Faculty & Staff



Principal: Mr. Jesse Benton, BA

This is Jesse Benton's sixth year of teaching at EPAA. He teaches grades 5-8 Social Studies. This is his 14th year teaching. Before coming to EPAA, Mr. Benton taught in his hometown of Hagerstown, Maryland, for nine years, and in Gainesville, Florida, for one year. Mr. Benton graduated from Columbia Union College in Takoma Park, Maryland, with a Bachelor of Arts in History, and minor in philosophy. Mr. Benton and his wife, Tarah (who is an alumnus of EPAA), have a daughter named Odessa.


Pre-K: Mrs. Tarah Benton, BS

Mrs. Benton is beginning her second year as a VPK teacher at EPAA. She graduated from Southern Adventist University and is married to Mr. Jesse Benton, who also teaches at the school. Their daughter Odessa is in the second grade at EPAA. 


Pre-K: Mrs. Merrilyn Johnson, BA

Merrilyn Johnson has lived in Zephyrhills for over a decade and is no stranger to EPAA. Before joining the teaching team at EPAA, she was the hot lunch coordinator, active parent volunteer, and after school tutor. She graduated from Southern Adventist University and is married to James Johnson, youth pastor at Apopka Seventh-day Adventist Church. Her children, Carys and Aidan, are in the eighth and fifth grades at EPAA.


Kindergarten: Mrs. Julie Center, MA

Mrs. Center has taught at EPAA for 21 of her 23 years of teaching experience. She completed her Masters degree in Inclusive Education from Southern Adventist University in December 2012 which is also where she received her Bachelors degree. She and her husband, Doug, have two children who both attended EPAA. Lexie graduated from Southern Adventist University with a B.S. in Public Relations in May of 2016 and Parker is a senior at SAU this year.


1st & 2nd Grade: Mrs. Natasha Garcia, BA

This is Mrs. Garcia-Lane's second year at EPAA. She previously worked in Gainesville for 6 years. She graduated from St. Leo University with her B.A. in Education in 2011. She is currently working on her Master's degree. Mrs. Garcia has four children, three of whom are students at EPAA. Micah is in third grade, Manuel is in Kindergarten, and Natalie is in Pre-K.


3rd & 4th Grade: Miss Melissa Anderson, BS

Miss Anderson is new to EPAA this year. She graduated from Southwestern Adventist University in Texas in May 2018 with a BS in Education. She took a year off during her college career to teach 2nd grade on the island of Kosrae in Micronesia. She is a South Florida native, and graduated from high school at Greater Miami Academy. 


5th - 8th Grade: Mrs. Nirva Joseph, MA

Nirva Dorcin-Joseph is in her twelfth year as a teacher within the Seventh-day Adventist school system, and her fifth year at EPAA. She teaches Math and Science for grades 5-8. She grew up and lived in the Northeast for most of her life. Mrs. Joseph graduated from Andrews University in 2005 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education with a concentration in Social Studies. In 2010, she graduated with an M.A. degree in Educational Administration from the University of Phoenix. During her free time, she enjoy traveling, reading, meeting new people, and spending time with her family. She loves teaching and watching each child grow spiritually and academically. Her children, Ethan and Ella, are in kindergarten at EPAA.


5th - 8th Grade: Mrs. Frances Young-Abraham, BS

Mrs. Frances Young-Abraham has taught in the Adventist school system for 23 years, most recently in Gainesville before coming to EPAA four years ago. She teaches Language Arts for grades 5-8. She enjoys fishing, horses, gardening, camping, writing, and her pet dog, Angel. Mrs. Young-Abraham is married to Michael Abraham, and is the proud mama of two adult sons, Scott and Adam.


Mrs. Liz Theodore
Teacher Aide

Mr. Norman Claypool
Maintenance & Grounds

Mr. Charles Brainard
Grounds & Aftercare

Ms. Christina Head

Ms. Vicci Capper
Lunch Coordinator

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