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Teachers for Transformation Academy

Formerly known as the Teacher Fellows Program, the StudentsFirst Teachers for Transformation Academy aims to engage current, high-performing teachers in the education reform movement and to position them to serve as leaders among their educator colleagues. StudentsFirst recognizes the importance of teachers’ voices in the fight to improve our schools, and we therefore seek the perspective of our educators as we work to reform the current education system in our nation. This highly selective program provides teachers a broad platform of knowledge and professional development focused on education policy, advocacy and reform. The program offers teachers the resources and tools to build and lead active networks of educators who want to create meaningful change across the education landscape. It is designed to complement the professional duties of full-time teachers by providing an after-hours forum to network, engage with national stakeholders, and ensure that progressive, student-centered education policy fully reflects the on-the-ground experiences of frontline professionals.

The StudentsFirst Teachers for Transformation Academy is a part-time, one-year professional development, leadership, and advocacy program. Because StudentsFirst understands that time is valuable, teachers will receive a modest stipend as compensation for the time they will invest in the program. Teachers will complete the majority of the program in their local communities. However, they will meet in person at the StudentsFirst headquarters in Sacramento, CA two to three times during the year.

Take a look at the bios of our 2013 Teacher Fellows below.

David Andrews

David Andrews

David J. Andrews is a graduate of Purdue University where he earned a Bacehlor of Arts in Social Studies Education with Certifications in Economics, Government, and History. He went on to join Teach For America. Currently he is pursuing his Master of Science in Education with a focus on Education and Social Change at the University of Miami.

I decided to become an Academy Teacher because I do not believe a child's opportunities for a high quality education should be dependent on the zip code in which they were born. We need an education revolution. All students deserve access to an excellent education, and until the interests of our students are placed at the forefront of policy discussions, we will continue to have a system with gross inequalities.

Dido Balla

Dido Balla

Dido Balla is a 2011 graduate of University of Washington, where, as a Global Honor’s participant, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies. He then went on to join Teach For America and teach English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Miami. A former English Language Leaner (ELL) himself, he has found a passion for the multi-lingual students who enrich the already diverse population of Miami Dade Public Schools.

Race, socio-economic background, and zip code should not determine whether or not a child has access to an excellent education. I believe we are morally obligated to play an active role in ending the tragic inequalities that currently plague our school system—that’s why I decided to join the Teachers for Transformation Academy.

Todd Beard

Todd Beard

Todd grew up receiving an education from some of the best institutions in the state of Michigan. As a parent and teacher, Todd understands how important it is to have quality educational choices, appropriate government funding and oversight, and professional educators. He teaches at a school where everyday educators are working to provide a quality education to inner-city youth.

I was raised to respect the democratic process, majority, minority, and the extremes. I was taught that through hard work, dedication, and education we could achieve our wildest dreams. The reality, we see, is that our system is broken, accountability is lost, and America is falling behind. I believe that together, we can create lasting improvements and quality choices for families and society. But, only if we believe that a quality education of all students is what we need in "the land of the free". I joined the StudentsFirst team to create lasting improvements in our education system. Our students, the future leaders of our country, can't wait!

Bhavini Bhakta

Bhavini Bhakta

Bhavini Bhakta earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at UC Irvine, a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education at Pepperdine University and later a Master’s Degree in School Administration at California State Polytechnic. An elementary school teacher currently entering her tenth year of teaching, Bhavini has a wide range of experiences in school leadership and has been the recipient of the Golden Apple Teacher of the Year Award.

I joined this team to give myself a voice, as I don't have one through CTA as a teacher. I believe that StudentsFirst truly values the work we do as teachers and I know they are devoted to making meaningful change happen with students at the forefront of the fight.

Jihan Burdah-Smith

Jihan Burdah-Smith

Born in Newark, NJ, Jihan earned her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Georgia State University. Since then she has taught in DeKalb, Georgia, Anoka-Hennepin and Minneapolis and is a Board Member at the Harvest Preparatory Academy where she currently teaches. Before joining the StudentsFirst Teachers for Transformation Academy, Jihan was active in education reform, lobbying policymakers in the State Capitol for meaningful student-focused legislation.

Often it is easier to sit on the side line and complain. I joined the Transformation Team to be the change I want to see in educaton reform. My students inspire me. And when I walk in my class in the morning and I am showered with loving smiles and warm hugs before I even make it to my desk, I know what I do both in the class and at the Capitol is making a difference.

Kimberly Coyle

Kimberly Coyle

Kim Coyle recieved her degree in English, and a double minor in History and Education, from Sewanee: The University of the South. She continued her education at Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, earning a Masters in Teaching and Learning, with a specialization in literacy. Prior to her time at Hendersonville, she taught basic English, Italian, and Technology skills classes to refugees in Rome, Italy.

I believe that every child deserves the right to receive the best classroom experience possible. If you change a student, you change a family. Change a family and you change a neighborhood. Change a neighborhood and you change a community. Change a community and you will change our nation.

Tiphani Davis

Tiphani Davis

After graduating from the University of Louisville with a Bachelor of Science in Philosophy, Tiphani joined the Prince George Teaching Fellows and taught seventh grade Reading Language Arts for two years in Hyattsville, MD. Afterward, she moved to Pittsburgh, PA where she earned her MFA from Chatham University in Writing. While attending Chatham, she worked a number of roles with The New Teacher Project until graduation and now teaches tenth grade English in rural West Virginia. She recently joined StudentsFirst as a member of the Teachers for Transformation team and is excited about the possibility of really helping to enact change so that all kids have access to a great education.

I joined Students First because I believe deeply that we have a social obligation to work for the betterment of society, and the key to a better society and better world is to ensure that all children, regardless of race and socioeconomic status, have access to a well-rounded education.

Amanda Hobson

Amanda Hobson

Amanda Hobson received her Masters of Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Upon graduating from HGSE, she started working at the Harlem Children’s Zone as a first grade teacher at Promise Academy 1. She spent four summers teaching in Ghana, West Africa, where she shared teaching strategies with teachers in village schools. She’s currently a Master Reading Teacher in Charleston, South Carolina at a low income school that is a part of the Charleston Promise Neighborhood (CPN). Amanda helped CPN develop a college-bound curriculum that is used to bring more conversations about college into the classroom. In addition, she teaches a course at Charleston Southern University as an adjunct professor.

My students inspire me everyday as well as the teachers and school leaders who put everything into finding educational solutions. That is why I applied to be a Teacher Fellow with StudentsFirst. Throughout the course of my Fellowship I've had hundreds of conversations with teachers and educators in South Carolina interested in pursuing educational change. Together we are going to close the achievement gap and provide access to a great education to all students!

Michelle Humphrey

Michelle Humphrey

Michelle Humphrey has been committed to empowering and uplifting “at-promise” youth for her entire professional and educational career. From her early beginnings as a case manager working with truant youth to eventually transitioning to a career in education through the New York City Teaching Fellows program, Michelle has always had one goal in mind: to equalize educational and social-economic opportunities for children of color. In 2012, she obtained her Principal and Director of Special Education Licenses from the University of Minnesota.

I joined the StudentsFirst team to engage more teachers, parents and community members to act on behalf of students. I am committed to eliminating the achievement gap by rallying an active network of teachers who are motivated to advocate for – and teach – Minnesota’s most promising students.

Mike Kohfeld

Mike Kohfeld

Mike Kohfeld graduated from the University of Illiniois at Urbana/Champaign with a Bachelor’s degree in music education. Passionate about bringing access to the arts to historically underserved communities, Mike joined Teach For America upon graduation and was placed at a performing arts magnet school in Kansas City, MO. Mike is moving into his third year of teaching concert band, jazz band, general music, and music composition at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. Now, as a StudentsFirst Academy Teacher, Mike hopes to expand his impact as an advocate for arts access in public schools and as a change agent in the greater push to allow ALL students access to a quality education.

I believe every student is entitled to a quality arts education. I joined the StudentsFirst Teachers for Transformation Academy to work towards realizing this vision.

BeaAtrice Mazyck

BeaAtrice Mazyck

Dr. BeaAtrice S. Mazyck is a Social Studies teacher and department chair at C.A. Johnson High School. She received her Bachelor of Science degree in History from Lander University, her Masters in Education degree with an emphasis in Technology Integration at Grand Canyon University, and in November 2012, received her Doctorate of Education in Educational Leadership with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Phoenix.

I come from a long line of educators that have worked toward improving the education of students in any way they can, and I want to continue to be part of that transformation. Joining this team allows me to share my passion for education and help lead the next generation of educators.

Laura Meyer

Laura Meyer

Laura Meyer graduated from the University of Redlands with a Liberal Studies degree-emphasis in Spanish, and received her BCLAD (bilingual certificate) and Master’s Degree in Bilingual Education while working at a school for students with special needs. Additionally, she is an after-school Latin dance teacher, and a certified yoga instructor.

There are too many policies in our current public education system that do not have children’s best interests in mind, and often, teacher input is not considered in the reform process. I am optimistic that with thoughtful ideas, common-sense, problem-solving, and most importantly passion, our nation can provide a superior 21st century education for our kids, while elevating the teaching profession in the process.

Talia Reed

Talia Reed

Talia Reed has taught English at NorthWood Middle School for five years. During such time Talia was motivated to reach out to state legislators and support the Indiana Department of Education’s commonsense reform efforts. In 2011 Talia participated in a documentary made by Education Action Group called “Kids Aren’t Cars.” She currently sits on her county’s Community Correction board, as well as her local township board.

I believe education is fundamental to our democracy. A society that is not educated cannot self-govern.

Shawna Scott

Shawna Scott

Shawna Scott received her Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Michigan, Master's in Education Leadership from Eastern Michigan University, and Education Specialist degree from Oakland University. She is currently an Assistant Principal at Durand High School. She was previously a history teacher at Grand Blanc Community Schools for eight years. Shawna has concentrated on best practices in the classroom with a focus on preparing students with 21st Century Skills. In 2011, she worked with Michigan legislators to pass landmark education reforms that will help put a great teacher in every classroom for Michigan students.

I joined StudentsFirst because I know that the most important factor in a student’s success is having a highly effective teacher. I believe in the StudentsFirst mission and I know that their goals are possible. I believe students need to have a voice in the legislatures across the nation and StudentsFirst gives students that voice.

Christine Simo

Christine Simo

Christine Simo earned a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Florida State University in 2000. She first taught at a local charter school for eight years called Bay Haven Charter Academy in Panama City, Florida in 2001. During this time she earned her National Board Certification in the area of Literacy and Language Arts in grades Early and Middle childhood. She then relocated to Las Vegas, Nevada and continues to teach in their local district. Christine is currently working on an Education Master’s degree in the area of leadership with a focus on charter schools.

My students inspire me to be my best as their teacher. I will do whatever it takes for them to learn, achieve greatness, and succeed accordingly while they are under my guidance and care.

Preston Thorne

Preston Thorne

Preston Thorne received his Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of South Carolina. He also earned his M.T degree during his redshirt senior year while playing football for the South Carolina Gamecocks. After completing his graduate degree, Preston served in the AmeriCorps NCCC program as part of a disaster relief team, serving the post-Katrina gulf coast.

I joined StudentsFirst because I am excited about being part of a community of like minded educators who are working toward a common goal.

Seria Walton

Seria Walton

Seria Walton has taught in public charter and traditional public schools in urban settings within the states of Michigan and Indiana for the past 13 years. She received her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and Masters of Arts in Education Administration from Ball State University. She currently teaches 5th and 6th grade Math and Science at a public charter school in Indianapolis, Indiana. Seria has been active in her schools through volunteer coaching, mentoring and tutoring.

I joined the Teachers for Transformation Academy in order to help teachers have a voice when it comes to affecting change in education reform. Having the teachers' voices at the forefront is imperative because we are the ones working with students in classrooms everyday.