EdSurge Voices of Change Writing Fellowship

Ryan Burns

Role: English teacher
School: Smithfield High School
City, State: Smithfield, Rhode Island
Years in Education: 17 years

Ryan Burns (he/him) is an English teacher at Smithfield High School in Smithfield, Rhode Island and an adjunct professor at Rhode Island College. With a doctorate in literacy, culture and language education from Indiana University, his research explores social justice and critical literacy in English education, LGBTQ+ adolescent literature, and the stories and experiences of queer educators in the classroom. As a mentor to new and aspiring educators, Burns draws from his experiences as a Rhode Island Writing Project teacher consultant and a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellow. His writing has appeared in multiple academic publications, including “Acts of Resistance: Subversive Teaching in the English Language Arts Classroom” and “Queer Adolescent Literature as a Complement to the English Language Arts Curriculum.”

Fatema Elbakoury

Role: English language arts teacher
School: June Jordan School for Equity
City, State: San Francisco, California
Years in Education: Five years

Fatema Elbakoury (she/her) teaches English language arts at June Jordan School for Equity, a high school in San Francisco. Prior to teaching high school, she taught middle school ELA for two years. Before teaching, she studied religion at Harvard Divinity School and received her master’s degree in education from Stanford University. Outside the classroom, Elbakoury is working on a novel and enjoys traveling, reading and trying to be present.

Gene Fashaw

Role: Eighth grade math teacher
District: High Point Academy
City, State: Aurora, Colorado
Years in Education: Eight years

Gene Fashaw (he/him) is a middle school math teacher at High Point Academy in Aurora, Colorado. Fashaw earned a Master of Arts in teaching from the Relay Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. He has engaged in numerous programs that increased his educational leadership capacity in state and federal policy advocacy, SEL and STEM program development and instructional leadership. As a graduate of Morehouse College, he is obliged to serve his community, unapologetically. In addition to being an educator, Fashaw is a husband and father to two children.

Noelani Gabriel Holt

Role: Principal
School: Girls Prep Bronx II
City, State: Bronx, New York
Years in Education: Eight years

Noelani Gabriel Holt (she/her) is a dedicated and passionate principal at Girls Prep Bronx II in Bronx, New York. With experience as a teacher, nonprofit program director, restorative practitioner, and equity and inclusion consultant, she has received recognition for her contributions, including the 30 Under 30 Changemakers Award, BLACC Educator of the Year Award, and multiple grants for her work in addressing disparities in school discipline. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Cornell University, a Master of Education in curriculum and teaching from Boston University, and a professional certificate in restorative justice practices from Suffolk University. Gabriel Holt is currently completing a school building leader certification program through the New Leaders Program affiliated with Bank Street College of Education.

Edgar Grajeda

Role: Elementary Art Teacher
School: Truesdell Elementary School
City, State: Washington, D.C.
Years in Education: 13 years

Edgar Miguel Grajeda (he/him) is an elementary art teacher at Truesdell Elementary School in Washington, D.C. As a first-generation immigrant and formerly undocumented student from Guadalajara, Mexico, he champions equitable access to education for underserved communities. Grajeda’s impactful education journey includes roles as a Teach for America Corps member and a Fulbright Scholar in Taiwan. Grajeda earned his Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and Chicano Latino Studies from California State University, Long Beach, and his Master of Arts in educational studies from Loyola Marymount University. Driven by his unwavering commitment to self-improvement and learning, Grajeda is currently pursuing a Master's in policy management at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy.

Hind Haddad

Role: Arabic Teacher
School: International Academy of Columbus
City, State: Columbus, Ohio
Years in Education: Eight years

Hind Haddad (she/her/hers) is an Arabic Teacher at the International Academy of Columbus in Columbus, Ohio, dedicated to fostering inclusive learning environments and promoting equity in education. With a background in multicultural education and extensive experience working with diverse student populations, Haddad is passionate about empowering the voices of marginalized communities. She holds a Master of Education in curriculum and instruction from Ashland University and a Master of Arts in Islamic Studies from the University of Jordan. Haddad's commitment to social justice extends beyond the classroom as she actively engages in community outreach and advocacy efforts. She seeks to inspire positive change and advance educational equity for all students through her writing and research.

Rachel Herrera

Role: Physics Teacher
School: Mission High School
City, State: San Francisco, California
Years in Education: Four years

Rachel Herrera (she/her/ella) is a physics teacher at Mission High School in San Francisco. Herrera is a recipient of the Knowles Teaching Fellowship and earned her Bachelor of Science in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton University. After completing a Fulbright Fellowship in Mexico, she worked in grants management and disaster recovery at Deloitte Consulting before receiving her master’s degree in education from Stanford University. As an educator, Herrera combines her content knowledge and passion for science with over a decade of experience in bilingual teaching and activism within the Latino community. Outside of the classroom, she enjoys boxing, playing soccer and water polo, completing the New York Times crossword and attending weekly trivia nights with friends.

Lauren Snelling

Role: Counselor
School: The Laboratory Schools at the University of Chicago
City, State: Chicago, Illinois
Years in Education: Eight years

Lauren Snelling (she/her) is an early childhood counselor at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools in Chicago. Snelling is a trained trauma psychotherapist turned educator, counselor and speaker who is committed to disrupting systems in an effort to support Black children and to help all children create a strong foundation of identity. In 2022, she was awarded the Mary V. Williams Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dedicated to rest, self-care, community building and creating positive visibility within the early childhood field, she is a member of the Early Childhood Leaders of Color Collaborative. In her free time, she forages and gardens with her son and is an advocate for food sovereignty, which is foundational to her work as a herbalism apprentice at Urban Growers Collective.


The EdSurge Voices of Change Fellowship began in 2021, with the inaugural cohort of fellows selected through a competitive application process. Below, learn more about each cohort of fellows and read their stories.


katie wills evans (she/they) is a teacher and writer in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Michael Paul Ida (he/him) is a math and computer science teacher at Kalani High School in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Sachin Pandya (he/him) is a fifth grade teacher at Lake Bluff Elementary in Shorewood, Wisconsin.
James Parra (he/him) is an elementary school paraprofessional in Brooklyn, New York.
Deaunna Watson (she/her) is the director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at Mercy Montessori School in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Amanda Marie Rosas (she/her) teaches Spanish and World History, and leads DEIB work at Visitation School in Mendota Heights, Minnesota.
Damen Scott (he/him) is the principal of Achievement First Brooklyn High School in Brooklyn, New York.
Keely Sutton (she/her) is the school and community engagement manager at Luther J. Price Middle School in Atlanta, Georgia.


Kelli Kauakanilehua Adams is an English teacher at Kealakehe High School in Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i.
Geoff Carlisle is an eighth grade science teacher at KIPP Austin College Prep in Austin, Texas.
Deitra Colquitt is co-principal at Pershing Elementary School in University City, Missouri.
Aisha Douglas is an academic dean at Achievement First Brooklyn High School in Brooklyn, New York.
César Martín Moreno is a science teacher at San Francisco International High School in San Francisco, California.
Helen Thomas is the Office of Indian Education's professional learning specialist for the Arizona Department of Education in Phoenix, Arizona.
Jennifer Yoo-Brannon is an instructional coach at El Monte Union High School District in El Monte, California.

Fellowship Editors

Marisa Busch (she/her) is an editor at EdSurge, where she works with fellows, contributors, columnists and reporters. Previously she was a research manager at EdSurge and before that, she was a teacher, coach and curriculum developer in schools for over a decade. Busch holds a Bachelor of Arts in music composition and creative writing from New York University and a Master of Science in learning disabilities from Hunter College.

Cobretti D. Williams, Ph.D., (he/they) is a fellowship editor for the Voices of Change Fellowship at EdSurge. Cobretti has nearly 10 years of experience in higher education administration, research and editorial production for academic journals and higher education media sites. He received his doctoral degree in higher education from Loyola University of Chicago.

The Voices of Change fellowship is supported by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. EdSurge maintains editorial independence over all of our journalism, in keeping with our ethics statement. This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.
Get our email newsletterSign me up
Keep up to date with our email newsletterSign me up