Leadership

Timothy A. Smith, President, and Co-Founder

Timothy Smith has been operating and managing charter schools in Arizona since 1996. Mr. Smith has led administrative and leadership teams in the following initiatives: Strategic Planning, International Baccalaureate Authorization, school and district level budget planning and authorization, and professional development planning and implementation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies and Korean Language, from Brigham Young University and a Masters in International Management from Arizona State University.

Shannon Creamer Smith, Executive Vice President, and Co-Founder

Shannon Creamer Smith has been an educational leader since 1996. Shannon specializes in professional development, committee, and team building and mentoring. Additionally, she has experience in the design of curriculum and instruction with an emphasis on literacy and assessment. Shannon has taken a lead role on employment policies and procedures and board development. Shannon has a degree in elementary education with an emphasis in reading instruction from Ottawa University.

Vicki McFarland, Director of Federal Programs

Vicki McFarland has served as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction since 2007 at Learning Matters Educational Group. Her current project involves leading administrators and teachers in systemic change utilizing data to drive instruction. Vicki has led several professional development sessions on the topic of new educational standards in math and language arts, and just completed the National Institute for School Leadership program.

Benoni Pantoja, Vice President of Schools

Benoni Pantoja received his Bachelor’s degree in United States History from the University of California, San Diego and later completed his Master’s degree in secondary education from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He has been an Assistant Principal, Principal, and has over 10 years of charter school experience. He is passionate in closing the achievement gap and has led initiatives in the following: Strategic Planning, Instructional Leadership, Professional Learning Communities, Teacher Evaluations, WASC, Curriculum Development, SDAIE, and RTI.

Brenda G. Congo, Special Education Director & School Psychologist

Brenda has worked in education for over 12 years as an instructional assistant, teacher, school psychologist, and administrator. In 2002, Brenda Congo received her Bachelor’s in Spanish: Language & Literature from California State University, San Bernardino and received Sigma Delta Pi Spanish Honors. While working with elementary students in the ELD program, Brenda completed her Master’s degree in Teaching from Azusa Pacific University. Brenda received her Master’s in Educational Psychology in 2014, and then her Educational Specialist degree in School Psychology in 2015.

Karen Ruffner, Director of Compliance

Karen Ruffner has been with Taylion Academy since 2014. Karen received a Bachelor’s degree in English at University of California Santa Barbara, her Master of Fine Arts from University of California Irvine, and her teaching credential from California State University Long Beach. Her roles with the school have included Student Council advisor, Testing Coordinator, Director of Compliance and a teacher - her favorite position of all.

Rosario Zepeda, English Language Specialist

Rosario Zepeda has 14 years of extensive experience working with the Migrant Education program. Her educational background and skills benefit Taylion's English Language Learners their families as well as the rest of the community that we serve. She currently oversees ELPAC testing and compliance that is vital to our EL students’ success. Rosario is currently in the process of completing her certification for Teachers Assistant.

Eva Helt, Online Principal

Eva Helt has 22-year experience in education serving as a teacher, Activities Director, Cheerleading Coach, ASB Adviser, and Lead Fundraiser. She earned her Bachelor's degree from Azusa Pacific University, her Masters of Science in Education from Walden University and is currently a Doctoral Candidate in Educational Leadership program at Liberty University. She has led initiatives in WASC Accreditation, WASC/ACSI Accreditation, Curriculum design for A-G and College Board approval.

Evelyn Sandoval, Principal

Evelyn Sandoval is the daughter of immigrant parents, first generation high school and college graduate. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English from California State University, Fullerton and later received her teaching credential from University of Redlands. She has led initiatives in the following: WASC, Charter Renewal Process, Strategic Planning, Curriculum Development, and Professional Development Communities.