As the Chief Financial Officer at The First Academy, Mr. Jerry Chambers oversees the non-academic departments, which include Finance, Human Resources, Operations / Facilities, Technology, and Admissions. Mr. Chambers also serves as a mentor and adjunct consultant to other financial officers around the nation and is on the teaching faculty with Independent School Management’s Business and Operations Academy. Since joining The First Academy in 2009, Mr. Chambers has helped the school experience a tremendous increase in growth and financial stability. He has been instrumental in the development of the International Student Program, The Virtual Academy, The Royals Store, Upper School 1 to 1 iPad Program, The Preschool, The First Hope, the Larson Pavilion at Payne Stewart Athletic Complex, the Alumni Commons area, and the The Middle School Building. In 2015, he was honored as one of the top CFO’s in Central Florida by The Orlando Business Journal.
Prior to joining The First Academy, Mr. Chambers worked in various senior level positions in investment banking, retail, transportation, and logistics. He received his Bachelor of Science in Marketing and Finance from The Ohio State University. Mr. Chambers is married to his wife Karen and has two grown children, Shannon and Kacey.
As the Executive Director for Leadership and Professional Development, Marci Chavalas has over seventeen years of experience serving staff, children, and families. Mrs. Chavalas began her journey in education after receiving the Ronald McDonald House African American Visionaries and Inspirational Leaders scholarship as well as the African American Educators Scholarship to attend Duke University in 2000. At Duke, she worked with at-risk elementary students and supervised the tutoring staff in the America Reads program. She also served as a teaching assistant for Educational Psychology and participated in educational, neurological, and developmental psychology research. Along with earning her BA in psychology, Mrs. Chavalas received a minor in cultural anthropology and a certificate in human development . During her experiences she became interested in fostering connectedness between the diverse individuals she served. Mrs. Chavalas’ undergraduate work led to her being selected as a Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fellow in 2004.
After receiving her BA, Mrs. Chavalas continued her studies at Brown University, where she earned a Master of Arts in Teaching. It was there that she developed a passion for teaching outside of the box. She worked in a number of schools, but was fascinated by the unique methods used to reach students with language learning differences.
In 2006, she brought those innovative ideas to The First Academy Lower School, where she served as a second grade teacher, team leader, instructional coach, and tutor. In 2009, Mrs. Chavalas was selected as the Christian Educator of the Year. Throughout the course of her career, Mrs. Chavalas has served over 200 kindergarten to twelfth grade families. Her greatest joys an educator was watching each of her students grow and develop.
Mrs. Chavalas and her husband Anthony have been married for over seven years and are the proud parents of William Owen Chavalas, who attends The First Academy Preschool. Marci Chavalas feels that TFA has been her home away from home since she first arrived in Florida. She is thrilled to provide the encouragement, direction, and resources to assist others in maximizing their full, God-given potential while here at TFA.
Victor Flores serves as the Campus Pastor and Director of Spiritual Formation at The First Academy. He joined our team in 2018. Prior to arriving at The First Academy, Victor had the great joy of serving as a Student Pastor for 40 years. Twenty six of those years he served at Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Florida where he also had the richly rewarding experience of serving not only the students and families, but also his own three children. This season, and the significance of it, birthed a vision to write a book for parents desiring to make the most of their parenting experience. In 2016 Victor and Esther co-authored the book Raise to Release: A Missional Mandate for Parents.Victor’s heart for parents is that they would be able to echo the words of 3 John 1:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
After receiving his BA from Miami Christian College in Miami Florida, Victor went on to attend the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth Texas where he received his Master of Arts in Religious Education Degree, while also serving as a Student Pastor in Texas. In April of 2016, Victor was the recipient of the Student Leadership University Lifetime Achievement Award.
Victor and his wife Esther have been married for 37 years and have raised and released three children: Melanie, Tyler, and Julianna. At the present time five delightful grandchildren add much laughter to their home.
Dr. Shayne Grove arrived at The First Academy with eighteen years in public education. She began her career as a high school teacher and then spent three years as a Middle School Assistant Principal of Curriculum and Instruction. Her next ten years as an Elementary School Principal. In her role as a public school administrator, she earned the Middle School Administrator of the Year, PTA Principal of the Year, Elementary Principal of the Year, and the Minnie Woodruff Leadership Award. Dr. Grove received her Bachelor of Science degree in Business/Marketing from The University of Central Florida.
After completing her Masters degree in School Leadership, she earned her PhD in Educational Administration at Capella University. Dr. Grove is an adjunct professor at Grand Canyon University and Indiana Wesleyan University teaching brain based learning, curriculum and instruction, classroom management, school culture, data and school improvement, and various educational leadership courses.
Dr. Grove and her husband, Scott, have been married for twenty years and are the proud parents of two TFA students: Cassidy and Dakoda. Scott is the head varsity baseball coach and teaches Lower School PE at TFA. Dr. Grove says, “Being able to share the TFA mission and vision with prospective families is an absolute joy!” She hopes to see you soon!
Mrs. Jennifer Jackson joined The First Academy in 2010 and as the Learning-i.e. Coordinator. In this role, she facilitated enrichment classes for academically talented and gifted students with an emphasis on critical thinking and technology. Mrs. Jackson also coordinated accommodation plans for students with learning differences. In addition, she assisted with TFA’s initial application for accreditation with the Florida Council of Independent Schools as well as the Florida Kindergarten Council in 2012 and remains involved with the accreditation process at TFA. Before joining The First Academy, she served 13 years in Florida public schools. Her roles in both Alachua and Orange counties included the following: special education teacher, elementary education teacher, curriculum resource teacher, and reading coach. She draws from all of her previous experience in her current role as the Lower School principal.
Mrs. Jackson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Furman University as well as a Master of Education in Special Education from the University of Georgia. She holds endorsements in Gifted, Reading, and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Mrs. Jackson firmly believes that all students can learn and succeed in a loving environment with high expectations. She also values the importance that Christian education plays in partnership with church and home. Being in the Lower School classrooms on a regular basis is a priority for Mrs. Jackson and plays a critical role in her leadership.
In 2014, TFA faculty and families selected Mrs. Jackson as the Christian Educator of the Year. Her experience as a classroom teacher at TFA gives her a unique insight and passion for serving the students, teachers, and families in Lower School.
Mrs. Jackson and her husband Jay have been married for almost 20 years and are blessed to have two daughters. Both Sarah and Lauren have attended The First Academy since Kindergarten.
Born and raised in Northwestern Pennsylvania, Mr. Brian Rose attended Hobe Sound Bible College and earned his Bachelor of Arts in Secondary Social Studies. He went on to earn a Master of Education Administration from Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina. He began his educational career in 1985 at Jupiter Christian School in south Florida then served 5 years at the Whitefield Academy in Louisville, KY.
In July 2005, Mr. Rose became Assistant Head of School at The First Academy. After 10 years of years serving in that role, he transitioned to Upper School Principal. He was blessed to work with the students and faculty in that capacity until he was asked to return to serve as Assistant Head of School for Advancement. In this position, Mr. Rose oversees the Office of Institutional Advancement. This office is committed to securing the needed resources through the generosity of our families to train the next generation of Christian leaders.
He thanks his wife, Debra, for the everyday support she has given him during their thirty-two years of marriage; together, they are proud parents of two TFA Alumni – Michael, who is completing his graduate degree in Business Administration at Mississippi College, and Lyndee, who is completing her senior year at Florida State University.
Mr. Rose enjoys meeting families and developing lasting relationships and believes that the students, families, and faculty and staff make TFA the finest Christian college preparatory school in America.
Dr. Steve D. Whitaker has served as the Head of School at The First Academy since July 2003. During his tenure, the school has advanced a bold spiritual formation agenda, experienced outstanding enrollment growth, and has witnessed remarkable scholastic achievements. Multiple capital campaigns led to a major renovations/expansion of the Lower School, the building of a new Upper School and Middle School, the opening of the Tennis Center, a renovation of the Boyd-Moline Library, a Black Box Theatre, and a new $10.5 million Field House/Gymnasium Facility. The First Academy families have generously pledged over $42 million to fund these initiatives.
Dr. Whitaker has written on a variety of topics, including school culture, Christian living, generous giving, and Biblical worldview issues. He recently published a book entitled In God We Trust: Five Anchor Points for Turbulent Times. His past and present activities include serving on the ACSI Executive Board, FHSAA Board of Directors, FCIS Board of Directors, ABHE Board of Directors, and Charter Member for Council for Educational Standards and Accountability. In 2010, Dr. Whitaker founded Neighborhood Charter School, seeking to support urban churches in establishing charter schools for severely disadvantaged students.
After completing his Bachelor degree in South Florida, Dr. Whitaker received a Master of Education from MidAmerica Nazarene University and a Master of Arts degree in Education from the University of Louisville. He also earned his PhD from the University of Louisville in Higher Education Administration. He is married to Tricia and has three marvelous children (Amanda, Stephen, and Caleb).