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Meet the Team

Executive Leadership

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.

Before joining Instruction Partners, Erika served as the Bureau Chief for Leading, Teaching, Learning Services at the Iowa Department of Education. In that role, her team emphasized making grade-level standards accessible and relevant to all students. Prior to that, Erika was a district and building administrator in Iowa and Illinois, and a manager for the College Board. As a leader, she empowered educators and leveraged her responsibilities to increase student achievement. She loved her many years of teaching and will forever adore her social studies and world language students. Fueling her passion for international understanding, she has been a Fulbright, Aramco, Goethe, and Freeman grantee. In addition, she enjoys volunteering on the Fulbright Board and Sister Cities Commission.

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 Delivery.

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 the 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.

Jessica started her finance career in oil and gas and quickly realized corporate finance was not her thing. Jessica pivoted to help establish a community nonprofit, FamilyPoint Resources in Houston, TX, while also becoming a certified teacher. Jessica taught 7th and 8th grade math for 5 years until she received her MBA and decided to seek opportunities that combined her passion for both education and finance. Jessica has worked in finance leadership roles for the University of Houston Alumni Association, YES Prep Public Schools and most recently as the founding Executive Director of the Luminary Learning Network, the first Innovation Zone within Denver Public Schools. Jessica also serves as the Board Chair of Compass Academy in Denver, CO and My Child, My Voice in Houston, TX. When she is not working, you can find Jessica exploring the Rocky Mountains on bikes, skis, or by foot!

A Louisiana native, Sims started his career as a TFA corps member in Houston, Texas. He eventually moved to New York City, where he taught, served in several education and school leadership positions, and was a founding principal at an elementary school in Brooklyn. Jabari previously served as founding dean of Relay Graduate School: Dallas-Fort Worth, where he oversaw the Metroplex’s growing teacher preparation programs. Jabari earned his M.Ed. in Education Administration from National Louis University, as well as a B.A. in English from Dillard University. He completed his Ed.D. in Educational Leadership and Learning in Organizations at Vanderbilt University.

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.

Jen's career started in an 8th-grade classroom in rural North Carolina, where as a teacher, department chair, and special projects coordinator she gained new respect for the impact operations have on student learning. She transitioned to a role with Teach For America's summer training program and worked alongside a brilliant, talented team for 14 years to manage training logistics, build high-quality operations tools and systems, and design and implement risk management policies. Most recently Jen worked as a consultant for Braven. Outside of work, she serves on the board of a nonprofit dedicated to supporting arts in her local school district and is pursuing her master's degree in public policy and management at the University of Pittsburgh. She lives just outside of Pittsburgh with her family.

Our Team

Najla comes to Instruction Partners with 20+ years of experience as an educator, non-profit manager, and school leader. She is passionate about providing equitable access to high-quality education for all students, teacher support, and leadership coaching. She began her career as a Teach For America corps member in Atlanta Public Schools (APS) where she taught 4th and 5th grades. After completing her commitment, she went on to partner with local turnaround schools in APS to improve math instruction. She then joined TFA’s national team where she managed the successful launch and dissemination of teacher resources across the TFA network in the US. Before joining Instruction Partners, Najla served as a principal in a K–8 charter school in the Fulton County Schools district where she led her team to achieve STEM School recertification through the state department of education, grew enrollment by nearly 10%, and served as a leader within the EL Education network for project-based learning. In her spare time, Najla enjoys spending time with family, learning about fashion, trying new cuisines, and enjoying nature.

After graduating with her bachelor's degree in mathematics and secondary education from Vanderbilt University, Ashley moved to Dallas, Texas to pursue her master's degree in mathematics education while teaching high school math. Her passion for increasing educational equity as a path towards justice led her to an analyst role at a nonprofit with the goal of improving educational outcomes for students in Dallas County. She is excited to continue this work with Instruction Partners while being surrounded by brilliant content experts and educational leaders. If she isn’t traveling, Ashley spends most of her free time with her husband and 14-year-old yorkie-poodle named Reese.

As a first-generation college student, Gail is passionate about ensuring equity of access to education. She has over a decade of teaching experience—post-secondary and K–12—and over 12 years of experience supporting marketing and communications efforts for education nonprofits. Gail holds a Ph.D. in religion and history from Brown University. Originally from the U.K., she has lived all over the US and now calls Knoxville, TN home. She enjoys traveling, baking bread, and home renovation projects. She shares her home with her husband, three dogs, and three cats. Gail serves on the education committee for a local youth-focused nonprofit.

Meka has fourteen years of experience in education. She began her career as an elementary teacher in East Tennessee. Later, she became a teacher trainer for the Tennessee Department of Education. During that time, she also was a Curriculum/Content Writer for LearnZillion. After serving in those roles, she became a Demonstration Site Teacher for the Kentucky Department of Education.  Meka has also worked as an education consultant supporting private schools in Louisville, Kentucky. Before becoming a full-time ELA Content lead with Instruction Partners, she supported the work as a part-time contractor supporting both content areas of Mathematics & ELA.

Melissa is incredibly passionate about providing students with meaningful learning opportunities so that they develop a deep appreciation for – and a humble confidence in – their brilliant young minds. She has over 10 years of experience in education, beginning her career as a high school math teacher and going on to co-found a charter school in the Bay Area, where she served as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Most recently, Melissa was the Director of Professional Learning at the Louisiana Department of Education, where she worked toward excellent teacher support and development at the state level. When she’s not supporting educators, you can find Melissa cooking or listening to live music in the great city of New Orleans!

Jess is a seasoned instructional leader with experience working at the state and district levels as well as working in nonprofits to provide strategic instructional support to district and state leaders. Most recently, she served as a member of EdReports organizational leadership team and led the scaling of the organization's partnerships work from an emerging to core organizational priority. She led a team to expand EdReports’ services to support states and districts to raise awareness of the need for high-quality instructional materials, lead smart adoption processes, and conduct quality local curriculum reviews. Jess’s passion for education began as a 4th grade teacher in Washington D.C.

Jamie Libby Boyle, Ph.D. is a training and communications professional with 15 years of experience in postsecondary education and nonprofit organizations. She began her career as a middle school ELA teacher before pivoting to college-level instruction. Over the last eight years, she has focused on veteran employment issues, most recently as a strategic advancement lead. Jamie holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of South Carolina, an M.A. in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and undergraduate degrees in English and secondary education from Duquesne University. She enjoys spending time with her husband, two kids, and two rambunctious puppies.

Whether it was working at an after school daycare or a children’s museum, Jordan has always loved being around students. She formally began her career in education as a first grade teacher in Chicago Public Schools. After completing her Masters in Education, she returned to Chicago to support the district to implement an instructional coaching model. Jordan later joined New Teacher Center to support deepening the impact and shepherding the growth of NTC’s programs by helping to secure critical funding (contracts, federal grants, philanthropy). Originally hailing from Northern California, Jordan makes her home in Durham, NC with her husband, step-kids, and dogs.

Vanessa joins Instruction Partners from Columbia, South Carolina. Most recently, she was an education associate for the South Carolina Department of Education supporting educators with the Office of Assessment and Standards. She also has experience being an assistant principal and instructional coach. Her commitment to whole-heartedly serve all students started while teaching 4th and 5th graders to love and own their learning. She enjoys exploring state and national parks with her husband, two children, and Bailey the Beagle-dor. Lately, she has been on a quest to learn more about cooking and eating well in the outdoors.

After graduating from Florida International University with a bachelor's in early childhood education, Liza began her career as an educator in South Florida. She had the opportunity to engage English language learners in a Title I school which led her to pursue her master's degree in English language learning. She strongly believes that all students can make learning gains when there is an adequate support system in place. Before becoming an educator, Liza worked coordinating early childhood intervention services and served in the Army and Air Force. With her time off, she enjoys hiking, cooking, and traveling with her husband and two sons.

Melissa is a New York native who studied mathematics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In her time at UMass, Melissa developed a love for math education and the development and unpacking of math standards. Melissa was able to put her love of math to work for many years as an 8th-grade math teacher and math department chair at a school in Boston, MA. Melissa’s understanding and love for math content support her in working with teachers and students to deepen their content knowledge and love for the subject.

Tom began his career in education teaching secondary mathematics in Baltimore City Public Schools, where he later served as a district-level content lead. His work shifted toward pre-service teacher coaching and training, as well as leading high-impact tutoring programming, while engaged as a faculty member at North Carolina A&T State University. Tom freely shares his love for math and works hard to support equitable mathematics instruction and outcomes. He holds a BA in mathematics and MA in teaching from Johns Hopkins University and a Ph.D. in mathematics education from the University of Maryland. Tom is an avid runner and greatly enjoys working on home improvement projects.

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 curricula 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.

Jennifer began her career in education as a middle school math teacher in Houston, TX. There she developed a love for math and a passion for conceptual understanding. Jennifer has spent the last eight years engaging math teachers in the importance of deep content internalization and implementation of high-quality math curriculum as both an instructional coach and Assistant Principal. She spends her free time exploring new TV shows and restaurants with her husband and dogs.

Dr. Jessica Costa has worked for nearly two decades either teaching students a love of language, learning, and themselves or providing professional development for teachers and educational leaders nationally and internationally to do the same. She brings a wealth of knowledge from her experiences with the National Board Certification in English as a New Language process; state, district, and school-wide leadership roles, professional learning design and delivery, data-coaching for school improvement, and research focused on socially just school leadership preparation. Her passion for mutlilingual learners derives from listening to her father’s stories of his experience as a multilingual immigrant starting school in the United States as a teenager. Jessica gets excited for each training, meeting, or even the smallest of opportunities to connect and partner with educators to support quality instruction within responsive and affirming learning environments for multilingual learners.

Amy comes to Instruction Partners with over 12 years of experience in the private and public education sectors. Formerly, as a special education teacher and school leader at UIC College Prep where she was awarded the prestigious Distinguished Teacher Award and most recently as a U.S. Operations Project Manager at an EdTech company in Chicago where she developed new product lines that expanded educational inclusion access, managed enterprise-level projects, and became proficient in senior-level leadership. Amy’s values are rooted in the understanding that educational equity is the collective responsibility of individuals in a society.

Pat has worked to create meaningful and authentic learning experiences through leadership, instruction, and coaching in education since 2003. Pat holds a passion for collective efficacy to create sustainable change. He has spent his career creating democratic schools, affirming all students by empowering them to be critical agents of change for active participation in our society. From starting his career in Peace Corps Ukraine to New York City to Washington D.C. and now to Pittsburgh, Pat has dedicated himself to educational equity. His wife and two daughters fill him with endless joy.

Before joining Instruction Partners, Laura was a middle school principal in Nashville, Tennessee. She has a decade of experience working in schools as a teacher, dean of academics, and principal. She started her career in Memphis with Teach For America. After completing her service in the corps, she moved to Nashville where she taught math and began coaching teachers. She then became a STEM dean of academics and the principal so as to strengthen instructional practices at her school. When she is not diving into math instruction, you can find her spending time with her family, outside hiking, or cooking delicious meals.

After majoring in Elementary Education and Middle School Mathematics Timeka started working as a middle school math teacher in her hometown of Chicago. During that time, she earned a Master’s degree in Curriculum & Instruction as well as Adult Leadership.  She moved to Texas where she continued to teach middle school math before becoming a Math Instructional Coach.  She served as an Elementary and Middle School Assistant Principal just prior to joining Instruction Partners. Timeka is committed to ensuring students across Texas and our nation have access to equitable instruction; the same instruction she would want for her own children.

Laken is a teacher, instructional coach, research nerd, and antiracist ally. She joins the Instruction Partners team with a wide range of experience in literacy, curriculum development, adult learning, and coaching K-12 teachers and leaders around the standards and equitable instructional practices. She most recently served as the Blueprint Literacy Coordinator for Baltimore City Public Schools, where she developed and led a literacy coaching initiative that supported ELA HQIM implementation across the district. Outside of work, Laken can be found reading a book (or three), hanging out on the porch with friends (Baltimore tradition), or out on a hike with her dog!

Adrienne served as senior executive director of data and analytics for the New York City Pre-K for All team at NYC Public Schools. In this role, she led the development of applications, analytics, and research to support the goal of ensuring high-quality and supportive learning experiences for NYC early childhood students. In her most recent role, Adrienne served as executive director of student information systems at NYC Public Schools, spearheading the development of new teacher-facing applications to support classroom management and operations. Adrienne holds a B.A. from Princeton University in anthropology and a M.A. in education policy from Brown University.

Judy is a proud “math geek” and advocates for access, equity, and identity in mathematics teaching and learning. She has served in her home state of Arkansas for over 20 years as a secondary math teacher, education service center and STEM center math specialist, district math specialist, and founder of the Arkansas Math Leaders Network. She serves on several state and national committees for math education, equity, and leadership,  has a Master of Education degree from the University of Arkansas, and is National Board Certified. Her happiest moments are traveling, especially with her daughter and grandpuppy.

Will joins Instruction Partners as the product marketing manager with over seven years of experience in digital marketing, communications, and video production. A Kansas native and education enthusiast, he’s passionate about storytelling and human creativity and seeks to find inspiring stories everywhere to help improve student outcomes across the country. In his free time, he enjoys reading, writing, and playing music, and the quickest way to win his favor is by nerding out about literature—or sending sour gummies.

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.

Jade brings experience as a middle school math teacher and network math leader in her hometown, New Orleans, where she supported math content and development across six schools. She graduated from the University of Southern California, and has since dedicated her career to inspiring, enabling, and sustaining more equitable math teaching and learning. Jade is an Illustrative Mathematics Certified Facilitator, has coached for TNTP, and has been a writer for SchoolKit’s Math Video Project, providing access to high-quality mathematics content via online and television media. Jade enjoys walking, reading and watching fantasy, doing math, and drinking cocktails.

Sam began her career in education as an elementary school performing arts teacher in East Harlem, NY. She has served as a kindergarten teacher, instructional coach, and academic dean for foundational reading skills over the last ten years. She has experience designing and piloting curricula and leading professional training for 30+ educators. She enjoys spending time with her dog and boyfriend, cooking, and learning all she can about the science of reading.

Carolyn joins the Instruction Partners team after spending nine years teaching and leading in rural and urban schools. After earning her degree in secondary education, Carolyn moved to Louisiana and taught high school English where she learned the value of culturally relevant curriculum and also the proper way to peel a crawfish. She then returned to Kansas City where she continued teaching high school ELA while leading curriculum development and implementation for her 9th grade team. When she moved into administration she found her passion for developing others through classroom coaching, data-driven professional development sessions, and honest conversations about race and equity. When she is not nerding out on ELA, you can find her on a Sunday afternoon bike ride, spending time with friends and her faith community, or doing yard work (always yard work).

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.

Jennifer joins Instruction Partners after nearly a decade in the classroom. She began her career as a Teach for America Corps Member in Chicago, Illinois before moving to Boston, Massachusetts to work with the teams at Match Community Day School and Boston Public Schools. In addition to her work in the classroom, Jen took on a number of leadership roles including serving as a grade-level lead, instructional coach, and elementary curriculum specialist. In addition, Jen was the Co-Founder and Program Director of DIY Coaching, a teacher-led initiative that empowered Boston-based educators as instructional coaches for themselves and others. When not working, Jen is most likely traveling, spending time with her loved ones, or exploring New York City with Elsie, her Bernese Mountain Dog.

Before joining the Instruction Partners team, Joanna spent nearly a decade as a Kindergarten, 2nd-grade, and 3rd-grade teacher in addition to piloting the literacy coach position at her school site. During her time in these positions, Joanna developed a love for early literacy; she helped pilot and coach new curricula, created professional development, and led the ELA team at her school site to support students with their early literacy acquisition. Originally from the Bay Area, where she taught for the first seven years of her career, Joanna now lives in Denver, CO with her soon-to-be husband and their dog, Sadie. When she isn’t nerding out on early literacy education, you will find her with her head in a novel, her hand on a coffee mug, and/or outside in the mountains.

Christina has more than 20 years of experience as a Nationally Board-Certified ELA teacher, reading specialist, and instructional coach. Christina believes that high-quality instructional materials matter and has written ELA curriculum for organizations such as Insight Education Group, Amplify, and Great Minds, where she was part of the grade 3 Wit & Wisdom writing team. Christina is passionate about improving teaching and learning for all students. As the Director of ELA she gets to spend time doing one of her favorite things – designing and delivering professional development for teachers and school leaders. Christina and her family reside in Jacksonville, FL.

Gabriela joins Instruction Partners after 11 years in the classroom. A graduate of the MATCH Teacher Residency in Boston, Massachusetts, she taught 7th and 8th grade ELA at KIPP Academy Lynn in Lynn, Massachusetts and Boston Collegiate Charter School in Boston. In addition to teaching, Gabriela took on several leadership roles including serving as a grade-level lead, instructional coach, and principal maternity sub. She also spent three summers coaching aspiring teachers in the Breakthrough Collaborative Summer Institute. When not working, Gabriela is most likely traveling, reading the latest YA novels, or spending time with friends!

Ashley is a twelve year high school English teacher, and most recently a five year high school principal of her home high school where she focused on developing strong systems to improve equitable opportunities for all students.  She enjoys strategic planning, and organizing, and her passion is helping teachers and leaders grow instructional practice and capacity.  Ashley is the mother of three energetic girls, and loves spending time outside, playing games with her family, reading, and honing her cooking skills.

Keilani is a California native who has found a new home in the heart of Houston, Texas. Her journey into the world of education was inspired by her three years of experience as a senior resident assistant while she attended college. Witnessing the challenges many freshmen faced in their transition to college ignited her passion for ensuring that every child has equitable access to a quality education. Keilani's academic foundation was laid at Cal State East Bay, where she earned her BA in psychology. Post-graduation, she delved into the nonprofit sector as an executive assistant where she discovered her passion for people and culture work. This journey ultimately led her to her current role at Instruction Partners. Her role revolves around supporting the chief people officer and the entire people and culture team, enabling them to provide critical support to the individuals who make Instruction Partners thrive. Beyond her professional life, Keilani finds joy in reading, trying new foods, doing anything creative, traveling with her partner, hanging out with her cat, and indulging in some guilty-pleasure reality TV.

Alisha Gripp joins the Instruction Partners team after spending 18 years in public education. She has served as an English teacher, coach, assistant principal, associate principal, and founding principal in the Kansas City Metropolitan area. She earned a BSEd in English Education from Northwest Missouri State University. Alisha received both her Building Leadership and District Leadership degrees from the University of Central Missouri. In her spare time, Alisha is making memories with her husband, son, and daughter. Additionally, Alisha is a diehard Kansas City Chiefs fan and makes it known she was a superfan long before they were good!

A recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s doctoral program in Reading/Writing/Literacy, Kelcey joined Instruction Partners in 2021 and is energized by the opportunity to work with partners to strengthen ELA instruction in classrooms across the country. As a doctoral candidate, she worked with school partners and education organizations to support students’ literacy development, coach and mentor early-career teachers, and conduct research on literacy programs and initiatives. Dr. Grogan continues to serve as an adjunct instructor at Johns Hopkins University, where she teaches graduate-level education courses on Classroom Management and Assessment for Reading Instruction. Previously, she was an instructional coach, grade level lead, summer school director, and high school English Language Arts teacher in Detroit, Michigan. It was as a teacher that Kelcey discovered her love of reading and discussing texts with students. In her free time, Kelcey enjoys drinking too much coffee, taking fitness classes, running, reading, and being outside!

José joined Instruction Partners from FirstLine Schools, a five charter management organization in New Orleans. He taught at FirstLine for seven years before serving as the Primary Literacy Content Leader for the network, designing effective curriculum-based professional learning for kindergarten through fourth-grade teachers.

Sarah Guerrero previously served as a principal in Houston, Texas. She and her team cultivated a school environment built around the strengths and needs of students, resulting in significantly improved academic performance, staff and student culture, and family involvement. Sarah was honored as Spring Branch ISD’s 2018 Secondary Principal of the Year. Prior to serving as principal, Sarah worked as a math teacher and assistant principal. She earned two bachelor’s degrees in physics and Spanish from Azusa Pacific University, a master’s degree in education from University of St. Thomas, and an MBA from Rice University. She lives in Houston with her husband and sons.

Fran has 19 years of experience as an educator. She began her education career teaching media and communications at Valdosta State University in Georgia. She then taught high school ELA and college composition courses in Houston, TX for 12 years before transitioning to a position as curriculum and achievement specialist with a charter network. There, she also had the opportunity to lead several region-wide initiatives focused on equitable curriculum and instruction. Fran has an MA in British and American Literature from the University of Houston and a Ph.D in Radio-TV-Film from UT Austin. She is committed to being a life-long learner and is passionate about providing equitable educational experiences for students.

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 fourth and sixth-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.

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.

Shateria Harris-Stephens graduated from the University of Houston-Downtown and embarked on her journey as an educator in 2012. During her first year as a classroom teacher, she discovered her unwavering passion for foundational literacy as she worked to equip her students with the skills needed to live choice-filled lives. She further developed her expertise by completing her master’s degree from the University of Texas at Tyler and principal certification at Lamar University. Her experience includes devoted work as a classroom teacher, administrator, instructional coach, and district manager. Shateria is committed to using her influence and impact to positively affect the lives of students.

Jessica believes that providing equitable educational opportunities for students is impossible without access to strong science instruction. She first fell in love with science education as a 7th-grade science teacher in Memphis, TN. Most recently, she supported science teachers in Memphis’ iZone as the Instructional Support Manager for Science. In her role, she developed science coaches, worked with school leaders to increase their understanding of effective science instruction, and facilitated professional development for science educators across the state of Tennessee. For fun, Jessica loves to travel with her sisters and find the best food in town.

Kelsey’s belief that high quality, standards-aligned instruction is an essential component of equitable instructional experiences for all students began during her time as a middle school mathematics teacher in Nashville, TN. Most recently, she was an Instructional Support Advisor in Shelby County Schools, where she designed and led learning around curriculum implementation for district and school leaders. Prior to Shelby County Schools, Kelsey was a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development with Teach For America and a middle school mathematics and social studies teacher. Kelsey joined the Instruction Partners team in January 2018 as a Math Content Lead, a Senior Math Content Lead, and now the Executive Director of Engagement. Outside of work, Kelsey can be found exploring cities through their culinary offerings and passionately rooting for her alma mater, Georgetown University, basketball team.

I am a lifetime Florida resident where I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History before finding my passion as a math teacher. I spent 10 years teaching all levels of middle school math including advanced Algebra and Geometry. In addition to classroom teaching, I’ve worked the last three years as an instructional coach supporting K-8 math teachers in a Title 1 school. In my spare time I like to watch and play almost any sport and enjoy the Florida hiking and biking trails with my son.

Sierra Hersek is a nonprofit leader with over 15 years of professional experience. As Executive Director of the Natomas Arts and Education Foundation, she oversaw all aspects of the daily operation, strategic planning, development, branding, and marketing. Most recently she honed her skills and passion for fundraising as the Managing Director of Development for City Year. Sierra is passionate about education equity and is proud to support the work of Instruction Partners. On her off time, you might see Sierra performing on stage or watching her three daughters perform, as theatre is a passion her whole family enjoys.

Yolanda began her career in education in the Shelby County Schools (SCS; previously Legacy Memphis City Schools) System in Memphis, TN where she served as a middle school math educator and in various leadership roles. She was the curriculum coordinator for DuBois Charter School of Leadership and Public Policy Middle and High School before returning to Shelby County Schools as a professional learning advisor. She went on to become an instructional support advisor with SCS before joining Instruction Partners. Yolanda is a native Memphian. She earned her licensure and certification to teach while earning a B.S. in math and science at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, TN and a M.Ed in educational leadership at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. Yolanda is the proud mother of two sons and one daughter. She enjoys traveling and creating memories with family and friends.

Makhala is fueled by the vision of ensuring that all students receive an education firmly rooted in equity and belonging. Originally from Oakland, California, Makhala graduated from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in Political Science. She also holds an M.Ed in administration and supervision from the University of Houston. She began her career as a 5th-grade ELA teacher with KIPP Texas and later served as an instructional coach, manager of coaching and learning, and resident principal at YES Prep Public Schools. Throughout her career, she has crafted several learning experiences on the topics of leading and coaching through an equity lens. She is thrilled to widen her impact as a director of professional learning and support with Instruction Partners. In her free time, Makhala prioritizes spending time with her wife and son, traveling, cooking, and making memories.

Nadja is a proud New Yorker transplanted to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. Since graduating from Howard University over a decade ago, Nadja has served scholars and educators in public charter and public schools as an elementary teacher and assistant principal. She is passionate about all students having access to equitable learning experiences and supporting the growth of teachers and instructional leaders. Nadja has a heart for literacy and joined Instruction Partners as a K–2 ELA content lead in 2022. She is excited to partner with instructional leaders to accelerate teacher practice and improve student achievement measures in early literacy. When she isn’t working, Nadja is making memories with her husband and their two daughters.

In her 11 years as a Florida and North Carolina educator, Artrice Johnson has been privileged to work with students and teachers in a variety of K-8 settings, with most of her work and years being in ELA classrooms.  She has worked as a classroom teacher in Title 1 and Technology magnet schools, Reading Specialist/Coach, and Literacy Coordinator.  Artrice’s goal is to create academically engaging learning experiences through environments that foster curiosity and inquiry, uphold high expectations, and celebrate diversity. Committed to her passion for learning and servant leadership, she has received a Masters in Public Administration and is working towards a doctorate in Education.

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.

Elizabeth is a Texas native who has lived and traveled around the world. She earned her Bachelor's in political science from Texas A&M University and worked in campaign finance in Houston. For the past five years she has been teaching and recently earned her MS.Ed. in curriculum and instruction from Western Governors University. In 2020 she moved to Boone, North Carolina with her husband and they welcomed their daughter last year. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys spending time with her family and dog, hiking, and reading books in French.

Before joining Instruction Partners as a Texas ELA Content Lead, Danielle was an ELA Achievement Specialist for KIPP San Antonio.  Previous to that, she worked with IDEA for 10 years as a teacher, course leader, and assistant principal of instruction.   Danielle is looking forward to creating opportunities alongside teachers and leaders to ensure students are provided the strongest and equitable opportunities possible.

Talissa Leary is a native to southern California and received her B.S. in foods and nutrition from San Diego State University. Her work experience includes working one to one with children and adults with special needs as well as as a coordinator in education and medical settings. Her customer-forward personality combined with her strong administrative background allow her to further assist the teams that directly serve our partners.

Courtney comes to Instruction Partners with 15 years of education experience. What started as an opportunity to mentor a group of students in Brooklyn turned into a career as a math teacher in the South Bronx, Harlem and Houston. Her time in the classroom eventually led to work as an instructional math coach and specialist in Humble ISD. She is passionate about ensuring that all students have equitable access to math through classroom experiences that value their voice and mathematical intuition. She holds a B.S. from Cornell University and a M.A. from The City College of New York and currently lives in Houston, TX with her husband and two children.

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.

Itsel began her career in Fort Worth, TX, teaching math as a Teach for America corps member. After teaching through the pandemic, she became a teacher leadership development manager in Dallas—Fort Worth, serving over 20 corps members. Most recently, she worked as an assistant principal of instruction where she led teachers in math/science to achieve the highest test scores in Fort Worth. Itsel is passionate about student-centered instruction and has made it her mission to ensure leaders are equipped with the knowledge and tools to make it happen. In her free time, she loves traveling and spending time with family.

Cammie is a director of instructional support who has been in education for over 10 years. She taught high school math for nine years and spent three years as a math content specialist and achievement specialist within KIPP Texas—Houston. She graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a B.S. in professional mathematics and from Liberty University with an M.Ed in administration and supervision. When not working, she enjoys reading, shopping, traveling, playing basketball, and laughing. She truly believes laughter is good for the soul and it can make anybody’s day a little better.

Matt is devoted to supporting the development and practice of liberatory learning spaces for both students and families. He comes to Instruction Partners with diverse work experience, most recently working for the Detroit Mayor’s office where he served on the Community Education Commission leading their efforts for equitable access to enrichment programming and supporting strategy and accountability structures city-wide. Prior to this role, Matt has served as a leadership director for school principals and central office staff, school founder and principal, and an instructional coach. Most recently, Matt was named as a committee member for Metro-Detroit Restorative Justice Network. He received his B.A. from Eastern Michigan University in English education, History education, and is currently a Leadership and Policy graduate student at the University of Michigan.

Angela started her career as a guidance counselor at Hope Academy, a high school for youth working an active substance use recovery program. This formative experience interacting with youth who thrive academically in a more holistic, therapeutic environment laid the foundation for her future work as artistic director of a youth theater program, as a program officer for two family foundations, and her current work in data analytics. Data tells stories, and there are generally humans behind those stories. Angela's passion is uncovering insights in data and visualizing those insights in a way that spurs action and positively impacts lives.

Prior to joining the Instruction Partners team, Bree served the educational landscape of metro Atlanta for eight years. She most recently served as a founding foundational literacy content lead with KIPP Woodson Park Academy. In this role, she delivered and managed LETRS professional development to 48 teachers. She also piloted the school's Accelerated Reader program to promote reading enjoyment among K–4 scholars. Prior to this role, Bree served as a teacher leader for two years, taught kindergarten for one year, and taught 1st grade for three years. She currently resides in her hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas where she enjoys spending time in nature, staying fit, cooking, and spending time with her family. 

Eliza came to Instruction Partners in 2018 after 15 years of teaching and instructional coaching. Eliza began teaching in Denver after completing her master’s in education at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In 2006, she relocated to New Orleans. 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 for equitable educational access for all students. During her time in New Orleans, Eliza has worked in education as a literacy coach, ELA teacher, SS teacher, and a reading interventionist. She spends her free time playing with her two boys, reading, and enjoying City Park with her family and friends.

Growing up in Kankakee, IL, Jessica learned from an early age the importance of relationships. She has centered her career around building capacity in educators so that quality math instruction can be provided to all students. After graduating with her bachelor’s in middle-level teacher education, Jessica spent her first four years teaching in University Park, IL. She then relocated to Houston, TX and spent the next 15 years serving the students of Houston ISD and Spring Branch ISD as a math teacher, dean of students, multi-classroom leader, and most recently as a district-level math instructional specialist. She has her master's of education administration degree from Lamar University. Outside of work, Jessica enjoys traveling to Illinois to visit family and watching sports.

Jess joins Instruction Partners after spending 7 years in the classrooms of Baltimore, MD and Charlotte, NC, and then the past 8 years in curriculum development, teacher coaching, and professional learning roles. A trained community organizer, former school board candidate, and current doctoral candidate, Jess is working to ensure that a child’s outcomes aren’t so directly tied to their zip code. Jess now lives in Miami, has visited 27 of the 62 US National Parks, and likes to have her toes in the sand, her kayak in the water, her Red Sox on TV, and her camera in her hands as often as possible.

Shveta is dedicated to disrupting the predictability of educational inequities by accelerating educator effectiveness. She has 20 years of experience in education with positions including literacy specialist, professional learning facilitator, instructional coach, instructional designer, author, curriculum developer, DEI curriculum editor, and high school teacher in the US and abroad. Her most recent book for educators, Hacking Graphic Novels: 8 Ways to Teach Higher-Level Thinking with Comics and Visual Storytelling, equips teachers with actionable tools to accelerate student learning and create curious, confident thinkers. When she’s not working with teachers and schools, Shveta is honing her craft as an actor in the Pacific Northwest and loving on her partner and two kids. 

Rebekah is an experienced educator and early literacy enthusiast. She began her teaching career as an AmeriCorps adult literacy educator in New Orleans. From there, she spent over a decade in New Orleans public elementary schools, gaining diverse experience in roles such as K–2 teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal, RTI coordinator, and director of literacy.  Grateful for those learning experiences, Rebekah is now back in her home state in Mississippi where she continues to learn and grow her passion for early literacy.

Kaity is a Connecticut native; she received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She began her career in education in Milwaukee, WI and went on to receive her MBA in education leadership at Milwaukee School of Engineering. While in education, Kaity was a special education teacher, math coach, dean, and assistant principal. Kaity has a passion for ensuring all students receive equitable access to rigorous and meaningful math instruction. In her free time, Kaity loves to read, spend time with her family and try out new local restaurants!

Anthony comes to Instruction Partners with 10+ years of experience as a math educator, instructional coach, assistant principal, and district math director. His passion is supporting leaders and educators in deepening their content knowledge to provide quality instruction and to cultivate a love of math. Anthony received his bachelor's in physics from the University of Florida and his Master of Arts in Teaching with principal certificate from Rice University. In his spare time, he enjoys exploring the restaurant scene of Houston, TX and lounging with his dog, Newton.

Before joining Instruction Partners, Silva worked to impact teacher practice and student learning as an Achievement Specialist at KIPP Texas – Houston. She had previously developed her own teaching skills at Achievement First Endeavor Middle School in Brooklyn, New York, where she taught 6th Grade History, Writing, and Guided Reading for 5 years. During her time at Achievement First, she also led the Guided Reading and Writing Intervention teams as well as her grade team. Before working at Achievement First, Silva worked as a substitute teacher and assistant teacher in various schools in Killeen, Texas. A native of Germany, Silva received her Masters of Education degree from the Freie Universitaet Berlin.

Amponsah is incredibly committed and passionate about providing students with an excellent and equitable educational experience that leverages access and opportunities to brighten their futures. With over 12 years of experience in education, Amponsah has served as a  classroom teacher, instructional coach, school leader, and district/network department leader and senior leadership consultant/coach. Amponsah has experience supporting leaders through change management and creating structures and systems in support of great instruction. For the past 4 years, Amponsah has worked at Instruction Partners as a director of instructional support and managing director of instructional support. She leads a team of directors, managers, and content leads in partnership work with a growing list of school systems in California, Indiana, Louisiana, Washington D.C., New York, Massachusetts, and beyond.

Elena joined Instruction Partners in 2021 after 14 years of teaching and instructional coaching. Elena began her career in education in New York City after completing her bachelor’s degree in English at Fordham University, then pursuing a master’s in education at C.W. Post. For 6 years she taught children with developmental disabilities at a private special education school in Manhattan, New York. In 2013 she relocated to New Orleans, and has served as an ELA teacher, Social Studies teacher, Special Education teacher, Dean of Intervention, RTI Coordinator, and instructional coach. These experiences have solidified her commitment to working for equitable access to education for all children. She spends her free time enjoying the incredible food, music, and culture that New Orleans has to offer, has a passion for costuming and headpiece design, and practices self-care through yoga and reading.

Dan Ochs originally hails from Kansas but has spent the past 15 years living and working in Connecticut and Rhode Island.  Before coming to Instruction Partners he worked for the AF Navigator program as the director of the elementary math program.  At Navigator, Dan supported partners with leveraging high-quality instructional materials to improve student outcomes through leadership coaching embedded in the context of curriculum implementation. He has also worked for the Rhode Island Department of Education, as an academic dean at multiple schools, and as a 1st, 2nd, and 4th grade teacher. He has a bachelor's degree in elementary education from Kansas State and a master’s in urban education policy from Brown.

Annie O’Donnell began her career as a 2nd grade teacher in Baltimore, Maryland, where she learned about the power of a responsive literacy education for children. She transitioned to Teach For America’s national design team, where she led efforts to remake new teacher training and support and staff development to be content specific, grounded in culturally relevant pedagogy, and practice based. After almost a dozen years, Annie launched her own consulting practice. Recent clients have included the National Student Support Accelerator, Reading Reimagined, and NC Education Corps. Outside of work, she is active in efforts to remove barriers to books within her local public school district. She lives in Naples, Florida with her husband and two girls.

Vanessa joined Instruction Partners in early 2017 after graduating from the University of Virginia, where she earned dual bachelor degrees in economics and environmental sustainability. She spent three years supporting the organization’s operations as Instruction Partners grew from a small, Tennessee-based team to a national organization. As Marketing Lead, Vanessa works closely with the Director of Marketing to support all things communications at Instruction Partners—from implementing a contact management system, to managing social media, to managing website content. In her free time, Vanessa takes advantage of Nashville’s endless supply of live music.

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 an editor, proofreader, dishwasher, sandwich artist, and operations coordinator. The quickest way to William’s heart is with a taco or professional wrestling trivia.

Sejal joined Instruction Partners in September 2019 as the Operations Coordinator for the Professional Development team. Prior to Instruction Partners, she planned events for Teach for America where she began her journey for equitable quality education for all students. Originally from Florida, Sejal has lived in Baltimore, Atlanta, and San Francisco and now makes Denver home with her husband, Ashil and kids Suri and Syan. She is a lover of Octobers, chocolate chip cookies, and holidays!

Julie came to Instruction Partners with an immense passion for early literacy and 17 years of experience teaching K–2 and serving as an elementary academic coach. With extensive training in foundational literacy, she served on state and district advisory committees where she designed foundational literacy scopes and sequences, curricular materials, and assessment structures for district use. In alignment with her design work, Julie developed and facilitated professional learning experiences for district and school leaders and educators. As Director of Early Literacy, Julie has spent five years at Instruction Partners leading the design and implementation of our early literacy pilot services to help our team provide practical, research-based literacy support for partner schools and systems.

Alli Parshall began her career in education as a high school science teacher in Jackson, Mississippi. During the last ten years, she has served as a science and writing teacher, grade-level team leader, instructional coach, and an assistant principal. She has experience writing science and literacy curricula and providing reading intervention for elementary and middle school students. She earned her MA in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Mississippi, and she is currently working on her Ed.S in Educational Leadership. She enjoys spending time outside with her two sons, reading, and listening to podcasts while walking around the neighborhood.

Alyssa is a lead learner committed to empowering others to reach their fullest potential. This commitment brought her into education as a high school peer tutor where she designed programming and mentored her peers. Alyssa taught for a total of five years as a kindergarten teacher at two charter school systems in Memphis, TN. To scale her impact on student achievement, she began coaching teachers in 2016 and has served as a math coach and most recently assistant principal. Alyssa earned her M.Ed. in Instructional Leadership through Union University. She has also written curriculum, led professional development, and participated in a variety of teaching and leadership workshops. With a heart for math, Alyssa is a math content lead at Instruction Partners. She is excited to help build schools' capacity to provide an equitable and high-quality math learning experience to all students.

LP joined the Instruction Partners team in September of 2018 and has held multiple roles within the organization. They 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 helping to build a world that works for everyone. They have nearly a decade's worth of experience within the higher education and nonprofit education fields. Outside of work, LP can be found spending time with their wife and cats, crafting, scoping out a new happy hour, or immersed in the fashion world.

Alexa’s foundations in ELA content started in her middle school ELA classroom in San Antonio, Texas. Her love of the middle grades propelled her towards completing her doctorate in Interdisciplinary Learning & Teaching with a concentration in Curriculum & Instruction.  She has since worked in higher education as a teacher educator, preparing pre-service teachers for their future classrooms. She is passionate about place-based and anticolonial foundations in teaching and learning. Prior to becoming a full-time ELA Content Lead, Alexa worked as a contractor for Instruction Partners.

Elizabeth has spent her educational career focused on developing and supporting people and programs. Before joining Instruction Partners, Elizabeth worked at TNTP, where she led a teacher training and certification program as well as supported the development of teacher coaching models. She also worked closely with school districts in implementing large scale academic change, largely centered on academic strategy, curriculum adoption and implementation, and leadership development. She takes her passion for coaching and curriculum into the spin room, where you’re sure to find a tightly planned class and playlist along with lots of personality and encouragement.

Felicia has worked in the field of Education for 10 years. She has served in various roles such as: a special education teacher, literacy coach and curriculum writer in Washington DC. She’s also worked within higher education, advising and mentoring college students both in New York City and London. Felicia also spent time traveling the world conducting an independent research project exploring the topic of race and identity, as well as promoting social justice, equity, and mental health advocacy. Felicia is committed to dismantling systems rooted in white supremacy and fighting for the liberation of all people. Felicia holds a MA in Education Policy from King's College London, and a M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction from American University in Washington, DC. Felicia has recently gotten into indoor bouldering as well as started collecting tattoos.

Mary Rose joined Instruction Partners in June of 2023 after 12 years managing events at public gardens. In those roles, she spent much of the last decade designing and producing award-winning holiday light shows. Craft beer festivals also featured prominently in her event work, and she can frequently be found at breweries with her husband Patrick who is a sake and beer brewer by trade. An Oregonian at heart, Mary Rose is currently based in Asheville, North Carolina where she enjoys porch-sitting, collecting and occasionally using craft supplies, and roller skating.

Jason has been passionate about working in education since 2010. Originally from outside of Houston, he began his career in Memphis, Tennessee as a middle school ELA teacher. He then became a founding ELA teacher for a turnaround charter school in New York City, where he later served as the principal. In his previous role before joining Instruction Partners, Jason oversaw ELA curriculum implementation across nine middle schools, working with coaches and teachers to deliver high-quality education. Now that Seattle is his home, Jason is thrilled to be part of Instruction Partners and continue serving students on the west coast.

Maura received her undergraduate degree from Haverford College in English with a minor in education. After college, she joined Teach For America and was assigned to teach 7th grade math in Alabama. The experience sparked her love for teaching and learning and brought her to the Philadelphia area, where she spent five years teaching 5th grade in the KIPP Charter School Network. While working, Maura pursued her master’s degree in education, focusing on middle school math. Her work in her graduate program at Relay School of Education reinvigorated her passion for excellent math instruction and further solidified her commitment to working for equitable access to high quality education for all students. Most recently, Maura worked as a 4th grade math teacher and team leader in Gainesville, FL.

Originally from Wisconsin, Kate taught in alternative education classrooms in the Milwaukee area and far rural Maine. Her love for science took her to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) where she worked for over eleven years. During her time at RIDE, her work focused on statewide efforts towards high quality curriculum adoption and professional learning systems support. She takes inspiration from her undergraduate alma mater’s motto, “Light, More Light!” to seek truth and light in all things. 

Previous to Instruction Partners, Carla worked for 16 years at Achievement First. While at AF, she served as Director of Recruitment, taught 5th/6th math, served as an instructional coach, and an academic dean. Carla also helped to write the middle school math curriculum which is now open source and is currently being evaluated by EdReports. She’s National Board Certified in Early Adolescence math and has authored items for the Smarter Balanced Assessment. She absolutely believes that all students are entitled to have access to a great education, and brings that belief with her to work each day. Outside of work, Carla can be found with her nose in a book, or at a college sporting event cheering on her son Aren, who runs track and plays soccer at his university.

Leslie received her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan in Elementary Education before moving to Seattle, Washington where she taught 4th and 5th grade, served on her school’s Leadership Team, and led school-wide Instructional Rounds. After realizing how systemic changes can influence student learning, Leslie attended Teachers College at Columbia University to pursue her master’s degree in education policy and sociology. Before joining Instruction Partners, Leslie worked at the Center for the Professional Education of Teachers where she supported schools in curriculum adoption, worked as an instructional coach, led professional development, and wrote ELA units around complex texts.

Molly has worked in the field of education for the past twenty years. Over the years, she has been a teacher, mentor, instructional coach, and curriculum writer. She joined Instruction Partners last year after spending three years working for a charter network in Brooklyn as a dean of instruction. Molly is passionate about providing equitable educational opportunities to all students and has earned her master’s degree in education policy. Although she currently lives in Pennsylvania, Molly loves to relocate every few years and go wherever the wind takes her. Aside from traveling and education, Molly loves a good game night!

Abby Shink was most recently a K–12 math coordinator and coach in a small school district in Maine. Her focus throughout her professional career has been on building equitable learning outcomes for students through teacher and leader collaboration; she has had the opportunity to do this work at the classroom, school, and district level. Abby studied education at the University of Maine, and got her master's degree in teaching mathematics, K–8 from Mt. Holyoke College in 2019. Outside of school and work, Abby likes to hike, cook, read, and spend time with her husband and two children.

Mark joined Instruction Partners in January 2021 as a Senior Data Analyst. Before Instruction Partners, Mark was an analyst for New Teacher Center, where he supported numerous teacher induction and coaching programs with analyses and visualizations. Mark holds dual B.A.’s from Augustana College in Music and Political Science, as well as a M.P.P in Education Policy from Vanderbilt University.

Mecca is from Brooklyn, New York. One reason she decided to pursue a career in education is that she believes that all students deserve equal access to a high-quality education regardless of their zip code. She is excited to work with internal stakeholders as the organization engages in the work necessary to carry out its core values. In her leisure time, she enjoys spending quality time with loved ones and traveling.

Christine is from a family of teachers and values a high-quality, engaging education for all students. Prior to joining Instruction Partners, she worked as an analyst for Mass Insight Education & Research and the School District of Philadelphia, supporting schools with all things data. She has also done research evaluating academic and social interventions for students with IEPs. Christine holds a B.S. in psychology from Stony Brook University and an M.A. in education policy from Teachers College, Columbia University. She is a proud Philly resident and loves exploring Philly with her dog, Molly.

Dr. Viticia Thames is an education researcher with a focus on using both quantitative and qualitative methods to improve teacher and instructional leader professional learning quality improvement cycles at scale, in order to impact students’ social-emotional and academic outcomes, inclusive of students who have been historically marginalized. As the senior director of research and development at Instruction Partners, Dr. Thames oversees pilot-specific and organization-wide impact evaluations, as well as a wide range of instructional leadership professional learning pilots at the state, district, and school levels across the country.

Jenna brings nearly a decade of experience in education to Instruction Partners. Her passion is supporting educators in creating the best possible learning experience for all students. Jenna began her teaching career in Atlanta as a middle school math teacher in Clayton County Schools. She has since taught and supported K–5 Math instruction in a variety of settings within Atlanta Public Schools. She received her B.S. in Elementary Education at the University of South Florida, and M.Ed. in K–8 Math Instruction from UGA. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with family, discovering new brunch spots, and traveling the world.

Kelli is a Detroit native who has served as a teacher, coach, and administrator in K–8 schools for nineteen years. From Detroit to Prague, Chicago to South Bend, and Los Angeles to New Orleans, Kelli’s teaching and leadership experience from the pre-school to collegiate level has fueled her passion for supporting equitable reading and writing instruction in New Orleans schools. She holds a Master’s degree in math education from Marygrove College and a Bachelor’s degree in education and language arts from Michigan State University. Kelli spends her free time in New Orleans with her three young daughters dancing, singing, or wandering the art-filled city.

Maggie is a life-long learner passionate about empowering others to reach their full potential. This passion brought her to the education profession where she taught for ten years as a high school English teacher at KIPP Texas Public Schools – Houston. To further her impact on student achievement, she began coaching teachers in 2012 and has been a Dean of Instruction and most recently Assistant Principal. Maggie earned her Master of Arts in Teaching through the Relay Graduate School of Education and later returned to be an ELA adjunct professor for the Accelerated Master Cohort. She has also written curriculum, led professional development, and participated in a variety of teaching and leadership workshops. Her greatest accomplishment has been to see her students graduate college and return to work alongside her in the classroom.

Before joining Instruction Partners in August 2020, Kate worked for the Tennessee Department of Education's Office of Academics as a copyeditor and content development coordinator. She thinks school is cool and feels lucky that she gets to support education professionals by way of her nerdy interest in sentence construction. Kate has positive feelings about Calvin and Hobbes, negative feelings about temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and strong feelings about the relative quality of different brands of peanut butter.

During Nadra’s 10 years of experience in education, she has served as a teacher, PCL coach, assistant principal, and principal in Memphis, TN. With a heart for math, Nadra is joining the team as a math content lead. She is excited to help build schools' capacity to provide an equitable education and quality math instruction to all students.

Our Board

Dr. Blomstedt (Matt) joined Foresight Law + Policy after serving for nine distinguished years as Nebraska’s Commissioner of Education. His career includes working closely with rural and urban school districts, intermediate educational service agencies, professional associations, business leaders, and other education stakeholders. While serving as chief executive of the state education agency, his nationally recognized work drew peer recognition and awards and three invitations from Congress to testify about the state’s education system and leadership. He also served as a board member and board chair of the Council of Chief State School Officers. Blomstedt has been a thought leader for over two decades in Nebraska and national education policy circles—including contributing his insights about K–12 and postsecondary education finance, assessment and accountability systems, connectivity and digital learning, professional development, and learning recovery.

Candice Bocala is a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Her research focuses on the connections between educator learning and organizational conditions that support collaborative work. As a member of the Data Wise Project at HGSE, she co-chairs multiple Data Wise Institutes and is currently the director of Data Wise Research. In this role, she studies how schools and districts use data for continuous improvement and integrates that knowledge into the design of practitioner-friendly tools and resources. She is the former faculty director of the Reimagining Integration: Diverse and Equitable Schools (RIDES) Project at HGSE. Bocala began her career as an elementary school teacher in Washington, D.C. She was also a senior research associate at WestEd, where she served as a researcher and technical assistance provider for federally-funded national centers such as the Regional Educational Laboratory, Northeast and Islands (REL-NEI). Bocala received her Ed.D. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and she holds an M.A.T. in elementary education from American University, an M.A. in policy analysis and evaluation from Stanford University, and a B.A. in government from Cornell University.

Rick Cruz is a seasoned general manager and entrepreneurial leader with more than twenty years’ experience at high-growth for-profit and nonprofit enterprises in the education and advisory services sectors. As president of Arabella Advisors, Rick leads the executive team and guides strategy and client development with the goal of growing the organization’s reach and social impact. Rick previously held the role of ‎Executive Director of Strategic Partnerships at The College Board. Prior to that, he served as a Vice President at America’s Promise Alliance, a leader in Education and Youth Practice at the consulting firm FSG, CEO of DC Prep Public Charter Schools, Chief Field Officer of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, Vice President at Teach For America, and manager at CEB. Rick also serves on the Board of Directors of the DC Public Charter School Board and is a Pahara-Aspen Education Fellow and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network. Rick earned a BA in Philosophy from Yale University and resides in Washington, DC with his wife, Leslie, and two children, Luca and Belén.

Wil Del Pilar, Ph.D., serves as Ed Trust’s Vice President of Higher Education Policy and Practice. In this role, Wil spearheads Ed Trust’s mission to highlight inequities and outline solutions in order to improve access, success, affordability, and completion in higher education for low-income students and students of color. Prior to joining Ed Trust, Wil served in Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s administration as Deputy Secretary of Postsecondary and Higher Education, where he developed and implemented the state’s strategic vision for higher education. Wil has also held senior development positions, as the director of development at Pennsylvania State University and at the University of Florida’s Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program. Wil holds a doctorate in higher education/higher education administration from The Pennsylvania State University, a master’s degree from California State University-Dominguez Hills, and a bachelor’s degree from Chapman University.

Prior to founding the Center, El-Mekki served as a nationally recognized principal and U.S. Department of Education Principal Ambassador Fellow. His school, Mastery Charter Shoemaker, was recognized by President Obama and Oprah Winfrey, and was awarded the prestigious EPIC award for three consecutive years as being among the top three schools in the country for accelerating students’ achievement levels. The Shoemaker campus was also recognized as one of the top ten middle school and top ten high schools in the state of Pennsylvania for accelerating the achievement levels of African-American students. In 2014, El-Mekki founded The Fellowship – Black Male Educators for Social Justice, an organization dedicated to recruiting, retaining, and developing Black male teachers. El-Mekki blogs on Phillys7thWard, is a member of the 8 Black Hands podcast and serves on several boards and committees focused on educational and racial justice.

Before co-founding 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 the 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.

Andrea Magyera Jimenez is SVP, Finance and Treasurer at Asurion. Since joining Asurion in 2009, Andrea has been responsible for multiple areas of value creation including capital markets strategy and execution, strategic transaction (debt, equity, M&A) identification, and execution and support of the company’s growth strategy. Her current responsibilities include Treasury, Corporate Strategic Finance (debt, equity), Client/Commercial FP&A, Global FP&A, and Corporate Development (M&A). Prior to joining Asurion, Andrea worked as an associate with Madison Dearborn Partners, a private equity firm, where she worked on MDP’s investment into Asurion in 2007, and as an investment banker with Deutsche Bank. Andrea has an MBA from Harvard Business School and bachelor’s degree from Harvard College.

Sandra Lightman is the Senior Fellow, Strategic Partnerships for Student Achievement Partners. Sandra joined SAP from the New Jersey Department of Education where she served as the director of academic standards and as the director of math and science education. In these roles, Sandra was directly involved in state standards, assessment, and professional development policy and implementation strategies. Prior to working at the state level, Sandra held several district-level positions including school superintendent, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, principal, subject area supervisor and high school science teacher. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Rutgers University and master’s and doctoral degrees in educational leadership from Rowan University.

Saamra Mekuria-Grillo is the CEO and co-founder of Formation Ventures, a nonprofit that is dedicated to dramatically increasing the number and success of Black Gen Z entrepreneurs, through educational and new venture support programs. From 2011–2019, she served as Vice President of Strategy and Operations and Chief Operating Officer of the Pahara Institute, an education leadership development organization. Prior to Pahara, Saamra held roles at Bain & Company and at Google, where she helped to launch Google’s Hyderabad office. Saamra currently serves on the board of Compass Rose Public Schools and has previously served on the boards of the Mission Preparatory School and the East Bay Innovation Academy. She holds an MBA with a certificate in Public Management from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a bachelor’s degree from Yale University. She is also a proud graduate of the Boston Latin School, the first public school in the United States. Saamra lives in San Antonio, TX with her husband, Brandon, and their two sons.

Karen Nussle is a veteran communications strategist with experience in the private, public, political, and non-profit sectors. Her work has included running high-profile national advocacy and marketing campaigns, forming and advising CEOs and national boards, and founding her own successful marketing firm. Her skills include executive leadership, business strategy and development, strategic communications, marketing, public relations, corporate communications, government relations, advocacy, and compliance. Karen started Ripple Communications in 2005 to serve clients with her own particular blend of integrity and insight, in service to helping senior executives succeed. She currently advises the Aspen Institute’s Education and Society Program on a variety of education policy topics. Karen also served as President of Conservative Leaders for Education (CL4E), a startup non-profit that she conceived and founded with former Education Secretary William J. Bennett, that networked and supported state-based education policy leaders. Prior to CL4E, Karen led the Collaborative for Student Success, a communications advocacy effort to promote and defend high academic standards and associated high-quality state tests. Karen received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications from the University of Maryland. She currently resides outside of Madison, Wisconsin with her husband Jim.

Kira serves as the CEO of Teach Plus as well as an elected member on the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Kira was a 2000 corps member in Baton Rouge, where she taught fourth grade at Eden Park Elementary. She went on to serve as school director for Teach For America summer institute and, as vice president of new site development, led the organization’s efforts to expand to three new regions. Kira is also a moderator for the Pahara fellowship, a 2010 fellow of the Aspen-New Schools cohort, and a member of the Aspen Global Network. In 2015 Kira was named to TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. She holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University, an M.Ed. in school leadership from Harvard University.

Nick Rodriguez is the CEO at Delivery Associates, an organization whose mission is to improve the effectiveness and accountability of government worldwide. In this role, he partners with governments, nonprofits, and philanthropies to deliver better results through better implementation across sectors, including education, workforce, economic mobility, climate, and health. Prior to his work at Delivery Associates, Nick was a co-founder and K–12 director at the Education Delivery Institute (EDI), a nonprofit that focused on helping education leaders to improve the implementation of their reforms. Before that, he was an engagement manager with McKinsey & Company’s education practice. Nick is a member of the DC Public Charter School Board and the author of two books on implementation in government: Deliverology 101 and Deliverology in Practice. Nick holds a bachelor’s degree in public policy from Stanford University, a master’s degree in economics from the London School of Economics, and a master’s degree in Latin American studies from Oxford University, where he was a British Marshall Scholar.

Mary K. Wells is a co-founder and managing partner at Bellwether. As a first-generation college graduate, Mary is passionate about the power of public education. Mary splits her time between leading the day-to-day operations of Bellwether and working with organizations to provide strategic advising support. Prior to launching Bellwether, Mary led STEM and new school investments for the Texas High School Project (now Educate Texas), where she was a founding team member overseeing STEM education and new school models. Prior to this, Mary spent eight years at Bain & Company as an analyst, consultant, and manager, where she advised Fortune 500 companies on growth strategy, new business development, and post-merger integration issues. Mary holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and a master’s from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Anne Wicks, The Ann Kimball Johnson Director of Education Reform at the Bush Institute, develops and oversees the policy, research, and engagement work of the Education Reform team. Before joining the Bush Institute, Ms. Wicks served as an Associate Dean at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education where she led a team with revenue, communications, and engagement goals. Additionally, she supported Dean Karen Symms Gallagher on a variety of special projects including the launch and early growth of Ednovate Charter Schools. She currently serves as a board member for Dallas Afterschool and is the vice-chair of the Education Opens Doors board. She is on the advisory board of Best In Class and the Educator Collective, and she serves as the chair of the Texas Ed Leadership Community of Practice. Over her career, she has held management roles at Teach for America, the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health, and Stanford University. Ms. Wicks holds a B.A in American Studies and a M.A. in Education from Stanford University (during which she taught 8th grade social studies), as well as a M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. Ms. Wicks is an alumni volunteer for Stanford University, and is a member of the Stanford Associates. She is the parent of a public school student.

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