Agnes Zapata teaches English in East Oakland. After graduating from college with a BA in English from UCLA, she moved to Chicago and earned an MA in English from Loyola University of Chicago. While in Chicago, she volunteered with adult learners who recently immigrated to the United States in order to help them improve their English skills. After finishing her program at Chicago, Agnes moved to Stanford to earn her teaching credential in the STEP program. She then began teaching in Oakland and has taught there ever since because she loves it! Agnes currently teaches at Fremont High School, which is a vibrant beating heart of multiple diverse student groups who are rooted in a culture of activism. She has worked on collaborating with others trying to incorporate more civic engagement and culturally relevant pedagogy through professional development groups such as Educating for Democracy in the Digital Age and the Graduate Capstone Learning Series. In her ninth year teaching, she has taught a range of classes including SDAIE English, reading intervention, 9th, 10th, 11th grade English, AP Lit, and AP Lang. She loves incorporating pop culture in the classroom -- on any given day, you might find her using The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or The George Lopez Show to teach anything from vocab to gender studies. She has participated in a number of leadership roles at her school site including School Site Council, Hiring Committee, Design Team, and Measure N Committee. She recently earned her National Board Certification and currently mentors new teachers. In her free time, Agnes enjoys traveling anywhere with a beach, dancing till she drops, and watching Los Angeles sports! She has co-directed a small learning community that follows the vision of Nelson Mandela and with other teachers and students, has created a culture where everyone looks out for each other and everyone stands up for their community. She loves her students and the work of teaching and as Nelson Mandela says, “love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Betsy Kim is currently in her fifth year teaching English and her third year at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate High School. After receiving her BS/MS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech, she joined Teach for America in 2013 and spent two years teaching in Atlanta Public Schools before going to work on the 2016 presidential campaign. After a year in DC, Betsy realized that she needed to be surrounded by the magnetic and exuberant energy of kids, so she moved back to Atlanta to teach 9th and 10th grade English, where she’s been ever since. At KIPP Atlanta Collegiate, Betsy helped develop the 9th and 10th grade Pre-AP English curriculum for her school’s AP for All program, and she has served as the head cross country and track and field coaches as well as the 10th English team lead. As team lead, Betsy pushed for the inclusion of more student-led discussion and authentic questioning while working with her team to build more culturally responsive texts and practices into the Pre-AP English curriculum. Since becoming a Hollyhock fellow and starting her Master’s in Education at Kennesaw State, Betsy has had an increased focus on how student-led discussion can improve academic achievement within the English classroom and hopes to build on this research as a Hollyhock Leading Fellow. In her free time, Betsy enjoys working out, listening to music, and reading and writing while she hangs with her dog, Sox.
After graduating from a small-town high school in Ramona, California, Calee decided to move to the city to attend the University of California Los Angeles. The was a huge adjustment for a country kid who grew up riding horses, participating in wilderness activities as a Boy Scout, and raising pigs in 4-H. Calee graduated from UCLA with a Bachelors of Science in Anthropology, a minor in Developmental Psychology and completed the Developmental Disabilities Immersion Program at the Neuropsychiatric Institute. He then spent 3 years as an Applied Behavior Analyst working with children on the Autism Spectrum, and then he had a brief stint as a preschool teacher before deciding to attend UCLA's Teacher Education Program and completing his Master’s in Education to teach high school science. People asked Calee, “how he could make the shift from preschool to high school” and his response was, “the only difference is bigger bodies, they require the same patience and love.” This is when he found his home at a small teacher-led pilot high school near downtown Los Angeles, the Academic Leadership Community located on the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex. Though initially hired to be a biology and health teacher, he found himself challenged to be school's chemistry teacher. Teaching chemistry was not enough to satisfy his desire to connect with students and improve the community, 9 years ago he became the Associated Student Body advisor working with students to plan and implement all activities on campus. His passion and love for teaching and coaching expanded beyond his classroom and reconnected him with UCLA's TEP as he has been a mentor for 6 apprentice teachers over the years. The added level of teaching as a mentor and coach inspired Calee to run for one of the school’s Lead Teacher positions. He is entering his 3rd year as a Lead Teacher; in this capacity Calee develops and implements professional development for the school’s teaching team, provides coaching and support, and works with his principal and co-lead teacher to handle the operational needs of running a small school. His goals include developing himself as a teacher, mentor, and coach and passing on what he learns to others creating ripples to impact the lives of more students. His commitment to his school and students is clear as he is entering his 11th year at the ALC. During the summer you can find Calee acting and performing in a fantasy world role as a knight, sword fighting villains and goofing around with goblins and fairies.
Gina Le is entering her 7th year of teaching English. She is currently a Special Educator teaching self-contained English at Academy for College & Career Exploration (ACCE) in Baltimore, MD. After earning dual degrees in English and Psychology at The Ohio State University, she moved to New York to work on a Master of Arts in English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. In 2013, she began her teaching career as a founding teacher at New Visions Charter HS for Advanced Math & Science III in Brooklyn, NY and taught English courses across the spectrum of general education, integrated co-teaching, Pre-AP, AP, and Honors for 5 years. In 2016, she earned an additional certification in Special Education from Brooklyn College and became a mentor to new special education teachers in a teacher residency program. She also worked with Girls for Gender Equity in their Urban Leaders Academy, where she helped facilitate a broad range of after-school programs through the lens of social consciousness and youth empowerment, including programs like peer mentorship; comics/gaming; gender and sexuality studies; healthy relationships; photography; and Young People’s Power Collective, a social justice course. Now in Baltimore at a first-year turnaround school, she is leveraging her instructional and relationship-building experiences to help cultivate a more inclusive school climate. Gina’s pedagogy is rooted in literacy as liberation, equitable access for all learners, culturally sustaining pedagogy, and socioemotional learning.
James Beach is currently completing his 10th year as a science educator in Los Angeles, California. James has taught several different subjects in multiple settings; from middle school Earth Science and Life Science, to high school biology, pre-AP Chemistry and Biology, and a college preparatory course called AVID. James has always had a love for the sciences and wanted to instill that passion in others. After earning his bachelors degree in Biological Sciences from UCLA, James was awarded a Noyce Fellowship to pursue a masters degree in education and his career as a teacher. His first placement was at a brand new middle school called Young Oak Kim Academy that was experimenting with single-gender classrooms as the 7th grade boys Life Science instructor. After 6 years teaching at the middle school, James decided that he wanted to work with older students and took on a position at Santee Education Complex, where he now currently teaches 9th-grade biology and 10th-grade AVID. Santee Education complex is a member of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a newly formed organization dedicated to bringing the best instructional and operational practices into the classrooms of inner-city schools.
Jenna Hughes is interested in building better narratives for becoming an educator. Jenna will joyfully be entering her 10th year of teaching English to high school students. She earned her English Education B.S. from Illinois State University and her M.Ed. from Arizona State University. Her career has taken her to several states. She has been in Florida, Arizona, California and has most recently found her home as an English I, English II PreAP teacher, and leader at Denver’s North High School. As a leader within her schools she has coached three student teachers through various undergraduate programs and encourages them to develop their own teacher voice. Along with her leadership of new teachers, she has also worked to develop current staff through lesson study professional developments and hosting of co-teaching labs. Outside of the classroom Jenna recognizes the importance of students having extra-curricular groups and activities. She worked as a coach while in Los Angeles with Matthew McConaughey’s foundation Just Keep Livin’ and participated in P.O.P.S (Pain of the Prison System) - a program that provides a space for students struggling with the shame and stigma of loving someone in prison. As a Hollyhock fellow for the last two years she has found a teacher development program that pulls at the heart of equitable educators and she is excited to continue her inspiration within Hollyhock as a Leading Fellow.
Joey Notaro is entering his fifth year as a high school mathematics teacher. He graduated from Cornell University with a B. S. in Science of Natural and Environmental Systems. After moving to the Bay Area, he spent three years working for a nonprofit in San Francisco serving homeless youth. His experience as an Outreach Counselor and GED Instructor gave him firsthand insight into the brutality of our current educational system and its casualties. Students habitually failed the mathematics subtest of the GED more than any other content area, and this led him to be a part of the wave of educators demanding justice for students who have long been neglected or abused by a such an unresponsive system. Joey attained his Master’s in Education at Mills College where he imbibed the school's six principles of teaching practice, and he has strived to live those principles in his daily teaching practice. Most significantly, Joey believes that teaching is a collegial act and has been the Chair of Fremont High School’s Faculty Council for three years. He has participated in Teaching for Robust Understanding in Mathematics and Lesson Study learning cycles within a highly collaborative mathematics department. He has joined the Math Instructional Materials Review Committee with teachers from across the district to adopt a new high school curriculum, and he has also joined the District Instructional Leadership Team. Additionally, Joey was deeply embedded in organizing activity for Oakland’s educator strike because teaching is a political act. He remains committed to demanding an equitable education for all students along this journey together.
Justin Engles is a Special Education teacher at the Bronx Academy for Software Engineering (BASE) in New York City, where he focuses on developing brain-based culturally-responsive pedagogy. His teaching career began in 2011 at the University of Miami, where he earned an MFA in Fiction and taught Composition and Creative Writing. In the summer of 2015, Justin joined the New York City Teaching Fellows and soon began teaching at BASE. In his first two years in the Bronx, Justin co-taught 9th and 10th grade ELA and Global History and earned a Master’s in Education from St. Johns University. He was then fortunate enough to loop with the same cohort of students to teach US History during their junior year. This year he worked as a Literacy Support Specialist and as a 12th grade capstone project advisor. He is currently the Department of Social Sciences team leader, the Union Chapter Leader, and a co-facilitator of the Youth Leadership Council. Justin is a writer whose work has appeared in Catapult, Four Way Review, and Runaway Parade Anthology. Outside of school, Justin volunteers both as a member of Teach Dream, an activist group that supports undocumented youth, and as an arbitration advocate for New York City teachers. Justin is also a proud member of the Exploration Corps, where he has worked aboard the research vessel Nautilus on expeditions to map the Cascadia Margin.
Melina Lesus is a National Board Certified High School English teacher. She has been teaching in Chicago Public Schools for ten years. Throughout that time she has been committed to honing her craft by attending and facilitating a myriad of professional development sessions. Most notably she was accepted into and has successfully completed Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Bard Core program and Stanford University’s Hollyhock Fellowship. Her most recent professional development endeavor has led her to pursue a doctorate in Language, Literacy, and Culture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. As a doctoral student, her work focuses on equitable practice as she explores culturally sustainable methods of literacy instruction and empowering teachers to use these methods in their classrooms.
Mollie Griffin is going into her 12th year in education. After graduating from Boston College with a degree in English, Mollie spent two years in the private financial sector. It was not a good fit. Two years later she received her MS in Educational Leadership from the UW-Madison and entered TFA’s Chicago corps. She spent three years teaching English on Chicago’s far southwest side and receiving a MAT, before moving to the west side of Chicago to teach US history. In 2015, she moved into leadership as the Dean of Instruction, focusing on teacher coaching and developing teacher leaders. She maintained a class of AP US History for her first two years in the role, but has now shifted to focusing solely on teachers with the hopes of having greater overall impact on students through thoughtful development, planning, coaching, and support of adults. Mollie is actively broadening her understanding of and impact on education in general. She has attended several national professional development opportunities, including being a member of the inaugural Hollyhock cohort. She has had several fellowships as well as serving on various boards, including Teach Plus- Chicago and the Chicago Public Education Fund. Outside of working with teachers and talking about learning all the time, Mollie spends her life attempting to wrangle two (soon to be three) children under the age of four. Occasionally she does yoga. She is really looking forward to spending time with the incomparable Hollyhock team.
Shannon Nelson is in her 8th year of teaching high school social studies in Dallas, Texas. She holds a B.A. degree in History and a minor in Education from Southern Methodist University. Shannon has experience teaching in both traditional-public and public-charter high schools. She is currently teaching Advanced Placement U.S. History and Advanced Placement World History in the School of Science and Engineering at the Dallas Independent School District. During her tenure, Shannon has served as department head where she streamlined instruction and increased teacher collaboration through the implementation of a school-wide peer observation system. The system has had a lasting impact on school culture and student performance. Shannon enjoys sponsoring student run clubs, and she founded a chapter of Rotary International’s Interact Club. As a Hollyhock Fellow, Shannon continued to pursue her passion for fostering authentic student discussions and creating environments for students to develop well-rounded, informed perspectives of history. She is ecstatic to return as a Leading Fellow and looks forward to working with exceptional educators from across the nation.
Tori Aiko Barber
Tori Aiko Barber, currently a 6th year special education high school teacher, has worked in a variety of education settings. She has experience as a paraprofessional in high functioning resource and non-verbal autism classrooms in California and Colorado. She has taught incarcerated youth in alternative schools in California as well as in self-contained, 9th grade English, Read 180 and Algebra 2 inclusion classrooms in Arizona comprehensive public high schools. She holds three masters degrees in education from Harvard, Stanford and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Former professor Dr. Howard Gardner's "Good Work" course inspired her to daily discover what her contribution to society could be as a public school educator. As a multi-ethnic, multi-disciplinary special educator living with a physical disability, she welcomes opportunities to build resilience and nurture productive struggle in every community and individual she has the privilege to work with. Her 6th year of teaching is a breakthrough year for her as she currently has shifted into leading district professional development sessions centered on key learning points from the Hollyhock Institute math cohort experience. Topics included discussions focused on the impact of student academic, social, and societal status on student motivation as well as reflections on her Hollyhock year two goal to develop core teaching practices centered on productive STEM discourse. In collaboration with her principal at Agua Fria High School (in Avondale, AZ) and with the guidance of the Hollyhock Leading Fellows Program, she hopes to co-design and implement a freshmen intervention program to cultivate learner resilience and promote holistic adolescent growth for them to be on track for graduation and post-secondary success.