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Faculty & Staff

Faculty & Staff

School Leadership

List of 13 items.

  • John Thorsen, Head of School

    John Thorsen was appointed Athens Academy's fifth head of school beginning in 2014-2015.  With over 25 years of independent school leadership experience, Mr. Thorsen previously served as assistant head of school for advancement at Asheville School in Asheville, North Carolina.  He has held positions at Francis Parker School in San Diego, California; Mercersburg Academy in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania; and Darlington School in Rome, Georgia.  Mr. Thorsen earned a B.A. in Economics from Washington and Lee University and a M.Ed. in Institutional Advancement from Vanderbilt University. 
  • Colleen Burwell, Director of Preschool

    Colleen Burwell joined the Athens Academy administration in 2015 as assistant director of Pre/Lower School. In the summer of 2018, Mrs. Burwell accepted the position of interim director for the Preschool; she was appointed permanent director in February 2019.  She has a bachelor's degree from the University of Georgia and  M.Ed. and Ed.S. degrees from Georgia College and State University.
  • Kelley Cuneo, Director of Communications

    Kelley Cuneo joined the Athens Academy staff in November 2004 as a part-time publications and public relations coordinator. As director of communications, she oversees the website, social media, e-newsletters, and print publications, as well as all PR for the school. Kelley is a graduate of the University of Virginia and has over 20 years' experience in independent schools in the areas of marketing, communications, and admission.
  • Mark Cunningham, Director of Lower School

    Mark Cunningham joined the Athens Academy administration in 2016-2017 after relocating from Virginia, where he previously served as director of the Lower School and instructional technology at Cape Henry Collegiate School in Virginia Beach.  Mr. Cunningham has also served as the Lower School director at Hamden Hall Country Day School (CT) and held a variety of roles at Louisville Collegiate School (KY).  He has an undergraduate degree from Penn State and an M.Ed. from the University of Louisville.  He was honored with an endowed teaching chair at both Louisville Collegiate and Cape Henry.  Mr. Cunningham also participated in the Peabody Professional Institute for Independent School Leadership at Vanderbilt University in 2014.
  • DeDe Guest, Director of Development

    DeDe Guest joined the staff of the Athens Academy Development Office in 1991 in the newly-created position of Parent Service Organization coordinator. In 2000, she transitioned to full-time management of the Annual Excellence Fund, and she assumed the role of director of the Development Office in the summer of 2022. DeDe has an ABJ degree from the Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia.
  • Dr. Diana Murdock, Director of Academic Affairs

    Dr. Diana Murdock is new to the administration this year as director of the Academic Affairs department. She comes to Athens Academy from Oak Hall School in Gainesville, Florida, where she served as the director of middle school and academic dean. Diana began her career as an elementary teacher in the public school systems in Georgia before working as an assistant professor in the early childhood education program at Winthrop University. She has a Ph.D. in elementary education from the University of Georgia as well as a Master of Education and a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, both from Berry College.
  • Kevin Petroski, Athletic Director

    Coach Petroski joined the Athens Academy faculty in 2005-2006 and has been the athletic director since 2008-2009.  Before coming to Athens Academy, he spent two years at Monsignor Donovan Catholic High School and seven years at Southwest Georgia Academy in Damascus, Georgia.  Coach Petroski started his teaching/coaching career at Thomas Jefferson Academy in Louisville, Georgia.  He has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Georgia and a master's degree from Concordia University.
  • Debbie Schab, Director of Fine Arts

    Debbie Schab joined the fine arts faculty at Athens Academy in 2001 as a part-time orchestra teacher.  In 2003, she took over as the director of fine arts and currently also teaches orchestra to grades 2-4 and 7-12. Mrs. Schab has over 30 years' experience teaching Suzuki violin and is currently a free-lance violinist/violist with the Atlanta Opera Orchestra and Augusta Choral Society.  She has a bachelor's degree in music education from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a master's in violin performance from Western Illinois University.
  • Bob Sears, Director of Student Services

    Bob Sears joined the administration at Athens Academy as the dean of guidance in 2004, after previously working at Tallulah Falls School in Tallulah Falls, Georgia, and Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. In August 2008, he began serving as director of Upper School while maintaining his counseling responsibilities, doing so until July 2017. During this time, he received the Faculty Award for Professional Excellence twice, as well as the Teacher of the Year Award in 2009. Later that year, Mr. Sears participated in the Peabody Professional Institute for Independent School Leadership at Vanderbilt University. For the 2017-2018 school year, Mr. Sears assumed the newly-created position of director of student services, helping to support students and families throughout their years at Athens Academy. Mr. Sears has a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Georgia and a master's degree in professional counseling from Georgia State University. Additionally, he is a Board Certified Counselor, actively maintaining credentials through the National Board of Certified Counselors.
  • Jeff Stachura, Director of Middle School

    Jeff Stachura has been director of the Middle School since 2014-2015.  He joined the Athens Academy faculty in 2005 and has served as the English department chair, grade level coordinator, and college counselor.  Mr. Stachura is a graduate of Augusta Preparatory Day School and received his bachelor's degree from Furman University and an M.Ed. from the University of Georgia.  He served as English teacher, grade level coordinator, and senior project director at The Lovett School in Atlanta for a decade before relocating to Athens.  Over the course of his 20-year career in education, Mr. Stachura has been named STAR Teacher four times, including state-level STAR Teacher honors in 2000.  He has received the Faculty Award for Professional Excellence at Athens Academy twice, in 2006 and 2013.
  • Geoffrey Walton, Director of Admission

    Admission Director Geoffrey Walton came to Athens Academy in 1995 as a volunteer coach for the cross country team while he was still a student at the University of Georgia.  Following his graduation from UGA in 1997, he began teaching Middle School science full time until he assumed the role of Middle School dean of students in 2005.  After serving as interim director of admission for a year, Mr. Walton took over as director in 2016-2017.  He has been the varsity cross country head coach since 1998 and also coaches the Middle School track team.
  • Alan Weiler, Director of Finance & Operations

    Alan Weiler joined the Athens Academy administration in December 2016, relocating from Clearwater, Florida, where he was previously director of finance and operations for Saint Paul’s School.  Mr. Weiler has 20 years of independent school experience and has held similar positions at Oak Hill Classical School (GA), Howard School (GA), and the Alexander Dawson School (NV).  Raised in Norcross, Georgia, he is a graduate of North Georgia College and received his MBA from Brenau University.
  • Susan Zalac, Director of Upper School

    Susan Zalac joined the Athens Academy administration in July 2017 after relocating from Land O'Lakes, Florida, where she was the dean of students and English and Language Arts department chair for Academy at the Lakes for six years.  Previously, Mrs. Zalac taught English at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Spring Hill, Florida, and served as assistant principal at Riviera Day and Preparatory School in Coral Gables, Florida.  She has 20 years’ experience in the classroom in addition to a variety of leadership, mentoring, and coaching positions.  Mrs. Zalac received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of South Florida and a master’s in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Florida International University, and she recently completed a fellowship in Independent School Leadership through the Peabody Institute at Vanderbilt University. 
Athens Academy is an independent, co-educational school for students in K3 through 12th grade, located on a beautiful 152-acre campus in Northeast Georgia. For over 50 years, Athens Academy has pursued its mission of Excellence with Honor through academics, athletics, fine arts, and service and leadership.