As the Executive Director, Dana is responsible for overseeing all areas of service and specialty within the Institute, as well as strategic planning and organizational effectiveness. Before her role at the Highlander Institute, Dana was a director at Highlander Charter School in Providence, RI, where she created policies and systems to elevate anytime, anyplace learning opportunities. She is driven by creative thinking, social justice, and a deep belief in dismantling convention in order to meet the changing needs of all learners. A native Rhode Islander, Dana holds graduate degrees in Anthropology (University of Massachusetts-Amherst) and Urban Education Policy (Brown University). Active in the community, she sits on multiple state and local boards, committees and working groups. Dana performs with the Extraordinary Rendition Band, a local street band creating raucous noise for social causes. She lives in Edgewood with her spouse and children.
Shawn C. Rubin is the Chief Education Officer at Highlander Institute. Shawn designs and manages the Institute’s education initiatives. He is a national thought leader around coaching and consulting approaches to classroom personalization and school change management. His ten years in the classroom have informed his insider’s view into the challenges teachers face on a daily basis. Shawn is a co-author of the book Pathways to Personalization: A Framework for School Change, through Harvard Education Press. In 2017, Shawn received the iNACOL Innovator Award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to Personalized Learning. Shawn lives in Providence, RI with his wife and two boys.
As the Director of Implementation at the Highlander Institute, Kara oversees the Institute’s consulting work with schools and districts. Kara coordinates professional learning services, manages a team of Educational Strategies Specialists and works closely with partners to ensure the successful implementation of blended and personalized models. With a background in Special Ed. Administration and 6 years as a technology implementation specialist, Kara has experienced first hand the transformative impact of high quality, technology- enhanced classroom instruction. Kara lives in Massachusetts with her family.
As the Director of Pedagogy, Malika is passionate about working to develop educators to be change agents of instructional and systemic equity and to nurture students’ cognitive development through culturally responsive and sustaining pedagogy. Prior to working at the Institute, Malika served as an Innovation Specialist and a high school science teacher. She was a Rhode Island District Teacher of the Year and served on Governor Raimondo’s STEAM and Equity in Educator Preparation Working Group. Malika holds an M.Ed. in Education Policy and Management from Harvard Graduate School of Education and a B.A. in Public Health from Brown University. As a daughter of strong and brilliant Eritrean refugees, Malika has spent her life critiquing the systems that perpetuate educational inequity, and she is proud to be a part of the struggle to ensure that all children have access to, and can take advantage of, an empowering education.
Cathy Sanford is an experienced educator, education consultant, and nonprofit administrator. She leads research and development efforts at Highlander Institute, supporting the exploration, measurement, and codification of new approaches to school change and instruction. Cathy is the co-author of the first Institute book, Pathways to Personalization: A Framework for School Change (2018) and also leads organizational writing projects including grants, blog posts, and publications. As the first Director of Programs for the Institute, she launched programming and strategic priorities for the organization, and built a regional network of educators spanning four states and dozens of communities and districts. Before her move to the Institute, Cathy coordinated curriculum at Highlander Charter School, a Pre-K-12 urban school that specializes in supporting students with diverse learning styles. Prior to this role, she taught math at the Oundle School in Northamptonshire, England, and was the co-director of Breakthrough Providence. Cathy holds a BA in Psychology from the University of Virginia and an MA in Education Policy Analysis from Stanford University. She lives with her husband and two daughters in southeastern Massachusetts.
Chief of Staff
Experienced educator, and non-profit manager with a focus on the prison industrial complex, and adult education. Effective program manager with a demonstrated history of working in the criminal justice education field. Skilled in event management, editing, grant writing, facilitating, and curriculum development. Strong systems thinking abilities with a Master's Degree focused in Higher Education from Merrimack College.
As a member of the Educational Strategies Specialist team, Christina has the privilege to work with administrators, teachers, and students to realize their visions of personalization. Christina believes that Blended Learning is the lever for radical change in education and supporting student agency and equity. Before working at the Highlander Institute, Christina supported students and teachers as a behavioral and academic interventionist, taught 4th grade in an intentionally diverse charter school, and taught K-12 in a residential behavioral health facility in Honolulu, HI. Christina holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Rhode Island, and a Master’s in Teaching from Rhode Island College. She lives in Portsmouth, RI with her husband, Matt, and her twin boys, Daniel and Benjamin.
As a school change partner and personalized learning coach, Vera works directly with leaders, educators, students, and families to improve the school experience for all learners. Her approach to fostering positive school change includes conducting large and small scale professional development, classroom-embedded coaching, and facilitating communication between stakeholders across school communities. Prior to joining the Institute, Vera taught 8th grade math in Central Falls, where she previously served as an AmeriCorps Fellow. Vera's fellowship experience made it clear that education was where she belonged, leading her to pursue a Masters in Teaching at Brown University. Before finding her professional purpose in education, Vera studied Journalism and Psychology at Northeastern University and worked in corporate communications for several years. Born in the Philippines and raised in Rhode Island, Vera is thrilled to now be working with educators across the country.
Dawn joined the Highlander Institute as an Educational Strategies Specialist in November of 2015, after 20 years as an elementary classroom teacher in Warwick. As a senior member of the team, Dawn enjoys sharing and expanding her professional learning alongside the team. Her passion lies in supporting teachers and school leaders as they develop and challenge their teaching & learning practices that will positively impact all students. Dawn is one to lend an ear, a shoulder and a smile to make your day! Dawn received a Bachelor's Degree from Rhode Island College and is currently enrolled in Johnson & Wales University's Teaching and Learning M.Ed program. She currently lives in Warwick, RI with her partner and dogs.
Mike is extremely excited to be joining the Highlander team as an Education Strategy Specialist. As an ESS Mike is focused on helping to bridge the equity gap in student learning through personalized, blended, and data-driven instruction. Prior to working at Highlander, Mike taught both 1st and 5th grade, as well as working as the Science and Technology Coach for Foster Public Schools in Foster RI. Mike holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Rhode Island, and Master of Arts in Teaching with a focus in Elementary and Elementary Special Education from Johnson & Wales University. It is at JWU that Mike received training in P-BL (project-based learning) & UbD (understanding by design). Mike is looking forward to learning, collaborating, and making connections with like-minded educators and districts. Mike lives in Warwick, RI with his wife, Megan, and their daughter, Julia.
Maeve is the Services Manager overseeing the Fuse RI Fellowship and the coordination of the Personalization 2020 Conference. Before starting at the Institute, Maeve was a founding high school math teacher at Village Green Virtual Charter School in downtown Providence, and also taught English as a Second Language through Fulbright Bulgaria. She lives in Providence, RI.
Born in NYC and raised in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic until the age of seven, Nando spent his early youth in Washington Heights as an agent of change in Teatro H.E.Y. (Health Education for Youth) based out of Columbia University's Center for Population & Family Health. The group taught about sex education, teen pregnancy, child abuse, anti-bullying, alcoholism & drug abuse, parent/teen communication, HIV/AIDS education and a multitude of other health related topics through improvisational acting to their peers, parents, educators, doctors and health professionals in the tristate area.
He later embarked to southern Alabama, attending Alabama Aviation and Technical College to receive training in aviation, obtaining his private pilot license and commercial/instrument training. He returned to NYC where he worked as an office manager at Sanus Health Systems, a facilities coordinator at NYLCare/NYLife and then starting a new career in information technology as a help desk operator, systems analyst, SMS manager and AVS technician.
Shortly after the events of 9/11, Nando was forced to reinvent himself. Joining the NYC Teaching Fellows program, he began teaching elementary education in the Bronx while attaining his Masters degree in Education.
After several years in the classroom, Nando caught the eye of Leapfrog's Schoolhouse division where he became an educational consultant, forming relationships with administrators and teachers throughout the US, helping them integrate Leapfrog's educational products into elementary classrooms.
Today, Nando is a curriculum and implementation coordinator providing high quality professional development workshops, classroom modeling and/or individual action-based consulting sessions for teachers, parents, school administrators and district personnel in the tristate area and across the country.
Megan is the Program Manager for Fuse MA, a partnership with The Education Cooperative (TEC) to bring the Fuse Fellowship to its Massachusetts districts. Prior to joining the Institute, Megan taught Special Education and ELA, created educational resources at WGBH Educational Foundation, and worked to leverage technology to enhance communication and curriculum for Newton Public Schools. Most recently, Megan directed the MassNET Program for LearnLaunch Institute, providing support for Boston Public School teachers in the design and implementation of blended and personalized learning strategies. Meg is thrilled to be joining the Highlander team and looking forward to collaborating with TEC, their districts and teachers. She has a BA in English from Northeastern University and an M.Ed from the University of Massachusetts. Meg lives in Waltham, MA.
Heidi is an Educational Strategies Specialist on the Highlander Institute Team. She’s thrilled to be collaborating with educators and organizations in pursuit of an equitable, joyful, and authentic learning environment for students and teachers. Heidi previously taught at the Charles River School and The Compass School. As a teacher for 19 years, she aspired to teach the whole child through a student-centered learning environment that adjusted for the individual and connected to the real world through projects. Heidi received her BA in Elementary Education and Sociology from Stonehill College and her Masters in School Counseling from the University of Hartford. She lives in Providence with her husband, daughter, and son.
Born and raised in New York City, Karina graduated from the University of Chicago with a degree in Anthropology and received her masters from Brown University in Urban Education Policy. Karina has had great opportunities working and teaching students from the south side of Chicago and from her hometown in Brooklyn. She previously interned at PPSD with the Ethnic Studies program assisting with the development of the program and its curriculum during their pilot year. She also worked with the New York office of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform as their Data and Research Analyst and worked alongside community organizations across the United States on projects around equity and culturally responsive education. As part of the impact team, Karina aims to support, monitor, and learn from the different programs led by Highlander in order to strengthen her team's influence and impact on the schools and teachers. With this position she hopes to learn and grow with the educators in Rhode Island and support the different programs and efforts led by Highlander to support the teaching work-force while promoting blended and personalized learning.
As Senior Continuous Improvement Coordinator, Michaela oversees and implements the data collection efforts for our coaching engagements. Michaela leverages the experience she gained as an elementary school teacher for several years and the knowledge she has gained through conducting hundreds of classroom observations to bridge the efforts of the Impact Office and our Educational Strategies Specialists Team. Specializing in Calibration and the Priority Practice Tool and Rubric, Michaela enjoys working with both our internal staff and external partners. Michaela is also one of the primary members of our yearly conference planning team. When not at one of our partner schools or in the office, Michaela spends her time at home in Warwick with her husband and daughter.
As the Institute’s Executive Assistant, Cindy deeply supports the Executive Directors and provides general office management for the organization. Prior to joining Highlander, Cindy spent the past 10+ years working in the financial industry in both Administrative and Client Service roles. Cindy holds a B.A. in Communications with a Minor in Writing. She lives in Attleboro with her husband, two children and their dog.
As the Director of Finance, Erin is responsible for overseeing the financial functions of the organization including development and management of the budget, preparation of the financial statements and reporting. Using her finance skills, Erin marries the best practices in monitoring, reporting and strategy with her passion for education. Erin joined the Highlander Institute in 2011 and brings over 15 years of experience in accounting field. Active in her community she sits on various committees and organizations and lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three children.
As the Institute’s Design Director, Stephanie is responsible for identifying design opportunities that help further the work of the organization and for bringing these opportunities from concept to reality. Her specialities include product development, business & marketing strategy, visual design for print & web, and implementing design thinking to drive innovation. She joined the Highlander Institute in 2011 as a co-founder of the organization’s first incubated startup software product, Metryx.