Teacher Ambassadors

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.

Zaynab Baalbaki

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.

Zaynab was an advisor at Escuela Verde, located in Milwaukee, WI. Escuela Verde is a teacher-powered school that focuses on social justice, sustainability, and peace. She is the founder of ZB Consulting as the lead justice and love cultivator. Some partners she has worked with are Wisconsin Resource Center for Charter Schools, FieldEdVentures, Green Schools National Network, Milwaukee Public Schools, and more! Zaynab is involved with local organizations such as Milwaukee Urban League Young Professionals, Wisconsin Association for Environmental Educators, and Ayuda Mutua. Trying new restaurants and traveling are two of her favorite pastimes.

Julie Cook

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

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

Adam Haigler is the Co-Founder of Open Way Learning, an educational non-profit in North Carolina. He is a former science teacher at Tri-County Early College in Murphy, North Carolina, a Teacher-Powered School. Adam has witnessed firsthand the remarkable potency of distributed leadership and now helps coach educators across the country through his work with Open Way Learning, while also serving as the coordinator for Teacher-Powered Schools Collaboratives.

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.

Adam co-authored a book called Open Up, Education that was published in 2018, which outlined strategies for igniting innovation in schools. Adam has blogged for Teacher-Powered Schools, Edutopia, ASCD, the National Society for Leadership & Success, NC New Schools, and was also contributing author for The Gap Year Advantage. In 2016, he was recognized by the NCSTA as an Outstanding Science Teacher for his district.


Josef Donnelly

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

Sarah Giddings is a National Board Certified Teacher who is a teacher leader and curriculum coordinator for the WAVE Program—a reimagined alternative high school she helped develop. Sarah is a National Teacher-Powered Ambassador and also the professional learning coordinator for the Washtenaw Educational Options Consortium. Sarah is also proud to serve as the SEL coordinator for the Washtenaw Intermediate School District. She was a Hope Street National Teaching Fellow and America Achieves Fellow. She has led professional learning on a multitude of her passions including assessment literacy, teacher-powered leadership, transformative SEL, education innovations, technology, policy, teacher preparation, and trauma-informed approaches.

She spent several years as a teacher-leader in Chicago Public Schools, designing cutting-edge GIS and student advisory curriculums. Sarah graduated with a M.Ed in K-12 Administration, certificate in Ed Technology, and B.A., all from Michigan State University.

Aaron Grimm

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

Deyonne Jackson is a teacher and administrative team member at Woods Learning Center in Casper, WY. She is currently team teaching in a multiage classroom of kindergarten and first grade students. Woods Learning Center is a teacher-powered, public school in Casper, WY that serves about 180 students kindergarten through 8th grade.

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 Kang

Rebekah is the Assistant Principal and one of the founding teachers of the RFK UCLA Community School, a kindergarten through 12th-grade public school in Los Angeles, California. Rebekah is the LA Teacher-Powered Network Lead leading the effort to support, strengthen, and create more teacher-powered schools in Los Angeles. She is a National Board Certified Teacher, a UCLA Writing Project Fellow, and a School Leadership Fellow for UCLA Center for Community Schooling. Previously, Rebekah was a 6th-12th grade Special Education teacher at UCLA Community School. 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.

Julene Oxton

Julene Oxton is an educator serving students and adult learners for 30+ years. She currently works in Eagan, MN as a Reading Recovery teacher. Julene’s heart is to transform education. Her journey toward that goal has encompassed: Innovation Coordinator for Lakeville Public Schools in MN; a founder of Impact Academy; School Transformation and Development Director for EdVisions; a Regional Ambassador of Teacher Powered Schools; and a Minnesota Learner-Centered Network Coordinator.

Julene has an MS from University of MN and a Specialist Degree from St. Thomas University. Over the past three years, Julene has led a talented coaching team of practitioners in serving ten MN schools in their transformational journey toward creating student-centered learning environments. Her energy has also been focused on the development of the MN Learner Centered Network (MLCN); to build a place where educators and students can find encouragement, resources and ideas from other like-minded, courageous educators and organizations that dream of an anti-racist, equitable, relevant, engaging learning environment designed with and for all students.

Liz Seubert

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

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

Carrie Bakken was hired with a team of teachers to open Avalon School in St. Paul, Minnesota, in 2001, where she is now a Program Coordinator and teacher. Over the last 20 years, Carrie hosted hundreds of educators from around the world who are curious about Avalon's teacher powered and learner centered model. Because of Avalon's unique model where teachers can creatively thrive, Carrie was awarded a two year Aspen Institute/Pahara Teacher Fellowship, she won an Outstanding Educator in Ethics Education sponsored by the WEM Foundation, and she serves as a Teacher Powered Ambassador. In addition to teaching, she works as a cadre member for Innovative Quality Schools and co-founded the Minnesota Learner Centered Network (MLCN) where she serves on the advisory board. Carrie earned a Master of Arts degree in Teaching from the University of St. Thomas and a Juris Doctorate from Hamline University.

David Briley

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

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

Jeff Austin is a social studies teacher who now serves as the principal 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 Altadena with his wife Amanda and two daughters, Abigail and Madelyn. When he's not teaching or corralling his girls, Jeff loves watching soccer.



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