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Teachers Network Leadership Institute: Affiliates: MetLife Fellows: San Francisco, CA

Policy Fellows Bios

Kelly Clark is a fifth grade teacher at Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy. She is an active member of School Site Counsel and school community events, a participant in King Digital History Project at Stanford University, a participant in the development of SFUSD Social Studies Instructional Guide K-5. She has been the Nutrition Education Team Leader for several years. She is committed to issues grounded-in and associated with public education, social justice and civil rights.

Sara Falls has taught for eight years in three different districts. She currently teaches English at Abraham Lincoln High School in the Sunset. Not only does she teach English, she is the sponsor of the Creative Writing Club and the New Global Citizens club. Originally from Michigan, Sara received her B.A. in English and her teaching credential from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. While there, she co-facilitated improvisational theatre and creative writing with incarcerated youth and adults. She has also worked as an environmental educator. She writes poetry, creative non-fiction, and short stories, and publishes her own zine. This is her fifth year with the Teachers Leadership Institute. This is her second year as a TLI Fellow.

Susan Gold has been with the SFUSD for over 20 years and currently teaches English language arts and social studies at Presidio Middle School. While most of her experience is at the middle school level, she has also taught second and fifth grades. Susan’s professional development experience includes coordinating an elementary school initiative, “Different Ways of Knowing,” focused on literacy development through the arts, mentoring teachers, implementing service learning in their curriculum, and teaching communicative language strategies to Japanese teachers of English in Shizuoka, Japan. In addition, Susan has taught curriculum and instruction courses to credential candidates at New College of California, San Francisco State, and the University of San Francisco where she is a doctoral student in the International and Multicultural Education Department. After grading student work and writing papers, she devotes her free time to making pottery. Susan would like to thank her two wonderful daughters for encouraging her in all these endeavors. This is her third year as a Policy Fellow with the Teachers Leadership Institute.

Jamie Nunez is in his fourth year at Leadership High School and teaches leadership to incoming freshman, media arts and technology to 11th and 12th graders, and is an advisor to 12th grade students. Nunez graduated from the University of California in Santa Barbara with a B.A. in global studies, received his M.A. in education with an emphasis in social justice and equity from San Francisco State University, and is currently pursuing his fieldwork in post-conflict educational development in Iraq and Colombia for his doctoral studies. Prior to teaching, Nunez worked as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in El Salvador teaching technology and entrepreneurial education to gang members. Outside of teaching, Nunez is an affiliated member of the World Affairs Council and attempts to juxtapose global issues with educational inequalities in the classroom. He also seeks to question policy surrounding higher educational attainment for individuals suffering from acute post-traumatic stress.

Debra Russell has taught high school English for seven years. She started her career in education at her alma mater, Century High School, in Southern California. In addition to teaching, she served as a Puente Project advisor, mock trial team coach, and WASC committee member. While earning her teaching credential and M.A. in education at Chapman University, Debra was an active member the Paulo Freire Democratic Project and served as an Americorps TEAMS member. During her summers, she has worked as a teacher in the Upward Bound outreach program and with the America-China teaching center in Guandong Province, China. In 2006, she also completed an M.A. in rhetoric at the University of California, Irvine. Now, Debra teaches English and coordinates service-learning projects at the Life Learning Academy, a small charter high school on Treasure Island in San Francisco. This is her second year as a TLI Fellow.

Josey Sadler currently teaches an English Language Development second grade class at E.R. Taylor Elementary School. Prior to teaching in San Francisco, Josey had the opportunity to work with indigenous people and upland farmers in conservation and protection projects sponsored by the UNDP-FAO and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Philippines. Little did Josey know then that this five-year experience would prepare her for a career in teaching. Her academic background is rooted in the environment, and while her passion revolves around this, she is also very interested in the arts and multiculturalism as an integral part of her class’s curriculum. This is her second year as a TLI Fellow.

Natalie Swope is in her fourth year of teaching middle school language arts and reading for the San Francisco public schools. She has also given private and group violin instruction to students of an after-school arts enrichment program. Prior to moving to California, Natalie worked in elementary and secondary education and earned a master’s degree in teaching from the University of Virginia, focusing her research component of the program on linking film to literature in the English classroom.

Kelly Taggart has been an educator for over ten years. After earning her B.A. in environmental studies at UC Santa Cruz, she began work as a teacher naturalist in the redwood forests of west Sonoma County. Kelly completed her credential preparation in the Middle Level Emphasis program at San Francisco State University. She has taught eighth grade science and academic literacy at Horace Mann Middle School, and sixth grade language arts, math, and science at Francisco Middle School. Last year, she transitioned out of the classroom into the role of Instructional Reform Facilitator at Francisco. Kelly has participated in many professional programs, including the National Science Foundation’s SEPAL project (formerly known as GK-12), WestEd’s Strategic Literacy Network, and the Exploratorium’s Beginning Teacher Institute, where she is currently a teacher coach. She has also served as a LGBTQ Support Liaison and Union Building Committee representative. Kelly is thrilled to join TLI as a Policy Fellow. She is especially interested in teachers’ attitudes, behavior management skills, systems of equity in the classroom, and how these factors affect student outcomes. Kelly enjoys dancing, cooking, and sharing the beauty of the outdoors with her young daughter.

Hope S. Weissman has been an educator for more than 30 years. She had taught in ten states prior to coming to the SFUSD in 1989. She has had the opportunity to work with students from diverse cultures and was a part of the Head Start Program in 1969. She has worked as an elementary classroom teacher, a curriculum coordinator, a reading coach, and a computer teacher, and she is currently a teacher on special assignment in the BTSA (Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment) Program, where she shares her experience with first and second year teachers. She has participated in a great deal of professional development including Culturally and Linguistically Relevant Pedagogy, Equity, Conscious Classroom Management, Engagement Strategies, and Facilitation Training, and she is a certified Tribes Trainer. As SFUSD becomes more active in the realm of social justice, Ms. Weissman would like to conduct additional research on the way teacher practice impacts the diversity of their students. She will focus on how teachers can create a gender-fair, bias-free learning environment for all students, including special populations and English Language Learners.

Research Fellows

Nicole Curcio teaches Kindergarten at Dr. Charles R. Drew College Preparatory Academy. She is beginning her sixth year of teaching. She has taught three years in Kindergarten at Drew; one year pre-Kindergarten and one year in nursery in Italy, and a combination class of three–to five–year-olds at Marin Waldorf. Prior to becoming a classroom teacher, she has had experience teaching a fourth/fifth grade Spanish bilingual class; a middle school student government class; as a seventh/eighth grade English tutor in a predominantly Spanish-speaking population; and has been advisor to the Associate Student Body Government. She has a B.A. from UC San Diego in psychology in education and planned to be a child psychologist; however, she found she wanted more continuous contact with the children she was serving, so she decided to become a classroom teacher. She received her teaching credential through San Francisco State University in the MATE program, which focused on social justice. She continues to inform her teaching by attending Building Excellent Schools Together (BEST practices) workshops and leading the school in implementing BEST. She is the Kindergarten representative on the school’s leadership team and is involved in hiring teachers at Drew during the interview process. Since being at Drew, she has learned about cultural relevance in the classroom and is interested in researching the practices of Dr. Sharroky Hollie as well as the development of culturally relevant environments in her classroom. She would like to help teachers understand the importance of being responsive to students’ culture and social situations.

Tanya Friedman is in her 18th year of teaching—her 15th with SFUSD and her 13th at San Francisco Community School. She is working half-time as a Resource Specialist and half-time as a school coach with San Francisco Coalition of Essential Small Schools. Tanya earned National Board certification as an early childhood generalist in 2002. She has been involved in teacher research for many years; her primary focus has been investigating how teachers can change their practice to interrupt the patterns of inequity that plague our school system. This year she is facilitating Critical Friends Groups that support teachers to look deeply at the ways issues of race and class inequity play out in their classrooms. She is continuing her research about how performance assessments impact African American and Latino students and is also beginning to examine strategies for effective vocabulary development for English Learners with learning disabilities. This is her second year as TLI Research Fellow.

Peter Hippard is a TLI Active Alumni providing support to this years’ Research Fellows. He is a San Francisco native and loves teaching in the City by the Bay. For the past decade Peter has been a teacher at Clarendon Elementary School, in the Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program. This program offers an enrichment of Japanese language and culture that has a thirty-year history in the SFUSD. Peter lived for four years in Japan where he was an ESL teacher and helped create a bilingual magazine in the city of Sendai. He then received his teaching credential from UC Berkeley in 1999, and received an M.A. in Educational Technology from SFSU in 2003. Currently, Peter teaches fourth and fifth grade. This is his third year with the Ed Fund and the Teachers Leadership Institute.

Aaron Neimark has been teaching preschool and Kindergarten for the past 12 years in San Francisco. He currently teaches Kindergarten at Dianne Feinstein Elementary School. He received his M.A. in education at San Francisco State University and conducted an ethnographic study on outdoor preschool play, which was also a self-study on changing his teaching approaches. He wrote an article based on this study which was published in the journal Voices of Practitioners. He is interested in the topics of emotionally responsive curriculum and in using students’ strengths and peer culture to help increase their learning and their love of school. He also is fascinated by culture and languages and is currently studying Cantonese. This is his first year as a Research Fellow with the Teachers Leadership Institute.

Timothy Nunes teaches a second and third grade combination class at San Francisco Community School, a teacher-run K-8 school in SFUSD. He has worked at SFCS for the past seven years, serving as the school’s head teacher during 2005-2006. He is currently a member of the Professional Development Team, working to design and implement professional development for the staff. He has presented workshops on project-based learning, culturally relevant practices, and the social dimension of learning at the University of Pennsylvania’s Ethnography in Education Forum, the Coalition of Essential School’s Fall Forum, and at Stanford University’s School of Education. He has also participated in teacher research as part of the Teacher Inquiry Project at BayCES. Before coming to SFCS, he taught 2nd grade at the Springer School in Los Altos, California, and Kindergarten at P.S. 30 in New York, NY. His teacher education included mentoring by Yvonne Smith at Central Park East 1 in New York, NY.

Sheryl Perkins teaches Kindergarten at Dr. Charles R. Drew College Preparatory Academy. She also taught pre-K and fourth and fifth grades at John McLaren Child Development Center in Visitation Valley. She has been teaching for 23 years in public schools and three years in private. She received her B.A. in psychology and a standard elementary-teaching credential from San Francisco State University. She has been a visual and performing arts coordinator for three years, is on the leadership team for her grade level, and has served on the School Site Council for three years. She also has been a teacher leader for a CDC, a facilitator for the Heads Up! Reading Program, and a support provider for the BTSA program. She is a member of the Alliance for Black Educators in Public Schools and a member of CAEYC. She is interested in the educational practices of Dr. Sharroky Hollie—in particular, the explicit direct instruction and the language and literacy needs of African American and Latino students.

Matthew Reedy has been working in education for 13 years, first at the university level as a department administrator for four years, then for two years as a volunteer for America Reads. Attending SUNY Geneseo and San Francisco State University, Matthew joined SFUSD in 2001 and has worked at Grattan Elementary for the past six years teaching 1st and 2nd grade. Matthew is a School Site Council member at Grattan Elementary, sits on the Grattan Greening Committee, and is a Union Building Rep. Currently a National Board candidate, Matthew has worked with UCSF’s SEP program focusing on fostering site-based collaboration, improving the quality of science education at the elementary level, and effectively integrating science and math education as a teacher of teachers.

Nicole Venegas-Small has been teaching at the primary level for the past 12 years. She earned her teaching credential and an M.A. in education from the University of San Francisco and an administrative services credential and M.A. in educational leadership from San Jose State University. In 2006, she was fortunate enough to be selected to be part of the founding faculty at Dianne Feinstein Elementary School in the Sunset District where she was born, raised, and still lives. Dianne Feinstein is a warm, inclusive and dynamic school environment marked by a talented staff that is committed to providing rich and engaging learning opportunities to all of the children in their care. In addition to classroom teaching, Nicole has served as a RSN Teaching Coach, Site Literacy Coordinator, Reading Intervention Specialist, and BTSA mentor. This is her first year as a Research Fellow with the Teachers Leadership Institute.

Catherine Walter has worked at Grattan Elementary for four years, teaching 3rd through 5th grades. She is a product of the SFSU MATE program and has always carried the unique, reflective perspective toward teaching that the program instilled in her. Having attended schools in Germany and Italy growing up, she has a great appreciation of multiple perspectives and cultures. She gained particular insight into the benefits of responsive curricular modifications when working at Keta Busco Secondary School in Ghana, Africa. The kids taught Kate a new way of teaching: she had to learn how they learned and teach that way. Kate’s leadership role in the district’s Social Studies curriculum department has allowed her the opportunity to influence curriculum adoptions as well as improve instructional delivery models. She has participated in Lesson Study and conducted teacher trainings across the district as well as worked with teachers at her school site to adopt improved literacy strategies. Creating a leveled book-room and organizing professional development seminars, Kate has been able to influence her peers to bring a more integrated approach to the school climate. Kate continually looks for professional development opportunities and is currently a National Board candidate.

Ellena Weldon has taught middle school and high school students for the past 12 years in Portland, Oregon, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, and in Stockton, California, before coming to teach in San Francisco. She has taught English and journalism at Burton High School in San Francisco and now teaches seventh and eighth grade humanities at San Francisco Community School. She received both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Her experiences teaching in communities of privileged children in Portland and Venezuela and teaching underprivileged children at an inner-city high school in San Francisco motivate her to pursue research related to race and education in her classroom. This is her second year as TLI Research Fellow.

Jeff Issenberg Programs Manager

Sheldon Gen Policy Advisor

Barbara Henderson Research Advisor


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