Voices of Change Writing Fellowship

Meet Our Fellows

Kelli Kauakanilehua Adams

Role: Ninth grade English teacher
School: Kealakehe High School
District: West Hawai'i Complex (Hawai'i Department of Education)
City, State: Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i
Years teaching: 3 years

Kelli Kauakanilehua Adams (she/her) is a ninth grade English teacher at Kealakehe High School in Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i. She received a bachelor's degree in English literature and creative writing at the University of Washington and earned her teaching certification in English language arts from Chaminade University of Honolulu.

My identity as a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) educator is interwoven into everything I do. I approach my teaching practices with the same cultural values that drive me. Care for the land. Love for my people. Vision for my community. My obligation is to provide my students with the space to grow into the authentic leaders of their community and to use my privilege as the teacher in the room to empower them to share their own unique narratives.” -Kelli Kauakanilehua Adams on identity and teaching

Geoffrey Carlisle

Role: Eighth grade science teacher
School: KIPP Austin College Prep
District: KIPP Texas Public Schools
City, State: Austin, Texas
Years teaching: 12

Geoffrey Carlisle (he/him) is an award-winning eighth grade science teacher at KIPP Austin College Prep with 12 years of teaching experience. Outside of the classroom he facilitates professional development for teachers and is an advocate on education policy issues. He is pursuing a Master's of Public Affairs at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.

Growing up, I learned firsthand how school can be unsafe for LGBTQIA+ students like me. As a teacher, I learned about how I can use my experience in the classroom to advocate for more inclusive learning environments for all students. Numerous states are introducing bans on transgender students participating in sports or accessing healthcare, and we need teachers to stand up for their rights and dignity.” -Geoffrey Carlisle on identity and teaching

Dietra Colquitt

Role: Elementary school principal
School: Pershing Elementary School
District: School District of University City
City, State: St. Louis, Mo.
Years teaching: 16

Deitra Colquitt (she/her) is currently a co-principal at Pershing Elementary School, completing her second year after embarking on a successful, community-based redesign of the school's leadership model. She is an alumna of the University City school district, graduating in 1998. Upon graduation, she pursued post-graduate studies at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

There is no singular approach to ensuring people feel valued and seen. When working with students and staff, acknowledging each individual’s race, ethnicity and gender is interwoven into my daily practice. This means highlighting the excellence and achievements of our ancestors and calling out white privilege. I have moved away from letting the elephant sit in the room to slaying the elephant when it interferes with establishing an environment that is equitable and inclusive.”-Dietra Colquitt on identity and teaching

Aisha Douglas

Role: Academic dean of humanities
School: Achievement First Brooklyn High School
District: 13
City, State: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Years teaching: 11

Aisha Douglas (she/her) is an Academic Dean at Achievement First Brooklyn High School. After completing a Master of Science in Teaching degree in Adolescent Education from Fordham University, Aisha made her move into the world of charter school education as a middle school teacher. As an Academic Dean, Aisha focuses on teacher development and curriculum adaptation in the humanities. She is a mom of two who spends her spare time wondering if she will ever nap again.

In my teaching practice I aim to approach identity as determined, or defined, by the individual. For both colleagues and students, it is important to me that their identities are defined through their experiences, perspectives, passions—the things that guide them through the world daily. Identity goes beyond race or sexuality, and it is always the goal to give space to explore what that means to each person I engage with in my work.” -Aisha Douglas on identity and teaching

César Martín Moreno

Role: Science and math teacher
School: San Francisco International High School
District: San Francisco Unified School District
City, State: San Francisco, Calif.
Years teaching: 1

César Martín Moreno (they/them) is a first-year biology and chemistry teacher at San Francisco International High School. They completed their master’s in education from Stanford University and have bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and neuroscience from the University of Notre Dame. Moreno is interested in developing curriculum that centers holistic science pedagogy, engages students in science, and emphasizes its practices as a transformative agent.

I approach identity by engaging with it directly in the classroom. As I tell my students, our lived experiences influence the way we see the world as scientists. Those lived experiences allow us to understand problems we see in our communities in unique ways, and are a vital part of how we understand our role in addressing them.” -César Martín Moreno on identity and teaching

Helen Thomas

Role: Professional learning specialist
Employer: Office of Indian Education, Arizona Department of Education
City, State: Phoenix, Ariz.
Years teaching: 4

Helen Thomas (she/her) is a Hunkpapa Lakota educator who works as a professional learning specialist for the Office of Indian Education in Arizona. She is a former Title VI Native American Student Achievement Teacher for an urban public school district in Arizona. She has a Bachelor of Arts in economics, education and public policy from Dartmouth College and a Master’s in elementary education from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University.

During my first few years in the classroom, I found that many of my students’ identities carried the same value systems and similar ways of knowing and being as my own. Leaning into my own identity as a biracial Hunkpapa Lakota woman has led to teaching and learning practices that often clash with the status quo, but make more sense for the students, families and communities I serve. Honoring and affirming my own identity, and those of the learners I work with, allows me to create more equitable learning opportunities.” -Helen Thomas on identity and teaching

Jennifer Yoo-Brannon

Jennifer Yoo-Brannon, Credit: Arunas Kacinskas
Role: Instructional coach and English language development teacher
School: Mountain View High School
District: El Monte Union High School District
City, State: El Monte, Calif.
Years teaching: 16

Jennifer Yoo-Brannon (she/her) is a professional learning leader devoted to developing collective teacher efficacy as an instructional coach in El Monte, Calif. With a passion for serving culturally and linguistically diverse students, Jennifer works with teachers and educators to build learning communities of competence, care and compassion.

I often ask my students to reflect on this Amy Chua quote, “Do you know what a foreign accent is? It is a sign of bravery.” My Korean immigrant parents wanted me to not only be educated, but to be an eloquent English speaker. They knew too well that some would not make an effort to hear the whole person underneath an accent. Now I try to show my parents' courage and help others find the courage to learn something new.” -Jennifer Yoo-Brannon on identity and teaching

Fellowship Editors

It takes an incredible amount of vulnerability and courage to be able to share your identity and values with the world, and for that I have nothing but admiration for our inaugural cohort of fellows. It’s been nothing short of inspiring to see the impact their writing has already had on their communities and among educators everywhere. This project has been a true teachable moment on the unstoppable power of what a devoted educator can achieve when they train their voice toward improving education.” -Noonoo on working with fellows
Stephen Noonoo (he/him) is the K-12 editor at EdSurge. A career journalist, he has covered education for more than 10 years. He is a graduate of the University of New Mexico, where he earned degrees in English and French, a language he loves but is always forgetting.
Getting to work with the Voice of Change Fellows has been a career-defining opportunity. In addition to helping fellows curate and shape the stories of their day-to-day experience in education, I have appreciated learning from each fellow about the issues, challenges and best practices that will be necessary to improve our K-12 education system.”-Williams on working with fellows
Dr. Cobretti D. Williams (he/they) is the fellowship editor for the Voices of Change project 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.

This project is made publicly available with support from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. All stories are editorially independent. (Read our ethics statement here.) This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.

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