Click on a staffperson’s name to view their biography. You can find former staff here.



Allyson Criner Brown, Tellin’ Stories Project Manager
Lena Cohen Amick, Bilingual Parent Organizer
América Calderón, in memoriam
Beatriz Bedoya, Bilingual Program Assistant
Jazelle Hunt, Documentarian
Erika Landberg, Special Project Assistant
Iris Jacob, Professional Development Specialist



Don Allen, Publications Director
Najmah Ahmad, Publications Advocate
Derrick Weston Brown, Publications Advocate
Alissa Escarce, Publications Advocate
Brittany Fenison, Publications Advocate (Substitute)
Charles Girard, Publications Advocate
Gavin Hutchinson, Publications Advocate
Grace Kaissal, Publications Advocate
Gowri Koneswaran, Publications Advocate (Substitute)
Elena Lacayo, Publications Advocate
Cat Nguyen, Publications Advocate
Brianna Oliver, Publications Advocate
Amrita Wassan, Publications Advocate
Chris Towne, Publications Advocate
Izetta Mobley, Publications Advocate
Grace Wingo, Publications Advocate
Mae Wiskin, Publications Advocate



Lauren Cooper, Coordinator, Zinn Education Project
Alison Kysia, Program Associate, Zinn Education Project
Jenice View, Civil Rights Movement, Senior Professional Development Specialist
Julian Hipkins III, Curriculum Specialist and Mississippi Teacher Fellowship Project Director



Deborah Menkart, Executive Director
Allyson Criner Brown
, Associate Director
Allison Acosta, Communications Coordinator
Pat Corekin, Administrative Associate
Mykella Palmer-McCalla, Communications and Media Associate



Enid Lee, Virtual Scholar




 Staff Biographies



Allison Acosta, Communications Coordinator

Allison joined the Teaching for Change staff as communications coordinator in 2015. She has been active in social justice movements since high school. She worked in the labor movement with Jobs with Justice doing communications for more than a decade. Allison earned a BA in Sociology with a concentration in Multicultural and Ethnic Studies from Bard College. A lifelong D.C. resident, she is now raising her own children in the city. She is active in her children’s school and in D.C. education issues.


Najmah Ahmad, Publications Advocate

Najmah has been a Washington, D.C. transplant since 2009. Originally from Ohio, she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology, Gender & Diversity Studies from Xavier University in Cincinnati and a Master’s in College Student Affairs from Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL. She is currently pursuing a degree in Education Law. Najmah has always enjoyed working with young people and has worked at various universities in residential life and student affairs. Her experience also includes serving underrepresented youth through college preparation and mentoring organizations. When Najmah is not working at the bookstore, she works full time at a youth-serving nonprofit as the Director of Curriculum Outreach.


Don Allen, Publications Director

Don has been working in bookstores and libraries since his Kent State college days when the South African anti-apartheid/divestment movement reached the campus. His first political lesson about government lying was when Reagan fired his dad for being a striking member of PATCO, the air traffic controllers’ union. Don used his bookstore experience and those political lessons to become Teaching for Change’s first bookstore manager upon the founding of Busboys and Poets. After 5 years in the bookstore, he is looking forward to bringing his experience to the entire Teaching for Change publications department.

Don seriously believes that Naomi Klein is walking strongly in the footsteps of sorely missed Howard Zinn as a writer/activist. When not reading Klein’s tweets and newsletters, Don enjoys international mysteries by writers such as Colin Cotterill, Donna Leon, and Qui Xiaolong. Don and his wife, Kelly, live in Takoma, D.C. with a cat named after a Twain character. He often spends his free time rooting for last place baseball teams and against publicly funded sports stadiums.


Derrick Weston Brown, Publications Advocate

Derrick Weston Brown holds an MFA in creative writing from American University. He has studied poetry under Dr. Tony Medina at Howard University and Cornelius Eady at American University. He is a graduate of the Cave Canem summer workshop for black poetsand the VONA summer workshop. His work has appeared in such literary journals as Warpland, Mythium, Ginsoko, Drum Voices, The Columbia Poetry Review, and the online journals Beltway Poetry Quarterly, Howard University’s Amistad, LocusPoint, and MiPOesias. Published by the Busboys and Poets imprint of PM Press, his first book of poetry, Wisdom Teeth, is available here.

Derrick is a bookseller and poetry book buyer for Teaching for Change’s Busboys and Poets Bookstore. As the first Poet-In-Residence of Busboys and Poets, he is the founder and curator of The Nine on the Ninth, a five-year-old monthly poetry series, and helps coordinate the poetry programming at the 14th & V location. He teaches poetry and creative writing to an amazing crew of seventh and eighth graders at Hart Middle School in Southeast Washington, D.C., and to a small class of high school students at the Emerson Preparatory School in Dupont Circle. He is a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, and resides in Mount Rainier, Maryland.


Lena Cohen Amick, Bilingual Parent Organizer

Lena Cohen Amick earned her bachelor’s degree at Oberlin College and resides in Washington, DC. She grew up in western Massachusetts as part of an all-women’s karate dojo called Valley Women’s Martial Arts that taught her, “I Am Somebody!” Through labor organizing, immigration advocacy, mental health support, and conflict mediation, Lena fights for that same quality of dignity and justice for people of every class, race, gender, and sexuality. She teaches self defense classes for women and girls, and she believes no one is free until everyone is free. Lena loves writing, drawing, and building communities centered around pizza. She probably wants to join your book club.


Lauren Cooper, Coordinator, Zinn Education Project

Born and raised in Phoenix, AZ, Lauren fled the 110°+ summers as soon as she could to attend the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies in California, an alternative college that presumes students are inquisitive individual learners, not passive consumers of education. She discovered how wonderful and challenging learning can be when the student is able to actively participate in the educational process. She studied media and sociology, and graduated in 1998 with a BA in Visual Sociology: Film and Societal Issues.

With an interest in independent media, she worked at the Phoenix New Times back in Arizona, and then the Independent Press Association in San Francisco, accumulating six years of professional publishing experience ranging from editorial to distribution, from marketing to client and vendor management. She was able to fuse her educational and publishing experience when she joined the Teaching for Change staff in 2007. She is the coordinator of the Zinn Education Project. She’s Native American (Muskogee Creek and Akimel O’otham) and enjoys “being around books and people who read them.”


Pat Corekin, Administrative Associate

Overly influenced by grunge music in the ‘90’s, experimental writers like Samuel Beckett, Paul Auster, and Gertrude Stein, and volunteering many hours at animal shelters, Pat found her way into the 21st century by accident. Starting out as an experimental poet under a pen name, she stumbled upon conceptual web development as an art form.  She is developing a site that will feature poetry dealing with mental illness, substance abuse, and ending homelessness. Pat currently lives with an Anatolian Shepherd named Lexi who takes up most of her studio apartment. When not working, writing, or coding, Pat and Lexi roam the streets of DC in search of poetry. And most nights, they find their way home.


Allyson Criner Brown, Associate Director

Allyson Criner Brown joined Teaching for Change in September 2010 as associate director and program manager of Tellin’ Stories, our nationally recognized approach to family engagement. A former middle school teacher, she has experience ranging from working with middle school youth to partnering with business and community leaders. Allyson holds a master’s degree in public administration with a concentration in nonprofit management from The George Washington University, and she has received awards from the National Academy of Public Administration and the National Forum for Black Public Administrators. Allyson is driven by experiences in the field and managing programs in community based nonprofits that focus on education, youth development and social justice.

A native of Oakland, California, Allyson is an avid cyclist who enjoys the bike lanes and trails of the metro D.C. area. In her spare time, she also enjoys cooking, exercising and reading recommended books from the history and literature sections in Teaching for Change’s Bookstore.


Brittany Fenison, Publications Advocate

A proud native of Southern California, Brittany earned her BA in Theatre from San Diego State University and then moved to Saint Louis, Missouri to work for the nation’s largest African American theater company, The Black Rep. In the summer of 2009, she moved to D.C. to work within the Dean of Arts office at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. She first gained interest in social justice and multicultural studies as a teenager with a performance troupe Socially Together and Naturally Diverse United Performers (S.T.A.N.D.) in which she traveled across California performing educational plays about racial tolerance and individual dignity. She has since traveled to South Africa, Central America, and Europe in pursuit of cross-cultural experiences. Her passion falls within multicultural studies, the arts and youth.


Charles Girard, Publications Advocate

Charles came to D.C. from the University of Mary Washington, where he studied Gender and Sexuality. On campus, he was active in multiculturalism and queer activism. He was a co-founder of the gender neutral housing program, vice-president of the queer club on campus, as well as the head student employee of the multicultural center.  One of his most educational experiences in college was when he and a classmate travelled to Jackson, Mississippi to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides with SNCC and CORE members. His main passion is working for trans equality through grassroots education.   He moved to D.C. to intern working with queer youth, and stayed to do an AmeriCorps program called City Year where he tutored third graders in Anacostia.  Charles’s dream is to work in schools making them safer for trans youth.  In his spare time he enjoys Photoshop, planning his bike trip across America, and eating as much avocado as he possibly can.


Julian Hipkins III, Curriculum Specialist and Mississippi Teacher Fellowship Project Director

Julian Hipkins III is an award-winning U.S. history teacher with a passion for the hidden histories of Reconstruction and WWII history. Hipkins served as a social studies teacher at Capital City Public Charter School in Washington, DC for seven years. His classroom was the go-to model of people’s history instruction, with filmmakers and observers including a French film crew, Backstory, Mississippi students and teachers, and the Japanese minister of education. In addition to his regular teaching responsibilities he has been a Critical Friends Group facilitator, coach of the debate team, National History Day sponsor, and We The People competition adviser.

Hipkins has received numerous awards including the Agnes Myer Outstanding Teacher Award and Gilder Lehrman D.C. History Teacher of the Year. He is a member of the National History Day board of trustees and has traveled to France twice with the NHD Normandy Institute. He has participated in numerous seminars including the National Expeditionary Learning Conference, the Civic Voices workshop, and the Little Rock Nine Expeditionary Learning Conference. Hipkins taught English in Japan for eight years. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in History from Morehouse College and earned his Master of Arts in Teaching from American University in December 2010. Read more.


Gavin Hutchinson, Publications Advocate

Gavin Hutchinson hails from the island of Jamaica, where he was a very eager high school student, excelling in mathematics and the sciences. There was little surprise in 2000 when he attended the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida to study Aerospace Engineering. Somewhere along the way though, Gavin discovered his passion for the humanities and social sciences and eventually earned his bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Communication, International Relations and Information Technology. He returned to Jamaica in 2006, soon to become a talk show host on nationally syndicated radio and a communications coordinator for the Bob Marley Group of Companies. He also traveled to Toronto, Canada as a regional coordinator for Ignite The Americas—a youth arts forum staged under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS). Back in Kingston, he helped to launch the Berhane Selassie Art Gallery in February 2010, after which he worked to establish Manifesto Jamaica, a youth led non-profit organization that empowers young people through arts and culture programming. Following the staging of its first festival in October 2010, Gavin decided that it was a good time to step aside and has since relocated to Washington, D.C. to continue his journey. “Bookman,” as he is often called, is very much in his zone as a bookseller, surrounded by our selection of progressive titles. Included in that selection is his own book, Tried & True: Revelations of a Rebellious Youth.


Iris Jacob, Professional Development Specialist

Iris Jacob is an author, activist, educator and change agent. Iris has facilitated inclusion trainings at numerous conferences, institutes and schools and given keynote addresses about diversity awareness, women’s empowerment and multiracial experiences. In her free time, Iris enjoys spending time with her friends and growing family. She has a deep passion for chocolate, love, and great conversation.


Gowri Koneswaran, Publications Advocate

Gowri Koneswaran is a poet, singer, and lawyer whose parents immigrated to the U.S. from Sri Lanka. Her advocacy has addressed animal welfare, the environment, and the rights of prisoners and the criminally accused. She was a Lannan Fellow of the Folger Shakespeare Library and has been a featured poet at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, Smithsonian Folklife Festival, and Campus Progress’s Protest Through Poetry. Her poetry has appeared in Beltway Poetry QuarterlyBourgeonLantern Review, and she released her first chapbook, Still Beating, in 2010. Gowri was a member of the 2010 D.C. Southern Fried Slam team and serves as the program director at BloomBars community arts space in Columbia Heights. She is working on a book The AlternaGirls: A Girl’s Guide to Changing the World and was acknowledged in Eating Animals, by Jonathan Safran Foer, and Gristle: From Factory Farms to Food Safety. Learn more about Gowri’s poetry at


Alison Kysia, Program Associate, Zinn Education Project

Alison’s career as an educator committed to social justice spans 20 years. Born and raised in Pennsylvania, she earned a BA in Race, Class and Gender Studies from Penn State University. Afterward, she moved to Boston, where she taught in an alternative boarding school for girls dealing with extreme abuse issues, helping her students make connections, through the study of history and literature, between their own experiences and larger social justice issues.  Later, she taught English language in community-based schools in Somerville, Massachusetts, that offered free or subsidized English classes for local immigrants, many of whom were undocumented. She also worked for a non-profit agency that provided citizenship assistance to low-income immigrants. While in Yemen for a year, she designed and taught advanced English conversation classes that revolved around themes of cross-cultural analysis. After returning to the United States, she earned the MA in History and has been teaching at Northern Virginia Community College since 2007. In addition to teaching U.S. history, she developed the first courses in World History at the Alexandria campus, as well as an Islamic Civilizations class. Alison was a 2013 fellow at Teaching for Change.


Elena Lacayo, Publications Advocate

Raised in the United States and in her native country of Nicaragua, Elena is truly bicultural. She has extensive experience working in for social justice for and within the Latino community in Latin America and the U.S. During her time at the University of Notre Dame, where she completed her undergraduate degree in Anthropology and Liberal Studies, she conducted ethnographic research on a local Latino population in Elkhart, Indiana. In 2012, while working for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), she had the honor to coordinate number of events that brought together the African-American and Latino communities in response to discriminatory state laws being passed in the South, including the reenactment of the historic walk from Selma to Montgomery. Prior to joining Teaching for Change, Elena worked on immigration issues for NCLR, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and NETWORK, a National Catholic Social Justice Lobby. When not at Teaching for Change’s bookstore, Elena spends much her time working on her music project, Elena & Los Fulanos, a bilingual folk rock band.


Erika Landberg, Special Project Assistant

Erika Landberg has just joined the staff of Teaching for Change, but her relationship with the organization dates from her 14 years as Program Director at DC VOICE when the two organizations often worked in partnership on public school reform projects. As the daughter of two public school teachers, she has been involved in public education in some way or other since birth. A former teacher, she was an activist public school parent as her two sons attended and graduated from the DC Public Schools. She served as a PTA president numerous times and also as co-chair of the city-wide organization, Parents United. She served two terms as an elected member of the DC Board of Education. She is still personally involved in the DC Public Schools through her sons, with two grandchildren attending one school and the other son serving as a bilingual counselor in the school system. She also serves as an active lay leader at All Souls Unitarian Church, a diverse congregation deeply involved in multiple civil rights and social justice issues.


Deborah Menkart, Executive Director

Raised in D.C., Deborah’s activism began in junior high school when she protested D.C.’s “taxation without representation” and the “dresses-only” dress code for girls. The dress code changed, but D.C.’s colonial status continues. Her perspective on the world was shaped by being the first born in the U.S. of European immigrants on both sides of her family and being raised by a single mother who worked as a dressmaker. During the 1970s Deborah lived in San Diego, California, where she worked as a shipyard electrician and was active in the antiwar, women’s, international solidarity, and labor movements. Through all of these experiences she decided that for any social justice movement in the U.S. to succeed, a change in pre-K—12 education is essential. Since 1989 she has been pursuing that goal in her work at Teaching for Change.


Cat Nguyen, Publications Advocate

Originally from the Inland Empire in Southern California, Cat earned her bachelor’s degree in Global Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), where she was also very involved in the Asian American Studies department and served as a student advocate at the UCSB MultiCultural Center.  After relocating to DC in 2010, she briefly worked with Earth Day Network, and then served as a Corps Member with City Year Washington, DC, an education-focused nonprofit, where she worked as tutor, mentor, and role model for the first and second grade students of DC Scholars Stanton Elementary in Southeast DC. When not at the Teaching for Change Bookstore, Cat can be found working as a conference planner for a nonprofit that advocates for the rights of migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the US. Cat enjoys exploring the sights and sounds of DC, baking cupcakes, and trying new Vietnamese restaurants.


Mykella Palmer-McCalla, Communications and Media Associate

Convinced that her future career title would read Advertising & Design Mogul, Mykella chose to major in marketing at the University of Maryland, College Park, where she was a member of the highly select, nationally acclaimed Hinman CEOs living-learning program. But it was in an African American Rhetoric class where she discovered her true passion. Words. Inspired by the ability of such titans as Frederick Douglass, Cornel West, and Maya Angelou to shape a culture’s ideas through the seductive power of language, Mykella decided to add writing to her list of artistic pursuits. When she’s not working on her first novel, she spends her time as a member of the Teaching for Change admin team. But if you really need her and can’t find her, try looking in a comfy corner somewhere. You’ll probably discover her there, hiding out, curled up with her nose in a book.


Jenice View

Dr. Jenice L. View is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Education at George Mason University. For more than 20 years, View has worked with a variety of educational and nongovernmental organizations, including a public charter school, the Just Transition Alliance, Rural Coalition, the Association for Community Based Education, and LISTEN, Inc. to create space for the voices that are often excluded from public policy considerations: women, people of color, poor urban and rural community residents, and especially youth. She has a BA from Syracuse University, an MPA-URP from Princeton, and a PhD from the Union Institute and University. View, a native of one of the last U.S. Colonies (Washington, D.C.), is the proud mother of two daughters, Ava and Leah. She hopes to pass on her inheritance of being a politically aware and socially active woman that she received from many including her paternal grandparents (among the first organizers in the Nation of Islam in the 1940s), and her parents (who have helped form and sustain many local D.C. community institutions).


Grace Wingo

Grace Wingo comes to D.C from the University of Maryland, College Park where she earned her bachelors degree in Theatre with a focus on set design and directing. A trip to Honduras in 2011, while pursuing post-baccalaureate studies in psychology, set her on the path to discover her passion for how people teach and learn in different settings. She is now pursuing her Master of Science in Educational Psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA. Currently, her research interests are in the areas of the imagination and creative pedagogy. In her free time she enjoys leading an active lifestyle, pottery, meeting new people and enthusiastic high fives.


Amrita Wassan

Amrita Wassan is curious about the interconnection between internal and collective liberation. She explores this curiosity through her practices as a student, writer, educator, activist, friend, and facilitator. Amrita is passionate about building cooperatives, ending rape culture, and sustaining healing communal spaces. She spends her time laughing, biking, and visiting the elephants at the zoo.

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