Working together to achieve our mission. Our team is our greatest strength.
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 21 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 is a 3rd grade teacher and one is in graduate school for mental health counseling.
Kayelynn Ayres is a Program Associate at The Literacy Lab in Washington, DC. Originally, she was a K-3 tutor for two years before joining the team. While working as a tutor, Kayelynn developed a passion for helping students from marginalized populations and advocating for equity in education. She holds a BA in English Literature from Salisbury University and an MS in Education Policy from the University of Rochester.
Director of Operations
Tirthna Badhiwala is the Director of Operations. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in North Carolina, developing educational and employment programs for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities. In 2021, she was named one of Ms. Magazine and She the People’s “25 under 25 Women of Color to Watch” for her grassroots and community organizing work. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry with a minor in Social and Economic Justice from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Chief Operating Officer
Deirdre Bagley is the Chief Operating Officer. She has 20 years of executive level leadership in higher-education, college access, computer science, and environmental legislative environments; and consulting experience focused on leadership development and strategic planning. Prior roles have included CEO and COO for a national fellowship program, city-wide mentoring with STEM organization, multi-service YWCA, and major public university. Deirdre has a BS in Human Development and Family Studies from Cornell University, and a MA in Human Resources Development from Bowie State University. She is a member of the 2011 class of Leadership Greater Washington, a certified mediator with the State of Maryland, and is ASTD certified in facilitating organizational change.
Shona Barton-Negreiros is a Recruitment Manager 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 Manager 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.
Princess Boateng is The Literacy Lab’s HR Coordinator. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Princess’ passion for kids was shown working at a pediatric office where she made it her mission to help children feel great again. Princess has always enjoyed helping others, and goes the extra mile with her numerous years of experience in customer service. She attended Radford University, in Radford VA. She also enjoys baking, making cakes and treats for friends and family.
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.
Julius Cave is the Program Manager for the Atlanta Leading Men Fellowship. A veteran educator with over a decade of classroom, administrative, and non-profit experience, he joined The Literacy Lab from the Jumpstart Program at Georgia State University. As a Program Director at Jumpstart, Julius recruited, onboarded, and developed college students to serve in preschool classrooms. Prior to Jumpstart, Julius served as a lead high school history teacher in Houston, as dean of students at one of Memphis’s highest-performing middle schools, and as a 7th Grade social studies teacher in Atlanta. A former Education Pioneers Fellow, he holds a BA in political science and an MA in management from Wake Forest.
Director of Program Operations
Jordan Chandler serves as the Director of Program Operations. She joined the Literacy Lab team in 2017 after completing two years of AmeriCorps service at Stanton Elementary School in southeast Washington, DC, including one year as a Literacy Lab tutor. Jordan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Spanish from the University of Virginia and is currently working toward her M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Special Education, also through the University of Virginia.
Meredith Collie is a Program Coordinator in Virginia at The Literacy Lab. She is passionate about social progress, equity, and education. She served as a tutor with The Literacy Lab at G.L.H. Johnson Elementary School during the 2020-21 school year, and graduated with her B.S. in History from Liberty University in 2022. She is currently a proud member of the 2022 cohort of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership’s Political Leaders Program, and is working towards her M.Ed at the University of Virginia. She is in the process of starting her own nonprofit organization focused on providing equitable housing services to Danville residents, and enjoys being an active member of her community through sitting on the board of her local Rotary Club, serving as the co-chair of the Buildstrong Initiative Community Workgroup, and by volunteering for local political campaigns.
Tyler Collins serves as the Recruitment Coordinator in Virginia. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a B.A. in Geography and minors in Sociology and Leadership & Social Change. After graduation she worked as a recruiter, teaching assistant, and residential advisor for a service learning program abroad in Switzerland and Rwanda. During her time in both countries she worked on establishing and maintaining relationships with local non-profits, elementary schools, and students. Prior to joining the Literacy Lab, Tyler worked as a small group K-2 Literacy Tutor in Norfolk, VA where she further developed a passion for equity, advocacy, and education.
Ilyssa DeLeon is a Program Associate at The Literacy Lab in Springfield, MA. Prior to this role, Ilyssa served for two years as a K-3 tutor at Alfred M. Glickman Elementary School. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Public Health Sciences with a minor in Spanish from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. While there, Ilyssa was inducted into the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health which recognizes academic achievement and promotes continued effort in the public health field. She is passionate about working to improve public health through literacy and education.
Ivan C. Douglas Jr.
National Director | Leading Men Fellowship
Ivan Douglas is the National 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.
Christian T. Edge
DC Regional Director
Christian T. Edge began his career at the University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center, directing after school programming primarily at the Lea School. It was there that Mr. Edge’s passion and commitment to equity for all students caught the attention of the Lea School leadership. Mr. Edge’s gift for rapport and relationship building with students was put to good use when he began to manage all school partnerships and external resources. After leaving the Netter Center, Mr. Edge founded the Director of K12 Education role at Drexel University, housed in its School of Education. Through his office, the School Work Studio, Mr. Edge partnered with seven schools in West Philadelphia, acquiring resources for them from the university writ large. Mr. Edge often acted as the schools’ chief advocate, articulating the academic, social and emotional needs of students to policymakers and funders.
Mr. Edge earned his B.S. in Sociology from Vanderbilt University before obtaining his Master of Public Administration from the University of Pennsylvania, Fels Institute of Government and Master of Science in Education Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education.
Terrans “Tj” Edmonds is a Leading Men Fellowship Program Associate. 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.
Director of Marketing and Communications
Lernard Freeman is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Lernard spent nearly two decades in communications and marketing roles with both for-profit and non-profit organizations. He is passionate about mission driven work and is happy to be returning to the non-profit community as part of The Literacy Lab team. Lernard earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Kean University and is a member of the Public Relations Society of America. Lernard enjoys spending time with his family and friends, watching and playing sports, and being the proud owner of a rescue dog.
Strategic Initiatives Manager
Katya Forbes is the Strategic Initiatives Manager 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.
Kenneth Glenn is the Program Associate for the Cincinnati Leading Men Fellowship. As a professional athlete, Kenneth competed internationally in track & field for the country of Honduras. Kenneth has also served on Boards and worked in programs, schools, and nonprofit organizations throughout Cincinnati. Alongside The Business Hospital, he also assists small businesses in the realms of financial strategy and project management. Kenneth has Bachelors and a Masters Degree in Accountancy from Miami University in Accountancy.
Director of Equity, Impact, and Anti Racism
Aja Goode is a Equity, Impact, and Anti Racism Manager 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.
Brandon Graves is the Program Manager for the Leading Men Fellowship in Virginia. His passion for justice and urban ministry was sparked by his experience working as the Youth Development Coordinator for the YMCA in Norfolk, VA in 2013. After that he spent most of his professional career working in local news as a photojournalist and Director of Visual Presentation for 13News Now in Norfolk. There he was able to continue his leadership experience and passion for coaching and mentoring young and seasoned professionals. Brandon graduated from Old Dominion University with a Bachelor’s in Communications and is currently finishing his Master’s in Biblical Studies. He is passionate about the NBA, social justice, Amazon book purchases, family, Funko Pops, and his faith.
Kaneshia Greene is a Program Manager for The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship in DC. She earned her degree in English with a concentration in Secondary Education from the University of South Carolina. She is passionate about creating opportunities for equality within the classroom and believes literacy is the foundation to a great education. Kaneshia brings several years of project management experience to The Literacy Lab team.
Darionne Hardaway served as a K-3 tutor at Center Elementary in Kansas City, MO from 2019-2020. After serving, she continued her work in non-profits and education prior to coming back to The Literacy Lab as a Program Associate. Darionne holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology with an emphasis on Child Advocacy from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Chief Program Officer
Mia Harding is the Chief Program Officer. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Mia was a Program Director at The Richmond Neighborhood Center in San Francisco where she actively sought to bring equitable education opportunities, family partnership, and holistic student support to the communities she served. Mia has 11 years of experience advocating for educational equity and holistic, student centered practices with a focus on meeting the needs of youth who identify as historically disenfranchised, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and/or are in foster care. Mia is a dog-mom to a poodle-mix named Nugget. She holds a BA in English and an MS in education.
Director of Grant Management and Strategy
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.
DC Program Manager
Chavonte Harris is a Program Manager for The Literacy Lab in Washington, DC. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Chavonte worked with Higher Achievement, a non profit organization focused on closing the opportunity gap for middle school youth through out of school time programming. She also started her career as an elementary school teacher in Maryland. Chavonte is a graduate of Spelman College, a historically black college for women in Atlanta Georgia. She earned a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Child Development. While at Spelman, she developed her passion for advocating for barriers in education to be broken for all black and brown students.
Director of Foundation Relations
KristinAnn Janishefski is the Institutional Giving Manager. She has lived and worked internationally throughout her career but now finds Carefree, Arizona home. Throughout her career, she has held numerous positions within the non-profit space working with individuals, corporate partners, foundations and donors at Opera Idaho as Director of Development as well as leading the Communications and Development team at The Cam Neely Foundation, a leading cancer non-profit founded by NHL hall of famer, Cam Neely. The intersection of literacy and education has always played an important role in her career, having also held a Director level position at the internationally renowned Aspen Art Museum working to bring arts education to under served audiences. KristinAnn loves the joy that reading and writing bring to all children no matter their background. She writes poetry in her spare time and is well versed in French and Spanish and is currently learning German.
Data and Evaluation Associate
Hannah Kennedy is a Data and Evaluation Associate at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she served a rural school system as the division school psychologist. Additionally, she has worked as a preschool teacher and an autism support professional. Hannah is passionate about evidence-based practices and meeting the needs of every child. She attended Appalachian State University, where she received her Master of Arts and Specialist in School Psychology, and the University of North Carolina Asheville, where she received a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Psychology. Hannah is currently a student in Old Dominion University’s Master of Science in Data Science and Analytics program. In her free time, she enjoys reading, creating art, and spending time with her dogs, cats, and family.
Hema Karthik, the IT Manager at the Literacy Lab in Washington D.C., boasts a wealth of experience across diverse sectors, including government, entertainment, education, energy, finance, healthcare, and technology. Her expertise is exemplified by her range of degrees and certifications in various technical domains, further complemented by a near decade of dedicated tutoring with a specialization in STEM subjects. In her free time, she enjoys pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors and exploring different parts of the world through travel. As an ardent learner and enthusiast of life, Hema wholeheartedly embraces the potential of personalized learning experiences, driven by her dedication to empowering individuals to overcome challenges with unwavering confidence.
Ellington Levy is the new Leading Men Fellowship Program Associate in Phoenix Arizona. He is originally from Chicago IL and now resides in Phoenix Arizona. Ellington has a passion for helping young men grow and succeed. He has a background in Professional Development & Marketing. Ellington also sits on the board for a couple of nonprofits in Phoenix. He has a huge heart for people and wants to see his peers and the people around him succeed.
Director of Recruitment
Anita Lovaincy is the Director of Recruitment for The Literacy Lab. Anita’s career began in the tech industry before making the transition to the nonprofit sector in 2010. An alum of CORO Leadership New York, and first-generation college graduate, Anita has dedicated her career to creating career pathways, and ensuring access to education for Black, Brown, and Queer youth. Anita holds a Bachelor’s degree in Multidisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Juvenile Justice and Community Development from Cambridge College, as well as a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Workplace Certificate from the University of South Florida, MUMA School of Business.
Deondray Love is a Program Associate at The Literacy Lab in Milwaukee, WI. A graduate of Public Allies Milwaukee, a division of AmeriCorps, Deondray is a former High School Christian Education Teacher and most recently a sixth-grade math teacher. He earned an Associates in Liberal Arts from Milwaukee Area Technical College where he served two terms as President of the Black Student Union. He is also a graduate of Liberty University Online where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Religion. A dedicated servant leader, he is committed to helping others discover, identify, nurture, surface, maximize and exercise their unique bundle of virtues to build and sustain generational legacy.
Brittany Lundy is the Grant Compliance Manager. 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 Coordinator 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.
Director of People Experience and Organizational Culture
India Maldonado is the Director of People Experience and Organizational Culture at The Literacy Lab. She is an experienced Human Resources professional with a passion for employee engagement, diversity and inclusion, performance management, and professional development. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she was a People Business Partner for GoHealth Urgent Care where she aligned business strategy with people strategy. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, with a minor in Psychology from Arizona State University. Her hobbies include travel, interior design, and finance.
Marketing and Communications Manager
Valerie Manu is the Marketing and Communications Manager at The Literacy Lab. She has over four years of experience in strategic communications, social media management, graphic design, and event planning. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she was the Communications Associate at the Virginia Early Childhood Foundation where she used her skills to advance school readiness in Virginia. Valerie earned her Master’s degree in Strategic Public Relations and a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications from the Virginia Commonwealth University.
Director of Government & Corporate Partnerships
Aamir Mansoor is the Director of Government & Corporate Partnerships for The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Aamir worked in legislative and government affairs roles in federal, state, and local governments, where he covered education matters among other things in his portfolio. Aamir earned a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Minnesota and a Juris Doctor from The George Washington University Law School.
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.
Kendaliz (Kendy) Mata is the Operations Associate at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she worked as an Administrative Assistant for American University and as an Infant Teacher for Courthouse Academy. She obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Community Health from George Mason University.
Ellis E. Murchison Jr.
LMF Program Associate
Ellis E. Murchison Jr. Is the new Program Associate at The Literacy Lab in Milwaukee WI, He joined the staff after serving 14 years in the education field as music teacher at Travis Technology School for (2) years. Without a break, Ellis transition to Early View Academy of Excellence where he served for the past 12 years. He started off as a Teachers Assistance, then was moved into a lead teacher’s position where he taught life skills class. After years of training, serving and building bridges and not walls with the youth, Ellis became an intricate part of the school atmosphere and culture and was promoted to the Behavior Intervention Specialist. Ellis holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (Mental Health), from Southern New Hampshire University. Ellis is a Chaplin for the Milwaukee Fire Department and currently Lead Pastor over Pentecostal Deliverance Church here in Milwaukee WI. Ellis is passionate about working to improve public health through literacy and education.
Tynesha North is a Program Coordinator in Washington, DC. Having obtained a degree in Anthropology, Tynesha has always possessed a strong interest in culture and social structures. She worked as an archaeology lab assistant and art museum coordinator before joining The Literacy Lab to serve as a K-3 tutor. She is currently continuing her education in Social Policy to research how the gentrification of marginalized communities leads to the destruction and preservation of subcultures.
Thomas Oakley is The Literacy Lab’s Regional Director 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.
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.
Teri Porter is the Recruitment Coordinator at The Literacy Lab in Baltimore. She has a Bachelor’s degree from Towson University in Sociology/Anthropology with a minor in Family & Human Services. Teri served three years as a Literacy Lab K-3 tutor/tutor leader at Frederick Elementary School in Baltimore, MD. She also worked as an Instructional Assistant at an elementary school & a camp counselor for underserved youth in Baltimore City. Teri is extremely passionate about working with children and fostering their love of learning & pride for their community.
Data and Evaluation Manager
Hanley is a Data and Evaluation Manager at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Hanley contributed to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) leadership development program focused on advancing health equity for three years. Hanley earned a MA in International Development from American University and has contributed to evaluation of international development programs that support family planning uptake and reducing gender-based violence through the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University.
Bernard Rahming is the Program Director 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.
Chief Regional Officer
Sarah Reape is the Chief Regional Officer. 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.
Chief Operating Officer
Henriette M. Recny is the first and proud Chief Operating Officer for The Literacy Lab. In addition to seven years of non-profit management experience, she has twenty years of experience learning from and working alongside young people through her roles as an administrator, teacher, tutor, mentor, and volunteer. Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors for Minds Matter Boston. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Henriette was Managing Director of Program Design and Evaluation and a member of the Executive Office at City Year Boston. She received a BA in literature and theory from Hampshire College and a MA in English from the University of Exeter.
Luis Rodriguez is a Program Coordinator for The Literacy Lab in Hampton Roads, VA. He has a passion for working with youth and community action. After graduating from LaGuardia High School in New York, NY, Luis returned to his hometown of Newport News, VA, where he served as a Literacy Lab tutor for 3 years prior to joining Program Staff. He is looking forward to continuing his education alongside his work with The Literacy Lab.
Director of Data and Evaluation
Ryan Rucker is the Director of Data and Evaluation at The Literacy Lab. Ryan is joining the team after over a decade working with education nonprofits, most recently serving as the Evaluation Director at City Year Greater Boston. She is passionate about increasing opportunities for students, data storytelling with an equitable lens, and elevating the experience of folks, particularly folks of color, who work within the nonprofit sector. Ryan received her Bachelor of Science and Master of Human Relations degrees from the University of Oklahoma and is currently pursuing a Doctor of Education degree in Leadership and Learning in Organizations at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College.
Taharka Sankara is a Program Assistant at The Literacy Lab. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Clark Atlanta University in Mass Media Arts. Taharka served three years as the Program Director of Careers In New Emerging Media Areas in the Alonzo A Crim Center at Georgia State University. Taharka is passionate about empowering marginalized communities to develop regenerative and self-determined culture through storytelling.
Hayleigh Santra is a Grant Writer at The Literacy Lab. Before becoming a grant writer, Hayleigh worked for over four years as a plaintiffs’ trial lawyer on behalf of people who were hurt by medical drugs and devices. She holds a Bachelor’s and Juris Doctor degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an MFA in fiction writing from The New School. She is passionate about reading and helping to ensure that every child receives the tools they need to become lifelong learners.
Arshia Sethi is a Program Manager at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she was a Teach For America Baltimore corps member and worked as a Middle School Social Studies teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools for three years, and a Director of Volunteer Recruitment at Thread. Arshia earned her Master’s degree in Secondary Education from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Studies from Northwestern University.
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.
Evan Singleton serves as the Program Manager for The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship in Baltimore, MD. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, he spent six years as the Dean of Students and Athletic Director at Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from University of Maryland, College Park. His hobbies include coaching basketball, playing tennis, cooking, attending community events, and traveling.
Raissa Singleton is the Director of Learning and Development 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.
DC LMF Program Coordinator
I am Darryl Smith from Durham, North Carolina. I’m a passionate individual driven by curiosity, creativity, and a desire to make a positive impact.With 6 years of experience in program development and management, community engagement, data analysis, and event coordination. I received my undergraduate degree from North Carolina Central University in Criminal Justice and my Masters degree in Liberal Studies from NC State University. I have developed a passion for empowering communities and driving change. When I’m not immersed in work or volunteering, you can often find me in the gym, playing sports, or freelance photography and videography.
Central Recruitment Manager
Phil Smith is the Central Recruitment Manager at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab he served two years as an AmeriCorps Member. After this time he transitioned into recruitment and analytics roles. Phil attended the University of Central Florida where he received a Bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders.
Sebastian Takeshima is the IT Coordinator. They have worked for many years in IT, working in technical support and helpdesk support. They have a degree in Computer Science from DeVry University. They have a strong passion for helping others and growing connections with people. They believe that you should never stop learning new things and always strive for greater knowledge and great experiences.
Program Operations Manager
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 the Government & Corporate Partnerships Manager. 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.
Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Stephanie spent six years working in DC and Virginia nonprofits that focused on closing the education gap with an emphasis on social justice by way of out-of-school time programming. An AmeriCorps alum and first generation college graduate, Stephanie is passionate about equity in education as well as college access and readiness. Stephanie attended Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness.
Mysiki is a native Washingtonian and an experienced educational professional with a deep passion for empowering communities of color. He works to create safe and inclusive cultures for children while advocating for marginalized communities through grassroots organizing and education. Mysiki possesses a wide range of skills in technology, local government, and non-profit management. He also loves to engage in juvenile justice, behavioral sciences, and criminal law. In his free time, you can find Mysiki jogging or biking the Anacostia River Trail or watching court cases on Youtube.
Adriana Valtinson is a Program Associate at the Literacy Lab in Baltimore, MD. Before joining the team as a staff member, she served as a K-3 Tutor for two years and as a Tutor Leader for one year. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Literary and Cultural Studies and a Master’s degree in Composition and Literacy Studies from the University of Oklahoma. Having worked with students who come from different places and economic backgrounds, she is invested in equity in education and ensuring that students from marginalized communities have the same opportunities as students from economically affluent communities.
Josie Verchomin is a Program Coordinator 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.
Ebanē Ward is the Leading Men Program Operations 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.
Program Associate | Leading Men Fellowship
Lejae is the Program Associate for LMF in Baltimore and is coming to The Literacy Lab with years of Education experience. Working in underserved communities throughout the country, including Washington DC, Baltimore, and Los Angeles as a teacher, administrator, and non-profit professional, she is determined to create learning experiences that embody equity and inclusion and uplift those who struggle to find a sense of belonging in our society. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with Human Development and Gender Studies minors from the University of Maryland, College Park.
Navarro Whitaker is a Program Manager for Arizona’s Leading Men Fellowship. Previous to The Literacy Lab, Navarro spent over a decade leading young men toward personal success and serving the public and private educational system through marketing, recruiting, and improving schools and universities.
DC Program Coordinator
Dominique Young is a Program Coordinator at The Literacy Lab. She is a native New Yorker who received her Bachelor’s degree in English from CUNY Brooklyn College. Dominique is passionate about education as shown by her 10+ years’ experience teaching preschoolers, working with elementary school kids, and teaching at the university level. Currently, Dominique is earning her graduate degree at the University of Maryland, College Park where she researches African American women’s popular fiction, film, and music videos from the 1990s. In her free time she enjoys attending concerts, doing makeup, studying film, and writing.
Rudi Zelman is a Regional 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.
Jasmine S. Bounds is a Coaching Specialist for the Milwaukee Leading Men Fellows. She joins The Literacy Lab with over 10 years of service and experience within the K-12 classrooms of public, charter and private schools, as well as in the non-profit sector. Serving in many capacities and roles during this time including special education teacher, ELA teacher, and multiple leadership roles, Jasmine has been able to teach reading development skills to struggling students with passion and grit, while also equipping her peers and the parents of students with additional tools and strategies needed to support their scholars. With a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, a Master’s degree in Inclusive Education, and an MBA in Educational Leadership, Jasmine has shared her skills, talents, love for reading and literacy while equipping members of the Milwaukee community, inside and outside of the classroom.
Patience Davis is a Pre-K Leading Men Coaching Specialist in the Baltimore region. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Administration & Supervision from Coppin State University. Educating and servicing children and families is her passion. She is committed to sharing her love of learning with others. Patience has worked in the field of Education for 21 years. During that time, she has worked as a Pre-K and Head Start teacher, Supervisor of Education, and an Instructional Coach. Patience is married to a Lt. Colonel in the US Army and has three children and one grandson. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, spending time with family, and fitness training.
K-3 Senior Coaching Specialist
Gina Dermigny is a K-3 Senior Coaching Specialist in Washington DC. She has a decade of experience in education, as a K-2 educator, a literacy specialist, and an instructional coach. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Gina completed a Master’s degree in Education Policy Studies from University College London. She also holds a Master’s in Elementary Education. As an AmeriCorps NCCC alum, Gina values serving community and is passionate about working towards an equitable education system.
Brittiny Dorsey is a Math Corps Coaching Specialist. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Brittiny served as a STEM focused High School Special Education Teacher for several years. Brittiny holds a Master of Arts in Teaching from Morgan State University. In addition, she has a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland Eastern Shore with a concentration in Biology.
Antoinette Douglas works as a Pre-K Leading Men Coaching Specialist at The Literacy Lab. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Relations from Trinity Washington University and an Early Childhood Certificate from University of Maryland Baltimore County. Antoinette has worked as an instructional coach and curriculum manager at District of Columbia Public Schools. Also, she holds the position of Professional Development Manager at AppleTree Public Charter School. It is Antoinette’s passion and mission to ensure that children are equipped with the social, emotional, and academic skills they need to be able to excel as lifelong learners.
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.
Teri is a Coaching Specialist for The Cincinnati Leading Men Fellowship. She has over 25 years of educating primary students in grades k-3. Teri has always been passionate about teaching and training adults interested in Early Childhood Education and student achievement. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, she enjoyed sharing her expertise with adults interested in closing the achievement gap in education by understanding and implementing interventions for students. Teri has a Master’s degree in Administration and Educational Leadership which she obtained from The University of Cincinnati. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education from Tuskegee University in Alabama.
Sharlie Goodson is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Washington, DC. Sharlie was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She began her career teaching 5th grade in Miami, Florida, and has experience working with low-income communities of color. Sharlie holds a Bachelor’s degree in Humanities from Florida State University (Go ‘Noles) and a Master’s degree in Education Advocacy & Policy from Georgetown University. Sharlie is passionate about equity and ensuring racial justice through education. In her free time, she enjoys playing soccer, watching football, and going to DC restaurants with friends.
Kevin Green is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Springfield, MA. Green is also a Master’s level social work practitioner, a purpose-driven connector and change agent with a passion for advocacy and education. He is the chief visionary and CEO of Seeds of a Father, a 501 C3 nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the overall well-being and enrichment of father/child relational development. Green has demonstrated knowledge working with various populations that present unique challenges and has a history of creating initiatives that focus on encouraging education and quality of life.
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.
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
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.
Kayvona Hewitt is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in Washington, DC. She previously served as a K-3 tutor and Recruitment Associate with The Literacy Lab. Prior to rejoining the team, she was a Kindergarten and 1st grade teacher at a DC Public Charter School. Kayvona holds a Bachelor’s degree in English and a Master’s degree in Elementary Education (Literacy). She was born and raised in DC, and is dedicated to creating equitable academic and social outcomes for young students in the communities we serve. In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, yoga, and trying new foods.
Kenneth Hobson is a Pre-K Leading Men Fellowship Coaching Specialist at the Literacy Lab in Atlanta, GA. Kenneth has over 10 years of experience in education. He started his education career as a 7th-grade reading teacher where he discovered his passion and purpose to close the literacy gap among students of color. Kenneth earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Talladega College, and a Master of Science in English Language Learning from Western Governors University. Kenneth has extensive experience in literacy interventions and strategies.
Erika James is a Leading Men Coaching Specialist in the Phoenix region. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction. She has a passion for literacy and serving children that started with her first professional role as an assistant teacher. She went on to serve as a classroom teacher, interventionist, instructional coach, and director of curriculum and instruction. In her spare time, Erika enjoys reading, traveling, and trying new foods.
Trevina Jefferson is an Early Literacy Coaching Specialist in the Tidewater Virginia area. She still keeps a photo of the first elementary class she assisted during her high school Home Economics assignment over 25 years ago. Even then, she had a passion for helping those who needed it most and knew she had certain gifts to support children and families within education. Trevina has enjoyed a career in being intentionally inclusive within the realm of education and nonprofit/government sectors in her teaching and educational leadership roles in the United States, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea. She holds a BA from University California Berkeley (cherished memories of work with Professor Starkey and Klien in the Cross-Cultural Math Project: US, China, and Japan), BA in Early Childhood Education from Northwestern College, Master’s degree in Education from California State Northridge, and completed 2 years in law school to better advocate for education. When faced with a challenge, her first question is not “if it can be done” but “how can it be done.”
Pre-K Leading Men Fellowship Coaching Specialist
Lesley Lane is a Pre-K Leading Men Fellowship Coaching Specialist at The Literacy Lab. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Lesley served as a Special Education Teacher with American Leadership Academy. Mrs. Lane has also worked in the financial aid industry for several institutions in Arizona. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism and a Master’s degree in Education.
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.
Amy Marschel is a Pre-K Leading Men Fellowship Coaching Specialist in the Phoenix area. Amy began her journey as a Special Education teacher which led her down a path to operating her own tutoring company for over fifteen years focusing on reading difficulties, specifically dyslexia. She was also fortunate to be the director of two educational foundations responsible for raising much needed funds for Arizona public schools. Amy holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Missouri-Columbia as well as a Speech Language Pathologist Assistant Certificate from Northern Arizona University.
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.”
Jendayi Mbalia is a Pre-K Leading Men Fellowship Coaching Specialist with The Literacy Lab in Milwaukee, WI. She has dedicated over ten years to the field of K-20 education. Jendayi has served as a professor, literacy interventionist, K-12 teacher, academic program manager, coach, and early literacy tutor. Additionally, she has worked with educators across the nation in an effort to promote culturally responsive practices in the classroom. She strongly believes in equity for all students and the intentional implementation of culturally responsive literacy practices. Jendayi holds a Bachelor’s of Science in education policy, with a second major in African and African Diaspora Studies, a Master’s of Science in education policy, and a Ph.D. in urban education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
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.
Alison Nyarko is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in the MA region. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Alison worked several years teaching and leading in low-income school districts throughout the United States and abroad. Additionally, Alison has experience in the non-profit management sector as she served as Country Director for an anti-child trafficking NGO in Africa. Alison is an alum of Teach for America (TFA) and the TFA RISE teacher leadership fellowship. Alison holds a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Ohio University and a Master’s degree in Educational Policy and Organizational Leadership from The University of Illinois.
Dwayne Pinkney is a Pre-K Leading Men Coaching Specialist in Washington, DC at The Literacy Lab. Dwayne has over 10 years experience working in early childhood education in Washington, DC and abroad. He started his career as a teacher assistant and later became a classroom teacher. Dwayne earned his Bachelors of Arts in Music from Morgan State University and his Masters of Arts in Teaching Early Childhood Education from Trinity Washington University. Dwayne also has experience with curriculum writing, professional development, and technology integration.
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.
Pre-K Coaching Specialist
Erin Rainey is a Pre-K Coaching Specialist in Washington, DC. She is a former special educator with extensive experience helping learners develop early literacy, math, and social-emotional skills. Erin holds a Master’s degree in Special Education and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Elementary Education.
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.
Pre-K Leading Men Fellowship Coaching Specialist
Rachelle Shells is a Coaching Specialist for The Literacy Lab’s Leading Men Fellowship in Cincinnati. She brings more than 20 years of education and library experience to the table. Rachelle has worked with K-12-level students in marginalized and insular communities to enhance learning outcomes. She is passionate about creating academic learning environments that promote student success. Rachelle has a Bachelor of Art in Education, a Master of Art in Education, and a Master in Library and Information Sciences.
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.
Donna Smith is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab, Donna was an elementary classroom teacher, Title 1 reading teacher, reading specialist, and literacy coach in Newport News Public Schools. She was also a Reading First Reading Specialist for the Virginia Department of Education. Most recently, she held a joint faculty position between Thomas Nelson Community College and Old Dominion University where she taught and advised future teachers. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from the College of William and Mary, a Master’s degree in Reading, Language, and Literacy from the College of William and Mary, and an Educational Specialist degree in Educational Leadership from The George Washington University.
Pre-K LMF Coaching Specialist
Tammie R. Strayhorn is a Leading Men’s Fellowship Coaching Specialist at The Literacy Lab in Cincinnati. Prior to joining The Literacy Lab she has been an Assistant Childcare Director as well as a Coaching Assistant at the Mississippi Learning Institute. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree is Early Childhood Education from Jackson State University and a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership from Belhaven University. Along with her experiences in education she is also the Owner and CEO of Stylez By Renee’, LLC where she utilizes her 15 years of cosmetology and consulting experience to service clients all over the Tri-state area. She is passionate about the forward progression of minorities in the city of Cincinnati and devotes her time to the growth and continuing education of the youth in her community.
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).
Arielle is a Leading Men Fellowship Specialist for the Atlanta Leading Men Fellowship program. Arielle has a Master of Science in Psychology, and has over 12 years of experience working in early childhood education, primarily working with programs that serve children from Birth-Pre K. Prior to joining the Literacy Lab, Arielle worked as an Inclusion and Behavior Support Specialist, Coach, and Trainer with a Georgia State agency. She thoroughly enjoys working with young children and being a part of their journey.
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.
Latoya Turner is a Leading Men Fellowship Coaching Specialist in Cincinnati, OH. Prior to The Literacy Lab, Latoya taught for 13 years in grades K-2 in Detroit, PGCPS, and Cincinnati. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Central State University and a Master’s degree in Reading & Literacy from Central Michigan University. Latoya is passionate about Black children’s books and she is a children’s book author of Brown Hands, White Sand and Brown Hands, Black Schools: HBCUs.
Zoe Walton is a K-3 Coaching Specialist in the Hampton Roads area. She has previously served with AmeriCorps as apart of the VISTA program. Prior to joining the Literacy Lab she worked as a Kindergarten Teacher in Richmond Public Schools and at DC Public Charter School for 6 years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies for Early/Elementary Education, a Master’s degree in Teaching and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Educational Leadership. She is fluent in Spanish and is currently pursuing a Spanish/English Translation Interpretation certification. Zoe has a deep love for languages and is also studying Sign Language. In her free time she enjoys roller skating and spending time with her puppy son, Keats. She is really excited to join the Literacy Lab this year and continue to make her mark on education!
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.
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.
Jermaine Myrie is the Chief External Affairs Officer (CEAO) at uAspire, currently living and working in the greater Boston area. His areas of focus as the CEAO are development, earned revenue, marketing, communications, and external relations.
Besides working to build an internally functional and mission-aligned development team, Jermaine travels all over the country, attending conferences and stakeholder meetings to gain new insights and learnings and share best-in-class development and organizational practices. When he isn’t binge-reading articles on leadership and inspirational quotes, Jermaine loves to spend time with his family, muddling through home improvement projects or new cooking recipes.
Jermaine holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Sociology and a Master of Arts in Education. His professional career spans work in both the education and private sector.
Dr. Michelle Harris Bondima
Dr. Michelle Harris Bondima joined the Morgan State University Community College Leadership Doctoral Program in October 2011 as Statewide Coordinator. She received her PhD in Science Education, concentrating in Environmental Science, from the University of Maryland College Park; Master of Science in Environmental Science from The Johns Hopkins University; and BS in Biopsychology from University of Maryland Baltimore County. She also received certification from Oxford University, England, with the designated topic entitled, “Science and Faith: The Great Matter.” Dr. Bondima was one of only 40 international scholars with a particular expertise and interest in this topic selected to participate in a symposium series for discussion of contemporary issues affecting science and faith.
Dr. Bondima retired as the Dean of Business, Allied Health, Science and Math, after 32 years at Baltimore City Community College. As a professor she taught inorganic and organic chemistry, and environmental science. She is a Kellogg Fellow in Developmental Education and has over 40 years of consulting experience with students in STEM programs as well as partnerships with community colleges and universities in bioscience and community college leadership programs.
Jyllian began her career as a high school teacher in Orange County, FL teaching high school language arts and ethics. After attending the University of Dayton School of Law, she went on to focus on Education Law and Labor and Employment practice. She served as General Counsel to the Dayton City School District for many years before transitioning to private practice in 2018. Jyllian has been recognized as a Dayton Business Journal Forty Under 40, Best Lawyers One to Watch, Ohio Super Lawyers Rising Star, and a 2022 TEDxDayton Speaker.
A native of Washington, D.C., Torren L. Cooper is a strong advocate for education equity and mentoring. His passion was ignited by his participation in the Leading Men Fellowship Program in 2016 where he worked as a literacy tutor with The Literacy Lab providing preschool students with individualized reading intervention to prepare them for kindergarten and ultimately life beyond. Inspired by his work in the program, Torren began his career in education in 2017 as a paraprofessional and then as a classroom lead teacher in 2019 upon completing Moreland University’s Teacher Certification Program. Since beginning in education, Torren has created and developed a mentoring program for males in grades 3rd-5th, assisted with parent and community engagement initiatives, and supported school wide communications and public relations through his background and skills in media; he is currently a first grade teacher in the District of Columbia Public School system.
Torren is a 2010 graduate of McKinley Technology HS in Washington, D.C. and has earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Broadcast Communications from Millersville University of Pennsylvania in 2014 and a Masters of Divinity at Howard University School of Divinity 2018. His Doctorate of Ministry degree program will commence in the spring of 2023 at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio. In the community, he is the Chair of the Education Committee for the Alpha Sigma Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. and the Young Adult Minister at First Baptist Church of Highland Park in Landover, Maryland; he was licensed as a minister in 2018. As a budding educator, minister, and community leader, Torren Cooper desires to empower and inspire youth and young adults in his reach through education advocacy and spiritual inspiration.
Ashley Jenkins is the Human Resources Director of the Americas Sales Organization at Meta, currently living and working in the New York City metropolitan area. A native of Chicago, Ashley received her BA in Sociology from DePaul University and her Master of HR & Industrial Relations from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She has spent her career spanning a handful of companies and industries – prior to Meta, she was a senior HR leader at The Hershey Company and held various HR roles at Microsoft and Aon.
Ashley is an advocate for service – she’s a proud 17-year member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. (a public service organization), serving on several youth-focused committees and leading programming initiatives. She’s combined her passion for global travel with her enthusiasm to serve and has volunteered in several schools & group homes in South Africa, Trinidad, Kenya, Morocco, and Ghana. Ashley’s life experiences have fueled an alignment with the values espoused by The Literacy Lab – she wholeheartedly believes that it is our inherent duty to unlock opportunities for Black & Brown children and that we must combat the systems that perpetuate inequity, especially in education. She feels fortunate to be able to champion these values – albeit for employees of color – in the workplace as well.
Ashley is inspired by her partner who serves as an Assistant Principal in a Bronx, NY middle school – witnessing his everyday work invigorates her excitement to further the Literacy Lab’s mission! In her free time, she loves to workout, travel, and frequent new restaurants.
Heather Jenkins is the Chief Executive Officer of The Literacy Lab. 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 20 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.
Dr. Dana Kravchick
Dana has a doctoral degree in Neuroscience. She constantly strives for innovation and practices lifelong learning. In the past two years Dana took her passion for education a leap forward. Transitioning from her full time position as a Neuroscientist in biotech to becoming a founder and CEO. In her EdTech company, tailorEd, Dana designed and developed software for analyzing students’ progress on digital learning tools and mastery outcomes to fully support personalized learning models. This platform is currently used by some of the most innovative schools in the country. Dana is driving product design and development, managing sales, hiring, and winning awards to support the company. Her mission is to create the most accessible, simple and affordable technological solution to help educators transition to a personalized learning model regardless of their classrooms’ sizes and budgets. She believes in human potential to create a better world and it is her dream to help grow students’ agency over their learning by providing them and their educators the best tools to do so.
Dr. Manisha Maskay
Dr. Maskay has over 40 years of experience in public health, medical nutrition therapy, health education, and facilitation of positive change in health behaviors. She is devoted to promoting all forms of literacy to enable people to live their best lives. She has held leadership positions in health care, academic medicine and public health. She has also taught undergraduate, graduate, and medical students, and has provided direct patient care. She retired from her position as Chief Program Officer at Prism Health North Texas, Dallas in 2019. Prior to that she served as a Public Health Administrator at Columbus Public Health, Columbus, OH, and before then as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine and Director of Clinical Nutrition and Health Education Services at the University of Chicago. She has received commendations for her contributions to public health and academic medicine. She is currently involved in a variety of volunteer activities. Her diverse background, leadership and administrative skills, and collaborative abilities, have been key to the strategic development and growth of integrated service delivery and promotion of health equity by addressing social determinants of health and the whole person.
Quinci Moody is the Vice President of Finance and Operations at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, “America’s Black think tank”. A dedicated nonprofit executive with nearly twenty years of experience, Quinci is passionate about guiding emerging nonprofits to achieve their highest potential. She especially enjoys building capacity in organizations working to strengthen vulnerable or underserved communities and developing nonprofit leaders of color.
Prior to joining The Joint Center, Quinci served as Chief Operating Officer at The Fishing School, a nonprofit that provides year-round out-of-school-time academic, life skills, and parent engagement programming for youth and families from Washington, DC’s most under-resourced communities. During her ten-year tenure, Quinci served as a critical thought partner to the chief executive, facilitated significant organizational expansion, and oversaw the organization’s fundraising, programs, and operational functions such as human resources, accounting, facilities management, and information technology.
Quinci also worked to strengthen organizations through her role as Program Associate at Fair Chance, an organization that provides nonprofit leaders with tools and knowledge they need to thrive. Hired to continue the organization’s expansion into new communities, Quinci successfully led outreach, consulting, and capacity building efforts in several of Washington, DC’s most underserved communities.
Quinci is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, serves as a professional mentor at Mentors of Color, and is a founding board member of WAVE Scholarship Fund. She earned a BA in English from Florida A&M University and a Master of Public Administration with a concentration in Nonprofit Management from American University.
Geraldine (GiGi) Northrop
Springfield, Massachusetts born, GiGi was raised in Bristol, Pennsylvania by a mother who models community involvement still to this day. GiGi spent what free time she had outside of school; at her local library, volunteering, doing extracurriculars, babysitting and working 4 seasons at Sesame Place.
After graduating high school, GiGi returned to Western Mass to study music and communications at Simmons College in Boston which she did until her priorities switched to motherhood. After being a stay at home Mom for 2 years GiGi continued her work with youth as a counselor for 3 seasons at a summer camp called ArtRageous. She is now Assistant Director of said camp which originally knew her as a camper in its debut year. When COVID displaced her from her job at AIC in 2020, GiGi stumbled upon the Literacy Lab. She served as a K-3 tutor for 2 years at Morgan Elementary school in Holyoke where she is now the full-time Librarian and an after school program facilitator.
A creative, loving, nurturing nature; lessons and activities focused on self-awareness and social-emotional intelligence, partnered with her life experiences and being exposed to literacy/equity/equality activism from a young age, puts GiGi well in alignment with the vision of the Literacy Lab. She is honored to be a part of this team and excited to assist in furthering its mission!
Dr. Robert Simmons
Robert Simmons is Head of Social Impact & STEM Programs at Micron Technology. He is also a Scholar in Residence at American University. Innovative STEM education and social impact leader, with 20+ years’ experience in managing critical initiatives across matrixed teams and strategic partners at the intersection of community engagement, STEM education, diversity, equity and inclusion. Nationally recognized scholar and community leader with experience leading startup efforts inside of organizations while mitigating risks to ensure deep impact and timely execution. Utilizes a variety of data analysis tools as a trained researcher and develops analytics to foster organizational effectiveness, teamwork, and continuous improvement. Specializes in all facets of managing and establishing partnerships to elevate social impact, drive sustainability, and results.
Robbert received his B.S. in Elementary Education, in Science and Mathematics from Western Michigan University, his M.S. in Education from Lawrence Technological University, and his Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership and Administration from Hamline University. Robert was one of the founders of The Leading men fellowship in Washington, D.C.
Dr. Bweikia Steen
Bweikia Steen is an Associate Professor of Education at George Mason University, where she also serves as the Early childhood Internship coordinator. Her research focuses on exploring developmentally appropriate practices that promote social, emotional, and academic success among children of color during the early years. Bweikia received her Doctorate of Education in International and Multicultural Education (IME) from the University of San Francisco.
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.
Tom Dillon is a Senior Advisor at 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.