Each of us were inspired to embark on this journey. We feel it's important that our community know our personal stories as we each bring our own perspectives and experiences to this work. We look forward to getting to know you.
Janine Gomez | Executive Director I was one of those students who excelled in school because I followed procedures and memorized facts to regurgitate them on tests. It wasn’t until I left a lucrative career as an engineer to teach fourth grade that I tapped into my passion for learning rooted in exploration and inquiry. I am led to create I Dream PCS because I believe true learning happens when we guide children to discover who they are and teach them to realize who they are here to be. I want to give young people, at an early age, the confidence and agency to explore what moves them and chart their own paths to success. > LinkedIn and biography
Leensa Fufa | Director of Inquiry & Learning I grew up with a deep awareness of diverse perspectives and appreciation for the potential of education to transform lives. My parents are both first generation immigrants who came to the United States from very different parts of the world in search of a common dream. They made it a priority that my sisters and I had rich learning experiences early on that have given us the confidence and agency to engage in meaningful work throughout our lives. I Dream PCS is my dream to facilitate this opportunity for others. > LinkedIn and biography
Erin Hudson | Principal I hated school as a child. I succeeded as a student because I listened and had a great memory. I also had an undiagnosed learning disability that made reading extremely difficult for me. I became an educator because I know how it feels to be a kid who gets pushed through school without her needs being met. After a decade of working in schools in East Harlem and the Bronx, I relocated to D.C. where I was thrilled to meet Janine and knew immediately that I was meant to be a part of I Dream. In alignment with I Dream’s mission, I am committed to dismantling racism, looking at and treating leaners as individuals, creating learning environments that promote inquiry and ownership, and cultivating and advocating for the dreams of our learners. > LinkedIn and biography
Matt Whitnall | Director of Operations From a young age I've been interested in understanding the inequalities I've observed in society. However I didn't truly understand it until I served in the Peace Corps. During this time, I saw firsthand the impact of inequitable access and systemic obstacles faced by many, compared to the inherent privilege enjoyed by others. I have since dedicated my career to bridging the gap in justice, working toward shared access to a sustainable livelihood. I believe education is a primary path to take us there. > LinkedIn and biography
Alexiya Wilson | Special Education Coach I very much enjoyed my elementary years of school which initially made me want to become a teacher. However, when I reached middle and high school I was labeled as insubordinate, disruptive, and grown. I was very intelligent and often finished my work quickly and always maintained good grades, but those qualities were never highlighted and with that, I lost my passion to teach. I dove into criminal justice and the criminal justice system. Throughout college, I somehow made my way back to education and realized the connection between the two. Since then, it has been my mission to foster the entire child and teaching them socio-emotional skills that allow them to advocate for themselves and those around them. After reading I Dream’s mission and values I knew I belonged here as the school embodied everything I was thinking and working on on my own. I am excited to continue this work and be an advocate and a platform for the children I am blessed to encounter.
Bryan Miller | Assistant Coach I am a first year teacher that has always loved learning. But growing up I never loved school. School seemed to be about memorization and test scores, not about exploration and understanding. As a result, my passion is helping students find their motivation for learning and then working with the unique interests, talents, and personalities of each student to help them grow. I am focused on making sure young learners understand what they need to learn and why they need to learn it. Blending real world expectations with their own passions and interests to help them succeed in the classroom and in the world.
Celestelle Webster | Coach My name is Ms.Celestelle. I am an Early Childhood Educator at I Dream PCS who is committed to creating a school environment that takes care of the whole child. It is important for me that the curriculum works for students in a way that nurtures their creativity and meets their needs. My dream for my students is that they leave my classroom loving themselves and knowing that their voices, stories, and lives matter. It is my honor to teach and life’s journey to continue to evolve into a person who protects, advocates, and inspires children to be themselves no matter what.
Kayla Shelton-Burleigh | Coach Entering my 5th year of teaching, I am very excited to explore the multi-age classroom world and teaching 1st/2nd this year! Relocating from Clayton County Georgia and joining the I Dream Staff has been a wonderful transition. My reasoning for entering the classroom as a 2016 Teach for America Corp member was to truly understand the achievement gaps and the school to prison pipeline that impacts so many Black and Brown youth. I have since gained much knowledge on the subject, and a love for reinstilling hope in youth. I am sure to work diligently every day to ensure my children are leaving my classroom not only ready for their next academic level, but for the real world as well.
Loretta Rosinko | Coach Raised in an achievement-driven family, I stood out like a sore thumb. I loved learning, but I also loved feeling and creating! In 7th grade, I advocated strongly to leave a private school education to go to public school for the Arts program. My eyes were immediately opened to diversity, inequity, and my privilege. My freshman year of high school was the first year of integration in my southern town. Again, I was struck by a system that didn’t really care about equity/the potential of all students, but rather a successful football season. My entire teaching career has been about connecting authentically with content, empowering students who feel invisible, and giving students the courage to make mistakes. I started my career in inner city Charleston, SC and on Wadmalaw Island. I grew a micro-school in GA because I was frustrated with systems that didn’t allow children the freedom to question and discover freely. I came to I Dream because I believe every child has unlimited potential and we, as educators, are compelled to model courage, innovation, and delight in learning! I am most excited about creating an environment where students are intentional in their dream-making because they are supported by a community who cares about what they think!
Mark Henderson | Operations Manager Being the only child, my parents decided to create a network of individuals and opportunities to assist me with my academics and career paths as I grew into an adult. The schools that I attended allowed me to choose my own career paths and learning techniques to better my future. I was provided with the support to make my own decisions and was taught to be emotionally connected with myself and the energies around me. Outside of my parents, I had a coach & mentor who was able to teach me life skills that provided me with the building blocks necessary to be a well rounded confident adult while making connections to the real world. I support and understand the I Dream mission because I am a product of its values and learning methods. Serving in this role will provide me with the opportunity to work with a network of individuals to provide these same resources to our young people.
Marpu Biawogei | Support Specialist My name is Marpu Biawogei. I was born and raised in Monrovia, Liberia until the age of 9 when my family and I migrated to the United States. Growing up, my home was the place where I celebrated my culture while school was the place I attended to further my education. The two felt separate and distinct. My home life and school life did not collide until high school when I was introduced to creativity in education. I began to utilize my creativity to merge my education and my love for my culture. I believe that combining culture and education fosters acceptance and better understanding of individuals. I am driven to understand individuals in relation to their multifaceted environments and have committed to carrying this out in my career. I am drawn to I Dream PCS because of its value for collaboration between individuals and the community. I Dream places an emphasis on children and families as an extension on the community. I am also drawn to the intentionality of I Dream PCS as curriculums are designed to promote learner’s passions and interests. I am excited to join the team of I Dream to implement holistic learning and services.
Maryam Banire | Assistant Coach Growing up, I throughly enjoyed school, especially my teachers. I appreciated how much they truly cared for me and my education every step of the way. I wholeheartedly believe that it is because of the great experiences that I had during my elementary years that ultimately caused me to lean into education. Originally hailing from a strong science background, I assumed that this was the field I was meant to shine in. However, I could not ignore the small whispers and bursts of excitement whenever I thought about educating the leaders of the future. This is why I am excited to not only join this community but to thrive in it as well. But most of all, to watch your learners dream their wildest dreams.
Rianna Castor | Assistant Coach Ever since I was a child, I loved school, school was my second home and was a way for me to get away from some of the problems that I faced at home. Although this was all true, I never thought that my path would lead me to education because I never wanted to be a teacher. I went into college wanting to be a dentist until I found out about a program called Jumpstart through my college where students would go into inner city schools and help improve reading and writing skills. I then found my actual love for teaching was when I was in the Peace Corps in East Africa teaching English as a foreign language, and although it was hard work it was also very rewarding work. From that point on I knew that I wanted to continue to this path of education and knew that this was my purpose. Although this was something, I realized in the same instance I noticed there also weren't many teachers that looked like me who were teaching in black and brown communities, and I wanted to be a representation for those students. I want to disrupt systems and continue to lead students into an anti-racism pathway. I Dream is a school that is striving to break down barriers and give students ownership over their learning, and is a representation of what future schools should look like, because school is the second home to most of our students and we want to make them feel like they are in a safe place that will help with their continued growth. I am so excited to be a co-coach at I Dream to help break generational curses while also being a candidate for a Master of Education at Johns Hopkins University.
Samirah Ali | Special Education Coach I am a life-long learner. I have loved school ever since I was little and I attribute that love for school to the amazing educators I was blessed to have and the never-ending support of my parents and family. I have been teaching for 10 years and love the chance to learn and grow with my new I Dream community. I am a Teach for America alum and have an educational background in Psychology and Early Childhood Education. I look forward to facilitating meaningful instruction and fostering ever-lasting relationships with my dragonflies and their families.
Sydni Cubia | Assistant Coach I never really loved school. I was bored, underchallenged and misunderstood. I went through most of my academic career coping with an undiagnosed learning disability that made me realize words love to dance! Depending on what I read, their style of dance changes. Sometimes they salsa and other times they tango; however, most of the time they improvise, following the rhythms that constantly play in my head. As I progressed through school, I created my own coping strategies that taught me to look at the tangoing words not as vexations but as a way to help me understand what I was reading. My experience dealing with dyslexia and being pushed through a system without having my needs met has inspired me to become an educator. After 9 years of teaching martial arts to kids ages 3-18 and many years of tutoring middle schoolers at the Columbia Heights Educational Campus, I recognize that these precious beings are the future of our society and are a product of us. We are responsible for spreading love and knowledge to our youth and what better way for me to do so than to work as an assistant coach at a school like I Dream which boasts an anti-racist stance, treats learners as individuals and promotes student ownership in the classroom. I am a graduate of Howard University and am currently a candidate for a Masters of Education at Johns Hopkins University. I am excited for the 2020-21 school year!
Tameron Colbert | Assistant Coach Growing up in Atlanta, GA, my father and mother told me this, “As a black man in America there will always be two strikes against you. Never give them the third.” A major reason for choosing education is because I know what it is like to be in the Urban setting from what most would call ghettos. I know what it is like to sit in a classroom and learn from books that would be given as scraps. Books that were from the early 1970s were still being taught in my school in the 2000’s. All urban schools for minorities across GA and across the nation must change and evolve if we are to give our students a fighting chance in this land of milk and honey. I for one want to give all I have to my students, my parents and my communities because my dream is for a better system of education where students will feel prepared, a strong sense of community and a place where children are free to dream and be whatever they want to be. That is our mission and why I am proud to be a part of the I Dream staff. Because without dreams there is no future.
Tela McNeill | Coach As an educator, I believe that we lay the foundation and create the necessary tools to help prepare students in becoming innovative thinkers and learners of the ever-changing 21st century. In my classroom, I want to provide learners a hands on approach through discovery and exploration. I want learners to know that it is okay not to know the answer but through inquiry based projects and activities we can solve problems that can affect our everyday life experiences. Growing up in a family full of educators, education played a major role in my upbringing. I wanted to become a part of I Dream because I wanted to be a part of a school community that creates innovative thinkers and makes a difference in how we look at and create educational curriculums and instruction in the classroom . I have been in education for 21 years and I am a mother of a 24 and 21 year old.