2021 – 2022
Education Policy Fellows
Mandi Bagget graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 1995, was a Teaching Fellows Recipient, earned her BA in Elementary Education/Psychology from NCSU in 2002, and her MA in Curriculum and Instruction. She is currently in her 27th year of teaching, and holds the following school-based positions: PBIS (Positive Behavior and Intervention Support) chair, SIP (School Improvement Chair), Grade Level Chair, Mentor Coordinator. She is currently teaching second grade. Her hobbies include watching Carolina sports, going to the beach, reading (in the summer), spending time with family and friends. Key indicator- will always wear lipstick.
Sarah Battersby currently serves Triangle Community Foundation as Senior Program Officer for Education Initiatives, managing the Foundation’s Education & Youth Impact Area, and also oversees the Foundation’s Scholarship program and the Shannon St. John Fellowship program. Prior to coming to Triangle Community Foundation, Sarah worked in higher education in a variety of roles, including career counseling, admissions, financial aid, and student affairs. Sarah is passionate about working with students and helping our future (and current!) leaders thrive; she never misses an opportunity to involve students directly as leaders in her work. Sarah is a proud native North Carolinian from New Bern, NC who graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a BA in English and a Master’s in Social Work with a concentration in Management and Community Practice and a certificate in Nonprofit Leadership. In her free time, Sarah enjoys baking, reading, and spending time with her husband and daughter. Sarah also volunteers as a mentor with the National Scholarship Providers Association and loves talking about how to make scholarships and philanthropy accessible to students and early-career professionals.
Angel Goodwine Batts
Angel Goodwine Batts is the Team Lead/Section Chief of the Integrated Academic and Behavior Systems (IABS) team at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. The IABS Team is a part of the Office of Educational Equity and partners with the Exceptional Children Division.
Angel has served on the IABS team supporting public school units (PSUs) in their implementation of a Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS) for 7 years in the roles of regional consultant, systems lead consultant and interim director. Her prior professional experiences included 3 years as a Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) regional and professional development consultant, 2 years as a district Behavior Support Liaison and PBIS District Coordinator, 11 years as Exceptional Children and Inclusion Teacher at the middle and high school levels. As Interim Director and Systems Lead, Angel worked with her team and agency partners to build and launch the Every Child Accountability System (ECATS) MTSS module and Early Warning System (EWS) as well as robust statewide support systems around student engagement, social and emotional learning, mental wellness and data. She is currently helping to lead the work of eliminating significant disproportionality through educational equity. It is her desire to support and work along-side those that need support, all while removing barriers, building capacity, and building leaders.
Mrs. Goodwine Batts has a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Talladega College in Talladega, Alabama, her master’s degree in K-12 Special Education from Jacksonville State University, in Jacksonville, Alabama and her Educational Leadership Certification from Gardner-Webb University. She continues to lead the IABS statewide team as they strive to provide support for students and staff in the most efficient and effective way that ensures that ALL have an equitable education.
Allie Blosser is an assistant professor of education in the Department of Leadership Studies at High Point University. She earned a Ph.D. in Cultural and Educational Policy Studies from Loyola University Chicago, a MA from Michigan State University, and a BA from Texas Christian University. She teaches courses such as Culturally Relevant Pedagogy, Qualitative Inquiry, and Leadership in 21st Century Systems. Her research interests include DEI policies and practices in schools, school choice policy, and teacher education. Her favorite part of her job is taking pre-service teachers to Washington D.C. to learn all about educational policy in the nation’s capital and then advocate on the Hill. Prior to pursuing her doctorate, she was a high school English teacher and college counselor in several states across the Southeast.
Carol Bono is the Communications Manager of LatinxEd and an award-winning storyteller. She was born in Guatemala, where she graduated from Universidad Rafael Landívar with a major in Communication Sciences focused on Communication for Development. During her undergraduate studies, she worked as a student research assistant for the Director of the Humanistic Studies Institute. It was here that her interest for research developed into a professional goal: to create multimedia narratives of high caliber with a firm research grounding. She earned her M.A. in Mass Communication with a focus on Journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While there, she was part of the team that produced the inaugural animation for Morehead Planetarium’s “Hidden Stories” series. This story revolves around Dorothy Vaughan and her work that helped put humans on the Moon. It won first place in the Standalone Multimedia category of the MSUSND 2018 College Design Contest. Before joining LatinxEd, she was part of EdNC as a Bilingual Multimedia Reporter. There, she created the series Comunidad to amplify the stories of strength and perseverance of our Latinx students, educators, and community. Comunidad won the 2020 North Carolina Press Association award in the Multimedia Project category.
Jennie Bryan is a 12th year 9-12 Social Studies educator. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2007 with a BA in History and received her MA in Education from Wake Forest University in 2009. During her time in the classroom she has taught a variety of social studies courses, serving students in both Pitt and Brunswick Counties . She is currently enjoying teaching AP US History at South Brunswick High School in Southport, NC. She is also serving as the 9-12 Social Studies Lead Teacher for Brunswick County Schools. Jennie enjoys engaging in leadership beyond the classroom in roles such as serving on the School Improvement Team, facilitating the Brunswick County Schools Teacher Advisory Council, and presenting at the North Carolina Social Studies Conference. In 2020, she was named the Brunswick County Schools Teacher of the Year and subsequently named the 2021 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Southeast Regional Teacher of the Year.
Monica Shuford Carpenter
Monica Shuford Carpenter is currently the Associate Vice President of Workforce Development and Continuing Education at Mayland Community College. I have served in various roles at two community colleges over the last 20 years. I am a proud graduate of Mayland Community College where I obtained my AAS in Business. I then obtained a BS Degree in Business from Gardner Webb and an MaEd and EdD in Community College Leadership from Western Carolina University. I have worked in various sectors of the community college including Student Development, Enrollment Management, and Continuing Education. I love working with students and seeing others succeed. I have two wonderful children, a 13 year old daughter and a 7 year old son.
Born in Greece to educator parents, Susanna Cerrato grew up in Massachusetts and then moved to NYC for college at Barnard and NYU. She lived, worked and taught in NYC for 12 years, earning a masters in Elementary Inclusive and Critical Special Education from Teachers College at Columbia University. After marrying, she moved to New Orleans, LA where she taught for four years working with first grade, fifth grade, as well as coaching special education teachers. With her husband Anthony and daughter Isabel (now almost 6 years old), she made the move north to Asheville in 2016, where she has taught at Ira B. Jones Elementary as a 3rd grade teacher ever since. Susanna was named Asheville City Schools District Teacher of the Year in 2020 and currently serves as the 2021 BWF Western Regional Teacher of the Year. In these roles she has spearheaded the creation of the district’s inaugural Educator Advisory Council, formed the Western Regional Teacher Advisory Council, serves on the NC Teacher Advisory Council and the Advisory Board of the North Carolina Education Corps. She has also designed and led district-wide professional development around equity. Serving as vice president for Asheville City Association of Educators, the local affiliate of NCAE, she helped lead the first school board endorsement process this previous spring and continually advocates for the empowerment of educator voice and the improvement of working conditions for the public education sector. She is passionate about inclusion, equitable access to education, culturally responsive teaching and leading with empathy.
Milagro Chavez-Cisneros earned a B. A. in Ethnicity & Race Studies from Columbia University in the City of New York. She is an associate policy analyst at The Hunt Institute, a nonprofit working at the intersection of education policy and politics. In this role, she supports the Institute’s programming and engagement in North Carolina. Milagro’s research interests include the impact of segregation and education finance litigation on educational equity in North Carolina. She is looking forward to developing a more critical understanding of the history, stakeholders and mechanisms of North Carolina’s public education system during the Fellowship.
Heddy Kovach Clark, PhD, is the Director of the STEM Learning Cooperative in the Watson College of Education (WCE) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) and Interim Director of the UNCW WCE Center for Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. She also serves as the Executive Director of STEM SENC, a regional ecosystem that brings together individuals, organizations, schools, institutions, and businesses for the purpose of supporting STEM learning in southeastern North Carolina. Across these roles, she focuses on building collaboration and engagement to offer equitable access to STEM learning opportunities. Dr. Clark holds a PhD in counseling psychology and an MA in counseling and guidance, both from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, as well as a BA in psychology from UNCW.
Patrick Conetta has more than 27 years of experience as an educator and has spent the past thirteen years supporting in-service teachers and pre-service teachers. Prior to serving as State Director of the North Carolina New Teacher Support Program and Director of Teacher Preparation and Development, Dr. Conetta served as an Instructional Coach, Regional Director, and Director of Curriculum & Instruction with NC NTSP and fully appreciates all of the important layers required to support beginning teaches through induction. Beginning his career teaching high school science, Patrick earned his B.S in Biology in Connecticut. He later returned to school to earn his Ph.D in Teacher Education/Higher Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Patrick resides in Alamance county with his wife and two sons.
Thomas Cooper III
Dr. Thomas Collins Cooper III is an Instructional Director for North Carolina Virtual Public School. He began his career in Greenville attending East Carolina University as a Teaching Fellow where he earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in Education. After graduation, he taught at a Pitt County middle school for five years. One month after getting married, he and his wife traveled to Kobe, Japan to teach in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme where he worked in two elementary schools and one middle school teaching English in the Japanese public school system. Upon returning from abroad, he completed his doctorate in Educational Leadership at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a focus on school culture and refugee education. His previous role prior to joining NC Virtual was serving as an Assistant Principal at a nationally recognized Magnet School in Wake County.
Nate Corbitt is the Campus Visit Manager for the University of North Carolina Asheville, having been in the Admission Office since 2008, and at the university since 2007. He was born and raised in Central Illinois and has an affinity for the Chicago Cubs and Notre Dame Football. Now living in Asheville, the devotion to his beloved Cubbies is being passed on to his children. While still considered a “Yankee” by his Southern friends, co-workers, and in-laws, he has developed an affinity for much of the Southern culture, particularly Southern delicacies like banana pudding, Krispy Kreme Donuts, & North Carolina barbecue.
A graduate of Appalachian State University, prior to coming to work for UNC Asheville, Nate worked in Retail Loss Prevention for Checkpoint Systems, travelling around the Southeast to all 200+ Ingles Supermarkets, auditing their theft prevention systems.
Mary Cothren, GEAR UP Coordinator Clay County Schools. I earned a M.Ed. School Counseling degree from Liberty University. I have been involved with Clay County Schools for the past 24 years as a parent, volunteer and employee. I love watching students’ faces light up as they make connections, engage in debates, problem solve and actively learn both inside and outside of the classroom. I am married and my 11 children are a constant source of laughter, pride and joy. In my spare time I enjoy gardening, reading, hiking and road trips with my family.
CJ Egalité is a manager for the Global leaders program and Dual language Spanish programs in Pitt County, Alamance Burlington School System, Orange County, New Hanover County, Washington County, and Epiphany School of Global Studies. Prior to managing these programs schools and districts around North Carolina, CJ spent 12 years teaching in 2nd – 8th grade across the country. From Indiana, Florida, Arkansas, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, CJ was able to learn from a variety of regions and cultures that make up the melting pot that is the US. His experiences in these different communities help foster his passion for social justice, global education, culturally responsive teaching and learning, and cultural competence.
Rebeca Figueroa proudly serves as the Operations Manager for YES-Appalachia, an educational non-profit organization that serves students in the counties of Ashe and Watauga. She graduated from the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) in 2013 with a Bachelor’s in Anthropology and Native American Studies. Being a first-generation college student herself, she is grateful for the opportunity to support promising, young leaders from North Carolina’s High Country in achieving their educational and career goals. Rebeca is passionate about making college access services and resources culturally and linguistically responsive to ensure that all students and their families have the necessary information to make informed decisions about postsecondary education.
Eugenia Floyd is the 2021 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts degree in History from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Following graduation, she became a teacher assistant at Morris Grove Elementary School within the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district. She completed her K-6 teacher certification at North Carolina Central University in 2013. Eugenia then began her career as a fourth grade classroom teacher at Mary Scroggs Elementary School. Through a partnership with her district, she earned a gifted certification from Elon University. She then continued on to graduate with a Master’s degree in Gifted Education in 2020 from Elon.
Rupen Fofaria is a storyteller at EdNC.org, where he focuses on equity and learning differences. He examines how education policy shows up in classrooms and impacts teachers, students, and families. Rupen has invested much of his time since 2019 reporting stories about literacy instruction in North Carolina. His stories about the body of scientific research on how kids learn to read take readers inside classrooms, explore challenges for early reading teachers, and study best practices in colleges of education. Prior to joining EdNC, Rupen was an attorney in Raleigh and Chicago, practicing startup, corporate, and intellectual property law. In his (much) younger days, he was a sports writer for the Raleigh News & Observer and ESPN.com. Rupen is a Raleigh native who attended Washington Elementary, Ligon Middle, and Enloe High Schools. His two sons are now in Wake County Public Schools.
Theresa Gibson is the co-founder of Leading EDge Learning, LLC education consulting and the Executive Director of the North Carolina Science Fair Foundation. NCSFF is committed to increasing the awareness of, exposure to, and participation in inquiry-based science learning. Leading EDge Learning supports K-12 schools and districts in NC and nationally with custom professional learning and technical assistance to provide a high-quality and equitable education experience to all students. The focus of Leading EDge is supporting the transfer of research to practice for schools and districts to operationalize and sustain effective change. In her prior role, as an Associate Director at the Friday Institute, she managed the development, implementation, and facilitation of the Friday Institute’s vertically aligned professional learning programs to support the transition to personalized learning. Theresa also supported the implementation of the Friday Institute’s national Leadership in Personalized and Digital Learning Program which has been implemented in 15 states and 19 organizations. Theresa earned her B.S. in Mathematics and Mathematics Education at Buffalo State College and her MBA with a certificate in Decision Analytics at North Carolina State University.
Jill Grifenhagen is a product of NC public schools (kindergarten – university), and a former elementary classroom teacher and instructional coach. After initially entering teaching through Teach for America, she earned a MEd in Curriculum and Instruction and a PhD in Learning, Teaching, and Diversity. Dr. Grifenhagen currently works as an Assistant Professor of Literacy Education at NC State’s College of Education. In this role, she teaches future elementary teachers and graduate students in literacy education, conducts research, and collaborates with state and local organizations to support literacy teaching and learning. Dr. Grifenhagen’s research focuses on the role of teachers’ talk and instructional practices in early childhood (PreK-Grade 3) classrooms that support young children’s vocabulary and academic language learning. She is particularly interested in equity-focused, research-practitioner partnerships to increase learning opportunities for and address the needs of students from underserved communities. In turn, Dr. Grifenhagen seeks to develop the best preparation and professional development for teachers to improve language and literacy practices. Her work has been published in journals such as Early Childhood Research Quarterly, The Reading Teacher, Literacy Research and Instruction, and Journal of Child Language.
Kelly Helner currently serves as an Assistant Principal in an Elementary School in Granville County. With almost 20 years of experience in education in high school, middle school and now high school combined with some experience as an adjunct professor at a technical college in Philadelphia and as a community educator at a community college in New Jersey she has a long history of working in education. She hopes to continue to be an advocate for public education, to inspire her students, and to continue to learn as a leader.
Dr. Jake Henry is the Chief Academic Officer for Participate Learning. His career in education spans 23 years where he has served as a teacher, principal, and Executive Director of Instructional Technology in Guilford County Schools (NC) as well as Chief Academic Officer and Chief Operations Officer for Orange County Schools (NC). His degrees include a M.A. in French Literature, Masters of Divinity, and an Ed.D in Educational Leadership. Jake is passionate about public education. As a student, he experienced all levels of public education: Pre-K, K-12, Community College, and Public University. Jake also serves as an officer in the North Carolina Army National Guard.
Marie Hopper began her FIRST career as a FIRST LEGO League coach in 2001. Over the course of nine years, she coached 27 FIRST LEGO League teams, 3 FIRST LEGO League Jr. teams, a FIRST Tech Challenge team and a FIRST Robotics Competition team. She thought she was retired from FIRST when her son graduated high school but the coaching community had other ideas. She became the Regional Director for North Carolina in 2009 and helped orchestrate the first-ever high school FIRST Robotics Competition Regional Tournament in North Carolina in 2010. Under Marie’s leadership and guidance, the Executive Advisory Board moved from a community organization to an official nonprofit in 2012. Marie is passionate about the mission of FIRST North Carolina – ensuring that every student in the state of North Carolina has access to a high-quality FIRST program.
A former reporter for the Charlotte Observer and political consultant, Tonya Jameson has served in a number of distinct roles in her career that make her apt for this role. With a personal connection to the local grassroots community and smaller nonprofits who work in economic mobility, Tonya is passionate about helping to create diverse neighborhoods and schools, and creating pathways for economically disadvantaged residents to succeed.
Dr. Bridget Johnson has 20 years in public education including elementary teaching, Assistant Principal, Principal and K-12 Curriculum Director. 15 years of this work was in Moore County Schools where Bridget currently lives with her husband Steve and their three children. Currently Bridget is a Specialist for State Projects at SERVE which is housed at UNC-Greensboro. Through her position at SERVE, Bridget works on the Region Six Comprehensive Center’s projects with the state education agencies of North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Purdue University, a Master’s in School Administration from UNC-Pembroke and in 2019 completed a Doctoral Degree in Educational Leadership from East Carolina University. Bridget’s strengths and passion include planning and delivering high quality professional development. Specifically, she enjoys helping teachers and administrators through school improvement planning, establishing effective PLC practices, and implementing research-based early literacy practices.
Yolanda Keith has a passion for serving students and for system-level change in the public sector. She is currently the Onboarding Specialist for LearnPlatform where she works with a team that supports school districts from across the country with organizing and analyzing their EdTech ecosystems to improve outcomes. Prior to joining LearnPlatform, Yolanda served as the Director of the Carolina College Advising Corps for over ten years, while supporting students and families as they navigated paths to post-secondary institutions through mentorship and near-peer engagement. During this time, she also served as the AmeriCorps Director while engaging in rural and urban community strategies to increase post-secondary credential attainment. Yolanda’s additional experiences include serving as a member of the Human Relations Commission for the City of Durham and an Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions at UNC-Chapel Hill to promote equitable opportunities for historically excluded groups. A native of Burgaw, North Carolina, Yolanda earned an Associate of Arts degree in Marketing Education. As a non-traditional student, she later acquired her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from UNC-Chapel Hill and her Masters of Public Administration from North Carolina Central University.
Jennifer Luetkemeyer is an Assistant Professor of Library Science at Appalachian State University. Prior to joining the faculty at ASU in 2016, she taught junior high school for four years and then moved into the library for three. She is interested in the ways that students access information and knowledge, in what resources and information they have access to, and in how information and knowledge are presented to them. The fundamental principle that all students deserve, and should be provided with, equal access to information, knowledge, and resources guides her work. In support of this principle, she has joined the EPFP cohort in order to understand how best to advocate for issues of access through policy reform.
Jen Mangrum is a native of eastern North Carolina. Her father was a retired 1st Sgt turned teacher who chose to teach at a school highly impacted by poverty and with predominantly black and brown children. He taught Jen about the inequities within public schools. Jen’s mother taught kindergarten and twice fought in court for the rights of students with disabilities. Because of their influence, Jen developed a passion for teaching and social justice at an early age. Starting her career in 1987, Jen spent the first 12 years as a classroom teacher but would eventually move into leadership and administrative positions at the school and district level.
Jen earned her BA in Elementary Education from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from East Carolina University and her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. While earning her doctorate, Jen studied diversity and access in schools and how well facilitated intellectual conversations among students and faculties deepens our understanding of one another and of ourselves. Jen has continued this work over the past 13 years, collaborating part-time with the National Paideia Center in Asheville, NC. Jen works with the center to provide professional development around the country and is currently Vice Chair of their Board of Directors.
After earning her doctorate, Jen was selected to create the Elementary Education program at NC State University and served as the first faculty member. Currently, Jen is an Associate Professor of Teacher Education at UNC-Greensboro. She teaches at both the graduate and undergraduate level and she embeds the core principles of teaching for excellence, equity, and access in her courses. In addition, Jen co-founded the UNCG STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative, a teacher-centered support system for educators in schools highly impacted by poverty. In her spare time, Jen works with the American Federation of Teachers, serves as a consultant for a children’s book publisher and provides workshops on Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging for NC businesses.
In 2018 and 2020, Jen ran for political office hoping that by serving in government she could help bring positive change to North Carolina’s public schools. Although she came up short on election nights, Jen gained experience, skills and made an abundance of new friends. Jen looks forward to learning and thinking with the EPFP community.
Nancy Mangum is an education consultant, author, national presenter and co-founder of Leading EDge Learning who is passionate about helping educators create learning experiences that meet the needs of all students. Nancy also serves as the project director for the CoSN Digital Equity Project. Prior to her current endeavor Nancy was the Associate Director of Professional Learning Programs at The Friday Institute for Educational Innovation at NC State University. Her work at the Institute involved building comprehensive programs for school and district leaders that included leadership development and strategic planning. Nancy is the co-author of the book Leadership in Personalized and Digital Learning: A Framework for Change, published by Harvard Educational Press. She brings a depth of knowledge about curriculum, pedagogy, and instructional technology, with past experiences as a classroom teacher, technology facilitator, and district leader. Connect with Nancy on twitter @nmangum or visit the Leading EDge Learning website https://leadingedgelearn.org
Mallory Mbalia is the Director of Educational Engagement at PBS North Carolina under Children’s Media and Education Services. Prior to her position now she worked with PBS NC for over 10 years as one of their educational outreach trainers. She was also named a PBS Digital Innovator All Star in 2018. She has served as a Kindergarten teacher as well as an Elementary Assistant Principal. She is a NC Principal Fellow. She has been at a variety of elementary schools including Title 1, Traditional, Year Round, Art, International Baccalaureate and Gifted and Talented magnet schools. She has a passion for art integration, joy integration, social emotional learning, early childhood education and equity work. She holds a B.S. in Human Development (focus on child and adolescent) , a M.A. Ed in Curriculum and Instruction and a M.S.A. Masters of School Administration. She believes that all students have a gift or talent and that those gifts and talents can be used to make learning relevant, novel, and rigorous. She is a proud wife and she is also the proud mother of four beautiful children.
Dr. Gerald Miller is a school principal at Glade Creek School in Glade Valley, NC where he serving in his seventh year as principal. He received his Doctor of Education degree with an emphasis on Leadership and Policy Analysis from The University of Tennessee. He continues to enjoy the work of being a school administrator. As principal, Dr. Miller has worked closely with teachers to improve student achievement. The students at his school have reached their reading goal the past three years. His grades three through eight math students have shown good annual growth each of the past three years too. His grades 6-8 math teachers have the highest ranking available based on their latest EVAAS scores. In March of 2020, Glade Creek School earned the NCASCD Lighthouse School Award for its student centered approach. Dr. Miller has also regularly contributed to Union College Master of Education and Ed.S. program(s) as a part-time professor.
By choice, he has been loyal to his role as principal and the Alleghany County School district. Certain superintendents and school board members have asked Dr. Miller to interview for supervisor roles, but he remained loyal to his calling. Now, I believe it is time to pursue the next chapter of learning in my professional career. I seek to be a full participant in the NC Education Policy Fellowship Program (EPFP). I look forward to receiving mentoring and education on policy development to influence my community and state. I am a proven school leader and can build strong relationships in a rural K-8 school setting. Working in the EPFP can better help me to reach my professional goals.
When Gerald is not actively leading his school, he enjoys hiking and football Saturdays. Dr. Gerald Miller resides with his wife of thirty years Rebecca. Together they raised three sons. Lincoln is an athletic director at Concord Christian School in Knoxville, Tennessee. Thornton is a grade seven social studies teacher and basketball coach at Chuckey-Doak middle school in Afton, Tennessee. Holden is a gifted musician and graduate student at Baylor University in Waco, TX.
My name is Phetoudone “Pat” Nivanh and I am the IHE Gear Up Coordinator for Western Piedmont Community College. I was the first in my family to graduate from college and I am one of nine children born to refugee parents. I am from Morganton North Carolina. I graduated from Western Piedmont Community College then later transferred to NC State University to finished my undergraduate degree in Chemistry. My most recent accomplishment this year was completing a certificate in Leadership in the Public Sector from NC State University. I worked as a public servant for ten years in the NC judicial system before working in higher education. I believe education is both important and powerful to society. Some of my favorite hobbies are running, rock climbing, and hiking.
Christina O’Connor is Director of Professional Education Preparation, Policy, and Accountability at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Project Director for Piedmont Teacher Residency Partnership, a Teacher Quality Partnership grant from the US Department of Education, Director of the Moss Street Partnership School, and Regional Director for the NC New Teacher Support Program. Dr. O’Connor has been at UNCG since 2006 and during her tenure has directed three Teacher Quality Partnership grants and coordinated K-12 partnership initiatives in addition to supporting UNCG’s professional education programs in the areas of policy and accountability. Prior to UNCG, Dr. O’Connor was an elementary school principal, curriculum facilitator and teacher in the Guilford County Schools. She holds a Master of Education degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Reading Education, a Master of School Administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a Ph.D. in Teacher Education and Development from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Bridget Parnell Hayes
Bridget Parnell Hayes is a District Personnel Support Coordinator for Hoke County Schools. She began her teaching career as an elementary school teacher, served as an assistant principal at both elementary and secondary school levels, and a principal for 9 years at the elementary level. She has served in her current role as a personnel support coordinator for the past 2 years. Bridget earned her B.S. in Elementary Education from East Carolina University and later as a North Carolina Principal Fellow she earned her MSA from Fayetteville State University. Bridget believes that leadership is not about position or title but rather about influence and service.
Kelly A. Poquette is the 2021 Burroughs Wellcome Fund Piedmont-Triad Region Teacher of the Year and along with her NC 2021 RTOY Cohort she is focused on elevating students by empowering teachers. She is a veteran educator who holds certifications from the American Orff Schulwerk Association and the Feierabend Association for Music Education. Over her career, she has taught all grades PreK-12 and currently serves as the K-5 Music Educator at the Alamance Virtual School in the Alamance-Burlington School System Burlington, NC. Also, she is pursuing her Music Education Ph.D. degree through UNCG. In each class, her students “Sing, say, dance, play, and create in a tuneful, beautiful, and artful way.”
Chantae Reynolds is the English as a Second Language teacher at Appalachian State University Academy at Middle Fork, one of the UNC System’s Lab Schools. She previously taught ESL in WSFCS. Chantae works to build rapport and personal connections with students to grow emotionally, intellectually, and socially. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She received her Master’s in Elementary Education from Salem College and a Master’s certificate in Reading Education from Appalachian State. She is currently pursuing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Appalachian State University. She is presently co-leading book studies on culturally responsive teaching with staff at the Academy.
Dr. Michael Riles is the Chief Accountability and Technology Officer for Scotland County Schools. In his education tenure, he has served as a teacher, school administrator, state specialist, and district administrator. Dr. Riles is a proud North Carolina Central University graduate where he received his BA in English as well as his Masters of School Administration. He also holds a Masters of Education from East Carolina University in Instructional Technology as well as a Doctorate of Educational Leadership from Fayetteville State University. Dr. Riles is excited to participate in the Education Policy Fellowship Program to help better serve the educational community in North Carolina.
Kate Riley is an ardent education advocate who has worked in education marketing and communications her entire career. After graduating from Elon University, she spent nearly five years working for an international education organization focused on cultural exchange immersion programs and building meaningful communities of educators. Her favorite part of the job was always school visits, spending time getting to know educators and administrators directly to better represent them and share their stories. Kate was so inspired by her work with teachers (and was itching to explore the world a bit) that she next spent over a year in South Korea co-teaching in public schools. She was guided by her educator counterparts in everything she did, absorbing every ounce of teaching and cultural experiences she could. Upon returning to the U.S., Kate spent time working with a student education travel organization before moving onto her current position as Product Marketing Manager at LearnPlatform in Raleigh, N.C. In this role, she helps communicate the value of product offerings with local- and state-level administrators. Kate cannot do work she does not stand behind, and is proud to work at an organization committed to listening to and actually serving the needs of educators. It’s not all about work, though – Kate loves to bake, hike, hang out with her two cats and watch women’s soccer (go N.C. Courage!). She is thrilled to be part of this year’s cohort!
As an educator since fall of 2004, Nicole Rivers had the chance to impact thousands of students in Cumberland County Schools. Having taught English to high school students in both urban and rural areas, as well as alternative and virtual settings, she has a vast array of educational experiences. Attending Fayetteville State University located in the same county not only allowed her to obtain a Bachelor’s of Science in English Education, but it also allowed her to understand the diverse community that she continues to serve. From her very first years of teaching, Nicole has been prepared for leadership and advancement in the classroom through NCCAT’s various professional development opportunities. This allowed her to elevate to department chair at multiple schools and to help lead and facilitate curriculum and instruction for Secondary ELA in her county. Not only that, but Mrs. Rivers coaches a nationally competitive spoken word slam team, Poetic Pathos, and she mentors young ladies with leadership potential, Girls Expecting More Success (G.E.M.S.). She is the 2021 Cumberland County Schools TOY and Sandhills Regional TOY, an accomplishment she will always hold in high regard. There is no accomplishment she holds higher than her marriage to high school sweetheart, Glenn Lewis Sr. and the successful raising of their children, Jasmine and Glenn Jr., along with their nephew Jaaylen. For this, she gives all glory and honor to God!
Kelly Schultz entered the field of education in the Spring of 2008 as a secondary English Language Arts teacher. She has since progressed in the field serving as a curriculum coach, MTSS District Coordinator, and NCDPI Education Consultant. Kelly has taught in both Illinois and North Carolina. Prior to her work experience, she studied at Central Michigan University where she received her Bachelor of Science degree in English, Creative Writing in 2005; Kelly then completed her Master of Education degree in Secondary English Education at DePaul University in 2008. In her current position as an English Education Consultant for the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Kelly is able to provide the field with professional learning opportunities, standards-based resources, and daily support for the implementation of the NC Standard Course of Study. She takes every opportunity to collaborate with colleagues across the state and nation to provide a comprehensive model of support for the field. She looks forward to expanding her expertise by learning more about education policy through this program. Kelly currently lives in Four Oaks, NC with her husband, William, and two children, Liam and Aiden.
Dr. Pamela Shue is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Child Studies at Appalachian State University where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate level courses. She is also the director of the Birth – Kindergarten graduate certificate residency license program for the department. She earned her Ed.D. and M.Ed. from Temple University and holds a North Carolina teaching license in Special Education and Birth- Kindergarten. Prior to joining Appalachian State University, she held two state leadership roles, Director of the North Carolina (NC) Division for Child Development and Early Education and NC Deputy State Superintendent of Early Education. Dr. Shue has worked in Children’s Hospitals as Child Life Specialist, Charter school principal, and early childhood teacher and director. Her research interests include the impact of policy on practices, professional development to support early childhood education teachers, as well as building strong literacy and math foundation in the early years.
Cece Sizoo-Roberson is serving in her 10th year as a North Carolina educator. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Philosophy with a Minor in Education Studies from Haverford College in 2012. Upon graduation, she returned to teach math in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools- the same school district from which she graduated high school. Cece has spent her entire career in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teaching all levels of mathematics from 6th grade to Algebra 2, splitting her decade in the classroom between James Martin Middle School and Piedmont IB Middle School. In 2017, Cece received her Master of Arts degree from Teachers College, Columbia University in Education Leadership. She hopes to continue to use this degree to elevate the teaching profession through engaging a diverse cohort of teachers in leadership opportunities and activating teacher voice in all decisions that affect classrooms across our state. When not teaching, Cece enjoys coaching her school’s volleyball and women’s soccer teams and walking her giant rescue dog. Cece is honored to represent Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and her region as the Burroughs Wellcome Fund Southwest Region Teacher of the Year for 2021.
Kevin Smith is Director of Marketing and Communication for North Carolina Education Corps, continuing a career of service and partnership in public, for-profit, and higher education. For ten years he served as teacher, tutor, trainer, mentor, and general manager for Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, helping students in upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina take their next steps to success in college, graduate school, and careers. After graduating in theology and music ministry, he taught pastoral candidates and music majors as director of choirs at St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Crestwood, NY. Kevin served as public information officer for Transylvania County Schools from 2014 until this past August, when he joined NC “Ed Corps,” a non-profit providing high-quality literacy tutors for public school units in response to the pandemic. He recently completed the 2021 CREED Academy for Educational Equity (creed-nc.org) and has served on boards of NC School Public Relations Association, NC Association of School Administrators, Transylvania Choral Society, and Transylvania County Parks & Recreation Commission. He holds a bachelor’s degree (French, education emphasis) from the University of South Carolina and a master’s degree (choral conducting) from Mannes College of Music, New School University.
Karen Stevens is a 2011 graduate of Mars Hill University, where she earned a B.A. in Special Education. After teaching in Yancey County’s Exceptional Children’s program for four years, she earned a MAEd. in Reading Education from East Carolina University in 2016. Karen has taught in various general education classrooms over the past several years and is currently a sixth-grade math and social studies teacher at Cane River Middle School in Burnsville. She was named the 2020 Cane River Teacher of the Year and has recently completed the Yancey County Leadership Academy program. Currently, Karen is on track to complete her post-master’s certificate in School Administration in summer 2022.
Jason Straus is the Product Developer at Participate Learning and is originally from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. His journey started out serving as an AmeriCorps member developing and facilitating education programs for immigrant and refugee communities while graduating from Guilford College with a BA in Spanish. Later he traveled to Málaga, Spain and taught in a bilingual K-6 school and was the manager of a language academy for young adults. He returned to the US and taught Spanish among other subjects at a K-8 school in Durham, NC for three years. During the summer, he also worked for Putney Student Travel as a trip leader and took middle school students to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. Afterwards, he completed a masters at UNC Chapel Hill in Educational Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship, while working for Participate Learning part time. Upon graduation, he began working at Participate Learning full time and has been with the company now for 3 years.
Kori Trainor is the Instructional Coach for School Improvement at Appalachian Academy at Middle Fork. This is my first year in this role, I have previously taught first, second, and third grade. I am pursuing my Doctorate in Educational Leadership from Appalachian. I have two kids, my daughter is in 5th grade and my son is in 1st grade.
As the Manager, Professional Learning and Culture at Participate Learning, Katy Turnbull works with 1,100 international teachers to build a strong professional community through collective learning experiences. She also supports staff who work directly with teachers to create compelling and effective adult learning experiences. Katy joined Participate Learning in November 2018 after six years on the Teach for America staff. She began her career in the classroom as a Teach for America corps member teaching middle school English in Houston, Texas. After receiving her Masters in Education from Wake Forest University, she taught high school English in Raleigh, North Carolina for four years. A daughter of two educators, Katy is passionate about ensuring access to an excellent and equitable education for all students. She also loves creating adult learning spaces and experiences that capitalize on the brilliance of individuals in the room while fostering opportunities for connections and collective genius to emerge. Katy lives in Raleigh with her husband Robert, an environmental consultant, and their two young daughters.
Irene Zamora, born and raised in Madrid, Spain, currently lives in Charlotte, NC, with her husband. She has been a Manager of Education Programs at Participate Learning for the past 2 years and is a fierce advocate of dual language programs and global education for all.
Irene holds a double bachelor in Early Childhood and ESL and a masters degree in Pedagogy. During these past 15 years, she has gained experiences in various educational settings in Spain, Ghana, Australia and the United States, as a teacher, curriculum writer and instructional coach. She currently manages around 120 teachers in 24 schools and she supports teachers, principals, and districts, providing resources and ensuring successful implementation of these immersion programs in NC public schools.
In her free time, Irene enjoys swimming, canvas painting, and travelling, especially to the beach! She also loves a good homemade meal, since her husband is an excellent chef.
Dr. Kathleen A. Dawson is an experienced equity leader who has guided innovation in large public-school districts, including Guilford, Nashville and Boston public schools. As an Executive Director of School Support and Improvement for Metro Nashville, she helped increase student achievement, reduce suspensions and increase graduation rates. As Chief Innovation Officer for Guilford County Schools, she has led the opening of
Career and Technical Education academies aligned to local workforce needs. Currently as the Deputy Superintendent of Orange County Schools in North Carolina, Dr. Dawson manages and leads systemic change for the district especially in the areas of curriculum and instruction, technology and operations. Dr. Dawson is a committed advocate for children and families and has dedicated more than 24 years as a teacher, school administrator and district leader fighting for equitable opportunities and access to high-quality academic and career pathways for all students.
After receiving her Bachelor of Science in elementary education with honors, with minors in math and science from the University of Wisconsin, Superior, Dr. Dawson earned her Master of Education degree from Harvard University and Doctorate in Educational and Organizational Leadership from the University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. Dawson’s published work is an analysis of life-stories to develop authentic leaders and organizations. She has presented at local and national conferences with an emphasis on teachers as leaders, systemic approaches to creating socially and emotionally healthy organizations, adult social and emotional well-being, and connecting practice to research.
Dr. Dawson is a certified StrengthsFinder coach and currently serves on several advisory and steering committees. Dr. Dawson’s company, TranscendEDTM, LLC focuses on PrecisionEDTM solutions to individual and organizational improvement and innovation.