Meet Our Team
Meet our team
Dr. Larson, Head of school
Melissa Stokke Larson has worked with Stride since 2012. She served as a teacher, lead teacher, and academic administrator within the company before being named Alabama Virtual Academy Head of School in the 2019-2020 school year. Melissa graduated with her Bachelors in Elementary Education from North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. After teaching elementary school in Jacksonville, FL, she went on to earn her Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Alabama and her Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy from Florida State University. Melissa lives with her husband, daughter, and three dogs in St. Augustine, FL.
Kelly Wynn, Elementary Principal
Kelly Wynn has worked at Alabama Virtual Academy since 2015. Kelly helped open Alabama Virtual Academy in 2015 and taught Kindergarten, First, and Second grade. Over the course of the last 5 years, Kelly has served as a kindergarten teacher, lead teacher, and then transitioned into the role of elementary principal in 2019. Kelly was a public-school elementary teacher in Georgia for 15 years before moving to Alabama with her family in 2015. She is a graduate of Valdosta State University and holds a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Kelly is currently enrolled in the graduate school program at the University of Alabama. She and her husband live in North Alabama with their two daughters and their Westie named Bella.
Merrill Dotson, Middle School Principal
Over the past 11 years Mrs. Dotson has had the privilege to be a math teacher and school leader in several states, and joined ALVA in August of 2016. Working at ALVA has been one of the best decisions she has ever made and is proud to serve as your Middle School Principal! Our school has changed students’ lives, helped families through tough situations, and built relationships that could never be replaced. ALVA is certainly a special place! She a graduate of Auburn University and Athens State University. She and her husband Chris are proud to call Alabama home, with their two beautiful daughters, Gloria and Dorothy.
Valerie Staten, High School Principal
Valerie Staten joined K12 Stride Inc. on September 2, 2016. She is the mother of two sons Christopher and Ethan. She received her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Miles College in 2003, Master of Education from Alabama State University in 2012, and her Instructional Leadership Certification from the University of West Alabama in 2020. Her career began in the Birmingham City Schools System in 2003. She has had the privilege of educating students on the middle school, high school, and college levels. She has held titles as Adjunct Professor, Mathematics Department Chair, Volleyball and Track Coach, Mentor, and Lead Teacher throughout her teaching career. She prides herself on the accomplishment of various math competitions that she has won with numerous school systems. She has spent years providing professional development to teachers, students, parents, and staff. She believes partnerships with parents is essential to gaining trust and helping student growth.
Mary Dennison, Student Support Administrator
Mary Dennison has worked at Alabama Virtual Academy since it opened to all grade levels in 2016. She has served as the Student Support Administrator for the past 5 years and has loved every minute of it. She is a graduate from Brigham Young University with degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education. She has taught in the public schools, residential treatment center, charter schools, and a therapeutic boarding school before coming to ALVA. She and her husband have 6 children and 13 grandchildren. Outside of her job, she finds joy spending time with her family and going on adventures.
Brenda Elliott, Elementary Counselor & 4th Grade Advisor
Brenda joined the ALVA team in August 2017 as the Elementary Counselor. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master of Science in K-12 counseling. Brenda has over 25 years teaching experience in public schools with the last seven years as an elementary counselor. She currently teaches K-5 classes called Lunch Bunch Readers and Counselor’s Huddles on character education that includes social, emotional, and learning activities. She has advisor’s huddles on Wednesdays and Fridays with fun activities!
Tracey Gulledge, Middle School Counselor
Tracey Gulledge joined the ALVA team in July of 2019 as a middle school counselor. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Florida State University and a Master of Science in School Counseling from Troy University. Tracey has 6 years of experience as a classroom teacher and 22 years of experience as a school counselor. As middle school counselor, Tracey works with students to help them focus on personal and social development, as well as academic and career goals. Schedules individual classes for teacher and parent referred students. She lives in central Alabama with her husband. She has three grown children and nine grandchildren. She thoroughly enjoys helping students grow and become successful!
Stephanie Williams, 9th/10th High School Counselor
Stephanie Williams joined the ALVA team in August 2016 as a 6th grade Science teacher. She earned her Bachelor of Science from the University of Alabama in Elementary Education, a Master of Arts in Elementary Education from the University of Montevallo, a master’s and an Education Specialists Degree from the University of West Alabama. Stephanie has 22 years of teaching experiences and 11 years of counseling experiences. She lives in Odenville, AL with her son, her sister and her three fur babies. She thoroughly enjoys working with ALVA students and families and helping them along the way through their educational journey.
Shawndrisa Malone, High School Counselor
Shawndrisa Malone joined the ALVA team in July 2016 as the school started as a High School Counselor. She earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and Masters in School Counseling from Troy University. Shawndrisa has 14 years of education experience in both middle and high school. She lives in Eufaula, AL and she also graduated from Eufaula High School. Shawndrisa has one child, a daughter. She loves helping the family of ALVA, motivating our students on their education journey, and being a listening ear when need. Shawndrisa loves her ALVA team and enjoy working with some of the most amazing people.
Hope Laudicina- Nicholas,High School Counselor
Mrs. Laudicina-Nicholas has worked with the Alabama Virtual Academy as a part-time counselor since 2019. She attended college at Troy University and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s Degree in Post-Secondary Education. She obtained a second Master’s Degree in Counseling and received her National Board Certification in counseling as well. She has served as a school counselor for sixteen years. Her hobbies include cooking (along with eating), spending time with her family, grant writing, and enjoying the beach. Mrs. Laudicina-Nicholas believes that every student has the potential to be successful with the right support and tools in place. Mrs. Laudicina-Nicholas loves helping her students set goals and reach them!