Luqman Abdur-Rahman is a native of Atlanta, Georgia and has committed to serve communities similar to the ones in which he was raised. After attending Morehouse College and Georgia Tech in the Dual Degree program, he began his professional career as a mechanical engineer and by working for and leading a non-profit organization focused on providing educational opportunities for youth in the English Avenue and Vine City neighborhoods of Atlanta.
After doing student teaching and coaching soccer at Westlake High School, Mr. Abdur-Rahman decided to transition to teaching full-time. He began as a math and physics teacher at South Atlanta High School. He then taught middle school math at KIPP WAYS Academy, where he was recognized as having one of the highest “value added” designations in Atlanta Public Schools. After attending Columbia University and receiving a Master’s of Education in Educational Leadership, Mr. Abdur-Rahman worked as an Assistant Principal at Sutton Middle School and an Academy Leader at BEST Academy High School.
Mr. Abdur-Rahman then joined Fulton County Schools as the principal of Ronald E. McNair MS. He led the transition to a new state-of the art building, which was designed and built with a focus on personalized learning and flexible working spaces. He also led the integration of one to one devices, with each student and teacher receiving an i-Pad with a data plan from the Verizon grant, effectively changing the quality and method of instruction in the building. After this very exciting work, he returned to Atlanta Public Schools where he started his teaching career as principal of Luther Judson Price Middle Schools. He is currently leading this school through another transition, as they are embarking on a partnership with Purpose Built Schools, where the students will use a rigorous and well-rounded curriculum based on project based learning, a very heavy STEAM focus, and strong literacy and numeracy.
Originally hailing from the Northwest, Chana Benenson received her B.A. in Comparative Languages and Linguistics from Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana in December of 2003. After a semester of running an after school program, she began her career in education teaching English Language Arts at Walter L. Cohen Senior High School in New Orleans, Louisiana as a member of the Teach For America, Greater New Orleans 2004 corps. Following the flood of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina, Benenson spent a 10-week stint teaching English as a Second Language in Thailand. After returning home she was hired in December 2005 at the New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School, the first high school to reopen on the East Bank of the city following Katrina. For the following 5.5 years Benenson taught all levels of French and Spanish, led the Foreign Language Department, was an instructional coach, was the school culture coordinator, and taught certification courses for The New Teacher Project. For the 2011-2012 school year Benenson shifted from the academic side of school to overseeing student discipline and activities as the School Dean. Through a series of events Benenson became Sci High's Co-Principal in the fall of 2012 and spent the duration of the school year co-leading the school as the Director of Student Development and School Culture. The New Orleans Charter Science and Math High School an open-enrollment public charter high school that offers extensive math and science electives as well as a robust system of remediation and the most successful open-enrollment Advanced Placement program in the city.
B.A. in Psychology from The George Washington University in 2003. Rajvee began her career in education as a special education teacher with Teach For America in Greater New Orleans nine years ago. Rajvee taught for three years before joining Teach For America's staff as a Program Director. Feeling drawn back to the school setting, she moved into the Special Education Coordinator role at O. Perry Walker High School and then into an instructional coaching role. Rajvee is currently the Director of Teaching, Learning and Student Support at KIPP: Renaissance High School in New Orleans, Louisiana. Rajvee aspires to work and develop a team of teachers to fulfill Renaissance's vision of "inspiring, preparing and empowering leaders for college and beyond" in order to have 1,000+ first-generation college graduates by 2022.
B.S. in Political Science with an emphasis in Public Policy and Psychology from Santa Clara University. Caitlin, a Teach For America alumna, began her career in education in New Orleans, LA in 2008 where she taught special education for kindergarten through third grades in resource and inclusion settings. Caitlin has served as a Learning Team Leader and Corps Member Advisor for Atlanta’s Summer Training Institute and she remains active in the special education community by facilitating discussions and workshops revolving around how to support students with special needs in a general education setting. Caitlin taught fourth and first grade as part of the founding team for John Dibert Community School, a transformation charter in New Orleans that is part of the FirstLine Charter Schools network. Caitlin is now leading and innovating Dibert's Response to Intervention Program at Dibert and has become a visionary for the design team with FirstLine's Personalized Learning approach to education. She aspires to be a supportive leader in an urban school where she can enhance strategic RTI programs and effective implementation.
M.A. in Education Leadership, with a concentration in Public School Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University (Summer Principals Academy) and a B.A. in Environmental Studies and Government from Connecticut College. Erin began her teaching career as a Teach For America 2010 corps member in the Greater New Orleans region and continued to teach middle and high school sciences for 5 years. Currently, Erin works for ReNEW Charter Schools as a network instructional coach, supporting all of ReNEWs pK-8 charter schools through curriculum development and support as well as on-site teacher coaching. Erin works with SPA NOLA as an Internship Instructor and has also served an an Instructional Assistant for the Emotional Intelligence course students take their first summer with the program.
Lauren began her career as a third grade teacher and then pre-kindergarten teacher in Memphis City Schools. During this time she founded the school’s first state funded pre-kindergarten program at Peabody Elementary School. The success of the program led her to mentor pre-kindergarten teachers throughout the city and become a presenter at the Memphis City Schools Early Childhood Conference. She then moved to New Orleans, Louisiana to become an integral part of the educational movement in the charter system as a TeachNOLA master teacher. She taught kindergarten and was a team lead with Akili Academy of New Orleans, which ended its third year as the highest scoring school in the Achievement Network. Her experience in Early Childhood led her to be selected to be on the Louisiana NAEYC panel on kindergarten readiness. Then Lauren moved to the Crescent City Schools network to become a founding staff member of Harriet Tubman Charter school, a K-8th grade turn around charter school. She was a kindergarten teacher, team leader, and helped pilot and teach in the school’s recently developed multi-age K-1-2 program. She returned to her hometown, Memphis, TN, to become a lower elementary Dean of Instruction in the Tennessee Achievement School District where they are working to move the bottom 5% performing schools to the top 25% in 2013. Since then, she has become the Director of Teacher Coaching for the Achievement Schools, creating a comprehensive coaching framework for the five direct run schools, leading a team of network coaches, and providing high-quality professional development. She has presented on academics and teacher development at several local and abroad platforms and has participated on several panels regarding education. She received a B.S. in Early Childhood Education from the University of Maryland in 2006. She received a Master in Public School Leadership from Columbia University Teacher College’s Summer Principals Academy in 2013. She will receive certification in the Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar in 2017
B.A. in Spanish and International Studies from the University of Wyoming in 2009. Kelsey began her career in education as a Teach For America Corps Member in the Rio Grande Valley. She taught Special Education for two years in a public school in Donna, Texas. Kelsey then spent a year as an 8th grade ELA teacher and Team Leader at IDEA College Prep in San Juan, Texas. ICPSJ is part of a high performing charter school district with multiple campuses along the Rio Grande. Kelsey recently relocated to Denver, Colorado where she works at an urban, turnaround re-engagement center for students who are over aged and under credited. She teaches American Literature, Contemporary Literature, World Literature, ACT Prep, Advisement and Special Education. Kelsey is looking forward to being a part of the SPA NOLA founding class of leaders.
Kwame Floyd is the math department chair at Langston Hughes Academy Charter School. He began his career in education with Teach For America as a founding member of Langston Hughes in 2007. After completing his corps commitment, Kwame worked for Teach For America as a Manager of Teacher Leadership and Development (formerly known as Program Director) where he sought to broaden his impact on student achievement and access through managing and developing 34 teachers across the Greater New Orleans area. He received his B.S. in Human Development and Family Studies from the Pennsylvania State University. Kwame is a 2012 Emerging Political Leader Fellow through Leadership for Educational Equity, a 2013 Fellow at New Leaders Council, and serves on the board of the New Orleans Parents Guide (formerly New Orleans Parent Organizing Network).
B.S in Pre-Medical Biology from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2010. Joshua, a Teach For America alumni, began his career in education in the Lower Rio Grande Valley over four years ago. He has taught Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Systems. Joshua is currently the 9th grade Biology teacher & Science Department Head at Mercedes Early College Academy, an early college high school in south Texas that prepares students from underserved communities for success in college and citizenship through a unique partnership with South Texas College. Joshua is responsible for the supervision of all instructional programs within his department, evaluating lesson plans and assessments, and observing classes on a regular basis to encourage the use of a variety of instructional strategies consistent with research on learning and development. Joshua aspires to become a school leader dedicated to creating an environment where innovation and risk-taking play a fundamental role in fostering educational change.
B.S. in Marketing from Fordham University in 2007. Lisa Giarratano began her career in education as a math teacher in New Orleans, LA at Albert Wicker Literacy Academy in the fall of 2007. After teaching math there for three years the school was closed and she moved on to teach a self contained eighth grade class at SciTech Academy. Lisa is currently the 3-8 Math Director of Curriculum and Instruction for ReNEW Charter Schools in New Orleans. In the past four years, ReNEW has taken over four of the lowest performing elementary schools in the city. Lisa has designed the math curriculum for all four schools and also supports the principal's at each school in coaching and developing their math teachers. In addition to her position at ReNEW, Lisa is a Seminar Instructor for TNTP Academy, a program that provides certification classes to all of the first year Teach for America and TeachNOLA teachers in the city. This is her fifth year teaching TNTP Academy seminars.
Michael currently serves as Senior Vice President of Schools for San Antonio, managing, coaching, and developing principals for IDEA Public Schools. Michael Hardy began his career in education as a high school science teacher in Brownsville, TX. Since then, he has taught various subjects in math, science, engineering and technology, founded and coached a state champion robotics team, coauthored and managed a school transformation grant, and worked as a department head, instructional coach and administrator in both traditional public and public charter schools. He served as principal of IDEA Frontier College Preparatory, a secondary public charter school in Brownsville with grades 6 through 12, which, since his tenure has consistently been nationally ranked in the top 50 high schools in the nation by US News and World Report and Washington Post. IDEA serves the poorest urban county in the nation and works to send all its graduates to college. After serving at a traditional public school, he transferred to IDEA, where he won the state of Texas educator of the year award through HEB for secondary schools. He is hoping to learn how to develop students who are prepared to compete in a 21st century global community as a school leader. He has a B.S. Electrical Engineering, Minors in Business, Linguistics, and Mathematics, from Brigham Young University.
B.A. in Political Science and English from Xavier University of Louisiana in 2008. Markita began her career in education with the South Louisiana branch of Teach for America in 2008. As a TFA corps member, Markita worked diligently to improve the literacy of young, under-privileged learners in Baton Rouge public schools before moving to a charter school where she worked with the schools' most struggling readers. Markita is currently teaching English abroad in Turkey to elementary students. Upon her return, she will serve as a Manager of Teacher Leadership and Development for incoming TFA Corps members in Baton Rouge. It is her greatest desire to open a charter school that will give every student regardless of ability or socio-economic status access to a quality education.
B.S. in Education - Recreation and Leisure Studies, University of Georgia. Heidi began her education career four years ago in Greensburg, Louisiana at St. Helena Middle School. Currently, she teaches middle school math and serves as 8th grade mentor teacher and math department head at Kenilworth Science and Technology in Baton Rouge, LA. During her journey with Summer Principals Academy, Heidi aspires to learn more about leading adults in struggling schools through the use of research driven instructional strategies.
Maya Jenkins has been in education since 2001. She began her teaching career in the Atlanta Public Schools where she taught Kindergarten and 2nd grade, She also taught 2nd grade for four years in the Fulton County Public Schools before coming to work at ANCS.
Maya received her B.A. in Sociology from The University of Massachusetts and a M.Ed. in early childhood education from Georgia State University. She recently graduated from Columbia University with an M.Ed. in Educational Leadership.
B.A. from Gustavus Adolphus College and a M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University. Guyniesha Johnson began her career in education as a 3rd grade math teacher at James C. Rosser Elementary School in Moorhead, Mississippi. Guyniesha has worked for the Mississippi Delta Summer Institute for five years and has served in the Corps Member Advisor and Instructional Specialist role. Guyniesha is serving Quitman County Elementary School in Lambert, MS. as a math instructional coach and interventionist after spending six years as a classroom teacher. She strives her best on daily basis to prove what is possible for students in the Mississippi Delta.
B.A. in Sociology from University of Michigan (2010); Chloe Kannan began her career in education with Teach for America in 2010 where she began teaching 7th and 8th grade Language Arts in the Mississippi Delta. During her second year, she decided to venture to the only turn-around middle school in the state where she took on an additional role as ELA Department Head. At the culmination of that year, Chloe was the recipient of the Teach for America Sue Lehmann Award for Transformational Teaching, Teach for America’s highest national honor. Moving into her third year at Ruleville, Chloe also served as the instructional coach for literacy and led a literacy initiative that helped transform the school. During her time at Ruleville, she served as the student council sponsor, member of the school improvement team, book club sponsor, extended school day curriculum coordinator, and ran the facilitation of all summer programs, student events, and external partnerships. Also, Chloe led the school’s transformation to an English curriculum centered around authentic literacy. Chloe is currently teaching 6th and 7th English at the American School of Bombay in Mumbai, India where she is also the head assistant soccer coach. Chloe aspires to eventually become a leader of teaching and learning where she can push schools to become places of personal transformation and academic excellence for all students.
Schneider currently serves as the Coordinator of Communications and Curriculum Support for St. Bernard Parish Schools. She graduated from SPA NOLA in 2013. She began her teaching career in 2009 as an English teacher at Chalmette High School where she also served as an Instructional Coach primarily focusing on literacy instruction in the ELA, science, and social studies classrooms. She has spent much of her career training teachers on the Common Core State Standards at both the local and state level.
B.A. in Psychology from Morehouse College 2004; Early Childhood Education Certificate from Agnes Scott College 2006. Langston began his career in education as a Teach for America corps member with Atlanta Public Schools, serving inner-city students in 2004. Langston has impacted education in various capacities as a tutor, debate coach, Beta club sponsor, mentor, and community organizer. Langston is currently an Assistant Principal under the Teach for America Principal Fellowship with Atlanta Public Schools. Langston has served as Student Support team chair, Curriculum, and Discipline team leader. Langston has been awarded a Funds for Teacher fellowship in which he researched student motivation in China and Japan. He has also traveled to Egypt to study impact of culture on elementary students. As a member of the 2012 SPA NOLA founding cohort he is looking forward to learning and developing new and innovative ways to motivate, educate, and elevate young learners to improve their lives and empower their communities through education.
In 2006, Colleen began her career in education at Thomas C. Marsh Middle School in Dallas, Texas. There she taught Reading and Language Arts for six years, leading her students to a 98% pass rate and 52% college readiness rate on state testing. In 2012, Colleen embarked on a journey into instructional leadership when she served as a Principal Fellow in Dallas ISD’s School Leadership Academy while completing her graduate degree at Teachers College SPA NOLA program. During this time, Colleen deepened her leadership capacities by focusing on systemic approaches to improving quality of instruction, student achievement, and culture in urban public schools. As a Principal Fellow at Woodrow Wilson High School, she led the English Department to 14 point gains on state EOCs. After completing Residency at Woodrow, she transitioned to Zaragoza Elementary School where she spearheaded the design, adoption and implementation of a Personalized Learning instructional model. Colleen's most current leadership role will start in the 2017-2018 school year, when she will serve as Assistant Principal at a turnaround elementary school in West Dallas.
B.S. in Business from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities in 2008. Hailey, a Teach For America alumni, began her career in education in Rio Grande City, TX in 2008 where she taught sixth grade mathematics for two years. Upon finishing her Teach For America commitment, Hailey moved to Nicaragua to continue her work in education at the American Nicaraguan School as an eighth grade science teacher. While in Nicaragua, Hailey led her fellow coworkers from the position of science department head and grade level team leader. Hailey will be returning to the United States this upcoming year with a renewed focus on educational leadership. She is looking forward to learning more about adult leadership and refining her educational vision with the help of her 2012 SPA NOLA cohort.
B.A./M.T. from the University of Virginia in 2008. Laura Meinzen began her career in education as an educational consultant at a non-profit in Uganda and then as a teacher in New Orleans four years ago. Over the past five years, she has gained a diversity of teaching experience, from being a teaching intern at Phillips Exeter Academy' Summer School, to teaching Secondary World Geography and Pre-K at the Child Rescue Center in Bo, Sierra Leone. Laura is currently a secondary teacher at L.W. Higgins High School in Marrero, LA. Higgins is a large high-poverty public high school. Laura has engaged in leading weekly professional development for teachers at her school and exposing the Higgins school improvement team to the innovation skills taught at 4.0 Schools. Laura was chosen to be part of the 2011-2012 Education Entrepreneur Cohort, a partnership between 4.0, Teach for America, and Idea Village. She is currently a 2013 Fellow with Leading Educators, a selective training program for mid-level school leaders. Laura is looking forward to growing, learning, and celebrating with the 2012 SPA cohort in New Orleans this summer.
B.S. in Political Science from Savannah State University in 2004; Master of Arts in Teaching from Mercer University. Dumaka began his education career in Savannah, Georgia as a Middle School Social Studies teacher but soon relocated to DeKalb County, Georgia were he has served diligently since 2006. He has served in economically disadvantaged schools, with struggling students his entire career. Three of his years in teaching were spent in a gender based learning environment teaching all boys. During his career Dumaka has served as Social Studies Department Chair, sat on a plethora of instructional committees and has done curriculum consulting for the Georgia Department of Education and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. His current school, Columbia Middle, is a Title I school that serves predominately minority students that are over 90% percent economically disadvantaged. Currently, Dumaka is serving as a 7th grade Social Studies teacher. He was also selected to serve as his school's Race To The Top Campus facilitator. DeKalb County was awarded 34 million dollars of the 400 million Georgia received from the Race To The Top Grant. In this role he is charged with insuring proper implementation of the new Common Core standards, the new teacher evaluation system “Teacher Keys” in addition to any of the other components of the Race To The Top initiative. Understanding the importance of technology in education, Dumaka is also a member of DeKalb’s first “A-Team” Technology cohort. As a member of the 2012 SPA NOLA Founding cohort, Dumaka is prepared and ready to lead a school wherever the opportunity presents itself. He is firmly focused on stewarding a mission and vision that maximizes student achievement. Dumaka is highly motivated and ready for challenges and the opportunity to teach, lead and excel.
B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University in 2006; Masters of Education in Special Education from Arizona State University in 2011. Masters of Education Leadership from Columbia University in 2013 and a founding graduate of the Summer Principals Academy program in New Orleans. Nicholas Oviedo was born, raised and began his career in education in Phoenix, Arizona. In the Fall of 2016, he became the Assistant Principal for Registration at South Mountain High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Prior to his role as Assistant Principal, he served three years as an Instructional Coach in the Roosevelt School District, also in South Phoenix. In this role he trained and coached new teachers, and led district-wide professional development. He began his education career as a special education teacher, also in the Roosevelt School District. His first position was in a self-contained setting, working with students with emotional disabilities. He is excited to be working serving at a high school less than a mile away from where he started teaching, and to help serve students he has known for over eight years.
B.A. from University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2010. Jeffrey Rothschild began his career in education as a 2010 Teach For America corps member in the Louisiana Delta. Jeffrey is currently a 4th grade teacher at Wright Elementary School, a public school, in Tallulah, Louisiana. Jeffrey has served in multiple leadership roles for his school and district in northeast Louisiana, as a grade chair, as a member of the School Leadership committee and the Response to Intervention team, and as chair of the 2011-2012 elementary level disciplinary revisions. Most of all, Jeffrey is looking forward to learn and collaborate with his fellow classmates and professors as a member of the 2012 SPA NOLA cohort.
B.S. in Biological Sciences from Loyola University New Orleans in 2007: Will began his career as a high school science teacher at his alma mater Chalmette High School shortly after Hurricane Katrina. He taught earth science, biology, physical science and pharmacy technician classes for 4.5 years. Will was the Coordinator of School Support Services for two years at Chalmette High School in Chalmette, Louisiana, the only public high school in St. Bernard Parish. He was recently name Assistant Principal and is the administrative liaison on several school committees attempting to build student investment and increase college awareness and readiness. As a member of the 2012 SPA NOLA cohort, Will is most looking forward to further developing his leadership skills and to building strong professional relationships with his colleagues.
B.A. in English literature from Cornell University in 2004; M.A. in teaching from Dominican University in 2008. Sarah began her career in education as a Teach for America corps member at a neighborhood high school in Chicago’s south side. In her four years at Hirsch Metropolitan High School, Sarah worked to improve the reading and writing skills of low-performing students and became a National Board Certified Teacher. Sarah went on to become an Instructional Coach for Chicago Public Schools, and from there, she became the Humanities Instructional Leader at Perspectives Leadership Academy in Chicago, Illinois. Perspectives Leadership Academy is a charter high school that is dedicated to preparing all scholars for college success, equipped with the passion and tools to become intellectually reflective, caring and ethical leaders engaged in a meaningful life. In this role, Sarah coached and evaluated English, history and special education teachers while providing high-quality professional learning opportunities regarding literacy, classroom management and assessment. Since that time, Sarah has gone on to be the assistant principal, and is now the principal of Perspectives Leadership Academy.
Emily serves as the Manager of Implementation and Early Childhood Education for Turnaround Arts. In this role, she coaches a national network of educators and district leaders working to transform priority schools through strategic use of the arts. Emily began her career teaching middle school language arts in post-Katrina New Orleans’ upper ninth ward. She then served as Assistant Principal and founding staff member at ReNEW Cultural Arts Academy, a Turnaround Arts pilot school and the school that had been, prior to ReNEW’s takeover in 2010, the lowest performing in the state of Louisiana. There Emily led an overhaul of the academic and behavior intervention systems resulting in significant improvements in student outcomes and a reduction in behavior infractions, both of which supported the school’s dramatic turnaround. Emily holds a BA in History from the University of Tennessee and her MA in Public School Leadership from Columbia University Teachers College.
Sandra received her Ed.M in Organizational Leadership from Columbia University, a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from University of Mississippi and a B.S. degree in Elementary Education from Delta State University. In 2009, she became a National Board Certified Teacher. She has devoted her entire career to teaching K-8 students living in the Mississippi Delta and has taught all grades K-6. She has also served as a faculty advisor for Teach for America’s Delta Summer Institute. Sandra is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
After graduating from SPA NOLA, Sandra became Assistant Principal at Quitman County Elementary, a PreK-4th grade school in the Mississippi Delta where she strives to motivate her Wildcat Scholars to invest in their own success and become the best readers, writers and problem solvers in the state…no the country...no the world!
Program Director: Dr. Brian K. Perkins
Teachers College, Columbia University 525 W 120th Street, Box: 65N