Staff

Click on a staff person’s name to view their biography.

 

PARENT ORGANIZING

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

 

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Rosalie Reyes, Coordinator of Teacher Engagement and Professional Development

 

PUBLICATIONS

Don Allen, Publications Director

 

PROJECTS

Katie Orr, Communications Manager, Zinn Education Project
Alison Kysia, Project Director, Islamophobia: A People’s History Teaching Guide
L. Nqobile Mthethwa, Researcher, Zinn Education Project
Victoria Smalls, Reconstruction Campaign Organizer, Zinn Education Project
Jenice View, Civil Rights Movement, Senior Professional Development Specialist

 

ADMINISTRATION

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

 

 Staff Biographies


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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.


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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.


Talia Brock, Bilingual Program Coordinator

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.


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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.


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Allyson Criner Brown, Associate Director

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.


Alison Kysia, Project Director

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.”


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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.

Rachel Mehl, Bilingual Program Coordinator

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.


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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.

L. Nqobile Mthethwa

As an undergrad, Nqobile Mthethwa worked as a research/project assistant for three years writing, organizing and archiving data pertaining to the Carter G. Woodson Institute’s digital exhibition ‘The Movement in the Archive’ created and supervised by director/Professor Deborah McDowell.  She has worked on open source web-publishing platforms for the display of library, museum, archives, and academic collections/exhibitions. She presented on Julian Bond’s legacy as a historian on a panel at the Julian Bond Symposium in October 2016.  She also helped create and teach a course titled ‘Introduction to Citizenship & Activism A Critical Examination of Jefferson’s University’ for four semesters with Professor Walter Heinecke. Her research interests include organizational structure of grassroots movements, federal legislation of the Civil Rights era and documenting untold historical narratives. She graduated from the University of Virginia in May 2017 with a B.A. in Political Science.

Katie Orr, Zinn Education Project Communications Manager

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.


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Mykella Palmer-McCalla, Creative Coordinator

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.


Rosalie Reyes, Coordinator of Teacher Engagement and Professional Development

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.


Victoria Smalls, Zinn Education Project Reconstruction Campaign Organizer

Born and raised in St. Helena Island, South Carolina, Victoria recently joined the staff as the Zinn Education Project Reconstruction Campaign Organizer, with a focus on South Carolina. For more than 15 years, as a public educator within schools and museums, Victoria has gained an appreciation and passion for learning and sharing all that she can about Reconstruction Era history and Gullah Geechee culture.

Victoria serves as a state commissioner with the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission. Previously, Victoria served as the Program Manager to help build the International African American Museum in Charleston, SC. She immersed herself in Reconstruction Era history and Gullah Geechee culture while serving as Director of History, Art and Culture, Director of Development and Public Relations for more than five years at the Penn Center—Penn School National Historic Landmark District on St. Helena Island, SC. With her assistance, two buildings on the 50-acre historic district, Darrah Hall and Brick Baptist Church, were designated Reconstruction Era National Monuments. Victoria attributes her commitments to the exploration and promotion of history, art and culture to the rich intercultural environment steeped in Reconstruction Era history and Gullah culture in which she was raised. She is also an accomplished visual artist, who has created and sold her work professionally for 16 years, has exhibited nationally in art galleries and museums, and is an art collector in her own right. Victoria and her family now live in Beaufort, SC.


Deborah Thomas, Roving Readers Coordinator

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.


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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).

 

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