Our Team

Board of Directors

Justin Tilghman, Ph.D., Chairman

Justin is a dean at Lenoir Community College and also serves as a professor of theology at the Carolina College of Biblical Studies.  He holds an Educational Specialist degree from Columbia International University and a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership.  He is a member of both the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society as well as a supporter of the Lowrie Center for Christian School Education.  He and his wife Ellen and their son, John William, live in Kinston (Justin’s hometown) and attend Grace Fellowship Church, where they serve as House Church leaders.

Ryan Vernon

Ryan is a native of Kinston and currently serves as the Lead Pastor of 902 Church. He has been married to his “way out of his league” wife Mindy for 17 years. They have 5 children who keep them very busy. He enjoys playing basketball, tennis, and working out. Ryan looks forward to serving Hope Prep and believes the best is yet to come for the city of Kinston.


Angelia Shepherd

Angelia Shepherd lives in Kinston, NC, but is from Deep Run and is a graduate of South Lenoir High School. She continued her education at Lenoir Community College, with a certification in Cosmetology and an Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. She also has a B.A. and an M.A. in Early Childhood Education from Ashford University. She has been the wife of one husband for 23 years. They have 3 children and 4 grandsons. She has been working with children for about 15 years and has been a lead teacher at Greenelamp Head Start for 7 years. Along with her husband, she pastors Sons of Issachar Ministries in Kinston, NC. She loves ministry and the Lord’s church. She also leads a women’s fellowship called Sisters Building Sisters. She has a keen interest in helping to shape the future leaders of tomorrow…our children.


Gram Spear

Gram, a licensed real estate broker, has worked for Perry Management, Inc. since 1991. He attended Appalachian State University and East Carolina University. He is an elder at Grace Fellowship Church and is married with four children and one daughter-in-law. He is Past President of Kinston Chamber of Commerce, Kinston Noon Rotary, and Lenoir Community College Education Foundation. He currently is the Board Chairman of the Kinston/Lenoir County Travel and Tourism Authority.

Tim Smith

Tim is originally from upstate New York and serves as the Associate Pastor at 902 Church. After graduating from Liberty Theological Seminary, he pursued a beautiful woman and his calling to North Carolina where they have served together for almost 15 years. Tim and his wife Lindsey are foster parents and have adopted four children, so their home is always a little crazy! Tim loves the mission of Hope Prep and is excited to be a part of what God is doing at it!

Allen Chambers

Allen is a native of Alabama who appreciates the values that he learned while growing up in a small town there. He and his wife Renee however, raised their now adult children here in North Carolina. Allen’s degrees from Auburn University helped to prepare him for a long career in administration and leadership for a wide variety of business entities. Prior to and since receiving his degree from Southern Evangelical Seminary, Allen has enjoyed pastoral and layman roles involving counseling, discipleship, and teaching. He looks forward to continuing to serve in these areas of ministry as the Lord provides opportunity. Allen and his wife are beyond excited about the vision, mission and possibility that is Hope Prep!

Advisory Board

Jason McKnight

Jason has served as Lead Pastor of Grace Fellowship Church in Kinston since 2003. He also serves as Chair of the Board of South America Mission, and he teaches one course a semester at Christ Covenant School – a classical Christian school in Winterville. He originally hails from Montreal, Canada. He graduated from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston. He and his wife Susan love raising their sons, Andrew and Daniel.

Jimbo Perry

Jimbo is a small town lawyer. He and his wife Joan have raised five sons (and participated in and watched all their extracurricular activities) and given a temporary home to dozens more children and young adults. He volunteers many hours of his week in several other endeavors, such as little by little, The Refuge, and spending time with his 11 grandchildren.

Joan Perry

Originally from Charlotte, Joan received her B.A. in Chemistry in 1979 and M.D. in 1983 from UNC-Chapel Hill. After completing her pediatric residency at UNC, she and her family moved to Kinston, where she and her husband, Jimbo, have raised 5 sons and been intimately involved in the rural eastern NC community. Her professional career has included 35+ years of employment with a private pediatric practice, the Lenoir County Health Department, and adjunct appointments at UNC and Brody Schools of Medicine. Her life in Kinston has revolved around community involvement addressing issues ranging from education to homelessness to prevention of sexual abuse. Perhaps her most rewarding investment has been the privilege of having more than 25 individuals share life with her family in her home for extended periods of time.

Khayyam Shepherd

Pastor Khayyam Shepherd has been a resident of Kinston since 1985. After serving on active duty in the U.S. Navy, he finished out his reserve time, and went on to become a department manager at the Kinston Walmart. In 2004 he was called to preach the gospel, and after completing the required school of ministry, Pastor Shepherd became an associate minister in Mt. Zion Church Ministries in Goldsboro. In 2008 he was ordained into the Eldership of that church, and served there faithfully until 2013. That’s when he transitioned back to Kinston to serve as an Elder at St. Mark Church Ministry until 2017, when he and his wife Angelia founded S.O.I. Ministries in Kinston. Pastor Shepherd has been married 23 years, with 3 children, and 4 grandchildren. He represents the faith-based community on the Lenoir County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council. He also is a member of the Kinston Economic Empowerment Coalition. Pastor Shepherd loves helping people.

Lindsay Corrigan

Lindsay served as secretary on the inaugural Board of Directors for Hope Preparatory School and currently serves on the Advisory Board, aiding in marketing and promotion of the school. In 2004, she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communications, Bible and Theology, and English Literature from Malone University in Canton, Ohio. Lindsay is a classical home educator for her three children and teaches The Essentials of the English Language, an English and grammar course for 9- to 12-year-old homeschool students offered through Classical Conversations of Kinston. Lindsay has been a professional photographer since 2006 and has been featured and published nationally for her work. Lindsay resides in Kinston with her husband, Josiah, and their three children, and they have been active members at Grace Fellowship Church since 2009.


Diane Spear – Head of School

Diane grew up in Houston, Texas, and graduated from Baylor University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science and Slavic Studies. She worked as a legislative assistant and then attended Baylor School of Law. She came to Kinston to work in the Perry Law Office. While there she met and married Kinston native, Gram Spear, with whom she has been blessed to raise 4 children over the past 25 years. Gram and Diane were founding members of Grace Fellowship Church and continue to be active in serving their church and their beloved Kinston to elevate the welfare of this community. Diane developed a passion for Christ-centered classical education and brought Classical Conversations to eastern North Carolina. In addition to homeschooling her own children classically, Diane taught Latin and Bible at Christ Covenant School of Winterville, NC, and loves working with students and parents in Christian community to help children realize their remarkable potential as image-bearers of God.

Lisa Sylvia – Kindergarten Teacher

Originally from Michigan, Lisa and her husband, Jim, moved to Kinston over 23 years ago and have called Kinston their home ever since.  An Occupational Therapist by trade, Lisa worked in Wayne and Lenoir County Public Schools for over three years. She then began homeschooling her three children and was a tutor in the Kinston Classical Conversations group for 9 years. Having a heart for children who are economically disadvantaged, Lisa served for two years as the executive director of The Gate, a faith-based community center serving youth in East Kinston. Lisa’s passion is sharing the gospel and the love of Christ with all ages, and she loves teaching her students.

Angie Jarman – Kindergarten Teacher

Angie is a native of Lenoir County.  She graduated from Meredith College as a North Carolina Teaching Fellow with a K-6 license and B.S. degree in Communication with a concentration in Human Communication.  She taught 6 years at Contentnea Savannah K-8 school while serving as Lenoir County Teacher of the Year for the 2008-2009 school year. Angie then spent time as a homeschool mom, private tutor, and administrative assistant to her Pastor at Bethel Free Will Baptist Church. God then called her back into the classroom where she taught 6 years at Bethel Christian Academy.  Proverbs 16:9 says, “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”  So, as a faithful follower of Christ, she followed God’s lead to teach at Hope for the 2022-2023 school year as a Kindergartener teacher.  She is excited to teach kids not only to read and write but to follow Christ fully! She married Ashley and later was blessed with a son, Ayden. Angie is a lover of all God’s creations but most especially animals.  She has three dogs, two rabbits, two chickens, one duck and one pig.

Megan Duty – First Grade Teacher

Megan grew up in a small town on the coast of Virginia and is a graduate of Liberty University with a Bachelor’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language and a minor in Spanish. She is passionate about advocating for children and about missions, having ministered in Honduras and taught English in Hong Kong and Rwanda. She has served as a valuable camp counselor at The Refuge in Ayden, NC, for three years. When she is not at camp or in the classroom, she enjoys volunteering at church, reading, and walking her dog.

Ashley Whiting – Second Grade Teacher

Ashley grew up in a small town in central New York, and attended Pensacola Christian College, where she graduated with a bachelor’s in Early Childhood Education. She has 12 years of classroom experience in both preschool and lower elementary education. When she’s not teaching, she loves to chill at the beach with a good book, watch a movie, and spend time with her niece and nephew!

Debbie Golden – Third Grade Teacher

Debbie has a Doctorate of Ministry in Christian Counseling and she is a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Counselor. She is a Prayer Team Member at Open Door Church in Winterville and a member of the Christian Motorcycle Association. She is married to Dr. Jerry Golden and they have three grown sons and 9 grandchildren.

Rachel Testerman – Fourth Grade Teacher

Rachel and her husband, Brandon, grew up in southwest Virginia. Throughout her childhood and teenage years, Rachel developed a strong passion to serve the Lord, and she surrendered her life to further the kingdom. Rachel graduated from Liberty University with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education in Interdisciplinary Studies, and is continuing with her master’s in Elementary Education. While in undergrad, she worked as a full-time nanny, where she taught various classical studies. In her free time, Rachel loves being outdoors, playing any kind of “ball”, going fishing with her husband, and traveling. Being new to eastern North Carolina, Rachel is excited about the opportunity to serve the people and children of Kinston.

Gayla Vermillion – Director of Operations

Gayla and her husband, Tom, have 4 adult children and one grandchild. Gayla graduated from UNC-CH (Psychology) and ECU (Family Therapy) and homeschooled their four children through elementary and middle school. She helped start Classical Conversations in Kinston in 2008 and fell in love with the Classical model of education. After that she was a Special Education teacher in Lenoir County middle and high schools for 5 years. Before coming to Hope Prep, she taught 6th grade math and science at Christ Covenant School in Winterville. She and Tom are founding members of Grace Fellowship Church where they have served for 27 years.

Dede Peele – Director of Family Ministry

Dede loves Jesus, children, ECU sports, and serving her community. She lives out “being the hands and feet of Jesus” as she meets physical and spiritual needs wherever she goes. She has served with Classical Conversations in Kinston and Greenville for the past 11 years, and she belongs to Grace Fellowship Church, where she runs a food and clothing ministry. While she has no children of her own, she is “Aunt Dede” to numerous children who love her dearly. She loves hanging out with children, boating, fishing, and watching sports.

Renee Chambers – Director of Student Recruitment

Originally from western New York, Renee Chambers received her Pharmacy degree from Rutgers University. While practicing pharmacy, she went on to obtain a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. She and her husband, Allen, homeschooled their three children utilizing classical education methodology through Classical Conversations in Gastonia, NC. After graduating their students (one who now teaches, two who are in college), Renee felt an increasing call to continue teaching and began substituting in her local school system. She is now excited to serve with the Hope Preparatory team to seek out and welcome new families to Hope.

Johnna Modlin – Director of Development

Johnna grew up in Fuquay-Varina, NC, and graduated from Salem College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology and teaching certificates in Elementary Education and Learning Disabilities.  She obtained a Master’s Degree in Speech-Language Pathology from ECU.  She and her husband Greg are blessed with two wonderful children who attend Christ Covenant School, where she has had the privilege of seeing, first-hand, the benefits of a Classical Christian education.  She has enjoyed teaching and watching children grow and learn as a teacher and as a Speech-Language Pathologist in a variety of educational settings, at Unity Church as a volunteer in the Children’s ministry, and through various volunteer opportunities at Christ Covenant School.

Claire Valliere – Director of Admissions and Marketing

Claire is a native of Kinston and was excited to move back to her hometown with her husband Jacob, in July 2022. She graduated from Liberty University in May 2020 with a degree in Strategic Communications. Claire is passionate about advocating for missions, having served and taught English in Thailand, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and the Dominican Republic. She is also passionate about the mission of Hope Preparatory to share the hope and joy of Christ through classical education and is excited to see what the Lord will do here in Kinston, NC at Hope Preparatory. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her golden retriever Shep and her husband.

Sara Golden – Office Administrator

Sara has served as a preschool teacher for eight years and has been teaching classically for four years.  She has her bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education with concentrations in English and Counseling.  Sara is married and has four children, two of whom were adopted through foster care.  She and her husband are licensed foster parents, and they are very passionate about reaching across socioeconomic lines to reach the under-served in their community of Kinston.  While she is not a Kinston native, she has called Kinston home since 2010 and has worked in Kinston since 2005. Sara also serves as a member of our board.