Meet The Team

Experienced and Caring Educators

The Compass Academy Network Team

The Compass Academy Network is exactly that: a network. Click below to learn more about the other members of our network dedicated to supporting student growth. 

Compass Academy Network’s expert faculty and staff team provide individualized support and attention to help students grow and find joy in learning. 

Our dedicated team supports and challenges students to make the most of their abilities. Our highly qualified staff model CAN’s Mission and help students develop a strong moral compass. Our team is dedicated to working collaboratively to deliver the best possible learning experiences for students enrolled in the Compass Academy Network Program. 

Our leadership team works year-round to ensure that students attending Compass Academy Network programs develop into empowered learners who are willing to take risks in order to learn and grow. 

Compass Academy Network Leadership

Debra Humphreys

Debra Humphreys

Founder and CEO

Best Summer School | Joplin MO | Compass Academy Network

Mary McDonald

Executive Director

Best Summer School | Joplin MO | Compass Academy Network

Clayton Carnahan

Program Director

Best Summer School | Joplin MO | Compass Academy Network

Laura McDonald

Advisor for Program Development

Kelli Mahler

Kelli Mahler

Administrative Assistant

Gabe Compass Academy Network

Gabriel Hershewe

Engagement and Technology
Director

6th, 7th & 8th Grade Free Summer Program | Joplin MO | Compass Academy Network | Missouri & Kansas | compass academy network teachers

Debra Humphreys

Founder and Ceo

Debra Humphreys

Debra is the Founder and CEO of CAN and has been involved in education policy and management for over 30 years. She currently serves on the Board of Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School in Joplin, Missouri, which she and her husband co-founded in 1993 and where she has led the school’s strategic initiatives. Debra also serves on the Board of Brooklyn Law School, where she has sponsored scholarships for women and helped found the BLS Center for Urban Entrepreneurship, providing BLS students with opportunities in business and social entrepreneurship. Debra received her Bachelor of Arts in Classics from New York University, her law degree from Brooklyn Law School, and her LL.M. (Graduate Tax Law) from NYU. Debra believes that “the purpose of education is to develop students to become effective communicators, critical thinkers, life-long learners and active and engaged citizens capable of participating in, sustaining, and indeed being leaders not only in their communities but also in our democratic republic.” 

“I passionately believe in the power of education to transform lives and communities. I was inspired to found CAN to provide access to enhanced opportunities for students to find inspiration and joy through learning, while reinforcing critical academic, social, and ethical competencies, helping them to become active and engaged citizen-leaders.”

Executive Director

Mary McDonald

Mary joined the CAN team in 2021 as a curriculum consultant and data analyst. In April of 2022, she took over as CAN’s Executive Director. She has worked in education for 11 years as a math instructor, counselor, and most recently as the principal at Lawrence Gardner High School in Topeka, KS. She and her husband recently relocated to Decorah, Iowa, where they enjoy access to fishing, floating, and hiking. Mary was drawn to CAN for the focus on finding joy in learning and confidence to explore. A graduate of Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School, McDonald holds a Bachelor of Arts in Math from Grinnell College, a Master’s in Applied Statistics from Penn State, and a Master’s in Educational Leadership from the University of Kansas.

“I am eager to work with the CAN team in building a positive network to support students through the critical middle school years as they develop a sense of self, envision their future, and become community leaders.”

Program Director

Clayton Carnahan

Clayton ensures that the daily program is meeting the larger vision of CAN by working collaboratively with the teachers, Peer Mentors, and others to create and implement the curriculum, build a schedule that supports all the goals of the program, and align all parts of the day to make a smooth and successful experience for the students. Clayton began his career as a middle and high school English teacher at Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School and now enjoys teaching Reading and Writing at the elementary level, as well as coaching cross country and track. Having grown up in Southeast Kansas, the mission of CAN is near and dear to his heart. Clayton holds a Bachelor of Arts in Literary Studies from Missouri Southern State University and a Master of Arts in Teaching with a focus on middle and high school English from Missouri State University.

Advisor for Program Development

Laura McDonald

Laura serves as Head of School of Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School in Joplin, Missouri. For over 22 years, Laura has devoted her career to helping students make the most of their abilities as a math and science teacher, coach, College Counselor, Dean of Girls, and in several other leadership capacities. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Kenyon College and a Master’s degree in Education from Missouri State University. She is excited for Thomas Jefferson to host the CAN summer program and support public schools in the rural areas surrounding Joplin.

“I believe in the mission of CAN and believe it will provide participating middle school students with an exciting opportunity to build skills and self-confidence during the summer.”

Kelli Mahler

Administrative Assistant

Kelli Mahler

Kelli helps in all aspects of operations and, in particular, coordinates the application process, communication with school administrators, and supports interested students and their families. She graduated from Missouri Southern State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations. Kelli is excited about working with CAN because it will allow her to help students build on their experiences and evolve into stronger students and citizens.

“Seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces is my favorite part. You can tell this program is really making a difference in their lives.”

Gabe Compass Academy Network

Director of Engagement and Technology

Gabriel Hershewe

Gabriel manages photography, marketing, and internal communications for CAN and supports the program with IT infrastructure and technology in the classroom. He holds degrees in Film & Media Studies and Theater from Lafayette College. In addition to working behind the scenes at CAN, Gabriel has previously worked as a Peer Mentor in CAN’s programs.

“I’m excited to work with CAN and see the program and our community of CAN scholars grow from year to year!”

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