About Us

Hope to students with exceptionalities comes to Tampa

For over 12 years, families from Hillsborough and Pinellas counties have been making the daily drive to the Pinnacle Academy located in Lakewood Ranch.  The Academy provides a highly specialized, alternative education for students who have been diagnosed with a variety of developmental conditions including Asperger’s Syndrome, Language Impairment, Auditory Processing Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder, and learning differences. In August 2012, the Pinnacle Academy opened its doors in South Tampa.  The new school allowed for the Academy to expand its landmark program and customize an education to meet the needs of exceptional students.  The program is particularly known for offering a blended therapy approach to education and treatment.  The interdisciplinary team model offers a combination of proven methods of instruction and lends to the success of students who are affected by more than one diagnosis.  Challenged areas of learning, sensory integration, executive functioning, social development, and social communication are all incorporated into the daily curriculum. 






The Pinnacle Academy is dedicated to understanding and educating students who have learning differences. In our small classes, their learning differences are accepted and individually supported. However, it is their strengths, interests, and talents that are at the forefront of a Pinnacle education. We are opportunity-makers.
Our Mission
• To empower students with language and learning differences to become independent and successful learners
• To provide a unique and incomparable education that delivers a blended model of multi-sensory, brain-based, and project-based learning approaches that supports the theory of multiple intelligences in learning
• To provide a model program of excellence in the field of alternative, exceptional education and best-practice methods in teaching

Our Philosophy
The Pinnacle Academy was started in 2001 with a clear vision of a private school that could offer an outstanding, special education in a structured, yet nurturing atmosphere. Years later, the school offers a private education to over 100 students and continues to grow and change with each passing year. Today, Pinnacle Academy provides its students with the instruction, inspiration and opportunity to learn and achieve at their highest potential. The school is unique among programs of exceptional education in that it offers a blended approach to teaching and thus, is able to adapt to the unique needs of its diverse learners. We are committed to teaching and treating exceptionalities through research-based, best-practice methods. We continually assess our program and make enhancements to reach our student’s goals and to ensure that our program offers an eclectic approach to learning. We are blessed with teachers who go above and beyond by giving a great deal of personal attention to every one of their students. We are proud of our students and celebrate their individual strengths, talents, and interests which will guide them to succeed at a higher level of academic and personal accomplishment. We believe that a student should look forward to coming to school every day. We also believe that parents should feel a sense of “family” throughout our school’s campus.

Above all, we believe we’ve created an educational institution where students feel confident and motivated to learn, where they are understood and empowered, and where parents are taught to turn obstacles into opportunities. We hope that you will come and visit us.


Our Team

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Marissa Guagliardo Sander, Director

Marissa is the Director of Tampa Pinnacle Academy. She has over ten years of experience in the field of Child Development. Marissa studied Communication Sciences and Disorders in her undergraduate program. She is a licensed Speech Language Pathology Assistant. Marissa attained her Master’s degree in Counseling with a concentration in Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis and is currently pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Education. Marissa combines her background in speech and language with behavior management techniques and principles to bring about meaningful and positive change in her students and clients. 

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Martha Mick, Middle Division Teacher

Martha Mick is the middle school homeroom teacher, additionally she teaches Math, STEAM, and History to grades 3rd through 8th.  She has over 20 years of classroom experience from 1st through 8th grades including multi-grade classes. Her skill set incudes multi-sensory instruction and using differentiation to individualize teaching. Her Bachelor’s in Education combined with her varied experiences give her the advantage of knowing what is needed to proceed to the next level. She values kinesthetic learning, Orton-Gillingham, and Project Based Learning. Mrs. Martha has a passion to challenge students both in the classroom and beyond.   

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Lora Mancini, Elementary Teacher

Lora is the Upper Elementary Teacher at Tampa Pinnacle Academy. She teaches Language Arts to grades 3through 8.  Lora graduated from Johnson State College and has a unique background in both special education and human services. As an educator, her primary focus is literacy mastery and teaching reading strategies using research-based methods. Additionally, Lora strives to incorporate character education and life skills into her classroom, as well as how to transfer those skills to positively navigate everyday situations. Lora brings her creativity and passion for teaching to our students each day. 

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Julia Boyle, Elementary Teacher

Julia is the Lower Elementary Teacher at Tampa Pinnacle Academy. She teaches all subjects to grades K-2nd grade students. Julia is passionate about teaching students through individualized instruction that best suits their personal learning style and making learning fun! Miss Julia knows the value in a multi-discipline team approach to implementing education plans. Julia graduated from Westfield State University with a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Students with Moderate Disabilities. She has experience teaching in both special education and general education classrooms. Ms. Julia finds the spark in each child and allows that to shine in her classroom.