Michele Balsam has roots deep in New York City education; born and raised in lower Manhattan, she grew up with a passion for the city and its history, nurtured by her experiences in both progressive and traditional education. Michele received her Bachelor's degree from The George Washington University in both History and Political science, and a Master’s degree from Hunter College in Adolescent Social Studies Education. Currently, Michele teaches 7th Grade Social Studies at West End Secondary School, where she also serves as 7th Grade Team Lead and 9th Grade Crew Lead. She writes all of her own curriculum in the Expeditionary Learning model, and creates vigorous fieldwork, utilizing New York City as a learning lab. In addition to her academic duties, Michele runs the musical theater program at West End Secondary School, as well as various other creative extracurricular and elective classes. Michele is looking forward to engaging in the critical work of leadership with the reflective and thoughtful educators of the TC SPA 2019 cohort!
Andrew Cedermark is an English Language Arts teacher and aspiring school leader at Stephen T. Mather Building Arts and Craftsmanship High School, a historic-preservation themed CTE high school in Manhattan, where he also teaches an academic writing course through Syracuse University Project Advance. Andrew holds a variety of leadership roles at Mather: He leads a grade-team, co-facilitates his school’s use of The Writing Revolution, and coordinates a schoolwide reading initiative. Prior to working for the Department of Education, Andrew was a musician and journalist, and taught college courses through Columbia University’s Double Discovery Center and Legal Outreach in Long Island City, Queens. He is excited to work with the staff and SPA 2019 cohort to deepen his focus on providing young people with equitable educational opportunities.
Daniel Chan is currently a 3rd Grade Teacher at a public school in Brooklyn, New York. Prior to this, he served as a Curriculum Director and Assistant Principal at an International School in Hong Kong for three years. He also taught at Achievement First Bridgeport Academy Middle School and was a curriculum director for the Achievement First Elementary ELA Program. Daniel began his career in education as a New York City Teaching Fellow and previously taught ESL for 5 years in New York City Public Schools. Through SPA, Daniel hopes to learn skills and strategies that will equip him to empower fellow educators and students.
Michael Cruz is a young leader of color, who is devoted to building community to drive educational change. For seven years, he served in various roles in the Newark Board of Education (Newark, NJ), most recently as the Senior School Operations Manager for Speedway Academies. During his tenure, he helped to grow the school into one of the top performing schools by academic and SEL measures in the West Ward. He is passionate about exploring new research and techniques to learn how to best support diverse educators, policy makers, and community stakeholders to ensure that all students have access to an equitable and restorative education. He aims to bridge his experience in restorative practices and design thinking to help schools foster community and co-learning.
Michael was raised in Fresno, CA by his Pilipin@ immigrant parents. He currently resides in Portland, OR, where he lives with his partner.
Annie Gallagher is a special education teacher at P.S. 164 Caesar Rodney school in Borough Park, Brooklyn. She has taught 1st grade and 2nd grade ICT, as well as 4th grade and 5th grade in a 12:1 special education class. Annie also taught 4th and 5th grade for three years at NEST+m, a city-wide gifted and talented school. In addition to her roles in the classroom, Annie has served as the UFT chapter leader for her building, been a member of the school inquiry team, mentored new teachers, and was a contributing writer for the Passport to Social Studies, New York City’s social studies curriculum. During her time at SPA, Annie hopes to develop the skills to create a supportive school environment, where staff and students feel comfortable to take risks and reach their full potential.
Tionna Haynes is currently serving as a Special Educator in a Chicago charter school. Tionna has had the opportunity to serve students in Chicago as a teacher, club advisor, and varsity basketball coach. After completing 2 years in the Teach for America - Chicago/Northwest Indiana Corp, Tionna remains committed to being a social justice educator and seeks opportunities to be culturally competent and responsive to the needs of her students. Her desire is to make every classroom experience one where students can have academic, intrapersonal, and interpersonal growth. As a school leader, she hopes that this growth mindset can lead to wonderful outcomes for student, teachers, and families.
Kimby Heil is a teacher and the Service Learning Coordinator for Foundation Academies in Trenton, NJ. She founded the Service Learning program at the school and works to build partnerships to support the students and school. She also teaches Race and Gender Theory, and Financial Literacy. She is interested in the fields of service learning as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion. Prior to coming to the classroom, Kimby spent time working in juvenile and adult correctional facilities. She is passionate about building communities that empower people to fulfill their purposes.
Catherine Jaworskyj is a 5th grade ELA and Literacy teacher at Inwood Academy for Leadership Charter School where she strives to foster a culture of reading and a love for learning in all of her students. Prior to moving to NYC, Catherine was a middle school ELA and Social Studies teacher in the Edgewater Park school district in New Jersey. In both roles, Catherine has also worked as a curriculum development leader to help all students access quality resources and achieve high levels of engagement. Catherine received a B.S. in Education from the University of Delaware and a M.A. in Curriculum and Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University. As member of the 2019 SPA cohort, Catherine hopes to develop the skills necessary to create an equitable and culturally responsive curriculum as a middle school and elementary school leader.
Dorena Johnson is a Director of Education for Humanities in the Harlem, New York Charter School system. She currently also teaches Advanced Placement AP World History. Dorena previously taught at a wide range of institutions including public, charter, abroad and alternative Special Education Schools. In her career, Dorena has served her school community as Lead Teacher, Grade Team Leader, and Academic Coach. She is currently the advisor for the National Honor Society and Student Government Association at her school, assisting in building leadership, scholarship, and character skills within scholars. Her mission is to help in the educational, social-emotional, and social justice activism growth of her students and the Harlem community. Through SPA, Dorena hopes to gain the knowledge to best support her scholars, teachers, and the Harlem community as a school building leader.
Ashle Jones is originally from Cincinnati, Ohio. She grew up on the east side of town where she attended Pleasant Ridge Elementary school k-8 then went on to graduate from Hughes High school. From there she attended Clark Atlanta University; in the heart of the Atlanta University Center, majoring in History and graduating with honors. She then moved back to Cincinnati where she work in the non-profit sector for some years while obtaining her Master’s Degree in Education. She taught at a charter school teaching ELA grades 7-8. After this she joined the Peace Corps where she was a Youth and Community Development Volunteer in Niger. There she helped to promote equality in girls’ education, help with professional developments for English teachers and, started an English club. After this experience, Ashle joined the Dallas-Fort Worth Teach for America Corps where she taught 5th grade English and Social Studies for two years. Ashle was then given the opportunity to be a founding 5th grade Social Studies teacher at an Uncommon School in Brooklyn, New York. With all of the knowledge gained from Uncommon she was recruited to teach for a KIPP school in New Orleans where she has been teaching for the past 5 years. She has been recognized as a regional Spotlight Teacher and has been the recipient of the Student Choice Awards for two of the three years it was given. Currently, Ashle has accepted a position as Assistant Principal of Covedale Elementary in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Chris Lord is from Chattanooga, Tennessee, graduated Georgetown College in Georgetown, Kentucky in 2012, and joined the charter corps of Teach for America in Southwest Ohio directly after graduation in May of 2012. In Cincinnati Public Schools, Chris worked as an English as a Second Language interventionist for a year, taught Kindergarten for 3 years, and taught Third grade for a year at his placement school Hartwell Elementary in Cincinnati Public Schools before moving to the Spencer Center for Gifted and Exceptional students where he has taught Third and Fourth grade for the last 2 years. As a teacher, Chris has led professional development for K-3 math teachers in CPS for three years. In addition he has continued to work on summer staff for Teach for America at the Atlanta National Institute as a teacher coach for 2 years, 1 year as a teacher curriculum facilitation for Kindergarten and First grade reading, and as the math and science curriculum coordinator for K-12.
Kassidy Elizabeth Maxie currently teaches in the New York City Public School system. She has had the privilege to serve as a 6th/7th-grade teacher in the greater Harlem area for the past three years. She has also served as a 2016 Teach for America Corps member. She currently holds a Masters of Special Education in grades 7th-12th, and a General Education in grades 5-9 from Relay Graduate School of Education. She has had the opportunity to grow in the areas of collaborative problem solving along with culturally responsive pedagogy. Her passions lie in Africana Studies and has had the chance to present on her work and share her knowledge through her studies and professional development. She is a Detroit native with a love and zeal for the advancement and empowerment of Black and Brown children. She is committed to her life’s work of ensuring that education truly reflects the space of opportunity, fairness, and equality for all students.
As a former NYC Teaching Fellow, Ashley Merchan understands the overwhelming need to establish consistency and racial equity within her school. Ashley currently teaches 6th grade Math and is a Student Success Leader at Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Middle School in the Bronx. As a passionate educator in the NYC Public Schools for the past 10 years, Ashley’s mission birthed into providing the access and support for students to have a beneficial education. As a member of the 2019 SPA NYC Cohort, Ashley aspires to be a proficient leader in assessing vigor and vulnerability in a diverse group of individuals, programs, and processes.
Michael Mogavero is currently a Fourth Grade Lead Teacher at The School at Columbia University, an independent K-8 day school serving neighborhood families and Columbia University employees. His love of literacy and children's literature are always at the forefront of his teaching. Michael began his teaching career on Long Island, where he worked as a lead teacher for 12 years in grades 1-4. After his tenure there, he moved to London to work in the state schooling system. Over the course of his career, Michael has expanded his understanding of the power and importance of social justice education. He intends to continue building on that in order to celebrate the identities and cultures of everyone he works with.
Katerina Pawloski is an educator at Tinker K-8 located on MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL. She currently teaches 5th grade. During her time at Tinker, she has served in numerous leadership roles including leading the Leadership Events Action Team, being 5th grade team lead, and serving scholar-athletes in grades 6-8 as their coach in a variety of sports. Katerina has had the opportunity to explore her passions in international education by serving as a Senior Fellow with the organization US-Brazil Connect and traveling to Brazil to work with high school students and was also an Empathy Project Fellow this past year with Empatico. She is an advocate for promoting student voice school wide and guiding students as they learn and grow as leaders. As a member of the 2019 SPA NYC Cohort, Katerina aspires to be a leader who creates leadership opportunities for students and adults while capitalizing on their strengths and igniting their passions in an equitable and positive environment.
Vivian Perng teaches AP calculus and Pre-calculus at Union County Vocational Technical High School, serving students from grades 9-12. She received her Bachelors at Vanderbilt University majoring in Secondary Education and Mathematics. In the last five years, she has dedicated her time to teaching middle and high school students in urban and suburban settings. Through SPA, she aspires to be an effective school leader who will empower teachers with the knowledge and skills to ensure educational equity and close the achievement gap.
Joe Pierce teaches 8th grade Social Studies, Language Arts and Health at PS/MS 278 in Inwood, NYC. As an Alumni of TC with his Master of Arts in Teaching, he looks forward to another opportunity to work with the brillant professors and staff. This past year, Joe also participated in Critically Conscious Educator Rising (CCER) Series at New York University. He also serves in many other roles throughout the school year: School Leadership Team Co-President, Coach, Flag Football and Girls Softball, and Student Council Advisor. He is looking forward to learning from and collaborating with passionate and dedicated educators to become a more effective and equity driven professional.
Kady Preston is currently a lead pre-k teacher at Meeting Street Academy in Charleston, South Carolina. Kady began her teaching career serving as a fifth-grade teacher on the Eastside of downtown Charleston where she also lived in the community. She served for four years as an assistant director to an asset-based community development non-profit called Loving America Street which held community block parties, family photo days, and also took ownership of the neighborhood laundromat. Kady has served in Washington, DC with the Urban Education Leadership Internship Program and is a 2018 graduate of the National Academy of the Advanced Teacher Education. She is dedicated to attacking the systemic racism in America’s public education system and believes that all students, regardless of race, zip-code, and social class deserve the right to a high quality education.
Vanessa Renz is currently serving as a 6th grade math teacher at the Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST): Conservatory Green campus. It is here that Vanessa entered her first leadership role as House Leader of the 6th grade team. Prior to becoming a member of the DSST community, Vanessa started her career as a founding member of Edna and John Mosley P-8 in Aurora, Colorado. Through these experiences, Vanessa has developed a passion for understanding how and why teachers create community within the classroom, as well as among staff members. Additionally, Vanessa’s aim in her own classroom practices is to build community among diverse populations in which all students feel successful and contribute to each other’s success. Ultimately, she believes SPA is the perfect opportunity for her to learn to support both adults and students to reach their full potential through common vision and shared experiences.
Courtney Serpone is a Performing Arts Teacher from Morristown, New Jersey. She graduated in May 2013 with a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Immaculata University and in May 2019 with a Master of Arts in Music Education from Montclair State University. Courtney currently teaches Vocal Music at McManus Middle School in Linden, NJ where she was recently selected as the 2018-2019 “Teacher of the Year” for her building. In addition to her pedagogical responsibilities, Courtney spearheads the Drama Club, Select Choir, and Dance Team, programs which involve 200+ students in extracurricular fine arts activities. Outside of school Courtney teaches competition dance and voice at Studio J Dance Academy in Montville, NJ, which was recently selected as an ADCC “School of Excellence” for the 2018-2019 season. As a leader, Courtney focuses on building communities and relationships with her students through music. She is excited to be part of this transformative program and extend her practice outside of her classroom.
Tiana Silvas is a 5th grade public school teacher in New York City. She has spent the majority of her career teaching upper elementary and working as a literacy coach in the South Bronx. In addition to teaching, Tiana researches, writes, and presents at national conferences. In 2016, Tiana was selected as a Heinemann Fellow. During this fellowship, she focused on researching ways writing can be used as a tool to create resiliency and agency. In 2017, she was appointed by the National Council of Teachers of English as a foundation trustee for the Research Foundation’s Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color program and a member of New York City’s District 2 Advisory Council. Alongside district leaders, Tiana has developed tools to support anti-bias hiring practices and retainment strategies within the district. Tiana looks forward to developing her knowledge and skills to effectively work alongside school communities in establishing educational access and equity for all students.
Cameron Simms is a Dean of Curriculum & Instruction and the 5th Grade Chair at Uncommon Schools Leadership Prep Middle and Elementary Academy in Bed-Stuy. Cameron has taught a range of humanities courses including A.P. Government, U.S. History, Global History, British Literature, Writing, and Social Activism & Black Thought. With five years of experience in education, Cameron has had the unique opportunity of teaching and leading in some of the most culturally diverse cities in America like Charlotte, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia. Cameron has also held a variety leadership roles serving as 9th grade chair, curriculum writer, academic advisor, and teacher mentor. As a member of the 2019 Summer Principals Academy cohort, Cameron is eager to maximize his impact as a school leader and broaden his capacity to disrupt racism and inequity in education.
Thomas Smith is the Dean of Students at Leadership Prep Bed Study Middle Academy (Uncommon Schools). As the Dean of Students Thomas ensures that scholars have an academically robust and positive learning environment and that teachers receive consistent feedback on best practices. Prior to his role as the Dean of Students, he served as the 8th grade science teacher, teaching the high school Living Environment Regents curriculum. Over the course of his three years teaching Living Environment cumulatively his students celebrated a 98% passing rate and a 30% honors rate. Thomas also served as the science department chair, grade team leader, assistant dean and instructional teaching coach. Thomas began his teaching career as a volunteer teacher through the Inner City Teaching Corps (AmeriCorps) in Chicago where he taught 4th grade at St. Frances of Rome School in Cicero. During his volunteer teaching program, he earned his Master’s degree at Northwestern University. Prior to his experience with the Inner City Teaching Corps, he studied Psychology and Philosophy at the College of the Holy Cross where his passion and interest in excellent pedagogy and social justice emerged. Thomas believes that effective school leaders first build teacher skill that in turn builds teacher will. Thomas understands that the most vital ingredient of a school is effective teachers and that effective school leaders develop those effective teachers. After nearly a decade in education, Thomas finds that the thing he is most passionate about is hearing about the success of his former students.
Deanna Walker Sund began her career in classical music and transitioned to education after earning a Master’s in Teaching degree. She has spent her teaching career in the Tahoma School District in Maple Valley, Washington. Deanna has taught 3rd grade, 5th grade, K-5 reading intervention, and has worked as a reading specialist for the past six years. In her position as a reading specialist, Deanna oversees the Title I/LAP programs at two elementary schools, provides training and coaching for reading paraeducators, plans and provides professional development for teachers, and helps to support teachers K-5 with reading instruction in the classroom. Deanna has also served on grade level leadership teams, curriculum leadership teams, curriculum development teams, and participated in the Tahoma Leadership Institute. At the Summer Principals Academy, Deanna aspires to grow as a leader, gaining knowledge, skills, and strategies to support and thoughtfully promote equity and life-long learning for all.
Kaleel Watkins is a young educator from Long Island New York who has been teaching Literature and Social studies to grades ranging from 5th -10th grade. With hid experience and my commitment to growth, he wants to continue to be a part of a caring community and use contemporary pedagogy to effectively impart knowledge to youth in urban or minority communities as a means to give them a form of power that no one can dismantle. He believes the brightest of stars are where they are because they have gone through the toughest times, yet they still shine. By joining SPA NYC he will continue to be a positive role model for minority children who do not have the opportunity to see a black male come from humble means, achieve educational success and return to serve their community.
Lisa Weatherbie is a math interventionist and instructional coach at Schmitt Elementary School in Denver Public Schools. Prior to her work at Schmitt, she taught 5th grade math at KIPP Sunshine Peak Academy. As a 2012 Teach For America corps member in Tulsa, Oklahoma Lisa taught 1st grade for two years. Lisa loves working with students and teachers and is excited to develop as a leader through SPA.
David Weinreb has been teaching 5th and 6th grade bilingual newcomers at the Fair Haven School in New Haven, CT since 2015. He also serves as adjunct faculty at Relay Graduate School of Education and Quinnipiac University’s School of Education. David is passionate about intersection of language learning and digital literacy as well as community organizing and public health, and founded the City of New Haven’s LGBTQ Youth Task Force. Previously, he served as the founding high school placement director, staff recruitment lead, enrichment coordinator, and technology enthusiast for The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School in Washington Heights, NYC. He earned his M.A. from Johns Hopkins University, bilingual/TESOL cross endorsement via ARCTELL, and his B.A. in History and Urban Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He has participated in fellowships with the New Haven Mayor’s Office, Coro, AVODAH, and American Jewish World Service (Mumbai, India).