Teacher Feature – Spanning the Decades


The Teacher Feature blog series celebrates our faculty’s passion for education and their joy in the journey of building our students’ futures. In this series, we will get to know these beloved educators. Just like our students and families, our instructors matter here. To learn more, visit our website.


Academy at the Lakes students aren’t the only ones who stem from different backgrounds. Likewise, our Academy teachers also bring varying experiences and perspectives.

On Academy’s campus, we have teachers who began teaching in the 1970s and those who began teaching in 2014. We have teachers who had never dreamed of teaching and those who knew from childhood that they wanted to teach.

In spite of the differences, one thing remains constant – the love each has for education and teaching.


2010’s – Matt Grossenbach


Alma Mater: University of Florida; class of 2014
Degree: B.A. in English with a specialization in film and media studies
Current position: Associate Director of Development and Alumni Affairs; Assistant Boys Varsity Basketball Coach

“I fell in love with education during my time as a student at Academy. The learning, the teachers, and the environment all contribute to a person’s education, and it is because of these that I was drawn back to the school. By placing myself in the role of the instructor, I’m able to live out some of the happiest and most enjoyable times of my life from a whole new perspective.”


2000’s – Sarah Gates


Alma mater: University of Florida; class of 2002
Degree: B.S. in English | M.S. in English
First teaching position: Saddlebrook Preparatory School in Wesley Chapel; Middle and Upper Division English teacher
Current position: Middle and Upper Division art teacher

“Teaching is a new adventure each day. No matter how much a teacher prepares, students will always find a new way of looking at things. Students inspire me. They make me laugh. They make me think. They motivate me to do my very best. They make each day an exciting journey.”


1990’s – Sarah Ivie


Alma mater: Florida State University; class of 1992
Degree: B.S. Secondary Mathematics
First teaching position: Preschool teacher at Moffitt Child Development Center
Current position: Dean of Student Services; Middle Division mathematics teacher

“Having been a teacher at Academy at the Lakes since 1994, there are two women who instilled in me the love of teaching, relationship building, and a strong work ethic.

The first is my own mother, Janet Ivie.

She has been a working nurse for 52 years and for the past 28 years has been an Operating Room nurse at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer and Research Institute. She has not only taught me to do what I love but to also do it well and make a difference.

The other person who has made an impact on my career is one of the school’s founders, Constance Wendlek.

As a child growing up in Dade City, Mrs. Wendlek was my elementary music teacher for three years. We created a bond then that has been with me for the majority of my childhood and my entire adult life. She taught me the importance of cultivating connections with those around you and inspiring others to do their best. Our personal relationship over the past 36 years has matured from a student-teacher one to one of mutual respect and close friendship. Both of these women have been crucial to my development and appreciation of the career path that I chose 24 years ago when I decided to go into education.”


1980’s – Tom Haslam


Alma mater: Auburn University; class of 1985 | National-Louis University; class of 2002
Degree: B.S. Physical Education | Masters in Curriculum and Instruction
First teaching position: Mountain Gap Middle School in Huntsville, Alabama; physical education teacher
Current position: Athletic Director; Boys Varsity Basketball Coach

“When I completed my teaching degree at Auburn, my plan was to teach for a couple of years and give myself time to decide what I really wanted to do with my life. At that time, I didn’t think that I would be teaching for long.

In my second year as a teacher, I took the job as Athletic Director/Dean of Students at Nativity Catholic School, and I fell in love with the school and its students, much like I have here at Academy.

It soon became impossible for me to imagine doing anything else with my life. I also quickly fell in love with coaching. Coaching basketball is a fantastic perk of my career, and it’s given me some wonderful memories.

Several times each season, I get to yell and jump around like a kid after we win a big game. How many other people do that at their job?”


1970’s – John Castelamare


Alma Mater: University of Nebraska; class of 1971 | University of South Florida 1978 | National Louis University 1985

Degrees: B.S. Special Education with a minor in physical education | B.S. Physical Education | M.A. Education
First teaching position: Madison Junior High; special education teacher
Current position: Middle and Upper Division Physical Education

“I didn’t know I was going to be a teacher at the beginning. My first degree was Special Education (EMH K-12). I started teaching in Tampa (Madison Jr. High) in January 1972. They asked if I’d like to coach. Since I was in sports for a good part of my life, I said sure. It was great! I coached football, basketball and track. Two years later, I began a position at Leto High School. I coached football and wrestling. In 1985, I got my first head football position at Ridgewood High School.

At this time, I was teaching physical education. In 1999, I was hired at Wesley Chapel High School as football and weightlifting coach. I stayed there all the way to retirement on August 31, 2010.

I’ve been at the Academy for 5 years now. I enjoy teaching and coaching very much. I’ve learned from a great many people along the way. I am very happy with the profession I’ve chosen. God has blessed me a great deal!

With all the years of teaching and coaching, I have had students become lawyers, doctors, realtors, plumbers, priests, electricians, police, lawn service, etc. It’s great when I see my former players become teachers and coaches, and former students become teachers.

Most of them have families of their own now and know all the responsibilities that go along with having a family. IT’S GREAT!!!!”


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