Durham Staff

Amber Huston
K4 – Durham

Amber holds a Masters in Library Science from the University of South Carolina and a BS in Education from Anderson University.  She taught and tutored children of many different grade levels in the public school setting before becoming a children’s librarian.  Amber and her husband Kevin have two children of their own and are foster parents through Durham County.  They are an active family that spends most of their time on the baseball field coaching and cheering for their kids’ travel teams, hiking in local parks, traveling to visit family, and exploring new places.  After working at Durham County Library for ten years, Amber left her job in 2020 in order to spend more time with her family and homeschool her kids. When Eli was offered a seat at HLA, it was an answer to prayer.  She is so grateful to be a part of this wonderful community that teaches our children not just a love for learning but also a love for Christ.  During Eli’s first year at HLA, Amber worked at the school as a teaching assistant for 6th grade and subbed in many different classrooms throughout the year.  She is excited about teaching pre-K and can’t wait to share her love of reading and exploration with her students!

Hope Hucks
Kindergarten – Durham
Hope is a native of NC but has lived in multiple states and countries. She and her husband, George, have enjoyed traveling overseas on various missions trips. Hope graduated from Southern Wesleyan University with degrees in Elementary Education and Bible. She began her teaching career in the public school setting, then chose to stay home with her kids. After homeschooling grades kindergarten through sixth grade, God opened the door for her children, Emily, Elijah & Ryland, to attend HLA. During their first year at HLA, Hope substituted in almost every grade level and fell in love with HLA’s staff and families. She feels so blessed to be a part of the team as HLA-Durham’s kindergarten teacher, and to have the opportunity to partner with parents as they teach their little ones about how God created them, loves them, and is always with them.
Jacky Hutton
First Grade- Durham

Jacky and her husband Andy have three wonderful children: Harrison, Harmony, and Lincoln, who all attend Heritage Leadership Academy. She graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and worked as a nurse educator and registered nurse in oncology and hospice care. It was as a nurse educator that Jacky first fell in love with teaching others. Called to non-vocational ministry, Jacky and Andy invested a year on mission in California for training in evangelism and discipleship. At the conclusion of the program, Andy’s job relocated them to Sacramento, CA and then to Durham, NC, where they have lived for the past five years. Before joining Heritage, Jacky homeschooled her children from Kindergarten through 4th grade and tutored in a Classical Conversations community. Most recently, Jacky served as the Girls Ministries Coordinator for her church with a focus on curriculum development and mentor-based leadership. Jacky’s own love of learning is contagious, and she takes great joy in seeing what God is doing in and through each child. She feels it is a blessing and an honor to be part of the 1st grade teaching team at Heritage.

Beth Trygar
Second Grade – Durham

Beth holds a BS in Education from Covenant College and has taught and tutored at various grade levels in Christian and public elementary and middle schools.  Originally from Wilmington, DE, she has lived in several states in the Southeast.  Before moving to Chapel Hill, Beth served as Children’s Ministry Director and oversaw a Christian camp where her family lived for 13 years in the Nature Coast of Florida.  Beth and her husband Eddie have two zany children, Tad and Jefferson, who attend HLA.  They are members of Waypoint Church and can often be found there.  Hiking in state parks, baking, listening to podcasts and reading are activities she enjoys.  Beth is honored to teach second grade.  She is curious, and delights in sharing her love and awe of the Creator with her students. Beth sees each as an image bearer of Jesus and finds joy in partnering with parents to teach them about their world while pointing them to their Savior.

Michelle Zhu
Third Grade – Durham

Michelle Zhu grew up in a small town in northeast Oklahoma. She was introduced to the Gospel as a preteen as she attended Awanas at the local First Baptist Church. For several years she struggled with the truth of a loving God who would send his son to redeem her from sin. Through the love of the church members investing in her life and the drawing of the Holy Spirit she placed her faith in Christ at the age of 13 as the Way, the Truth and the Life. She grew up and was discipled by her church family into a leader in her youth group and learned to truly love to study the Bible and apply it to every area of life. Receiving scholarships to Northeastern State University, she got her bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education with the intent of becoming a teacher overseas as a platform for sharing the Gospel among people groups with little access to the Good News. After graduating in December of 2014 with her degree she worked for 5 months as a full-time substitute in her local school system. In July of 2015, her church family sent her out as a mid-term missionary with the International Mission Board to live in Central Asia where she helped homeschool 7 missionary kids on her team and served alongside career missionaries in her city until July of 2017. In August of 2017 she moved to Wake Forest to attend Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary to get her masters degree in Christian Marriage, Family and Individual Counseling with the intention of returning overseas with the IMB as a member care counselor. After graduating in December of 2020, she worked for 6 months in a preschool, working as a teacher for a two year old classroom before joining the HLA 3rd grade team. Michelle met her husband, Michael, while attending a small group in their church and got married in 2019. They live together in Wake Forest where they attend Richland Creek Community Church. They both have a deep passion and love for serving children to grow up to know Christ as Lord.

Caitlin Taylor
Fourth Grade – Durham

Caitlin graduated from Averett University with a BS in Elementary Education and minors in English and History. Following graduation, she taught in an elementary public school for three years and served in various children outreach ministries. She spent her summers participating in mission trips where she shared the Gospel and taught English in other countries. During this time, she earned her MA in Intercultural Studies from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2019, she married Daniel, and they moved south of Raleigh where she was a Children’s and Families Ministry Coordinator at Coats Baptist Church for two years. Over the past year, Daniel and Caitlin have welcomed their first son, and moved to Wake Forest to further pursue education at Southeastern Seminary. She is excited to return to the classroom and cannot wait to meet all the HLA families! 


Emma Kate Acuna
Fifth Grade – Durham
Emma Kate Acuna is excited to be joining the HLA staff as the 5th grade teacher at the Durham Campus! This is her first year teaching! Emma Kate and her husband, Caleb, just moved to North Carolina in July 2019 from Wichita Falls, TX. They moved here to begin Master’s degrees at Southeastern Seminary. They both hope that God sends them to live overseas as Career Missionaries, one day. Caleb and Emma Kate began to deeply understand God’s heart for the nations while they were in college. Emma Kate was able to spend 2 Christmases in East Asia. While serving university students, God planted in her heart a desire to teach English in a country that is closed to the gospel.
Before moving to NC, Caleb and Emma Kate were Campus Missionary Interns with the Baptist Student Ministry at Midwestern State University. They spent their time reaching college students, training them how to share the gospel with words, and mobilizing them to reach the world. Emma Kate graduated from Midwestern State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. They are glad to to be in this area and apart of the HLA family!
Heidi Reid
Sixth Grade – Durham

Heidi comes to HLA from the beautiful Great Lake State of Michigan where she was born and raised on a small dairy farm.  After graduating from Great Lakes Christian College (1992) with a BRE majoring in religion and minors in counseling, business, and education she went onto get her MEd in K-8 education with specialties in middle grades Math & Science at Milligan College in Johnson City Tennessee (1994).  After marrying her husband Jonathan in Michigan (1995), they quickly moved south where the weather is warmer and the sun shines more often. They moved to Raleigh two years ago from Marietta, Georgia with their three teenage children, the oldest of which has already headed off to Liberty University, opening a whole new chapter of family life. The youngest (Jorja) started as a 9th grader this year at HLA.

Heidi brings over 25 years of teaching experience to HLA, having taught at both middle and high schools for public, private, and Christian schools, homeschool and homeschool hybrids.  One of her greatest joys is watching children learn that their Creator reveals Himself to us through Math and Science and to give students confidence in applying knowledge gained in the world around them.

Selina Murrell
Middle School Geography & Missions Coordinator – Durham
Selina’s personal motto: Every day is an adventure! Modeling this reality of new life in Christ is her mission at Heritage Leadership Academy. As part of HLA’s Middle School Team, Selina teaches Geography using a biblical perspective, focusing on how the gospel of Jesus Christ reveals God’s love for the nations and His plan for salvation (Acts 17:26). As Missions Coordinator, Selina will organize opportunities for HLA to serve as ambassadors for Christ on campus and throughout the community (Acts 1:8).

Selina is married to Steve, calling Durham home for the past fifteen years. Murrell family adventures have included: homeschooling Machaela (15) and Steve (11), launching Steve from homeschool to middle school (2018), connecting with neighbors through prayer walks and community dinners, and serving the city as community-minded, active members of their church in Durham. A city planner by training, Selina graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in City and Regional Planning (2001) and a heart for building up and blessing people – all who have been created in the image of God to know, love and serve Christ. (Eph. 2:10)

Debbie Rook
Eastern Hemisphere 7th Grade –  Durham
Debbie is a native of Durham and loves teaching children of all ages.  She organized the first Classical Conversations group in Durham and spent 7 years tutoring middle school students in Challenge A.  This is all while homeschooling her daughter, Summer (17) raising her son, Cameron (4) and keeping her grandchildren (3 & 6).  The previous ten years of her educational experience was spent teaching music at Bethesda Christian Academy in Durham as well as 1 year of Kindergarten.  Before that, she enjoyed teaching in the Chapel-Hill Carrboro Public Schools (music) as well as Durham Public Schools (music/5th grade).  On a side note, she also taught private piano lessons for 15 years, as well as a few summers of specialized camps, including music, writing, geography and Latin.  She obtained her Batchelors of Music Education from Mars Hill University and is currently working on her Masters of Special Education from Regent University.

She is certified in NILD Therapy, Level 1 and loves working with individual students to train their brain to strategize and overcome learning barriers.  Debbie has also led the children’s worship time at First Baptist Durham and a mother/daughter Bible study for the past 6 years.  When she has a free day, you will find her catching up on cleaning the house and playing board games with her kids.

Sunny Yang
MS/HS Elective teacher + Student Support Specialist –  Durham

 Sunny Yang believes God’s heartbeat is family. She joined HLA because she is passionate about serving homeschooling families, raising up Kingdom warriors one day at a time! Graduated from Liberty University, Sunny majored in Special Education, Elementary Education, and history. She enjoys living simply with Jesus, soaking up His creation daily.

Nate Claggett
Leadership + Logic  –  Durham
God saved me at a very young age, and I am SO thankful for that! In my middle school and early high school years I began to take my parents’ faith more seriously as my own. Among others, God used my school teachers to help me discover that God made me for ministry, serving his church. After finishing Bible College in 2009 I went on to serve in different local church ministry jobs in New Hampshire and then Virginia where I also taught Worldview & Apologetics, and Hermeneutics & Evangelism at a University Model High School similar to HLA. In 2017, my family and I relocated to North Carolina so I could focus on my M.Div. at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, which I completed in 2021. Now, I am working with a team to plant a new church in Raleigh.
Knowing how crucial and exciting these years are for both parents and students alike, I am excited to be a part of the HLA community. I fully expect to see awesome things as we grow and learn together!
I currently live in Wake Forest with my MUCH better half, Laura, and our two crazy, little girls (both of whom attend HLA). If I can find any leisure time, I enjoy the outdoors, ultimate frisbee, baseball, my dog, music, YouTube, grilling, coffee and reading.
Amanda Parker
MS Math/Science + Spanish  Durham

Amanda grew up in Georgia, but seminary brought her to North Carolina. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in international business with minors in Spanish and global studies, Amanda served as a Journeyman in Ethiopia. She is so thankful to have had this opportunity, as it gave her a better understanding of what it is like to live out her faith in a new cultural context. Furthermore, she found it so beautiful to see what God was already doing around the world, drawing people of all backgrounds to Himself! 

After returning from Ethiopia, Amanda quickly began her Biblical counseling degree at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). She hoped to be equipped to proclaim God’s goodness and healing amidst the difficulties and evils that come with living in a fallen world. After graduating, she was en route to Central Asia when she met her wonderful husband, Judd! The two married in January of 2021 and are enjoying the gift of a Christ-centered family. 

Throughout Amanda’s experiences in college, Ethiopia, and seminary, she discovered a love for teaching. Whether it be tutoring Statistics to undergraduate students, teaching Spanish at an international school in Addis Ababa, or helping high school students prepare for all subjects covered by the ACT/SAT at Huntington Learning Center, she recognizes the value of a good education. She is thankful that God has opened the door for her to teach at HLA, as she hopes to share her passion for the Gospel with her students while helping them better understand pre-algebra, life science, and Spanish.

Anya Butcher
Latin – Durham
Anya is wife to Jonathan and mother to Josiah, Lydia, and Micah. They have lived in Raleigh since 2011 and are members of the Summit Church, where they have served in the children’s ministry, small group leadership, and other volunteering. Besides Spanish language and culture, she has studied Latin, German, and sign language, and she always loves learning about other cultures and times. In her spare time she enjoys baking, quilting, and playing the piano.

Anya graduated from Asbury University in Kentucky with a degree in social work and a minor in Spanish. After moving to Raleigh, she taught high school Spanish at North Raleigh Christian Academy from 2011-2014, taking one year of maternity leave to substitute in the elementary, middle, and high school. She transitioned to staying home when her second child was on the way and have spent the last three years caring for our family as well as babysitting for several other families in her home.

Katye Wood
Music – Durham
Growing up in a musical family Katye was able to take both piano and violin lessons as well as performing with several choirs and in many musicals. It helped develop a deep love of learning music and being a part of group performances. She was able to continue that learning at Taylor University, in Upland Indiana, where she studied Music Education and Communications Studies.

After Taylor, Katye interned in youth ministry at a church, worked as house staff in a therapeutic boarding school, and taught preschool for ten years, as well as teaching private piano, voice, and violin lessons for the last 20 years and various week long music camps. She is so excited to go back to her first love of teaching music in the classroom where she is passionate about helping students learn about themselves and their world through the lens of music and giving them the tools to be life long music makers and music enjoyers!

Jay Helms
P.E. – Durham
Jay is a local product, having grown up in Cary. From an early age, he had a sense that some of his best gifts lie in teaching. After getting a Civil Engineering degree in college, he earned a Master of Divinity degree from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, KY. He then served as a pastor in the eastern half of North Carolina in the United Methodist Church for 15 years. Most recently, he was worked with Networks Basketball and the YMCA of the Triangle to coaching teach over 1,200 young athletes of all ages and skill-levels.

Some of the books that have informed Jay’s life journey over the last half-decade are “Love Does” by Bob Goff, “Mindset” by Dr. Carol Dweck, “Beautiful Outlaw” by John Eldredge and “The Underground Railroad” by William Still. Additionally, he enjoys road trips and videography. When you see him, ask him about the time he flew his drone over Beverly Hills.
His favorite Bible verse is 2 Corinthians 8:9, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

Jay met his wife Carla in college. Together they have four children, Anna (15), David (13), James (11), and Roger (1).

Kim Elliott
Art – Durham

Kim Elliott was born in raised in Los Angeles, California. She graduated from California Lutheran University with a Bachelor ‘s Degree in Fine Art. A couple years after graduating college, she met the love of her life, Josh on a missions trip to Guatemala through their church. They have four amazing children: Hannah, Abby, Ben, and Sam. The Lord opened the door for her to teach 1st – 12th grade art at her children’s classical Christian school in Southern California. Then the Lord paved the way for Kim and her family to leave Los Angeles and move to North Carolina. This year, she will be serving at all the HLA campuses (Hope, Summit Apex and Durham) as the art teacher for first through eighth grade students. She couldn’t be more thrilled!