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2015 NOLA Graduates
After graduating from the University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Arts in Telecommunications and English, Jessica joined the education movement in Memphis as a Teach for America 2010 corps member. In her first year, she taught third grade English Language Arts and Science. She also served as the grade chair and an interventionist. Her students’ performance on the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) prompted her principal to loop Jessica to fourth grade with her students. She taught a self-contained class, served as a grade chair, and started a computer class for upper elementary students. The following year, Jessica became a founding second grade teacher in the Achievement School District. In her time in the classroom, she pushed her students to be amongst the highest performers on district math assessments and to grow nearly two years in reading and math according to MAP assessments. Additionally, she served as a grade chair and creator and coordinator of TCAP Saturday Academy, a model that is now used for the district. Alexander transitioned into teacher development coaching and math intervention for grades 3-5 the following year. In this dual role, she was able to provide targeted instruction for high need students; moreover, she provided support for teachers in the form of lesson plan feedback, observation of classroom practice, and creation of teacher development plans. Jessica is now transitioning to Washington D.C. to continue her career in education.
Ross discovered his passion for education and his own potential to effect change as an undergraduate at Georgetown University. While majoring in theology and philosophy, he also worked for an after school program designed to empower DC’s adjudicated youth. For the past five years, he has been working in education and ministry in the Greater New Orleans area in various capacities such as a teacher, Teach for America staff member, graduate student, and school board member. Ross currently serves as an Instructional Coach with the Algiers Charter School Association and is pursuing his Masters in Divinity from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as well as Masters in Public School Building Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Raised in the Pacific Northwest, Jenny Bard graduated with a BA in Psychology and Gender Studies from Lewis & Clark College in Portland, OR. After graduation she moved to Phoenix, Arizona where she taught middle school special education and Algebra 1 for four years at Pueblo del Sol Elementary School. During her time at Pueblo, Jenny created her school’s first Algebra 1 program and served on the building’s leadership team. In 2013, Jenny moved to Washington State to found Teach For America Washington’s eastern expansion. During her time on Teach For America’s staff Jenny was able to pilot the development of a community responsive professional learning circuit and achieve the highest growth in teacher satisfaction of any region nationally in TFA. Currently, she works with students on the Autism spectrum at Kamiakin High School in Kennewick, Washington and is passionate about ensuring quality education for all learners.
Zach earned his B.A. in Religious Studies at Tulane University in 2012. After serving in leadership roles in several campus organizations, Zach joined the 2014 teachNOLA cohort. . In 2013, Zach accepted a job at SciTech Academy, a middle school with the goal of sending 100% of its students to the top high schools in New Orleans. During his three years at SciTech Academy Zach taught ELA, advised Honors English, and wrote curriculum for the sixth grade Reading Intervention program. Additionally, Zach served as a mentor for a first year teacher. Zach has, as well, coached the track and field team during his time at SciTech Academy. Zach was recognized as Teacher of the Year for the 2014-2015 academic year. In July, Zach will begin a new role as a sixth grade teacher and Grade Level Lead at Dolores T. Aaron Academy.
Shama Batts is a native of Burgaw, N.C. and graduated with a B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. While student teaching in Guilford County, Shama discovered a passion for integrating performing arts, literacy and diversity. This allowed her to create meaningful cultural learning experiences for students and in 2009, as a Teach For America Corp Member, transitioned to teach elementary students in Charlotte, NC. She enjoyed learning from veteran teachers and partnering with students and families. During the summer months, she returned to Teach For America’s Summer Institute in a variety of locations and roles. She attributes these opportunities as principal pieces on her leadership development and in 2015 transitioned to Dallas, Texas as the assistant principal at KIPP: Truth Elementary School. Shama will earn her Masters in Public School Building Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University’s Summer Principals Academy in fall 2016 and is excited to lead with a renewed passion for social change.
Sonia Belgrave is currently a math instructor and tutor for elementary and secondary level students in the Clay County School District, Jacksonville, Florida. She is eager to incorporate the Common Core State Standards and her leadership skills into twenty-first-century education. Her unique combination of teaching experience and over 15 years of business and policy-making experience has fueled her desire to teach students the values and principles of life. She has created a program that promotes student engagement and motivation via a series of events in the local community hosted by several small and large businesses including Target, the National Football League (Jacksonville Jaguars), Jacksonville Chinese Association, and Communities in Schools. She continues to inspire and mentor at-risk students and is involved in programs that address teen pregnancy and youth gang violence in urban schools. Sonia aspires to become a leader that supports the educational vision of transforming lives and developing skilled lifelong learners prepared to meet the opportunities of the 21st century. She has entered in the Clay County Leadership Program and aspires to be an assistant principal in the 2017-2018 school year. Sonia will earn her Masters in Public School Building Leadership from Columbia University Teachers College Summer Principals Academy in October 2016.
Odell Brown is originally from Cleveland, Ohio where he graduated from The John Hay High School. Odell then went on to graduate cum laude from John Carroll University, where he earned a Bachelor’s of Arts in English Literature. Upon graduation from John Carroll University, Odell became a 2012 Teach For America Corp member in the Rio Grande Valley. In the Valley, Odell has experienced much success in instilling a winning spirit in his scholars. As a first year teacher, 100% of Odell’s students passed the exit level ELA TAKS exam. In his second year, he led the district in juniors who earned college credit, as 26 out of the 26 students enrolled in his dual-enrollment rhetoric course, through the University of Texas at Austin, earned college credit. In his third year, Odell led the 11th grade team in raising over $9,000 for their annual field lesson trip, while simultaneously maintaining high academic expectations for his scholars, as he became the only English teacher in the district to meet NMSI’s AP passing goals.
As someone who has grown to love literature and is committed to sharing this love with young people, Odell’s students have performed original poetry on the stages of high school auditoriums, local coffee shops, and in recognized venues in Washington D.C. In Odell’s class, students have produced four highly lauded albums of student poetry. Odell will be joining the Entrepreneurship Preparatory School as Director of Curriculum and Instruction back in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, Odell hopes to continue to develop the tools to help young people connect with the educational process, in such a dramatic and powerful way, that they become alive to the benefits education can provide.
A native of Bakersfield, California, Joshua discovered his passion for education as an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley. Upon graduating from Cal with a B.A. in geography, he moved to New Orleans to teach secondary English language arts at Riverdale High School. Joshua then joined the team at Grace King High School as part of the school’s turnaround efforts where he worked with the positive behavior intervention and support team and specialized in teaching 9th grade ELA. In an effort to gain business and additional leadership experience, he moved to San Francisco in 2013 to work as a business development associate for TrialPay, a venture capital-backed performance advertising startup. Realizing his heart was truly in education, Joshua returned to Grace King the following year. After completing the SPA program today, Joshua is excited to join the team at Phillis Wheatley Community School as an Assistant Principal Fellow.
Taylor received a B.A. in Spanish and Biology from The University of Alabama in 2011. During his time at Alabama Taylor volunteered as an after school science teacher, and led a group of college students each year in mentoring, outreach, and beautification projects at local schools. These experiences encouraged him to apply to Teach For America where Taylor was placed at an alternative high school in the greater New Orleans area. Taylor has taught at the same school, JCFA, for five years. Taylor has been the lead teacher at JCFA for 3 years and spent a semester teaching a life skills course through a non-profit program called Jobs for America’s Graduates. Taylor has valued his experiences in SPA New Orleans and hopes to continue developing as a leader by collaborating with his fellow cohort members. Taylor has been fortunate enough to be able to attend and present at national conferences on dropout prevention, at-risk youth, and alternative education. Taylor is currently the Chief Academic Officer at JCFA-Algiers, a non-traditional high school that gives students an alternative pathway to learning and earning a high school diploma.
Adrienne Collopy grew up in a family of educators, so naturally, she vowed never to become one. However, after working as a community organizer, she realized that the best way she could contribute to communities was through spreading a love of learning and empowering future citizens. Adrienne received her B.A. in English from Tulane University, her M.A.T. from Xavier University, and her M.Ed. from Columbia University Teachers College. She taught at Audubon Charter School in New Orleans for six years, before becoming the Upper School Site Administrator. She loves working at Audubon, and is happy to be an administrator in a creative, diverse, and unique public school environment.
Edie was born and raised in central Kentucky. She is a proud product of the public school system in Anderson County, Kentucky and a graduate of Baylor University School of Education (Waco, TX). In 2000, Edie embarked on an adventure that would forever change her life as she began employment with Eckerd Youth Alternatives. As a youth counselor in a wilderness camp, Edie began to see the value of Eckerd’s themed based, experiential education model. Eventually, she became an Education Coordinator for Eckerd. In this position she was responsible for oversight of all aspects of a fully accredited school operating inside of a residential treatment program. As a result of setting clear goals and providing teachers with needed training over 85% of the student population was able to achieve >1 years academic growth in both reading and math (as measured through entrance/exit testing). In 2013 Edie was recognized as the Teacher of the Year for the State of Florida Department of Juvenile Justice because of the success of her staff and students at Eckerd. Wanting to have more time to devote to family and her education, she began working in Citrus county School System in August of 2014. Most recently, she worked as a behavior interventionist for the district's special education office. In this role, she worked with both teachers and administrators to reduce behavioral issues with proactive measures. She also began a data tracking system to track referrals - both discipline and positive - across race, gender and disability status. This is a the first measure in ensuring equity for all student in Citrus County.
Susanna Fontenot is a passionate educator who currently teaches reading intervention at Pin Oak Middle School in Houston ISD, the district where she started her career as a Teach For America corps member in 2007. After five years in the classroom, Susanna transitioned from teacher to instructional coach with the local nonprofit Houston A+ Challenge, where she spent two years collaborating with educators across Houston-area public and charter school districts. In 2014, Susanna took on the role of Teaching and Learning Coach at Ripley House Charter School within a unique partnership between her previous organization and Neighborhood Centers, Inc. She was responsible for the innovation of a best practices-aligned, next generation approach to personalized teaching and learning in a traditional school setting.
After her first summer of SPA NOLA, Susanna taught Reader/Writer Workshop to a diverse group of 7th graders before moving into the reading intervention role. As an aspiring school leader, Susanna's commitment to education stems from a sense of urgency to make sure schools are places where relationships and a sense of community matters just as much as the rich learning experiences happening there. She believes schools in the world today can’t be successful in one without the other.
In addition to her life as a professional educator, Susanna was recently married and loves to travel. As a college student, Susanna spent one semester studying abroad at Peking University in Beijing, China. She is a founder and co-leader of the American University Alumni Chapter in Houston, and she is an active member of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Cutting Horse Committee. Susanna is also a member of the International Reading Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the American Association of University Women.
Joshua Giddens was born in San Francisco, but moved to Tanzania, in East Africa, when he was two years old. He graduated from a small international school there, and returned to California to continue his studies in International Relations at the University of the Pacific. He began teaching at a small Parish school in south Stockton, where he learned to love interacting with students and creating a positive impact in young peoples' lives. Following his marriage, he moved with his new family back to Tanzania, where he taught for two years at a local Tanzanian secondary school, an experience that inspired him to seek out a career in international teaching. Since this time, he has taught in California, in Zimbabwe, and is currently teaching social studies and IB history at Jakarta Intercultural School in Indonesia where he also serves as the High School Curriculum and Learning Coordinator. Joshua’s passions in education include inquiry-based learning, service learning, and developing learning dispositions in students such as resilience, reflection, resourcefulness and collaboration.
Chela A. Green
Chela A. Green is a graduate of Georgetown University with a B.A. in Government and Sociology. Upon graduation, Chela was assigned to Houston, Texas as a 2012 Teach for America corps member. She began her career in education as a founding teacher at YES Prep Northbrook in the Spring Branch community in Houston. Chela served as a 6th grade English Language Arts teacher and grade- level cultural manager for two years. Chela transitioned to YES Prep Hoffman as a 7th grade English Language Arts teacher and serves as Grade Level Chair for the charter class of YES Prep Hoffman for two years. In the fall, Chela will begin her new role as Dean of Students at her former school YES Prep Northbrook. As Dean of Students, she is responsible for discipline, programming, student interventions, and other initiatives that serve to build positive school culture and promote student achievement. Chela considered the most valuable resource at Summer Principals Academy was the people. SPA opened her up to a network of school and other aspiring leaders that have the most valuable personal experiences and knowledge that will allow her to become a proactive and innovative leader.
Born in Michoacan, Mexico and Raised in the Rio Grande Valley, Ramon attended Harlingen High School South and graduated college from the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, with a B.A. in English. Upon graduation from UTPA, Ramon started his teaching career with IDEA Frontier College Preparatory, a high performing charter school that has maintained a 100% college matriculation rate for ten consecutive years. In his first two years with IFCP, Ramon taught seventh grade English Language Arts. Both years, Ramon and his students achieved over 90% passing for the Reading STAAR, compared to the state’s mid-seventy percentile. Ramon has been district Course Lead for both seventh grade ELA and AP Literature; he has served as grade level team lead for both 7th and 12th grade with IDEA Frontier College Prep. Ramon is devoted to continue fostering learning opportunities for the underrepresented and work towards closing the educational opportunity gap. In the fall of 2016, Ramon will be starting his second year as Assistant Principal of Instruction with IDEA Monterrey Park College Prep in San Antonio, Texas. As a member of the 2015 SPA NOLA cohort, Ramon looks forward to continuous development as a professional educator in an ever changing and challenging world.
Patrick graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina with a B.S. in Social Studies, Secondary Education. Patrick has taught high school Social Studies for five years at S.R. Butler High School and Lee High School in Huntsville, Alabama. He was a founding member of the Butler Theatre Project, the Lee High School Academic Advisory Program, and the Lee High School College Bound Program. He has also served as the sponsor of the Key Club, Student School Improvement Team, Student Government Association, and is the webmaster and an assistant football coach at his school. Currently, he teaches AP U.S. History, 11th Grade History from 1877, and Student Leadership Development.
Jared Hymowitz is originally from Long Island, New York and graduated with a B.S. in Sports Management from Springfield College (MA) in 2009. Upon graduation, Jared worked in the Community Development and Operations Department for the New York Islanders. There he discovered his love of service and joined the AmeriCorps program National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), where he served in a team-based program that provides support to natural and other disasters, infrastructure improvement, environmental stewardship and conservation, energy conservation, and urban and rural development in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Following his service with NCCC, he moved to San Jose, CA to serve on a team based service group to support under-resourced public schools called City Year. After his experience in California, he joined Teach For America (TFA), which brought him to rural Louisiana. He started as a 4th reading teacher. The following year he moved to 4th and 5th grade math teacher as well as a member of Leadership team. In 2015 he moved into the role of Dean of Students where he helped create and facilitate emotional intelligence curriculums as well as school-wide procedures and routines for discipline.
Britteny N. Jacobs
Britteny N. Jacobs believes that every child deserves the right to a quality education. Her journey into education began as a 2008 Miami Teaching Fellow. She taught kindergarten and first grade at Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, an inner city school of Miami, Florida. Britteny was afforded the opportunity to found the first Uncommon Elementary School in Rochester, NY. She was a kindergarten co-teacher at True North’s Rochester Preparatory Charter Elementary School. After teaching in Rochester for a year, she was presented with the opportunity to found KIPP Believe Primary (KBP) in New Orleans, LA. She taught kindergarten for two years and served as Grade Level Facilitator. In its founding year, KBP demonstrated academic excellence, as it was one of the top ten performers on the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment across the KIPP network. She also participated in KIPP School Leadership Program as a member of the teacher leader strand. Her participation in the program continued to develop her leadership skills as well as her effectiveness as a teacher. Britteny was again afforded the opportunity to found her third school, KIPP Vision Primary (KVP) in Atlanta, GA. She served as a founding kindergarten teacher as well as Grade Level Chair. In its founding year, KVP was the number three school in the KIPP network on the MAP assessment. She currently serves as Lower School Assistant Principal and recently received the KIPP Metro Atlanta’s Grow Beyond Award for her mentoring, coaching, and developing of teachers.
After completing her undergraduate degree (Tulane University, 2008), Erin joined Teach for America in Chicago. She taught 2nd grade and 7th grade (Reading and Writing) in both a traditional public school (Nathaniel Dett Elementary) and a relatively new charter school (Perspectives Middle Academy). In 2011, Erin joined the staff of Teach for America in Chicago. She worked on the Teacher Leadership and Development Team for four years, first as a general coach (Manager, Teacher Leadership Development) and then as a culture specialist. As a TFA staff member Erin co-managed a team of seven “culture coaches” and focused on developing professional opportunities for first and second year teachers. Most of her worked focused on how to build relationships with students and across lines of difference, as well as how to create a positive culture for student learning. Last fall Erin transitioned back to Chicago Public Schools as the Dean of Culture at Piccolo School of Excellence, a K-8 AUSL turnaround school located in West Humboldt Park. Erin will continue her work there next year.
Alice Lowe joined the education reform movement as a Students for Education Reform Advocacy Captain for the University of Connecticut (UCONN). She then interned in Education Policy in the nation’s capital with Democrats for Education Reform where she was able to research and analyze the rigor of state standards. After spending so much time researching education, she chose to make a more direct impact and began teaching “Queer Issues: Examining Topics of Sexuality and Gender Identity” at UCONN. This is where Alice fell in love with the classroom and upon receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Political Science in 2013; she chose to continue her time in the classroom as a member of the Teach for America Corps in Holmes County, Mississippi. She has since spent four years in the High School classroom teaching Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Advanced Placement Statistics in Mississippi. Alice now wants to make a greater impact on more students and ensure high achieving outcomes for an entire school instead of just her classroom. She will be a remarkably well-rounded candidate for Principal as she spent much time at UCONN in Student Leadership Positions, including but not limited to, Class Senator, Health and Wellness Chair, and Student Affairs Chair. Alice also earned a Business and Government Affairs Certificate from Georgetown University, a program that broadened her knowledge and experience working with organization and government leaders to influence and create education policy. Soon to be a graduate of the Teachers College, Columbia University Masters in Public School Building Leadership, Alice seeks to move from Mississippi and step into an Assistant Principal position starting in the 2017 - 2018 school year.
Stevie Lynn Luera
Stevie Luera is a native to the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas along the US/Mexico border. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Texas-Pan American in 2006. Her passion for education began when she started working in an elementary school as a part-time college tutor. After tutoring at-risk students in reading and writing and sharing the joy and passion she has for literacy, she decided to make education her life’s work. She went on to teach 6th grade English for two years in her hometown. While there, she served as ELA content leader, 504 committee chair, and PTA liaison. After hearing about a new and upcoming charter school that focused on the mission of college for all children and high expectations for student achievement, she decided to leave the traditional school system for IDEA Public Schools in 2009. In her first 3 years at IDEA, she taught AP Language and Composition, served as English content leader, sponsored student council, and established the first competitive speech and debate team in the history of IDEA Quest. In 2012, she was promoted to Assistant Principal of Instruction. For the last three years, she has worked side-by-side teachers to increase their student achievement, led campus staff development, and taken an active role in creating a positive campus culture. Ms. Luera is currently a member of the 2015 Summer Principals Academy cohort and will earn her masters in Educational Leadership through Columbia University in October of 2016. She looks forward to her role as Principal in Residence at IDEA Mission College Prep, home of the mighty Phoenix!
Brandon Martin was born and raised in Decatur, Georgia where he matriculated through the DeKalb County Public School system. He attended The University of Georgia and received a B.B.A. in Marketing in 2014. Although he studied business at The University of Georgia, he has always had a deep passion for service and education that stemmed through generations of family members. Brandon served as a student teacher volunteer at Alps Road Elementary School in Athens, Georgia. After graduation, Brandon joined Teach For America and returned to his hometown in Metro Atlanta as a 6th grade science teacher at KIPP Vision Academy in Southeast Atlanta. During his first two years as a teacher, Brandon has taken advantage of the lack of formal hierarchy at his school and has jumped into leadership opportunities. Brandon currently serves as the Parent Involvement Coordinator, Grade Level Lead Teacher, and Coordinator of Close Ties, a young men's leadership program that he founded at KIPP Vision Academy. Brandon is eager use the tools and leadership skills that he has gained through this amazing experience at SPA NOLA in order to make a lasting impact on his community.
Colin McNaught is currently a science educator, professional development coordinator, and technology specialist for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is originally from Barrington, Rhode Island and graduated from the Barrington Public School system in 2009. Upon graduation, Colin entered undergraduate college at Endicott College where he obtained a baccalaureate degree in Biology and Biotechnology with a concentration in Pre-Medicine and a Minor in Applied Mathematics. After college, Colin began his teaching career as a 2013 Corps Member for Teach For America in Las Vegas, Nevada. Colin teaches Biology, Advanced Placement Biology, and Science Foundations at Cimarron-Memorial High School. Colin is very involved in in extracurricular activities at his school serving as a Student Council Advisor for the Class of 2017. While teaching at Cimarron-Memorial High School, Colin also received a Masters Degree in 2015 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Curriculum and Instruction concentrated on Secondary Science Education. He continues to seek new, inventive ways to help his students, school, and community become one with high expectations of success for both students and teachers.
Robert Meldau is a 2011 graduate of Brigham Young University with a B.S. in Sociology and a Minor in Philosophy. That same year, Teach For America placed Meldau at Espiritu Charter School in South Phoenix where he continues to work as a 5th Grade Math and Science Teacher, Faculty Mentor, Cross Country and Soccer Coach, and Technology Club Advisor. Meldau has also held a variety of part-time roles with TFA’s Phoenix Region and Institute, leading operational teams and training and supporting new teachers. Meldau is involved with Youth Service America and was chosen as a 2014-2015 TFA/YSA Ambassador and as the Harris Wofford Young Educator Award Winner for 2014. Meldau is also a 2015 Sontag Prize in Urban Education recipient. He feels extremely lucky to live and work in Arizona and believes his students and their families are the best in the world. Meldau is currently working as the principal of Eisenhower Center For Innovation, a K-6 district school located in Mesa, Arizona.
Emily Mishalanie, a native of the Northeast, received a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Alfred University in 2004. Her passion for education was sparked during her undergraduate studies where she had the honor of learning from many esteemed and passionate faculty members. Her life's work in education began as a Crew Leader for a youth conservation corps based out of Tucson, Arizona. From there, Emily accepted a position as an Admissions Counselor at her Alma Mater where she worked for two years recruiting students from the mid-Atlantic region, serving as liaison to the Athletics Department and coordinating admissions for prospective international students. Emily then split her focus between part-time enrollment in graduate studies and academic advising on the college campus where she was pursuing her degree, substitute teaching and non-profit work at a halfway house. Emily completed her graduate studies in School Counseling earning her MSEd with a Certificate of Advanced Studies from Alfred University in 2010. From here she took her experience to the Pacific Northwest and worked for a non-profit organization as a case manager for an alternative education program for at-risk youth. Wanting to be a part of a larger movement, Emily continued her quest for educational equity by accepting a term of service with Teach for America and moving to New Orleans, LA. She completed this term as college counselor, grade level culture dean, and interventionist at a direct-run high school in 2014. Emily spent the last year working in a unique role to support students who had been displaced due to the closing of their school. She worked to support over 80 students in more than 15 high schools in Orleans Parish. Emily currently works for New Orleans Charter Science and Mathematics High School as the College and Career Counselor. She is humbled and honored to be a member of the 2015 cohort and looks forward to all that will be revealed to her as she shares this educational experience with the incredible faculty, staff and students of SPA NOLA.
Terrance Mitchell is a native Ohioan. He attended Cleveland's East Technical High School in the heart of the city. While at East Tech, Terrance developed a passion for math, science and technology. Upon graduation from East Tech, Terrance attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA. It was at Morehouse College where Terrance developed his passion for teaching. As an early childhood education major, Terrance matriculated alongside innovative students and leaders via Spelman College's Education Department. Terrance began his teaching career with the Atlanta Public Schools District. As a teacher in Atlanta, Terrance firmly bolstered a 96% pass rate in both reading and math in 2014, his final year in Atlanta. Following teaching in Atlanta, Terrance moved to New Orleans to work in the Recovery School District. As a math instructional coach, teacher development was his primary focus. Mr. Mitchell is the founder of The Terrance Mitchell Foundation's Boys Club, a mentoring program for young men of color aimed at creating positive academic, social, and emotional experiences. Terrance will utilize his pedagogical experiences from Morehouse, the practical experiences he obtained in both Atlanta and New Orleans, along with his leadership training garnered from Columbia University, to serve as principal of Valley View Boys Leadership Academy in Cleveland, Ohio.
Jacqueline is a Gates Millennium Scholar and a graduate from the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor's degree in Government. While attending UT Austin, she was an Archer Fellow and a member of the Political Science National Honor Society. Jacqueline was a Teach For America Rio Grande Valley 2013 Corps Member and taught History at Mercedes Early College Academy from 2013-2016. In the Fall of 2016 Jacqueline will be transitioning to teach 8th grade History at Rising Scholars Academy in South Texas Independent School District.
Martín Olea earned his BA from the University of California, Berkeley in Interdisciplinary Studies and his teaching certification from the University of New Mexico, Institute of Professional Development. Martín has worked in alternative and traditional school settings for the past twelve years as a teacher and instructional leader, having served the children of the Navajo Nation, the Pueblo of Zuni and northwest New Mexico. Both the Zuni Public Schools and Gallup McKinley County Schools have recognized him for his exemplary teaching, successful leadership and his role in developing Gallup Central High School’s Alternative Education Program. He currently teaches history, math and service learning at Middle College High School at the University of New Mexico, Gallup and is also the prospective co-founder of a charter focused on culturally relevant entrepreneurial education. His academic interests include Native American and Chicano issues in education, rural economic development, youth entrepreneurship, design thinking and maker spaces. Martín feels deeply honored to be part of the 2015 SPA NOLA cohort.
Noemi Pavon graduated from the University of Georgia with a B.A degree in Spanish and joined the Teach for America Corp in 2008. Although she discovered her purpose at a very young age, her passion for serving students facing educational disparities flourished in her first two years as a Spanish Instructor. She transitioned to teaching 5th grade math and developed a mindset of doing “whatever it takes” for her students. She ranked within the top ten in the KIPP Network for growing her scholars more than 2 years within one academic school year, and successfully led a highly performing team that was ranked among the highest performing teams in the Atlanta Metro region. Following this role, Noemi served as the Lower School Principal of KIPP South Fulton Academy where she was responsible for implementing school character development, teacher performance evaluation, and testing administration. She is a candidate for a Master’s Degree in Public School Building Leadership from Columbia University, Teachers College and recently became the Principal of Legacy Early College High School in Greenville, South Carolina. She is excited to lead a community committed to ensuring that all students are supported in their journey to, and through, college.
A Texas native, Eric Schwartz earned his B.S. in Multidisciplinary Science Education with an emphasis in Math/Physics from Texas Tech University. He relocated to New Orleans two weeks after graduation and began his teaching career at Grace King High School, one of the largest and most diverse public high schools in the city. During his time at Grace King, Eric taught Algebra II, Physics, AP Physics, and Engineering; he also served as Grace King’s AP Coordinator to expand academic opportunity and push academic rigor for all students. Passionate about science education, he is a long-time National Science Teachers Association member and enjoys presenting his work to like-minded educators at yearly national conferences. Eric now supports other teachers as the Math/Science Director of Curriculum and Instruction at ReNEW Accelerated High School.
Originally from Dayton, OH, Jocelyn Smith is a graduate of Wilberforce University where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. After several years in the financial industry, Jocelyn realized that working as an Accountant was not her true passion. She then became a substitute teacher in Columbus, OH. There she discovered her passion for teaching, just like her mother who was an educator for over 30 years. After receiving her Master’s degree in Public Administration from Wright State University, Jocelyn then relocated to New York City. She served as an Accounting Coordinator for the Harlem Day Charter School. In this role, she managed the school’s multi-million dollar budget and was a key player in bringing their accounting systems and Human Resources department in-house. She then joined the co-founding team at Democracy Prep Charter School, where she served as Business Manager and Health and Physical Education teacher. Her passion for education led her to join Citizen Schools in Newark New Jersey as a Teaching Fellow. After completing her two years of service, Jocelyn knew that she wanted to become a full-time classroom teacher. She pursued this endeavor by joining Teach For America in South Louisiana. She completed her corps years at Jackson Elementary in a rural school district where she taught 3rd and 4th grade mathematics and 4th grade science and social studies. She was also a part of the leadership team, where she was responsible for school culture and mathematics. In her first year as a TFA Corps member she received the “Excellence in Teaching” award and was selected to be in the LEAD Cohort. Her second year, she was a Regional Sue Lehman finalist. She continued her teaching practice at KIPP Central City Primary where she taught 2nd and 3rd grade math. Her students’ math scores were recognized for being number one within KIPP NOLA network for interim test data. Currently, Jocelyn is serving as an assistant principal in Columbus, Ohio, where she will hopes to continue her mother’s legacy educating children and strengthening communities.
Originally from Bellingham, Washington, Karina Vanderbilt received her B.A. in History from Occidental College. Ms. Vanderbilt began her career in education teaching Social Studies on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, where she served as literacy goal team leader. Fascinated by education policy, Ms. Vanderbilt then worked as a Policy Program Manager for the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED). In this role, she led the implementation of the Common Core State Standards for New Mexico, as well as drafting sections of New Mexico's ESEA Waiver request, updating the state's Response to Intervention Framework, and serving as a liaison to the New Mexico House of Representatives. Returning to the classroom, Ms. Vanderbilt taught middle school English and History at Nina Otero Community School, and currently serves as the Assistant Principal at Mandela International School in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is a 2016 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow with National Geographic, in recognition of outstanding commitment to promoting geographic literacy. Ms. Vanderbilt is excited to use her degree from Columbia University’s Summer Principals Academy to improve education in New Mexico as a school leader.
Norma Villanueva is originally from San Juan, Texas otherwise known as the Rio Grande Valley. She is a first generation college graduate and attended DePauw University where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. While at DePauw she also became a chartering member of a Latina – oriented sorority, Omega Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. For 8 years she worked in college access first for the Posse Foundation in NYC and most recently with YES Prep, SE in Houston, TX. YES Prep is an open enrollment charter system serving under resourced students throughout the Houston area. More so, 100% of students are required to gain admission to a 4-year college in order to graduate from YES. While at YES Prep Norma has served as a College Counselor, 12th Grade Level Chair, Senior Seminar Course Instructor and Leader, and Junior Seminar Instructor. Next school year Norma will continue her role as Dean of Students at YES Prep, White Oak serving close to 600 students in grades 6 – 9. Through her years as a professional educator Norma has learned that strong instruction, culture and management along with servant leadership make a great school. She is passionate about serving underrepresented students and their families and foresees herself continuing to serve as an educator for years to come. Norma is excited to take her experiences to a new level and hopes to make micro and macro changes within the educational landscape.
Rashid Williams, a native of Miami, FL, earned a Bachelors of Science degree in Marketing & Real Estate at Florida State University and a Master of Divinity from The Interdenominational Theological Center. Mr. Williams has seven years of experience in the field of education, three as a teacher, two as an associate director, and two as a dean. In the summer of 2009 Williams joined Teach For America and became a corps member in Charlotte, NC. Upon completing an intensive summer training program Rashid was hired as a 7th grade Social Studies teacher at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, where he completed his two-year commitment. Williams remained in the classroom a third year as a 7th & 8th grade History teacher at KIPP Charlotte, a free, open enrollment, college preparatory public school serving approximately 400 students in grades five through eight. Rashid decided to leave the classroom and become the Associate Director of the KIPP Through College program at KIPP Charlotte in 2012. In that role he assisted 7th and 8th students and families with high school placement and college readiness. Mr. Williams served as the the Dean of Scholars at Valor Academy of Leadership, an All-boys, tuition-free Public Charter School, in Jacksonville, FL from June 2014 - December 2016. Currently, Rashid is the Manager of College Placement in the KIPP Through College Program for KIPP Jacksonville Schools.
DJ Wise is originally from Eaton, Ohio and is a proud graduate of Georgetown University in Washington D.C. DJ graduated with a B.A. in Government and English in 2013. After graduation, DJ joined Teach for America in Las Vegas, NV as an English teacher for the Clark County School District. Currently, DJ teaches English at Canyon Springs High School in North Las Vegas. While teaching at Canyon Springs, DJ received his Masters in 2015 from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in Secondary English Curriculum and Instruction. In addition to teaching, DJ founded Canyon’s student mentoring program in which seniors mentor and coach high-risk freshmen through their first year in high school. Each freshman is assigned to a senior and meets regularly with them throughout the school year to discuss various topics. Currently, DJ serves as Canyon's English Department Chair.