Instructor Bio's

Clinton McCracken

Magnet Coordinator, Art Instructor

Clinton McCracken is the Magnet Coordinator at Howard Academy of Arts. He received a BFA in Studio Art from Truman State University, a MA in Art Education from the University of Central Florida and completed “Views on Understanding” at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Clinton is a National Board Certified Teacher in Art and a former Teacher of the Year. He is an active member of numerous educational groups such as FEA, NAEA, NAAE, OCCTA and ASN and has served on state and national committees with these organizations including chairing the Human and Civil Rights Committee. Clinton has presented at state and national education conferences, was a contributor to the Southeastern College Art Conference policy for Visual Arts Education, and authored the White Paper for creating Howard's Arts Magnet Program. Clinton's own art interests encompass both sculpture and textiles. He has exhibited work in Chicago and Orlando and was a guest artist at the American School of Den Haag, The Netherlands. In his spare time Clinton enjoys watercolor painting, spinning yarn on a drop spindle, quilting, and traveling with his husband, Mike.

Bachelor of Fine Arts: Studio Art, Truman State University (May, 1996)
Master of Arts, University of Central Florida (December, 2003)
National Board Certified Teacher-Early Adolescence and Young Adulthood
Florida Professional Educator’s Certificate
· Art (K-12)
· Middle Grades Integrated Curriculum (5-9)
407-245-1780 ext. 5092305


Lee Ramsey

Academy Assistant/Mentor Coordinator

Lee Ramsey joined Howard Middle School in August 2011 as the Mentoring Coordinator and Assistant to the Howard Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts. An Alabama native, she holds a B.S. Degree in Consumer Economics from Auburn University. Upon graduation in 1985, Lee worked in the Mortgage Banking Industry until relocating with her husband, Paul Ramsey, to Orlando in 1991. After beginning a family in 1993, Lee became involved with an early childhood education program where she was the Assistant Director until her oldest son began kindergarten in 1999. Lee then became very involved in her children’s public school education by volunteering in the classroom and holding the office of PTA President for two years at Dover Shores Elementary and for one year at Howard Middle school. Lee enjoyed working with the students and staff so much that she became a Substitute Teacher in 2006 which was her occupation until she joined Howard Middle School in the fall of this year. She is very excited to be a part of the outstanding magnet program at Howard Middle. Lee and Paul have two sons, 18 and 14 years of age, both of whom attended Howard Middle School.


Bachelor of Science: Consumer Economics, Auburn University (December, 1985)

407-245-1780 ext. 5092303


Candice Caya

Dance, Acting, and Musical Theatre Instructor

Candice joined Howard Middle School in August of 2011 as the instructor for Dance, Digital Videography and Musical Theatre. She is a 2008 graduate of Ashland University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Electronic Media Production with studies in Theatre and Spanish. A former Ohio resident, Candice has worked for WMFD in Mansfield, Ohio and as a student producer for her college radio and television station. She was an Irene Ryan Nominee for her work in theatre and a member of the Alpha Psi Omega Theatre Honorary. She moved to Orlando shortly after graduation to follow her dreams of working for Walt Disney World Entertainment, where she continues to work on a seasonal basis. Before joining Howard, Candice served on staff at the Orlando Repertory Theatre as the Costume Rentals Assistant, where she had the opportunity to work with many local theatres, schools and production companies. Candice serves as a member of the drama team at Harvest Bible Chapel in Windermere, where she currently resides.

Bachelor of Arts: Electronic Media Production, Ashland University (2008)

Florida Educator’s Certification: Drama (K-12)

407-245-1780 ext 5092281

Aaron W. Penfield

Choral Director and Musical Theatre Director

Aaron has been at Howard Middle School since 2007, and he is the Director of Choral Activities and the Musical Theatre Director. He is the conductor of four choirs, including the Ranger Chorus, and his students are regularly selected to All-County and All-State Honor Choirs. In addition, Aaron also organizes and directs two major musicals each year at HMS, which are performed for thousands of elementary-aged students. He also teaches Music Theory & Composition utilizing our state-of-the-art Digital Media Lab. Aaron holds a Bachelors Degree in Choral Music Education from Florida State University, an Orff-Schulwerk Level One Certification, and a Music K-12 Certification from the Florida Department of Education. An active vocalist and performer, Aaron has performed extensively with many choirs, and has performed under the direction of great composers and conductors, such as John Rutter, Krzysztof Penderecki, André Thomas, and Bobby McFerrin, and he has also performed with the London Symphony Orchestra. Aaron is a member of multiple professional choral ensembles, including the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. He is also the Music Director at College Park Presbyterian Church in Orlando, Florida. Aaron is an active member of Florida Music Educators’ Association, Florida Vocal Association, and American Choral Directors’ Association. He lives in the Orlando area with his wife, Megan.

Bachelor of Music Education: Choral Music Education, Florida State University (May 2007) Orff-Schulwerk Level 1 Certification (July 2006)
Florida Professional Educator’s Certificate: Music (K-12)

407-245-1780 ext. 5092274

Melissa King

Music Theory Instructor

Melissa is an Orlando native and graduated from the Orange County Public School system. She joined the staff at Howard Middle School in 2005 and has since developed the Music Theory and Composition and Guitar programs, as well as expanded the band program. Melissa is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a Bachelors degree in Music Education. Not only is Melissa a dedicated music educator, she also performs regularly with the Southern Winds and Orlando Concert Band, in addition to other freelance venues. Her students have gone on to study music in high school and college and have been represented in All-State, All-County, Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra, Florida Young Artists Orchestra, and the Interlochen Center for the Arts.

Bachelor of Arts: Music Education, University of Central Florida (December, 2004)

Florida Professional Educator’s Certificate: Music (K-12)

407-245-1780 ext. 5092228

Valerie King

Digital Photography & Video Instructor/Yearbook & Newspaper Instructor

Valerie has taught at Howard since 2005. Valerie has taught Intensive Reading from 2005-2012 and was also the Reading Coach at HMS from 2009-2012. She re-started the Yearbook program at Howard in 2006 and has won various awards for the HMS Yearbook for the last 3 years in a row. She also started Howard’s online newspaper with the help of Page 15, The Howard Hype ( in 2008. She has maintained a working relationship with Page 15 (, which is a non-profit organization that manages our website, provides free workshops for her classes, provides volunteers from local businesses (including news stations) to come volunteer their time with her Journalism student’s. This organization also provides off-site after school tutoring for all Howard students.

Valerie’s own Art interests are deep-rooted in Orlando. She has been a photographer/editor for yearbooks in her youth (Seminole County), and she has been a FL licensed cosmetologist since the year 2000, and continues to do hair for fun and creative expression. She has designed brochures for local businesses, invitations for events, and she even re-wrote the web-CT online manual for UCF in 2004. She plans on working towards her own Masters in 2013-2014 in Education Media Design and Technology at Full Sail University.

Bachelor of English: Technical Writing, University of Central Florida (December, 2004)

OCPS Reading Endorsed (2006)

Florida Professional Educator’s Certificate

* Middle Grades Integrated Curriculum (5-9)

407-245-1780 ext. 509230

Damon Wille

Band Instructor

Damon Wille joined Howard Middle School in February 2012. Hailing from Detroit, but raised in Florida, he holds a Bachelor of Music Education with a Minor in French from Stetson University. He studied saxophone with Daniel Jordan and James Bishop. While studying abroad in France, Damon was able to take lessons with Joël Versavaud at the Conservatoire de Marseille. He is a member of the National Bandmasters Association, Florida Music Educators Association, Florida Bandmasters Association and the National Association for Music Education. He has performed locally with the Faith in Jazz Big Band, Maynard Ferguson Tribute Band, Central Florida Community Arts and Southern Winds.
407-245-1780 extension 5092329

Rachel Buckley

Art Instructor

Rachel Buckley will be teaching beginning art and computer animation. She is a graduate of Florida State University (GO NOLES!). She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Art Education in 2001. She grew up in Orlando and attended Orange County Public Schools. She has been teaching art at the middle school level for 11 years. Her art interests and areas of proficiency include painting (acrylic and watercolor), drawing very detailed designs in pen and ink, sewing and fiber arts, painting furniture, graphic arts, clay sculpture, jewelry fabrication and design. Rachel is an active member of the Florida Art Education Association and the National Art Education Association. She was a recipient of the Kessler, Grand Bohemian Excellence in the Arts Award and scholarship in 2006. She also published and edited an award winning art and literature magazine, Voice, in partnership with Howard Middle School in 2004. Most importantly, her passion is teaching students how to express themselves through art.

Bachelor of Science: Art Education, Florida State University (May, 2001)
Florida Professional Educator’s Certificate
• Art (K-12)
407-245-1780 ext. 5091780