The Summit Prep's Faculty & Staff

Melissa Kimmons, Beginners Teacher This is Melissa’s 8th year of teaching and 4th year at the Summit. She comes from a background in Elementary/Early Childhood Education and has spent time teaching 1st grade, preschool (2-5), Kindergarten, and has a passion for The Summit Beginners. The Kimmons family have been long time supporters of The Summit and have a Summit PreK scholar, with a future Summit scholar at home.

Linda Michaliszyn, Pre-Kindergarten Teacher Linda Michaliszyn is from Chicago Illinois. Linda and her husband Marian have four children. Linda has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Linda began her career teaching pre-school and then went on to teach, Kindergarten, 1 st and 2 nd grade and then directed a non-for profit organization with three child care centers. This is Linda’s first year at the Summit.

Marissa Renfroe, Kindergarten Teacher Marissa Renfroe has a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Missouri State University. She is skilled in the use of Instructional Technology. Marissa enjoys doing creative things in her free time, such as painting and graphic design. About her second year of teaching, she states, “I am extremely excited about partnering with The Summit in the pursuit of educating children. I cannot imagine a better environment for facilitating growth and development.”

Katie Heet, First Grade Teacher & Lower School Director Katie Heet is in her eleventh year of teaching and eighth year at The Summit. She enjoys working with her first grade students and serving as the Lower School Program Coordinator and Faculty Board Liaison. Katie earned a Master of Arts in Teaching in Early Childhood Education from Webster University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from St. Louis University. While at The Summit, Katie has taught first, second, and third grades; acted as the accreditation steering committee chair; and served as The Summit ISACS teacher representative. Katie has completed professional development in differentiated learning, gifted education, Singapore math methods, and the Orton Gillingham approach. She is passionate about teaching young children to read, and she is working toward becoming a certified Academic Language Therapist. She is currently pursuing her doctorate of education in leadership through Creighton University. Katie loves teaching and learning. She strives to engage her students in meaningful, hands-on learning experiences that enable them to discover the joy of learning.

Angie Collins, Second Grade Teacher Angie is a veteran teacher with over 30 years of experience. She recently retired from the Republic School District, where she taught 1st grade for 14 years. Prior to her time with Republic, Angie taught 2nd and 3rd grade in Monett, Mo. Having no intention of leaving teaching, Angie embarked on a new adventure and joined the Summit faculty this year. Angie’s goal for her scholars is to create lifelong learners who problem solve, think critically and share a love of learning, not only with her, but classmates as well. She believes in educating the “whole” child, meeting her students’ needs academically, socially, and emotionally. Angie has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Southern Illinois University, a Master’s degree In Elementary Education from Pittsburg State University, as well as her Reading Certification through Lindenwood University.  Her in-depth trainings in professional development have allowed her to grow and improve as an educator. Some of these trainings include Kagan Cooperative Learning, Guided Reading, Writer’s and Reader’s Workshop, and Math Addvantage. Angie’s professional goal is quite simple, to continually grow and improve as an educator, thus helping her students to be the best they can be. In her free time, she loves to work in her yard, spend time with her husband of 32 years, and visit her adult sons, Danny and Ryan, whenever possible.

Crystal Yarnell, Third Grade Teacher Crystal has a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Elementary Education from Drury University with certifications in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. She has additional training in Kagan Cooperative Learning, Love and Logic, and REACH (Cultural Diversity in the classroom). Crystal is in her 6th year at The Summit. She believes when students feel her enthusiasm for learning they are be able to take the initiative to see how important it is to get the most out of every learning experience. She believes parent and teacher communication is a valuable part of a student’s success.

Rhonda Gentry, Fourth Grade Teacher Rhonda Gentry comes to The Summit with an assortment of teaching experiences under her belt. She began her career in early childhood and spent 11 years teaching Child and Family Development at the University of Central Missouri. She then moved to the Crest Ridge School District. During her 12 years there, she taught 2nd and 3rd grades and ran the K-12 gifted program. She has a Masters’ Degree in Curriculum and Instruction, plus additional graduate hours in Child and Family Development and Gifted Education. She is certified in elementary education, vocal and instrumental music, and gifted education. Rhonda is a Master Gardener, quilter, book club leader and member of the music ministry at her local church. She enjoys hiking and, sometimes, attempts to run. She has two daughters and two extremely entertaining grandsons.

Julie Anderson, Fifth Grade Teacher Julie is beginning her tenth year as a teacher at The Summit. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Missouri State University and a Master of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Drury University. She is trained in Four Blocks Literacy, Kagan Cooperative Learning, Everyday Math, and Love and Logic. Julie is a strong believer in community service and seeks ways to connect students to their community. In her time outside the classroom, Julie is often on the road to Kansas City to visit her two daughters. At home, she enjoys yoga classes, reading, is a certified Master Gardener, and has recently become a beekeeper.

Brandie Maddox, Upper School Language Arts Teacher Brandie Maddox earned her B.S.E. from Missouri State University and was honored by the College of Education with the Excellence in Teaching pin for her exemplary work as a student teacher. This school year will mark Brandie’s tenth year of teaching and her first with The Summit Prep. Having taught in both private and public schools in Missouri and Wyoming, Brandie brings with her a unique blend of experiences and practices. Her focus in the Language Arts classroom is to further each student in his/her use of language, utilizing strengths and tackling areas of need. Brandie is very student centered in her approach; she feels strongly that every student, every person, has a unique perspective to contribute. No two people will ever read a text the exact same way, and that makes teaching literature and writing exciting. Brandie and her husband Paul have two children, Mason and Leena; she looks forward to having Mason attend The Summit as well.

Rob Powers, Upper School Science Teacher This is Professor Powers’s first year teaching at The Summit, and he couldn’t be more tickled. The Professor has been teaching Chemistry and Physics to high schoolers for 7 years. He has his BS in Chemistry Education from MSU, and an M.Ed in STEM Education from Concordia University. He has been a leader in local science education for the past 2 years after he and his wife started Professor Powers Science Symposium, a non-profit organization offering high-quality science education opportunities to kids and adults via hands-on, project-based classes on evenings and weekends, and week-long camps in the summer. When he’s not completely immersed in sharing his passion for science with everyone around him, he plays guitar and sings in various local bands, and also spends time with his wonderful wife and their 3 rambunctious and precocious boys, 2 dogs, one fierce kitten, and an immortal guppy.

Emma Smith, Upper School History Teacher Emma loves her husband, history, and her dog. She studied history and business at College of the Ozarks and was fortunate to travel to Europe twice with World War Two veterans and Holocaust survivors to learn their stories firsthand. She is thrilled to be back in the Ozarks after two years doing graduate work in American history and working as a teaching assistant at the University of Kentucky. Teaching is her vocation, and she is so excited to become part of the Summit community.

Molly Strickland, Upper School Mathematics Teacher Molly Strickland has taught 9th-12th grade math (all subjects) for the past 5 years in Southwest Missouri and her passion involves getting students confident & excited about learning mathematics. Molly has completed professional development in problem based learning, differentiated instruction, mathematical discourse, mathematical mindsets, and how to efficiently use technology in the classroom. Molly has presented at the state-wide Math and Science Education Conferences: MCTM & Interface B, where she spreads her love and knowledge of making math relevant, engaging, and memorable for every single student. She has been taking classes to earn her master’s degree, but simply can’t decide on a single emphasis; she has been exploring different applied mathematical fields in an effort to someday have an entire curriculum where every single lesson answers the age old question, “But why do I have to learn this?”

Shawn Keech, Music Teacher Shawn Keech holds a Bachelor of Music Education (with an Instrumental Music option) from Missouri State University. He enjoys composing original music, creating custom arrangements for student groups, exploring multiple instruments, reading, and spending time with his family.  This is his eighth year teaching at The Summit.

Sarah Leighninger, Spanish Teacher Sarah Leighninger has a B.A. in Spanish from Missouri Southern State University. Previously, she taught Spanish at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School and at Crowder College in Webb City. Sarah has been with the Summit since it began and developed and led the first Spanish Immersion Summer Camp, served as head coach for The Summit’s first volleyball team in 2006, served as a member of the accreditation steering committee, and is the ISACS teacher representative for The Summit. Sarah lives in Saddlebrooke with her husband, Brad, and their three children, Molly (7), Ellie (4), and Hudson (1). In her free time Sarah enjoys playing volleyball, traveling, sailing, and participating in BBQ competitions.

Maria Surma, Spanish Teacher Maria Surma was born in Argentina, where she obtained her BA as an ESL teacher. Upon moving to the U.S., she obtained her MS in bilingual education from Western Illinois University and subsequently pursued her PhD in urban education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she holds ABD status. Maria brings 11 years of teaching experience from Argentina and 7 years of academic research in the fields of special education for ELL’s and teacher education for social justice. For the last three years, she has been in charge of developing and facilitating the after-school Spanish program at JTSD, Nixa – an early-start World Language initiative serving students from grades K through 6. Additionally, she has served as a bilingual interpreter and substitute teacher for the Nixa Public Schools district. Maria lives in Nixa with her husband Tom, her 8-year-old son Mateo, and her 5-year-old twins Marco and Emilia. Maria enjoys the summer and everything that comes with it: the beach, the sun, the lake!

Cassandra Raven, Spanish Teacher Cassandra Raven graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Spanish at Missouri State University in May 2014. She joined the Summit Faculty immediately that Fall as a sub and has been blessed to continue this journey as the morning Fun Zone Instructor, Beginner’s Aide and most recently, the Spanish teacher for the Beginner and Pre-K classes. Outside of the Summit, Cassandra enjoys spending time with her husband and three pups in their home in Ozark. They are actively involved with their church and are always on the lookout to check things off their bucket list, start Pinterest-inspired house projects or spend time with family and friends. Cassandra also loves coffee, a good book, jamming out to music and is a diehard Steelers fan. She’s looking forward to her third year at the Summit!

Lisa Murphy, Art Teacher Lisa Casalo Murphy has dedicated her life to promoting the arts in southwest Missouri. After teaching in the public schools for over thirty years she was thrilled to have the opportunity to start teaching at The Summit during the 2014-2015 school year. Lisa has an elementary education degree with lifetime teaching certification for all subjects K-8. After completing her undergraduate degree at MSU, she attended Drury University for graduate studies in K-12 Art and Gifted Education. She and her husband lived in Branson for the last 12 years and recently moved back to their family farm south of Ozark. They are very proud of their two daughters, Jenna and Michelle, and all of their accomplishments. Lisa is actively involved in the art community and works to promote art events for people of all ages. She is President of the Branson Arts Council and Vice President in charge of Marketing of the Tri-Lakes Community Theatre. In her spare time, her hobbies include: playing guitar, singing, painting and gardening.

Jill Phillips, PE Teacher Jill has been involved in education intermittently for the past ten years, working with ELL students in Springfield Public Schools before joining The Summit Prep in 2014 as the Physical Education teacher. She has a variety of fitness certifications and enjoys watersports, taking fitness classes, spending time with her family, and attending her kids’ sporting and school events. Her goal is to work with children and help them develop a life-long healthy lifestyle. She believes physical fitness can help students thrive academically and socially through a mind/body connection.

Robert Gronniger, Head of School Born in Springfield and raised in the Kansas City area, Mr. Gronniger completed his undergraduate studies in education at then-SMSU. Upon graduation, he was recruited to teach in the rapidly-growing Australian public school system. Returning to Missouri, he undertook additional coursework in education, at SMSU and UMKC, as well as teaching at the middle school level in Clinton, Missouri. Upon rejoining the ranks of international educators, Mr. Gronniger served in cutting-edge, independent, American overseas and international schools for thirty-plus years, enjoying successful tenures in Europe, South and Central America, Southwest Asia, and the Middle-East. His roles ranged from physical educator, coach and athletic director to section principal and head of school. Mr. Gronniger states: “Never in education has there been a more exciting and challenging time. I am eager to share my experience and knowledge with the Summit Prep community, working together to provide a truly world-class education for our children.”

Kristin Walker, Head of Operations & Finance Kristin is the Head of Operations and Finance, meaning she handles all things business related for The Summit Prep. She has spent her career in business management. In addition to the four years at The Summit in the business office, she has been involved in the school as a parent since 2006. She has often been heard saying she’s happiest when sitting in front of a spreadsheet, except of course when she’s at home with her husband, three kids, and poorly-behaved cat, El Gato.

Amy Maas, Director of Admissions & Communications Amy grew up in Springfield where she attended Springfield Lutheran School and Springfield Catholic High School. She graduated from Drury University with a Bachelors in Integrated Media and Theater. In her spare time, Amy teaches Jazzercise, serves on the executive board of the Springfield Zeta Tau Alpha Alumnae Chapter, reads, knits, and cooks up the latest Food Network recipes.

Laura Hover Skiles, Director of Development After six years of teaching in Springfield Public Schools, Laura transitioned to fundraising and public relations for Developmental Center of the Ozarks. Her current position in the development office at The Summit allows her to blend her favorite jobs – nonprofit and education – into one. Laura and her husband, Justin, have four kids, and are the proud parents of two Summit Scholars.

Judy Thompson, Development Consultant Judy Thompson works with The Summit as a Development Consultant. Judy was Vice-President at Drury University for Alumni Relations and Development for 30+ years. After retiring from full time work, she continues to serve Drury as a consultant in addition to work with the Flint, Michigan Symphony and Music School. Recognized by AFP as an Outstanding Fundraising Professional, she works with Major Gifts and Planned Giving.

Becky Breckner, Guidance Counselor & International Admissions Director Becky is a licensed professional counselor and has worked at The Summit since 2013. Her position at The Summit allows her to work closely with students and families to enhance their educational experience, as well as promote a positive global awareness through the international admissions office. Becky has been married for 12 years and has a PreKindergartener and 5th grader this year at The Summit.

Angie Workman, Athletic Director Angie Workman started the athletic program at The Summit in 2012. She has a Masters of Physical Therapy degree and participated competitively in athletics throughout high school and college. She believes all students can learn valuable life long skills through participation in organized sports. The goal of athletics at The Summit is to have fun and in the process develop skills that will serve student-athletes in all aspects of life. Angie and her husband Michael have been married for 22 years and have three children.

Mike Albert, Facilities Coordinator Mike Albert is the Facilities Coordinator at The Summit. He oversees the facility’s day-to-day building operations, working closely with school personnel. Coming from a large family, he loves working with and inspiring children to meet their full potential. He and his wife have three children.

Class Blogs

Beginners: Mrs. Kimmons


Pre-Kindergarten: Mrs. Michaliszyn

Kindergarten: Miss Renfroe

1st Grade: Mrs. Heet

2nd Grade: Mrs. Collins

3rd Grade: Mrs. Yarnell

4th Grade: Ms. Gentry

5th Grade: Mrs. Anderson

Upper School L.A.: Mrs. Maddox

Upper School Science: Mr. Powers

Upper School History: Mrs. Smith

Upper School Mathematics: Ms. Strickland

Music: Mr. Keech

Spanish: Señora Leighninger

Spanish: Señora Surma

Art: Mrs. Murphy

PE: Mrs. Phillips