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Meet our committed staff who work each day to fulfill our mission.
Ivan Xavier Garcia has 7 years of experience working on public, private and charter school literacy teams. Through various roles he has delivered personalized learning curricula to urban school leaders, implementing various educational digital platforms. He has delivered critical data by working one-on-one with school leaders, in small groups with teachers, and has provided guidance, training, and other resources as needed. Through this work he has serviced schools by providing personalized professional development to new teachers entering the field, as well as coached veteran educators on the incorporation of technology into the classroom. Through various Private School programs, Ivan also has acquired 3 years of teaching international ELL students from the Middle-East, Western and Central Africa and all of Latin America. As an instructional coach for Classroom, Inc. Ivan works toward building teacher expertise, raising student achievement and aligning rigor to state standards by leveraging evidence-based practices.
Senior Manager of Institutional Giving
Christina leads the creation of development communications and the writing of grant proposals and reports. She has extensive experience securing and managing six and seven figure grants from foundation, corporate, and government sources.
Prior to joining Classroom, Inc., Christina was a teacher and scholar of educational technology for over 20 years. She holds a Ph.D. in Educational Technology from Concordia University in Montréal, Québec Canada, co-authored the 2003 State of California K–12 Education Technology Master Plan, and provided input on the implementation of the US Department of Education 2016 National Educational Technology Plan. Christina served on the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE) Board of Directors, and has published and presented works on various topics of teacher preparation and educational technology in peer-reviewed forums. Christina is a Professor Emerita of Education at Cal Poly Pomona University and most recently, was Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Accreditation and Professor at the School of Education at St. John’s University.
Marquis Smalls achieved great success in his first ten years teaching in Paterson and Maplewood, New Jersey. Working diligently to close the achievement gap in reading and math, Marquis was selected to work on a team with Harvard University Professor Ronald Ferguson committed to analyzing and providing solutions to teachers and students for innovative and practical ways of raising achievement levels. As an early adopter of computer based and blended learning approaches that incorporated games, music, art, dance, performance and real life problem solving skills, Marquis guided his students to the top of the district in state test scores while instilling an authentic love of learning into a vast majority of students. In Brooklyn, New York, Mr. Smalls helped build a successful new school M.S. 354 in Crown heights that is now one of the model New York City public schools. By focusing on literacy and reading through social studies and writing, Marquis established a culture of success that spread throughout the school and provided a foundation for success at every middle school grade level. In Harlem, Mr. Smalls took on the challenge of helping another new school, Frederick Douglass Academy II out perform their goals and establish a positive learning environment for all students. Working with and supporting teachers as UFT chapter leader, Marquis coached teachers into successfully integrating computer based innovative teaching strategies into their daily practice.
Ron Attivissimo is a coach and consultant with Classroom, Inc. He began his education career as a French and Spanish teacher at IS 218 Brooklyn. He served as an assistant principal for three years and then as a principal for 11 years at the very same school. Ron also served as a member of Distinguished Faculty for the Board of Education (2001-2002) and mentored newly assigned principals.
Adrienne O’Neill is a dynamic and passionate educational leader, bringing an array of best teaching practices through her background as a middle school English as a 2nd language and English as a foreign language teacher for five years in Puerto Rico. She has also been an instructional technology coach for over six years in the New York City area, working with PK-8 teachers and students. During her time as a coach, Adrienne also assumed instructional leadership roles such as Director of Professional Development and Regional Liaison with Staten Island Catholic School Leaders, promoting expansion and growth. Her commitment and dedication to improve student achievement are also evidenced in her 3-year volunteer service as the education manager in The Legacy Center, a non-profit community center, in which she helped develop, coordinate, implement, and evaluate tutoring and enrichment educational programs. She holds a Master’s Degree in Teaching English as a Second Language and a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management.
Director of Development
Nick leads fundraising efforts for Classroom, Inc., building partnerships with the individual, foundation, corporate, and government supporters who make our programs possible. He is excited to be working at the intersection of education and technology to empower students in underserved communities. Before joining Classroom, he held development roles at PowerMyLearning, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, and St. John’s University. Nick earned a BA in History at the University of Richmond and an MBA in Marketing at St. John’s.
Vice President, Digital Strategy
Ben leads our transition to digital product delivery directly to educators, students, and parents; develops our digital product roadmap and strategy based on user research; and manages the implementation of those digital products as well as their supporting services. Prior to joining Classroom, Inc., Ben gained valuable experience in both technology and education. He led the development of the mentorship platform at iMentor, built education apps for the Amplify tablet, and designed financial research apps at S&P Capital IQ and Bloomberg. Furthermore, Ben spent time in the classroom as an English teacher on the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, and he presented American culture to schools in former East Germany during a Fulbright Scholarship at the US consulate in Hamburg. He graduated summa cum laude from the General Honors Program at Rutgers University with a BA in German literature, and he holds an MBA with distinction from the NYU Stern School of Business.
The National Director of Professional Learning and School Support
Kwamara brings over a decade of experience being a teacher leader, coach and mentor in schools as well as on district, state, and national platforms. As the Common Core Coach within her school building, she created a successful approach to coaching and mentoring teachers to harness their talent for student achievement. Using a systematic approach of pre-conferencing, video observations, post-conferencing, video reflections, self-reflections, lesson plan analysis, formative and summative assessment analysis, and creating working Professional Growth Plans, she was able to move 95% of the teachers (whether new or experienced) across the continuum along the Effective Evaluation Framework for Teaching.
She has also designed a professional development framework and a system of accountability to infuse literacy throughout all content areas, which resulted in 40% gains over four years in ELA. Through her work in the Newark Public Schools Teacher Leader Institute (TLI) and the New Leaders Emerging Leaders Program, she gained district-wide experience aligning their literacy curriculum guide to the Common Core, assessing different curriculums, resources and best practices.
As a result of Kwamara’s work through Education Pioneers, she created a data-driven culture throughout a charter network of five schools in Tennessee. She has also consulted and partnered with several schools, districts, and non-profit organizations across the states of TN and NJ in data management, systems analysis, talent recruitment and retention as well as curriculum design.
She currently serves as the Education Pioneers Alumni Board Chair, and is on the Rekindled Dreams Board as an education consultant.
As the National Director, Kwamara will supervise CIs Professional Learning & School Support Team through the use of achievement centered systems to track the progress of the team and our school partners. Kwamara will maintain and manage many of our school, community and district partners (including local and national public school partners, OST partners and summer partners). Using her deep experience, she will work with the team to transform and streamline school training and support processes in a replicable and efficient way with a focus on virtual as well as full service school partners. Kwamara will lead the codification efforts of our most promising practices in the successful use of CI’s newest learning games. She will support a small cohort of schools working with the team to develop and model effective coaching techniques and how to best leverage literacy games in a blended learning. Kwamara, with the program team will present Classroom, Inc.’s programs and professional learning model at conferences throughout the nation.
Director of Finance & Administration
Ross Heinemeyer oversees all responsibilities for finance, accounting, and administration. Ross manages all daily finance and accounting activities, budget preparation and financial planning, and works closely with Development on tracking and reporting on grants, as well as on pricing components for donors. In addition, Ross works alongside the senior team and the Board to analyze and define the best economic models for the organization to continue fulfilling its mission while achieving self-sufficiency.
Prior to joining Classroom Inc., Ross was the Budget and Operations Manager at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where he managed the budgeting process for a $40 million organization, built financial models to analyze current and upcoming initiatives, maintained finances and accounting for grants and endowment, managed the audit process, and supervised the operations team. Prior to Ailey, Ross worked at The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust in investment, grants, and financial planning capacities. Ross completed his B.A. in Finance at Northern Arizona University and M.B.A. at St. John’s University.
Director of Content and Curriculum
Ali is leading Classroom Inc.’s Online Educator Support Project to create web-based professional development and resources that will enable teachers to use our newest games successfully. Ali is a New York University graduate with an M.A. in Elementary Education from the University of South Florida. With a lifelong appreciation for children’s literature, her focus in education has been to create engaging literacy curricula while supporting teachers. Ali has taught in several high-need areas in Florida, New York, and Rhode Island. She served as the lead 2nd grade ELA teacher in East New York, Brooklyn for three years. During this time Ali mentored teachers in reading and writing instruction at TFA Institute and wrote curriculum for Amplify. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to Cyprus where she created a cross-cultural blog for American and Cypriot elementary students. Most recently, as Manager of Curriculum and Instruction at Advancement Courses, she helped develop online professional development courses for K-12 educators and wrote proposals for course approval in several districts across the US.
Educational Programs Intern
Janna is a Cristo Rey New York High School freshman student. One of seven freshman to achieve first honors at Cristo Rey this year, Janna comes to Classroom, Inc. as part of Cristo Rey’s Corporate Work Study Program where she hopes to gain real life work experience before studying abroad.
Chief of Staff
As Chief of Staff, Ja’ von supports and creates leverage for the President ensuring that the organization’s strategic goals are achieved. As thought partner and tactical advisor to the President and senior management team, her focus is on improving the daily management of the organization, maximizing efficiency and effectiveness. Before joining Classroom, Inc., Ja’ von served as Associate Director of Supply Chain, Associate Director of Operations, and Business Operations Manager at Success Academy Charter Schools, where she managed the daily operations of schools, provided executive support on strategic initiatives and vision implementation, and oversaw the procurement processes of the organization. Before Success Academy, Ja’ von served as an operations manager, among many roles, for UncommonGoods, LLC., where her focus was on developing innovative solutions to supply chain and customer service challenges. While at UncommonGoods, Ja’ von also taught math for summer enrichment programming at Bishop Loughlin Memorial H.S. She holds a B.A. in biological sciences from Hofstra University and is a certified six sigma lean black belt and change management specialist.
Max provides support to the Development department and the Executive Office for the team’s fundraising efforts. Prior to joining Classroom, Inc., he spent seven years working with the Greater New York Region of American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He helped raise funds for scholarships for deserving students, as well as for innovative and groundbreaking research such as vaccines for Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. He holds a B.A. from both Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary.
Visiting Senior Fellow
Mary has spent her entire career dedicated to philanthropy, the less fortunate and needy by designing solutions in her free market, public policy, and foundation executive positions. Mary is presently a visiting senior fellow at both Classroom, Inc. and The New Criterion Magazine. Mary develops organizational strategies, designs programs, and fundraising strategies for each group. Previously, Mary worked with NY investor/philanthropist Richard Gilder as the executive consultant to The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. From 1994-2003, as vice president and director of programs for the International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics (IFREE) and the University of Arizona’s Economic Science Lab, Mary created IFREE with 2002 Nobel Laureate Vernon L. Smith, plus the design and funding for educational programs and financial strategies. From 1983-94, Mary was the executive director and secretary to the Boards of the Achelis and Bodman Foundations. She continues to serve on the Board of Trustees of The JM Foundation, the Grants Committee of the Barker Welfare Foundation, and First Serve New Mexico, and is a member of the national advisory committee of the Fund for American Studies.
A recipient of an Honorary Doctorate in 1990 (and commencement speaker) from Marymount University in Virginia for her contribution to the field of philanthropy, Mary also holds a Master’s Degree from Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York. Mary completed her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Government & Politics with honors from St. John’s University, where she was also elected by the faculty and student body as the first student recipient of the University President’s Medal. Mary recently was asked to serve on the Board of Governors of her alma mater, St. John’s University.
Nicole Guagliardi works in the Research department analyzing the effectiveness of Classroom, Inc.’s programs and gathering student and educator feedback to share with schools, partners, and funders. She started working with Classroom, Inc. as a summer research intern six years ago and has since joined full time. Nicole recently earned a B.S. in Actuarial Science from CUNY’s Baruch College.
Phil Firsenbaum is a coach and consultant with Classroom, Inc. and has been so for the past decade. He is a former district-based educational technology facilitator and staff member of the then-NYC Board of Education’s Technical Assistance Center. Upon his retirement, he worked as a consultant in a District One database project and at Teaching Matters. He taught educational technology courses at Iona College and Bank Street College of Education as well as for the New York City DOE After School Professional Development Program. He holds a Master’s degree in Computing in Education from Teachers College. Prior to his retirement he was a middle school computer lab teacher where he taught programming for 11 years in the NYC school system.
Sharon Waddler manages the needs of the office. She comes to Classroom, Inc. with over 15 years of experience in the office administration field. Sharon also worked as office manager for Bruce Phillips Staffing, an agency that has hired individuals for major corporate companies and nonprofit organizations.
Manager of Educational Programs
Lori Velez develops and maintains high-quality customer service through initial training and ongoing professional development for teachers, in- person and online school coaching, as well as cultivates differentiated learning models for traditional public schools, charter schools, and community-based organizations. Prior to her time at Classroom, Inc., she taught science and health and was associate director of the Health Magnet Program at IS 218/Sinnott Magnet School for Health Careers, one of Classroom, Inc.’s early partner schools. During this time, Lori integrated two of the organization’s learning game simulations into the magnet program’s health curriculum—which was later integrated into the language arts curriculum. Lori received her bachelor’s degree in Education as well as a master’s degree in Public Health from Hunter College, CUNY.
Peter Scaglione has direct responsibility for all matters related to the daily finances of the corporation, including maintenance of the books and records of the corporation, cash management, payroll, and also works with the VP of Finance on budgeting and the year-end audit. He joined Classroom, Inc. following his studies at Baruch College, where he earned a BBA in Accounting. During his academic career, he peer-tutored in a variety of subjects, including math, English, and Spanish. He also assisted in running the first Saturday-school program offered at James Madison H.S. In the next few years, Peter hopes to earn his CPA license.
Systems and Support Manager
As community services manager, Nicholas Overton provides technical assistance to program users, while supporting various departments with communications to their constituents and ensuring efficient dissemination to the districts, schools, and CBOs the organization partners with. He came to Classroom, Inc. as an intern in early 2012. He has a deep passion for video games (both making them and playing them!) and is currently earning a degree in Game Programming from the University of Advancing Technology. After spending three months extensively testing The Sports Network 2—Classroom Inc.’s Next Generation Learning Challenges-funded pilot for a new embedded-assessment learning game —Nick joined full-time as an operations associate.
Educational Programs Associate
Emily Otalora manages the organization’s operations and inventory needs, and supports the Implementation department’s work with schools and organizations. Before coming to Classroom, Inc. she worked as a production assistant at Meltzer Media Productions, and she also interned at Liberty Studios, NYC’s longest-running multimedia production house. She graduated with a BFA in Film and Animation from Pratt Institute. Emily loves to travel, and by age 21 she reached the ambitious goal of visiting all seven continents.
Educator Experience Lead
Kathy Yu Burek manages and designs key aspects of Classroom, Inc.’s learning games and programs to provide engaging learning experiences. She started at Classroom, Inc. as an intern before joining the staff during the development of The Sports Network-2. Prior to moving to New York, she spent over nine years as a teacher in grades K – 8. During this time, Kathy was actively involved in instructional leadership, leading professional development, and developing school programs and curriculum that integrate media and technology. She received her B.S. in Engineering from the University of Michigan and holds two Master’s Degrees, one from California State University, Northridge in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and, most recently, from New York University in Digital Media Design for Learning.
Chief Program Officer
Christina Oliver identifies and works with a wide range of partners to inform the distribution and development of the organization’s newest learning games. As part of a seamless product development and implementation process, she oversees the educational initiatives team tasked with working closely with educators and students to ensure Classroom, Inc.’s learning games and instructional guidance lead to instructional improvements and increases in literacy competencies. She brings over a decade of experience working in non-profit education reform in New York City. Most recently, at the nonprofit ReadWorks she was responsible for integrating ReadWorks reading comprehension curriculum and teacher training with the research, development, and launch of ReadWorks 2.0. In her past role at Classroom, Inc. Christina served as the VP of educational programs. She designed and managed teacher professional development, and secured strategic partnerships to expand the impact of Classroom, Inc. with individual schools, nonprofits, and urban districts. She gained a deep understanding of school organization, programs, and curriculum from her work as director of educational initiatives at the Urban Assembly, a NYC nonprofit manager of small public schools. Prior to that, Christina taught at J.H.S. 56 in Manhattan and at Bronx Preparatory Charter School. She graduated from the University at Buffalo with a B.A. in History and Secondary Education. She holds a master’s degree in Education Policy and Public Management from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
As president, Lisa Holton sets the strategic vision across the entire organization. Most recently, she was founder and CEO of Fourth Story Media, a highly-regarded digital studio, which produced The Amanda Project, a print and online program of creative writing, reading and art for teen girls. Prior to Fourth Story Media, Lisa was president of Scholastic Trade and Book Fair divisions, where her responsibilities included publishing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, developing the interactive book and online games series The 39 Clues, and overseeing new digital initiatives for School Book Fairs. Lisa was also head of Disney’s Global Children’s Books, overseeing all aspects of the global publishing business. During her nine-year tenure at Disney, she built Hyperion Books for Children, developed English language learning programs, and founded Jump at the Sun, an imprint dedicated to African-American culture. As editor-in-chief and associate publisher of HarperCollins Children’s Books, she developed a number of curriculum-based math and literacy programs, including Math Start, and led whole language initiatives in her roles as marketing director at HarperCollins and Penguin.
Lisa is a board member of the New York Women’s Foundation, where she has worked with community-based organizations devoted to economic and social justice for women and girls. She is a trustee of The Carle Museum and is on the advisory board of First Book. She speaks regularly about the intersection of literacy and technology.
She holds a B.A. from Colgate University and lives in Brooklyn.