2016 Fellows

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Peace Corps Fellows Program

Meet the Fellows

2016 Fellows


Iriss Clymer hails from the small town of McKinleyville nestled in the Northern California redwoods. Graduated from San Francisco State University with a major in English Education, Iriss was inspired by her time volunteering in various San Francisco public schools in preparing students with real life skills pitted against social injustices. After receiving her TEFL certification, she served three years in the Philippines as a TEFL volunteer for elementary, high school, college, and out-of-school youth. Following in the social justice practices, Iriss helped organize community gender health camps, teacher and school-head trainings, teacher licensure exam reviews, and diversity workshops that focused on indigenous peoples’ education and multi-ethnic classes. As a Peace Corps Fellow, Iriss is looking forward to sharing her commitment and enthusiasm for social change in working with high school English students in New York.

Laura grew up in Helena, Montana.  She attended Reed College, where she majored in Cultural Anthropology.  After finishing school, she worked in Los Angeles for a bit before traveling to Morocco, where she served as a Youth Development Peace Corps volunteer for three years.  Her projects focused on the rights and empowerment of youth with special needs, women's health, and ESL education.  After she completed her service, she remained in Morocco to teach English at a private school.

Julia is originally from Texas but spent her childhood moving from London to Karachi to Jakarta, then back to Texas. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2007, having double-majored in Global Studies and Comparative Literature. After finishing her undergraduate studies, she went on a journey that ranged from teaching “Super Beginner” English to Tibetan refugees in India to volunteering on an organic olive farm in Southern France. She spent some time in the non-profit world, working as a writer and development officer at Tibetan Aid Project. She served as a Peace Corps Education Volunteer from 2011-2013 in the Philippines. During her service, she taught English and Creative Writing at a public high school, where she also organized a Youth Leadership and Empowerment Camp and coordinated a project to establish computer resource centers at four public schools. Julia’s post-Peace Corps plans to travel around Southern Mexico for three months turned into a year and a half of falling in love with Oaxaca, managing a vegan kitchen, and learning Spanish. As a student at Teachers College, Julia is pursuing her M.A. in the Teaching of English. She looks forward to teaching high school English Language Arts and making New York her home.

Sarah Hinton hails from Tacoma, Washington and ever since studying abroad in Mexico at the age of 15, she was inspired to serve in the Peace Corps. She graduated from Western Washington University with a major in Linguistics and minors in teaching ESL and Spanish. She first served as an English teacher in Nicaragua from 2011-13,and then served again in Colombia as a Small Business and Youth Development volunteer from 2014-15.  In Nicaragua she started a yearly HIV/Aids and career fair for graduating seniors and created a literacy club at a girls' community center.  In Colombia she taught teens how to make a business plan and was a Camp GLOW counselor.  Additionally, she taught job acquisition and university prep skills to at-risk, high school youth in Portland, Oregon. Her teaching and general life philosophy is to be kind to all; everyone is facing a difficult battle you may know nothing about.  She is excited to instill a love of learning in Spanish and English in her future students in lower elementary grades and to create an inviting bilingual space in her future classroom. Sarah is pursuing a master’s in bilingual/ bicultural education.


Tara Lesser is from Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a B.S. in Elementary Education. She served as a primary school English teacher in Struga, Macedonia. Outside of school, Tara was the Project Manager for Macedonia National Spelling Bee and a Mentor for United States Agency for International Development’s (US AID) Small Project Assistance Program.  Alongside her counterpart, a local special education teacher, Tara developed and implemented programming and curriculum for a program called “Together for Struga.” This program supported the integration of students with disabilities with Turkish, Albanian, and Macedonian students through monthly team building activities. As a student at Columbia University’s Teachers College, Tara is working towards a master's degree in intellectual disability and autism. 

Amit was born in India but has spent the majority of his life in the Lone Star State.  From 2011-2013 he was an education volunteer in Ghana, where he taught middle school math. Now, he is teaching high school Algebra in the Bronx. He likes teaching because he gets to work with a variety of people and gain new perspectives. Math is an especially exciting subject to teach because its applications are universal. His goal as a teacher is to sharpen the minds of his students as well as his own to aid in the creation of a society of critical thinkers.

Maria proudly calls the Bay Area of northern California home. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BA in International Development Studies and shortly after she joined the Peace Corps from 2012-2015 in the Eastern Caribbean. On the island nation of Saint Lucia, Maria worked with the National Youth Council to develop leadership skills among secondary school students throughout the entire country. Maria used the power of history to build a critical awareness in her training sessions and realized then, she had found a passion. Maria is looking forward to working with middle and high school students in New York and to facilitating conversations about the relevance of the past in our present and future.Ultimately, Maria hopes her students will use history as a catalyst to determine their own role in shaping the present and future.

After graduating Williams College, Michele St John served as a Health Education volunteer in Ivory Coast, West Africa, where she taught HIV/AIDS prevention, family planning, hygiene and assisted with polio vaccinations and baby weighing. She completed her Peace Corps service, traveled, then returned to New York, working in media and marketing for over a decade.

While working as a freelance writer on a pre-production grant for a documentary film on international education and policy, an interest for teaching in the United States was sparked. She decided to test drive teaching in New York, by working as a substitute teacher for a school year around Manhattan, but mostly in East Harlem, teaching English, Health, Art and Social Studies to elementary, middle and high school students. She realized she had a passion for teaching and delivering interesting lessons to children and teens of all ages.

She is excited to meet the challenge of attending Teachers College, while learning to better plan engaging lessons for New York City public school students in the new school year. And is looking forward to bonding with fellow RCPVS, sharing stories and finding West African Peace Corps fellows who can do the mapouka dance too.

James is originally from Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts. He studied English and secondary education at Villanova University, outside of Philadelphia. After graduating, James joined Peace Corps and served as a TEFL volunteer in East Java, Indonesia from March 2014 until May 2016. In Indonesia he taught English to 10th and 11th graders at a public high school and organized extracurricular activities such as English Club, Book Club, and Debate Team. Here in New York City James is teaching high school English, and he could not be more excited about it. James strongly believes that quality education has incredible potential to make the world a better place, and he looks forward to the opportunity to try his best to be a part of such an education for his future students.

Rebecca grew up in Leavenworth, WA and attended Western Washington University where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in History and Social Studies. During and after college, she directed youth leadership camps, worked as an AmeriCorps tutor, and volunteered with community outreach groups . From 2012-2014, Rebecca served with the Peace Corps as a Community Health volunteer in Morrope, Peru. During her service, she focused on training teen health promoters in sexual health and positive decision making and organizing a healthy homes network of young mothers. Additionally, she co-designed and implemented a female empowerment camp and participated in an English Teaching Committee. Rebecca plans to teach high school social studies and hopes to inspire her students to understand the world from a variety of different perspectives.