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At the heart of teacher-powered schools are dedicated teacher leaders. Our initiative is proud to have teacher ambassadors representing a diverse range of teacher-powered schools. These ambassadors come from schools in the transforming stage—that is, schools where advanced teams of teachers have created and are sustaining a teacher-powered school.
Ambassadors and their teams understand that they are part of a larger community of teacher-powered schools, and seek to grow that community by hosting tours, writing blog posts, communicating with media, and actively sharing about their school's successes and challenges in our online community. Ambassadors and their schools benefit by learning great ideas for their own communities, and by bringing increased legitimacy to the movement as a whole. All are welcome to reach out and connect with an ambassador using their contact information below.
2018 Teacher Ambassadors
A big welcome to the new additions to our family of ambassadors. Reach out and say hello!
Zaynab Baalbaki is extremely passionate about social justice, especially in education. This passion stems from various personal experiences. Zaynab was born and raised in Milwaukee's south side. She attended UW-Madison, where she double-majored in Elementary Education and Sociology and double-minored in Educational Policy Studies and Chicana & Latina Studies.
During her time at UW-Madison she was able to study and teach abroad in London at University of Roehampton. Additionally, she participated in an undergraduate research program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Next, she started her graduate school in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania, but finished at Marquette University in College Student Personnel Administration. Zaynab was one of two people selected for a graduate internship in the Middle East at American University of Kuwait. She worked at Northwestern University at the Center for Talent & Development coordinating their summer programs.
Currently, Zaynab is an advisor at Escuela Verde, located in Milwaukee, WI. Escuela Verde is a teacher-powered school that focuses on social justice, sustainability, and peace. Zaynab is involved with local organizations as the education chair for the Milwaukee Urban League Young Professionals. Additionally, she serves as a board member for the Wisconsin Association for Environmental Educators, which allows her to be an advocate for the earth. Trying new restaurants and traveling are two of her favorite pastimes.
Brent Chamberlain is a teacher leader in New York City public schools. After several years struggling to serve students in a variety of school settings, Brent joined a team of teachers and administrators at the Urban Assembly School for Green Careers, one of the lowest-performing schools in the city. Together, they chose to implement the Learning Cultures pedagogical model, a school-wide reform that transformed the high school from one of the lowest-rated learning environments in NYC to one of the highest. Under this student-centered model, which privileges student choice and autonomy through relational interactions and rich environments, the graduation rate rose from 30% to over 80% while suspensions were cut by more than half. The team continues to innovate structures and practices around their core values of intention, collaboration, and responsibility.
When not at Green Careers, Brent can be found roaming around the world (often somewhere in the UK) or in grad school, ever learning. His most recent degree in leadership from the Bank Street School of Education is helping to further his vision for building teachers’ collective autonomy to implement student-powered structures. Brent continues to tell the exciting story of the Green Careers team at conferences and through his involvement with the Innovative Schools Network (ISN). His commitment to equity and excellence in public education continues to drive his innovative work in partnership with an ever-growing number of amazing educators.
Julie Cook teaches middle school students at the Souderton Charter School Collaborative. SCSC is a K-8 school in Souderton, Pennsylvania. Julie joined SCSC in 2002 and has been instrumental in designing and sustaining a teacher-powered school with her colleagues. She currently co-teaches in the school’s award-winning middle school program, which has been recognized as a “PA Don Eichorn School To Watch.” SCSC’s mission to change the environment of education through individualized, experiential, and community-based learning is supported by the school’s innovative organizational processes and systems that empower teachers.
Julie holds a B.S. degree in Secondary Education & English from Penn State University and an M.S. in Educational Strategies and Leadership from Wilkes University. Julie is actively involved in the PA Association for Middle Level Education. She is passionate about middle school, writing, reading, and her three boys.
Danny Flannery is a first & second grade teacher at Mission Hill School, a teacher-powered school in Boston, Massachusetts. Danny holds a Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Neuroscience and a Master of Arts in Teaching in Elementary and Special Education, both from Northeastern University.
Danny was drawn to working at Mission Hill because of the autonomy available to its teachers and the democratic governance he observed taking place as a student teacher. In his first two years on staff, he has embraced this work wholeheartedly. Danny serves as a math facilitator and a science facilitator on staff, where he co-wrote a proposal which has expanded the thematic study of science at Mission Hill. Danny is also a member of the school’s Governance Board, which makes larger decisions about the school community. He is looking forward to sharing the advantages and possibilities of teacher-led schools with communities within Boston and across the country.
Adam Haigler is a science teacher at Tri-County Early College in Murphy, North Carolina. TCEC is a project-based, competency-based school that implements and invents best practices suited for students in rural Appalachia. Adam has witnessed firsthand the remarkable potency of distributed leadership and his teacher team has developed various innovative practices in direct response to student needs.
Adam has spent over a decade in education in a variety of roles. He has been an Outward Bound Lead Instructor, an overseas educator, educational consultant, and a classroom teacher during his educational career. He also co-founded and directed a Gap Year program with his wife and has served in leadership roles in various experiential education organizations.
Currently, Adam is finishing a book with a colleague on the concept of Open Source Learning. The book is intended to encourage more distributed leadership, transparency, sharing, collaboration, and innovation in schools. Adam has blogged about education for Edutopia, ASCD, the National Society for Leadership & Success, NC New Schools, and was a contributing author for The Gap Year Advantage. In 2016, he was recognized by the NCSTA as an Outstanding Science Teacher for his district.
Teacher Ambassador Alumni
Ronnda Cargile tapped as director of the Innovation Lab at Hughes STEM High School in Cincinnati, Ohio is dedicated to increasing student achievement by empowering schools with strategy and tools to aid in building leadership capacity. Her role has dual focus on facilitating professional development opportunities for educators and collaborating with community and industry partners to develop and sustain initiatives that promote STEM outreach.
Ms. Cargile holds a teaching license in General Science, Master’s degree in education and is currently completing coursework towards principal licensure. As an adjunct professor for the University of Cincinnati, Ms. Cargile shares her passion for teaching, practitioner experience and professional understandings with pre-service science teachers. She is committed to public service. As a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., she is involved with youth mentoring and social awareness programs. Ms. Cargile loves spending time with family and friends and relies on her faith as a source of strength.
Josef Donnelly is a 9th and 10th grade global history teacher at International Community High School in the South Bronx, New York City. A school designed for recent immigrants, ICHS is a member of the Internationals Network for Public Schools and the New York Performance Standards Consortium. Josef also teaches a bridge program for SIFE students as well as serving as union chapter leader, department head, and his school’s portfolio coordinator/representative for the I.N.P.S. network.
He has presented at the National Council for Social Studies and the Journal of Language and Literacy Education. Prior to teaching he served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Micronesia.
Sarah Giddings is a National Board Certified teacher, advisor, and curriculum coordinator for the WAVE Program—a Washtenaw Educational Options Consortium alternative countywide high school she helped develop and is a part of the instructional leadership team. Sarah is a Hope Street Group National Teaching Fellow, an America Achieves Fellow, and a national TeachStrong Ambassador. She has trained and presented to educators, policymakers, and community members from the local level to the USDOE and national level on a multitude of passions including teacher leadership, public education innovations, education policy, assessment literacy, social-emotional learning, and being a connected educator.
Sarah has written and blogged for Big History Project, National Board, Teach to Lead, and the Michigan Department of Education. Sarah also was an organizer of the inaugural ECET2MI education conference. She spent several years as a teacher-leader at Al Raby High School in Chicago, designing a cutting-edge GIS curriculum. Sarah graduated with a master's in K-12 Education Administration, and holds a professional certificate in Ed Technology, a B.A. in social relations and English minor, all from Michigan State University.
Aaron is an educator at teacher-powered Minnesota New Country School. MNCS is a rural, highly recognized project based charter school in the Minnesota River valley of Henderson, MN. Currently, he co-teaches in a multiage grades 4-6 classroom. Aaron has been working in education since 2004, including rolls in the nonprofit EdVisions Schools and serving as Director of EdVisions Cooperative.
Aaron holds a Bachelor's from Minnesota State University, Mankato in English/Speech Education and a Master's in Advocacy and Political Leadership from University of Minnesota, Duluth. Aaron's passions include: following politics, music/concerts, motorcycling and gardening. He lives with his partner Ann and has two sons.
Deyonne Jackson has been teaching for 15 years. For the last 11 years she has been team-teaching in a multiage classroom of kindergarten and first grade students at Woods Learning Center. This year marks the 25th year as a teacher-powered school for Woods Learning Center.
When Deyonne is not in the elementary classroom she can be found at Casper College working with 3rd grade students and college mentors at Help Yourself Academy. She is also an adjunct instructor for early childhood courses at Casper College.
Deyonne holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education with an Early Childhood Endorsement from the University of Wyoming and a Masters of Science degree in K-12 Science Education from Walden University.
Rebekah M. Kang is a 6th-12th grade Special Education teacher at UCLA Community School, a kindergarten through 12th-grade public school in Los Angeles, California. UCLA Community School's design started with a social justice vision to prepare all students to succeed in college, have meaningful careers, and participate in our democracy.
As one of the founding teachers, Rebekah has helped start and develop some signature learning programs such as the Seminar Program and Integration Program for students with disabilities. Rebekah is a National Board Certified Teacher and a UCLA Writing Project Fellow.
Julene Oxton is currently the innovation coordinator for the Lakeville Public Schools in MN. She feels honored to be working with teachers to transform educational systems. She served as the lead developer of Impact Academy, which is a learning environment for about 450 students in grades K-5. The teacher-powered school opened in 2013 in Lakeville, MN, a suburb of the Twin Cities. Designing and launching this new school model with a group of teachers has been the most rewarding part of her thirty plus year teaching journey.
Julene received a master's in Teacher Leadership from the University of Minnesota and an Administrative Specialist Degree from St. Thomas University, MN. She started her career in Montana and moved to the Twin Cities area for most of her teaching years. Her family of three adult children and husband recently grew as she became a first time grandmother last spring! She loves traveling, gardening, rollerblading and sharing her gifts and resources with others on short-term mission trips.
Liz Seubert is an experienced, project-based learning (PBL) advisor and member of a teacher-powered school staff. She is also an innovator in the field of student-centered learning. As one of three founding staff members of Wildlands School, Liz has led many expeditionary learning trips with students and has developed community-based learning and service connections. She has been a project-based teacher since 2005.
Liz has also consulted with Project Foundry to develop better PBL management strategies and tools. She has presented at numerous conferences, and been an active member in the Innovative Schools Network (ISN). Liz has developed and taught summer institutes for teachers in the areas of PBL, student-centered learning, and school culture. She also coaches and consults with schools. Her focus is to help them develop student-led, project-based learning communities, teacher led (teacher-powered) schools, and relationship based learning cultures.
Alysia Krafel and her husband Paul founded Chrysalis Charter School, a teacher-powered school in Redding, California. It was one of the first teacher-powered schools in the country. In this school, the teachers called the shots, and since Alysia had the academic freedom at Chrysalis to continue her research into how children learn math, she continued her work on Patterns in Arithmetic—a math curriculum she co-authored based on understanding and not memorized procedures, designed for grades 1st - 5th. Chrysalis has used the Patterns in Arithmetic series now for eighteen years with excellent results, and Alysia has continued field testing the 3rd - 6th grade materials with homeschoolers.
Chrysalis Charter School is the culmination of a desire to set teachers free and to create a loving, gentle community where both children and teachers can let their light shine brighter. Alysia has recently retired and is now mentoring other teachers in mathematics both at Chrysalis and in the broader world beyond. She is a strong advocate for teacher- powered schools.
Carrie Bakken was hired with a team of teachers to open Avalon School in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2001, where she is now program coordinator and teacher. Over the last few years, she completed a two year Aspen Institute Teacher Fellowship and won an Outstanding Educator in Ethics Education Award sponsored by the WEM Foundation.
Carrie has a master of arts degree in teaching from the University of St. Thomas and a juris doctorate from Hamline University. She completed her undergraduate work at Beloit College. She is also a member of the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ) Collaboratory.
David Briley is a 2nd-and-3rd-grade looping teacher at Reiche Community School in Portland, Maine. Reiche is the first teacher-powered school in Maine and he is part of its leadership team as coordinator of the enrichment committee. Before his teaching career began, he was an informal educator for fourteen years at COSI, a world-class science center in Columbus, Ohio.
He has a Bachelor of Science from Otterbein University, and is completing his Master of Science in Education at the University of Southern Maine.
Taryn Snyder is a third-grade teacher at the Boston Teachers Union Pilot School in Boston, Massachusetts. She grew up in Pine Bush, New York and attended Simmons College in Boston for her bachelor's degree and master's degree. Taryn began her career in advertising, but after five years figured out that she wanted to work with children.
Taryn started her teaching career at Boston Renaissance Charter Public School and then moved to the Boston Teachers Union Pilot School when a third-grade position opened up. She also served as an adjunct professor at Simmons College, teaching a graduate course called Strategies for the Inclusive Classroom. When she's not in the classroom, Taryn volunteers her time as co-chair of the Massachusetts chapter of the National Pancreas Foundation. She loves reading, baking, traveling, exploring Boston, and spending time with her family.
Jeff Austin teaches economics and government, serves as the coordinator and was on the design team at the Social Justice Humanitas Academy in Los Angeles. He is a National Board Certified Teacher and was a 2013 Los Angeles County and Los Angeles Unified School District Teacher of the Year.
Jeff lives in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles with his wife Amanda and two daughters, Abigail and Madelyn. When he's not teaching or corralling his girls, Jeff loves watching soccer.
Kim Manning Ursetta
Kim Manning Ursetta is a kindergarten ELS–S (bilingual) teacher at the teacher-powered Mathematics and Science Leadership Academy in Denver, CO. She holds her National Board Certification as a Middle Childhood Generalist, and has been teaching for 21 years. Kim is actively involved in promoting teacher leadership at the local, state and national level.
Kim earned a BA in Spanish and a BSEd in Elementary Education from Shippensburg University of PA, and holds an MA in Bilingual Education from the University of Colorado, Boulder.