Our Staff

Michelle Bamrick joined Growing Educators as a staff developer in July 2011. Prior to her work with GE, she taught in the Redondo Beach Unified School District for ten years—three years as a high school teacher and seven years at the elementary level in grades K, 2, 3, and 5. She has spent numerous summers studying at Teachers College. She currently works with schools all over Los Angeles and Orange County to support teachers with their reading and writing instruction.  Michelle has an M. Ed.  in Education Administration from CSUDH.

Erin Donelson joined Growing Educators as a staff developer in June 2011.  She originally started out as a first grade teacher before spending several years as a K–5 literacy coach in the Los Angeles area. She has studied with literacy leaders such as Kathleen Tolan, Kathy Collins, Lucy Calkins, and Renee Houser during summer Reading and Writing Institutes and the Winter Coaching Institutes at Columbia University's Teacher College Reading and Writing Project.  Erin earned her Master’s degree in Education from The George Washington University.

Genie Hwang is a 5th/6th grade teacher in the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District. She has taught at SMASH (Santa Monica Alternative School House) for the past seven years honing her middle school teaching practice. Before SMASH, she was a teacher at PS 126 in New York City where she fell in love with the teaching of reading and writing. She went on to work as a staff developer for The Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University working with K-8 teachers and principals in the tri-state area before moving to California.

Renee Houser is Co-Founder and Director of Education for Upper Grades at Growing Educators and a former Teachers College, Columbia University staff member. While teaching at PS 126 in NYC Renee worked closely with Dan Ling Fu, Shelly Harwayne and Lucy Calkins as renegades of innovative instruction. She brought her knowledge from these experiences into the classroom to support her students with diverse learning needs and was later tapped to join TCRWP.  During her time as a staff developer, Renee also taught as an adjunct professor, led administrative think tanks, and created curriculum with literacy coaches from across the city, as well as nationally and internationally. She earned her Master’s Degrees from Old Dominion University and Fordham University.

Regina Hurh Kim received her M.A. in Elementary Education from Teachers College, where she was introduced to the idea of balanced literacy and workshop teaching through classes with Lucy Calkins. For several years, Regina lived in New York City where she taught at P.S. 163 and later worked as a staff developer for TCRWP.  After moving to California, Regina worked as a full-time editor and as a freelance writer/editor for various educational publishing companies. She joined Growing Educators as a staff developer in 2011.

Courtney Kinney joined the Growing Educators team as a staff developer and Manager of Special Projects after twelve years as a primary and upper grade classroom teacher in urban schools in Los Angeles. She earned a Master of Education degree from UCLA with a focus in Social Justice, a Master of Arts in Education degree in Reading and Language Arts, and holds a Reading and Language Arts Specialist Credential.  She is an experienced Cognitive Coach and has traveled to Teachers College to strengthen her practice of reading and writing workshop. She has a passion for working with educators to strengthen their efficacy as they implement a balanced literacy approach in their classrooms.
Jodi Manby joined the Growing Educators staff in July 2011, after thirteen years in primary classrooms in urban Los Angeles. She has attended the summer institutes at Teachers College for the past five years, deepening her knowledge and refining her practice of reading and writing workshop. Jodi was selected as a teaching fellow by the Cotsen Family Foundation in 2003, continued as a demonstration teacher for the foundation after her fellowship, and continues to support both mentors and fellows. Jodi received her Master's degree from UCLA with a focus in Social Justice.

Jessica Martin is Co-Founder and Director of Education for Primary Grades at Growing Educators and a former Teachers College Reading and Writing Project staff member. She has taught both primary and upper grades and worked as a consultant for schools in reading and writing workshops across the country, K–12. Upon returning to the LA area in 2006, Jessica continued to work part-time for the TCRWP and as a Faculty Resident Advisor and Field Supervisor in LAUSD for the Teacher Education Program, Center X at UCLA. Her vision as Co-Founding Director of Growing Educators is to build an organization created and committed to innovative and collaborative professional development for educators that will help improve literacy instruction for all students.

Claudia Vecchio Wille joined the Growing Educators team as a staff developer in 2014, after working in New York City Public Schools as a kindergarten and first grade teacher, as well as a literacy coach.  While in New York City, she worked closely with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project as part of two different lab-site schools, numerous project summer institutes, and several leadership groups. She received her Master's degree from City College of New York.  She also worked as an instructional coach in Federal Way Public Schools, transitioning her school from the Success For All literacy program, to a balanced literacy workshop model.

Growing Educators Collaborative Team

John Altieri is co-author of Dope Learning:  Ignite the Learner’s High blog and a teacher leader in New Jersey.  John has recently studied with Alan November, an international leader in the field of education technology, researching the best ways for students to use current technologies.  In addition to this work, John is a student of The Tracker, a world-renowned survival school, and has returned to teach wilderness living to children ages of 4–17 as well as "at-risk" teens. John also received certification as a Holistic Health Counselor; he oversees a school-wide recycling & composting program; and he is leading a health and wellness initiative for students. John currently teaches second grade.

Joyce Friedman graduated from Worcester State College in Worcester, MA with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education. She has taught students from kindergarten through eighth grade in Boston, San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles. Joyce has also been a literacy coach at the UCLA Lab School and the New Haven School District in Union City, California.  She presently teaches at the UCLA Lab School and has attended several summer institutes at Teachers College. She has hosted teachers from all over Southern California as part of UCLA Lab School's intensive professional development model.

Dr. Gravity Goldberg is an educational consultant who works in several districts across the country. She specializes in literacy, special education, curriculum, assessment, and learning with technology. Dr. Goldberg was recently an assistant professor of education at Iona College in New York. She is co-author of the book, Conferring With Readers: Supporting Each Student's Growth and Independence (Heinemann). Gravity taught in the Literacy Specialist Graduate Program at Teachers College and taught courses on balanced literacy to pre-service teachers, where she was awarded the Outstanding Teacher Award in 2006.  As a professor at Iona College, she was awarded the 2012 Excellence in Teaching Award for her interdisciplinary collaborative teaching practices. Her most recent publications include Mindfulness and Memoir in a Middle School Classroom (The English Record, Fall 2012) and Readers Who Keep Us Up At Night: Moving Away from Deficit Beliefs and Into Positive Action (Heinemann Digital Campus).

Dr. Cory Hills is a percussionist, composer, and improviser who thrives on breaking down musical barriers in creative ways. Cory is carving out a unique niche in the classical-contemporary music scene: multidisciplinary arts projects that combine his knowledge and proclivity as a performer with his passion and desire to educate others. The result has been an expansion of Percussive Storytelling, in which originally conceived children's stories are blended with originally composed percussion music. In May 2009, Cory launched Percussive Storytelling with the mission to bring classical music to under-served communities. To date, Percussive Storytelling has been performed more than 300 times to over 21,000 children in eight countries. For more information, please visit www.splatboombang.

Bibinaz Pirayesh grew up in Iran, Canada, and the United States where she was exposed to many different philosophies of education. She earned her Master’s degree from Columbia University where she studied Developmental Psychology in Education with a primary focus on children’s development of mathematical thinking. She works as a speaker, writer and educator in private practice in West Los Angeles where she uses her unique one-on-one approach to help students overcome learning challenges.

Kate Riedell taught fourth and fifth grade in the San Francisco Bay Area and Massachusetts for six years.  She is a graduate of Boston College where she majored in Elementary Education and American Heritages, as well as Boston University where she received her EdM in Literacy and Language Education.  She is currently a PhD student in the Joint Doctoral Program for Special Education at Cal State LA/UCLA.  She has attended two Columbia University Summer Reading Institutes, and is certified in Orton-Gillingham through the Institute of Multi-Sensory Education.  Her research specifically focuses on Writer's Workshop for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  She has experience adapting Writer's and Reader's Workshop instruction for struggling/advance readers and writers with the general education classroom, as well as for special needs students.

Antonio Sacre is an internationally touring storyteller, writer, and solo performance artist based in Los Angeles. He has been a featured storyteller at the Kennedy Center, the National Storytelling Festival, the National Book Festival at the Library of Congress, and museums, schools, libraries, and festivals worldwide. His CD recordings have won numerous national awards, and his retelling of the story The Barking Mouse was a winner of the 2004 International Reading Association Notable Books for a Global Society. His next two picture books A Mango In The Hand - A Story Told Through Proverbs, and La Noche Buena, A Christmas Story, were published by Abrams Books for Young Readers, and were both chosen for inclusion in the California Readers recommended book lists for California school libraries.