Shawn Rubin is the Executive Director of Highlander Institute in Providence, RI. He is an internationally recognized thought leader and speaker with deep expertise in classroom coaching and change management strategies for building and district leaders. In 2018, Shawn co-authored the book Pathways to Personalization: A Framework for School Change, which details Highlander Institute’s community-driven approach to school improvement.
Shawn began his career in 2000 as founding faculty of Highlander Charter School, a K-8 school designed around student interest, personalization and mentorship. His 10 years of classroom teaching, including four years teaching kindergarten, informed his understanding of the challenges that leaders and teachers face when aspiring to implement student-centered pedagogy. As Executive Director, Shawn prioritizes coaching in at least one of Highlander Institute’s portfolio schools each year to stay connected to the classroom and build connectivity between the organization’s on-the-ground implementations and its national field building efforts.
Over the years, Shawn has founded and managed multiple nonprofit and for-profit organizations. In 2006, he founded a nonprofit, volunteer organization called Longitude, which supported grassroots human rights and education efforts in Abeka, Ghana and Hyderabad, India. In 2011, he co-founded an edtech startup called Metryx, which built mobile formative assessment applications for schools and universities. Shawn currently serves as league president for his local Little League, which supports 300 Providence students annually. He has won several innovation awards for his work in the nonprofit sector, including Aurora Institute’s annual award for Outstanding Individual Contribution to Personalized Learning in 2017. He holds a Master's Degree in Education from Lesley University. Shawn lives in Providence, RI with his wife and two boys.
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. As Chief Innovation Officer at Highlander Institute, Malika is responsible for the Institute’s evolving and iterative pedagogical approach to change, as well as program implementation across all classrooms, schools and districts.
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.
As the Director of Finance, Erin ensures the financial health of the Institute through day-to-day fiscal operations and long term financial planning for the organization. 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. Erin marries the best practices in monitoring, reporting and strategy with her passion for education.
Erin brings over 15 years of experience in the accounting field including experience in public accounting, school finance and working with nonprofits. Active in her community she sits on various committees and organizations, including her town’s school committee. Erin lives in Massachusetts with her husband and three children.
Cathy is an experienced educator, education consultant, and nonprofit administrator. As a Managing Partner at the Highlander Institute, she leads research and development efforts , 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, reports, and publications.
As the founding Director of Programs for the Institute, Cathy launched programming and strategic priorities for the organization and built a regional network of educators spanning multiple 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 was the co-director of Breakthrough Providence; and taught math at the Oundle School in Northamptonshire, England. 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.
As the Director of Information and Systems at the Highlander Institute, Stephanie leads the design and management of the organization’s operational processes, workflows, and tools. Through the refinement of our internal systems, Stephanie works to ensure alignment between our organization’s vision and our operational processes. She is passionate about making information more accessible through visual design and intuitive content structure and strives to ensure our tools are usable, maintained, and well documented.
Stephanie joined the Highlander Institute in 2011 as a co-founder of the organization’s first incubated startup software product, Metryx. She holds degrees from RISD, where she is an adjunct professor. Stephanie lives in Cranston, RI with her husband, son, and dog.
As the Institute’s Director of Research and Analytics, Karina leads the charge to strengthen the organization’s impact and effectiveness through continuous improvement and data. Karina creates the data and analysis systems and protocols, and translates learnings into iterative actions for the organization.
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, worked alongside community organizations across the United States on projects around equity and culturally responsive education, and served as a Data Fellow through The Learning Accelerator.
As Associate Partner, Cindy provides the backbone functions needed for continued excellence and growth. She uses her extensive experience to support executive level leadership as well as overall office management for the organization. Prior to joining Highlander Institute, Cindy spent over ten 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 a Partner at Highlander Institute, Maeve is responsible for the coordination, creation and management of all services, including convenings, workshops, professional learning communities, as well as asynchronous content and distribution. In this role, Maeve provides steady guidance and direction to the long term arc and scope of this work as it relates to the organization’s overall vision and mission. In addition, Maeve supports the communication and development efforts of the Institute. A gifted facilitator and coach, Maeve also supports a portfolio of schools and districts through educator coaching and professional development.
Previously, Maeve led the nationally recognized Fuse RI Program, a Highlander Institute fellowship that trained educators as lead change agents. The six year, grant funded program trained over 100 fellows, created cross-district partnerships, and scaled to other states under Maeve’s leadership. 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 studied Economics at Binghamton University and lives in Providence, RI.
Stephanie knows that all students can succeed with the right tools in their toolboxes. She believes deeply in the power of different perspectives and is a strong advocate of co-creating a curious, trusting academic community as a catalyst for increasing rigor and relevance in the classroom and beyond. As a Partner, Stephanie provides instructional and change management coaching to support positive shifts at the classroom, school, and district levels. She delivers professional development series, facilitates professional learning communities, and builds capacity for teachers and leaders who are committed to fully empowering all students.
Prior to working at the Institute, Stephanie taught General Education and Special Education in Upper Elementary and High School in New York City. She holds a Masters in General Education and Special Education from Lehman College and is currently pursuing a Masters in Educational Technology. Before finding her purpose in Education, she worked in the field of real estate in the big apple. Born in Manhattan and raised in Brooklyn, Stephanie enjoys the city life and vast cultures found in NYC. You can catch Stephanie spending time with her husband watching Netflix or reading in her spare time.
Vera De Jesus
As Partner, Vera collaborates with educators to elevate students' voices and engage families in our work toward a shared vision -- classrooms that empower all learners to co-design their communities and futures. Vera nurtures agents of change through one-on-one and small-group coaching, professional development sessions, project management, and Design Team facilitation. Additionally, Vera supports the Institute’s communication and development efforts.
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 led 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 enjoys working with schools and districts both near and far -- alongside the best team anyone could ask for!
Danielle has been serving students in the New England and Midwest regions of the United States since 2012 upon graduating from the University of Rhode Island. She had over 8 years of experience teaching English before switching to the nonprofit world in 2019. Her teaching philosophy focuses primarily on relationship based pedagogy, creating lasting partnerships with students and families, and empowering learners by highlighting their natural competencies.
In her current role at the Highlander Institute she is looking forward to working with educators by collaboratively learning about their students on an individualized and contextualized level to disrupt and critique complex systemic inequities through thoughtful reflection of school-wide and classroom practices.
As a Partner at the Highlander Institute, Heidi collaborates with educators and organizations in pursuit of an equitable, joyful, and authentic learning environment for students and teachers. A skilled coach and content creator, Heidi provides expertise in the development and implementation of high quality professional development, classroom modeling, and individual coaching sessions for teachers, school administrators, and district personnel.
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.
As an intern with the Impact and Pedagogy teams, Allison supports data analysis and provides research and design assistance for resources connected to nurturing critical consciousness in students. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, Allison is currently a junior at Brown concentrating in History with plans to add Africana Studies as a double concentration. At Brown, Allison serves as a Head Writing Fellow, helping her peers with their writing skills. Previously, Allison has worked on a number of political campaigns and has worked for her local City Council and Clerk of Courts. Allison plans on becoming a lawyer, focusing on civil rights or the criminal legal system. She is proud to be interning with a team that strives to create equity and justice in education.
Rebecca Roberts has joined the Highlander Institute team as our Spring 2022 Intern. She will be assisting the Impact office as we validate version 2 of our Highlander Institute's Student Experience Survey (SES) helps educators understand how students are experiencing learning through five domains: Sociocultural Awareness, Community Building, Academic Mindset, Cognitive Development, and Critical Consciousness. Survey results may be disaggregated by gender, race and ethnicity, lunch status, and learning profile to raise awareness of how different student groups can perceive the same classroom differently based on their lived experiences. Responses help teachers develop immediate action steps to improve the learning experience for specific students, centering student feedback in intervention efforts. Early results show connections between shifts in teacher mindset and behaviors, student growth within survey domains, and student academic growth. and wrap up 2021-2022 school implementations. Rebecca fell in love with statistics while completing her Master’s degree in Soil Science and Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. She moved to Rhode Island and began a certified-organic vegetable farm, running it for 5 years until an injury in the field. To get back into data analysis, she began an MBA with a focus in Data Analytics at Providence College. She is excited to bring her experience with data to the educational system and work with a team that prioritizes equity in education.