Click on a staff person’s name to view their biography.
Allyson Criner Brown, Tellin’ Stories Project Manager
América Calderón, in memoriam
Talia Brock, Bilingual Program Coordinator
Jazelle Hunt, Documentarian
Erika Landberg, Special Project Assistant
Rachel Mehl, Bilingual Program Coordinator
Deborah Thomas, Roving Readers Coordinator
Rosalie Reyes, Coordinator of Teacher Engagement and Professional Development
Don Allen, Publications Director
Katie Orr, Communications Manager, Zinn Education Project
Cierra Kaler-Jones, Education Anew Fellow
Alison Kysia, Project Director, Islamophobia: A People’s History Teaching Guide
L. Nqobile Mthethwa, Researcher, Zinn Education Project
Jenice View, Civil Rights Movement, Senior Professional Development Specialist
Deborah Menkart, Executive Director
Allyson Criner Brown, Associate Director
Allison Acosta, Communications Coordinator
Mykella Palmer-McCalla, Creative Coordinator
Pat Corekin, Administrative Associate
SPECIAL PROJECT CONSULTANTS
Enid Lee, Virtual Scholar
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.
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.
Talia was born in Washington, DC and raised in Silver Spring, MD, so she has been a resident of the DMV for most of her life. In the interest of experiencing life outside of the “bubble” that is the DC metro area, she attended Denison University in Granville, OH. It was during her time studying and volunteering abroad at an education based non-profit in Santiago, Dominican Republic that her interest in social justice began to take shape. After graduating, Talia returned to DC to work as a City Year corps member, where she became deeply frustrated by the effects that systemic oppression had on her students and their families. Once her corps year had ended, she channeled that frustration into her work as a tenant organizer and manager at the Latino Economic Development Center, where she served alongside the District’s low-income residents of color to organize for the preservation of affordable housing. In her spare time, Talia enjoys reading fiction, creating art, and daydreaming about ways to change the world. She is excited to be a part of the Teaching for Change team and looks forward to supporting work that is radically transforming education in the US and abroad.
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, MPA, is the associate director of Teaching for Change and leads the Tellin’ Stories parent organizing project, recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Harvard Family Research Project as a leading innovation in family engagement. She is an educator, facilitator, public speaker, advocate, and seasoned practitioner who is nationally known for her work at the intersection of racial equity and family engagement. Allyson edited the second edition of Between Families and Schools: Creating Meaningful Relationships (2016) and has represented Teaching for Change in interviews, articles, symposiums, conferences, and workshops for Education Week, NPR, The Atlantic, ASCD, ThinkProgress, the U.S. Department of Education, the Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, and more. Locally, she represents Teaching for Change in the Coalition for DC Public Schools and Communities (C4DC), is an active member of the Ward 7 Education Council, and serves as a member of the DC State Board of Education ESSA Task Force. Allyson fervently believes that deep and systemic inequalities that harm the rights, dignity, and potential of people of color and low-income families can be undone, and she pursues this ambition through her work in education. A former middle school teacher and track and field coach, her professional experiences are centered around schools and community-based organizations that focus on education, social justice, and youth development. In 2011, she earned a master’s degree in public administration from The George Washington University and currently serves on the Advisory Board for the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration. Originally from Oakland, Calif., she lives with her husband and two daughters in Washington, D.C., where she is a proud DCPS parent and a huge fan of D.C.’s parks, trails, and pools. To get a sense of what drives Allyson’s passion for education and social justice, listen to this story she shared in 2014 about her time as a teacher and her work organizing with parents in DC Public Schools: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqQ0aIEQUp0.
Cierra Kaler-Jones comes to Teaching for Change as the Education Anew Fellow through Communities for Just Schools Fund. She is currently a Ph.D. student in the Department of Teaching and Learning, Policy and Leadership at the University of Maryland, College Park studying minority and urban education. Her work examines how Black girls use arts-based practices (such as movement and music) as forms of expression, resistance, and identity development. As an educator, Cierra has worked with preschool students, K-12 students, and college students. She previously served as an intern and fellow at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. Cierra is also an arts education advocate — she teaches dance classes for all ages, choreographs for local companies, and runs a program that offers culturally-sustaining arts-based programming and curriculum for girls. Her experiences teaching, running community-based art programs, crafting policy, and conducting research all shape her commitment to social justice and educational equity. She enjoys taking and teaching fitness classes, going on road trips, and writing. Cierra is excited to join Teaching for Change and Communities for Just Schools Fund to support their work in transforming education.
Alison Kysia is the project director of “Islamophobia: a people’s history teaching guide” at Teaching for Change. Previously, she designed Islamic studies and anti-Islamophobia teaching modules for adult education audiences, including religious leaders, social justice activists, and teachers. She taught U.S., world, and Islamic history in an urban community college and English language to adult immigrants. Alison holds a B.A. in Race, Class, and Gender Studies and an M.A. in History. In addition to being an educator and curriculum developer, she is also an avid potter who is creating a three-part public art installation called “Islamophobia: A dhikr in clay.”
Rachel began to understand the inspiring power of deeply-rooted, long-term organizing and the devastating effects of U.S. foreign policy while engaged as a human rights observer in Zapatista communities in Chiapas, Mexico. There she began to learn about the transformational power of popular education in Latin American and U.S. social movements. Since then, Rachel has spent 15 years exploring the intersections of popular education, multilingual community organizing, and racial and educational justice. She earned her Bachelor’s in Latin American Studies and Spanish from the University of Kansas and her M.Ed in Adult Education and Community Development from the University of Toronto. Rachel has coordinated and instructed Citizenship (ESOL) classes for adult Latin American immigrants with a critical focus on racism in U.S. history. As an educator, she has worked with toddlers, K-12 public school students, community college students, and adult learners. As an interpreter, Rachel has interpreted for social movement spaces, NGOs, and unions with an eye toward decentering English as the dominant language. As the daughter of a public school teacher and the mother of a 3-year-old child, Rachel believes in the power of education in which teachers, students, and parents can envision and struggle for a better world together.
Katie Orr is a public historian and history communicator who grew up in the Harpers Ferry area west of Washington, DC. Both inspired by the power of the First Amendment and disenchanted with American leadership after reading All the Presidents Men at 16, she tested for her GED and left home to earn a B.A. in journalism from Marshall University in Huntington, WV, and then a Masters in U.S. History from American University in 2011. Before joining the Zinn Education Project, Katie was a National Park Service Historian working to promote inclusive K-12 education at Parks and expanding the scope of narratives told by the National Park Service to emphasize underrepresented or marginalized perspectives. She is interested in national conversations about identity and geography, education policy, and the healing power of relevancy in history. Katie credits Joe Strummer of The Clash for her political awakening and aspires to be as thoughtful as bell hooks and as steely as Alice Paul. Off hours, she volunteers for social justice through her local Unitarian congregation, serves as a National History Day judge annually, and is always looking forward to the next camping trip in Shenandoah.
Mykella Palmer is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park where she was a Banneker/Key Scholar and a member of the highly select, nationally acclaimed Hinman CEOs living-learning program. She has over 15 years of web and graphic design experience and manages the design of all things visual for Teaching for Change and the Zinn Education Project.
A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Rosalie received her M.S.Ed., in education entrepreneurship from the Graduate School of Education and Wharton School of Business. Rosalie comes to Teaching for Change from the Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center, where she served as a museum educator, curriculum designer, and movement and mindfulness instructor for children with special needs. Focusing her research and practice of anti-bias education with support from the Early Childhood Education Initiative at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Rosalie is passionate about educational equity and exploring race and representation in children’s literature. Rosalie is a native to the Bronx, NY where she began her career as early childhood educator at a local HeadStart program. Rosalie enjoys yoga, reading poetry, and supporting her community’s farmer’s market.
Debbie Thomas is a born and raised Washingtonian, and a product of the DC public school system. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in labor studies from the National Labor College. Having just retired from her work for an international union where she did organizing, collective bargaining, and human rights, she became acquainted with Teaching for Change while getting an oil change. Not exactly sure what she would do in retirement, another customer started talking about Roving Readers and how to volunteer, and the next thing she knew she was reading in the classroom of her neighborhood school. This led to her being hired as a Parent Coordinator for a DC public school, her most rewarding job ever. Debbie felt that parents needed to be supported to learn how to be an integral part of their children’s education. After all, they are their children’s first teacher. Parents need to know that they were on equal footing with teachers. Debbie believes that when parents are empowered in their own lives they are in a better position to advocate for their children. To see parents gain the confidence to read aloud in the classroom or know what question to ask at a teacher conference, or to find the courage to be able to speak before the city council is a monumental step. Debbie built up a parent center that was both a welcoming place for parents in the school and a place where they too could grow. She watched parents get their GED, certifications in computers and the health field, and so much more. They prospered, and their children prospered too. Now retired from the school, she has come full circle. She is taking Roving Readers to the next level and loves that parents are able to read in the classroom in their native language. In a rapidly gentrifying city, parents need to know that their voices are important and they do matter.