Our Story


We believe that children are far more capable than we think. We started Apollo Academy because we wanted our daughter to be in an environment that harnesses the power of curiosity and celebrates self-discovery.

We Are Parents Just Like You!

We are parents just like you, raising our child to be curious, independent and confident. As we started exploring options for education, we did not see how traditional education could work for our family, so we started investigating alternative models and found Acton Academy. We dove into the research and believed it was the right fit for our family. Just one problem – there wasn’t a location in Tampa yet.

Never one to turn down a challenge, we launched Apollo Academy, an Acton Affiliate, in South Tampa. We are even more convinced now how badly our community needs this revolutionary learning approach. We are a tribe of like-minded families on this journey together.

We are currently accepting applications for fall 2024 (ages 5-11). Schedule a call to learn more and request an application.

Our Team

Apollo Academy is led by a team of creative, passionate people. We call our leaders ‘guides’ instead of teachers to reflect our focus on the Socratic method. These excellent individuals focus on empowering learners to discover on their own rather than lecturing or memorizing facts. Check out our approach to learn more about the school.

Marshawna Bryant, 
Spark Guide

Marshawna Bryant graduated from FSU with a Bachelor’s in Family and Child Sciences, with an emphasis in Child Development. She is a dedicated professional with over 15 years experience working with children. She believes in our mission of enhancing your curiosity and the love of learning. Marshawna is passionate about helping learners be the best version of themselves- both at Apollo and as a volunteer with Meals on Wheels.

Interested in joining our team?

We are always looking for new guides to join our team. Go to Guide Apply to learn more!

Leadership Team

Our leadership team has decades of experience building and leading learner-driven and STEAM enrichment programs.

Beth Ann Valavanis
Founder, Director of Community Outreach

Beth Ann grew up in the suburbs of Atlanta and attended the University of Georgia’s J.M. Tull School of Accounting where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree in Accounting. She’s spent most of her career leading organizations, most recently as COO for GA Foods, a healthcare company. Prior, she worked for a college study abroad program focused on leadership and service.

Beth Ann goes “all-in” when pursuing a new venture and believes that the world is changed one person at a time. She feels that her professional experiences paired with her passion for creating authentic community have led her to a calling to start Apollo Academy. She is driven by the vision that Apollo Academy will positively change the trajectory of South Tampa families, including her own.

Her ultimate “why” is her daughter Emilia. She believes a learner-driven environment will provide the real-life experiences and opportunities that will set Emilia up for ling-long success as a curious and resilient problem-solver.

Nicholle Walton-Durban
Head of School

Passion, Purpose, Curiosity, and Grit. These are the things that have driven Nicholle thru her life. Born and raised in the South, at the age of 20, she would set out on her Hero’s journey and chase her dreams to Los Angeles, CA. There she attended Santa Monica College,Cal State Fullerton, studied Theater Arts, traveled to China as part of a Musical Theater Troupe/Cross Cultural Exchange Program, received her license in Cosmetology, and worked her way up in a startup from an entry level position to VP of Operations in just under 5 years. After relocating to Austin, TX in 2008, Nicholle opened Edgen Films in 2010, and then 4Reelz School of Film in 2014, offering classes and camps where kids, teens, and adults of all ages could come to explore, create, and express, while learning and developing skills in a variety of Art / Tech Industry’s.

Of all her adventures, becoming Mom to 3 wonderful boys is truly where passion and purpose aligned, and Nicholle wanted to ensure they would have an environment where they could discover their own unique gifts, talents, passion’s, and purpose. In 2016, Nicholle would team up with Joann Nolte and open E.S.T.E.A.M Academy (an Acton Academy affiliate) combining their love of Art, Technology, and Entrepreneurship with Core Academic Studies, Socratic based Discussions, Projected-Based Learning and Enrichment, in a Student-Led environment. Then, in 2024, Nicholle joined the Apollo Academy team.

Joann Nolte
Director of Programs, E.S.T.E.A.M. Learning Labs

As a life-long learner, JoAnn has pursued a wide range of knowledge and experience across several fields.  JoAnn studied Organizational Management and Youth Psychology while attending Colorado Christian University, she began her journey in the realm of learning as she and her four children journeyed together through 12 years of homeschooling.

Along the way, JoAnn has learned real-life lessons on how young minds truly think and learn, how to celebrate and capitalize on those varied learning styles, and strengthen individual talents and interests.  She celebrates opportunities to see those around her heroically traverse challenges to discover how they can change their corner of the world.  She truly believes that everyday life is a huge, open classroom with endless possibilities.

While on this learning journey JoAnn started Learning Fun 101: LEGO Robotics, an educational company in the Central Texas Area that reaches over 2000 children every year with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.   Learning Fun 101 success was the beginning of her life as an entrepreneur and a key component in the creation of E.S.T.E.A.M Academy. Joann joined the Apollo Academy and E.S.T.E.A.M. Learning Labs Tampa team in 2024.

Get In Touch

We would love to get to know you and your family.
Schedule a call here!

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