Understood Teacher Fellowship

By The Understood Team

At Understood, we believe that teachers can be change agents for students who learn and think differently. In 2018, we launched the Understood Teacher Fellowship to catalyze teachers as leaders and learn from their pivotal work in classrooms.

We believe the best resources for teachers are developed with teachers and rooted in classroom practice. The Teacher Fellows are instrumental in creating our materials. Every Understood resource for educators is reviewed by a Teacher Fellow. You’ll also see our Teacher Fellows as authors of resources, and you’ll hear from others in our videos. You may even meet some when they present at conferences.

For 2021, we were thrilled to partner with Blue Engine on a virtual fellowship. The Understood x Blue Engine (UxBE) Teacher Fellowship aimed to equip educators with the essential knowledge, mindsets, and skills to help not only the 1 in 5 students who learn and think differently — but all students — thrive in their classrooms.

The Understood Teacher Fellowship program is supported, in part, by MAX’IS Creations.

Who Are the Understood Teacher Fellows?

Carly Bowden 

is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a seventh-grade math teacher in Andover, Kansas.

Carly Bowden is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a seventh-grade math teacher in Andover, Kansas. She holds a BS in mathematics education from Emporia State University. Bowden is in her fifth year of teaching and serves as a VOYA STEM Fellow.

Carly Bowden is a seventh-grade math teacher in Andover, Kansas. She holds a BS in mathematics education from Emporia State University. Bowden is in her sixth year of teaching, is the 2019 Kansas Milken Educator, and serves as a Voya STEM Fellow.

Shaquala Butler, MA 

is an Understood Mentor Fellow and a reading specialist.

Shaquala Butler is an Understood Mentor Fellow and a reading specialist in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BS in criminology and political science from Florida State University and an MA in elementary education from the University of West Alabama. Now in her fifth year in the classroom, Butler serves as the elementary content specialist for Teach for America–Alabama. For her capstone project during her fellowship year, Butler updated and delivered a presentation on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for Teach for America.

Shaquala Butler is an Understood Mentor Fellow and a reading specialist in Huntsville, Alabama. She holds a BS in criminology and political science from Florida State University and an MA in elementary education from the University of West Alabama. Now in her fifth year in the classroom, Butler serves as the elementary content specialist for Teach for America–Alabama. For her capstone project during her fellowship year, Butler updated and delivered a presentation on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for Teach for America.

Jessica Cisneros, MEd 

is an Understood Mentor Fellow and an instructional coach in Washington, DC.

Jessica Cisneros, MEd, is an Understood Mentor Fellow and a kindergarten teacher in Washington, DC. She earned a BA in Latin American and hemispheric studies from The George Washington University. She also earned an MEd in elementary education and an MEd in special education from Lesley University. Cisneros has been teaching for seven years, is a trained Wilson instructor, and has taken on teacher leadership roles in her school. Cisneros co-presented with Understood Teacher Fellow Michelle Capriotti at NNSTOY’s 2019 National Teacher Leadership Conference for her fellowship capstone project during her fellowship year.

Jessica Cisneros is an Understood Mentor Fellow and an instructional coach with Urban Teachers in Washington, DC. She earned a BA in Latin American and hemispheric studies from George Washington University. She also earned an MEd in elementary education and an MEd in special education from Lesley University. Cisneros has been teaching for eight years and is a trained Wilson instructor. Cisneros co-presented with Understood Teacher Fellow Michelle Capriotti at NNSTOY’s 2019 National Teacher Leadership Conference for her fellowship capstone project during her fellowship year.

Stephanie Doyle, MA 

is an Understood Teacher Fellow and co-teaches in third-grade language arts and general education in Roanoke, Virginia.

Stephanie Doyle, MA, is an Understood Teacher Fellow and co-teaches in third-grade language arts and general education in Roanoke, Virginia. She holds a BA in psychology from Roanoke College and an MA in education from Walden University. Doyle has been teaching for 20 years and is the 2009 Virginia State Teacher of the Year.

Stephanie Doyle co-teaches third-grade language arts and general education in Roanoke, Virginia. She holds a BA in psychology from Roanoke College and an MA in education from Walden University. Doyle has been teaching for 21 years and is the 2009 Virginia State Teacher of the Year.

Kimberly Eckert, MEd 

is a 2019–2020 Understood Teacher Fellow and a high school English teacher, district program coordinator, and instructional coach in Brusly, Louisiana.

Kimberly Eckert, MEd, is a 2019–2020 Understood Teacher Fellow and a high school English teacher, district program coordinator, and instructional coach in Brusly, Louisiana. She holds a BA in social work and an MEd in special education from Northwestern State University. Eckert has 12 years of teaching experience. She is the 2018 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for the NEA Social Justice Activist of the Year Award in 2019.

Kimberly Eckert directs educator development for the Louisiana Department of Education and is a teacher in West Baton Rouge Schools. She holds a BA in social work and an MEd in special education from Northwestern State University. Eckert has 13 years of teaching experience. She is the 2018 Louisiana State Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for the NEA Social Justice Activist of the Year Award in 2019. She is a 2020 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize.

Arthur Everett, MSEd 

is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a high school social studies and support services teacher in Brooklyn, New York.

Arthur Everett, MSEd, is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a high school government, economics, and support services teacher in Brooklyn, New York. He holds a BA in organizational behavior and American civilization from Brown University. He also earned an MSEd in teaching students in urban settings from Long Island University. Everett has been teaching for 15 years and was a 2016 Classroom Teacher Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education.

Arthur Everett is a high school government, economics, and support services teacher in Brooklyn, New York. He holds a BA in organizational behavior and American civilization from Brown University. He also earned an MSEd in teaching students in urban settings from Long Island University. Everett has been teaching for 15 years and was a 2016 Classroom Teacher Ambassador Fellow with the U.S. Department of Education.

Christina Gutierrez, MSEd 

is a 2019–2020 Understood Teacher Fellow and a response to intervention coordinator and interventionist with early elementary students in New York.

Christina Gutierrez, MSed, is a 2019–2020 Understood Teacher Fellow and a first-grade special education teacher in New York, New York. She holds a BA in psychology and Latin American studies from the University at Albany and an MSEd in general and special education from the Bank Street College of Education. Gutierrez is in her tenth year of teaching.

Christina Gutierrez is a response to intervention coordinator and interventionist with early elementary students in New York. She holds a BA in psychology and Latin American studies from the University at Albany and an MSEd in general and special education from the Bank Street College of Education. Gutierrez is in her eleventh year of teaching.

Lakrisha Howard, MA 

is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a first-grade inclusion teacher in Newark, New Jersey.

Lakrisha Howard, MA, is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a kindergarten teacher in Newark, New Jersey. She holds a BS in exercise science and sports studies from Rutgers University and an MA in education from Relay Graduate School of Education. Howard has been teaching for eight years.

Lakrisha Howard is a first-grade inclusion teacher and new teacher coach in Newark, New Jersey. She holds a BS in exercise science and sports studies from Rutgers University and an MA in education from Relay Graduate School of Education. Howard has been teaching for nine years.

Lauren Jewett 

is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a third/fourth-grade special education teacher in New Orleans.

Lauren Jewett is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a third/fourth-grade special education teacher in New Orleans. She has been teaching for 10 years and holds a BA in history and political science from the University of Rochester. Jewett is a National Board Certified Teacher in the area of Exceptional Needs Specialist. She is currently pursuing an MA in English from the Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English and is in the ASCD Emerging Leaders 2019 program.

Lauren Jewett is a third/fourth-grade special education teacher in New Orleans. She has 11 years of teaching experience and holds a BA in history and political science from the University of Rochester. Jewett is a National Board Certified Teacher in the area of Exceptional Needs Specialist. She is currently pursuing an MA in English from the Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English and is an ASCD Emerging Leader.

Jonathan Juravich, MA 

is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a visual arts teacher for grades K–5 in Powell, Ohio.

Jonathan Juravich, MA, is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a visual arts teacher for grades K–5 in Powell, Ohio. He holds a BA in art from Otterbein University and an MA in art education from the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Juravich has 14 years of teaching experience. He is the 2018 Ohio State Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for the National Teacher of the Year.

Jonathan Juravich is a visual arts teacher for grades K–5 in Powell, Ohio. He holds a BA in art from Otterbein University and an MA in art education from the Art Academy of Cincinnati. Juravich has 15 years of teaching experience. He is the 2018 Ohio State Teacher of the Year and was a finalist for the National Teacher of the Year.

Beth Maloney, EdD 

is an Understood Teacher Fellow and directs arts education for Act One, a nonprofit devoted to bringing arts field trips to Title I students in Arizona.

Beth Maloney, EdD, directs arts education for Act One, a nonprofit devoted to bringing arts field trips to Title I students in Arizona. She holds a BA in elementary education and an MA in leadership and supervision from National Louis University. She also earned an EdD in higher and postsecondary education from Argosy University. Maloney was a classroom teacher for 20 years and is a National Board Certified Teacher. She is the 2014 Arizona State Teacher of the Year.

Beth Maloney directs arts education for Act One, a nonprofit devoted to bringing arts field trips to Title I students in Arizona. She holds a BA in elementary education and an MA in leadership and supervision from National Louis University. She also earned an EdD in higher and postsecondary education from Argosy University. Maloney was a classroom teacher for 20 years and is a National Board Certified Teacher. She is the 2014 Arizona State Teacher of the Year.

Shira Moskovitz, MA 

is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a fifth-grade special education inclusion teacher in Sunnyside, New York.

Shira Moskovitz, MA, is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a fifth-grade special education inclusion teacher in Sunnyside, New York. She holds a BA in graphic design and an MA in elementary education from CUNY Queens College. Moskovitz also earned a post-master’s certificate in special education from CUNY Brooklyn College. She has been teaching for five years.

Shira Moskovitz is a fifth-grade special education inclusion teacher in Sunnyside, New York. She holds a BA in graphic design and an MA in elementary education from CUNY Queens College. Moskovitz also earned a post-master’s certificate in special education from CUNY Brooklyn College. She has been teaching for six years.

Kareem Neal, MA 

is an Understood Expert and a self-contained special education teacher in Phoenix. 

Kareem Neal, MA, is an Understood Expert and a self-contained special education teacher in Phoenix. 

Kareem Neal is a self-contained special education teacher for grades 9–12 in Phoenix. He holds a BA in psychology from Seton Hall University and an MA in special education from New Jersey City University. Neal has been teaching for 24 years and was named the 2019 Arizona State Teacher of the Year.

Brian Smith, MA 

is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a kindergarten teacher in Claremont, North Carolina.

Brian Smith, MA, is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a kindergarten teacher in Claremont, North Carolina. He holds a BA in psychology and human/community services from Lenoir-Rhyne University and an MA in elementary education from Gardner-Webb University. Smith has been teaching for 18 years and served on the board of the North Carolina International Dyslexia Association for 10 years.

Brian Smith is a kindergarten teacher in Claremont, North Carolina. He holds a BA in psychology and human/community services from Lenoir-Rhyne University and an MA in elementary education from Gardner-Webb University. Smith has been teaching for 19 years and served on the board of the North Carolina International Dyslexia Association for 10 years.

TJ Thornton, MAT 

is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a fourth-grade teacher in Tumwater, Washington.

TJ Thornton, MAT, is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a fourth-grade teacher in Tumwater, Washington. They have a BS in social studies from Western Oregon University and an MAT in elementary and middle school education from Willamette University. Thornton has been teaching for 11 years.

TJ Thornton is a fourth-grade teacher in Tumwater, Washington. They have a BS in social studies from Western Oregon University and an MAT in elementary and middle school education from Willamette University. Thornton has been teaching for 11 years.

Juliana Urtubey, MA 

is the 2021 National Teacher of the Year. She is an Understood Mentor Fellow and a special education teacher and instructional strategist working in inclusion and resource settings in Las Vegas.

Juliana Urtubey, MA, is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a special education teacher working in inclusion and resource settings in Las Vegas. She holds a BA in elementary education with bilingual education certification and an MA in bilingual special education, both from the University of Arizona. Urtubey is a National Board Certified Teacher and the 2021 National Teacher of the Year. During her fellowship year, she authored an article about how teachers can support families of English language learners during the special education referral and evaluation process.

Juliana Urtubey is a hybrid special education teacher and instructional strategist working in inclusion and resource settings in Las Vegas. She holds a BA in elementary education with bilingual education certification and an MA in bilingual special education, both from the University of Arizona. In her tenth year in the classroom, Urtubey is a National Board Certified Teacher and the 2021 National Teacher of the Year. During her fellowship year, she authored an article about how teachers can support families of English language learners during the special education referral and evaluation process.

Meet the Understood Teacher Fellow Alumni

Christina Armas, MA 

teaches English as a New Language (ENL) in Queens, New York.

Christina Armas, MA, teaches English as a New Language (ENL) in Queens, New York, working with kindergartners in general education and special education classes. She has 16 years of experience in the instruction and assessment of English language learners (ELLs), working both with newcomers and with students with interrupted formal education (SIFE).

Armas has extensive experience with ELLs who have learning and thinking differences. She collaborates regularly with general and special educators, paraprofessionals, and other service providers. She is trained in and implements several Orton–Gillingham curricula such as Recipe for Reading, Preventing Academic Failure, and Engage NY: Skills.

She recently completed a teaching fellowship with Understood, where she participated in online sessions focusing on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), direct instruction, advocacy in education, and empathy. She earned her MA in TESOL at Hunter College.

Christina Armas is a dean of instruction and response to intervention coordinator in Queens, New York. She holds a BA in literature from Purchase College and an MA in TESOL education from Hunter College. For her capstone project, Armas created a checklist teachers can use when designing lessons to reduce cognitive load.

Kara Ball, MEd 

Kara Ball, MEd, is an elementary science and STEM education specialist with Baltimore City Public Schools. She earned a BS in special education and elementary education from Towson University and an MS in curriculum, instruction, and assessment from Walden University. For her capstone project, Ball authored an article about how her own experiences with learning and thinking differences have shaped her teaching.

Kara Ball is an elementary science and STEM education specialist with Baltimore City Public Schools. She earned a BS in special education and elementary education from Towson University and an MS in curriculum, instruction, and assessment from Walden University. For her capstone project, Ball authored an article about how her own experiences with learning and thinking differences have shaped her teaching.

Michelle Capriotti, MAEd 

Michelle Capriotti, MAEd, teaches special education in Chandler, Arizona. She holds a BA in psychology from St. Mary's College, an MAEd in curriculum and instruction from Arizona State University, and a post-master’s certificate in educational policy from Arizona State University. Capriotti co-presented with Understood Teacher Fellow Jessica Cisneros at NNSTOY’s 2019 National Teacher Leadership Conference for her capstone project.

Michelle Capriotti teaches special education in Chandler, Arizona. She holds a BA in psychology from St. Mary’s College, an MAEd in curriculum and instruction from Arizona State University, and a post-master’s certificate in educational policy from Arizona State University. Capriotti co-presented with Understood Teacher Fellow Jessica Cisneros at NNSTOY’s 2019 National Teacher Leadership Conference for her capstone project.

Eric Crouch, MEd 

is an Understood Teacher Fellow and fifth-grade general education teacher in Columbus, Georgia.

Eric Crouch, MEd, is an Understood Teacher Fellow and a fifth-grade general education teacher in Columbus, Georgia. He has a BS in early childhood from Columbus State University, an MEd in elementary education from Troy University, and a specialist certificate in educational leadership from Columbus State University. In 2019, Crouch was named one of 50 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize.

Eric Crouch teaches elementary general education in Columbus, Georgia. He has a BS in early childhood from Columbus State University, an MEd in elementary education from Troy University, and a specialist certificate in educational leadership from Columbus State University.

Pauli Evanson, MA 

teaches elementary special education in Brooklyn, New York.

Pauli Evanson, MA, teaches elementary special education in Brooklyn, New York. She earned a BS in natural resources from Cornell University and an MA in childhood education and special education from New York University. For her capstone project, Evanson created printable resources about early childhood mathematics for teachers to share with families.

Pauli Evanson teaches elementary special education in Brooklyn, New York. She earned a BS in natural resources from Cornell University and an MA in childhood education and special education from New York University. For her capstone project, Evanson created printable resources about early childhood mathematics for teachers to share with families.

Kate Garcia, MEd 

Kate Garcia, MEd, teaches high school special education science in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. She has a BS in business administration from La Salle University and an MEd in special education from Chestnut Hill College. Garcia co-presented with Understood at the American Federation of Teachers 2019 Biennial Conference for her capstone project.

Kate Garcia teaches high school special education science in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. She has a BS in business administration from La Salle University and an MEd in special education from Chestnut Hill College. Garcia co-presented with Understood at the American Federation of Teachers’ 2019 Biennial Conference for her capstone project.

Denise Panaligan, MA 

teaches middle school special education in Los Angeles.

Denise Panaligan, MA, teaches middle school special education in Los Angeles. She holds a BA in economics and Asian American studies from UCLA and an MA in urban education policy and administration from Loyola Marymount University. For her capstone project, Panaligan created a professional development series on inclusion for her school.

Denise Panaligan teaches middle school special education in Los Angeles. She holds a BA in economics and Asian American studies from UCLA and an MA in urban education policy and administration from Loyola Marymount University. For her capstone project, Panaligan created a professional development series on inclusion for her school.

Melissa Sandler, MEd 

is a staff development teacher in Bethesda, Maryland. She earned a BS in elementary education and an MEd as a reading specialist from the University of Maryland.

Melissa Sandler is a staff development teacher in Bethesda, Maryland. She earned a BS in elementary education and an MEd as a reading specialist from the University of Maryland. She is also a National Board Certified Teacher. For her capstone project, she wrote a blog post for Understood about how her brother’s ADHD shaped her teaching.

Eric Russell 

Eric Russell teaches middle school science in New Orleans. He earned a BA in sociology from Clayton State University. Russell delivered a presentation on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for the science and social studies teachers at his school for his capstone project.

Eric Russell teaches middle school science in New Orleans. He earned a BA in sociology from Clayton State University. Russell delivered a presentation on Universal Design for Learning (UDL) for the science and social studies teachers at his school for his capstone project.

Julian Saavedra, MA 

is an assistant principal in a public school in Philadelphia.

Julian Saavedra, MA, is an assistant principal in a public school in Philadelphia. He holds a BA in history and education, as well as an MA in TESOL education, both from Fairfield University. For his capstone project, Saavedra prepared a professional development scope and sequence including UDL and trauma-informed instruction for his charter network.

Julian Saavedra teaches high school history and social justice in Philadelphia. He holds a BA in history and education, as well as an MA in TESOL education, both from Fairfield University. For his capstone project, Saavedra prepared a professional development scope and sequence including UDL and trauma-informed instruction for his charter network.

Ashlee Upp, MEd 

is an Understood Teacher Fellow and teaches first grade in Camden, Delaware.

Ashlee Upp, MEd, teaches first grade in Camden, Delaware. She earned a BS in education from the University of Delaware and an MEd in educational leadership from Wilmington University. Upp recorded an Understood Expert Chat called “How to Use Mindfulness to Manage Strong Emotions” for her capstone project.

Ashlee Upp teaches first grade in Camden, Delaware. She earned a BS in education from the University of Delaware and an MEd in educational leadership from Wilmington University. Upp recorded an Understood Expert Chat called “How to Use Mindfulness to Manage Strong Emotions” for her capstone project.

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