Our Staff


Dr. Kelly Alves, Ed.D.

Dr. Kelly Alves, Ed.D. completed her Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship in Curriculum and Instruction at Liberty University as of January 2019.

The Board, staff, students and families at NIA all see Dr. Alves as a true Wonder Woman. Her days are long and her commitment strong as she works tirelessly to ensure that the academic program, the physical environment, and the school’s culture are the best it can be so that each individual student can thrive socially and academically. She goes above and beyond any expectations and always delivers in staying true to the school’s core value to celebrate the abilities of AWETISM®.

Professional development for educators, gender differences in autism, and the benefits of action-based learning for individuals with autism are among her primary interests. Throughout her career, she has enjoyed working with many students on the spectrum. She understands that each student is a unique individual with unique needs, and education is not one-size-fits-all.

Dr. Alves is a Tennessee native, and she graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a B.S. Degree in Elementary Education. After spending the next several years working primarily with special needs students, she began working on and completed her Master of Education degree with a graduate certificate in Autism Education from Liberty University in 2015.

When she isn’t working or writing, she enjoys running, cycling, gardening and cooking. She has completed several 5K and 10K races as well as two half marathons and four triathlons. She has also competed in cyclocross races and participated in several charity bicycle rides. Dr. Alves asserts, “My greatest inspiration to push myself professionally, educationally, and personally comes from the students I have worked with over the years and my desire to improve circumstances for these students and others like them through education and acceptance.”

High School Teacher

Cassandra Campbell

Cassandra Campbell has been the high school instructor at New Independence Academy since August 2013. She graduated in February 2016 with a second Master’s of Arts in Education with a specialization in teaching and learning with technology. This was a specialized course to enhance current classroom teachings with the integration of technology in the classroom. Prior, she has received a MA in Education, and a Bachelors in Sociology.

Being a student with a disability, Mrs. Campbell found it very difficult for teachers to find effective ways of teaching; therefore she slipped through the cracks and was in danger of not graduating high school. It was at that time, she felt compelled to give back to the community in an area of need. She wanted to make sure all students had the opportunity to learn and be the best they could be regardless of their learning style, or ability.

As the NIA upper high School instructor, Mrs. Campbell brings many new teaching techniques through the use of differentiated learning. She incorporates all learning styles and levels in the classroom. Also, as a parent of two children on the spectrum, she has experienced the struggles and rewards of teaching children with autism. She is mindful to the sensory, communication, and social/emotional needs the children experience.

Cassandra has worked with the YMCA of greater Syracuse area in the child care department and has many years of hands on experience working with children on the spectrum. She believes, “That everyone has the ability to learn and we, as instructors, need to foster learning to suit the child’s needs.” Mrs. Campbell has taught at New Independence Academy since it was established in 2013.

High School Teacher

Jackie Thorpe

A native of Wilson County, North Carolina, Mrs. Jackie Thorpe received a Bachelor of Science from Atlantic Christian College (now Barton College) after attending Wilson Christian School and NCSU. As a parent of two children on the autism spectrum, both of whom also have Tourette’s Syndrome, Mrs. Thorpe is attuned to the sensory, language and communication differences of children on the spectrum. Her youngest attends New Independence Academy and her oldest is a student at UNC Chapel Hill.

Mrs. Thorpe has taught at New Independence Academy since it was established in 2013. While she enjoys teaching all subjects, science and history are her favorites. She introduces Physics to her students through many hands-on activities that captivate, encourage, and inspire.

(Photo coming soon) Elementary Teacher

Rebecca Schute

Mrs. Rebecca Schute works as the elementary teacher and presents her students with one-on-one teaching along with class time with peers. She approaches each lesson in ways that meet the unique needs of each individual student. Mrs. Schute is a military wife and mother of five including a 14 year-old who has an autism diagnosis. She observed for years his experience struggling with a heavy load of school work and his social difficulties in public school. Since he has been enrolled as a student at New Independence Academy, she, “Sees her son’s exceeding accomplishments in his school work” and notes he has received Most Improved Social Skills award for 2 years in a row.

Mrs. Schute graduated from Northwest College in Fort Walton Beach, Florida with a degree as a Licensed Practical Nurse. Having a child on the spectrum has given her first-hand experience as an autism classroom teacher and a passion for working with children with these special needs.

(Photo coming soon) Teacher Assistant

Della Kornegay

Della Kornegay is our Senior Teaching Assistant in the elementary class. She has a degree in Applied Behavior Science and a Medical Administrative Certificate obtained through the Ultimate Medical Academy in Tampa, Florida. As a Wayne County Public School bus driver, Ms. Kornegay has a commercial driver’s license which allows her to drive the NIA bus transporting students to therapy sessions and on field trips. She also has 14 years of valuable experience as a Direct Care Educator working with children and adults diagnosed with autism and other disabilities.

She has worked one-on-one for the past 9 years with a child who has mental and physical challenges in an after-school care capacity. Having worked so many years in the special needs field, Ms. Kornegay feels strongly that everyone, regardless of their status, deserves the same opportunity for obtaining a proper education. She is a single mother of one daughter and has a great desire and a lot of patience to assist educationally challenged children.

(Photo coming soon) Teacher Assistant

Rachel Pineda

Rachel Pineda works as a teacher assistant to the elementary class and in other classes as needed. As a single mother to a sophomore, Genesis and a middle schooler, David, who attends NIA, she has the patience and loving desire to help children with special needs. In the past, she has always actively volunteered in her children’s schools. The most challenging part was working in her son’s public-school class for special needs children, where she volunteered for 2 years. She observed David’s difficulties with academics and socializing with other children which left him friendless.

Since attending NIA, David wakes up wanting to come to school. He performs well in his academic work now and has many friendships. She knows that being the mother of a child with special needs has enabled her to give NIA students patience, understanding, and love as if they were her own children. She believes having these past experiences has opened the door for her to devote energy as a full-time staff member at NIA. Mrs. Pineda feels, “At NIA everyone looks at each other as family.”

(Photo coming soon) Teacher Assistant

Jamie Faye Wester Mauldin

Bio Coming Soon!