Meet some of our distinguished alumni who have been honored in the monthly SPA-lights section of our alumni site!

Linda Chen
Linda Chen
Chief Academic Officer, Department of Education, New York City

SPA alumni, Linda Chen, will return to New York City to serve as the new chief academic officer.

Maisha Copeland
School Leader, Roberto Clemente School, Chicago, IL

Maisha Copeland, proud member of the 2014 cohort, has gone on to create her own school and is presently the leader of the Roberto Clemente School, where she has been principal for the past three years.

Larry Gabbard
Principal, Mather Building Arts and Craftsmanship High School, NY, NY

Larry started off our conversation by letting us know that he is excited for the future of SPA. He is a unique alumn in that, by his own description, he "never really left" the program. He founded his school with the National Parks Service six years ago, and has also returned to SPA each summer as an instructor.

Joseph Mason
Joseph Mason
Principal, Urban Prep Englewood

Joseph Mason, SPA alumnus, is the new principal at Urban Prep Academy's Englewood campus.

Melissa Melkonian
Founder & Head of School, The American Dream School, Bronx, NY

Melissa Melkonian is the founder and head of school the American Dream School in the Bronx. ADS broke ground for the construction of their high school location this past winter, and the new campus is slated for its grand opening in 2020. ADS is the realization of Melissa's dream of creating a school community for English language learners and recently arrived immigrants.

Laura Peynado-Castro
Principal, University Neighborhood Middle School, NY, NY

Laura is the principal at University Neighborhood Middle School in Manhattan's Lower East Side. Originally from the Dominican Republic, she migrated to the United States at age 12 and was enrolled in the New York City public school system. She is a graduate of SPA NYC's first class, and In 2007, she became an assistant principal at UNMS. She was appointed principal in August 2008.

two people smiling
Dave Trautman
Principal, Oneonta Elementary School, Imperial Beach, San Diego Greater School District, CA

When I last spoke to Dave, he was at school on a Saturday waiting for a student. The third-grader in question had had a skirmish with a classmate and Dave wanted to try his own version of Saturday school as an alternative to suspension, which seemed to him more like a reward of time off. He shared that they had read some books centered around how to deal with feelings, in keeping with Dave's desire to hold kids accountable in ways that don't necessarily keep them out of class.

Claire Mastromonaco

Claire Mastromonaco has been an urban educator for over 40 years- bringing art and dance to the inner-city. She founded the non-profit, Children’s Center for the Arts, in 1992 to serve the Greater Bridgeport area children. During this time, she received her Masters of Teaching Arts and was hired in Bridgeport as a fifth grade teacher. Dr. Mastromonaco has written and received many educational and enrichment grants to help expand her students base of knowledge. She has served on the School Leadership Committee as a teacher-leader, been a cooperating teacher and mentor, and directed the after school programs. In 2010, she earned her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership at the University of Bridgeport where she teaches Educational Psychology and various seminar classes for the Graduate Program. Dr. Mastromonaco has done extensive research on the teenage brain and presents lectures and workshops on the topic to education professionals. Five years ago, she became cross endorsed in special education and currently teaches high school students with varying disability. Claire desires to be a building principal in order to transform the lives of students, parents and teachers.

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