Samantha Kickbush, Instructor
Ms. Kickbush is native to Bishop, Georgia and a graduate of Oconee County High School. She graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Agricultural Education in 2012 from the University of Georgia. She earned her Masters of Education in Agriscience in December 2016. Ms. Kickbush serves as one of the FFA advisors for Apalachee High School. She enjoys teaching the Horticulture pathway and seeing students grow through their involvement in FFA.
Audio & Video Technology
Christine Johnson, Instructor
For the past fifteen years, along with working on freelance projects, Christine has worked as an Associate/Assistant Professor with a specialty in TV Production for Western Kentucky University, The State University of New York, Pittsburg State University and Texas Christian University. Prior to her academic work she was a Producer/Director in the TV industry for over fifteen years, producing live sports entertainment programming all over the world first for WWE and then for WCW. She has had several other opportunities, producing packages for: The Jay Leno Show, Extra, and the feature film “Ready to Rumble: starring David Arquette and Oliver Platt.
In the summer of 2015 Christine had the privilege of working as a Field Producer for a red carpet event “The Les Paul 100th Anniversary Celebration” at the Hard Rock Cafe in Time Square. The show and Christine were awarded a Bronze Telly.
She has served on the Board of Governors for the National Broadcasting Society as well as serving as an adviser for the local chapters of National Broadcasting Society Chapters for 11 years during which her students won over 80 Regional and National Awards. In 2014 and 2018 she was awarded “Professional Member of the Year”.
Throughout the years Christine has established and continue a trusted relationship with a variety of recruiters/department heads of various national television companies. As a result, many of her students have benefited and secured positions with these companies as full time employees or interns.
Christine holds an MA in Media Arts and a BS in Radio/TV/Film and is a three time Telly Award winner.
Audio & Video Technology
Tajshmon Brooks, Instructor
Tajshmon Brooks is from Columbus, MS. His family is from the country of Panama and Trinidad and Tobago. Mr. Brooks has 13 years of experience in the Audio/Video Film industry with a degree in New Media and Communication. Mr. Brooks has worked as a videographer and Public Relations for:
Steve Harvey Morning Show 96.3
He is a dedicated teacher who is excited to share his passion in film with his students. He wants students to understand that anything is possible no matter their situation.
Audio & Video Technology
William Wingfield, Instructor
Mr. Wingfield was born in Barrow County. Prior to graduating early from Winder Barrow High School, he enlisted into the Navy Nuclear Submarine Force at age 17. After 25 years of honorable service to our Country in 2010 (19 missions/22 deployments), he began teaching Computer Science in Barrow County at Bethlehem Elementary School. Mr. Wingfield saw the need to continue to serve the community, so he was Commissioned in the Navy Ready Reserve from 2010 to 2015. During his time with the Barrow County School System he implemented and started three after school clubs, volunteered for many extracurricular activities and mentored Barrow County students. Medals and Awards include: Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Good Conduct Award, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal. Sailor of the Year (3 awards) and 2017 Barrow County Staff Employee of the Year.
In 2010 William was hired to serve as the Audio/Video Production Manager for a local church in the community. In addition he has spearheaded and produced over 20 productions for the Greater Northwestern Baptist Association of Georgia. Through his business “Wingfield Electronics” William has provided computers for underprivileged children, provide “Movie Nights Under the Stars” for local schools and churches, and assisted “The Brotherhood Inc.” in giving out local scholarships to our Barrow County graduates.
He received a BS in Project Management/Information Technology, an Apprenticeship in Computer Science and is a graduate of Navy Leadership School in Annapolis, Maryland. Through the Troops to Teachers Program Mr. Wingfield is a certified teacher in Audio/Video Technology & Film, qualified in Nuclear Submarines and a Navy Diver.
Organizations include: Greater Northwestern Baptist Association, Georgia Association of Educators, Troops to Teachers Program of Georgia, Brotherhood Club, Inc. and Disable Veterans of America.
William is married to Contrena Denise (Smith) Wingfield of Monroe, Georgia. They have been blessed with four children: Quilenthia, Toree, William Jr. and Armani.
“Mrs. Sims was one of my teachers at Winder Barrow Middle School during my teenage years. It is an honor and a privilege to work at Sims Academy of Innovation and Technology.”
Biotechnology / AP Environmental Science / Chemistry
Lani Mclaine, Instructor
A native of Dunwoody, Mrs. Mclaine attended Berry College where she received her BS in Animal Science. After graduation she moved to Ohio in order to gain work experience on a dairy farm.
She returned to Georgia to attended the UGA Athens and Tifton campuses where she completed her MS in Animal Science and conducted research on heat stress in dairy cattle.
She become involved in teaching as part of an NSF fellowship while at UGA. After graduation she began teaching science at Turner County High School where she remained for three years before moving to Gwinnett county to teach science at Central Gwinnett High School for five years.
"Now, I am excited to be teaching Biotechnology at Sims Academy! When not teaching I am active in my church, enjoying the outdoor activities in this area, planning my next trip, or spending time with family and friends."
Laurie Noles, Instructor
Laurie Noles grew up here in Georgia. She attended the University of Georgia where she earned a degree in Computer Science. Go Dawgs! After college she worked with the Air Force as a software engineer but became a stay at home mom when she had children. Later Laurie went back to school where she earned her Masters in School Library Media. She spent 11 years working in Walton County schools before joining Sims. Laurie is married to her high school sweetheart, Danny, and has two children, Bailey and Kylie. She enjoys traveling, Mexican food, and attending Bethlehem Church.
Construction & Architectural Drawing and Design
Garry Baker, Instructor
Garry Baker is a native of Vienna, GA and resides in Lithonia, GA. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Architectural Engineering Technology from Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta GA, a Masters of Divinity from New Orleans, Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, LA, and a Masters of Education Leadership Administration from Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. Garry’s experience includes Construction Estimator, Project Engineer, Project Manager, Field Engineer, and as an entrepreneur he was a residential home builder, and Architectural Designer. Garry also has over 35 years in the Pastoral ministry. Garry is married to Vicky and they have three adult children.
Michael McEvoy, Chef/Instructor
Chef Michael McEvoy has been in the foodservice industry for over 30 years and has worked in many segments of the field. He began his career as an ACF apprentice in a fine dining restaurant and continually developed his skills and techniques in chef positions that followed. Michael realized early that training was an integral part of being a chef and began to incorporate training into his day-to-day routine. After joining the Marriott Corporation in 1990, he started a chapter of the “Marriott’s Chef Guild” for the metro Atlanta area, which had a focus on training cooks on fine points of culinary techniques. Eventually, he became a District Training Coordinator for Marriott while being the executive chef in the Georgia Power headquarters in downtown Atlanta.
Chef McEvoy is beginning his fifth year as an instructor of the Culinary Arts Pathway, with the continued desire of taking the pathway to the highest level of achievement possible, teaching the associates what they need to know in order to be a professional culinarian.
Adam Joseph, Instructor
Born in Groton, CT Chef Joseph was raised in Champaign, IL where he attended private schools, participated in numerous athletics and was an only child of a single mother. It was her dedication as a parent and perseverance as a mentor mother, which helped Adam earn the Honor of Eagle Scout and Order of the Arrow, receive a Congressional Appointment to West Point, and develop a passion for good food.
Since that time Chef Joseph has done a number of things including working in the Champaign-Urbana public school systems as an Inclusion Aide (’93-’97), Directing Y.M.C.A. summer camps (’94-’98), functioning as Head Chef during Summer Internships, at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshires, MA (’99-’04), a three month International Co-Op (Summer 2006) in Newport, South Wales at the Celtic Manor Hotel and Resort, teaching culinary arts at the Michael Leven School of Sustainability and Hospitality.
Chef Joseph is beginning his second year as a Culinary Instructor at Sims Academy of Innovation and Technology in Winder, GA. Chef Joseph is not only an enthusiastic addition to Sims Academy, but he is also volunteers within his community as a mentor and coach.
Early Childhood Care & Education
Aretha Rankine, Instructor
Mrs. Rankine was born and raised in the beautiful tropical island of Jamaica. She attended Shortwood Teachers’ College and graduated in 1999 with a diploma in teaching Home Economics Education. A few years, after migrating to the U.S.A., she attended Charter Oak State College where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Consumer Science and Connecticut State Teacher Certification in Family Consumer Science Education. She taught Food and Nutrition, Fashion and Fabrics, Housing and Interior Design, Parenting, Child Development and Marriage and Family Life for eight years in Connecticut. She relocated to Snellville, GA with her husband and 2 daughters after living in Connecticut for 15 years. She recently graduated from the University of Bridgeport where she earned a Master of Science degree in Human Nutrition.
Steven Griffing, Instructor
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Steven Griffing is a retired Nuclear Machinist Mate from the United States Navy. He received his undergraduate degree in Engineering and Technology Education from the University of Georgia.
His industry experience includes 6-years on nuclear submarines; 3-years as a nuclear power plant operator, reactor operator trainee; and 6-years as an Asst. Engineer, Plant Operations and Director of Facilities for Emory Medical Centers.
Steven previously taught Advanced Engineering at Grayson Technical High School; his teams have won the Electrathon "Run for the Peaches" Competition in Quitman, GA 2-years in a row, and recently took second place in a regional competition at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds Alabama.
Mr. Griffing is excited to announce that the Sims Academy is starting a local chapter of the Technology Students Association (TSA) here at the Sims Academy. He is the local Advisor, as well as serving on the TSA State Board of Directors.
Kathryn Marcotte, Instructor
Originally from Phoenix, AZ, Mrs. Kat Marcotte holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Journalism, with an emphasis in communication design and public relations from Northern Arizona University. She worked for several years as as a journalist, editor, and freelance designer throughout Arizona and North Carolina.
Mrs. Marcotte is a Teach for America 2002 NC Corps alumna. Her teaching experience spans nearly two decades and includes English language arts, media literacy, journalism, broadcast journalism, digital design, and graphic communications. She is wildly passionate about visual communication, from design through production. Additionally, Mrs. Marcotte is a lover of all things Mac and technology in general. The 2019-2020 school year is Mrs. Marcotte’s fourth year as the graphic communication instructor at Sims Academy. In conjunction with the graphic communication program, she manages the student-run Student Design & Printing school based enterprise, is an active member of the school leadership team, and serves as support faculty for the Sims chapter of Technology Student Association (TSA). Mrs. Marcotte is also a previous Sims Academy’s Teacher of the Year award recipient (2018-2019).
Kathy McDaniel, Instructor
I have taught in Barrow County for the past 20 years. I completed my under graduate degree at the University of Georgia in Business Education for grades 7-12 in 1996 and later added 6th grade certification. In 2007 I completed a Master’s degree in Post-Secondary Adult Education at Troy State University. Finally, I completed my Specialist in Curriculum Development at Piedmont College in 2012. I began my teaching career in 1996 at Stevenson Middle School in Stone Mountain, Georgia. I taught there for 2 years and then moved back to where I had student taught in college, Winder-Barrow High School. Had the privilege of teaching at Winder-Barrow High School for the past 20 years. This year will be my first year at SIMs Academy of Innovation and Technology where I will work side by side with the rest of the teachers in the three Information Technology pathways. I currently teach Introduction to Digital Technology but have taught Business and Technology, Banking and Finance, Advanced Web Design, Desktop Publishing, and Computer Applications I and II. My goals include continuing my teaching in Barrow County and supporting out CTSO members at both high schools.
Hospitality and Marketing
Brandi Chitty, Instructor
Mrs. Chitty started the Marketing and Hospitality Programs when Sims Academy opened in 2014-2015. Under her leadership the program earned the Stamp of Excellence while becoming industry certified in 2018-2019. Mrs. Chitty attended the University of Georgia where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Workforce Education, and attended Valdosta State University where she earned her Master’s degree in Adult and Career Education, graduating with honors from both universities. During her time at Sims, she has taught marketing, entrepreneurship, and hospitality, all while running two to four profitable school based enterprises at one time and coaching DECA members to state championships.
Marketing / Finance
Jami Wright, Instructor
Ms. Wright spent her teen years in Florida. Her family owned an independent food store. where she worked alongside her parents after school and on weekends. It was there that she learned the various aspects of running and promoting a small business. Wright holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism, with an emphasis in Advertising and Communications from the University of Florida, and a Culinary Degree and an Event Planning Certificate from Gwinnett Technical College.
Over the last 37 years she has enjoyed a dual career, working both in industries.
Ms. Wright has worked in various avenues of the marketing/advertising industry, including print shops, publications, advertising agencies, and in-house for corporations working to help clients establish strategic marketing and creative advertising campaigns. She continues to freelance where she employs her talent for copy writing, graphic design, and photography.
Jami’s culinary experience spans both the front and back of the house, but her love of both food and design led her to pursue Baking and Pastry. She has worked for country clubs and hotels, but her favorite culinary position was as Pastry Chef for a coffee shop in Sarasota, Florida.
Ms. Wright hopes to use her unique blend of marketing and culinary experience to teach her students at Sims Academy to run and promote Common Grounds, the school coffee shop, and Sims Central, the school store, while using both school based enterprises as a learning lab. She hopes that her love of learning is infectious, and hopes to inspire enthusiasm in her students by guiding them through the unique opportunities and hands-on experiences that Sims offers through the school’s various programs.
Ben Manning, Instructor
Ben Manning grew up in De Pere, Wisconsin. After high school, Ben studied Physics and Computer Science at Michigan Technological University, where he did research in quantum optics and nanotechnology, and was the Teaching Lab Manager of the physics department. Upon graduation, Ben joined the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship, through which he received his Master of Arts in Science Education at Piedmont College. Ben has been involved in FIRST Robotics and the Boy Scouts of America ever since he was in grade school. His free time is now often consumed by camping, hiking, canoing, tinkering with electronics, and programming microprocessors to perform various tasks.
Amy Wilson, Instructor
Mrs. Wilson in her 12th year working in Barrow County. After graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in Foreign Language Education, Mrs. Wilson began her career teaching Spanish at Apalachee High School. After five wonderful years teaching Spanish, Mrs. Wilson’s love for languages evolved into a new phase of her career when she began teaching English as a Second Language. Here her passion for language and culture flourished. Mrs. Wilson worked in ESOL for four years at Apalachee, and then in the 2016-2017 school year she proposed and launched a Newcomer Academy for Barrow County. At the Newcomer Academy she works with high school students new to the U.S. with limited English proficiency. She views her responsibilities as unlocking the potential of each student through language and facilitating and nurturing each student’s mind and talents. She strives to motivate, encourage, and inspire learners.
Amber Chandler is originally from Pensacola, Florida. She moved to Georgia in 1995 and now considers it her home. She has worked in various types of employment which include substitute and pre-school teaching, childcare, customer service, medical assisting and transcription. Amber was, also, a small business owner of a children’s consignment store in 2008. She was a homemaker for several years until she began substitute teaching with the Barrow County School System. She is now a paraprofessional with Sims Academy.
She is a Gwinnett Technical College alumni where her focus was on a health/life science degree; she received a diploma in medical assisting and became certified in 2004. She transferred to Liberty University and continues to pursue a degree.
Amber loves to spend time with her husband and children, thrift shopping and writing. Upon the loss of her oldest child to AML – leukemia in 2010, she created a blog about a mother’s journey through life after the loss of a child to cancer. She self-published a book about her blog in 2014. After connecting with many mothers like herself, she created and administers a support group for women all over the world who’ve each lost a child to cancer.
Heather Wright is a Winder native. Having attended schools in Barrow County, she feels very honored to have her own kids in the same district. The growth and advancement of Barrow County Schools amazes her daily.
She worked as a barber before becoming a mother. After the birth of her first child, she became a stay at home mom for fourteen years, before reentering the work force. As a stay at home mom, she was the owner of a small cake business, Cake Wrights, and ran an in home daycare. Before Sims, she was a substitute teacher for Barrow County. She is the wife to her high school sweetheart and the mother of three wonderful children.
I am a Georgia native and I grew up in Athens, Ga. I graduated from Clarke Central High school in 2005. I worked for 5 years in the Clarke County School District; 2 years in the cafeteria, 1 year as SpEd paraprofessional and 2 years as a Kindergarten paraprofessional. It was then that I decided that I wanted to teach so, I enrolled into the Early Childhood Education program at Athens Technical College. I will graduate in the spring of 2020 with an associates degree and I will later transfer to Piedmont College to earn my bachelors. I have four children: two stepsons ages 16, 13 and two girls ages 12, 11. I enjoy crafting and decorating.
Brandi Casey has served in Barrow County Schools for 15 years. She attended Grand Canyon University. Her area of study was Early Childhood Education/ Special Education. Mrs. Casey has 3 children that attended Barrow County Schools. She is actively involved in various committees that support the STEP program at Sims Academy. The committees that she serves in include The Barrow County YES I CAN program, The Barrow County Special Olympics and The Barrow County Boosters Farm to School program. Mrs. Casey is committed to serving in the STEP program and the transition of students from a school setting into the working world.
M. Carmen Estevez-Sherer, Instructor
Originally from Alcalá de Henares, the city of Cervantes, in the province of Madrid (Spain) I have been living in the United States for more than twenty years. I am married and have a daughter attending the University of Chicago. I have a degree in linguistics from Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, Spain and a masters in Spanish Literature from UGA. I write as a hobby, especially short stories.
Idania Garces Regalado, Instructor
Leah Helderbrand, Instructor
Leah Helderbrand earned a BSEd from The University of Georgia in 2004. Mrs. Helderbrand is K-12 certified in Special Education General Curriculum, Special Education Adapted Curriculum, and Health and Physical Education. She teaches the YES Program at Sims Academy with the goal of helping students find a career after high school.
Rhonda Phillips, Instructor
Becky Phillips has been a part of Barrow County Schools for 22 years working at Winder Barrow and Russell Middle, Kennedy Elementary, and Winder Barrow High School. She started as a Special Education paraprofessional then received her BS in Early Childhood Education from North Georgia College & State University. After teaching several years, she went back to school and completed her M.Ed in Post Secondary Education from Troy University in 2008 and her Ed.S in Curriculum and Instruction from Lincoln Memorial in 2011. Outside of school, she is actively involved in working with adults with disabilities through a social club called Club Friends along with many church related activities. Ms. Phillips has two granddaughters ages 12 and 8 that also keep her on the move.
Suzanne Harris, Instructor
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Mrs. Harris grew up in Buford, GA and graduated from North Gwinnett H.S. She worked in Business and Industry for over 20 years, prior to deciding to return to school to receive her teaching certification and Bachelor’s degree in Business Education from the University of Georgia. Her first teaching job was a Jackson County Comprehensive High School and taught at Winder-Barrow High School for two years. She has also received her Technology education certification.
She has been a yearbook adviser, FBLA adviser, FBLA State Adviser, and has had many FBLA Competitive winners, including State and National winners. She has volunteered for over 14 years with the Boy Scouts of America. She’s been married to Brian for 28 years, with 2 children, Chase and Morgan.
Youth Apprenticeship Coordinator
Sims Academy of Innovation and Technology, 985 Austin Road, Winder, GA 30680 | 770-867-7467 (SIMS) | Contact Webmaster