Speaker Biographies: 2018 Seminar on the Teaching Profession

Chad Aldeman is a principal at Bellwether Education Partners, where he works on teacher preparation, teacher evaluation, and college and career readiness. He also serves as the editor for Previously, Aldeman was a policy adviser in the Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education, where he worked on Elementary and Secondary Education Act waivers, teacher preparation, and the Teacher Incentive Fund. Prior to joining the department, Aldeman was a policy analyst with Education Sector. He has published reports on state higher education accountability systems, teacher pensions, teacher and principal evaluations, teacher salary schedules, and teacher preparation. His work has been featured in The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Inside Higher Ed, and Newsday. Aldeman holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree in public policy from the College of William and Mary. Contact:, @ChadAldeman

Sylvia Allegretto is a labor economist and co-chair of the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California, Berkeley. CWED is a research center housed at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. Allegretto received her Ph. D. in economics from the University of Colorado, Boulder and worked for several years at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., where she is currently a research associate. Her research interests include long-term unemployment, family budgets, teacher pay, and public employee compensation. Allegretto closely tracks a myriad of economic statistics with particular interest in the labor market and how typical workers are faring. She is often called upon by media outlets to provide commentary and contextualize economic data and trends. Contact:

Stephanie Aragon works on a number of K-12 policy issues, including teacher recruitment, development, advancement and retention for the Education Commission of the States. She holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Colorado Boulder and aa master’s degree in public policy/education policy from the University of Denver. Contact:

Kenith Britt is the senior vice president and dean of the Fred S. Klipsch Educators College at Marian University in Indianapolis. For the 10 years prior to joining Marian University, he worked as a principal and president in Catholic schools. Britt was selected as the winner of the 2017 Junior Achievement of Central Indiana, Indy’s
Best and Brightest for Education. He also was selected as a 2017 Impact Academy Fellow with Deans for Impact, a national organization committed to transforming educator preparation and elevating the teaching profession. Britt received a bachelor’s degree in education from West Liberty University, a master’s degree in leadership from Marshall University in West Virginia, and a doctorate in leadership from The Catholic University of America. Contact: @MUDrKen

Gina Caneva is a teacher-librarian and Writing Center Director at Lindblom Math and Science Academy, a 7-12 selective enrollment school located on the south side of Chicago. A National Board certified English teacher, Caneva is a 15-year Chicago Public Schools veteran and a Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellowship alumna. She is a member of the University of Chicago Consortium’s Steering Committee and an educational advisory committee member for the Illinois Holocaust Museum. Caneva has written nearly 50 op-eds on education topics for such publications as US News & World Report, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Education Week, Ms. Magazine,, Education Post, and Chalkbeat Chicago.  She earned her bachelor’s in English Education and her master’s in Literacy, Language, and Culture at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Literacy, Language, and Culture from UIC. Contact: @GinaCaneva.

Ricardo Cano is the K-12 education reporter for CALmatters, having previously spent three years as an education reporter for The Arizona Republic. At that newspaper, he covered breaking news and produced enterprise reporting, explanatory videos and data-driven features. Cano has been a finalist for three awards: a Livingston Award for Young Journalists honoring outstanding achievement by professionals under the age of 35, an Education Writers Association award for data journalism, and two consecutive Arizona Press Club awards for public service journalism. Cano’s stories at the Arizona Republic included a data-driven report on how Arizona has been hiring unqualified teachers and another data series uncovering an alarming percentage of unsafe school buses. Contact:, @Ricardo_Cano1

Cathryn Creno took an early retirement buyout three years ago from The Arizona Republic in Phoenix, where she held positions including as an education writer and editor for 35 years. After leaving the Republic, she enrolled in a two-year teacher preparation program, which allowed her to teach middle school Spanish full time while taking the coursework required for her certificate. She now teaches Spanish to sixth, seventh and eighth graders in the Tempe Elementary School District in Tempe, Ariz. . Creno holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University, a master’s in Spanish from Arizona State. She continues to write about education as a freelancer. Contact: @ClassroomScoop

Jean Desravines is the CEO of New Leaders, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring high academic achievement for all children, especially students in poverty and students of color, by developing transformational school leaders and advancing school leadership policy. As CEO, he has grown the organization to support over 3,000 educational leaders in 20 cities and regions, and over 100 charter schools across the country. Prior to working at New Leaders, he was a senior advisor to New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. Desravines was named to Forbes magazine’s “Impact 30” and co-authored two books: “Breakthrough Principals” and “The School Leadership Playbook.” Contact:

Andrea Eger is a projects reporter for Tulsa World, where she covers key education topics and other local issues. Since joining the Tulsa World in 1999, she has been a three-time winner of Oklahoma’s top award for investigative reporting by an individual. Contact:, @AndreaEger

Ryan Eisner is a researcher at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). His areas of study include educator quality, college and career readiness and success, mathematics education, school choice, dropout prevention, early childhood education, and after-school programming. He currently leads evaluation projects of the Denver Teacher Residency and Kansas City Teacher Residency. Eisner previously served as a graduate student analyst at the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and as a project assistant at the University of Wisconsin Center for Financial Security. Before entering the research field, Eisner worked as an adviser in a college access program based in Milwaukee, Wis. Eisner earned a master’s in public affairs, with an emphasis on education policy and policy analysis, from the University Of Wisconsin La Follette School Of Public Affairs. Contact:

Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus in Philadelphia, which serves nearly 800 students in grades 7 to 12. In 1992, El-Mekki became a teacher after completing an alternative certification program for black men through a collaborative effort between the School District of Philadelphia, Concerned Black Men, and Cheyney University. After 10 years at John P. Turner Middle School, El-Mekki began a five-year principalship at Anna H. Shaw Middle School. El-Mekki also served as a member of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s inaugural group of Principal Ambassadors, providing the principalship perspective to the US Secretary of Education. El-Mekki founded The Fellowship-Black Male Educators for Social Justice, which focuses on supporting current and aspiring black male educators in the Philadelphia region. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Contact:

Marisol Garcia is a 15-year veteran educator in the Isaac Elementary School District, a small urban school district in central Phoenix. She currently serves as the vice president of the Arizona Education Association. She is the first Latina to hold that position. Garcia teaches middle school social studies and has committed herself to empowering students to use their voice to fight for justice and equity. Contact:

Conra D. Gist is an associate professor of teaching and teacher Education in the College of Education at the University of Houston. She recently served as guest editor for The Urban Review on a special issue on growing and sustaining black teachers. Gist also serves as lead principal investigator on several research projects, including the 2016 Spencer/National Academy of Education Postdoctoral Fellowship that funded a national study examining the potential personal and systemic ties black teachers encounter across different types of homegrown programs. She is principal investigator of “The Teacher Testimony Project”, funded by a 2015 American Education Research Association (AERA) research grant that explores the teaching and learning experiences of local community based Teachers of Color. She is also the recent recipient of the 2018 AERA Conference Grant for the Handbook of Research on Teachers of Color, a knowledge project that explores research across eleven domains of inquiry, in which she serves as lead co-editor. She received her Ph.D. in Urban Education at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center. Contact:

Molly F. Gordon is a research scientist at the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. Her current research focuses on the impact of closing schools on families, students, teachers, and other school staff, investigating how school leadership influences student learning, and examining attendance policies and practices in prekindergarten. Previously, she was a research associate at the Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement at the University of Minnesota. Gordon’s prior work involved researching parent and community engagement in schools, educational policy contexts and political cultures, the link between leadership and student achievement, and evaluating school programs and policies. She earned a bachelor’s in philosophy and a master’s in educational policy studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and a doctorate in educational policy and administration from the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities. Contact:

Alex Harwin is a quantitative research analyst for the Education Week Research Center. She works on a wide variety of projects, from marquee annual reports such as Quality Counts to data-driven reporting in collaboration with the Education Week newsroom. She received her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Stanford University and her master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Texas at Austin. Contact:

Bill Kennedy is the co-director of the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP), where he oversees design, curriculum, and program operations, as well as the recruitment of students, staff, faculty, and clinical instructors. He currently teaches the Philosophy of Education section of the Foundations Seminar and the Social Studies Content and Methods courses in the Residency Year. Kennedy has worked at UTEP since 2007, and has been an induction coach, residency instructor, coordinator, and adviser. Previously, Kennedy worked for the New Teacher Network, which later became the Chicago New Teacher Center. From 1994 to 2005, Kennedy taught and was an assistant director in New York City Public Schools. Kennedy received his doctorate in curriculum studies from University of Illinois at Chicago in 2017. He received his master’s in education from City College of New York and his bachelor’s from the College of the Holy Cross. Contact:

Barbara Laker is a reporter on the investigative team at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. She has been a reporter for more than 35 years, having worked for the Clearwater Sun, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Dallas Times-Herald and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, before joining the Philadelphia Daily News in 1993. With colleague Wendy Ruderman, she won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism for their series, “Tainted Justice,” about a rogue narcotics squad in the Philadelphia Police Department. Laker co-authored the book, “BUSTED: A Tale of Corruption and Betrayal in the City of Brotherly Love,” with Ruderman in 2014. Laker is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School. Contact:, @barbaralaker

Mariel Laureano is the founding principal of Dr. Jorge Prieto Math and Science Academy in Chicago, where she has served the Belmont-Cragin Community for 10 years. Prieto Academy serves more than 1,000 students with a focus on inquiry-based learning. Previously, she was a teacher at Prescott Elementary School, where she worked with both elementary and middle school age groups, and coached other teachers. Contact:

Dan Montgomery is a high school English teacher currently on leave serving as the president of his union. Montgomery was elected to a three-year term as president of the 103,000-member Illinois Federation of Teachers 2010 and unanimously re-elected in 2013. Montgomery taught English for 18 years at Niles North High School in Skokie, Ill. He has been an IFT member since his first day of teaching in 1993. He served as the head of the 1,800-member North Suburban Teachers Union, AFT Local 1274, for nearly 10 years  and also serves as a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFL-CIO). He served for seven years as a director of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Montgomery received his bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan and holds a master’s degree from Northwestern University.

Alexandria Neason is a staff writer at the Columbia Journalism Review and a senior Delacorte Fellow. Previously, she was a reporter at The Village Voice and covered education for the Teacher Project, a partnership between Columbia Journalism School and Slate. A reporting team she worked on won the 2016 Education Writers Association award for news features. Contact: @alexandrianeas

John Papay is an assistant professor of education and economics at Brown University. His research focuses on teacher policy, the economics of education, and teacher labor markets. He has published on teacher value-added models, teacher evaluation, high-stakes testing, teacher compensation, and program evaluation methodology. He has served as a research affiliate with the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers and a doctoral fellow at the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University. A former high school history teacher, he earned his doctorate in quantitative policy analysis from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Contact:

Juan Perez Jr. is a metro reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Before joining the Tribune, he covered city issues for the Omaha World-Herald newspaper. Perez is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. Contact:

Christopher Redding is an assistant professor of educational leadership in the School of Human Development and Organizational Studies in Education at the University of Florida. He earned his doctorate in leadership and policy studies from Vanderbilt University. He conducts rigorous research using survey and administrative data that focuses on the policies and educator labor market patterns that exacerbate the unequal distribution of high quality teachers and the reforms intended to reduce this problem. Broadly, this research describes failures in the teacher labor market that impede the learning opportunities for underserved students and the ways in which changes in teacher education, development, and leadership opportunities can lead to better teacher retention and student outcomes, particularly in underserved schools. Contact:

Dale Russakoff spent twenty-eight years as a reporter for the Washington Post, covering politics, education, social policy, and other topics. She is now a freelance writer and author of “The Prize: Who’s in Charge of America’s Schools?” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015) about Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the Newark (NJ) schools. Her freelance work has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, ProPublica, Time and other publications. Contact: @dalerussakoff

Jesse Sharkey is the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, a position he has held since September 2018. Previously, Sharkey taught social studies for ten years, primarily at Senn High School, and served as the school’s union delegate before winning election as CTU vice president in 2010. In 2004, he played a leading role in a campaign that mobilized hundreds of parents, launched a website, put a ballot initiative up in the 48th ward, and built relationships with dozens of community organizations and religious groups to oppose the takeover of Senn by a military academy. Sharkey earned a bachelor’s degree in history and education and a master’s in teaching at Brown University, where he studied and worked with many of the leaders of the Coalition of Essential Schools. Contact:, @SharkeyCTU1

Evan Stone is the co-founder and CEO of Educators for Excellence. Stone’s teaching career began in high school when he started coaching the VIP soccer team for children with special needs and both a boys and girls American Youth Soccer Organization team. Stone continued his educational work as a student at Yale University, where he wrote his thesis on the impact of the federal No Child Left Behind Act on urban school systems and worked with students as the head of the Luther House Tutoring Program. After graduating from Yale with a degree in political science, he became a sixth-grade teacher in the Bronx, while earning his master’s degree in teaching from Pace University. Stone co-founded Educators for Excellence to use his political experience from working on city, state and federal campaigns to better organize teacher voices as advocates in shaping education policy. He has been named to Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 in Education list. Contact:

Katharine O. Strunk is a professor of education policy and  economics at Michigan State University. She is also the co-director of the Michigan State University Education Policy Innovation Collaborative (EPIC) and is an associate editor of the journal Education Finance and Policy. Strunk’s research is focused on three areas under the broad umbrella of K-12 education governance: teachers’ unions and the collective bargaining agreements they negotiate with school districts, teacher evaluation and compensation, and accountability policies. Her recent work includes studying teacher labor market responses to policy reforms in Michigan, teacher and school accountability and support policies in the Los Angeles Unified School District and throughout Michigan, and portfolio management reforms in Los Angeles, Denver and New Orleans. Contact: @KatharineStrunk

Saroja R. Warner is the director of educator preparation initiatives at the Council of Chief State School Officers, where she directs initiatives that support state authorities to ensure educators enter the workforce ready to advance student learning, represent the demographic diversity of K-12 students, and lead schools that support student achievement. Prior to joining CCSSO, Warner was the chief of educator preparation program approval and assessment at the Maryland State Department of Education. Warner has twice been certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and taught high school social studies in Maryland for 15 years. She serves as a consultant to school districts on a variety of educational equity solutions, from developing stakeholder engagement strategies to strategic planning to meet the equity and diversity challenges that prevail in workplaces. She continues to serve as a member of the graduate faculty at the University of Maryland, College Park. Contact:

Martin West is professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. He is also the deputy director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and the executive editor of Education Next, a journal of opinion and research on education policy. West studies the politics of K-12 education in the United States and how education policies affect student learning and non-cognitive development. His current projects include studies of public opinion on education policy, the effects of charter school attendance on cognitive and non-cognitive skills, data use in schools, and the influence of relative pay on teacher quality. In 2014-15, West worked as senior education policy advisor to the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. He previously taught at Brown University and was a research fellow at the Brookings Institution, where he is now a nonresident senior fellow. Contact:,  @ProfMartyWest

Keisha Wheat has been an educator with Chicago Public Schools for 14 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education and a master’s degree in teacher leadership and principal preparation. Wheat has dedicated her career to working in low-income areas. She serves as a multi-classroom leader at Asa Phillip Randolph Elementary School. She coaches teachers in best practices in education to increase student achievement. Contact: