About Aspire Academy

ASPIRE (Adventist School Preparing Instilling and Redeeming for Eternity) Academy is a Technology-Mediated Instruction and Learning elementary school. ASPIRE seeks to do something that is not readily seen in technology based education programs. ASPIRE utilizes a Technology Mediated Educational approach that is interactive, based on live instruction, instant feedback, and is as similar to a physical classroom experience as possible.

ASPIRE is a grades 1-11 educational program operated by the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. As such, ASPIRE falls under the Michigan Conference Educational Handbook policies as well as the policies of the Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. 

Learn more about Adventist education:

 
Benjamin Zork

Principal 

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Hello ASPIRE family. My name is Mr. Benjamin Zork. This is my 18th year as an educator. One of the most foundational goals I have for all the students at ASPIRE Academy is that they see themselves as strong, creative, capable human beings, with the ability to rely on God and accomplish anything for which they are willing to work. In a society that increasingly values easy outcomes and instant gratification over a focus on the processes required for success, the desire I have for our students is that they learn to face all of life’s challenges (including academic) with a God-given, creative, “can-do” spirit. I have no greater goal than to daily provide opportunities for our students to meet Jesus and build a relationship with Him.

I earned my Bachelor's Degree in Elementary Education from Andrews University and am currently working on my Masters in Educational Leadership. I have had the privilege of teaching at three different schools in the Michigan conference. My professional career began in Charlotte where I taught for three years. After Charlotte, I transitioned to Grayling, where I taught for 9 years followed by two wonderful years working at the Traverse City school. All my teaching experience has been in single-classroom schools, so I have a unique passion and appreciation for multi-grade education. I am incredibly excited to lead the ASPIRE team. We are passionate about technology mediated instruction and learning and are determined to provide the most cutting edge online-learning experience for our students.

My wife, Mirka, and I have two beautiful children, Zoey and Leo. They are the light of our lives, sources of constant joy, and the subjects of our unyielding affection and love. When I am not in the office, I love hiking, yard work, wood working, and writing music on the piano and guitar.

CONTACT: ‪(517) 258-2435‬ - text or call

bzork@aspiresda.com

Julia Robinson

3rd & 4th | Vice -Principal (1-8 Art)

 
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Hello ASPIRE family. My name is Mrs. Julia Robinson and this is my 22nd year as an educator.
My goal is to not only add value to the lives of children and families, but also create an experience that fosters a love of learning and success. One of my greatest joys is working with young people and encouraging growth through their unique abilities and learning styles. Academic success for my students is so important, but more than that I strive to help my students come to know Jesus as their Friend and Savior.

I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Michigan State University and my Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Andrews University. I have 21 years of experience teaching at Greater Lansing Adventist School in a classroom setting. I am thrilled to make the move to technology mediated instruction and I look forward to a new adventure teaching at ASPIRE. It’s truly a blessing to be part of the teaching ministry.

My husband, Jerrod, and I are lifelong Michigan residents. Spending time with our 2 beautiful daughters, Jade and Abby, and amazing son-in-law, Jonathan is a joy for me. I am the youngest of 4 children and the only girl. When I'm not teaching or planning, I'm exercising, reading, knitting, crocheting, or just being outside.

CONTACT: (517) 258-2536 - text or call

jrobinson@aspiresda.com

 

9th & 10th (5-8 Bible) 

Lexi Barnum
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Hello ASPIRE family. My name is Ms. Lexi Barnum and this is my 4th year as an educator. My
goal as a teacher is to educate in a way that shows the love and mercy of Christ, our Great
Teacher. I am inspired daily by the following quote from Maya Angelou:
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
My hope is that each student I come in contact with will feel the love of Jesus through me.
I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Andrews University located in
Berrien Springs, Michigan. I have a passion for Language Arts and Literature, which I chose to
focus on while earning my degree. I have three years of experience teaching in multigrade
school settings. I began teaching 5th and 6th grade in Niles, Michigan. More recently, I spent a year as a teaching principal in Traverse City. I am excited to be adding more time to this
accomplishment here at ASPIRE.
I have lived in Michigan most of my life and I absolutely love calling this state my home! When I am not teaching, I am cooking, painting, or spending time outside with my dog Oscar.

CONTACT: (517) 258-2548 - text or call

abarnum@aspiresda.com

 
Samantha Gusky 

1st & 2nd (9 & 10 Geometry)

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Hello ASPIRE family. My name is Samantha Gusky, and this is my third year as an educator.
My goal as an educator is to create a lifelong love of learning. I believe curiosity and the drive to ask questions are crucial in developing a lifelong love of learning. Most importantly, I enjoy
instilling a lifelong love for our Savoir Jesus Christ.
I earned my Bachelor's degree in Elementary Educations with an Emphasis in Mathematics from Andrews University. I am still praying about what field God wants me to pressure for my masters. I have taught all across the country and have seen many different learning styles throughout my teaching career. I am excited to join the ASPIRE team and reach students all across Michigan. It is truly an honor to be part of this ministry.

My husband, Michael, is also an educator. He works for one of our sister schools here in the
Michigan Conference. When we are not teaching or planning, we love camping, backpacking,
and exploring God's nature. I also enjoy baking, knitting, and spending time with friends and family.

CONTACT: (517) 258-2524 - text or call

sgusky@aspiresda.com

 
Toni Neri

5th & 6th Grade

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Hello ASPIRE family.  My name is Mrs.Toni Neri and this is my 10th year as an educator. As I work with my students, my goal is to point them to Jesus as the source of all knowledge. To me, education includes not only robust academic study, but also practice in serving others, working hard, and living well.

Both my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and my Masters in Educational Psychology were earned from Andrews University.  I began my teaching career in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I enjoyed three years there before returning to the mid-west to teach in South Bend, Indiana.  I am so excited to work with the ASPIRE team to serve our students and families.

My husband, Sam, and I have lived in Michigan for the majority of our lives. It keeps pulling us back!  In my free time, I love to read, exercise, be outside, and travel.

CONTACT: (517) 258-2437 - text or call

tneri@aspiresda.com

 
Justin Groff

7th & 8th Grade

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Hello ASPIRE family. My name is Justin Groff. This is my 11th year as an educator. I believe that Jesus is at the center of all knowledge, ideas, ethics, and purpose. Education should help students understand their world and themselves through the lens of Jesus and His great love and mercy.  Our society believes, and teaches our children to believe, that they can live independent self-motivated lives without God. Students need to know that their best lived lives are going to be the ones that are most focused on God and His purpose according to His promises.  As teachers, we teach things that we believe are going to impact our students’ lives. But more importantly, we want to teach and model a relationship with God that will deepen their personal relationships with God, and draw them closer to Him each day. 

I earned my bachelor's degree in elementary education from Andrews University, with minors in History and English. I have had the privilege of teaching at two Adventist schools, as well as a public classical charter school, and serving as a principal.  All of my teaching experience has been in middle school and high school, and I truly love it.  I have always taught on a team and am incredibly excited to join the ASPIRE team this year. I am passionate about the innovative, technology mediated instruction and learning ASPIRE provides. I can’t wait to engage with your student in a cutting edge online-learning environment. 

My wife Emily is an operations manager for Adventist Health and also works from home. I have two beautiful children, Ryan (4), and Hailey (2), with a third one on the way. The joy that they bring into my life draws me closer to Jesus and is a constant source of excitement and fun in my otherwise peaceful existence. I also love woodworking, construction, reading, design, outdoor activities, and music. 

CONTACT: (517) 258-0208 - text or call
jgroff@aspiresda.com

 

7th-11th Integrated Sciences 

Melody Ringstaff
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Hello ASPIRE family. My name is Melody Ringstaff, and this will be my first year as an educator. My goal as a teacher is to inspire my students to be curious about the world, how things work and function, and how to answer their own questions. Education is not only an academic pursuit but a development of the whole person or being. I hope in the time I have with my students I can prepare them for the joy of being in service to our God, since the highest education is found when we are in communion with Him. 

I earned my bachelor’s degree in Integrated Science for Secondary Education from Andrews University. I have always loved all the sciences so instead of trying to choose one to focus on I decided instead to do all of them through integrated science. I just completed a semester of student teaching at Andrews Academy, so I am looking forward to this next stage of being an educator. 

My husband, Elijah and I have lived in Michigan most of our lives and he is one of the pastors in Michigan as well. We have a very fluffy dog called Duffy who loves to cuddle. When we have free time, we are often drawing, painting, writing scripture songs, or enjoying the outside.

CONTACT: (517) 258-0218 - text or call

mringstaff@aspiresda.com

 
Matt Kohls

IT Administrator

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Hello ASPIRE family. My name is Mr. Matt Kohls and this is my 20th year as an educator. 
One of my biggest goals as a technology manager is to equip teachers and students to be creators with technology, rather than consumers. God - Our Creator - made us in His image. At a time when most of the world is using technology to consume, we need young people who have dedicated their time and talents to Jesus, and who have the skills to spread the message of His love and soon coming using all of the available tech tools with creativity, excellence, and the power of the Holy Spirit.
I earned my Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education from Andrews University and my Master’s in Quality Schools from Graceland University. I started my teaching career here in Michigan and have also had the chance to teach in Tennessee, Maryland and Maine. I have taught in Jr. High for my whole career and my favorite class to teach is Bible. I have also been the technology manager in my schools for the past 8 years.
My wife Leah and I have two children, Caleb and Ella, and we love exploring beautiful places in nature as a family. We enjoy hiking the Lake Michigan dunes, camping in the Smoky Mountains, and always look forward to a couple of weeks in my home state of Maine every summer. When I’m not working, I enjoy are nature photography and disc golf. I also enjoy playing guitar and basketball, but not at the same time.

CONTACT: (517) 258-1427 - text or call

mkohls@aspiresda.com

 
Jenn Cook 

Business Manager

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Hello ASPIRE family. My name is Jenn Cook and I am excited to have the opportunity to support you with your student’s financial accounts. I have over 17 years of experience working in the financial services industry, from contract work with the Navy SEALS, working for Freddie Mac on their mortgage back securities trading floor, at Whirlpool as a laundry and cooking product financial analyst as well as a working capital and cash flow analyst. I took some time off from working outside the home to spend time raising our kids, Owen and Anna, and then as they approached school age, started working for a local assisted living facility as their financial analyst.
I have been married to my husband, Mark, for 21 years this September. We both attended and graduated from Andrews University, but never dated in college! I graduated in ‘97 with a BBA in finance and then later enrolled in Notre Dame’s accelerated one year MBA program and graduated in 2001. We currently live in the Berrien Springs area and have lived in the same house since we’ve been married, even though we are hoping to build someday. We’ve also been a homeschooling family for the last seven years and are excited to now all be a part of the ASPIRE family!
In my free time, I enjoy reading and spending time in nature with my family. I also enjoy a good nap! I am thankful and blessed to see how God continues to lead and direct my path as I choose to walk with Him. (Romans 8:28)

 

CONTACT: (517) 258-0143 - text or call

jcook@aspiresda.com

GET IN TOUCH

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If you have questions about ASPIRE, please contact our principal, Benjamin Zork.

Voice or TEXT: ‪‪(517) 258-2435‬