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Summer Principals Academy in New Orleans
The Education Leadership Program in the Department of Organization and Leadership
2017 NOLA Cohort
Christian (Stephanie) Aguilera
Stephanie Aguilera was born and raised in Dallas, where she was a member of the first graduating class of the first public all-girls school in Texas, the Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School in the Dallas Independent School District. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a major in Political Science and a minor in Latino Studies, Stephanie returned to Texas to join Teach for America in San Antonio. She began her teaching career at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy (YWLA) in San Antonio ISD, a school within the Young Women’s Preparatory Network that founded the high school she graduated from. In her four years of teaching, Stephanie has taught middle school math, language arts, and social studies and coached various sports. She continues to teach seventh and eighth-grade math at her placement school while serving on the Campus Leadership Team as the Middle School Math Department Chair, Student Council Sponsor, and the Sponsor for her first students, the Class of 2020. In 2015, YWLA was awarded the National Blue Ribbon School distinction in the “Exemplary High Performing” category for ranking in the top 15% of Texas public schools, measured by state assessments and high school graduation rates. Stephanie was a Sue Lehmann regional finalist in 2015 and was awarded the San Antonio Independent School District Distinguished Teacher of the Year for the middle school category in 2017. As a first-generation college graduate, Stephanie became interested in education when she learned about the history and politics that contributed to the disparity of educational opportunities for students from zip codes like her own. She is grateful for the experiences she has gained as a student and teacher within innovative public schools. Stephanie looks forward to joining the SPA New Orleans 2017 cohort, where she will further develop the knowledge and skills necessary to expand her leadership role within public urban school districts.
Deidre Alexander is a graduate of Jackson State University with a B.S. in Elementary Education. She also earned her Masters in Education in School Counseling from Mississippi College. She spent 8 years as a teacher at Brown Elementary School, an urban school in downtown Jackson, MS. While there she taught kindergarten, 2nd, and 3rd grades. She served as grade level team leader for 4 years. As a classroom teacher, Deidre implemented innovative strategies to meet the needs of all students. She incorporated teacher made video mini lessons for struggling students and created personalized learning plans to advance students who were above grade level. She molded student leaders within the classroom to facilitate lessons for their peers. Her commitment to excellence in the classroom led to students showing the most proficiency in reading and math within the district. Subsequently, she was voted Teacher of the Year for the 2014-2015 school year by her peers. Deidre would go on to become the literacy coach and interventionist. As an interventionist she revised the structure of the program, and as a result students showed substantial growth in all areas. She coached teachers, modeled lessons, created and facilitated professional developments. Deidre helped develop AcceleRATE (Rigorous Alternatives To Educating), a program which includes blended learning experiences, to a personalized learning model in a multi-age classroom, which includes project based learning. While at Brown Elementary, she founded the school’s first chapter of the National Elementary Honor Society. As chapter adviser, she organized opportunities for students to meet with individuals from different professions. She also served on the school’s Student Achievement Committee. Deidre is proud to have been apart of a team that raised the academic standing of Brown Elementary from a D rating to a B, all in a few years. Deidre is currently a 6th grade ELA teacher at Madison Middle School. She is excited to be part of 2017 SPA Cohort and looks forward to becoming a better leader with the help of staff and classmates.
Eden Bass graduated from Wellesley College in 2013 with a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies. Upon graduation she joined Teach for America and taught 6th grade math at Patrick Henry Middle School in Houston, TX for two years. Eden then joined the inaugural team of the Arabic Immersion Magnet School, the first Arabic immersion public school in the country. Eden currently serves the dual roles of Magnet Coordinator and Arabic enrichment teacher. She is incredibly excited to join the SPA NOLA 2017 cohort and expand her impact as a school leader.
Megan Bearden is from Houston, Texas. She is a proud graduate of Texas State University. While majoring in mathematics and communications, her work introduced her to the issue of the socio-economic achievement gap. Megan’s time as an Apollo 20 Fellow helped her to discover a passion for educational equity. While navigating her education journey, she realized the pivotal role her mother played in her success. This helped her to understand just how important it was for support systems to be strong and present in various aspects of life. She decided to take the leap into the classroom in 2011 and taught three years of 5thgrade mathematics at KIPP Houston Public Schools. In 2014, Megan decided to sharpen her skills as an educator when she moved to teach at YES Prep Public Schools. She has recently transferred roles within YES and currently serves as the Dean of Students at The YES Prep Hoffman campus. With the SPA program, Megan hopes to gain the knowledge and skill sets that will allow her to impact the communities she works with every day and is looking forward to working with the incredible faculty and staff of SPA NOLA. She is extremely excited about connecting and creating meaningful relationships with classmates.
David Bellard joined Chalmette High School in 2011 and teaches both English III Honors and AP English Language. Mr. Bellard believes in educating the whole student – intellectually, emotionally, and socially – and he does so through a highly active classroom that focuses upon extremely rigorous texts in order to develop the critical thinking and writing skills for all of his students. Born and raised in New Orleans, David attended Louisiana State University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Subsequently, he earned his Master’s Degree in English from the University of New Orleans and completed 30 graduate hours beyond his Master's Degree in 2010 as he pursued his teaching certification. In addition to his pursuing his passion for teaching, David also serves as Beta Club sponsor, the Posse Scholarship Coordinator, and a Mentor Teacher for Chalmette High School. After completing his degree with Columbia University, David hopes to be able to lead an effort in his district to provide educational experiences and opportunities that extend beyond the classroom.
Andrea Black is an Instructional Support Coach (ISC) with Broward County Public Schools Office of Coaching & Induction Development. Andrea has a Masters of Education in Education Administration from Grand Canyon University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Florida A&M University. After teaching in Duval County Public Schools, Andrea moved to South Florida and recognized the great need to further strengthen student achievement with English Language Learners and disadvantaged students in Broward County Public Schools. This diverse climate engulfed Andrea, as well as many others, with experiencing the boundless needs of learners whose economic circumstances hindered their learning. Those experiences led her to share passion for the urgent need of commitment to equity and accelerating effectiveness with veteran teachers, school based coaches, and administrators. Collaboration with adult learners on concerning scenarios and outcomes in Title I Schools left Andrea seeking possibilities with content and influence from School Improvement Specialist (Differentiated Accountability Bureau of School Improvement). This awareness led Andrea to seeking ways to support veteran teachers by discussing and prioritizing concerns when analyzing student work. To further strengthen the support of adult learners, Andrea conducts mentoring language that is instructive and collaborative. Strategically, Andrea continues to influence adult learners with her futuristic vision; provide sufficient student access within teacher practice, build school climates that are respectful towards culture and identity, and transform teacher beliefs and attitudes to influence proficiency and expectations. Andrea is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated. In addition, she is fortunate to have an immediate family that has collectively served one hundred and thirty-five plus years as teachers in South Florida. As a graduate student of SPA NOLA, Andrea is eager to reform education by increasing student proficiency and embedding effective approaches and principles that develop K-12 leaders.
A native of Cincinnati, OH and transplant to New Orleans, Forrest has been teaching middle school reading and writing at ARISE Academy for the past 4 years. After graduation from Walnut Hills High School, a high-performing public magnet school, Forrest graduated with a B.A. in English Literature from Ohio University. His experience in public schools, witnessing the way in which an equitable, free education can tear down the obstacles presented by socio-economic status, race and gender, led him to a career in education. After moving to New Orleans in 2012 to work for Habitat for Humanity, assisting in the continual rebuilding of the physical community, Forrest enrolled in the teachNola program. Finding a home at ARISE Academy in the Upper 9th ward, Forrest has engaged with his kids and co-workers in the process of continual growth necessary to make free education equitable for all children. Forrest is deeply humbled to be included in the 2017 cohort of SPA NOLA, and is excited to develop himself both personally and professionally in order to continue working with the citizens of New Orleans as a life-long learner, educator and leader.
After graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a Bachelor of Arts in Writing Seminars, Marie Cushing joined the Teach for America Memphis 2010 corps. During her time at her placement school, Cushing developed a passion for promoting students' socio-emotional intelligence, small group reading instruction, and creating rigorous curriculum that meets the needs of students and teachers in urban, high-poverty settings. Cushing chose to continue on in the classroom in Memphis, becoming a founding first grade teacher in the Achievement School District, where she worked for four years. Cushing set the tone for lower elementary education at Frayser Achievement Elementary, where she lived out her beliefs in culturally-responsive, rigorous instruction and creating a joyous, authentic love of learning. Her classroom management was built around treating misbehaviors with the same patience and improvement-focused attitude that academic mistakes receive. Cushing served as grade-level chair, course leader, and wrote the lauded math curriculum implemented in Kindergarten and first grade classrooms across the entire district. She pushed her school to adopt morning meetings as a way to build classroom culture and to implement student-led methods for solving peer conflict. She lead taught in a multi-age classroom for two years, expanding her impact to more students while serving as a mentor for novice teachers. She developed a reading intervention program across lower elementary that pushed reading growth in all classrooms while creating a collaborative work atmosphere, breaking down barriers between classrooms so teachers could see all students as their students. Cushing is now serving as the Elementary Content Specialist for the Cornerstone Prep network of community charter schools, where she is responsible for curriculum development and teacher coaching.
Adrian Dhanaraj serves as the Program Director for What's Next Pine Bluff, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting students in Pine Bluff, Arkansas to reach their dreams for the future. During his second year as a Teach for America Corps Member, teaching English at the alternative school First Ward Learning Center, Adrian and fellow Teach for America Corps Member Stephen Bronskill worked with a group of dedicated community members to launch What's Next Pine Bluff. They aimed to meet the needs of their students who had little access to supportive summer, after-school, and in-school interventions to prepare them for the future, The organization did this through providing college and career-readiness resources, exposure to new opportunities, and mentorship to guide students along the way. What's Next Pine Bluff's programs now serve over 100 students in the Pine Bluff School District at Pine Bluff High School, Jack Robey Junior High School, and First Ward Learning Center. Adrian grew up in Wheaton, Maryland, right outside Washington, D.C., as the son of two immigrants from India. Adrian and his older sister Norma learned from an early age the impact that the combination of poverty, colonialism, a home with domestic violence, and a strong education had on their mother, as well as the effects that these issues had on their upbringing. This has fueled Adrian's passion for this work, specifically with trauma healing and social-emotional learning in secondary education. Adrian received a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from New York University in 2013. He is married to fellow educator and SPA NOLA Candidate Bethany Dhanaraj. Bethany and Adrian live in Pine Bluff with their dog Angelou.
Bethany Dhanaraj teaches fourth grade reading and social studies in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. A native of Durham, North Carolina, she graduated in 2012 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science. From there, she went on to join Teach For America—Arkansas and earned a teaching license in Early Childhood Education. During her time in Arkansas, Bethany has taught kindergarten, second grade, and fourth grade in Pine Bluff and Little Rock. In her second year teaching, she earned the title of Regional Finalist for the Sue Lehmann Award for Excellence in Teaching. During her fourth year in the Arkansas Delta, she briefly left the classroom for the year to coach new teachers full-time as a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development through Teach For America—Arkansas. Bethany currently coaches a Teach For America corps member in her school building as an Alumni Coach and serves on the board to the Arkansas Collective, an organization supporting Teach For America alumni of color. She is pursuing National Board Certification and serves on several strategic planning committees in the Pine Bluff School District--most notably in advancing restorative justice practices and facilitating professional development in the Pine Bluff School District.
Trevor Ditzler received his undergraduate degree as a psychology and history double major from the University of California, Santa Barbara and went on to earn his master's degree in war studies from King's College London. He is currently in his 6th year as an elementary school educator in Miami-Dade County where he continued on after his initial placement as a 2011 Teach For America Corps Member. Trevor is interested in creating social entrepreneurship ventures that generate access and such has founded or co-founded a number of programs; including a summer school, two dance teams, a coding and robotics club and an after school music program. He is a recipient of the 2016 National Teach For America Alumni Excellence in Teaching Award.
Teruko Dobashi-Taylor grew up in Hunters Point, an impoverished neighborhood in San Francisco, California. As a former foster youth lacking self-esteem and a positive educational trajectory, Teruko overcame adversity when she graduated from The University of California, Berkeley with her Bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare and two minors in Creative Writing and Education. Teruko was recruited into Teach For America and relocated to Jackson, MS where she taught 5th grade at Brown Elementary for five years. Teruko’s passion for poetry and its ability to heal encouraged Teruko to start a poetry club for 4th and 5th grade students, a place to empower and enlighten through the art of words. While teaching full time, Teruko graduated with the highest GPA in her class earning a Master’s degree in Social Work from Jackson State University. Teruko was a Sue Lehmann regional finalist in 2014, and nominated for Alumni Excellence in Teaching award in 2015. During her fourth year of teaching, she wrote a grant to start an after school program that provided data influenced mini-lessons, enrichment activities, and homework assistance all with a social justice perspective. Operation Shoestring agreed to fund the program and Teruko became the site manager of Project M.O.V.E. (Molding Our Village with Excellence) That same year, Teruko was nominated as Brown Elementary’s 2016 Teacher of the Year. Teruko has continuously challenged and encouraged her scholars which is shown through her student’s ability to consistently outperform other schools on district and state exams. In 2016, Brown Elementary was considered one of the most improved school in the state of Mississippi. Teruko prides herself in taking a part in Brown’s academic transition from being an “at risk of failure”(D) school to a “high performing” (B) school. Teruko has relocated to Atlanta, Georgia for the 2017-18 school year to teach 5th grade at Scott Elementary. As a member of the 2017 SPA Cohort, Teruko hopes to gain the skills needed to become a self reflective and well-rounded leader that dismantles the chains of educational and social inequities and helps to cultivate leadership in children and adults.
Tyrone Dorsey is a Health & Physical Education Instructor at North Houston Early College High School, Houston, TX. Tyrone launched his education career in 2011 after over 20 successful years in the corporate sector. He has been on management teams for consumer-packaged goods companies such as Quaker Oats, Gatorade, Nabisco and Kraft Foods Inc. Tyrone also served his country for four years in the US Army attaining the rank of captain. The transition to education was less turbulent due to his passion for youth education today. He volunteers to mentor teens in college prep and life skills. You can also see Tyrone’s passion in high school sports where he is a certified referee/official/umpire in football, volleyball, basketball and softball. He is a proud graduate of Southern University at New Orleans where he majored in Print Journalism and played basketball and is a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Tyrone is looking forward to learning and working alongside tomorrow’s leaders in education. He knows that the SPA-NOLA program will equip him to push the boundaries, challenge the status quo and grow scholars on campuses across the state of Texas.
Daisy García received her B.A in Psychology with a concentration in Counseling from San Francisco State University (SFSU). After graduation she worked as a TRIO/EOP academic advisor serving first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students from diverse backgrounds at SFSU. Growing up in an underserved community inspired Daisy to continue to pursue her personal and professional aspirations of advocating for and serving her community through teaching. Daisy joined Teach For America-Bay Area as a 4th grade Spanish bilingual teacher in the San Francisco Unified School District. She is currently teaching 1st grade in North Las Vegas, NV. Some of Daisy’s experience in recent years include spearheading a student support club for girls, organizing and facilitating academic workshop for parents using her bilingual abilities, leading professional development sessions, tutoring students in a after school program, and much more. Daisy’s purpose in serving as a strong leader in the educational field is to prevent the repeating cycles and patterns of the current system that fails children from underrepresented communities. She hopes to train and mold personnel to be strong advocates for social justice and academic excellence who will empower students to become future advocates and leaders in their own communities. She is excited to join SPA-NOLA to build on her leadership skills, learn what it takes to become an effective school leader, and explore pedagogical philosophy more deeply alongside other leaders in the program.
Advocacy. Balance. Success.
These three words sum up Sabria Gibson’s vision in becoming a leader in the field of education. Sabria earned a B.S. in biology from Tuskegee University. Her love for the sciences began during her undergraduate years and continued after her matriculation. In 2013, Sabria moved to New Orleans to pursue a career in education through training from the TeachNOLA program. It was during this time that she caught a glimpse of the flaws within education and a spark to bring change was ignited.
Sabria spent her first three years of teaching with the New Orleans College Prep Charter Network where she taught middle school science and gained valuable insight and experience. As the lead science teacher within her school, Sabria pushed her students to grapple with difficult tasks and as a result they made significant gains performance wise. Moreover, she empowered students and teachers through building relationships and promoting advocacy.
Currently, Sabria educates incarcerated youth at the Travis Hill School located in the Youth Study Center. Her role in the lives of her students has redefined her commitment to education. While Sabria works to reinvent her students’ thoughts on education while in the detention center, she recognizes the importance of supporting the education of youth who are out. Her commitment to supporting science in education motivates her to volunteer with STEMNOLA. To make science accessible to ALL students, Sabria recently received an add-on in special education to better support her students with special needs.
Sabria is grateful to join Columbia through SPA and is eager to learn all she can to become a true teacher’s leader. Upon completing the SPA program Sabria hopes to make radical changes to education by promoting advocacy and risk-taking within education policy and schools.
Porshae Gover, a 4th year teacher, is a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from Tuskegee University, with a B.A. in English. Shortly after graduation she accepted a job in an urban community in Cincinnati; working directly with special needs children. Here, is where she found her passion to commit to ensuring equity and access for children everywhere. She then became a reading specialist for Edison Learning center, where she worked with the English department to develop and coordinate teaching plans and producers.
Upon relocating to New Orleans, Louisiana, she found that her educational philosophy and desire to be an agent for change aligned with the reform movement going on in the city. She was offered a job as a second grade teacher at Lawrence D. Crocker a school of the New Orleans College Prep Charter network. She is currently the lead 2nd grade teacher and holds the role of grade level chair for 2nd and 3rd grade. In her role she plans and facilities professional learning communities. She also works closely with the Tulane Reading STAIR program, where scholars can receive free tutoring. Beyond the classroom, Porshae is a part of the beautification committee and is the basketball coach for 7/8th grade girls.
By joining SPA, Porshae hope to build and lead a team, where students and teachers feel important. There are many gaps in access and equity in many undeserved communities in the city of New Orleans. Porshae she plans to close these gaps by leading a team that promotes institutional change for students and teacher.
A native of the beautiful twin-island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Claudia M. Hardin came to the U. S. in 2000 as a scholar at the historic Howard University in the nation's capital, pursuing a degree in International Business. Having met her life partner and husband, they married in 2002 and began making a family together. In 2004, the couple relocated to her husband's home state of Texas, where Claudia ultimately completed her bachelor's degree at Lamar University. She began her career as an educator serving as director of early childhood at North Early Learning Center of West Orange-Cove Consolidated Independent School District in Orange, Texas, and later moved with her husband and family to Houston, where she assumed the position of director of The Toddler House. Building on this foundation of education, Claudia pursued and secured a generalist teacher's certificate for elementary education and began her teaching career at Houston ISD's Felix Cook Jr. Elementary School as a first grade teacher. Her leadership and administrative skills quickly caused her to become an asset to the school, where after 4 years teaching, she was promoted to teacher specialist and the number two leader of the campus, serving as the right hand to the principal.
For the last ten years, Claudia has also partnered with her husband as the cofounder of Dominion Church International, a vibrant community of faith in Houston and cofounder of Hardin Development Co., LLC, a self-administered real estate development firm that owns and operates multifamily properties and develops new single family projects. Together, she and Paul are the proud parents of three brilliant children.
Reginald is a native of Atlanta, Georgia where he attended Morehouse College and graduated with a B.A. in Sociology. After Morehouse, he moved to Brooklyn, NY where he served as 6th grade math learning specialist at Achievement First for a year. In 2016, he moved to Houston, TX to serve as founding high school math teacher at YES Prep Eisenhower. Reginald’s passion for education was ignited while serving as a scholar coordinator at KIPP: STRIVE in Metro Atlanta during his undergraduate tenure. His passion was cemented after winning the Maureen Yusef-Morales Teaching Excellence Award from Breakthrough New York, a non-profit organization that transforms the lives of motivated, low-income students by preparing them for college graduation, as a summer teaching fellow. Reginald is excited to be a part of the 2017 SPA NOLA Cohort and is ready to use this experience as a launching pad for his next phase in the realm of education reform.
Sarah attended Central Washington University where she earned a B.A. in special education (P-12) and elementary education (K-8) with an emphasis on American Sign Language. After beginning her teaching career in Washington State, she decided she wanted to join the Teach for America movement to develop as a social justice driven educator. Upon joining Teach for America, Sarah moved to Phoenix, AZ to continue teaching special education. For the last two years, she has been a part of the Regional Excellence Fellowship where they discuss identity and diversity in the classroom and create action projects to challenge systems of oppression within education. Throughout these experiences, Sarah’s eyes were opened to the many systemic issues affecting our students and education as a whole. As a member of the 2017 SPA NOLA cohort, Sarah is eager to work alongside educators who are working to dismantle these systems and to become transformational leaders in their communities.
Marcus Johnson is an educator who works with Shelby County Schools in Memphis, Tennessee as a classroom instructor. Marcus was born and raised in Memphis and after college, he returned home to make a contribution to the youth in his community. He currently works at celebrated Booker T. Washington high school where he teaches Biology and Science. He is the chair of the Science Department. In his capacity as a school leader, he serves on the Instructional Leadership Team and the Hiring Team.
Marcus believes that education is the process by which young students will be prepared for their future endeavors. The process of education cannot merely be one where students are given facts and figures to memorize. Facts and figures do not prepare students for what they will face in their every day life. Many students cannot relate to the materials that are presented to them every day in the classroom. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the teacher to present the subject in a way that students will not only understand but also be able to apply to their situations outside of the classroom.
Marcus has worked as a science teacher with the district for over a decade and filled roles in teacher support, athletic coaching, union representation, and state testing review. In his role as a teacher, he has been awarded as Teacher of the Year by a community organization. In his role in athletics he has won several national tournaments and a state championship as an assistant basketball coach at Southwind High School. He has served in several capacities for the state and local union, including building representative and a state and national delegate to the conventions for the Tennessee Education Association and the National Education Association, respectively. He currently serves on a committee for Bias and Sensitivity in ELA End of Course testing.
Marcus is a tenured classroom instructor with highly qualified status in his state.
Marcus holds both a Bachelor of University Studies degree in Biology and a Master’s degree in Secondary Education from The University of Tennessee at Martin.
Ellie Kramer is a graduate of Tulane University with a B.A. in English and Sociology. After graduation, Ellie joined the Alabama Teach For America corps of 2013 where she taught 7th and 8th grade English in Huntsville. During her time in Alabama, she worked as the head of the English Department as well as the 8th grade team leader. She also had the opportunity to teach a course of Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) to hold students accountable to high academic standards and to provide social and emotional support systems within the class. Ellie was McNair Junior High’s 2014 Teacher of the Year. After completing her two years as a corps member, Ellie returned to New Orleans to continue teaching English and truly found her passion in Reading Intervention. Ellie believes that reading is the key to teaching students verbal and written communication skills, empathy, and how to cultivate a global perspective. She is excited to develop her skills as a school leader with the 2017 Cohort of SPA NOLA.
Roxanna Menchaca was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and received the POSSE full tuition Scholarship to attend Kalamazoo College in Michigan. Four years later she graduated with a B.A. in Anthropology and Sociology. During her time in College she spent time working on different social justice issues including immigration rights, race, and social economic class. In Exploring the different social justice issues and systems she realize how important education was to all these issues. Her father was a roofer and her mother a homemaker and always internalized education as the most important aspect of her life. The importance of education showed by her parents and her experience in social justice motivated her to do Teach for America in the Rio Grande Valley. Roxanna taught 7th grade mathematics and realize the importance of teaching the student more than just the subject it was important to teach them how to be citizens in the world. This year she will be transitioning into teaching 6th grade math and will be leading the 6th grade team. She was motivated to join the SPA-Nola Program to seek more leadership development as she acknowledges there is a high need for competent leaders in the field of education for the sake of our children and our nation. She hopes to be able to lead other educators into the direction of creating an environment of learning and empowerment that our communities need. Furthermore, she hopes to begin to build the foundations of our future leaders of the country.
Lauren Moss graduated from Clemson University with a degree in Elementary Education in 2011. Following graduation she accepted a 4th grade ELA position at Emerson Elementary and moved to Houston, Texas as a member of the 2012 Teach For America Corps. Lauren never thought she would leave the classroom and was ready to continue educating students in her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina. However, things changed quickly for her when her principal gave her the opportunity of a lifetime and she was tasked with the difficult decision whether or not to remain in Houston far away from her family or to remain at Emerson- which had become her home away from home. Lauren decided that this was not only a chance to pursue her passion and grow as a school leader but also one that could provide opportunities to kids that needed it the most. She transitioned out of the classroom and created Emerson’s first family and community engagement program, titled Emerson’s HEART Network, based on the innovative practices of Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone.
Lauren is currently an Instructional Specialist and continues to work with and develop practices for the families and community she serves. This year she was able to create and offer a free after-school enrichment program to the most at-risk students on her campus. Lauren designed the program with the mission she started three years ago- to develop Emerson students holistically, allowing them to find their passion, grow their creative nature and see the world differently in order to best prepare them for their future. Students from Kindergarten to 5th grade participate in a variety of enrichment opportunities. From learning how to cook, to yoga, to daily opportunities to explore a variety of passions, to performances and show cases, the students are receiving life experiences that they have never even dreamed of!
Over the past five years, she has been lucky enough to watch and actively have a hand at transforming the culture and educational environment at Emerson. Her time outside the classroom has allowed her to see the common thread between all turn-around schools with innovative practices is this: a strong, inspiring leader, who makes all decisions based around what is best for his or her students, and who isn’t afraid to take risks-Lauren is honored to be a member of the 2017 SPA NOLA cohort and looks forward to opportunities that will allow her to engage with other educators who will push her to become that very type of leader!
After gradating from the University of Illinois, Christine Nicholson joined the movement for education equity through Teach for America. Christine teaches 10th and 12th grade English as well as AP Literature and Composition at Lighthouse College Preparatory Academy in Gary, Indiana. In addition to teaching she also serves as the Academic Counselor for the 12th grade. In her current position, she coaches teachers, facilitates literacy intervention, and tracks and analyzes school wide data to present to the staff for professional development; as well as coaching the spoken word poetry team, planning for Civility in the Classroom, and sponsoring an online student feminist newsletter. By joining SPA, Christine is looking forward to building a professional community of passionate and diverse educators to continue to broaden her scope. She plans to use this experience to lead a team rooted in a common vision and deeply invested in community that will develop students in their academic and personal growth as they become leaders themselves.
Joshua Perales was raised in Castroville, TX, a rural town in Southwest Texas. He attended Sul Ross State University, where he served as a student-athlete and earned his Bachelor's degree in Business Administration. In 2014, Joshua entered the education field. He currently presides as a team lead at his school for the Special Education Department in Houston, TX for Cypress Fairbanks ISD. Utilizing his sports background and leadership experiences, Joshua serves as the Head Basketball and Football coach, while acting as a head sponsor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Organization. During his time in Cypress Fairbanks ISD, Joshua developed a passion for impacting and influencing students and peers around him in a positive way through his leadership skill set. He now intends to add to that tool box by working with the SPA NOLA staff and cohort in order to discover what it truly means to be an effective leader.
Bryan Stroud is a 4th year teacher with a love for education and diversity. Beyond teaching Bryan has a mission to expand the narrative of urban education. He graduated from the University of Florida with a B.A. in linguistics and he began is educational journey in Metro Atlanta with Teach For America in 2013 where he taught for two years in grades 3-5 all subjects. He found his niche in classroom management and culture and took the opportunity to serve as the PBIS chair of his school. This opportunity gave him the opportunity to view behavior on a wide scale and its impact on academics at various ages and grade levels specifically in a urban school setting. He also was able to see the direct impact of diverse teachers in a school setting. After his TFA corps experience he relocated to New Orleans. He was able to see similarities and differences in the charter world as well as the continued varying needs of students. He currently teaches at Lawrence D. Crocker a school of the New Orleans College Prep Charter network. He currently serves as the 4/5 Grade Level Chair at his school and has been presented with numerous opportunities to expand his knowledge of educational leadership such as Summer School Principal, Relay School of Education Tutor Corps Site Leader, Director of School Operations with Teach For America Metro-Atlanta Institute among other opportunities. Bryan continues to learn and add to his skill set. As a life long learner he strives to create a diverse educational environment for students and faculty. Through the Summer Principals Academy he wishes to gain the necessary skills to bring this to fruition. His favorite quote is ""It is easier to build strong children than it is to repair broken a man"". The responsibility of a school leader is to provide a safe space, optimal education and creative freedom and this is what he hopes to do.
Tangela L. Taylor is a graduate of Tennessee State University with a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and a Bachelors of Arts in English and Education. Tangela began her career in education as a high school English teacher. Her hard work and commitment to education later positioned her to become the Title I Professional Learning Coach/Instructional Facilitator for Whitehaven High School in Memphis, Tennessee; there she serves on the Instructional Leadership Team, which allows here to interact, coach, and guide teachers through best practices as they effectively implement the curricular standards into their classroom instruction, as well as development and provide meaningful professional learning opportunities in which her staff is actively engaged. She also serves as the school’s Building Testing Coordinator, which affords her the opportunity to develop and facilitate school leveled formative assessments, RTI2 Instructional Programs, and mandated national and state assessments.
With the dream of broadening her impact in education, especially in Shelby County’s urban school district and being able to be a change agent in her professional learning community, Tangela seeks to become an even more reflective practitioner and leader who is able to transform lives in public education for the students, parents, teachers and community stakeholders she serves on a daily basis in her hometown of Memphis, Tennessee.
Ally Tilley is a North Carolina native and current Tennessee resident. She attended the University of North Carolina and graduated with degrees in Biology and Psychology. After graduation, Ally headed to Nashville to serve in the Teach for America 2013 corps. Her passion for youth and education kept her at her placement school where she is currently in her fourth year of teaching Biology and Anatomy and Physiology. She enjoys being in the classroom teaching students and coaching new teachers. Ally is ecstatic to be a part of the 2017 SPA NOLA cohort and looks forward to widening her horizons and lengthening her reach of impact as a transformational leader.
Betsy Ures was raised in Suwanee, Georgia and is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a B.A. in Special Education. Throughout her undergraduate years she volunteered with schools in urban, suburban, and rural school districts. Betsy graduated with honors and established herself in the Los Angeles Unified School District in 2013. Throughout the past four years, she has taught at John Burroughs Middle School with students with learning disabilities. Betsy leads the Students Run Los Angeles team at her school by physically training students to run 26.2 miles every year. She coordinates the student body leadership group to plan culturally responsive events for 1,800 students. Betsy is a curriculum leader and a member of the school literacy cadre, which is responsible for planning staff professional development. As the special education department chairperson, Betsy worked collaboratively to achieve the California Gold Ribbon Award for her school. Betsy is thrilled to be welcomed into the Summer Principals Academy to prepare her for school leadership and make strong connections to other future school leaders.
Zicuria Ussery is an alumna of Spelman College with a B.A. in English. Throughout her undergraduate career, Zicuria volunteered in schools and education programs in the Metro Atlanta area and went on to become a Student Teaching Fellow with Uncommon Schools. After graduation, Zicuria moved to Houston, Texas where she works as an 8th Grade Reading teacher and Grade Level Chair at YES Prep Public Schools. In her classroom, she uses literature to engage in authentic conversations about justice, culture, identities, and the role of education in students’ lives. She builds relationships by increasing students’ capacities to embrace diverse types of thinking and learning, unfamiliar cultures, and individual experiences. Students are encouraged to own their struggles, dream big, and advocate for themselves. Through Summer Principals Academy, Zicuria hopes to increase her knowledge of school building leadership and build the capacity to unlock the potential of all stakeholders, take risks, and reform and rebuild schools. She believes that Summer Principals Academy is the foundation for helping her to create school environments where teachers and students can be successful.
With tenacity, Tatiyana has defied the odds to obtain a higher education while growing up in a city where drugs, gangs, and violence were a part of the daily fabric of life. Tatiyana's Family, from a young age, taught her that education was her only ticket out of their current environment; and as a result, she earned her bachelors' in Biological Sciences from the University of California, Irvine and a Masters' degree in Public Administration from The University of Georgia.
Tatiyana has worked in youth development for over a decade in such areas as pre-schools, alternative schools, after-school/enrichment programs, and youth-serving nonprofits. As a college student, she ran a girl empowerment nonprofit called Young Ladies With Potential. She served as Corps Member and Team Leader at a pre-school through Jumpstart- Ameri Corps. As a graduate student, she developed and managed a tutoring program with the local middle school. She led the development of a Promise Neighborhood grant in Athens, GA, which strived to create services from cradle to career for youth ages 0 - 24. Tatiyana also served has the Program Coordinator of a 4-week collegiate residential STEM program for high school students at UCI. Her desire to impact urban education became stronger after living through the tragic death of her younger sister at the hands of 5 young men. It became an urgent priority for her to support the intellectual and personal development of youth while helping to eliminate the participation in behaviors deemed destructive to their prosperity and the welfare of others.
After joining Teach for America-Memphis, Tatiyana has taught 6-8th-grade math. As a Leading Educator Fellow, Tatiyana served on the Leadership team coaching other math teachers and developing school culture systems. As a result of her constant push for her student's success, Tatiyana was named Educator of the Week by WREG News Channel 3 and TN Education Lottery.
Tatiyana is excited to continue her education and serve as an example to her students. After completing the SPA NOLA program, Tatiyana will further impact urban education as a school or district leader.
Sirena Wurth is from Boaz, Kentucky and graduated with a degree in Political Science with focus in Law and Public Policy from the University of Louisville. After working with mentoring and after school programs in schools throughout Louisville, Sirena was drawn to the classroom and joined the Greater New Orleans Teach for America corps in 2013. She taught Spanish I and Civics at John Ehret High School in Marrero, Louisiana for two years. Sirena served on the school’s leadership team, positive behavior intervention and support team, was a student government class sponsor, and developed a spirit club for the school. Sirena then received a Fulbright grant to teach English in Bulgaria. She spent the next year in Razgrad, Bulgaria at Ekzarh Yosif Foreign Language School teaching English Literature and English conversation courses while serving as a cultural ambassador for the community. She was also actively involved in the town’s English club, which allowed adults in Razgrad to come practice English. After her time in Razgrad, Sirena returned to her TFA placement school, John Ehret, where she now teaches Spanish, US History, and IB History. Sirena is very enthusiastic to join the SPA New Orleans 2017 cohort and is eager to develop her leadership skills, engage with diverse opinions from her peers, and eventually impact a wider scale of students by becoming a school leader.