Welcome to our school

Uchenna Academy was established in 2013. We are a Ministry of Education inspected private school and internationally accredited by the Middle States Association (MSA) in USA, dedicated to enhancing the learning experiences of high school students. We invite you to read about the history of our school name, our core values and the unique features that differentiate our school from the traditional learning environments.

At Uchenna Academy, our teachers are co-learning with students to develop best practices in a supportive, inclusive learning space. Our athletic program is designed to offer optimal balance of competitive athletics and daily on-court instruction. Each student and student-athlete is surrounded by a support team inclusive of passionate teachers, experienced coaches, college placement advisors and more.

Meet the Uchenna Academy leadership team

Principal: Mr. Dave McNee

Mr. McNee, in addition to his role as a principal is also a member of several community boards, including the City of Toronto, Toronto District School Board (TDSB), BWXT Nuclear Technologies and is a Chair of The QSLA Foundation. He attended Ryerson University’s undergraduate Business Management program, as well as Athabasca University’s Political Science program. His expertise and breadth of knowledge in education, sports, marketing and advertising brings an unmatched leadership and guidance to our school. He has facilitated collaborations between Uchenna Academy and University Health Network (UHN), as well as Deloitte Canada, where high school students have an opportunity to learn from the experts in the field, and get a unique opportunity to present their product ideas at UHN’s Annual Research day. He is also spearheading research initiatives that explore effects of combining sporting activities with mathematics pedagogy, a study which seeks to explore novel ways of engaging youth into mathematics.

Contact: Dave.Mcnee@uchenna.ca

Academic Director: Ms. Claudia Mandekic

Claudia has an extensive teaching career in mathematics and sciences. She attended University of Toronto’s Human Biology undergraduate program, as well as the graduate and the teaching program with the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education (OISE). Her passion for mathematics, as well as developing novel pedagogical approaches while teaching math and science are providing our students with new learning platforms.  In 2021, she was nominated for the Prime Minister Teacher of the Year Award.  You can view Claudia’s LinkedIn Profile here.

Contact: Claudia.m@uchenna.ca

Meet the Uchenna Academy academic team

English, Social Science: Ms. Mandy Ajimal

Mandy is a Certified Teacher in the primary/junior division, working towards teaching at the intermediate/senior level. She also holds an MA in Social Justice Education from the University of Toronto (OISE) as well as the Guidance Counsellor qualification. Throughout her educational journey Mandy has developed a strong sense of planning for student success. As an educator, Mandy enjoys learning the different ways students learn and communicate and applies her knowledge of their likes and interests to build rapport and trust. Mandy’s passion is to educate in a fun, approachable, and meaningful way.

Mathematics, History, Geography and Physical Education: Mr. Pierre Howard

Pierre is an exceptional educator with a plethora of international educational experiences, spanning China and USA. A graduate of the BA program at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, Pierre served as a middle school teacher in Georgia, prior to moving to China and pursuing a career in teaching and school leadership as a Principal at the Nanjing Echo International School. Pierre is exceptionally adept at building relationships and maintaining student motivation in his classrooms. As a stretegic planner and problem solver, Pierre’s instructional and educational history attribute to a framework of leadership and community involvement.

Physics, Mathematics and Computer Science teacher: Ms. Zanib Cheema


Science (Biology, Chemistry and Kinesiology): Ms. Akshaya Venkatesh

Akshaya is a dynamic educator and researcher whose academic journey began with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Geophysics from the University of Waterloo. Akshaya’s interdisciplinary expertise spans wetland analysis, physical hydrology, soil analysis, culvert design, and alternative energy solutions. She has excelled in specialized courses ranging from Advanced Geophysics to Biology, demonstrating a comprehensive understanding of her field.

Through her academic endeavors, Akshaya has contributed significantly to environmental science and engineering, including identifying ecological indicators for wetland ecology, modeling groundwater flow, analyzing soil properties, designing culverts, and prototyping a water-powered fuel cell car. Beyond academia, Akshaya is deeply committed to community service, volunteering with organizations such as Pet Patrol Animal Shelter and the Steven’s Hope Foundation Donation Clothing Store.

As an educator, she inspires students with her passion for environmental stewardship, fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills while emphasizing the interconnectedness of science and society. With dedication and a genuine desire to make a difference, Akshaya continues to shape the minds of future generations and advance the fields of environmental science and engineering.

French: Dr. Farideh Shahriari

Farideh holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature with a dissertation on “Géopolitique-Parler Femme: Decentralizing the Gendered Face of War Literature in Iranian, Iraqi, and American Women’s War Memoirs”. In addition to her BA and MA in English Literature, she has also received a second BA in Foreign Languages, Literature And Civilisations (2017) and a second Master’s in Cinema Studies at Université de Strasbourg, France with a thesis on “Masculinity Crisis in Cinema of Abbas Kiarostami” (2019).
Farideh has more than 15 years of teaching experience, starting as a university lecturer in Iran; continued as an English and Media Studies high school instructor in Éducation National, in two international high schools, Lycée Le Corbusier and Lycée des Pontonniers. Currently, she is teaching French as a Second Language at Uchenna Academy.

Uchenna Academy Athletic Team

Head Coach, National Team: Mr. Ro Russell

Uchenna Academy is proud to welcome the legendary coach Ro Russell to our coaching staff for the 2023-2024 school year. Coach Ro is a highly accomplished coach with a proven track record that spans over 36 years of success at both the college and professional levels. He brings a wealth of experience, knowledge, and passion to our team and will lead us to new heights.

We are confident coach Ro is the right person to guide our team to success. He has a clear vision of our program and is dedicated to developing each player to their fullest potential, both in and off the court.

Coach Ro’s coaching career includes:

  • Starting the first Prep School in Canada in 2002 with TAPS Prep,
  • Starting AAU in Canada in 1989.
  • Over 500 alumni coached or trained to NCAA D1
  • Multiple alumni played or currently play in the NBA
  • Responsible for building up Crestwood Prep from 2015-2021 to be a powerhouse
  • NPAA prep champion in 2018-2019
  • OFSAA AAA champion 2019-2020
  • Won over 1200 games overall in his coaching career (club, AAU, HS, Prep, college, etc.)

Stay tuned for more updates on coach Ro and the team and get ready for an exciting journey ahead!

Head Coach, Regional Team: Mr. John Clara

John has been involved with basketball for over 20+ years at the Club/AAU, High School, University/College and Pro Level as a coach and trainer. During this time he has assisted many players to go on and play at several NCAA D1/D2, NJCAA D1, NAIA D1, USport and CCAA academic institutions as well as assisting them play pro all over the world.

Most recently as Head Coach of Central Toronto Academy Senior Boys’ team from 2015-19 he compiled a record of 112 Wins – 27 Losses winning 3 OFSAA medals (2018-19 OFSAA 3A Bronze, 2016-17 OFSAA A Gold and 2015-16 OFSAA A Bronze).

John recently completed his fourth year as an assistant coach with the University of Toronto Men’s Varsity team and was an assistant coach with Centennial College Men’s Varsity team, as well as an assistant with the Mississauga Power of the National Basketball League for the 2013-14 season.

As the Scadding Court Ballhawks Program Coordinator/Head Coach as well as the High Park Warriors Head Coach he assisted his alumni from these programs attend the following academic institutions: Cornell University, Wagner College, New Mexico State, Cal State Bakersfield, North Carolina State, St. Bonaventure, University of Hawaii, Lafayette, Drexel, Western Kentucky, Binghamton, Hartford, Birmingham Southern, Nebraska, Robert Morris, Arkansas Fort-Smith, Lake Superior State, Seattle Pacific, Stonehill College, Polk State College, Sauk Valley, Dakota College at Bottineau, Kilgore College, Weatherford College, Mineral Area, Georgia Perimeter, Pikeville, University of the Cumberlands, University of Toronto, Lakehead, Ottawa, Lethbridge, Ryerson, Dalhousie, UPEI, Winnipeg, Brandon, UBC, Acadia, Western,  Algoma, Guelph, Queens, McGill, York, Windsor, Humber College, Sault College, Centennial College, Seneca College and George Brown College.

John also has alumni who are currently or have coached in the following leagues: NBA (Toronto Raptors), Canadian National Team, USports (McMaster, Ryerson and UofT) and CCAA (Loyalist College and George Brown College).

Program Coordinator: Mr. Mike Smith

Mike has been involved in Basketball for 15+ years, as a Head Coach at the Elite AAU and Prep levels.

As a Head Head Coach for the Sr. Boys team at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School, he led the team to an OFSAA appearance,  AAA Division. He also coached Jr. Boys and Varsity Girls teams. As an Associate Head Coach of the Sr. and Jr. Boys at St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School, he lead the teams to two TDCAA Champions and one OFSAA appearance in AA Division.

As a Rep/AAU coach, Mike holds the position of Director of Basketball Operations at Elite 6, a 3SSSB Adidas Sponsored Organization that he Co-Founded. He was a Head Coach of the Etobicoke Basketball Association and has held a Club Director and Head Coach position at the EBA/Toronto Elite AAU, another team he Co-Founded. His AAU career also includes being the Head Coach of the Northern Kings team and Director of Operations and Assistant Coach at Grassroots Elite Canada.

Mike’s former players have attended various post-secondary institutions, including USports, OCAA and NCAA D1.

Program Consultant, Boys Basketball: Mr. Rohan Fisher

Rohan has been involved with basketball for over 11+ years at the Club/AAU, and High School level as a coach and trainer. During this time he has assisted many players to go on and play at several NCAA D1, and USport academic institutions.

Rohan started his coaching career with the Scarborough Blues Elite AAU team and then transitioned to Grassroots Elite AAU.

Rohan recently completed his fourth year as a program consultant at the Crestwood Preparatory College while his son Elijah attended the high school.

In addition to coaching, Rohan made significant, invaluable contributions by drawing media attention, awareness, and various sponsorships to the Crestwood Preparatory Program.

Rohan’s former players have attended various post-secondary institutions, including USports and NCAA D1.


Athletic Therapist: Mr. Victor Lanzillota

Victor has been working in the field of athletic therapy for the past 6 years, graduating from the University of Toronto with an Honours Bachelor of Science, followed with a Honours Bachelors of Applied Health Sciences from Sheridan College in Athletic Therapy, and Diploma in Massage Therapy from the Royal Canadian College of Massage Therapy. He currently holds the designations of a Certified Athletic Therapist – CAT(C), as well as Registered Massage Therapist – RMT.

Victor has worked clinically with people of all different occupations and age levels, but specializes in sports rehab and care, from grassroots, to Special Olympics, to the Provincial levels. He has worked in an Athletic Therapist role for several teams, including the 2016 OFSAA wrestling championship team, USports 2016 Ryerson Rams Silver Medal Men’s Basketball team, 2017 Team Ontario U17 Basketball team, and 2019 Team Ontario U15 Female and U17 Male Lacrosse Teams, representing Canada at the Brogden Cup in Maryland.

He currently works out of LeDrew Professional Sports Medicine in Etobicoke and owns his own business, Lanzi Athletic Therapy. He continues to provide coverage for many different sporting events, most notably the Ontario Basketball and the Ontario Lacrosse Associations. He is big on educating the athlete to learn how to recover optimally and independently, especially at a young age where it’s of utmost importance. He is also a techy – always looking into new tools and research to help you recover faster, and keep you in your game.