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Teach Plus Pennsylvania Launches 2021-22 Teaching Policy Fellowship

August 11, 2021

HARRISBURG, PA — Teach Plus, a national nonprofit that empowers teachers to lead improvements in educational policy and instructional practice, has selected a group of 30 excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers from across the Commonwealth for its 2021-22 Pennsylvania Teaching Policy Fellowship. The Keystone state’s first full Fellowship cohort, these talented teacher leaders will be trained in policy and advocacy specially designed to help them develop the skills to champion innovative policy solutions for Pennsylvania’s students. 

“We’re proud to be building on the success of last year’s 11-teacher Policy Advisory Board to launch a full Policy Fellowship this year,” said Pennsylvania Executive Director Laura Boyce. “In our first year, our teachers were instrumental in securing a $100 million Level Up equity supplement in the 2021 state budget to accelerate funding to the 100 most underfunded districts in Pennsylvania, while also contributing to upcoming legislation to increase educator diversity. Over the next year, there are significant opportunities for policy change as the state and districts work to recover from the pandemic and make decisions about how to use federal stimulus funds to advance equity and student opportunities. It’s critical that teachers have a seat at the table to bring innovative solutions to the most pressing issues facing their students and the profession.”

The Fellows were selected through a rigorous application process that assessed their effectiveness, commitment to equity, and pursuit of excellence and innovation in teaching. Over the next 11 months, they will engage in monthly trainings to develop their policy, advocacy, research, and communications skills. The Fellows will simultaneously work in smaller working groups to develop policy solutions and advocacy efforts around key policy focus areas with the support of Senior Fellows, who are all alumni of Teach Plus policy programs. The 2021-22 policy focus areas include:

  • Adequate and equitable school funding, led by Senior Fellow Mike Faccinetto
  • Culturally affirming schools, led by Senior Fellow Jamal Easley
  • Early childhood education, led by Senior Fellow Brandi Hester-Harrell
  • Reimagining teacher preparation, led by Senior Fellow Dr. Derek Long
  • Expanding and diversifying the teacher pipeline, led by Senior Fellow Aaron Taylor

“I’m looking forward to continuing to advocate for fair school funding in Pennsylvania while supporting this year’s cohort of teachers as a Senior Fellow,” said Mike Faccinetto, a teacher and school board president from the Lehigh Valley who served on last year’s Teach Plus Policy Advisory Board. “Last year, I joined the Teach Plus team with a great deal of advocacy and education policy experience, but I cannot believe how much I have learned from Teach Plus about speaking the language of policymakers. I’m thrilled to have been part of the huge Level Up victory this June and look forward to working with this year’s cohort to achieve even greater impact.” 

With 53% of the cohort identifying as teachers of color—compared to only 6% of teachers statewide—Teach Plus Pennsylvania Policy Fellows are reflective of the diversity of the state and its students. They hail from all corners of the Commonwealth and districts of all sizes and types, from Drexel Hill to Duquesne, Milton to Mount Union, Norristown to North Huntingdon. Ranging from 2 to 24 years of teaching experience, they include five early childhood educators working with Pennsylvania’s youngest learners in various settings, 12 elementary school teachers, six middle school teachers, and seven high school teachers. The cohort includes four Nationally Board Certified teachers, three leaders within their local education associations, and four teachers with doctorates in education.  

“I’m excited to join the Teach Plus Pennsylvania Policy Fellowship because I believe this program will help me to grow as an advocate for the children and families in my local program as well as across the state of Pennsylvania,” said Laura Smith, a Head Start teacher from Harrisburg. “As an early childhood educator of 11 years, I understand the unique challenges that exist within my field, but voices like mine are rarely heard in policymaking. Working with Head Start has taught me how necessary it is for young children and their families to have classrooms and educational systems that are equitable and inclusive, and I would like to be part of that change. The Teach Plus Fellowship will provide me with the opportunity to collaborate with teachers and stakeholders from across the state, learn about policy issues in the early childhood sector, and be part of enacting policy solutions.”

The 2021-22 Pennsylvania Policy Fellows are: 

Brianna Amoscato, Fox Chapel Area School District
Kyle Boyer, Norristown Area School District
Durrell Burns, Harrisburg City School District
Jennifer Coleman, Reading School District
Yazmin Dalsimer, Catalyst Academy Charter (Pittsburgh)
Elias Economou, Growing Together Learning Center (Upper Darby)
Anna George, Duquesne City School District
Dr. Miguelina “Maggie” Grasty, Chester Upland School District
Kristen Haase, School District of Lancaster
Ross Hamilton, School District of Philadelphia
Dr. Erica Hampton, Norristown Area School District
Chris Horne, Girard College (Philadelphia)
Donna Kilgore, Bloom Early Education Center (Swoyersville)
Afia Lewis, William Penn School District
Benjamin Madry, School District of Philadelphia
Katie Motyka, Freire Charter (Philadelphia)
Beth Patten, Kutztown Area School District
Lisa Phoenix, Great Valley School District
Tom Quinn, School District of Philadelphia
Brieanne Rice, JB’s Bright Beginnings (Irwin)
Lisa Richardson, Upper Darby School District
Jessica Roberts, Central Susquehanna Intermediate Unit 
Leida Rosario, Allentown City School District
Laura Smith, Capital Area Head Start (Harrisburg)
Laura Sosik, Scranton School District
Luke Strawser, Mount Union Area School District
Dr. Rhonda Threet, Pittsburgh Public Schools
Bach Tram, School District of Philadelphia
Brigitte Tshishimbi, Freire Charter (Philadelphia)
Erin Wall, Woodland Hills School District

About Teach Plus
The mission of Teach Plus is to empower excellent, experienced, and diverse teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ 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, to create an education system driven by access and excellence for all. teachplus.org