As a Christian school in Pinellas County, the staff at Covenant Academy believe that quality teaching is directly related to a commitment to following Jesus Christ, a desire to cultivate integrity, and a pursuit of wisdom.  Classroom teachers hold a minimum of a bachelors degree, have experience working with children, express love and care for their students, and show a passion for imparting wisdom.  Teachers understand and embrace the University-Model® school philosophy of education and value parental involvement.



Dr. Kira Wilson


Dr. Wilson earned a BA in Education from the University of Florida, a Masters from St. Leo University, and an Ed.D from Liberty University. She has taught in traditional education, homeschooled her children, developed and launched Florida’s first University Model School in 2005, and opened Covenant Academy in 2015. She serves as a Regional Representative for UMSI, in the southeast. She is also founder of Life and Learning, an educational blog for parents. Her passion is to encourage parents in the training of their children, to help students experience the gospel, grow spiritually, and reach their full potential in Christ. She and her husband, Ron, have three children and two grandchildren. They are longtime members of Gulf Coast Community Church in St. Petersburg.

Mrs. Karen Hopping

Director of Admissions

Mrs. Hopping has a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech. She has thirteen years of experience successfully homeschooling her own children and ten years of experience providing academic advising for middle and high school students. She is passionate about helping parents help their children prepare for God's purpose and assists parents with the enrollment process. Karen is a longtime member of Gulf Coast Community Church in St. Petersburg.

Mrs. Paola Hernandez

Director of Student Activities

Mrs. Paola Hernandez grew up in Venezuela, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Math and Physics. She also holds a Masters of Theology from New Covenant University. In addition to her teaching duties, Mrs. Hernandez serves as the Director of Student Activities, supervising student clubs, councils, competitions and school events. In this role she shares her administrative gifts which she imparts to student leaders. She and her husband Luis attend Calvary Chapel in St. Petersburg.

Mrs. Marla THumm

Kindergarten Teacher

Mrs. Marla Thumm (Kindergarten) is a graduate of Emmaus Bible College with a double major in Biblical Studies and Elementary Education. She has taught all grades at the elementary level. In addition, she has taught Spanish and worked with ESOL students in both public and private school. Mrs. Thumm shares the philosophy of Covenant Academy working the program both as a classroom teacher and parent. Mrs. Thumm enjoys cooking, reading and spending with her family. She attends Woodlands Community Church in Bradenton with her husband and daughter.

Mrs. Merry Vasterling

First/Second Grade Teacher

Mrs. Merry Vasterling (First/Second) graduated from Eckerd College with a bachelor’s degree in Visual Art. She discovered a calling for teaching while volunteering in her daughter’s elementary school classroom and served the next four years as an exceptional education teaching assistant and many more as a Second/Third grade Sunday School teacher. Mrs. Vasterling has spent 10 years teaching elementary art and worked as middle school math/reading tutor. Her passion is to empower young people to discover and fully utilize their God-given gifts and talents. She loves ceramics, photography, sewing, baking and reading; and shares her life with her husband, Dan, and college aged daughter, Hannah. They worship at First United Methodist Church in downtown St. Petersburg.

Mrs. Susan Estes

Third/Fourth Grade Teacher

Mrs. Susan Estes (Third/Fourth Grade) brings more than thirty years of teaching experience to Covenant Academy. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Masters in Reading. Mrs. Estes’s love for Jesus is expressed in her teaching and interaction with students and parents alike. Her genuine care for the school community is a blessing to all. In addition to teaching, she loves spending time with her three grandsons who live in Kentucky. She and her husband are longtime members of Northside Baptist Church in St. Petersburg.

Mrs. Rebecca Ackerman

R.E.A.D. Teacher

Mrs. Rebecca Ackerman (R,E,A,D,) earned her Bachelor of Science in International Relations at Georgetown University. She has spent the last 11 years homeschooling her 4 children, ages 9-17. Seeing children grasp new concepts in reading, writing, and math are a constant source of encouragement. Even more exciting is coming alongside families in the spiritual and academic development of their children. When not teaching, Mrs. Ackerman enjoys reading, cooking, and staying active. She and her family worship and serve in the Youth and Married Couples ministries of Grace Christian Fellowship in Largo, FL.

Miss Grace Ando

English/History Teacher

Miss Grace Ando (Fifth/Sixth) was one of the original students of Dr. Wilson’s first University-Model® school and has experienced firsthand the learning benefits of this model of schooling. She graduated high school with her Associates Degree from St. Petersburg College and went on to receive her Bachelor of Science degree in Church Ministries from Clearwater Christian College. She has many years of experience teaching ballet, piano, and various age groups and classes at her home church. Miss Ando enjoys reading, playing music, and sharing the good news of the Gospel at home and abroad. She attends Suncoast Community Church in Largo.

Mrs. Paola Hernandez

Math/Science Teacher

Mrs. Paola Hernandez grew up in Venezuela, where she earned a BS degree in Math and Physics. She also holds a Masters of Theology from New Covenant University. Mrs. Hernandez shares her passion for math and God’s design for order with her students. Under her wing, students will learn useful organizational and study skills that help to develop math understanding. She and her husband Luis attend Calvary Chapel in St. Petersburg.

Mr. Luis Hernandez

PE Coach

Coach Luis Hernandez (PE) is from Venezuela, where he played soccer at a professional level. Coach has a BS degree in Exercise and Sports Science from Clearwater Christian College and is on staff as the Sports Ministry Director at Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg. He has been involved in sports ministry in Florida and internationally since 2000. He lovingly serves the Covenant Academy family as the PE teacher and soccer coach.
Miss Sarah Carr

Miss Sarah Carr

Teacher Assistant

Miss Sarah Carr (Teacher Assistant) is a graduate of the University-Model® program and is currently a student at St. Petersburg College pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. As a Teacher Assistant, Miss Carr assists with instruction and learning activities in the lower grades. She enjoys playing the piano and guitar, and spending time with her many family members. She attends Grace Christian Fellowship where she helps with the children’s ministry.
Covenant Academy staff sign a statement of commitment to ethical conduct based on biblical principles and are trained as to when and how to report misconduct that affects the health, safety and welfare of the students.