Students at the Center Distinguished Fellows

The two cohorts of the Students at the Center Distinguished Fellows were diverse groups of education leaders from around New England, each selected for their vision, contributions and impact in the student-centered learning movement in the region. The Fellows’ overarching goals were to:

  1. Investigate, use and promote effective renditions of student-centered learning (i.e., personalized, competency-based, student-owned and anytime-anywhere)
  2. Communicate research findings in ways that make them actionable and accessible for policymakers and practitioners in order to maximize students’ academic achievement, particularly for those students who have been historically underserved.

The Distinguished Fellows worked alongside research teams, youth researchers and other key partners of the Research Collaborative to build the evidence base for student-centered learning and to bridge research, practice and policy.

Meet the 208-2020 Cohort of Distinguished Fellows

Springfield, Massachusetts
The Springfield Renaissance School

Principal Arria Coburn stands against wallArria Coburn is the principal of The Springfield Renaissance School, a 6-12 STEM magnet school in Springfield, Massachusetts, that is part of the EL Education network. She has over thirteen years of experience in urban education, including six years as a special education teacher and seven years in administration. She is currently a student at Northeastern University, where she is pursuing a doctoral degree in education. She was the 2018 Magnet Schools of America Region 1 Principal of the Year. Arria is also a member of the Teacher Education Committee at American International College and on the Mount Holyoke Master of Arts in Teaching advisory board. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her husband and two children.

Arria has also written articles on the methods their school uses to ensure student-centered learning:

Somerville, Massachusetts
Assistant Principal
Somerville High School

Darius GreenDr. Darius S. Green, who started his career in Boston Public Schools as a paraprofessional and then as a mathematics educator, is currently an assistant principal at Somerville High School in Somerville, Massachusetts. In his current capacity, Dr. Green facilitates the growth of a new student-centered model of education focused on personalized learning, performance-based assessments, flexible and evolving scheduling and opportunities to learn outside the traditional school setting. Dr. Green has over twenty years of experience working in a small therapeutic expulsion school, a large exam school, a Gates Foundation Small School, an in-district Pilot School, a Turnaround School and a Comprehensive High School, where his focus was on developing teacher leaders and building capacity for student voice. Dr. Green holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Psychology from the University of Massachusetts Boston, a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Boston College and a Doctorate in Law and Policy from Northeastern University.

Darius has also written an article about how student-centered practices helped overcome barriers to equity:

Providence, Rhode Island
STEM Learning Facilitator
360 High School

Ellen FoleyEllen Foley has been a Mathematics Learning Facilitator at 360 High School in Providence, Rhode Island, since the school’s founding in 2015. Prior to becoming a classroom teacher, she did research and policy analysis for over a decade at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and was a founding professor in the Urban Education Policy master’s program. She is also the board president of the International Charter School, a dual language, International Baccalaureate school in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Ellen holds a Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts from Boston College. She lives in Providence with her husband and their two sons.

Ellen has also written two articles about student-centered math instruction: 

Boston, Massachusetts
Social Studies Teacher
Boston Latin Academy

Justin Norton is an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Boston Latin Academy in Boston, Massachusetts. A 2009 graduate of the Boston Teacher Residency, Justin has 10 years of experience as a classroom educator in the Boston Public schools. Justin is the recipient of several fellowship awards. His work with the 8th grade U.S. civics curriculum at Boston Latin Academy strongly emphasizes project-based learning and civic engagement with the Boston community. His students have won awards at statewide civics competitions and have been honored by the Boston City council.

Justin is a 2016 Teach Plus policy fellow, a 2014 Massachusetts Historical Society curriculum fellow and a 2013 Fund For Teachers travel grant recipient. Justin has been an active voice on content and curriculum standards for teaching social studies in Massachusetts. His editorials on civic education have appeared in Commonwealth Magazine and The Boston Herald. He recently concluded service on a statewide advisory panel for the revision of the Massachusetts Social Studies Curriculum Frameworks and an advisory panel for the design of a social studies MCAS.

Justin also provides instructional coaching and mentoring for early career teachers in the Boston Public Schools. He has worked as an instructional coach for the Boston Public Schools Teaching Fellowship program, the Accelerated Content to Career (ACTT) program and a Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL) Instructor for paraprofessionals in the Boston Public Schools. Justin is a proud resident of the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston.

Boston, Massachusetts
Winship Elementary School

Mona Ford Walker has been principal of the Winship Elementary School in Brighton, Massachusetts, for the past four years. At the Winship Elementary School, a 2018 Massachusetts School of Recognition, she proudly serves a population of 250 students from kindergarten through fifth grade. Mona is a proud graduate of the Boston Public Schools, where she also began her teaching career. Her passion for education is fueled by her familial history in education and her own educational experiences as a student, and as a result, her desire to ensure all children reach their infinite potential, have access to rigorous learning opportunities and attain academic success.

Previously, Mona served as assistant principal for two years at the Dever-McCormack Middle School in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where she focused on student and teacher inquiry, meeting the diverse academic and social/emotional needs of students and providing students with experiential learning experiences through extended learning time opportunities. Prior to this, she was a classroom teacher for ten years. While teaching and leading within traditional, turnaround and pilot settings, she worked to provide all students with high-quality educational experiences and opportunities.

Mona holds a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Temple University, a Master of Science in Elementary Education from Cambridge College and a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Leadership from Simmons College. Mona completed the Boston Public Schools Aspiring Principals Program in 2013 and the Lynch Leadership Academy Fellowship in 2016. Mona is committed to ensuring that all students acquire the knowledge and develop the skills and habits necessary to prepare them to succeed in college, career and life.

Mona has also written articles about student-centered learning at her school:

Meet the 2016-2018 Cohort of Distinguished Fellows

Providence, RI
Principal, Liberty Building
The Met High School (Metropolitan Regional Career & Technical Center)

Arthur Eduardo Baraf has been a high school principal for over ten years—for the past eight years at The Met, an innovative public school in Providence, Rhode Island, which has been noted by President Obama as a model school and is a flagship of the Big Picture Learning network of over 200 schools worldwide. Additionally, he teaches “Personalized Learning” for the Providence College Urban Teaching Masters program, is the founder and host of “The Student-Centered Learning Podcast” and is advisor and mentor to aspiring principals through the Center for Leadership and Educational Equity’s Principal Residency Network.

After graduating from Harvard Graduate School of Education in 2002, Arthur was a founding teacher and eventually principal of a charter school in Denver, Colorado, where he was named a Mile High Teacher of the Year. Arthur is married, has two delightful daughters and loves to ride his bike to work, make music and play Ultimate Frisbee.

University Park, PA
Professor of Education, Department of Education Policy Studies, Education Theory and Policy Program
The Pennsylvania State University

Dana L. Mitra is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Education Policy Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Dana has published over 30 papers and two books on the topics of student voice and civic engagement. She is the founding editor of the International Journal of Student Voice and the co-editor of the American Journal of Education. Dana’s prior work experience includes teaching elementary school in the Washington, DC area and serving as the coordinator for two White House Conferences on Character Education.

Dana has served as a Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in 2012 to study child participation and educational reform in Bangalore, India. She has recently published a book entitled, Civic Education in the Elementary Grades: Promoting Engagement in an Era of Accountability (Teacher’s College Press).

Danbury, CT
Principal, Westside Middle School Academy Magnet
Danbury Public Schools

Frank LaBanca is a teacher, educational researcher, and change agent. He is the Founding Principal of Danbury Connecticut’s Westside Middle School Academy Magnet, which opened in September 2014. Previously, he was the Director of the Center for 21st Century Skills at EDUCATION CONNECTION, where he directed and managed the implementation of innovative science, technology, engineering, and math programs in 50 high and middle schools across Connecticut through funding from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, Connecticut Department of Education, and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

Frank has been recognized as a National Education Association Innovation Teacher, a GTE GIFT (Growth Initiatives For Teachers) Fellow, a RadioShack National Teacher for Excellence in Science, Math, and Technology, a fellow of the Connecticut Academy for Education, and the Teachers’ Insurance Plan Teacher of the Year, and he was recently named the 2015-16 middle-level recipient of the William Cieslukowski First-Year Principal of the Year Award by the Connecticut Association of Schools.

New Haven, CT
Dean of Academic Departments and Programs and Professor of Psychology
Union College

Jennifer Fredricks is the Dean of Academic Departments and Programs and Professor of Psychology at Union College. She has published over 50 journal articles and book chapters on student engagement, family socialization, adolescent development, and extracurricular participation. She served as a William T. Grant Distinguished Fellow with Connecticut Voices for Children, a leading legislative and advocacy organization in the state. Jennifer has received funding from the National Science Foundation, Spencer Foundation, American Educational Research Association, and Institute for Educational Studies to support her research.

Jennifer is author of Eight Myths of Student Engagement: Creating Classrooms of Deep Learning (Corwin Press), and is co-editing the Handbook of Student Engagement Interventions: Working With Disengaged Youth (Elsevier Press), which is due out in 2018.

Medford, MA
Director, CIRCLE
Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University

Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg is the Director of CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, part of Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. CIRCLE is a nonpartisan research organization producing and translating knowledge about how young people acquire civic skills and identities through a variety of experiences, and what makes certain learning experiences more effective than others. Drawing on her background in positive youth development and community psychology, her core scholastic interests are in understanding how young people interact with the cultural, educational, and institutional factors and shape their civic and political developmental trajectories over time. While Kei is interested in ensuring that any educational solutions target all young people, she is especially interested in diminishing learning opportunities gaps, including civic opportunities gaps.

Kei is a member of the board of directors at Generation Citizen, and serves in the Leadership Council of Nonprofit VOTE. Kei earned her doctorate in Clinical Psychology with specialization in Family and Children from Loyola University Chicago. She lives with her husband and three young children in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Amherst, NH
Founder/Executive Director
Q.E.D. Foundation

Kim Carter is the Executive Director of the Q.E.D. Foundation, an organization of adults and youth working together to create and sustain student-centered learning communities. The 1991 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year and 1996 New Hampshire Media Educator of the Year, Kim is passionate about democratic schooling, educational equity, and learning theory, and has decades of expertise in developing adult and youth capacities for co-constructing learning experiences inside and outside of school. She serves on the NHASCD Executive Board, is a long-time Coalition of Essential Schools affiliate, and contributes to the Education Reimagined collaborative community.

Kim’s expertise and interests include: developing adult and youth capacities for co-constructing learning experiences and co-creating learning communities; designing and implementing highly effective learning and assessments; proficiency-based pathways; high school redesign; and leveraging technology in service of all of the above. A staunch believer that we are all good learners, Kim has developed and applied her expertise designing and implementing educational programs and schools that elevate and authorize students as partners in the learning process, including Souhegan High School, Making Community Connections Charter School (MC2 School), New Hampshire and Rhode Island’s Extended Learning Opportunity Pilot programs and Asia Society’s International Studies Schools Network.

North Attleborough, MA
Assistant Superintendent
North Attleborough Public Schools

Lori Batista McEwen is currently the Assistant Superintendent of the North Attleborough Public Schools, where she leads the district’s strategic revision of curriculum and instruction. She has extensive and varied experience in education as a leader in urban, suburban, and charter environments and as a teacher, researcher, and consultant. In her previous role as Chief of Instruction, Leadership, and Equity for the Providence Public School Department, she provided the vision and strategic direction for curriculum, instruction, assessment and school improvement initiatives for all students. She also served as the Director of Academics for Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, a network of intentionally diverse charter schools in Rhode Island where she led the creation of a personalized, standards-based high school, oversaw curriculum development and mentored new leaders. Prior to that, Lori was a building leader in Rhode Island and New Hampshire and an English teacher in Massachusetts and Missouri. She has also conducted a large-scale program evaluation of the Alberta Initiative for School Improvement, provided district consultation and professional development, and taught graduate courses in teacher leadership.

Biddeford, ME
Instructional Coach, Biddeford Middle School
Biddeford School Department

Mary Bellavance’s career as an educator includes 11 years as a classroom teacher and 15 years in roles such as literacy specialist, literacy coach and instructional coach in southern Maine. Mary is the current President of Maine ASCD and strives to promote the organization’s mission to provide leadership in designing, innovating, and customizing learning for Maine educators. She has published articles about personalized learning for Competency Works, ASCD Edge, and Educational Leadership, and she currently works with educators in Biddeford, Maine and surrounding school districts to help grow and sustain a student-centered, proficiency-based teaching and learning system.

Mary has been a Reading First Instructor and Literacy Leaders’ Network facilitator for the Maine Department of Education. In addition, she has taught reading courses at the University of New England. Mary’s professional writing was rejuvenated after she participated in the Southern Maine Writing Project Invitational Summer and Fall Institute. She has written about personalized learning for Competency Works, ASCD Edge and Educational Leadership. Mary has presented at many local and national conferences on topics such as educating in a digital landscape, habits of mind and creating a personalized learning climate for each child.

Publications include: Personalized Learning, Maine Style. Educational Leadership, June 2014.

Michelle L. Puhlick is the Executive Director of Planning & Partnerships for Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut where she leads the development of partnerships and implementation of major initiatives including oversight of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation grant focused on student-centered learning, the Hartford Public Library Partnership, and the Hartford Coalition on Education & Talent. Michelle oversees the High School Centers of Innovation work designed to promote innovation and support efforts to transform Hartford Public Schools into a student-centered system. Michelle participates in the Superintendent and District Leaders Mastery-Based Learning Community of Practice, is a member of the Connecticut Association of Public Schools Education Transformation Task Force, and works with the Raising Awareness of Mastery-Based Learning Stakeholder Group with the National Governor’s Association. Michelle also served on the NextEd: Next Steps Task Force which recently launched a guide on leading student-centered learning transformation in schools and districts. She previously served on the Act Unleashing Innovation in Connecticut Schools’ state-level focus group and lobbied in Washington, DC regarding the need for unpaid internship waivers for school districts.

The Students at the Center Distinguished Fellowship is generously funded by the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.
Skip to content