Expert Staff


LeadershipAt Excelsior Academy, leadership believes that collaboration is the key to student achievement.  With that in mind, EA leaders have adopted a hands-on approach to leadership and foster an environment in which all team members work together for the benefit of the students.

In keeping with our collaborative approach, whenever possible, school-wide decisions are made based on input from all members of the professional team. On a weekly basis, there are several layers of dialogue involved in the numerous and varied collaborative meetings established to ensure student and staff success. As a result, school policies are supported, morale is high, and consistency is enhanced.

As experienced educators, Excelsior leaders are directly involved in student programs in a variety of ways. Leaders train and mentor all staff members throughout the school year to assist in assessment, lesson planning, IEP writing, problem solving, behavioral monitoring, curriculum adaptation, delivery of instruction and the like.  Excelsior leaders also work daily with students to monitor progress and provide support. Through their work with students and staff members, EA leaders demonstrate a solid understanding of each student’s strengths, needs and accomplishments.

The staff and students of Excelsior Academy are further supported by the School Improvement Council (SIC), a small group comprised of representatives from all segments of the school, including the student body.  The SIC meets weekly, or more often when needed, to review school policies and to plan professional development activities.  The existence of this group provides an additional outlet for staff and students to problem-solve and to express their ideas for school improvement..

The Excelsior leadership is proud to be part of a team of professionals whose student-centered focus produces such outstanding results.  Excelsior Academy is truly a special place to work and learn.

Nance Maguire, Ed.D.Executive Director

Dr. Nance Maguire is a co-founder of Excelsior Academy along with her husband, Frank Maguire.  Presently, she is Executive Director of Excelsior Academy.  Dr. Maguire earned undergraduate degrees in general and special education and in Spanish from the University of Kansas.  She took her Master’s degree in Learning Disabilities and Emotional Disturbance from the University of Northern Colorado and her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from the University of San Diego.  Her dissertation, Collaborative Teaching Practices for the Twenty-First Century, was a useful resource for establishing the collaborative environment that is Excelsior Academy. Dr. Maguire’s teaching experiences range from preschool to adult education, from general education to special education, and from private schools to public schools.  Nance Maguire was an adjunct professor for several years at the University of California, San Diego and appeared as a guest lecturer at San Diego State University, Point Loma Nazarene University, and at Grossmont and Southwestern Colleges.  As an educational consultant for numerous years, she traveled to several US states and to Canada and Mexico to consult with schools and school systems.  Dr. Maguire has presented her research findings and varied experiences to local, state, and international educational conferences throughout her career. Dr. Maguire has been the recipient of the Excel Award for outstanding teaching in the San Diego Unified School District.  Additionally, she was honored with the Special Education Award by the community of San Diego.  She has also been a recipient of the National Direct Student Grant for her work in education.  Her proudest awards are as the founder of a National School of Character Award and a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence Award.

Shirley Willadsen, Ed.SDirector of Educational Operations

Ms. Willadsen has been in education for over forty years in the San Diego County area.

She attended San Diego State University earning a Bachelors’ Degree in Liberal Arts/Education and a Masters in Special Education with an Administration & Leadership/Educational Specialist Degree from Point Loma Nazarene University.

Her background includes teaching in regular education, special education and a Program Specialist in La Mesa Spring Valley School District. Ms. Willadsen’s career includes principal for an elementary school, program manager with the South County SELPA Office to oversee the special education services provided by the south county school districts, a special education site coordinator at a middle school, a district coordinator at a high school district, and coordinator for a learning center at a private school.

Ms. Willadsen is a professor at National University, in the special education department teaching, mentoring student teachers and interns.

Her professional organizations include; member of NAESP (National Association of Elementary School Principals), CEC, ASCA.

She has presented on various topics including; Understanding Learning Disabilities, differentiation, co-teaching, ethical leadership, Best Practices: Building Effective School-wide Teamwork.