About US


We are a team committed to excellence.

In a safe learning community rich in the arts, sciences, and languages, we are dedicated to developing nobility of character, cultivating academic success, honoring diversity, and promoting physical and environmental responsibility.


The well-known phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child,” reflects ACCLAIM’s approach to the school environment. We believe that it takes a whole school team to educate a child. Everyone here strives to provide a safe, nurturing environment where students can thrive and achieve their best, both academically and socially.

Our teachers have experience levels from just entering the field to over 30 years as educators. We have team members from three continents, eight countries and various parts of the U.S. This adds to the rich educational experience students receive at ACCLAIM.

Take a look at who we are!

Melanie Powers

Executive Director

After graduating from ASU with a major in education and minors in Spanish and music, I taught in bilingual programs in Guadalupe and Tolleson. I received my Masters in Bilingual/Bicultural Education from NAU and started ACCLAIM Academy in 1997.
Creating a culture of character with a richly diverse staff and engaging curriculum makes ACCLAIM a great place to come to every day.
Now in our 27th year, I consider it an honor to serve the students, parents and staff of ACCLAIM Academy.

Edward MacDonald

Associate Director

I have been in the field of Education for 35 years. In that time it has been very clear to me that as much as it is vital to have excellence in academics and rigor, it is equally important to focus on building our students character. At ACCLAIM Academy I have found a place that does this in the most effective and impactful way that I have ever experienced, through a central focus on the Virtues Project. This focus, along with sharing my belief that good choices and clear expectations are the foundation to success are why I am so excited to be a part of this “Hidden Gem”, ACCLAIM Academy.

Michael Acosta

Math Teacher 6th-8th

At any early age math was my favorite subject. I would try to calculate answers to problems in my head, and I wanted to be the fastest in the class. During high school, my math teachers made math fun, and I felt I could do the same for students. I decided to focus on a career in education and graduated with a degree in mathematics from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).
I moved to Arizona from El Paso, Texas in 2019 and joined the ACCLAIM staff in 2021.

Mikaila Baker (1) (1)

Mikaila Baker

Music Teacher

My passion for music started in 3rd grade when I started learning to play string bass. Since then, I’ve become proficient on several other instruments, tutored young musicians, led my high school and college marching bands, and earned a degree in music education.
Now at ACCLAIM Academy I get to spend the day sharing that passion with the next generation of music enthusiasts. I work hard to help every student achieve what they are capable of and am dedicated to creating a fun and welcoming environment for everybody.

Jessica Bustos

3rd Grade Teacher

My name is Jessica Bustos and I have been part of the amazing team of ACCLAIM Academy since 2012. I graduated from ASU in 2008 with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. Every day I come to work with a mission, to instill the love for learning in my students.

“Don’t be afraid. Be focused. Be determined. Be hopeful. Be empowered.” Michelle Obama

Natalia Cruz


I was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Puerto Rico. This is my first year at ACCLAIM Academy, and I am so excited. I look forward to working with you and your child.
Thank you in advance for trusting me with your most precious possession. I promise to treat your child the way I would want my child to be treated and will do my best to make this an amazing year.

Alma Dueñas

Spanish Teacher

Hola! I am from Hermosillo, Sonora where I received my teaching degree in 1983. In the United States, I worked at ACCLAIM from 2001-2017. I’m glad to be back again as Spanish Teacher. I enjoy helping students and have experience with K-8th graders. I incorporate many strategies and methods in the classroom to motivate students to realize high academic and behavior standards. I love to teach and hope to be a positive influence in every one of my student’s lives!

Kyomara Gomez

2nd Grade Teacher

I was born and raised on the beautiful island of Puerto Rico. With a bachelor’s degree in Elementary English and a Master’s in Instructional Design with E Learning, I have been teaching for more than eight years.
I moved to the States three years ago to teach here at ACCLAIM Academy. As a teacher I love to create materials for my students and always make sure the learning experience at school is fun and exciting.

Jody Gristwood

Language Arts
7th Grade Teacher

Originally from Upstate New York, I moved to Arizona in 2018. I have enjoyed experiencing all that Arizona has to offer. However, my favorite thing to do, no matter where I am, is read!
I’ve been the librarian at ACCLAIM since 2021 and have loved building relationships with all of our amazing students! It’s always fun to talk about the adventures we take and the places we travel to when we read. I truly believe that if you are a reader today, then you can be a leader tomorrow!

Taylor Headrick


I have been at ACCLAIM Academy since 2022 working with the wonderful students and staff in this school to help build a learning rich environment. Cultivating a generation that is interested and excited in the joys and wonders of learning.

Sunny Howard

K-8 Art Teacher

I have taught art at ACCLAIM Academy for six years. My career began in Interior Design, but I got the opportunity to teach Art in Saudi Arabia’s International School in Riyadh. After that, I was hooked teaching kids. After nine years overseas, I returned to the United States where I have taught art for over 20 years. I love teaching students and watching their talent for art grow.
Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an Artist”.
I wholeheartedly agree with that, and I’m honored to help them develop their talent.

Megha Kalia

1st Grade Teacher

I am delighted to introduce myself as Megha Kalia, the first grade teacher at Acclaim.
With a true passion for teaching young minds, I am committed to guiding my students through the wonderful voyage of growth, exploration and discovery. My focus is on instilling virtues, nurturing a safe environment where students can thrive emotionally and academically.
In our classroom, we engage in hands on activities, exciting projects and interactive games all aimed at making an education a source of delight.

Pamela Lofton


Ever since I was a child, I have loved reading. After graduating from Brenau University in Georgia, I have taught K-8th grades for over 30 years. In search of a rich cultural experience, I travelled to the United Arab Emirates where I taught kindergarten and 5th grades for 6 years.At ACCLAIM since 2020, it has been exciting to help students learn to love reading. Last year, one of my 5th graders read a million words!
“That’s the thing about books. They let you travel without moving your feet.” – Jhumpa Lahiri

Santana Lopez

5th Grade Teacher

I was born and raised in the beautiful state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Residing in Arizona for the past 30 years, I received a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from ASU West.
I have 20+ years in the teaching profession and joined the ACCLAIM Team in 2005.
As a teacher, I stand for organization and cleanliness along with routines and habits that will help my students master skills for life.

Audrey Mathias

4th Grade Teacher

My name is Audrey Mathias, and I am proud to be at ACCLAIM Academy !!! I have been here for the last 5 years. I hail from India, with a Masters degree in English Literature and Bachelor’s Degree in Education.
I have a true passion for working with our young learners!!! Helping each child progress in all areas of their development— is a challenge that I am honored to accept daily. I strive to create a community of learners that nurtures this growth in a positive, fun and safe environment.
I look forward to working together with you as partners in your child’s growth and development.

Yinka Teibo

Middle School Science Instructor

Greetings! I go by the name Mr. Teibo, although many students affectionately refer to me as Mr. Tee. Equipped with a Bachelor’s degree in Botany/Microbiology and an MBA in General Management, I have dedicated over two decades to teaching science in both high school and middle school settings. My passion for guiding students towards greatness remains unwavering. I thrive on pushing my students to unlock their full potential, firmly believing in their ability to achieve success. As an educator, my role is to serve as their guiding light on the path to excellence.

Paul Asselin

Technology Coordinator

My name is Paul Asselin and I have been providing technology services for ACCLAIM Academy for over a decade. Finding innovative solutions to real world problems is my passion. Additional hobbies include building multi-worksheet spreadsheets and reading technical manuals.

Shannon Fitzgibbon

Shannon Fitzgibbon

Social Studies Teacher 6th – 8th

Following my graduation from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in History and minors in Sociology and Educational Studies, I knew my place was sharing my appreciation of our world with the next generation. Hailing from Detroit, Michigan, I am blessed with a unique perspective on the diversity of our country and the true beauty that coincides with such inclusivity. By incorporating modern social trends and ideas with historical themes, students will be prepared to be productive, contributing members of tomorrow’s society. My goal at ACCLAIM is to inspire students to absorb all our world has to offer and to be the change they wish to see in their communities.

Cynthia Piceno

Cynthia Piceno

Kindergarten Teacher

I am proud to be part of ACCLAIM Academy since 2014. I received a Bachelor of Arts in Education from ASU.

I have a true passion for working with our youngest learners! Helping each child progress in all areas of their development academic, social, language, and motor is a challenge that I am honored to accept daily. I strive to create a community of learners that nurtures this growth in a positive, fun environment.

Acclaim Academy New Teacher Arturo Cacho

Arturo Cacho

Maintenance and Landscaping

My family and I moved to Arizona from central California so we could be closer to family in Sonora, Mexico. My professional experience in California included 18 years doing maintenance and landscaping at a high school, owning and working my own landscaping business, and working with my uncle on his sweet potato farm. I enjoy landscaping – being outside in the sun and creating a welcoming environment. It has been peaceful working at ACCLAIM and I’m glad I’m here.


At ACCLAIM Academy, we believe in creating a diverse and inclusive community of learners. Our admissions process is designed to identify students who demonstrate intellectual curiosity, a strong work ethic, and a genuine desire to make a difference in their communities.