also worked as a substitute teacher during this time period for Pinellas County School System. Christine married her high-school best friend in 2009 and has 4 children who now attend GCCA. Christine has been in other private schools prior to GCCA and found this is where her family needs to be. She and her husband feel the academics at Gulf Coast Classical Academy are not comparable to the other private schools they have attended in the past and they are very happy to see their children grow in such a wonderful environment. Christine has been doing art with her own children since they were toddlers and feels blessed she can now share her passion with others. She works part time at her family’s business running the sales office in Teakwood Village Mobile Home Park. On her days off, she teaches art for grades K – 8. Christine's passion and patience make art really fun for the children.
Substitute Teacher, Primary Grade: Elementary Literature & Spelling
Mrs. Marisa Godwin, B.A.
A love of teaching has always been in the heart of Mrs. Godwin. Her journey into the teaching profession began while fulfilling a volunteer requirement for an education course at the University of Florida. Mrs. Godwin’s talents were quickly noticed by the staff at the elementary school and her volunteer work turned into a part-time college job. She went on to earn a dual Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary and exceptional student education from the University of West Florida. After graduating, Mrs. Godwin worked for five years instructing students with learning and behavioral disabilities at the elementary level. During her time as an exceptional student educator, she sponsored both the student council and the Kiwanis-Kids Club and volunteered to tutor struggling readers after school. As a lifelong animal lover, Mrs. Godwin was thrilled to be able to bring wildlife and conservation programs to the 4th and 5th grade students and to coordinate canine assisted therapy for her students. In addition, she also taught reading and English as a second language privately for four years. Parents value her enthusiasm, attention to detail, and patience. As a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, Mrs. Godwin believes in the importance of cultivating a love for words as it allows for a greater capacity to love God with all of one’s mind. She believes classical Christian education is the best and finds joy in teaching at Gulf Coast Classical Academy. When she is not teaching, she enjoys spending time with her family and dog, reading, taking courses at Hillsdale College and New Saint Andrews College, kayaking, and gardening.