Support the SPI Fellows

SPI's close relationship with the Teachers College, Columbia University (TC) community allows us to offer unique fieldwork opportunities to TC students at the master's and doctoral level. SPI Fellows work with our curriculum consultants onsite at our partner schools to create, coordinate, and manage classroom projects, playing a critical role in helping students "go public."

Our Team

  • Ruth Vinz

    Ruth Vinz

    Senior Advisor

    Dr. RUTH VINZ taught middle and high school students for twenty-three years before coming to Teachers College. She is a Professor in the English Education Program and the Enid and Lester Morse Endowed Chair in Teacher Education. She directs the Center for the Professional Education of Teachers and is senior advisor to the Student Press Initiative.

  • Erick Gordon

    Erick Gordon

    Founding Director

    ERICK GORDON founded the Student Press Initiative at Teachers College, Columbia University in 2004. He has worked on student press literacy projects for over fifteen years, and has helped support thousands of young authors into print. Erick's unique vision grew out of his background in both small press publication and classroom teaching, first in Northern California and then New York City. Besides his adventures at SPI, which have been widely covered by the press, his passion for reading the world as "text" was turned into a radio documentary on WNYC's Radiolab: Listen to Goat on a Cow here.

  • Jondou J. Chen

    Jondou J. Chen

    Program Director

    JONDOU J. CHEN is the new director of SPI having previously served as a site educator and alternative education coordinator. A former social studies teacher, homeless shelter director, and youth worker, Jondou is currently a senior doctoral student in Developmental Psychology at Teachers College. Hailing from San Diego, California but irresistibly drawn to the East Coast, Jondou loves listening to stories almost as much as he loves telling them. He especially loves stories about teachable moments, empowerment, resilience, community and food.

  • Britta Van Dun

    Britta Van Dun

    Associate Director, Development & Personnel

    BRITTA VAN DUN is an alumna of Teachers College, Columbia University where she earned a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology before teaming up with Professor Ruth Vinz to found the Center for the Professional Education of Teachers (CPET). As the Center's Associate Director, Britta is the go-to for anything admin or grant related, and has been playfully named SPI Medicine Woman, because when she's not coordinating with schools, writing proposals, or dreaming up the next project, she's studying to be a practitioner of acupuncture and holistic medicine.

  • Deb Sawch

    Deb Sawch

    Associate Director, New Initiatives

    After a career in marketing and advertising, most recently as the Director of Strategic Alliances at Kraft Foods, DEB SAWCH left the corporate world to pursue her Masters in English Education at Teachers College. She taught English for several years in Connecticut and New York and returned to TC last year both to further her studies and to support SPI's strategic and curricular development goals.

  • Tiffany Aguilar

    Tiffany Aguilar

    Assistant Director, Arts & Media

    TIFFANY AGUILAR is excited for her new role as SPI’s Assistant Director; previously, she served as the Production Manager for several SPI projects. As an undergraduate, Tiffany studied film and television production at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Following college, she worked as a Development Executive at Scholastic Media, where she created and developed content for media. Wanting to connect more with young people, Tiffany became a Learning Specialist, specializing in literacy, at an innovative, inner-city high school in Providence, Rhode Island. Trained in Orton-Gillingham, she was recently accepted into the Orton-Gillingham Academy as an Associate. Last year, Tiffany returned to New York City to enter the Developmental Psychology Masters program at Teachers College; she discovered SPI because she was bored being just a student, and she missed being in the field, connecting with young people.

  • Julia Benjamin

    Julia Benjamin

    Assistant Director, Production & Research

    Having worked as a Student Press Initiative site educator last year, Julia is excited to be continuing her work with SPI this year as Production and Research Manager. She is currently pursuing a masters degree in Developmental Psychology at Columbia University Teachers College. Before moving to New York, she worked with children with emotional and behavioral disorders as a special education classroom assistant in Minnesota, and coordinated a wide variety of community and youth programming as a Peace Corps volunteer in Romania. She also has years of research experience, having acted as a research assistant and coordinator for several projects at Teachers College and at her undergraduate institution, Northwestern University, as well as in Peace Corps. She is passionate about promoting mental health and self-expression for at-risk populations of young people and looks forward to another year of helping students find their voices and tell their stories through SPI.

  • Christina Shon

    Christina Shon

    Program Coordinator

    CHRISTINA SHON came to us from Los Angeles, California where she taught ninth and tenth grade English at an independent high school for six years. As Program Coordinator for CPET and SPI, Christina provides support for our team in all things administrative and logistical, from setting up contracts with schools to planning our birthday parties.

  • Franziska Stutz

    Franziska Stutz

    Research Coordinator

    FRANZISKA STUTZ joined the SPI team as a Research Assistant in 2008 and is responsible for everything related to empirical research. After receiving her BA in Psychology in Connecticut, she is now specializing in research in education while getting her MA in the Developmental Psychology program at TC. Franziska loves engaging in statistics and research design methods, especially if her efforts lead to enlightenment in discovering and understanding the complex facets of human development and learning. She is always looking for ways and examples to implement research findings in educational settings across the globe. In the past, Franziska has gathered a variety of experiences as a teacher and as a researcher. For example, she has worked as as a teacher for the German language, as a psychology tutor, and as a teaching assistant for statistics and developmental psychology. She has also participated in multiple research projects and she has internationally conducted and presented research at institutions such as the Max-Planck-Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

  • Jaunelle Pratt

    Jaunelle Pratt

    Education Policy Consultant & Site Educator

    Jaunelle grew up the Philadelphia/South Jersey area. For the past 4 years, she taught 5th grade first in Camden, NJ then in Atlanta,GA. Jaunelle recently relocated to New York to pursue a Masters in Politics and Education with hopes of later pursuing doctoral studies.

  • Christine Gentry

    Christine Gentry

    Curriculum Consultant & Site Educator

    Christine is coming to Teachers College after having taught high school English at a public charter school in inner-city Boston for the past five years, which she did after receiving her Master's in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Her long-term plan is to teach future urban English teachers at the college level while always teaching at least one high school class. This year, she has the tremendous opportunity to help New York Public School students capture their own stories and the stories of others through the Zankel Fellowship and the Student Press Initiative.

SPI Fellows

  • Guillermo Marini

    Guillermo Marini

    GUILLERMO MARINI comes to SPI as a part of the Arthur Zankel Urban Fellows program, and is a PhD student in the Philosophy and Education program at Teachers College. Before coming to TC, Guillermo taught art and philosophy in different high schools in Argentina, compose a musical version of Romeo and Juliet with music by Queen, and spent his summers doing missionary work in the islands of Buenos Aires' delta.

  • Hailey Kim

    Hailey Kim

    HAILEY KIM joined SPI as a designer to visually enliven its various projects with her aesthetic. She studied illustration at Rhode Island School of Design, and the experience she had teaching children while at RISD led her to persue becoming an art educator. She is currently in MA with Teaching Certification program in Art & Art Education Department at Teachers College.


  • Liza Bearman
  • Nita Noveno

    Nita Noveno

    NITA NOVENO has been an educator, mentor, and consultant in New York City public schools for over sixteen years. She taught English as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa and continues to teach in the Freshman Year Summer Program at NYC College of Technology in Brooklyn. Nita is a graduate of Teachers College and the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the New School. She is the founder & co-host of Sunday Salon, a monthly prose reading series in NYC.

  • Kerry McKibbin

    Kerry McKibbin

    KERRY McKIBBIN taught English and history in both NYC public schools and Southeast Asia before joining the Student Press Initiative at Teachers College. As Senior Curriculum Consultant and most recently Director of Programs, she brings years of experience in the field of educational oral history and project-based learning to her work. She is the author of Project Notes: Conducting Oral History in the Secondary Classroom

  • Yolanda Sealey Ruiz

    Yolanda Sealey Ruiz

    YOLANDA SEALEY RUIZ is Assistant Professor of English Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to Teachers College, she was Research Associate with New York University's Metropolitan Center for Urban Education, and Assistant Professor of Composition and Rhetoric at Kingsborough Community College (CUNY). She has taught undergraduate and graduate education courses at New York University, and high school journalism, and multicultural literature in New York City schools. She worked as a freelance writer for Columbia University's African American Studies department, Scholastic Inc, and urban after school programs. Yolanda's research interests include race in education, urban teacher preparation, culturally relevant pedagogy, the educational trajectories of reentry Black women, and the achievement gap. Her articles have appeared in Kappa Delta Pi's Educational Forum, The Journal of Negro Education, Adult Education Quarterly and the Willa Journal (NCTE) to name a few. She is a Fellow of the New York City National Writing Project.

  • Lalitha Vasudevan

    Lalitha Vasudevan

    DR. LALITHA VASUDEVAN is an Assistant Professor of Technology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has worked with youth both in and out of school, as a teacher and as a researcher, and is interested in how youth craft stories and produce knowledge using different literacies, technologies, and media. Currently Lalitha is using multimodal storytelling methodologies to explore identities and literacies in the lives of adolescent males across alternative education spaces. Her work has been published in Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, E-Learning, English Education, and Review of Research in Education, and she is co-editor of the volume titled, Media, Learning, and Sites of Possibility (2008, Peter Lang).

  • Erin Quigley

    Erin Quigley

  • Jen Baer

    Jen Baer

    JEN BAER produces projects of still photography, documentary film, web-based media and the printed book. She collaborates with those passionate about empowerment and healing through education and the arts. While at work in SPI classrooms, Jen has been touched by the effectiveness of publishing oral histories to educate and connect culturally diverse and multi-generational participants. She continues to offer guidance to young and old using up-to-date tools for communicating their stories. Jen is currently producing an independent project on War Veterans who are actively pursuing their own paths to recovery from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. You can find her at http://www.baerstudio.com

  • Jim Fenner

    Jim Fenner

    JIM FENNER acted as Director of Production for the Student Press Initiative from 2005-2009. During his tenure, he helped thousands of students bring their work to print in nearly 100 titles and become animate in several short film and audio pieces, in collaboration with a number of extraordinarily talented and patient designers. He has also had the privilege to assist in the curricular aspect of the work with dozens of talented teachers. Jim is currently pursuing a career in sustainable design practices.

  • Bill Lundgren

    Bill Lundgren

    BILL LUNDGREN Bill Lundgren has taught and worked in public schools and a youth prison in New York City and Maine. A graduate of the MA program in English Education at Teachers College, his eclectic resume includes work in politics, truck driving and organic farming. In addition to his ongoing work with SPI, he works for Teachers College Office of School and Community Partnerships, serving as a professional development advisor to the Green School in Brooklyn and Banana Kelly High School in the South Bronx. He is co-author of Becoming Other(Wise): Enhancing Critical Reading Perspectives and the editor of Smoke Signals: Oral Histories from Long Creek. He lives in Portland, Maine.

  • Juliette LaMontagne

    Juliette LaMontagne

    Dr. JULIETTE LAMONTAGNE, Ed.D., is a Leadership Coach for the Asia Society International Studies School Network in New York City. She is the founder of VOW Arts - a youth activist program that fuses art, activism and literacy. As a TED Fellow and Google Certified Teacher, she is interested in the ways that new media technologies are shifting conceptions of teaching and learning.

  • Mary Maddox

    Mary Maddox

    MARY MADDOX began collaborations with SPI as a student in the English Education program at Teachers College. She is currently an English teacher in a New York City public school.

  • Laura Starecheski

    Laura Starecheski

    LAURA STARECHESKI produces audio for public radio, museums, magazines and other outlets. She won a Third Coast International Audio Festival Silver Award for Best Documentary in 2006 for her story "Goat on a Cow", which aired on WNYC's Radio Lab. She has taught audio production to students ages 13 through 65, and is a professor at the City University of New York. Most recently, Laura co-directed the Common Wealth, Common Wisdom project at North Country Public Radio, an intergenerational multimedia workshop bringing together rural teenagers and elders who were teenagers during the Great Depression to share stories of survival in hard times.

  • Amy Starecheski

    Amy Starecheski

    AMY STARECHESKI consults and lectures widely on oral history education, is co-author of the Telling Lives Oral History Curriculum Guide, and teaches an annual graduate course at Columbia University Teachers College on "Oral History as a Multidisciplinary Teaching Tool." Amy is currently a doctoral student in cultural anthropology at the City University of New York Graduate Center, where she is pursuing research on historical memory, activist subjectivities, and political space in New York City. Prior to beginning that program, she was the Chief Interviewer and Director of Research for the 550 hour Atlantic Philanthropies Oral History Project at the Columbia University Oral History Research Office, and a lead interviewer on the September 11, 2001 Narrative and Memory Project, for which she interviewed Afghans, Muslims, Sikhs, activists, low-income people, and the unemployed.

  • Diane Rosen

    Diane Rosen

    DIANE ROSEN is a writer, educator, Curriculum Consultant and artist, an elected Master Pastelist of the Pastel Society of America and past recipient of a French Government Fellowship in Painting. Her creativity classes and workshops at secondary schools, universities and arts organizations validate natural curiosity as a site of inquiry, and foster the intuitive processes that complement logically ordered experience. She is currently at work on Professional Development materials on 'Applied Curiosity' and creative process across disciplines.

  • Kecia Brown McManus

    Kecia Brown McManus

    KECIA BROWN MCMANUS attained her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in California and her M.A. in Leadership Studies from the University of San Diego (USD). Currently, Kecia is an instructor at Bank Street College for the Liberty LEADS program, where she was honored with the Teacher of the Year award for her Future Focus course. She is also working with the Center for the Professional Education of Teachers while earning her Doctorate of Education degree at Teachers College, Columbia University. A published author, Kecia enjoys playing with small children, watching the antics of small pets and indulging in small slices of cheesecake.

  • Roberta Lenger Kang

    Roberta Lenger Kang

    ROBERTA LENGER KANG taught English at an urban high school in Denver, Colorado before moving to New York City, where she continued her teaching career at one of the largest high schools in the city. As a classroom teacher for eight years, Roberta supported her colleagues as a New Teacher Mentor, a college writing coach, and Literacy Lab-Site Leader. She wrote several district wide curricula for Denver Public Schools and the NYC Department of Education before transitioning from classroom teacher to professional coach. As a Curriculum Consultant with the Student Press Initiative, and an Instructional Coach for the Center for the Professional Education of Teachers, Roberta has supported schools in Harlem, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Past Fellows