Durham Staff

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.

Debbie Rook
Third 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.

Katie Talbo
Fourth Grade – Durham
Katie and her husband Logan have four beautiful daughters and have lived in North Carolina for the past seven years since moving here from Florida.  Their family are members and serve in various roles at Redeemer Community Church in Fuquay-Varina. Katie is a graduate of Johnson University and holds a degree in Bible and Christian Leadership with an emphasis in Early Childhood Development.  Since graduating college, Katie has been blessed to serve in roles from a full time mom, children’s church directory, homeschool co-op instructor and now most recently teaching here at HLA.

Katie fully believes that our only hope is found in Jesus.  Being able to take that love for the Lord and mix it with her love of teaching seemed like the perfect fit for Katie.  She strives to teach her own children, and now her students at HLA, that when we use the gifts and abilities given to us by our perfect and purposeful God, we will become successful in the deepest sense.

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!
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)

Nate Claggett
Middle School Leadership – Durham
God saved Nate at a very young age through the influence of his godly parents and the ministry of many faithful church members who invested in his life in Sunday school and AWANA and other ministries. In his middle school and early high school years Nate began to seriously take his parents’ faith as his own, sensing that God had called and gifted him to serve the church in vocational ministry. After completing his undergraduate degree in Bible with an emphasis in youth and family ministry in 2009 he went on to serve in various local church ministry roles in New Hampshire and Virginia. He also taught Worldview & Apologetics, and Hermeneutics & Evangelism at a University Model High School in Virginia very similar to HLA’s model. In 2017 he and his family relocated to North Carolina in order to focus on completing a Master of Divinity degree at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Nate’s passion is connecting God’s people with God’s Word, helping them happily apply God’s plan to their lives for His glory. Knowing how crucial and exciting these middle & high school years are for both parents and students alike, he is excited to join the HLA community in this small role, expecting to see awesome things as we grow and learn together!

Nate lives in Wake Forest with his MUCH better half, Laura, and their two crazy girls (one of whom attends HLA). They are members of Imago Dei Church, Raleigh. If he can find any leisure time, he enjoys the outdoors, ultimate frisbee, baseball, dogs, music, grilling, coffee and reading.
Cheryl Klassa
Middle School Math & Science – Durham

Cheryl is married to John and is mother to three adult children. She was raised as a military child, moving to Germany and back to the States again. Somewhere along the way she fell in love with science and earned a Bachelor’s in Chemistry from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Her first post-college job was in Research Triangle Park doing research based on the Clean Air Act. She chose to stay home when her children were born. They were attending a local private school when Cheryl felt called to homeschool. She spent thirteen years homeschooling her children through high school graduation. During that time, she also volunteered at her church teaching Sunday school and chaperoning youth trips.

This is Cheryl’s first year teaching at HLA and she looks forward to the adventure it will be. She is part of the middle school team teaching science and math.

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!

Laura Mann
Spanish Teacher – Durham
Laura graduated from Furman University with a BA in Spanish, and a minor in Secondary Education.  She also has a MA in Intercultural Studies from The College at Southeastern in Wake Forest.  Laura and her husband met in Mexico City, where she was the Director of the Baptist Campus Ministry at UNAM.

Laura, her husband, and two boys have lived in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Indonesia, and have traveled extensively around the world.   They speak in Spanish at home. Laura has previously taught Spanish at the high school level in a public school setting, English as a Second Language to students of all ages, homeschooled her two boys, and currently substitutes at all grade levels in the Wake County Public schools.  She loves to study languages and cultures, and strives to teach her students to do the same. Laura and her family are active members of the Summit Church.

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. Twenty one years later, they have four amazing children: Hannah (18 years old), Abby (16 years old), Ben (14 years old) and Sam (11 years old.) About a decade ago, the Lord opened the door for her to teach 1st – 12th grade art at her children’s classical Christian school in Southern California. Six years ago, 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 ninth grade students. This will be her fifth year teaching art (and she could not be more thrilled!)