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Meet Our 2016 Sue Lehmann Teaching And Learning Fellows

Our five Sue Lehmann Teaching and Learning Fellows this year were chosen out of a pool of nearly 200 corps members. Read about the substantial impact they've made on the academic and personal growth of their students.

Sue Lehmann teaching and learning fellows cover image

By The TFA Editorial Team

May 18, 2016

Teach For America is excited to announce the five 2016 Sue Lehmann Teaching and Learning Fellows. Nearly 200 corps members nationwide applied; each applicant was asked to share their corps experience through videos, essays, planning documents and student artifacts. The five teachers chosen demonstrated substantial positive impact on the academic and personal growth of their students and have embodied our core values throughout their corps experience.

The selection process involved Teach For America staff members, alumni, and partners from across the country and was designed to highlight and share best practices from some of the organization’s most impactful corps members.

“I had no idea how good everyone was!” exclaimed teacher and final selector Stephanie Hinton (South Louisiana '07) . “They are all doing amazing work, and not just inside the classroom! It is also the extracurriculars, the partnerships, and all of the connections they are making for students.”

Teach For America will award each of the recipients a cash prize and will continue to foster their development as leaders and advocates in the work for education equity through the Sue Lehmann Teaching and Learning Fellowship.

This year's group of fellows is uniquely diverse in terms of placement school settings, ranging from 2nd grade co-teachers in New York City, to a 5th-8th grade teacher in Bullhead, South Dakota, to a Special Education Teacher in New Orleans.

Lucy Watson (New York '13), a 2015 fellow, had the opportunity to serve on the selection committee this year as part of her fellowship experience. Now a Teach For America staff member in Los Angeles, she explained what the fellowship means to her and to Teach For America.

"As a selector, the experience showed me how Teach For America is constantly evolving and trying to remain open-minded about the possibilities of the work that we are doing," she said. "It was nice to have the opportunity to think about corps members evolving, and their potential as long-term leaders in this work overall as educators. It was helpful for me to bring out the really impressive things that corps members were doing at this stage in their development."

"My hope is that [the fellowship] brings light to some of the work that is being done in more alternative settings. Whether it’s working in classrooms with students with severe disabilities or alternative schools like I did, I think that considering the kind of work that needs to be happening in these types of places, and the potential of students in these types of places, is a useful tool for Teach For America to consider."

We are incredibly excited to continue to learn and grow with these amazing corps members as they become Teach For America alumni and begin their fellowship year.

When asked what she wanted to directly share with the recipients, Watson added: “You deserve this and should feel proud of it. Stay involved working with schools, working with kids and working in your communities. Congratulations!”

Read more about our fellows and finalists below.


Renee Fairchild, Greater New Orleans-Louisiana Delta ‘14

12th Grade + Special Education, Sci Academy

“When scholars leave the classroom, my deepest hope is that they have developed the skills they need to perform at their highest level of independence while contributing positively to their community.”

Renee Fairchild teaches at Sci Academy in New Orleans, where she leads a transformative classroom for students with severe to moderate/mild disabilities. Many of her students are eligible to remain in school until they are 22. Renee's classroom is highly differentiated. Every student has a different learning plan and learning goals, and each student has an individual internship targeted towards his or her goals. Renee is the founder of Opportunities Academy, a program in her school that works with special education students who have already graduated from high school but need additional supports and skills to be successful independently in their communities. Renee is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University.

Rima Fadlallah, Detroit ‘14

9th, 11th, and 12th Grade English, University Prep Science and Math High School

“As emerging young adults, I want my students to constantly reflect on the [interplay] between their identities, their surroundings and their urgent role as change agents within society; I want them to resist society’s temptations to turn them into passive consumers of information and stimuli and instead, be active creators of their own reality.”

Rima Fadlallah is a high school English teacher at University Prep Science and Math High School in Detroit. In only one semester Rima's kids grew an average of 2 points on the ACT. She sets clear goals for students, provides them with continuous feedback, and constructs plans to meet these goals with her students. Rima is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

Lindsay Pennala, South Dakota ‘14

​5th-6th Grade Teacher, Rock Creek Grant School, Bureau of Indian Affairs

“Students will be armed with the language and passion to insist on their voices being heard, in order to consciously drive the narrative of the Rock Creek district.”

Lindsay Pennala teaches 5th-6th grade at Rock Creek Grant School, a small school with 60 students on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in northern South Dakota. She empowers her students to be vocal advocates of the injustices they face in their community. Lindsay also leads the Girls' Health club. Her students demonstrated 1.75 years of growth in math and two years of growth in reading on average. Lindsay is a graduate of Albion College.

Ashieda McKoy, San Antonio ‘14

​11th Grade American History and Creative Writing Instructor, KIPP University Prep High School, KIPP San Antonio

“What I want to remain true for my students after my class, high school, and throughout the rest of their lives, is for them to be “active connectors”— seeing everything and everyone as a piece of a living puzzle that is constantly being challenged, discovered, and added to, with every thought, word, and action we create—we (all) make history every moment of every day.”

Ashieda McKoy teaches 11th grade American History and 9th-12th Creative Writing at KIPP University Prep High School in San Antonio. · In her first year, her students had a 97 percent passing and 22 percent commended rate on the U.S. History STAAR End of Course Exam. She is the 11th grade team leader, an advisor for Model United Nations, is IB-certified, and a co-founder of QUEEN, a student group for African American girls. Ashieda is a graduate of Dickinson College.

Cole Yaverbaum & Phillip Brogdon, New York ‘14

Second Grade Co-Teachers, Success Academy Crown Heights, Success Academies

“When our students are young adults, we want them to have a high level of choice with regards to their occupation and place in the world.”

Cole Yaverbaum and Phillip Brogdon are co-teachers at Success Academy Crown Heights in New York City.  Their classroom is one of the highest achieving second-grade ELA classrooms for Success Academies. They focus on themes of social justice and developing socio-political consciousness. Cole is a graduate of Colby College and Phillip is a graduate of Grinnell College. Before joining Teach For America, Phillip was a recruitment associate for Success Academy Charter Schools.



Kevin Sun, Hawaii ‘14

9th-12th Grade Modern Hawaiian History, Democracy, Global Studies, Economics, Secondary Social Studies Teacher, Ka'u High School, Hawai'i Department of Education, Pahala, HI


Jillian Frederick, Hawaii ‘14

Special Education Science Teacher, Waianae Intermediate School, Waianae-Nanakuli Complex, Waianae, HI


Sammi Wong, Chicago ‘14

Early Childhood Education Lead Classroom Teacher, One Hope United:  Bridgeport Child Development Center I, Chicago, IL


Liv Thomas, Bay Area ‘14

Preschool Teacher, Highland Elementary School,  West Contra Costa Unified School District, San Pablo, CA


Hailey McClure, Connecticut ‘14

6th Grade Teacher,  Windham Middle School; Windham Public Schools, Windham, CT


Cinique Weekes-Bynoe, Massachusetts ‘14

5th Grade Literacy Teacher, Roxbury Prep Dorchester Campus, Dorchester Center, MA


April Johnston, South Dakota ‘14

6th-8th Grade ELA Teacher, Pahin Sinte Owayawa, Oglala Lakota County, Porcupine, SD


Lindsay McGillivary, New York ‘14

Chemistry Teacher, Fordham High School for the Arts, Bronx District 10, Bronx,, NY


Mario Benabe, New York ‘14

Special Education Mathematics Specialist, The Bronx River High School, Bronx District 8, Bronx, NY


Eldijana Bjelcic, Colorado ‘14

Foundations Skills Teacher, Colorado High School Charter, Denver Public Schools, Denver, CO


Sabastian Berry, Houston ‘14

9th Grade Biology Teacher, Sharpstown High School; Houston Independent School District, Houston, TX


Elise Hopkins, Chicago ‘14

Special Education Teacher, Intrinsic Schools-Belmont Campus; Intrinsic Charter Schools, Chicago, IL


Ana Frais, Colorado ‘14

5th Grade ELA-S Literacy Teacher, Green Valley Elementary; Denver Public Schools, Denver, CO


Samuel Hasty, Memphis ‘14

7th& 8th Grade Mathematics Master Teacher, Southern Avenue Charter School, Shelby County Schools, Memphis, TN


Trinity Thompson, New York ‘14

2nd Grade Teacher,  Harlem Village Academies East Elementary, New York, NY


Maya Anderson, Dallas-Fort Worth ‘14

9th and 12th grade Biology Teacher, Lincoln High School; Dallas Independent School District, Dallas, TX


Mariela Rubio, Houston ‘14

3rd Grade Reading and Language Arts, Pilgrim Academy, Houston Independent School District, Houston, TX


Erika Rodriguez, Colorado ‘14

1st Grade Bilingual Teacher, Jessie Whaley Maxwell Elementary, Denver Public Schools, Denver, CO


Bryant Yavorski, Houston ‘14

2nd Grade Bilingual Self-contained, Lantrip Elementary School, Houston Independent School District, Houston, TX


Deniann Grant, Connecticut ‘14

1st Grade English Language Arts, Achievement First Bridgeport Academy Elementary; Achievement First Public Schools, Bridgeport, CT