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.
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.
Susie Bunch, Executive Director - Tennessee
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.”
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.
Marques Whitmire, Managing Director of Finance and Administration
Marques began his career in the private sector working in both the Aerospace & Defense and Sports Marketing industries, and transitioned to working in Education via the Broad Residency. As a member of the 2015-17 residency cohort, Marques was previously Director of School Finance and Budget at Indianapolis Public Schools. As the son of an educator, Marques is energized by the work that Instruction Partners does and hopes to support mission of the organization through streamlined management of Finance and Administration. In his spare time Marques enjoys spending time with family, reading, and the arts.
Elizabeth Ramsey, 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.
Aaron Smith, Director of School Improvement Support
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.
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.
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.
John Prince, Director of Instructional Support
In his 25 years in education, John taught mathematics and history in grades 6-12 for 18 years before moving into the roles of district math coach, principal and, most recently, Superintendent of McNairy County Schools in Tennessee. In addition to serving in district leadership positions, he also served on Tennessee’s first leadership council as the state transitioned to new academic standards. John and his wife, Mollie, reside in Stantonville, Tennessee, and they are the proud parents of three sons and a daughter.
Bryan Hearn, Director of Instructional Support
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.
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.
Nicole Roberts Pratt, Director of Talent Operations
Nicole 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 and daughter in Nashville.
LaQuisha Oliver, Director of Training Development
After a multi-year tenure with the Tennessee Department of Education, LaQuisha joined Instruction Partners in September 2017. While her state education agency experience yielded immeasurable professional growth, LaQuisha cites her years as a middle and high school English language arts teacher as her most rewarding. In her free time, LaQuisha can be found celebrating her resilience (and watching Netflix) "here on this bridge between starshine and clay."
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, Team Coordination Lead
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 the team in the summer of 2016 and has migrated through an assortment of roles. Currently, she manages team communications and coordination as well as external relationships. She is also the resident baker – stop by the Nashville office on any given day and you’re likely to find an original concoction by Bonnie.
Heather Genz, ELA Lead
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 her full-time position later that year. While teaching, she also worked as an independent contractor for the Tennessee Department of Education for three years as an ELA core coach and for one year as an expert reviewer and lead facilitator for 6-8 grade ELA TNReady assessment item and passage review. As ELA Lead, Heather designs and facilitates professional development, supports content knowledge sharing, and manages deployment of part-time ELA content specialists. She loves developing others’ content knowledge, impacting student learning, and dreaming of a day when her great room stays clean.
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.
Rebecca Few, Math Lead
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.
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.
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.
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.
Liz Riggs, ELA 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 forthcoming 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.
Brittany McCullough, Program Team Operations Lead
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.
Tom Haggerty, Technology and Systems Lead
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 puppy, Leia.
Lara Aleman, Operations Coordinator
Lara earned her bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania. After graduating, she spent five years working in sports business at the PGA Tour where she took on roles ranging from tournament management to community relations. Her career in education began with an international move to teach at the American School of Guatemala. During her time in the classroom, she taught middle school math and technology. After four years abroad, Lara is happy to be home on the beaches of sunny Florida with her husband and two boys.
William Paine, Finance and Administration 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.
Vanessa Owens, Operations Coordinator
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.
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.
Valerie Vester, Contracts Coordinator
Valerie has a strong background in business administration and operations. Prior to joining Instruction Partners, she followed her drive to help others in a range of industries, from healthcare to criminal investigations and bail bonds to equine associations. She is a firm believer that quality education can change the lives of students and is passionate about helping all students realize and reach their full potential. A Colorado native, she left the Rockies and moved to Nashville in 2016 with her husband. In her spare time you can find her exploring new cities, hiking with her dogs, and hunting for tacos.