Teachers for Transformation Academy
Apply Now for the 2013 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 2012 Teacher Fellows below.
Shawna Groulx has taught history at Grand Blanc Community Schools for seven years. She received her B.A. in History from the University of Michigan, Master's in Education Leadership from Eastern Michigan University, and Education Specialist degree from Oakland University. As a teacher leader at Grand Blanc High School, Shawna has participated on the District Strategic Planning Committees, Grading Practice Workshop, and as a Professional Learning Community Leader. 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 guaranteeing world class teachers for all Michigan students.
I am passionate about ensuring all students across the nation have an extraordinary teacher in their classroom. Students and parents have the right to high performing schools regardless of their zip code. We know education is the key to success and reform is essential to improve America. I chose to work with StudentsFirst because it is a common sense reform voice for students, teachers, and parents.
Todd Beard began his education career as a paraprofessional and after school teacher. He earned a B.S. in Education from the University of Michigan-Flint in 2006. After ten years working in traditional, charter, urban, and suburban schools in various capacities, he understands the need for improvements everywhere. Todd teaches Kindergarten through 12th grade Technology at the International Academy of Flint, a public charter school, rated by U.S. News & World Report as "one of America's top high schools." Along with teaching this coming year, Todd will be finishing an M.P.A. from the University of Michigan and continuing to research and present programs in Passion Based Learning, Edutainment, and Mobile Learning.
I believe that if we expect the best from our students, then we must work hard to get the best for our students! This (fellowship) organization is in direct alignment with my purpose, which is to elevate my profession, create quality choices for families, and most importantly to be proud of the improvements we made in the education system for my daughter's generation and for ourselves.
Mandi Appell developed the first self-contained program at her school for students that needed special education services. Her personal background and experience in various classrooms and community organizations equipped her with the skills and mindset to generate a program that emphasized student success amidst inequalities in resources and opportunities. She started her undergraduate career in elementary education and transitioned into sociology of law, criminology and deviance due to a desire to educate and empower delinquent youth. Mandi furthered her education with a Masters of Education in Educational Psychology working toward licensing in Special Education. She is currently completing her fourth year of teaching in a self-contained classroom that focuses on high expectations for students with behavior concerns and severe learning challenges. Students continue to reach the high expectations set before them as she works with her team members to educate, equip and empower youth to develop and employ excellence in academic, social and moral development.
Our children, all children, deserve teachers that are creative, equipped, prepared and ready to demand excellence and exhaust all measures to ensure their students success. It is our job to train and organize fellow teachers and members in our community to ensure provisions are in place and accountability is maintained so that students always remain first.
Michelle Humphrey has been committed to empowering and uplifting under-resourced 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, social and economic opportunities for children of color. She has been fortunate to be able to teach in a variety of school settings and systems across the country; from Brooklyn, NY to Chicago, IL to Minneapolis, MN. In 2007, she graduated with a Masters in Elementary Education from City University New York – College of Staten Island.
Low expectations of teacher performances and of students’ learning have resulted in the widening achievement gap that continues to confine the potential of our nation’s youth. I whole-heartedly believe that a solid, quality education starts and ends with the teacher. As a leader in education, I am dedicated to ensuring that every child, every mind is developed to their full potential. As a fellow, I am excited to be a part of a movement that puts the best interest of students first and empowers parents to be active participants in their child’s education.
An elementary school teacher currently in her ninth year of teaching, Bhavini Bhakta has pushed the bar on excellence within the teaching profession. She has a wide range of experiences in school leadership, has been the recipient of the Golden Apple Teacher of the Year Award, and more importantly, her students consistently achieve above state averages in Reading, Math and Science. With a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, a Master’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in School Administration, Bhavini has become a staunch advocate for developing a fair manner in which to conduct teacher layoffs in California. She has been laid off at the close of every school year for eight consecutive years as a result of California’s current seniority-based, quality-blind layoff system, more commonly known as LIFO (Last In, First Out). She is committed to doing her part to ensure that great teachers are not only recruited, but are retained within the profession.
If the research shows, and the majority of the country believes, that a child’s teacher is the single most important factor in student achievement, then why, and how, do we allow policies like LIFO to turn some of our best teachers away? Seniority and hire date are not, and should not be, more important than the quality and effectiveness of a teacher. StudentsFirst recognizes that, and I am devoted to this organization’s purpose and mission.
Laura Welsh is a 2010 graduate of Emory University, where she dual majored in Neuroscience & Behavioral Biology and Women's Studies. After graduation, Laura became a Teach For America Bay Area corps member, where she was charged with developing a science lab program for her elementary school in east San Jose, the first program of its kind in the school district. The upcoming 2012-2013 school year will be Laura's third year running and teaching this program. In her two years of teaching, Laura has witnessed nearly all of her first and second year colleagues, many the highest performing teachers in their schools, forced out of her school district due to LIFO policies. She's seen the devastating toll that adult centered education policies can have on a high needs school district, and is excited to work as a Teacher Fellow to change these practices so that students' needs always come first.
Adult centered education policies are harmful to students everywhere, but they are devastating for students in our low income and underserved communities. Passionate about closing the achievement gap, I became a Fellow to take a more active role in changing these policies to ensure that our students receive an excellent education, regardless of where they grow up.
Caine Lowery is a 2004 graduate of Portland State University majoring in Black Studies and Social Science. Caine continued his schooling at the graduate level at Lewis and Clark College majoring in Secondary social studies. In 2006 Caine moved to Atlanta, GA as a member of Teach for America teaching fifth grade general education. After two years of service in Atlanta, Caine decided to continue his work as a Corps Member Advisor training incoming corps members in Watts, CA. In the winter of 2008 Caine moved to Seattle, WA and began teaching secondary social studies at Aki Kurose Middle School. Caine has been laid off three years in a row due to the LIFO policy since starting at Aki, but thanks to the efforts of his colleagues and principal he has been re-hired each year. Caine is committed to advocating for policies that have an optimal impact on our kids and is excited to be a part of the StudentsFirst team.
I became a fellow because I believe that our students deserve the best, and it is our job to advocate for policies that put their interests above all else.
David J. Andrews is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University where he earned a B.A. in Social Studies Education with Certifications in Economics, Government, and History. He went on to join Teach For America and teach World History at Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Miami, Florida. Currently he is pursuing his M.S.Ed with a focus on Education and Social Change at the University of Miami. He believes that transformational change truly can come about when student interests are the primary focus of policymakers and administrators. During the day, David teaches Economics and Government at Booker T. high school where he focuses on closing the achievement gap through high quality literacy instruction.
I decided to become a Teaching Fellow 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.
Alison Rasgado is currently in her seventh year of teaching special education at Griffin Elementary School in Broward County, Florida. She is responsible for the implementation of data-driven intervention instruction for core subject areas in both the co-teaching or small group specialized setting, as well as the creation and maintenance of Individualized Education and Behavior Plans. Alison is a graduate of the University of Miami School of Education with a double major in Special Education and Psychology. Alison furthered her education, pursuing a Masters Degree in special education from Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, with a specialty in High Incidence Disorders. Working with revolutionaries in the field of special education inspired Alison to be an advocate for educational reform. Alison is a member of her school’s Leadership Team, Advisory Council, and School Improvement Team and acts as the Assistive Professional Learning Community Facilitator and the ECO-patrol and Math Club co-sponsor. Alison continues to promote best teaching practices as a guest speaker at the University of Miami. She has been recognized by her peers as the 2012 Griffin Elementary Teacher of the Year.
As a special education teacher, I truly believe that all students deserve and are able to learn. I became a Teacher Fellow with StudentsFirst because I understand the current system is flawed, but without collaboration of knowledgeable participants and stakeholders, nothing can change. Given an opportunity to support student-centered agendas as opposed to adult-driven government policies is an initiative that I am excited to be a part of.
Dr. Michele Jahnke
Dr. Michele Jahnke is returning for her second year as a Teacher Fellow for StudentsFirst and is excited to continue her advocacy work and mentor new Fellows. As a former public school teacher, Dr. Jahnke has worked in the same rural school district for 26 years with teaching experience at the elementary, middle and the high school levels. Michele is an advocate for at-risk learners and is passionate about changes that need to occur in schools for all students to be successful. In addition to her teaching experience, she has served as a school improvement coordinator and worked with other leaders to restructure changes in the evaluation of teachers and the required use of student data to determine student growth. Last year Michele served as the Dean of Students at the high school level where she worked with teachers, students and parents to ensure increasing success of all students. She recently accepted a position as the Director of Curriuclum and Instruction for her district. In 2000, Michele received her Master's degree in At-Risk Education, and in 2010 she received a Ph.D. in Leadership for the Advancement of Learning and Service. Last year Michele’s favorite experience through her Fellowship was working together with other educators to provide insight and strategies to move her community forward toward positive change for kids.
I continue to serve the mission of StudentsFirst as a Teacher Fellow in order to shed urgency and light on the challenges faced by students who need the most support in an adult centered system.
Audrey Pribnow is a 2008 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Following graduation, she entered Teach For America as a member of the 2008 Kansas City Charter Corps. Audrey remains at her placement school, the University Academy, in Kansas City as she enters her fifth year of teaching. She has taught fifth, second and first grades there. University Academy is a K-12 charter school that provided Audrey tremendous motivation while helping to recently pass key charter school legislation in Missouri. While teaching, Audrey earned her master’s in elementary curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Audrey also coaches high school volleyball at University Academy. She enjoyed working with StudentsFirst as it honed in on passing education reform legislation in Missouri throughout the 2011-2012 school year and looks forward to playing a larger role in these efforts this year as a Teacher Fellow.
It’s difficult for me to understand why so many education policies remain centered around maintaining harmony amongst adults. Our children need change, and they need it now. StudentsFirst understands that incremental change is not enough, and I am thrilled to be a part of the transformational change that this movement is building toward.
Amanda Hobson has spent three summers teaching in Ghana, West Africa, where she shared teaching strategies with teachers in village schools. Her background is in early childhood education, and she received her Ed.M. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). Amanda’s coursework and internships at Harvard were focused on prevention programming designed to provide positive outcomes for at-risk children. Upon graduating from HGSE, she started working at the Harlem Children’s Zone as a first grade teacher at Promise Academy 1. She’s currently teaching 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.
I am passionate about being a warrior for social justice. I have seen extreme poverty and worked with children who find themselves in situations beyond their control. My experiences dealing with poverty have compelled me to become a more proficient advocate for children. StudentsFirst is giving teachers the opportunity to band together to make change for students who do not always have a voice.
Christine Simo is in her 12th year of teaching. She earned a B.S. in Elementary Education from Florida State University in 2000 and immediately attained a second grade position at a public school in the local school district. She then transferred to the first local charter school and taught eight years at 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. After moving to Las Vegas, Nevada due to her husband’s military career, Christine applied at the local school district. Christine taught first grade at a public school for more than six months and was laid off due to LIFO policies. With the threat of job insecurity, Christine signed on with a local private school where she currently teaches Pre-Kindergarten.
Every child deserves an excellent education. Every child is worth it. I am ready to help make that long overdue change in education policy. It is vital for teachers and parents to come together and help change the system. As a teacher fellow, I hope to influence and lead others so that every single child receives an excellent education from excellent schools and teachers.