We’ve all been impacted by an educator or two or three. Here, in our latest Who’s Next class, presented by S&T Bank, we honor 20 individuals who are making a mark on education in Pittsburgh.
Some work behind the scenes. Some lead schools or classrooms or cutting edge initiatives. Others coach or work with immigrant students or to prevent violence among youth or to make education more inclusive. All are shaping education here and, in the process, a future generation.
We’re throwing a happy hour in honor of these too-often unsung heroes on July 25, and you’re invited. Together we can celebrate the educators in a city prided on its educational institutions.
Join us at a happy hour in honor of The Incline's Who's Next: Education class. Who's Next, presented by S&T Bank, is a monthly series honoring young Pittsburghers shaping the city. At this happy hour, meet this talented class, sponsored by Washington & Jefferson College Center for Energy Policy and Management, and enjoy light appetizers and samplings of beer, wine and spirits. Your ticket supports our local newsroom, which is committed to keeping you informed by reporting relevant, original and actionable journalism.
Where: Level Office Golden Triangle at 606 Liberty Ave. (Downtown)
When: July 25, 2018 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
How much: $25 for public | Free for Who's Next: Education honorees
This is our 2018 Who’s Next: Education class, sponsored by Washington & Jefferson College Center for Energy Policy and Management.
As head of school and chief learning officer at Nazareth Prep in Emsworth, Lisa Abel-Palmieri runs one of the largest high school internship programs in the region, focused on bridging the education-to-employment skills gap within STEM sectors for traditionally untapped students. The programming Abel-Palmieri and her team have developed, funded and sustained has proven to increase key skills sought by employers; a study of one program showed over 60 percent gains in students’ resilience and career-readiness within one year of participating. Abel-Palmieri is also the co-founder and organizer of EdCampPGH and serves on the planning committees for numerous events around the region, including the Three Rivers EdTech Conference (TRETC). Abel-Palmieri attended Duquesne University and Robert Morris. She currently lives in the South Hills.
Aaron Altemus works with educators from more than 30 districts as the program director for the Consortium for Public Education. That means he helps design programs to improve outcomes. “The future success of education relies on the creation of authentic, personalized learning experiences for all children,” Altemus told The Incline. He said he joined the Consortium in 2014 and is most proud of working with the local refugee community, helping students go from high school to college and work. He previously worked for the Wilkinsburg School District. “Aaron Altemus not only has the gifts and commitment it takes to work with kids in underserved communities, he’s got the insight and passion to support other educators in reaching these students as well,” his nominator wrote. Altemus is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and lives in Swisshelm Park.
Sunanna Chand is leading the effort to bring together traditional educators, business leaders, not-for-profit programs and the community at large, all for the purpose of 're-making' learning. As director of Remake Learning, a Pittsburgh-based network pursuing equitable learning practices in support of “young people navigating rapid social and technological change,” Chand works with modest resources to “truly engage people in the process to improve the current status and increase opportunity for our entire region,” her nominator said. Chand attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Vanderbilt University. She lives in Lawrenceville.
As executive director of the Latino Community Center in Pittsburgh, Rosamaria Cristello works to build bridges between Latino families in Allegheny County and the public school system here. She first headed the Latino Family Center and, last year, founded the Latino Community Center. Through her effort and vision, the LCC has been able to help Latino youth apply for college and, what's more, envision a future with higher education. The LCC also provides an after-school program for Latino kids where they can participate in enrichment activities tied to their heritage and the Spanish language. As the Latino community grows in southwestern Pennsylvania, Cristello’s work becomes more important. Cristello attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pittsburgh and lives in Regent Square.
A parent, alumnus, and longtime educator in the city's public schools, Melissa Friez is under 40 and supervising the District's 11 secondary schools. She began her career in PPS as an English teacher at Carrick High School in August 2003. In 2006, she became an administrative intern and testing coordinator prior to participating in a yearlong residency as part of the District's Principal Emerging Leadership Academy (PELA). In July 2017, Friez transitioned from her dual role of principal and assistant superintendent to take on the latter role full time. Friez attended Duquesne, Carlow and the University of Pittsburgh. She lives in Squirrel Hill.
Mentoring is key in the development of many children, and through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh’s Mentor 2.0 program, Maggie Giel is having an impact on lots of young learners. Giel is program director and her nominator calls her a “game changer” for students at Brashear High School, getting attendance and grades up. Giel has also helped students obtain the work permits needed to begin their work histories. “Without her extra efforts this would not have been the case and they wouldn't have gotten to get their work careers started,” her nominator said. Giel is a 2009 Magna Cum Laude graduate of Thiel College, with undergraduate degrees in Communications Studies and Media Communications, as well as a 2011 Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate with a Master's in K-12 School Counseling. She lives in Glenshaw.
As president of the Northside Youth Athletic Association, Eugene “Gene” Goodwine preaches the importance of teamwork and discipline, and he should know: Goodwine is an Air Force veteran. But his coaching of young athletes stresses not just sports, but book learning as well, and the balance between them. He’s in his 10th year of coaching with the association and in that role, his Who’s Next nominator said, “He is dedicated to making sure that his players have the best opportunities on and off the football field.” In summary, Goodwine is working to raise the expectations of both parents and youth when it comes to athletics, education, community involvement and overall success in often-neglected corners of the city. Where you come from, he believes, doesn’t have to determine where you’re going. Goodwine lives in the West End.
Empathy is fundamental, a gateway to a better understanding of the world. And it’s particularly important for young students. As a Shaler Area High School social studies teacher, Nicholas Haberman teaches empathy through history. He’s developing the first high school-based “Center for Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights Education.” The new center will not only serve as a permanent classroom for existing Holocaust, genocide, and human rights-related courses, but also as a dedicated space for remembrance, research, and community outreach. It will be a home for art, activism, research, after-school activities, cross-curricular collaboration, professional development, independent studies, online course offerings, and guest speakers. Haberman recently won the Educator of the Year Award from the Pittsburgh Holocaust Center. His Who’s Next nominator said, “Nick sheds a raw, necessary light on the Holocaust for his students and allows them to feel safe with expressing their feelings about it.” Haberman graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and lives in Allison Park.
For the past 10 years, Kellen Hill has worked in Pittsburgh Public Schools as a prevention specialist, teaching the dangers of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, as well as team-building and problem-solving skills, conflict resolution and more. He’s also trained thousands of individuals through Mental Health First Aid, including many teachers and librarians. In his current role as program administrator of Prevention Services at Pittsburgh Mercy, Hill is able to encourage his staff to engage with students just as he has. Hill holds a Master’s in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh and lives in Plum.
As an assistant professor at Carlow University, Janice McCall studies gender and racial disparities within institutions. Her peer-reviewed articles have focused on the needs of women, veterans in the corrections and court systems, older adults in methadone treatment, and collegiate basic-needs populations. When it comes to the needs of college students, McCall helped expand the Carlow Closet to add nonperishable food for food-insecure students. As a teacher she told The Incline that she “strives as an educator to give her students the concrete skills to become ethical social workers.” McCall has been a member of the Carlow social work faculty since 2017 and previously taught Boston College, Salem State College, and the University of California, Los Angeles. She recently led a leadership training for refugee and immigrant leaders as part of a collaboration with Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania and the All for All Program of Change Agency Pittsburgh. McCall is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California, Los Angeles. She lives in Fox Chapel.
Paul Mulbah Jr. leads multiple trainings about violence prevention with students from middle school to college. As a violence prevention specialist, he runs a program called “Manhood 2.0” for boys ages 13 to 19 throughout Southwestern Pa. The program covers gender norms, sexual violence prevention and sexual health education. “Having witnessed Paul deliver the curriculum to these students, it's easy to see that his passion is infectious. He is able to connect with these students on a very real level, you can tell they look up to him,” his nominator wrote. Mulbah also does training for groups and teams at the University of Pittsburgh, and works with the United Way and victim advocacy centers to train facilitators for violence prevention programs. At Children’s Hospital, he helps with research about prevention programming. Before starting his current role in 2016, Mulbah was a football coach at Robert Morris University from 2012 to 2015, where he where he created a player development program. He is a graduate of Duquesne University and lives in Moon.
Renee C. Patrick Mutunga has taught English in rural Pennsylvania and South Korea. She’s back in Pennsylvania now and teaching at the Pittsburgh Obama Academy. Patrick Mutunga used her free time outside of work to start-up a Mock Trial program at the school, providing a forum for her students to learn and practice skills essential for success inside and outside the classroom like public speaking, critical thinking, and the art of forming a persuasive, concise argument. Patrick Mutunga attended Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and National University in La Jolla, Calif. She lives in Friendship.
Lashawn Reed’s business, Strong Ambitious Women, is just what it sounds like: A way of emboldening female learners to take charge and take leadership roles. The program mentors African-American girls in the Sto-Rox and Pittsburgh Public school districts. The goal is to help them develop confidence and self-esteem and to avoid bad choices such as drug use and bullying. Reed is a behavior specialist and character coach. She has also worked as site director for Shadow Student Athletes, a nonprofit that mentors female athletes in Pittsburgh schools. Reed has been recognized by the City of Pittsburgh and the state of Pennsylvania for her work with young women. She's a graduate of Point Park University and lives in McKees Rocks.
The number of English-as-a-second-language students in U.S. schools is rising. And those in Moon Township look to Nichole Rojas as their english language connector. Rojas went to Moon Area High School herself and wound up becoming one of two ESL teachers there at a school that went from having 15 ESL students to nearly 100. She is also active in All for All, a local immigrant inclusion initiative in the Pittsburgh area, and has been hosting a professional learning community for ESL teachers. “In ESL we talk about the expression of ‘bringing something to the table’ and how each of us brings something unique to the discussion or lesson each day,” Rojas told The Incline. “That’s really how I would like to be remembered — as someone who never stopped bringing something to the table.” Rojas attended Carlow University and lives in Brighton Heights.
Each year, more than 13,000 community members benefit from the educational programs that Christina Salgado facilitates throughout the Pittsburgh region in Pittsburgh Public Schools, libraries, community centers and at PBT Studios in the Strip District. As director of education and community engagement for the theatre, Salgado has forged new community collaborations and program concepts, including regular choreographic workshops and dance foundations classes at three local branches of the Boys and Girls Club, a pilot dance program for people with early-stage Alzheimer's Disease, and a research project to analyze and advance the impact of PBT's creative movement classes in Pittsburgh Public School classrooms. Salgado develops research-backed techniques to leverage dance's power to enhance development, learning and expression among students. Salgado holds a master’s degree from Columbia University in Movement Science with a specialization in Motor Learning and Control. She completed her undergraduate degree in Dance and completed a minor in Early Childhood Special Education at George Mason University. She lives in North Oakland.
To her students at Duquesne Elementary School, Jamie Schmidt is a mentor, teacher, and friend. To her coworkers, Schmidt is a “driving force” in the district’s efforts to boost literacy rates there. They say Schmidt is just getting started, as she’s currently in her Ed.D. program at the University of Pittsburgh and will graduate in 2020 with a doctorate in Language, Literacy and Culture. Schmidt said she’s doing this during her“work to redesign and strengthen literacy instruction in my district.” Her nominator said her impact will likely be far wider. Schmidt received a B.S. in Elementary Education from Duquesne University. She currently lives in Pleasant Hills.
At the intersection of performing arts and early education sits Alyssa Southerlin. She began working as a visiting artist with Stage Right! School of Performing Arts, teaching performing arts at many Propel School locations. In 2013, she began working full time for Propel Schools as a Creative Arts Advisor in charge of the Arts Programming within the school. “I strive to educate my students while exhibiting a firm belief in social justice, educating my students because of who they are and where they come from, not in spite of it,” Southerlin told The Incline. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Theatre Arts from Point Park University in 2011 and received her Masters of Education in Early Childhood Education and Teaching from Carlow in 2016. She lives in Robinson.
Bridging the gap between professors and their often younger, more tech-adroit students, is Ben Stoviak. Stoviak, as manager of academic technology at Washington and Jefferson College, is working to make the academic technologies of today relatable and accessible for university faculty. It’s hard to learn new things, but Stoviak makes sure technology is accessible and easy to learn, most often by learning it first himself. “I believe that educators and the communities to which they belong make the deepest and most relatable impacts if they continually re-inform themselves about the technologies and virtual domains in which their students now literally perceive themselves to exist,” Stoviak told The Incline. Stoviak attended the University of Pittsburgh and lives in the South Hills.
In her daily role at Allegheny Land Trust, Julie Travaglini is the education program director. What does that mean? It means she helps students and parents connect with nature. But her responsibilities also include writing the curriculum for all programs, leading the Science Sprouts early childhood environmental education program, mentoring interns, leading and organizing the ACT 48 and PQAS workshops for educators, organizing their Summer Dreamers Outreach program and much more. Travaglini also plays an instrumental role as vice president of Science Tots, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization connecting families with the tools and resources to power early STEAM learning by partnering with local government and businesses to create large STEAM exhibits at non-science festivals. “Her passion for environmental education and early childhood education is inspiring,” Travaglini’s nominator said. “Her abilities as a leader, speaker, educator, and instructional designer are above the rest.” She attended Muskingum University in Ohio and lives in Canonsburg.
Michelle Wade has dedicated her life to helping close the opportunity gap. She was a TFA corps member, a math teacher for 6-9th grades in South Carolina, and a youth coach for homeless young adults ages 16-24. As an education coordinator for 412 Youth Zone, Wade now designs and facilitates a GED course for youth who have been in placement or have had unstable housing in and around Pittsburgh. Wade seeks out the latest and best educational practices and has helped countless students develop life-changing skills, her nominator said, adding, “She will use her years of experience working directly with children of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities as a future leader in educational policy.” Wade attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst and lives in Dormont.