Claudine Beaudry, Science Facilitator
Ms. Beaudry is a transplant from the mid west. Prior to moving to Memphis, she grew up in Montana and spent a lot of her adult life living and learning in Montana. She earned her undergraduate degree, a bachelors of arts, from Montana State University-Bozeman and her graduate degree, a master’s in Education, from Montana State University-Billings. Until moving to the beautiful city of Memphis, Ms Beaudry spent 9 years living in Las Vegas and teaching science in North Las Vegas at JD Smith Ms.
Teaching was a second career and has become a passion for her. Before teaching, she owned her own remodeling and restoration business in Montana. In this business, she restored old homes and saw how caring could create a beautiful building. Because of this, she found her way to teaching. She has always had a passion for science and love for learning. She brings that to her classroom in the things she does.
Sarah Bennett, Reading Specialist
Sarah Bennett is a passionate and creative educator that believes in all students’ capability to achieve success. Sarah has taught Reading and Language skills to students from ages three to seventy in her eight-year career, and is now grateful to work with the amazing students at GRAD. Sarah uses her strengths to build positive class culture, intrinsic motivation in her students, and a sense of agency and esteem for those she works with. Sarah earned her Bachelor’s degree at Carson-Newman University and completed her Master in Urban Education degree at Union University with a 4.0 GPA. She feels blessed to be able to teach and learn from the brilliant students at GRAD.
Jean Alex Bernardin, Spanish Facilitator
Born and raised in Haiti, Señor Bernardin has always had an early affinity for languages. His interest in Spanish started in high school and continued to Florida State where he majored in Spanish, French and International Affairs. Soon after, he moved to Madrid, Spain where he worked as a cultural ambassador teaching English as a second language for 5 years, later obtained a Master’s degree in Bilingual Education.
He was itching to do more, to do something different, yet still in the realm of an educator, so he applied for Teach for America and specifically chose Memphis because it is a city in need of educators. (He was chosen to join Teach for America as a corps member where he was placed in Memphis.)
Señor Bernardin loves the Spanish language and culture, and looks forward to inspiring you and your scholar continue to study Spanish throughout his/her high school tenure and beyond.
Martin Luther King Jr. once said that we must remember that intelligence is not enough; intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education. King’s statement is a direct reflection of what Señor Bernardin chooses to embody. A teacher must not only guide students academically, but also help them become honorable human beings. Education combined with character helps to ensure the possibility of a brighter future.
Leslie Bridgeforth, Physical Education Facilitator
Ms. Bridgeforth serves GRAD Academy Memphis as a Physical Education facilitator. She was born and raised in Memphis, TN, and is a graduate of Hamilton High School. She went on to receive her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from the University of Memphis. After graduation, she worked for Shelby County Schools as a substitute teacher and a supervisor for the before and aftercare program. Later, she received her Master’s in Education from Union University. I teach and coach because it’s what I’m meant to do. I was built to teach because nothing excites me more than to reach a child and to see them get excited about their progress over time. She encourages her scholars to, “Strive for progress not perfection”.
Ebony Briggs, Academic Intervention Coach
Mrs. Ebony Briggs, an educator who truly believes that all kids can and will learn if given the right tools, comes to GRAD Academy Memphis to serve as an Intervention Specialist. She earned both her bachelors and matters degrees from The University of Memphis in Business Administration and Professional Studies, respectively. She is currently working towards her doctorate in Higher and Adult Education also from The University of Memphis. Mrs. Briggs earned her teacher’s certification through a rigorous alternative route program called The New Teachers’ Project, formerly Memphis Teaching Fellows. Since earning her certification, she has been recognized in her district as a Level 5 teacher, the highest effectiveness rating for Tennessee teachers, has helped to positively impact achievement for students with disabilities, and has been an advocate for the youth she services. Mrs. Briggs has a passion for education and is a life long learner. This is visible in the work she does here at GRAD.
Erin Brinkman, English Facilitator
Ms. Brinkman was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised overseas in Asia and Europe. After returning to the United States for college, she attended Sarah Lawrence College in New York and Covenant College in Chattanooga to earn her B.A. in English. During her college years, Ms. Brinkman volunteered at tutoring programs through local churches and worked at a HeadStart preschool while studying community development. She moved to Memphis to join the Memphis Teachers Residency and received her Master of Urban Education from Union University. After several years of teaching English at high schools in the South Memphis neighborhood, Ms. Brinkman chose to join the team at GRAD Academy Memphis because of GRAD’s mission to disrupt inequities in public education. She believes that urban education is one of the greatest civil rights issues in America today, and she believes that literature and writing have a unique way of opening minds, empowering students, and restoring dignity.
Brandi Bullock, English Facilitator
Mrs. Brandi Bullock is a native of Phoenix, Arizona. She moved to Memphis from Portage, Indiana, in the Chicagoland area, when her husband’s job transferred. Upon learning about GRAD Academy from a facilitator, she knew it was a place she would be able to grow her practice as a teacher and positively affect the lives of students.
She has a bachelor’s degree in Business Management from Ottawa University and received her teaching license through the Urban Teacher Education Program at Indiana University Northwest. She most recently taught 9th and 10th grade English in Gary, Indiana.
She loves football, track, traveling, and spending time with her family and friends. Her teaching philosophy is to teach students how to think critically about themselves, their choices, and the world by interacting with diverse texts.
Alisa Caldwell, Music Facilitator
Ms. Alisa Caldwell is a native of Lake Providence, Louisiana. She is a graduate of Grambling State University, Grambling, Louisiana where she earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Vocal Music Performance. She also attended Alcorn State University, Lorman, Mississippi in Vocal Music Education. Later, she received her Masters of Music in Vocal Music Performance from Northeast Louisiana University located in Monroe, Louisiana, presently known as the University of Louisiana at Monroe. Ms. Caldwell immediately began the Doctoral program at Grambling State University in Student Development and Personnel Services but did not complete the program. Later, she moved to Memphis, Tennessee where she attended Union University and Freed Hardeman University in Tennessee pursuing her certification in the teacher education program. She is now a student at Freed-Hardeman University pursuing an Education Specialist degree and Doctor of Education in Instructional Leadership. Ms. Caldwell has taught public, private and charter schools in Louisiana and Tennessee. Ms. Caldwell is an Independent Gospel Recording Artist, Minister of Music and the Artistic Director for Memphis Youth Performing Arts Company. She also teaches private piano and voice lessons.
Zachary Cue, Biology Facilitator
As the son of a U.S. Marine, Mr. Zachary Cue has lived in four different states prior to moving to Tennessee. He was born in Virginia, lived in Hawaii, and grew up in California. At the age of 15, he knew he wanted to become a teacher after working in schools in Paarl, South Africa.
He attended undergraduate and graduate school at UCLA, where received his Bachelors of Sciences degree in Psychobiology (2007), Masters of Education and Life Sciences Teaching Credential (2009). Most recently, Mr. Cue received his National Board Certification for life sciences, which is the highest level of certification a teacher can achieve in the United States.
After teaching in downtown Los Angeles for 7 years, Mr. Zachary Cue joins GRAD Academy Memphis as the Biology facilitator because he wholeheartedly believes in its mission to disrupt educational inequities. His pedagogy focuses on empowering scholars through meaningful relationships that are based on authentic care. In his class, scholars can look forward to rigor, engagement, and agency.
Ariel Cunningham, Math Facilitator
Ariel Cunningham started her education in Greenville Mississippi but continued her remaining elementary and secondary years of school in Memphis Tennessee. Her love for family led her back to Mississippi where she graduated from “THEE” Jackson State University with a Bachelors of Business Administration in Accounting. Currently, Ms. Cunningham is furthering her education at Union University with a Master of Arts degree in Education.
Ms. Cunningham is excited to be a part of GRAD Academy and the New Tech Network environment. She desires to increase the success of those who are not given the equal educational opportunities. Also, she wants to enhance her transformational teaching by changing the negative perception of Mathematics inside and outside academia. She will strive to get her scholars to understand that Mathematics is not the memorization of skills, procedures, or computation, but instead the understanding of why certain procedures and problem solving strategies work so well in the real world. Her philosophy is that ALL children can learn. All children cannot learn all things but they can all learn SOMETHING. Furthermore, her goal is to empower her scholars by exploiting their logical thinking.
Arlisha Darby, Science Facilitator
Glenise Davis, Science Facilitator
Glenise Davis is a recent graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville where she graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences. She was a research assistant in Plant Biology, as well as a teaching assistant in the Biology department. She will be leading our Principals of Engineering class.
Hershel Davis, Lifetime Wellness Facilitator
Coach Davis was born in Los Angeles, California and raised in Parkin, Arkansas. He attended Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where he majored in Health Education. Later I attended the University of Memphis majoring in Special Education.
He has been teaching and coaching for 14 years. He is an avid traveler, and he loves playing sports, working out, and meeting new people. His life motto is: “Be the Change You Want to See.”
Alexis Gwin-Miller, Math Facilitator
Ms. Alexis Gwin-Miller is a native of Memphis, TN and has served as an educator in numerous capacities. She completed her undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics at Le-Moyne Owen College. She also received her Master of Science degree in Education Leadership and her Master of Arts in Education degree from Christian Brothers University.
Ms. Gwin-Miller joins GRAD Academy Memphis as the Pre-Calculus and Statistics facilitator. She believes that all students can work to develop competency and skills that will empower them to become great. Scholars can look forward to high expectations that connect to real-world experiences in class.
Ashley Lynch, Media Education Specalist
Ms. Ashley Lynch graduated from Craigmont High School in Memphis, TN. She went on to receive her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Sociology at The University of Tennessee, Knoxville. It was during her time at the University of Tennessee that she realized her passion for community development. She spent about 2 years working with Girl Talk Inc., a non-profit that helps girls, ages 9-18, build confidence and self esteem, develop and achieve their goals, and become strong women who transform their communities. While there, she interned as the Program Coordinator and later served as Girl Talk Inc.’s Americorp Vista, supporting program development.
Ms. Lynch chose GRAD Academy Memphis because GAM is the type of grassroots community development that South Memphis needs. If the mindset of an individual can be transformed, we will begin to see that same change in the community.
Steven Madden, Academic Intervention Coach
Mr. S.A. Madden is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas. He graduated from Hall High School, and shortly after graduation, he joined the military. He had the honor and the privilege to traveling the world and serve our country in the United States Navy as a Cryptologist. Following his six year tour of duty, he received a honorable discharged and a full scholarship to study music at the University at Pine Bluff. While there, he was a featured saxophonist in both the Jazz Ambassadors and Wind Orchestra. He graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff where he earned a Bachelor Degree in General Studies. After graduation, he continued to study Jazz at the University of Memphis. A year after starting the program, his focus shifted to Special Education, a highly needed specialty area. Mr. Madden completed his graduate studies at Cambridge College and earned his Masters of Science in Special Education. This is Mr. Maddens’ 7th year of teaching special education and concentrating on servicing the needs of students with disabilities.
Mr. Madden also coached power lifting, football, cross country, and long distance track events. As a Head coach and defensive line coach, his teams ranked in the top 10 defenses in the Memphis Metropolitan area. As power lifting coach, his 2011, 2012, and 2013 power lifting teams brought home over 40 trophies along with 2 MIAA city power lifting championships and one second runner up championship.
Mr. Madden is committed to striving for excellence and believes that, “Greatness can be achieved by anyone willing to work hard”.
Timothy Moore, Creative Writing Facilitator
Timothy L. Moore is a nationally recognized spoken word artist based out of Memphis,Tennessee. Timothy Moore graduated with a B.A. in Fine Arts as an English Major with a concentration in Creative Writing from the University of Memphis. Feeling the need to educate his community about the importance of English and language, he returned to the University of Memphis to graduate from the School of Education with the Arts in Teaching Master’s degree with a specific concentration in Instruction and Curriculum.
Timothy Moore taught effectively within the Memphis City School system before deciding to concentrate on research in regards to teaching reading to young men of color taking on a new role as a reading coach. He has captured an active audience that follows and engages conversations with him on a wide array of topics with regards to his teaching, poetry, workshops, and work within the reading education community. Timothy Moore currently serves GRAD Academy Memphis as a reading specialist and creative writing facilitator.
Sara Mrljak, College and Career Access Coordinator
Working as a public educator over the last decade, Ms. Mrljak has experience in a variety of traditional and non-traditional classroom settings and brings a wealth of knowledge in differentiation and college access. After earning her B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh in Urban Studies focusing on Community Development, she began her professional career working with newly arrived international refugee children to develop meaningful after-school programming and support the local schools in easing the students’ transition to the United States. Later, while studying for her Master of Science in Education from the City University of New York, she worked at Wings Academy High School in New York City as a Special Education Teacher and served as Chair for the School Leadership Team and as the Coordinator of Student Activities. Also, while in New York, she worked with the New York City Teaching Fellows to train new teachers in preparing to enter their first year of teaching. Prior to arriving at GRAD Academy Memphis, she served as a Project GRAD Academic Consultant and College Access Coach for three years at Stephen A. Douglas High School in Philadelphia. As GRAD Academy Memphis grows, she hopes to continue to encourage scholars to grow and prove that graduation really achieves dreams
Debricka Peete, Social Studies Facilitator
Ms. Peete is a U. S. Government, Economics, and ACT Prep English facilitator at GRAD.
She has several years of experience with law and politics which includes: B.A. in Political Science with a concentration Public Law and minor in Criminology. Ms. Peete is also a certified educator with a Masters in Secondary Education. Her main goal is to prepare and equip this generation to succeed in any career path they choose.
Jared Pitts, Information Technology Facilitator
Mr. Jared Pitts serves GRAD Academy Memphis as a Chemistry and Physical Science facilitator. He was raised, for most of his life, in the St. Louis area. He is a graduate of Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois where he received his Bachelor’s degree. Afterwards, he went to South Korea to teach ESL and to travel for 3.5 years. While in Greenville and South Korea he was able to pursue his passions of fighting injustices, empowering the disempowered, and mentoring young men and women. He was able to do this with programs helping North Korean refugees, community centers, non-profit organizations, homeless shelters, orphanages, and drug rehab centers.
Mr. Pitts is excited to join the team at GRAD Academy Memphis to facilitate learning that is applicable to the real world. Having traveled around the world, he understands how competitive and international our world is today, and is passionate about helping students become competitive in that new, 21st century world.
Audra Robinson, PLTW III Facilitator
Ms. Robinson was born in Indianola, MS, and raised in Jackson, MS, and is a graduate of Bailey Magnet High school for Health Related Professions. She attended The University of Memphis where she graduated with a B.A. in Biology. While in undergrad, she worked at the Mississippi School for the Blind as well as the University of Mississippi Medical Center in the Research Department. She then went on to receive a 7-12 Science Certification in Teaching. Ms. Robinson has been teaching in the city of Memphis for nine years.
Ms. Robinson has strong beliefs when it comes to teaching. She believes all scholars can learn and that learning should be catered to the scholars’ needs. Scholars learn best when they are presented with relevant lessons that build upon real world experiences. Scholars should see value in their learning. The educational experience should equip our scholars to be lifelong learners and productive partners in the global market.
Rajiv Rohatgi, PLTW I/II Facilitator
Mr. Rohatgi was born in Mumbai India and immigrated to the New York at the age of 13. He attended the Polytechnic University of NYU in Brooklyn NY from where he received both B.S. and M.S. degrees in Chemical Engineering.
Before pursuing a career in education, Mr. Rohatgi pursued careers as an engineer as well as a stock trader. His desire to impart his passion for the sciences and engineering led him to the field of education. He wanted to teach where the need is the greatest, inner city schools. When the opportunity to teach in Memphis presented itself he, his wife, and his two fur babies, bouncing 10 pound Maltese named Toki and Brownie, moved to Memphis.
Mr. Rohatgi has taught General Science, Physical Science, and Chemistry. When the opportunity to teach PLTW (Project Lead the Way), and engineering based course at GRAD Academy, he joined the GRAD family with great excitement. He strongly believes in the GRAD acronym, Graduation Really Achieves Dreams.
His favorite quote is, “Be the change you see in the world” by Gandhi.
Marlon Ross, US and African-American History Facilitator
Mr. Marlon Ross serves GRAD Academy Memphis as a US History and African American History facilitator. Mr. Ross was born and raised in Memphis, TN, and is a graduate of The Craigmont High School. He attended The University of Memphis where he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Professional Studies with a concentration in History and a minor in African American Studies. While in undergrad, he was involved in a litany of extracurricular activities. He was student coordinator for The University of Memphis STEM Academy, Frosh Camp counselor, Empowered Men of Color (EMOC) Emergent Leader Award Recipient and an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. This fall, Mr. Ross is beginning a Master of Arts degree in Education from Freed Hardeman University. More than anything, Mr. Ross looks forward to providing advocacy and support for scholars through education at GRAD Memphis.
Meg Ryan, English Facilitator
After graduating from Reed College with a B.A. in English, Ms. Meg Ryan moved to Memphis to participate in the Memphis Teacher Residency where she earned a Master’s in Urban Education while learning the nuances of effective teaching from an experienced mentor at Kingsbury High School. She was proud to serve at Melrose High School in Orange Mound before joining the mission of GRAD Academy in South Memphis.
As a proponent of equal education as a social justice issue and the power of storytelling and language to shape the world around us, Ms. Ryan desires to help shape her scholars’ voices by exploring diverse literature and refining writing. She is excited about the opportunity to engage her scholars’ critical thinking about prevailing narratives and writing of their own in this unique New Tech environment.
Elsa Scott, Spanish I and II Facilitator
Mrs. Elsa Scott is a native of the Republic of Panama. She obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree majoring in Business Administration from Antillean Adventist University in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico, and a Master of Arts in Education from Union University, Memphis and Jackson, TN.
Mrs. Scott is fluent in both Spanish and English. In addition, she brings seven years of teaching experience. She loves singing, the piano, guitar, and arts and crafts. Most of all, she has a passion for teaching and encouraging young people. She likes the idea of Project Based Learning and plans to use all of her training, experience, and talents to make this a successful learning experience for all of her students.
Her goal is to continue to dissipate the barriers and broaden the connections in a world we enjoy, with its diversity on multicultural and multilingual societies.
David Shepard, Social Studies Facilitator
David was born in Stamford, Connecticut. In high school he played basketball, football and track. He also had the lead role in the school play and initially wanted to become an actor in film. After giving it a try for six months post high school and landing a few gigs, he realized that education was more important. He went to Fairfield University for his freshman year. He joined the practice squad for a division one basketball team. David later transferred to Bucknell University where he became the sports director at the student radio station called WVBU. After graduating in 2009 it took him 6 months to land something in sports broadcasting. He applied to almost 100 jobs and landed his first role as an intern at Sirius XM. He traveled more than two hours each way every single day for almost a year and was able to host a national radio show at 24 years old. He then went on to become a production assistant and researcher at ESPN. His most recent job was at CBS Sports Radio Nationally in New York City. He was an on air personality for nearly three years.
David admits he saw such a lack of diversity in his profession. He only saw white people in the building and didn’t believe that was right. He saw so many athletes fail in their profession because of a lack of education they received in High School. They deserved much better. He wanted to be part of the solution and not the problem. He believed the best way he could do that was through education. As he puts it, “I’m very fortunate that I was able to find that opportunity with GRAD Academy.”
Davida Smith-Keita, English Language Arts Facilitator
Mrs. Davida Smith-Keita is a National Board Certified Teacher in English Language Arts and a two-time recipient of the Effective Practice Incentive Community (EPIC) Award. Mrs. Keita’s vested interest in the educational outcomes of Memphis area students stems from the fact that she is herself a product of the Memphis City Schools district, having matriculated through its Montessori elementary school and optional middle and high schools. She has earned two degrees from the University of Memphis – a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in English.
Believing in the life-changing benefits of a sound, quality education and supporting the idea that innovative approaches to teaching and learning will lead 21st century learners to be well-prepared, contributing members of a global society, Mrs. Keita chose GRAD Academy Memphis because its mission aligns perfectly with her own personal aspirations for students.
Edrika Thigpen, Math Facilitator
Edrika Thigpen was born and raised in Drew, MS, a small town in the heart of the delta. She attended Mississippi Valley State University, from which she graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in mathematics education. As an undergrad, she studied the trends of achievement in Algebra as it relates to gender and time of the day taught. She plans to further her education in the spring at the U of M.
Ms. Thigpen wants her scholars to develop a respect for mathematics and to help eliminate the fear of the subject. She plans to show them that mathematics is universal and once you can learn to think as a problem solver, you can conquer any subject and any live event. Her goal is to leave an impact on every scholar who is enrolled in her class so that they can one day change the world for her daughter’s generation.
Quentasha Williams, English Facilitator
Quentasha Williams is originally from Cleveland, Mississippi. She attended the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, where she received her Bachelors in Political Science with a minor in English with the hopes of continuing on the journey of becoming a lawyer. However, having a passion for working with people, she began her teaching career in August 2009, teaching English. She furthered her education at Mississippi Valley State University where she received a Masters of Art in Teaching. Due to falling in love with education, she’s currently pursuing her specialist degree at Delta State University where she expects to receive a Specialist in Education Leadership for supervision and administration. As a result, she wants to continue to live out her philosophy for ensuring that all students are provided a quality education that will pave the way not only for a successful academic journey but also create a path for them to become productive citizens of their communities.
Natasha Wilkins, World History Facilitator
Ms. Natasha Wilkins joins GRAD Academy Memphis as a World History facilitator.
She relocated to Memphis from Springfield, IL where she attended the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, and received her Bachelor of Science degree in Public Policy. Ms. Wilkins received recognition as the Outstanding Graduate from her college and graduated with honors. During her time at the university, Ms. Wilkins was the Director of the LIFT College Access and Mentoring Program which focused on equipping high school students to achieve and succeed in college. Ms. Wilkins also pursued her passion for international development through study abroad programs in countries such as Honduras, Sierra Leone, and Haiti. Her experiences outside the United States grew her passion for world history and her desire to help others understand and explore the role of history in shaping the world.Ms. Wilkins personally experienced the power of project based learning (PBL) through a college course which provided her with the opportunity to develop and continue working with a reforestation project in Haiti. Ms. Wilkins is invested in using PBL to provide students with opportunities to explore their world and leave their impact on history.