Teacher Leaders

Kerry Adams

VIVA CEA Idea Exchange: VIVA CEA Writing Collaborative

Kerry is a high school science teacher in Alamosa, has been an advocate for science education for more than 35 years. Prior to becoming a teacher, he worked as a geologist for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on water projects. Kerry’s passion for science education has led him to be a leader as a past president of Colorado Association of Science Teachers and Colorado Earth Space Network. He has also written and evaluated state test items, and benchmarked scoring. Kerry served six years on the CEA Board of Directors.

 

Joshua Agpalza

VIVA NEA Time in School Idea Exchange: The VIA NEA Time in School Writing Collaborative

Joshua is a Cambridge World History and AVID teacher at Federal Way High School (FWHS) in Federal Way, Wash. His commitment to inspire students to achieve greatness is deeply rooted in the fact that he is the first in his family to graduate from college. At the end of his first year at FWHS, Josh was awarded the district’s Teacher’s Award, and was a member of its Equity and Diversity Committee. Currently, he is a member of the Positive Behavior and Intervention Committee, head tennis coach for boys and girls, and the adviser for the Break Dancing Crew. Josh is furthering his professional development as a National Boards Candidate for 2013-14.

 

Mark Anderson

VIVA New York Task Force: Opening Doors to Professional Communication and Collaboration

Teaches 7th-8th grade special education
Teacher for more than 3 years

Mark became a teacher because he wanted to develop and sharpen his abilities as a learner, listener, and leader. “There is no greater challenge to these skills than teaching — one’s very integrity, physical presence, stamina, content knowledge, and capacity for empathy are put on the line on a minute-by-minute basis each day. In other words, teaching is a great opportunity to become a better human being.” One thing you should know about Mark is that he maintains a blog, Schools as Ecosystems, , as well as a blog for GothamSchools Community. When he is not teaching, Mark is reading books, reading articles and blogs, writing blogs, giving attention to his Amazon parrot and parakeet, or running.

 

Sara Arnold

VIVA ISEA Project: Re-Imagining School Leadership for the 21st Century
Teaches elementary gifted and talented students in the Cedar Rapids Public Schools
Teacher for more than 10 years

Sara became a teacher to “share the love of learning, to nurture and help students develop their own independence. The wonderful teachers I had growing up cared about me as an individual; I knew I wanted that same for my own students.” When she is not teaching, you can find her “sharing the love of music with children and adults at my church,” enjoying nature, spending time with her family or taking classes about how to become a better educator.

 

Jim Barnhill

VIVA Minnesota II: Strengthening Our Practice: A Classroom Teachers’ Approach to Evaluation
Teaches High School Special Education in Minneapolis
Teacher for more than 10 years

Jim became a teacher after spending five years working as a social worker where he learned “many of my clients were educationally disabled. The difficulties that they faced as adults showed me just how critical education was in their ability to live independent adult lives. I became a special education teacher specifically to help people manage their home affairs, raise healthy children themselves, and find and keep meaningful work.” When he isn’t teaching, you’ll find Jim watching birds, collecting rocks, and camping with his wife and three children.

 

Joyce Baumann

VIVA Minnesota II: Strengthening Our Practice: A Classroom Teachers’ Approach to Evaluation
Teaches kindergarten in St. Cloud, Minnesota
Teacher for more than 15 years

Joyce is a second career teacher who entered the profession “to make a difference in the lives of children and to have a lasting impact on society.” She is a former local union president who continues to be an active union member. One thing you should know about Joyce is “I am passionate about anything I undertake.” When she isn’t teaching, you can find Joyce spending time with her family and working on ways to improve her students’ educational experience.

 

Tiffani Best

VIVA Pittsburgh Idea Exchange: VIVA Pittsburgh Writing Collaborative 

Tiffani runs the nonprofit Strong Family, Strong Community,firmly believes the adage “it takes a village to raise a child.” That is what motivates her to work to unify families and make them stronger, in turn leading to better communities. Her inspiration is her now fifth grade daughter’s early childhood educator. She says, “Thanks to Ms. Pat, I understand the importance of parent and community involvement.” Besides her daughter, Tiffani has a seventh grade son enrolled in PPS.

 

Cynthia Black

VIVA Arizona Project: Arizona Charter Teachers’ Guide to Common Core Implementation: Advice from the Classroom
Teaches primary grades in Sonoran Science Academy Charter School in Phoenix
Teacher for more than 10 years

Cynthia became a teacher because of her love of children. “When they grasp a new concept and begin to understand what I am trying to give them, it is so exciting. I work mostly with low-income families from many different countries. I believe that all children need to have a quality education.” When she is not teaching, Cynthia spends time with her five children and four grandchildren, works with a women’s group that does humanitarian things in her community, and teaches Sunday school.

 

Jamie Bradley

VIVA Arizona Project: Arizona Charter Teachers’ Guide to Common Core Implementation: Advice from the Classroom
Teaches reading and writing at an Arizona Charter middle school
Teacher for more than 10 years 

Jamie became a teacher more than 10 years ago because she wanted to change the lives of children and make a difference for families in her community. There was never another choice for her! When she is not teaching she is reading or playing sports with her children.

 

Joshua Brown

VIVA NEA Time in School Idea Exchange: The VIA NEA Time in School Writing Collaborative

Joshua teaches sixth grade students at Goodrell Middle School in Des Moines, Iowa. He is the father of a second grader and husband of a high school science teacher. He has been an active advocate for children and the education profession his entire career, in a variety of roles within his district and education association.

 

Timothy Brown

VIVA CEA Idea Exchange: VIVA CEA Writing Collaborative

Timothy is a National Board Certified Music Teacher. He is in his 26th year of teaching, serving the Denver Public Schools since 1991. He has served in numerous roles during that time, including assessment and curriculum. Timothy has researched aural skills acquisition and is a published composer. He holds a doctorate from the School of Music at the University of Northern Colorado. He has held various leadership roles in the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, Colorado Education Association, and National Education Association. He volunteers on a crisis hotline, and is a registered suicide intervention skills trainer.

 

Amy Bruns

VIVA NEA Idea Exchange: Sensible Solutions for Safer Schools, An Educators’ Vision for Positive Learning Environments

Amy is a kindergarten teacher in Aurora, Colo., moved from England to the United States as a child. She studied in Germany, while attending the University of Pennsylvania. During her time at Penn, she taught preschool and worked for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia collecting and analyzing data on children with Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder. The experiences Amy had working with parents and teachers, who were often frustrated by the lack of cohesion among those who interacted with and cared about children, inspired her to go into the field of teaching.

 

Katie Cardus

VIVA MET Teachers Writing Collaborative: VIVA Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Idea Exchange                
Teaches middle school math in the new York City Public Schools
Teacher for more than 5 years

Katie always wanted to be an elementary school teacher because “my first grade teacher instilled in me a lifelong passion for learning. However, while in college I fell in love with economics and changed my major. After school I worked as a mortgage underwriter and was shocked at how little some clients knew about interest rates and personal finances. I decided I needed to become a math teacher so I could ensure my students would know the basics of personal finance and be able to pass this knowledge on to their family members.” The student she would have most liked to have had in class is Donald Duck because “his adventures in Mathmagic Land would be an asset to any classroom.”

 

Rhonda Carlberg

VIVA Minneapolis Teachers Idea Exchange: VIVA Minneapolis Teacher Writing Collaborative

Rhonda is an Education Support Specialist in Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) who works with developmentally disabled students, 18 to 21. The students Rhonda works with are somewhat independent in tasks of daily living but because they are socially challenged, they will need support throughout their lives. Rhonda, who was an environmental educator prior to joining MPS almost a decade ago, believes passionately that including subjects about the natural world would be of a substantial benefit to students academically, socially, and emotionally

 

Diedra Carlson

VIVA Minnesota II: Strengthening Our Practice: A Classroom Teachers’ Approach to Evaluation
Teaches Montessori ages 9-12 at Crossroads Elementary in St. Paul, Minnesota
Teacher for more than 15 years

Diedra became a teacher because she wanted to eventually home school her own children. Instead, she became a Montessori teacher and “was transformed by the Montessori methodology.” She is a building steward for the St. Paul Federation of Teachers who sees teaching as her vocation and is “very fortunate to rise every morning and create a learning environment built around the foundations of the gifts that students bring to a classroom.” When she isn’t teaching, she is reading, working out, listening to music, cooking, baking, eating, and spending time with her husband and three children. She would have liked to have had her husband as a student because “he is brilliant, thoughtful, strong willed and argumentative.”

 

James Carter

VIVA Pittsburgh Idea Exchange: VIVA Pittsburgh Writing Collaborative 

James provides vocational support and help with outside employment skills for those with special needs. He has two children, ages 6 and 11, who transferred out of PPS. He is an outgoing, patient leader, who inherited his heart and charisma from his uncle.

 

Stephen Chiger

VIVA New Jersey Charter Teachers Idea Exchange: VIVA New Jersey Charter Teachers Project
Teaches english and journalism at North star Academy College preparatory high school in Newark, NJ
Teacher for more than 10 years

Stephen became a teacher hoping to address some of the social injustice he saw in the world around him. He started out as a journalist but he wasn’t satisfied reporting; he needed to be a part of the change more directly. Stephen knew he wanted to do something good for people, and he knew he loved learning. He feels so lucky that this work combines the two things he wants to dedicate his life to – pursuing social justice and sharing the sustaining joy that learning offers. When he is not teaching, he is playing piano, reading, writing, exploring New York or connecting with the people he cares about.

 

Catherine Chilton-Werner

VIVA Minnesota II: Strengthening Our Practice: A Classroom Teachers’ Approach to Evaluation
Teaches 8th-12th grade Spanish and English in Lake Park Audubon
Teacher for more than 15 years

Catherine is a former local union president who became a teacher because “I like teenagers. I want to inspire them to reach out and experience the world beyond what they know at this point in their lives. I want to make a difference in their lives.” She is a life-long learner who spends her time outside the classroom reading, watching movies, practicing yoga, swimming, cross country skiing, hiking, canoeing, bicycling, gardening, doing photography, traveling, writing, directing plays, attending school sporting events and hanging out with friends

 

JP Claussen

VIVA ISEA Project: Re-Imagining School Leadership for the 21st Century
Teaches high school special education in the Iowa City Public Schools
Teacher for more than 9 years

JP became a special ed teacher “because I wanted to help students who struggle with disabilities prepare for life after high school.” One thing you should know about JP is: “I bring my A game to my classroom every day. I want my students to feel the passion I have for the subject matter, and for their success.”

 

Cheryl Cofie

VIVA National Education Association (NEA) Idea Exchange

Cheryl is a third grade teacher at Nebo School District in Spanish Fork, Utah. Her path to the classroom began with providing home daycare for working parents. When her youngest child was in school full time, Cheryl went to work as a special education technician, which motivated her to go to college at age 37. She began teaching four years later, and says she cannot imagine a more fulfilling and rewarding way to make a living.

 

Peggy Crouch

VIVA New York Task Force: Opening Doors to Professional Communication and Collaboration
Teaches elementary school in the Mt. Vernon Public Schools in New York
Teacher for more than 20 years

Peggy became a teacher because “working with children was my calling. I am one of eight children and my father was a pediatrician. I love children and wanted to work with them.” When she is not teaching, you’ll find Peggy gardening, reading, or spending time with her children, friends, and dog.

 

Steve DeFlitch

VIVA Pittsburgh Idea Exchange: VIVA Pittsburgh Writing Collaborative 

Steve is a mechanical engineer, is currently a quality control manager for a small local manufacturing firm. He is in charge of setting policy, processes and procedures to ensure timely delivery of quality products. When he’s not working, he is busy helping his 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son with homework, communicating with his wife about how to juggle life activities, attending school
meetings at both the local and district level, and relaxing by watching sports or reality TV. A fan of robust debate about political issues from all sides, Steve equally enjoys watching Bill O’Reilly and reading the Huffington Post.

 

Donna Drescher

VIVA Minnesota Project: 360 Degree Leadership: Evaluating Minnesota Principals
Teaches English Language Learners in Blue Earth Area Schools in Minnesota
Teacher for more than 20 years

Donna says that “being a teacher means a lot to me. I touch lives every day … and those lives are shaping and becoming our future. I also get many opportunities to expand my own thinking.” One important thing to know about Donna is: “I desire to live all of my days to the fullest, sincerely caring for others around me.” When she’s not teaching, you’ll find her spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

 

Anissa Emery

VIVA NEA Time in School Idea Exchange: The VIA NEA Time in School Writing Collaborative

Anissa is a teacher and counselor at Oscoda High School in northeast Michigan. From her early work as a bookseller, to her classroom teaching experience working with at-risk and alternative education students, to her current role, one common theme has emerged: the power of people’s stories. Anissa has helped students get their work published in nationally known compilations and anthologies including High School is Not Forever by Jane Bluestein, as well as numerous local and regional outlets. Her own work has appeared in print in Bluestein’s The Win-Win Classroom, Info Northeast, Between the Lines, and Kwasind/Qua, the University of Michigan-Flint literary magazine. A passionate progressive thinker, Anissa actively seeks out new opportunities to make a difference in local,regional and national policy discussions and development.

 

Allan Fluharty

VIVA Chicago Project: Time, Teachers, and Tomorrow’s Schools
Teaches high school science for the Chicago Public Schools

Teacher for more than 5 years

Allan became a teacher after careers in industry and the military because he wanted to give something back to society. “I see teaching as an honorable and critically important profession, particularly at the present time,” he says. “Education is undergoing significant change; I feel blessed and honored to be part of the effort to improve teaching.” When he is not teaching, Allan is working on his master’s in school leadership, serving as a mentor for science teachers pursuing National Board Certification through the National Board Resource Center at CPS, and spending time with his wife and two sons.

 

Amy Graff

VIVA National Education Association (NEA) Idea Exchange

Amy is a special educator for first graders in Framingham, Mass., got her first taste of teaching in fourth grade, when she skipped recess to assist a class of older students with special needs. In college, she would spend her vacations working in her former fourth grade teacher’s class. In addition to teaching, Amy is a scoutmaster for a Boy Scout troop. She also enjoys photography, painting and crafting.

 

Brian Graves

VIVA Chicago Project: Time, Teachers, and Tomorrow’s Schools
Teaches 3rd Grade for the Chicago Public Schools
Teacher for more than 15 years

Brian knew in the 5th Grade that he wanted to be a teacher. “Most teachers have a passion for their job,” he says. “I have that passion. I love making new discoveries with my students. Kids are the best people to work with … they are honest and they appreciate what you do for them in the classroom.” One thing you should know about Brian is: “I tend to be very vocal when it comes to the media/government when they bash teachers and the public school system. I think teachers are the backbone to this country. I will always stand up for public education and will always put my students first.”

 

Greg Grote

VIVA Colorado Extended Learning Time

Greg has been an elementary educator since 1988. He served as a classroom teacher for 20 years, elementary principal for one year, and now serves as the president of the Poudre Education Association in Fort Collins. He has held that position for five years. Greg also serves as a director on the National Education Association Board of Directors, and is part of the Colorado Education Association Executive Committee. He has been committed to improving the world since his days in high school in Denver. Greg’s experiences have provided him with a plethora of opportunities to be part of education policy discussion, and he utilizes his thousands of conversations with educators across his district, the state and the country to inform his ideas and advocacy.

 

Nathan Grover

VIVA MET Teachers Writing Collaborative: VIVA Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Idea Exchange          
Teaches high school biology in the Denver Public Schools
Teacher for more than 10 years

Nathan became a teacher because, “I love being around people and making an impact. There is something about being on the front lines and making a difference. It can be empowering and humbling all at the same time.” When he isn’t teaching, you can find the new dad “hanging out with my wife and son.” The student he would have most liked to have had in class is Einstein because “brilliance is difficult to nurture. It would have been an awesome challenge.”

 

Lesley Hagelgans

National VIVA Report: Voices from the Classroom
Teaches middle school language arts in the Marshall, Mich., public schools
Teacher for more than 10 years

Lesley was always a teacher. While other kids were playing with Barbie or G.I. Joe, she was making worksheets for her dolls and grading them with stars and smiley faces. “I believe every single child has a unique talent that can enrich our world if it can be discovered, nurtured and cultivated,” she says. “Every student may not conquer writing essays or calculating algebraic equations, but they might be the next Picasso or JFK. What’s wrong with that?” One thing you should know about Lesley: “I am ambitious. I am not good at sitting idle or waiting. I have noticed that when other people give up because they don’t know ‘how’ to do something, I get frustrated by their attitude and dive right in to figure it out. I take initiative. This trait is a mixed blessing. I get a lot done, but sometimes I charge in like a bull in a china shop when I should tread more lightly. People have told me they admire my ‘can do’ attitude, but they are also intimidated by it. Patience and observation are skills that I am constantly working on.”

 

Melissa Hageman

VIVA ISEA Project: Re-Imagining School Leadership for the 21st Century
Teaches band in West Central Iowa Public Schools
Teacher for more than 5 years

Melissa became a band teacher thanks to her middle school band director, Mike Wilder. “Through him, I found my passion in music. After graduating from high school, I knew I wanted to help other kids find their love of music as well.” One thing you should know about Melissa: “I am a very strong-willed woman who will fight for what she believes in.”

 

Nancy Hahn

VIVA NEA Idea Exchange: Sensible Solutions for Safer Schools, An Educators’ Vision for Positive Learning Environments

Nancy has been teaching for 15 years, and cannot recall a time since middle school that her life was not full of children. After years of babysitting, working at summer camps, teaching preschool, and raising babies, she knew it was time to return to school to finish her teaching degree. Today, she is teaching language arts, Read 180, and writing intervention to seventh and eighth graders in Jeffo, Colo.

 

Brionna Harder

VIVA Minnesota Project: 360 Degree Leadership: Evaluating Minnesota Principals
Teaches high school social studies in the Minneapolis Public Schools
Teacher for more than 10 years

Brionna became a teacher because of her strong belief in “the power of a free public education system to be the catalyst for societies to change for the better and for democracies and democratic republics to not only survive, but to thrive; the potential of people to be creative, loving critics of the world in which they live and to use their knowledge, skills, hopes, dreams, creativity, and optimism to improve our communities, from local to global, and the possibilities in the future that, to realize, demand a strong, educated and activated citizenry.”

 

Heather Harr

VIVA Pittsburgh Idea Exchange: VIVA Pittsburgh Writing Collaborative 

is a director of Greater Pittsburgh Student Voices and co-founder of the Youth Media Advocacy Project (YMAP). On those rare occassions when she’s not working, she likes to eat out, take advantage of Pittsburgh’s local parks and riverfront trails, and follow politics. She has a background in research, including focus group moderation, and worked for a major corporation before entering the nonprofit sector. Through her current projects that help students advocate for change, she has had the opportunity to hear from high school students across the Pittsburgh system, as well as those in suburban, rural and private schools, about what they need and how they would tackle education reform. “Visiting all these different schools has given me perspective to see what we have—and don’t have—in our PPS schools,” she says. Heather’s son is a graduate of Pittsburgh Public Schools, and her father is a retired PPS teacher.

 

Keith Harrison

National VIVA Report: Voices from the Classroom
Teaches high school English and journalism in Baldwin-Whitehall schools in Pennsylvania
Teacher for more than 15 years

Keith “became a teacher to help my students become better and more thoughtful readers and writers, thereby enabling them to become better educated participants in our democracy.” One thing you should know about Keith is: “Teaching is not just a job to me — it is my calling.”

 

Jenny Hart

VIVA CEA Idea Exchange: VIVA CEA Writing Collaborative

Jenny is a passionate elementary school teacher with 19 years of experience. She currently teaches a combined third and fourth grade class at a tiny rural school in Ouray, where all students from preschool through 12th grade learn in one building. In addition, she is the council mentor teacher for the West Central Alternative Licensure Program. This year, Jenny oversees eight teacher candidates from all over the western slope of Colorado. She is also a 16-year volunteer with the Ouray Mountain Rescue organization.

 

Amelia Herbert

VIVA New Jersey Charter Teachers Idea Exchange: VIVA New Jersey Charter Teachers Project
Teaches 2nd grade (all subjects), 8th grade U.s. history, 9th and 10th grade Ap world history, and research at North star Academy College preparatory high school in Newark, NJ
Teacher for more than 5 years

Amelia became a teacher because of the reasons captured by this quote from Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks: “The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility……This is education as the practice of freedom.” (207) When she is not teaching, Amelia is reading, writing, listening to music (preferably live), going to museums, or traveling.

 

Beth Hillerns

VIVA Minnesota Project: 360 Degree Leadership: Evaluating Minnesota Principals
Teaches enrichment for East Central Schools

Teacher for more than 10 years

Beth became a teacher because “I love learning and want to share my knowledge with others. It’s wonderful when the light bulb goes on and a kid ‘gets it.’ I want to help kids have those connections and accomplish great things.” When she’s not teaching, you’ll find her reading, spending time with her family, or practicing Tae Kwon Do.

 

Nancy Hilliard

Public Education in a Global Economy: An Agenda for Massachusetts Public Schools
Teaches special needs middle school science and math in Worcester, Mass., public schools
Teacher for more than 15 years

Nancy became a teacher “accidentally” when her Spanish language experience led her to become a primary grades transitional bilingual teacher in southern California. When she’s not teaching, you’ll find Nancy acting in local Massachusetts theatre, reading international mystery novels, learning to golf, and persisting with Sudoku.

 

Laura Hirshfield

VIVA NEA Idea Exchange: Sensible Solutions for Safer Schools, An Educators’ Vision for Positive Learning Environments

Lauren teaches English at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Acton, Mass. In the summer of 2011, she was awarded a fellowship to the Ahimsa Center at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, to study the journeys of nonviolence of Mohandas Gandhi and Cesar Chavez. Transformed by what she learned, Laura has dedicated herself to discovering ways to incorporate nonviolence into her curriculum. Last year, she helped to create a program for 50 K-12 teachers to travel to India for in-depth summer education in nonviolence, sponsored by the Center for Jain Studies at Claremont Lincoln University.

 

Sarah Hogan

VIVA ISEA Project: Re-Imagining School Leadership for the 21st Century
Teaches reading in the Maquoketa Public Schools
Teacher for more than 30 years

Sarah became a teacher because she was “interested in providing quality child care settings for children. It seemed an attractive mix of helping kids and the community.” One thing you should know about Sarah is that she balances the action of the school day by enjoying quiet activities such as walking, swimming laps, reading and cooking.

 

Gin Hooks

Chicago VIVA Project: Time Teachers and Tomorrow’s Schools
Teaches high school media studies for Chicago Public Schools
Teacher for more than 5 years

Gin became a teacher “because I love my country. I am a proud citizen of my city and contributor to my community. I appreciate the efforts of the people who intentionally invested time and energy to help me develop as a happy, healthy part of the various cultures I represent. I am obligated to do the same for the generations that follow. Teaching is the best way I know to do that. This is my service.” When Gin isn’t teaching, you’ll find her “seeking out leadership opportunities to share with other teachers, learning, facilitating, reading, talking, dancing, praying, and laughing.”

 

Ryan Howard

VIVA Colorado Extended Learning Time

Ryan is a fifth grade teacher at Mary Blair Elementary School in the Thompson School District, where he has been teaching since 2007. His passion in the classroom is for each of his students to take responsibility for his or her own learning. Ryan’s classroom is usually pretty loud and messy, but pop by and you’ll hopefully hear dynamic conversations between excited learners. Ryan holds an M.Ed. in sports management from the University of Texas, and an EdS. in Education Leadership from the University of Northern Colorado. He lives with his family in Loveland, Colo.

 

Aubree Huso

VIVA Minneapolis Teachers Idea Exchange: VIVA Minneapolis Teacher Writing Collaborative

Aubree is an early childhood educator in her fifth year of teaching, believes that language is obviously a fundamental skill that students must learn, but some are learning more than one at the same time. Aubree works in a dual language program at Early Childhood Family Education in MPS. Her favorite work includes making home visits and encouraging the families of her young students to maintain their home language and culture. Aubree is a member of the Minnesota Association for the Education of Young Children and will soon complete her Masters in early childhood.

 

Sharon James

VIVA Chicago Project: Time, Teachers, and Tomorrow’s Schools
Teaches middle school special education at a Chicago Public Charter Middle School
Teacher for more than 10 years 

Sharon became a special education teacher over 10 years ago, because she wanted to give all children regardless of their background the opportunity to receive a wonderful education just as she did as a child. Sharon loves her job and the students and families that she touches every day! When she is not teaching, she is pursuing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership.

 

James Kobialka

Public Education in a Global Economy: An Agenda for Massachusetts Public Schools
Teaches science and English in Worcester, Mass., public schools
Teacher for less than 5 years

James became a teacher because “there is no better thing to do in this world than to teach others and be taught in turn.” When he is not teaching, you’ll find James writing or enjoying the outdoors.

 

Andrea Leggett

VIVA NEA Time in School Idea Exchange: The VIA NEA Time in School Writing Collaborative

Andrea is a dance teacher in Colorado, attended Lindenwood University in Missouri, where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Arts Management with a Dance Emphasis and a Master of Arts in Teaching. After teaching dance at studios in and around the St. Louis, Mo., area for many years, Andrea began her public education career in 2011 in Greeley, Colo. She created a dance program for all fifth grade students and any middle school students who showed an interest, and a before-school program for students in kindergarten and first grade that focused on improving literacy through movement. In 2013, she moved to create a new program at Martin Luther King Jr. Early College in Denver for students in grades six to 12. She is currently a Teach Plus/NEA Future of the Profession Fellow. Her goal is to make dance a part of every student’s education regardless of location or socio-economic status.

 

Nicky Lewis

National VIVA Report: Voices from the Classroom
Teaches high school English in Baldwin-Whitehall Schools in Pennsylvania
Teacher for more than 5 years

Nicky became a teacher because she wanted to “make a positive impact in the lives of children by teaching them how to advocate for themselves by communicating effectively.” When she’s not teaching, you’ll find Nicky spending time with her husband, new son, and pups. The student she would most like to have in her class is the one who “struggles emotionally or academically because I have a knack for identifying with and helping those kids.”

 

Elaine Liberati

VIVA Pittsburgh Idea Exchange: VIVA Pittsburgh Writing Collaborative 

Elaine has been a teacher for 30 years because she enjoys the company of children and possesses abilities to engage them. She is currently teaching 3 to 6 year olds, but has taught high school and college. Elaine says she enjoys debate, and the person she would have most wanted as a student is Abel Meerapol, who, she says, “so quietly led such a heroic life.”

 

Leanne Lisien

VIVA Pittsburgh Idea Exchange: VIVA Pittsburgh Writing Collaborative 

Leanne is a mechanical engineer for Westinghouse. She is a graduate of Pittsburgh Public Schools (Minadeo, Reizenstein, and Allderdice), and the mother of two sons, one of whom is in first grade at her elementary school alma mater. In her free time, Leanne enjoys playing with her boys—building Legos, making art projects, and taking things apart—or working on the house with her husband. The family also enjoys going to museums and having picnics. When she can squeeze it in, she makes pottery to feed her artistic side. She is also becoming increasingly involved with her son’s school.

 

Eliza “Beth” Littleton

VIVA Pittsburgh Idea Exchange: VIVA Pittsburgh Writing Collaborative 

Eliza conducts studies of medical and surgical learning and teaching, medical school policy, and the history of medicine. When she’s not working, she’s helping her own children study and develop their interests. She has third, seventh and 11th graders in PPS. Eliza is never without a notebook or other device to record ideas and lines for poems and stories, or, she says, “I’ll forget them a couple of seconds after having them.” She is thankful for her colleagues at the medical school, whom she describes as fiercely intelligent and flexible thinkers. “While they easily question an idea and dig for flaws,” she says, “they teach like humanists.”

 

Daniel Magnuson

VIVA Minneapolis Teachers Idea Exchange: VIVA Minneapolis Teacher Writing Collaborative

Daniel was in his second year of college when he discovered that he was meant to be a teacher. He could think of nothing more important or meaningful than doing work that would change the lives of youths for the better. Daniel completed his student teaching and started his teaching career in New Zealand in 1996. He has been a Minneapolis teacher for 13 years. Since 2003, Daniel has served as a special education teacher at Anthony Middle School in Minneapolis. Daniel is currently serving on the Focused Instruction Writing Collaborative helping to create an online literacy resource for Minneapolis K–5 English and Language Arts teachers. Daniel is also a member of the Little Kids Rock Foundation which brings guitar instruction into the classroom.

 

Staci Marshall

VIVA New Jersey Charter Teachers Idea Exchange: VIVA New Jersey Charter Teachers Project
Teaches preschool at Juan pablo duarte-Jose Julian marti school #28 in Elizabeth, NJ
Teacher for more than 10 years

Staci became a teacher because she wanted the opportunity to develop young minds and be a part of the early stages of the learning process. She wanted to ignite the creativity in young children and spark their love of learning. She feels teachers should partner with families in providing an educational foundation to their children. When she is not teaching, she is spending quality time with her husband, a seasoned high school science teacher and their two children, ages 7 and 4. They enjoy going to parks, museums, the theatre, and on vacation as a family.

 

Joseph A. Medeiros

VIVA NEA Time in School Idea Exchange: The VIA NEA Time in School Writing Collaborative

Joseph is a retired educator with a Master’s Degree in Bilingual Bicultural Education. He has 24 years of classroom experience teaching fifth and sixth grade. He retired after serving 14 additional years as an assistant principal in New Bedford, Mass. He also taught more than 20 years for the state’s Massachusetts Migrant Education Program (MMEP) during summer vacations, working with children in many grade levels and from various parts of the world. His life has been dedicated to helping inner city children and English learners obtain a quality education. He loves teaching and believes that once a teacher, always a teacher. During tax season, he works as a tax preparer. His free time is spent researching Christology and studying ancient and world history including military history.

 

Charlene Mendoza

VIVA Arizona Project: Arizona Charter Teachers’ Guide to Common Core Implementation: Advice from the Classroom
Teaches AP English Language and Literature at an Arizona charter school
Teacher for more than 15 years

Charlene became a teacher because she wanted to make a difference in the world. “I consider myself fortunate that I was blessed with a number of teachers and mentors who impacted my life greatly; teaching is a way to pay that back and forward,” she says. “I am also a person who loves a challenge and learning while despising being bored. As a teacher, I can indulge my love of words and learning, creativity, and innovation, and I have never been bored for a single day in my entire teaching career.” The person she most wants in her class is the student who is the first in his or her family to go to college “because I believe education changes lives.”

 

Julie Miller-Hays

VIVA Minnesota Project: 360 Degree Leadership: Evaluating Minnesota Principals
Teaches special needs students in an Anoka Hennepin public school
Teacher for more than 25 years

Julie became a teacher because she has “wanted to be a special educator since I was 10 and learned about Helen Keller.” She has always had a passion for working with children “who other people couldn’t relate to and help them to feel accepted and successful,” she says. “It has been energizing to start in a field that was starting to include individuals with disabilities in schools and the community and watch how the attitudes of the world have changed to value this group of individuals.” When she isn’t teaching, you’ll find her and her husband raising their three sons, one of whom was formerly homeless, and working on social issues, cooking, reading, and talking with new people. “There is nothing more inviting to me than a good conversation and time spent with individuals who enlighten our world.”

 

Kori Milroy

Chicago VIVA Project: Time, Teachers, and Tomorrow’s Schools
Teaches grammar school science for Chicago Public Schools
Teacher for more than 5 years

Kori became a teacher because she loves learning and sharing that experience with others. When she’s not teaching, you’ll find Kori chasing after her two small children, gardening, visiting museums, and reading.

 

Andria Mitchell

VIVA MET Teachers Writing Collaborative: VIVA Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Idea Exchange 
Teaches 8th grade language arts, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, N.C.
Teacher for more than 11 years
Andria became a teacher because another teacher told her she’d be good at it. Her first job after graduating from college was as a Youth Development Coordinator at a neighborhood community center. Her job was to coordinate after school programs for middle school students. “I planned programs to ‘trick’ kids into learning and enhancing the skills that were introduced in their core classes. Surprisingly, we had a major increase in the number of students that attended the recreation center, and the academic performance of those students increased substantially. ‘You have a natural knack to teach’,’’ I was told. The rest is history. She continues to make learning fun and meaningful for students who might otherwise avoid learning altogether.

 

Glenn Morehouse Olson

VIVA Minnesota Project: 360 Degree Leadership: Evaluating Minnesota Principals
Teaches English, journalism and broadcasting at a high school
Teacher for 10 years 

More than 10 years ago, Glenn played an active role in her children’s school and community to help provide services and resources where money was short. Glenn did the big things and the small things that make a difference in the lives of children in her school community. Glenn’s experience bringing the Art Adventure program from the Minneapolis Institute of Art into the classroom; helping with struggling readers in extra reading groups; serving on the PTO and Site Management Council; and making copies for teachers inspired her to go back to school and become part of the profession she admired so much. Now, after 10 years in the classroom, Glenn has inspired her own students to choose teaching as a career. Her proudest moment comes when she has young adults come back and say, “I learned something from you and still use it in my life today.” She can honestly tell them, “I learned something every day from you as well.” That’s exactly why she became a teacher.

 

Katherine Doerr Morosky

VIVA NEA Idea Exchange: Sensible Solutions for Safer Schools, An Educators’ Vision for Positive Learning Environments

Katherine is a high school science teacher in Wilton, Conn., has always been passionate about chemistry. As a Ph.D. candidate and self proclaimed “people person,” she found life in the research lab a little too lonely, and decided she could better contribute to society by teaching high school chemistry and physics. Since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, located just a few miles from where Katherine lives, she has become an impassioned advocate for school safety.

 

Lynn Mueller

VIVA Minnesota II: Strengthening Our Practice: A Classroom Teachers’ Approach to Evaluation
Teaches visual art in Rosemount-Apple Valley-Egan elementary schools
Teacher for more than 20 years

Lynn became a teacher “because I love watching kids learn. I wanted to be a part of the dedicated people that do this every day. Simple as that.” When she isn’t teaching, you can find Lynn painting, reading and spending time with her family. One thing you should know about Lynn is that she is “passionate about fairness.”

 

Kwesi Ndzibah

VIVA MET Teachers Writing Collaborative: VIVA Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Idea Exchange 
Teaches math, pre-K, 1, 2, in District 31, new York City Public Schools
Teacher for more than 10 years

Kwesi became a teacher because his mentor from college directed him into the world of education in early 1996, leading him to start a Master’s in Elementary Education. As he completed his Master’s, Kwesi was fortunate enough to start teaching 4th grade. It was easily one of the most fulfilling professional experiences of his life. He enjoyed working with students and giving back to the community. When he isn’t teaching, Kwesi is reading online news sites, blogs, listening to music, biking or cracking jokes.

 

Andrew Neale

VIVA MET Teachers Writing Collaborative: VIVA Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Idea Exchange               Teaches 5th grade language arts, math, science, social studies, Charlotte- Macklenburg Schools, N.C.   Teacher for more than 10 years

Andrew became a teacher after a career in hospital finance. His wife was a 16-year teaching veteran when Andrew joined the profession. “For a totality of reasons, teaching was an obvious path. I don’t regret the choice.” When he isn’t teaching, Andrew is singing, either in a church choir or in a semi-professional choir, or reading. The student he would have most liked to have had in class is Winnie the Pooh: because of his uniquely creative problem solving skills.

 

Ann Neary

VIVA MET Teachers Writing Collaborative: VIVA Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Idea Exchange   
Teaches high school writing in the bronx for new York City Public Schools
Teacher for more than 5 years

Ann switched careers after 9/11 to become a teacher because the attack made her rethink her choice. “One thing I like doing is interacting with kids, specifically teenagers. Another is reading and writing. So the natural conclusion I came to was to combine my favorite things into a new career: teaching. Each and every day is different and requires attentiveness. I enjoy that challenge.” When she isn’t teaching, you’ll find her playing with her six children, riding horses, walking in the woods, planting forests, baking, sailing, rock climbing, volunteering in her community, reading, writing or drinking coffee.

 

Kevan Nitzberg

VIVA Minnesota II: Strengthening Our Practice: A Classroom Teachers’ Approach to Evaluation
Teaches art in the Anoka-Hennepin School District
Teacher for more than 40 years.

Kevan became a teacher “because I had a pretty rough time in school and I felt I could help students become successful” and have a better experience than he had. Kevan grew up as the son and nephew of teachers and is a former State Teacher of the Year. When he isn’t teaching, you can find him working on his own artwork, reading, going to the movies, or spending time with his family and their dogs. One thing you should know about Kevan: “I am absolutely passionate about teaching and seeing my students realize their own abilities.”

 

Marie O’Brien

Arizona Charter Teachers’ Guide to Common Core Implementation: Advice from the Classroom
Teaches math at an Arizona charter school
Teacher for more than 25 years

Marie became a teacher because she loves helping children reach their full potential. The student she would most like to have in her classroom is Albert Einstein “because I think I might have been able to help him enjoy his school experience at an early age,” she says. When she isn’t teaching, she’s baking.

 

Michael O’Shaughnessy

VIVA NEA Idea Exchange: Sensible Solutions for Safer Schools, An Educators’ Vision for Positive Learning Environments

Michael teaches high school physics, chemistry and physical science at Greene County Joint Vocational School District in Ohio. He became a teacher 15 years ago for two reasons: he feels he has a lot to offer as a positive role model for the young adults he teaches;  and he knew being a professional educator would challenge him every day, as there are days of both extreme joy and extreme frustration. Michael thrives on the responsibility and privilege he has preparing youth to be productive members of society. When not teaching, he is finding ways to improve his teaching, such as writing STEM curriculum for the Dayton Regional STEM Center.

 

Megan Orvis

VIVA Colorado Extended Learning Time

Megan is a seventh year teacher with an M.A. in Education and an M.A. in Educational Leadership from George Washington University. She currently teaches U.S. History and World Geography at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum, Colo. She has experience teaching English and social studies to eighth through 12th graders. She is also working on creating social studies curriculum for the Eagle County School District, and knows firsthand how valuable time is to teachers

 

Steve Owens

VIVA NEA Time in School Idea Exchange: The VIA NEA Time in School Writing Collaborative

Steve is a National Board Certified music teacher who teaches preschool to sixth grade general music, strings, band and chorus in Calais and Sharon, Vt., two districts that are 50 miles apart. He holds a second endorsement in technology integration, a level 3 certification in Orff-Schulwerk (an approach to general music teaching), and has attended the Orff Insitut in Salzburg, Austria. He has taught graduate professional development courses in music education. A union activist, Steve is president of his Vermont-NEA local affiliate, secretary/treasurer of his state affiliate, and an active member of the Teacher Union Reform Network. In 2010, he was a Teaching Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Dept. of Education, during which time he developed expertise in labor-management collaboration.

 

Liz Parr-Smestad

VIVA Minnesota II: Strengthening Our Practice: A Classroom Teachers’ Approach to Evaluation
Teaches physical education in a St. Paul elementary school
Teacher for more than 25 years

Liz became a teacher because, “I love working with kids of all ages and wanted to share my joy of moving with them through physical education.” This National Board Certified Teacher was a part of the first Women’s National Bobsled Team, which paved the way for others to finally compete in the 2002 Olympics for the first time. She was one of the torchbearers for that 2002 Olympics, an experience she has shared with thousands of students. “I truly believe you can do anything you set your mind to,” she says.

 

Joel Patterson

Public Education in a Global Economy: An Agenda for Massachusetts Public Schools
Teaches high school math in the Cambridge, Mass., public schools
Teacher for more than 10 years

Joel became a teacher because he wanted to inspire young minds to investigate. When he’s not teaching, you can find him taking care of his 4-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son, or reading about math, physics, or politics. One important thing to know about Joel is that he grew up on a mountaintop in the Ozarks.

 

Pia Payne-Shannon

VIVA Minneapolis Teachers Idea Exchange: VIVA Minneapolis Teacher Writing Collaborative

Pia comes from a long line of educators and political activists who taught her that education was the key to success. As a child who was raised in a low-income community, her mother stressed that the only way to change her circumstance and to stop the cycle of poverty was through education because it can never be taken from you. Pia became a teacher because she was raised to give back to her community, which has given so much to her. An English teacher now in her 23rd year of teaching, Pia has been paying it forward ever since. Pia is a member of the National Council of Teachers of English and the Association of Staff and Curriculum Development. On her nightstand at the moment: “Multiplication is for White People: Raising Expectations for Other People’s Children” by Lisa Delpit.

 

Freeda Pirillis

National VIVA Report: Voices from the Classroom
Teaches 1st Grade for Chicago Public Schools
Teacher for more than 10 years

Freeda became a teacher because she loved working with young children. “I wanted to motivate, inspire, and develop young children’s love of learning, of life, and their natural curiosity to ask questions,” she says. One important thing to know about Freeda is: “I am passionate about education and creating meaningful change in the systems that directly impact students, parents, and teachers. I love working with new teachers to develop their practice and believe all teachers, if properly supported, can positively impact student learning.”

 

Marcine Purinton

VIVA Minneapolis Teachers Idea Exchange: VIVA Minneapolis Teacher Writing Collaborative

Marcine is a K–5 special education teacher in MPS, is passionate about teaching and continuing education. After a long career as a Certified Medical Assistant, then as a school Technical Support Specialist, Marcine became interested in the field of special education. Her interest in education and students prompted her to return to school in her mid-50s to gain a master’s degree in education. After graduating from Augsburg College she began teaching and is now in her in her seventh year. She believes strongly that her experience as a life-long student has helped shape the solid teaching skills she now uses every day at MPS.

 

David Quanz

Chicago VIVA Project: Time, Teachers, and Tomorrow’s Schools
Teaches elementary grades for Chicago Public Schools
Teacher for more than 5 years

David, who is now as assistant principal, became a teacher “to help students achieve their goals and to overcome obstacle.” When he’s not at school, you’ll find him hiking, biking, and camping. “I enjoy exploring the great outdoors and seeing what Mother Nature has to offer. I love to travel and experience different cultures and foods.” One important thing to know about David is: “I grew up on a 200 cow dairy farm in rural Western New York. I loved growing up on a farm and visit often to help work with the cattle and plant and harvest crops.”

 

Dean Raizman

VIVA NEA Idea Exchange: Sensible Solutions for Safer Schools, An Educators’ Vision for Positive Learning Environments

David is a teacher-librarian for Jefferson County Public Schools in Lakewood, Colo., says few things have as much existential meaning for him as teaching, especially the “ah-ha” moments his students experience. A teacher for 18 years, currently covering the library and technology, Dean also enjoys hiking in the mountains, reading, raising two boys, exercising, taking pictures, and listening to TED talks.

 

Andrew Rasmussen

VIVA ISEA Project: Re-Imagining School Leadership for the 21st Century
Currently a full-time local union president, he previously taught 8th grade civics and 7th grade world studies in the Des Moines Public Schools
Teacher for more than 15 years

Andrew started teaching “because of a love of the subject matter–civics–and enjoying the idealism, creativity, and unique perspectives of young people,” he says. “I kept teaching because the job allowed me to be creative and make a difference.” One thing you should know about Andrew is that he is “passionate about defending students’ right a high quality education.”

 

Mary Cathryn Ricker

VIVA Minnesota Project – 360 Degree Leadership: Evaluating Minnesota Principals
Currently a full-time local union president, she previously taught English and Language Arts in the St. Paul, Minn., public schools
Teacher for more than 20 years

Mary Cathryn became a teacher because she “wanted the sort of job that intentionally works to leave the world better than before and I loved the idea of sharing my love of learning with others. Teaching does all of that for me.” When she is not working, you can find her “adoring my children, bike riding, traveling or planning travel, and working on improving my profession.”

 

Carrie Robatcek

VIVA Minnesota Project: 360 Degree Leadership: Evaluating Minnesota Principals
Teaches 5th Grade in Rocori, Minn.
Teacher for more than 20 years

Carrie became a teacher because she wanted “to make a difference with kids. I knew that I could connect with them, be a role model, and advocate for them.” When she’s not teaching, you’ll find her involved in politics. “I believe in the need for teachers to be actively pursuing change in education policy at the state and federal level. Our voices need to be heard at a time in our country’s history that education has been under attack.” She is a local union president who has attended local caucus meetings, been a delegate, written letters, met with legislators, and testified before the Minnesota State House K12 Finance Committee about special education funding.

 

Lynnette Rochford

VIVA ISEA Project: Re-Imagining School Leadership for the 21st Century
Teaches reading in Oelwein Iowa Public Schools
Teacher for more than 20 years

Lynnette Rochford became a teacher after growing up in a family of 10 children where there wasn’t much money, but there were always books, crayons, paper, and pencils to “play school.” One thing you should know about Lynnette is, “I love to see the sparkle in my students’ eyes when they realize that they have learned something new and can feel the pride that comes with success after working hard!”

 

Jessyca Saavedra

VIVA New Jersey Charter Teachers Idea Exchange: VIVA New Jersey Charter Teachers Project
Teaches 3rd grade at the ethical Community Charter schools
in Jersey City, NJ
Teacher for more than 5 years

Jessyca has been a charter teacher in Jersey City for six years

 

Melissa Sasso

VIVA Pittsburgh Idea Exchange: VIVA Pittsburgh Writing Collaborative 

Melissa began her career in the NICU at Magee Women’s Hospital, after earning a three-year nursing diploma in two years. Convinced that a solid education was imperative to become a leader in her field, she decided to pursue a bachelor’s degree from Carlow College while working full time. Inspired by her professors to reach even higher, she earned two master’s in nursing and taught at several colleges and universities throughout the area. Fourteen years ago, Melissa moved to her current job as a school nurse in PPS, which she describes as “by far the best job I have had.” She says she has grown and changed over the years, but never lost her belief in the good of mankind or hope for our youth. “I want every child to know that they are worthwhile and capable of being loved,” she says.

 

Sonia Smith

VIVA NEA Idea Exchange: Sensible Solutions for Safer Schools, An Educators’ Vision for Positive Learning Environments

Sonia teaches AP English literature & composition and African-American literature to high school upperclassmen in Chesterfield County, Va. She is a proud third-generation educator, who became a teacher because she knew it was her calling and the classroom felt natural to her. As a teacher of mostly seniors, Sonia feels a sense of responsibility to foster personal growth and learning in our future leaders, as she is preparing them for the college experience and the real world. When not teaching, Sonia is active with her local Education Association, serving in leadership positions for the last four years.

 

Suzanne Smith

VIVA NEA Idea Exchange: Sensible Solutions for Safer Schools, An Educators’ Vision for Positive Learning Environments

Suzanne is a National Board Certified teacher with more than 20 years experience. She currently teaches sixth grade inclusion math, social studies, and science in Grenada, Miss. As a child, she would come home from school and teach her younger sister what she had learned. Since that early age, she has never dreamed of doing anything else professionaly, but is still quite busy outside of her classroom. Suzanne is entertainment /activities and ceremonies chair for Relay for Life, and co-chair of the Mississippi Tobacco Free Coalition of Grenada, Yalabusha, and Calhoun counties. She is also very involved in her church, as music director, a Sunday School teacher, and chair of the Youth and Children’s Committees, among others.

 

Melony Smith-Wellington

VIVA MET Teachers Writing Collaborative: VIVA Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Idea Exchange   
Teaches 9th grade English/ language arts, Memphis City Schools, Tenn
Teacher for 10 years

Melony became a teacher because, “Teachers had the greatest impact on my life. I truly believe that education is the great equalizer and had it not been for the education I have been blessed to have received, I would not have been afforded the wonderful life that I have today.” When she is not teaching, she is a very busy parent to 4-year-old Paige Noel Wellington, and 2-year-old Antwoine Norquel Wellington II. The student she would have most liked to have had in class is Martin Luther King, Jr., because he was such a powerful human being. “Had it not been for this courageous man’s dream and his endeavors to realize those dreams this world would be a woefully different place.”

 

Judy Smizik

VIVA Pittsburgh Idea Exchange: VIVA Pittsburgh Writing Collaborative 

Judy became a teacher more than 35 years ago to instill a love of learning in her students. She chose to teach in an urban school district because she believes education is the path out of poverty for many of our lower socio-economic students. Kindergarten has been her main area of expertise, although she has helped children at all primary ages develop a strong foundation in reading and mathematics. “Teaching is a challenging profession,” she says, “but a most rewarding career.” Judy is a member of several organizations, including the Pittsburgh Association of Kindergarten Teachers, Nation Kindergarten Alliance, International Dyslexia Association, and Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers. She has been recognized as an outstanding teaching during her career and has led numerous professional development workshops and curriculum writing projects for the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

 

Fran Staniec

VIVA Chicago Project: Time, Teachers, and Tomorrow’s Schools
Teaches technology at a Chicago Public Schools high school
Teacher for more than 25 years 

Fran became a teacher more than 25 years ago because she believed she could make a difference by getting students ready for their lives after high school whether it was college or work. When she is not teaching, you’ll find her gardening, sewing and spending time with her husband, children, and grandchildren.

 

Christopher Starmer

VIVA NEA Idea Exchange: Sensible Solutions for Safer Schools, An Educators’ Vision for Positive Learning Environments

Christopher currently teaches seventh and eighth grade science and math at Jefferson County RE-1 in Golden, Colo. During his six years as a teacher, he has also taught all of the secondary grades, and coaches youth sports through all seasons, including flag football, basketball, lacrosse, and baseball. Chris became a teacher because of his own enjoyment of learning, his eagerness to stay connected to future generations as a positive role model, and the ability to spend time with his own family

 

Karon Stewart

Chicago VIVA Project: Time, Teachers, and Tomorrow’s Schools
Teaches middle school math for Chicago Public Schools
Teacher for more than 15 years

Karon, a product of the Chicago Public Schools, became a teacher after a short stint as a computer programmer. “Teaching is an ideal job, a dream come true.” She shares her love of math, performing arts, and technology with her students and feels as though she is “making a contribution to humanity.” When she’s not teaching, you’ll find her studying stand-up comedy.

 

Luke Stordahl

VIVA Minnesota II: Strengthening Our Practice: A Classroom Teachers’ Approach to Evaluation
Teaches English in Litchfield, Minnesota
Teacher for more than 5 years

Luke became a teacher because “I wanted a meaningful profession where I could make a positive difference in others’ lives.” He is a member of the Minnesota Council of Teachers of English and the father of three (soon to be four) children.

 

Kathleen Sullivan

Public Education in a Global Economy: An Agenda for Massachusetts Public Schools
Teaches 5th Grade science in the Malden, Mass., public schools
Teacher for more than 10 years

Being a substitute teacher inspired Kathy to go back to college and finish her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. “I felt like I was really making a difference in the lives of children,” she says. “I enjoyed coming to school each day and I liked the challenge of educating children in a district in which there is a high percentage of students who are new immigrants from countries around the world coupled with a high percentage of children coming to us from low-income homes.” When she’s not teaching, Kathy often spends her time preparing to teach. “When I am out walking on the beach or in the mountains I often gather samples from nature to include in my science classroom.”

 

Wade Sutton

VIVA Minnesota Project – 360 Degree Leadership: Evaluating Minnesota Principals
Teaches 7th-12th grade English at Indus School in Birchdale, Minnesota
Teacher for more than 9 years 

After experiencing other careers, Wade decided 8 years ago to pursue his passion and become a teacher. His roots in education go back to his own parents who both worked in education as teachers and in administration, teaching him the value of the educated mind. The moments when through questions, discussions, and reading, he sees a student discover something about himself or herself or about living his or her life — are what inspire him to educate. When he is not teaching, you will find him spending time with his kids, refinishing or working with wood, or renovating his house.

 

Jim Szewc

VIVA MET Teachers Writing Collaborative: VIVA Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Idea Exchange
Teaches 4th grade (all subjects) in the Hillsborough County, Florida
Public Schools
Teacher for more than 5 years

Jim became a teacher because “after spending my 20s helping to launch an online auction company as a college student and then trying my luck in the agency and management business in Hollywood, I felt that after loving these experiences, my passion and abilities could be applied best in a different role and a different world. As an educator, I felt that I could play an important role in impacting the next generation of learners by helping develop their own passions, push them to create experiences of their own and follow whatever it is they believe in. To me, this makes a career as an educator enriching, rewarding, and one of the ways I hope to be remembered someday.” The student he would have most liked to have in his class would have been Bob Dylan “to help him embrace his gift and help him realize that his ideas, words, and later, songs, could bring people of all walks of life together and impact millions for generations in the future. That would have not only been personally rewarding, but a testament to the true role and value of the teacher.”

 

Elizabeth Tarbutton

VIVA CEA Idea Exchange: VIVA CEA Writing Collaborative

Elizabeth teaches math at Otho E. Stuart Middle School in Commerce City. She has led professional development for math teachers as a leader of the Rocky Mountain Math Teacher’s Circle. She has a passion for supporting students in developing problem-solving skills. She is also passionate about advocating for students through the school’s RTI team. Elizabeth sits on the instruction leadership team at her school, and is the school’s data analyst.

 

Lindsey Terrill

VIVA Chicago Project: Time, Teachers, and Tomorrow’s Schools
Teaches elementary special education at a Chicago Public School
Teacher for 2 years 

Lindsey is a passionate new teacher who became a teacher because she enjoys helping others and believes that all students are capable of learning and having success in school. When Lindsay is not in school, you can find her reading, dancing, singing, and/or traveling.

 

Nicolette Theodore-Moad

VIVA ISEA Project: Re-Imagining School Leadership for the 21st Century
Teaches preschool in the Burlington Iowa Public Schools
Teacher for more than 15 years

Nicolette became a teacher “because I wanted to have a positive impact on children’s learning and their lives. I also wanted to provide an environment that would promote a positive attitude about learning so that children would be excited to learn throughout their school life.” When she isn’t teaching, you’ll find her spending time with her family and working on her master’s degree in early childhood education.

 

Blake Unger Dvorchik

National VIVA Report: Voices from the Classroom
Teaches middle school math and science in the Bronx
Teacher for 4 years

Blake became a teacher because “I believe it is the most effective way to pull children out of poverty and to give them opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have.” He now writes curriculum for NYC Teaching Fellows. One important thing to know about Blake is: “I truly believe that kids will struggle to succeed in the face of all adversity. It’s up to us as teachers, parents, principals, and deans to support them, lend a hand where necessary, and carry a sincere belief that through hard work and tenacity our children will be able to accomplish their dreams.”

 

Annette Walen

VIVA Minnesota II: Strengthening Our Practice: A Classroom Teachers’ Approach to Evaluation
Instructional Coach in Osseo, Minnesota
Teacher for more than 25 years

Annette became a teacher “because of my love of children and my love of learning. That choice felt more like a calling than a weighty decision: I have always viewed teaching as a way to impact the world in a positive way through the education, nurturing and development of our children.” She is an active union member. Before she became an instructional coach, she taught 4th and 5th grades.

 

Jeanne Walker

VIVA Chicago Project: Time, Teachers, and Tomorrow’s Schools
Teaches art and sculpture at a Chicago Public Schools high school
Teacher for more than 10 years 

Jeanne became a teacher more than 10 years ago because she believes in students’ ability to change the world with their ideas and energy. When she is not teaching, you’ll find her baking or making art.

 

Kelly Waller

VIVA MET Teachers Writing Collaborative: VIVA Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Idea Exchange
Teaches middle school language arts for the Hillsborough County, Florida Public Schools 
Teacher for more than 10 years

Kelly became a teacher because, “After five years, the company I worked for downsized and I had to look for an alternative career. Everybody always said that I should become a teacher, and then the opportunity was given to me. I became a teacher because I thought I would be able to make a difference in the lives of students. I wanted to be able to educate through fun lessons, as well as teach life lessons.” The student she would have most liked to have had in class is Justin Bieber “because my daughter would then think my job was cool.”

 

Franco Walls

VIVA New York Task Force: Opening Doors to Professional Communication and Collaboration
Teaches 6-12 special education in South Colonie, N.Y.
Teacher for more than 10 years 

Franco became a special education teacher more than 10 years ago because the work leaves him fulfilled. When he is not teaching, you can find him spending time with his growing family, volunteering at church, cycling, running, hunting, and much more.

 

Zaneta Williams

VIVA MET Teachers Writing Collaborative: VIVA Measures of Effective Teaching (MET) Idea Exchange
Teaches middle school reading in the Dallas Public Schools
Teacher for more than 5 years

Zaneta became a teacher at the urging of her mother. “She was a teacher, and I began to work as a substitute teacher at her school. She kept telling me I had a natural knack for teaching. So I did other things, but I kept coming back to education. I felt free in the classroom. The students needed so much, not just in terms of what I could teach them from books, but what I felt I had to offer in terms of character development, focus and direction. I have had a few difficult lessons in my life, and I wanted to help students to find their purpose earlier than I did, and to know the value of an education.” The student she would have most liked to have in class is her grandmother because, “I am told she was a forward thinker who always said what she thought, and was full of wit. I would have loved to have seen her in the midst of today’s youth, and would have loved to have witnessed her wisdom in action as a young person at my school, in my classroom.”

 

Jeanne Kleinman Williams

VIVA CEA Idea Exchange: VIVA CEA Writing Collaborative

Jeanne, M.A. CCC-SLP, is completing her 39th year as a speech-language pathologist in Colorado Springs. All but two years of her career have been with Colorado Springs School District 11 (CSSD11), where she has held the position of Communication Department chairperson. She has supervised graduate students when she worked at Colorado Springs’ Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center and in CSSD11. The Colorado Springs Education Association honored Jeanne as a “Teacher in the Spotlight” for her commitment to working in tandem with her colleagues to meet the needs of all students. In November, she was notified that the special education team at Howbert Elementary, of which she is a member, has received the 2013 “Excellence in Inclusion Award” from the CSSD11 Special Education Department.

 

Maricia Jodi Wilson

VIVA New Jersey Charter Teachers Idea Exchange: VIVA New Jersey Charter Teachers Project
Teaches middle school science at Pride Academy Charter school in east orange, NJ
Teacher for more than 10 years

Maricia became a teacher after reading Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. “My life was forever changed. I knew without a shadow of doubt that I wanted to be a teacher in an urban setting. I didn’t feel that I could ‘save’ poor inner-city children, but rather, felt that I could serve them in a way that would empower them to realize their own capabilities and potential. I believe that my students possess a deep-rooted brilliance that if cultivated appropriately, will flourish and blossom in significant ways.” When she is not teaching, she is volunteering, mentoring children, or indulging in writing or reading.

 

Pam Winkler

VIVA Minnesota II: Strengthening Our Practice: A Classroom Teachers’ Approach to Evaluation
Teaches first grade in White Bear Lake, Minnesota
Teacher for more than 20 years

Pam became a teacher because “I love to learn and to share in the excitement of learning with others.” She sees being a teacher as a way to “help make a difference in the world by bringing along new generations of thinkers, questioners, inquirers and problem solvers.” She’s an active union member and when she isn’t teaching you can find Pam relaxing with friends, knitting a new project, spinning her own yarn or curled up with the latest teacher book. One thing you should know about Pam is “I am a loyal friend, passionate believer of justice in its many forms and think it is our job to do whatever we can to leave the world a better place for those who come after us.”

 

Ann Wyatt

VIVA CEA Idea Exchange: VIVA CEA Writing Collaborative

Ann is a fourth-generation educator, received a Bachelor of Music Education from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln and a Master of Education from Grand Canyon University. She currently teaches Elementary Music at Peabody Elementary in Centennial (Littleton Public School District), and has experience teaching preschool through 12th grade students. That includes fifth grade through 12th grade band in Nebraska, and beginning and intermediate band students with the Colorado Honor Band Association. With changes in the teacher evaluation system and state standards, she feels the need to represent her peers and students in issues concerning the future of education.