Benelly Álvarez was born and raised in New York City. Growing up in a Dominican household, Benelly only spoke Spanish at home and was a product of NYC Public School transitional bilingual programs. Benelly attended Barnard College, Columbia University and received a B.A. in Spanish Literature and Education. Upon graduating from Barnard, Benelly began teaching in a NYC Public School, where she realized the importance of dual language education and special education. Her desire to foster both Spanish and English translated into her attending Bank Street College of Education in NYC, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Dual Language Childhood Special Education. She has worked for over 13 years in NYC Elementary Public Schools where she has taught in transitional bilingual and dual language inclusive classrooms. Currently, she teaches as a 4th Grade Dual Language 4th Grade Teacher in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. She aspires to continually honor the identities of her students and their families and empower them to advocate for their needs.
Brittany Bialek is in her third year teaching at Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts in the New Brunswick Public Schools in New Jersey and completing her 8th year teaching Visual Arts as a certified teacher. In the very same city over a decade ago, it was in the summers as an undergraduate in Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, that she got her first taste of teaching. After graduating with a Bachelors in Fine Arts, it was time to head off to Tufts University to earn a Masters in Art Education. Now the journey as an educator sees her returning to grad school as a member of the Summer Principals Academy. Mrs. Bialek is eager to share ideas, learn, and work with those intent on creating a better educational system for all students.
Kristen Biedermann is a literacy instructional coach in Dallas ISD. After graduating from the University of Rochester in 2014 with a degree in Public Health and Psychology, Kristen moved to Dallas to serve as a Teach For America Corps Member. She taught 3rd and 4th grade bilingual education at Blanton Elementary in Pleasant Grove for 3 years, where she also participated in the Accelerating Campus Excellence Initiative. During this time, she earned her Master of Education from Southern Methodist University. Kristen left the classroom to complete a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Popayán, Colombia, and spent one year as an Impact Manager with City Year Dallas. These experiences led her to understand the profound impact that great leadership can have on student and professional learning. With this in mind, she returned to DISD with the goal of building and leading a school that honors and enhances the unique excellence of every child and staff member.
Kendra Britton has known since she was fourteen years of age, that working with the youth would be her life’s work. This is her fourth year as a Special Education Teacher for the New York City Department of Education and her 15th-year teaching early childhood education. In addition to her roles in the classroom, Kendra has also worked as an Education Coordinator for the non-profit youth and family service organization, SCAN NY, providing a variety of integrated academic supports to the highest risk children and families of East Harlem and the South Bronx. Kendra attended Touro College for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees; possessing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a Master of Science in Teaching Students with Disabilities and Early Childhood Education. Kendra is extremely excited to be attending SPA to fulfill her need for increased knowledge, further her leadership principles while continuing to stoke her fire to lead an innovative school community that thrives off of student excellence, social equity, and unlimited opportunity. Kendra is truly humbled and honored to attend Teachers College and become a part of their community.
Dean Bryson has taught secondary math and science for 7 years at New Tech Collinwood High School in Cleveland, Ohio. For four summers, Dean has served as a Corps Member Advisor and Diversity, Equity and Inclusiveness Facilitator for Teach For America’s Houston and Philadelphia’s Institute, supporting and coaching brand new teachers in developing an equity lens in addition to foundational pedagogical skills. He implements project-based learning (PBL), facilitating learning through authentic and culturally-relevant learning tasks. Outside of his classroom, Dean advised his high school's Social Justice Club, which has developed better leadership skills and socio-political awareness. He coordinated BG Brahs Mentoring Program, a partnership with Bowling Green State University where students are mentored through visits to the campus and college readiness support. In Cleveland, he was awarded the a 2017 Excellence in Teaching Award from Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Bryson is a 2020 fellow of the Cincinnati School Leaders Fellowship. He is an educator because he believes education is the most direct way to combat societal inequity.
DaVonne is the Dean of Students at the Urban Assembly Academy for Future Leaders, a New York City Public School in Harlem. DaVonne works with Adminstration to implement and monitor schoolwide culture and discipline expectations for his Future Leaders scholars. DaVonne previously taught Global and U.S. History to 9th and 11th graders. At SPA, he is looking forward to developing as a leader and finding innovative ways to run a school while collaborating with his cohort members.
Brittney Diane Collins-Hoarde was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA. Brittney has been teaching for 7 years and is currently a teacher with New York City Department of Education at a Middle School in East Harlem. Brittney teaches 6th/8th grade Social Studies, serves on the Equity team, leads Student Government and coaches the Debate Team. Brittney received her BA in Political Science and Comparative Women's Studies from Spelman College, a MA in Sociology and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University and a MA in Social Studies Education from New York University. Brittney is committed to advocating for the advancement of black and brown children through the creation of educational spaces that dismantle the system that seeks to stratify, marginalize and maintain the status quo. Through the Summer Principals Academy, Brittney hopes to gain the skills necessary to become a Culturally Responsive leader and advocate who will transform buildings into not only communities of learning, but support centers that address social and emotional challenges, while bringing equity into public schools.
Andrew Crook is the Assistant Principal at Summit Public Schools: Sierra in Seattle, Washington. After graduating from UCLA, Andrew began his career in education as a history teacher at Green Dot Public Schools. Recognizing that schools often reproduce existing systems of power and oppression, Andrew is motivated to cultivate the conditions necessary for institutions to support students in developing skills and habits to be agents of change in their high school, college, and career. Andrew is excited to learn alongside the rich, diverse individuals and perspectives that make up the SPA 2020 cohort so together we can design and actualize anti-racist, anti-homophobic, and anti-sexist school spaces that humanize each individual and support them in realizing their full potential.
Nandi Edouard was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She attended Spelman College, majoring in psychology and upon graduating moved into teaching. She taught 6-8th grade English in Houston, TX for 3 years. After noticing a disconnect in the schools and communities she's served, she decided to move to Brooklyn, NY to pursue a role in school culture. She obtained a Dean of Students role in a small charter network and has been working tirelessly to help students feel seen, heard, and nutured. This year, Nandi will be transitioning into a managerial role, improving inequities and working with network leadership to dismantle systems of white supremacy and oppression.
Christina Elivert has been working at the Holliswood School for 6 years. She has worked in the inclusive classroom setting throughout her career. She attended Queens College for both her undergraduate and graduate degrees. She possesses a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education. She loves working with younger students, fostering achievement in both academics and character. Currently, she is a member of the Instructional Leadership Team and Early Childhood Team. Ms. Elivert is thrilled to join the T.C. community and become a leader that is inclusive, reflective and effective.
Candy Escobar is a Mexican-Salvadorian American Latina who was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Through much efforts and determination, she became the first one in her immediate and extended family to graduate high school. With her family’s blessings she embarked her journey to the University of California, Berkeley. In 4 years, she completed her double major in Environmental Science and Sociology. It was throughout those years where she had the opportunity to research and do field work in grade school settings where she found her passion in social justice and education. Candy became an educator through Teach for America in Kansas City, Missouri. Upon completion of her two-year commitment, she returned to her hometown. She is now an 8th grade math and science teacher in Los Angeles, California, where she continues to inspire not only her students but also her colleagues. Currently she is persuring her administrative credentials through the SPA family where she is eager to learn from her peers and further develop as a leader.
Namon Frank currently serves as a Peer Collaborative Coach in a Bronx Public School. Born and raised in Georgetown, Guyana, Namon grew up in an impoverished community that was so largely due to illiteracy. This was the starting point of his interest in pursuing professional educational studies. Today, Namon is a Black Male educator, who believes that education is the great equalizer of the conditions of mankind; it is for this reason that he has spent the last 9 years in the classroom where he daily advocates for students’ access to an equitable education, enabling them to attain advance literacy beyond college, careers, and life-long learning. Namon has served as an English Medium Teacher with the Abu Dhabi Education Council for two years in the United Arab Emirates. As a school leader, he hopes to recycle his education and experience to the youths and future of this nation by developing and mentoring teachers who will advocate for social justice and equity in the classroom; thus, attacking the implicit biases that we all possess.
Yasmín Garves currently works as a High School Spanish teacher in the Bronx and is an adjunct lecturer for graduate students at City College. Her commitment and passion to education have provided her the opportunity of receiving a nomination as a lead mentor by the New Teacher Center and also being recognized as a model teacher at the high school where she works. Ms. Garves earned her degree in Spanish Secondary education from City College of New York and graduated Magna Cum Lade. She went on to earning her M.A. in Hispanic literature from the same College. Being that she is the first person to receive a college degree in her family, she is driven with a passion in helping immigrant students become successful in the United States.
Marina Giuliano was raised in Norwalk, Connecticut, with Italian ancestral roots, surrounded by the richness of multiculturalism. She earned her BA in mathematics from Manhattanville College, where she discovered her love of teaching as a supplemental instructor. She was inspired to complete an MA in Teaching and Learning from Fairfield University. Since then she has taught mathematics at The Academy of Information Technology & Engineering, a public interdistrict magnet high school, in Stamford, CT. She is proud to contribute toward the state effort to reduce racial, ethnic and economic isolation, and close the achievement gap. In this role, Marina strives to promote the development of interdisciplinary content and curriculum, while continually advancing the integration of technology for real world critical investigation and inquiry. In 2017, she was recognized by the Associated Teachers Of Mathematics In Connecticut as a state finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching for her leadership in instructional design. During her time at SPA, she plans to develop the skills necessary to unify fellow leaders, leveraging strength in diverse perspectives around a shared vision, to support an innovative learning community empowered by equity and excellence for all students.
Adriana Gonzalez Rodriguez realized of her passion in education when she taught abroad in China for an academic year while attending the University of Massachussetts. Later, when she attended the University of Connecticut, she followed her path in Social Justice and Immigration, she volunteered to work with refugees and immigrants as a teacher assistant, and she realized this was her calling. Adriana has been working for the Dept. of Education in New York City for the past 8 years. She was part of the New York City Teaching Fellows. She is currently working as a Dual Language Computer Science teacher in the South Bronx. Adriana has also served as a member of the New York City Teaching Collaborative program as a Coach for new teachers. Adriana's focus within education is the concept of social justice within technology to create smart tech that serves our communities. Through the SPA program, Adriana hopes to find the guidance and key factors to become a better leader within our public schools.
Amelea Gray proudly teaches secondary ELA at First Coast High School in Jacksonville, FL. After two years of service as a 2014 Teach For America Corps Member, she decided to make Jacksonville home. Currently, Amelea holds various leadership roles including 10th grade ELA team lead, Restorative Justice lead teacher, and mentor teacher. In addition to her academic duties, Amelea is the head Cross Country coach and assistant Weightlifting coach. As a member of the 2020 SPA NYC Cohort, Amelea hopes to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to bring innovation and equitable practices to Duval County Public Schools.
Justyna Hernandez is a public school educator in New York City. After earning a degree in Mathematics at Queens College and completing her teaching certification, Justyna has been dedicated to not only teaching mathematics but also showing how math helps to make sense of the world around us. In her role as a Model Teacher, she has focused on making mathematics education accessible to all by integrating literacy into Math, leading the STEM after school program and initiating a Computer Science elective, which she also teaches. Justyna is dedicated to creating a supportive environment that reflects a diverse student and staff body.
Kathleen Hurley is originally from southeastern Ohio and received a Bachelor of Science in Food & Nutrition from the University of Cincinnati. As a 2014 Teach for America Corps Member in Chicago-Northwest Indiana, she received her Masters of Arts in Teaching from Dominican University. She currently serves as the STEAM Instructional Coach for Mary Gage Peterson Elementary, a neighborhood elementary school in Chicago. In her role as the STEAM Instructional Coach, Kathleen supports all educators with curriculum development, math and science pedagogy, and incorporating cross-disciplinary units and projects in their work with students. Prior to serving as an instructional coach, Kathleen was the first STEM teacher at Peterson and was one of the first elementary teachers in Chicago to utilize the Project Lead the Way curriculum with all K-8th grade students. Kathleen also serves as the Before and After School Program coordinator, is a board member of the school’s non-profit fundraising organization, and is a teacher representative on the Local School Council. She is passionate about curriculum design, supporting all students to be problem-solvers, and learning from students and families in diverse urban communities. Kathleen is looking forward to the leadership development and educational support SPA|NYC will provide as well as learning from the talented SPA cohort.
Andrew Katzman is currently a special education teacher at Queens Metropolitan High School located in Forest Hills, New York. In addition to his primary teaching position, Andrew excels as a social program developer as well as an experienced grant writer. Through his years as a mentor to the students, Andrew has also created various extracurricular activities and clubs to further enhance student participation and to encourage an overall thirst for knowledge.
Andrew strongly believes that access to a top-notch education is a fundamental right all citizens should have. He has transformed the classes he has taught by infusing his values and beliefs with a variety of teaching practices to ensure educational success, which he believes is paramount.
Andrew Katzman’s mission is to teach young people that life is like a recipe; a pinch of trust, a dash of patience, and a pound of perseverance will yield a lifetime of success. Therefore, take out your chef’s hat and let's start cooking!
Mercedes Liriano is Afro-Latina born and was raised in Brooklyn NYC. She has been teaching for 20 years; 16 of those years in the Bronx and 14 years in Middle school ELA/Social Studies to 6th, 7th and 8th graders in the South Bronx, District 7 Mott Haven section where HipHop was created! The last 2 years Mercedes went back to Elementary school to teach 5th grade ELA/Social Studies. She's a Fordham Graduate MSE Alumni. She also taught in Atlanta Public School System for 3 years but had to return to her roots and give back to her NYC community. She's a mom of 3 beautiful Black children, 2 boys and 1 girl, who are all products of the NYC public schools system because she truly believes in it.
Her passion for teaching has led her down a path of Revolutionary work as an educator! Mercedes believes that the youth needs to be taught about their RICH culture and history! They must see themselves in the curriculum we teach! She became known as the Black History Teacher a couple years ago because she was adamant on continuing to be a Culturally Responsive educator by teaching her middle school students about their History regardless of the repercussions that ensued due to agreguist administration. She's an advocate for increasing teacher diversity, who host the Culturally Responsive Educators Book Club at her current school which highlights the stories of people of color in the realm of education.
This quote resonates with Mercedes,"For many are called, but few are chosen." She believes she has been chosen to do the Revolutionary work that must be done to empower the Black and Brown youth and Educators who will then empower our students of color!
Charniqua Madden-Francis was born and raised in Pontiac, Michigan. Upon graduating from high school, she moved to Hampton Virginia to attend Hampton University. Charniqua’s educational experience in her hometown helped her become a firm believer that all children can learn, which inspired her to ultimately become an Educator. After graduating from Hampton, she started out as a Teaching Fellow for Citizen Schools New York teaching 6th grade Math at the Bronx Writing Academy. Following this experience, Charniqua joined the New York City Teach for America Corps where she was placed at New Visions Charter High School Advanced Math & Science III (AMS III) as a Special Education Math Teacher. Charniqua is going into her 6th year of teaching at AMS III. In addition to teaching Charniqua is also a Special Education Coordinator where she leads a team of Special Education Teachers and advocates for exceptional learners. Throughout her years of experience, Charniqua has gained a passion for leadership serving as a mentor teacher and lead mentor teacher during Teach for America’s Summer Institute Program (for aspiring teachers) for three summers. Her mentor teaching experience helped her realize how much of an impact she has made on a larger community which brings her to SPA. Through SPA, Charniqua hopes to continue to learn the key factors of being an impactful school leader.
Mike McGowen is an enthuasiastic 2nd Grade Classroom Teacher in Middle Township, NJ. A member of the 2017 class of Rutgers Graduate School of Education with a degree Special Education and Elementary Education, Mike has an education rooted in student-centered and equitable pedagogy. Mike has worked as a 6th grade social studies teacher prior to moving districts and teaching 2nd grade. Mike is an active member in his school community. He uses his undergraduate degree in Spanish to communicate with Spanish-speaking families. He is an active member of his school's literacy curriculum team. He is a lead member his school's Resiliency Team. He is a firm believer in trauma-informed practices and equitable education. By helping students understand their emotions and parts of the brain that helps them regulate, he believes that teachers can give students the skills they need to be present and active participants in a responsive classroom. Having spent time in the classroom and around the school community, Mike believes that SPA will afford him the opportunity to unify leaders and educators with multiple, diverse perspectives to improve public education for students and educators alike.
Lindsay Melachrinos is an enthusiastic teacher of science, and has taught at both the middle and high school level. She earned her degree in Biology from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2005, but her commitment to science literacy and equitable education drove her to become a science teacher. She arrived in New York from her native Virginia in 2007 as a member of the New York City Teaching Fellows Cohort 14. She is currently happily teaching 6th and 7th grade Science at The Computer School in Manhattan, commuting in from her home in the Bronx where she lives with her family and too many pets. Lindsay is a proud active member of Math for America, and has been a department lead, curriculum development team leader, and school policy leadership team member. In her 13 years of teaching she has experience in traditional, progressive, mastery based, and project based education models. Since becoming a public school teacher she has observed first hand the impact that having a responsive, supportive, and equity focused admin team can have on the experiences of students and teachers. Through the SPA program she is committed to building the skills that will help her to foster equitable systems of learning and teacher education in her future administrative roles.
Michelle Kim is a tenured fourth-grade teacher at P.S. 145 The Bloomingdale School on the UWS in New York City. In her position, she also serves as the grade team leader, is a member of the curriculum mapping team for the fourth-grade, and manages the school’s social media accounts.
Prior to joining the NYCDOE in 2016, Michelle worked as a preschool teacher at The Dwight School and a kindergarten teacher at The Collegiate School in NYC after receiving her Master's Degree in Curriculum & Teaching from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Michelle's strong passion for dance motivated her to obtain certifications in Zumba, PoundPro, and BollyX. When she is not teaching Michelle works as a Zumba instructor.
Emily Moran is an elementary educator from Long Island, New York. She began her career teaching a 4th grade classroom for a year before really discovering her passion as a STEAM teacher. As a STEAM teacher, Emily developed her district’s first elementary STEAM program including all project-based curriculum she implemented in grades K-5. She began an aeroponic gardening initiative through grant funding, led the shared decision making team to create an early elementary makerspace, and partnered with the PTA to facilitate an annual Family STEAM Night. Emily feels strongly for implementing play-based STEAM education in the early childhood classroom and looks forward to developing her school leadership skills in order to bring STEAM education to all elementary classrooms.
As a student of Public School her entire life, Karen understand just want it takes to relate to studenst, in the very school system and neighborhoods she grew up in. Karen is a New York native, and loves all things New York. WIth a passion for life, learning, and traveling, Karen began her educational career filled with her passions. Karen currently holds an Associates Degree in Media Communications from SUNY Rockland, a bachlors in Liberal Studies with a concentration in Media Communictations from SUNY Purchase, and a Masters Degree from CUNY Hunter in Adolecent Special Education. Karen was a NYC Teaching Fellow and has been teaching for the NYC Department of Education for the past 6 years, sharing those same passions for art and media with her students. Karen is also the doting mom of 3, glamma of 2, and a small business owner. If you look close you may even recognize her from TV or radio. Her goal is to open up the world to students, to lead by example, give hope, and have fun doing it.
Montez Nash is a native of Atlanta, Georgia and received her education in the local public school system. She trained as a dancer throughout her youth and attended a public performing arts magnet high school where she grew to love all aspects of the fine arts. She continued her arts education through acquiring a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Dance Performance and Choreography from the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia. Through a program extension, she also earned her public school teaching certification in dance. After a few years of performing professionally, she began her teaching career in the Clayton County Public School system in Jonesboro, Georgia. She worked in largely underserved communities with students who received little access to quality arts education. She found her passion in supporting the creative voices of her students in their pursuit of self-discovery, self-compassion, and social advocacy. After six years serving in Georgia Public Schools and acquiring her Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Grand Canyon University, she relocated to Brooklyn, New York to continue her work in the New York City Public School system. She has focused her work in the past few years on providing a safe and nurturing space for her students to grow both socially and emotionally as well as develop their artistic voices. She currently teaches dance and serves as the Programming Coordinator at John Jay School For Law High School in Brooklyn, NY. She aspires to lead schools that push the boundaries of traditional learning and serve diverse communities with an emphasis on the arts and social-emotional development.
Lamech Obwoge is a History teacher who has been teaching students of color in low income communities his entire career. He is dedicated to ending the opportunity gap which exists in education. Lamech's experience with The Eagle Academy Foundation led to his focus on servicing young at-risk men of color who are traditionally the most underserved and misunderstood demographic in education.
Paul Roberts is in his 2nd year as a music educator at Highline Academy Northeast Charter School in the Green Valley Ranch area of Denver. Paul's role at Highline includes building up a fledgling music program, adding extensive instrument and vocal instruction as well as an after-school guitar program for 2nd to 5th grade. Paul is the Musical Director/ Vocal Coach/ Performance Coach for all Pre-K to 5th grade student concerts including Harvest Festival, Winter Concerts and our annual Culture Night student performances . Paul served as the lead lesson planner (1st and 2nd Grade Level) for Social Emotional Learning (SEL) units developing and implementing both school wide and community-based student action pojects.
Prior to that, Paul spent 7 years teaching music with Denver Public Schools at both elementary and middle school level in the Westwood neighborhood of SouthWest Denver. He directed annual school musicals, including A Year with Frog and Toad, Songs from Annie, and Disney’s The Lion King Experience, and initiated before and after school violin and guitar music programs for 3rd to 6th grade students.
Paul graduated with a B.A. in Music from Naropa University and a combined K-12 music teaching license and M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Denver. An immigrant originally from Dublin, Ireland, and being the first in his family to earn a college degree, he has a high personal motivation to create an equitable education system and implement opportunites for people of all backgrounds and socio-economic status. As a SPA NYC 2020 cohort member, Paul is excited to expand his abilites as a educator in taking up a leadership role and invoking the transformation needed to create and maintain a great and equitable school for all.
Cecily Robinson is an ELA instructor aiming for advanced education in becoming a radical and innovative school leader. In her work, she is a mentor instructor, content specialist, and lead English Language Arts teacher. As such she is skilled in the curation of an interconnected and rigorous curriculum, for grades six through eight. Cecily is an ordained minister for New Life Fellowship Ministries of Union in conjunction with the Unified International Association where her God-given calling is intertwined in her pentecostal teaching pedagogy. She leads services in youth empowerment and community to connect education and ministry. Cecily’s work as a teacher, leader, and minister have formed the spirited and curious individual that she is today.
Jackson Robinson is a special educator at 811K - The Connie Lekas School, a speicalized public school for 11-21 year old students with significant disabilities in Brooklyn, and has been with the NYCDOE since 2014. He serves as 811K's Data Specialist, leading the data and curriculum teams, tracking and developing programs to meet annual schoolwide goals, and supporting teachers in using assessment as a tool to better understand students in order to provide greater access through strength-based, culturally responsive, and sustaining specially designed instruction for students with unique learning needs. Through his current leadership role, he has created numerous programs and initiatives to support both students and teachers, which include a school wellness council, a peer mentoring program, one of the city's first Gender & Sexuality Alliances for students with significant disabilitles, and several programs intergrating mathematics instruction across content areas including district-wide efforts to improve middle and high school mathematics instruction for early learners. He is fortunate to work with an administrative team that values and promotes shared leadership at all levels, and has been proud to follow their example by centering strong, diverse, and equitable student, teacher, parent, and staff leadership opportunities in all his projects. He earned an MLIS in Young Adult Public Library Services from Wayne State University in 2012, then joined the Teaching Fellows program in 2014, earning an MS in Teaching Urban Adolescents with Disabilities from Long Island University, and is eager to further develop his commitment to equitable leadership in special education as part of the 2020 SPA cohort.
José Esteban Ruiz was born on 27 June 1990 in Southern California and raised in Mesa, Arizona. He is a first-generation Latinx citizen of the United States and college graduate. José Esteban has been teaching for 3 years - 1-year teaching middle school Spanish and 2 years in High school - all within the Chandler Unified School District. Since José Esteban started teaching, he has also coached football and girls’ basketball and track, all at the Varsity Level. He's a graduate from Grand Canyon University and holds an M.Ed. (2017) in Secondary Education. He holds a B.A. (2012) in Spanish Literature from Arizona State University. He has spent time working abroad teaching in South Korea as well as various countries in Latin America. His passion for teaching is rooted in seeing the disproportionate differences in education within the Arizona educational system. This motivated José Esteban to weave his pedagogy with his desire for justice. He hopes this will soon lead him into a position as a school leader. José Esteban’s goal is to fill classrooms with teachers that share his passion for teaching all students with equity as the core pillar of their curriculum. He is a believer in increasing teacher diversity across all levels, helping mirror the demographic of our future classrooms.
James Sayer is a teacher and content lead in the Humanities at Brilla College Prep Middle School. Prior to Brilla, he worked as both a teacher and a variety of leadership roles at Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School, where he managed teams, coached teachers, and helped develop core instructional and culture systems. He was also a 2013 Teach for America Corps Member, working in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn, and earned a B.A. in History and English from the University of Virginia. He deeply believes in pushing literacy and data driven instruction as means to create educational equity. Through the Summer Principals Academy, he looks forward to learning how to best invest all stakeholders in school communities.
Shristi Singh is a 12th grade Chemistry teacher at the International High School at Lafayette in Brooklyn, NY. She is the 12th grade team leader and helps to organize and coordinate American traditions for her students while also embracing their diverse cultures and backgrounds throughout the school year. She was born and raised in Queens, NY in a Indo-Guyanese household and strives to keep her traditions and culture alive in her practice. Shristi completed her Bachelors of Chemistry at CUNY Brooklyn College and her Masters in Science Education at NYU Steinhardt. Her hobbies include Indian classical dancing called Kathak and singing while playing the Indian piano called the harmonium. Her goal is to one day lead her own International High School with the help and the teachings of the SPA program.
Nick Staffa is the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme Coordinator at I-Shou International School in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. He has a passion for education, and is particularly interested in multilingualism and interculturality. Although born and raised a New York Italian, he started his teaching career in Memphis City Schools as a Mandarin Chinese teacher, during which time he was voted Prestige Honoree Teacher of the Year in 2012, after which he served as the Head of Chinese at Seoul Foreign School in South Korea, followed by co-leading the Chinese Department at the Canadian International School of Hong Kong. After over 10 years in education across 4 countries, Nick is looking forward to his new role as the Primary School Principal at I-Shou International School, where he has served as a bilingual third grade homeroom teacher and the curriculum coordinator. He is eager to further hone his skills in effective and responsive educational leadership to best assume his new senior administration role in Taiwan.
Lance has always been passionate about helping children succeed. He has taught children of all ages in five different countries, in both traditional classrooms and other non-traditional settings. He also has had many experiences as a successful entrepreneur. He founded his most recent company, Epic Education, in 2018. What started as a small-business acquisition of an early childhood learning center providing preschool and daycare, quickly grew to include a private tutoring company with about 25 tutors delivering several hundred hours of in-home tutoring each month, a 30,000 square foot gymnasium averaging 2,500 patrons a week where tumbling, parkour, and trampoline classes were offered and a preschool with a fun focus on keeping children active was launched, an ed tech company that manufactures a STEAM toy that teaches children how to code, and an independent school that is part of the Acton Academy network. His other professional passion is for public policy and he has spent time working with several elected officials, including analyzing Utah education policy for Governor Herbert and managing the campaign for a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He has a Bachelor of Science in Economics, a Master of Business Administration, and a Juris Doctorate. In his spare time he loves playing with his four children, writing music, and watching the Utah Jazz!
Born and raised in Newark, NJ, Islah Tauheed followed in the footsteps of her mother and grandmother and became a teacher. After completing her masters at Teacher’s College, Islah moved to NYC and where she taught early elementary school for the past 8 years. She currently is a 2nd grade public school teacher in the Bronx. In 2018, Islah was selected as a Heinemann Fellow. During this fellowship, she focused on researching ways literacy could be use to foster empathy in elementary school children. Islah enters into this leadership preparation program in the hopes of providing the representation of leadership that teachers like her hope to have in schools. She looks forward to working alongside stakeholders in local neighborhoods to establish schools as a community resource and centers of change for all.
Melissa Tran, who goes by Tran, is currently an 8th grade social studies teacher at Denver School of Science and Technology: Green Valley Ranch. Tran is the first in her family to earn a college degree, having earned her Bachelor's in History and Sociology from Colorado College. She started her journey through Teach for America (2012 Corps Member) in Oklahoma City—the same public school district that educated her—where she taught middle school math for two years. Having completed her 8th year in education, she has taken on a variety of teacher leader roles, including: grade level chair, department chair, course lead, and affinity group leader. Tran participated in the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education (NAATE) from 2017-2018. Fundamental to her teaching is supporting her students' social and emotional well-being, especially in an America that is deeply inequitable and racist. Tran is humbled and privileged to have the opportunity, through SPA, to further examine how to best empower students and adults so we can articulate the changes our society deserves.
Ashley Tucker is a special educator and Dean living and residing in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. Ashley Tucker was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina. After graduating from Furman University with a Bachelors in Health Sciences, Ashley joined the team of WINGS for kids, a premier social and emotional learning (SEL) program that she attended as a child, as a Program Director. Ashley gained years of experience coaching a staff of Americorps member college students to teach SEL skills to elementary students in a school located in one of the most socioeconomically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the state. In 2015, Ashley began teaching at her current school and attending Pace University through the NYC Teaching Fellows Cohort 26, earning a MS in Adolescent Special Education. As a District 75 educator, Ashley taught English Language Arts to students with varying abilities for 2 years before assuming the role as Dean. As Dean, Ashley combines her knowledge of social and emotional learning, deescalation strategies, and coaching staff to sustain a nurturing, safe, and culturally-affirming school environment for all. Growing up in South Carolina, Ashley has a strong commitment to expanding opportunities for people of color and for students with disabilities. Ashley’s experiences have led her to the leadership preparation program SPA 2020 Cohort at Teachers College to contribute to shifting the education system to one that is more equitable for all students.
Taryn Vanderburg was a Staff Developer at Teachers Colllege Reading and Writing Project for the past nine years. Taryn consults at hundreds of schools throughout the country, and is a frequent presenter at summer institutes. She also contributed to the Units of Study and is the author of A Quick Guide to the Units of Study published by Heinemann. Taryn is a former primary grade teacher in both public and private schools who has spent her life focused on finding ways to help schools grow powerful readers and writers empowered by equity. She is currently a literacy specialist and instructional coach in a diverse school district in Connecticut.
Tyesha is currently a Special Education teacher at Dr. Daniel Hale Williams Middle School 180 in the Bronx. Tyesha has a true passion and conviction for educating children of color. Tyesha was born and raised in the Bronx where she has encountered many strong & effective teachers/leaders of colors. Her many encounters with such passionate leaders have drawn her to her teaching career. Tyesha has taught third & fourth grade special education for much of her career and recently made a switch to teach seventh grade math in a self-contained setting. Tyesha's passion of educating children of color led to being a part of the development of the equity commitee. It's truly important when educating children of color that we recognize the flaws within our system that is created to suppress them, especially in regards to black boys. As a teacher and future school leader it's important that Tyesha can make concrete plans to dismantle such systems and truly uplift the children to their highest potential. At SPA, Tyesha is looking forward to developing effective skills to help children and teachers of color push the status quo while developing confidence to enter any space and affect positive change for all people.
Joyce Wood is a New York City native born in Bedford- Stuyvesant Brooklyn and raised in Flushing Queens. As part of cohort 25 of the New York City Teaching Fellows, Joyce received her master's from Hunter College in Special Education, while receiving her license as a Secondary Special Education Teacher –Generalist. Six years in, Joyce currently teaches in a Special Education Charter School in Harlem. She is a self- contained teacher servicing 9th, 10th, and 11th grade in Algebra and Geometry. As a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Inc., Joyce understands the importance of education and is a great advocate for students with disabilities. Joyce's goal is to provide purpose, passion, and perseverance for her learners. Joyce believes that by creating appropriate curriculums for students with disabilities, as well as creating and expanding alternative services for those students; we can create productive citizens one child at a time.