Our talented, dedicated, and experienced academic team provides robust and comprehensive academic services for all students.
Brenda Santiago - Head of School
Ms. Santiago is the Founding Head of School for Virtual Preparatory Academy of Florida. She is a dedicated professional with more than twenty years of progressive experience in the education field including teacher, team leader, school counselor, and district administrator. She has a Bachelor of Arts from Boston University and a Master of Education from Ana G. Mendez University. She joined our school after serving as a charter school compliance coordinator for almost ten years in Broward County Florida.
Ms. Santiago has been a Florida resident since 1993. She lives in the city of Fort Lauderdale. She has one dog and three cats. She is a proud military mom of two adult children. Her favorite things to do include reading, gardening, photography, and baking.
Melissa Stokke Larson - Principal
Melissa Stokke Larson joins the Virtual Preparatory Academy of Florida with nearly twenty years of experience in education. She started her career as a teacher in Duval County before making the shift to virtual education in 2012. Dr. Stokke Larson has served as a teacher, lead teacher, and school leader in the virtual setting. Most recently, she worked as a Proposal Writer for ACCEL schools where she helped to craft Virtual Preparatory Academy proposals for several states, including South Carolina, Wyoming, and New Mexico. Dr. Stokke Larson holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from North Central College, a Master of Arts in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Alabama, and Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Policy from Florida State University.
As a school leader, Dr. Stokke Larson strives to inspire educators to feel empowered to try new instructional strategies, implement non-traditional procedures, and collaborate with families in ways that leverage the myriad of communication tools that are available to them. She hopes students feel connected to their school community, safe to express themselves, and comfortable with taking risks in learning. Her wish is for families to choose Virtual Prep of Florida every year because it meets their children’s needs in academics, as well as social engagement and culture.
Dr. Stokke Larson lives in St. Augustine with her husband, Steve. They have four children, four dogs, and one grandson. When not working, you will find her walking the dogs, reading a book, or on the Peloton.
Dr. Amber Pennington - Assistant Principal
Dr. Amber Pennington now serves as the Assistant Principal for Virtual Preparatory Academy of Florida. She started her career in Duval County as a teacher where she serviced various student populations. One of the aspects she enjoyed witnessing in the classroom setting was students reaching the “light bulb” moment once a concept “clicked”.
Dr. Pennington has served as a teacher, instructional coach, testing coordinator, and assistant school leader in the elementary and middle school settings. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education, Master of Arts in Human Resources Management/Management Leadership, and Doctor of Education in Leadership. This year, she strives to collaborate with teachers to ensure scholars receive rigorous and quality instruction which will keep them engaged and create a joyful virtual experience.
Dr. Pennington resides in Northeast Florida. In conjunction with her work as an educator, she is a licensed real estate agent in the state of Florida and a financial professional who focuses on life/health insurance, debt consolidation, estate planning, and finance education. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, and learning about financial literacy.
Jerisha Rivera - Operations Manager
Jerisha Rivera serves as the Founding Operations Manager for Virtual Preparatory Academy of Florida. She comes experienced as the former Founding Operations Manager at KIPP North Philadelphia Academy. She started her career with her Associate in Arts and Early Childhood Education from the Community College of Philadelphia. Later she completed her education at Arcadia University with her Bachelors in Arts and Early Childhood Education.
As an essential part of the leadership team, Jerisha handles the day-in and day-out operations of the school including compliance, safety, communication, and data management and security. She seeks to create a warm family culture between school staff and the families by providing various forms of communication and outreach. She uses her positive attitude and tireless energy to inspire others to find creative and innovative ways when working collaboratively.
She lives in Lakeland with her husband and her son. In her free time, she loves to volunteer with her church, watch movies, and go on long walks in the park.