Faculty & Staff

Our Leaders

Candy Ortega

Founding Director

Candy’s deeply rooted passion for education began as a teacher in a Reggio Emilia-inspired preschool, where she saw first-hand that children are competent, capable, and able to be actively involved in orchestrating their own learning.

In 2008, Candy and her husband, Roberto, founded KLA Schools — a nationwide network of high-quality Reggio Emilia preschools. In 2012, they expanded KLA’s flagship school in Brickell to include elementary programming, and then founded KLA Academy in 2021.

Candy enjoys being in the school each day, working with the leadership team, interacting with families, and watching students become thoughtful, independent learners. She holds a degree in Child Development and Business Administration and has been invited to attend and speak at numerous Reggio Emilia conferences in the US and abroad.

Julie has over 30 years of experience teaching in and leading outstanding early childhood and elementary programs at renowned private and independent schools, and she has a deep understanding of the Reggio Emilia approach. Throughout her career, Julie has been an agent of change — advocating for progressive, child-first policies and programs, that have impacted the lives of myriad students and families.

She brings joy, empathy, knowledge, and a willingness to learn and grow alongside the KLA Academy team. Julie holds a Master’s degree in Education and is a member of many esteemed professional organizations, including the Harvard Principal Center and the North American Reggio Alliance.

Julie Brooks

Head of School

Male Castro

Elementary Pedagogical Coordinator

“I have spent the past 25 years working with children”

Male Castro has spent the past 25 years working with children from ages 1 to 10 and first joined KLA in 2008 as a teacher. She enjoys being part of the elementary school team because it enables her to ensure that children build on the foundation laid in preschool. Male routinely attends Reggio Emilia conferences in the US and in Europe, holds dual Bachelor’s degrees in Special Education and Elementary Education and is a member of the Florida Reggio Emilia Collaborative.

Angie Rodriguez

Elementary Pedagogical Coordinator

“I have been a classroom teacher for 15 years”

Angie Rodriguez joined KLA in 2012 and in addition to her leadership experience, Angie spent 15 years as a classroom teacher. She is very passionate about Reggio Emilia, having attended several conferences and trainings around the world. Her work with KLA Academy’s elementary teachers allows her to bring continuity to the preschool program and gives her hope for the future. Angie has a Bachelor’s degree in Preschool and Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Early Childhood.

Johanna Earl

Preschool Director

“I have served many roles in my long tenure with KLA”

Johanna is one of the founding teachers for KLA, having joined the team when we opened in 2008. Johanna has served many roles in her long tenure with KLA, from preschool teacher, to teaching kindergarten, and working as a Pedagogical Coordinator. Her participation in many Reggio Emilia development initiatives in the US, Latin America and abroad inspire her to keep learning and keep finding new ways to make children’s thinking visible and help them achieve their potential. Johanna holds dual Bachelor’s degrees in Early Childhood Education and Fine Arts in Spanish and Literature. 

Hazel Reyes

Preschool Pedagogical Coordinator

“I have a wealth of experience in working with children”

Hazel Reyes joined KLA in 2008. Her passion for early childhood education and her belief in the power of children is what drives her to come to work each day. Hazel has extensive experience in the Reggio Emilia approach and has been invited to attend several trainings and conferences in the US and in Italy.

Daniela Ospina

Preschool Assistant Director

“I cherish my role at KLA Academy”

Daniela’s wonderful smile and joyful attitude have been the first thing many of our preschool families see when they walk in each day since 2015. She has more than a decade of experience in working with preschool children and families and cherishes her role at KLA Academy. Daniela loves seeing our families each day and having the opportunity to build relationships with everyone in our school community.

Flavia Nelson

Associate Director of Enrollment Management

“I am an accomplished brand marketing communications leader”

Our Admissions Director Flavia Nelson joined KLA Academy in 2020. Prior to that, Flavia was serving as President of the Parent Association of KLA (the ‘PAK’). Flavia joined the KLA Family in 2014, when her three children enrolled at KLA. Flavia is an accomplished brand marketing communications leader with over 10 years of marketing and advertising experience and a unique ability to cultivate highly collaborative relationships across multi-functional teams. Flavia is fluent in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Brittany Nieves

Director of Enrollment Management

“I have a passion for creating and fostering community”

Brittany has over a decade of independent school admissions experience. Before joining KLA Academy she most recently opened a PK-12 private school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Prior to her experience in New York, Brittany worked in Advancement doing both Admissions and Development for a progressive school in San Francisco. She has a passion for creating and fostering community within growing schools and is excited to join the KLA Academy team and be a part of this next chapter!

Veronica Alter

Director of KLA Plus

“I want to inspire students to connect with one another”

Veronica’s goal is to create an afterschool and summer program that would complement the academic curriculum and augment the students’ educational experience. She wants to spark students’ enthusiasm, persistence, and curiosity as well as create connections and a strong KLA community. Veronica has been a teacher for the last 14 years. She has enjoyed working with children of all different ages and levels, from preschool to elementary. She has a Master’s in Education from the State University of New York.

Our Teachers

Among KLA Academy’s faculty are teachers with backgrounds in not only early childhood and K+ education, but with additional credentials in visual and performing arts, health and fitness, mental health, speech and language pathology and many more fields and disciplines. This well-rounded approach enables us to provide an inimitable educational experience, tailored to the learning process of each child in our care.