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Summer Principals Academy
The Education Leadership Program in the Department of Organization and Leadership
Avon Watts is a 7th grade reading specialist for the West New York middle school. West New York school district services approximately 8,400 students grades pre-school -12th grade in Hudson county, New Jersey. In this position she works with students who are falling below grade level in reading. Once identified, Aevon works with the selected students in the areas of fluency, spelling, and reading comprehension. Most recently, she has been working closely with the scheduling team in her school to group students in the most appropriate classroom setting. In addition to being a reading specialist, Aevon has taught language arts for the extended day program for three years, coached boys and girls intramural basketball is a peer facilitator 7th and 8th grade. Previously, she taught pre-school in Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. She aspires to embrace the chance to become a pioneer for education during her time in Summer Principals Academy. It is her desire to strengthen her leadership skills while partnering with the other determined individuals who desire to see improvement in education.
Bethany Antonelli teaches English Language Arts and AP Literature at Frederick Douglass Academy III High School in the Bronx, a college preparatory school. She loves infusing her classroom with creative projects and performance based learning. Beth currently provides instructional support and mentoring to other teachers in her role as Grade Team Leader, and serves as the Advisor for the school’s National Honor Society chapter. Before becoming a teacher, she was a family law trial attorney in New York City. She aspires to lead an innovative New York City school that empowers both students and teachers to lead by example.
Brenice Armstrong teaches science at KIPP Inspire Academy, a charter school that serves a low-income community of nearly 400 students in Saint Louis, Missouri. In this position, she is the Science Department Chair, responsible for developing a team of science instructional leaders who will elicit curiosity and high academic achievement from students. In addition, she has designed rigorous, college-preparatory middle school curriculum to prepare students for success in high school, and ultimately college. Previously, Brenice was a 2010 Wilmington, Delaware corps member teaching middle school science and social studies. She aspires to continue her development as the Academic Dean at Enlace Academy in Indianapolis, fostering a school culture of student-centered learning, high expectations, instructional support, and continuous professional improvement.
Kate Beatty coaches a cohort of 20 teachers as a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development (MTLD) for Teach For America in Jacksonville, Florida. Her cohort spans across five Title I middle schools and multiple content areas. Kate problem-solves with her teachers, designs and facilitates professional development sessions, and collaborates with school leaders to reach optimal student outcomes. Before her role as an MTLD, Kate taught math and served as grade level chair at Eugene Butler Middle School in Jacksonville, Florida. She leads through collaboration, zest, empathy and high expectations, one day aspiring to lead a school team grounded in the unwavering belief of the potential of all kids.
Megan Benay teaches special education and music in grades K-5 at Muscota New School, a progressive school dedicated to academic excellence, the arts, community and diversity. Megan has led her school in creating a multi-tiered system of instruction and intervention that has helped to improve student achievement outcomes. She has helped to shift special education practices towards an inclusive model, placing data at the center of decision making for her school. She aspires to be an administrator in the New York City Department of Education.
Nandita Bhargava is a 10th grade World Literature Teacher and 10th Grade Level Lead at Golder College Prep (Noble Network of Charter Schools). Noble’s mission, to send low-income students “to and through college,” is one that resonates deeply with Nandi’s personal beliefs. As a Grade Level Lead, Nandi has implemented a variety of student-centered, culture-building initiatives to spark enjoyment and build a dynamic Sophomore student and teacher culture. Prior to her experiences in Chicago, Nandi was part of the 2011 Teach for America Hawai’i Corps; here she developed and implemented the first grade-level-wide service learning curriculum. While she misses the sun and fun of Hawai’i, she aspires to be a charter school principal in Chicago.
Joshua Biederman teaches Social Studies at Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8, the poorest of the city’s 8 wards. At Thurgood Marshall, Joshua teaches three classes: AP United States History, DC History, and an upper level history elective course. In addition, he coaches the Thurgood Marshall Academy Debate team, and serves on the leadership team of Washington, D.C.’s Urban Debate League. Joshua’s goal after the Summer Principal’s Academy is to lead a progressive college preparatory school that accounts for teacher, parent, and especially student needs. He hopes the school will work towards ending the achievement gap in American cities.
Jennifer Brinn currently serves as the Media and Technology Facilitator at Grand Oak Elementary, a Personalized Learning Pilot School within Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools. In her position, Jennifer manages and teaches in the school Media Center, as well as supports teachers with technology integration and project collaboration. She was formerly a Kindergarten and First Grade Teacher, and has developed her leadership skills through facilitating Professional Development, chairing several school committees, serving as the PTA's Vice President of Family Events, and being a member of the Personalized Learning Pilot Team. Jennifer looks forward to gaining valuable knowledge and tools at the Summer Principals Academy that will allow her to, as a building principal, spark teacher innovation and advocate to public school leaders the need for student centered shifts in instruction. Jennifer is most eager to demonstrate the movement staff, student, and community relationships can make for a school environment.
Valerie Brown is the Assistant Principal of Instruction at IDEA South Flores College Preparatory in San Antonio, Texas. In this position she serves as instructional coach for seven teachers and works to fulfill the school’s mission of college for all. Previously she taught Biology and Physics at Sam Houston High School where she was a founding teacher in the New Tech Magnet program. Valerie looks forward to becoming a more effective school leader through the SPA program and to one day lead a school that prepares all students for success in the college and career of their choice.
Thalia Brownridge-Smith teaches 8th grade mathematics at North Star Academy West Side Park Middle School, a national Blue Ribbon award-winning charter school and member of the Uncommon Schools network. Prior to joining North Star, she was an instructional coach and 8th grade math teacher at Merit Prep, where she developed the mathematics blended instruction curriculum and continuously refined technological systems. Thalia also worked in Newark Public Schools as a Math Coach, Curriculum Developer, Middle School Mathematics Teacher and Track Coach. As a recipient of the Puente Forchic Scholarship Fund, Thalia started her teaching career in the School District of Philadelphia. She taught mathematics at the Young Men's Leadership Academy at FitzSimon and was a founding coach of the Middle School Lacrosse League. As a student in the Summer Principal Academy at Teachers College, Thalia aspires to connect with current and future educational trailblazers to design and implement successful urban education reforms.
Lisa Cataldo teaches third grade at Daniel B. Brunton School in Springfield, Massachusetts that serves a culturally diverse student population. In this position she has established high expectations for her students in a structured environment while creating engaging, exciting units of study. Lisa has been a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher in Springfield for nine years where she has served on the instructional leadership teams, school improvement plan teams, and produced school performances to increase parent engagement and involvement. She aspires to gain the skills and knowledge to promote a positive, successful learning community for students, parents, and teachers.
Tessa Catlett is a founding fifth grade teacher at KIPP Ascend College Prep, a K-5 campus that serves students on Chicago’s west side. As the Reading Investment Coordinator, she works with the upper elementary team to implement strong balanced literacy instruction and invest students in their own independent reading goals. She also serves on her school’s Community Engagement Committee, which works to find ways that teachers can expand their reach outside the walls of the school building. Prior to her time at KIPP Chicago, Tessa served as a 2011 Teach For America Corps Member in St. Louis. She aspires to start her own school one day and looks forward to the further development of her leadership capabilities as a part of the 2015 SPA cohort.
Wilnekia Childs teaches 4th grade Mathematics and Science at Wayman Academy of the Arts, a school that provides a relational, relevant, and rigorous academic and arts program to “at-promise” students in Jacksonville, Fl. In this position, she uses teaching strategies and lesson structure that promote deep understanding of mathematics and was named 2014-2015 Teacher of the Year. Professional Development Facilitator, math Coach, and New Teacher Mentor are some of the varied roles that Wilnekia has served. She aspires use all her learning from SPA to be a pro-active school leader in the advancement of education of urban youth.
Kimberlee Comrie is a Learning Specialist Coordinator at Girls Prep Bronx Middle School, an all-girls charter school focused on ensuring all students attend and complete a four-year college. Kimberlee serves on the school leadership team and manages all special education programming including driving compliance, monitoring special education students’ progress, and coaching special education teachers. Prior to serving as a coordinator, Kim was a special education teacher. She hopes to gain additional insight and further develop her leadership skills while attending Summer Principals Academy. Eventually, aspires to lead a school with a student-centered culture, while maintaining a rigorous curriculum and high expectations.
Shana Conroy is a 5th grade science teacher at D.C. Scholars Stanton Elementary School in Washington D.C. Before coming to D.C. Scholars Stanton Elementary, Shana taught 7th and 8th grade science in Trenton, New Jersey. In this role, she served as a Summer School Principal and Science Curriculum Writer. Previously, Shana was a Teach For America Corps Member at Los Angeles Unified School District where she taught high school chemistry. She has served as Corps Member Advisor at Teach For America Summer Institute. Shana is excited to learn from and with her SPA cohort to become a strong school leader.
Taylor Corley teaches 4th grade at the American International School of Johannesburg, a PreK-12 campus serving a diverse student body representing over 80 different nationalities in South Africa. In this role, Taylor has led her grade level team in developing the AERO standards-aligned curriculum for literacy and math. Before moving abroad, she was a Curriculum Coordinator and Senior Instructional Coach for a large charter school network in Dallas, Texas. Taylor aspires to be a school leader that fosters a strong culture of achievement for students, staff, and families in her community.
Ciana DeBellis teaches 8th grade English and High School Theatre while serving as a Model Teacher and Instructional Lead at the Theater Arts Production Company School (TAPCo). TAPCo is a 6-12 school which serves approximately 600 students in the poorest congressional district in the United States. At TAPCo, Ciana has developed curricula for the High School Arts Program and for the Middle School English department. She is the Coordinator of Student Activities, runs student government, and regularly directs school plays. Ciana has also worked as an ESL teacher at an orphanage in Peru while conducting qualitative research on Teaching English as a Second Language. Ciana attained a Masters in Teaching from Bard College. She hopes to become a leader in education and continue in the fight to close the achievement gap in order to promote real social change.
Marissa De Franca
Marissa De Franca currently teaches 7th grade literacy at I.S. 528, a public middle school in Washington Heights, Manhattan. In this position she teaches reading and writing to all three 7th grade classes, coaches the Young Runners team, is the head Penny Harvest service-learning coach, and serves as a demonstration teacher as part of the school leadership team. Prior to this position, Marissa served as a volunteer resource teacher in the Peace Corps in Lesotho. Marissa is looking forward to honing her leadership skills and one day taking on an administrative role in a New York City public school.
Rachael DeRogatis teaches 11th grade English at USC Hybrid High School (Los Angeles), whose mission is to close the college completion gap between low-income and high-income families. Rachael is a founding teacher at the charter network and has established the school's inaugural AP English program. Previously, she worked at Farragut Career Academy (Chicago) as a Teach For America Corps Member, where she served as the school's Literacy and Grade Lead Teacher and established its first Student Council. She aspires to further develop her leadership skills and apply those skills to a future administrative position.
Jean-Claude Dorelus teaches English at Madiba Prep Middle School, where scholars are taught to be critical thinkers, technologically savvy, socially and emotionally competent, local and global citizens. Jean-Claude has also served as a Grade Leader, New Teacher Mentor, key member of the School Leadership Team, male initiative lead for boys, along with spearheading a mentoring program for targeted lads to ensure student success and many other leadership roles. Prior to teaching, Jean-Claude served in the United States Navy and Navy Reserve for 8 a total of years. He aspires to be a transformational leader, equipped with skills and knowledge, and the ability to address the learning gap in his community.
Michael Drawbaugh is the Assistant Principal of Instruction at IDEA South Flores Academy in San Antonio, Texas. Michael started his teaching career as a first grade teacher at American Horse School in Allen, South Dakota. He taught on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota and worked for Teach For America as an instructional coach, before transitioning to San Antonio to work for IDEA. Michael aspires to lead a school that closes the opportunity/ experience gap in Texas.
Jasmin Esparza teaches 9-12th grade English through ESOL at Robert E. Lee High School, a school serving over 2000 students primarily from low-income backgrounds in Jacksonville, Florida. In this position she has served as the ESOL Department Lead, Curriculum and Design Team Member and Representative at Large for School Decision Making Committee (SDMC). As the ESOL Department Lead, she is responsible for building a collaborative team that develops action plans to better assist the most struggling ESOL students, and as a Curriculum and Design Team Member she co-wrote the English curriculum for grades 9 and 10. She aspires to become a successful school leader within public education and in the community that fosters a positive school culture, maximizes student potential and gains supporters towards closing the achievement gap in Jacksonville.
Shannon Feeney works at Teach For America-Chicago as a Manager of Teacher Leadership and Development. In this position she coaches a cohort of nineteen Secondary ELA and Social Studies teachers in the south side of Chicago and Northwest Indiana, providing content and instructional support, culture coaching, and leadership and equity development. Previously she taught 10th grade English for three years at Green Valley Academy- an alternative school in Prince George’s County, Maryland. Shannon aspires to bring to life her educational philosophy of using education as a powerful tool to empower students and disrupt the systems and structures of inequity as a school leader in Chicago.
Eileen Fitzgerald teaches 3rd grade general education at P.S. 335 - The Academy of the Art in the Bronx, NY, a school that empowers students to move toward meeting and exceeding high expectations through accessible and cognitively challenging curriculum and pedagogy. As a lead teacher she has served as a mentor teacher, participated on various leadership committees and led many professional development sessions at PS 335. Additionally, she is an accomplished violinist, playing with the New Amsterdam Symphony Orchestra and teaching violin using the Suzuki Method. She aspires to one day open a school in a low-income community to provide students with a well-rounded education based on Dr. Suzuki’s philosophy.
Matthew Freese is an 8th grade Math teacher at Gateway Middle School, a school serving a predominately low-income community of roughly 650 students in St. Louis, MO. Throughout his time in St. Louis he has played an active role in Saint Louis Public Schools through serving on a curriculum development team in addition to orchestrating and presenting district-wide professional development. Matthew has also served as a mentor to young teachers in the district. This includes serving as a partner teacher for incoming Corps Members of Teach for America. Matthew aspires to become a principal in a public school.
Miriam Garcia is a 4th and 5th grade Special Education Inclusion teacher at Powell Elementary School in the District of Columbia. Powell Elementary serves students from low-income Spanish-speaking backgrounds and 100% of students qualify for free and reduced lunch. As a Special Education, Miriam works hard to meet each student’s learning needs by collaborating with general education teachers to develop engaging and differentiated lessons. Miriam began her teaching career in Los Angeles, California, while completing her two-year commitment with Teach for America. She looks forward to developing leadership skills needed to become a school principal and make a transformational change not only within the special education program, but also with the greater school community.
Catherine Georges is a Middle School Learning Specialist at The School at Columbia University, a K-8 independent school in New York City. In this position she provides math support to students in grades five through eight and works closely with teachers to help better serve student needs. Catherine is also the Seventh Grade-Level Coordinator. Previously, she taught seventh grade social studies and elementary monolingual and bilingual education. Catherine aspires to lead a school that is vested in innovation, equity and social justice.
Geetha George-Shapiro is currently a 5th grade teacher at Bailey Middle School, in Kingston, NY, an inner city school where over 50% of the student population qualify for free and reduced lunch. She has served in a number of informal leadership roles in her teaching career and most recently facilitated professional development for her peers. She has improved student achievement with her 5th graders and aspires to further close the achievement gap at a school she leads someday.
Nina Ginocchio teaches second grade at Excellence Girls Charter School in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. Excellence Girls cultivates in young women the academic skills, knowledge, and character traits necessary for them to succeed in college and become responsible citizens and leaders of their communities. Nina teaches second grade, serves as grade team leader, and provides support to new teachers as an instructional coach. Previously, she taught Kindergarten in the South Bronx as a 2007 Teach for America Corps member. She aspires to develop the skills necessary to bring equitable educational opportunities to her hometown, Cincinnati, Ohio. She looks forward to developing a team of teachers who are constantly seeking to improve their instructional practice and who bring both rigor and joy to their classrooms every day.
Kathy Grandchamps is a Math teacher and Data/Professional Development Team Lead at York Early College Academy (YECA), a 6-12 school in South Jamaica Queens, NY which provides an academically challenging learning environment intended to promote college readiness through a rigorous academic program that enables 9-12th graders to earn up to 60 college credits from City University of New York (CUNY) at York College. As leader of the Data Driven Initiative at YECA, she has collaborated with faculty and students to unpack interim assessment results in effort to use data to facilitate instructional adjustments and student growth. Kathy collaborates with content team leads to conduct consultancy protocols during school inter-visitations under the auspices of the CUNY Network Instructional Leadership Team to hone in on strengths and/or deficiencies affecting school performance. Prior to joining the NYC Dept. of Education, Kathy supported business owners as a Small Business Relationship Manager with JPMorgan Chase Bank. She aspires to change society's image of young Black and Latino males by creating a Rudolf Steiner influenced all boys school where underprivileged male students are received with reverence, parents are taught and supported to better serve their boys, and all faculty is worthy of imitation.
Mary Griffin teaches 7th and 8th grade writing at CICS-Avalon, a K-8 charter school on the south side of Chicago. Avalon aims to prepare all of its students, 93% of whom qualify for free or reduced price lunch, to enter and graduate from college. In addition to teaching composition and grammar, Mary serves as the 7th and 8th grade team leader. She has helped lead Avalon through a transformational turnaround over the past three years, and looks forward to continuing to improve the school as its next principal.
Amanda Grossi teaches eighth grade mathematics at Sussex Avenue Renew School, a diverse PreK-8 school in Newark, NJ where she coaches the Math Olympics team and serves as the Student Government advisor. Previously, she taught high school mathematics ranging from Algebra 1 to Calculus at Newark’s West Side High School where she was the school’s Data Lead. A Teach For America alumna, Amanda has spent several summers training incoming Teach For America corps members by serving in the roles of School Operations Manager and Corps Member Advisor. Ultimately, she aspires to become a principal and provide excellent educational opportunities to children in low-income communities.
Sabrina Hall teaches 9th grade Algebra I at Andrew Jackson High School, a school situated in a high poverty and high crime area. In Sabrina’s commitment to being a teacher leader she also serves as the Mathematics Department Chair, school based Professional Development Facilitator and Lead Algebra I teacher. Sabrina believes in representing her school positively through advocacy outside of the school and through her impact on students in the classroom. Since 2012 Sabrina has actively supported Algebra Nation, an online resource created to increase student pass rates on the state’s Algebra I End of Course exam. Sabrina has recorded tutorials, conducted media interviews, and served as a spokesperson at education conferences and community meetings. As a result of Sabrina’s efforts inside and outside of the classroom and her ability to drive significant student academic growth she was recognized as a 2015 Teacher of the Year top five finalist for her school district that serves 195 schools and over 8,000 teachers. Sabrina is excited to continue to grow as an educator through the SPA program. She is looking forward to learning and applying strategies that will allow her thrive as an administrator leading change and transforming cultures to drive positive, sustainable student and educator outcomes.
Philip Hammack is a Dean at Bronx Park Middle School, a school that emphasizes authentic curriculum through interdisciplinary units. In this position he has implemented school-wide initiatives informed by the school’s core values, and supported teachers with real-time coaching and modeling. A product of New York City schools, he has previously taught Special Education and Social Studies in Brooklyn and The Bronx. Philip was a New York City Teaching Fellow, and has continued to work closely with the program as an interviewer and Training Academy Director. He looks forward to acquiring the skills necessary to become an administrator that balances the need for both accountability and joy in our schools.
Barbara Henderson teaches Special Education at P.S. 138M in East Harlem, a District 75 school that serves students with moderate to severe autism spectrum disorders, intellectual and emotional disorders and students with multiple disabilities. As the ELA/Art cluster teacher, Barbara works with all of the students in the school, incorporating literacy and communication skills with hands-on art therapy. In addition to being a member of her school’s Positive Behavior Intervention Team, Barbara has also written and obtained several grants for her school that have funded much-needed supplies, school visitors and meaningful field trips for the entire student body, including several Broadway productions. In 2012, Barbara piloted her school’s first district-wide Spelling Bee and has organized and implemented one every subsequent year thereafter. As a New York City Teaching Fellow alumna, Barbara understands the unjust gap that exists between students with disabilities and their peers and aspires to lead an innovative D75 school that recognizes the potential in each and every student and is committed to overcoming the educational disparities that exist.
Tami Hill-Washington is an instructional coach consultant at Turn Around for Children in Newark, NJ. She serves to provide instructional coaching for teachers with the goal of creating fortified environments. Her work encompasses developing classroom management practices and instructional delivery through observations, 1-1 coaching, small group sessions, and collaborating with school administrators to identify and implement best teaching practices. Tami has held numerous positions in education and has a variety of experiences in the field. Previously, she was at Success Academies in Harlem, New York as the dean of students and instructional leader for Kindergarten. Beyond school leadership, Tami has experience in working with adult learners and was part of Success Academies alternative teacher certification program and served as an adjunct professor for Touro College. She also has 5 years of teaching experience with grades 9-12 where she taught economics, civics, world history, geography, and current world issues. She aspires to further develop her skill set in forming high functioning teams that are visionary in their approach to institutional change, creating effective systems that ensure the proper supports for all stakeholders, and cultivating a community that strongly believes in approaching children holistically.
Arielle Hollander is a 5th grade teacher at Summit International Preparatory in Arlington, Texas. She also serves as the 5th Grade Mathematics Content Teacher Leader for Uplift Education, the largest charter network in North Texas. In this role, she writes curriculum, facilitates professional development, and supports teachers from across schools in the network. Arielle began her career in education as a 2013 Teach for America Corps member. She has previously worked as a Curriculum Writer for Teach for America’s inaugural institute in DFW and taught health workshops in Boston Public Schools. Arielle aims to use leadership as a vehicle that channels the innate joy and passion her students possess towards social good. Her vision is to lead a school that redefines the way we measure celebrate student achievement, in an environment that compels students to realize their true selves and fullest potential.
Max Hoover teaches 8th Grade English at St HOPE Leadership Academy, a school that believes in educating the whole child and was recently selected as a New York State School of Character for its efforts. Max has held a variety of leadership roles at the school including Grade Team Leader and New Teacher Study Group Leader. He hopes to gain the knowledge necessary to lead students and teachers to higher levels of achievement.
Valerie Howell teaches Spanish at Midwood High School, which serves a dynamically multicultural student body of approximately 4,000 students. Over the years, Valerie has served as Grade Leader, Curriculum Writer, Department Assistant and New Teacher Mentor within the Foreign Languages and ESL Department. She has also spearheaded several school-wide initiatives including “Teacher and Staff College Pride Week”. As a result of her background in law and social services, Valerie looks forward to developing skills that will support her goal of working with teachers, staff, parents and community organizations towards challenging and preparing students to become self-guided, confident, caring, responsible and overall, successful individuals.
Seth Hull chairs the Upper Academy ELA department and serves as a Teacher Leader Fellow at Metropolitan Lighthouse Charter School, which serves 370 students from K - 6 in the Highbridge community of the South Bronx. In this hybrid role, he leads a team of three 5th/6th grade ELA teachers and 104 college-bound students, while also completing an administrative fellowship focused on fostering an energizing, team-oriented school culture. Previously, he completed Teach For America in Oklahoma City, before then serving as the founding 5th grade team leader at MetLCS. He aspires to grow alongside his students at MetLCS - which plans to add a grade level every year until it is K-12 - with the ultimate goal of watching his current students graduate and head off to college.
Ashley Kane is the Literacy/Instructional Coach at Clarence Farrington Elementary School in Indianapolis, Indiana, a priority school in the state’s largest district, Indianapolis Public Schools. Ashley has held a variety of leadership roles in both Indianapolis, IN and Phoenix, AZ including Grade Level Leader, Summer School Principal, and Dean of Academics. Her passion for equitable and rigorous education in all communities is her driving force for taking leadership roles in the school and community. Ashley aspires to not only become a principal to serve the youth of her community, but also looks forward to leading educational change in the future for all students, educators, and families.
Sarah Kelly teaches mathematics to grades six through eight at Roger Williams Middle School in Providence, Rhode Island. At this traditional public school, she implements various curricula while serving as the School Data Specialist, School Improvement Team Vice Chair, Data Committee Chair, and as a member of the Instructional Leadership Team. Through the SPA experience, Sarah hopes to develop the skills necessary to lead and innovate within high priority, Title I public middle schools in order to transform educational access and outcomes.
Andrew Kile serves as an Academic Dean for Grades 4-5 at DREAM Charter School, a K-8 community roots charter school located in East Harlem, New York. Andrew works to support and coach teachers with developing their classroom practice, as well as ensuring that DREAM’s curriculum is preparing scholars for college. Andrew has previously worked as an education consultant, working in schools across the United States. He aspires to work as a principal, and eventually focus on education policy
Rachel Klem is an elementary and middle school music teacher at The School at Columbia University, an independent K-8 school in Manhattan. She works with students in general, instrumental, and choral music, and as a sixth grade advisor. Rachel has served as a grade level coordinator in the Middle School for several years. In this role she has lead curriculum discussions and planning, team building, and served as a mentor to new faculty. Rachel looks forward to the opportunity to further her knowledge and experience as a school leader, and would like to be a middle school principal in New York City.
Jessica Knudson is the founding instructional coach and intervention teacher at Sunset Park Avenues Elementary, a small public school that opened in September 2013 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn- a community with a high percentage of ELLs. In this role she has helped lead a team of teachers in establishing curriculums, structures, and routines for the school from the ground up. She began her teaching career as a NYC Teaching Fellow and previously taught as a special education teacher in a 1st grade ICT classroom. She looks forward to continuing to grow as an educator and leader alongside like-minded individuals within her SPA cohort. She believes the Summer Principals Academy’s commitment to creating leaders who help overcome the gap in educational access and achievement will allow her to acquire the skills she needs to be an educational leader prepared to meet the needs of her students, teachers, and school community.
Elizabeth Leverentz is currently a learning specialist at a Chicago Southside charter school within the Noble Network. Previous to this experience, Elizabeth taught and then served as the Intervention Coordinator and Case Manager at a Westside Chicago charter school for 3 years. Elizabeth has enjoyed a variety of additional leadership skills such as Team Lead of the kindergarten-second grade department, fostered the start of a reading intervention block for the middle school team, and led whole staff professional developments centered around supporting struggling scholars and classroom interventions. Elizabeth looks forward to expanding her leadership knowledge and abilities through the program and continuing on a path of leadership within Chicago schools.
Esther Lin teaches Math at Rocketship Education, a network of public elementary charter schools serving primarily low-income students in neighborhoods where access to excellent schools is limited. Esther teaches 4th grade and is the Grade Level Lead. In addition she currently serves as a STEM Lead on her school campus. She hopes to become a school leader who inspires a community of students excited to learn.
Rachel Madris teaches 10th grade English and Special Education at the Expeditionary Learning School for Community Leaders, a school that serves a diverse population in South Brooklyn. Rachel has held numerous leadership positions including Grade Team Leader, Model Teacher, and Instructional Guide. She currently provides instructional support to teachers through coaching and inquiry cycles. She aspires to take on a leadership role in the future where she can foster a collaborative community that creates experiential and inquiry-based learning opportunities for students.
Alysson Malgieri teaches first grade and is the Grade Level Chair at SPARK Academy (KIPP NJ) in Newark, NJ. SPARK serves 500 scholars grades K-4 in a warm, rigorous, and demanding environment that allows their students to overcome the vast challenges they face each day. As grade-level chair, she oversees the first grade team by building a collaborative team environment that allows everyone to be accountable to the school mission as well as building the instructional capacity of her team through coaching. Since joining KIPP, Alysson has led network wide professional developments on the shifts of the common core. She hopes to lead an innovative school in an urban environment that fosters the growth of both learners and teachers and promotes equity for all children while allowing them to reach their full potential.
Gerardo Martinez teaches Advanced Placement English III and Dual Enrollment English Literature at Sharyland High School that serves students in South Texas. In this position, he has prepared students for success in college and beyond. He has served on local decision-making committees, written district curriculum and worked on vertical alignment initiatives. In an effort to provide more learning opportunities for students, he created a philosophy class, as well. In his English classes, he prepares students for success in college and beyond through the Advanced Placement program and facilitates the acquisition of university credits through dual enrollment courses. He aspires to become a school leader in South Texas.
Madeline Mason is in her 4th year as a teacher of Spanish at H.L. Harshman Magnet Middle School in Indianapolis Public Schools that serves a diverse group of about 600 students from low-income backgrounds in grades 7-8. In this position she has written a culturally and linguistically responsive and inclusive curriculum surrounding cultural awareness, reading comprehension, and authentic engagement with the language. Each year she leads a school-wide event called International Day in order to engage the entire student body in building cultural appreciation and awareness. Additionally, she serves in a district-level instructional leadership position as a Teacher Leader in IPS. She is part of a leadership team of teachers at Harshman, coaches cheerleading and volleyball, and has recently started a new Yoga and Meditation program partnering with the Indy Yoga Movement. She aspires to continue improving upon her instructional leadership roles and develop the skills to be an even stronger teacher leader, and eventually moving into an administrative role in IPS.
Jaclyn McCormick is a Manager of Instructional Coaching at YES Prep Public Schools, a charter network that serves low-income communities in Houston, TX and whose mission is to send 100% of it is graduates to a four year college. As a manager Jaclyn works to train and support YES Prep’s team of 25 Instructional Coaches who work at more than 40 campuses across Houston. Prior to becoming a manager, Jaclyn served as an Instructional Coach where she coached first year teachers at 6 campuses at both YES Prep and their partnership district, Spring Branch ISD, and wrote and facilitated professional development sessions for first year teachers. Previously Jaclyn taught math at KIPP: Tech Valley and in East Baton Rouge Public Schools. She hopes to combine her education at SPA with her diverse experience in various charter and public school settings to one day open her own charter school.
Kryszelda Mendoza teaches 9th grade Physics at Richard T. Crane (RTC) Medical Preparatory High School, a Chicago Public Magnet High School that opened in August 2013. Kryszelda is a founding teacher and science department chair at RTC. She focuses on aligning RTC's science curriculum to the Next Generation Science Standards and College Readiness Standards, while preparing students for Advanced Placement science classes. As an undergraduate, Kryszelda did high energy nuclear physics research at the University of Colorado, modeling photon emission in the quark gluon plasma. She aspires to become an effective leader that pushes her colleagues to facilitate student growth and development through innovative and rigorous classroom practices that align with their personal instructional styles.
Alissa Mundt teaches 6th grade at Denver Green School, an innovative, partner-led school in Denver, CO focused on sustainability and hands-on brains-on learning. In this position, she teaches interdisciplinary literacy and sustainability units, while coaching a small cohort of newer teachers at her school. She also engages in leadership responsibilities through her work on the partnership. Previously, she taught elementary school in Baton Rouge, LA and middle school math in Denver, CO. She is looking forward to opening another innovative school in the near future.
Nancy Nassr the Associate Director of ChicagoQuest is helping lead the way in urban education reform by using games and game-like learning principles to engage both students and teachers in design and inquiry-based thinking. Nancy began her career as an educator nearly thirteen years ago when her journey brought her to ChicagoQuest becoming one of the founding teachers there. In her work at CQ, Nancy has developed and designed games for both classroom use, and for professional development with her teachers. Nancy’s work both in and out of the classroom has led to dramatic gains in student achievement, particularly in her work with the high school. As a result of her efforts both teaching and leading the first year of the high school at ChicagoQuest, the freshmen class grew by almost two years on their standardized exams. Perhaps her most impactful work with teachers this year has been designing and leading professional development with a focus on creating contextualized learning spaces that generate powerful learning experiences for students. Nancy aspires to develop herself as a school leader in the hopes of replicating this work in other communities across the country.
Meghan Neary is a third grade special education teacher at Carlin Springs Elementary, a Title one community school located in Arlington Virginia with 88% of the population qualifying for free and reduced lunch and over 69% of students who are English language learners. In addition to her work in the classroom, Meghan is also the lead special education teacher, participant on the leadership team, and has been a long serving mentor to new teachers in the county. Prior to beginning her teaching career, she received her graduate degree in special education and curriculum development at The College at Brockport. Upon completion of the Summer Principal’s Academy, Meghan aspires to become a leader in an urban school community where staff and administrators work together to ensure that every child finds success in and beyond the classroom.
Alisha Neptune teaches Kindergarten at Success Academy Bed Stuy 1, a public charter school that primarily serves a largely low-income community in Brooklyn, NY. As the Kindergarten Grade Team Lead, Alisha plays an integral role in ensuring the academic success of both the students across her grade and her colleagues. After graduating from Wesleyan University, Alisha became a member of DC Teaching Fellows and taught pre-school in a public school in Northeast, DC. Next year, as she moves into her role as a school leader at Success Academy, Alisha plans to implement her desire to cultivate a school community that centers around providing a fun and rigorous level of education to the whole child.
Bennison Ntsakey is a Manager for Teacher Leadership Development at Teach for America, coaching first and second year teachers across seventeen schools in Miami-Dade that serve students from the Overtown community, Miami Gardens, Liberty City, Little Haiti and the larger Caribbean diaspora. In this position, he works to set a vision and direction for teacher development while serving as a member of the Miami Dade Teacher Development Leadteam, designing and facilitating learning experiences for teachers in all content areas. Before joining staff at Teach for America, Bennison was a reading, language arts and English language learner teacher at Miami Edison Senior High School and led two elementary programs as a School Director in Chicago. He hopes to deepen his craft and capacity around effective school leadership and student achievement through the Summer Principals Academy at Teachers College- Columbia University.
Dominique Nute is a founding Math teacher at Baychester Middle School. Prior to joining Baychester, Dominique taught ELA at KIPP Rise Academy in Newark, New Jersey. Dominique began her career in education as a member of Teach for America’s 2007 New York Corps. Since then, Dominique has dedicated her teaching career to the idea that all children, regardless of circumstance, are able to be successful participants in society. In her classroom she has been able to consecutively increase student performance with students who were previously performing significantly below grade-level on the New York State Math Exam. In addition to her classroom teaching, Dominique has held a variety of leadership roles. As a Team Leader and Mentor Teacher, she has provided instructional support to new teachers through programs such as the New York City Teaching Fellows Program. Dominique has also created and coached the boys and girls varsity basketball teams. After completing SPA, Dominique aspires to be a highly effective urban school leader where she can empower both students and teachers while fostering a positive and supportive, yet rigorous learning environment for her scholars and staff.
Jenna Ondera teaches 7th grade math at Chastain Middle School that serves a low-income urban community in Jackson, Mississippi. In this position she is leading the school in implementing new Common Core curriculum and serving on the Response to Intervention Teacher Support Team to problem solve and implement interventions for students struggling academically. Previously she was a team leader and math teacher at Whitten Middle School in Jackson, MS. She aspires to lead a team that is part of redefining the academic experience for students in areas where opportunities aren’t provided for them. Jenna hopes to be a school leader that is part of equipping students to be leaders of change in their own community.
Andrew Paulsen teaches mathematics at East Side High School, the largest public high school in Newark, New Jersey, where 82% of students qualify for free and reduced lunch and core classes are offered in three languages: English, Spanish, and Portuguese. At his school, Paulsen holds a variety of leadership roles, including being named as a Lead Teacher, interviewing potential teacher candidates, and sitting on the School Improvement Panel, in addition to leading district-wide professional development seminars. Previously, as a Teach For America corps member, he was named as an Amgen Fellow. Paulsen earned his bachelor's degree from Marist College, where he served as student body president, and received his M.A. in educational leadership, management, and policy from Seton Hall University. He aspires to lead the charge of improving the opportunities for every child to reach their full potential by educating students to become productive citizens in our global community.
Julie Pickhaver teaches 6th and 8th grade ELA and is ELA teacher leader at Gilbert Stuart Middle School that serves 850 6-8 grade students in Providence, Rhode Island. In the position, she teachers five classes and helps to support and development teachers as head of her department. Previously, she received a Masters in Urban Education from Providence College. She aspires to become an administrator in Providence and help with the turn around effort in the district.
Nadjari Prophete teaches second grade bilingual special education in a Dual Language Nest classroom at PS 112-Jose Celso Barbosa School, a Title 1 school, which serves a diverse population of English Language Learners and Students with Disabilities. As a Model Teacher Leader and Response to Intervention for English Language Learners Instructional Leader, Nadjari builds capacity within her learning community by having an open lab classroom in which inter-visitations and modeled research-based practices are implemented to support and deepen her colleagues’ pedagogy through study, coaching and application. Previously starting a small organization for girls, Inspired Young Minds, which strives to encourage girls to empower themselves and take initiative in their lives, Nadjari also serves to be a leader for women’s empowerment. Nadjari aspires to develop an urban educational environment that bridges special education and bilingualism for scholars of all needs and cultural backgrounds.
Luisa Reis is a Kindergarten Dual Language teacher at San Jose Elementary, a magnet school that serves a low-income population and a high number of English Language Learners. Luisa has served in many leadership capacities including team leader, school instructional leadership, new teacher mentoring program and district curriculum guide writing. She aspires to become part of the team of administrators that work towards growing the Dual Language program in Duval County, Florida.
Michelle Rotella teaches high school special education, focusing on science. In this position she supports students with disabilities in mastering classroom content. Outside of the classroom she helps lead the Digital Ready initiative, create and facilitate the school-wide advisory system, and managing her schools learning management system. Previously she has been the grade team coordinator, and entered teaching through Teach for America as a corps member. She hopes to enter an administrative role supporting a high school community in operations and logistics
Keptah Saint Julien
Keptah Saint Julien teaches 4th grade English Language Arts, Social Studies and Writing at Tulsa Lighthouse Charter School (TLCS). TLCS is a Pre-K to 6 charter school that serves students across the Tulsa area, 96% of whom qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch. In 2012, Keptah became a founding teacher of TLCS, helping her students to achieve over two years of growth in reading. Currently, she is a part of the leadership cohort, a member of the hiring committee and the Book Fair Chairperson. In her present role, Keptah leads and creates targeted professional development sessions, coaches a cohort of teachers and participates in leadership team meetings. Keptah also works as a content specialist for Teach for America Oklahoma, designing and facilitating professional development sessions for lower and upper elementary teachers in English Language Arts. Keptah aspires to lead a school that challenges the status quo and creates transformative opportunities for minority and disadvantaged students through academic excellence and high expectations.
Kristen Silfies is the Math Coach at The Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters, where the instructional focus is on creating a culture of literacy by integrating the written word into all disciplines. In addition to teaching Geometry and Pre-Calculus, she spends her time working with teachers to create Performance Based Tasks and to integrate the Common Core Standards. Kristen has also worked as a mentor teacher with the Master of Arts in Teaching program at Bard College and as an Advisor to pre-service math and science teachers with Teach for America. She looks forward to learning become a transformative school leader and to increasing her impact on student achievement.
Stefan Singh is the Dean of Students and Program Chair at Maspeth High School. As the Dean Stefan handles all discipline related matters at the school level. As the Programmer Stefan is responsible for creating the schedules for all students and teachers in the school. Prior to becoming Dean, Stefan served as a special education teacher specializing in Mathematics. Prior to becoming an educator Stefan was the Program Coordinator at a youth development program in Brownsville, Brooklyn. As an SPA student I look forward to gaining the skills to become an effective Principal in the New York City Department of Education.
Amber Smith is the Literacy Instructional Coach at Haven Academy located in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx in New York City. Haven Academy is a school community that serves students from a variety of backgrounds, but is uniquely designed to meet the needs of at-risk students who are currently in foster care and receiving preventative services through the child welfare system. In her position, Amber oversees all reading, writing, and social studies curriculum in grades Pre-K – 5th, works with teachers to assist with the development of instructional and assessment practices, and teaches guided reading and reading intervention classes in grades 3rd – 5th. Previously Amber taught middle school English Language Arts and Social Studies and high school World History in Austin, TX and middle school Humanities in a Special Education setting in New York City. She aspires to learn and become better equipped to create an environment that empowers teachers and collaborates with families and communities, to mold students into individuals who are independent, resilient, and possess the skills and abilities necessary to be resourceful, considerate citizens who can act as agents of change in both their families and communities.
Myke Spencer is currently the Freshman Academy Coordinator and Biology teacher at T.C. Howe Community High School in Indianapolis, IN. Howe is one of the four schools in Indianapolis that has been taken over by the state for poor performance. Myke works with a great group of educators who are passionate about turning Howe around and ensuring that all students are able to have access to an exceptional education. Prior to his current role, Myke taught freshman biology full-time, where he worked diligently to invest students not only in science, but also in their educational goals as a whole. Myke would love the opportunity to serve as a leader in an urban education environment where he could work closely with students, staff, and communities to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary skills to beat the odds and reach their fullest potentials.
Arianne Thomas teaches sixth grade English Language Arts and Social Studies at Kendall-Whittier Elementary School in Tulsa Oklahoma. Kendall-Whittier is the second largest elementary school in the state of Oklahoma, with 98% students on free or reduced lunches. Her students experienced over two years of reading growth in 2014. As sixth grade team lead, Arianne has helped over 200 students apply and get into their middle school of choice. Arianne also works as an instructional coach for Teach For America Oklahoma, leading professional development sessions for first and second year Teach For America corps members. Arianne aspires to lead an academically successful urban middle school with the additional goal of helping students understand how to advocate for themselves and for policies that lead to a fair and just society.
Monica Trejo is an instructional coach at Academia del Pueblo elementary school, a title one school with a 98% Latino student population that serves the community of South Central Phoenix. In this position, she works on the administrative team to support instruction and manages the school-wide intervention program designed to increase student achievement. Previously, she was a faculty advisor for novice teachers through the Teaching As Leadership Academy and worked as a special education teacher in the Tolleson Union High School District—where she also served as a site leader for her education association. She aspires to learn innovative practices that will transform student outcomes and staff development while serving as an advocate and progressive leader for education in her state.
Amanda Vargo teaches 9th grade biology at North Star College Preparatory High School a charter school in Newark, NJ that is continuously ranked among the top urban public schools in the country. As a lead lesson planner and 9th grade team leader, she plays a key role in directing the culture and academics of the 165 9th grade students currently enrolled at North Star. Amanda is excited to be moving back to her hometown of Cincinnati, OH to be a founding fellow for the Cincinnati School Leader Fellowship. Amanda is passionate about bringing transformational academics and opportunities to students in the city she loves.
Jacklyn Verdin is the AP and IB Coordinator at IDEA Frontier College Preparatory. In this position she assists with the instructional implementation of the Advanced Placement Program and additionally is guiding the process and shift toward authorization for the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programme at IDEA Frontier. Previously she served as a twelfth grade AP Government and AP Microeconomics teacher. Jacklyn aspires to become an effective educational leader of a school and community that will assist in closing the achievement gap by inspiring both teachers and students to become lifelong learners.
Karolina Villagrana is an assistant principal at STRIVE Preparatory- Federal, a middle school in the South West Denver community that consist largely of low-income Latino families and where the inequality of education is prevalent. In her role she provides instructional coaching, leads professional development, and maintains a strong student culture to support a rigorous learning environment. Additionally, she works collaboratively with parents through community meetings and parent workshops so they may become active participant in their child’s education. Prior to STRIVE Preparatory, Karolina was a founding teacher of second and third grade math at Rocketship Education, Alma Academy. Karolina Villagrana aims to open an elementary school in South West Denver where she can establish an environment that contributes the development of teachers and will lead towards students’ academic success.
Laura Wolbrink is currently the Academic Interventionist at Soccer Academy Elementary School, part of the UNO Charter School Network in Chicago, Illinois. As a founding faculty member, she has been responsible for collaborating and implementing supplemental instruction largely focused on literacy development. She began her career in education as a Teach for America 2009 corps member and 7th grade Reading teacher with Indianapolis Public Schools. She aspires to broadening her impact on student achievement by cultivating and supporting educators through being a school leader.
Emily Yaros teaches English and Drawing at Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology, a magnet high school serving a largely low-income community of about 1,100 students. In addition to a regular diploma, students at FHP have the opportunity to become career certified in their chosen field. In this position she has taught both 9th and 10th grade students in English, and a mixture of all grades in a Drawing I course, which is the first to be offered at the school. She serves as the English Department Chair, is a member of the Leadership Team, and is developing the art program in its first year, which includes serving as the advisor of the Art Club. Previously she taught Art at Park Forest Middle School in State College Pennsylvania. Emily aspires to become a leader in a school that provides all students with an excellent education and inspires and empowers them to become advocates within their communities and beyond.
Mingrae Yuelle, a Special Education Teacher who teaches Integrated Algebra to students in grades 9th and 10th at the Bronx Alternate Learning Center Monroe’s Campus. The Bronx Alternate Learning Center is a New York City Department of Education program that provides standard based academics, a structured environment, and social support to students who have been given a Superintendent Suspension. As the Special Education teacher at the ALC site, I am part of a Math Integrated co-teaching program, responsible for ensuring students with IEP’s are provided services according to their Individual Educational Plans, and provide support for all pedagogy in addressing the needs of students with IEP’s. Previously, I was employed as a county casework for Northampton County Children and Youth in Easton, Pa. It is with my greatest hope that I be able to use some of the experience I have gained as an educator combined with the superiorly designed leadership program of SPA to enable me to become a Principal that promotes “equity and excellence in education, overcoming the gap in education access and achievement between the most and least advantaged groups as well as transforming possibilities for student learning”.
Adam Zimmerman is the lead eighth grade English Language Arts teacher and data coordinator at Truesdell Education Campus. He began his teaching career in DCPS as a Teach For America corps member; he is an alumnus of Colgate University and earned a master’s degree in public policy from Oxford University.