Fellowship

Cohort 2015 Spotlight: Dean Gancarz-Davies

School: FirstLine Schools

Hometown: My early years were in Severna Park, Maryland. Then my high school years were in Brooklyn, New York.

What made you want to become a teacher?

I was a psychology major in college (at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota) and as junior and senior, I had an internship as a Developmental Therapist with autistic preschoolers. I loved it and completely grooved on it and thought "I want to do this for the rest of my life." I talked with my program, and they said I had to go into the public schools to do that. So I had various teacher aides positions in public schools and then when I moved to New Orleans...I did a program called Pathways to Teaching at Tulane where I took classes and taught in New Orleans public schools. Now I've been teaching for over 20 years since.

What brought you to your current position as Athletic Director?

I taught 4th grade, 6th grade, gifted resource, and 2nd grade. And I figured out that I was so busy that I was never able to exercise. To feel good, I need to exercise. So I thought, how can I make exercise part of my job? I have to be a PE teacher! So I went back to UNO and got my Master's Degree in PE and Health in 2005. And since then, I've been teaching PE and then became an athletic director.

Can you explain your inspiration for your CPL and Impact Initiative?

When I was a fourth-grade teacher, I was at a brainstorming session around what can we do to improve test scores. Well, my fourth graders were having a hard time sitting still, and I thought if we had an intense physical activity portion at the start of the day, my test scores would improve. I was laughed out of the room. I read a book called "Spark" after that. The first part was how in Illinois, a heavy fitness program at the beginning of the school day really advanced test scores in a huge way. When I read this in the book, I thought "That's what I was saying!" Later, when I was pushed to doing the Impact Initiative (with Leading Educators), I thought this was something I really believed in - if we can get kids to be more physically active that their academics will improve. So that is what I am trying to do, with all my PE teachers and specifically with kids who are really struggling, getting some of that exercise-induced focus back into the classroom.

What is one lesson you learned last year that you would share with a first year LE Fellow?

Make your Leading Educators time a priority. There will be a lot of pulls on your time and it would be easy to put LE stuff on the back burner, but it's equally as important if not more important than all the other stuff you have to do. It's a development of our craft that can really make significant strides with our students more so than other things we may be required to do.

Teach to Lead: Denver

In early January 2015, Kalpana Kumar-Sharma of Brightwood Education Campus in Washington, DC represented Leading Educators at the second Teach to Lead Summit of the season in Denver, CO. Through her project, Kalpana is creating a team of ‘Health Ambassadors’ that will work to deploy quick health strategies for everyday use across the school.

Kalpana is an early childhood teacher focused on holistic health in her own school and across the nation. As a participant in both the DC Leading Educators Fellowship and the District of Columbia Public Schools Teacher Leadership Innovation (TLI) pilot, Kalpana is well-versed in the power of teacher leadership to affect school-wide change. She is currently training 12 school-based staff (ranging from classroom teachers to social workers and school counselors to physical education teachers) in stress management, deep breathing, and meditative exercises that can be quickly deployed for greater community health. Kalpana has gotten the staff to sign on to dedicating the first 5 minutes of all school meetings to these well-being strategies.

Kalpana says, “Health often gets forgotten in the pursuit of greater student achievement gains. Holistic health – social, emotional, and physical – however, is an integral component of promoting long-term success inside and outside the classroom.” After submitting her idea for the Summit through the Commit to Lead platform, Kalpana and her colleagues, Assistant Principal Justin Ralston and 2nd grade teacher Rachel Rosenberg, attended the Summit in Denver to present and workshop their idea.

While the attitude is often “I don’t have time”, the Health Ambassador Project works to implement small, mindful exercises that promote “a healthier, happier, and more productive school culture”, says Kalpana. At the Teach to Lead Summit, she was able to share her unique idea with other teachers from around the nation. She said creating a 7 minute pitch as well as 30, 60, and 90 day plans was hugely beneficial to selling and implementing her project back in DC. “It was an amazing experience. While I already had some strategies, thanks to Leading Educators, I got tons of helpful feedback from other participants that will strengthen my project. I recognize that I now have a platform [Teach to Lead] to raise my voice and spread awareness.” When describing the experience, Kalpana reminisces about, “getting lost for hours in planning and research with crucial friends who really believe in and support the work.”

Kalpana (left) photographed with her colleagues Rachel and Justin at the Teach to Lead summit in Denver in early January 2015.

Now that she has returned from the Summit, Kalpana is excited to roll up her sleeves and begin large-scale implementation. While her health ambassador team is entirely composed of Brightwood staff at this time, the vision is to eventually engage parents and students as well. And while Kalpana would like to see the program succeed at her own school first, she is starting to devise plans to expand the sphere of influence across the district. She noted that after conducting a yoga session at Seaton Elementary School last semester, she already has their leadership signed on as a potential expansion school. Her whole team is very excited about spreading this work and has begun to identify grant opportunities and secure speakers to expand the scope and level of prestige surrounding the project. We look forward to seeing the results.

DC Fellow Presents Teacher Leadership Project at National Summit

In December, Adrianna Riccio, a 2nd year DC Fellow, took her commitment to her teacher leadership one step further by winning a spot at Teach to Lead’s Louisville, KY Summit for teacher leaders. The Summit was one of three events hosted by the Department of Education under U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s initiative to support and grow teacher leadership across the country. Adrianna was chosen to attend after submitting her idea for a teacher leadership project to Teach to Lead via their Commit to Lead platform.

Adrianna’s idea was based on her own work. She has been working on a comprehensive coaching program in her school to best employ the expertise of veteran teachers in her building to provide guidance and support to those in their first three years on the job. Since Fairfax County Public Schools already provides coaches for first year teachers, Adrianna’s coaching program is centered on leveraging 8 highly effective teachers at Glasgow as instructional coaches for second and third year teachers.

Adrianna said, “In this program, each teacher in their 2nd and 3rd year will receive an instructional coach that will meet with them once per month to help them perfect their teaching craft. These meetings will be non-evaluative and will use a variety of coaching methods. The coaching team will help with disseminating data and holding data dialogues as well as address any classroom issues that may arise. Most importantly, these teacher leaders will be seen as a resource for all teachers in the building.”

Adrianna stands at the front of the Kentucky Regional Summit (wearing a grey cardigan and glasses). Image courtesy of Teach to Lead

Overall, Adrianna is trying to cultivate a collaborative space for the teachers at Glasgow to share best practices in a meaningful way that both empowers educators to lead as well as learn from their peers. Some other elements they may incorporate include peer observations, TeachMeets (mini conferences held by teachers for teachers), and professional development opportunities.

Not only did Adrianna and her school team qualify for the Louisville Summit with this idea, but their interpretation of what teacher leadership could look like in their school proved to be very popular. Adrianna describes the Summit as a great generative space to collaborate and innovate with like-minded and driven educators from across the country. It was a huge growth opportunity and we hope many more of our teacher leaders get to experience it.

Press Release: Stuart Kaplan, Knightsbridge President, Joins Board of Leading Educators

Leading Educators is excited to welcome Stuart Kaplan to our national Board of Directors. See below for the full press release, and see the full list of board members here: http://www.leadingeducators.org/board


Stuart Kaplan, Knightsbridge President, Joins Board of Leading Educators

Brings Expertise in Retaining and Developing High-Potential Talent; Leading Educators Boosts Classroom and Student Success with Focus on Critical Mid-Level Talent

New Orleans, LA (PRWEB) October 16, 2014

Leading Educators, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving teachers’ leadership skills critical for enhancing educator retention and boosting student results, announced today that Stuart Kaplan, President of Knightsbridge USA, has joined the organization’s board. Knightsbridge is a global human capital solutions firm that integrates expertise in finding, developing, and optimizing an organization’s leadership and talent to deliver superior performance.

“Stuart Kaplan is one of the foremost experts in helping organizations develop high-performing and high-potential talent,” CEO Jonas S. Chartock said.

Leading Educators currently serves approximately 500 teacher-leaders, who lead roughly 4,000 teachers and impact a total of 115,000 students in about 200 schools is Houston, Kansas City, New Orleans and Washington, DC.

"Leading Educators achieves an exponential impact on student outcomes by training our country’s best teachers to lead their colleagues in the pursuit of student success. Only by investing in middle leaders can schools effectively support new teachers and build pipelines of future school leaders," said Jonas S. Chartock, CEO of Leading Educators. "Stuart brings an exceptional track record of helping companies achieve superior performance through a similar focus on developing talent, and we’re thrilled to benefit from his experience.”

“Great companies and great educational institutions prioritize retaining and augmenting strong mid-level talent,” said Stuart Kaplan, President of Knightsbridge USA and Leading Educators incoming board member. “Leading Educators is playing a unique role that is essential for driving real, sustainable improvement. Public schools educating lower-income students, in particular, need to continue adopting these talent development practices that have been proven time and again, not only by Leading Educators but also by the best managed companies. I look forward to working with Leading Educators to broaden its reach and impact – one public school district at a time."


Leading Educators runs a two-year Fellowship for middle leaders in schools. The program encompasses targeted training experiences, the community of a peer cohort, and the personal support of a coach in order to leverage leadership and management skills. Leading Educators also provides targeted Strategic Support Initiatives on a contract basis to districts in Denver, Houston, Washington, D.C., and New York City, and in partnership with the Academy for Urban School Leadership, and Teach for America.

Ninety-six percent of teachers who participated in the Leading Educators program are retained in the field of education. Ninety-five percent continue to serve in the region where they began their Fellowship. One hundred percent continue to serve in roles and organizations specifically focused on high-needs populations.

Leading Educators’ Boston School Visits

DC Fellow Edwin Dela Torre wrote this reflection after the School Visits Trip to Boston in November. As potential Fellows consider applying for the program, we encourage them to see the insights shared in our current participants' blog posts. 

by Edwin Dela Torre, Leading Educators Fellow in Washington,D.C., Cohort 2013


The saying goes that “it takes a village to educate a child.” And this is even more applicable in today’s world, what with the globalization trend and the world becoming smaller and smaller, that is, getting more and more connected. Connections and networking comprise another trend that affects all sectors of our world, including education. Getting to visit and learn from schools and districts in another city like Boston was s a great opportunity for us Fellows of Leading Educators to connect with our colleagues in that part of the country. And this visit proved to be just that, an awesome learning experience that will strengthen our resolve and re-ignite our passion to make a difference in the lives of our students back here in DC.

It was a mere two and a half days of debriefing (Nov. 13-15, 2013), but I felt like the education situation in Boston (which, I believe, represents the whole country like a microcosm) was presented to us from different angles and perspectives. The Leading Educators’ organizers arranged it so well that we were able to observe a whole gamut of different setups of how education is in Boston, and, by extension, how it is in the whole country. At the time of the actual visits, our small groups saw this angle or that perspective, this style or that emphasis, these grade levels or that special group of students. But during later debriefing and bigger group sharing, we saw the whole picture in its different pieces of the puzzle, like a collage forming a greater canvas.

Finally, with the use of seven different levers for visiting schools, which have also been used in the process of observation itself, we were able to integrate what we learned in small pieces. A great tool indeed, much like a pair of eyeglasses that can help one focus on particular aspects, eliminating other distractors, or putting those “distractors” in their possible frame of integration into the bigger picture.

Moving forward, we are now equipped with such a rich arsenal of experiences, compressed in such a short period of time, but still very useful, if we are able to digest these experiences, and make them our own. And we can eclectically choose what may or may not be applicable to our setting here in the schools and districts in or around our nation’s capital.

Life's most persistent and urgent question is:

"What are you doing for others?"
- Martin Luther King, Jr. 

In celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, over 50 New Orleans Fellows, staff, and friends showed up to help Success Prep Academy. Over the course of four hours, volunteers:

  • created two incredible murals in the cafeteria
  • painted the benches and tables outside by the playground and blacktop 
  • set up four new portable basketball hoops
  • touched up four classrooms with new paint

"It was so great to see the reaction of students and staff this morning," said Success Prep Director Niloy Gangopadhyay today. "It really made the day special for everyone! I feel extremely lucky that we were chosen to be the site."