Fortis Leadership and Teachers

Dedicated to teaching excellence in the classroom and showing God’s love to students

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” -Proverbs 22:6

Leadership
Bill Brannan

Bill Brannan

Head of School (P.H.D., MDV)

Dr. Brannan and his wife Stephanie have been in ministry for over 20 years.  They began in youth ministry in Ann Arbor, Michigan where they pioneered outreaches in the high schools, middle schools and local colleges.  William then spent 5 years as a missionary pastor in Northern Ireland before returning to the United States as a church planter.  Dr. Brannan studied Biblical Languages, Religious Studies and Music at Concordia University.  He later earned his Masters of Divinity from Trinity Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry from Vision University.

Dr. Brannan’s passion is to infect the next generation with the hope and love of the Kingdom of God, with the goal of raising up future leaders that will promote a thoroughly biblical faith and worldview. He believes that the quality and content of the education at Fortis Academy is designed for that very purpose, and considers it an honor to be head of school.

Sheila Finch

Sheila Finch

Registrar

Mrs. Finch has loved being part of the Fortis family, she and her husband Joseph will celebrate 39 years of marriage this year and have two daughters, a son-in-law and two precious grand “darlings”, that attend Fortis. She worked many years in public and private schools, as well as in rehabilitation for children, serving as a liaison between parents, physicians and therapists. Her love for children and their spiritual development is the reason that she taught Bible class for 20+years. She feels strongly that children should be surrounded by love and encouraged to carry God’s word in their heart and into the world, realizing that they are the future of His Kingdom. Mrs. Finch enjoys being the “Nana” and the “Nurse” to all of the students at Fortis.
Logic and Rhetoric (6th – 12th)
Ken Paone

Ken Paone

History, Logic, Speech & Debate, Omnibus

After having homeschooled his own children for 17 years and worked as an ESL instructor, Mr. Paone came to Fortis in 2014 after being captivated by the students, curriculum, teachers, administration, and vision of Fortis. He was convinced they had the right message and the right method to educate the next generation of leaders in the Christian faith.

Ken met the Lord as a student at Berklee College of Music in Boston and subsequently spent about 20 years in Latin America carrying the message of the Bible to the spiritually hungry youth of the Hispanic world through street evangelism and music.

Mr. Paone’s teaching style is relaxed and fun but challenging, and as an educator and philosopher Simone Weil said, “The intelligence can only be led by desire. For there to be desire, there must be pleasure and joy in work.” I’ve enjoyed teaching informal and formal logic classes, classical writing, and history among other subjects at Fortis.  Ken is currently enrolled in Austin Graduate School of Theology where he is expanding his knowledge of Christian studies in order to enrich the lives of our Fortis students.

Melinda Cardenas

Melinda Cardenas

Pre-Algebra, Latin

First and foremost Mrs. Cardenas is a child of God.  Melinda and her husband, Gabriel, have been married eighteen years.  They have been blessed with three wonderfully-spirited, intelligent boys.  After graduating from the University of Texas School of Law, Melinda practiced law for five years in San Antonio.  She then began homeschooling her children.  For the last three years she taught at a co-op in grammar, writing, Latin, math, and rhetoric.

Amanda Willie

Amanda Willie

Chemistry, English, Physical Science

Mrs. Willie used “blessed” and “excited” as the words to describe her feelings about the upcoming year with Fortis Academy. 

Her heart and calling are ministry, counseling, and spreading the love of Christ. Mrs. Willie has a Master’s Degree in Christian Counseling and is a licensed Clinical Christian Counselor.  Amanda has been in private practice since 2008 in the churches her husband has pastored. As mainstream education fell short of their family’s needs, they prayed for a year before surrendering to homeschool her twins Samuel, and Sadie. They were blessed to be a part of a wonderful co-op where she taught various classes including: Forensics, Public Speaking using the art of Legos, and Cultures and Countries, to name a few. Amanda strives to instill the motto “learn to love learning” in every student she comes in contact with. 

Bindi Nielsen

Bindi Nielsen

Math and Physics

Mrs Nielsen loves teaching and feels very blessed to have this opportunity to teach at Fortis Academy.  Bindi discovered her calling 12 years ago, and has been teaching ever since in many different subject areas, grades, and types of schools.  Bindi first started teaching at Georgetown High School and lead Anatomy, Biology, Chemistry, and IPC.  For the past 10 years, she has been homeschooling her 3 sons. 

In her spare time, God uses her in several ministry areas with children.  First, God placed her in a position leading a Cubbies ministry with 40 volunteers and 150 preschool aged children, and did that for 5 years until she felt God had something new for her.  Next, God opened the door for Bindi to design, plan, and teach a Bible study for around 100, 5th-8th graders.  Now, God opened the door for her to teach at Fortis Academy and she is looking forward to this new challenge and opportunity.  

God has placed me here at Fortis Academy, and until He sees fit to do otherwise, I will work my hardest and do my best to teach your children.  Thank you for trusting me with them.” Mrs. Nielsen

Mark Dolan

Mark Dolan

Omnibus, Classical Composition

Mr. Dolan has over 25 years of Christian classroom, homeschool, and leadership experience. He holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in Christian education.  A student of the Bible and a lifelong learner and reader, Mark enjoys working his way through the classics of Western literature for self-improvement and for teaching young people and adults.  In addition to classroom teaching, his experience has included Christian and classical school leadership, consulting, and public speaking.  Mark and his wife Pat live in Georgetown where Pat also has her piano studio. Together they enjoy gardening, reading, listening to music, and pursuing their interest in natural history.
Grammar (K – 5th)
Sylvia Mason

Sylvia Mason

Kindergarten

Fortis has been a huge blessing in our lives for many years! This will be our family’s 7th year here and my 6th teaching Kindergarten at Fortis. I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember! I was born in Spain, lived in Mexico for a few years and then came to the States when I was a young girl. I graduated from the best school around, Texas A&M, with a degree in Elementary Education and an emphasis in Early Childhood. I also received an ESL and Bilingual certification. Texas A&M is where I met my wonderful husband Matt.  We have been married for 17 years and have 3 amazing children.  I taught Kindergarten in Georgetown ISD for 5 years and thought I would be there forever. However, God’s plan is always best, and when my first baby was born I realized God was calling me to stay home and raise my children. I remember wishing that I could just teach Kindergarten part time, but never realized that was possible until God led us to Fortis years later and my wish came true.  I have a big heart for children and have really enjoyed learning about Classical education and growing as a teacher every year as I strive to learn more. I adore watching the love and excitement of my students as they learn. Kindergartners are excited about everything and teaching them has become my passion.  I am blessed beyond measure to be able to teach and homeschool my children in an environment that places God first and weaves Him into every subject.

Shayla McKethan

Shayla McKethan

Kindergarten/1st Grade

I’m so excited to be a part of the Fortis family again this year and the opportunity to teach first grade.  I graduated from the University of North Texas with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, and I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for 17 years. We have 2 amazing children, Rylan and Zane, who are both enrolled at Fortis and love it! Our family likes to spend time outdoors discovering all of the amazing swimming holes and natural wonders that the Austin area has to offer, going to waterparks and theme parks, and just relaxing together playing card games. My husband and I also enjoy serving in our church where we help with the children’s ministry and the youth group. I feel so blessed to be able to teach and share God’s love with the children and families of Fortis Academy.

Sabrina Ruckel

Sabrina Ruckel

1st Grade

I’ve been a cheerleader and prayer warrior for Fortis since its very conception, and I’m now thrilled to embark on my 4th year as a classroom teacher.  I grew up watching my mother minister to young children and families as a caregiver in our home, and I’ve had a tender-heart for young children since I was just a girl myself.  Therefore, I sought a degree from The University of Texas at Austin in ‘child development’, snagged-up a super hubby with great daddy-potential (15yrs married & better than ever), hurriedly graduated in three years with honors, and went on to pursue my life-dream of being a mommy.  My own little falcons are Clara (6th), Royce (4th), and Caleb (1st).  Through my homeschooling and classroom experiences, I’ve developed an appetite for classical, Christian education and passionately seek to help direct each child’s love toward his Father’s Kingdom, emphasizing that Christ is central and essential to “ALL things that pertain unto life”.  The specific verse God has spoken to my heart for this season of childrearing is Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding.”
Rebekah Silvers

Rebekah Silvers

2nd Grade

Rebekah Silvers has been with Fortis Academy from the beginning.   With a degree from   Texas A&M, she began as a first Grade teacher and then quickly moved into an administrative role, serving as the Grammar School Principal and then Head of School.  Mrs. Silvers is so excited to now be teaching again. Her heart has always been in the classroom. She has been married to her husband Jay for 11 years. They have two children, Kerrington and Landon who both attend Fortis Academy.

Mrs. Silvers believes in the UMS model of education because it provides the time necessary to fulfill the commandment in Deuteronomy 6 to diligently teach her children who the Lord God is.  Fortis is very thankful to have her lead and guide our school, we are blessed by her faith and services.

Sheila Torres

Sheila Torres

3rd Grade

I’m is so excited to be a part of the Fortis family for my second year teaching 3rd grade.  I graduated from the Apostolic University International with a bachelor’s degree in Theology with a concentration in Christian Education. I have eight years’ experience in early and elementary education in a private school.  I have been married to my awesome husband, Mike, for 11 years, and we have three wonderful children, Giana, Halle and Christa.  I also am very active in my church where I serve on the worship team and in the children’s ministry.  I feel so blessed to be able to teach children in a Christian Worldview environment like Fortis Academy.

Angela Jones

Angela Jones

3rd Grade

It is a blessing to teach 3rd grade at Fortis academy. My journey in teaching began when my family re-located to the Austin area in 2011 and we discovered Fortis, a Classical, Christian, University Model school for our own children. I taught as a co-teacher at home for 5 years before coming on staff at Fortis in 2016. It’s my passion to love, nurture, and help shape the minds of the young people in my classroom through a Christ-centered, classical education. I have been married to my high school sweetheart for 13 years and we have 4 fantastic children. We are active in our church and have a heart to see marriages and families thriving.
Odena Jones

Odena Jones

3rd Grade

The Lord has blessed me with being able to teach young children at Fortis Academy. I started as an Art Teacher for almost 2 years as well as a substitute teacher. I feel that Fortis Academy provides the perfect environment for learning with the demonstration of God’s love combined with an excellent classical curriculum. Prior to Fortis, I spent 30 years with a Christian company managing homes for developmentally disabled adults in California.  I have also mentored youth for 35 years as a teacher and Youth Director in California and more recently at our church home in Austin. My husband, Jim, is very supportive and we recently celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary.
Sandy Johnson

Sandy Johnson

4th Grade

I’m so excited to be a part of the Fortis Academy family for my fourth year teaching 4th grade.  I love to learn and I am passionate about fostering a love for God and a lifelong love of learning in the hearts of my precious students.  I graduated from Hope College in Holland, Michigan with a degree in Psychology and moved to Texas where I worked counseling at-risk students in private and public school settings for eight years.  I have spent 18 years homeschooling my children as well as teaching classes in educational co-ops and homeschool enrichment programs.   I have been married to my wonderful husband, Bryan, for 25 years and we have three amazing children.  Our oldest is living and working abroad, our middle is a junior in college, and our youngest is a sophomore at Fortis Academy, which she loves!  We are active in our church where we both in serve in student ministry, leading discipleship groups with high school students. 
Gretchen Allan

Gretchen Allan

5th Grade

My family are the most important people on the planet to me. My husband, Nathan, and I met while students at Abilene Christian University, and we have been married for 26 years. My two oldest daughters, Mackenzie (18) and Karynna (15), were both adopted. The stories of how God placed them in our family are beautiful and a true blessing, but He had one more blessing for us.  Season (12) is our biological child, who came into our lives as a HUGE surprise.  As a family, we spend the majority of our free time involved at our home church, Highpoint Fellowship. 

My bachelor’s degree from ACU was in print journalism and I worked for a couple of non-profit organizations before I became a mom. For the next 15 years, I worked from home part-time as a freelance writer and graphic designer. My path changed nine years ago, when I began homeschooling my girls. More than anything, I love to learn, and I think teaching is the very best way to really comprehend something new. I took great delight in learning alongside my children and giving them the one-on-one instruction and differentiation they needed.   We came across Fortis Academy and was instantly drawn to the Christian Worldview and University Model program.  My first three years as a teacher have been more wonderful than I could have imagined, and I ‘m incredibly thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside the parents and teach your children about the truth of God’s love in this Classical program. We consider ourselves truly blessed to be part of such a wonderful, caring community. It’s going to be a fabulous year, and I can’t wait to get started!

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