Student & Alumni Profiles

Student & Alumni Profiles

Derek Kanarek

Derek Kanarek is a doctoral student and teaching fellow in Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. He also serves as Upper School Academic Dean at Catlin Gabel, an independent school in Portland, OR, where he leads professional learning, provides instructional and leadership coaching, supervises faculty, and serves as the school’s site director for the Mastery Transcript Consortium. Derek’s research and teaching in his doctoral work lives at the granular level of school leadership and professional development, using theories of how adults develop to inform the work of teacher leaders, staff developers, and building-level administrators. His dissertation is a qualitative, 360-degree interview study that explores learning-oriented teacher leadership. Derek has completed Columbia’s Coaching Certification Program (expected Fall 2019) and has served four times as a teaching fellow on courses that help school leaders learn to develop themselves and their colleagues, both at Teachers College and through the Summer Principals Academy (NYC). Drawing on his doctoral work, Derek has also co-created and taught leadership courses for high school students.

Derek holds a B.S. in computer science and B.A. in communication from Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ), a Masters of Teaching from James Cook University (Townsville, Australia) in secondary school math and IPT education, and an Ed.M. in educational leadership studies from Teachers College. He and his partner, Rebecca, live with their sons in Beaverton, OR.

Christy Joswick-O'Connor

Christy Joswick- O’Connor is a PhD student in Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her advisor is Dr. Ellie Drago-Severson. After graduating from The University of Scranton, Christy started her career in education as a New York City Teaching Fellow. She became a middle school English and Social Studies teacher in the Bronx. She currently serves as an English Language Arts supervisor in Florham Park, New Jersey.

Christy holds two Masters degrees, one in bilingual education from Lehman College, and one in education leadership from Teachers College where she was a member of the 2013 Summer Principals Academy. 

Her current research explores teacher leadership. She is specifically interested in working with teachers and administrators to develop teacher capacity through the pillar practices. Christy lives with her husband Kyle, and their son in New Jersey.

Hyunjin Choi

Hyunjin Choi is a PhD student in Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her advisor is Dr. Ellie Drago-Severson. Her current research explores professional development and learning community of teachers.

Hyunjin has worked as an English teacher and a homeroom teacher in public elementary schools in Seoul, South Korea for the eight years. She holds a M.A. in Educational Administration from Seoul National University and a B.A. in Elementary Education from Seoul National University of Education.


Rachel Harari

Rachel Harari is a PhD student in Education Leadership at Teachers College, Columbia University. Through her work as an English Language Arts teacher for ten years and Department Chair for six years at Magen David Yeshivah High School in Brooklyn, New York, Rachel was inspired to study adult development and leadership, wondering about the link between teacher growth and student work ethic.

Rachel received her M.S. in Special Education from Brooklyn College, and her B.S. in English Education from New York University, where she published her research on mathematics anxiety in elementary school students: “Mathematics Anxiety in Young Children: An Exploratory Study.” Rachel is also a 2016 recipient of The Covenant Foundation’s Pomegranate Prize, which recognizes emerging leaders in the field of Jewish Education. Rachel lives with her husband, Albert, and three children in Brooklyn, New York.

Dominique Lester

Dominique Lester is a first year doctoral student in the Education Leadership Ph.D program. His sponsor and advisor is Professor Sonya Douglass-Horsford. Dominique’s research and work explores how theology, faith and ethics help shape the ways in which public intellectuals and Black moral leaders govern anchor institutions in Black communities. Dominique joins Teachers College from Atlanta, Georgia, with an extensive background in early childhood education, theology and history. Dominique has served as a classroom teacher, training coordinator for academic organizations and institutions that work with marginalized populations and as a minister in local congregations. Dominique earned a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Paine College in Augusta, Georgia. A Master of Divinity from Emory University: Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia and a Master of Arts in History and Education from Teachers College: Columbia University.

Dominique serves as the Chief of Staff at a mega church in Westchester County where he manages over 60 different ministries, helps to oversee a multi-million dollar building project, attends to day to day operations of a church with over 8,000 members, establishes corporate partnerships for non-profits with educational aspirations for members of the community and assists in the management of a multi-million-dollar annual operating budget. Dominique’s research and work on faith and education considers within educational leadership and contexts the influence of a public intellectual to persuade, be with, care for, lead to, share with and guide beyond as a means of enacting change in the public square and facilitating hope within the private lives of individuals who attempt to lead within hostile social structures. Dominique attempts academically and vocationally to bridge the gap of the public square and private life of the moral leader; and offer paradigms that recall historical figures who married theological reflection with educational praxis as a leadership model.

Dominique loves music, sports, and a good spades game. Dominique also collects African American Children’s books as a hobby. Dominique is a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, incorporated and believes that the Atlanta Braves is the greatest baseball team of all time.

Sarah Weeks

Sarah Weeks is a Ph.D. student in the Education Leadership program at Teachers College, Columbia University. Sarah’s interests include how teachers, students and school leaders use of student learning assessments and other data sources inform classroom and school improvement efforts. She is particularly interested in the impact of increasing teacher and school leader capacity in the use of student-centered assessment, personalized learning and mastery-based learning practices on equity and the role of student and teacher voice in curriculum and assessment design and implementation. Sarah is also a Doctoral Research Fellow in the Education Leadership Data Analytics Research Group working on Professor Bower’s National Science Foundation funded project, Building Community and Capacity for Data-Intensive Evidence-Based Decision Making in Schools and Districts. Prior to beginning her doctoral work, Sarah spent 17 years working in public and independent schools in New York and New Jersey as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, district leader and consultant. She holds a BA in Architecture from Yale University, a MA in Educational Policy, Organization and Leadership Studies from Stanford University, and a MSEd in Educational Administration and Supervision from Pace University/New Leaders for New Schools.

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