2020 – 2021
Education Policy Fellows
Wren Millsaps has been teaching for ten years. He has taught middle school ELA at Cullowhee Valley and high school English at Swain County and Robbinsville. Wren has taught all grade levels in high school and also has a certificate in history. He was the Graham County Schools Teacher of the Year in 2019. His greatest goal as a teacher is to give students high interest reading materials and he hopes that he can inspire a love for reading in some each year. He coaches both JV football and middle school and varsity wrestling. Wren takes great pride in the young men and women that their programs have developed. His wife Tiffany and his two year old daughter Hadley are his entire life and a reason that he strives to do the best in all that he does.
Dr. Hannah Reeder
Dr. Betsy Rosenbalm
Rachel Shepherd is an assistant principal at Watauga High School in Boone, NC. She serves as the school test coordinator, coordinates professional development, and facilitates the beginning teacher program. She is a former high school history and English teacher and instructional technology facilitator. Rachel holds a Master’s degree in Educational Media from Appalachian State University and a Master’s certificate in School Administration from Gardner-Webb University. She is also a National Board Certified teacher. Rachel is currently a doctoral candidate at East Tennessee State University in the Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis program. She is married to Brandon, a law enforcement officer, and they have four children, ages 14, 9, 4, and 2. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, reading, and scuba diving.
Colby White is a 2010 Graduate of Robbinsville High School and a 2014 Graduate of Western Carolina University. He was fortunate enough to be a North Carolina Teaching Fellow while at WCU. He currently teaches high school mathematics at RHS. His hobbies include coaching football, coaching wrestling, reading (on occasion), and playing with his 18 month old daughter.
Dr. Jeff Batten’s career began when he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. After graduating in 1992, he conducted research on gravity sensing organs of newts at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. He received master’s (1997) and doctor of philosophy (2002) degrees in Plant Pathology & Microbiology from Texas A&M University. He went on to conduct postdoctoral research on the biochemistry of viruses at North Carolina State University. In 2004, he became a middle school science teacher at Hawley Middle School in Granville County, NC. Jeff was recognized as the 2014-2015 Teacher of the Year at Hawley Middle School. He explored teaching opportunities outside of his middle school classroom including teaching LEGO robotics as part of the county’s STEM summer camp in 2015; developing/teaching classes on rocketry and human body systems as Duke TIP instructor from 2010-2012; and teaching environmental science and biology as an instructor for the University of Phoenix from 2011 to 2015. Jeff has also served as a mentor, team leader, soccer coach, and substitute bus driver. Jeff completed a Master of School Administration degree in May 2020 through the award-winning North Carolina State Principal Preparation Program. As part of the program, he served as Principal Resident at JF Webb High School in Oxford, NC. Currently, Jeff is an Assistant Principal at South Granville High School in Creedmoor, NC.
Marisa Bryant brings a wealth of knowledge from the non-profit sector to the Public School Forum of North Carolina, having served as volunteer, employee and board member for many local nonprofits. Marisa served as President of the Junior League of Raleigh, Major Gifts Coordinator for Urban Ministries of Wake County, as Membership Coordinator for Triangle Land Conservancy, and in several development roles at UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University Medical Center. Marisa is also a trained Community Action Poverty Simulation facilitator. Marisa coordinates and advances the Forum’s individual and corporate giving, including sponsorships for the Forum’s four signature events: Eggs and Issues, Synergy Conference, the Jay Robinson Education Leadership Awards Gala and the Color of Education Summit. Marisa also manages grants for the Forum. Marisa received a BS in Political Science from Elon College and a Masters in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.
Dr. Callie Edwards
Amanda Fratrik works as a Fiscal Analyst in education for the North Carolina General Assembly. She started her career as a high-school physics teacher in the School District of Philadelphia through Teach For America. She then returned to rural Lumpkin County, Georgia to teach 6th grade earth science. She received her Master’s Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania and her JD from Harvard Law School. She is also a proud graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she received her bachelor’s degree in physics. She clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit for the Honorable Harris Hartz. She currently lives in Durham, NC. She looks forward to engaging with educators and policymakers through this fellowship.
Dr. Eric Grebing
Dr. Dawn Mendonca Meskil is currently serving as a Preschool Exceptional Children (619) Co-Coordinator with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Office of Early Learning. In this role she supports cross sector state collaborations and provides support to local school districts to ensure all young children with disabilities have access to a high quality early childhood education. Dawn began her career 22 years ago as an Early Head Start teacher, home visitor and coordinator. She later served as a state consultant and as an assistant director of a regional office with the North Carolina Infant and Toddler Program. She spearheaded the creation of the first public Montessori school in Western North Carolina and most recently served as the Preschool Program Director with Asheville City Schools. She earned a Birth-Kindergarten degree from Appalachian State University, an MSW from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis from East Tennessee State University. Dawn lives in Marshall, North Carolina with her husband, daughter and their team of four-legged family members.
Jeanie Owens is proud to serve as the 5th-grade teacher at Ocracoke School in Hyde County. Originally from Abingdon, Virginia, Jeanie earned her Bachelors with Honors in History and German from Radford University and a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Virginia Tech. In 2019 she received her Graduate Certificate in School Leadership from Appalachian
State University. Jeanie has taught in a variety of classroom settings over her twenty-year career including at the university, high school, middle school, and elementary levels. Jeanie moved from the New River Valley in Virginia to Ocracoke Island in 2014 where she became the school’s 4th-grade teacher. Along with her classroom responsibilities, Jeanie also serves
Ocracoke School as the School Improvement Chair, the Testing Coordinator, and the Lead AIG teacher. Jeanie values and admires the resilience of the Ocracoke community. She acts as
Secretary for the Ocracoke Preservation Society Board and has published a book on the history of Ocracoke through Arcadia Publishing. Jeanie was recently named the Richard A. Schwartz Honored Educator Scholar for 2020-2021 by the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching. She is honored to be the 2020 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Northeast Region Teacher of the Year. Her passion for equitable education lies in building TRUST between teachers and students through teamwork, relationships, understanding of self, feeling safe and secure, and working with tenacity. Jeanie believes that resiliency through service is at the heart of the teaching profession.
Shayla Rexrode is an Education Solution Architect with Lenovo. As an Education Solution Architect, much of her time is spent researching, developing and implementing innovative education solutions that transform teaching and learning. She began her career in the classroom and has thus since spent the past 20 years working for organizations that support a shared vision for providing equitable solutions to promote and sustain teaching and learning for all students. In addition to her experience in the classroom, she has served as a district administrator, digital consultant with SMART Technologies, an Education Partnership Manager with Discovery Education and most recently as a Senior Research Scholar with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation. Her experience working with teachers, administrators and superintendents has allowed her to better support effective personalized and digital learning cultures that meet the needs of every student. Shayla has led customized professional learning opportunities for teachers, coaches, and school and district leaders, while also engaging with district and school leaders to strategically plan for the transition to personalized and digital learning.
Dr. Mary Styers
Dr. Felisha A. Whitaker is a District Literacy Specialist and Middle School Coordinator for Granville County Public Schools. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Elizabeth City State University and both her Master of School Administration and Doctor of Education degrees from East Carolina University. She has been an educator for over 25 years. After teaching English for ten years in Edgecombe and Northampton County Schools, she received the NC Principals’ Fellows scholarship and completed a master’s degree in School Administration and Curriculum and Instruction. Dr. Whitaker has worked as a principal at the elementary, middle, and high school level. Her greatest work and accomplishment as a school administrator was working with wonderful, dedicated teachers and staff to turn around low performing schools. Her experience also includes being Director of Secondary Education, Testing and Accountability, Student Services, and Title I. She has received certifications in the following areas: English Language Arts (9-12); National Board for Professional Teaching Standards in Adolescence and Young Adulthood (AYA); Curriculum and Instruction, School Administration (K-12); and Superintendent (K-12). Being an educator is not only her passion, but it is her life’s calling. She believes that all children are unique-there is something special about each of them. As an educator, she must ensure equity in education for all students by providing them with the necessary tools they need for success and by promoting the academic, physical, social, and emotional growth and well-being of all students. “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” Chinese proverb