Mentor teachers

Meet Season 1's award-winning team of mentor teachers.

Our mentor teachers, chosen for their record of moving kids academically fast, partner with teachers in districts and networks across the country to deliver teaching that transcends the ordinary.

Season 1: Summer 2020

Aly Shampain

Aly began teaching first and third grade at Success Academy Charter School in New York City as an integrated co-teacher and grade team lead; she went on to become the school's special education teacher support service provider. She was soon selected to be a “labsite” teacher, an exemplar for the Success network. While teaching special education in the 2017-18 year, 93 percent of her class was found proficient or advanced on the state ELA exam and 96 percent on the math exam. Aly then became a second-grade head teacher at The Dwight School, an international network of private schools, where 91 percent of her students read at or above grade level. Aly earned her B.S. from Pennsylvania State University in elementary education and a dual M.A. from Touro College. 

Andy Malone

Andy Malone is regional superintendent at Achievement First’s Greenfield Project where he leads the network’s development of a next generation model based on personalized instruction, expeditionary learning, and social-emotional development. Andy taught fourth-grade at Success Academy in New York City, where he was tapped to design and lead Success’s high school; one hundred percent of the first graduating class went on to four-year colleges. He is a recipient of TFA-Mississippi Delta's Sue Lehmann Excellence in Teaching Award and Harvard University's Jonathan Levin Prize in Teaching and Social Justice. Andy holds a B.A. from Harvard University in history and literature, a M.A. from Columbia Teachers' College, and is pursuing an Ed.D. from University of Virginia.

Bayron Rivas

Bayron started his career as a teacher fellow with Americorp at Citizen Schools in Newark teaching middle school and college readiness. After serving as a sixth-grade math teacher and grade team leader with the Newark Public Schools, he moved to Success Academy in New York where he was a training and development manager. During his tenure at Success Academy, over 95 percent of his students passed the New York math exam for four consecutive years. In 2019, his eighth-grade students achieved a pass rate of 89 percent on the Regents Examination in Algebra I. Bayron now teaches seventh-grade math and is STEM assistant principal at KIPP Team Academy. He has a B.A in sociology from Rutgers University and an M.A from St. Peter's University in New Jersey.

Ben Esser 

Now in his fifth year as a Mentor Teacher, Ben started his teaching career in Mississippi with Teach for America. For eleven years, he taught sixth grade ELA at Achievement First East New York Middle School. He was named a stage 5 teacher in 2015, the network’s highest distinction. Each year, his students read, on average, more than a million words each, published The East New York Times and performed Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. From 2014-2019, they created a reverse achievement gap, outperforming the average for wealthier students in New York. Most recently, Ben was head of teacher development at Colegio Villa Maria in Santiago, Chile where he presented on applying the science of reading at researchED Chile. He earned a B.A. from Western Washington University in English literature and a M.Ed. from Relay Graduate School of Education.

Candice Seagrave

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Candice began as a first-grade assistant teacher at Success Academy Harlem. For nearly a decade, Candice taught third and fourth grade at the school; in 2018, 100 percent of her students were found proficient in math and 93 percent in ELA on the New York State Common Core Assessment. For five years, Candice served as a labsite teacher, mentoring Success teachers. In the fall of 2018, Candice left her first love, the classroom, to serve as assistant principal. Today, she is a principal in residence at KIPP: AMP in Brooklyn. Candice earned her B.A. from Hunter College in literature, language and criticism, and childhood education, and her M.S. from Touro College.

Chandell Stone

Chandell began her career teaching pre-calculus at Democracy Prep Charter High School in Harlem, where she led 100 percent of students to pass the Algebra 2 Regents. Then, as an assistant principal overseeing math and science instruction at Success Academy’s Bronx 1 and Bronx 2, she propelled both schools into the top one percent of schools in the state in math. Chandell is now the lead founder of Dunia Collegiate, a proposed charter school in Atlanta, which will focus on identity affirmation, STEM, and global awareness. Chandell holds a B.S. in mathematics from North Carolina A&T State University and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Cheryl M. Kelley-Henderson

Cheryl began her career as a music educator, teaching in elementary schools in Miami and at Miami Dade Community College where she was an adjunct professor. While earning her PhD in educational leadership and music education in Memphis, Cheryl joined KIPP Memphis Collegiate Elementary, where she chaired the enrichment department and taught literacy and music. She is now the school’s assistant principal and ELA instructional coach. Cheryl also serves as a leadership coach for the KIPP region’s School Leadership program and as an ELA literacy curriculum coach for the KIPP Foundation Teaching and Learning Team. Cheryl earned a B.A. in choral music education and vocal performance from Philander Smith College, an M.Ed. from Florida State University, and a Ph.D. in educational leadership and music education from the University of Memphis.

Danielle Perkins

A veteran Mentor Teacher, Danielle began her career as a Teach for America corps member teaching middle school in the Kansas City Public Schools. She then joined Achievement First in New York, where she taught eighth-grade literature and writing for seven years. Danielle was named a Stage 5 Master Teacher by the network, their highest level of recognition. She then moved to the Brooklyn Friends School, where she taught seventh and eighth grade, and was the ELA department head for their middle and high schools. Danielle has spent the last six years developing a rigorous curriculum that centers diverse texts and emphasizes project-based learning. She earned her B.A. in politics, philosophy, and economics from the King’s College and M.Ed. degrees from the University of Missouri St. Louis and Relay School of Education.

Elizabeth Brus

Elizabeth began her career as a high school English teacher in Lesotho with the Peace Corps, where she lived and taught in a rural, mountainous community. Her 70 plus student classroom had a 100% pass rate, the first in the school’s history, and 30 points above the national average. Elizabeth later joined Achievement First as a senior curriculum associate where she led professional development, developed Common Core-aligned curricula, and helped create a writing rubric that became the backbone for the network’s writing classes. Elizabeth’s students SAT writing scores jumped from 369 to 525 in under five months. For the past eight years, Elizabeth has worked in private schools, including Poly Prep and Avenues. Elizabeth has a B.A. from Columbia University in English literature and creative writing, and an M.Sc. from the University of Edinburgh, Scotland.

Erica Beal

Erica began her career teaching at Success Academy in New York City and immediately excelled: 98 percent of her third-grade students passed the state math exam and 80 percent the English Language Arts. Subsequently, at KIPP DC, Erica’s fourth- and seventh-grade students were the highest performing in the network, and she had the lowest disciplinary referrals in her school. Erica was honored with the KIPP DC Excellence in Teaching Board Award and was a finalist for the Teach for America Sue Lehmann Award for Excellence in Teaching. She is currently the senior director of program at School Leader Lab, a D.C-based organization that partners with schools and their networks to develop the next great class of leaders. Erica earned her B.A. from Georgetown University in English and African American Studies and holds an M.Ed. from Columbia University.

Evan Emenegger

Evan began his career with Teach for America in Yazoo City, Mississippi, where he taught tenth-grade English and was named Yazoo City Teacher of the Year in 2015. Since then he has served as grade-level chair, associate academic dean, and seventh-grade literature teacher at the Achievement First Apollo Middle School in Brooklyn. In 2018, Evan’s students posted the highest growth on the New York Common Core English Language Arts exam in the network. Evan earned Achievement First’s Stage 5 Distinction, the network’s highest distinction, awarded for student achievement, student character development, quality of instruction and planning, and contribution to team achievement. Evan earned his B.A. in political science with a minor in Russian at the University of Washington and an M.A. from Relay Graduate School of Education.

Jeff Li

Jeff is the cofounder of KIPP Beyond, the network’s first intentionally integrated school, slated to open in August 2021. Teaching is for Jeff a second career; he began as a management consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. After serving in Teach for America, he taught middle school math at KIPP AMP in Brooklyn, where nearly all his students were found proficient on state assessments. Many went on to attend selective colleges, including Columbia, Cornell, the University of Pennsylvania, Georgetown, and Howard University. Jeff has been recognized as an American Star of Teaching by the US Department of Education. Jeff holds a B.A. from Stanford University in economics and a M.S. Ed. from Bank Street College.

Jenika Mullen

As a Teach for America corps member, Jenika taught second grade at Achievement First’s Endeavor Elementary School in Brooklyn. In her eight years with the network, Jenika has also taught kindergarten and third grade, and served as an academic dean, instructional coach and curriculum developer. Her students have consistently excelled; in 2017, a remarkable 49 percent of her students were found “advanced” on the Connecticut Common Core exams. Currently, Jenika is principal of Achievement First’s Aspire Elementary School. Jenika earned her B.S. in elementary education from Pennsylvania State University and her M.Ed. from CUNY Brooklyn College.

Jeremiah Pickert  

Jeremiah’s teaching career began as a sixth- through eighth-grade English Language Arts and social studies teacher with Teach for America at Dodge Renaissance Academy in Chicago. While there, he raised grant money to found the first debate and poetry slam team. Jeremiah then joined the Noble charter network, where he taught AP English and composition; the eighteen young men he mentored in advisory all went on to college. Jeremiah moved to New York and joined Uncommon Schools’ Leadership Prep Canarsie, where he is the seventh-grade level lead and writing teacher. His students have consistently earned some of the top essay scores across the Brooklyn region of Uncommon Schools. Jeremiah holds a B.S. in political science and psychology from the University of Illinois and earned his teaching certificate at Dominican University.

Joe Negron

Joe comes to us from KIPP Infinity Middle School, where he is the founding principal. For both its academics and its revolutionary approach to character development, the school was featured in Wendy Kopp’s A Chance to Make History, Paul Tough’s How Children Succeed, and Dan Coyle’s The Culture Code. He has been honored with the Harriett Ball Award for Excellence in Teaching, KIPP’s highest teaching honor, and for his advocacy and support beyond the classroom walls, KIPP’s award for service to the network. Joe graduated from Harvard University, majoring in chemistry, and earned his M.A. from Columbia Teachers College.

John Kaczorek

A veteran Mentor Teacher, John began his career with Teach for America as an eighth-grade math teacher in a district school in the Bronx. Later, at KIPP’s Rise Academy in New Jersey, 86 percent of his fifth-grade math students were found proficient on the state exam. After moving to Minnesota, John joined Hiawatha College Prep, where he was a founding teacher, and for six years, principal. Under his leadership, Hiawatha Prep was recognized by Teach for America as a “School to Learn From" and was designated a Reward School by the Minnesota Department of Education. Following his tenure as principal, John served as seventh-grade teacher for three years and is currently Hiawatha’s director of curriculum and assessment. John earned his B.A. from St. John’s University in economics and a M.S. from Pace University.

Jonathan Laven

Now in his third year as a Mentor Teacher, Jon taught math at Western High School in Las Vegas, before enrolling at the Yale Divinity School, where he served as program manager of the school’s leadership development program. Jon was then the founding math teacher and department chair at Hiawatha Collegiate High School in Minneapolis. Pursuing his interest in educational leadership, he led Teach for America summer institutes for high school math teachers and wrote curriculum in math and culturally responsive pedagogy. Jon is now the dean of instruction for the Hiawatha Academies. He graduated with a B.A. in math and philosophy from St. Olaf College and earned an M.Ed. from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and an M.A. from the Yale Divinity School.

Julia Steinberg

Julia began her teaching career at Achievement First East New York Middle School, where for three years she taught literature and writing to grades six through eight. Julia helped establish the school's first centralized library and developed a robust independent reading program which inspired a culture of reading schoolwide. Her students consistently outperformed their peers in the city, the district, and the Achievement First network. In 2015, Julia began teaching sixth grade English Language Arts at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School. In 2016, she helped found the network’s second middle school, Clinton Hill Middle School, where she continues to teach sixth grade and lead the ELA and Humanities Department. Julia earned a B.A. from Kenyon College in English and American studies, and a M.Ed. from Relay Graduate School of Education.

Kimberly Tan

Kimberly is a fifth-grade head teacher at Ethical Culture Fieldstone School, an independent progressive school in New York that provides its students the framework and knowledge to live an ethical life. She began teaching at Success Academy in Harlem, and then joined the founding team of Central Queens Academy in Queens, where she was literacy coordinator. Her success in the classroom and commitment to progressive education led her to become a mentor, presenter, trainer, and curriculum planner. Kimberly is a native speaker of Mandarin and is fluent in Spanish. Kimberly earned a B.S. from Cornell University in human development and a M.S. from the City College of New York.

Mohamad Marouf

Mohamad began his career at KIPP Houston High School, teaching math and AP statistics. After a succession of roles—dean of operations, freshman dean, data captain, testing coordinator, and assistant principal—he became principal of the Blue Ribbon school in 2016. While principal, Mohamad instituted AP For All  and adopted a social justice agenda that emphasized restorative practices. Mohamad created a community-based leadership team composed of students, parents, and other community members who formulated performance measures and advised on all aspects of school policy. Currently he is the project director at Leading Educators, where he creates equity and social emotional learning content and coaches more than twenty school- and district-based leaders. Mohamad earned his B.A. in psychology from Duke University and an M.Ed. from the University of Texas.

Neela Parasnis 

Neela began her career with Teach for America as a kindergarten teacher in Lynwood, California. She went on to teach kindergarten at Uncommon Schools in Brooklyn, where her students scored in the 88th percentile on standardized tests, and at ICEP Public Schools in Los Angeles. The KIPP Foundation then tapped Neela to write and implement a leadership curriculum for grade chairs, deans, and principals. For the last eight years, Neela has taught and led at KIPP Empower Academy in Los Angeles. After leading the school for three years with outstanding academic results, Neela opted to return to the fourth-grade classroom, where she is also grade chair and EL coordinator. Neela earned her B.A. in molecular biology from the University of California, Berkeley and holds an M.A. from Loyola Marymount University and an M.A. from California State University, Northridge.

Roberto de Leon

Now in his fifth year as a Mentor Teacher, Roberto began his career as a Teach for America corps member teaching special education in the Bronx. He then taught third grade and was a staff developer at Uncommon Schools’ Excellence Boys Charter School in Brooklyn, where his work was featured in Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion. Later, at Democracy Prep Public Schools, Roberto was a founding teacher and curriculum director. He was then a consultant/teacher coach for numerous school districts, including Achievement First, where he was a Level 5 ELA teacher coach, the network’s highest distinction. After moving to California, Roberto taught sixth grade in a rural public school, where nearly all of his students passed the state’s ELA exam. He earned his B.A. in Education from Washington University in St. Louis, and a M.Ed. from the City University of New York.

Sierra Strattner

After serving in Teach for America, Sierra joined Achievement First, where she has taught for twelve years in Connecticut, New York, and Rhode Island. The network named Sierra Master Teacher in recognition of her students’ outstanding results; her students scored some 30 points above state averages on Common Core assessments. Sierra firmly believes that with strong teaching, an obsession with data, and an unwavering determination to engage all students, every child can succeed. Sierra is a National Academy for the Advancement of Teacher Excellence fellow. Sierra holds a B.A. from George Washington University in international affairs and a M.A. from Columbia Teachers College.

Silvestre (Silver) Arcos

Silver taught for five years in Texas and California before founding a dual language program at a middle school in the Bronx. Silver was a founding math teacher at KIPP Washington Heights Middle School, where he is now assistant principal. Among his many recognitions are the Harriett Ball Excellence in Teaching Award, the Big Apple Award for Teacher Excellence in New York City, The Butler-Cooley Excellence in Teaching Award, and the Teaching Tolerance Award for Excellence in Culturally Responsive Teaching. Silver earned his B.S. from Cornell University in human development and family studies and his M.A. in bilingual education from Teachers College, Columbia University.

Suzie Zapoticzny

Suzie began her teaching career with Success Academy Charter Schools in New York, where she taught the first, second, and fourth grades. In 2017, 100 percent of her students passed the math and ELA New York State Common Core assessments with proficient or advanced scores; her scores consistently ranked in the top ten classrooms across Success’s 30 elementary schools. Suzie was invited to join Success’s central team as senior associate of advocacy, where she planned and implemented advocacy workshops to empower staff and parents to foster relationships with decision makers in their communities. She created an advocacy website which offers tutorials to help staff maintain relationships with local officials. Suzie holds a B.A. from Rutgers University in American Studies and an M.S. from Touro College in education and special education.

Tatiana Piskula

Tatiana began teaching at Uncommon Schools in Brooklyn and then joined Ascend Learning, where she taught third grade and earned Ascend’s Teacher of the Year award for top student performance. Tatiana developed an obsession with data-driven instruction, a habit of deep intellectual preparation, and a love of fractions. In 2017, one hundred percent of her students achieved proficiency in math and 79% percent in English Language Arts, compared to less than a quarter in the community school district. Recently, she worked at 2U and Amplify, two educational technology companies that seek to reimagine education with technology. Tatiana holds a B.A. in psychology from Yale University and a M.B.A. and a M.P.A from Columbia University.

Wayne Banks

Wayne began his career as a TFA corps member teaching high school chemistry and physics in the Chicago public schools, where he led more than 400 students to make four years of growth each year. After serving as assistant principal of STEM education and programming at a Chicago vocational high school, Wayne realized that his students lacked sufficient command of math to excel in the sciences. For three years, Wayne has taught mathematics to middle school students at KIPP New Jersey, where he is currently principal-in-residence. Wayne has a B.A. from Washington University, where he studied biochemistry and molecular biology, and a M.A. from Columbia University.

Will Roble

Will joins us from Avenues: The World School, an international network of private schools, where he teaches a unique thinking skills class that strengthens conceptual reasoning, builds cognitive flexibility, and promotes empathy. Will began his teaching career with Teach for America in the Bronx and went on to teach middle school math at Rise Academy, a KIPP school in Newark and Achievement First in New York. After posting exceptional results, he rose to became the director of middle school math achievement. Will holds a B.A. in cultural anthropology and Italian studies from Trinity College and a M.S. from Pace University.

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