We are a talented, caring team dedicated to creating unique adaptations that work for each student. 



Marisa graduated summa cum laude from Concordia University. She developed a passion for working with students with autism and has extensive experience in both special education and gifted education. She completed multiple trainings which helped her to establish best practices for students on the autism spectrum, including antecedent-based intervention, pivotal response training, crisis intervention, corrective reading, Orton-Gillingham, suicide prevention, differential reinforcement, response interrupted redirection, structured teaching, and comprehensive program planning for individuals with autism.

Additionally, her knowledge of community and public relations has proven invaluable in promoting the mission of the school. Marisa is driven to increase access and awareness to students in desperate need of a unique school like The Independence Academy. She is a firm believer in teaching the whole student, and strives to incorporate movement and exercise throughout the day to enhance focus and relieve stress.

Marisa and her husband have two children in high school.


Tabitha McMonagle,
assistant director of school

Tabitha earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Indiana State University with a concentration in Middle School Language Arts. Prior to joining IA in 2015, she worked in Lawrence Township where she and her husband live and are raising their four children. She has a passion for helping students reach their highest level of independence and a gift for listening to understand each student’s unique concerns and needs.



Michelle earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education from Purdue University. After working as a teacher for several years, Michelle earned a Masters in Educational Leadership and Administration from the University of Indianapolis. She has over 10 years of experience in office administration, grant writing and working with non-profits. Michelle and her husband enjoy traveling when they are not busy with their four children. 



Andrea Rondinelli, Administrative Assistant


Cindy Davies, Teacher

Cindy earned her Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Butler University. While homeschooling her own eight children, she realized her love for teaching and learning. She earned her teaching license from Indiana Wesleyan, became certified in Gifted and Talented Education in 2012, and earned her Master of Science in Education from Purdue University. She has a wealth of experience teaching middle school and high school science and math. Cindy and her husband enjoy traveling to visit their grown children, and hosting international students.


Laura Elliott, Teacher

Laura Elliott earned her license and a Bachelor of Arts in English with a concentration in reading and writing. She also holds a Master of Arts degree in education from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis with a focus in special education. Laura feels privileged to have worked with a variety of students in different educational settings. Her teaching philosophy is based on respecting differences, tapping into talents and sharing her love for learning with students. Students appreciate Laura’s acceptance and supportive approach.


Christopher Moore, Teacher

Christopher earned his Bachelor of Science in Education, American Studies and Public Relations/Marketing from Ball State University, and his Master of Science in Education from Indiana University. He is an award-winning teacher who has taught social studies and a variety of other subjects to students in middle school and high school. Christopher and his wife have five children, and he enjoys hiking, gardening and singing.


Jennie Stern, teacher

Jennie is licensed in Special Education and Elementary Education from Huntington University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science. Prior to joining IA in 2012, she taught at Fisher Elementary in Speedway. She is passionate about working with the autism community and dedicates her free time to volunteering with the special needs children and youth programs at her church. Jennie’s many gifts include her knack for listening, and sending students and staff notes of encouragement and recognition.


Mary Charnley, Instructional Assistant

Mary graduated from St. Olaf College with a degree in psychology. Prior to joining the faculty at IA, Mary and her family lived in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, for fourteen years where she taught English and became fluent in Spanish. Mary has taught and assisted many courses at IA, from math to Spanish. She has helped run the school’s robotics club and has a gift for pitching in no matter what the task or project may be. Students also appreciate Mary's warm-hearted nature and willingness to help them understand what they’re learning.


Mark Lough, teacher

Graduated 1998 with a degree in Elementary Education with a minor in Mathematics from Indiana University.

From 1999 to 2001 I taught mathematics at a residential school on the West side of Indianapolis. I taught grades 5 through 12. One year through IPS services and the other as an independent contract through the school itself.

In 2013 I began working for a Charter School, Carpe Diem Meridian where I was a math coach (grades 6 – 12) that worked with student that tested two full years behind grade level. My job was to bring students to a current math grade functioning level.



Zoe Sitzmann, Teacher