Faculty

Hiring Godly, qualified teachers and administrators is crucial to fulfilling our mission as a school.  Our staff must exemplify the highest Christian character as they reflect Christ’s love and encourage each child’s own obedient response to God.  Our staff meets the educational requirements as established by the State of Ohio and are licensed to teach in their area.
Mrs. Susan Gifford, Academy President
Mrs. Gifford has been serving as the Administrator for the school since its opening in the 2005-2006 school year. She brings more than 20 years of business experience to her position. Mrs. Gifford holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Bowling Green State University, a Master’s from Cleveland State University and has completed coursework in Early Childhood Education at Lakeland Community College. Mrs. Gifford, her husband Russ live in Orwell.
Mr. Mark Smith, Troy Campus Administrator
Mr. Smith earned his Bachelor of Arts in Pastoral Studies from Cedarville University after starting his college career as a Math Major. He also holds a Master of Divinity from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Mr. Smith resides in Middlefield with his wife Melissa and his children Micah, Gabriel, Eleana and Andrew. Mr. Smith joined Agape for the 2018-2019 school year.
Mrs. Bridget Cole, Preschool Teacher
Mrs. Cole earned her Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Lake Erie College and taught for three years at Painesville Christian Academy. Mrs. Cole joined Agape’s teaching team for the 2018-2019 school year and resides in Chardon with her husband and six children.
Mrs. Susan Petrick, Preschool Teacher
Mrs. Petrick holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Bowling Green State University with a teaching license for Kindergarten through Eighth Grade.  She also served as Three/Four Preschool Teacher and Tutor at Agape.  Mrs. Petrick, her husband Shawn and daughters Rachel and Lindsey reside in Middlefield.  Mrs. Petrick joined Agape for the 2012-2013 school year.
Mrs. Amy Taddeo, Kindergarten Teacher
a.taddeo@agapeca.com
Mrs. Taddeo holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Lake Erie College with a teaching license for First through Eighth Grade with a concentration in reading.  Mrs. Taddeo, her husband Al and daughters Isabella and Maddy reside in Chardon.  Mrs. Taddeo joined Agape for the 2015-2016 school year.
Mrs. Kalyn Stahl, First Grade Teacher
k.stahl@agapeca.com
Mrs. Stahl holds a Bachelor of Arts in Education from the University of Mount Union with a major in Early Childhood Education and minors in Intervention Specialist and Psychology. Her teaching license is in Early Childhood Education.  Mrs. Stahl resides in Bristol with her husband and joined Agape for the 2015-2016 school year.
Mrs. Havilah Southern, Second Grade Teacher
Mrs. Southern has been with Agape since our first school year in 2005-2006. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education from Kent State University. Prior to joining Agape, she was a teacher at Head Start. Mrs. Southern, her husband Mike, and sons Elijah, Abram, Aaron and Caleb reside in Hiram.
Mrs. Rachel Snedeker,  Second Grade Teacher
Mrs. Snedeker holds a degree in Elementary Education from Nyack Christian College in New York. She has served at Agape as a long-term substitute teacher for the Three/Four Preschool and worked with our First Grade students during the 2016-2017 school year teaching small groups in Reading and Math.  She resides in Burton with her family and joined Agape for the 2021-2022 school year.
Mrs. Melissa Babic,  Third Grade Teacher
Mrs. Babic holds a Bachelor of Arts in Middle Childhood Education with concentrations in Language Arts and Social Studies.  Mrs. Babic first joined Agape’s teaching team in the school’s second year – the 2006-2007 school year. She taught combined classes of Third/Fourth Grade and Fourth/Fifth Grade for three years prior to moving to North Carolina.  While in North Carolina Mrs. Babic taught for eight years at Neuse Christian School teaching both Fourth and Fifth Grades.
Mrs. April Westover, Third Grade Teacher
Mrs. Westover earned her Bachelor of Science in Education from Youngstown State University with a teaching license for Preschool through Third Grade. Mrs. Westover resides in West Farmington with her husband Brian and her two sons. Mrs. Westover joined Agape for the 2018-2019 school year.
Mrs. Bethany Brown,  Fourth Grade Teacher
Mrs. Brown earned her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Kent State University and her Master of Arts and Consumer Sciences, Child Life from the University of Akron. She has served at Agape as a Tutor working with students in grades First thru Fourth in addition to serving as a substitute teacher. Mrs. Brown served as a Preschool teacher for three years at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church and Preschool. Mrs. Brown resides in Burton with her family and joined Agape for the 2021-2022 school year.
 
Mr. Mike Southern, Fifth Grade Teacher 
m.southern@agapeca.com
Mr. Southern earned a Bachelor’s of Science in Middle Childhood Education from Kent State University and previously served at Agape as a full-time Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Grade teacher as well as an Elementary and High School Physical Education Instructor. Mr. Southern has been a part of Agape’s teaching team on and off since 2005, the year the school opened. He currently serves as Pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Middlefield. Mr. Southern is husband to Mrs. Southern, Agape’s Second Grade Teacher. They reside in Hiram with their boys Elijah, Abram, Aaron and Caleb.
 
Mrs. Jeni Najjar, Sixth Grade Teacher
Mrs. Najjar holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Kent State University after attending The Moody Bible Institute for two years. She earned her teaching certification for Kindergarten through Eighth Grade and taught Third Grade and Fourth Grade at Berkshire Elementary before staying home to raise her family. Mrs. Najjar resides in Huntsburg with her husband Rick and children Callie, Nathaniel and Cooper.  She joined Agape for the 2016-2017 school year.
Mrs. Rhonda Balaban, College & Career Counselor 
r.balaban@agapeca.com
Mrs. Balaban earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio University in Industrial and Systems Engineering. After working as a systems implementation specialist and management consultant, she served as a career counselor and academic advisor for homeschool families and young adults. Mrs. Balaban and her husband live in Mentor with their five children. She joined Agape for the 2022-2023 school year.
Mrs. Mary Carr, Middle/High School Teacher 
m.carr@agapeca.com
Mrs. Carr holds a Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Education and a Masters of Education in Reading and Literacy with a Reading Endorsement from Baldwin Wallace College. She holds a Teaching License in History Grades 7 thru 12. Mrs. Carr and her husband Mike reside in Sagamore Hills. She joined Agape for the 2011-2012 school year.
Mrs. Jessalee Detweiler
Middle/High School Science Teacher
Mrs. Detweiler holds a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biology from Grove City College. She served as a Research Assistant in the Department of Ophthalmology at Case Western Reserve University and also served as a High School Chemistry tutor. Mrs. Detweiler resides in Burton with her family and joined Agape for the 2021-2022 school year.
 
Mrs. Hannah Lain-Trost,
High School Math & Science Teacher
Mrs. Lain-Trost earned her Bachelor of Science with a double major in Mathematics Education and Pure Math from Trevecca Nazarene University in Tennessee. She holds a license for Sixth through Twelfth Grade Math and has field experience with Middle and High School students as a teacher, tutor and Camp Counselor.  Mrs. Lain-Trost resides in Ravenna with her husband and joined Agape for the 2019-2020 school year.
Miss Brenna Rupe, Middle School Teacher 
b.rupe@agapeca.com
Miss Rupe holds a Bachelor of Science in Middle Level Science and Social Studies Education from Grove City College.  Miss Rupe first joined Agape for the 2020-2021 school year before serving  at Heart Light Ministries in Texas for the past year.
Mrs. Karen Samsonas, English Teacher 
k.somsonas@agapeca.com
Mrs. Samsonas graduated from Bowling Green State University.  Her major was teaching English to students in grades 7-12.  Before joining Agape’s teaching staff, she taught English as a second language to students in inner city Cleveland.  Mrs. Samsonas has two adult children who are both dedicated teachers.  Mrs. Samsonas and her husband reside in Bainbridge and enjoy attending and serving at Parkside church.  She joined Agape for the 2022-2023 school year.
Mr. Brian Westover, 
Middle School Bible Teacher
Mr. Westover holds a Bachelor of Arts in Pastoral Ministries. He serves as the pastor of North East Community Church in Burton Ohio. Mr. Westover resides in West Farmington with his wife April and their two sons.  Mr. Westover joined Agape for the 2021-2022 school year.
Mr. Kevin Wilmot,
Middle/High School Bible Teacher
Mr. Wilmot is a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute. He holds a Bachelors in Education with a Major in Bible.  He also earned a Bachelors in Physics and a Bachelors in Religious Studies from Cleveland State University. He joined Agape as a Student Teacher in the Fall of 2014 before graduating and now teaches Bible. He resides in Claridon with his wife Kelly and their five children.