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’re thrilled to partner with
Blue Engine on a virtual fellowship.
The Understood x Blue Engine (UxBE) Teacher Fellowship aims 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.
Who Are the 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 sixth year of teaching, is the 2019 Kansas Milken Educator, and serves as a Voya STEM Fellow.
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 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 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 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 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 eleventh year of teaching.
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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 is an Understood Mentor Fellow and 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 2020 Nevada 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 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 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 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 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, 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 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 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.