Before cofounding Instruction Partners (formerly District to District), Emily was the Assistant Commissioner of Curriculum and Instruction for the Tennessee Department of Education. In this capacity, she oversaw K-12 core academics including standards, assessment design, instructional materials and educator training and support. She led a collaborative effort to train more than 65,000 teachers and leaders during this time in a peer-led, content-based approach and Tennessee saw increases in student achievement on both NAEP and state tests. At the department, she also managed implementation of educator evaluation and served as Chief of Staff, supporting the development of the strategic plan. For five years before coming to Tennessee, Emily managed Teach For America’s D.C. and Connecticut Regions. She fell in love with education teaching seventh grade math in a rural community in Louisiana.
Ben Fenton, Chief of Growth and Operations
Ben began his career in education as the co-founder of New Leaders, a non-profit that trains school leaders for high-poverty schools. He managed all operations, local program implementation, and district partnerships as New Leaders grew from a startup to a $20 million organization. He later led the organization’s research and consulting teams, serving as the lead author of Breakthrough Principals (Jossey Bass, 2016), and advising states and districts on principal quality policies. More recently, Ben served as a Senior Advisor to Turnaround for Children, as a founding board member for TeachPlus, and as a board member for Instruction Partners, seeing first-hand the dedication to educator partnership and instructional improvement that inspired him to join the organization as the Chief of Growth and Operations.
Malika Anderson, Chief of Organizational Development
Malika Anderson previously served as Superintendent of the TN Achievement School District (ASD). Prior to joining the ASD, Ms. Anderson led school turnaround and principal leadership development for DC Public Schools and helped organizations improve their management and operational systems with A.T. Kearney Management Consulting and WrightWay Consulting. She is an alumna of the Broad Academy for school system leaders, earned her bachelor’s degree in economics from Spelman College and a master’s degree in business administration from UCLA. Ms. Anderson serves as Board Chair for Valor Collegiate Academies in south Nashville, where she lives with her husband and two sons.
Susie Bunch, Senior Strategy Advisor and Director of District Engagement
Susie Bunch joined Instruction Partners on August 30, 2017. Bringing a long and varied career in education with her in both Tennessee and Mississippi, Bunch’s goals as Executive Director in Tennessee are to share the mission and vision of Instruction Partners throughout the state of Tennessee while modeling the organization’s core values in every conversation in and out of the office. “Coming to work with Instruction Partners brings me back to my roots as a teacher, an instructional supervisor, and a teacher of other teachers. I have had many successful leadership roles and opportunities to bring about positive change in my career…there is no better place to bring about positive change for students than in the classroom through on-target, engaged instruction.”
Elizabeth Ramsey, Senior Managing Director of Program
Elizabeth began her career teaching middle school English in the Rio Grande Valley. She left the classroom to move to Tennessee and join TNTP. In her time at TNTP, Elizabeth led a teacher training and certification program in Nashville and supported development of teacher coaching models. She also worked closely with school districts across Florida on adopting and implementing aligned curricular materials. In this work, she trained and supported school leaders and systems in developing a vision for excellent instruction as well as strategy and progress monitoring tools for academic work. She joined Instruction Partners in June as the Managing Director of District and School Partnership where she supports our work in helping districts improve instruction. Elizabeth lives in East Nashville with her husband, who is a High School Principal, and their dog. In her downtime, you can find her trying new recipes and restaurants, reading, exploring the outdoors, or in yoga and spin classes around town.
Justin Testerman, Executive Director - Innovation Partnerships
Justin is an education professional with over 20 years of experience creating high quality education opportunities for at-risk youth. Most recently he helped co-found Project Renaissance, a nonprofit focused on doubling the number of Nashville children in high quality schools where he supported the creation and launch of Nashville Teacher Residency. Testerman also served as the COO of the Tennessee Charter School Center where he led school incubation efforts, resulting in the development of 16 high performing charter schools in Nashville and Memphis. Justin began his career as a middle school teacher in Newark, New Jersey through Teach for America.
Jordan Brophy-Hilton, Managing Director of Engagement
Jordan began her professional commitment to students as a first grade teacher in Chicago Public Schools. After completing her Masters in Education Management & Policy, she returned to Chicago and worked at the district level, supporting large scale curriculum and assessment initiatives as well as guiding schools around the implementation of an instructional coaching model. From there, she joined New Teacher Center and for the past 9 years helped lead the portfolio of NTC programs, working directly with partners and internal staff to implement the NTC approach to teacher and leader development, securing funding (contractual, federal, philanthropic) to both deepen the impact, and support the growth, of NTC’s programs, and directed internal operations. Originally hailing from Northern California, Jordan has lived in Syracuse, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, and now makes her home in Durham, NC with her husband, step-kids, and dogs.
Bryan Hearn, Managing Director of Partnership
Bryan joined Instruction Partners in June 2017 as the Director of Instructional Support for Charter Systems after spending eight years with The Soulsville Charter School in Memphis, Tenn. He started his career in education as a high school English teacher and has served as an assistant principal and CAO. While at Soulsville, Bryan also worked as a content developer for the Tennessee Department of Education and served as a lesson reviewer and seasonal teacher development coach for TNTP. As a DIS, Bryan supports charter school systems to improve instruction and expand opportunity for students. He is currently working towards his education doctorate from Vanderbilt University.
Luke Kohlmoos, Co-founder, Managing Director of Data and Insight
Luke started his career at D.C. Public Schools working primarily on community engagement and communications. After his time at DCPS, he joined Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman's transition team (and met his wife on his first day, thanks Kevin!) and ultimately stayed on at the Tennessee Department of Education. During his time at the TDOE, he worked on educator effectiveness through managing the Teacher Incentive Fund, worked as Chief of Staff for the Assistant Commissioner of Teachers and Leaders, and lead the state's work on teacher evaluation. In late 2015, he co-founded Instruction Partners (formerly District to District) with Emily.
Allison Leslie, Managing Director of Partnership
Allison Leslie joined the Instruction Partners team in July of 2018 as a Managing Director of Partnership. In 2012, she relocated to Memphis to open Aspire’s first region outside of California through the Achievement School District designed to turn around schools in the bottom 5% of the state. After the six years, the Aspire Memphis region served 1,600 students in four different schools throughout the city. Allison started her career with Teach for America in Houston, Texas, in 1999 after graduating from University of California at San Diego. She worked at a middle school with a high percentage English Language Learners and started a multi-age newcomer program to support language development during adolescence. In 2001, she moved back to California where she went to work for Aspire Public Schools as a teacher and then later became the principal of Aspire East Palo Alto Charter School after earning her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from University of California at Berkeley. Before moving to Memphis, she started the Aspire Teacher Residency Program, now called Alder Graduate School of Education, to develop high-performing teachers during a year-long training experience. For fun, Alli enjoys spending time traveling with her family, playing adult soccer, and running.
Mike Beck, Director of Instructional Support
Michael was born and raised in O-H-I-O. He received his BA in Business Administration and Education from Muskingum University in 1987, and was a pitcher for the Muskies for all four years. He received his Masters of Education in Administration from Ashland University, and has been in education for 30 years. His background is in special education. He taught and coached for nine years and has worked at the administrative level for the last 22 years, successfully guiding 10 young men and women in obtaining academic/athletic scholarships over my career. Mike has been a principal at the middle and high school levels as well as both an assistant superintendent and superintendent at the central office level. His blessing has been a gift of working within low performing schools and successfully providing the leadership necessary to bring those schools back into high performing schools. The last four years, he was the principal at Jonesboro-Hodge High School, which went from a D rating to a B rating for the last two years he was there. Mike's mission is to make sure that students and staff understand that everyone can be successful regardless of any barriers in front of them as long as they are challenged and there is a belief they will succeed beyond expectations.
Talitha Chestnut, Director of Instructional Support
Talitha Chestnut has worked in the education field for over 20 years. Talitha is a native New Yorker, however after the events of September 11, 2001, Talitha and her family moved to the Jacksonville, Florida area. She has served in various school based roles including Principal, Assistant Principal, Coach and teacher for Duval County and Bradford County Public Schools. Talitha is passionate about improving public education and ensuring teachers and students are afforded opportunities that allow them to succeed. She is the mother of seven children and loves spending time with her nine grandchildren. She enjoys traveling with her husband Keith and spending leisure time doing a little “retail therapy”, cooking for her family and friends.
Dory Creech, Director of Instructional Support
Dory retired from Kingsport City Schools in 2016 after more than 30 years in public education. She taught students with special needs across a variety of grades and content areas, served as an elementary and high school administrator, Director of Accountability, and then as the Assistant Superintendent. In addition, Dory took on leadership roles in the First Tennessee Region and on State Education Committees. She is active in her community, and currently serves as the Board Chair of the Greater Kingsport YMCA. Dory and her husband, Greg, reside in Kingsport, Tennessee, and they are the proud grandparents of 5 grandsons and 1 granddaughter.
Erica Holmes-Ware, Director of Instructional Support
Erica joined Instruction Partners in 2019 as a Director of Instructional Support, bringing 10 years of experience in education. Erica has served as an elementary school teacher, K-12 instructional coach, and middle school principal. She received her Master’s degree in Education Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University. After serving as an educator in districts across the nation, Erica now lives in Chicago with her husband, three children and her dog Roxie. Erica is an avid reader, a self-proclaimed foodie prescribed with wanderlust and can be found drifting at a local flea market.
Jeff Homan, Director of Instructional Support
Jeff is a self-described instructional nerd who believes high academic expectations have the potential to transform students' lives. Jeff first embraced his love of instruction as a third-grade teacher in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, before moving out west to the Bay Area where he worked as a literacy instructional coach at a turnaround school in Oakland. More recently, he served as the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment at Aspire Public Schools, leading the implementation of several new curricula that yielded improved academic growth across the region. Prior to Aspire, Jeff was part of TNTP's academic strategy department and worked with school districts across the country to support the transition to higher standards. He joined the Instruction Partners team in July 2018 as a Director of Instructional Support, where he partners with school and system leaders to improve the rigor of instruction. Jeff now resides in Portland, Oregon, and can be found exploring the local food scene, traveling, or trying to recreate restaurant recipes at home.
Nancy Hopkins Evans, Director of Science
Nancy joined Instruction Partners as the Director of Science in December of 2018. She began her career as a Chemistry Professor at Rutgers University where she taught and conducted research. She left higher education and became the Director of High School Curriculum for the School District of Philadelphia in 2003 and never looked backed. She served in several administrative roles during her tenure there and moved onto K-12 positions in keeping with her passion and expertise in science at LEAP Academy Charter School in Camden, NJ and Mastery Charter schools, a large urban turnaround charter network serving communities in Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ. She believes that ALL students deserve an excellent science education and remains committed to ensuring this happens wherever she goes. During her free time she enjoys spending time with her family, reading a good book, baking, and working out so she can enjoy what she has baked.
Kelli Marshall, Director of Instructional Support
Kelli B. Marshall, a Hoosier native, has always had a passion for educating youth. While achieving her B.S. in Elementary Education from Indiana University, Bloomington, she found herself drawn to the service nature and comparable interest in education of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. Upon graduation, Kelli considered moving away from Indiana, but quickly saw the need for quality educators in her own hometown. In 2004 she received her MS/ Education Administration from Butler University (Experiential Program for Preparing School Principals, EPPSP – Cohort #22). Her first sixteen years, which now exceed 24, were devoted to the Indianapolis Public Schools. She entered the charter sector in 2008 as the building principal of Indianapolis Lighthouse Charter School. There, she compiled a team of educators who transformed the school from a failing status to that which was awarded an “A” status by the state prior to her departure. In 2012, she entered the Tindley Accelerated schools network and has served as the principal of the top performing charter school, Tindley Collegiate Academy. In February of 2016, Ms. Marshall agreed to step in as interim chancellor of the Tindley network and accepted the permanent position in December of 2016. Her passion for education and specifically that of her scholars is what drives her career path. Currently, she is completing coursework in the National Principal Supervisor’s Academy of Relay Graduate School. Ms. Marshall is married with two children.
John Prince, Director of Instructional Support
John serves as Director of Instructional Support for West/Middle Tennessee and is digging into his 27th year in education. He started his journey as a high school math and history teacher, and he has taught everything from 6th grade math/social studies through adjunct math and history in a couple of West Tennessee colleges. Along the way, John coached football, served as a district math coach, middle school principal, and Superintendent for a rural Tennessee school district. John is supremely blessed with a PreK teaching wife, Mollie Grace, and four wonderful/exasperating kids - John Davis, Miller, Major, and Grace Ann. In his spare time, he can typically be found on twitter lobbying for teacher and administrators to just, “Do the Math!”
Golda Sharpe, Director of Instructional Support
Golda Sharpe is a Memphis transplant originally from Clarksdale, MS. She joined the Instruction Partners team in the summer of 2017 and brings over 8 years of experience in education. Golda has served as a high school math teacher, district instructional coach, and senior instructional coach for school districts across the state of Mississippi. Her background in Education and Economics supports her approach of tackling challenges within school networks by integrating best practices with practical approaches. In her free time, Golda enjoys exercising at the local YMCA, traveling, and working in her garden.
Rebecca Few, Director of Content Lead Support
Rebecca is a graduate of Middle Tennessee State University with a bachelor’s degree in K-8 instruction and received her master’s in curriculum and instruction from the same institution. Rebecca has worked in the Rutherford County and Murfreesboro City School Systems as a teacher and instructional coach for mathematics. In addition, she has participated in state and national initiatives to improve instruction, review educational policy, and close the achievement gap for students. These include the Institute for Learning Coaching Consortium, Tennessee Department of Education Core Coach, Hope Street Fellow, Tennessee Governor’s Cabinet Member, and Learning Forward Academy member.
Heather Genz, Director of Content Lead Support
After spending 18 years as a teacher and teacher leader in both private and public school settings, Heather joined the team in early 2016 as a part-time ELA content consultant and moved into a full-time position later that year. She spent two years in the role of ELA Lead, working closely with teachers, coaches, and leaders in Florida and across Tennessee. As Director of Content Lead Support, Heather maintains a small portfolio of district work and partners with districts, leads ongoing staff training, and provides support and feedback in the field on district and school partnership work across the organization. She loves developing others' content knowledge, impacting student learning, and eating delicious food with family and friends.
Tom Haggerty, Director of Technology and Systems
Tom earned his bachelor's degree in political science from the University of Connecticut. After graduating college, he joined Teach for America where he taught 4th and 6th grade math and science in Marked Tree, Arkansas. After his corps commitment ended, Tom returned to Connecticut to work at Achievement First Bridgeport Academy Middle School as their Student Services Manager. Tom is an avid reader, board game enthusiast, and enjoys spending time with his dogs, Leia and Nola.
Brittany McCullough, Director of Professional Development Operations
Brittany McCullough joined Instruction Partners in November 2017 as the Program Team Operations Lead. As a native of Nashville, Brittany is passionate about working to support the improvement of education across Tennessee. Brittany firmly believes that a key element to providing high quality instruction in schools is having strong operational systems and procedures in place. Prior to joining Instruction Partners, Brittany spent five years as the Founding Director of Operations at Purpose Preparatory Academy, a 2017 Tennessee Reward School. Before working in school operations, Brittany spent time in higher education as a Finance Advisor, and in telecommunications working in business sales and business operations. In 2015, Brittany completed a fellowship program with Education Pioneers. In her spare time, she loves spending time with family and friends, watching great TV, hanging with her dog Chauncey, and reading.
Nicole Roberts Pratt, Director of Organizational Effectiveness
Nicole Roberts Pratt attended mostly rural schools and has a passion for supporting students and educators in rural communities. She started her career in education as a fourth-grade teacher in rural North Carolina. After earning her Masters Degree in Education Policy from Vanderbilt University, Nicole spent nearly six years at the Tennessee Department of Education. During her time there, she worked in curriculum and instruction, supporting teachers and leaders in the transition to more rigorous standards and assessments. She led continuous improvement of statewide trainings for tens of thousands of educators each summer and thousands of school leaders over the years. Nicole also led a university research partnership into the impact of mathematics instructional coaching and development of a statewide instructional coaching network. Nicole lives with her husband, daughter, and son in Nashville.
Lacy Reed, Director of School and District Partnerships
Lacy began teaching right out of college as a Teach For America corps member in Hartford, CT (where she met her future husband - a fellow CT corps member). Upon completion of her two-year commitment, Lacy moved to New York City where over the last ten years, Lacy has earned a masters in literacy from Teachers College at Columbia University, taught at Achievement First in Brooklyn, and for the last seven of those years has had the incredible privilege of working at Girls Prep Lower East Side Middle School on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. In that time, Lacy has worked as an English teacher, academic assistant principal, and most recently the principal. Lacy joined Instruction Partners in the spring of 2018 as the Director of School and District Partnerships. When Lacy is not working, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, her baby boy, or a good book.
Bonnie Williamson, Director of Development and CEO Support
As the Director of Development and CEO Support, Bonnie manages fundraising and public affairs, and works with the CEO on special projects. Originally hailing from the Windy City, Bonnie was drawn to Nashville for college and never left. She received both her B.A. in Human and Organizational Development and her M.P.P. in Education Policy from Vanderbilt University. As a research assistant and graduate fellow, Bonnie worked at Metro Nashville Public Schools, New Leaders, and the National Council on Teacher Quality. She found her way to Instruction Partners in the summer of 2016 and has grown with the organization! She is also Instruction Partners’ resident baker – stop by the Nashville office on any given day and you’re likely to find an original concoction by Bonnie.
Demerial Banks, Operations Coordinator
Deme joined Instruction Partners in July 2018 as the Operations Coordinator for New Orleans and Memphis. Prior to Instruction Partners, Deme was the school operations manager for a primary school in New Orleans where she began her journey for equitable quality education for all students. She is a native of St. Bernard, Louisiana and graduated from Xavier University of Louisiana. She currently resides in New Orleans. Deme enjoys spending time with her husband, Dale, and their two children, Dillon and Dakota.
Carly Brenner, ELA Lead
Carly Brenner moved to Memphis in 2011 where she taught secondary ELA at both district and charter schools. During her time in the classroom, she developed curriculum and facilitated professional development for Memphis City/Shelby County schools and served as a school team lead for TNCore standard implementation. In 2016, she was selected to participate in the Tennessee Educator Fellowship, where she served on committees for the TDOE and continued to advocate for rigorous state standards and assessments. Most recently, she worked as an instructional coach for Teach for America. Carly is excited to join Instruction Partners as an ELA Lead where she will work to expand student access to high-quality, rigorous ELA instruction!
Dana Casey, Math Lead
From her earliest memories, Dana can recall always wanting to be a teacher, whether she was instructing her brother on things around the house or teaching her stuffed animals the rules of being her friend. Education has never been a job or occupation to her, but rather a passion/career that she hopes to continue for years to come. Dana graduated from Gibson County High School in 1992, where she played softball and basketball, and then furthered her education at Lambuth University on a softball scholarship. She taught 6th grade math for 9 years, and has been in education for 15 years. The majority of her teaching career has been in the Gibson County Special School District. In 2012, she was nominated “Teacher of the Year” by her peers, and was chosen to be a Common Core Coach for the Tennessee Department of Education in 2012-2014. Dana has two boys, Tanner and Carter, and they live in Humboldt, a small town in West Tennessee.
Michael Coon, Math Lead
Michael comes to Instruction Partners with 5+ years of experience leading math instruction and curriculum development for Pasco County Schools in Florida. Michael’s experience has centered on K - 12 mathematics, and he has notably supported Pasco County School Board through leading professional development for all secondary mathematics teachers and instructional coaches for the district. Michael also led the development of curriculum for Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Geometry. Michael has taught courses in Algebra I, Algebra II, and college preparatory mathematics. Michael looks forward to bring this wealth of experience and knowledge to his new role at Instruction Partners! Michael holds a Master of Education degree from Grand Valley State University, and a Bachelor’s degree from Cornerstone University.
Brian Dean, Math Lead
Brian works relentlessly to ensure each student learns mathematics at a high level. He is the former Instructional Specialist for Pasco County Schools where he led the teaching and learning of mathematics for over 30 schools. Brian regularly designed and engaged educators in learning with a focus on the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. He has taught at the middle and high school level and served as an instructional coach where he helped facilitate the turnaround of a school from an “F” to an “A” rating. He currently resides in Tampa, FL with his wife and is a proud daddy of two.
Leigh Dekle, ELA Lead
Leigh is passionate about connecting teachers and students with rigorous materials and helping others experience the joy of close reading. She began her career in education as a social studies teacher in New Orleans charter schools in 2010. She came to love ELA while working at Collegiate Academies, where she incorporated ELA into social studies curriculum and instruction. After six years in the classroom, she found her way to Washington, DC, and CommonLit.org, where she most recently served as the Associate Director of Curriculum.
Courtney Dumas, ELA Lead
Courtney was born and raised in Louisiana and has joined Instruction Partners after serving for 10 years as an ELA teacher and a TAP mentor teacher. Courtney has also worked with the Louisiana Department of Education where she developed support materials for the ELA Louisiana Curriculum Guidebooks. She was the 2017 recipient of Middle School State Teacher of the Year from the Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators (LACUE) as well as a two-time school-wide Teacher of the Year. Additionally, Courtney is a past recipient of Apple’s Distinguished Educator Award. Being born and raised in Louisiana, she earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Elementary Education at Louisiana State University.
Kelsey Gates, Math Lead
Kelsey believes deeply in the power of mathematics as a catalyst for student success. She has worked in both Shelby County Schools and Metro Nashville Public Schools as a teacher and instructional coach for mathematics. Most recently, she was an instructional support advisor in Shelby County Schools, where she designed and led learning around curriculum implementation and improving mathematics instruction for district, school, and teacher leaders. Kelsey spends her free time reading blogs about food and Georgetown University basketball and exploring Memphis with her husband and dog.
Christina Gonzalez, ELA Lead
Christina has worked for nearly 20 years as an English teacher, department lead, reading specialist, and curriculum and instruction specialist. In addition to her work in school districts, Christina has written curriculum for Insight Education Group, Amplify, and, most recently, Great Minds where she was a writer for Wit & Wisdom. Christina is also a facilitator for UnboundEd’s Standards Institutes and has designed and delivered professional development at the local, state, and national level. Christina is a Nationally Board Certified ELA teacher who is passionate about adolescent literacy development and improving teaching and learning for all students.
Charlotte Hansen, ELA Lead
A native Minnesotan and third generation educator, Charlotte began her teaching career in Washington, D.C. She served as a teacher of record for grades PS-1 before stepping into teacher-leadership roles that enabled her to teach and coach in grades 2-8. Charlotte was an inaugural Education Innovation Fellow with the Citybridge Foundation, a Leading Educator, and an Aspiring Principal in New Leaders' Cohort 16. She most recently served as a Dean of Instruction, Assistant Principal, and Turnaround Principal at Center City PCS. In her free time, she enjoys yoga, outdoor recreation, and spending time with her family.
Suzette Johnson, Accounting Lead
Suzette graduated from Fisk University with a Bachelor's degree in Accounting. She attempted corporate America, but realized that she wanted her work to “matter” so she began her career in non-profit. While working as Senior Accountant for the General Council on Finance and Administration of the United Methodist Church, she attended Cumberland University and earned her Master’s in Public Service Management. She later left GCFA to give back to her alma mater, and broaden her experience, by working in the Finance and Administration Department at Fisk. After leaving Fisk, she came to support the important work at Instruction Partners. When she isn’t working, Suzette is busy at home with her husband Jason and their four children.
Lyndz Leibowitz, Math Lead
Lyndz found her passion for instructional support and educator development while coaching teachers with Teach For America and the Johns Hopkins School of Education. She also taught secondary mathematics in classrooms across the country from Hawaii to New Mexico to Kentucky. Additionally, Lyndz worked for the New York City Department of Education as the Deputy Director of Education Technology Development. Lyndz earned a B.S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.A. in Secondary Education from the University of Phoenix. She also holds an M.P.A in Public and Nonprofit Management and Policy from NYU and an Ed.M. in Education Leadership from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Sarina Lim, Data Lead
Sarina joins the Data & Insight Team with a passion for leveraging analytics to support great teaching and learning. Sarina previously worked at The New York City Department of Education as an analyst in the central organization as well as a math and computer science teacher at a large high school. Prior to joining the education field as a Teach for America corps member, she worked at The Boeing Company in finance and strategy teams. Sarina holds a master’s degree from Relay Graduate School of Education in Adolescent Education (mathematics), and dual bachelor degrees from the University of Washington in Business Administration (finance and marketing) and Communication.
Eliza Meinig, ELA Lead
Eliza Meinig began teaching in Denver after completing her Master’s in Education at the University of Colorado, Boulder. After three years as a Science and Social Studies teacher, she moved to New Orleans in the summer of 2006. Being immersed in the post-Katrina restructuring of the public education system was a sobering and eye-opening experience that strengthened Eliza’s appreciation for the grit and spirit of the city and its people and her commitment to working towards equitable educational access for all students. Throughout her 13 years in New Orleans, Eliza has worked in education as a literacy coach, ELA teacher, and reading interventionist. She spends most of her free time adventuring with her husband, Adam, and their two energetic boys, Luke and Emmett.
Allison Oliver, Math Lead
Allison came to Instruction Partners following six years in the classroom as a teacher and two years as a TAP Mentor Teacher with Ascension Parish Schools. Allison has also worked with the Louisiana Department of Education where she created and edited Eureka support materials such as the guides for Eureka Implementation and Remediation documents. She holds a Master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration from Nicholls State University, and a Bachelor’s from Southeastern Louisiana University. She is currently pursuing an Ed.D. Degree with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
Vanessa Owens, Operations Lead
Vanessa is committed to supporting equity of quality education for all students. In her role, Vanessa coordinates event logistics, supports the deployment of Content Specialists, and maintains financial systems. She is a 2016 graduate of the University of Virginia, where she earned a BA in economics with a concentration in sustainability. Before joining the team, she worked as a business development intern at an environmental nonprofit in the Charlottesville, Virginia. In her free time, Vanessa takes advantage of Nashville’s endless supply of live music.
William Paine, Finance, Office, and Technology Coordinator
William is a proud Tennessee native who attended public school K-12 in Nashville and is passionate about educational opportunities for all students. He has worked as a technical writer, proofreader, and most recently coordinated logistics for the Tennessee Department of Education's division of Curriculum and Instruction. He is a volunteer reader for RIF/Book 'em and loves every minute of reading to Nashville elementary school students. The quickest way to William's heart is with a $1.50 taco or a pun.
Julie Parrish, ELA Lead
Julie came to Instruction Partners with 17 years of prior experience from Murfreesboro City Schools in Tennessee. She taught kindergarten, first, and second grades, and was named Teacher of the Year in 2016 at the school and district level, as well as the Mid-Cumberland Region of Tennessee for grades Pre-K-4. Most recently, she served as an academic coach for Mitchell Neilson Primary and Elementary Schools. Other past experiences include scope and sequence development, writing prompt development, and professional development facilitation. With an immense passion for foundational literacy, she worked tirelessly to support teachers using an instructional routine she developed and piloted, which consistently produced impressive gains in academic achievement. Julie and her husband Rob reside in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with their two amazing girls, Taylor and Valerie.
LP Poglitsch, Operations Coordinator
LP joined the Instruction Partners team in 2018 as the Operations Coordinator for the Program Team. Originally from the Chicago suburbs, they have been in Nashville over 4 years. LP received their Bachelor of Science in Family and Consumer Sciences from Bradley University and their Master of Education in College Student Affairs and Leadership from Grand Valley State University. LP is passionate about education, and has focused most of their work within the Higher Education and Nonprofit Education fields. They enjoy building relationships with new folks and learning from the unique experiences that each person brings, as well as working to strengthen education for youth. Outside of work, LP can be found spending time with their partner and cats, scoping out a new happy hour, or immersed in the “men’s” fashion world.
Kanitha Pope, Team Support Coordinator
Kanitha S. Pope is a native of Nashville, TN. She pursed her collegiate education at Tennessee State University, obtaining a Bachelors in Health Science, and a Masters in Public Health. She spent several years working for First Response Center, a local non-profit that serves those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, Mental Health, and Substance Abuse. Most recently, she obtained a Masters in Organizational Leadership from Trevecca University. She believes that education is the key that unlocks opportunities in our complex world. Recreationally, she’s a huge sports and music fan! Basketball is her favorite sport, and ESPN is the most important channel on television. There’s not a day that goes by that Apple Music is not operating though her devices.
Shanita Rapatalo, ELA Lead
Shanita Rapatalo worked as the Instructional Borough Coach for District 79’s Pathways to Graduation program in NYC Dept of Education where she developed instructionally sound teachers, led school and district administrators in supporting instructional staff and assessed promising practices in instruction that best supports students. She co-developed and led Summer Literacy Intensive trainings that prompted her to engage in research that focuses on teacher disposition and PD, teaching through social activism and writing as a social process. She was also the lead facilitator at the Standards Institute for ELA (4-5), hosted by UnboundEd. She received her BS in Biology from Trinity College, MSE in Curriculum and Instruction and a graduate certificate for School District Administration at Fordham University. Her passion is pedagogy by way of educational equity!
A. Richardson, Coordinator of Professional Development Operations
A. Richardson is excited to join the Professional Development team as Coordinator of Professional Development Operations. She earned a B.A. in History and an M.A. in American Studies with a certificate in Museum Studies. Professionally, Athena worked in the proposal department for a minority-owned federal IT contractor, followed by a staff position at Teach For America – Baltimore. She is very excited to bring her professional and educational experiences to Instruction Partners!
Liz Riggs, Team and Recruitment Support Lead
Liz Riggs is an ELA Lead for Charter Systems at Instruction Partners. Liz started her career in education in 2009 where she taught 8th and 9th grade ELA at charter and district schools in Nashville. Prior to joining the Instruction Partners team, Liz worked on TNTP’s national report on student engagement, visiting hundreds of classrooms across the country to analyze ELA instruction and student work. She’s a published writer, with pieces on everything from music to television to education; her work can be found in The Atlantic, Relevant Magazine, and others. She eats stories like grapes, loves macaroni and cheese and learning about wine, and she can often be found exploring Nashville’s food and drink scene with her awesome husband and scruffy dog.
April Sandolph, Math Lead
After spending 15 years as a teacher and teacher leader in education, April joined Instruction Partners as a Math Lead in July 2018. April loves all things teaching and learning but is particularly passionate about making sure that all students have access to mathematics and see math as something valuable, fun, and meaningful. Prior to her time at Instruction Partners, April served as an Assistant Principal at KIPP Believe College Prep in New Orleans, a Primary School Principal at Uplift Mighty Preparatory, a K-12 school in Fort Worth Texas. Prior to that role, Ms. Sandolph was a Primary Years Program Dean at Uplift Heights Preparatory in Dallas, Texas. She is a former Instructional Coach with Uplift Education where she coached new teachers across the district. April graduated cum laude from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia with a major in political science and philosophy and holds a master’s in education with a specialization in Urban Schools from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. In her spare time, April enjoys reading an enjoyable book and taking in a movie.
Aaron Smith, Program Support Lead
Prior to joining Instruction Partners, Aaron was a teacher, textbook author, curriculum specialist, and a school improvement specialist for FLDOE's Bureau of School Improvement. Most recently, he served as Senior Director of School Improvement for Polk County Schools. While with FLDOE, his work with consistently low-performing schools in Northeast Florida resulted in the transformation of multiple secondary and elementary schools from D/F ratings to A/B ratings. When he assumed his role in Polk County in 2014, the district had 47 D/F schools. By 2017, that number was reduced to 18. After 20 years in education, he remains passionate about providing the highest quality learning experiences to all students.
Shannon Streett, ELA Lead
I have worked for the past 14 years in the beautiful school district of Cannon County as both a middle and high school teacher and instructional coach. Named 2014 Teacher of the Year for my school, district, and region, as well as the Middle Tennessee Teacher of the Year for grades 5-8, I have a passion for equitable access to quality education for all students and a deep commitment to teacher support. Outside of work, I can usually be found with my husband, a retired Army Master Sergeant, out on the lake or exploring on our Harley Davidson.
Emily Voorde, Operations Coordinator
Emily joined Instruction Partners in October 2017 as the Operations Coordinator for Innovation Partnerships. Born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, Emily stuck close to home and graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in political science. Before moving to Nashville, Emily taught 2nd grade in Pascagoula, Mississippi, a small but mighty shipyard town on the Gulf Coast. While teaching in Mississippi, Emily earned her Masters of Education with Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (while also eating a bunch of crawfish and falling in love with Mardi Gras culture). When Emily’s not diving into her Public Policy coursework at Vanderbilt, she can be found reading nonfiction, taking cross-country roadtrips, and counting down the days until college football season.