Meet Our Faculty
The TCKIA Faculty are the best of the best and they are here to serve you! Check out their stories below.
Mr. P. Day
Special Education Teacher
My name is Philip Day. I am a licensed special education teacher and I work in Minnesota. I have been working in special education for the last 5 years and currently work in a middle school with 7th and 8th graders. My wife grew up as a TCK in Zimbabwe and Ireland. I was born and raised in Ireland and moved to Minnesota seven years ago. I am excited to be a part of TCK International Academy and look forward to serving our TCKs and their families.
Mrs. E. NEWELL
Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd Grade Teacher
My name is Elissa Newell and I spent 11 years in Chisinau, Moldova and St. Petersburg, Russia. I graduated with a double major in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education from Evangel University. In 2019, I got married and moved to Alaska, which in itself is it’s own kind of third culture!
I taught kindergarten for 3 years and was a reading and math interventionist for 1 year as well. I love the early grades of school, where the excitement for learning is so evident and fresh! The wonder and joy of learning to read, write, add, subtract, and more brings me so much joy! I am so excited to partner with you in your child’s education with TCKI Academy!
Ms. K. Lafon
3rd, 4th and 5th Grade Teacher
My name is Kara Lafon. I am a TCK from El Salvador, Texas, New Hampshire, and Missouri. I taught preschool while attending university, and then taught in a classroom setting for 4 years after graduating. I substituted in different classrooms to get experience, then transitioned to a full-time teaching position. I was blessed to experience teaching in a private school, as a high school science teacher, and then in a public school as the head Spanish teacher. I love TCKs and love teaching!
Mrs. B. Paden
6th Grade Teacher
My name is Briana Paden, but I also go by Bree or Chief Mocha. I have worked the TCK summer program for the years of 2007, 2010-2013, and 2015-2016. I have also volunteered to help with the college Thanksgiving Retreat from the years of 2011-2016. I have a Bachelor of Arts in History from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri. I also have a Masters in History from Southwestern Assemblies of God University and a Masters in Library and Information Sciences from the University of Southern Mississippi. When not working with your students, I teach 4th grade at the Colorado Military Academy. I am very excited to be working with your students this coming school year!
Mrs. R. Uccello
7th and 8th Grade Teacher
Hello! My name is Rebecca Uccello. I grew up in Paraguay and came to Springfield, Missouri, for college. I met my husband John at college, and we are the proud parents of Jack and Izzi. My BA is in Spanish Education, and my MA is in Education Curriculum and Instruction. In my spare time I enjoy reading, watching baseball (Go Cards!), and hanging out with our two rescue dogs (Pixi and Ollie).
Mrs. E. Larson
9th Grade Teacher
My name is Mrs. Emily Larson. You can call me Ms. Emily. I was born in the United States, but I grew up in the tiny third-world country of Benin, West Africa. I grew up among tropical plants, trees to swing from like Tarzan, the ocean, snakes that could kill you slithering around everywhere, a family of geckos living in my ceiling, and cockroaches as long as my hand. I lived there for eleven years before moving to Springfield, MO for university. Once I graduated from university, I was ready to “head back out” into the world.
So, I followed the Leading to Xi’an International School. After six fulfilling years working with many students around the globe and teaching Language Arts to Grades 8-12, I felt it was time to return to the U.S. But I don’t want to stop teaching! I love to teach! Each student is unique and brings his or her own strengths to a classroom. As a teacher, I enjoy discovering what those strengths are and fostering their growth. I hope we can work together to challenge one another this year.
Mrs. R. Wyant
10th and 11th Grade Teacher
My name is Rachel Wyant. I grew up in the Middle East and graduated from high school in the country of Lebanon. I have a degree in Secondary Education from Southwestern A/G University. After graduating from college, I taught secondary English in grades 7 through 12 for ten years, mostly in Dallas, Texas.
My husband, Josh, and I welcomed our daughter, Eleanor, in 2018 and decided we wanted to move closer to family and to be in a location where I could spend more time at home with her. We moved to Pennsylvania and currently live in a cabin in the woods.
I’m so excited to be joining TCKI Academy and look forward to working with students around the world!
Mrs. J. Smith
12th Grade Teacher
My name is Jennifer Smith, formerly Jennifer Thacker. I grew up a TCK, starting at the age of 6, primarily to East Africa, Kenya, but also spent 7 years in Southern Africa (Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Swaziland). I love Africa! After I graduated from Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi, Kenya, I went to Master’s Commission in Fort Myers, Florida, then went on to Southwestern A/G University for two years, and finally finished out my college years/education at Evangel University. I graduated with a BS in Physical Education/Teaching K-12. I have spent the last 11+ years teaching PE and Health at Buffalo Prairie Middle School, in Buffalo, MO; as well as coaching Head High School Boys & Girls Track & Field, Head Boys & Girls Cross Country, and Girls Basketball. I am a bit of a sports junkie/nerd! I love being able to work with kids and know the Lord has given me a platform to be a witness for Him, in the public school forum. All kids/people need Jesus and I consider my opportunities to work for Him priceless! I also have been blessed with a wonderful husband, Coby Smith, who is a RN and professor at Cox College of Nursing, in Springfield, MO. We have three great children; Grayson, Graham, and Genevieve.
MrS. a. jOHANSSON
Art Elective Teacher
Hej! My name is Alyse Johansson. I am a TCK from Northern Asia, where I lived as a kid, as well as an adult. I have been working with TCK’s on and off for the past 16 years through the TCKI summer programs, retreats, and teaching. I graduated from Evangel University with a BFA- Bachelor of Fine Arts.
I served as the K-12 art teacher at Xi’an International School for 5 years until COVID brought me suddenly back to the States where I taught my last semester through distance learning.
I now live in Stockholm, Sweden with my Swedish husband, Mikael and our 28-year-old Cockatiel named Duff. I am also a certified life & leadership coach and love to help people, especially TCK’s and parents, realize their fullest potential. I am a huge fan of nature and the outdoors. I love learning about new cultures, trying new food, and exploring new places.
I am so excited to get to know your kids and teach them art this year! Learning art does not mean you have to be “good” at it. As long as you try your hardest and learn to problem solve, as well as critically think, you can apply what you have learned in any aspect of your life. My hope is that your children come to appreciate the arts and enjoy the process.
MrS. J. Southerland
Physical Education Elective Teacher
My name is Jordan Southerland and I am from Maypearl, TX. I attended Southwestern Assemblies of God University where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Human Service/Social Work and played volleyball. I then stayed on at SAGU as an assistant volleyball coach for 3 seasons, and was able to attain a Master’s degree in Non-Clinical Counseling. It was at SAGU where I met my husband, and was introduced to the TCK world. I have been blessed to work the TCK summer camp program for 5 years.
After SAGU, I transitioned to teaching PE, coaching varsity volleyball, and basketball at North Central Texas Academy (NCTA). While at NCTA, both my basketball and volleyball teams won a State Championship. I live in Texas with my husband, 2 daughters, and our dog, Nigel. It is a privilege to teach for TCKIA, and I love connecting with TCKs all over the world.