Teach Plus Pennsylvania Launches 2023-2024 Policy Fellowship

Teach Plus Pennsylvania Launches 2023-2024 Policy Fellowship

Harrisburg, PA, September 6, 2023 — Teach Plus, a national nonprofit that empowers teachers to lead student-centered improvements in educational policy and instructional practice, has selected a group of 44 outstanding teachers from across the Commonwealth for its 2023-2024 Pennsylvania Policy Fellowship. Building on the work of the first three cohorts of Policy Fellows, these talented teacher leaders will be trained in policy and advocacy specifically designed to help them develop the skills to champion innovative policy solutions for Pennsylvania’s students.

The fellowship kicked off August 25-27 in Harrisburg with an in-person weekend of training and orientation.

“Our incoming Fellows are diverse, innovative, and inspired,” said Pennsylvania Policy Manager Zakiya Stewart. “I have no doubt in their ability to continue the legacy of our previous cohorts to advance the changes that matter most to our students and their families across Pennsylvania.”

Pennsylvania Executive Director Laura Boyce said: “This is a moment of great challenge for our schools, with an acute teacher shortage, an unconstitutional school funding system, an early childhood education system in crisis, and unprecedented post-pandemic learning loss. It is also a moment of great opportunity, with a new governor, two commissions tasked with reforming our school funding system and reimagining education, and an appetite on both sides of the aisle for innovative and bipartisan solutions that meet the needs of kids. Teach Plus Fellows are ready to meet this moment with the urgency and vision that are needed.”

This new cohort of Fellows were selected through a rigorous application process that evaluated their commitment to equity and unwavering dedication to excellence in teaching to prepare all students to achieve their potential.

“I couldn’t be more excited to be a Teach Plus PA Policy Fellow this year,” said Alex Peffer, a Camp Hill School District teacher. “I am confident that I will grow in my understanding of how to actually affect state-level policy change that benefits Pennsylvania students and teachers and subsequently become a more confident and effective advocate. In doing so, I’ll be a living model of both courageously stepping out of my comfort zone and doing the hard work that leads to real change for my fourth graders. I look forward to the conversations that will come from my learning this year — with legislators, other fellows, colleagues, and of course, my students.”

With over 50 percent of the cohort identifying as teachers of color — compared to only 6 percent of teachers statewide — Teach Plus Pennsylvania Policy Fellows are reflective of the diversity of the state and its students. The teachers come from a variety of districts across the state, from Allentown to Central York, Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, and Oley Valley to Mount Union. With between two and 32 years of teaching experience, they include early childhood, elementary, middle school, and high school educators.

“Being accepted as a Teach Plus PA Policy Fellow is for me a career highlight,” said Misty Doy, a teacher in Pittsburgh Public Schools. “For the 32 years I have been teaching, I’ve accepted the status quo, though often disagreeing vehemently with decisions being made at levels I thought were inaccessible to me. To think that I will have an opportunity to interact with professional colleagues and perhaps advocate for teacher and student-friendly initiatives, directives and laws breathes new life into this teacher who was losing both faith and desire. I am looking forward to listening, learning and then, hopefully, working collaboratively to ensure that new top-down policies are ones that benefit the educational environment in our schools.”

Throughout the fellowship, teachers will receive key resources and engage in targeted leadership opportunities essential for developing them as effective education advocates. Fellows will participate in monthly training sessions for the following 11 months to develop their abilities in policy, advocacy, research, and communications. With the assistance of Senior Fellows, who are all former participants in Teach Plus policy programs, the Fellows will simultaneously work in smaller working groups to explore policy solutions and advocacy activities around important policy priority areas.

The 2023-2024 policy focus areas include adequate and equitable school funding, advancing the science of reading, early childhood education, expanding and diversifying the teacher pipeline, and reimagining teacher preparation

The 2023-2024 Pennsylvania Policy Fellows are:

  • Ava Alexander, William Penn School District
  • Aima Arogundade, Southwest Leadership Academy Charter School (Philadelphia)
  • Kyle Bender, Tiny Tots Child Development Center (Rochester)
  • Kristen Berger, Williamsport Area School District
  • Marie Daschbach, Mount Union Area School District
  • Nicholas DiCarolis, Penn Hills Charter School of Entrepreneurship (Pittsburgh)
  • Misty Doy, Pittsburgh Public Schools
  • K.P. Edwards, School District of Philadelphia
  • Donna L. Ervin, Pittsburgh Public Schools
  • Stephanie Everhart, South Fayette School District
  • Briana Fitzgerald, Children’s Ark Creative Learning Center (Pittsburgh)
  • Tiffany Goodman, Allentown School District
  • Jenn Hoffman, Oley Valley School District
  • Patricia A. Jackson, Central York School District
  • Kristyn Kahalehoe, School District of Philadelphia
  • Jeffrey Lee, Lower Merion School District
  • Aurelia Lewis, Northwood Academy Charter School
  • Kaitlin McCann, School District of Philadelphia
  • Dana Mensher, Whitehall-Coplay School District
  • Payal Mital, South Fayette School District
  • Angel Osorio Pizarro, Pan American Academy Charter School (Philadelphia)
  • William Patterson, School District of Philadelphia
  • Alex Peffer, West Shore School District
  • Matt Reid, Upper Merion School District
  • Na’imah Rhodes, Pottstown School District
  • Ernie Richardson Santana, Pan American Academy Charter School (Philadelphia)
  • Jill Rivera, Norristown School District
  • Amy Romani, Tredyffrin Easttown School District
  • Crystal Sterner, Allentown School District
  • Jill Weller-Reilly, Central Bucks School District

The 2023-2024 Pennsylvania Senior Policy Fellows are:

  • Fatim Byrd, School District of Philadelphia
  • Rosemary Collins, Reading Interventionist (Mississippi Delta)
  • Tim Crane, Camp Hill School District
  • Eric Hitchner, School District of Philadelphia
  • Ben Hodge, Central York School District
  • Lyssa Horvarth, School District of Philadelphia
  • Cory Hulsizer, Camp Hill School District
  • Dr. Ebonie Lamb, Pittsburgh Public Schools
  • Afia Lewis, William Penn School District
  • Michelle Lockette, South Fayette School District
  • Robyn Queen, Educational Consultant (Pittsburgh)
  • Leon Smith, Haverford Township School District
  • Dr. Rhonda Threet, Pittsburgh Public Schools
  • Nicole Wyglendowski, School District of Philadelphia

About Teach Plus
Teach Plus is dedicated to the mission of empowering excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that advance equity, opportunity, and student success. In pursuing our mission, Teach Plus is guided by our Student Opportunity Mandate: All students should have the opportunity to achieve their potential in an education system defined by its commitment to equity, its responsiveness to individual needs, and its ability to prepare students for postsecondary success. Since 2009, Teach Plus has developed thousands of teacher leaders across the country to exercise their leadership in shaping education policy and improving teaching and learning for students. teachplus.org/pa

For more information and to arrange interviews with the Policy Fellows, contact Kelly Pearce, kpearce@teachplus.org.