2015 Education Innovation Fellows

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Stephanie Beer, International Academy at Cardozo Education Campus

Stephanie Beer is a social studies/ESL teacher at the International Academy at Cardozo Education Campus, where she teaches ninth and tenth grade U.S. history to students from nine different countries. Previously, she taught social studies at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School. Stephanie earned a master’s degree in International Education and Training and a graduate certificate in teaching secondary education (social studies) from American University. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations and Spanish from New York University. After college, Stephanie taught English to first and second graders in a bilingual school in Madrid, Spain, in addition to teaching SAT prep in Seoul, South Korea, during the summer of 2010. In 2011, she participated in the Franco-American Teachers in Training Institute, an international teacher exchange program funded by the U.S. State Department, and spent four months teaching history and geography in a French high school.


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Alexander Brown, Randle Highlands Elementary School

Alexander Brown is a fifth grade math teacher and mathematics chair at Randle Highlands Elementary School. He began his career internationally, teaching English in Arusha, Tanzania, and Seoul, South Korea. Upon returning stateside, he taught fourth and fifth grade math at Friendship Public Charter Schools. At Friendship PCS, he was honored as Teacher of the Year in 2011 and received the Epic Award for high student achievement in urban schools. He graduated magna cum laude from Old Dominion University with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.


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Lauren Castillo, Truesdell Education Campus

Lauren Castillo is an eighth grade English teacher and literacy coach at Truesdell Education Campus. She began her education career in DC Public Schools in 2007 as a Teach For America corps member and has since served in many capacities as a teacher leader at her school. Lauren is an alumna of Emory & Henry College and received a master’s degree in education from George Mason University.



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Brianna Copley, Anacostia High School

Brianna Copley is a special education teacher at Anacostia Senior High School in southeast Washington, D.C. She specializes in literacy instruction for students with severe learning and emotional disabilities and serves as the special education department chair. Additionally, Brianna has served on the DCPS Chancellor’s Teachers’ Cabinet and was a National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education Fellow in 2012-2013. She is also currently a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow and was a 2009 Teach For America corps member. She received a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Midland Lutheran College, a master’s degree in theology from Harvard Divinity School, and a master’s degree in education from George Mason University.


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Samantha Ellerbeck, Center City Public Charter Schools—Brightwood Campus

Samantha Ellerbeck is the middle school English Language Arts teacher at Center City Public Charter Schools’ Brightwood Campus. She began her career as a D.C. educator through Urban Teacher Center after serving for a year with AmeriCorps in Oakland, California. Since arriving at Brightwood, Samantha has joined the Center City curriculum team, received a grant from EnjoyReading, and designed and implemented various co-teaching models to reach a diverse range of learners. Samantha graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology from Carleton College and earned two master’s degrees in elementary and special education through Lesley University.


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Sarah Elwell, McKinley Technology Education Campus

Sarah Elwell is a library media specialist at McKinley Technology Education Campus in DC Public Schools. Previously, she spent eight years as a secondary English teacher, also in DCPS; she has also worked as a local professional development instructor through the Washington Teachers’ Union and has been a national trainer with the American Federation of Teachers. A native Washingtonian and DCPS graduate, she is dedicated to enhancing the quality of instruction and educational opportunities for all students. Sarah earned her bachelor’s degree in English and education from Swarthmore College and her master’s degree in school library media at the Catholic University of America.


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Claire Finn, Latin American Youth Center Career Academy

Claire Finn is a founding teacher at the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) Career Academy. Her students are 16- to 24-year-old disconnected youth seeking to pass the GED. She currently teaches math, serves as an instructional coach, and is the GED instructional team leader. Claire is working to develop evaluation rubrics and peer observation protocols, in addition to helping to lead in their implementation. She was also a fellow in the 2014 Leading Educators cohort. Prior to her work at LAYC, Claire taught IB history and U.S. history at Nido de Aguilas International School in Santiago, Chile, where she served as social studies department chair and helped design a schoolwide overhaul of the social studies curriculum. Claire began her career at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago, Illinois, teaching AP U.S. history and global studies. She earned a bachelor’s degree in comparative area studies from Duke University and a master’s degree in education from Northwestern University.


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Nicholas Ford, The SEED School of Washington, D.C.

Nicholas Ford teaches 10th grade world history and 12th grade AP government at the SEED School of Washington, D.C. During the 2014-15 school year, he was a world history teacher at Ballou Senior High School. Prior to coming DC Public Schools, he taught in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, where he also coached boys’ lacrosse. He is largely interested in blending technology in the traditional classroom. Nick graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a bachelor’s degree in history.


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David Gesualdi, The Walker Jones Education Campus

David Gesualdi is a Pre-K through eighth grade physical education and health teacher at the Walker Jones Education Campus. In addition to his teaching responsibilities at Walker Jones, he serves as a T3 teacher leader, working to build teacher capacity and emphasize student growth and achievement. David earned a bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and a master’s degree in education from the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia. Upon graduating, he taught abroad at the American School of Asuncion in Paraguay, where he enjoyed the opportunity to teach, travel, and learn from the new culture. He returned to the United States to be an integral part of the founding staff of a D.C. public charter school. After transitioning to DC Public Schools years later, David was selected as a capital commitment fellow, a TeachPlus fellow, and a teacher selection ambassador, as well as being recognized as a DCPS emerging leader in physical education.


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Alison Gillmeister, Center City Public Charter Schools—Shaw Campus

Alison Gillmeister is a fourth through eighth grade English for Speakers of Other Langauges (ESOL) teacher at Center City Public Charter Schools’ Shaw campus. In her time at Center City, she has led the middle school girls’ book club, coached basketball, and served as a mentor teacher. Alison started her teaching career in D.C. through the Capital Teaching Residency and became a middle school English Language Arts teacher before specializing in instruction for English language learners. Alison stays connected to the experience of learning in a second language by continuing to take classes in French and Spanish, and in 2013, she completed a summer Spanish immersion program in Cochabamba, Bolivia. A native of Buffalo, New York, Alison earned her bachelor’s degree in humanities from Yale University.


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Emily Hueber, E.L. Haynes Public Charter High School

Emily Hueber is the assistant principal for grades nine through 12 at E.L. Haynes Public Charter High School. Before assuming her role as assistant principal, Emily was a ninth and 10th grade math teacher at E.L. Haynes Public Charter High School. She has previously taught at Columbia Heights Educational Campus in Washington, D.C., and MATCH Public Charter Middle School in Boston, Massachusetts. Emily earned her master’s degree in secondary education from American University and holds a bachelor’s degree in economics and political science from the University of Delaware. Emily is a Leading Educators Fellow and was a member of the 2013-2014 New Leaders for New Schools Emerging Leaders Program.


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Asante Johnson, Youth Services Center

Asante Johnson is an instructional coach at the D.C. Youth Services Center, a partnership between DCPS and the juvenile justice system. Previously, she was a middle school science teacher, technology integration coach, and STEM coach at Wheatley Education Campus. Asante has held numerous leadership roles, such as department chair, instructional coach, and grade level team leader, in various school districts. She is also a published science education writer. Asante was named a ,aster teacher by Orange County Public Schools in central Florida and was awarded PTA Teacher of the Year in Alexandria City, Virginia. She earned a bachelor’s degree in micro-molecular biology and a master’s degree in secondary science education from the University of Central Florida. In her spare time, Asante loves reading, cooking, traveling, and working out.


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Brandon Johnson, Browne Education Campus

Brandon Johnson is a fifth grade math and science teacher at Browne Education Campus. He earned his master’s degree and a certificate of nonprofit management from Case Western Reserve University while serving as a social worker for the Cleveland public school system. After graduating, Brandon began a teaching residency program with the Urban Teacher Center. He has since earned a master’s degree in elementary and special education from Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Brandon ultimately hopes to one day start his own elementary school.


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Diane Johnson, Orr Elementary School

Diane Johnson is a fifth grade math and science teacher at Orr Elementary School. She has previously taught second and third grade math and English Language Arts, and she uses her love for music and excitement for learning to create songs and rhymes to assist in student development and creativity. Diane holds a dual bachelor’s degree in mathematics and education from Manhattan College in New York City and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in special education.


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Yolanda Johnson, Cleveland Elementary School

Yolanda Johnson is a second and third grade dual language English teacher at Cleveland Elementary School. She is a more than twenty-year DC Public Schools veteran teacher, holding an early childhood education degree from the University of the District of Columbia and a master’s degree in educational technology from Southeastern University. She has been a Teacher Selector Ambassador for DCPS, yearbook chairperson, and Fundations lead, and she serves on the Local School Advisory Team. In 2012, Yolanda received the Rubenstein Award for Highly Effective Teachers.


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Kelley Jones, Orr Elementary School

Kelley Jones is an early childhood and third grade special education teacher at Orr Elementary School. She has been rated highly effective for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 school years, and she is a recipient of the Euphemia L. Haynes award for Excellence in Teaching from Catholic University for 2013-2014 school year. She holds a bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation services from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, where she graduated magna cum laude, and a master’s degree in early childhood special education from Catholic University in Washington, D.C.


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Blair Mishleau, KIPP DC Heights Academy

Blair Mishleau is the technology specialist at KIPP DC Heights Academy in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C., where he teaches technology to the school’s first through fourth graders and provides logistical and instructional support to teachers regarding technology use. His passions lies in using logistics, technology, and coaching to make teachers’ lives easier. Blair has worked as an operations director coordinator and corps member advisor for Teach For America’s Tulsa Institute. Prior to moving to D.C., he taught middle school reading in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He holds a bachelor’s degree in new media from Columbia College Chicago.


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Kate O’Connor, E.L. Haynes Public Charter Elementary School

Kate O’Connor is a third grade teacher at E.L. Haynes Public Charter Elementary School in Washington, D.C., where she leads a team of third grade teachers in planning, teaching, assessing, and reflecting in order to support achievement for all students. She previously taught second grade as a Teach For America corps member. Before she began teaching, Kate worked in operations in Boston Public Schools and in development and assessment at a Boston-area nonprofit focusing on college readiness for non-traditional students. Kate holds a master’s degree in education policy and management from Harvard University, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from George Mason University, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Wellesley College.


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Jessica Proffitt, Two Rivers Public Charter School

Jessica Proffitt is a fifth grade lead teacher at Two Rivers Public Charter School, an Expeditionary Learning school in Northeast Washington, D.C. At Two Rivers, Jessica serves as a teacher leader and sits on the instructional leadership team, which that researches and makes decisions about the school’s instructional focus. She has presented master classes on local, regional, and national level on topics such as planning and facilitating problem-based tasks, creating a culture of grappling, and using data to inform instruction. Jessica completed both her undergraduate and graduate coursework at James Madison University in Virginia, where she also conducted research in using music and movement to deepen student learning.


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Desiree Smith, Two Rivers Public Charter School

Desiree Smith holds a bachelor’s degree in political and social thought and African American studies, along with a master’s degree in public policy, from the University of Virginia. She began her teaching career as a middle school math teacher to learn how she could implement real solutions to the nation’s achievement gap. At her placement school—Center City PCS in Congress Heights—she became passionate about building urgency in her students through a blended, station rotation model. Now, she is working with a flex time model and project-based learning at Two Rivers PCS in an effort to nurture ownership and self-actualization for her students. She credits CityBridge’s Education Innovation Fellowship with providing the learning experiences and resources to push her thinking around the true purpose of education for each and every student. When not at school, she can be found serving on the video production team at Zion Church or working on her spoken word poetry.


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Nicole Welsh, DC International School

Nicole Welsh is a founding faculty member at DC International School (DCI), a language immersion International Baccalaureate candidate school in Washington, D.C. She currently teaches sixth grade English in a one-to-one technology environment at DCI. Previously, Nicole taught eighth grade English at KIPP DC WILL Academy and seventh grade language arts at Isaac J. Gourdine Middle School in Fort Washington, Maryland. Nicole was a 2009 Teach For America corps member and completed her undergraduate work in English at the George Washington University.


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Adam Zimmerman, Truesdell Education Campus

Adam Zimmerman is the director of strategy, logistics, and innovation at Truesdell Education Campus, where he previously served as the lead eighth grade English Language Arts teacher and data coordinator. Adam began his teaching career in DCPS as a Teach For America corps member. He is an alumnus of Colgate University and earned a master’s degree in public policy from Oxford University.