Heather Jenkins is the Chief Executive Officer. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she was the Chief People & Equity Officer at uAspire where she was responsible for ensuring that uAspire’s people, equity and organizational culture work is done with a people-first mindset to drive retention, inclusivity and sustainability. Heather has 19 years of experience working for equity and access in education including: teacher and administrator at the K-12 level; non-profit leader; diversity and equity consultant for secondary and postsecondary institutions; public and private school college readiness education consultant; and a mentor to students of color and economically marginalized youth. She has a BA in psychology, an MS in education, and a Ph.D. in sociology of education. She is the proud mother of two young women, one in college and one in graduate school.
Data and Systems Coordinatortbadhiwala@theliteracylab.org
Tirthna Badhiwala joined The Literacy Lab after a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA in North Carolina. As a VISTA, she developed educational and employment programs for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Chemistry with a minor in Social and Economic Justice from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Shona Barton-Negreiros is a Recruitment Associate at The Literacy Lab. Originally from Boston, MA, she moved to Washington D.C. to serve with AmeriCorps City Year at Turner Elementary School. Prior to that, she served with AmeriCorps Jumpstart, Big Brother Big Sister, America Reads, and worked as a school library intern in Cape Town, South Africa. Shona holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications and Human Rights, with a minor in Theatre Studies from the University of Connecticut.
Cayla Bledsoe is a Program Coordinator at the Literacy Lab. She joined the Literacy Lab team after serving as a K-3 tutor at Mary E. Rodman Elementary School in Baltimore, MD. With a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, Cayla has always held a strong passion for serving her community and has almost a decade of experience working in the nonprofit sector. Prior to working with the Literacy Lab, she was a Therapist and Social Worker helping to empower, teach, and coordinate services for young children and young adults in education and employment.
Lauren Bomgardner is the Development Coordinator at The Literacy Lab. She joined The Literacy Lab's staff after serving as a K-3 tutor at Langdon Elementary School in Washington, DC. Lauren has always been passionate about education and has volunteered in elementary schools for over eight years. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Lauren earned her Bachelor's degree in Government with a Minor in Dance from the College of William and Mary.
Emma Byrne serves as Regional Director in Virginia. She fell in love with the field of education while serving as a summer camp counselor and went on to receive a B.A. in English and Secondary Education from West Virginia University. After graduating, Emma lived in Guanajuato, Mexico, where she helped implement the country's first 4-H Youth Development program. Prior to joining staff, Emma also taught high school English and served as a Literacy Lab tutor.
Lucas Camacho is a Program Associate at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Lucas served as an AmeriCorps member in North Carolina. During his year of service, Lucas led nutrition-based culinary courses connecting kids in need with nutritious food and teaching their families how to cook healthy, affordable meals. He earned his Bachelor's degree in Global Studies with a Minor in Medical Anthropology from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Program Operations Managerjchandler@theliteracylab.org
Jordan Chandler joined The Literacy Lab team after serving as a full-time tutor at Stanton Elementary School in southeast Washington, DC. Prior to her year of service with The Literacy Lab, Jordan completed a year of AmeriCorps service at Stanton. Jordan holds Bachelor's degrees in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Virginia.
Jax believes literacy is a fundamental right and the cornerstone for stronger educational pathways to student success. She values a diversity, equity and inclusion lens in all regional engagement as the Metro DC Regional Director. Previously, she led operational strategy, managed teams and built community partnerships with K-12 schools and education nonprofits. Jax holds a Bachelor's degree from The University of Pennsylvania.
Chief Program Officersdorton@theliteracylab.org
Sarah-Rose Dorton joined The Literacy Lab team after being a part of The Literacy Lab’s first class of full-time AmeriCorps tutors, where she served at Polk Elementary in Alexandria, Virginia. Prior to her year of service with The Literacy Lab, she spent her summers working for youth development programs in North Carolina. Sarah-Rose holds a Bachelor’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Religious Studies from The College of William and Mary.
Ivan C. Douglas Jr.
Leading Men Program Directoridouglas@theliteracylab.org
Ivan Douglas is the Program Director for The Literacy Lab's Leading Men Fellowship. He began his professional career as a corporate securities attorney in Washington, DC, and practiced law for seven years before transitioning to the field of education in 2013. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Ivan was a high school teacher and program director for a youth male mentoring initiative in DC Public Schools. Ivan received his Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from Emory University and his Juris Doctor degree from the Washington College of Law at American University.
Terrans "Tj" Edmonds is a Leading Men Fellowship Program Assistant. Prior to his current role with The Literacy Lab, Tj served as a Richmond Leading Men Fellow from January 2019 to June 2020 at Oak Grove Elementary and South Hampton Elementary. Tj is a proud graduate of Richmond Community High School and attended North Carolina A&T. He loves working at summer camps, helping kids, and engaging with the larger Leading Men Fellowship Alumni community.
Carly Elliott is a Program Manager at The Literacy Lab in Washington, DC. Before coming to The Literacy Lab, Carly spent six years as an elementary Special Education teacher and a second grade teacher in the District of Columbia. Carly is an alumna of Teach For America and completed two years as a corps member in Washington, DC. Carly earned her Master’s degree in Special Education from George Mason University and her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
María Eugenia "Maru" Fernández
Maru is a Program Manager at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she interned at organizations supporting public education in her homeland, Puerto Rico. Maru also volunteered as a tutor and classroom aide in Richmond, Virginia. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and Sociology from the University of Richmond.
Katya Forbes is a Program Assistant at The Literacy Lab. She has a Bachelor's degree from Johns Hopkins University in Sociology and Writing Seminars. Katya served two years as a Literacy Lab K-3 tutor at Frederick Elementary School in Baltimore, MD. She also worked as a Behavior Technician providing ABA services to children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Katya is passionate about ensuring that all children have the skills they need to thrive and succeed.
Director of Operations and HRcgleaton@theliteracylab.org
Chamelle Gleaton joined The Literacy Lab team after serving as a full-time tutor at Amidon-Bowen Elementary school in Washington, DC. She also served as a Team Lead for The Literacy Lab’s summer school program at Wheatley Elementary school. Prior to her two years of service with The Literacy Lab, she worked for four years educating the general public on FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. She also spent a summer working in a youth development program in Hyattsville, Maryland. Chamelle holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.
Aja Goode is a Recruitment Associate at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Aja worked in higher education, assisting graduate students with application processes, recruitment, and enrollment. Aja holds a Master's degree in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs from American University. She obtained her Bachelor's degree in International Studies from George Mason University.
Grants Compliance Managerahawkins@theliteracylab.org
Angela Hawkins served as a full-time tutor at Benjamin Banneker Elementary during The Literacy Lab’s first year in Kansas City, MO. Her interest in literacy was stimulated by nearly a decade spent volunteering for early education programs, including the Kansas Children’s Discovery Center in Topeka, KS, where she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Angela holds a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the University of Kansas and a Master's degree in Public Administration from Park University.
Chief Financial Officerahess@theliteracylab.org
Allen Hess is the CFO at The Literacy Lab. Allen is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and has extensive experience in providing accounting, tax, and consulting services to various nonprofit organizations. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Allen was a Principal with a public accounting firm located in Pennsylvania. Allen has over eighteen years of experience, working both in public accounting as well as serving as Chief Financial Officer for a non-profit continuing care retirement community. Allen earned his Bachelor of Science degree from Shippensburg University.
Claire Lingham is an Operations Coordinator at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Claire was an administrator at Presidio Knolls School, a PreK-8, Mandarin-immersion school in San Francisco. Fluent in Mandarin, Claire previously lived in China for several years; first as an English teacher, then a college student, and then a translator for an international wine company. She holds a Bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies from Connecticut College.
Brittany Lundy is a Program Associate in Hampton Roads, VA. She joined the team after serving as a K-3 tutor at Hidenwood Elementary School. Brittany graduated from Randolph College where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While at Randolph, she served as a psychology tutor and an assistant for the psychology department. She was also president of the all-girls acapella group, Songshine, and served as a Community Fellow in the campus leadership group, Life More Abundant.
Vlai Ly (V-Lie Lee) is a Program Associate at The Literacy Lab. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst as an English major with a minor in Education. After graduating, he served as a DIAL/SELF AmeriCorps member where he worked closely with Holyoke students in supporting their educational success. Following his service, Vlai has dedicated his energy towards his photojournalism and writing, creating a platform for underserved stories. This resulted in him founding and becoming Editor-In-Chief for 'maivmai', a literary publication for Hmong American voices from around the country.
Bianca Mark-Okai is the Human Resources Manager at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining the team, she worked as an HR Generalist at Paralyzed Veterans of America where she gained her experience in the non-profit industry, advocating for its members with spinal cord injuries. She focused on improving HR policies, processes, and practices while promoting positive relationships across the organization. Her love and passion for Human Resources developed in her hometown in Ghana. Bianca earned her Bachelor's degree in Psychology with a concentration in Industrial Organization from Radford University in Radford, VA.
Director of Data and Evaluationcnowalk@theliteracylab.org
Connor Nowalk began his work in education with The Literacy Lab. After serving as a tutor in 2010-11, he joined the Teach For America DC Corps as a high school math teacher. He relocated to Kansas City, working as a teacher and then founding Echograde, an ed tech company. In addition, to his role with The Literacy Lab, he runs the Pell Project, a scholarship for Kansas City’s undocumented students that he co-founded. He has degrees in Music and the Program of Liberal Studies from the University of Notre Dame and a Master's in Data Science and Analytics from the University of Missouri.
Thomas Oakley is The Literacy Lab's Program Manager for the Western MA region. He is a product of Springfield Public Schools in Springfield, MA and went on to graduate from the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth with a Bachelor's degree in Economics. Thomas brings over a decade of experience working with youth and is dedicated to seeing students living in the inner-city succeed. Previously, Thomas served as a Community School Director in Hartford, CT, where he worked to ensure that students and families had the supports they required to be successful. His role included overseeing community and corporate partnerships, academic alignment of the after-school program, and working to reduce chronic absenteeism. Thomas enjoys spending time with his family, playing and watching sports, and reading.
Director of Government Relationsmorlins@theliteracylab.org
Matt Orlins is the Director of Government Relations for The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Matt spent nearly a decade in legislative and government affairs roles with the District of Columbia Government. He began his career as a middle school teacher in the Atlanta Public Schools, as part of Teach for America, and has worked in higher education as well. Matt earned a Bachelor’s degree from Denison University and a Juris Doctor from The George Washington University Law School.
Nick Picciotto joined The Literacy Lab team after serving as part of The Literacy Lab's first cohort of Baltimore tutors, where he was a Pre-K literacy tutor at Curtis Bay Elementary/Middle School. Prior to his year of service, he worked as a teacher's assistant and lead teacher at Step by Step Children's Learning Center in Sparks, MD for 4 years. Nick holds a Bachelor's degree in History from Towson University.
Bernard Rahming is the Program Manager for The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship Program in Milwaukee, WI. He is passionate about building school-to-career pipelines and believes education is a vehicle for empowerment. Bernard earned his Master’s degree in Community Psychology from Concordia University-Portland and his Bachelor’s degree in Math and Psychology from Marquette University.
Sarah Reape supports The Literacy Lab's programs in MO and MA. She has 15 years of experience serving in the nonprofit sector and previously worked at a national early education agency, where she managed a language, literacy, and social-emotional program for preschool children in Kansas City. After launching The Literacy Lab's work in the city, Sarah was honored as the 2017 Kansas City Emerging Nonprofit Professional of the Year. She is an AmeriCorps alumna who holds Bachelor’s degrees in Psychology and Spanish and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Shiney Sharma is a Program Manager for The Literacy Lab in DC. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she was a School Counselor for five years in Alexandria City Public Schools. Shiney earned her Master's degree in Counselor Education and her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA.
Ellen Sheppard served for two years as a tutor with The Literacy Lab at Benjamin Banneker Elementary in Kansas City, MO. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science with a minor in Geography from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Raissa Singleton is a Program Manager at The Literacy Lab. She joined the team after serving as an elementary school special education coordinator. She also has experience as a reading interventionist in the K-12 setting. With a Bachelor’s degree in special education and a Master’s degree in diversity and equity studies, Raissa has always been driven by a passion for the purpose of serving diverse populations and doing transformative work within the frameworks of education and learning.
Sam Spickard joined The Literacy Lab team as a Program Assistant after serving as a full-time tutor at James K. Polk Elementary in Alexandria, Virginia. He earned a Bachelor's degree in History with a Religious Studies minor from the University of Virginia.
Director of Recruitmentwstaton@theliteracylab.org
Will Staton is the Director of Recruitment at The Literacy Lab. He is a career educator with over a decade of experience. Will began his career as a high school history teacher with Teach For America and has subsequently served as a School Parent Coordinator, Talent Recruiter, and Dean of Students. Will holds a Master's degree in International Relations from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a Bachelor's degree in Religious Studies and Classics from Washington University in St. Louis.
Jane is the Special Assistant to the Chief Executive Officer. She also supports the Data and Government Relations teams. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she interned at UNICEF HQ in New York and at Umoja Student Development Corporation in Chicago. She became interested in education while tutoring at a correctional institution with the Petey Greene program. Jane holds a Bachelor's degree in Public and International Affairs, with a minor in French from Princeton University.
Caitlin Tolson is an Operations Associate at The Literacy Lab in Richmond, VA. She joined the team after serving for two years as a K-3 tutor at Ratcliffe Elementary School. Caitlin is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), where she received her Bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a concentration in Social Justice and is currently pursuing a Master’s Certificate in Nonprofit Management. While at VCU, she served on the President’s Action Group on Diversity and Inclusion and received the 2013 Burnside Watstein award for her advocacy work on campus.
Cal Umlauf is a Program Associate in The Literacy Lab's Kansas City office. Cal served as a Creative Fellow at Vanderbilt University's Curb Center for Arts, Enterprise, and Public Policy before moving to Scotland to earn his Master's degree at the University of St. Andrews. After returning to the States, he helped to found an art museum in his hometown, directed crews for a Historic Preservation Corps, and joined The Literacy Lab as a K-3 tutor at Pathway Academy Charter School in Kansas City.
Alexis Underwood is a Recruitment Associate for The Literacy Lab in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the team, she served as a K-3 tutor at LaSalle-Backus Education Campus in DC Public Schools. During her service at LaSalle, Alexis launched People Who Are Incarcerated Awareness Day, an interactive day promoting community discussions of penal issues. Alexis is a graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy with a minor in Political Science.
Josie Verchomin is a Program Associate at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Josie served as a Baltimore Corps Fellow working as the Assistant to the Director of a preschool serving low-income city residents. In addition to being a former Literacy Lab tutor, she served as an AmeriCorps Member with City Year San Jose. She holds Bachelor's degrees in Theatre Design, Psychology, and Indigenous Studies from Smith College.
Director of Advancementfvogt@theliteracylab.org
Funmi Vogt is Director of Advancement at The Literacy Lab. Prior to this, she was the Director of Operations and Partnerships at TrustAfrica. Funmi believes that providing a quality education to all children lies at the heart of building just and equitable societies. She received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and a Master’s degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies, at the University of London.
Ebanē Ward is a Program Manager at The Literacy Lab. As a native of Richmond, VA, Ebanē attended school in two districts that The Literacy Lab currently serves. During the 2016-17 academic year she served as a full-time K-3 tutor at Glen Lea Elementary, where she initiated school-wide projects and led clubs and afterschool programs. Prior to her year of service with The Literacy Lab, Ebanē worked with children of all ages in both recreational and educational settings, which ignited her passion for education and youth development. Ebanē is a graduate of Old Dominion University, where she received her Bachelor’s degrees in English and Professional Writing and has a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Virginia.
Rudi Zelman is a Program Director at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she was a Teach For America Baltimore corps member and worked as a classroom teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools for six years. Rudi earned her Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Political Science from Arizona State University.
K-3 National Lead Coachedurig@theliteracylab.org
Emily Durig is the K-3 National Lead Coach and is located in Kansas City, MO. She has a decade of experience as an Intermediate General Education and English-Language Arts teacher in Kansas City area schools. She is an alumna of the Leading Educators Teacher Leader Fellowship and previously served as a Leadership Coach for the organization. Emily has experience managing and coaching teachers and teacher leaders as well as facilitating professional development locally and nationally for Expeditionary Learning Schools. Emily holds a Master’s degree in Elementary Education with a literacy focus and a Bachelor’s degree in Education from The University of Kansas.
Christine Farber is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Baltimore, MD. She started off her career as a French teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools. She then became a teacher coach and director of professional development with Teach for America Baltimore. Her most recent role, prior to joining The Literacy Lab, was as an Assistant Principal for KIPP Harmony Academy, a public elementary charter school in Baltimore City. She earned Bachelor's degrees in French and Political Science from Bates College and her Master’s degree in Education from Johns Hopkins University.
Toni Hamlin is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Henrico County Public Schools. She has over 20 years of experience working in grades K-6, and spent 17 of those years as a Reading Specialist in the Richmond area. Toni has experience in staff development and has facilitated trainings in both the educational and business sectors. Toni holds a Master’s degree in Reading from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Bachelor’s degree in Childhood Education from Mount Vernon College (GW) in Washington, DC.
Early Literacy Coachehancock@theliteracylab.org
Emma Hancock is an Early Literacy Coach in Kansas City, MO. She has previous experience as an Early Childhood Paraprofessional and Family Advocate. Emma served as a Pre-K tutor with The Literacy Lab in Kansas City Public Schools during the 2016-17 school year. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from Park University in Parkville, MO.
Demetrius (Dee) Harris
Early Literacy Coachdharris@theliteracylab.org
Demetrius Harris is an Early Literacy Coach in Richmond, VA. For over thirty years, Demetrius has been a classroom teacher, a cooperating teacher, a reading specialist and a library media specialist. She has taught in three school divisions in the state of Virginia: Chesapeake Public Schools, Chesterfield County Public Schools, and Richmond Public Schools. Demetrius holds a Master’s degree in Pre-Elementary Education from Norfolk State University and endorsements both in reading and library media from Longwood University. Demetrius believes that early literacy development is important in order to help ensure that preschoolers are successful in both their formative and later years. She coaches the Leading Men Fellowship where she enjoys sharing her experience and passion to inspire preschoolers to love reading and to become lifelong learners.
Shannon Hepler is a Coaching Specialist in Washington, DC. She has over a decade of experience as a special educator with DC Public Schools as well as with Cesar Chavez and EL Haynes Public Charter Schools. She was a member of the inaugural class of DC Teaching Fellows and has extensive experience managing and coaching teachers, volunteers, and AmeriCorps members. Shannon holds a Master’s degree in Special Education from George Washington University and a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from George Mason University.
Megan Leonard is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Western Massachusetts. She has experience teaching in preschools, elementary schools, and at the college level. The majority of her teaching career was spent in a fourth grade classroom. Previously, Megan worked as a Coaching Specialist with the Pre-K Reading Corps program in Springfield, Massachusetts. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she coached teachers and facilitated professional development. Megan holds a Master's degree in Educational Administration from Springfield College, and Bachelor's degrees in Elementary Education and Special Education from Springfield College.
Renae Lloyd is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Kansas City, MO. She was a founding teacher at the Kansas City Neighborhood Academy prior to joining The Literacy Lab. Renae was awarded KCNA Teacher of the Year in 2018. She is an experienced Mentor Teacher who helped shape and develop new and aspiring teachers while working with the Kansas City Teacher Residency program. She has over twenty years of experience teaching in public and charter schools in the Kansas City area. Renae is Montessori trained and taught grades 1-3 in multi-age classrooms for six years. Renae earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Creighton University and her teacher certification (1-8) from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
Terrell Mann is a Pre-K Coaching Specialist in Kansas City, MO. Her past roles include: early childhood teacher; teacher/coach; director; and elementary, preschool, and early intervention special educator. For the past ten years she has provided training, technical assistance, and coaching services to local and national child care and out of school time programs and support organizations. Since 2000 Terrell has served and continues to serve as adjunct faculty in the Early Childhood programs at two local community colleges. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in the History of Art and Architecture from Princeton University and holds a Master's degree in Child Study from Tufts University as well as a Master's degree in Educational Psychology from the University of Connecticut.
Early Literacy Coachamartin@theliteracylab.org
Alesha Martin is an Early Literacy Coach in Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD at The Literacy Lab. Alesha has previous experience as a Human Resources Manager for numerous companies in Washington, DC and has implemented and run a tutorial program for underserved children at a large low-income housing community for the Greater Washington Urban League. Most recently, Alesha served for two years as a Literacy Lab Pre-K tutor in Washington, DC before becoming a SEEDS-certified trainer and coach with The Literacy Lab. Alesha hails from Howard University's School of Fine Arts and is a proud member of the Greater Washington Urban League, whose mission is to give the most to those who have the least.
Tiffani Martin is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Baltimore, MD. Tiffani has over 15 years of experience in education and child advocacy, specifically working with “at-risk” students as a teacher coach, graduate Literacy instructor, ECE classroom observer, ECE classroom teacher, substitute, tutor and after-school program specialist. She primarily taught Early Childhood Pre-K through 2nd grade for almost 10 years. Most recently, she worked with Urban Teachers for Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore City for 7 years providing high-quality graduate coursework instruction to approximately 30 resident teachers, issuing actionable feedback as a teacher coach to a group of 6 to 12 resident teachers in their classroom placements, as well as leading and facilitating professional development sessions like "The Social and Emotional Development of 3 and 4-year olds", "Fountas and Pinnell Running Record Benchmark Assessment", "Lesson Planning Bootcamp", and "Classroom Management."
Elizabeth (Liz) Miller
Liz Miller is a Coaching Specialist and trainer based out of Western MA. She is a former early childhood educator with eighteen years of experience working as a preschool and kindergarten teacher, and school administrator. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab team, Liz worked as a Reading Corps PreK Literacy Coach for six years. Liz holds a Master’s degree in education from Springfield College, and a Bachelor’s degree in sociology from Mount Saint Mary’s University.
Early Childhood National Lead Coachkparker@theliteracylab.org
Kimberly Parker is the Early Childhood National Lead Coach in Washington, DC. She is an Early Childhood Specialist with expertise in early childhood development, early literacy acquisition, and special education. Kimberly taught in a variety of settings in Washington, DC including child development centers, public charter schools, and DC Public Schools. In her three years with DC Public Schools, she was recognized as a Distinguished Teacher, having been rated as a Highly Effective educator for three years in a row, the highest possible evaluation rating. Kimberly earned her Master’s degree in Education and Human Development from the George Washington University in 2007.
Early Literacy Coachrpride@theliteracylab.org
Rebecca is an Early Literacy Coach in Milwaukee, WI. She is a Child Development Specialist with over 12 years of experience working in the Early Childhood Education field as a coach, teacher, developmental therapist, and behavioral instructor. Rebecca holds a Master's degree in Child Development with a specialization in Infant Studies from Erikson Institute, as well as a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Concordia University. She also holds a Professional Educator License with early childhood and English as a second language endorsements.
Tawanda Rollins joined the Literacy Lab team as a Pre-K Coaching Specialist in August 2020. Tawanda has always had a desire to work with children and graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood from Coppin State University. She began her teaching career in 2001 as a Head Start teacher. Working with adult learners, she is passionate about ensuring educators have the tools and supports necessary to provide their students with quality education every day.
Christa Rupp is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Kansas City, MO. She has previous experience as a school psychologist serving both early childhood and elementary levels. Christa holds a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Drake University, a Master's degree in Child Development, and an Education Specialist degree in School Psychology from the University of Kansas.
Alisa Smith is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Virginia. She began her career in education as an Elementary Teacher for Henrico County Public Schools in Richmond, VA. After earning her Master's degree and reading specialist endorsement from the University of Virginia, she helped open Harvie Elementary in eastern Henrico as the school's Title I Literacy Specialist. There she provided intervention to struggling readers and supported the faculty as a reading coach. Alisa has also taught graduate level courses in literacy for the University of Virginia in the Richmond area and has enjoyed providing professional development and support to teachers in a variety of settings.
Amy Stelljes is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in the Tidewater Region. She has nearly twenty years of experience working and teaching in public schools. While teaching, Amy earned the National Board Certification. Amy holds an M.Ed. in Elementary Curriculum and Instructions from Old Dominion University, a Bachelor's degree in Psychology and K-3 teaching certification from James Madison University. Amy is also trained as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA).
Lisa Sweeney is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Washington, DC. She has a decade of experience as an educator in a variety of elementary and special education settings. Lisa was a K-3 Master Coach for Iowa Reading Corps and has experience training and coaching AmeriCorps members for Minnesota Reading Corps National Replication. She is a member of Kappa Gamma Pi, the National Catholic College Graduate Honor Society, which strives for a high standard of excellence in leadership, scholarship, and service within the community. Lisa holds a Master’s degree in Education with a concentration in Learning Differences from Cabrini College and her Bachelor’s degree in Criminology from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Suzanne Tirado is a Pre-K Coaching Specialist in Washington, DC. She is an early literacy specialist with expertise in special education, dual language learning strategies, and behavior interventions. Suzanne taught in public and charter schools in the District, and was a mentor teacher for an Urban Teacher Resident. Suzanne holds a Bachelor's degree in Music and a Master's degree in Special Education.
Hamida Toomey is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Washington, DC. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she worked for several years as a teacher in the Philadelphia area. She has experience as an elementary teacher in grades K, 1, 3, and 5, as well as experience working as an adult ESL teacher for immigrants and refugees. Hamida obtained her Master’s degree in Language and Literacy Education from the University of Pennsylvania, where she focused her research on critical literacy practices. She also holds a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from West Chester University.
Sara Twaddell joined The Literacy Lab in 2016 as a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Washington, DC. As a Coaching Specialist, she supports tutors, Internal Coaches, and students in DC Public Schools and charter schools. Sara approaches coaching and training through the lens of developmental reading to provide tailored support to students and schools. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Sara has served as an RTI Coordinator, Instructional Coach, Manager of Teacher Recruitment and Selection, and Elementary Teacher. She holds a Master of Education degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a Reading Specialist Certificate from the University of Virginia, a Master of Public Policy degree from the George Washington University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Psychology from New York University.
Erica Van Autreve
Erica Van Autreve is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Washington, DC. She has over a decade of experience in elementary education settings. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Erica served as an Instructional Coach for 4 years as well as a Classroom Teacher for over 10 years. She holds a Master's degree in Curriculum and Teaching from the Teachers College at Columbia University as well as a National Board Teaching Certification in Early Childhood Education.
Kyle grew up primarily in South Carolina where he attended school at the University of South Carolina, earning a degree in English and Political Science. After graduating, Kyle moved to Tulsa, OK where he taught 5th grade for two years at Celia Clinton Elementary School as a Teach For America corps member. He shifted to an Instructional Coach role with Teach For America as a Manager of Teacher Leadership Development, supporting teachers in content delivery, planning, and pedagogy in both Arkansas and Massachusetts from 2012 – 2016. He’s excited to be supporting tutors with The Literacy Lab in Richmond, VA where he lives with his partner and two dogs. When not working, you’ll likely find him trying something new in the kitchen, kayaking or running the dogs by the river, or exploring the city.
Linda Wicklein is a Pre-K Coaching Specialist in Baltimore, MD. She has considerable experience working with Head Start programs as a teacher and as a Mentor-Coach. She served as a Senior Instructional Facilitator for Johns Hopkins University working in collaboration with Head Start and Early Reading First. She also served as an adjunct faculty member in the Early Childhood Education Graduate degree program for Towson University. Linda has presented at numerous conferences, including NAEYC’s National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development. She participated in an International Study Tour of Reggio Emilia, Italy, for dialogues on education with educators from around the world. Linda holds a Master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Towson University.
Early Literacy Coachswilliams@theliteracylab.org
Sheila Williams is an Early Literacy Coach in Washington, DC. After receiving her degree in special education from Kean University, she began teaching preschool in the same New Jersey school district where she attended school as a child, and later coached at both the Pre-K and Kindergarten levels. After marrying, she moved to Pennsylvania and became a Lead Trainer for the Tools of the Mind preschool curriculum. Her interest in working within a Head Start program led her to the DC Public Schools Early Childhood Division, where she has both been a curriculum specialist and a manager of Instructional Specialists. With over 20 years of experience in Early Childhood, she is excited to support The Literacy Lab's Leading Men Fellowship.
Amy Wilson is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Baltimore. She has been working in education in Baltimore for over 25 years and was a part of Teach for America Baltimore's first corps in 1992. Amy taught elementary school at Fort Worthington Elementary School in Baltimore City, and went on to work as a Math Curriculum Designer for the Success for All Foundation, a Teacher Advocate for the Johns Hopkins University Tutorial Project, and a Faculty Member with the Johns Hopkins University/TFA partnership, where she coached and taught early career teachers. Amy has a Master's degree from Goucher in Urban Education and a Bachelor's degree from Carleton College in Psychology with an Educational Studies Concentration.
Ned Mandel has been involved in serving schools and literacy programs for over 25 years. He was an unpaid Literacy Lab tutor for two years at two different DC Public Schools. He served as Development Director and board member of Septima Clark Public Charter School, located in DC’s Ward 8. Prior to his work at Septima, Ned spent 15 years as Owner and President of AKJ Educational Services, a leading supplier of paperback books to schools and literacy programs nationwide. He earned an AB from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Stanford University. Ned serves as Treasurer of the board of Horizons National, an award-winning, summer academic program based in Westport, CT. He also served as Vice Chair of the board of St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School in Washington, DC. Ned and his wife Betsy have two grown children and live in Chevy Chase, MD.
Hugh Cole III
Hugh Cole is an associate with Washington Property Company, a real estate development firm in Bethesda, MD. Hugh has 12 years of experience in real estate development and investments. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Loyola University in Maryland. Hugh has previously served on the Board of Directors for KIPP Baltimore, the Alumni Board for the Gilman School in Baltimore, and the Secondary School Committee for the University of Pennsylvania Admissions Department. He lives in Bethesda with his wife and son.
Tom Dillon is the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of The Literacy Lab. With a background in foreign language instruction, Tom brings an understanding of language acquisition and linguistic processes to the organization. Tom has experience teaching, coaching, and working in a number of academic programs in the Washington, DC area. Tom earned a Bachelor’s degree in European Studies at The College of William and Mary and holds a Certificate in Contemporary Europe from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.
Elizabeth S. Duff
Betsy Duff is a Partner with Harbour Capital Advisors, LLC, an investment management firm and family office based in McLean, VA. Betsy has over 25 years of experience in private banking, investment banking, and corporate finance. She earned a Bachelor's degree from Brown University. Betsy has served as a Trustee and Chair of the Board of The Potomac School, a Director of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, and a board member and President of the Junior League of Washington.
Bailey Edelson is a Senior VP with the JBG Companies, a real estate investment and development firm in Chevy Chase, MD. Bailey has over 10 years of experience in real estate investment and development and is currently focused on mixed-use development in the DC Metro Area. She earned an AB from Brown University and an MBA from Georgetown University. She has been active through the Junior League of Washington with The Literacy Lab’s Ready to Read program since 2012. She lives in Bethesda with her husband.
Praveen Jeyarajah works with Astor Place Holdings, the private investment arm of Select Equity Group, L.P. Praveen has 20 years of private investment experience and earned a Bachelor's degree in Economics from Rutgers College and an MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Praveen previously served on the Board of Capital Partners For Education. Praveen lives in Washington, DC with his wife and two sons.
Ashley Johnson is the Founder and Co-Executive Director of The Literacy Lab. Prior to founding The Literacy Lab, Ashley worked as a Special Education teacher and coordinator at public and charter schools in the District of Columbia. Ashley was a Teach For America Metro DC corps member. Ashley earned her Master’s Degree in Special Education from American University and her Bachelor’s Degree in History and Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania.
Dara Johnson is a Program Officer with the Horning Family Fund, a DC-based foundation. She manages the grantmaking portfolio and assists with the development and implementation of the foundation’s racial equity strategy, family engagement plan, and other initiatives. Before joining the foundation in 2015, Dara spent 14 years in K-12 education as a teacher, literacy coach, professional development trainer, and assistant principal. Dara received a Bachelor's degree from Spelman College and a Master's degree in School Administration from Cambridge College.
Dr. Bweikia Steen
Dr. Bweikia Steen has been involved in the early childhood education field for over 15 years. She currently serves as an Associate Professor of Education at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. For the past eight years, she served as Associate Professor and the Director of the Early Childhood programs at Trinity Washington University in Washington, DC. Her research deals with promoting social-emotional and academic excellence among children of color and children of poverty during the early years.
Terri Upshaw, a native of San Francisco, is a devoted mother and philanthropist. During her tenure in hotel management in the Bay Area, she met her husband, Gene Upshaw, and relocated to the Washington DC area. To honor Gene’s legacy, Terri established the Gene Upshaw Memorial Fund to advance the Upshaw family’s passion for quality medical treatment, care for patients and their families, sustainability and advancement of medical technology and funding for research in areas such as traumatic brain injury. She also established the annual Gene Upshaw Memorial Golf Classic, which has raised close to $1.5 million to support programs and services at the Gene Upshaw Memorial Tahoe Forest Cancer Center and the Tahoe Institute for Rural Health Research. Terri is an avid golfer, skier, and overall fitness enthusiast, still watches and cheers on the Raiders, and most of all, enjoys being the best mom she can be to her two sons, Justin and Daniel.
• A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation
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