Sarah Leighninger has a B.A. in Spanish from Missouri Southern State University. She taught Spanish for five years at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School in Joplin, Missouri, where she was also the P.E. teacher for elementary students and served as the head coach for the middle school volleyball and track team.  She was a Spanish instructor at Crowder College in Webb City, Missouri for two years.  Sarah has been with the Summit since it began in 2005. She developed and led The Summit’s first Spanish Immersion Summer Camp.  Additionally, she served as head coach for The Summit’s first volleyball team in 2006 and continued to lead them through three successful seasons.  Sarah has served as a lead teacher, co-chair of the accreditation steering committee, and the ISACS teacher representative for The Summit.  This year Sarah is teaching both lower and upper school Spanish. Sarah lives in Springfield with her husband, Brad, and their three children, Molly (13), Ellie (10), and Hudson (7).  In her free time Sarah enjoys playing volleyball, traveling, sailing, and participating in BBQ competitions.

Señora Leighninger is a sixth grade mentor.


Rob Powers has been teaching Science for 12 years, with 5 of those years spent at The Summit. 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 since 2014 when he and his wife started Professor Powers Science Symposium (PPSS), 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. He and his wife have moved onto other endeavors, but the things that made PPSS so exciting and cutting edge continue at The Summit.  When he’s not completely immersed in sharing his passion for science with everyone around him, he spends time paddling on local rivers, playing guitar and singing in various local bands, and also spending time with his wonderful wife and their 3 rambunctious and precocious boys, 3 dogs, and lots of cats. He once had a guppy, possibly immortal, that disappeared shortly after all the cats showed up. 

Mr. Powers is a seventh grade mentor.


Emma Smith has been teaching for eight years. On a weekend, you can often find her baking bread, walking her dog, Bo, or practicing her archery skills with her husband. 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 earned her MA in American History at the University of Kentucky in 2015 before moving back to the Ozarks and discovering The Summit. She enjoys being the faculty mentor to Upper School Student Council, teaching culinary arts classes, and coaching The Summit’s archery club. Teaching is her vocation, and she is so grateful to be part of The Summit community.

Mrs. Smith is an eighth grade and high school mentor.

Anna Cook has been teaching for 11 years; this is her fourth year at the Summit. She is originally from Texas and moved to Springfield with her husband after previously living in Vancouver, Canada and Chiang Mai, Thailand where she taught for five years at an international school. She has a B.S.E. and M.A.T in Childhood Education from the University of Arkansas. In her free time she enjoys road trips, playing board games, trying out new recipes and spending quality time with her husband, daughter and son.

Mrs. Cook is a sixth grade mentor.


Paul Madar brings a diverse background of studies and experience including biological sciences, alternative health, business, cognitive sciences, humanities, nonprofit development, music, and even comparative religions. He worked with an independent school for 19 years, teaching, lecturing, and giving radio and television interviews in many cities throughout the Midwest. For the last three years, Paul has primarily worked as an ACT coach for English, Grammar, Writing, Math, Sciences, Reading Comprehension, and as an online coach in academics and cognitive science (specializing in focus, concentration, and intuition). Paul previously worked at the University of Missouri-Columbia, the Missouri Humanities Council, the School of Metaphysics, Indiana Landmarks and the Holcomb Research Institute. Paul’s thesis in 2011 involved studying the metaphysical properties of sound, vibration and music. He received a Masters of Divinity in 2005, an MBA from Butler University in 1995, and a BS in Biology from Cornell University in 1987. He also studied music at Jordan College of Fine Arts. Paul is a California native and Indiana transplant. Paul and his wife Christine have two daughters, Alexandra (15) and Vivienna (12).

Mr. Madar is a sixth grade mentor.

Jordan Alexander A native of Southern California, Jordan Alexander attended California State University Long Beach where he received his Bachelor’s in English Education with a Theatre Arts option. Upon moving to Missouri, he received his Master of Arts in Teaching from Missouri State University. He taught public school for 6 years at Branson and Nixa High School and is thrilled to be joining the faculty of The Summit.  He has taught private tap, jazz, and modern dance over the past 15 years and, on his off hours, he volunteers with the Branson Regional Arts Council directing and choreographing musical theatre and dabbles in costume and wig design. He is looking forward to a great year at The Summit!

Mr. Alexander is a seventh grade mentor. 



Dawn Eckstein was born in Texas but raised in the Springfield area. Dawn received her Bachelor of Science in Education from Missouri State University and her Master of Education in Instructional Technology from Drury University. Having taught for 15 years in the public school system, she is excited to bring her passion for teaching and learning to The Summit! She loves making math relevant to learners through real-world contexts and challenging concepts.

Outside of teaching, Dawn loves creating through crochet, woodworking, sewing, and all other things crafty! Weekends and school breaks are spent with her husband, Jason, and two sons, Jake and Jaxson.

Mrs. Eckstein is a sixth grade mentor. 



Emma Farley is a graduate of Missouri State University. While there, she received her Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies, Bachelor of Science in Spanish, and Master of Arts in Applied Second Language Acquisition. As a graduate assistant, she taught Spanish for 2 years. Before joining The Summit team, she worked as an English teacher with students of all ages from around the world.

In her free time, Emma enjoys traveling, gardening, reading, hiking, and spending time with friends and family.



Kharja Teed has a great love for physical activities and group interactions. She has taught all types different age levels and a variety of activities and sports. She loves showing and teaching students how to enjoy a lifestyle of physical activity. 

Kharja and her husband, Chris, welcomed a new baby boy, William, to their lives in the spring of 2019. Together as a family, they love being active outside with their two black labs, Tank and Gunner.



Robert Klein holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Lindenwood University. He taught 6-12th grade instrumental music for two years in Southeast Missouri and is delighted to join the wonderful team at The Summit. He spent three years playing tuba with the Blue Stars Drum and Bugle Corps, which is a world-class marching organization for brass and percussion.

In his free time, he enjoys listening to new music, writing arrangements for band, reading, and going on walks with his two dogs, Fred and George.



Rachel Johnson has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History and Studio Art from Missouri State University and a Master of Arts in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University.

She has worked in art museums and art nonprofits for the past 8 years. She is passionate about helping build community, confidence, and curiosity through experiencing the arts. She encourages success in not only building technical art skills, but making connections between art and broader subjects – such as history, architecture, health, and communication.

Outside of teaching, Rachel spends time at home with her two cats, Winslow and Breadstick, and her dog, DB Cooper (who has not told her where the money is, yet.)



Emma Renfroe From working as a freelance artist and graphic designer to studying art education at Missouri State University, Emma attempts to immerse art in everything she does. She is passionate about the role of education in students’ lives and believes in the importance of working within a creative atmosphere. She is excited to partner with The Summit in support of creative endeavors. 

Outside of her involvement with art, she is an active member of Missouri State’s Pride Marching Band, enjoys baking, and values spending time with her family.



Adrienne Parnell is an E-RYT (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher) 200, YACEP (Yoga Alliance Continuing Education Provider), certified barre instructor, certified yin yoga instructor, aerial yoga instructor, and certified AromaTouch instructor. Her passion and heart is devoted to sharing the gift of yoga, wellness, and movement.

When Adrienne is off the mat, you can often find her in nature, traveling, listening to music, and spending time with friends and family. She is excited to be teaching yoga to the students of The Summit!