Debra Arnold holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music education from West Chester University. Ms. Arnold taught middle school general music and choir for two years in the Christina School District in Newark, Delaware before moving to the Owen J. Roberts School District in Pottstown, Pennsylvania as an elementary music specialist. In addition to her teaching duties, Ms. Arnold served as the OJR Elementary Music Chairperson, developed and initiated the OJR Elementary District Chorus program, directed the OJR High School musical and was the director of the OJR High School show choir. After 14 years of teaching in the district, Ms. Arnold moved with her young family to Southern Chester County, PA where they still live today. She was most recently the supervising director of the University of Delaware Children’s Choir program through the UD Community Music School and she directed the UD Singin’ Hens which served singers in the community in grades 7-12. While not in the classroom or on the conductor’s podium, Ms. Arnold continues to pursue her love of singing and musical theater. She is also the very proud mom of Madison (age 15) and Megan (age 12) and loves supporting them as they discover and develop their own talents and passions.
Bobbie Brickner graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and Master’s degree in Instructional Design from University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She worked as a technical trainer, technical writer, course developer, and quality assurance manager in the telecommunications industry; she was blessed to be able to travel all over the US and the world. She also taught computer and mathematics courses at Montgomery College for several years.
Bobbie’s husband Tom is also an electrical engineer. Together they have two children. Bobbie began homeschooling her daughter in 2008 when it became apparent that a traditional school setting was not a fit for her. Their homeschooling journey has been all about figuring out what CAN work as much as what does not. Janna graduated from Mt. Sophia in 2022 and is working towards a future as a librarian.
Bobbie has been active at Mt Sophia for over three years. She has taught Algebra 2 and Geometry and has been a TA in Physics, Pre-Calc, and Chemistry; she is especially excited to be teaching Forensics this year. She loves the beauty and logic of mathematics and science and enjoys sharing that with both the young people in her classes and the students she tutors one-on-one. Bobbie has also been a regular volunteer in the Tank—loving on the kids with homework help, conversations and encouragement, and helping with game nights and other MSA events.
The Brickners are members of Haven Community Church in North East, MD. Bobbie has been a Girl Scout leader and volunteer for over ten years. In her spare time, she loves scrapbooking, card making, knitting, cooking, and reading.
Jessica Bunitsky graduated from West Chester University with a dual degree in Political Science and Economics and has a law degree from Villanova. She was a prosecutor for the State of Delaware for several years, before marrying Mark Bunitsky (still a prosecutor with the State of Delaware), having three children, and becoming a homeschooler. Her oldest son graduated from the University of Delaware with a Civil Engineering degree; her middle daughter is pursuing an English degree at Neumann University; and her youngest is in the Mount Sophia Diploma program. Jessica has taught for 8 years at the Wednesday Co-Op in Newark, the various classes, including middle and high school writing, college-prep writing, American History, World History and Philosophy, Economics, and Civics. The Bunitskys are members of St. Michael the Archangel Church in Wilmington, Delaware, a parish founded in part by the Bunitsky family in the 1900s. In her spare time, Jessica enjoys bible study, studying the ancient Orthodox Christian faith, reading history books, sewing, gardening, and last but not least, keeping up with the news.
Cindy Delasser is a mom to 3 beautiful girls and 11 wonderful grandchildren. She homeschooled for 22 years, teaching all 3 girls and her oldest grandson, who all have some form of ADHD and multiple allergies. She was one of the original members of MSA, beginning in the Groop/Tillman co-op. While in the co-op, she taught elementary science, and arts and crafts to all levels from preschool through high school and cooked lunch for the coop. She currently teaches the Cooking and Nutrition class at MSA as well as being one of the ladies in charge of the financial paperwork in the office.
As a child Cindy played school with the neighborhood friends, looking forward to having children and teaching as an adult. Ninth grade Home Economics kicked in her love of cooking. She was able to instill that love in her daughters and grandchildren. She has volunteered at church, teaching Religious Ed to all levels for 40 years, leading VBS for 5 years, volunteering in the Outreach food closet, running a closet at her old church for 8 years, and cooking lunches for her daughter’s grade school for 4 years when they attended school. She now cooks for Hope Dining room once a month. She has been a Cub Scout leader for 8 years and the religious emblem coordinator for her charter organization.
In her spare time, she reads, mysteries being her favorite, sharing with her book club and her friends at LAOH group, spending time with her grands, teaching them crafts and cooking, and gardening.
While Dorie Duquette earned a B.S., magna cum laude, in Therapeutic Recreation from York College of PA, she began an innovative career serving individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease and their families. Working on secured units as a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist was extremely rewarding, but Dorie left full-time employment to fulfill one of her childhood dreams. She became a stay-at-home wife and mom.
As a child, Dorie wanted to be a stay-at-home wife and mom but also a teacher. The Lord blessed her by fulfilling both dreams. Dorie began her teaching career at age 7. Her first students included Bunny, a stuffed, blue bunny and Beary, a squashed, brown bear. From these humble beginnings, Dorie eventually progressed to tutoring. In high school, she helped younger students learn to read, and in college, she helped fellow students understand Calculus. Many years later, Dorie would use the skills learned while tutoring to homeschool her own children. During the past ten years, Dorie has taught numerous co-op classes, including History, Science, Writing, Literature, Logic, Photography, and Art. Most recently, Dorie has taught several classes at Mount Sophia Academy.
When not teaching, Dorie enjoys spending time with her family, being outside, wearing flip-flops, and taking photographs. Dorie and her husband, Jerry, have four children. Two of their children are MSA graduates, and two are current MSA students.
Gail Friedline – Office Staff
Gail Friedline is the fortunate wife of Harold Friedline for nearly 38 years. Together they have 4 children and 7 grandchildren (so far). She enjoys bookkeeping for the school as well as for her church, the Newark Church of Christ. In her non-school time, she enjoys playing games with her grandchildren, visiting with family and friends, teaching Bible to students in her congregation, cooking, volunteering at the church’s campus ministry and local food pantry, reading, gardening, and hiking.
After earning a degree in accounting, Gail worked as a bookkeeper for 4 years until her first child was born. Gail and her husband began homeschooling after seeing a notice about a meeting for homeschoolers. They knew no homeschoolers, but read up on the subject and began home-educating in 1992. In 1993 she formed a homeschool coop for 8th grade and younger students that she continued with until 2008 teaching a full range of classes. After 21 years of homeschooling, she graduated all 4 of her children and continued teaching other children in her home. Eventually, she began teaching at Mt. Sophia and then working in the office.
Amei (Amy) earned her Associate in Science degree in ASL Interpreting and her Associate in Art degree in Deaf Studies from Camden County College. She graduated with her Bachelor’s degree in Communication, Theatre and English from The College of New Jersey. She holds National Interpreter Certification under the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and has been working as a private practice interpreter for more than 25 years. Her favorite things to interpret are music festivals, the Circus, medical appointments and religious events. Amei serves as a mentor for interpreting students as well as Deaf students. Amei and her husband Ryan have four children who were raised in the Deaf community. They graduated two home-educated students. For fun, Amei enjoys spending time with her family, boating and reading.
Marilyn Groop – Principal
Marilyn Groop is a co-founder and principal of Mount Sophia Academy. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Physical Therapy from New York University. While she no longer is employed as a PT, she uses her skills by volunteering for Joni and Friends’ Wheels for the World teams. She has served in Peru and Brazil.
Marilyn is currently co-teaching Intro to Writing, Writing 11, Writing 12, and Cinema Studies. She also organizes the biology labs for the level 2/3 biology class. In the past, she has taught other classes, such as biology and logic.
Marilyn began homeschooling her oldest son in 1990 and graduated her youngest in 2015. Five of her six children graduated from Mt. Sophia. Two of her sons married fellow Mt. Sophia graduates. Marilyn has five grandchildren, with another expected in February of 2020.
In 1998, Marilyn and her children joined a coop and she has taught a variety of literature, writing, and science classes. Along with teaching, she has been doing academic advising for Mount Sophia, focusing on the underclassmen. She has a passion for both children and education.
Will Hahn has been teaching History for so long he can show the great people of the past using photos in his high school yearbook. He really enjoys talking to kids about long ago (you know, even before the Beatles), and has team-taught for several years at Mount Sophia, designing and playing Problem-Based Learning simulations for crucial moments in history. More recently, Will has been turned loose on unsuspecting students in the Writing 10 and 11 classes as well as in Literature, Philosophy of Utopia and Computer Literacy. Between teaching, Will sits at the entrance hall and practices looking serious. Will has a B.A. in Ancient History from Williams College and a M.A. in Medieval History from Fordham University. He enjoys writing and narrating epic fantasy tales of his own and other authors.
Anna Hight was homeschooled as a child back before everyone knew it was cool. She went on to obtain a BS in Mathematics from Grove City College. She married Brandon, who was also homeschooled and went to GCC. Anna and Brandon have four children, all of whom naturally have been homeschooled. One of them has graduated from MSA, another is enrolled in MSA and the other two are younger.
Anna is teaching Pre-Algebra and Statistics at MSA and runs the Math League club. She also volunteers with the MSA choirs. At church, she has taught High School Sunday School for many years and sings in the choir, and volunteers in the nursery. She also teaches math online.
Over the years she has taught a variety of sciences, maths, and other things through homeschool co-ops, and she has run Math Olympiad and Science Olympiad for Tri-State Homeschool. Anna particularly enjoys teaching math.
In her free time, Anna enjoys singing, playing the harp, martial arts (largely retired), studying and discussing theology, listening to audiobooks, playing both board and computer games, and amusing herself with whatever adventure strikes her as fun at that given moment.
Marlo Hughes has been teaching for over twenty years. She studied at the University of Delaware and received her bachelor’s degree in Elementary and Special Education with a minor in Sign Language. Her passion for the language and for serving the deaf community later lead to her pursuit and completion of an additional degree in Sign Language Interpretation from the Community College of Philadelphia. Many students have called her “teacher” over the years, including her own five children. She homeschooled all five from pre-k all the way through high school, celebrating each milestone and making lifelong homeschool friends along the way. As for Sign Language, Marlo loves to share what she has learned, and chat with new and old friends any chance she gets. Her outgoing and joyful personality is contagious and sure to lift you up. Outside of school, you can find her making memories with her children and grandchildren, reading books, and enjoying the many other blessings God has given.
Jeff Hunter – Athletic Director
Tammy Hunter has two homeschool MSA graduates. She teaches General Science and Physical Science at MSA, she and her husband Jeff are coaches of the MSA swim team as well as MSA’s Athletic Directors. She loves teaching and encouraging students and has matchless energy as both a teacher and a coach.
Stephanie graduated from Indiana University of PA in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science in Consumer Affairs and Fashion Merchandising, with a minor in business. After taking a nutrition class her last semester in college, she realized her passion for nutrition. While working for the Internal Revenue Service as a revenue officer for six years, she completed her master’s degree in nutrition education from Immaculata College. She became a registered Dietitian and worked at Christiana Care for 18 years as a clinical dietitian. Her area of focus was medical intensive care, hemodialysis, and cancer care. Stephanie and her husband Dave have been married for 29 years and have seven children. All have been homeschooled. Stephanie has taught various classes at a homeschool co-op including anatomy and physiology, human development, writing and literature. In her spare time, Stephanie enjoys Bible study, reading, hiking, biking and dreaming about being at the Outer Banks.
Torn between becoming a teacher or an electrical engineer, Kathy Martin decided to pursue electrical engineering. She graduated in the honors program from Virginia Tech with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering and an M.S. in Electrical Engineering. After working for Dupont, Kathy dropped out of full-time employment to become a stay-at-home mom when her first child was born. She was blessed with four children and is now a grandmother of three.
Kathy homeschooled all four children from kindergarten through high school—a span of 25 years. During that time, she taught in math co-ops, science co-ops and writing co-ops. She also served as president of Tri-State Homeschool Network and as a board member of Tri-State Homeschool, Inc. All four of her children graduated from Mt. Sophia Academy.
Since the fall of 2010, God has used her passion for teaching and technical subjects as a teacher for Mt. Sophia Academy. She is delighted to teach Physics Year 1; Physics Year 2; Motion, Magnets & More; Algebra 1; Honors Precalculus; and Introduction to Computer Programing (in conjunction with student teacher Jacob Rainbow). Kathy heads up the Science Olympiad team for Mt. Sophia and serves on the board of directors for Mt. Sophia.
Outside of teaching, Kathy’s favorite past times are playing with her grandchildren and spending time with Tim, her husband of 35+ years. She also enjoys reading, gardening and playing board games.
Christine Metzing is a medical doctor and the married mother of four beautiful children, all of whom have been homeschooled through high school and graduated from Mt. Sophia Academy. A graduate of New York Medical College, Christine completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center, where she specialized in internal medicine with a subspecialty in the social aspects of healthcare. She also received advanced training in the care of those with addictions. She served as the medical director of two homeless shelters and was an attending physician at the Daniel Leicht HIV/AIDS clinic in Manhattan. After working in private practice in Virginia for many years, she semi-retired from medical practice, making some exceptions, and entered the Delaware home-school world with her children. For most of those years, Christine was involved with co-ops, eventually serving as an administrator of a large homeschool co-op where she taught various science, Spanish, and high school history courses. Also teaching at Mt. Sophia Academy for many years, she has taught various Bible classes along with college prep/advanced/honors-level chemistry and biology classes. Because of gratitude toward God for all that He has done for her through Christ, Christine loves to serve. She has volunteered as a Sunday School teacher, ladies Bible study leader, VBS leader, and as a youth/AWANA leader for many years. In the community, she has worked with Youth for Christ and the Boys and Girls Club. Christine has a passion for missions, evangelism, and discipleship which has led her to organize and lead annual medical/Christian mission trips, where she uses her medical skills and fluency in Spanish to spread the gospel and care for the people of La Ciudad Vieja, Guatemala. She loves MSA and teaching, especially the Bible, and she loves making difficult subjects easier to understand.
Nancy Petrucci has had a passion for teaching and helping others succeed throughout her life. In 2011, she began homeschooling her son and teaching within the homeschool community; customizing curriculum to work with students’ individual learning styles and creating a positive educational experience. She loves to help students utilize their unique potential to achieve academic success. Nancy’s son graduated from Mount Sophia Academy in 2019 and is pursuing a career as a Martial Arts Instructor.
Prior to homeschooling, Nancy’s teaching experience includes an accredited bible school and the local church community. As a Ministerial Studies graduate of World Outreach Bible School, she created and taught accredited courses in regard to worship. Throughout her time as a worship minister at a local church, she mentored worship teams and taught at youth groups, conferences and local churches. Whether teaching adults or youth, Nancy’s greatest joy was seeing students discover God’s love for them and the good plans He has for their lives.
Nancy has been teaching Cinema as Literature Studies at Mount Sophia Academy since 2018 and enjoys discussing literary themes with a biblical perspective.
Nancy and her husband, Paul, are native Delawareans, who have been married for over 30 years and continue to serve in their church. Their greatest joy is to spend time with their children. Whenever time allows, Nancy loves to go to the beach and explore historical sites within the tristate area.
Jacob Rainbow began programming at a very young age. By the age of 12, he had completed the Purdue University Computer Science AP course and passed the AP Computer Science A exam. While at the AP test at Kennett High School, he was recruited by the soon-to-be Software mentor for the Kennett High School Robotics team. Jacob programmed for the Kennett Robotics team for two years. Both years Demon Robotics went to Worlds.
Jacob moved on from the Robotics team to other programming endeavors. He was a student-teacher while in high school, teaching Video Game Development and Computer Programming at MSA.
Jacob attended MSA since 8th grade and graduated Valedictorian of his class of 2021. He was active on the Swim and Soccer teams, Rhetoric, Math League, Science Olympiad, Leadership, Yearbook, Chorale, and Madrigals. He also has his black belt in Tang Soo Do and enjoys playing chess and performing on the piano.
Jacob is currently a full-time Software Developer for RTRT.me (Real-Time Race Tracking®) as well as teaching Video Game Development and Computer Programming at Mt Sophia.
Julie Rainbow – Website Manager
Julie Rainbow graduated from Purdue University with a BA in Psychology in 1994. She married her husband, Dave, in the same year. They have five children, three of whom have been homeschooled and have attended MSA. They have lived in Indiana, Ohio, Texas, Illinois, Maryland, Florida, and Pennsylvania. They have had the pleasure and experience of homeschooling in Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
Julie worked as a Branch Manager for Household Finance Corporation, Regional Marking Director for National Real Estate Information Services, and National Marketing Director for Transcontinental Title. Later, she became President and National Marketing Director for her own company, Title Options, Inc.
Julie has been homeschooling her children since 2010. She has been a part of MSA since 2016. She is an active swim team mom, website and social media manager, and regular volunteer at MSA. She joined the MSA Board of Directors in January of 2022.
Lindsay Rhein graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and a minor in Theater from Jacksonville State University in 2002. Her participation in the strong choral program at her childhood church from the age of 4 was foundational in developing her musical education and love for choral singing, and she continued to help lead the children’s choirs as a teen. At university, she was an active member of the concert choir and the more select JSU Chamber Singers. She served as section leader, was a member of the writing team for the choirs’ annual Medieval dinner theater and concert fundraiser, and served the community through the promotion and performance of Children’s Opera. Lindsay taught beginner piano lessons to both children and adults, continued to sing in area church choirs, and she was active in performing in both university and community musical theater. Upon graduation, her love for learning and reading in all the liberal arts led her to accept a job at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Wilmington as part of their publications arm, ISI Books. There she met her husband Paul, who continues to work for ISI, and when her oldest son was born, she left the publishing world to begin a career as a mother, homemaker, and home educator. She spent two years as part-time director of the children’s choir at St. Anthony of Padua grade school and assistant choir director at St. Anthony of Padua parish before giving birth to her second son. As the next five babies allowed, she participated in a variety of church music roles and choirs, and she was recently an assistant director for Pages Alive Theater until the arrival of baby #7. Currently, Lindsay serves as cantor at her home parish, St. Patrick’s in Wilmington. Lindsay has homeschooled her five boys and two girls exclusively and has a passion for promoting the educational philosophies of Charlotte Mason. She serves on the board for Mater Amabilis, a free Catholic Charlotte Mason curriculum, and loves introducing children to all the good, true, and beautiful things in God’s creation.
Claire Ritter graduated with a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Delaware and an M.S. in Counseling Psychology from Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University). While working full-time in her field of study, she never imagined God would call her to homeschool. However, when her oldest (of three) was just 8 years old, Claire received that calling and has been following it for 12 years. Her younger two are now high school students at Mount Sophia and her oldest is a young adult in college. Claire has enjoyed teaching General Science at the Wednesday Co-op for 7 years. She has a passion for teaching and brings boundless energy and enthusiasm into the classroom.
When given the opportunity to relax, Claire enjoys reading, swimming, hiking, traveling, and adrenaline-fueled activities like bungee jumping and jet skiing. Sky diving is #1 on her bucket list!
Higo Rodrigues teaches Music Theory and is the accompanist for MSA’s Senior Chorale. He holds a Ph.D. in Music Theory from the University of Kentucky. Dr. Rodrigues is the Music Director at Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Newark, DE, where he serves alongside his wife, Ira Rodrigues. Higo has taught music theory and aural theory classes at the University of Kentucky as a Teaching Assistant, as well as music theory and music history/appreciation classes at St. Catharine College (Springfield, KY), and early college credit music classes at Bethlehem High School (Bardstown, KY). Higo loves reading and has started (but hasn’t finished yet…) a degree in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Still, he enjoys learning more about the Bible and is taking independent online classes from the Awakening School of Theology. He also enjoys playing basketball but has to take care of his hands since he plays the piano for a living. Higo teaches Essentials of Music Theory at Mount Sophia.
Born and raised in Brazil, Ira Rodrigues has been involved in choral life for over twenty consecutive years. Irailda has enjoyed teaching voice and choir to high school kids and considers it a privilege to be able to add to the formation of young lives. Dr. Rodrigues holds a B.A. in Church Music (emphasis on High School Choir Education) from the Seminário Teológico Batista do Norte do Brasil (Recife, Brazil), a M.A. in Music (Vocal Performance) from Campbellsville University (KY), and a DMA in Vocal Performance from the University of Kentucky (KY).
Kym holds a B.A. from La Salle University in Spanish Education and International Business, and an M.Ed. from the University of Vermont in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration. Originally from Philadelphia, she came to Delaware to serve in Residence Life at the University of Delaware. In the interest of keeping things diverse in her life, she has done stints as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, a Youth Minister, and a Family Daycare Provider. In her “spare” time, Senora Smythe loves hiking, walking on the beach, cheering on her many favorite teams, hanging out with family and friends, raising Seeing Eye puppies and her new role as a crew member on the Kalmar Nyckel, Delaware’s tall ship.
Mount Sophia Academy has truly been a family affair for the Smythes. Doug, Kym’s hubby of over 30 years, serves on the Board of MSA and all four of their children are graduates of Mount Sophia Academy. Over the past 11 years, the Smythes have raised five dogs for The Seeing Eye, Inc. and their current pup, Curtis, even makes occasional appearances there.
Kym’s passion for people and ability to look on the bright side make her Spanish, Psychology, Leadership, Career Exploration and Unbroken classes fun and energetic. She also LOVES her role as Student and Family Liaison. She likes to describe the job as a combination of being an advocate, an encourager, a chaplain, a cheerleader, Chief Fun Officer and Chief Relationship Officer. Mount Sophia is one of her favorite places to love like Jesus!
Mike Thress is the pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Bear, Delaware. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Valparaiso University (Indiana) in Classics (Latin and Greek) and a Master of Divinity degree from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. He is the father of four children and enjoys playing music (piano and guitar), running, and hiking in his spare time. Mike has enjoyed being a part of the MSA community as a parent since 2013. He is co-teaching Biblical Fundamentals with Dan Varnell.
Barbara Varnell – Academic Adviser
Barbara Varnell is the junior and senior academic advisor for Mount Sophia Academy. She holds a B.S. M.S. and Ph.D. from Penn State University in Polymer Science and a Masters in Biblical Study from International Seminary. Her loves are reading and learning and she has a passion for working with young people and helping them use the gifts and talents God has given them to make a difference in the world.
Barbara teaches Honors Calculus I and II, Honors Statistics, Honors Discrete Math/Linear Algebra, Honors Chemistry II, and Writing 12 (technical writing). She is also the coach for the MSA Rhetoric Team since 2003 and has a passion for both helping students overcome their fear of public speaking and helping those with a natural gifting improve their abilities.
Barbara originally was a double major in polymer science and music at Penn State but decided that at some point she needed to graduate and never completed her music degree but still loves her involvement in music. While she enjoys every class she teaches, when she is having a stressful school day her calculus class is her “happy place”.
Barbara began homeschooling her oldest daughter in 1993 and graduated her youngest in 2014. Her oldest is a computer engineering professor, her middle daughter is an equine veterinarian and her youngest is in graduate school for developmental psychology, just confirming that each and every one of our children are unique individuals.
Dr. Daniel Varnell graduated from Penn State University with a PhD in Polymer Science, and received a Master’s Degree in Biblical Studies from Christian International. He is a former pastor and scientist (Hercules, Ashland and Solenis) with many patents and awards. He has taught pastors in several countries (most recently in India), was a teacher for Elim College courses, and has created and taught over 1000 small group Bible lessons. He currently is in charge of the missions team at his local church. He is married to Barb Varnell and has graduated three daughters from Mount Sophia. He is also the MSA golf coach. His lessons bring challenges and practical applications of the scriptures. He is an avid gardener and golfer.