Homeroom Teachers and Academic Specialists
(click on name to see bio)
Larissa Christen, Pre-Kindergarten
Sarah Hamilton, Pre-Kindergarten
Candice Iloh, Pre-Kindergarten
Talithia Long-Palmer, Pre-Kindergarten
Charlene Polk, Pre-Kindergarten
Alexandria Huddleston, Kindergarten
Deana Kensler, Kindergarten
Natasha Mason, Kindergarten
Ivy Hillay, 1st Grade
John Howard, 1st Grade
Shiryl Vernaiz, 1st Grade
Azure Drew, 2nd Grade
Rosalee Hanson-Robinson, 2nd Grade
Ashley Almonte, 4th Grade
Clinton Dickens, 3rd/4th Grade Math
Jermal Powell, 3rd Grade
Audrey LeVault, 3rd/4th Grade
Tanisha Nugent, 5th Grade
Lakeisha Simmons-Bradshaw, 5th Grade
Evelyn Exum, 6th Grade
Jessica Rave, 7th Grade, Social Studies Specialist
LaKisha Moore, 8th Grade, Middle School Math
Anthony Sessoms, Science Specialist
Grace Cadag, Librarian
Lynura Jones, Education Technology Coordinator
(click on name to see bio)
Roslyn Alford, Pre-Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
Stephanie Burrill, Pre-Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
Lenora Johnson, Pre-Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
Taneisha Lane, Pre-Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
Charletta Lucas, Pre-Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
Lakesha Lucas, Pre-Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
Marlon McKeiver, Pre-Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
Kamilah Wheeler, Pre-kindergarten Teaching Assistant
Chaeral Williams, Pre-Kindergarten Teaching Assistant
Special Education and Student Support Team
(click on name to see bio)
Stevonna Miles, Dean of Special Education
Franco Bujosa, English Language Learner and Special Education Teacher
Santosh Kamalakar, Special Education Teacher, Elementary School
Antonio Rivera, Guidance Counselor
Melanie Roberts, Special Education Teacher, Middle School
(click on name to see bio)
Isaac Bell, Music, National Philharmonic
Eric Ginsburg, Visual Arts Teacher
Brian Harris, Dance Teacher
Nafeesa Monroe, Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Melissa Richardson, Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Amie Root, Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Kristala Pouncy Smart, Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Kim Teachout, Music, National Philharmonic
Scarlett Zirkle, Music, National Philharmonic
Homeroom Teachers and Academic Specialists
Ms. Hamilton graduated from Niagara University with a bachelor of fine arts in theatre. She has a background in coaching gymnastics and when she was working in Niagara Falls, she received employee of the month twice. Sarah was admitted to the Baltimore City Teaching Residency, a highly selective group of professionals committed to raising student achievement in Baltimore’s highest need schools.
Ms. Iloh is a Howard University graduate originally from the Midwest. She is an active performance poet and creative writing teaching artist throughout the region. She participated in the School Readiness Teacher Intravisit Program in Washington, DC, has facilitated workshops for the American Poetry Museum, Split this Rock, and Round Edges, and is a former Coach of Playworks Energized. Candice took part in the Art, Books and Creativity Summer Teacher Institute at the National Museum of Women in the Arts and continues to seek our opportunities to integrate the arts in all elements of learning.
Ms. Long-Palmer recently graduated from George Mason University with a master of arts. In addition, Ms. Palmer holds a bachelor’s degree with a concentration in theatre arts and a minor in early childhood education. She was a theatre arts camp director at the YMCA each summer for 17 years. For fun, Ms. Long-Palmer travels to New York to see Broadway plays.
Ms. Polk is a passionate educator who has strong organizational and interpersonal skills. She has a solid understanding of early childhood with many years of professional development. Ms. Polk shares over 17 years of experience as an early childhood educator. She has also coordinated the WEDJ Summer School Program, been a Head Start teacher in Virginia, and taught first and second grade in DC. Ms. Polk graduated from the University of the District of Columbia.
Ms. Christen came to WEDJ from North Carolina where she attended NC Agricultural and Technical State University. She is eager to apply teaching, learning, and leadership skills to provide high-quality early childhood education experiences in order to significantly improve and inspire student achievement. She has an extensive volunteer background and holds a community service award as well as a family and consumer science award.
As a lifelong learner, Ms. Huddleston is dedicated to instilling an intrinsic drive for knowledge throughout the classroom and across the greater learning community. Joining WEDJ most recently from New York City, she has experience in a range of elementary classroom settings. In 2010, Ms. Huddleston graduated from Pace University with a masters of science for teachers in early childhood and elementary education. While at Pace she received numerous awards and published a multilingual children’s book. She has also been published in The New York Times. Miss Huddleston continues to be an active member of a number of professional educational organizations and often presents at professional development seminars. Prior to pursuing her graduate degree, Ms. Huddleston grew her professional foundation with rich, non-traditional experience, ranging from dance to online media, international study and travel, and even editorial fashion. Along with a warm, up-beat attitude and out-of-the-box, quirky personality, her unique background brings to the classroom a fresh outlook on education and a new meaning to the ideas of teaching and learning.
Ms. Kensler has a bachelor’s degree in general studies and physical education from the University of Maryland. Her professional development experience includes Response to Intervention, Universal School Readiness Conference, National Reporting System Training, National Head Start Association Conference, Wolftrap Teacher-Artist Partnership, the National Association for the Education of Young Children. She was born in Italy.
Ms. Mason is a graduate of Strayer University. She is currently pursuing a masters of arts in teaching with a concentration in early childhood education. Natasha demonstrates keen professionalism by membership in the National Association for Education for Young Children and the Association for Supervision of Curriculum and Development. In the classroom, she holds her students to the same high expectations that she has for her own children. She strives for excellence. Natasha believes that children learn differently and should be given many opportunities to be successful. Natasha has worked in the media, banking and hotel industry and would like to run her own school someday. As a girl guide, she was recognized with the Warmth and Friendliness Award.
Mr. Howard holds a bachelor’s degree in French with a minor in African Studies from Bowdoin College. He spent a year in France conducting an intensive language and culture study. Mr. Howard was selected as a Teaching Fellow with the Center for Inspired Teaching. He also knows how to create multimedia web pages and was an assistant researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health. Mr. Howard has volunteered at the GW Health Insurance Counseling Project.
Ms. Exum is an English specialist who graduated from American University with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and English. Ms. Exum has also taken courses at the University of DC and Trinity University. She is a Highly Qualified Teacher with a rich experience including a position in Howard University’s Early Learning Program. In her spare time at college she also worked at a radio station.
Ms. Vernaiz holds a master’s degree in early childhood education and a bachelor’s degree is in elementary education. She has 14 years of teaching experience working with young children. She has achieved milestones in teaching preschoolers by creating safe, nurturing and fun-learning environment. Ms. Vernaiz was also involved in creating a developmental reading program adapted for teaching pre-kindergarten students learn how to read. Ms. Vernaiz is a lifelong learner and committed to enhancing the learning of each child by staying on top of new trends in technology; new approaches, methods, and strategies; and managing different kinds of classroom situations.
Ms. Drew is an enthusiastic, highly qualified, caring educator who believes that all children can learn and thrive in a stimulating and comforting environment. Commended for excellence in innovation, creativity, and organization, she demonstrates exceptional ability to establish instant rapport with students and parents. Azure graduated from Bowie State University and the University of the District of Columbia.
Ms. Hanson-Robinson is committed to equipping elementary school students with the skills necessary to meet a changing world. She graduated from Northern Caribbean University with a major in primary education. Ms. Robinson helps students learn how to evaluate their own work. She has been honored with a Teacher of the Year Award and has presented workshops on school-based assessment, parenting, and improving school literacy programs.
Mr. Powell is a graduate of Strayer University and North Carolina Central University. He has earned commendations for his quality teaching with rigor, differentiation and use of behavior modification approaches. Mr. Powell is committed to the core belief that all students can learn. He likes to watch movies, spend time with family and friends, travel when possible.
Ms. Almonte is eager to bring a positive learning experience to all students. Throughout her undergraduate and graduate career she has made it her priority to include creativity in every learning situation so that children are able to learn to the best of their potential. She also worked as an aide with a preschool student with a disability. Ms. Almonte graduated with a master’s degree in literacy education and a bachelor’s degree in childhood education from Syracuse University.
Clinton Dickens, 3rd and 4th Grade Math
Mr. Dickens is eager to support students as they develop mentally, physically, and socially in a stimulating environment that addresses multiple learning styles. Mr. Dickens has experience with the Boys & Girls Club of Washington, DC. He is a seasoned basketball, football, flag football, and golf coach. Mr. Dickens graduated from Bowie State University with a bachelor’s degree in communications.
Ms. Nugent is energized when she works with people of various temperaments and backgrounds. She is currently working on her master’s degree in mathematics education and teacher leadership from John Hopkins University. She’s has been a member of Jamaica Musical Theatre and a dance member of Pro Moves Dance Company, Stephanie Belnavis Repertoire, and Father Richard Ho’Lung Missionary for the Poor Performing Arts Group with which she travels internationally to perform. Ms. Nugent has a passion for math, she believes that “all students can learn and succeed, but not on the same day or in the same way” (William Spady). For fun, she also likes travel, dance, performing, and photography.
Ms. Simmons-Bradshaw is a highly motivated, ambitious self-starter who is eager to contribute to WEDJ success. She is always willing to support her colleagues with administrative and technical support. Always a learner, Miss Bradshaw attended Trinity College and loves to read about best practices in education. She also loves mysteries and old movies.
Ms. Rave is an educator who thrives in an environment that promotes a focus on high-quality instruction and student learning. She is a meticulous, innovation-driven professional who has a strong background with AP history, American studies, government, and sociology. Ms. Rave holds a master of arts in international studies from Old Dominion University in Virginia and a bachelor of arts in political science and history from Randolph-Mason College in Virginia.
Ms. Moore is a flexible and organized educational professional who can explain complicated mathematical concepts in an easy way. She has a talent for employing unique teaching strategies that engage all students, remove the fear of math, and foster a fun and fascinating learning environment. Ms. Moore is a Highly Qualified Teacher, a graduate of Howard University, and she has a stuffed animal collection.
Mr. Sessoms is an assertive professional with practical experience. He has a solid understanding of a diverse range of educational teaching methods and possesses inspiring mentoring skills. He is tech savvy and able to adapt to new situations and systems. Mr. Sessoms is highly motivated with an elevated sense of dedication and loyalty. His university experiences include Elizabeth City State University and Howard University. His favorite word is “seriously.”
Ms. Cadag is a proactive, dependable, and committed professional a highly motivated, energetic, flexible and a positive thinker! She has worked as a librarian for 13 years–8 in the Philippines and five in the US. She loves to organize and develop libraries and has done this with four different libraries, all starting from scratch. Her goal is to share her love of books and an understanding of technology skills so students can learn in a variety of ways. Ms. Cadag earned her master’s degree in education from Philippine Normal University in Manila, with specialization in library science. Prior to coming to WEDJ, she worked in Prince George’s Country Public Schools as library media specialist and talented and gifted coordinator.
Ms. Jones is a hardworking, optimistically driven technology professional with a passion for youth empowerment. She believes empowerment comes from educating our youth and giving them skills that will sustain a successful future. Ms. Jones is goal oriented and thrives on aiding the achievement of others. She earned her a bachelor’s of science degree in architectural engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia, and received her teaching certification from Trinity University. Prior to coming to WEDJ, she worked in Prince George’s County Public Schools as a technology educator in the county’s most respected science and technology program.
Ms. Burrill is a great team player has a strong background in dance, make-up artistry, and education. She received her bachelor’s degree in dance from the University of Maryland, and she is very passionate about good manners. Ms. Burrill is a hard worker with excellent customer service skills and is a fine addition to our teaching assistant staff in pre-kindergarten.
Ms. Johnson is interested in helping students with mathematics and technology. She has experience in many different charter schools working with a variety of grades. She holds an associates degree from Ashworth College. Lenora also studied at the Mathematical Bridge Institute.
Ms. Lane is an enthusiastic co-teacher in our pre-kindergarten nation. She works cooperatively with staff members and has experience with early childhood Intervention, student assessments, and differentiated instruction. Ms. Lane is committed to positive parent-teacher communication and student motivation. She is experienced with using various teaching aids such as classroom artifacts, charts, and graphs. Ms. Lane is a licensed paraprofessional who is accomplished at teaching in a variety of ways to support student development of motor, verbal, written, and social skills.
With more than 15 years in education, Mr. McKeiver is an organized, efficient, and detail-oriented professional who adapts quickly to changing needs. Mr. McKeiver has a degree from Columbia Union College in Maryland. He also attended the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, majoring in film and video production.
Ms. Lucas uses direct instruction and learning centers to motivate and instill an enthusiasm for learning in early childhood education. Her skills include mentoring and motivation, classroom management and creative problem solving. She has worked at the Bennett Child Development Center, the Scripture Cathedral Child Development Center, the Hughes Child Development Center and the Bright Beginnings Child Development Center.
Ms. Wheeler is a teacher and a WEDJ mom. She brings to the classroom her experience as a modeling coach and an avid volunteer at WEDJ for years. She attended Strayer University and is certified as a forklift operator and five-ton truck driver. Ms. Wheeler also donated her kidney to a good friend.
Ms. Williams is a motivated and personable professional who can multitask and remain organized while wearing a variety of different hats. She is a TA and team player who understands the importance of a great dynamic between lead teachers and support staff. She attended the University of the District of Columbia and Johnson & Wales University in Florida.
Ms. Alford graduated from the University of the District of Columbia as a biology major. She then went on to Strayer University to study computer information systems. She has worked for the Arlington County Police Department, the DC Department of Public Works, and AVIS. Ms. Alford is a returning teaching assistant at WEDJ.
Special Education and Student Support Team
Ms. Miles is a highly motivated team player driven to exceed performance expectations. She has a business administration degree from Strayer University and a master’s degree in education and human development at George Washington University and a master’s degree in educational administration. Ms. Miles has worked as a special education coordinator for Prince George’s County Public Schools, DC Public Schools, and the National Rehabilitation Hospital.
Ms. Kamalakar is a highly motivated and results-driven professional who always believed that everybody can learn. She is a highly qualified teacher who worked in Special Schools in India for five years. As a research assistant, took part in four different projects to develop adapted versions of developmental screening tests for Indian children successfully. She also worked in N.E. Africa for three years in the United Nations Project for Special needs. For the past ten years worked in the United States — Georgia and Arizona. She is a Gold medalist from Kurukshetra University – India, has a Masters Degree in Special Education and speaks English, Hindi and Telugu fluently.
Ms. Roberts is a dedicated, enthusiastic, and driven professional. A graduate of both Albany State University and George Washington University, she has worked in schools and in the community to help young people with special needs. She has attended more than 18 professional seminars and workshops in her field. Ms. Robert’s favorite color is pink and she is inspired by acts of kindness, humor, and staying positive.
Mr. Bujosa is WEDJ’s ELL specialist. He has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and a master’s in public administration. His rich global experiences in Spanish and Colombian universities led him to a graduate program at Catholic University here in DC and he is Highly Qualified in special education and English as a second language. He worked for two years in the Peace Corps in Botswana where he provided technical training and mentoring for the local AIDS coordinator. He has also provided training in education and health programs for poor communities in Colombia. He loves to ride his folding bicycle and he has never had a headache.
Mr. Rivera is an innovative, highly disciplined, and versatile professional with admirable interpersonal and relationship building skills. As a mental health clinician he displays keen diagnostic skills and capacity for treatment planning. Mr. Rivera has worked as an associate professor in Puerto Rico in the areas of social sciences, psychology, and education. Antonio is competent, team spirited and bilingual. Other experiences include psychological assessment, crisis interventions with juvenile offenders and victims of domestic violence, and school based interventions. Mr. Rivera is also a member of the Psychological Association of Puerto Rico (ASPPR) and currently licensed as a psychologist in PR and completed the courses for Certified Addiction Counselor I (CAC I) in the state of Colorado. Mr. Rivera received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from University of Puerto Rico and his master’s in cognitive neuropsychology from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain.
Isaac Bell is a highly motivated individual driven by his commitment to music and its teachings. He is an alumnus of several esteemed performing ensembles including, but not limited to, the Howard University Jazz Ensemble and the Howard University Showtime Marching Band. A skilled bass trombonist, he has performed extensively throughout Greater Washington at venues such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Cramton Auditorium, the Ira Aldridge Theater, and DAR Constitution Hall. Mr. Bell has also toured throughout the United States, Mexico and Bermuda.
Mr. Bell has composed works for piano, violin, trombone, voice, and orchestra. He is an accomplished songwriter, recording artist, and bandleader, having funded, recorded, and published two albums with his band GWN. A budding film scorer, Mr. Bell has with multiple projects underway including the SaySo Films Entertainment documentary Don’t Hate Me. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music composition from Howard University and is a member of the National Band Association, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc., and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America, Inc.
Eric Ginsburg, a native of Washington, DC, attended college at New York University (NYU), where he first discovered his love for teaching. At NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Eric did an internship at the Educational Alliance, where he began teaching parenting and art classes to young children, parents, and caregivers. It was also at NYU that Eric took his first painting class. It was through the guidance of the class’s teacher that Eric discovered his love for the arts. The synthesis of these experiences inspired Eric to pursue art education as the perfect combination of his two passions. Following graduation from Teachers College at Columbia University and working as an artist and teacher in New York, Eric decided that he wanted to make a difference in his hometown of Washington, DC, where he continued his career in education. Eric has earned awards for Excellence in Art Education from the Washington Post, was nominated for The Mayors Award for Art Teacher of the year, and has been a mentor teacher at the Philips Collection Museum. Eric is also a working artist. His work is part of many public and private collections around the world, including at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and Corrie Ten Boom House in the Netherlands. Eric is honored to join the team at WEDJ!
Mr. Harris has extensive experience in teaching using movement/dance techniques and several curriculum models. He holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Hampton University and a master of divinity degree from The Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology at Virginia Union University. He is an enthusiastic teacher with knowledge in planning and behavior management/modification. WEDJ is fortunate to have an dance instructor who has earned the designation of Highly Qualified Teacher. He has worked with Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Summer Intensive in Chicago, Wolf Trap Music and Movement Residency Program, and the Georgetown Law Center Early Learning Center. He is a member of Divine Dance Institute.
Nafeesa Monroe has been a professional film, television, and stage actress for more than 20 years in Los Angeles, New York, and DC. She is a graduate of The Meisner School of Acting and received her MFA from The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University. Some film and television credits include: I’m Through with White Girls, Jamie Foxx Show, and The Bold and The Beautiful. A few of her theatre credits include: Hello Herman (Off-Off Broadway), Oliver and Peter Pan (TheatreWorks, CA), Company Policy (Pipedream Prods, CA), and The Journey to Becoming (Edinburgh Fringe Festival). As a spoken word artist, Nafeesa has opened for Jewel, appeared on HBO’s Def Poetry, and performed alongside bestselling author Neale Donald Walsch. Nafeesa is also a mastered martial artist and works as a fight choreographer and stage combat instructor.
Melissa Richardson is a teaching artist, director, and stage manager. Ms. Richardson has taught drama to youth with Arena Stage, Shakespeare Theatre, InterAct Story Theatre, Round House Theatre, Alden Theatre, Adventure Theatre, and the Wolf Trap Institute for Early Learning through the Arts. Ms. Richardson directs the Heyday Players, a senior citizens’ repertory company, at Round House Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland. She has also stage managed productions for the Washington Shakespeare Company, American Century Theater, Horizons Theatre, and Active Cultures Theatre. Ms. Richardson received a BFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama.
Amie is a fight director, choreographer, and stage combat/movement instructor based in the DC area. She has a degree in theater from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point where her focus was on physical theater and stage combat. She has trained in many movement styles such as Suzuki, Laban, and Alexander, and has been a recognized advanced actor combatant with the Society of American Fight Directors. Recently, she was faculty at Camp Shakespeare, SAFD sanctioned workshops hosted by the University of Kentucky, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Regent University-Virginia Beach, as well as the National Stage Combat Workshop hosted by North Carolina School of the Arts and Central Illinois Stage Combat Workshop at Eureka College.
Kristala Pouncy Smart is originally from Flint, Michigan. She holds an MFA from Eastern Michigan University in the Drama and Theatre for the Young program, an MA in Theatre from Northwestern University, and a BA in Theatre from Kalamazoo College. Kristala has lived, performed, and taught throughout Michigan, Chicago, Los Angeles, Alabama, and Maine before moving to the DC area. She is a member of Only Make Believe D.C. where she performs with children in D.C. hospitals. Kristala has also worked as a teaching artist at Imagination Stage where she was also an understudy for P. Nokio. She was most recently seen as Calpurnia in To Kill A Mockingbird at Compass Rose Studio Theatre and Hickory Cricket in Pinocchio at Red Branch Theatre.
Ms. Teachout graduated from Northern Illinois University with a bachelor of music in viola performance. She added to her list of qualifications at the University of Colorado, where she received her master of music degree and is working toward her DMA at Arizona State University. In addition to being a registered Suzuki violin teacher through the Suzuki Association of the Americas, she has taught violin, viola, cello, piano, choir, music theory, music history, and general music to all ages throughout the United States and Italy. Ms. Teachout is delighted to be directing a new and unique program at WEDJ and looks forward to seeing the positive impact the program will have on the students, parents, and community.
Dr. Zirkle is a Suzuki trained violinist, teacher and performer. During her youth, Scarlett Zirkle participated in Suzuki institutes across the United States with completion of her secondary education at the Interlochen Arts Academy. Dr. Zirkle was awarded multiple music scholarships to complete her bachelors of music degree at DePauw University School of Music and her masters of music degree at Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Dr. Zirkle was appointed an undergraduate teaching assistant at the University of Maryland’s School of Music, where she earned her doctorate in musical arts degree with her dissertation, “Brahms, Joachim and Schumann: The Flourishing of 19th Century Violin Repertoire.” Dr. Zirkle served as concertmaster of the orchestras at DePauw University, Indiana University and the University of Maryland. As a winner of the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra Young Artist Competition as a sophomore in high school, Dr Zirkle had the opportunity to solo with the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. Most recently, Dr Zirkle has soloed with both the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius violin concerti. She has attended numerous summer festivals, including Spoleto Music Festival, National Orchestral Institute, Aspen Music Festival, and Interlochen Arts Camp. In addition to playing the violin, Dr. Zirkle has considerable training in Baroque violin and viola, having played with the Smithsonian Chamber Players. While at DePauw University, she was a recipient of the Music Educators Award and remains a certified member of the Suzuki Association of the Americas. Dr. Zirkle enjoys performing her violin whenever she can, including a tour in Italy with the Urbana Music Festival, and other countries. Before coming to WEDJ, Dr. Zirkle was the Music Director and Choir Director at two private schools. While there, she started initiated many outreach programs for her choir, recorders, and handbells. In her spare time, Dr. Zirkle enjoys time with her husband, Seth, who practices law in Annapolis, and their three dogs.