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Meet the Teachers and Staff!

Elizabeth Ricks

Lead Teacher
- Science

Elizabeth Ricks earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 2011 from the University of Florida in Family, Youth and Community Sciences with a minor in Family Life Education. The 2019-20 school year will be her second at Micanopy Academy as our Middle School Science and Agritechnology teacher.

Mrs. Ricks lives not far from where she grew up in Hawthorne, FL with her husband Erik and their kids, Dalton and Fayth. When not spending time with her family her hobbies are photography, fishing, hunting, baseball, sewing and traveling.

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Clay Smith

ELA Coach

Clay Smith served in the USMC (Security Forces) for 6 years and then transitioned to the IT field, where he spent 15 years honing his craft.  During that time, he worked at NASA (Kenney Space Center) and the HQs of the IRS in D.C.  Wanting a change, he returned to school and received his Juris Doctor.  Upon completion of law school, Clay joined his wife in establishing their own law firm.  After many years of practice, Clay left the practice of law to join the US Peace Corps (Youth Development).  He volunteered in Morocco for 4 years.  After his service, he decided to continue to work with youth and obtained Florida Teaching certifications in English and Social Science.  He worked as a professor of Social Studies in Dammam, Saudi Arabia and Karachi, Pakistan.  He recently returned to the U.S. and purchased his forever home in Micanopy.  He loves spending time with his family, dogs, garden, and workshop.  He is a super geek, an avid gamer, a seasoned traveler (65+ countries), and loves to make things.

Kristin Walker

Assistant Principal
+ ESE Consutlant

Kristin Walker graduated summa cum laude from Columbia College with a major in History and a minor in English. She earned her Master of Education with a concentration in curriculum and instruction from Concordia University in 2014. 2022/23 will mark her ninth year with Micanopy Academy, where she serves as assistant principal and teaches History and Reading. In 2021 she became the school's ESE consultant and enjoys working with students with special needs.
In her spare time, Ms. Walker enjoys spending time with her family, reading a wide variety of books, gaming, and doing yoga.

Alene Williams


Ms. Williams graduated from Williston High School and has worked at Nationwide Insurance and the University of Florida. She joined the MA family in 2012 and enjoys working with the faculty and students alike. Her hobbies include reading and sewing. Alene is known for her smile, which earned her the nickname "Sunshine" by her coworkers at Nationwide. She was also told that it was her smile that helped someone make the decision to join her church. 

She enjoys spending time with friends and family and is looking forward to a great year with new and former students! 

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Lesleigh Phillips

MS Math + Science

I was born and raised in the Philippines in a mountainous region.
I graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at Polytechnic University of the Philippines and earned a Certificate in Professional Education in 2007 at the University of the Philippines.
I have been teaching Chemistry, Physics, and Math in the Philippines before immigrating to the US.
My post-graduate work included helping to start a school in an underserved and remote island region and setting up a science laboratory for the school with the partnership of my university and the Department of Education (Philippines).
I also worked in Singapore as an Early Childhood Educator.
I traveled and did missionary work that teaches agriculture, water filtration system and nutrition with my husband as part of Seeds for Life Ministry.
I also enjoy playing piano and guitar.

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Ann Smith

English + Reading

After 18 years as a trial lawyer, Ann joined the U.S. Peace Corps, volunteering in youth development, in Morocco. For the last 10 years, she taught students in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. She has a B.A. and M.B.A from University of North Florida, and Juris Doctor from University of Florida. Ann is teaching-certified in English, Social Studies, and Business Education.  She recently became ASA certified to captain a catamaran up to 50’.  Ann loves spending time with family and dogs Belle and Buddy. Her hobbies include water sports, gardening, cooking, and arts and crafts. She has traveled to 65 countries and hopes to add a few more. Her passion in education is incorporating critical thinking and practical skills into everything.

Jeffrey Kline

English + Reading

Jeffrey Kline earned a B.A. in History and a M.A. in Education from the University of South Florida. This will be his second year at Micanopy Academy and his seventh year teaching Middle School overall. He will be teaching high school History classes and is looking forward to having a positive and productive year with both staff and students. His hobbies include movies, books, sports, and nature/outdoor activities.

Tara Lowe-Phillips


Mrs. Lowe-Phillips earned a B.A. and M.A. in Art History from UF. Mrs. Lowe is certified in English 5-9, Integrated Curriculum 5-9, Humanities K-12, and has a Reading Endorsement for K-12. She has been with MA for 11 years as a teacher, assistant principal, and now principal. 
She is married to Dwayne Phillips and they live in Gainesville with their pet squirrel Rocky and Merican bulldog named Nitro. Mrs. Lowe enjoys traveling, cooking, spending time with family and friends, and being with the MA family. She is also a classic movie buff and enjoys showing movies from the 30's, 40's and 50's to her students.


Emily Conte

HS Math + Science

Emily Conte earned her Bachelor of Science degree in 2021 from the University of Florida in Biology. She has experience teaching neuroscience to elementary students around Gainesville and was the lead teacher and operations leader for the emergency medical response unit at UF. Ms. Conte resides in Gainesville, Florida, with her partner Luis, a student in the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Florida. She has 2 fur babies at home, her 3-year-old cat Ms. Chicken (whose government name is Ezzie), and her 4-year-old Pitbull Xena Bean. 
Ms. Conte is extremely passionate about gardening, powerlifting, fitness, and cooking. She is originally from Bronx, NY, and grew up on the beautiful beaches of Clearwater, FL. In her free time, she enjoys tending to her plant babies named Giuseppe, Vinny, Frankie, Silverio, Anthony #1, Anthony #2, and Anthony #3. She also enjoys reading, watching Formula 1 races, watching anime, and painting. 
Ms. Conte is looking forward to an exciting year at Micanopy Academy!


Serena Suggs


***Bio coming soon***


Richard Johnson

School Guardian

***Bio Coming Soon***

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