Welcome to the Perrone-Sizer Institute Cohort 2!

Please help us welcome the current cohort of the Perrone-Sizer Institute! We’re thrilled to be working and learning with this amazing group, and we’ll be sharing their thinking and creativity as the year goes on.

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Emily Bekenstein, Director of Operations, Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School

Emily is the Director of Operations at Orchard Gardens K-8 Pilot School in Roxbury. Emily began her career in education in 2010 while serving as a City Year Boston Americorps member in a third grade classroom at the Agassiz Elementary School in Jamaica Plain. From 2011-2015, Emily served as a City Year Boston Team Leader and Program Manager at Orchard Gardens. During those four years, Emily managed teams of Americorps members, ensuring that they provided high-quality service that met instructional and school goals. In 2015, Emily joined the Orchard Gardens staff in a new role that focused on maintaining data systems, developing school culture, and seeking out fundraising opportunities. Emily received her Bachelor of Arts degree in government with a minor in studio art from Connecticut College in 2010.       

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Emily Chen, Dean of Operations, Edwards Middle School

Emily was born in Hangzhou, China and immigrated with her family to the US when she was four years old. Growing up, she lived all over the United States (Florida, Wisconsin, New Hampshire, Missouri) and she considers Michigan to be her home. Emily fell into teaching after college. She served with City Year and then completed a two-year teaching fellowship with Citizen Schools. She is still working at the school that she began teaching at and is currently the Dean of Operations at the Edwards Middle School. Go Team Eddy!     

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Angela DiPesa, Campus Director, Citizen Schools

Angela is currently a campus director with the education non-profit Citizen Schools. She graduated from Syracuse University with a bachelor’s degrees in Spanish Language and Literature and World History in 2013. Since then she has been working in schools in the Greater Boston area, first as an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow and now in her current leadership role at the Wright Science and Technology Academy in Chelsea, Massachusetts. She loves to expose young people to the world of cooking, reading (such as Harry Potter!), and hiking, all of which she does quite often in her spare time.     

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Shaunalynn Duffy, Director of Operations, sprout & co. / Powderhouse Studios

Shaunalynn loves working with young people and playing brass music. Nearly a decade ago, she co-founded sprout & co, a science education nonprofit based which has designed and run in and after school programs with youth and evening programs with adults. Based on the successes and insights learned from those programs, sprout is now nearing the end of the design and approval process for Powderhouse Studios, a small, project-based high school in Somerville being started under Massachusetts’ innovation school legislation. She also plays sousaphone and saxophone in brass bands around town. One of those groups, School of HONK, is a teaching band that welcomes people of any age, background, and experience level to practice and perform street brass music together every week.

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Chris Flaherty, Teacher, Boston Arts Academy

Chris Flaherty just completed his sixth year as a math and reading teacher at the Boston Arts Academy. At BAA, he has worked as a department chair and leads Intersession, a school-wide project week between semesters. Chris is a former Noyce Fellow from Tufts University and former National Geographic Teaching Fellow. He has received the Mary Mulcahy Service in Education Award from Tufts in 2012 and the Boston City Council Top Educators Award in 2017. Chris is also an amateur filmmaker and writer who loves to play soccer, surf, and be an uncle in his free time.  

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Valduvino, Goncalves, Associate Director of Guidance, New Mission High School

Valduvino Goncalves is a Guidance Counselor at New Mission High School. As a product of the Boston Public Schools, Valduvino is committed to social justice and working with students who look just like him. As a Guidance Counselor, he is responsible for supporting and overseeing the college process at New Mission, ensuring students are on track to graduate, and serves as a resource and advocate for all of his students. He is incredibly passionate about this work and continues to serve his students in every capacity that he can. In addition to working as a Guidance Counselor, Valduvino is also a mentor in the High School to Teaching Program, a BPS sponsored program aimed at developing aspiring home-grown teachers and inspiring them to pursue a career in the education profession. He is motivated by this work and is inspired every day by this work. Finally, Valduvino has been a board member of the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) for the last two years and was recently elected to serve as the Vice President of the Board.      

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Amy Gonzalez, Grade 7 English Language Arts Teacher, Rindge Avenue Upper School

Amy Gonzalez is currently in her tenth year of teaching and is a middle school English teacher in Cambridge, MA. Her teaching journey began at Rhode Island College, where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education with a Concentration in English. She transitioned to studying Secondary Education through the Boston Teacher Residency program, where she received her Master’s in Education from the University of Massachusetts in Boston. She taught in Boston Public Schools for three years prior to teaching in Cambridge. Her passion for teaching, reading, writing and connecting with students has led her to studying with the Boston Writing Project and the Calderwood Writing Initiative. She was one of the Associate General Chairs for the National Council of Teachers of English 2013 Convention in Boston. Her other passion is hip-hop dancing.      

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Caitlin MacLeod-Bluver, ESOL teacher, Boston International High School

Caitlin MacLeod-Bluver teaches high school history and English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) at Boston International High School, a Boston Public School. Her students are all recent immigrants, hailing from nearly 20 different countries and speaking over 12 languages. Caitlin uses both fiction and nonfiction to study race and power, oppression and resistance, and membership and communities. Caitlin is also a certified Reading Specialist and explores the relationship between literacy and power in her classroom. She hopes to empower her students to use their voices to advocate for justice and to help her students recognize the interconnectedness between human action and our world.  

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Cassandra McGraw, Campus Director, Citizen Schools, Joseph A. Browne Middle School

Cassandra McGraw is a passionate educator who is a recent alumna of the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she earned a Master of Education with a concentration in School Leadership. Prior to beginning her studies at Harvard, Cassandra resided in Orlando, Florida, where she obtained her Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in Elementary Education from the University of Central Florida with certifications in English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and Reading. Her professional experiences include teaching third grade, Advanced and Intensive Reading to middle school students within traditional public schools, and providing instructional coaching to teachers within primary schools in Spain and South Africa. Cassandra has recently transitioned into a role with Citizen Schools as Campus Director of Joseph A. Browne School. Cassandra hopes to deepen her ability to provide integrated systems of support for young people so that they may be free to inquire and wonder about how they may utilize their unique gifts and talents to elevate their communities and the larger world.

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Nicole Pelletier, History Teacher, Boston Community Leadership Academy

Nicole Pelletier has been an educator for more than 20 years. She learned about Ted Sizer and the Coalition of Essential Schools during college, and her ultimate desire is to offer quality, innovative education to the youth of Boston that serves the goals of social justice. After working at several alternative schools for disaffected students in Boston, Nicole applied to and was hired at Boston Community Leadership Academy during its inaugural year. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to build BCLA, developing and implementing its mission and vision, as well as her own practice, while also building relationships within Boston Public Schools and beyond. As massive budget cuts and new reforms increasingly take, rather than give from BPS, Nicole is looking to develop her leadership skills in order to continue to provide the youth of Boston the education they deserve and save a school that she has helped to build.      

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Tess Plotkin, Early Childhood Music Teacher (Resident Artist), Conservatory Lab Charter School

Tess Plotkin is a native of Somers, Connecticut and a graduate of Boston University. She will be entering into her sixth year teaching early childhood music and percussion at Conservatory Lab Charter School. She is a trained percussionist who plays a variety of other instruments. Tess works with students in pre-k through 2nd grade and focuses on creating high-quality developmentally appropriate musical experiences that lay the foundation for continued learning in a music-infused school.

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Alec Resnick, Director, Powderhouse Studios

Alec is the co-founder and current executive director of sprout & co, a science education non-profit which has been working in Somerville and greater Boston since 2009. In 2018, Sprout is expecting to open Powderhouse Studios, a new high school under Massachusetts' Innovation School legislation. At sprout, he's been responsible for program, curriculum, and business development—as well as direct service—in a variety of formal and informal learning environments, working with partners ranging from Google & Tufts to the O'Bryant School and Cloud Foundation. Before sprout, Alec studied math & physics at MIT and co-founded nublabs, an electromechanical design firm where he built learning tools & toys.


Heron Russell, Music Teacher, George H. Conley School, Boston Public Schools

Heron was born in Vermont and currently lives and teaches in Boston. Having been raised amid music, mountains, and a tradition of community activism, she hold those three things dear in her teaching and her life. With a BA in Peace and Justice Studies from Wellesley College, she teaches music and integrated arts at the Conley School with lens of community building and social justice. Together with her students, they explore themselves, their communities, and their world through music and the arts. As a musician, she is a student first, having been privileged to study folkloric musics of the African Diaspora as a drummer in Yanvalou Drum and Dance Ensemble, and with the all-female band Zili Misik.         


Maura Tighe, Teacher-Faculty, Boston Arts Academy

After receiving her BFA in Dramatic Arts/Directing from Emerson College, Maura began her career as a theatre director in NYC, working with many new playwrights on original and experimental work. She also did freelance work as a casting director and agent, and eventually moved to Boston, where she started her own business, Maura Tighe Casting. She spent years working in professional film and television. Credits include Next Stop Wonderland, State and Main and My Best Friend’s Girl, as well as numerous Independent films, commercials and television series (Zoom, Fetch with Ruff Ruffman, Design Squad, Knock First, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy). She also founded and ran a non-profit youth theatre company for 10 years, the South Shore Summer Theatre. Maura gained a reputation as a nurturing teacher and mentor of actors, and has worked as adjunct faculty at Emerson College and Brandeis University. She is currently on the faculty at Boston Arts Academy. Recent theatre credits include a professional production of Akeelah and the Bee at Wheelock Family Theatre. She is passionate about the work of creating theatre with young people, for the inner confidence and wisdom the process nurtures.


Robert Tobio, Teacher, Mary Lyon Pilot High School

Bob is a high school math teacher at the Mary Lyon Pilot High School. He has started his eighth year of teaching in the Boston Public Schools, seven of which have been at the Mary Lyon. In his free time, Bob enjoys running and spending time with his new son.         

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Shantae Toole, Resource Room Teacher - Grade 3, Young Achievers Pilot School

Shantae has lived in Boston for her entire life. She was educated within and graduated from Boston Public Schools. She is the proud mother of three incredible children and the wife of a passionate family engagement advocate. She is an English Language Arts educator, and spent the last five years teaching fifth graders at the Trotter Innovation School. Her greatest joy in the classroom is witnessing her least invested students in September become her most voracious readers by May. In addition to teaching full time, she is a co-founder of First Teacher, a movement of parents and caregivers working together to prepare all our children for kindergarten and beyond. Shantae is excited about transitioning into her new role as a Resource Room Teacher at the Young Achievers Pilot School and is looking forward to a new chapter in her life balancing teaching with leadership at First Teacher and participation in the Perrone-Sizer Institute. Ultimately, she will open a First Teacher school, marrying family, community, and education.  

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Amy Wedge, Teacher Dennis C. Haley Pilot School (Boston Public Schools)

Amy is a graduate of Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston and received her Master’s in Special Education from Simmons College. Licensures include Visual Arts K-12, SpEd-Moderate Disabilities, ELL, and Elementary Ed. 1-6. Amy started working at the Haley in the Fall of 2009. She chose the Haley because of her passion for inclusionary education and cross-curricular arts integration. Amy is involved in various district, city, and state level initiatives around quality teaching, policy, and access to the arts. Her interests and hobbies include sewing, paper-cutting, reading, professional development, and collaboration. Amy was born and raised in Massachusetts and currently resides in Dorchester with her spouse, Devon.     

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Nancy Zimbalist, Art Specialist, Joyce Kilmer Lower School

Nancy Zimbalist is a veteran teacher, teaching early childhood art education at the Joyce Kilmer School in West Roxbury. She has taught from Pre-K early intervention to AP Studio Art. Her experience spans two states, museums, and various community organizations in St. Louis, Cambridge, and Boston. She has worked in arts administration for Boston Public Schools, Laumeier Sculpture Park, and the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art. She has a BFA in printmaking and Post AB in education from Washington University in St. Louis, a MAT in education and ceramics from Bridgewater State College, and is a certified Child Light Yoga instructor. She is a two-time Sontag recipient/participant and a mentor teacher for the Showa Institute’s study abroad program. Her experience includes collaboration with Very Special Arts, the Department of Humanities, VTS trainer programs, Adobe Youth Voices, Massachusetts Cultural Council and more. Lastly, she is an accomplished artist in paper and ceramics.