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.
Each year, we choose about 15 current classroom teachers to serve as Understood Teacher Fellows. Over the course of the school year, the Teacher Fellows continue their work in classrooms and receive training from Understood to deepen their knowledge of learning and thinking differences. They also develop leadership skills and share what they’ve learned with other educators in capstone projects.
A handful of fellows stay onboard for a second year of the fellowship to serve as Mentor Fellows.
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.
How Are the Understood Teacher Fellows Selected?
Through a selective process that includes an application and interview, Teacher Fellows are chosen for their dedication to serving and including students who learn and think differently. The Teacher Fellows share a passion for equitable outcomes for all students. They have demonstrated leadership skills in and out of the classroom. Some learn or think differently themselves, or are parents of children with learning and thinking differences.
Who Are the 2019–2020 Understood Teacher Fellows?
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 fifth year of teaching and serves as a Voya STEM Fellow.
Shaquala Butler is an Understood Mentor Fellow and a fourth-grade general education teacher 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 fourth 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 is an Understood Mentor Fellow and a first-grade 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.
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 20 years and is the 2009 Virginia State Teacher of the Year.
Kimberly Eckert is 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.
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
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 tenth year of teaching.
La-krisha Howard is 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.
Lauren Jewett is 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 an ASCD Emerging Leader.
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 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.
Beth Maloney is a fifth-grade science and social studies teacher in Surprise, 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 has been teaching for 20 years and is a National Board Certified Teacher. She is the 2014 Arizona State Teacher of the Year and was an Empatico Empathy Challenge Fellow in 2018–2019.
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 five years.
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 23 years and was named the 2019 Arizona State Teacher of the Year.
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 18 years and served on the board of the North Carolina International Dyslexia Association for 10 years.
TJ Thornton is a fifth-grade science and social-emotional learning 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 10 years.
Juliana Urtubey is an Understood Mentor Fellow and a fourth- and fifth-grade 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. In her ninth year in the classroom, Urtubey is a National Board Certified Teacher. 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 is an English as a New Language teacher 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 is a STEM educator 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 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 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 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 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 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 Ruben teaches elementary general education in Bethesda, Maryland. She earned a BS in elementary education and an MEd as a reading specialist from the University of Maryland. For her capstone project, Ruben wrote a blog post for Understood about how her brother’s ADHD shaped her teaching.
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 teaches high school global studies 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 teaches elementary general education 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.