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2013 NOLA Graduates
Tomi Amos currently serves as a Turnaround Support Manager for the Colorado Department of Education. In her role, she partners with district leadership and principals around the state of Colorado to facilitate on-site performance management and targeted professional development in turnaround contexts, in order to accelerate student achievement and school performance. After graduating from Trinity University with a B.A. in Political Science and International Studies, Tomi began her career in education with Teach for America as a 7th grade math, literacy and social studies teacher in New York. After teaching in New York, Tomi attended the University of Denver – Sturm College of Law, where she received her Juris Doctorate on a full tuition scholarship. In her time at law school, Tomi served as the Director of Education Policy for Colorado Senator Michael Johnston during the 2011 legislative session. While at DU Law, she was also the recipient of the Scholastic Excellence Award. In 2011 Tomi joined the STRIVE Prep charter school network in Denver where she has taught 6th grade math, and served as a founding middle school Assistant Principal and a founding elementary school Principal Fellow.
Claudia is originally from Flint, Michigan and has two brothers. She grew up watching her mother struggle single-handedly to support her family with merely a high school degree. From an early age Claudia saw education as a great equalizer and a mode to better herself and her family. She was blessed to have remarkable teachers and mentors that in part led to her being a first-generation college graduate. Her two brothers followed her lead; her older brother now works as an accountant in New York and her younger brother is working toward his Ph.D at Boston University. Claudia feels blessed to have had the influences in her life that has allowed her to create those opportunities for others. Claudia received her B.S. in Brain Behavior and Cognitive Science from the University of Michigan. Claudia is completing her second summer through Columbia University’s Summer Principal’s Academy to earn her masters in Educational Leadership. Claudia began her career in education in the Rio Grande Valley where she has taught Science in grades 6-9. Claudia has served in several leadership roles within IDEA Public Schools including that of staff development cycle facilitator, grade team leader, and content leader at the campus level, as well as eighth grade Science course leader at the district level. On the administrative level as an Assistant Principal of Instruction, Claudia led the Science content area in earning 100% passing on the Biology End of Course Exam, leading the district. Claudia firmly believes that exceptional teaching has the greatest impact on student success and is looking forward to broadening her impact on student achievement this year as she transitions into the role of Principal in Residence.
B.A. in Psychology from the University of Texas Pan American – Edinburg, TX in 2006. Nora is from McAllen, Texas. Upon graduating from the University of Texas Pan American, Nora began her career in education at Thigpen-Zavala Elementary in McAllen, Texas. Currently, Nora is teaching 5th grade, a team leader and a Math coach for 3rd -5th grade at IDEA Quest in Edinburg, Texas. Next year, she will be teaching 2nd grade. She will also be leading her team as grade level chair at Gorena Elementary in Edinburg, Texas. Nora aspires to become a school leader dedicated to creating an environment where parents and students are well informed about their educational opportunities for themselves with out compromising the integrity of their culture and language.
Originally from Providence, RI, Jennifer Cappelli received her B.S. in Chemistry from Wagner College in Staten Island, NY where she received the Frank K. Bobbit Memorial Award in Chemistry for highest academic achievement. Jennifer went on to complete her teacher certification courses at Georgia State University in Secondary Science Education. She began her career in education as a 2010 Teach for America Corps Member in Metro Atlanta where she taught high school Chemistry, Forensic Science, and Physics at South Atlanta School of Computer Animation and Design (CAD) for three years. Jennifer has also served as the Testing Coordinator, Senior Sponsor, Prom Coordinator and Science Team Leader for her school. Jennifer continued her journey in education as a Principal Fellow at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Atlanta to develop her capacity as an instructional leader. In this role, Jennifer served as the 6th Grade Assistant Principal responsible for culture, teacher development, and family engagement initiatives. Jennifer will receive her M.Ed from Columbia University Summer Principals Academy, and is excited to continue her work in urban education.
Emily Comstock Gordon
Emily Comstock Gordon currently serves as a Project Director for TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project). She leads teams to work toward TNTP’s mission to end the injustice of educational inequality by providing excellent teachers to the students who need them most and by advancing policies and practices that ensure effective teaching in every classroom.
Emily is a proud graduate of the University of Oklahoma. She has taught with Teach For America in Eastern North Carolina, on a Fulbright grant in South Korea, and at KIPP Austin College Prep. Emily has also supervised an alternative certification program under TNTP, served with the Office of Educator Quality in the Austin Independent School District, and was the founding Assistant Principal of Instruction at IDEA Allan College Prep in Austin, Texas. She graduated from SPA in 2014 and continues to use knowledge and skills from the program daily in her work. Her hobbies outside of work include hiking, enjoying live music, and appreciating the Texas culinary scene.
Mrs. Crawford has had a dynamic career. She began in corporate America as a customs analyst where she was part of a global customs compliance team for Cargill, one of the largest privately held organizations in the United States. While working with students through community service initiatives, Mrs. Crawford developed a burning desire to inspire and shape young minds. To that end, she left her corporate career to work with students and ensure all were afforded access to quality education.
During her educational career, she has taught secondary math and has engaged the larger school community through coaching Varsity and JV cheerleading as well as serving on several school committees. Mrs. Crawford most recently served as a Dean in the Fulton County School System. In this role, she was charged with supervising and supporting staff, school wide hiring and recruitment of talent, implementing and enforcing the school’s discipline plan, mitigating community concerns and assisting with testing among other duties.
Mrs. Crawford earned her bachelors in Economics and Finance from Dillard University in New Orleans. She went on to obtain a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from the Teachers College at Columbia University.
Mrs. Crawford currently serves as an Assistant Principal at Sunset Elementary in Moultrie, GA.
B.A. in Anthropology and a minor in Global Health from Emory University in Atlanta, GA in 2009. After graduating from college, Janet joined Teach for America and began her career in education in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. She has taught sixth grade math for the past five years at a traditional public school in Donna, TX. During the past three years, she has also served as the math department head, written math curriculum for the district and led monthly content seminars for Teach for America math teachers. Janet is passionate about empowering her students to construct their own conceptual understanding of math, as well as developing in her students a deep curiosity about the world. After graduating from the Columbia University, Teachers College Summer Principals Academy in NOLA, Janet will be transitioning into the Academic Counselor role with IDEA Public Schools. She looks forward to serving as a school leader and continuing to create a transformational education for the students of South Texas.
B.A. in English from Stonehill College of North Easton, MA in 2010. Aislinn began her career in education as a ninth grade English teacher in St. Bernard Parish at Chalmette High School. Presently, Aislinn works in St. Bernard’s Central Office as Curriculum Facilitator for Middle School English Language Arts. Aislinn has developed Common Core-aligned English Curriculum for all three middle schools and one alternative school. She also supports teachers, instructional coaches and principals in curriculum and the transition to Common Core. Aislinn sits on several district committees and acts as a leader on St. Bernard’s K-12 literacy team. In addition to her position in Central Office, Aislinn consults with Reach Associates, a team of school principals, education coaches and expert practitioners to implement the Common Core State Standards with an eye on increasing teacher effectiveness and student outcomes. Aislinn has also served as a Corps Member Advisor for the 2011 Mississippi Delta Summer Institute. As a member of 2013 SPA NOLA cohort, Aislinn aspires to become a school leader who maximizes the talent of educators to inspire and lead underserved youth.
B.S. in Biochemistry from Ithaca College in 2008. Margaux Dubuar began her fight against educational inequity as a Teach For America Greater New Orleans corps member in 2009. She taught for three years at Chalmette High School as an Algebra 1 teacher in St. Bernard Parish, LA. In her third year, Ms. Dubuar’s students demonstrated exceptional growth (99th percentile on the Value-Added Model), which contributed to Chalmette High School’s position as the #1 Algebra 1 End of Course scores in the state of Louisiana. Margaux also served as the Director of Office Operations and Technology at the Teach For America Atlanta Summer Institute in 2012 and often contributes to corps members’ professional learning opportunities throughout the year. She is currently an Instructional Coach at Chalmette High School, working on the professional development of 120 faculty members, and enhancing the education for 1700 students. As a member of the 2013 SPA NOLA cohort, Margaux looks forward to collaborating with other education professionals and working toward transforming education in the Greater New Orleans area.Margaux also served as the Director of Office Operations and Technology at the Teach For America Atlanta Summer Institute in 2012 and often contributes to corps members’ professional learning opportunities throughout the year. She is currently an Instructional Coach at Chalmette High School, working on the professional development of 120 faculty members, and enhancing the education for 1700 students. As a member of the 2013 SPA NOLA cohort, Margaux looks forward to collaborating with other education professionals and working toward transforming education in the Greater New Orleans area.
B.S. in Finance from Tulane University in 2011. Matthew Feigenbaum found his passion for education when he joined City Year, via Americorps, and dedicated one year to serving in underperforming schools across Louisiana. Matthew then went on to be a high school mathematics teacher at an alternative charter high school (Renew Accelerated High School or RAHS) serving over-age and under-credited students. For the 2013-2014 academic year, Matthew will hold the Dean of Culture position, where his responsibilities will include creating, evaluating and implementing all school-wide systems, as well as providing classroom management support and professional development opportunities for all staff. In addition to his position at RAHS, Matthew is a TeachNOLA Recruiter and Selector, where he interviews a multitude of candidates in order to identify the most promising teachers for the students of New Orleans. Matthew was also selected to be a Stand for Children Educator All-Star, which includes him in a statewide network of educators that consult on education policy. As a member of the 2013 SPA NOLA cohort, Matthew strives to be an inspiring school leader that empowers his students and staff in and outside of the classroom.
Arlena Ford is the founding principal of Aspire Richmond Technology Academy (RTA), a K-5 blended learning school in Northern California. Prior to becoming principal, she was a principal resident at Aspire East Palo Alto Charter School. She began her career as a public school teacher in east San Jose, California. She later relocated to her native city of Los Angeles, where she taught at a high performing KIPP charter school. During her years as a teacher, Ms. Ford taught lower and upper elementary; as well as, middle school science. She engaged in numerous leadership capacities ranging from Lead Teacher to Enrichment Director.
Ms. Ford holds a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of California, Berkeley and Master’s degree in Organization and Leadership from Columbia University, Teachers College.
As a member of the 2013 SPA NOLA cohort, Ms. Ford enjoyed collaborating with and learning from educators from around the country and developing her leadership skills that has aided her in successfully building and leading RTA.
B.A. in Economics from Hendrix College, M.A. in Advertising from UT Austin. As a new teacher in Austin, Brennan created RISE high, which partners students with successful entrepreneurs to create businesses. In 2010, he worked with an industrial reseller to create uMAKEit, a program that partners manufacturing businesses in Cleveland with local middle schools to create hands-on learning projects. Brennan currently works as a Teacher Development Specialist, supporting Secondary Math teachers and Data Specialists in schools across Houston. In his spare time, he enjoys presenting workshops about using technology to facilitate collaboration between schools and community partners.
Alex currently works as the Director of Student Support Services for Hiawatha Academies, a charter school network in south Minneapolis. Prior to this role, Alex worked as a special education teacher and administrator for schools in Connecticut and Louisiana. Alex is passionate about proving what is possible for ALL students, when held to high expectations and provides a high-quality education.
Heather Gilchrist is the Principal at Dolores T. Aaron Academy, a charter middle school in the ReNEW network in New Orleans, Louisiana. She began her career in education four years ago as a Teach for America corps member where she taught 6-8 English, Social Studies, and K-8 Art for two years at Milestone SABIS Academy in New Orleans. After fulfilling her commitment, Gilchrist began working for ReNEW as the founding middle school Social Studies teacher for the turnaround of Reed Elementary where she was named “Teacher of the Year”. She graduated from Skidmore College in 2009 with a B.S. in Art History.
Stephanie Gounder graduated from Amherst College with a double major in Political Science and Women’s and Gender Studies. In 2008, she joined Teach for America in South Louisiana and taught sixth- and seventh-grade English at Glen Oaks Middle School in Baton Rouge. She also served as the chair of the school’s Positive Behavior Support Initiative and received the 2010 Glen Oaks Middle School Teacher of the Year Award. In 2010, Stephanie moved to Houston, Texas, to work as a seventh-grade English teacher at YES Prep Brays Oaks, a charter school with the mission of sending 100 percent of its students to college. During her first year of teaching at YES Prep Brays Oaks, 98% of her students passed the TAKS writing exam and 90% of students passed the TAKS reading exam. Stephanie has also served as the campus’ Literacy Specialist, Dean of Instruction, Director of Academics, Assistant School Director. Most recently, Stephanie has served as the School Director at YES Prep Brays Oaks since the fall of 2015.
B.S in Legal Studies in Business and Political Science from Tulane University in 2009. Emily Hartnett is currently an Instructional Performance Manager at Sylvanie Williams College Prep, a K-5 elementary school in Central City under New Orleans College Prep (NOCP). Emily was a founding member of the NOCP staff, as she worked with their flagship middle school as a Special Projects Assistant while attending Tulane University. Upon graduating, she continued working for NOCP and was a founding teacher at Sylvanie Williams, where she taught 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade. Emily will be moving to a new role and will be serving as the Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction, supporting teachers and principals of both NOCP's elementary schools, Sylvanie Williams and Lawrence D. Crocker. As a member of the 2013 SPA NOLA cohort, Emily looks forward to strengthening her leadership skills so that she can continue to work towards the mission of educational equality for all students in the city of New Orleans.
A native of East St. Louis, IL, Whitney is Navigator-in-Chief for EdNavigator, a non-profit organization that partners with leading businesses to help hard-working families find a path to success in school and beyond. She brings 10 years of experience as an award-winning teacher, school principal and instructional expert. Her career in education began in New Orleans, where she moved after Hurricane Katrina to become a founding teacher and eventually 7th-9th grade principal at KIPP Central City Academy. Her extraordinary success with students earned her the 2011 Fishman Prize, a $25,000 award given annually to just four teachers nationwide. Whitney holds a BA in English and Modern Foreign Languages from Jackson State University, a MA in Organizational Leadership from Teacher’s College at Columbia University, and a Master’s in Education Policy and Management from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She lives in New Orleans, LA.
Helping the world become a better place has always been Jennifer's guiding principle that led her to an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education from Northwestern State University. Beginning her career in Morehouse Parish, Jennifer taught 3rd and 4th grade. Recognizing that students needed more than her instruction, Jennifer completed a Master Degree in Community and School Counseling from the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Jennifer evaluated and taught students needing remediation in reading for 11 years in grades K-8. Leaving the elementary classroom, she became the Program Director of the Associate of Science in Teaching Program at Delta Community College where she served for two years. Looking for new challenges, Jennifer returned to the classroom in a startup charter school teaching 4th grade. After a year, she moved into the RTI Coordinator’s position and returned to teaching students remedial reading. In 2010 she was awarded a Fulbright for a research proposal. Jennifer holds several state certifications and has served on state and professional leadership committees, offices, and advisory teams. She is a former Teacher of the Year and National Board Certified Teacher. Realizing that potential leaders need guidance, Jennifer attended SPA NOLA with the 2013 Cohort earning a second Master Degree. Currently she is the Migrant Education Program coordinator, Teacher Leader, and ELL Teacher Coach for Union Parish School District. She recently completed the Rural Trust Global Teacher Fellowship and traveled to Costa Rica for 15 days to learn about the culture. She is currently completing Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellowship and will travel to Indonesia to learn about the education system, attend round table discussions, provide professional development, and team teach. Understanding that advocacy and policy are important avenues to change the teaching profession, she is a member of the recently founded Louisiana Educator Advocacy Development (LEAD) Fellowship where she is learning about advocacy and policy and engaging with local and state policy makers.
A native of the DC Metro Area, Adeel Khan attended Virginia Tech, where he majored in Accounting and Information Systems. While at Virginia Tech, Adeel served in many leadership roles including as student body president. During his presidency, he faced adversity when the tragedy on April 16th, 2007 challenged the Virginia Tech community to remember the precious lives lost and begin its healing process. For his leadership after the tragedy, Adeel was presented the President’s Volunteer Service Award at the White House from President George W. Bush. Adeel’s passion for service led him to Teach for America in Atlanta, GA, where he completed two years teaching 9th, 10th, and 12th grade English. Since beginning his teaching career, Adeel has completed several policy fellowships including as a School Board Fellow mentored by Cobb County School Board member David Morgan, an Urban Leaders Fellow mentored by Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston, and recently completed the Atlanta Rise Fellowship with Teach for America. Over the past two years, Adeel was the 7th grade social studies teacher at KIPP STRIVE Academy and curriculum developer for KIPP Metro Atlanta. While at STRIVE, his students earned among the highest pass and exceed rates of any school in Georgia on the state's standardized tests. This fall, Adeel will join Denver Schools of Science and Technology (DSST) as a School Director in Training to pursue his dream of becoming a school leader in Denver, CO.
B.A. in Political Science / Public Policy from Rutgers University- New Brunswick in 2008. Jim is currently the Dean of Humanities at Sci Academy in New Orleans East. In this position, he supports and coaches English, social studies and foreign language teachers, while also teaching US History and AP United States History. He began his career in education with Teach for America in 2008, as a corps member at West St. John High School in Edgard, Louisiana. At West St. John High, Jim served as the social studies department chair and member of the school improvement team. He has taught every high school social studies class in his five years of teaching, from world geography to US history. Jim was recognized as the District Teacher of the Year in St. John Parish in 2010 and 2011. In addition to teaching, Jim has also served as a Curriculum Specialist and Corps Member Advisor in the Teach for America Atlanta Summer Institute, guiding and preparing incoming corps members in their first summer of teaching. Jim is hoping to further push his development as a teacher leader in order to better support his team and school.
Earning a Bachelor’s degree in 2003, Veeko’s teaching career began as a substitute teacher in Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky. After a year of witnessing the need for male role models for young men of color, Veeko entered an alternative certification program aimed at placing minority teachers in high needs' schools. Following 12 weeks of training, Veeko accepted a teaching position at Iroquois High School in the Jefferson County District. He has taught Freshman Physics and Biology at Iroquois since 2009. Veeko has been an integral member of Kentucky’s education commissioner’s Teachers Advisory Council and the Commonwealth’s Professional Learning Task Force. Furthermore, he has served as the Iroquois High School Freshman Academy Team Leader. When Kentucky adopted the Common Core Standards in 2010, Veeko was recognized as a strong leader in the forefront of academic reform and was chosen to attend the GE Foundation’s “Developing Futures” conference. After meeting the literacy team from Student Achievement Partners (the non-profit founded by the lead writers of the Common Core State Standards), Veeko became one of the first Common Core Advocates. Since 2011, Veeko’s work with Student Achievement Partners has included training teachers from around the country to implement Common Core, speaking on panels for Achieve, Inc. and The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, being featured in videos on achievethecore.org, and speaking at The Teacher Town Hall of the 2013 Education Nation Summit on NBC. As a part of the Common Core Teacher Institute, Veeko taught an exemplar lesson titled “How are Mitochondria Connected to the Aging Process?” currently available on NBC's Learning and Teaching Channel. In 2014, Veeko will be working with Student Achievement Partners to create more exemplar lessons and tools to guide school districts through implementing the Common Core in science classrooms across the country. After graduating from the Summer Principals Academy, Veeko hopes to lead the charge into the 21st Century education reform movement and do his part to fulfill the promise of an “equal education for all.”
B.A. in Psychology from Emory University in 2002. Erica began her career in education by joining the Teach For America Development Team in Metro Atlanta. There she worked with foundations and corporations to raise money for the great work of the Teach For America Metro Atlanta program. Inspired by the stories of fellow staff members and current corps members Erica joined the 2008 Teach For America corps, serving as an elementary educator in Special Education. She spent two years at her placement school teaching both fourth and fifth grade. After her two year commitment to Teach For America was completed Erica volunteered in West Africa. There she lived in a rain forest village as a surrogate mother to orphaned chimpanzees. Erica has been teaching in Atlanta Public Schools as both a first and fifth grade general education teacher. She has also worked as both a Corps Member Advisor as well as a Faculty Advisor for the Teach For America Atlanta Summer Institute. In 2011, Atlanta Public Schools closed Cook Elementary, the Title I school serving the Summerhill neighborhood where Erica was a teacher. It was during that process that Erica saw the great impact that the school closing had on the local community. She followed over 100 of the school’s students to Parkside Elementary School where she currently teaches. As a member of the 2013 SPA NOLA cohort Erica is enjoying learning and developing new and innovative ways to educate and lead. Erica believes that the SPA NOLA program will help her become a transformative leader for the students of Orleans Parish. She is excited to be joining the founding staff of KIPP East Community Primary, which will welcome its first class of Kindergarten students this summer.
Sara Martin moved to New Orleans in 1999 to join Teach For America. She taught for 3 years as a 4th grade Special Education teacher at Garyville Math and Science Magnet School. After that, she served as a founding 6th grade teacher and team leader for 3 years at the first charter school in New Orleans, New Orleans Charter Middle School. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans Charter Middle School. Sara was part of the NOCMS staff that returned to New Orleans immediately following the storm and opened Samuel J. Green Charter School in January of 2006. Green, a part of the newly created Firstline Schools, was one of just a handful of schools open that year. As a part of the leadership team, Sara was an integral part of the success at Green and the Firstline Schools Network over a six-year period, including serving as 4th grade teacher, Lower School Program Coordinator, Enrichment Coordinator, RTI Coordinator, and SPED Coordinator. In 2011, she became a founding member of Harriet Tubman Charter School as a 4th grade teacher and team leader of the 3rd and 4th grade teams. Sara is currently the Dean of Students of the elementary school at Harriet Tubman, serving 360 students in grades K-4. She holds a Bachelors degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Sociology and English. In 2010, Sara graduated as part of the inaugural class of Leading Educators in New Orleans. She has led teacher development as a Corps Member Advisor for Teach for America and as a Content Seminar Leader for the New Teacher Project. As a New Orleans resident, Sara is excited for SPA's presence in the city to continue the progress of educational reform.
B.A. Mass Communications and Journalism from California State University, Fresno. Mackee Mason began his education career as a US History teacher at IDEA Mission College Preparatory, a secondary public charter school in Mission, Texas serving grades 6 through 12. At IDEA Mission, Mason served as Department Chair, Culture Coordinator, as well as football and basketball coach. Mason students improved from 74% passing on the state social studies exam to 100% passing and 65% exceeding. After his time at IDEA Mission, Mason opened IDEA Weslaco as the founding grade team leader and Science and Social Studies teacher. After a successful new school launch, Mason served as Assistant Principal of Instruction for IDEA Weslaco and IDEA Edinburg. After leading both schools to academic and cultural success, Mason was promoted to Principal in Residence and shortly after, Principal of IDEA Carver Academy and IDEA Carver College Preparatory, leading IDEA’s first two schools in San Antonio. Mason is currently a teacher and culture supervisor with Austin Achieve public schools in Austin, Texas.
Ashlynne Morgan is originally from Minneapolis, MN and holds a B.S. in Biology from The Ohio State University. In 2010, she joined Teach For America Metro Atlanta. She taught in the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) district for four years as a 7th grade Mathematics teacher. While teaching, Ashlynne served in various leadership roles as a Beta Club Head Sponsor, Cross-Country Coach, Advisory Chair, and PTA Teacher Representative at her school. She was also involved in piloting two district initiative committees, the Middle School Advisory Program and the Common Core Implementation Plan. Ashlynne is very passionate about urban public education, which stems from her own upbringing in public schools. She is particularly passionate about serving at-risk youth in alternative, yet progressive settings. Outside of school, Ashlynne loves to spend time with her son, Adrian. They enjoy going to the zoo and watching wonderful movies like Shrek and Despicable Me. Ashlynne would like to thank her son and her mother for their continued support and inspiration. She would also like to thank Dr. Richards and SPA NOLA for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Ambe J. Olinga majored in mechanical engineering and minored in applied mathematics, earning a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Tuskegee University. Currently, he is a STEM and Project Based Learning educator in Fulton County Schools. Ambe’s 14 year career in education began in 2002 as a corps member in Teach for America. During and after his two year commitment, Ambe consistently raised student achievement levels. He directed his school’s first chess program and co- founded its first robotics club. As an administrator, he led STEM efforts for over 27 schools in Fulton County. Under his leadership, schools experienced significant growth in graduation rates and scoring on annual proficiency assessments. Ambe’s leadership extends beyond school and district walls. With the support of LEE (Leadership for Educational Equity) Ambe is credited with organizing over 800 community stakeholders around issues of educational equity like low parent engagement and advocacy. He has served on the local school council and directed after school math and technology academies for children ages K-12 in several metro Atlanta learning communities. Prior to his time in education, Ambe tested and built trucks as an engineer in the studios of Ford Motor Company. As a founding charter member of his church, Ambe volunteers as a children’s minister, logistics team lead, small group facilitator and coach. His experiences have shown that students achieve most in learning environments that reflect their individual life and culture. He aspires to build learning communities birthed by stakeholders that innovatively equip learners to create solutions to problems that do not yet exist.
BA in Anthropology from American University in Washington, DC in 1998 and MA in Curriculum and Instruction from Portland State University in 2004. Steve’s career has taken him from public schools in Portland, Oregon to the International School of Prague in the Czech Republic and now to Lusher Charter School in New Orleans. Throughout all of these experiences Steve has been, first and foremost, a social studies teacher, always working to challenge kids to think deeply and critically about why the world is the way it is and how they have come to exist in it the way they do. Outside of the classroom, his approach with students has led to a consistent professional interest in fostering true student governance, beyond traditional student council, which engages kids in structured, but meaningful dialogue and decision-making about policies that shape school culture. Steve’s passion for academic excellence has led him to coach his school’s Quiz Bowl team as a means of making academic rigor a positive and pervasive part of his school’s culture. Despite his love for the classroom, Steve’s experiences in working with colleagues as department chair, developing an advisory program, collaborating in data teams, designing K-12 social studies curriculum and leading Critical Friends Groups have convinced him that leadership matters and that schools thrive best in a culture characterized by trust and ownership. Steve is looking to bring these experiences to leadership roles in his current and future schools, but he is looking forward to growing first through his participation in SPA in New Orleans. He is eager to learn from new colleagues and to develop the knowledge and skills necessary in order to contribute meaningfully to the development of public education in his new hometown of New Orleans.
BA in Feminist Studies and Sociology from the University of California, Santa Barbara (2009). Carla began her career as a Teach For America corps member in South Louisiana. After two years of leading her students to significant academic achievements as a middle school math teacher, she stepped into school leadership by serving as the Instructional Coach and PBIS Coordinator at Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. In the fall of 2014, she will return to the classroom to grow in instructional practice as a math teacher at KIPP Academy of Opportunity in Los Angeles, California. As a member of the 2013 SPA NOLA cohort, Carla strives to learn how to best support and train teachers so they may maximize student achievement.
B.A. in Marketing from Ohio University, Vanessa began her career in education as a Teach for America teacher with the South Louisiana region in 2010. Vanessa has experience as a special education teacher as well as middle school English. Vanessa has impacted education in various capacities as a tutor, Dance coach, mentor, and community organizer. As a TFA corps member, Vanessa worked relentlessly to improve the literacy of young, under-privileged learners in the rural area of Pointe Coupee (West Baton Rouge) before moving to a public charter school, in East Baton Rouge where she worked with the schools' most struggling readers. Vanessa is currently an Assistant Principal at KIPP Columbus Middle School. Vanessa serves on the school level as a leader for both school culture and an instructional leader. As a member of the 2013 SPA NOLA cohort she is eager to continue using what she has learned to develop new and innovative ways to motivate, educate, and advance young learners to empower their lives and improve their communities through education.
Alison Rini has a B.A. in Neuroscience from Columbia University, an M.A. in Elementary Education from Teachers College, and received her M.Ed. in Educational Leadership from Teachers College in July 2014. Alison taught for ten years, ranging from PreK through 8th grade in public, private, and charter schools. While working in New York City public schools, Alison worked with Lucy Calkins and the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project to pilot literacy curriculum that has since been shared nationwide via the “Units of Study” series. Alison served as Principal of Island Village Montessori in Sarasota, Florida for two years, and she now serves as Elementary Assistant Principal of Pine View School for the Gifted in Osprey, Florida. Alison strives to accelerate the innovative ideas of the faculty and students whom she supports and she is very grateful for the foundation she received from SPA NOLA. For peace in our communities, let’s work together!
A native of historic Tuskegee, Alabama, Gayla R. Robbins received her B.S in Chemistry from Spelman College in Atlanta, GA. Gayla has six years of teaching experience in DeKalb County School District at Clarkston High School, a Title I school where the student body represents six continents, more than 54 countries and a total of 48 languages. She serves as Vice-Chair of the Science Department and holds both Gifted/In-field and ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) certifications. After her third year of teaching, Gayla was appointed as Physical Science Content Lead because of her consistent success with facilitating growth in student achievement; increasing the student state mandated Physical Science End of Course Test (EOCT) pass rate by 300%. She was later appointed as DeKalb County's Curriculum & Instruction Assessment and Professional Learning (CIAPL) Team Lead where as she co-authored the county's physical science curriculum. Nominated to serve on the Student Learning Objective (SLO) Committee, Gayla also co-authored the AP/IB Chemistry SLO Exam for the county. Gayla enjoyed working with Pearson during the 2011-2012 school year, where she modeled teaching strategies for national training videos and presented at the Pearson National Summit in Orlando, FL on how to effectively implement the three preferred co-teaching models. Because she believes mentoring to be essential to the development all persons, she spends a significant amount of time doing so by serving as both the cheerleading and girls track teams coach. She also enjoys mentoring undergraduates at Spelman College through the Sister 2 Sister Alumnae-Students Program. Gayla is looking forward the personal and professional development the Summer Principals Academy will afford her as she continues to serve today's youth, tomorrow's leaders.
B.A. in Political Science and Economics from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. Brad began his career in education at Ringgold Primary as a Kindergarten paraprofessional in 2005 in Ringgold, Georgia. In addition to his education experience in the United States, Brad taught Social Studies at Thomas English School in Bangalore, India for two years. Prior to his education experience, Brad served in the President George W. Bush administration as a White House Policy Intern in 2004, where he worked specifically on education policy issues facing our nation. Upon graduating from the University of Tennessee in 2012, Brad joined Teach for America. At IDEA Quest College Prep, he has led the ninth and twelfth grade teams and coached the UIL District Champion boys’ basketball team. Today, Brad is the Assistant Principal of Instruction at IDEA Quest.
Constance Shepherd: B.M. in Music Education from the University of Washington with a dual emphasis in violin and voice and minor in Diversity Studies. Constance is a life-long devotee of service through the education of children in her community. Upon graduation, Constance joined the Teach for America 2011 Delta Corps, serving as professional learning community leader for the performing arts department and the Professional Learning Community chair at W.A. Higgins Academy of Arts and International Studies in Clarksdale, MS. Now a resident of Memphis, TN, Constance is the Dean of Music at the Stax Music Academy and the Soulsville Charter School. An avid musician, Constance performs on various stages as a violinist and an alto, records albums for independent record labels in Seattle and Memphis, and composes electronic music in her spare time.
Originally from Madison, Wisconsin, Justin Steiner earned his B.A. in Political Science, Spanish Language, and a Certificate in Leadership from the University of Wisconsin, Madison in May of 2008. After completing his undergraduate degrees, Justin moved to New York City to join Teach For America’s full-time recruitment staff. After a living for a year in New York City, he decided it was time for a change and moved to the South to join the 2009 Teach For America South Louisiana corps. Justin was a self-contained third grade teacher at Clinton Elementary School in Clinton, Louisiana in East Feliciana Parish. Justin eventually was nominated for and won the Rookie Teacher of the Year award from the East Feliciana Parish School Board at the end of his second year of teaching. In his third year at Clinton Elementary School, he joined the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP) leadership team as a mentor teacher. After working for three years in East Feliciana Parish, Justin was offered the position as Dean of Instruction at Lanier Elementary School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana with the Recovery School District of Louisiana. In his current role as Dean of Instruction, Justin coaches and professionally develops 25 teachers across Pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade. In addition to his work during the school year, Justin has been a School Operations Manager and Corps Member Advisor at the Teach For America summer institute in Houston, Texas. Most recently he was a School Director for two HISD elementary schools during the summer of 2012. As a member of the 2013 SPA cohort, Justin is looking forward to further developing his leadership skills and building productive relationships with his colleagues.
B.A. in Political Science- International Relations, University of California, Los Angeles. Kimberly began her career in education in 2009 in Pointe Coupee, Louisiana teaching 6th grade math and science at Rosenwald Elementary School. Recognizing the importance of teacher support, she went on to serve as a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development for Teach For America corps members and teachers in the Mississippi Delta. In this capacity, she was a chartering instructional coach for over 40 teachers in 5 school districts and 6 schools, and managed project-based coaching for the Mississippi Delta region. In 2013, she returned back to South Louisiana to develop 16 high performing teachers at 11 rural and urban schools and serve as Teach For America- South Louisiana’s Real Time Teacher Coach, an initiative to provide highly differentiated culture and management support for teachers. She currently works as the Director of Culture of Achievement where she designs and manages diversity, equity, and inclusiveness programming for staff and teacher development, professional development on classroom culture and culturally responsive education, and real time teacher coaching initiative for the South Louisiana Region.
Upon early high school graduation in 2000, Marcus committed his service to the United States Marine Corps and assumed leadership roles during Operation Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. After receiving an Honorable Discharge in 2004, Marcus enrolled at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio where he fulfilled general education requirements and wrote op-ed pieces for the school newspaper, Cougar News. Marcus transferred to The Ohio State University in 2006 earning a B.A. in English and a minor in Political Science, and continued writing op-ed pieces for Ohio State’s newspaper, The Lantern. During Marcus’ two years at Ohio State, he filled multiple internship and freelance positions, interning for Mayor Michael Coleman of Columbus, Ohio and The Hannah Report. Following graduation in 2008, Marcus continued to freelance and fill random labor positions in the Columbus area. Marcus relocated to Jacksonville, Florida in 2009 where he began his career as an English teacher. For five years, Marcus contributed to Edward H. White High School’s advancement from Title I, designing an instructional framework that combined a Positive Behavior Incentive System (FRANC System), Costa’s Levels of Questioning and Thinking, and portfolio assessments to prompt an 85% pass rate on English End-of-Course Exams. Marcus’ aspiration is to serve humankind, by teaching humankind how to recognize the right from the wrong and to model to them as to where the interest of all humanity lies.
B.A. in Political Science from Rice University in 2007. Bernadette began her career in education as a corps member in Teach For America – South Louisiana. She taught middle school math for 3 years at Prescott Can Academy and Southeast Middle School. In her third year of teaching, she served as head of the Math department at her school and as a Math Learning Team Leader in Teach For America, where she led professional development in math content. With the hope of broadening her impact, Bernadette joined staff with Teach For America as a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development and served in this role for 3 years. In this role, she coaches and develops K-12 teachers in all content areas in both charter and district schools across the South Louisiana region. Bernadette aspires to continue to be a part of the exciting work happening in Baton Rouge, as a school leader in the highest needs schools. Through Summer Principals Academy, she hopes to learn more about empowering and developing teachers and partnering authentically with communities in order to achieve excellence in our schools.
Sam began his work in education after graduating from Tufts University by joining Teach for America (TFA). He was placed teaching high school government, economics, and history in a struggling rural Mississippi Delta high school. While there he focused on college access and led a team of teachers that quadrupled the percentage of students enrolling in college after high school graduation. After seeing that college acceptance doesn't always translate to college graduation, Sam began focusing on college persistence by launching an Advanced Placement (AP) program at the high school as well as a character education program to prepare students for life in college.
While working in Mississippi Sam earned his masters degree in Public School Building Leadership from Columbia University Teacher's College, through which he was able to study college persistence and the tools to establish a culture of achievement among low-income students.
Sam returned to New York in 2014 to join the leadership team of a high school in Harlem that is part of the the public charter school network Democracy Prep Public Schools.
Sam joined the YPIE team in 2015. As Chief Program Officer Sam is focused on using the lessons he learned in Mississippi and in Harlem to help Yonkers students get ready for college success.