Melissa Callaway Moody, Director, Pre-k Teacher
Melissa grew up in Orange Beach as a member of one of the founding families of Orange
Beach. She is a Foley High School graduate and a graduate of the University of Montevallo.
As owner and Director of Discovery Island, "Ms. Lissa" as the children call her, has taken over
520 hours training in Early Childhood Education and Pre-School Management. She has been
married 32 years to her husband and co-owner Eddie R. Moody. They have 2 children,
William, who is 27, is a Troy University graduate and currently lives in Los Angeles. They also
have a daughter, Tessa, who is 22 is a graduate of Lander University in South Carolina. Both
children attended Discovery Island in its beginning years. Melissa was an officer for 6 years
in her church, St. Jude's Lutheran Church in Gulf Shores, where she has been a member
since returning from Atlanta. She is a member of the Children's Policy Council of Baldwin
County. In December of 2008 Ms. Melissa became the first Director in Baldwin County
certified by the State of Alabama in the state's newly mandated Alabama Early Learning
Copyright Discovery Island, Inc. 2017. All rights reserved.
Very specific minimum credentials are required of all of the staff employed by Discovery Island Child
Development Center. As you read about each individual Team Member please keep in mind that all of the
teachers have met these common standards.
All DI teachers have:
Katherine Hall, Assistant to the Director
Kate was born and raised in Louisiana. She graduated from Louisiana State University with
a BA in psychology. She enjoys working with young children and helping them learn
academically, socially, and emotionally. She firmly believes that years from now, a child may
not remember what you told them but they will always remember how you made them feel.
She has a 13 year old son, Cody, who graduated from Discovery Island and now attends Gulf
Shores Middle. She also has a 6 year old who currently attends GSES. She relocated to Gulf
Shores to enjoy “life at the beach” with her children. She is an avid LSU Tiger fan and a long
suffering Saints fan. Her favorite time of the year is football season! She attends church
locally with her children.
A-kina Carter, Substitute Teacher
Ms. Akina, is now in her third year here teaching, and came to Discovery Island with 5
years experience working with children of all ages. She previously had dual employment
with the Baldwin County School System as a substitute teacher since 2008. She also
worked as the Pre-K Teacher's Assistant at Kids Plus in Foley. Ms. A-kina worked for DI full
time for four years as a three year old teacher. She as recently taken a full time position
with the Baldwin County school system and continues to substitute teach at Discovery
Island during school holidays. Working with children is her passion and she is working
towards a teacher degree part time. She also enjoys singing, dancing, traveling and
attending her church.
Esther Owen, 3 Year Old Teacher and Assistant to the Director
Ms. Esther has been with Discovery Island for 12 years. During this time she has been both a
part time substitute and a full time lead teacher depending on her preference at the time and
the needs of her family of three children. Both her 12 year old daughter and 9 year old son are
graduates of our Pre-K program. Her 3 year old currently attends and is in Ms. Missy's class.
Esther has been a lead teacher in the infant room, the young 2 year old room, and previously
with the 3 year olds. She is also a trusted key holder to the center who Ms. Melissa relies on to
do any and all of the daily management requirements of the Center when Ms. Kate is out for the
day. Ms. Esther has taken over 120 hours of training while working at Discovery Island helping
her excel as a preschool teacher. She is returning to college to complete her degree in Early
Childhood Special Education. Esther attends Romar Beach Baptist church, where her
husband of 13 years, Ryan, is a deacon. We are happy to have her back full time!
Jennifer Strickland, 2 1/2 and Young 3 year old Teacher
Jennifer, who is in her fifth year at Discovery Island, is originally from Thomasville, Al. She
graduated high school from Catherinie Academy. At the University of West Alabama in
Livingston (UWA) she graduate with a BS in Elementary Education. She has spent time
substitute teaching in the Baldwin County School System, specifically at Gulf Shores
Elementary. She currently lives in Gulf Shores and has lived here for about ten years. She
is a member of lagoon Baptist Church. She has 1 son, Bryce who graduated from
Discovery Island and now attends Gulf Shores Elementary.
First Aid Certification
Infant and Child CPR Certification
Quality Child Care & Licensing Training
Proof of Citizenship
Child Development Training
Positive Discipline and Guidance Training
Child Care Professionalism Training
TB test and physical exam
State of Alabama Abuse/Neglect Clearance
Health and Safety Training
Language Development Training
Family Interaction & Inclusion Training
Additional yearly training and timely renewal of all certifications as needed
Ashley Freitas, 1 Year Old Teacher
Ms. Ashley was born and raised in California. Upon entering the Navy she was sent to the
Gulf Coast and stationed at Pensacola Naval Base. She fell in love with the area so she and
her boyfriend, Ryan, chose to stay here after she left the service. Ashley has always wanted
to find a career in Early Childhood Education and Child Development. She wants to learn
here at Discovery Island and then pursue a degree in the field. She is enjoying the children
and working at Discovery Island. And, we thank her for her service!
Karen Bush Wood, Infant Teacher
Ms. Karen is in her fifth year at Discovery Island spending most of that time as the infant
teacher. Interested in trying a new age group in 2015 she chose to teach one of our classes of
three year olds. Interestingly enough, some of her new students will actually be children she
had while being the infant teacher! Now she is back to being our infant teacher! She grew up in
Grove Hill AL. After high school she attended and graduated from Hobson State Technical
College. Past work experience includes 20 years as a managing cosmetologist and owning
her own catering business and restaurant. Prior to joining the D.I. team she was the toddler
teacher for Clarke Prep Daycare and Preschool in Grove Hill. She was employed there for 4
years and found she loves working with young children. She has two children of her own,
Victor who is 29 and Hannah who graduated Gulf Shores High School in 2016. Karen and her
daughter attend church at Oyster Bay Baptist. She loves to cook, sew, and doing all types of
crafts including children's clothing and accessories.
Jenny Johnston, Young 2 Year Old Teacher
Ms. Jenny spent 18 years working for the Baldwin County School System at several schools
including the Magnolia School, the Summerdale School, and Fairhope Elementary. She
started as a Computer Lab Instructor and then changed to being a Special Services
Paraprofessional working with Special Needs children. Years ago she was Director at a
state licensed Center in Foley where she oversaw the operations for 100 children. Jenny
has been married for 14 years. They have 2 adult children and two grandchildren, Evian, 8
and Liam, 3 who are their greatest blessing. Jenny and her husband live in Foley with their
2 dog - children. They love spending time with family and outdoors and they are Alabama
Crimson Tide enthusiasts. Ms. Jenny says she is happy to now be at DI and working with
such devoted and caring teachers.
Rebecca Henley, Substitute Teacher
Ms. Becca, orginally from Prairie du Chien, WI, has worked in the field of Child Care for 8
years. She was our one year teacher until the birth of her first child, Benjamin. At that time
she took an extended maternity leave. She chose to come back in a substitute position
allowing her more time at home with her own infant. She is in her second year as part of
the Discovery Island team. She loves dogs and has four. She is married to her husband,
Justin since 2012 and enjoys going to the beach and hiking.
Melissa "Missy" George, 3 Year Old Teacher
Mrs. Missy began working at Discovery Island in November of 2016. She and her family
moved to Orange Beach during the Summer of 2016 from Hoover, AL. She graduated from
Erwin High School in Birmingham, AL in 1992. She and her husband have been married for
over 18 years and have 3 boys ages 16, 14 and 11. Missy has been a Church Nursery /
Worship Care Volunteer for more than 16 years and loves being involved in the lives of
children. Most of her adult life has been in customer service and management. Missy and
her husband own a small nutrition business that allowed her the opportunity to be a work
from home mom for the last 5 years, but she decided to do something a little different now
that her children are a little older. Working at Discovery Island allows her the opportunity to
make a difference in the lives of children here at the center as well as continue working her
business on the side from home. Missy has a heart for encouraging and uplifting children
and helping them believe they matter and that they CAN achieve anything they set their mind
to if they work hard. She believes that it is important to begin instilling this into children at a
young age to help them thrive as they continue their journey into elementary, middle school
and high school.
Kristina Hilton, Substitute Teacher
Kristina is one of our newest additions. She was born and raised in Pearl Mississippi,
graduating from Pearl High School in 2006. In 2009 she moved to Foley, Alabama. When
she was 23 she decided to go to Bible School to become a youth pastor. Graduating in
2013 Ms. Kristine is currently the youth pastor at Abiding Love Church in Daphne, AL. She
is engaged to her childhood sweetheart whom she met in the fourth grade. Ms. Kristina
comes to Discovery Island with 10 years experience working with young children. Kristina
loves working with children and is excited to be part of the DI team.
Logan Stewart, Substitute Teacher
Born and raised in Grove Hill, AL, Ms. Logan attended Clarke County High School until the
10th grade. She then transferred to Faith Christian Academy graduating in 2007. Logan is
engaged to Victor Wood II, Ms. Karen's son. She is a member of Sovereign Grace Baptist
Church. Ms. Logan's previous Early Childhood experience includes two years as the 2 year
old teacher at The First Baptist Church of Monroeville's childcare program. She has three
brothers and a sister with her being the eldest.
Donna Gurneck, Substitute Teacher
Ms. Donna was born in Southern California and has traveled all over the world. She had
her daughter while living in Sun Valley, Idaho. Her daughter currently lives in Tustin
California with her husband and Ms. Donna's biggest love, Opaline, her granddaughter.
Ms. Donna and her husband has been married for 34 years moving to Orange Beach 12
years ago. She still loves to travel and being mostly retired, she and her husband try to go
on cruises 4-5 times a year. Ms. Donna worked for awhile with the now closed Preschool
Park at Christian Life Church. We have happy to have her with us helping out occasionally
as needed. Ms. Donna is thankful to God for a blessed life.
Beverly Carroll, Substitute Teacher
Ms. Beverly is a familar face in Orange Beach. She was born and raised in Mobile. There
she worked for the Mobile County School Board for 18 years. When she moved to Orange
Beach she took employment with the Baldwin County School Board working for 12 years at
Orange Beach Elementary School. Ms. Beverly has experience working at previous daycare
positions and in her church nursey for a combined 13 years. She has 2 sons, 6 grand
children, and 3 great grandchildren. She is now at Discovery Island because she still loves
working with children. We are happy to have her as part of our substitute team.