Blue Ribbon Academy exists to help you make valuable connections, improve your teaching, learn proven leadership techniques, and discover practical solutions that will carry you and your school to the next level.

The Academy is an online program designed to kick-start educators' professional development.  Through our collaborative platform, you'll get the chance to participate in interactive discussions, exchange ideas with other eduators, learn about new tools and resources and hear from leading experts.


When you enroll in the Blue Ribbon Schools Academy Program, you will..


Gain the tools you need to grow personally and professionally in nine areas reflecting school and student success.

Participate in a Principal and/or Teacher Leadership Institute and mentoring program.

Learn from the experiences of others through the Blue Ribbon Best Practices Inventory

Engage your students by giving them the opportunity to participate in the Blue Ribbon Student Leadership Institute


This program focuses on leadership development, improving school culture, and discovering ways to help students thrive. Courses address relevant topics such as technology integration and parent involvement and can be tailored to meet your individual learning goals





Blue Ribbon Schools Academy can be a key part of your staff development and training program. This valuable education package brings your organization hours of professional development and training.

The faculty at Blue Ribbon Schools Academy is comprised of dedicated educational practitioners from a wide-range of backgrounds who are passionate about training and equipping Administrators and Teachers! This team includes some of the most respected thought-leaders and influencers in the education field.



Rocco Sugamei began his career in the Marana Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona as a middle school teacher and coach.

He became Associate Principal of Tortolita Middle School in 1987. In 1992 Principal of Butterfield Elementary Schoolm, a twice named Arizona A+ School Top 3 in the State, and a National Blue Ribbon School (2000). Duming his tenure Rocco was named the Arizona Elementary School Principal of the Year and National Distinguished Principal in th 2000/2001 school year.

In 2005 Rocco became the principal of Estes Elementar School and soon began to mentor principals, and provided leadership training for administrators and directors as the Director of Leadership Development for the Marana School District. Within this realm, he developed the Aspiring Leaders Program to the build the next cadre of educational leaders in Marana.

In 2010, he began his tenure as Assistant Superintendent in the Casa Grande Union High School District in Casa Grande, Arizona where he has had responsibilty for curriculum and instruction, strategic plan development, State and Federal program guidance and direct oversight of 2 consolidated highschools, an alternative school and a charter highschool.

In 2012 Rocco recieved the Administrator of the Year Award from Arizona Technology in Education Association for his leadership in integrating technology into all aspects of the instructional program in the Casa Grande Union School District.

Rocco is currently a consultant for Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, the National Education Consulting firm, and with the Arizona School Transformational Group. He is a sought after presenter for such areas as differentiated instruction, productive group work, content area literacy, leadership training in the 21st Century and student engagement strategies and to dvelop strategic plans and leaders at all levels.

Rocco has also worked with the Arizona Department of Education as a Solutions Team Leader since the inception of that program and has served as an Arizona Department of Education Principal Mentor.


Johhny Calder is a retired principal of Forestbrook Elementary School in Myrtle Beach, SC, a three-time National Blue Ribbon School (since 2001).

Calder started out teaching social studies and physical education at the combination elementary and middle school in North Myrtle Beach, and then moved to FES where he’s been ever since.

A graduate of Conway High School, Calder and his wife Janet, a teacher at Socastee Elementary School, live in Conway. The couple, married 33 years, has three children.


Danny Shaw holds B. A., M. Ed, Ed.S degrees in Child Development and Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Georgia.

He was recognized by the U. S. Department of Education as a National Distinguished Principal in South Carolina. He was recognized as an Outstanding Principal in the State of South Carolina by the SCPTA. Dany is the author of The Successful Principal, a book utilized nationally for emerging and aspiring principals. He was the Governor's Appointee to three state boards and commissions dealing with children and children's issues in South Carolina.


Ed Bernetich most recently was Director of Teacher Education at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, having been a teacher, curriculum director and administrator in highly respected public schools in Northeast Ohio.

He has done extensive work with Blue Ribbon Schools both as a principal of a twice-awarded school, as a member of the U.S. Dept. of Ed. National Review Panel, and as a site visitor and evaluator for both the government's program and the current independent Blue Ribbon Lighthouse School program. In addition his school was named a National School of Distinction for Technology Excellence during his tenure as principal. Ed is one of our consultants specializing in assisting foreign students come to the United States for university work.


Donna Wilson is an educational and school psychologist, teacher educator and professional developer, and author of 20 books applying mind, brain, and education science.

Recent works include Positively Smarter: Science and Strategies to Increase Happiness, Achievement, and Well-Being (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), Five Big Ideas for Effective Teaching: Connecting Mind, Brain, and Education Research to Classroom Practice (Teachers College Press, 2013), and Flourishing in the First Five Years: Connecting Implications from Mind, Brain, and Education Research to the Development of Young Children (Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2013). Wilson presents at educational conferences in the United States and internationally and blogs regularly on Edutopia. She is the head of academic affairs of the Center for Innovative Education and Prevention (CIEP) and BrainSMART.


Craig Martin is currently the Assistant Superintendent in Reading, MA, and is a recipient of the Association for Middle Level Education’s national “Distinguished Educator Award.”

He has served as a classroom teacher, team leader, school improvement coordinator, mentor, mentor trainer, assistant principal, and principal. Recently, Mr. Martin was also honored to moderate a discussion about the current initiatives in public education with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester, and fellow educators in Massachusetts.


Kerry is the 2014 recipient of the Yale-Lynn Hall Teacher Action Research Prize for her submission "Mobile Devices and Student Innovators: BYOD and the Paperless Classroom Model."

Currently, Kerry serves as a teacher coach, speaker, and writer. Previously, Kerry taught middle and high school history in Massachusetts and New Hampshire public schools with Bring Your Own Device programs for 13 years. As a classroom teacher, Kerry was best known for her paperless collaborative classroom model which thrived on project-based learning. She also helped her students create Rockets Help Desk, a far-reaching student-driven technology integration program in her previous district. Beyond the traditional classroom, she has coached students in downhill skiing and mock trial and understands the importance of the whole child when considering the role of technology in education.

Blue Ribbon Academy can play a key role in your staff development and training program, providing you with outstanding training content. 

Our team of faculty includes some of the most respected thought leaders in the education field.  They come from a wide variety of educational backgrounds, but each one is passionate about equipping administrators and teachers for greatness.


Becky Johnson

Becky Johnson is a 20-year veteran teacher who has served in a variety of positions ranging from K-5 computer instructor to fifth grade teacher.  For the past four years, she has worked as an elementary school librarian.  Becky has always had a passion for books, rereading novels over and over again as a child, and weaving that love into a career has been a dream come true.

With a master's degree in teacher leadership from Roosevelt University and an endorsement in library science, Becky is a well-rounded and passionate teacher. After presenting for several years at multiple conferences, she realized she has a passion for training and inspiring other educators.

Crystal Scillitani

Crystal Scillitani is a lifelong learner, educator, and leader. Her career in education began as an elementary teacher prior to transitioning into school administration where she has served at the elementary, middle, and high school levels as an Assistant Principal and Principal. An interest in teacher training and coaching took her to the university level where she was part of the founding team for the Department of Elementary Education at North Carolina State University.

While there she established partnerships with local schools to provide high quality field experiences for teacher candidates in the first STEM focused undergraduate program in the southeast. Scillitani prides herself in being an advocate for students, families, and teachers by recognizing that strong relationships are key to effective schools. She is a proud veteran of the United States Air Force and currently resides in North Carolina with her family. In her free time she enjoys running, reading, traveling, and volunteer work.

David Franklin

Dr. David Franklin is an award winning school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter. He earned a Doctorate in Educational Leadership from California State University, East Bay, a Master’s Degree in Education Technology from National University, and holds a B.A. in Music from the University of California, San Diego.

In addition to served as an adjunct faculty member at universities around the country such as Temple University and Colorado State University, he also serves as a Senior Faculty member of the Global Schools Leadership Alliance. Through his work at GSLA, Dr. Franklin mentors teacher leaders, aspiring administrators, current school principals, and district leadership. Dr. Franklin has presented at national and international education conferences and is a sough after presenter in the areas of academic intervention, school leadership, creating a shared vision, creating common assessments, and data analysis.

Davina Mann

Davina Mann is the Instructional Technology and Math Coach for Owens Cross Roads Elementary School, a Blue Ribbon School located in rural Madison County, Alabama. She has served as an instructional coach for seven years after serving as a 21st Century Learning Grant Coordinator for three years. This followed a distinguished teaching career of twelve years in the classroom.

Davina has served on a variety of curriculum development teams, including the creation of professional development programs in the area of technology integration for the Alabama Department of Education’s Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX). In 2005, she was named Elementary Teacher of the Year for her District. In 2012, Davina was awarded the Chiquita Marbury Technology Innovation Award for Elementary School Teachers by the Alabama State Department of Education. This award is presented to the leading technology innovator across the state. Davina has also been recognized by the University of Alabama’s Office of Research in Teaching for Excellence in Teaching in the Disciplines.

Davina holds a Master’s in Education from the University of Alabama and has served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Alabama Huntsville. She is an active presenter at local, state, regional, and national conferences including multiple presentations at the Blue Ribbon Schools National Conference (2010, 2011 & 2013), the Alabama Educational Technology Conference, the Georgia Educational Technology Conference and the Alabama Department of Education’s MEGA Conference.

Davina is an active user and presenter for Nearpod, Plickers, and a variety of other EdTEch related products and services. She can be found on Twitter at @LittleTechCoach.

Donna Thompson

Donna Thompson received her BS from Furman University with a major in Computer Science/Math. In 2011 she completed her Masters of Science from Wilkes University in Instructional Media. She has been in computer support and training for over 25 years. Donna is currently an Education Technology Instructor for SCETV and travels across South Carolina showing teachers the exciting free resources SCETV has to offer for K-12 and ways to integrate technology into the classroom.



Jerome Ward

Dr. Jerome Ward is the Instructional Partner and AP English Literature instructor at Hartselle High School in Hartselle, Alabama. Ward works closely with school leaders to design and deliver professional development opportunities for teachers within his school and district. In 2014, Ward was instrumental in designing and implementing the Hartselle Educators' Academy for Redefining Teaching (HEART), a professional learning community with a focus on improving literacy instruction in all disciplines and grade levels.

Additionally, Dr. Ward has worked with A+ College Ready as an AP English instructor and consultant. In 2014, Ward was named the Secondary Teacher of the Year within the Hartselle City School District. He greatly enjoys teaching and learning, and he's quick to note that working closely with teachers is the best way to improve his own instructional practices.

Jesús Celaya

Dr. Jesús Celaya is a native of Tucson, Arizona and is the principal at Drachman K-8 Montessori Magnet School, in the Tucson Unified School District, that was Named a Magnet School of Excellence by the Magnet Schools of America Organization, and a National Blue Ribbon School by the US Department of Education in 2015.

Dr. Celaya has been principal at Drachman K-8 Montessori Magnet School since 2006, and he has the second longest tenure at a site of any administrative staff in his district. His previous experiences in education include adjunct assistant professorships at The University of Arizona and with Northern Arizona University, and 20 years of teaching and/or serving as an administrator in K-8 urban public school settings. Dr. Celaya obtained his Ph.D. (2003) and Bachelor’s (1997) from the University of Arizona and his Master’s (1998) from Northern Arizona University. He enjoys writing poetry, children’s literature, and raising his three children in Tucson.

 Jody Cinq-Mars

Jodi’s professional career has been centered around the field of Education where she’s  spent the last 24 years working with children, parents, teachers and volunteers. Her experiences include teaching, coaching, consulting, professional development and administration.  She strives to make the most of each and every day and enjoys using her facilitation skills, enthusiasm and passion for learning in all that she does.  Jodi believes that we never stop learning and Blue Ribbon Schools is a place for learners to come together and achieve more than they ever imagined. Her goal is to provide learners with hands on material that they can use within their classroom the very next day.  Jodi wants to inspire learners and help them ignite their passion in education.  

Eastern Illinois University - Bachelor of Science in Education
National Louis University - Masters of Education, Elementary Education and Teaching
Northern Illinois University - Masters of Science, Education Administration Type 75 Certificate

Keith George

Keith George is an Educational Specialist for the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) of the Alabama State Department of Education. Keith has been a part of the AMSTI since March of 2016. Prior to that, he was part of the Alabama Department of Education’s award-winning Alabama Learning Exchange, or ALEX, web portal. He joined the Alabama Department of Education after enjoying thirteen years of teaching in middle and secondary classrooms across the state.

Keith’s dedication to improving education is displayed by his continuous efforts to share his knowledge. He has been a regular presenter at the Alabama Educational Technology Conference since 2001. He has also presented at several regional conferences across the Southeast, including the Georgia Educational Technology Conference and the Tennessee Educational Technology Conference. Each year, he leads or assists with an average of twenty professional learning presentations reaching hundreds of Alabama teachers.

Keith holds an Ed.S. in Instructional Leadership and is currently writing his dissertation, which will examine the efficacy of technology coaches in K12 schools. He is a Google Certified Teacher, a Microsoft Certified Educator/Trainer, an Edmodo Certified Trainer and is a recognized ambassador/trainer for many other EdTech products and services including Participate Learning, Plickers, and Symbaloo. Keith blogs at and is active on Twitter (@bigtechcoach). You can also hear Keith on the Today’s Tech Coach podcast available on iTunes.

Kevin Cutler

Kevin is a retired educator with over 30 years of experience in that field and is our instructor for the Organizational Culture course at Blue Ribbon. Kevin has held the position of teacher, school level administrator, board level administrator and superintendent of education mainly with the Trillium Lakelands District School Board in Ontario. Kevin has done considerable work in the areas of special education, safe schools, and equity. His work on bullying prevention and intervention has had impact at the school, board and provincial levels. Kevin has considerable experience in the development, implementation and review of policies, programs, and organizations.

Kevin is also presently a trainer/facilitator for The International Institute for Restorative Practices Canada and facilitates workplace restoration conferences for organizations and companies. As a trainer he has presented many sessions on the Restorative Practices Framework and using RP in schools, organizations and groups in order to enhance culture, improve communication, develop trust and allow people to move forward in a positive direction so that they work to do things “with” each other rather than “to” each other.

Kevin also holds the position of Educational Advisor for Edusight, an educational data management company and advises schools and school districts on how to best manage student data to strategically improve school culture, climate, instruction and assessment. Check out Kevin on Linked In.

Marianne Lucas Lescher

Dr. Marianne Lucas Lescher has a 34 year career in public education as a teacher, district office administrator and 17 years as a highly successful elementary school principal. Dr. Lescher led her school to national prominence in 2015 when Kyrene Traditional Academy (Chandler, AZ) received the National Blue Ribbon Schools Award, the first school in her district to receive this honor.

Her schools have been awarded the A+ School of Excellence Recognition from the Arizona Educational Foundation three times in the past 10 years and she has been recognized as a leader in Arizona as a Circle of Honor Principal (Arizona Department of Education 2010). Dr. Lescher has been Administrator of the Year in her district twice and works to mentor new principals through the Arizona Educational Foundation Principal Leadership Academy. Dr. Lescher received her M.Ed. from University of Massachusetts-Boston and her Ph.D. from Boston College.

Mark Minskey

Dr. Mark Minskey started his career in education in 1992. After graduating with his bachelors in Elementary Education from West Chester University, he taught both second and fifth grade students, as well as working as a special education teacher. He holds a Masters degree in School Administration and a doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. His administration background includes: high school assistant principal, elementary assistant principal, PreK-5 Principal, 6-8 Principal, PreK-8 Principal, and Prek-6 Principal. Dr. Minskey currently works as the Chief of Staff for the Madison County School System in Huntsville, AL


Matthew Chase

Matthew Chase is the executive director of Chase Educational Consulting, a company producing large scale STEAM projects for school systems.    Throughout his career Matthew has operated a variety of companies and has been a licensed teacher in the US and abroad.  He has many years experience in curriculum development, STEM project development, materials utilization and risk management.  Matthew’s educational philosophy is student centered, student led, inquiry based, with teachers becoming facilitators of learning. Matthew enjoys lots of outdoor activities - diving, flying, inventing, creating, and hanging out with his wife and two daughters on the beach.  

Nicole McRee 

Nicole McRee is a middle school science teacher with 12 years of teaching experience. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and has a master’s degree in Educational Science Leadership from the University of Illinois.  Nicole has presented in a variety of arenas including at the district level, county level, for Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence, and she presents several sessions at the National Science Teacher Conference yearly. She is involved in creating and supporting science curriculum throughout the country and is invested in enhancing science instruction for all learners. 


Shirley Ann Smith

Shirley Ann Smith has been an educator for more than 35 years.  She began her career as a elementary teacher, subsequently taught at the middle school and university levels before moving to the SCDOE, where she administered several federal and state programs.  Currently, she is a consultant advising districts and schools on how to improve teaching and learning through brain-based research, improve literacy across all disciplines, and use technology effectively for student learning.

In her career, she has served as the technology integration consultant for a USC research team studying a 1:1 implementation in a SC Midlands school district and is a Fulbright Specialist awardee in the area of technology integration.  She has also served as a technology specialist for the SC STEM Centers, distance learning director at Roper Mountain Science Center (RMSC), and as a NASA Digital Media Lab Fellow.  Prior to the RMSC position, as the Director of Curriculum for SERC (Satellite Education Resource Center), a national consortium of public television stations and departments of education, she created and produced many technology based resources for teachers and students including online courses, teleconferences, video modules, and virtual field trips.  She has a Ph.D. in Education from the University of South Carolina.


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Teaching may be the world’s most important career. As an educator, you have the power to influence — one student at a time. Teachers share the future. They prepare people to change the world.

While being an educator is important, it’s also quite challenging. That’s why we created Blue Ribbon Academy. We want to help you make valuable connections, learn proven leadership techniques, and take home practical solutions to carry you and your school to the next level.

I invite you to explore our website to get a better understanding of who we are and how we can serve you. You will find a learning community that is highly educational and extremely practical, a community focused on growing personally and professionally.

As you search for an professional development programed for you and your school, I encourage you to consider Blue Ribbon Academy. We have an impressively credentialed faculty that will help you balance head and heart, theory and practice. Our faculty includes some of the most respected thought-leaders and influencers in education today.

If you have any questions about our program, please reach out to me. I look forward to hearing from you!


Laura Morgan

Dean of Blue Ribbon Academy

ALL COURSESThe Blue Ribbon Schools Academy exists to help you  make valuable connections, improve your teaching, learn and experience proven leadership techniques, and take home practical solutions to carry you and your school to the next level.

Blue Ribbon Schools Academy is an online program that brings educators together for peer-to-peer learning, instructional teaching from influencers in education, interactive discussions and more. This professional development opportunity includes power-packed programming, where educators collaborate and exchange best practices, learn about new tools and resources and hear from leading experts.


100% Online
Blue Ribbon Academy s 100% online. You can learn on your own schedule! Courses are offered in two formats, a fixed time online course or a cohort online course.  You choose the format that works best for you, your availability and your learning style. The online format gives you the opportunity to grow professionally while fulfilling your responsibilities to both your family and your career.

We're proud to offer this professional development program at an amazingly affordable price. Individuals, schools or your group will receive high quality training without breaking the bank. This is a very affordable year-long staff development program like none other.

Collaborative Community
Your job is unique. Build the relationships that will support you through years to come. The virtual sessions and private online community are a catalyst for ongoing training and collaboration that extend beyond the program.

Well-Balanced Curriculum
The Blue Ribbon Schools Academy Program is a series of coursework that addresses nine areas of critical performance that research shows leads to educational excellence.

  • Student Focus and Support
  • School Organization and Culture
  • Challenging Standards and Curriculum
  • Active Teaching and Learning
  • Technology Integration
  • Professional Community
  • Leadership and Educational Vitality
  • School, Family, and Community Partnerships
  • Indicators of Success

This course structure aligns to the Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Assessment process and allows educators and administrators tailor their training to targeted areas of continuous school improvement.

Practical Application
This program is unique in that is it very practical while academically rigorous. Blue Ribbon Academy exists to help you will make valuable connections, learn proven leadership techniques, and take home practical solutions to carry you and your school to the next level.






Contact us

  • Postal Address
    PO Box 322
    Chapin, SC 29036

  • SC Office
    136 Lakeside Road
    Chapin, SC 29036
  • Tel.: 1 (408) 844-4BLU
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