Juan Aguinaga was born in Houston, TX and raised in the Rio Grande Valley where he attended IDEA Donna College Preparatory. After graduating from Texas A&M University with a major in International Studies, Juan joined Teach For America and returned to the Rio Grande Valley. He began his teaching career at IDEA Weslaco College Preparatory where he taught tenth grade AP World History and achieved the highest AP results in school history. The following year, Juan rotated with his group of students as the eleventh grade AP United States History teacher and Grade Team Leader where his scholars surpassed district goals on their state assessment.
A low-income student himself, Juan believes that kids from our communities are not at risk of failing, they are at risk of not receiving a just opportunity to achieve their highest potential. Juan believes that school leadership is the single most important indicator that allows schools to meet high academic standards for all children. For this reason, he is excited to attend SPA and learn the skills necessary to lead a school in the near future or establish his own charter school network.
Evinn Beck was born and raised in Biloxi, MS. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Rust College with a B.S. in Elementary Education in 2001. After graduation, Evinn joined Biloxi Public Schools, where he taught fifth and sixth grade advanced math as well as coached middle school basketball. After two years of teaching in Biloxi, he moved to Germany. In Germany, he coached basketball and worked at a teen recreation center for American military children. After living in Germany for three years, he moved to Colorado Springs, CO. In Colorado, he taught first grade at S.T.A.R. Academy of Colorado Springs. After two years in Colorado, he moved to Hattiesburg, MS. Here, he taught fifth grade reading at Rowan Elementary and coached the ninth grade basketball team at Hattiesburg High school. After a year in Hattiesburg, he moved to Winona, MS, where he taught US History, World Geography, P.E., coached Basketball, Baseball, football, and drove a school bus. After 6 years in Winona, he moved Madison, MS. This is his current position as a teacher of US History, basketball coach, and mentor to African American boys. He is also involved with a Mississippi Initiative to createand retain Male Educators of Color. Evinn is overwhelmingly enthused for the opportunity to be apart of SPA New Orleans.
Tahira Bell received her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She obtained her Master of Education in Secondary Science from the University of Pittsburgh. She is a Disney nominated teacher, a teen life coach, and has written personal development curriculums for teens including HYPE (Helping Young People Excel,) Conquering Confidence, and Teen Girl Impact. Teaching allows her to combine a love and interest in the sciences with the desire to make an impact on the lives of our students as they pursue successful and fulfilling futures. The perspective that has always served her well in her role as an educator is always remembering that students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Caring first allows students to know they can trust you to maintain a safe space where they will be more willing to explore new ideas, to think, to create, and to have the confidence to make their unique contribution to their school community.
Kelsey Bull is an alumna of the University of Tennessee where she earned her B.S. in English Literature and an M.S. in Middle Grades Education. Kelsey began her career as a teacher in Knoxville, Tennessee where she served as Team Leader and English Department Head supporting teachers with the implementation of new curriculum. After 4 years in urban public education, her interest in international education led her to Cairo, Egypt. In Cairo she taught high school and continued in her role as Head of Department and as Chair of the Accreditation Committee during which she established a Professional Learning Community to support teacher growth. This year, she is teaching in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. As a school and community leader, she serves as a technology ambassador, a school inclusion team leader, and an accreditation committee member. She believes in the importance of school leadership and the imperative of equal access to excellence in education. She is honored and excited to be a part of the 2019 SPA NOLA cohort.
David Chang is a proud alumnus of Vanderbilt University with a B.S. in Human & Organizational Development. Right after graduation, David joined the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame in 2015, where he received his Master of Education while teaching 7th and 8th English at Saint Elizabeth Elementary in Oakland, California. In this upcoming year, he will be serving as both an English and physical education teacher at Bancroft Middle School in San Leandro. Through the SPA NOLA program, David is eager to develop his skills as a school leader and hopes to infuse current public school systems with best practices that can be found in private, faith-based academies.
Katherina Dimov immigrated to the United States from Panama and started school as an English language learner, she was raised between the states of North Carolina and Florida calling them her home away from home. She studied International Business & Economics at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. Her passion for education and supporting students in their language learning developed as a result of her own experience as an English language learner. She returned to school at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and has taught ESL for 7 years. She also became the Dual Language Coordinator as an opportunity to support bilingualism for students. She looks forward to developing her leadership role within the Winston-Salem Forsyth County School District where she teachers. Through her development and her experiences as part of the SPA|NOLA 2019 cohort, she will continue to support the many teachers, families, and students she works with every day as leader in her community.
Adan Gonzalez is the Founder and Executive Director of Puede Network, he grew up in South OakCliff, one of the toughest neighborhoods in Dallas, Texas. He is the son of two immigrants of Leon Guanajuato Mexico and one of four children. Adan graduated from Georgetown University, majoring in government and with a minor in Education, Inquiry and Justice, while working for the U.S Department of Education and the White House. Adan earned his Masters in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University.
Adan has served his community as a third grade teacher and Director of School & Family Partnerships for the same Elementary school he grew up in. Adan served as the captain of the Georgetown University Boxing team, and won the US National Collegiate Championship. Adan is a US Congressional Gold Medalist, Jefferson National Public Service Awardee, Coors Light National Latino Leader of the Year, Gates Millennium Scholar, and National Coca Cola Scholar. Adan aspires to make his family proud – to make a difference in the community.
Lisandra attended The University of Tampa where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education (K-6) with and ESOL Endorsement. Once she graduated college, she returned to serve in my own community in Miami through a highly selective AmeriCorps Program (25% acceptance rate) and I dedicated one year of service in a public Title I school. In addition, she also coordinated and conducted PBS (Positive Behavior Support) events as the PBS Coordinator to recognize students who had made great strides in correcting their behavior through the school year. Due to the significant impact she had on student attendance, decreasing behavior altercations and improving academic course
performance, she was nominated as the recipient of the Eli. J Segal Bridge Builder Award (chosen from 250 corps members). As my year of service came to an end, she continued her work in Education as a founding teacher in Miami for a charter school (Beacon College Prep.) whose sole mission was to prepare students for college by providing them with the necessary tools to be college ready even at the elementary level. Shortly after, she became the Team Leader at a public school in Tampa where more than 95% of students came from Spanish speaking house-holds and migrant families. She is extremely excited to be joining the Principals Academy (NOLA) at Columbia University to pursue her Masters of Arts in Public School Building Leadership.
Talia Livneh is currently a Math Curriculum and Instruction Fellow and Instructional Coach at Rooted School, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Rooted School is in its third year of operation, and Talia has been part of the founding team since "year zero". Although the work in creating a new school can be challenging and daunting at times, Talia is inspired by all that her students have accomplished so far, and is excited to redefine excellence in schooling alongside them. Talia started her teaching career in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana as a Teach for America Corps Member in 2013. After teaching for three years at her placement school, she taught at ReNew Schools in New Orleans, and then transitioned to Rooted. Talia's approach to teaching is interactive and engaging, while always pushing students to define and strive for their own version of excellence. Talia is originally from Lexington, Massachusetts and has a B.S. in Civil Engineering with an additional degree in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University. She spends most of her free time doing or teaching yoga, doing activities outside and trying out New Orleans' newest restaurants. Talia is excited to learn from, and grow alongside, some of the country's most talented education professionals in the SPA cohort.
Jordan Luke is a native of southern Louisiana and a graduate of Auburn University. She began her teaching career as a Teach For America Corps Member in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she taught middle school Spanish for three years. She is currently in her fourth year teaching high school Spanish at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate in Atlanta’s West End neighborhood, where she also serves as the World Language Department Chair and Instructional Coach. Jordan is excited to begin her journey toward school leadership with SPA NOLA and looks forward to growing as an educator and leader, as well as collaborating with other members of the 2019 SPA NOLA cohort.
Darren Ramalho grew up in Coalinga, California, a rural community in the Central Valley. After graduating from high school, he attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to pursue his undergraduate education, double majoring in English and Political Science. After graduating in 2014, Darren relocated to Perry County, Alabama to serve as a 2014 Teach For America corps member. Darren continues to teach at Robert C. Hatch High School in Uniontown, Alabama, where he currently teaches English and Social Studies. He also serves as English Department chairperson and senior class advisor. Darren is active in the Perry County community, working as an adjunct instructor and library assistant at Marion Military Institute, a military junior college, outside of his high school teaching commitment. Additionally, Darren serves as a board member for Choosing to Help Others in our Community Excel (C.H.O.I.C.E.), a nonprofit organization that focuses on community service and creating educational and employment opportunities for residents of Alabama's Black Belt. Darren is excited to be part of the 2019 SPA NOLA cohort and looks forward to building relationships with fellow cohort members while deepening his understanding of transformative school leadership.
Nathaniel Reaven is a Denver native and proud CU Boulder graduate. After graduating in 2010, Nate started working for the Denver School of Science and Technology charter school network, recently named the top charter network in the country. During his time at DSST, he has taught 6th grade, 7th grade, and 9th grade. For two years, Nate left the classroom and served as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the #2 middle school in Denver. In addition to teaching, he has helped found two schools: DSST: Conservatory Green Middle School and DSST: Conservatory High School. Outside of the school setting, Nate has served on the board of Breakthrough Kent Denver and worked as the DPS liaison to the Student Board of Education. Nate is a former America Achieves fellow and National Academy for the Advancement of Teacher Education (NAATE) fellow. Mr. Reaven enjoys everything about living in Colorado, including skiing, hiking, camping, and attending Denver Nuggets games. Nate is eager to grow with and learn from many of the city’s most talented education professionals in the SPA | NOLA 2019 Cohort.
Ashley Redd is a native Mississippian who became passionate about education early in life. Growing up in a place with such a rich history of racial and social inequities in education gave her a unique understanding of the relationship between education and social change. This passion was further fueled as she left Mississippi to attend college at the University of Oregon where she earned degrees in Educational Foundations (B.A.) and Curriculum and Teaching (M.Ed.). During her time in Oregon she also worked closely with Dr. Dan Close as a volunteer at the Relief Nursery of Eugene- an organization that provides resources to families and works to prevent child abuse and neglect. She also spent three years as a Freshman Interest Group (FIG) Teaching Assistant where she co-taught courses alongside Dr. Alison Schmitke. Her FIG courses prepared entering freshmen for degrees related to diversity and education. After graduating from the University of Oregon, Ashley went on to teach 3rd grade for two years in the Bethel School District in Eugene, OR. During this time, she helped found the Willamette branch of Girls On The Run- an after school club that empowers young girls to build healthy relationships and confidence through interactive movement based lessons. After seven years of being away in Oregon, Ashley moved back to the South to be closer to family and friends. She settled in New Orleans where she spent a year teaching at Akili Academy of New Orleans in the 9th Ward. She served as a 3rd grade lead teacher at Akili as well as the 3rd grade Math Curriculum Director. She is now living in uptown New Orleans with her two bunnies, Roux and Otter, and teaches at Audubon Charter School as a 4th and 5th grade Montessori teacher of math and science. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, eating crawfish in the French Quarter and making trips to Mississippi to visit her Mamaw, Papaw, and cat Luna.
Savanah Silva is a proud first-generation college graduate of Abilene Christian University.
During her years of undergrad, she majored in Convergence Journalism as well as ran cross
country and track for the Wildcats. Following graduation, Savanah joined Teach for America
where she taught 6 th and 7 th grade writing at IDEA Public School in the Rio Grande Valley.
Following her first year, she joined the TFA national summer staff where she worked the
Houston Institute. During that summer, she was tasked with school operations and management
for 32 first year teachers. Her second-year teaching, Savanah taught 6 th grade reading and will
begin her third year at her placement school in this same position. She looks forward to creating
bonds with like-minded individuals as well as acquiring the skills necessary to be the type of
leader all students are worthy of.
Sarah is an educator in Cleveland, just around the corner from her hometown of Akron, Ohio. She is a teacher and instructional coach at Citizens Leadership Academy Southeast, a Breakthrough school. She was a 2013 Teach For America corps member in Northeast Ohio, and she pursued a master's degree in Elementary Educational Studies from Johns Hopkins University. She moved to Columbus for several years, where she was a Dean of Instruction and third grade teacher at KIPP Columbus Elementary. Sarah is looking forward to expanding her impact in education by continuing to develop and lead exceptional educators.
Crystal Whitaker is a native of Columbia, South Carolina. She received her Bachelors of Arts in History with minors in Black Cultures of the Americas and Women and Gender Studies from Furman University. She furthered her studies and matriculated from the University of South Carolina with a Masters of Arts in Teaching Social Studies. Crystal is currently in her 8th year of teaching Social Studies. She taught AP US History, Government, Economics and World History at A.C. Flora High School for three years. She currently serves as the Social Studies department chair at Fairfield Central High School, where she has taught for 5 years (AP, Honors and CP US History). As a social studies teacher, she initiated an after school and Saturday session tutoring program to increase students’ achievement in social studies and passage on the SC US History End-of-Course Exam, which has made several gains since her arrival at FCHS. Crystal wants her students to be active members of society that are able to perform their civic duties in helping to build a better community and world. Throughout her teaching career, Crystal has served as a sponsor for the Student Government Association, Beta Club, Prom Committee, Scholarship Committee and Renaissance Honor Roll Program. She also serves a certified evaluator and mentor/coach to new teachers. For the 2019-2020 school year Crystal is honored to serve as the Fairfield Central High Teacher of the Year. In addition to her various roles at FCHS, Crystal has served as a writer for the South Carolina Social Standards Committee (2020 revision), a College Board AP Reader for US History, and as a presenter for the South Carolina Council for Social Studies Annual Conference. As an educator, Crystal is excited about being a lifelong learner and creating a better school and learning environment for all stakeholders (students, faculty and the community). She is excited to be a part of the 2019 SPA NOLA Cohort!
Program Director: Dr. Brian K. Perkins
Teachers College, Columbia University
525 W 120th Street, Box: 65N